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.
With the untimely demise of Rajiv Gandhi, we bid farewell, it seems, not only to a man but to a dynasty. The family that with only short intermissions has governed India since its modern political debut has abruptly, violently been blown off the Indian stage.
The scene for Mr. Gandhi's violent departure was Sriperumbudur, a village in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It was here that nearly ten centuries earlier another Indian leader had appeared—Sri Ramanujacarya, the great philosopher and teacher.
Ramanuja had taught that, in the oneness of all existence, each being is distinct in its eternal individuality. Each individual is an integral part of the supreme individual, Lord Visnu, or Krsna.
By forgetting our relationship with Visnu, taught Ramanuja, we tiny individuals are caught in the endless, turbulent, sometimes violent complexities of the material world, in the workings of a constant cycle of samsara—birth and rebirth.
But by devotion to Lord Visnu, Ramanuja said, we can break free from that cycle and enter into Lord Visnu's eternal realm, to associate with Him in bliss and knowledge. As the Bhagavad-gita confirms, this perfection is attained by one who remembers the Lord at the point of death.
Of course, the individual who for a while was Rajiv Gandhi went to Sriperumbudur not to meditate upon Lord Visnu or study the teachings of Ramanuja but to campaign for his former post as Prime Minister. But now he has lost everything, and we do not know where he has gone.
Gone too are more than 130,000 people who used to live, until May, in Bangladesh. They, it seems, had less to lose, yet they too, literally with the force of a typhoon, have suddenly been blown from the stage. And, again, where they have gone is unknown.
Even back in the security of the West, every now and then the post office returns as a "nixie" the mail we've sent to a subscriber in New York, California, or Iowa and checkmarks it with an explanation: "Deceased."
Because death may come at any moment, it is urgent for us to understand the nature of Krsna's birth and pastimes. When Krsna comes to this material world or departs it, He does so not as an ordinary man, forced by the laws of nature, but as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. And as stated in Bhagavad-gita, one who understands the transcendent nature of Krsna's birth and pastimes leaves behind the cycle of birth and death and attains to Krsna's abode in immortality.
It is to enable us to reach Lord Krsna that Srila Prabhupada came to the West and started ISKCON, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, twenty-five years ago.
Since then, prime ministers and peasants have come and gone. Yet ISKCON, perhaps to the surprise of many, has endured. And Krsna consciousness, which at first may have seemed a fad, is coming to be recognized as the perennial philosophy taught by such self-realized devotional teachers as Ramanuja.
Time moves on, leaving persons and dynasties and history in its wake. But Krsna is Time Himself, and Krsna consciousness goes on and on and on.
I always feel enlivened after reading BTG. It renews my enthusiasm for attaining a spiritual base for my life.
The feature on Baladeva Vidyabhusana gave a deeper spiritual insight into the Gaudiya Vaisnava movement.
Subscribing to Learn
Even though I have not accepted everything you preach, I admire your devotion to God so much that I subscribe to BTG to learn how to incorporate Krsna consciousness into my life as best I can.
Dennis M. Donlon
Show the Work
I was crushingly disappointed by the photo with Suresvara Dasa's great ox power article. The photo of the devotee lounging with the calf is exactly in the wrong mood. I'm probably wrong, but he doesn't even look like he takes care of the animals. Where are his barn boots? Where are his blue jeans?
I think we need to guard against conveying a mood of enjoyment and leisure, of retiring to the peaceful country with the cows.
The struggle—against seemingly insurmountable odds—to work the oxen and establish Prabhupada's varnasrama social system is one of the most tremendous battles in all ISKCON.
Arjuna's fighting mood is much more in line with what we should be trying to convey. Then we will attract energetic, resourceful devotees to this service—not those who are simply looking to retire from the stress of modern civilization.
It's a desperate, urgent situation. It would be good to have more photos that convey the excitement and challenge of the work involved.
Hare Krsna Dasi
Although our Society is still confronted with various opinions regarding the application of the philosophy in many areas, I feel that Back to Godhead is not the place to openly bandy these controversies about.
Bhakti Rasa Dasa
I cannot urge you strongly enough to continue the "ISKCON Community Discussion" forum. For those like me who've been around some time, it's especially interesting to be allowed to hear some of the more intimate thoughts of devotees, especially on issues of vital concern to the renewal and growth of ISKCON. Aside from this, it provides an absolutely essential candid look at the devotees and ISKCON for those "just browsing" or those even more removed.
There are so many issues which need to be addressed with respectful, healthy dialogue, and sharing some of this with all readers of BTG (from old friends to newcomers) provides a sense of openness and honesty that far surpasses the ecumenical silence so typical of organizations undergoing growth and change.
I find the new BTG so much more stimulating, provocative, open, honest and satisfying that I fully honor your efforts.
Wade A. Ryan
Put Krsna on the Cover
I have not at all liked the covers of the Back to Godhead issues I have recently received. On the reverse of each of the covers is an extraordinarily beautiful picture of Sri Krsna and Radharani which should appear in all of their fragile and delicate beauty on the cover, not hidden away on the reverse side.
One looks to the Back to Godhead for spiritual inspiration, and these pictures of Krsna are truly inspiring. Why should the cover of the beautiful Back to Godhead magazine not in itself be beautiful?
Nancy Maria DiBlasi
Pictures for Home Altars
Would it be possible for you to print color pictures of each of our four acaryas [previous spiritual masters] so that all four could be cut out and separately used to frame for our home altars or elsewhere? These pictures are not easy to come by; at least no one has been able to help me find them for four years now.
For a set of four full-color glossy photos, 5 inches by 7, write or call: The Bhaktivedanta Archives, P.O. Box 34453, Los Angeles, CA 90034. Phone: (213) 559-2143. The photos are $5 each, plus shipping.
Honestly, I had not been a regular BTG reader for many years because of the support of the "erroneous zonal guru system" mentioned in "An Apology." It was so healing to read an official acknowledgment that my own perceptions and realizations about those years of ISKCON were accurate and my feelings validated. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Nikunjavasini Devi Dasi
Is ISKCON disintegrating? Personally I see BTG as the voice of the movement and see the magazine's continued growth to be a sign that all is indeed well. Judging from the new format, I would say that in fact the movement is flourishing and becoming more mature. The devotees are emerging as intelligent and rational people in a world of dogma and hypocrisy.
Pearl Deplores Swine
I have always known that the "Hare Krishnas" were a bunch of sexist pigs and have never supported you although I do what I can to support and encourage most yoga groups.
I subscribed to your magazine hoping you had changed or would at least have the common courtesy to keep your sexist views quiet. Instead you blatantly publicize them.
People like you give yoga, religion and spirituality a bad reputation. I am ashamed to be even remotely associated with you.
I would appreciate it if you would refund my money.
On the Right Track
I am 29 years old. Twelve years ago my father invited me to a Krsna consciousness Sunday feast at the San Diego temple to celebrate my high school graduation. Fearing that ISKCON could be a false religion that uses mind control, I accepted his invitation reluctantly.
1990 was the year I finally decided to more seriously investigate Krsna consciousness, and I decided that rereading Prabhupada's biography would be a good idea.
What I learned was that the devotees who obey the regulative principles, avoid sinful activities and follow the instructions to chant Hare Krsna would be successful and worthy to follow. (If they didn't follow, I would be foolish to do service for them.)
The new BTG proves to me beyond a doubt that the ISKCON I know today is once again on the right track. All glory to the assembled devotees!
A Big and United Family
I would like to thank you for the wonderful new long-awaited Back to Godhead magazine. My husband and I (as well as the many other devotees we have discussed BTG with) have relished its many interesting and enlivening articles. Personally I've found it has given me a reassured sense of ISKCON as a big and united family—something I've found a little lacking lately, even if only in my own perception.
Tulasi Mala Devi Dasi
A Most Welcome Critique
I've read the magazine from cover to cover, and I cannot be more positive in my impressions. Aside from the dearth of those beautiful colored photographs I enjoyed (money money money) I think you've improved the magazine in very substantial ways. I like the new format with so many articles by individual devotees dealing with so many different topics. The spiritual content is certainly there—but there's a much more down-to-earth quality about the reporting, which I think will have greater appeal.
Some of the writing is really terrific. I especially enjoyed Ravindra's article—he expresses him-self beautifully—and, of course, Satsvarupa is no slouch either. I get the feeling there's a more open, honest approach in the magazine—a sincere desire to reach your readers by laying it all out on the table, so to speak. I hope you get equally positive responses from others as well.
Mrs. Shapiro is the Editor's mother.
We welcome your letters. Send correspondence to The Editors, Back to Godhead, P.O. Box 90946, San Diego, CA 92169, USA.
How to Find Him ... How to Honor Him ... How to Follow Him
From the Vyasa-Puja addresses of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness
Garlanded with roses and gardenias, surrounded by devoted followers, Srila Prabhupada sits upon a magnificent throne. Disciple after disciple prostrates himself on the ground at Srila Prabhupada's feet. The disciples praise him. Srila Prabhupada sits gravely and says nothing. Finally he begins to speak.
"Vyasa-puja," he says, "means that one day in a year, on the birthday of the spiritual master, he is offered respect." Why? "Because he is the representative of Vyasa [here Srila Prabhupada refers to the ancient compiler of the Vedic wisdom] and is delivering without any change the same knowledge which has come down by disciplic succession." ** (New Vrndavana, September 2, 1972.)
Srila Prabhupada's birthday comes the day after Janmastami, the appearance festival of Lord Krsna. These days fall at the beginning of September this year.
Here we select from what Srila Prabhupada said about the meaning of the Vyasa-puja ceremony. Let us listen as he continues to speak.
The Original Guru
"Vyasa is the original guru because from his literature we understand spiritual knowledge. All these literatures, whatever we have produced, are originally from Vyasadeva." ** (London, August 22, 1973.)
"This asana [throne] where they have seated me is called the vyasasana. The guru is the representative of Vyasadeva.... So anyone who represents the great acarya [spiritual master] Vyasadeva is allowed to sit on the vyasasana."
As an orthodox representative of an ancient tradition, Srila Prabhupada follows the system of Vyasa-puja out of respect for the practices and philosophy of that tradition.
"This Vyasa-puja ceremony," he says, "means to offer our thanks to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, because He is the original guru. We receive this message through the parampara system: from Krsna to Brahma, Brahma to Narada, Narada to Vyasadeva ..."
Srila Prabhupada continues to name the illustrious teachers in the parampara, the disciplic chain: "Madhavendra Puri, then Isvara Puri, then Caitanya Mahaprabhu, then the six Gosvamis, then others—Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Jagannatha dasa Babaji, Gaura Kisora dasa Babaji, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati ..." It is in this parampara, Srila Prabhupada says, that he himself comes next.
"So we come to Krsna conscious understanding through this long parampara. Similarly, in the Vyasa-puja ceremony, whatever respect, honor, and presentations you give go to Krsna through that parampara system." ** (London, August 22, 1973.)
The Lord's Viceroy
"The spiritual master," Srila Prabhupada explains, "receives all honor, all contributions, on behalf of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, not for himself. For example, in our country when there was British rule there was a viceroy, a king's representative. So naturally when the viceroy used to go to some meeting, many people used to present valuable jewels just to honor him. But the law was that the viceroy could not touch a single jewel or contribution. It was going to the royal treasury. On behalf of the king the viceroy could accept all contributions, but they went to the king.
"Similarly, on Vyasa-puja day whatever honor, contributions, and feelings are being offered to the spiritual master go to Krsna. As we have received the knowledge from upwards, this respect goes upwards." ** (New Vrndavana, September 2, 1972.)
"Don't jump over to God, crossing the spiritual master. Then it will be a failure. You must go through the spiritual master. We are observing the Vyasa-puja ceremony, the birth anniversary of our Guru Maharaja [spiritual master]. Why? We cannot understand Krsna without a spiritual master.
"If anyone wants to understand Krsna by jumping over the spiritual master, then immediately he becomes bogus. Nobody can understand Krsna without going through His most confidential servant.
"If you think that you have become very learned and very advanced and can now avoid the spiritual master and understand Krsna, that is bogus....
We should always pray, yasya prasadad bhagavat-prasadah: only by the grace of the spiritual master can we achieve the grace or mercy of Krsna. This is the meaning of Vyasa-puja." ** (Atlanta, March 2, 1975.)
A Revolutionary Practice
Srila Prabhupada is very much aware that some people may misconstrue the Vyasa-puja ceremony.
"Of course," he says, "those who are my students know what is this ceremony. ... But an outsider may ask, 'Why is a person being worshiped like God?' There may be some doubt." ** (New Vrndavana, September 2, 1972.)
"Now I must explain my position, because in these days a person's being worshiped as a most exalted personality is something revolutionary." ** (Hyderabad, August 19, 1976.) (8)
"It is not that I am training my disciples to worship me—man worship—or that I'm getting some honor from them for nothing. No. It is not that. Whatever honor, whatever respect, whatever presentation you are giving to your spiritual master, it will go to Krsna by the parampara system." ** (London, August 22, 1973.)
"An outsider may think, 'This man is being flattered, and he is hearing his own eulogy.' But this is not the fact. The disciples are receiving the message sincerely, and they are expressing their feeling. So that feeling is going to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. And as the message has come through the channel of disciplic succession, all these praises will also reach Krsna through that disciplic succession." ** (Hamburg, September 5, 1969.)
"If you offer prayers to the acarya, then Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is pleased. To please Him you have to please His representative.
'If you love me, love my dog.' And in the Bhagavad-gita it is said, acaryopasanam: we have to worship the acarya." ** (Hyderabad, August 19, 1976.)
"Krsna says, acaryam mam vijaniyan: 'You accept the acarya as Myself.' Why? I see that he is a man. His sons call him father, he looks like a man, so why should he be as good as God?
"Because he speaks as God speaks, that's all.... He says as the Supreme Personality of Godhead says; therefore he is guru. Even though you see that he is materially born, that his behavior is like that of other men, he says the same truth spoken in the Vedas or by the Personality of Godhead; therefore he is guru. He does not make any whimsical change; therefore he is guru. That is the definition. It is very simple." ** (Hyderabad, August 19, 1976.)
The Humility Of the Pure Devotee
Srila Prabhupada explains that he himself is but a servant of his spiritual master. "Of course, my students offer me so much respect, but all these respects are due to my spiritual master.
"I am nothing. I am just like a peon. When a peon delivers a letter, he is not responsible for what is written in that He simply delivers." ** (Hamburg, September 5, 1969.)
Srila Prabhupada feels indebted, he says, not only to his spiritual master, from whom he received the message of Krsna, but also to his disciples, who are helping him spread it.
"Anyone who is coming to Krsna consciousness is not an ordinary living being.
Actually, he's a liberated soul. And I am very much hopeful that, even if I die, my disciples who are now participating today will continue my movement....
"Bhaktivinoda Thakura wanted European and American people to understand the philosophy of the Caitanya cult and take part in it. That was his desire. My Guru Maharaja, His Divine Grace Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Prabhupada, also attempted to send his disciples to preach the Caitanya cult in the Western world....
"At our first meeting, perhaps you know, he asked me to preach. So at that time I was a young man, only twenty-five years old, and I was also a house-holder. I should have joined and executed his desire immediately, but due to my ill luck I could not immediately execute his order. But it was in my heart: 'It is to be done.'
"So anyway, although I began very late, at the age of seventy years, by the help of my disciples this movement is gaining ground and is spreading all over the world. Therefore I have to thank you. It is all due to you. It is not my credit. It is your credit that you are helping me execute the order of my Guru Maharaja." ** (London, August 22, 1973.)
How Does One Meet A Spiritual Master?
"Krsna is within everyone.... So He is called caitya-guru, the guru within the heart. ... And when Krsna sees that a living entity is very anxious to understand Him or to revive his Krsna consciousness, then Krsna gives him all opportunity, especially by manifesting Himself as the spiritual master. ... The spiritual master is therefore Krsna's manifestation—Krsna's mercy manifestation to help a person develop his Krsna consciousness." ** (London, August 22, 1973.)
"The whole world is in the blaze of the threefold miseries, and a person who is authorized to deliver people from those material pangs is called a spiritual master." ** (Hamburg, September 5, 1969.)
Continuing the Disciplic Succession
Srila Prabhupada tells his disciples that they too should become spiritual masters.
"Spiritual master is not a new invention. So all my students present here who are feeling so much obliged ... I am obliged to them because they are helping me in this missionary work. At the same time, I shall request them all to become spiritual masters. Every one of you should become spiritual masters next.
"And what is your duty? Whatever you are hearing from me, whatever you are learning from me, you have to distribute the same in toto, without any addition or alteration. Then all of you will become spiritual masters....
"To become a spiritual master is not a very wonderful thing. One simply has to become a sincere soul." ** (Hamburg, September 5, 1969.)
"It is not difficult. It is difficult when you manufacture something. But if you simply present whatever you have heard from your spiritual master, it is very easy.
"If you want to become overintelligent, to present something, to interpret something, over what you have heard from your spiritual master, then you'll spoil the whole thing. Don't make any addition or alteration. Simply present it as it is. ... Remain always a servant of your spiritual master and present the thing as you have heard it. You will be a spiritual master. This is the secret." ** (London, August 22, 1973.)
"One should not think, 'I am not qualified to become a guru.' No, you are qualified if you follow strictly the parampara system." ** (London, August 22, 1973.)
"If you simply preach this cult—'My dear friend, my dear brother, you surrender to Krsna'—you become a spiritual master." ** (London, August 22, 1973.)
There Is a Need
"Caitanya Mahaprabhu has asked everyone to become a guru. Everyone. Because there is need of gurus. The world is full of rascals; therefore there is need of so many gurus to teach them....
"Caitanya Mahaprabhu says: amara ajnaya guru hana tara' ei desa: Wherever you are living, become a guru and deliver them. Suppose you are living in a small neighborhood; you can become a guru of that neighborhood and deliver them.
"How is it possible? I have no education. I have no knowledge. How can I become guru and deliver them?
"Caitanya Mahaprabhu said: It is not at all difficult. Yare dekha, tare kaha 'krsna'-upadesa. This is your qualification. If you simply deliver the message given by Krsna, you become guru.... "Krsna said, sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja. ["Give up all other engagements and surrender to Me."] You preach. You request everyone, 'Sir, you surrender to Krsna.' Then you become a guru. It is a very simple thing. Krsna said, man-mana bhava mad-bhakto mad-yaji mam namaskuru. ["Think of Me, become My devotee, worship Me, and offer obeisances to Me."] You say, 'You become a devotee of Krsna. You offer obeisances. Here is a temple. Here is Krsna. Please come here....'
"So this is the guru's qualification. The guru does not show some magic or produce some wonderful things to become guru ...
"People are giving me credit that I have done miracles. But my miracle is that I carried the message of Caitanya Mahaprabhu: yare dekha, tare kaha 'krsna'-upadesa.
"So this is the secret. Any one of you can become a guru. It is not that I am an extraordinary man, an extraordinary god coming from some mysterious place. It is not that—it is a very simple thing.
"Caitanya Mahaprabhu says: yare dekha, tare kaha 'krsna'-upadesa. So I request you to follow Caitanya Mahaprabhu's instruction that you also be-come a guru at your home. It is not that you have to make a gigantic show of becoming a guru. The father has to become a guru; the mother has to become a guru. Actually, in the sastra it is said one should not become a father, one should not become mother, if he does not become a guru to his children." ** (Hyderabad, August 19, 1976.)
Become Krsna's Favorite
"So I hope that all of you—men, women, boys, and girls—become spiritual masters and follow this principle. Simply sincerely follow the principles and speak to the general public. Then you become Krsna's favorite. Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita, na ca tasman manusyesu kascin me priya-krttamah: 'One who is doing this humble service of preaching work, Krsna consciousness—nobody is dearer to Me than him.' So if you want to become recognized by Krsna very quickly, take up this process of becoming a spiritual master. Present the Bhagavad-gita as it is. Then your life is perfect." ** (London, August 22, 1973.)
Janmastami in Czechoslovakia
By Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami
THE DAY BEFORE JANMASTAMI, Lord Krsna's Appearance Day.
We've come to the "farm." It's a run-down group of buildings, some with roofs entirely uncovered. Turiya Dasa said the Communists confiscated it forty years ago and put the farmers in jail, although their only crime was that they were prosperous.
The devotees moved in a month ago. They're building a temple room. They greeted us with a kirtana, men and boys bare-chested in the August heat. They expected us to stay in our van, and so we will, although it's crowded and not ready for living in.
A devotee here tells me the Czech people are used to following their leaders and if they have to perform austerities, even going without food, they are practiced at it.
"Why did you come to a place like this for Janmastami," he asks me, "instead of going to a gala festival in a big temple?"
"I like to do something different."
"Well, you've come to the right place. Get ready for simple life."
* * *
They just held a wonderful initiation ceremony outdoors for Bhakta Tomas Kobes (of the Czech BBT, the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust). Now he's Tattva-darsi Dasa. I was told not to be demanding about the ingredients for the sacrifice, or yajna, but just to accept whatever they could offer. So they had oil instead of ghee, and no coconut or banana leaves. And we were lucky to have bananas. But there was plenty of bhakti, devotion.
The guests and devotees, about fifty in all, sat on simple cloths. The brass Gaura-Nitai Deities and the altar from the temple room were brought out. Turiya Prabhu translated my lecture, and everyone listened with attention. How sweet they are, these mild, fair-skinned devotees.
I felt satisfied to be home on this farm, in the world of ISKCON. I imagined the sun moving across the planet, and Janmastami festivals occurring at different hours. Surely our festival was noteworthy, although we didn't have ten thousand guests and large Radha-Krsna Deities. Just an outdoor yajna with oil instead of ghee. By the time the yajna was over, it was almost dark, so we brought the Deities inside. We walked down the dusty path into the old house and put Their Lordships on the simple altar. Then we danced with kirtana. Three more hours until midnight.
* * *
I was asked to give a lecture about the appearance of Lord Krsna. Afterwards, I asked for questions, and an elderly lady raised her hand. Since almost all the devotees here speak only Czech, I was surprised when she began to speak in English.
"Satsvarupa Goswami," she said, "could you tell something about Prabhupada, because you knew him very well?"
I started out by remembering Janmastami 1966 in the storefront.
"The room we are in now reminds me of that storefront," I said. "It was about the same size. 1966 was the first year Prabhupada observed Janmastami in America. He asked the devotees to stay all day in the storefront and fast, but his request seemed difficult. Some of us expressed doubt we could do it, so Swamiji said, 'If you get hungry or weak in the afternoon, you can take some fruit from my refrigerator.' When he said that, it gave us some hope, because it seemed almost impossible that a living being could go all day without eating.
"Fasting was one problem, and another was what to do all day. How to control the mind? When Prabhupada stayed with us in the storefront, reading from his Bhagavad-gita manuscript, it was very enjoyable. But whenever he left us alone, our consciousness and conversation dropped way down. We began to complain, 'I don't think I can do this. How does he expect us to stay like this all day? This is like being in prison—you can't even leave the temple.'
"Even while Prabhupada was present, one of the disciples, later to be initiated as Janaki Dasi, said, 'Swamiji, I'm sorry but I have to leave. I have to go home and feed my cats.'
"Swamiji said, 'No, do not do it. Stay here and you can take care of them later.'
"Janaki thought about it, but then said, 'I'm sorry. I have to go and take care of them.'
"The rest of us reluctantly surrendered and stayed there the whole day, which slowly turned into afternoon and night. We sat against the wall, drowsy and weak, trying to chant on our new red beads."
When I finished talking about the 1966 Janmastami, one of the brahmacaris raised his hand. He had asked me several technical questions in lectures I had given the previous day. One of his questions was "How did Lord Siva appear as one of the associates of Lord Caitanya?" Another was "Is it true that Lord Krsna was not worshiped before His actual appearance, but that before His appearance He had always been worshiped as the salagrama-sila?"
When he raised his hand again, I thought, "Oh, here we go again." But the question was "In Czechoslovakia, we do not have Prabhupada's biography except for the one-volume edition. Could you tell us more about what it was like when Prabhupada went to sing in the park in New York City? Did he bring a carpet? Were you there? What was it like?"
That was a nice setup.
I said, "Yes, there was a carpet. We had an old carpet someone had given us. We started out, about ten or twelve devotees along with Prabhupada, and walked to the park. Once we got to the park, we were a little shy. I thought some of my old friends might come around and see me, and I was embarrassed. But when Prabhupada began to sing the names of the previous spiritual masters, and then Hare Krsna, we sat close to him.
"He was like a mother and a father. Just as little children stay close to their parents when afraid, we stayed close to our spiritual parent. We sat with him on the rug, inside his world, which he had created within the 'big' world of Tompkins Square Park."
I told the devotees how the Swami encouraged us to get up and dance in the park. Brahmananda and Acyutananda did it regularly. Once Prabhupada looked at me and gestured that I should dance. At first I wasn't sure he meant me, so I turned around and looked behind me. I looked at him again. Yes, he meant me.
* * *
I am fortunate to be deep in the heart of Janmastami at the Czech farm. It's the same ecstasy available anywhere in ISKCON, and one should not miss out on it. You can find it in a big or a little temple. Simply follow the basic program: fast all day, fully engage in chanting and hearing or cooking or whatever, and then, having fasted and attended a day and night full of classes about Krsna, gather for a last couple of hours of kirtana until midnight. Then open Lord Krsna's gifts, attend the arati, and honor prasadam.
A special feature here is the simplicity and newness. The devotees know only two or three Hare Krsna tunes, and if you try any others they'll have trouble following. They don't yet know the words to most songs. I was speaker and lead singer, and Madhumangala was the only drum player.
At one point I turned to Turiya and asked, "What should we do for the next hour, speak or chant?"
He replied, "It's up to you. Whatever you want."
I continued a kirtana with a medium-slow beat, strong and steady like the 1966 kirtanas, and the devotees stayed with me. We all surrendered to the Hare Krsna mantra.
Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami is the author of more than two dozen books, including a six-volume biography of Srila Prabhupada.
"What's for Supper, Mummy?"
by Rohininandana Dasa
SHOPPING FOR KRSNA with your children can be a rich spiritual event, provided you have their cooperation and plenty of time. We had neither the last time our family trundled along the synthetic aisles. As I rushed about, one child wriggled in the supermarket trolley, and the other dawdled behind.
I thought of a time I had peeked into the Deity kitchen ** (A kitchen especially meant for cooking the seven or so offerings made daily in the temple.) at the temple. I remembered the calm concentration, soft meditational prayers, and neat tilaka of Krsna's cook as he scooped a steaming preparation into a silver bowl. In the temple they don't use tinned, frozen, pre-cooked, or manufactured foods, and here I was, scurrying along narrow passages lined with the stuff. Irritated, my head beginning to ache, I was trying to decipher long lists of words like "hydrolyzed protein," "maltodextrin," and "monosodium glutamate."
In Europe, to make matters worse (or better, depending on your point of view), such words are interspersed with "E" numbers, which stand for stabilizers, emulsifiers, anti-oxidants, artificial colors, preservatives, and flavor enhancers. E321, for instance, means "butylated hydroxytolene," and E341(a), "calcium tetrahydrogen diorthophosphate."
Years ago I wasn't concerned about these lists; if something looked vegetarian, it was OK for me. Now, because we're offering our food to Krsna, I worry about what exactly is on the lists. The other day I unwittingly bought a product containing E471, which sometimes has a vegetarian source and sometimes doesn't. My wife phoned the manufacturer. In this product the E471 came from lard.
What to do? I couldn't return the offending item—by now it was past the "sell by" date—and I didn't feel like throwing it away. So I fed it to the birds with their regular prasadam scraps and hoped they, or their guardian angel, would not be offended.
Back to the supermarket ...
Somehow I ran the gauntlet of a pounding head, the distracted children, the mysterious ingredients, and the long queue at the cash register and made it to the lift up to the car park. I collapsed against the wall. A fellow shopper glanced with sympathy. "It's a tough life," I gasped. He agreed.
In the car home I again thought of the temple with its organic garden. I thought of Lord Krsna's home, Vrndavana, and all the wonderful preparations Krsna's mother, Yasoda, cooks for Him. And then I thought of all the things I'd just bought. Was anything really suitable to offer Krsna?
All I could do was take solace in Krsna's assertion in the Bhagavad-gita that in this world every endeavor is covered by fault, just as fire is covered by smoke. Fortunately, Krsna is mainly interested in our intentions. The Gita exhorts us to strive for the perfection of always thinking of the supreme perfect being, Lord Krsna, even in the midst of provocation and imperfection. Of course, I can always improve the way I do things for Krsna, and I intend to. But it's a relief to know that in our helplessness, in our exasperation, Krsna is on our side.
We returned home. Entering the back door of our rustic cottage, the children clamored, "Where's supper? We're starving!"
As I was wondering whether there was time to sort out the bags of shopping or clean up the kitchen a bit before cooking, I heard a tearful "Father!" I looked around to see my three-year-old standing in a puddle of urine.
Well, what about Krsna's offering? Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura sings, "O Krsna, my mind, my body, my house, my family—all belong to You." Everything can be done as an offering to Krsna, including mopping up a puddle on the floor. Devotional service, being transcendental, can never be stopped by any material conditions. Still, it's natural and correct for an aspiring devotee to want to cook something as nicely as possible for Krsna's pleasure.
I quickly offered a snack to the picture of Srila Prabhupada we keep in the kitchen for such occasions and sat the children down at the table in the next room. I hoped they would eat and then play together till dinnertime without fighting. They were welcome to come back into the kitchen, of course, and help stir a pot or cut up a carrot.
Next I put on a bhajana ** (A devotional song.) tape and quickly cleaned the kitchen. With sleeves rolled up, a clean apron on, and the holy name on my lips, I was ready to start.
Cooking for Krsna is not only great fun; it's also purifying, because it absorbs our wandering minds, especially when two or three preparations are on the go and we're planning another. I felt peaceful and happy.
We usually cook rice, dal, vegetables, and sometimes capatis and a sweet pudding. But since it was late and I was tired, I made spaghetti, with a sauce of tinned tomatoes and cheese. I threw together a salad and began to make up the Lord's plate.
We keep a special plate for Krsna with His own bowls and spoon. I filled a cup with water and placed it on the plate along with a little bowl of salad and another of spaghetti. I added a couple of small mounds of salt and pepper. I carried the plate into the temple room and placed it on the altar, after sprinkling three drops of water where I would set the plate. ** (A small spoon and cup with water are kept on the altar for this purpose. Sprinkling three drops of water on an object purifies it.)
I also sprinkled three drops of water onto the bell and was just about to recite the offering prayers when one of my young sons rushed in. He speedily touched his head to the floor, came toward me, and held out his hands for three drops of water. Then he took the bell and rang it merrily as I recited the prayers.
My wife and I try to encourage any devotional tendency a child may show, even at the expense of the rules of Deity worship. If he's got the spirit right, we never try to stop or correct him, and gradually he is getting to know the right behavior.
The offering prayers can be simple: "Hare Krsna. My dear Lord, please accept this offering." Or you can recite traditional prayers in Sanskrit or English. ** (Devotees in the Hare Krsna movement generally recite the following prayers three times each: namah om visnu-padaya krsna-presthaya bhu-tale srimate bhaktivedanta-svamin iti namine I offer my respectful obeisances unto His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who is very dear to Lord Krsna, having taken shelter at His lotus feet. namas te sarasvate deve gaura-vani-pracarine nirvisesa-sunyavadi-pascatya-desa-tarine Our respectful obeisances are unto you, O spiritual master, servant of Sarasvati Goswami. You are kindly preaching the message of Lord Caitanyadeva and delivering the Western countries, which are filled with impersonalism and voidism. namo maha-vadanyaya krsna-prema-pradaya te krsnaya krsna-caitanya- namne gaura-tvise namah O most munificent incarnation! You are Krsna Himself appearing as Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu. You have assumed the golden color of Srimati Radharani, and You are widely distributing pure love of Krsna. We offer our respectful obeisances unto You. namo brahmanya-devaya go-brahmana-hitaya ca jagad-dhitaya krsnaya govindaya namo namah I offer my respectful obeisances to the Supreme Absolute Truth, Krsna, who is the well-wisher of the cows and the brahmanas, as well as the living entities in general. I offer my repeated obeisances to Govinda, who is the pleasure reservoir for all the senses.)
The idea behind the offering is to offer the food to a spiritual master, who offers it to his spiritual master, and so on, until it reaches Krsna. Anyone can easily be linked to the Lord in this way. Otherwise, lacking devotion, most of us would be unable to offer anything to Krsna. He accepts even the simplest offering from His pure devotee, but He refuses even the most elaborate offering from a nondevotee.
After my son and I had made the offering, we sang Hare Krsna together for a couple of minutes as the Lord ate His meal. Then we quickly went into the next room, loudly reciting sarira avidya jal ... ** (A Bengali song by Bhaktivinoda Thakura glorifying prasadam. Srila Prabhupada taught his disciples to sing this song before meals.) The "starving" children quickly took their places at the table. After they had been served, I went back to the temple room, removed Krsna's plate, and put the maha-prasadam on another plate. ** (Lord Krsna's plates should be kept separate from our own eating utensils. When transferring the maha-prasadam (food that has been directly offered on the altar), you can put it on either a special "transfer plate" or at least a clean plate, or you can put each item into the appropriate cooking pot. Once one portion of a preparation is offered, the rest becomes prasadam.) In our house whoever makes the offering waits to eat until the offering plate has been on the altar for ten minutes and then washed and put away.
Some householder devotees have a rule that they make a certain number of offerings every day, regardless of the changing needs of the family. Others, like us, make only one special offering a day that's just for Krsna. Home altars are, of course, functional, in that we cook what the family requires, doing our best to cook as a service to Krsna. But it's also a good practice to prepare something, such as a little fruit and milk, especially for the pleasure of the Deity. ** (A picture of the Lord is a Deity form and can be worshiped in a manner similar to the method in the temple. The best home altar to start with is known as a "Guru-Gauranga" altar-a picture of Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityananda (or the Panca-tattva) and a picture of Srila Prabhupada.)
In this little story I have described some things we do as a family to try to keep Krsna in the center of our lives. If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please let me know.
Rohininandana Dasa lives in southern England with his wife and their three children. You can write to him c/o BTG.
Astronomy and the Antiquity of Vedic Civilization
By Sadaputa Dasa
TRADITIONAL CHINESE STORIES tell of a monkey named Sun who goes through remarkable adventures. In one story, two "harpooners of death" capture him, claiming he has reached the limit of his destiny on earth and is due to be taken to the underworld. The story's translator tells us that according to the Chinese the constellation Nan Teou, the Southern Dipper, decides everyone's death, and the harpooners of death carry out the decision. ** (Wou Tch'eng Ngen, Si Yeou ki, ou le Voyage en Occident, L. Avenol, trans. (Paris, 1957) Vol. 1, p. iii.; G. Schlegel, L'Uranigraphie Chinoise (Leiden, 1875) pp. 172ff.)
In my last column I compared Vedic ideas about time with similar ideas found in cultures around the world. We saw that many cultures share highly specific Vedic thoughts about how long ancient people lived and what happened in ancient human societies. This suggests that an ancient cultural tradition existed worldwide, hinted at today in many cultures through fragmentary and poorly understood memories but spoken of in detail in the Vedic writings.
In this column we turn from time to space. And we find that ancient traditions about the layout of the universe bear similar traces of a common cultural background.
Vedic literature divides the visible heavens into regions, which transmigrating souls are said to reach according to their karma. We can think of the constellations of stars as a road map for the soul's travel after death. First I shall describe this map. Then I shall give some evidence that people in old cultures all over the world had a similar cosmic map, often agreeing with the Vedic map in many minute details.
To describe this map I need to introduce some basic ideas from astronomy. In both Indian and Western astronomy, the lines of latitude and longitude on the earth are projected onto the sky and set into a daily spin about the polar axis, so that to an observer on earth they seem to rotate once a day with the stars. This gives us a celestial coordinate system in which each star has a latitude, called its declination, and a longitude, called its right ascension.
We can think of the stars as points on a huge imaginary sphere, called the celestial sphere, surrounding the earth. Just as the earth has a northern and southern hemisphere separated by the equator, so does the celestial sphere.
Each year, against the background of stars, the sun completes a circuit called the ecliptic, a great circle tilted 23 ½ degrees from the celestial equator. Around the ecliptic in a broad band stretch the twelve constellations of the zodiac and twenty-eight constellations called naksatras, or lunar mansions.
Books of Vedic astronomy list the naksatras and important stars. And more recent astronomers have identified the modern names of the constellations and stars to which these Vedic luminaries are thought to correspond. (The map above marks these correspondences, giving the ancient Sanskrit names and the modern locations.)
According to the Visnu Purana, north of the star Agastya and south of the three naksatras Mula, Purvasadha, and Uttarasadha lies the road to the region of the Pitrs, Pitrloka. ** (H.H. Wilson, The Vishnu Purana, Vol. 2 (London: Trubner & Co., 1865), pp. 263-268.) This is said in Vedic literature to be the headquarters of Yamaraja, the demigod who punishes sinful human beings. The Srimad-Bhagavatam (5.26.5) says that this region, along with the hellish planets, lies in the south of the universe, beneath Bhumandala, the earthly planetary system.
The naksatras mentioned here match parts of the southern constellations Scorpio and Sagittarius, and Agastya is thought to be the star Canopus, which lies in the southern hemisphere. From the description in the Visnu Purana, therefore, we can locate Pitrloka in terms of familiar celestial landmarks.
The Milky Way is seen in the sky as a great band of light, densely packed with stars, running roughly north and south, cutting the celestial equator at an angle of about 62 degrees. A very bright region of the Milky Way intersects the ecliptic in the constellation Sagittarius. This is close to the naksatras Mula and Purvasadha, which form the beginning of the path of the Pitrs.
Just as Pitrloka is south of the ecliptic, the higher planets are to its north. So the mystics who follow the path to these planets, the path of the demigods, also begin at Mula and Purvasadha, but they travel northward. Their journey is described in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (2.2.24-25) and in the Visnu Purana.
Moving along the ecliptic, the mystics travel up to Revati. (This leg of their journey is called Vaisvanara.) From Revati they move through the naksatras Asvini, Bharani, and Krttika and travel on to the planet of the fire-god, Agni. There they are purified of all contaminations.
From Agni the mystics keep going north, through Brahmahrdaya and Prajapati, following the Milky Way, and as they reach the latitudes of the seven rsis they enter Visnupada, the path of Visnu. This is the path they follow until they at last reach the polestar, Dhruvaloka, a spiritual planet within the material universe.
In more familiar terms, Asvini, Bharani, and Krttika match parts of the constellations Aries and Taurus. The seven rsis (saptarsi) correspond to the constellation Ursa Major, commonly known as the Big Dipper.
Opposite the point where the Milky Way meets the ecliptic in the southern hemisphere, it intersects the ecliptic in the north, at the boundary of Taurus and Gemini. It is here that we find the star Agni.
Once we locate the paths of the Pitrs and the demigods on the celestial sphere, we can ask whether other cultural traditions offer similar accounts of the soul's celestial travels. It turns out that many do. Here are some examples:
So the start of the route to Yamaraja corresponds in this Chinese tradition to the place in the heavens where the fate of the dead is decided. The Chinese tradition also has messengers of death similar to the Vedic Yamadutas.
The anthropologist S. Hagar thinks the Spirit Star is Antares. Antares (Jyestha) lies, again, near the beginning of the path of the Pitrs.
Here the "Mother Scorpion" is reminiscent of the constellation Scorpius. We note that the tail of the constellation Scorpius corresponds to the naksatra Mula.
The important point here is that the solstices occur when the sun is near the intersection of the Milky Way and the ecliptic.
These astronomical examples, and our earlier examples about time, indicate that old cultures around the world shared a view of the cosmos similar in many ways to the Vedic one.
The details that appear again and again in these stories suggest the existence of a common cultural tradition. Yet the stories differ, and we have no clear historical records of their origin. This suggests that their common cultural source dates from the remote past. So the existence of these stories is consistent with the Vedic accounts of an ancient world civilization with a spiritual view of the origin and purpose of the universe.
Now's Your Chance
By Sri Rama Dasa
IT'S BEEN A PLEASURE opening the mail in response to my first columns. Readers seem excited about the plans and programs mentioned.
The real surprise, however, was how many people offered help in various ways. The puzzle for me was how to take the offers and channel them.
Well, good news for everyone who's wanted to get their foot in the door and help build an educational system for the Hare Krsna movement. Now you can directly take part, at the most fundamental level, in planning, organizing, and taking all the steps needed to make a strong school system in your part of the world.
Early this year in Mayapur, India, at the annual meeting of ISKCON's governing body commission (GBC), we reorganized ISKCON's approach to developing our school system. Now there are eight regional boards of education, each responsible for the progress of primary and secondary schooling in one area: North America, South America, Europe, Africa, eastern India, western India, Southeast Asia, and Australia/ New Zealand.
Each area was assigned a GBC member, who is duty-bound to see to the organization and progress of the regional board. This year, each is responsible to see to forming the board, inviting all interested parties to get involved, and reaching certain goals set by ISKCON's International Board of Education. Currently, a top priority is to make sure that each ISKCON-affiliated school has implemented ISKCON's strict policies for preventing child abuse.
The International Board of Education has a five-year plan for developing curricula, training teachers, getting schools certified, helping former students, developing reading materials for our children, and so on. It's a broad agenda, but by working on the regional level we can reach goals beyond the resources of local schools but suited to the needs of local cultures and areas.
Beyond the priorities assigned by the International Board, we hope the regional boards will take the initiative in cooperating to find teachers, pool resources in curriculum development, organize fund-raising campaigns, encourage experienced schools to help new ones, and so on. Conventions of headmasters and teachers should become regular events.
Ideally, every school will send its headmaster or principal, as well as a teacher or two, to each regional board meeting. But there's room for many others to take part also. We need people willing to take charge of (or at least help with) curriculum development, networking home schools, solving legal problems, writing and illustrating children's books, raising funds, training teachers.... The possibilities are limitless.
Of course, getting the regional boards off the ground is not going to be an easy task. We'll have to travel to meet together, give our time and energies, and take on new commitments. But if you're serious about having a real influence on the development of ISKCON's school system, now is the time to act.
If you would like to take part, please contact me at the address or phone number at the bottom of this column. I'll put you in touch with the GBC member responsible for organizing your regional board of education.
As always, I strongly recommend that you learn more about ISKCON education by subscribing to ISKCON Educational Journal, four issues for $10.00 in the U.S. and Canada or $13.00 elsewhere. A free sample issue is available for the asking. Also, for $10.00 we have available the manual "Preventing Child Abuse in ISKCON."
I look forward to meeting many of you face to face in the future—in a regional board of education meeting in your part of the world.
Sri Rama Dasa, Chairman, ISKCON Board of Education, 3764 Watseka Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90034, USA.
By Yamuna devi
THREE YEARS AGO, on Janmastami, Lord Krsna's appearance day, I received a copy of the diary Srila Prabhupada wrote aboard the steamship Jaladuta. It's a personal account of his first journey from India to America. Though I had read excerpts in various publications, the full handwritten text revealed a richness I had barely realized before.
Often difficult to read, the cramped and sometimes blurry script describes dramatic events—two life-threatening heart attacks, repeated illness—along with personal observations and Srila Prabhupada's daily routine. It also mentions two prayers he wrote to Lord Krsna while on the ship. I strongly recommend reading these inspiring verses. You can find them in Srila Prabhupada Lilamrta, Volume 2: Planting the Seed, by Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami.
As an avid student of Srila Prabhupada's cooking instruction, I was particularly fascinated with entries in his diary noting some of the dishes he cooked and distributed to the crew members. In one entry Srila Prabhupada writes, "Today is the 32nd day of our journey from Calcutta. In the morning I couldn't take my breakfast properly, then I cooked bati-chachari. It appeared to be delicious, so I was able to take some food."
In other entries, Srila Prabhupada mentions nourishing dishes that serve as one-pot meals. For example, kicchari is a rice-and-legume stew that can take on new and varied faces for months on end. Kadi, often served with kicchari, is an aromatic yogurt gravy laced with vegetables, cooked beans, or savory dumplings. Chachari is a succulent char-flavored vegetable dish. It combines three cooking procedures in one pot—boiling, steaming, and frying—without your ever stirring the pot, not even once!
These dishes require no exotic ingredients, are easy to make, and, as was probably done aboard the Jaladuta, need only be accompanied with hot wheat flatbreads or a salad for a simple meal.
Srila Prabhupada was a generous cook who taught in the kitchen by demonstration. The same dishes he'd cooked on the Jaladuta he taught in the next two years to his ISKCON students in New York and San Francisco. The dishes became instant favorites. In 1967 I compiled a book of these early recipes. I'd lost track of the book until, to my amazement, someone recently sent me the manuscripts in my original calligraphy. To remember and savor Srila Prabhupada's Janmastami of 1965, observed aboard the Jaladuta, it seems apropos to pass on a few of these early recipes to you.
½ cup yellow split peas
Combine the first 5 ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, partly cover, and boil gently for 20 minutes. Stir in the rice and vegetables, reduce the heat to low, and cover. Cook slowly, stirring occasionally, until the water is absorbed and the grains are cooked, about 45 minutes. Drizzle with butter or ghee.
1 cup chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
Soak the chickpeas in water over-night and drain. Cook them in plenty of fresh water until tender, 1-2 hours. Drain.
Combine the flour and yogurt in a saucepan and stir the mixture until it's smooth. Blend in the buttermilk, turmeric, salt, and chickpeas. While stirring, gently boil over moderate heat until thickened, 5-10 minutes.
To prepare the seasoning, place the cumin and chilies in a dry pan and stir-toast until darkened and fragrant. Add the butter or ghee, heat briefly, and pour the seasoning into the kadi.
1 pound boiling potatoes, cubed
Place all the ingredients in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, partly cover, and boil gently until the liquid is absorbed and the vegetables are fork tender, about 25 minutes. Remove the lid, raise the heat slightly, and cook until the vegetables fry in the seasoned butter. (Do not burn the vegetables; only allow a deep brown crust to form in the pan.) Cover and set aside for 10 minutes. Then stir in the crust and serve.
Yamuna Devi is the author of Lord Krishna's Cuisine: The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking.
This September, Lord Krsna's devotees celebrate His birthday.
By Harikesa Swami
IT IS NOT POSSIBLE for an ordinary living entity to compare to Krsna. From the very beginning of His pastimes here on earth, more than 5,200 years ago, Krsna displayed His superiority over everyone. Once, when Krsna was lying peacefully on His bed like a small baby dependent on his mother, a cruel witch named Putana approached with a plan to kill Him. Putana was by nature ugly, but by mystic power she had transformed her large, grotesque body into that of a beautiful woman.
She was so beautiful that although she was heading straight for the place where Krsna lay, Krsna's mother, Yasoda, did not think to stop her. Putana looked harmless and seemed simply to want to nurse the child, but she had smeared poison on her breast and was planning to kill Him when He sucked her milk. But this plan was not to be fulfilled. Baby Krsna accepted the breast coated with poison and sucked the milk and also the witch's life air, killing her immediately.
God does not have to become God by mystic practice. Some pseudo transcendentalists say that although we are not God at present, we can become God through a carefully contrived series of physical and mental exercises. They think that after some time, say six months or a year, they will realize their position as the Supreme.
This is foolish. No one is greater than God, and no one is equal to Him. He is always God, and one who is not God now can never become God, despite careful practice of mystic yoga for millions of years.
When Putana approached Krsna, He was lying on His bed like a small, helpless baby. Yet He was fully aware of what was happening around Him, and He was fully competent to kill the demon who had come to kill Him. He did not have to perform austerities and penances to get His power, for it was naturally present within His transcendental form.
We can understand the difference between Krsna and an ordinary living being simply by considering Krsna's birth. An ordinary being is born by the seminal discharge of a father into the womb of a mother. The embryo grows and then takes birth tied to his mother with an umbilical cord and coated in a slimy liquid. Slapped on the rear by the doctor, he starts his life crying.
Krsna does not take birth like this. At the moment of His birth, He showed His four-armed Narayana form to His parents. He stood before them with beautiful flowing black hair, a shining crown, a jeweled necklace of kaustubha stone, valuable bracelets, earrings, and similar ornaments. He held a conchshell, club, lotus, and disc in His four hands, and He was dressed in yellow silk. The jewels and clothes on His transcendental body made Him look dazzling, like a bright blackish cloud.
Thus the birth of an ordinary child cannot compare to Krsna's. Indeed, His father and mother, Vasudeva and Devaki, could hardly believe their eyes on seeing His wondrous form of transcendental bliss.
Throughout Krsna's pastimes during the more than 125 years He stayed on earth, we find the recurrent theme of inconceivable action. Just consider His lifting Govardhana Hill. Krsna had managed to anger King Indra, the demigod in charge of rain, by stopping a sacrifice meant to satisfy him. Krsna wanted to cut down Indra's excessive pride, so He specifically used words sure to upset Indra and invoke his wrath on the inhabitants of Vrndavana.
As Indra's wrath arose, he poured down rain, hail, and pieces of ice as if bringing about the final devastation of the world. The cows and cowherd men and women of Vrndavana approached Krsna pleading for protecton. Krsna, manifesting His supremely powerful mystic potencies, simply placed His hand under a mountain known as Govardhana Hill and lifted it straight off the ground into the air. He held the mountain like an umbrella on the little finger of His left hand for seven days, while Indra futilely tried to destroy the inhabitants of Vrndavana.
Who can lift a mountain? Who can even lift a piece of paper and hold it up for more than an hour, what to speak of seven days? Yet Krsna did this wonderful feat without the slightest sign of fatigue. Who can compare to the Personality of Godhead? Yet although Krsna is so great, worldly intellectuals try to reduce Him to the level of an ordinary historical personality.
Which historical personality could marry 16,108 princesses simultaneously in 16,108 palaces? Yet Krsna did, with all conceivable pomp and ceremony. Normally no one can expand himself into other forms, for we are all bound to the one form of our body. But Krsna can expand Himself into innumerable forms—each one acting differently. This is the supreme mystic opulence of the Supreme Person.
Once Narada Muni, a great wandering sage among the demigods, wanted to see what Krsna was doing in each of His 16,108 palaces. Narada entered the first palace and saw Krsna being fanned by His principal queen, Rukmini. Leaving that palace, Narada entered the next and saw Krsna playing with His children just like an affectionate father. In the next palace he saw Krsna preparing to bathe. Moving from one palace to another, Narada saw that Krsna was engaged in different activities in each of His 16,108 palaces. Only the Supreme Lord could display such varied pastimes simultaneously.
The conclusion is simple. Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who performs unlimited, inconceivable pastimes while on earth. Although people may want to bring many other persons forward as God, their candidates cannot compare in the slightest to Krsna. Therefore we worship the Supreme Absolute Truth, Lord Sri Krsna, the one without a second, and we are satisfied chanting His holy name: Hare Krsna.
Harikesa Swami is a member of ISKCON's governing body commission with responsibilities in India and Europe. He is also a trustee of the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, overseeing the publication and distribution of Srila Prabhupada's books in many European languages.
Some who say they follow
By Suhotra Swami
Part Two: Prakrta-sahajiyas
The great spiritual master Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura spoke of thirteen sects that claim to have inherited Lord Caitanya's mission but who distort His teachings. Although especially prominent in Bengal, their ideas show up even in the West. Here, therefore, in the second of a three-part series, Suhotra Swami continues to examine these sects.
VAISNAVAS, devotees of Lord Krsna, use the term prakrta-sahajiya to refer to persons who imitate the signs of prema, pure love for God, while still addicted to the low-class pleasures of illicit sex and intoxication. The sahajiyas imagine that they feel the divine emotions of Krsna and His dearest devotee, Srimati Radharani. Yet they don't understand that before we can savor the pleasure shared by Radha and Krsna, we must rid ourselves of lustful desires for sensual pleasure.
The word sahaja means "easy." A prakrta-sahajiya wants the bliss of spiritual life without the struggle to attain it. And the word prakrta means "materialistic." Because the sahajiyas forgo the standard disciplines of bhakti-yoga, the divine love they apparently show never gets beyond material lust.
The prakrta-sahajiyas mistake lust—the disease of the soul—for spiritual advancement. So instead of curing lust, they wind up cultivating it.
Bhagavad-gita (16.23-24) recommends that we follow sastra-vidhi, the directions of the scriptures, to purify ourselves of lust. Sastra-vidhi especially calls for us to give up meat-eating, illicit sex, gambling, and intoxication and to chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra. This gradually readies us for raga-marga, the path of natural attraction to Krsna, reserved for highly advanced devotees.
The prakrta-sahajiyas, however, go easy on the scriptural regulations. They stay attached to materialistic enjoyment of the senses. But this sense enjoyment blinds them, and therefore their ideas of Krsna, Krsna's devotees, Krsna's service, and love of Krsna are but a faulty creation of their lower nature.
According to the Bengali historian Dr. S. B. Das Gupta, the Bengali sahajiya movement can be traced back long before the time of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, to the reign of the Buddhist Pala dynasty (c. A.D. 700-1100). At that time a secret cult of the name Sahajayana arose within the Vajrayana ("Diamond Vehicle") school of Buddhism.
Sahajayana Buddhists abandoned ritualism and study of scriptures as useless. They practiced a "yoga of sex" in which they took consciousness to be the unity of the male and female principles, sometimes called upaya and prajna, or karuna and sunyata. The Sahajayana Buddhists wrote many songs, known as the Caryapadas, expressing their philosophy in mysterious language.
Later, under the Sena kings, Vaisnavism became ascendant in Bengal when the great spiritual master Jayadeva Gosvami won royal patronage for it. The Buddhist sahajiyas then absorbed aspects of Vaisnava philosophy and twisted them. They renamed their upaya and prajna principles "Krsna" and "Radha," imagining Radha-Krsna to represent the highest state of bliss attained by men and women on the sahajiya path.
In the thirteenth century, with the Islamic occupation of northern India and Bengal, the sahajiyas were influenced by the practices and philosophy of the Sufis. The word sufi comes from the Arabic word saf, meaning "sacred," and it signifies a mystical Islamic order of mendicants. Their goal is a state of inspiration called fana, or oneness in love with Allah.
Sufis seek to attain fana through song and dance. In the Middle Ages they faced persecution as heretics in Arabic countries, especially because some Sufi preachers announced that they were themselves the very Allah worshiped by all Muslims. But in India the Sufis could flourish, not in the least because their ideas had much in common with Mayavada, or impersonalistic, philosophy.
The sixteenth century saw the advent of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His movement of sankirtana, congregational chanting of the holy names of God.
In a typical social blur, the sahajiyas who had arisen from the Buddhists and merged with the Sufis now sang and danced on the fringes of the sankirtana movement. There they celebrated their mundane sexual mysticism with song and dance.
This, of course, was a perversion of the sankirtana movement. So Lord Caitanya and His followers rejected the sahajiyas. This is evident in Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, which tells us how strictly Lord Caitanya followed the rules of celibacy and how sternly He dealt with those devotees who broke them.
By the 1700's, however, the great movement begun by Lord Caitanya appeared to have become corrupted by the caste gosvamis and the ritualistic smarta brahmanas [see the May/June issue of BTG]. This offered a chance for the sahajiyas to influence the common people, and various prakrta-sahajiya sects became popular.
In the next century, therefore, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura took pains to distinguish the pure teachings of Lord Caitanya from prakrta-sahajiya perversions. Following his example, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati strongly opposed those who deviated from Lord Caitanya's teachings. And Srila Prabhupada kept to this same strong, uncompromising course.
As Srila Prabhupada mentions in his commentary on Caitanya-caritamrta, the sahajiyas "indulge in sense gratification in the name of devotional service." In this way they "throw mud into transcendence." They churn their materialistic emotions into a state of sentimental ecstasy, and this they take to be spiritual. But the first step in spiritual advancement is to distinguish between spirit and matter. The sahajiyas confuse the two.
"The name of Krsna is all-powerful," the sahajiyas say. "So the spiritual state of a guru and disciple at initiation doesn't matter, because the holy name works by its own power. There's no need to tell anyone to follow rules—let them chant Hare Krsna, smoke, drink, gamble, and have sex. The holy name will cleanse them of sinful reactions."
Genuine spiritual masters reject such notions as offenses to the holy name of Krsna. The holy name of the Lord is certainly all-powerful, just as a fire is powerful. But fire can give life, and fire can kill. So too, the holy name of Krsna, properly chanted under the guidance of a spiritual master, burns up the devotee's lingering material attachments. It nourishes his spiritual life. But if the power of the holy name is used as a tool to mix spiritual life with intoxication and illicit sex, the effect is ruinous.
Another feature of the sahajiya attitude is its perverse "humility" (really just envy). The sahajiyas consider themselves simple and modest and the strict devotees haughty. For example, sahajiyas think that a devotee who becomes known for spreading Krsna consciousness has fallen into the grip of name and fame. A devotee who refutes atheists and materialists is proud. Congregational singing of the Lord's holy names is showy. Devotees fussy about giving up illicit sex, smoking, and other harmless enjoyments are fanatical and inwardly attached to these pleasures.
Sahajiyas look down on devotees who take disciples and train them in scriptural principles. The scriptures, the sahajiyas think, oppose true devotion. So the sahajiyas either interpret the scriptures in their own way or write new scriptures to prove that sex and intoxication promote rather than obstruct spiritual awareness.
In summary, prakrta-sahajiyas are stubborn sense enjoyers. They may have talents for singing, dancing, acting, speaking, joking, and seducing women or men. They may try to pass off these talents as spiritual accomplishments. And they may dress as Krsna conscious devotees. But in fact they can't see the difference between offensive and pure chanting of the holy name. They take worldly service to be devotional service, lust to be love, and illusion to be spirituality.
The gauranga nagaris are a type of sahajiya who mix moods of devotion (rasas) in a clashing, unpalatable way. This error is technically called rasabhasa. The gauranga nagaris are prominent in Bengal and Bangladesh.
Some of their customs seem praiseworthy. For example, like staunch Vaisnavas they wear tilaka and neckbeads, perform good kirtana, and strictly abstain from flesh and fish. But they are counted out of Lord Caitanya's disciplic line because of a subtle contamination in their idea of who Lord Caitanya is.
The gauranga-nagaris are devotees of Lord Caitanya, who is also known as Gauranga ("the golden-limbed Lord"). But they impose upon Him Krsna's role as the free enjoyer of the village girls of Vrndavana. They style Him as nagara (a lusty village youth) and themselves as nagari (village girls).
Yet although it is true that Lord Caitanya is Krsna Himself, His mood is never that of Krsna, the supreme enjoyer, but always that of Krsna's devotee.
In the Caitanya-caritamrta (Adi 1.5), Lord Gauranga is said to be golden because He is radha-bhava-dyuti-suvalita, "adorned with the mood and luster of Srimati Radharani," Krsna's foremost devotee. Nowhere in any revealed scripture is it said that Lord Caitanya descends with the mood of Krsna.
Spokesmen for the gauranga-nagaris not only say that Lord Caitanya exhibited Krsna's enjoying mood; they say that Visnupriya Devi, the Lord's second wife, was Srimati Radharani and that her close female friends were gopis.
But as Srila Vrndavana dasa Thakura makes clear in Sri Caitanya Bhagavata, Visnupriya Devi is actually a form of the goddess of fortune, Laksmi. The wives, mothers, and daughters of Lord Caitanya's associates attended Visnupriya just as the maidservants of Laksmi serve Laksmi in the spiritual world. They serve in awe and reverence, not in the informal mood of the gopis.
Sri Caitanya Bhagavata also speaks clearly about Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's extreme gravity in His dealings with women—even with His own wives, what to speak of other women. But the gauranga nagaris have invented offensive myths about Lord Caitanya's supposed love affairs. These stories should never be heard.
The so-called mood of devotion of the gauranga nagaris is mere eroticism. Their conception of Lord Gauranga is a creation of their impure minds, and as they meditate upon this wrong conception, they succumb to lust. But, following the sahajiya line, they take that lust to be spiritual ecstasy.
Sakhi Bekhi and Cuda Dhari
Sakhi is a term for the confidential girlfriends of Srimati Radharani. The word bekhi is a corruption of the Sanskrit word vesa, which means "dress." A sakhi bekhi is a man or a woman who dresses like a gopi and imagines himself or herself to be enjoyed by Krsna.
Sakhi bekhis imitate rasa-lila, Krsna's dance with the gopis, sometimes by dancing with a person dressed like Krsna who wears a cuda, a crown of peacock feathers. This person is called cuda dhari. The philosophy of these two types of sahajiya groups is the same. Practically the only difference is that one group dresses like gopis and the other like Krsna.
Lord Caitanya taught, "The only controller is Krsna; everyone else is His servant." Each spirit soul is a tiny spark of para-prakrti, the Lord's subordinate or female spiritual energy. But this sense of our "being female" has nothing to do with mundane gender. We have temporarily assumed a male or female body as a result of past karma; the material covering does not reflect the eternal nature of the soul.
From Srimad-Bhagavatam (Canto 4, Chapter 28) we learn that souls now in men's bodies received them as a karmic result of earlier lives when they were women with a lusty attachment to men. And those now in women's bodies were men too attached to women.
The soul as a spiritual spark caught in the cycle of birth and death is genderless. But according to the particular ecstasy a soul enjoys in relation to Krsna, the soul's transcendental gender is revealed.
We see this in the spiritual bodies of Krsna's eternal associates. Krsna's devotees who serve Krsna with motherly and fatherly affection, for instance, have transcendental bodies accordingly. And the same is true of those who serve Krsna in madhurya-rasa (conjugal love). To be placed in madhurya-rasa one must develop the sentiments of a gopi, or cowherd damsel, under the guidance of a highly realized Vaisnava.
In Caitanya-caritamrta (Madhya 22.156-158), Lord Caitanya clearly tells Sanatana Gosvami how an advanced devotee is to use the physical body in Krsna's service. Externally, the devotee should perform regular devotional practices, such as hearing and chanting the holy name. Obeying all the scriptural rules, he or she should strictly avoid sinful life. And it is internally—within the purified, self-realized mind—that the devotee always meditates on serving Krsna in Vrndavana in a particular rasa, or relationship.
The sakhi bekhis, however, seem to think they have found an easier way. They dress in saris, decorate themselves with nose-rings and ornaments, and grow their hair in long braids. They paint their feet red, shave their faces twice a day, sing in falsetto voices, and gesture with women's mannerisms. And they seem to think that this will please Krsna.
Cuda dharis similarly think they can attract Srimati Radharani to their rotting material bodies simply because they dress like Krsna.
Some sakhi bekhis say they are only following the example of Sri Gadadhara Dasa Thakura. This devotee of Lord Caitanya's (a different person from the well-known Gadadhara Pandita) once walked through town in the mood of a gopi, carrying a clay pot of Ganges water on his head, calling out to sell yogurt, and laughing loudly. This, however, was an unusual ecstatic incident in the life of a pure devotee; it was not his regular practice.
Imitators say they can see their internal spiritual form by external play-acting. They forget, however, that neither Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu nor any spiritual master in Lord Caitanya's line ever taught that one can awaken love for Krsna through speculative histrionics.
Srila Prabhupada once told a story to show how we must follow the method of bhakti-yoga to get love for Krsna. In the story, a man tried to cook by placing the flame on the floor and hanging the pot near the ceiling. "If you want to cook," Prabhupada said, "you have to cook according to the method. You may have a pot and you may have a flame, but if you don't cook by the method, you'll never get the food."
The sakhi bekhis and cuda dharis take Krsna and the gopis cheaply. Under the influence of impersonalism, they think they can become one with the Lord and the gopis through some imaginative meditation. But the scriptures say that even Laksmi, the goddess of fortune herself in her eternal form, can't enter the rasa-lila, despite ages of austerity. So how can a fool do so by merely dressing up the material body?
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.
The Bhaktivedanta Institute.
Bombay, San Francisco, and San Diego.
The Institute is led by devotees of Krsna who hold degrees in various scientific disciplines. International Director: Bhakti Svarupa Damodara Swami (Ph.D., Physical Organic Chemistry, U.C. Irvine). Assistant Director: Sadaputa Dasa (Ph.D., Mathematics, Cornell). International Secretary: Rasaraja Dasa (M.S., Electrical Engineering, BITS India).
To present Krsna consciousness in the context of modern science, show that life comes from life, and help persons committed to the scientific world view explore the Vedic knowledge offered in Srila Prabhupada's books.
Through its three centers, the Institute addresses issues on which science and Krsna consciousness both have something to say.
In 1986, in Bombay, the Institute organized the World Conference for the Synthesis of Science and Religion, attended by more than a thousand distinguished thinkers in both fields. The Institute published a book of the proceedings. The Bombay center actively interacts with the intellectual community in Bombay and the rest of India through campus lectures and and in-house programs.
In 1990, in San Francisco, four hundred scientists and scholars attended the Institute's First International Conference on the Study of Consciousness Within Science. The proceedings are available on audio and video tapes, and a book on consciousness within science will be published soon. Since then, a discussion group on consciousness and science has been meeting monthly at the University of California at San Francisco.
The San Diego center is active in publishing books and producing videos. Its latest book, Human Evolution: A Conflict Between Fact and Theory, is in press.
In London in 1992, the Institute will sponsor a second International Conference on the Study of Consciousness Within Science.
The San Diego center is researching and planning for a Vedic planetarium and science museum, to be built in Washington, D.C.
Also in the works in San Diego: more videos, and a detailed book about Vedic astronomy.
A shortage of staff and need of more money for research, publishing, and conferences.
How You Can Help
Take part in conducting research, programming computers, writing scripts, producing videos, editing manuscripts, translating papers, or organizing colloquia. The Institute also needs more full-time general workers for support functions.
Send tax-deductible donations to any of the Institute's centers.
For further information, please contact:
Where is it?
By Indradyumna Swami
THE LETTER ARRIVED by air mail registered express from New Caledonia. Sitting in the office at our center in Sydney, Australia, I mused over the colorful stamps depicting a beautiful tropical isle.
"Where in the world is New Caledonia?" I asked Priyavrata, who looked over my shoulder curiously.
"I'm not exactly sure," he said. "I think it might be part of the Falkland Islands—somewhere near Argentina."
"It's in the South Pacific!" said Ajita, who had just come in the door. "You never studied geography? It's a French territory."
Opening the envelope, I wondered who could be writing me from the South Seas. I discovered it was my old friend Mahabhagavata Dasa from France. He'd gone to New Caledonia three years ago with his wife and child to open a Hare Krsna temple. Somewhat isolated from devotees, he was inviting me to come there for a month or two to spread Krsna consciousness.
"There are many opportunities for reaching the French here," Mahabhagavata wrote, "and the weather is ideal."
"Notice how he mentioned the French," said Ajita, "and not the Melanesians. They're the island folk who've lived there for thousands of years. Some of them wanted independence a few years ago. When it came to a vote, the majority preferred to stay a French territory. But there's still a lot of tension between the French and the local people."
"What do you think, Prabhus?" I asked, "Why don't we go for a few weeks?"
They answered with big grins.
One week later six of us flew out of Sydney loaded with books, drums, and cymbals, bound for Noumea, New Caledonia, two thousand kilometers northeast of Sydney in the South Pacific Ocean.
That evening, as our Boeing 727 circled over New Caledonia getting ready to land, the red-orange sunset spread a magnificent backdrop behind the vast horizon. The green island stood out like an emerald against the turquoise water. As we landed and the doors opened, a warm tropical breeze greeted us.
"I think I'm going to like it here," joked Priyavrata.
After customs and immigration, Mahabhagavata Dasa, with his wife, Govinda Mohini Dasi, and their fourteen-year-old son, Laksmi Narayana Dasa, greeted us enthusiastically outside.
"Thank you for coming, Prabhus," said Mahabhagavata as he placed a fragrant flower garland around the neck of each devotee.
In the bus back to the temple, Mahabhagavata explained their situation on the island.
"We've been here three years," he said. "We have a simple center with a vegetarian restaurant. It's just on the outskirts of the city. We serve around seventy-five people a day.
"Europeans?" I asked.
"Mostly," he said. "But once in a while the islanders come too. You know there's some tension here?"
"Yes, I've heard," I replied.
"We distribute many books door to door in the European section," Mahabhagavata said.
I looked up. "And to the Melanesians?"
"In the capital, Noumea, there's no problem. But it's too dangerous to go to their villages outside the city," he said. "No outsiders go there."
Our bus stopped abruptly in front of the Hare Krsna restaurant.
As we sat and took prasadam, everyone hungry after the long journey, I noticed Mahabhagavata speaking quietly to his wife near the kitchen. He seemed to have guessed my mind. She shook her head disapprovingly and walked over to our table.
"Maharaja, excuse me," she said. "But no one goes to those villages. We've heard horrible stories."
"But we're not going there to take anything," Ajita said. "They ought to see we've come to give them something—Krsna consciousness."
"But how will they know it has anything to do with God?" she asked.
"Know or not know," I said, "Krsna's holy name will make the atmosphere auspicious. And prasadam will break the ice!"
By this time Mahabhagavata was becoming convinced. He said we should make a plan.
"The plan is simple," I said. "Like anywhere else in the world, we'll chant Hare Krsna and pass out books and prasadam. And if there's any problem, we'll depend on Krsna."
That afternoon and evening everyone got ready for the next day's expedition. An air of excitement filled the temple as devotees loaded the vans with books and instruments and cooked prasadam in the kitchen.
"Make the prasadam first class," I asked. "It's our ultimate weapon."
By late evening everything was packed and ready to go. We went to sleep with great hope.
We awoke well before sunrise, and by 7 A.M. we had finished our spiritual practices. The devotees seemed particularly intent on their chanting. They were taking shelter in Krsna's name. Despite our optimism, we knew of the risks.
By 9 A.M. we were off. Kirtana filled the van as we drove out of the city. The warm halava prasadam fogged the windows as we entered the jungle and wound our way through the mountains.
After two hours we came out of the mountains and into a valley. We could see small villages scattered here and there, smoke curling from the rooftops of the traditional huts some of the Melanesians still live in. Other, more modern houses dotted the roads to the villages.
"Which village shall we try?" asked Mahabhagavata.
"Let's go to that one," I said, pointing to a village in the center of the valley. "If it's successful, we can fan out and go to the others."
Coming off the main asphalt road, we drove onto a dirt road and headed toward the village. After thirty minutes we pulled up near a group of houses with no one in sight.
"Where is everyone?" Priyavrata asked, a touch of concern in his voice.
"Probably in the fields," said Ajita. "Most likely the women and children are home though."
"Let's get out and have kirtana through the village," I said. "And bring the prasadam."
We started chanting. Soon the doors of the houses began opening, and the residents came forward with big smiles to greet us. Suddenly we found ourselves surrounded by curious and inquisitive faces. As we started to give out prasadam, the procession came to a standstill. Soon people were coming back for seconds and thirds.
I winked at Mahabhagavata. "So much for the horrible stories," I said.
Within an hour we'd passed out all the halava. Chanting from house to house, our fears gone, we drew a following of village children. We felt confident this simple process could bring Krsna consciousness to every village on the island of New Caledonia.
Indradyumna Swami joined ISKCON in Detroit in 1971. He accepted sannyasa, the renounced order of life, in 1979. Since then he has spread Krsna consciousness in many parts of the world.
Disciples recall the pastimes of a pure devotee.
IN BOMBAY, every morning for a week or two a life member used to take Srila Prabhupada and a small group of his disciples for a walk on a pleasant open walkway near the sea. One morning, after the stroll, we were sitting in the car about to leave when a woman walked up to us. She held an infant in her arms, and by her side were three other young children. She spoke in Hindi and was obviously begging. Srila Prabhupada passed some coins out the window, giving a few to the woman and each of the children.
While we were driving back, I mustered all my courage and asked, "Why do we give Krsna's money to beggars?" I had read in the Bhagavad-gita that giving charity to spiritually unworthy recipients was not transcendental but was under the influence of the modes of material nature.
After I asked the question there was a long silence, and I felt that my worst fear was realized: I had offended Srila Prabhupada. I waited and still Srila Prabhupada didn't reply. So finally I offered, "Is it because the money is prasadam?"
And Srila Prabhupada at once said, "Yes, it is Krsna prasadam."
This answer relieved me immeasurably because not only did it eradicate my doubts about Srila Prabhupada's act, but it also allowed me to rectify my own offensive mentality.
However, I never took it that I should give money to beggars, thinking it was prasadam, but rather from Srila Prabhupada's hand those coins were sanctified and would purify anyone who received them.
SRILA PRABHUPADA had just arrived in Paris from Moscow. It was his first visit to the French capital. I was excited because I had never seen my spiritual master. Srila Prabhupada had initiated me by letter. He was more wonderful than I had ever dared to imagine. His soothing saffron robes were dazzling in the late-afternoon sunshine.
We fledgling devotees had just opened a new temple in a Paris suburb. We'd done it with sheer enthusiasm and very little money. We were poor, yet madly inspired by Srila Prabhupada's mercy.
We didn't even have a car for Srila Prabhupada, so we called a taxi to take him from downtown Paris to the temple.
Srila Prabhupada sat in the back seat, his servant Aravinda was next to him, and I snuggled as close as possible to Aravinda.
We got caught in a traffic jam in the prestigious Place de la Concord. The noise of the traffic was disturbing yet I ventured a question, reading from the Gita I always carried with me.
"Srila Prabhupada, what does this verse mean: 'What is night for all beings is the time of awakening for the self-controlled; and the time of awakening for all beings is night for the introspective sage.' "
I wasn't sure he'd heard me.
"Four o'clock," he said. "Our devotees wake up at four o'clock."
Aravinda interjected that I was asking about a verse from the Bhagavad-gita. I read the verse again in a louder voice.
Srila Prabhupada began to laugh.
"Yes," he said. "This verse means that when the karmis [materialists] see us they are laughing. And when we see them we are laughing. But we know we are right. Therefore, our laugh is best. The materialists think we are wasting our time in spiritual life. We know they are wasting their time in material life. Therefore, our laugh is best."
The worldwide activities of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)
ISKCON's first temple opens again in July, at 26 Second Avenue in New York. This is the small storefront where Srila Prabhupada started ISKCON in 1966. It had formerly been a shop and still bore the name "Matchless Gifts."
After three years, ISKCON moved on to larger quarters, but now devotees are opening the original place again. It will serve as a reading room, a memorial to Srila Prabhupada, and a full-time center for spreading Krsna consciousness. The place next door—a laundromat in the old days—will become a Hare Krsna restaurant.
The temple will reopen with a festival on July 11—twenty-five years from the day of ISKCON's founding.
ISKCON has secured a ten-year lease on the property, with an option to buy. There's a fund-raising campaign to help the project. For details, see page 60.
San Francisco celebrates its twenty-fifth annual Rathayatra festival, the Festival of the Chariots, on August4. The mayor, Art Agnos, has proclaimed the occasion Rathayatra Day.
Bhagavad-gita on computer disks has been released by the Bhaktivedanta Archives. The computerized Gita includes the Sanskrit transliteration, the full text, and Srila Prabhupada's complete purports. Included is a versatile program for making searches. (For ordering information, see page 59.)
Boy George has filled the British air-waves with the chanting of Hare Krsna. The popular singer's record Bow Down Mister, his "Krishna anthem," has been high on the British charts.
Though George says he's still "too materialistic" to live the devotees' life-style, he's "totally sympathetic" to Krsna consciousness and "quite happy to promote it." Ultimately, he says, "the song is just meant to make people feel happy."
A 90-room villa serves as ISKCON's new center near Padua, in northeastern Italy. The devotees purchased the villa, a former monastery between Padua and Vicenza, to replace their old center, a smaller, rented building near a Padua factory.
Poland got a taste for big Krsna conscious festivals in May, as the Gauranga Bhajan Band toured the country with chanting, spiritual food, and multi-projector slide shows.
The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust has enhanced its main European production center, in Sweden. The center puts out books in more than twenty-seven languages. It's now set up to come out with two hundred new titles a year.
People in Romania are reading their first Vedic scripture—Sri Isopanisad, published in Romanian by the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.
Thousands of people feasted on prasadam, spiritual food, served by ISKCON at the annual rice-and-yogurt festival in Panihati, West Bengal. The festival, held June 24, celebrates a feast thrown for Lord Caitanya's devotees 500 years ago.
In America, the festival is also held at the end of June in Atlanta, Georgia.
The giant Rathayatra festival takes place in Puri, Orissa, on July 13. ISKCON holds its Rathayatra festival in Calcutta the same day.
For more detailed news, ISKCON puts out a monthly news-paper, ISKCON World Review. To subscribe, see page 58. Any news from your town or village? Please let us know!
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).
Direct Telephone Service Installed
Phone calls can now go in and out of Mayapur directly. With tens of thousands of pilgrims visiting Mayapur every year, the Department of Telephones has put in a new exchange, sparing callers from having to go through local operators.
New Kitchen Building for Gurukula
The gurukula school has a new kitchen building. Designed to cook for and seat 300 people, the building is being built in phases. The first phase—the ground floor—should be done by now. The next phase—another floor—will be added next year. The kitchen is being built with donations from Switzerland.
An architectural school dedicated to cost-efficient technology is helping the Mayapur project build a new guest-house and a new residence for unmarried men. The work is now in progress.
Laurie Baker's architectural school has worked in South India the last thirty years to promote the use of local materials for cost-efficient building, with a minimum of steel and cement.
Eager to spread such techniques to other parts of India, the school has sent to Mayapur an engineer, a supervisor, and four masons. They'll stay as long as needed to train ISKCON's construction team.
The new building for men will house 200.
It's Monsoon Time in Mayapur
The rains in Mayapur are enormous. If you're planning to visit, bring your own boat.
From August 25 through August 28, Vrndavana celebrates its most widely attended festival, Jhulan Yatra, Lord Krsna's swing festival. During the festival, small Deities in Lord Krsna's temples enjoy swinging on ornate swings. The temples also sponsor rasa-lila dramas and dance performances. During this very pleasant time—after the summer has broken and the monsoon rains have passed—the population of Vrndavana is said to increase tenfold.
At the start of July the Padayatra will leave the state of Karnataka and cross into Maharashtra. There the devotees will stop first in the city of Kohlapur, known for its temple of Maha-Laksmi, visited by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
Traveling northeast, the devotees will reach Pandharpur, the home of Lord Vithala, the Visnu Deity worshiped by the saint Tukarama. When the devotees arrive, at the end of July, they'll be just in time for Sayana Ekadasi, when the temple of Lord Vithala celebrates its biggest festival of the year. Thousands of pilgrims attend from all over the state of Maharashtra.
Then the Padayatra will walk on to Nasik, on the bank of the Godavari, one of India's seven sacred rivers. It is at Nasika that Laksmana, the younger brother of Lord Sri Ramacandra, cut off the nose of the ogress Surpanakha, and it is here also that the demon Ravana kidnapped Lord Ramacandra's wife, Sita.
This year the celebration of Kumbha Mela will be taking place at Nasik, and the Padayatra will enter in time for the holy bathing days at the end of August and beginning of September.
About twenty kilometers west of Nasik, the party will also visit Tryambakesvara, the source of the Godavari.
From Nasik, the Padayatra will head northwest into the state of Gujarat.
On October 23 through November 21, in a separate party, ISKCON's pilgrims will walk through the holy land of Vrndavana, where Lord Krsna performed the transcendental pastimes of His childhood and youth.
Earlier this year, the Padayatra in Navadvipa, West Bengal, went so well that next March it will become part of ISKCON's annual Mayapur-Vrndavana festival.
Padayatra started in England at Newcastle on May 1. A spokesman for the party said, "We are walking to share a more simple and spiritual way of life and to show its benefit in our relationships with each other and the environment."
By the end of June the Padayatra will have passed through Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, and Leicester. Its next big festivals: July 3 in Northampton, July 8 in Luton, July 10 in Watford, and finally July 14 in London.
After England: Holland, Belgium, and France. By the third week in September the Padayatra will take part in ISKCON's festival of the chariots in Paris. From there it will take the Deity of Lord Jagannatha on a 230-kilometer procession south to New Mayapur, the Hare Krsna farm near Chateauroux.
Meanwhile, starting April 1, for six to eight months a Padayatra will be traveling from Florence to various places in Italy.
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, Fax: (619) 463-0168
Bhaktivedanta Manor, Letchmore Heath, Watford, Hertfordshire WD2 8EP, England
Phone: (09) 2385-7244
U.S. Supreme Court Grants ISKCON Appeal,
The Hare Krsna movement won't have to sell its Los Angeles temple and won't have to pay $5 million to a California woman and her mother—at least not now, and maybe never. That's the effect of a decision from the United States Supreme Court.
In 1983, a California jury ruled against the Hare Krsna devotees in a court case that accused them of having "brainwashed" teenage Robin George and kept her from her family. The penalty: $32.6 million. The Court of Appeal later knocked that down to $2.9 million ($5 million with interest). But to pay that price the movement would have had to sell its Los Angeles headquarters and five other temples.
The Supreme Court, however, granted ISKCON's appeal, set aside the $5-million penalty, and sent the case down again to a lower court.
The Supreme Court, in its order, told the lower court to look at the case again in the light of a ruling two weeks earlier on an insurance case, Pacific Mutual v. Haslip. In that ruling, the Supreme Court had decided that punitive damage awards—awards meant not just to compensate but to punish—are allowable under the United States Constitution. But the Court warned that in some cases such awards might transgress constitutional standards.
"One must concede," wrote Justice Blackmun, speaking for the Court on Haslip, "that unlimited jury discretion ... in the fixing of punitive damages may invite extreme results that jar one's constitutional sensibilities."
In a concurring opinion, Justice Kennedy wrote, "A verdict returned by a biased or prejudiced jury no doubt violates due process, and the extreme amount of an award compared to the actual damage inflicted can be some evidence of bias or prejudice in an appropriate case."
Is this such a case? That the Court granted the devotees' appeal and sent their case back down for review suggests that it very well may be.
"This case should have been knocked out of the courts weeks after it was filed," says Amarendra Dasa, a devotee attorney. "We want to retry this case from the beginning, without the allegations of brainwashing" that an appellate court later threw out.
The Georges still hope to win. "I'd like to live to see some of the money that we deserve—that we've earned," says Marcia George, Robin's mother.
But fate has yet to reveal what it is that the Georges deserve.
Massachusetts Supreme Court Overturns
A few weeks after the Supreme Court decision, fate gave ISKCON a most welcome decision in Massachusetts. There the state's Supreme Judicial Court ruled that a 1987 judgment hitting ISKCON for $610,000 be thrown out.
Like the George case, this was a case in which a mother and daughter (this time Mary and Susan Murphy) sued ISKCON. They claimed that ISKCON had "intentionally inflicted emotional distress" on Susan during her stay at ISKCON's Boston temple.
At trial, the lawyers for the Murphys tried to show that ISKCON had brought the Murphys distress by teaching Susan the doctrines of the Vedic scriptures. The lawyers brought in long, detailed passages from the Vedic scriptures to argue this point.
The trial, ISKCON said, was a "heresy trial," in which the jury had been asked to pass judgment on the Krsna conscious scriptural teachings.
In a nation committed to religious freedom, ISKCON said, courts can't put religious doctrines on trial.
While ISKCON's appeal was pending, the state's Supreme Court, on its own initiative, plucked it from the Appeals Court into their own courtroom. An unusual move.
Still more unusual: All seven justices of the Court jointly heard the case.
Result: The justices unanimously overturned the lower-court decision.
Chief Justice Paul J. Liacos declared that the lower court's verdict "impermissibly infringed" on ISKCON's right to freely practice its religion.
Inherent in the Murphys' claims, the Court said, was the notion that ISKCON's teachings are fundamentally flawed and inconsistent with a proper notion of human development. "While this issue may be the subject of a theological or academic debate," the Court said, "it has no place in the courts of this Commonwealth."
The Court therefore threw out the bulk of the damage judgment—$560,000 out of $610,000—and threw the rest of it back down to the original court. (There the Murphys, if they want, can try again.)
The Court cited a decision from a case ISKCON had won in 1981: "Tolerance of the unorthodox and unpopular is the bellwether of a society's spiritual strength.... Our republic prides itself on the enormous diversity of religious and political beliefs which have been able to find acceptance and toleration on our shores."
Dr. V.J. Mody, president of the Hindu Alliance, based in Washington, said the decision "sends a clear message to anti-religious elements that they cannot unjustly attack bona fide religions, like the Hare Krsna faith, be they mainstream or minority."