Back to Godhead magazine 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.
Gifts and Gatherings
A GROUP OF TEENAGE KIDS have commandeered a full sixteen pages of this issue of Back to Godhead. And we've been glad to see them do it.
We're not interested in hardcore music and youth scenes. But we are when they're connected with Krsna.
Because Krsna is purely spiritual, everything linked with Krsna becomes spiritualized. So, for example, we don't care about battlefields—places where people go about killing one another.
But we're interested in the Battlefield of Kuruksetra because Lord Krsna appeared there and spoke Bhagavad-gita to His devotee Arjuna.
So it is that we've dedicated a large share of this BTG to Shelter, a Krsna conscious rock band. We started with just a short article, but the kids (their word) had more and more to say. And what they were saying made sense, because these are not just kids—they're philosophers and devotees.
Our thanks, then, to Bhakta Vic, Raghunatha Dasa (Ray Cappo), and the other members of Shelter for what they've contributed to this issue of Back to Godhead—and to the youth of today.
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Thanks also to the many other devotees and readers who've been contributing to BTG.
BTG is your magazine, and we welcome you to take part in it. We thrive on your comments, your questions, your criticisms. We're enlivened by your ideas and suggestions.
Writers, artists, photographers—we especially invite you to use your talents and skills for BTG. As the Srimad-Bhagavatam tells us, whatever gifts we have reach their highest perfection when offered for the Absolute Truth.
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Our "Gatherings" feature, started in our last issue, is growing quickly.
I myself have had the opportunity to visit several of the gatherings listed, and I can say from my own experience what a pleasure they are.
It's a pleasure to get together with devotees who've taken what they've learned from Srila Prabhupada and put it into practice in their homes. And I'm sure it's a pleasure for them to share it with others.
Of special appeal to me at many of these meetings is the mixture I find of devotees from India, devotees from the West, and the Western-born sons and daughters of Indian families. At gatherings like these, the Western devotees deepen their feel for the value of the Vedic customs and culture. The Indian devotees feel inspired by the Krsna consciousness of their Western friends. And the Western-born Indians get a lift from both sides.
Ultimately, we find, "Western" and "Indian" don't really matter at all. When we chant Hare Krsna we forget who we supposedly are and enjoy serving together in our true identity as spiritual souls.
I'm delighted that Back to Godhead is able to spread the word of these spiritual gatherings. This is precisely the sort of networking for which a magazine like this is ideal.
It seems to me an article like the one about ISKCON's governing body [BTG, May/June] should have had the author's name on it. When I'm reading opinions, whose are they?
You're right. The author was Jayadvaita Swami.
Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna
In the BTG issues for March/April and May/June, the phrase "Hare Krsna mantra" appears throughout, but if someone were wondering what that mantra is, he would be pretty hard pressed to find it. Is it a policy of yours not to put the words "Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare" anywhere in "The Magazine of the Hare Krsna Movement"?
Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada
No. Thanks for reminding us.
A Benefit by Error
My husband and I had a delightful mistake happen when we realized we had paid for two subscriptions. Now we can each relish from cover to cover our own BTG. I hope this letter will inspire other devotees to get two subscriptions also. Then you will have an extra copy to read or distribute as a gift.
Bisalaksi Devi Dasi and Prabhasa Dasa
Madison Heights, Michigan
I would like to submit some information to update your news about Hungary.
We have three centers in Hungary. There are about fifty full-time devotees and thirty initiated. Since we received legal permission, in July 1989, we have distributed about 200,000 of Srila Prabhupada's books.
As a religion, Krsna consciousness is monetarily supported by the State. For the purchase of our temple, for example, the government gave half a million forint [about US$7500]. The State still gives us yearly support for our different projects.
In Budapest we have regularly 100 to 150 guests on our Sunday feasts. It is just because the temple room cannot hold more. Otherwise we had a big open program and 800 attended. So the interest is very good.
Sivarama Swami is the GBC [ISKCON Governing Body Commissioner] for Hungary. He started four years ago from literally nothing, and due to His mercy the Krsna consciousness movement is expanding nicely in Hungary.
We welcome your letters. Send correspondence to The Editors, Back to Godhead, P.O.Box 90946, San Diego, CA 92169, USA.
Our thanks to the several hundred readers who returned the questionnaire we sent out with the March/April issue. Your responses and suggestions have been valuable. We're already using many of the ideas you gave us.
Q: The Bhagavad-gita (18.48) says that we should continue to carry out our prescribed duties, for they are born out of our own nature. (1) What does "born out of our own nature" mean? (2) The purport also says that a sudra should carry out the orders of the bad master even though they should not be done. I assume this means one should go on doing something wrong even if he knows about it. Changing things would mean not doing your prescribed duty. Please elaborate on this topic.
In your March issue, under the topic "A Great Husband's Great Wife," you explained the rules of conduct of a chaste and faithful wife (sadhvi). The purport also says that even if there is some wrong on the part of the husband, the wife must tolerate it, and thus there will be no misunderstanding between husband and wife. If the husband shows some illicit sexual advances towards his wife, should she just please him or should she shun him? Where does one draw the line between one's duty and tolerance?
Kew Gardens, New York
A: The Bhagavad-gita tells us that three modes of nature—goodness, passion, and ignorance—govern our physical and mental qualities. These qualities make up "our nature."
And according to our nature, there's a work that suits each of us best. An intellectual will be ill-suited to street-sweeping, a street sweeper ill-suited for teaching trigonometry. So the Vedic system assigns duties to each of us, fitted to our nature.
In the Vedic conception, what's wrong for us depends on our occupation. For example, a brahmana (a priest or intellectual) must be scrupulously honest. So for a brahmana, lying is wrong. But in a vaisya (merchant), lying is tolerable. A merchant tells us, "For you I'm not making any profit." It's a lie, of course, but that's business.
Similarly, for a ksatriya (king or statesman) a vow to be nonviolent is wrong. A ksatriya must protect his citizens, so when force is needed he must use it. But for a brahmana to use violence is wrong. A brahmana must be peaceful and nonviolent.
Similarly, a brahmana must be free and independent. So for him it's wrong to be employed and obliged to others. A bought-out intellectual, the Vedic sages say, is no better than a dog. But for a sudra, a hired workman, independence is wrong. A sudra, by definition, lacks higher intelligence. Given independence, he'll misuse it. So for a sudra, acting independently is wrong.
Every duty has some fault in it. But when we try to cure such faults by going against our natural duties, the Vedic sages say it won't work. The wrongs we cause will be greater than the wrongs we try to rectify.
The highest duty for all living beings is to serve the Supreme Personality of Godhead. So in the highest sense, whatever acts bring us closer to Krsna are right, and whatever acts pull us away are wrong.
A wife should tolerate the wrongs of her husband, but not to the point of getting dragged into the four main sins—illicit sex, meat-eating, gambling, and intoxication. The Srimad-Bhagavatam (7.11.28) says, "A chaste wife should engage with affection in the service of a husband who is not fallen." In Krsna consciousness, a wife is not a machine for sense gratification.
Q: I'm hoping you won't mind answering a couple of questions about the maha-mantra.
First I'd like to know: Is there a verse somewhere in the Vedas that actually states the mantra in the form printed in BTG [Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare]? I haven't come across any, so I'm curious.
Also I'm wondering: Does a recording of chanting have the same effect as "live" chanting, e.g., I have a tape of Srila Prabhupada singing the mantra, so would just listening to that be very effective?
A: Yes, the maha-mantra is found in the Vedas, in the following verse (5) from the Kalisantarana Upanisad:
iti sodasaka namnam
Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare
"Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—these sixteen names can nullify all the degrading, contaminating effects of the materialistic Age of Kali. In all the Vedas, no higher way is to be found." The chanting of Hare Krsna is always equally potent, whether heard "live" or on tape. This is the nature of transcendental sound. The Bhagavad-gita is a "recording" of Lord Krsna's words. Yet the Gita is still as potent today as it was when the Lord first spoke it. When we hear the transcendental sound from the lips of a pure devotee of the Lord, that sound vibration is always effective.
Q: In several books I have read by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada he says that to chant Jesus's name will work for becoming God conscious. What should I tell Christians when they say Jesus was the son of God and by giving your life to him you can be "born again" and go to heaven? Should Krsna's servants think that Jesus was also a messenger of God and what he said is true?
I was raised a Methodist, but I feel so good when I chant Hare Krsna. I feel that Krsna consciousness is awakening my soul!
Thank you for your help and thanks to you and Krsna for Back to Godhead.
Des Moines, Iowa
A: Christ is the son of God, and Krsna is God. So by giving one's life to Krsna one perfectly follows the teachings of Jesus. Hare Krsna.
A lecture in Vrndavana on November 2, 1972,
ato vai kavayo nityam
"Therefore all transcendentalists have been rendering loving service with great delight to Lord Krsna, the Personality of Godhead, from time immemorial because such devotional service is enlivening to the self. (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.2.22)
Atma means self, mind, or body. We are living in three stages: the bodily concept of life, the mental concept of life, and the spiritual concept of life. Those who are grossly in ignorance think in terms of the bodily concept of life. Those who are a little more advanced think in terms of the mental or psychological concept of life. And those who are still more advanced think in terms of the spiritual concept of life.
The spiritual concept of life was described in a previous verse: vadanti tat tattva-vidas tattvam. Tattvam means truth. The truth is spirit, not matter. Matter is truth but subordinate to spirit. On the basis of spirit, matter grows, just as our body has grown on the basis of our spiritual existence.
So spiritual realization is the ultimate goal of our life. Jivasya tattva-jijnasa nartho yas ceha karmabhih. Inquiry about the truth is the main business of the living entity. But living entities lower than human beings—animals, birds, beasts, trees, aquatics, insects—have no privilege to inquire about the Absolute Truth. It is in the human form of life that one can inquire about the Absolute Truth.
When one is actually inquisitive about the Absolute Truth, he realizes three transcendental subjects: brahmeti paramatmeti bhagavan iti sabdyate—the all-pervading Brahman, the localized Supersoul, and Bhagavan, the Personality of Godhead. Ultimately one has to reach the platform of Bhagavan, Vasudeva. Vasudeva sarvam iti sa mahatma sudurlabhah. One who reaches the point of understanding Vasudeva, Krsna, is the perfect mahatma.
Others may be transcendentalists (kovidah, "men of knowledge"), but one who has reached the point of understanding Vasudeva, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is called mahatma. Mahatma is a very common word in India. Any saintly person is called a mahatma. But according to Vedic description, a mahatma is one who has reached the point of understanding Vasudeva, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
In another place it is stated: mahat-sevam dvaram ahur vimuktes tamo-dvaram yositam sangi-sangam. There are two ways of life. One way is liberation, and the other way is bondage. For example, when a reel of thread turns one way it draws in the thread, and when it turns the other way it releases the thread. Similarly, we can lead our life in two ways, either towards liberation or towards the darkness of bondage.
By gradual evolution we come to the human form of life. Now we can move in two ways, either towards liberation or towards bondage.
Modern education has no information about bondage and liberation. There is no education to enable students to understand God, themselves, and their relationship with God, Visnu. These things are unknown to the modern educationist.
The Vedic literature therefore says, andhah yathandhair upaniyamanas te 'pisa-tantryam uru-dhamni-baddhah. Uru means "very strong." Dhamni means "rope." If your hands and legs are tied strongly, it is very difficult for you to move. Similarly, by the laws of nature every living entity is bound up very strongly—isa-tantrya, "by the laws of the Supreme Lord." We are bound up. We cannot deviate.
We cannot violate the laws of nature. Everyone can experience this. A little violation, a little deviation from the laws of nature, and we suffer. That is our daily experience. For example, the laws of nature dictate that you can eat only as much as you can digest. If you eat more, by the laws of nature you will suffer from indigestion. You cannot violate the law without suffering. Daivi hy esa guna-mayi mama maya duratyaya. Nobody can violate the laws of nature.
We have discussed how to get out of the laws of nature: mukta-sangasya jayate. Mukta-sanga means one who has become freed from the three modes of material nature. After being freed from those three modes, then one can talk of vasudeva-bhakti.
From another point of view, one can become free from this bondage of material nature simply by devotional service to Vasudeva. That is stressed in this chapter of Srimad-Bhagavatam from the very beginning:
If one simply learns how to render devotional service to Vasudeva, Krsna, then very soon one becomes detached from material bondage. And one gets knowledge, real knowledge. Material knowledge is the cause of bondage. Bhaktivinoda Thakura has said that advancement of material knowledge means more and more bondage. And advancement of spiritual knowledge means more and more liberation. Our problem, therefore, is how to liberate ourselves from material bondage.
We are bound up. I am a spirit soul, you are a spirit soul, but we are put into material bondage. And because we are in material bondage we have no freedom. People do not understand this.
The spirit soul is described as sarva-ga. Sarva-ga means that the spirit soul can go anywhere he likes. But due to this material bondage—because we have material bodies—we are checked. We cannot even go to other planets.
Of course, the yogis by yogic processes become a little free from this material body. Therefore they can transfer from one place to another very quickly—even yogis who are on the material platform. On this planet they travel very quickly. There are many yogis still in India who take bath in four places daily early in the morning. They take bath in Jagannatha Puri, Ramesvaram, Hardwar, and Dvaraka. We met some yogis, and they said how quickly they can go from one place to another.
From our own experience we can all understand how they can do this. Just consider the mind. The mind is so swift that in a second it can reach thousands of miles away. And the spirit soul is still more subtle. So the speed of the spirit soul is very, very great. In the Bhagavad-gita Krsna says, tayktva deham punar janma naiti mam eti so 'rjuna: "Just after giving up this body, one can immediately come to Me in the spiritual world." These are the Vedic statements.
You can try to understand. Tyaktva deham punar janma naiti—we accept another body immediately after death. When you are walking you take your second step when your first step is secure. Similarly as soon as the next body is arranged by superior arrangement, we give up the present body and enter into another gross body. This is the law.
So Krsna says, tyaktva deham punar janma naiti. If the living entity does not enter into another gross body, where does he go? Krsna says, mam eti: "He comes to Me." Now, imagine the speed of the spirit soul. Just after leaving the body at death he immediately goes to Goloka Vrndavana, or at least to where Krsna is, to join Krsna's nitya-lila, His eternal pastimes.
How Krsna's nitya-lila are going on has been described in the Caitanya-caritamrta. Krsna is always present in one of the universes in His bhauma-lila, His pastimes in the material world. Lord Caitanya has given the example of the movement of the sun. By the movement of the sun, we divide the day into twenty-four hours, into sixty minutes, into sixty seconds. Yet each time of the day is always existing. For example, our sunrise today was at six-thirty. This six-thirty passed here, but somewhere else it is now six-thirty. And when six-thirty passes there, somewhere else it will be six-thirty. Similarly, Krsna is passing from one universe to another, and when He's visible in this universe, we find Krsna's appearance.
Srila Sanatana Gosvami has informed us that a soul who has become competent to associate with Krsna goes first of all to Krsna within some universe where He is having His pastimes, bhauma-lila. Then, just as a person is trained as an apprentice and then given a post, so when a living entity eligible by Krsna consciousness gives up his body he is transferred at once to the universe where Krsna is. And after being trained up thoroughly, he's transferred to the original Krsnaloka, Goloka Vrndavana.
How swift the spirit soul is—in a moment he goes either to Krsna or to one of the universes! There are millions and trillions of universes. We have information of our universe, but from Vedic literature we get information that there are millions and trillions of universes like this. We can see only one universe. But we get this information from Brahma-samhita: yasya prabha prabhavato jagad-anda-koti. The word jagad-anda means one universe. And koti means millions. So there are unlimited universes. And in each universe there are millions and trillions of planets, each different from the others. This is the creation.
So just imagine the vastness of God's creation, how He enters every universe continually, and how His lila is going on. As soon as Krsna's birth is finished in one universe, immediately in another universe His birth takes place. This is called nitya-lila. So the spirit soul has immense power, and the soul is only a fragment of Krsna. Now you can imagine the power of Krsna. The living entity has so many potencies. So what potency must Krsna have, who is full of spiritual potency?
Actually if we want to be happy, as part and parcel of Krsna, we must join Him. That is our value. This example I have given several times: a small screw from a machine has immense value when it is attached to the machine. But the same small screw when detached from the machine has no value. Not even a farthing. Similarly, we are part and parcel of Krsna, Vasudeva. Our value is in full when we join Krsna, when we dovetail our activities in Krsna consciousness. Then we are valuable. Otherwise, so-called progress is simply illusion.
Therefore if we actually want happiness, we must dovetail our activities with Krsna, Vasudeva. It is for your interest. It is not for Krsna's interest. Krsna can create millions of living entities like you. He doesn't require your service. He's complete. But if you want your satisfaction, you have to dovetail yourself in devotional service to Krsna. That is intelligence. Otherwise—foolishness, ignorance, illusion. Thank you very much.
Who Is God?
by Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami
LAST CHRISTMAS, Life magazine did a cover story entitled "Who is God?" They asked that question of many people and printed the replies. The color photos of worshipers throughout the world showed many ways of approaching God. Life said, "The God of our story is the God of personal, private faith." Intrigued by the topic, I asked myself, "Okay, what's your answer to 'Who is God?'"
My personal faith in God comes from my spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, and from the Vedic scriptures. The intimations I had of God's presence when I was a child were faint indications only. Real God consciousness began for me when I met Srila Prabhupada and heard about Lord Krsna. It is the Supreme Lord who speaks the Bhagavad-gita whom I wish to serve and love.
God is revealed not only in the Vedic scriptures but in other scriptures of the great world religions. The worshipers appear to have different understandings, yet the expert spiritual master knows that the essence of religion is one—love of God. The details differ with the time in which religion is taught, the persons to whom it is taught, and the place where it is taught.
We cannot deny that God comes to people in His own way. One Life testimony was from an old woman who didn't know for sure whether there is a next life or whether there is God. A housemaid from Beirut said that God is a very old black person and He wears a long white robe.
Everyone is entitled to his or her own faith. But there is a science of revelation. God shouldn't be discussed only by hunches. We have a right to our own feelings, but the feelings need to be directed.
I cannot claim to be more directly touched by God than others. But my point is that we should become educated in our God consciousness. We shouldn't deliberately avoid this education, thinking that it's sectarian. And we shouldn't, like some people, take God in a sentimental way and think that sacred books and teachers are useless.
In our relationship with God, the most important relationship of our lives, it is best that we approach reliable sources of study. Srila Prabhupada used to say that religion without philosophy is sentiment or fanaticism, and philosophy without religion is dry speculation. Therefore pure devotees of Krsna are bhaktivedantas: they approach God through devotion (bhakti) as well as through scriptural knowledge and the power of reasoning (vedanta).
Who is God? Only God Himself knows this answer completely, and therefore we should hear from Him. In the Bhagavad-gita and other scriptures, Lord Krsna tells us, "I can be known only by devotional service." Krsna also makes it easy for us to know Him by telling us He can be seen even within the material world. He says, "I am the taste of water, the light of the sun and the moon, the syllable om in the Vedic mantras; I am the sound in ether and the ability in man" (Bhagavad-gita 7.8).
There are symptoms of a person who has realized God. The chief symptom is that he always serves and praises his Supreme Beloved. He cannot bear to be away from Krsna's service for even a moment. When people come in contact with such a pure devotee, they also become attracted to hearing and chanting about the Supreme. And the result of such knowledgeable devotional service is that one can ultimately attain to Sri Krsna's eternal abode.
Frankly, some of the witnessing in Life turned me off. A rancher thinks God is pleased when he kills cows.
A boy from India says, "It would be pretty boring sticking to one God every day.... My dad bought this lottery pen. It shoots out numbers like in the lottery ... so when I pray I take a number. Whichever number comes out I pray to that God."
I know that any progress toward God-worship is worthwhile. The Supreme Lord considers all worshipers pious, even when they approach Him for material relief through the demigods. But should we consider all God conscious persons to be on the same level? Krsna says, "As all approach Me I reciprocate. Everyone is on My path." But He also advises that the best devotees are they who approach the Supreme Personality of Godhead not for any profit but just out of love. This topmost way of knowing God is bhakti-yoga. Krsna calls it "the king of all knowledge." And He advises that we eventually give up all lesser forms of religion and "Just surrender to Me."
In former ages, persons determined to know "Who is God?" used to undergo severe austerities to reach the goal. Because the difficult practices of yoga and meditation are mostly no longer possible in the present age, Lord Caitanya has taught us an easy method, one authorized by scriptures: chanting the holy names of God. The holy names are not different from God Himself, so a sincere chanter can make quick advancement in God consciousness.
For the most part I enjoyed reading Life's faithful testimonies. They're certainly more encouraging than statements by nonbelievers. I honor the witnesses. It is an education to meet God-fearing, God-loving persons. And if we can learn to appreciate one another, we can go a long way toward defeating atheism. When devotees of God meet with open minds, I will find that "my" God is not so different from yours.
Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami is the author of more than two dozen books, including a six-volume biography of Srila Prabhupada.
Kicchari: India's Famous One-Pot Meal
by Yamuna Devi
LONG-TIME Back to Godhead readers will recall that for several years Visakha Dasi wrote this column. Since she has made kicchari nearly every day for twenty years, I asked her to write something about kicchari. Not surprisingly, she discussed Radharani's serving mood to Sri Krsna more than kicchari. Here are her thoughts, an enlivening preface to the late-autumn kicchari menus that follow.
"Radharani, the eternal consort of Sri Krsna, was given the benediction that whatever She cooked would be more delicious than nectar. Aromatic and pleasing to see, Her dishes are the essence of all delicacies. She cooks so many types of dishes that no one can know them perfectly, and the Lord, upon eating Srimati Radharani's meals, feels great satisfaction.
"We might think that the Lord's satisfaction is due to the unsurpassed quality and diversity of Radharani's cooking. But in truth this is not so. His satisfaction is due to Radharani's supermost glory—Her bhakti, Her unmotivated and uninterrupted loving devotion for Him and His devotees. And Lord Krsna seeks to evoke that glorious quality in all of us. Therefore He says, "If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, a fruit, or water, I will accept it."
"Getting a leaf, a fruit, a flower, or water isn't a problem, and the physical act of making an offering to the Lord is manageable. Loving devotion, however, goes beyond the mechanics of physical activity and intellectual correctness. It goes to the innermost core of one's heart, where the Lord, resplendent with the radiance of a bluish-black rain cloud, is situated. It is only by His and His devotees' grace that our innate feelings for Him can be aroused. And all acts done for Him can assist in this process of arousal, including, and perhaps especially, cooking for Him, offering food to Him, and eating while remembering Him.
"But what if one isn't naturally a good cook? What if like me one has limited time, energy, and kitchen equipment? And, even more, hardly a tinge of devotion?
"Still there is hope. First, because for one on the path of awakening love for Krsna there is no loss. With attention, a tinge of devotion may become a grain, then a pinch, then a morsel, and so on. And second, because one doesn't have to cook elaborately. For those of us not so qualified, or who prefer simple meals, there is always kicchari.
Made from simple ingredients—dried split peas, rice, vegetables, and spices—kicchari is a perfect one-pot meal. You can combine the elements in endless variety, creating new and fresh variations at every turn. And more important, the Lord will accept kicchari when you offer it to Him with devotion. Try it with Yamuna's menus that follow."
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These kicchari meals are easy enough for busy workday schedules, and delicious enough for weekend company. Kicchari is traditionally made on the stovetop, but both of these varieties are baked, leaving you free for other tasks. While the tastes are typically Indian, the dishes use ingredients readily found in supermarkets and natural food stores.
Cilantro, also called fresh coriander, is the most popular herb in India and much of the world. Mustard seeds have a nutty flavor when toasted and lend a pleasant flavor to many legume, grain, and vegetable dishes. If possible, buy organic rice, split peas, vegetables, and herbs, available in larger natural food stores. Their flavor is considerably more distinctive than nonorganic.
Baked Stew Of Yellow Split Peas And Brown Rice With Carrots And Peppers
This no-fuss entree takes only minutes to prepare, and it cooks by itself in two hours. Marbled with brilliant red bell peppers, orange carrots, and green cilantro, this golden stew is beautiful, satisfying, and inviting for a fall dinner.
Accompany with Light Tomato Chutney, salad, and capatis (toasted flat breads).
1 cup yellow split peas, soaked in water overnight
Preheat the oven to 375°. Rinse and drain the split peas and place them in a 3-quart casserole. Add the next five ingredients, half of the cilantro, and a dab of butter or oil. Cover the pan and bake for 1 hour.
Stir in the vegetables and salt. Bake uncovered until the water is absorbed and the split peas and rice are soft (about 1 hour).
Place the mustard seeds in a small pot, cover, and fry over moderate heat until they turn grey and pop. Stir them into the stew with the remaining butter or oil and cilantro.
Light Tomato Chutney
2 teaspoons peanut oil
Place half of the oil, fennel seeds, and jalapenos in a saucepan over moderate heat. Toast until the seeds darken a few shades. Add the tomatoes and maple syrup and cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.
Fold in the mint and remaining oil. Season with salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Baked Kicchari Of Basmati Rice And Green Split Peas With Toasted Almonds
With a texture similar to South Indian pongal, this baked kicchari has a pilaf-like consistency—hearty and inviting. The dish that goes with it, Baked Vegetable Packets, cooks by itself, leaving you free in the kitchen. Serve with lime yogurt.
1 cup green split peas, soaked in water overnight
Preheat the oven to 375°. Rinse and drain the split peas and transfer them to a 3-quart casserole. Add the next five ingredients, half of the cilantro, and a dab of butter. Cover the pan and bake for 1 hour.
Stir in the rice and salt. Partially cover and bake until the water is absorbed and the split peas and rice are soft (about 1 hour.)
Place the cumin seeds in a small pot and fry over moderate heat until they darken a few shades. Stir into the kicchari with the butter and remaining herbs. Garnish with almonds.
Baked Vegetable Packets
2 large red bell peppers, seeded, deribbed, and cut into long strips
Preheat the oven to 350°. Combine the vegetables, coriander seeds, and stock in a large bowl. Season with a light sprinkle of salt and cayenne. Place an equal amount of the vegetables in mounds on six 12-inch squares of kitchen parchment or tin foil. Fold two ends of the squares together at the top and seal the sides by folding them together twice.
Bake on baking trays until the vegetables are tender (about 30 minutes). Just before serving, break the packets open and sprinkle with lemon juice.
Yamuna Devi is the author of Lord Krishna's Cuisine: The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking and is a regular contributor to the Washington Post.
Chant Hare Krsna And Draw a Plow
by Hare Krsna Devi Dasi
KRSNA CONSCIOUSNESS is practical. For spiritual advancement, you don't have to renounce everything, go to the forest, and simply chant Hare Krsna all day long. In the Bhagavad-gita Krsna explains that all of us should continue to perform our duties according to our nature, but we should work with love and devotion as an offering to Him. Thereby every one of us can attain spiritual perfection.
The Vedic framework for organizing the work of a spiritual society is called varnasrama-dharma. As Krsna describes in the Bhagavad-gita, varnasrama gives each of us work to do that suits our natural qualities. This is known as the daivi-varnasrama system, which Prabhupada distinguishes from the exploitive caste system of modern India, in which a person's role in society is determined by what family he is born in.
A pure devotee of the Lord is considered to be above the varnasrama system. But as Bhaktivinoda Thakura states, "During sadhana-bhakti, or devotional service in practice, so long as one has material desires within the heart one should stay within the confines of varnasrama" ** (Bhaktivinoda Thakura, cited in Jagadisa Goswami, "Can We Implement Varnasrama-dharma?" Lecture in Vancouver, Canada, September 9, 1985.) That is, unless one is a pure devotee one needs to keep working in society for his or her own purification. Simply, the work should be done to please Krsna.
Srila Prabhupada warned us that we can't match the renounced life of the six Gosvamis of Vrndavana, and he criticized babajis who make a show of piety by chanting Hare Krsna yet still smoke cigarettes and keep loose relationships with women. "We can tell all these babajis they should be employed, chant Hare Krsna, and draw a plow. Then it will be nice." ** (Srila Prabhupada, "Varnasrama Talks," Vrndavana, India, March 1974.)
Srila Prabhupada's remark about the babajis is more than a dismissal of a group of showbottle spiritualists. The fact is, if these babajis would take up Prabhupada's instructions they could eventually attain the spiritual platform they now pretend to be on.
Prabhupada's remark is a valuable instruction for us, too. Like the babajis, we sometimes tend to be sentimental about Krsna consciousness. We may want to enjoy intense devotional feelings from chanting Hare Krsna, but we may forget that to please Krsna we must offer Him our daily work as well: "Do it for Me." ** (Bhagavad-gita 9.27.)
So the principle embodied in Srila Prabhupada's simple instruction "Chant Hare Krsna and draw a plow" speaks vitally to us. And if we follow it? We have Prabhupada's simple benediction: "Then it will be nice." Our spiritual life will be successful.
In this column, I want to meditate on Srila Prabhupada's order to "Chant Hare Krsna and draw a plow," particularly as it applies to cow protection and agriculture.
We know we should offer our work to Krsna, but sometimes it's not easy for us to do it wholeheartedly, especially if our work has aspects displeasing to Krsna.
In the sixteenth century that happened to Sanatana Gosvami when he was the minister in charge of the government secretariat for the Nawab of Bengal. Sanatana Gosvami's expert management freed the Nawab from administrative duties so the Nawab could spend his time attacking other states. But when the Nawab at last prepared to attack Orissa, where the temple of Lord Jagannatha is located, Sanatana Gosvami resigned his post, and the Nawab had him imprisoned.
Most of us are not as strong as Sanatana Gosvami, and if our work puts us in a compromising situation it may keep us from fully taking up the devotional process or maintaining our devotional practice. Srila Prabhupada realized this, and that's why he pushed his followers to revive the pure system of varnasrama. That system naturally purifies the work we do because the whole system is designed to satisfy the senses of the Supreme Lord.
Prabhupada explained that without this system Krsna consciousness can be difficult to take up: "Our main aim is how to give them Krsna consciousness. But if they are already disturbed in every respect, then how will they take it?" Therefore, Srila Prabhupada said, to help them come to Krsna consciousness, "this is the method—varnasrama." ** (Srila Prabhupada, op. cit.)
Elaborating on this, ISKCON leader Jagadisa Goswami cites three basic reasons Prabhupada gave for using varnasrama within ISKCON: (1) to organize our society effectively, (2) to engage the psychophysical propensities of our devotees to keep them happy and advancing in Krsna consciousness, and (3) to construct a house in which all the people of the world can live peacefully. ** (Srila Prabhupada, op. cit.)
Varnasrama serves as a preliminary means of bringing people to Krsna consciousness, even if they're not yet chanting Hare Krsna. Srila Prabhupada said, "We must pave the situation in such a way that gradually people will be promoted to the spiritual plane. ... The chanting will go on. That is not stopped. But at the same time varnasrama-dharma must be established to make the way easy." ** (Srila Prabhupada, Conversation, Mayapur, India, February 14, 1977.) (6)
In the varnasrama system, it is the vaisyas, the productive class, who generate the wealth. And how are they to do this? Krsna says, krsi-go-raksya vanijyam—by farming, cow protection, and trade. ** (Bhagavad-gita 18.44.)
The trade or business mentioned here is largely another aspect of farming or cow protection. Prabhupada explains: "Business means if you have got extra grains or extra foodstuff you can sell where there is necessity, where there is want. That is business. We are not going to open mills and factories. ... That is sudra [low-class] business. The real business is that you produce enough food grains, as much as possible, and you eat and distribute." ** (Srila Prabhupada, "Varnasrama Talks.")
Srila Prabhupada further stresses the "cow protection" part of Krsna's instructions: "The Bhagavad-gita specifically instructs us, krsi-go-raksya: We human beings must protect the cow, our milk-giving mother. Go-raksya—protect the cow. Not go-hatya—kill the cow. This is most sinful." ** (Back to Godhead, "Srila Prabhupada Speaks Out: Sin in the Name of Religion," Vol. 21, No. 8, p. 14.)
In later columns I shall discuss how the modern economy depends on cow killing, and where this leads.
The leaders of ISKCON are determined not to simply let the world go to pieces because of ignorance and greed. They are working instead to help usher in the Golden Age of Lord Caitanya so that everyone may chant Hare Krsna and live peacefully. An important part of this is to set up a varnasrama society. And crucial to varnasrama is cow protection and simple agrarian villages where everyone can advance in spiritual life.
How Do We Understand The Temple Deity?
by Navina Krsna Dasa
MOST OF US FROM INDIA, regardless of where we're living now, at times go to a temple to see the Deity form of the Supreme Lord Krsna or Visnu or one of His incarnations. We also many times see the deities of various demigods.
Perhaps on a few occasions, which we may remember as high points in our lives, we have gone with friends and relatives to holy tirthas, places of pilgrimage. We then performed special penances or pious acts. And so we appreciated the audience of the Deity in an especially rewarding manner. We came back from these journeys feeling peaceful, content, and purified.
Many of us appreciate our visits to the ISKCON temples deeply. In the 1970's these were perhaps the only temples of Lord Krsna we found outside the borders of India. We were struck with wonder by the dedication and devotion Srila Prabhupada's disciples showed towards the Deities. The cleanliness, punctuality, decorations, and high standards of offerings amazed us. Even in India, it was rare to see such fine arrangements. The lives of the devotees seemed centered on the Deity. Lord Krsna's words from Bhagavad-gita seemed to come alive all over the world as we saw men and women living His teachings.
Today many of us continue to visit the ISKCON temples or other temples to see the Deity regularly. For one person that may mean going to the temple every day, for another once a week, and for others only once or twice a year, on special days such as Janmastami and Diwali.
Each of us has different hopes, realizations, thoughts, experiences, and feelings when in the presence of the Deity. As we stand before the Deity, we find ourselves in the court of the Supreme Lord Himself. We have been granted an audience with the Lord. He seems to give us His attention. And we can have the most intimate exchanges with Him. We find ourselves asking questions of the Deity. We say prayers, make requests, and ask for explanations, forgiveness, or blessings. Somehow we know that the Deity hears us, and that alone is most satisfying. Many times the smile on the Lord's face is enough to tell us we have been heard.
Knowing that the Supreme Lord is our eternal maintainer and wellwisher, we leave satisfied, knowing that everything is in the right hands.
To various degrees we have had the good fortune of realizing that the Supreme Lord is fully present in His Deity form, as much as in His teachings, His holy name, and His pastimes. No amount of criticism, ridicule, disbelief, or challenge deters us from our relationship with the Deity. Feeling sorry for the unfortunate who don't understand the Lord's presence in their city or village as the temple Deity, we go on trying to deepen our relationship with the Lord.
We understand that until we are completely free from all impurities we will not fully realize the Lord's presence. And we hesitate to drink, smoke, gamble, eat nonvegetarian foods, or indulge in irreligious sexual activity because we know that these things may make us feel embarrassed about going before the Deity. These, we know, block our attraction for the Lord.
We remember the words of great acaryas who tell us that one day when we're sufficiently pure the Deity will speak to us and enable us to see His transcendental pastimes.
The scriptures and great acaryas tell us that our relationship with the Deity develops through cultivation. To understand the Lord's presence, many activities will help us.
When we go to the temple we can develop the habit of always bringing some offering for the Deity. Usually the temple priests guide us to bring appropriate gifts. We offer our respects and bow our head before the Deity. We see His beautiful form, observe His worship or arati, hear and sing His glories, partake of His maha-prasadam and caranamrta, pray to Him. These all help cultivate our relationship with Him.
As we perform these scientific devotional acts prescribed in the scriptures, our relationship with the Deity gets deeper and deeper. We look forward to visiting the Lord and having His audience. The importance of our relationship with the Deity becomes greater and greater, and material relationships in the world seem less and less important. We begin to understand the feelings and realizations of great souls known to be dedicated and devoted to their Deities.
By the mercy of the Deity we can feel ourselves making genuine spiritual advancement. Knowledge about ourselves, about the world, and about the purpose of life seems to awaken. Detachment from less important material affairs and attachment for the reality of committed spiritual life seem to grow simultaneously.
We find ourselves becoming more and more attracted to the name, form, teachings, and pastimes of the Supreme Lord. We want to make the best offerings possible to the Deity and make all kinds of arrangements to provide for His worship. And we avoid all irreligious and immoral acts.
Feeling unworthy yet deeply grateful, we desire and act to help others receive the same good fortune. We become eager to distribute the mercy of the Lord. We take part in teaching the less informed. And to those still unreceptive we distribute prasadam, remnants of the Lord's food, so that their hearts may soften and they will take advantage of their rare human birth. In these various ways, we begin to appreciate and understand the greatness of our Vedic or Indian heritage.
As these symptoms begin to appear steadily in our lives, we know that we are moving forward on the spiritual path. We know that we have received the mercy of the Supreme Lord and that He is attracting us back home, back to Godhead.
Navina Krsna Dasa (Naveen Khurana), a disciple of Srila Prabhupada originally from New Delhi, holds an MS and an MBA from the University of Illinois. He serves as a management consultant to various projects in ISKCON.
What's a Child to Read?
by Sri Rama Dasa
PARENTS OFTEN WRITE and ask for advice about reading material for their children. They want to expose their children to as much Krsna consciousness as possible (and limit their exposure to materialism), but run into several practical problems, especially: (1) there is a shortage of good Krsna conscious books for children, and (2) many kids will read almost anything they can get their hands on.
So parents wonder what they can do to see that their children's reading fosters Krsna consciousness. How can we exercise reasonable guidance without being oppressive? And, perhaps more important, how can we teach children discrimination when they read?
By discrimination I mean looking into something deeply enough to understand how it will influence one's thinking and life. I mean going beyond the superficial mindset modern society conditions us to—a mindset in which most problems can be solved within the thirty minutes of an average television show, in which buying toys can give one true satisfaction, in which there's no clear right and wrong, no one knows the Absolute Truth, and where the best we can do is come up with our own reality.
Since most of our children are exposed hundreds of times a day to the full force of corporate marketing and political/social propaganda, gross and subtle, we must teach them how to discriminate beyond the superficial and oversimplified.
The first step toward insuring that your kid reads acceptable books is this: before you give your child a book, read it yourself. Too often I've seen parents and teachers turn children loose in the library to select whatever appeals to them, not realizing that many innocent-looking books subvert the values they're trying to teach them at home or in school.
Here are a few points to consider when evaluating a book:
1. Theme. Stories are meant to be enjoyable. But most stories also teach something, even though the author may not directly say what it is. The plot, characters, conflicts, and outcome usually support one main idea, often philosophical or moral. This theme is the essence of a book. Parents should ascertain whether or not a book's theme is compatible with a God-centered, Krsna conscious view of life.
2. Heroes. Children naturally identify with the heroes or main characters of a story. When you look at a book, ask yourself: will you be satisfied seeing your children grow up emulating the qualities of those characters? You'll rarely find characters who closely resemble devotees. But at least you can look for those who demonstrate good moral behavior, appreciation for God and His representatives, respect for authority, and so on.
3. Morality. The best we can expect from many books is that they will teach children to behave morally. Look for books that show a clear sense of right and wrong, ultimately having its roots in the laws of God. Avoid books that push "situation ethics," where there is no absolute right and wrong and everyone must come up with his or her own standards of morality for every situation.
4. Good and evil. In the Vedic conception of drama, a work should have a happy ending where good is rewarded and evil punished. This leaves the reader with a sense of satisfaction and a feeling of faith in the purpose of life. Books without happy endings often leave children feeling empty, wondering if there is any order and justice in life.
5. Wisdom. Does the book show respect for knowledge and wisdom? Does it treat spiritually-minded characters favorably, or as "naive sentimentalists"?
6. View of God. Does the author present God as impersonal, either directly or indirectly? Does he or she hint that perhaps God is not there—or that if He is, He has no influence on the world's affairs? Does the book equate service to man with service to God? We need books that do better than that.
7. View of Religion. What is the author's attitude toward religion? Writers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries often portrayed religion unfavorably. They were struggling to expose religious institutions that were rife with corruption and foolishness, and sentimental followers who allowed themselves to be exploited in the name of spirituality.
8. Humanism. Humanism pervades modern society. It is so much a part of Western education that we may not recognize it, even when it's blatant.
Roughly, humanism means faith that the intellect of man is sufficient to solve all problems for the individual and society. Man can achieve anything he puts his mind and efforts to. Humanism exalts man's supposed superiority over nature and the irrelevance of God's will and influence. It makes man the measure of all things.
If a book pushes humanism, avoid it.
In summary, the main question should be, "What benefit will my child get from reading this book?" Does it emphasize spiritual values or give good moral guidance? Is it well-written literature? Does it offer useful information or ideas? Does it reinforce Krsna conscious principles or values?
Schools should take the evaluation process one step further. As mentioned above, we must teach our children to evaluate books themselves—to look beyond the surface and judge for themselves the value of what they read, hear, and watch.
ISKCON's board of education has a much more detailed set of evaluation guidelines. If you'd like a copy, please write to me at the address below and ask for "Guidelines for Evaluating Children's Literature."
Sri Rama Dasa
ISKCON Board of Education
3764 Watseka Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90034
Bhakti-yoga at Home
Early to Bed...
by Rohininandana Dasa
SRILA PRABHUPaDA taught that devotees of Krsna don't "live to sleep, but sleep to rest the body." They work hard for Krsna and rather unwillingly lie down for rejuvenating sleep. As it is said, "Sleep is sweet to the laboring man." Devotees don't want to sleep long, like a bear, or sneak in more than they need.
Devotees act to wake up in another sense too: they try to wake up to their true position as spiritual persons, eternal servants of Krsna. They don't wish to fall back into the dreamy slumber of being "English," "American," or "Chinese," "man" or "woman," "Christian," "Muslim," or "Hare Krsna monk." Of being young or old, awake or asleep, fresh or tired, ill or well. They want to be firmly situated in the absolute conception that they have nothing to do with the material body. To achieve this they adjust all relative aspects of their life.
So devotees get up early to take advantage of the special energy and clarity of the early-morning hours. They also try to go to bed early. As an old proverb says, "One hour's sleep before midnight is worth three after."
How much sleep do I need? Five, six, seven, eight hours?
Srila Rupa Gosvami, one of Lord Caitanya's chief disciples, generally slept for only one and a half hours, and sometimes he didn't sleep at all. Srila Prabhupada went to bed at 10:00 P.M. and rose before midnight to write his books. And he would rest for only another hour or two during the day. Just imagine how much extra time we would have if we could consistently do the same.
But Lord Krsna recommends moderation and regulation. So we should find out how much sleep we need and work from there to gradually decrease it. (With practice, roughly six hours should be about right.) We are servants of Krsna, not sleep. By practice we can conquer sleep, become Krsna conscious, and attain success in life.
Besides seeing sleep as an opportunity to renew failing energy, devotees see sleep as a reminder of irresistible death, which forces everyone, pauper or king, to lie down. Devotees acknowledge that they are not the controller of anything, even their eyelids. Before sleeping a devotee may humbly pray, "My dear Lord, if You like I will awaken here in this place, or perhaps I will awaken in another place. But wherever I may be, or in whatever form You give me, please allow me to serve You."
A few suggestions: Try reading or hearing about Krsna in the evening. Before going to sleep, resolutely consider what time you intend to rise and why—you may find you don't even need an alarm. And last, when you wake up, loudly chant "Hare Krsna!" and feel how the spiritual energy quickly dissipates the effects of the mode of ignorance. Sweet dreams.
Rohininandana Dasa lives in southern England with his wife and their three children. You can write to him c/o BTG.
Of Death and Editors
by Ravindra Svarupa Dasa
AFTER I MISSED my last column, a memo from our hard-boiled editor slithered off my fax machine. "Near-death is a valid excuse for not writing," he conceded grudgingly. "But since you've survived, you might as well write."
I didn't find out I had been near death until my fourth day in the hospital. With a BTG deadline approaching and a load of GBC assignments on hold, I had begun pestering my doctor to let me out.
Giving me a severe look, my doctor sat by my bed, right next to the marvelous digital IV machine counting down drips in LED. I had come to admire both man and machine as wonders of modern medicine.
"Look," he began sternly, "you don't seem to understand how close you came to..." A delicate turning down of the palm stood in for the D word. "When you got to the emergency room we couldn't get a blood pressure reading. It's a good thing you didn't wait any longer.
"You've heard about Jim Henson, the creator of the Muppets? He had the same thing as you, but he delayed getting to the hospital a bit too long, and he died. You've been in a dangerous spot, and—you're what?" A glance at my file. "Forty-six. Not so young any more. So just slow down. Give yourself time to recover."
I would have gotten a doctor's note then for my editor, Jayadvaita Swami, but my mind was reacting to the announcement of my close call with Mr. D. I was caught up by some intense but contradictory feelings.
A spontaneous, sheerly animal elation at being alive was rising from my body. My very cells seemed to be celebrating. But this feeling was at once overpowered by one far better, and less expected: a sudden vivid awareness of the presence of Krsna. He seemed very close and very friendly.
It was, on reflection, simple enough to understand: being close to death was being close to Krsna. To be sure, not everyone encounters it that way. Yet everyone, it seems, feels death's proximity as the approach of an awesome, overwhelming, illimitable otherness. We totter precariously upon the brink of this mysterious infinity, and in its huge presence our life and concerns suddenly become utterly trivial and insignificant, of no more weight than blowing dust and vanishing vapor.
This is the generic character of the human reaction. But we can experience that generic character in one of two radically different forms.
If we have invested all our effort and hopes in this present life, considering it all-in-all, the awareness of death's proximity is profoundly terrifying, and we'll do our best afterwards to forget it. In this case, we encounter death as a hostile, malevolent Nothingness intent upon annihilating us and all we cherish. Because the threat of death is present at every moment, and because we realize that death will inevitably get its way, we are never free of what has been called "the anxiety of existence."
This very anxiety had impelled me to spend the last twenty years in a sustained systematic effort to rid myself of material attachments and desires. The death of a brother had shown me the truth about our material condition and left me unable to see any future in mundane life. So I had come to place my hopes and efforts in Krsna consciousness, in activities and relationships not subject to time.
The doctor's announcement precipitated in me the generic human reaction—a heightened awareness of an awesome otherness and the insubstantiality of this life. But I experienced this awareness concretely as the closeness of Krsna. He, personally, was that awesome Other, and I eagerly welcomed the devastation His proximity wreaks on material attachments and values; it was liberating.
If death approached me in this form, you could say it was because I had, in effect, spent the last twenty years dying. The renunciation of material activities, desires, and attachments, a renunciation devotees cultivate systematically, is a kind of death. But that renunciation is only one side of the practice.
The other side is made of the spiritual relationships we establish with Krsna and His devotees and the service we perform in that company. Over time they become more and more relishable, and as the devotee becomes increasingly absorbed in them, renunciation takes place naturally. Activities and relationships in Krsna consciousness are not material, and one fully engaged in them has already entered into eternal, spiritual life. Death—the giving up of the present body—does not disturb the devotee's activities or relationships. In that sense, a devotee does not die.
A materialist, however, has to die. Deeply attached to sense objects, to bodily relationships and temporary activities, a materialist will refuse the opportunity to engage in devotional service and surrender to Krsna. The renunciation practiced by devotees seems to him like death. He will not bow down before Krsna.
Yet ultimately he must. He must give up everything and fall prostrate before a higher power. He experiences his necessary renunciation and surrender to Krsna as a horrifying process of ultimate destruction. Those who want the illusion of independence from Krsna must undergo, over and over again, the illusion of death.
Feeling the control of Krsna, being conscious of His kind presence, I spent some happy days in the hospital bed. Emergency treatment had countered the extreme dehydration, and the Ampecillin pumping into my vein from the marvelous machine seemed to be doing the job. But, warned my doctor, I was not out of danger. The pernicious streptococcus pyogenes swarming in my blood normally resides in the human intestinal tract. Had it come in from my own guts? Tests had to be performed.
I did not mind. I was interested to see what Krsna wanted. It seemed as if I were watching the world go on in my absence. At the same time, I was getting a much closer look at ordinary material life than I was used to.
Early every evening my roommate Jimmy—a horse trainer with a broken leg in traction—would be joined by his wife and children, loaded down with bags of fast foods and snacks. They would spread themselves through the room and begin eating, talking, and watching TV, all at the same time. They made themselves at home, transforming the hospital room into their living room. Jimmy and his family were remarkably open and friendly people, and they instinctively fit me right in as a guest or family friend. They politely offered me their cookies and popcorn and sodas, called upon me to join in their running commentaries on the programs and commercials on TV, and sought my judgment on family decisions or problems.
For close to a week I nearly lived with them as part of their family. It was strange. Here I felt myself on the boundary between life and death, seeing the world as if from the other side, happily disengaged from it, and yet I was willy-nilly immersed as I had never been before in the modes of ordinary, thoughtless living. I wondered whether karmic reactions of my own were not being played out in some condensed or denatured fashion. I grew to like this family, but seeing them conduct their affairs, I felt helplessly sad for them. They were nice people who were not living their own lives, for they were controlled entirely by material nature.
I was trying to be free, but how well was I doing? I felt detached, but not detached enough; close to Krsna, but not close enough. I must confess to a third feeling in response to my doctor's announcement.
In addition to the animal relief and to a sense of closeness to Krsna, there was also a sense of disappointment. Dying had its attractions, too. For twenty years I had been at war with my material conditioning—with my dispositions toward sense gratification, with my failures of character, with my envy and my inveterate laziness. By the time I so abruptly landed in the hospital, I was thoroughly fed up with this particular conditioned self. The thought of starting over filled me with relief—it would be wonderful to take a higher birth, to be endowed from the beginning with a better character, to possess natural nobility of mind, to grow up without having to do or see many things I had seen and done in this life. The prospect was enticing.
But it was not to be.
When an infected blister on my heel, contracted in India, yielded up the same virulent organism that had invaded my blood, my doctor declared me out of danger; the source of the septicemia was clear. He released me from the hospital. I got well.
As for my conditioned nature, I take it as Krsna's desire that He wants me to keep working on it. That's His decision.
If death is the final exam to test how we have spent our lives, I suppose I was given a kind of midterm. Midterm exams provide students with a mid-course bearing. I know better what I have to do.
Clearly, one of those things, as my hard-boiled editor insists, is to write. By the arrangement of providence, I am finishing this column at our Gita Nagari farm. By the same arrangement, Jayadvaita Swami happens to be here. We have been put up together in the same house. "Finished yet?" he says when he comes in the door. This is Krsna's mercy. I get the message.
Ravindra Svarupa Dasa, ISKCON's Governing Body Commissioner for the U.S. mid-Atlantic region, lives at the Philadelphia temple, where he joined ISKCON in 1971. He holds a Ph.D. in religion from Temple University.
In Celebration Of
1996 marks the one hundredth anniversary appearance of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. Devotees throughout the Society are planning for the largest celebration in ISKCON's history, culminating in a gigantic festival in Calcutta, Srila Prabhupada's birthplace.
Devotees are making goals to be achieved in the next five years in numbers of one hundred: 100 Rathayatra festivals, 100 Food for Life centers opened, Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita As It Is printed and distributed in 100 languages...
We want to take Srila Prabhupada's Padayatra to 100 countries.
So far, Padayatra has marched in ten countries, including the U.S.A., England, Mauritius, New Zealand, and Italy. Padayatra in India has been going strong since 1984. The devotees there have vowed to cover at least 100,000 kilometers by 1996. They have already covered half of this. Padayatra is also scheduled to begin in the Caribbean this summer. After England, the European Padayatra will reach France, Holland, and Belgium by the end of the year. Australia, Malaysia, and Fiji will have Padayatras by 1992. But with only five years left and ninety countries to go, we need your help to succeed.
Please join us as we walk side by side chanting Hare Krsna in towns and villages around the globe. Or better still, why not help organize Padayatra in your own country? Devotees are waiting to hear from you. Let's join together not only to fulfill one of Prabhupada's last desires but to celebrate the anniversary of his auspicious appearance. What better way than by helping him fulfill the prediction that the holy name will be heard in every town and village of the world?
For information on how to join Padayatra or bring it to your hometown, please write to a Padayatra office at one of the addresses listed on page 38.
"Either I go with you or not, the program which you are doing [traveling sankirtana] is completely approved by me. Go on steady with your program. As long as we are following the regulative principles of devotional service, I am always with you. So be encouraged to continue this program more and more and expand it so that the preaching will be heard in every town and village."
—Letter from Srila Prabhupada to Lokanatha Maharaja, August 23, 1976
The Straightedge Connection
by Bhakta Vic Shelter
Last year I joined the Hare Krsnas. And as if that wasn't enough to drive any respectable American mother to tears, these weren't just any Hare Krsnas: they were punk rockers.
Yes, I joined a punk rock Hare Krsna band.
I'd better backtrack and let you in on the full story. It all starts about two or three years ago. I was in a punk band called Beyond.
If you want to get accurate about it, "punk" isn't exactly the right term. Nowadays it's called hardcore, specifically, straightedge hardcore. Straightedge is a youth movement whose adherents pretty much follow the four regs* (well, at least three of them). All around the world there are hundreds of thousands of straightedge kids who don't take intoxicants, and most of them don't eat meat or gamble. They all look down on casual sex, and some of them are even strictly celibate. No lie.
Before I drift too far from the plot, let's get back to my old band, Beyond. We'd play concerts all over and sing about being straightedge and all this other socially conscious stuff. One day in Connecticut it so happened that we played a few shows with probably the most popular straightedge band in the world, Youth of Today.
I had heard that the lead singer, Ray, was into some far-out Krsna thing, and I guess I was pretty interested in the whole idea. I fancied myself a pretty darn spiritual guy. Hey, I even had dreadlocks and read the Old Testament. Besides that, one of my favorite bands was the Cro-Mags. They were the first Krsna influence on the hardcore music scene. Everyone considered them cool guys, so naturally Krsna had a good connotation in my mind, since I too, after all, wanted to be a "cool guy."
My questionable motives notwithstanding, when we played those shows with Youth of Today I found the singer, Ray, and eavesdropped my way into an interview he was doing with some kids who publish their own underground straightedge magazine. Ray was using words like transcendental and cosmic, which really piqued my interest. I asked a bunch of questions about the title of the first Cro-Mags album, "The Age of Quarrel."
As questions followed answers, I got more and more into it, sitting on the lawn before that concert in Connecticut. As a result of this meeting, I decided to check out Srila Prabhupada's books. From there on in, it's pretty much history.
Shortly afterwards I moved out to San Diego and joined a new band, Inside Out. In this band I tried to incorporate the message of Srimad-Bhagavatam. The result was an overtly spiritual, if still a little (or a lot) hodgepodge, band who rapidly became real popular.
As I mentioned before, in the hardcore scene the kids publish their own magazines, and around this time I also started doing one. I called it The Enquirer, and it was through and through about Krsna consciousness. I made and personally sold about 350 copies of the first issue.
By now Ray from Youth of Today was also in a new band, Shelter, which, like my magazine, was completely dedicated to Krsna consciousness. This was creating quite a stir in the hardcore scene, and Krsna would frequently pop up in any conversation you'd lend an ear to.
Once again my band and Ray's toured together. Picture eight punk "musicians," a bus full of saffron-clad teenage Hare Krsnas, and two gosvamis, masters of the senses: Gunagrahi Goswami and Dhanurdara Swami. (The gosvamis both showed the highest tolerance by putting up with us all for that two-week tour).
As we traveled around the country, it became obvious that Krsna consciousness had become a major force in hardcore. Imagine four hundred teenagers, most wearing tulasi on their necks, paying like five or ten dollars apiece to come listen to a bunch of Hare Krsnas. It's a far cry from getting ignored on the street corner.
Nor is it sheer numbers alone that's impressive. Have you ever been approached in a parking lot by five enthusiastic kids who spontaneously want to know how to offer their food to Lord Krsna and where they can get japa beads? It happened more than once.
By the time the tour was over, I had joined Shelter, and shortly afterwards I became a brahmacari, a student, under the care of Gunagrahi Goswami.
That was last year. Today I'm sitting behind a computer at ISKCON Philadelphia. On my right there's a desk that has a constant supply of at least fifteen letters from unbelievably intelligent and sincere people all over the world. I spend at least an hour and a half every day writing replies to their inquiries about Krsna consciousness.
Upstairs is the office of the record label we run, Equal Vision Records, which is a showcase for the growing number of Krsna conscious hardcore bands. Through Equal Vision we sell Srila Prabhupada's books and other Krsna conscious music and literature.
Locally, young people are showing up at our Sunday and Wednesday feasts. Four or five over the past four weeks have taken up sadhana-bhakti, the practice of devotional service, with sincerity and vigor. Ray has been initiated as Raghunatha Dasa. The Enquirer has reached its fourth issue, and more than three thousand have been sold and studied. There are new Krsna conscious magazines emerging, and it's seldom you see any zine (to use the lingo) that doesn't at least mention Krsna once or twice. Shelter has released an album, plus a single that has sold well into the thousands. The record sleeves are packed with information about Krsna. All of this has fallen upon earnest eyes and minds starving for something more than modern materialistic society can offer them.
To try to meet this ever-increasing demand for hardcore Krsna consciousness, we'll be releasing another LP soon, along with a single from a new Krsna conscious band out of Texas called Refuse to Fall.
By the time you read this, we'll be on the road again, touring the U.S. Besides our musical attack on maya, we'll have new booklets, pamphlets, and magazines printed and more in the works. Boredom is definitely not a factor when you're in Shelter.
This hardcore arm of Srila Prabhupada's movement has expanded beyond my ability to describe it. And it's continuing to expand exponentially. I only hope that more and more devotees will come forward to lend a hand in this wonderful opportunity to give real shelter to souls wandering homeless and aimless through the life-threatening Age of Quarrel.
The best part about the whole thing is that I've been blessed with the constant association of the members of Shelter and Equal Vision, who are such sincere and fired-up devotees. By their mercy, I'm managing to stay in Prabhupada's revolutionary movement for spreading Krsna consciousness. I pray that they'll continue to treat me so kindly, despite my constant flow of offenses.
This is a pamphlet I wrote for straightedge kids.
"First of all," he told me, "anyone who thinks there's any equality in this society is crazy." His right hand rested on the shallow stage. Casual.
Contrast his compelling voice: "I mean, you can't so much as set your big toe on the sidewalk without instantly being labeled up and down, stereotyped, and neatly filed away under everyone's preconceptions and prejudices. Ain't that right?"
Of course I had to agree. "Yeah."
"But why?" His words were punctuated with deep enthusiasm. "Why are we so totally lacking any living equality in this society? Why?"
I mumbled, "Uh... I don't... I guess... you know..."
"Because this society is based on bodies."
Pause: Dramatic effect.
"If you want to get right down to the hard reality, in their eyes you ain't nothing but a lump of flesh. They have no scientific understanding of the spirit soul, and that's why there's not a single shred of equality in their world."
Confident that I had heard all this religious rhetoric before, I protested: "Are you really trying to tell me that because they don't believe in some kind of soul, that's why people are prejudiced? I can't see how a 'soul' has anything at all to do with equal rights."
"All right, OK," he said. "Let's just say you're right: It doesn't make one fig's bit of difference whether you believe in some soul or not. Let's just say, for the sake of argument, that everything they fed you in Biology and Chem 101 was true: You're nothing but a chance combination of atoms. If we build our society and our personal lives around these beliefs, then we'll never ever have equality."
"For one thing, no two bodies are the same. Everybody is different. Like the kid I used to sit next to in elementary school—he was the best superhero drawer in the whole wide world. And me, I could barely draw a stick figure. Or that girl sitting behind me, the soloist for the glee club, or whatever it was. Her mouth could open up wider than her whole head and hit the highest notes you'd ever imagine. Meanwhile, they shoved me and my lousy alto voice wa-a-a-ay in the back. They practically had to bribe me to quit.
"So I wondered, How were we equal? I mean, my mom told me everyone was equal, and deep down inside I knew she was right. But if we were equal, how come I couldn't draw or sing as good as those other guys? How were we equal? I couldn't figure it out."
He had a point there. Plus I got a kick out of his stories, and he seemed to make sense. But for some reason I still couldn't bring myself to come right out and agree with him so soon. So I coughed up something like "Well, you know, I mean, different people may be good at different things, but we're all the same on the inside."
"Wait a minute!" His eyebrows arched over wide eyes. "What do you mean 'on the inside'? I thought we said it didn't matter whether there was a soul or not, that we were just bodies. Well, what the heck is so special about the inside of a body?"
"Come on," I said. "You know what I mean: Inside. Inside, in our minds, in our thoughts and feelings, we're all equal."
"We are?" He smiled. "But my mind ain't no way the same as Einstein's, or Joe Duncecap's, for that matter. Right? Our minds are just as different, just as unequal, as our bodies. I think you can see that."
"I guess so. But our emotions..."
"No two people have the same emotions. It's common sense. No two people feel the same way about anything."
"But everybody has feelings."
"That's it!" His face lit up. "You got it!"
"Yeah. You just hit the nail right on the head. Now we're starting to come to true equality. Everyone has the basic capacity to feel, to experience."
"But where do we get this ability from? Our bodies, our brains—they're all made of atoms. Atoms don't feel happy, angry, or frustrated. They don't experience. They don't feel anything. This is common scientific knowledge. Atoms don't experience, they don't feel. But you and me—we do experience. We do feel happiness, frustration, anger, elation. We're both aware of this conversation. So obviously we must be something more than atoms and electrons. And that 'something more' is where our true equality lies."
What he was saying was starting to click with me now. I don't know if I'm getting it down on paper as effectively as he said it to me, but his point was this: The modern belief that anything spiritual is just hocus-pocus, that everything (including you and me) can ultimately be boiled down to atoms and electrons—that's the bogus idea that stripped equality from our world. Equality lies in the universal ability of every living being to experience life. That's the ultimate common platform of all living beings: the spiritual platform. But a machine doesn't experience anything at all. So when they claim I'm nothing but a "molecular machine," and by constantly pounding it into my head they get me to believe it, then they've robbed me blind of my equality. When I buy into their plastic lifestyles, I trade equality for a handful of cheap lifeless chemicals.
"But anyways," he kept on, "the fact is that we're not just a body. There's obviously something about us that is very different from the body—something that gives us all the ability to feel and experience, something that makes us all equal. You can call it a soul if you want. And anyone or any system that denies the reality of this soul steals our equality right out from under our cold noses."
"I think I see what you're saying."
"Now we got to tear down all these bogus systems that try to deny us the soul."
Anticipation ... Intensity.
"Now that we know where and how real equality exists, we've got to revolutionize and protest up and down until all the lies of this body-conscious world empire are fully overthrown."
"Well, how do we do that?"
"As long as the masses believe that they are the body, as long as they think, I am this white body, I am this black body, I am woman, I am man, human, animal, insect ... as long as they accept this lie, fed by mass media ad campaigns and intensive social indoctrination, there will only be exploitation and inequality.
"And all these souped-up 'liberation' and 'equal rights' campaigns are unfortunately nothing more than a waste of time and energy, unless they're based on a scientific understanding of the spiritual self. When we really want to go beyond the catchy T-shirt slogans, when we really want to have equality for everyone, then we must fight with every last ounce of our strength for spiritual revolution.
"Every living being is a spirit soul. I mean, every last one of us—we're all part and parcel of the Supreme Absolute Truth, the Personality of Godhead. That's real equality. And if we sincerely want to do something about it, we have to smash all this false materialistic propaganda of modern society, and we have to educate, on a massive scale, about spiritual reality. That's the whole purpose of this Krsna consciousness movement. That's what we're all about."
My dry mouth hung slightly open, speechless.
"So please," he implored, "do something to push on this movement. In whatever way you can, do something to advance this revolution."
He then moved off to find the next interested person. For days afterwards his words would repeat themselves over and over again in my head: "Do something to advance this revolution."
So I wrote this pamphlet in the hopes that those who read about our conversation will also be impelled to do something for real equality, to push on this soul revolution.
Anyone interested in any way can contact me: Bhakta Vic, 41 West Allens Lane, Philadelphia, PA 19119.
Bhakta Vic Shelter begins a regular column in our next issue.
The Shelter Mailbox
Kids from all over write to Shelter. Here are excerpts from some letters, with Bhakta Vic Shelter's replies.
When you first got into Krsna consciousness, did your friends joke you a lot? My friends seem to think it's a joke.
I thought my mom was cool about K.C., but I guess I was wrong. She flipped when she found out the Shelter show was at the temple. So I've unfortunately gone back to hiding everything at school in my locker.
Is hiding from my mom that Krsna is the way for me wrong?
In the mornings I've usually got enough time to chant one round on my beads before my mom gets up. Is that enough or should I try to do more?
When I'm 18, what needs to be done so I can move into a temple?
VIC: The first thing is friends. ... Well, if my friends joked they did it behind my back, because as far as I know they didn't. Some of them thought Krsna consciousness was dumb or whatever. So what I did was I heard their comments out and weighed what they were saying, what gripe or difficulty they had with Krsna consciousness. Then I myself challenged the Krsna philosophy with that same argument and saw if Krsna consciousness could be defeated.
In most cases you'll find that your friends aren't saying anything intellectual at all. They're just name calling. But I found that a big reason behind this is their fear of losing your friendship—which we should assure them is something that doesn't have to happen as long as they don't want it to.
You don't have to pay much attention to other people's opinions of you. The most important thing right now is your own opinion, and the opinon of the great spiritual masters.
In other words, don't let your friends bug you. But don't be insensitive towards them either, if you can help it. If you continue to develop your Krsna consciousness, just by being friends with you they'll make spiritual progress. So don't cut them off. But don't take them seriously either. They're in bigtime illusion, after all.
Next up ... Is it wrong to hide from your mom that Krsna is the way for you? This is a much tougher question. When everything is said and done I would say yes, it is wrong. But you have to be careful not to blow her out of the water. You have to be tactful and give it to her slowly, in degrees, and not freak her out.
Of course, the most important thing is that you can go on chanting and practicing Krsna consciousness. So you have to judge for yourself, using your intelligence: will telling your mom all about everything infringe on your Krsna consciousness?
Anyway, if you want my advice, I think you should definitely make a goal of telling your mom all about Krsna consciousness and your involvement with it. But you should make it a gradual thing. Don't be defensive or self-righteous about it: "Mom, you're a materialistic demon!" But be open. They can write me a letter if they want. Whatever. But don't try to hide it. When you try to hide things, it only leads to distress.
One of the pillars of spiritual life is honesty. Just try to present the truth in a palatable way, and don't fry her out. How's that?
The next point is your chanting. I think it's fantastic that you're doing one round a day! That's great! Always do that one round without fail. If you can do more, go ahead, but first of all chant that one round, somehow or other. Krsna will be pleased, and He will work out some opportunity for you to chant more when the time is right.
For now, always do your round every day and try to remember Krsna throughout the day as much as possible, through His philosophy, His name, His form, His pastimes, and so on. You'll definitely see yourself making spiritual advancement quickly, and you'll notice purer and purer devotion manifesting itself in your heart. Go for it, and keep up the fantastic work!
At 18 you're going to move into a temple.... Ok, that's great. But for now become Krsna conscious as far as possible in your current situation. When 18 comes then we'll worry about 18. Temple life is dead serious and is a big step. My advice for you is to begin preparing now for temple life by becoming determined and serious at home and following a Krsna conscious life as much as possible. You may not be able to go the whole nine yards right now, but pick whatever you can do, and do it without fail, every day. If you start from now, by the time you move into a temple you'll be serious and sincere enough to really do great service to Srila Prabhupada and Lord Caitanya.
* * *
Everyone I know hassles me about Krsna. They always ask me when am I going to shave my head and go to an airport. I say, "When I'm ready." But that really doesn't bother me. What bothers me is they are always looking for an argument and questions I can't answer.
How do Krsnas feel about homeless people? Why are they homeless? Did they do something wrong in their past life to deserve being homeless, diseased and ill? Why?
In the past 11 months I have learned so many things I had no clue about. Like how short life is. So I'm always trying to live every day to its fullest and purest. All I want, Bhakta Vic, is to do right for myself, get enlightened, and be my own self, and also to find my own self. To me finding myself is going to take some time, but I'm scared. Am I just going overboard? No! I'm not afraid of how long it will take to find myself, just afraid to do it.
In my town I'm honestly the only one that is into Krsna consciousness. Seriously. Everyone in this town is infatuated with the newest clothes and cars, no intelligence that it all could be gone tomorrow. Death will come and go and they will have no control over it.
VIC: Your "friends" can be a hassle.... Well, try to see it as Krsna's mercy. He's giving you a chance to show real devotion to Him by undergoing so many trials. Any orangutan can act spiritual when everything smells like a bed of roses. But when things get difficult, that's what separates the sincere from the tag-alongs. This is a chance to show Krsna you're sincere. Seeing that, He'll give you more and more mercy and realization.
Anyway, if they want to argue, tell them you're not into it. Tell them that if they really want to argue, I'll argue with 'em. They can write me, and I'll be glad to hassle with them.
Your realizations about death and the futility of material life are really potent. Thanks for sharing them with me.
Homeless. A devotee is compassionate to everyone. He or she sees that in reality everyone is homeless. Our lifetimes last for the blink of an eye, and at death all of our flimsy makeshift shelters in this material world get torn away from us. We're kicked out, evicted, homeless.
Everyone from the diamond-ringer in the highrise office to the wino in the gutter is in the same position: homeless, without shelter. The only difference is that it's less obvious to the businessman than to the wino.
Yes, homeless people are in the sick position they're in because of their karma, things they did in the past. It's their own fault, when you get right down to it. According to karma, we all get what we had coming to us.
But the spirit soul doesn't deserve to have anything to do with karma at all. So a devotee doesn't become cold: "Oh, you deserve to be homeless!" Instead, the devotee realizes, "You're a spirit soul. You deserve to be happy, not suffering." So a devotee's mercy goes out to everyone. He or she tries to give everyone a home under the shelter of Krsna's lotus feet. That's real welfare work. And that's the real way to take care of the homeless.
* * *
What about sex? Can a Krishna have sex or not? I'm 17 and I don't have sex, but I think it's real hard to control it.
VIC: Sex desire seems difficult to control. It's true. But it's possible to do it successfully. Here's how.
Let me give you an example. Say you have a piece of pizza (ok, soy pizza). You're totally starving. I mean, you haven't eaten a crumb for days. So you have this piece of pizza, and you're just about to chomp on it, and up strolls little old me saying, "Wait a minute! Wait a minute! Don't bite into that pizza!"
You stop short and stare at me.
I say, "I want you to give me that pizza."
"No way! I'm starved!"
"Come on, just give it up. Give it to me."
But it's difficult. I mean, you're hungry! You just can't give it up. No matter how much you sympathize with me, you just can't bring yourself to give me that piece of pizza.
But then out from behind my back I pull out a piping-hot super-soy pizza with all kinds of amazing toppings and great heaps of sauce and everything you could ever ask for. Now I say, "Give me that slice, and I'll give you this whole pie."
All of a sudden it's very easy to give up your cold and greasy old piece of tofu-joy pizza.
It's the same thing to control sex desire. Just to try to sit there and hold your breath, repressing the urge, repressing the urge—that doesn't do anything but get you completely frustrated. In fact, sex desire is impossible to control that way.
But if you get something better than sex, you right away lose your attraction for it, and then you can give it up without even hardly thinking about it, just like you gave up the greasy slice for a hot new pie.
But what's better than sex? In the material world, nothing. Sex is the topmost nectarean pleasure in this world (why do you think everybody's killing themselves over it?). But for one who has tasted even a drop of the ocean of transcendental loving service to the supreme reservoir of pleasure, Krsna, sex life becomes about as attractive as a piece of stool.
So one who wants to free himself or herself from slavery to the sexual organs should immediately take to chanting Hare Krsna. You'll experience things that make it easy to give up every vice you ever hated.
* * *
I must admit: I've read the Gita and the Upanishads and I feel they have helped me a lot. I'm gaining a lot of insight because of them. I have one BIG problem: Sex. I'm seeing this girl, and we have sex. I don't view it as illicit, though. I love her, and she loves me. We didn't have sex until we were sure we were ready. What I mean is we were responsible. Besides, wasn't Krsna somewhat of a ladies man?
VIC: Ok, you've got the sex problem. If you two love each other, that's very good. You can live together and help each other advance in spiritual life. That is perfect Krsna consciousness. But you have to be completely honest. Do you love her? Who is she? She's not the body. She's a spiritual soul, a part of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Loving the real her means treating her that way. "Making love" to a mental and physical combination of atoms and molecules is not loving the real her.
To love someone means to desire her highest welfare, all the time. In other words, you always want the best for that person. And what's the best thing for the person you love? Well, certainly it's not to tie that person tighter and tighter to temporary, illusory, miserable bodily existence. But that's what happens when we're attached to enjoying the material energy through the senses, and specifically through the genitals. If you look beneath all the romantic poetry and flowery phrases, that's what happens at sex, nothing else.
Would your relationship be harmed if you stopped having sex? Would this "love" keep going if either party didn't get what they wanted? Try this experiment for a month or so. If the relationship is one of true love, you'll find that by stopping sex your relationship will deepen and become more intimate and exciting. If it isn't real love, things will start to fall apart as soon as the bed isn't bouncing.
Real relationships are more than just sex or no sex. I hope you two will start to help each other along in spiritual life. You'll find that this is so much more intimate than mundane animal sex. It's a much deeper love. You might as well try it.
You ask whether Krsna was a ladies man. To be honest, Krsna's pastimes are above our current level of realization. Krsna's not a man, He's the Supreme Personality. He's not at all like me or you. He's in a class completely by Himself. Krsna is Krsna, and the spirit soul is His servant. But in the material world we're all trying to imitate Krsna and become supreme enjoyers. That's why there's war, divorce, breakups, suicide. It's just not our prerogative to imitate Krsna. Why? Because we're just plain not Him, and never will be.
The first, most essential principle of spiritual life is to realize (not just theoretically understand, but realize) that we're not the body, we're spirit soul. Once we're living every second of our lives aware of this fact, then we'll be able to understand Krsna's pastimes. For now, let's stick to the first point. First find out if you're the body and if sex has anything to do with who you really are. Then we can talk about Krsna's transcendental pastimes. [Dan and his girlfriend are now celibate.]
* * *
Let's face it, man, you joined a club just like everyone else. You all dress the same. You all have the same bald haircut. You all believe the same things.
You totally gave up your individuality, man. Sheep. You're no longer a person. You're just another Hare Krsna, like all the rest. Let's face it, you lost it.
VIC: Hare Krsna and thanks for your letter. You seem like a person who values individuality very highly, but I think you've stumbled into self-contradiction. The philosophy in your letter denies true individuality and defines people as nothing more than production-line robots ready for mass social programming.
What you wind up saying is that people have to be made into individuals by the clothes they wear, the music they listen to, etc. In other words, it's the things we do that make us into individuals, and if we don't do the "right" things (like if we shave our heads and wear robes) then we lose our individuality.
If I have to make myself an individual, then I must not be an individual to begin with. I must be some kind of blank slate who has to go out and buy my personhood, wear my "individuality." So although I'm sure you think of yourself as someone who holds individuality very dear, you've turned it into something bought from a thrift store and a hair salon.
I don't subscribe to your opinion. Sorry.
We don't take individuality so cheaply in Krsna consciousness. We say that an individual is something you are, not something you become. In other words, true individuality is not external. It's not in the clothes you wear or the style of your hair. It's deep inside the self, an inalterable reality, and it can't be taken away from you by anyone.
I know from your past letters that you don't want to hear a "bunch of mumbo-jumbo from some wacked-out scriptures." So let me illustrate the point by using a common-sense scientific experiment that has nothing to do with "scripture."
Let's say you take three hundred people, dress them up in identical three-piece suits and ties, and line them up against a white wall. They all have identical haircuts too—three hundred people wearing exactly the same clothes and hair. But if you go and talk to each one, you'll find that they're different people with individual identities and personalities.
This proves the simple point that it's not the clothes we wear that makes us the individual persons we are. It's something much deeper. I'm no more or less an individual in a green vinyl spiked jumpsuit and purple beehive hairdo than I am in an orange robe and a shaved head, because individuality has nothing to do with appearance. So just that devotees dress alike doesn't mean they've lost their individuality.
But we all believe the same things, so obviously we must be a bunch of "sheep." I don't want to be antagonistic or anything, Matt, but it seems like your idea of individuality is straight out of the dark ages or something: As long as I disagree with you I'm an individual, but as soon as we agree we become clones? It's just not like that.
Krsna consciousness is not a set of random beliefs. It deals scientifically with the subject of spirituality. It's a science, like math, for example. In common math everyone believes that two plus two equals four. Everyone believes exactly the same thing. Are you going to write letters to all the mathematicians and tell them they're dummies and sheep?
Not only is it untrue that a person loses his individuality by becoming Krsna conscious; our real individuality never fully manifests until we become Krsna conscious.
A devotee has an intense love for individuality and personality. Our philosophy is that they are two of the most essential ingredients of the deepest self. They're at the core of our very being. But by trying to hide behind the false identities and costumes we put on in the material world, we trade in that priceless individuality for a handful of ashes and dust.
In the material world everyone tries to get sense gratification. Thinking that we will be happy if we make the senses happy, we soon become bewildered and mistake the body and its senses for our true self. It's at that exact instant that we turn away from our real individuality and personhood.
The body is made of inert matter—atoms, electrons, etc. Atoms don't have a shred of individuality or personality. Hydrogen is hydrogen. You've seen one, you've seen them all. Simple logic:
• I see the body as my self.
• The body is a lump of atoms and electrons.
Atoms and electrons are non-persons and have no individuality.
Therefore I see my self as a non-person with no individuality.
How you see yourself is what you become.
Anyway, Matt, what I'm trying to say is that we stifle our true individuality by accepting the idea that we are the body. As long as I identify with this body and try to enjoy its senses, I'm choking my real personality and individuality.
Krsna consciousness, believe it or not, is intended to uncover the true self, the real individual person. Behind all the masks. Beyond all the acts. It's a scientific way to rise above the confining illusion of identifying with the body.
Krsna consciousness doesn't take away individuality. On the contrary, it gives individuality the freedom to expand and express itself to its fullest potential.
I hope I didn't come off as arrogant or condescending in this letter. If I did, I apologize.
I just wrote because you seemed like a person who recognizes the value of individuality and I hoped we might both benefit if I shared with you what I have learned.
* * *
O.K. To start this off I want to say that I'm very ignorant as to what Krsna is really about. I feel that I have a very basic idea of what it is supposed to be, but that's about it. What I do know is that Krishnas are supposed to be against sense gratification. Correct? Supposedly by not gratifying your senses you gain a higher spiritual level. If I am correct in my understanding of this, I can see the point behind the idea.
But if you believe in not gratifying your senses how can you go to shows and dance and sing along and stuff like that? I mean pretty much the whole reason anyone, Krsna or not, goes to shows is because of the good feeling they get and the fun they have. A show is a total sense experience—the sights of the band, the feeling of dancing, it's all totally your senses. So in fact dancing and going to shows or even singing or playing an instrument in a band is gratifying your senses. So what about it?
VIC: You're right. Sense gratification is exactly the opposite of Krsna consciousness.
So then what the heck is "sense gratification"?
When you do anything—go to a show, type a letter, read a letter—you're always involved in some type of sense activity. You're hearing the music with your ears, typing with your fingers, reading with your eyes.
But sense activity comes in two flavors: (1) material sense activity and (2) spiritual sense activity. To understand the difference, we need to know first of all what the terms "material" and "spiritual" mean.
The trademark of material consciousness is known as "I, me, mine." Thinking that I'm number one, the most important person—that's material consciousness. And the actions I do in this consciousness are called materialistic. For example, because I think my stomach is more important than the stomach of the Ethiopian child, I keep eating meat and support an agriculture that robs the world of her ability to feed all of her inhabitants and more.
Another example: When I walk down the street, I somehow imagine that people in the passing cars are noticing me, the way I walk. They must be wondering where I'm going. Or at a hardcore show I'm thinking how everyone is watching me dance. I'm thinking that "I, me, mine" is the most important thing in the universe. That's materialistic consciousness.
In this consciousness I do something called sense gratification (or, in the terms of this letter, "material sense activity"). I use my senses to interact with the world around me, but the motive for the activity begins and ends with "I, me, or mine."
I get up and go to the store because I want a bag of potato chips. "I" is the center. Or sometimes we may get slightly more sophisticated and put "mine" in the center. My friends, my relatives, my race, my nationality, my gender. When someone works only for their country or something, this is usually mistaken for selfless activity. But it boils down to just an extended form of I-worship. I'm only interested in serving the larger group because I happen to be a part of it or I get some fringe benefit from doing that service.
So, yeah, I go to some hardcore show just because "I" want to get into the band and it makes "me" and "my" friends happy. Or I get into a band and play guitar for the same "I, me, mine" reasons. That's sense gratification.
Now let's get back to what spiritual sense activity is.
In Krsna consciousness the senses are fully active, but there's no self-centered interest. The devotee is motivated solely by the desire to serve the Supreme Absolute Truth, Krsna.
We can't do anything at all without using our senses. So if all sense activity were material, doing anything spiritual would be impossible. So we'd be stuck.
But Krsna consciousness is the method of using the senses properly. It's the science of spiritual sense activity, in which "I, me and mine" is completely kicked out.
So, hardcore shows. For the last two months, Shelter has been dormant while the other band members are in India. So I haven't been to a hardcore show in two months. And to be honest with you I couldn't care less if I never went to another one again in my life. But because there are people at those shows who are interested in hearing about Krsna consciousness, I'll go there and fully engage my senses in trying to serve the Absolute.
That's not sense gratification. But if I start to slip into the desire for personal fame and all that rock star stuff, or if I just want to go party it up in the pit, then it becomes sense gratification. That's why I'm trying to be very careful to avoid those things.
The worldwide activities of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)
A committee of the American Psychiatric Association has apologized for insensitive remarks about Hinduism and the Hare Krsna movement. When a report by the APA's Committee on Religion and Psychiatry portrayed the Hare Krsna movement as a new religion or cult, several Indian psychiatrists objected. And the American Association of Psychiatrists from India lodged a formal complaint.
In response, the committee invited psychiatrist Prakash Desai and Harvard professor Diana Eck to speak to its members about Hindu religious and medical traditions.
"The Committee is now better informed," wrote its president, "... that the ancient and honorable traditions of the Hare Krishna sect of Hinduism are not 'cultic.' "
A further step toward understanding: At this year's annual APA convention, six psychiatrists and scholars spoke at a workshop to drive home the point, "Indian Religions Are Not Cults."
People in Greece are reading the Srimad-Bhagavatam in their native language, thanks to a donation by a wealthy Greek businessman who paid for printing the First Canto.
The Vedic scripture Isopanisad is appearing in Tatar, a Turkic language spoken mainly in the Soviet Union. Publisher: the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.
Who are the first official advertisers in the history of the Moscow subway system?
The Soviet Hare Krsna devotees.
Not Coke, not McDonalds, not IBM, not Smirnoff. Hare Krsna. The 3,500 cars of the Moscow "metro" carry seven million people a day. And for years the car walls offered nothing more for people to read than the metro schematics.
But that all changed in May. Since then, Moscow subway riders have been seeing three-square-foot posters of Krsna, in full color, advertising the Bhagavad-gita and other Vedic scriptures. The books are published in Russian and other Soviet languages by the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.
When people leave the cars, fifteen Krsna conscious book-selling tables await them in strategic underground stations.
Comrades, Hare Krsna!
The World Wildlife Fund has approved a grant to help restore the sacred forests of Vrndavana. ISKCON devotee Ranchor Dasa, from England, and Sewak Saranji, his counterpart in Vrndavana, will use the grant—$30,000 a year for three years—to plant trees along the pilgrimage path encircling Vrndavana, to build a tree nursery and information center, and to teach pilgrims and local people about the care of Vrndavana's natural resources.
Padayatra is now in Nasik, the site of this year's Kumbha Mela, in the northwest of the state of Maharashtra. From Nasik the party moves further north into the state of Gujarat.
From October 23 through November 21, a separate Padayatra party will travel on pilgrimage throughout the land of Vrndavana, where Lord Krsna performed the transcendental pastimes of His childhood and youth.
After taking part in a large annual fair in Lille, the largest city in northern France, Padayatra Europe is walking on to Paris.
There, at the end of September, the Padayatra will begin the world's longest Rathayatra, or Festival of the Chariots. The festival will be on the road for a month, traveling from Paris to New Mayapur, the Hare Krsna farm near Chateauroux, six hundred kilometers south. The theme of the festival: "Marche Pour la Paix" ("Walk for Peace").
From the latest we've heard, Padayatra America has been planning to travel in the Caribbean islands, starting with Trinidad.
For more information about Padayatra, write to:
Sex, drugs, and the teachings of Lord Caitanya. No, they don't go together as some would have us think.
by Suhotra Swami
Part Three: Ativadi, Aula, Baula, Sain, and Daravesa
In the early 1870's Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, as a deputy magistrate stationed at the holy city of Jagannatha Puri, arrested, judged, and jailed a self-styled incarnation of Maha-Visnu named Bisa Kisen. Bisa Kisen, by his mystic power, used to lean into fire and then lift his head and make flames come out of his hair. He had two companions who presented themselves as Brahma and Siva.
Many wealthy and influential Hindus of Orissa came under Bisa Kisen's sway. They sent him money to build a temple and provided him women for his "rasa-lila." Bisa Kisen belonged to the Ativadi-apasampradaya.
In a letter dated August 18, 1871, addressed to the editor of Progress, a newspaper in Cuttack, Orissa, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura described the origin, philosophy, and practices of the Ativadi sect. The Ativadis claim to be Vaisnavas, but they are quite opposed to the principles of Vaisnavism. What follows is a synopsis of the most pertinent points of Bhaktivinoda's letter, along with other details gleaned from Apasampradaya-svarupa, a Bengali booklet by Bhakti-vilasa Bharati Maharaja.
The Ativadi apasampradaya (spurious sect) was started by one Jagannatha Dasa when Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu stayed at Puri as a sannyasi. Jagannatha Dasa pretended to be a disciple of Srila Haridasa Thakura, one of Lord Caitanya's close associates. But he later broke his connection with the Thakura and began preaching his own ideas. For instance, he had his followers cover their mouths while chanting the maha-mantra and told them to chant the second half (Hare Rama) first.
Once Jagannatha Dasa arrogantly approached Lord Caitanya, ignoring Svarupa Damodara Gosvami, who would screen visitors so that they might not disturb the Lord. Jagannatha Dasa wished to recite his Oriya translation of Srimad-Bhagavatam, which included five chapters of his own invention. He also wanted to explain his independent manner of chanting Hare Krsna.
To avoid him, Lord Caitanya said, "A fallen soul like Me is not worthy to hear the Bhagavatam composed by an author like you."
Then Jagannatha Dasa declared Lord Caitanya to be Krsna, and himself Radharani.
The Lord replied, "Sir, you have become too great [ativadi]. An insignificant and fallen soul like Me can have nothing to do with you."
Jagannatha Dasa and his followers took the Lord's statement as praise instead of what it really was—condemnation. Thus this apasampradaya views itself as more well-read in the scriptures than Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His associates, and likewise better in judgment and logic.
Jagannatha Dasa had a sweet singing voice, which attracted women whom he engaged in massaging his body. When brought to the court of King Prataparudra for indecent behavior, he said to the king, "I don't see any difference between men and women." For conduct unbecoming a Vaisnava sadhu, or saintly person, the king had him imprisoned.
Jagannatha Dasa and his followers had been living in an asrama donated by the king. But when Jagannatha Dasa rejected Haridasa Thakura and started his own movement, the property was taken back. He then founded his own asrama on the seashore. It is called the Satlahari Matha and can still be seen today.
Ativadi priests sometimes dress up as women on certain religious occasions, and they are known for loosely mixing with women. The Ativadis are influential in Orissa because Jagannatha Dasa's translation of Srimad-Bhagavatam is widely read, especially by simple, undiscriminating people.
The Ativadis appear very devoted to Lord Jagannatha, the famous form of Krsna worshiped in the Puri temple. They proudly claim that Lord Jagannatha has personally revealed some truth or prophecy to them. Thus every respected Ativadi can recite what he will speak of as his Malika, or series of revelations from the Lord. A common prediction is the year the world will end.
Yet despite the devotion the Ativadis profess for Lord Jagannatha, the scriptures they received from their founder put forward many impersonal ideas. Though the Ativadis worship the Lord's form in the temple, they believe that when they die they will realize Him as formless. Worshiper and worshiped will then merge into oneness.
Ativadis are mystics who practice yoga and sometimes work magic to cure diseases and bring people under their control. They form a secret brotherhood, Bhaktivinoda Thakura says, like the Freemasons in the West, and use drugs like marijuana and opium. Bhaktivinoda Thakura reckoned there were fifteen thousand of them in Orissa during his stay there. He noted that they often engaged in conspiracies against the government.
Bisa Kisen was only one of many self-proclaimed avataras hailing from this apasampradaya. Lord Caitanya taught, avatara nahi kahe ami avatara: "The real incarnation of the Lord never claims to be one."
Aula, Baula, Sani (Sain), and Daravesa
These four apasampradayas are closely related. They may be regarded as divisions of one group, commonly called "the Baulas of Bengal." Heavily tantric, with Sufi leanings, they don't necessarily present themselves as Vaisnavas, though they claim to embody the real spirit of Lord Caitanya's movement.
The Aulas, Baulas, Sains, and Daravesa share the same philosophy, which directly descends from the Sahajayana tantric Buddhist tradition. They view all existence as being formed from the combination of the mundane male and female principles (purusa and prakrti). They can harmonize these two principles within themselves, they believe, through so-called love generated by the bodily union of man and woman through tantric yoga. When purusa and prakrti are perfectly harmonized, one realizes the inner ecstasy they call jiyante mara, or "death while living," signified by complete stoppage of all physical and mental activity.
They identify this state with the mahabhava ecstasy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. When this state is attained, they say, one can know the maner manush—the "man in the heart," also known as sahaja manush ("natural man"), bhaber manush ("man of devotion"), raser manush ("man of rasa"), and sonar manush ("man of gold").
These four sects believe that all exalted states of transcendence, like the realization of Vaikuntha and Krsnaloka, rest in the physical body. Their motto is "What cannot be found in the body cannot be found anywhere." Without going into details of their practices, suffice it to say that this philosophy encourages a person to release the "inner bliss" stored in the body through degraded acts of lust and depravity.
These apasampradayas are syncretic in that they combine aspects of different religious disciplines—Vaisnava, Mayavadi, tantric, and Islamic. And because they reject Deity worship they are iconoclastic.
The word aula has different meanings, either of Arabic or Bengali origin. The Persian word aul (from the Arabic wallia) means "very important person," signifying the supposed exalted status of a member of the cult of Aulas. Also from the Islamic world is the word auttal, "the first phase." This indicates that of the four sects the Aulas are on the first stage of advancement because they are married householders.
Another meaning of Aula is au ("woman") and ula ("come down"). This meaning points to their close connection to women, through whom they think descends deeper wisdom of the universe. In Bengali the word aul is related to kulata ("afflicted") in the sense of being afflicted with love. For instance, in the Caitanya-caritamrta the word aulaya denotes the gopis' affliction with love for Krsna.
The Aulas practice what is termed "bodily meditation." This means that the men of this sect take themselves to be purusa, and women to be prakrti. Their path to perfection is illicit sex. Husbands and wives of this community freely switch partners. Their idea is to excite their senses to a fever pitch so they can attain divine love. They claim that Lord Caitanya, Lord Nityananda, and the six Gosvamis were all "auliya," and they use citations from Sri Caitanya-caritamrta to try to substantiate their claim.
But Lord Caitanya's teachings clearly distinguish between love and lust. Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (Adi 4.165) defines love, or prema, as eagerness to please Krsna, whereas lust is the eagerness to gratify one's senses. By this definition, the practices of the Aulas are simply lust and have no connection with authorized scriptures.
The influence of Mayavadi philosophy on the Aula sect is marked. The Vaisnava scriptures say that Krsna is the only transcendental purusa. But the Aulas say that if one happens to have a male form he too is purusa and so may imitate Krsna's activities with impunity.
The word baula comes from the Sanskrit word vatula, or "mad." It may also be related to the word vyakula, which means "impatiently eager."
The Baulas are wandering minstrels who play instruments like the single-stringed ektar, the dugi (a drum like the larger drum in a tabla set), and the bamboo flute. They publicly chant the names of Krsna and sing enchanting songs with enigmatic words.
The Baulas, being folk musicians, exert an extraordinary influence on Bengali culture. They were patronized by no less than Rabindranath Tagore, Bengal's Nobel Prize-winning poet. Bengali intellectuals are fascinated with them and have written many books to their glory. In recent years, this kind of sophisticated regard for the Baulas has spread to the West. Baulas have even performed in London's Albert Hall.
Baulas often keep long hair in a bun atop their heads and adorn their foreheads with tilaka. They may wear the gown of a Muslim fakir and wear on their necks Shaivaite rudraksa beads, the glass worry beads of a Muslim, and the japa beads of a Vaisnava. They are usually bearded and carry a shoulder bag, a bamboo walking cane, and a fisti (a pot made from a big coconut). They have been known to use hashish liberally for "self-control."
The Baulas typically flock to festivals they call mahotsabs, many of which coincide with important Gaudiya Vaisnava functions. The Jayadeva Mela each winter in Kenduli, in Bengal, is the largest such mahotsab. The Baulas have an akhra (or asrama) there, and thousands of them converge at that spot for the three-day festival.
At other places across Bengal and Bangladesh they hold mahotsabs throughout the year. The Baulas move from one to the next, perform music, smoke hemp, and look for women. Often a Baula picks up a woman (or sadhika) at one mahotsab and drops her at the next to take on a new one. His former sadhika will be picked up by another Baula.
Some Baulas write books presenting perverted accounts of the lives of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His associates. Because of their talents, the Baulas cast over the minds of the innocent populace a spell that the Vaisnavas regard as extremely inauspicious.
The word sani comes from svami (master). The Sani group is more commonly known as the Sain. They are mendicants who wander about without following any particular discipline, having supposedly renounced all external designations.
Supposedly liberated from all material conceptions, the Sains may appear in any kind of dress (Hindu sannyasi or Muslim fakir) or no dress at all. They are so much beyond the grip of illusion that they may drink wine or eat human flesh as expressions of their high awareness. Many Sains maintain themselves by distributing mysterious medicines and cures.
The Daravesa (Darbesh) are the gurus of the Aulas, Baulas, and Sains. They are supposed to have reached the highest realization through tantric practice. Darbesh is a Sufi term, from the Persian dar ("door") and bhitan ("to beg"), meaning "one who begs from door to door."
The Darbesh Ashram in Dubrajpur, West Bengal, was founded by Atal Behari Darbesh, known simply as Darbeshji. It is said that by his mystic feats he brought a king under his control. The king gave him the land on which the asrama is situated. The Aulas, Baulas, and Sains venerate Darbeshji as a spiritual giant.
The followers of Darbeshji dress as they imagine Sanatana Gosvami was dressed when he escaped the jail of Nawab Hussain Shah to join Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu in Prayaga. Sanatana told the jailer, whom he'd bribed for his release, "I shall go to Mecca as a daravesa [renunciant]." The Darbesh cult takes this as Srila Sanatana Gosvami's most profound instruction.
[Part Four of this series will appear in our next issue.]
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.
Cultural Institute for the Vedic Arts (CIVA)
Hare Krsna temple, Brooklyn, New York
Yadurani Devi Dasi, from New York City, a Hare Krsna devotee since 1966. Srila Prabhupada's senior woman disciple, Yadurani painted, alone or with others, more than two hundred paintings published in the Bhagavad-gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam, and Caitanya-caritamrta.
To flood the world with Krsna conscious comic books and picture books. These books are for everyone, and especially for children and others reading mainly in this format.
In 1969 Srila Prabhupada wrote to Rayarama Dasa, the first editor of Back to Godhead, "I think in each and every issue a similar story sketch [the comic section] may be printed and it will be very interesting to the American reading public. It is interesting and thought-provoking. Therefore the more we print such sketch stories, it will appear greater in appreciation."
In 1976 in Vrndavana, Srila Prabhupada told Yadurani he wanted picture books of all the books he had translated. He specifically mentioned picture books of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, The Nectar of Devotion, and the Bhagavad-gita. He said, "Just picture-caption, picture-caption." He said that everyone would like our work. "It will be like the rain after the drought of mundane art."
So far CIVA has published two comics, The Advent and The Confrontation.
Another comic, Demoncraft, is ready for printing. Syamantaka Jewel and Kaliya Krsna should come out in a few months. CIVA would like to eventually publish a book every month.
The first obstacle is to find qualified writers, people who can retell a story from the Vedic literature in a suspenseful, three-dimensional way and yet not depart from Prabhupada's original translation. Second, the project needs a general manager. And third, it needs funding. CIVA needs $30,000-$40,000 to get the next few books into print.
How you can help
CIVA needs competent, responsible, and qualified artists, writers, editors, inkers, letterers, colorists, typists, sales personnel, and fund raisers. If you can fulfill any of these needs, or know someone who can, please contact:
Yadurani Devi Dasi
This article appeared in the December 1990 issue of Soviet Union Illustrated Monthly magazine. The magazine, founded under the title USSR in Construction in 1930 by Maxim Gorky, is published in twenty-one languages.
The restructuring drive and new thinking in the Soviet Union have brought about a fundamental change in state-church relations in this country. Hundreds of Russian Orthodox temples have been recently restored and opened to believers, ancient mosques are being built and restored now, various religious communities have been registered, and Sunday schools are opening. All this was reaffirmed by the Law on the Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations passed by the USSR Supreme Soviet, which "guarantees the citizens' right to determine and express their religious beliefs, to unrestrictedly profess and execute religious rites."
Twenty years have passed since the visit to the Soviet Union of Srila Prabhupada, the spiritual father of Krishna's followers. That visit planted the seeds of Vishnuism, a new and unorthodox phenomenon in this country. Today there are nearly 10,000 Vishnuites in 100 cities of the country. These are people of different ages and social backgrounds. Most of them are well-educated people like engineers, physicians, laboratory workers, and journalists, but there are also workers and students among them as well.
After Prabhupada's demise in 1977, his followers divided the world into several zones. The zone the Soviet Union is part of is supervised by Robert Campagnola (the spiritual name: Harikesha Swami) and David Jakupko (Kirtiraja Dasa). [Three more supervisors have since been added.]
In the summer of 1990 these spiritual leaders of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness paid a visit to the Soviet Union. During a press conference in Moscow they briefed the audience on the Society's activity, and spoke about its international ties and the proliferation of Krishna's teachings in the world and in the Soviet Union.
Only a few years ago, the adherents of Krishna were persecuted by the Soviet authorities and were looked upon as subversive elements. Ten years ago Harikesha and Kirtiraja were even deported from the USSR and the Society was banned. Today the Krishna Society is officially recognized in this country.
Harikesha and Kirtiraja expressed their gratitude to the Soviet authorities for allowing them to visit their fellow believers. The goal of the visit was to establish spiritual and other contacts. Plans are afoot, for example, to render material aid to the Soviet Krishna worshippers and help to build a temple.
Although the Krishna movement originated in India, its center has now moved to the West (by the way, both leaders are Americans), is rich and has a powerful publishing potential.
One can often see Krishna followers selling their literature near underground stations, in underground crossings, and in the streets of Moscow and other cities.
That's probably why Muscovites showed such a great interest in the big programme presented by the Krishna Society that included sacred music, classical Indian dances, an exhibition and sale of books and a presentation of video film held in one of the exhibition halls of the Moscow International Trade Center.
The Vishnuites believe that if a teaching leads to a better understanding of life and makes people better and stronger, it has the right to exist and win the hearts of people.
Disciples recall the pastimes of a pure devotee.
AT THE Mayapur festival in 1975 I was posted outside Srila Prabhupada's room to run errands for his servants. One morning as I waited on the veranda, Prabhupada came out to wash his hands after breakfast. He noticed a couple of sannyasis looking over the balcony, so he paused and looked over the balcony too.
The sannyasis were looking at an old lady and her child going through a pile of leaf plates that had been thrown out after breakfast. Evidently the woman and her child had missed the mass prasadam distribution, and so they were picking through the plates looking for some remnants of food.
One of the sannyasis turned to Srila Prabhupada and said, "Prabhupada, sometimes I feel sorry for these people."
Prabhupada turned with the most deep, compassionate, penetrating look and said, "Why just sometimes?"
IN JULY 1976, during Srila Prabhupada's visit to Paris, two other devotees and I went into his room to report about our difficulties in maintaining our large temple in Schloss Rettershof, an old castle near Frankfurt, Germany. We proposed that we close the Schloss and develop smaller temples in various cities in Germany. We felt these centers would be easier to maintain and would therefore increase the overall preaching.
Srila Prabhupada heard the report. There was a long, great silence in the room, and we felt very uncomfortable.
Finally Srila Prabhupada sat up, leaned forward by supporting himself with both hands on the table, and spoke very loudly and strongly, as if we were hard of hearing.
"And even if your child has been born deaf and blind, does it mean you kill it?"
Another extended silence. We sat greatly uncomfortable, embarrassed, and unable to say anything.
He repeated: "Does it mean you kill it?"
Silence. A minute went by that seemed like years.
Finally he concluded, "Don't kill it—develop it! Don't become rolling stones."
We left the room in great embarrassment. It was clear what he thought about closing a temple of Krsna.
ONE EVENING in Bhaktivedanta Manor in London, Srila Prabhupada was sitting in his room with his disciples and a few guests, including a woman reporter who had come to interview Srila Prabhupada. Despite the chilly English summer weather, the reporter was dressed in a miniskirt. Her first few questions revealed her skeptical and almost cynical attitude toward the Hare Krsna movement. As usual, Srila Prabhupada coolly and expertly answered her questions.
Somewhat exasperated and in a challenging mood, she brought up the old question, "Why do you people have bald heads?"
Srila Prabhupada immediately retorted, "Why do you have bare legs?"
She was speechless.
Srila Prabhupada then offered, "Better to have warm legs and a cool head."
Everyone, including, the reporter, laughed with delight.
Prabhupada added, "You must have a cool head to understand this Krsna consciousness philosophy."
—From Prabhupada Nectar, Volume I, by Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami
The recipes seemed good.
by Sadaputa Dasa
Thirty-eight years ago what is arguably the greatest mystery ever puzzled over by scientists—the origin of life—seemed virtually solved by a single simple experiment." This is how the February 1991 issue of Scientific American begins a review of theories of the origin of life. ** (John Horgan, "In the Beginning...," Scientific American, February, 1991, p. 117.)
The simple experiment, carried out by a University of Chicago graduate student named Stanley Miller, involved placing a mixture of methane, ammonia, hydrogen, and water in a sealed flask and zapping it with electrical sparks. The result was a tarry goo containing amino acids, the building blocks of the proteins found in living organisms.
To Miller it seemed but a few inevitable evolutionary steps from this primordial soup of water and biomolecules to the first living organisms. And from that day, college science students have been taught that science has explained life's origin. Indeed, many students are under the impression that life itself has been synthesized in a test tube. Unfortunately, as the article in Scientific American points out, scientists are far from understanding life's origins.
First of all, some scientists have argued that the conditions on the primordial earth would have been unsuitable for amino acids to form in. Miller's theory calls for a reducing atmosphere rich in hydrogen-based gases such as methane and ammonia. But the primordial atmosphere, some say, consisted mainly of nitrogen and carbon dioxide, so that the raw materials for amino acids and other small biological molecules would have been missing. In fact, scientists can only guess about what the earth was like billions of years ago, and the guesses they make can agree or disagree with Miller's theory.
Let's suppose, for the sake of argument, that amino acids would have formed on the primordial earth. And let's suppose they would have piled up with other simple biological molecules without being naturally destroyed or dispersed. We'd then run into another problem: Although the rules for chemical bonding may allow simple biological molecules to form, these same rules don't guarantee that the higher forms of organization found in living organisms will arise.
We can illustrate this by a simple example. We all know the story of the monkeys that randomly hit typewriter keys and by chance write Shakespeare's plays. Monkeys who strike keys completely at random are unlikely even to come up with English words, apart from short words like is or at. But we can improve on the monkeys' performance by introducing a simple rule.
Here's how the rule works. If a monkey has just typed th, we require that the next letter be fit for an English word including th. For example, the next letter might be e, forming the word the, or it might be r, since thr appears in throw. But the letter couldn't be q or x, since thq and thx don't come up in English words. By this rule, the monkey always randomly chooses a letter that in English could follow the last two letters he typed.
Another part of our rule is this: we instruct the monkey that the more often a letter appears in English after the two he has just typed, the more he should tend to choose it. For example, e follows th more often than r does, so after th the monkey is more likely to choose e than r. (We also let the monkey choose spaces, commas, and periods along with the twenty-six letters of the alphabet.)
You can think of this rule as an imitation of chemical bonding. An e or r can bond to th, but q or z can't. Allowing the monkey to type sequences of letters by this rule is like letting molecules form in a primordial soup by the rules of chemical bonding.
I compiled a table of allowed three-letter combinations (letter-triples) by running my July column, on Vedic astronomy, through a computer. Then I programmed the computer to generate sequences of letters according to the resulting rule. I call these sequences of letters "sentences," even though they're generally not punctuated properly. Here's an example:
"To the local thers an ut once scorpith ese, ar and astar. The ma, wers a godern the sky srittailis othicein volumn of the onsmilky way, thears"
Evolutionists, this seems promising. The computer-monkey is coming up with many English words, and some even seem to convey a faint glimmer of meaning. One can imagine that in just a few evolutionary steps the computer will begin to express profound thoughts—with impeccable English grammar.
But unfortunately if we read a few pages of this stuff we find no signs of emerging complex order. We find short English words, often relating to astronomy, since the letter-bonding rule comes from such words. But there are no signs of the more complex order needed for the grammatical expression of thoughts. In the bonding rule, the information for these complex patterns is simply not there.
Biological chemistry puts before us a similar problem. By the rules of chemical bonding, atoms of hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, and nitrogen will tend to form amino acids and similar compounds under appropriate conditions. But these rules are not enough to bring together the highly complex structures found in even the simplest living cells.
Of course, our rule for generating letter sequences doesn't take into account Darwinian evolution by mutation and natural selection. Many scientists regard this process as essential for the development of complex order. So it's not surprising, one might say, that our simple rule cannot produce such order.
But the simple forming of molecules by chemical bonding in a primordial soup also doesn't involve Darwinian evolution. Darwinian evolution calls for a self-reproducing system of molecules. Indeed, one of the main tasks of origin-of-life theories is to explain how the first self-reproducing system arose.
In living organisms, self-reproduction is a dauntingly complex process involving proteins, deoxyribonucleic-acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid (RNA). If Darwinian evolution can't take place until such a complex system is operating, scientists are at a loss to explain how that complex system has come about.
The only hope has been to suppose that the first self-reproducing system was much simpler than the simplest of today's living cells. If somehow a single molecule could reproduce itself under suitable conditions, then perhaps it could evolve, develop liaisons with other molecules, and eventually give rise to the kind of organisms that exist today.
One of the most popular scenarios for a self-reproducing molecule has been the so-called "RNA-world." The idea is that an RNA molecule might be able to catalyze its own replication and so be able to evolve in a Darwinian manner. It has been shown that RNA molecules can act as enzymes that act on other RNA molecules. And Manfred Eigen of the Max Planck Institute has shown that RNA molecules reproducing under the influence of modern cellular enzymes can undergo a process of Darwinian evolution.
But the RNA-world models have problems. One is that RNA would seem unlikely to form on the prebiotic primordial earth. Another is that RNA cannot readily make new copies of itself in the laboratory without a great deal of help from scientists. (For one thing, RNA replication calls for pure conditions that can be provided in a laboratory but would not be expected in nature.)
Still, let's suppose that a self-reproducing molecule (which might or might not be RNA) did arise on the primordial earth. What might we expect it to evolve into? To gain some insight into this, I introduced evolution into the computer-monkey model.
Darwinian evolution rests on the idea of survival of the fittest, or natural selection. So I defined the fitness of a monkey-generated "sentence" by looking at how often the letter-triples of that sentence appear in English. If a sentence has many frequent triples (like the or ing), it has high fitness; if it has few, it has low fitness. So if we replace infrequent or nonexistent triples (like inz) with common ones (like ing), we increase the sentence's fitness. Essentially, the closer a sentence gets to a real English sentence, the more fit it is.
I used survival of the fittest to simulate how evolution might take place in a population of twenty monkey-generated sentences. For a sentence to "give birth," I would simply add to the population a copy of the sentence that might differ by one letter. The copy would be the offspring, and the differing letter would correspond to a random mutation.
I divided time into generations. During each generation, the ten fittest sentences in the population would each give birth to ten offspring. At the same time, I cruelly killed off the ten sentences of least fitness, so that the fit sentences multiplied at the expense of the less fit ones. This was survival of the fittest.
I began with a population of twenty copies of the sentence "godern the sky srittailis othicein volumn of the onsmilky way," generated by the letter-bonding rule. Here is how the fittest sentence in the population changed at intervals of 200 generations:
godern the sky srittailis othicein volumn of the onsmilky way,
zodur, the sky mriquat isuothyzet, volumn, of the oesmilky way,
zodur. the sky wriqua. isuothyzed, volumns of the oesmilky way.
zodur. the sky wriqua. invothyzed. volumns of the oesmilky way.
zodur. the lky wriqua, unvothyzed. volumns of the boesmilky way.
zodur. the lky wriqua, anvothyzed. volumns of the boesmilky way.
We see that the sentence is indeed evolving. But unfortunately it's not evolving into anything meaningful. This process of evolution is simply not able to generate the complex patterns of actual English speech.
My point is this: Assuming that self-replicating molecules could exist on a primordial earth, where can we expect their evolution to go? Nowhere meaningful. Such molecules may indeed evolve and grow molecularly more fit, but there is no reason to think they will evolve into living cells.
Molecular fitness will have something to do with how strongly a molecule's bonds hold it together and how well the molecule can catalyze its own replication. This kind of fitness may increase through Darwinian evolution. But there's no reason to think that anything will ever emerge from this, other than modified self-replicating molecules of the same type. There's no reason to suppose that the self-reproducing molecules will ever give rise to something completely different, such as an elaborate system of reproductive machinery based on DNA, RNA, enzymes, and the famous genetic code.
My purpose in giving these examples from sequences of letters is not to claim they prove anything about the origin of life. Rather, I'm simply illustrating some of the obstacles that theories of life's origin face. We can talk about these obstacles in purely chemical terms. Such discussions are necessarily technical.
So, again, here are the two obstacles we have discussed: (1) Natural rules for bonding between atoms may give rise to simple biological molecules under special circumstances (as in Miller's experiment), but they can't give rise to the complex structures needed for organisms to grow and reproduce. (2) If some hypothetical molecules were able to jump start their own replication, they might evolve by Darwinian natural selection and random variation. But no one has given any solid reason to suppose they would evolve into anything more than better self-replicating molecules. And, of course, it has not been shown that prebiotic molecular self-replication could happen.
In the thirty-eight years since Miller's famous experiment, scientists have come up with many complicated theories about how life might have originated, but they have failed to overcome these and other fundamental obstacles. Miller himself tends to disapprove of the futile speculations of the theorists. He argues that what the origin-of-life field needs is good experiments that actually demonstrate how life got started. But such experiments are not easy to devise. "I come up with a dozen ideas a day," Miller says, pausing to reflect, "and I usually discard the whole dozen." (Ibid., p. 125.)
Sadaputa Dasa (Richard L. Thompson) earned his Ph.D. in mathematics from Cornell University. He is the author of several books, of which the most recent is Vedic Cosmography and Astronomy.
One of our subscribers, Yamuna Jagannatha, asked us for help in reading food labels. How can you tell which items might contain products from slaughtered animals?
With help from our friends at Vegetarian Times, here's a list of ingredients that are or could be animal products. When in doubt about some item of food, you can call or write to the company that makes it.
From London, our researcher Sita Dasi tells us that in the United Kingdom the following "E numbers" are nonvegetarian: 120, 140, 141, 153, 161-161g, 252, 280, 322, 352, 385, 404, 422, 430-436, 450, 623, 631, 635, 904. Plus: glycerol, glycine, glyceryl, glyceral triacetate, leucine, oxystearin, spermaceti, and vitamin D3
From institutional sponsorship to self-sufficiency
A SUBSIDIZED magazine tends to be a dull magazine. Living on handouts from its parent institution, it lives distant from its readers and their needs.
For years Back to Godhead lived on funding from the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. We came out regularly—but readers lost interest, circulation dwindled, and the Book Trust found Back to Godhead increasingly hard to keep afloat. Something wasn't working.
Then, nearly two years ago, we made a decision: No more handouts. The magazine would have to stand on its own.
The Work Begins
That was a tough decision. It forced us to suspend printing, reexamine what we were doing, and virtually start again from scratch.
We had only two thousand subscribers.
The work began. We assembled a new team of editors, argued and debated our editorial assumptions, began re-working our pages. We started recruiting new writers and coming up with new editorial features.
On the financial front, we cut our overhead and started planning how to survive on our own.
Finally, we started working to enlist new subscribers.
Doing this work has been a struggle—and still is. But the result, we believe, is a better magazine, a magazine more thoughtful, relevant, bold, and enlightening, a magazine you look forward to receiving—and sharing with others.
Your Role is Crucial
Now, that point about sharing is crucial. Because to reach our goal of self-sufficiency, we need you.
We've gone from two thousand subscribers to nearly seven thousand. But our goal now is to double that—and do it by the end of the year.
Well, more than double it. We want to grow from seven thousand subscribers to fifteen thousand. And not only do we want to—we need to.
We need to reach more people with our message. We've got a mission: to drive away maya and spread the light of Krsna consciousness. And that mission is urgent, for ourselves and for the world. Nothing is more urgent than the need for spiritual realization.
We want to inspire and unite the friends and devotees of Krsna. And we want to offer new people the opportunity to find freedom and shelter from material illusion at Krsna's lotus feet.
We want to build a wave—a wave of Krsna consciousness that just keeps growing and growing and growing.
Apart from that, fifteen thousand subscribers is how many we need to keep from going broke. Sparing you the details, printing in small numbers is costly. At larger numbers, things fit into place. We start standing strongly, steadily—and growing.
How to Do It
We're not going to reach the whole world at once. The world frankly isn't interested.
But you're interested—and, surely, so are other people near you. Those are the people we want to reach now. And the person who can reach them best is you.
The great spiritual master Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura once wrote that Krsna consciousness is like an electrical force communicated from one sympathetic soul to the next. And Back to Godhead is an instrument—a powerful instrument—for that communication.
Now that Back to Godhead is back, let's use it. Here's what you can do:
1. Tell people about Back to Godhead. Your friends, your relatives, your neighbors. Anyone who might be interested in Krsna. Show it to them. Share it with them. Spread the word!
2. Encourage them to subscribe. No, you don't have to be pushy. But give them a chance. Make it easy: Take a subscription card from this magazine and place it gently in their hands. Invite them to enjoy the benefits of personally receiving Back to Godhead.
3. Maybe you know many people who'd be interested. Maybe whole groups. Great! Do them a spiritual favor—give them the opportunity to subscribe. We'd be happy to send you more subscription cards—as many as you'd like. Just drop us a line and let us know.
4. Give a gift subscription—to a relative, a friend, someone at work, your local school or public library.
There's no greater gift than Krsna consciousness. And through gift subscriptions alone, we can nearly reach our goal.
If each subscriber gives a gift of Back to Godhead, we'll have almost fifteen thousand subscribers. And why only one gift? Think about giving several.
Double the Light
We've got exciting plans for upcoming issues: New themes. New features. New photography and art. New ideas for coming closer to one another and closer to Krsna.
Srila Prabhupada started Back to Godhead as a way to spread the light of Krsna consciousness. With your help, by January 1 that light will be shining twice as bright.—J.S.