This is what you might call our "Special Fall Issue." Starting on page 24, we focus on falldown from spiritual life.
You might think this a discouraging topic. Krsna consciousness, after all, offers us great hope. It cleanses our heart, frees us from illusions, reawakens our dormant love for Krsna. And it does this potently and quickly. Why then should we talk about falldown?
Simply: Because it happens.
After starting on the path, not everyone makes it all the way—at least not in one lifetime.
In one sense, that's why we're here. To be attracted to Krsna consciousness now, we must have pursued it before, in a previous lifetime. Yet somehow we fell short of our goal. And so we've come back, in another birth—and with another chance.
By carefully using this opportunity, we can attain perfection, even in this life. And for the sake of success, it's vital for us to know what dangers to expect along the way.
Striving for Krsna consciousness is like declaring war on maya. "The trouble with you," Srila Prabhupada once told some disciples, "is that you're not sufficiently afraid of maya."
Maya, illusion, is powerful. And the serious transcendentalist never underestimates its strength.
We should expect maya to fight back. So we should know maya's power and maya's tactics. We should know how to protect ourselves. We should know how to guard our flanks, rescue the wounded, recover from setbacks.
And we should know that victory is certain—as long as we depend upon Krsna.
Lord Krsna says in Bhagavad-gita that maya is insurmountable because it is His divine power. But when we surrender to Krsna's lotus feet we can overcome maya and enter Krsna's abode, the eternal world of the Absolute Truth.
To help us surrender to Krsna and reach that spiritual world is the purpose of Back to Godhead.
In this issue, Back to Godhead presents an interview with my longtime friend and Godbrother Mahanidhi Swami, the current caretaker of Srila Prabhupada's rooms at the the Radha-Damodara temple in Vrndavana, India.
Srila Prabhupada lived at Radha-Damodara for six years before going to America in 1965. He once said that the Radha-Damodara temple was his eternal home.
Mahanidhi Swami has lived in Vrndavana for the last four years. Following Srila Prabhupada's example, he lives the simple, austere life of a renounced devotee. He went to the Radha-Damodara temple not in search of a comfortable life but to get closer to his spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, by serving him in his rooms and increasing his remembrance of him.
The more we appreciate great devotees like Srila Prabhupada the more we gain inspiration to advance in spiritual life. We're pleased that Back to Godhead can share with its reader's the deep appreciation for Srila Prabhupada that Mahanidhi Swami has gained by living and serving in Prabhupada's eternal rooms at Radha-Damodara.
The Passing of Krsna's Devotee
I couldn't help but wonder what supercilious fancy drove your "Every Town and Village" writer to add this comment in the May/June issue to the Buddhimanta obituary: "He seemed to forget about Krsna and become ensnared in maya. ... [who] also gave Buddhimanta a brain tumor." To leave your readers with such an ambivalent sense of Buddhimanta's service does not strike me as proper Vaisnava etiquette.
This is probably the most snide and callous sentence ever printed in BTG.
Freeport, New York
How can the writer say that it is maya who gave Buddhimanta a brain tumor, especially when Buddhimanta went to Vrndavana to take shelter of Krsna? Anything which makes you surrender to Krsna is given by Him. Maya wants you to forget about Him. So this disease was Krsna's special mercy on Buddhimanta and obviously not maya's punishment. Krsna took Buddhimanta out of maya and put him in Vrndavana to leave his body so that next life, wherever he may be, he can go on with his devotional service. Doesn't that sound more in tune with what we know about the Lord's unmotivated mercy?
Indriya Damana Dasa
Your offensive us and them mentality plagues the entire magazine. Rather than glorify a devotee who left his body in Vrndavana, you judge him and accuse him of material enjoyment. I'm so sick of this. It's so sad to see so many of Prabhupada's disciples still clinging to their dogma and their regulative principles—and not becoming more enlightened. The only regulative principle is to remember Krsna and never forget Him.
Ksiracora Devi Dasi
Thank you for mentioning Buddhimanta's passing away. I only heard of it because you were thoughtful enough to include it in the May/June issue.
I know that most of the old-timers in North American ISKCON remember him with his book bag, selflessly serving Srila Prabhupada's mission in airports across the country. It was good of you to glorify this special Vaisnava, and I appreciated your gentle treatment of our friend.
To serve Srila Prabhupada so nicely, to pass away in Vrndavana surrounded by devotees and Hari-nama, the holy name of the Lord—I pray for these benedictions.
All glories to our Godbrother Buddhimanta Dasa.
I was very happy to read in the May/June issue of BTG that Buddhimanta Dasa successfully departed from this world in Vrndavana, India.
What your brief article failed to mention was Buddhimanta's extraordinary contribution in spreading Krsna consciousness in Australia. He established book distribution here in the early seventies.
Prior to his arrival in 1972, a handful of devotees would go out into the cities with the local chanting parties and distribute magazines. On a big day they would give out up to forty between them. Buddhimanta trained the devotees to distribute books.
It was because of Buddhimanta's enthusiasm and determination that the Australian devotees went on to become the leader in book distribution in the seventies.
Older devotees will remember this exciting era in the movement's history. Srila Prabhupada was so pleased that he chose to come to Melbourne, Australia, for Rathayatra in 1974.
Many souls who have taken up Krsna consciousness in later years came in touch with devotional service through books distributed directly by Buddhimanta or devotees he personally trained and inspired. The Vaisnava lives forever!
We're sorry we came across to some readers as disdainful of Buddhimanta Dasa. That was far from our intent. Yet we didn't want to pretend that he had never strayed from devotional service, because Krsna and His devotees are glorified by the truth.
For example, the Vedic scriptures tell of many devotees—King Bharata, Ajamila, King Citraketu, and others—who fell from the spiritual path but were saved by the Lord because of their past devotional service.
As such histories show, Lord Krsna remembers the service of His sincere devotees and always protects and cares for them. In Bhagavad-gita He therefore asks Arjuna to declare that His devotee will never perish. And the Lord Himself says that even the slightest devotional service (what to speak of many years of it) can save one from the greatest danger.
That's why we felt the story of Buddhimanta Dasa worth telling.
Our thanks to Subhalaksmi Dasi for telling us more about Buddhimanta's devotional service.
Ksiracora Dasi writes that remembering Krsna and never forgetting Him is the only regulative principle. What, then, is the meaning of the other rules one agrees to at initiation? Remembering Krsna is the main rule, but surely not the only one. The other rules, the scriptures say, are servants of this main one. If we value the main rule—to remember Krsna—why should we neglect its servants?
We regret any harshness that may have come across in our brief telling of Buddhimanta's story. We're grateful that at least to some readers it came out right.—Editor
I recently read one of your issues of Back to Godhead magazine. I think it was the first magazine in my life that I ever relished with all my heart. So I wish to subscribe to the magazine for five years.
Must we give up Jesus?
My sister is a member of ISKCON, and I guess that is why I write. My concern is she is also a Christian. My friend at work told me, "Well, if she ever becomes a devotee she'll have to denounce her belief in Jesus as her savior."
Is this true? Does she have to leave Christianity and Jesus to become a devotee?
To be a Krsna devotee, she doesn't have to give up being Christian. Krsna consciousness makes one a better Christian. (See the article by Srila Prabhupada, page 7.)
Why no fish?
Why is eating fish prohibited? I understand the prohibition against killing and eating more evolved forms of life like cows, chickens, and pigs, but why not fish?
Devotees of Krsna eat only food offered to Krsna—and Krsna doesn't accept offerings of fish. Anyone who has seen fish flapping on a hook or in a net knows how acutely fish feel pain. And fish-eating is considered to be in the mode of ignorance. Fish eat all sorts of nasty things floating in the water. So the Manu Samhita says, "One who eats fish eats everything."
Nonviolent Dairy Options
Thank you for the articles on cow protection. If we are to establish Krsna consciousness, it is imperative that we live our philosophy and support cow protection by supporting employment of the cows and oxen.
But it doesn't seem we are doing so well in that regard. Looking over the information about the farms, I noticed with interest that only a small number of the cows are actually being milked. For example, at Gita Nagari 2 of 69 were fresh [newly calved and therefore milking], and I suspect that more are dry than retired.
A devotee friend of mine explained to me that it's a matter of economics: the farms simply cannot afford to keep the cows fresh. I heard this with great astonishment. If we as a society are committed to cow protection, then we must arrange for it to make sense economically. Otherwise, as the article pointed out, cow protection will be abandoned.
Every temple, I am sure, uses large amounts of milk products. Why aren't these products of our own farms? My friend pointed out that the temples can buy dairy products from the store for less than what it costs to make them ourselves, because the store products are government subsidized.
But is that an excuse? That means we value dollars above cow protection. As a society we spend millions of dollars a year to distribute books and prasadam because we understand the great need for these programs, even though they may not pay for themselves. Why should cow protection be considered less important?
Many nondevotee vegetarians shun commercial dairy products because these products are linked to the slaughter of calves. Yet we, who profess to champion cow protection, buy these products instead of our own dairy produce because they're cheaper.
This doesn't make sense, nor is it morally sound. Not only should we not buy commercial dairy products, but we should offer our own nonviolent dairy products. Charge what we must, there are people out there willing to pay for it to support the principles they (and we) believe in.
I would like to ask the leaders of our farm communities to make these options available to us. Let us stop voting for cow slaughter with each dollar spent, and let us instead vote for cow protection when we make our purchases.
Laguna Beach, California
Hare Krsna Devi Dasi replies:
I appreciate your support for cow protection. Your letter raises several important topics.
In general, we in ISKCON have made the mistake of putting the cart full of milk cans in front of the ox. In other words, over the long term we can't have milk from protected cows without working oxen. (In my column this issue I talk about the economics of why.) Most of us have not yet grasped the need to work the oxen as a basic feature of a sustainable Krsna conscious society. And that's the reason we're not getting milk from protected cows.
Another crucial point: The Krsna conscious economy Srila Prabhupada describes is a localized subsistence economy based on ox power and cow protection. It's not a centralized market economy that depends on petroleum and a highly technological infrastructure. Ultimately that means that if we don't serve Krsna within ten miles of a Hare Krsna farm, it's unfair for us to demand that milk products from protected cows be shipped to us by petroleum-fueled trucks.
Spiritually advanced people naturally want to avoid foods that support the sinful cow-slaughter industry. And in fact the most practical way to do this is to help work the oxen and protect the cows on a Krsna conscious farm. As Srila Prabhupada tells us, "Agriculture and cow protection are the way to become sinless and be attracted to devotional service."
Finally, those of us who can't directly work on a farm should stick behind those who have dedicated their lives to this part of Srila Prabhupada's mission. We should understand the courage and incredibly hard work of the devotees at a place like Gita Nagari. And we should support their decision to switch from pumping milk into the commercial market to breeding cows only to yield oxen and milk for their community.
We welcome your letters. Send correspondence to The Editors, Back to Godhead, P.O. Box 90946, San Diego, CA 92169, USA.
From the teachings of
Compiled by Mathuresa Dasa
The symptoms of a sadhu [saintly person] are that he is tolerant, merciful, and friendly to all living entities. He has no enemies, he is peaceful, he abides by the scriptures, and all his characteristics are sublime. (Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.25.21)
Whatever our particular religious faith, there are principles of religion that are universal. How these principles appear in the lives and characters of religious leaders and their followers is the true test of an authentically spiritual life. Srila Prabhupada often pointed to the character of Lord Jesus Christ to illustrate such authenticity. "The Srimad-Bhagavatam states that any bona fide preacher of God consciousness must have the qualities of titiksa (tolerance) and karuna (compassion). In the character of Lord Jesus Christ we find both these qualities. He was so tolerant that even while he was being crucified he didn't condemn anyone. And he was so compassionate that he prayed to God to forgive the very persons who were trying to kill him." ** (The Science of Self-Realization (SSR), p. 134) Devotees of God must be tolerant, because it is their duty to remind us that lasting happiness lies not in the material world but in devotional service to the Supreme. "The religious principle means that this material life is not happy. ... You take Lord Jesus Christ or Buddha or Lord Caitanya or Krsna. ... Nobody says, 'You make an adjustment here and live peacefully. ... This is not the place to live happily." ** (Conversations with Srila Prabhupada, Vol. 1, p. 237)
"The sadhu has the thankless task of impressing upon [us] the importance of devotional service. Sometimes devotees are personally attacked with violence. Lord Jesus Christ was crucified, Haridasa Thakura was caned in twenty-two marketplaces, and Lord Caitanya's principal assistant, Nityananda, was violently attacked by Jagai and Madhai. But still they were very tolerant because their mission was to deliver the fallen souls." ** (Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.25.21, purport)
Although it is ignorant and superficial to think such exalted devotees can be killed, Lord Jesus Christ and others were willing to sacrifice their lives to liberate the ignorant.
Of Christ's crucifixion Prabhupada said, "Of course, they could not actually kill him. But they were thinking that he could be killed, so they were committing a great offense. As Christ was being crucified he prayed, 'Father, forgive them. They know not what they are doing.' " ** (SSR, p. 134)
* * *
A saintly person is merciful not only to human beings, however. He is suhrdam sarva-dehinam, merciful to all embodied beings—to animals as well as men.
"Lord Jesus Christ exemplified this by teaching 'Thou shalt not kill.' But the Christians like to misinterpret this instruction. They think the animals have no soul, and therefore they think they can freely kill billions of innocent animals in the slaughterhouses. So although there are many persons who profess to be Christians, it would be very difficult to find one who strictly follows the instructions of Lord Jesus Christ." ** (SSR, p. 134)
Most Christians object to this direct understanding of Christ's commandment, preferring instead to interpret "kill" to mean "murder." We should refrain, they say, from killing humans.
"If you want to interpret these words, that is something else," Srila Prabhupada replies. "We understand the direct meaning. 'Thou shalt not kill' means 'The Christians should not kill.' You may put forth interpretations in order to continue the present way of action [animal slaughter], but we understand very clearly that there is no need for interpretation. Interpretation is necessary if things are not clear. But here the meaning is clear. 'Thou shalt not kill' is a clear instruction. Why should we interpret it?" ** (SSR, p. 130)
Of course, one might ask, can't Krsna give permission to eat animals? Father Emmanuel Jungclaussen of Niederalteich Monastery in West Germany once placed this question before Srila Prabhupada.
"Yes," Prabhupada replied, "—in the animal kingdom. But the civilized human being, the religious human being, is not meant to kill and eat animals.
"If you stop killing animals and chant the holy name Christ," Srila Prabhupada continued, "everything will be perfect. I have not come to teach you but only to request you to please chant the name of God. The Bible also demands this of you. So let's kindly cooperate and chant, and if you have a prejudice against chanting the name Krsna, then chant Christos—there is no difference. Sri Caitanya said, 'God has millions and millions of names, and because there is no difference between God's names and Himself, each one of these names has the same potency as God.'
"Even if you accept designations like 'Hindu,' 'Christian,' or 'Mohammedan,' if you simply chant the name of God found in your own scriptures, you will attain the spiritual platform. ... Whether you discharge this duty as a Hindu, Christian, or a Mohammedan, it doesn't matter—but discharge it!" ** (SSR, p. 131)
"I think the Christian priests should cooperate with the Krsna consciousness movement. They should chant the name Christ or Christos and should stop condoning the slaughter of animals. This program follows the teachings of the Bible; it is not my philosophy." ** (SSR, p. 133)
* * *
Because the quality of mercy to all living beings is so central to the character of every saintly person, while conversing with Christians Srila Prabhupada consistently spoke of the evil of animal slaughter.
"The Bible does not simply say 'Do not kill the human being,' " Prabhupada told Cardinal Jean Danielou in Paris. "It says broadly, 'Thou shalt not kill'. ... Human beings are meant to eat vegetarian food. The tiger does not come to eat your fruits. His prescribed food is animal flesh. But man's food is vegetables, fruits, grains, and milk products. ... When there is no other food, someone may eat meat in order to keep from starving. But it is most sinful to regularly maintain slaughterhouses just to satisfy your tongue. Actually, you will not even have a human society until this cruel practice of maintaining slaughterhouses is stopped. ..." ** (SSR, p. 137-139)
But God is kind, a Christian may object. If we want to eat animals, why would He stop us?
He won't. In fact, He will give us suitable bodies for eating meat, bodies more suitable than our present human ones.
"God is very kind. If you want to eat animals, then He'll give you full facility. God will give you the body of a tiger in your next life so that you can eat flesh freely. 'Why are you maintaining slaughterhouses? I'll give you fangs and claws. Now eat.' So the meat-eaters are awaiting such punishment. The animal-eaters become tigers, wolves, cats, and dogs in their next life—to get more facility."
According to Christian doctrine, Christians are free from the reactions to their sins because they have surrendered to Lord Jesus Christ and he has washed their sins away. In the Gita too, Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, says that those who surrender to Him will be freed from sins.
But what is surrender? If the spiritual master, Lord Jesus Christ, has suffered to free us from our sins, is it surrender to continue freely sinning? Transgressions due to weakness may be understandable, but our weakness, Srila Prabhupada taught, should not become our vocation.
"Jesus Christ taught, 'Thou shalt not kill,' but his followers have now decided, 'Let us kill anyway,' and they open big, modern, scientific slaughterhouses. 'If there is any sin, Christ will suffer for us.' This is a most abominable conclusion." ** (SSR, p. 135)
"A Vaisnava is unhappy to see the suffering of others. Therefore, Lord Jesus Christ agreed to be crucified—to free others from their suffering. But his followers are so unfaithful that they have decided, 'Let Christ suffer for us and we'll go on committing sin.' They love Christ so much that they think, 'My dear Christ, we are very weak. We cannot give up our sinful activities. So you please suffer for us.' " ** (SSR, p. 135)
When the spiritual master frees us from previous karma, or sin, he doesn't give us a blank check to do anything we want in his name. If Lord Jesus Christ agreed to be crucified for our sins, what genuine follower would desire to prolong the crucifixion?
"Christ can take the sufferings for the previous sins of his devotees. But first they have to be sane: 'Why should I put Jesus Christ into suffering for my sins? Let me stop my sinful activities.' " ** (SSR, p. 135)
And the spiritual master is not held accountable for so-called followers with insane motives.
"Suppose a man—the favorite son of his father—commits a murder. And suppose he thinks, 'If there is any punishment coming, my father can suffer for me.' Will the law allow it? When the murderer is arrested and says, 'No, no. You can release me and arrest my father; I am his pet son,' will the police officials comply with that fool's request?
"He committed the murder, but he thinks his father should suffer the punishment! Is that a sane proposal? 'No, you have committed the murder; you must be hanged.' Similarly, when you commit sinful activities, you must suffer—not Jesus Christ. That is God's law." ** (SSR, p. 135)
Srila Prabhupada had little patience for using Christ's mercy as an excuse for going on with sin. Yet Srila Prabhupada had true appreciation for Christ as the son of God. "Jesus Christ was such a great personality—the son of God, the representative of God. He had no fault. Still, he was crucified. He wanted to deliver God consciousness, but in return they crucified him—they were so thankless. They could not appreciate his preaching. But we appreciate him and give him all honor as the representative of God.
"Certainly he is the representative of God. Therefore we adore Lord Jesus Christ and offer our obeisances to him." ** (SSR, p. 135)
Not only do we adore him, but he is our guru, our spiritual master.
"Once, in Melbourne, a group of Christian ministers came to visit me. They asked, 'What is your idea of Jesus Christ?' I told them 'He is our guru. He is preaching God consciousness, so he is our spiritual master.' The ministers very much appreciated that.
"Actually, anyone who is preaching God's glories must be accepted as guru. Jesus Christ is one such great personality. We should not think of him as an ordinary human being. The scriptures say that anyone who considers the spiritual master to be an ordinary man has a hellish mentality. If Jesus Christ were an ordinary man, then he could not have delivered God consciousness." ** (SSR, p. 135-136)
Prabhupada's Simple Cooking
by Yamuna Devi
On October 22, 1976, I traveled to Vrndavana to ask Srila Prabhupada's permission to write a Vaisnava cookbook. There I met Sruti Rupa, one of his personal cooks, and I saw her dedication to studying Srila Prabhupada's instructions on cooking. Sruti Rupa is a natural cook, with refined senses and a thirst for knowledge. I visit her every year, and each year I'm enlivened with her new insights. The following interview, the first in a series, took place in Washington, D.C., and Key West, Florida, on May 20 and June 17, 1991.
YAMUNA DEVI: First, could you describe what prompted your interest in Krsna conscious cooking?
SRUTI RUPA: It wasn't a conscious decision but actually a desire to be near Srila Prabhupada.
YD: When was that?
SR: When I first saw him at Bhaktivedanta Manor in 1973. I had a magnetic attraction to his personal service. I somehow gravitated to service in the kitchen.
YD: Do you recall your first kitchen experience with him?
SD: It was in Vrndavana, 1976. There was a North Indian vegetable dish he requested on a regular basis. Arundati, his former cook, hadn't been getting it quite right. So when the time came for Palika and I to take over as resident cooks, Srila Prabhupada told us, "Tomorrow I'll come in."
YD: What happened?
SD: It was about 11:30 A.M., just after he'd finished his massage and bath. As the kitchen door opened with a whooshing sound, the air was infused with the fragrance of sandalwood oil. Srila Prabhupada was glowing, and as his smile turned into a chuckle, he said, "I've never been in my kitchen before. It is very nice."
YD: What was the vegetable dish in question?
SR: North Indian Punjabi Badi Sabji—a vegetable stew with spicy urad badis [dried dal cakes] simmered in a seasoned stock.
YD: Can you describe how he made the dish?
SD: Srila Prabhupada sat on a low stool in front of two gas burners. I was holding containers of freshly ground spice pastes, and the vegetables were ready. He heated ghee in a heavy-bottomed brass pot over high heat. In quick sequence, he briefly fried a few paste masalas and then added potatoes and cauliflower. He added water and badis and simmered the stew until the vegetables were tender. That was it. So simple.
YD: Sruti, your conversations are always peppered with references to Srila Prabhupada. What did he stress the most in his instruction?
SR: Purity, cleanliness, and quality—and to avoid waste. Srila Prabhupada taught us to be very particular about the quality and purity of spices. For instance, in '76 and '77 he refused preground dry spices. Everything had to be ground fresh daily. Every morning I set aside one and a half hours to wet-grind small bowls of several spice pastes—cumin, cumin and black pepper, turmeric, fresh ginger, and hot chili paste. Turmeric root must be softened five days before grinding. And it's especially likely to be cut with other ingredients by merchants. So from Prabhupada's example I learned to look for the best ingredients to ensure the best taste.
YD: Do you find it difficult to get good ingredients?
SR: It's difficult where I'm living now, in Key West. I order ingredients by mail, or I sometimes drive quite a ways to get what I want.
YD: The same is true for discerning cooks around the world. In India, temple chefs travel the subcontinent to get the best seasonal grains, legumes, or fruits for the pleasure of the Deity.
I know you prefer organic ingredients. Why?
SR: Of course, now I've evolved to total organics. There are several reasons, from fragrance to flavor—what to speak of the effect of chemicals on the food chain, the land, and the water.
Just compare the taste of organic grapes, oranges, tomatoes, broccoli, or potatoes to the taste of those sprayed with chemicals. Srila Prabhupada encouraged us to grow everything ourselves, to protect the cows, the bulls, and the land—nothing artificial.
YD: Let me ask you about a topic people are concerned with: What do you consider a healthy Vaisnava diet?
SR: A diet that is balanced, seasonal, simple, nourishing, and sustaining. And weekday meals should be light, not loaded with butter, sugar, sour cream, or ghee. In India, a typical daily meal is boiled—dal, rice, vegetables, and perhaps capatis. Heavy, rich, and fried foods are there, but saved for the occasional snack or festive holiday meals.
YD: When you were cooking for Srila Prabhupada, what was his typical daily diet?
SD: Fruits in the morning, sometimes with sandesa [cheese fudge] or milk. Sometimes he asked for South Indian wadas [urad dal dumplings] or tikkis [savory cutlets]. Lunch was dal, rice, vegetables, and capatis, often made in his tiered steam cooker. He liked a glass of fresh juice in the late afternoon. In the evening, hot milk and a little something made with ghee. Some nights he liked puris [puffed flat breads] or maybe fried eggplant.
YD: From your point of view, what direction would you hope ISKCON cooking is heading?
SR: To the extent that ISKCON cooks take advantage of Srila Prabhupada's instructions and example, they'll be enriched. Simply study his standard.
Srila Prabhupada's Punjabi Badi Sabji
2 tablespoons ghee or butter
Heat the ghee or butter in a 4-quart saucepan over moderately high heat. Add the ginger and spice pastes and fry until they sizzle. Stir in the vegetables and fry 2-3 minutes. Pour in the water, add the badi and turmeric, and bring to a boil.
Cover and reduce to moderately low heat. Gently boil until the vegetables are tender. Season with salt.
To make wet spice pastes, it doesn't have to take you an hour and a half. Here's how to do it:
Place 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds and ¼ teaspoon of black pepper corns in a coffee or spice mill and grind. Transfer to a small dish and stir in 1 tablespoon of water. Repeat using 1 tablespoon of whole coriander seeds and 1 tablespoon of water. Combine both pastes in the small dish.
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.
A Violent Pull on the Curtain
by Sri Rama Dasa
Parents and teachers often wonder if the Krsna conscious training their children receive is going to stay with them when they grow up. When we see former students seemingly abandon many of the principles of Krsna consciousness, we wonder, "Do they retain any of the essence?"
We try to instruct them in the basic philosophy of the Bhagavad-gita: We are not these bodies but spirit souls. Our eternal position is to serve and depend on Krsna—not the "fallible soldiers" of this material realm. All our life is a preparation for the moment of death, when we must be fully conscious of Krsna—no matter what the circumstances. As Prahlada Maharaja said to his playmates, begin devotional service now; don't waste time. But although the concepts are relatively simple, realization comes hard, especially in youth.
Srila Prabhupada told us not to worry. Krsna consciousness is just like fire, he said; it will act whether one knows its properties or not. Association is powerful. By following the same spiritual program Prabhupada gave adults, children also gradually become trained and purified in spiritual consciousness.
My first significant realization of just how much Krsna consciousness can sink in and stick came a few years after I got involved in gurukula, the Krsna conscious schooling system. Candrahasa Dasi (age 8 ½ at the time and not known as a great scholar or philosopher) asked me a question.
She began, "Two years ago you gave a Bhagavatam class and talked about Maharaja Prthu and ... " She went on to outline the major points of a class I no longer even remembered giving!
Gopala Bhatta Dasa, a former gurukula student, had lived in Los Angeles for a few months before I met him earlier this year. He was popular among the other young adults in the community and well liked by many older devotees as well. After we met, we occasionally spent time together, and I grew to like him very much. One instinctively sensed that beneath his sometimes freewheeling exterior was a powerful devotee who would one day show his full potential.
He was also close friends with my twenty-two-year-old daughter, Sri Radha. They had much in common: Both were adopted. Both had spent almost all of their young lives in ISKCON gurukulas. They shared myriad experiences in the Krsna consciousness movement, both good and bad. They felt the same problems and shared similar hopes for the future.
Early one evening this past May, Gopala left on a ten-minute errand. Half a mile from the Los Angeles temple, a car hit his motorcycle and killed him.
I doubt that anyone grieved more than my daughter. But as we've often told our children, "Everything can have value in Krsna's service." So that means grief, too. Death has a way of giving a violent pull on the curtain of maya and showing us the true nature of this world. Here are some of my daughter's reflections.
* * * * *
No one knows what the future holds. We can envision and hope and pray and wish. But there is a much bigger picture than the one we see in our minds and in these little lives we live. These lives are so short. But they are meant to teach us while we work off our karma. Sometimes I feel I'm losing touch, because it seems useless to live a life that doesn't mean anything or is just a moment in time.
That's why we need illusion—for me, everything is so raw right now. Things that are beautiful to illusioned eyes are not to me. I'm almost begging for illusion so I can at least be temporarily happy.
But what for? Krsna is waiting for me. He's saying, "I'm giving you such direct lessons, and My hand is held out to you. You don't have those coverings of illusion right now. Do you want them again, so you can just go through the same thing over and over? No, you want eternal happiness. You don't want to have to fear that your best friend will be separated from you.
"Take My hand, Sri. I'm smiling at you. I'm your best friend, and I miss you. Have faith in Me, because I know what I'm doing. I will not steer you wrong, because I love you. You can trust me, because I make no mistakes. I take control of things for you. Gopala's happiness does not depend on your actions. I'm responsible for Gopala."
I've been shown time and time again throughout my life that no relationship in this world, which is based on attachment to the material body, can last. I admit, I want to be loved. I do not want to be alone, so I search for a companion or a situation that will offer these comforts, these securities. After this most recent blow, I've been sent on a search for something lasting.
Losing a loved one's presence through death definitely destroys illusions. All things that brought happiness, all the places, sounds, tastes—all objects of the senses enjoyed in his company—now bring pain. My heart seems as if it'll stop sometimes from feelings of loss and separation, the apparent final and abrupt end to love and happiness. Even the temptation and thought of ending my own life appears to offer relief.
All the truths taught to me when I was little, though I didn't have practical realization (or even apparent immediate use for them), have now become my sources of strength. Although in the past they seemed too stringent, too final, too cruel to be thought of as comfort, they have now become the most tender cushioning solace.
In search of thoughts to replace the pain and fill the gaps, I turn to the material, as well as the spiritual.
Perhaps I will die and go to be with him.
We are not these bodies. I have no control over Gopala's happiness now or before.
Gopala did not belong to me.
Wonderful things await me in Krsna consciousness if I stay strong in mind, heart, and body. Sometimes I don't know the difference between spiritual and material happiness. But here's a hint: Spiritual happiness doesn't bring pain; it's lasting—it doesn't fade. Material happiness is the opposite: It is temporary and agitates the mind.
Everything under Krsna is auspicious. No harm can come to us in any way if we accept everything as coming from Krsna. Srila Prabhupada gave the example that when a cat carries her young in her mouth, they feel safe. But when she carries the mouse in her mouth—that is not safe; that is death.
Don't live in the past. I write it down, but each time I'm reminded of Gopala, and I get sad.
Don't, though. You can't bring him back. See everything as a way to serve Krsna, not as an object of sense gratification, and be happy.
But when I feel sad, I accept the sadness and get philosophical. Each thought then has so much meaning to me. I analyze my thoughts and stick them on labeled shelves so I'll know where everything fits and why. But some things I just stick on a shelf marked "We are not these bodies," and on another shelf: "Krsna knows what He's doing. Have faith."
Address all correspondence to:
Sri Rama Dasa, Chairman
"Who Can We Give the Bull To?"
by Hare Krsna Devi Dasi
Sometimes we ask the wrong question ...
Once Srila Prabhupada was explaining how we can use all our natural tendencies in Krsna's service. A young devotee raised his hand and asked how a brahmacari (unmarried celibate student) could use the sex impulse in Krsna's service. Srila Prabhupada replied that one should get married and raise children in Krsna consciousness.
Thinking that Prabhupada had misunderstood, the devotee asked the question again. Srila Prabhupada repeated his answer.
The devotee was asking the wrong question because a brahmacari cannot use sex in Krsna's service—only a married devotee can.
I often think of this story when I hear a question that strikes me as similar to the young brahmacari's: "We're inspired by Prabhupada's instructions about cow protection and simple living, so we want to get a cow. But to get milk we have to breed the cow. We were wondering what to do with the calf, especially if it's a bull. Could we give it to an ISKCON farm?"
The question is asked in all innocence and with all good intentions. But it's the wrong question, because just as the purpose of sex should be to raise Krsna conscious children, the purpose of breeding a cow should be to raise a calf we can engage in Krsna's service. It's not that if the calf is male he's a useless burden to be gotten rid of. Producing a bull with no plans to train and use him is not cow protection in the full sense.
Srila Prabhupada warned against neglecting to engage the bulls in Krsna's service. In 1974, he cautioned the devotees at ISKCON's West Virginia farm, "The cow is wonderful and valuable in society. But you should also use the bulls by engaging them in tilling the ground. People may call this the primitive way, but it is very practical for engaging the bulls—have them work in cart loading, transporting, and so on."
In his instructions to Tejiyas Dasa in Hyderabad, Prabhupada was even more emphatic, "You will see. It is sure to come. If you do not use the bulls for plowing, one day you will say, 'Let us cut their throats.' "
Why does cow protection imply working the oxen (neutered bulls, sometimes called "bullocks")? A key word Prabhupada used is "practical."
As I discussed in my last column, Krsna instructs in Bhagavad-gita that the economic basis for a spiritual society should be krsi-go-raksya-vanijyam—farming, cow protection, and trade. Appalled by modern Western dairy practices, we might think that cow protection simply means milking cows without slaughtering them. But this incomplete conception of cow protection is not practical in the long run.
For example, each time a good cow has a calf, the cow might produce 15,000 pounds of milk (about 1830 gallons). In the United States, at $2 a gallon, that would bring about $3,660. What does it cost to raise the calf? In 1987 at ISKCON's Gita Nagari farm (located in a temperate region), we found that to maintain each animal cost about $1 a day—for tractor-produced food, shelter maintenance, medical expenses, and so on. So raising the calf for its expected life of twelve to fifteen years would cost at least $4380. Balance that against the $3,660 worth of milk, and you've got a net loss of at least $720.
This is why commercial dairies kill their bull calves. They'd go out of business if they had to maintain nonproductive animals.
Srila Prabhupada has given us the practical solution to this problem: work the oxen. A person might spend $200 a month on car payments, but if that means he or she can earn $1000 a month, then it's worthwhile. So keeping an ox might cost $365 a year, but if he's productive enough, the cost is well worthwhile.
Equally important: if an ox produces his own feed, his maintenance cost shrinks dramatically—and we begin to see what self-sufficiency is all about.
When Krsna advises krsi-go-raksya, the terms krsi (agriculture) and go-raksya (cow protection) are naturally interdependent. One result of cow protection is that we get oxen to be trained for farming. And one result of Krsna conscious agriculture is that we protect the working oxen because they produce food for. Even vanijyam, or trade, in a localized, petroleum-free economy uses the oxen—to transport grain.
Earlier I compared raising Krsna conscious children to engaging the offspring of the cows in Krsna's service. Let's continue this analogy.
If we raise children in Krsna consciousness, we learn valuable lessons that help our spiritual advancement. When we see how much trouble children cause themselves by resisting good instructions (for example, to take a bath or share their toys), we realize that our own resistance to Krsna's plans brings us similar suffering. And when the children are happy and enthusiastic and creative in Krsna's service—singing in kirtana or decorating their Deities—we become humbly inspired to become simple and enthusiastic like these young devotees.
When a devotee works with cows and oxen, he or she gains similar insight. Sometimes animals cause themselves needless suffering and anxiety when they resist good instructions—whether it's learning how to back up or how to step over a gutter. Again, the obstinate bull reminds us of our own unreasonable resistance to Krsna's plan. On the other hand, the determined hard work of the bull—plowing the field or pulling the Deity cart—will naturally be a source of humility and spiritual inspiration.
One devotee said, "When you work with the animals, you can see that they are much happier with discipline and intelligent guidelines. It's the same with our service to Krsna and our spiritual master. Also, you feel very proud and happy once your team is trained to work. You can tell it really gives them something meaningful to base their identity on. They're actually working for Krsna."
The bull is the emblem of moral principles. And the productive engagement of the bull is part of Krsna's plan for our purification. If we neglect Prabhupada's instruction on this point, we will ultimately be the losers. Of course, cow protection in any form has some value, but unless we work the oxen, we can't get the full benefit.
Cow protection that depends on charity can never become the economic basis of society. Therefore, Prabhupada emphasized the importance of working the bulls. By doing so we can fully realize the benefits of cow protection for sustaining society and engaging both humans and animals in Krsna's transcendental loving service.
Hare Krsna Devi Dasi has been involved in Krsna consciousness since 1978. She spent several years on ISKCON's Gita Nagari farm in Pennsylvania. She now lives in Maine, where you can write to her c/o Ox Power Alternative Energy Club, 9B Stetson St., Brunswick, Maine 04011.
Bhakti-yoga at Home
The "Fifty Percent" Puzzle
By Rohininandana Dasa
While reading Srila Prabhupada's books, I've often puzzled over passages like this: "Charity is meant for the householders. The householders should earn a livelihood by an honorable means and spend fifty percent of their income to propagate Krsna consciousness all over the world" (Bhagavad-gita 16.3).
When I lived in the temple, I would repeat the phrase "fifty percent of your earnings" rather thoughtlessly. Now that I live outside and have in some ways come out of my ivory tower, I'm a bit more thoughful.
For most people giving fifty percent of their gross income seems too difficult. So I've been trying to understand what "fifty percent of one's income" actually means.
Let's look at a modest British income of $20,000. After taxes you're left with $16,200. Then comes the mortgage or rent, and you're down to $9,000. Fifty percent is already gone. Chalk off another $700 for travel and $1200 for telephone, electricity, and other services. Then maybe $5,000 for food, clothes, repairs and renewals, family recreation, and other expenses. You've only got $2,100 left
In speaking about "fifty percent," Srila Prabhupada cites the example set by Srila Rupa Gosvami when he retired from household life. Srila Rupa Gosvami allocated half of his accumulated funds for Lord Krsna's direct service, a quarter for his family members, and the rest for personal expenses and emergencies. Note that these were accumulated funds
In commenting on the Gita (9.27), Srila Prabhupada mentions "surplus money accumulated." And in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.17.42) he further explains, "One's accumulated wealth may be divided into three parts for distribution, namely fifty percent for the service of the Lord, twenty-five percent for the family members, and twenty-five percent for personal necessities. Spending fifty percent for the service of the Lord or for propagation of spiritual knowledge in society by way of the sankirtana-yajna is the maximum display of human mercy. ... When everyone is taught to sacrifice fifty percent of his accumulated gold for the Lord's service, certainly austerity, cleanliness, and mercy automatically ensue."
It's pretty clear, then, that "fifty percent of one's accumulated wealth" refers to one's wealth after essential expenses. When Rupa Gosvami made his contributions, he didn't include the expenses he had before he took sannyasa.
When a devotee I know heard this explanation, he suddenly felt that a cloud of confusion, guilt, and apprehension had been lifted. He now felt that it was possible to dedicate fifty percent of his income for Lord Krsna's direct service. Instead of feeling bad about himself and struggling with thoughts like, "If I can't possibly come up to the mark, why bother at all?" he felt encouraged. In fact, he began to look for ways to cut his expenses to have more for Krsna.
Srila Prabhupada didn't pressure people into giving their hard-earned money. By his pure teaching, people understood what is what and naturally surrendered not only their money but their lives as well.
If anyone has further thoughts on this matter, I'd like to hear them. Please write to me c/o BTG in San Diego.
Rohininandana Dasa lives in southern England with his wife and their three children. Please write to him at Woodgate Cottage, Beckley Nr. Rye, E. Sussex TN31 6UH, U.K.
Collapsing the Cosmic Hierarchy
by Sadaputa Dasa
At this year's annual conference of the Isthmus Institute in Dallas, Texas, Dr. John Hagelin, a highly qualified physicist, gave a lecture tying together modern physics and ancient Vedic science. In the words of Lee Cullum, who covered the conference for the Dallas Times Herald, Hagelin showed that "ordinary awareness of the details of life can be transcended by unbounded awareness of the unified field, the basis of the mind and of all nature." According to Dr. Hagelin, the unified field of the physicists is identical with the unbounded consciousness of Vedic science. ** (John S. Hagelin, "Is Consciousness the Unified Field? A Field Theorist's Perspective," MIU, Fairfield, Iowa.)
In the latest theories of physics, all the matter and energy in the universe are thought to be generated by a single, unified entity called a quantum field. In Vedic science, both material phenomena and our consciousness of these phenomena are said to flow from a unified source of absolute, unbounded consciousness. By equating the unified quantum field with this unbounded consciousness, Hagelin reconciles modern science with ancient Vedic wisdom. Thus he provides an ultimate, unified explanation for both subjective and objective aspects of reality.
It sounds good—but unfortunately it's bogus.
Even though there are many schools of thought in ancient Indian tradition, certain standard features are common to all of them. Hagelin's theory requires the wholesale elimination of many of these important features.
Let us begin by discussing the role of theism in Vedic tradition. According to the Vaisnava school, represented by texts such as the Bhagavad-gita and the Bhagavata Purana, the ultimate cause of all material and spiritual manifestations is an eternal Supreme Person, known by many names, such as Krsna and Govinda. Hagelin certainly doesn't advocate this philosophy, which he might likely dismiss as simplistic or sectarian.
Then what is he referring to by the term Vedic science? The answer is that Hagelin follows the teachings of a yogi who claims allegiance to Sankaracarya (A.D. 788-820), the founder of the Indian school of philosophy known as Advaita Vedanta. The only true reality, Sankaracarya taught, is the field of absolute, undifferentiated consciousness known as Brahman. All else is illusion. Thus Hagelin's Vedic science is the system of philosophy expounded by Sankaracarya, and Hagelin's "unbounded consciousness" corresponds to Sankaracarya's Brahman.
Now it turns out that Sankaracarya also spoke about Krsna, of whom he wrote many Sanskrit verses in praise. Here are two examples:
This whole universe with its sky, wind, etc., has sprung from Him. The life on this earth is sustained through His blissfulness. He is the destroyer of the demon Madhu. At the time of deluge, the whole universe merges into Him. He is all-pervading. May such Sri Krsna appear before my very eyes.
He resides in this universe and controls its activities. But this the universe does not know. This is the way the Vedas describe Him. He, the Lord, is pure and is the Controller of the universe. He is fit to be meditated upon. He liberates the seers, the gods and men. May such Sri Krsna appear before my very eyes. ** (Sri Krsnastaka of Sankaracarya, verses 2 and 4, in: S.D. Kulkarni, Adi Sankara, Bombay: BHISHMA, 1987, p. 316)
What is going on here? Is Sankaracarya praying to see a Being that in his opinion does not exist? Yes and no. A key point in Sankaracarya's philosophy—one often overlooked in the West—is that he does teach that Krsna exists, and that Krsna is the creator and controller of the universe.
The difference between the Vaisnava philosophy and the teachings of Sankaracarya is subtle. According to the Vaisnavas, Krsna is the cause of all causes, and Brahman is His all-pervading impersonal effulgence. The ultimate goal of life is to worship and serve Sri Krsna. In contrast, Sankaracarya taught that Brahman is the ultimate basis of reality, and that everything else is maya, or illusion. He included Krsna in the category of illusion. Yet he still regarded Krsna to be the controller of the universe (which he also regarded as illusory).
In other words, Sankaracarya held that Krsna is at least as real as everything else in the manifest universe. By worshiping Krsna, Sankaracarya taught, one can attain ultimate liberation in Brahman. This is the explicit purpose of verses such as the ones we have just cited.
Now, the great teachers of Vaisnava philosophy tell us that placing Krsna in the category of illusion is a grievous offense that will block one's advancement in spiritual life. They have also pointed out that Sankaracarya inwardly accepted Krsna's transcendental status. In India, Vedic teachers have debated these matters for centuries.
For the purposes of this article, however, it is enough to note that Sankaracarya accepted the existence of a personal creator and controller of all natural phenomena. In the actual Vedic science, this is an unavoidable feature.
It is also a feature totally incompatible with the views of modern unified field theorists. According to these theorists, all natural phenomena are vibrational states of a highly abstract impersonal entity called the unified field. As the universe emerges from the Big Bang, the phenomena generated by this field are initially chaotic, but they are said to undergo an impersonal evolutionary development, in which planets emerge and organic life springs forth on planets with suitable environments. Personality arises only when evolution produces suitable brains and nervous systems.
Hagelin quite clearly seems to agree with this view, but unfortunately this puts him squarely in opposition to all traditional schools of Vedic thought. All Vedic schools hold that the universe is governed by an isvara, or personal controller, though they may disagree on whether the isvara is within the domain of maya or beyond to it.
Beneath the Supreme isvara, the Vedic literatures describe a hierarchy of demigods who control the various workings of nature. These beings, such as Brahma, Varuna, and Agni, are invariably described as persons, and they are said to have powers that strongly contradict the known laws of physics.
If the vision of the Vedic sages was indeed consistent with the outlook of modern physics, how could the sages accommodate these beings? Did the more sophisticated of the Vedic sages perhaps regard them as something akin to impersonal quantum modalities and describe them as "persons" only in works intended for simple folk?
To test this theory, we randomly opened the Vedanta Sutra, the most abstract of all Vedic philosophical texts. There we encountered a reference to Samyamani, the city of Yama. The demigod Yama is in charge of punishing sinful persons after death, and in the Vedanta Sutra (3.1.14) this punishment is said to take place in Samyamani. It's hard to see how to fit Samyamani into the existing theory of quantum fields without severely twisting the Vedic system of thought.
This also leads to another problem. The idea of punishment after death depends on the central Vedic concept of transmigration of the soul. According to Vedic literature, a living being in the material world has a gross body, made of earth, water, fire, air, and ether, as well as a subtle body made of mind, intelligence, and false ego. Within the gross body rides the subtle body, like a driver within a car, and within the subtle body rides the atma, or conscious self.
When the gross body dies, the atma and subtle body continue to exist, and they transmigrate to a variety of destinations. Propelled by karma, the atma and its subtle body may be placed within another gross body, about to develop. This body may be on a lower or higher planet. Or the atma may receive punishment for some time in the realm of Yama. The atma may also receive liberation, or moksa, by becoming free from the subtle body.
Hagelin would identify the atma with the unified field, and the gross elements with solids, liquids, plasmas, gases, and the classical space-time continuum. (He has also proposed identifications for the five tanmatras, or subtle sense objects.) But he provides no idea of what, in the world of modern physics, could possibly transmigrate from one body to another, carrying with it detailed information about the personality of an individual now deceased.
In summary, one of the main errors in Hagelin's theory is that he collapses the Vedic hierarchy. Modern physics began with theories of gross observable matter and went from there to entities such as atoms, subatomic particles, and quantum fields that are further and further removed from the world of our direct experience. Physicists thereby arrived at a hierarchical picture of reality, with a hypothetical unified field at its most fundamental level.
This hierarchy, however, is very simple. It has few levels, compared with the cosmic hierarchy of the Vedic literatures. One can cram the Vedic hierarchy into the narrow box of current physics only by throwing most features of that hierarchy away, thus converting it into something completely alien to its true nature.
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.
Bhakta Vic Shelter
I'll tell you what really rocks my boat: seeing devotee kids trying like anything to deny their involvement with Hare Krsnas.
The whole thing hits right around the early-mid teenage years—when they're bombarded from all sides with tremendous pressures to conform to mainstream society. Fit in. Be "cool." Man, it stinks.
One of the most rewarding parts of my devotional service (playing in a punk-rock band called Shelter) is making it "cool" to be into Krsna consciousness. And it's not that hard, because there's a whole worldwide youth subculture out there that's blatantly against all intoxication, meat-eating, and casual sex. I'm talking about thousands of kids. At least forty percent of these kids are to some degree into Krsna consciousness,
Not a bunch of nerds either—the cutting edge. There are hundreds of "cool" bands literally screaming against the pillars of sinful life.
Shelter is easily counted among the top five most influential bands in this youth scene. Because of Shelter, more and more young people are seriously adopting the principles of Krsna consciousness.
So now Krsna consciousness is getting cool. So what? It used to be cool to be a dirty high school drug head. What's so exciting about turning Krsna into another one of these endlessly mutable fads?
But it's not like that. You don't "make" Krsna cool. He's already genuinely cool. You just let people know.
With all this other bogus fad-stuff, you have to hype it up. It's not cool on its own. It has to be made cool, artificially.
I mean, let's face it, what's so cool about taking a bunch of dried-out brown pieces of lettuce, putting it in a piece of paper, lighting it on fire, and sucking in the smoke?
What's so cool about this whole ridiculous high school dating scene? It's cool to be a babbling idiot? A remote control robot repeatedly driven into a wall at the hands of puberty? It's cool to treat another living being as a trophy, a bull's eye?
What else do they hype in high school these days? Oh, yes, sports. It's so ultra-cool to stand in front of your locker with a big number on your chest and crazy astronautesque plastic things sticking off your shoulders like you're Bozo the clown. That's real cool. That's the goal of life. Let's all put on these hysterical Halloween costumes and run into each other on a field all day long chasing some inflated piece of leather.
This stuff isn't cool. It's stupid. But you get a whole bunch of cheerleaders together, rustle up some Marlboro men, hype it up to the max on TV, in textbooks, and up and down the high school halls—all of the sudden you've got hundreds of thousands of gullible kids all across America who actually belive that it's cool to suck smoke, run into each other, and become mindless slaves to their genitals.
Because it's artificial, it can't last. We throw away our lives chasing an endless train of disappearing fads.
But you don't have to hype Krsna consciousness, because it really is cool. Standing up against all these trends based on sense gratification. Refusing to waste your whole life imitating everyone else. 100% intense dedication to exploring your real self. That's true cool. That's Krsna consciousness.
The whole Shelter project—bands, magazines, programs—is presenting Krsna consciousness to the youth, and intelligent kids are responding with unbelievable urgency.
When I went to high school, not a single class would pass without me daydreaming of getting all the kids together and having a massive revolution. Now it's starting to really happen. Kids are standing up against outside pressures that drive them to give up their inconceivable great fortune of coming into contact with Krsna. And if you're a "kid," don't be a fool. Don't be a dancing dog on the leash of popularity. Put your foot down firmly and take a stand for Krsna consciousness. The time is fast coming when being a Hare Krsna will be looked up to and admired. To be honest, it's already happening.
Bhakta Vic Shelter joined the Hare Krsna movement about a year and a half ago. He and the Shelter band are based at the Philadelphia temple.
The Virtues of Indian Culture
by Gadadhara Dasa
THE INDIAN'S FAITH in God, the soul, karma, and reincarnation is his greatest asset, an asset inherited from Vedic culture. When a person has deep faith that his happiness and distress stem directly from his pious or sinful acts of past lives or this life, he holds himself away from sin and embraces piety.
Such a person has faith that happiness will come unsought, just like distress. So he is not preoccupied with seeking material happiness, nor does he resort to unethical acts. A person nourished by Vedic culture is patient, knowing that happiness will come of its own accord.
The Vedic culture speaks strongly against the vices of meat-eating, intoxication, illicit sex, and gambling. It points one instead towards virtues like mercy, austerity, purity, and truthfulness. And when vices are curbed and virtues encouraged, society flourishes.
Consider, in contrast, what happens in a materialistic culture. In America, where I live, even the government and many churches encourage or tacitly approve of meat-eating, drinking, smoking, illicit sex, and gambling. So the highly industrious Americans pay heavily, with broken families, crime, sickness, lost production, and mental and emotional distress.
Fortunately, despite heavy propaganda from industries peddling vices, many Americans are slowly learning the truth about what is good and bad about the way they live. More and more Americans are turning to vegetarianism. More and more corporations, universities, and cities are banning smoking in the workplace. More and more communities are imposing controls on industries that dump junk into the air, water, and land.
America is suffering reactions to vices, and these reactions should be a warning to those shaky about preserving India's Vedic culture. A person nourished by Vedic culture doesn't seek pleasure in the vices of meat-eating, intoxication, illicit sex, or gambling. He knows that within the body he is a spirit soul, and he knows that any pleasure that comes only from the body is flimsy and temporary. He is convinced that vices will hurt him instead of helping. True and lasting happiness will come by seeing more to the needs of the soul than those of the body.
The world will be heaven if we drive away vices and promote the virtues of austerity, purity, cleanliness, and truthfulness.
Gadadhara Dasa holds an M.S. in mathematics from the University of Houston and earned a Visarada in Sanskrit in Allahabad, India. He was initiated by Tamal Krishna Goswami in 1983.
He left from these simple rooms
Before bringing Krsna consciousness to the West, Srila Prabhupada lived for six years at the four-hundred-year-old Radha-Damodara temple in Vrndavana, India. Living in two simple rooms—a small room with a kitchen—he was deeply absorbed in meditation, study, and writing, preparing himself for his mission.
Srila Prabhupada's disciples have continued to maintain the rooms, which are filled with his divine presence. Last March, one disciple, Sankarsana Dasa visited the rooms and recorded the following conversation with the present caretaker, Mahanidhi Swami.
Sankarsana Dasa: Maharaja, what first inspired you to take up this service?
Mahanidhi Swami: I always had a desire to have personal association with Srila Prabhupada, being his disciple. But since I was just a small devotee and came very late in Prabhupada's time with us, I never really had an intimate role other than distributing books. So when a chance came to serve here, I thought, "Here's an opportunity to serve Srila Prabhupada personally in his rooms. He himself said he's always residing here." So I thought, "Let me try living here and serving Prabhupada and see if I can increase my personal relationship with him."
SD: Of all the realizations you must have had while living in Srila Prabhupada's rooms, which one stands out the most?
MS: I'm appreciating the unlimited compassion Srila Prabhupada had for all the suffering people in the world. Living here in these rooms, you understand you're in the topmost place possible, because these rooms are situated in Seva Kunja, where Krsna and the gopis are eternally enjoying their pastimes. So when Prabhupada was here, he was obviously experiencing the most intimate service to Radha and Krsna and the highest ecstasies.
In other words, he was fully in the spiritual world in this place because this is a replica of Goloka Vrndavana. Yet out of love and to fulfill his mission, he gave this all up. Prabhupada left Vrajadhama, Vrndavana, to go to New York City—a tremendous sacrifice.
SD: When Srila Prabhupada first went to New York, didn't he refer to this as his home?
MS: Yes.When Prabhupada referred to Radha-Damodara, to Vrndavana, he was referring to the spiritual world, because that is Prabhupada's home. And that Goloka Vrndavana is also our eternal home.
New York is part of the temporary manifestation—it just lasts for one breath. Maha-Visnu exhales and everything comes into existence, and He inhales and it's all finished. So New York City with all of its glory and grandeur exists for only one breath. Yet people there become so entangled in what they're doing.
So when Prabhupada went there he didn't consider himself a part of that breath of New York. Rather, he thought of himself as a resident of Vrndavana who'd left his Lord Radha-Damodara to come to New York just for spreading Krsna consciousness.
Living here for some time, I can appreciate how much compassion Prabhupada had for all of us to give this up.
For a realized person like Srila Prabhupada, Vrndavana is the place of the highest opulence and the greatest madhurya. Madhurya means sweetness or relishable intimacy with Radha and Krsna.
Prabhupada gave up all this opulence and all this sweetness to go to New York to live in the middle of the Bowery with garbage everywhere and drunks and those horrible things, just so he could give us and the world Krsna consciousness. So I'm very much appreciating that. I'm inspired by that depth of commitment and purity of compassion that Srila Prabhupada embodied.
SD: How is it that this is, as you said, the most opulent place to live?
MS: Again, it's because it's our real home. When a man is traveling and staying in different places, he may stay in very nice hotels and enjoy wonderful food. But no matter how opulent his accommodations are, in the back of his mind he's simply feeling attracted to being back in his home. There everything is just exactly how he wants it. The view, the home cooking-everything is the best. Nothing is more opulent than a man's home, because it's fully arranged for his satisfaction.
So Vrndavana is fully arranged for the satisfaction of Radha and Krsna, and because we are a part of that satisfaction we also enjoy it. We're home. It's Krsna's home and it's our home also, our eternal home.
Any place in this other world outside Vrndavana is simply a foreign place. We're on tour. There may be different foods here and there in different places, but when we enter Vrndavana we enter the opulence of our home.
And it's very austere for anyone to leave home. So for a devotee to live outside of Vrndavana is a great austerity.
SD: For those of us who do live elsewhere, there's such a great spiritual advantage in visiting these holy places in India. The spiritual potency of the great devotees is very powerful where they performed their worship.
MS: That's a fact. It's the mercy of the Lord and His devotees that they make themselves available. Otherwise, why should devotees build temples and other such places? They do it because these places are like depositories of mercy where other devotees can come and get the mercy. And they do.
Some people just offer obeisances but they don't really have the heart. To really get the mercy of the Lord, you have to have the heart. You have to want the mercy. A lot of us are afraid to beg for the mercy, because we think, "What's going to happen if I get the mercy of the Lord? My life is going to change."
It's just like being afraid to dive off a diving board. "I never did this before, and it looks, like a long way down there, and what happens when you hit the water?" But once you do it you see that it's wonderful. It's a lot of fun. Then you're running up and down jumping off like anything just like a little kid.
So when we actually jump off the deep end and just surrender to Krsna, we find out that it's wonderful. But we need the association of devotees to encourage us to jump off. If we stay with our own minds and our small circle of friends, generally we're reluctant.
SD: Staying here as the caretaker of Srila Prabhupada's rooms, you get the opportunity to host many devotees who come here from all over the world. Can you say something about that?
MS: Throughout the day there's a lot of opportunity to serve the devotees because they are always coming and visiting. As a neophyte devotee, I've found that their visits help me appreciate the madhyama, or intermediate, platform of devotional service. Because one of the symptoms of a madhyama devotee is that he loves and serves the devotees. The goal is uttama-bhakti, pure devotion. but uttama-bhakti does not come overnight. It's a gradual process.
SD: What personal service do you render here for Srila Prabhupada?
MS: All things that are required. I clean the rooms every day. I try to make all arrangements for Prabhupada's comfort. My meditation is that Srila Prabhupada is still present. So I offer him food every day, turn the lights on and off ...
SD: Do you live here in Prabhupada's kitchen?
MS: Yes. Srila Prabhupada would only spend about an hour a day in the kitchen. He would cook and take his prasadam here. The other room is Prabhupada's actual bhajana-kutira, where he would translate and write and rest.
SD: So that room is kept strictly as Prabhupada's room. You just go in there to do service?
MS: The servant tries not to pass through that room, because his mood is that Prabhupada is in there eternally doing his translating or speaking to guests. So because of that, even though the way to the bathroom is through Prabhupada's room the servant doesn't go through there but rather goes around to another entrance at the front of the temple.
The services here are set up in such a way that it's easy to meditate on how Srila Prabhupada is personally here. We offer him food every day, clean his room every day, offer him incense, so many things. But then the individual devotee can meditate even more on how Srila Prabhupada is here and how the devotee is assisting. It depends on his own understanding.
We know different things about Prabhupada's stay here. We know that Prabhupada said he chants Hare Krsna on the veranda. Sometimes he walks up and down the veranda. Or sometimes he chants in his room or in front of Rupa Gosvami's samadhi. So we sweep the veranda every morning and sometimes in the afternoon during the hot season when all the dust is there. Because we're thinking that Prabhupada is going to walk out there, so it has to be nice. I had these fans installed on the veranda so Srila Prabhupada will be cool when he sits here in the evening.
It's just a matter of the individual devotee's personal meditation, because the reciprocation depends on the surrender. If you want to surrender to Krsna in a very intimate loving mood, then Krsna will reciprocate with you in an intimate loving mood.
SD: How long will you stay here?
MS: I have no plans to leave. It all depends on what Srila Prabhupada arranges. The longer you stay here in the divine association of Srila Prabhupada, Srila Rupa Gosvami, Srila Jiva Gosvami, and Radha-Damodara, the more you appreciate how wonderful this place is. And you naturally become attached. The attachment increases with the length of time you spend here.
You can also appreciate that since Srila Prabhupada spent six years here, how transcendentally attached he must have been to the lotus feet of Radha-Damodara and all the divine association in this sacred place, Seva Kunja. When he left here, he went straight to New York. So I hope I may feel inspired in a similar way to spread Krsna consciousness compassionately, as Srila Prabhupada has shown us he wanted us to do.
He never really wanted us to just sit in one place and lick up all the nectar for ourselves. He wanted us to distribute it to others. And that's the most pleasing thing to Srila Prabhupada. When Prabhupada sees how his sons and daughters have absorbed the mercy and have taken in all the instructions and learned sufficiently and then start to give it out to others—that's the most pleasing thing to Srila Prabhupada. Those Godbrothers and Godsisters who are spreading Krsna consciousness around the world are certainly pleasing Srila Prabhupada in the highest way possible. And I'm praying that someday maybe I can also please Prabhupada in that way.
Falldown from Spiritual Life
What is it? Why does it happen? What to do about it?
In Bhagavad-gita Arjuna asks Lord Krsna, "What happens if I start this practice of yoga and then later I fall down? Then I'm nowhere. I've given up my material life, and I've ruined my spiritual life. Now I don't have anything. I've lost on both sides. So what will happen to me?"
This question comes up theoretically in Bhagavad-gita and it comes up practically within our own experience. After we take to spiritual life, either we may fall down, or we may see others around us fall down. Falldown is a concern that everyone—on any spiritual path—has to deal with.
This past May, during a spiritual retreat at ISKCON's Gita Nagari farm in Pennsylvania, Back to Godhead organized an open discussion on falldown. Several dozen devotees, old and new, took part. As the editor of BTG, I served as moderator.
First we asked ourselves, What is falldown?
Concisely: When one vows to follow a spiritual path but later strays from it, one has fallen.
In Krsna consciousness, for example, at initiation one pledges before the spiritual master to chant the Hare Krsna mantra a fixed number of times each day and follow four regulations: no intoxication, no illicit sex, no gambling, and no meat-eating. To break these vows is to fall.
Beyond this, one may give up the spiritual life altogether. In 1966 Srila Prabhupada once said that one who gives up Krsna consciousness falls again into the material pool. Srila Prabhupada imitated the sound of a stone falling into water—"bloop!" That was it. "Bloop" soon became standard devotee lingo. To leave Krsna consciousness was to bloop.
In one sense, all of us in the material world have blooped. We've forgotten Krsna and fallen from the spiritual world.
Now we're trying to revive our spiritual life. And however far we've come, we ought to be moving steadily forward. Yet sometimes we stumble and slip back.
Why? What causes falldown? How do we keep from falling—and help others keep from falling too? When devotees on the path do fall, how should we treat them? And what do we do if we should fall ourselves?
* * *
Jayadvaita Swami: What can we point to as the causes of falldown?
Ravindra Svarupa Dasa: I think one of the most persistent underlying causes of falldown is not merely being careless with the regulative principles or "pushing the outer edge of the envelope" but maintaining offenses—in particular, offenses against the holy name—and not engaging in an effort to clear them up.
If one is trying to clear up offenses, even though the offenses may be there, one is on the "clearing" stage and will continue to make spiritual advancement. But if one commits offenses and doesn't try to rectify them, he stops making spiritual advancement, and after a while he gradually loses interest in the path of Krsna consciousness.
That's described in The Nectar of Devotion as the "waning-moon effect." Somehow one's enthusiasm for Krsna consciousness gradually disappears, like the waning moon. Why am I losing interest? It's because of not trying to clear up offenses.
Advaita Acarya Dasa: Sometimes falldown might result from committing offenses against a devotee.
Vegavati Dasi: And pride goes before a fall.
Varuna Dasa: Not enough hearing and chanting.
Karnamrta Dasa: If you're not properly engaged according to your psychophysical nature, that can lead to falldown.
JS: Okay, if I've got the nature of a householder but I've somehow taken sannyasa, the renounced order. Or if I've got a scholar's nature but I'm stuck on the street selling things. That can lead to falldown.
Suresvara Dasa: In the Bhagavad-gita, Krsna Himself pinpoints the causes, in the Second Chapter, verses 62 and 63. These are two verses every devotee should hang on the wall of his mind.
Dhyayato visayan pumsah sangas tesupajayate. "While contemplating the objects of the senses, a person develops attachment for them. From such attachment, lust develops; from lust, anger arises; from anger, perfect delusion; and from delusion, bewilderment of memory. When memory is bewildered, intelligence is lost. And when intelligence is lost one falls down."
So that's it in a nutshell—the sad story of falldown. Krsna beautifully encapsulates it in the Gita.
Manohara Dasa: Prabhupada said, "Preaching is the essence." He also said, "If you don't preach, then very soon after I leave there won't be any more Hare Krsna movement. You won't be able to go on with this 'Hari bol, Hari bol.' And he said that if you preach, everything will be in perspective.
Bhaktin Teresa: I think, also, that there's a need for more instruction in the beginning. Because some people come to Krsna consciousness but they don't know deep inside what it is about. They think it's only wearing the dhoti, shaving your head, and having a good time. There's not enough training.
Asoka Dasi: We tend to preach until someone's initiated, and then we stop preaching.
Gandiva Dasi: Another problem is lack of honesty in communication.
JS: Dishonest communication: Lying, deception, duplicity, false fronts.
Krsna Smaranam: We may fear to open our minds to other devotees because we feel that they may somehow say, "You're fallen."
JS: There's some seed of falldown in my mind, but I fear that if I say something my prestige will be damaged. So I keep quiet, and the disease grows, and I become more of a hypocrite as I dig myself deeper in.
Prasannatma Dasa: We need people to reveal our minds to. So we need to make friends among devotees. If we don't have those devotional friendships, we'll be stuck inside our own minds—and then we practically must fall down.
Krsna Smaranam Dasa: Sometimes I think these friendships are not enough encouraged in ISKCON. We're always concerned with "doing service for Krsna"—do this, do that—but sometimes the personal aspect gets lost.
Suresvara Dasa: It's ironic you say that, because in The Nectar of Instruction Srila Prabhupada says that the only reason ISKCON exists is to foster those personal loving exchanges.
JS: I think one could make a case that our relationships aren't deep enough. On the other side, we make progress because there is some depth to the relationships. If we didn't have a society of devotees who were concerned about one another's welfare, we'd all be cooked.
Karnamrta Dasa: I'm still thinking about honesty in dealings among devotees. I just think of all the struggles I've had in my life as a devotee, and there's lots of things I can talk about.
If a devotee's not introspective enough to understand what his actual standing is, if he's more concerned with what he should be than what he actually is, you can have a community of devotees relating to each other in a very superficial way. And that doesn't lead to open dealings.
There has to be someone you can go to and reveal your heart to who's not going to turn you away but is going to encourage you to purify yourself and return to the standard.
And there's a need for self-honesty. You need to be able to accept your position and work from there and not be too hard on yourself. Not that you compromise the philosophy but that you give yourself a break. Encourage yourself.
Romapada Swami: I'd like to hear something about how a situation that's risky gets worse and worse and worse. When somebody has a sniffle, why does it turn into a flu, turn into pneumonia, turn into death?
Karnamrta was speaking about being satisfied with our position. And one thing we know is that having too high a position, being proud of our position, can put us in jeopardy. When I have a big position, I may not want to open my heart to anyone, because I'm concerned that my position may be taken. So I don't want to let anyone know I've got the sniffles.
JS: "A person in my position wouldn't have the sniffles."
Romapada Swami: I suppose it comes back to what was said before. We need to know that there's at least someone I can open my heart to who's not going to turn around and use what I say against me.
We have an institution where we're not just engaging in devotional service on our own but in the company of many others. So naturally our relationships have a social standing to them. And I may hold above the real purpose of the institution, namely becoming Krsna conscious, my standing in the institution—whether it's "Will I get the green mop instead of the brown one?" or whatever. And if I'm thinking about my social status, holding more dearly to how others perceive me than to my own spiritual well-being—I can just get lost in the institution. And I'd like to hear a response to that.
JS: It seems we ought to be sending a message to ourselves that if this is what we're in the institution for, if this is what has become prominent in our spiritual life, we're letting ourselves in for trouble.
We identified pride as something that sets us up for a falldown. Now here's another classic cause—ambition. Or when we achieve our ambitions, then attachment. Pride, ambition, attachment, duplicity—that's quite a lineup Maya's got.
Krsna Smaranam Dasa: One person we're supposed to be able to confide in is the spiritual master.
Karnamrta Dasa: But the spiritual master may not be accessible to you. When you need some immediate counsel, he may be halfway around the world. Or you may not want to burden him with your problems. ...
JS: Or he may have passed on.
Karnamrta Dasa: Right. So this is one of my concerns: the need to have devotees we can feel intimate and open with and reveal our minds to and feel that they'll be concerned about our best interest.
Dhanurdhara Swami: You know, in the Vedic social system this role of counselor is in many ways institutionalized, in the sense that the qualities a brahmana is trained to cultivate engender trust and confidence naturally.
When I took sannyasa from Satsvarupa Maharaja, one thing he advised was to avoid politics and business, because our Society needs people one can trust.
We need devotees who'll concentrate on developing these qualities—simplicity, honesty, self-control—so that people will trust them.
JS: Such a great responsibility rests with sannyasis, gurus, temple presidents, leaders, senior devotees.
Badarayani Dasa: Because we're human beings and we're conditioned, even though we're in Krsna consciousness, at every stage there are some difficulties. So, many devotees I've talked to feel that in the temples there should be a system where perhaps a couple of people who have had training could give counseling.
I think that if there was more of a formal system of Krsna conscious counseling within the temple, we'd be able to keep more devotees. We've had too high a percentage of "mortality," of losing devotees, of devotees losing trust and confidence. And I think that if that kind of system was looked into, it would help.
In the material world there are counselors who are aloof from a person's life, and people feel they can trust them because they are aloof.
JS: I think this movement needs grandmothers. It really does. There are times when you don't need a sannyasi, you need a grandmother.
Karnamrta: Could you clarify that?
JS: When a problem comes up in your life, sometimes the best person to go to is your grandmother or your grandfather or your uncle or someone like that.
Because we're such a young movement, those relationships haven't really developed yet. But in a fully developed Krsna conscious family, they would be. Especially in Indian culture, you've got the extended family—your father's elder brother's son and so on. You have all these people you can have a relationship with, people who've been through it, who have experience, who have affection for you and concern for you and can help you out.
What's bewildering to a batch of young turks may be old stuff for grandmothers who've seen two or three generations of it. So—grandmothers.
Arcana Siddhi Dasi: A lot of us came when we were quite young, and the initial taste of Krsna consciousness is quite strong, and just the newness of it makes it seem that we can conquer over all our material desires. There's this sense that in a couple of years I'll be a pure devotee and I'll be with Krsna, and there's some idea of the process moving much faster than the reality of it is.
But later, it seems, we come to that "vast intermediate zone," to use Satsvarupa Maharaja's phrase, and that's when devotees fall into trouble, because then it seems eternally bland, almost. For a while it seems I'm not really getting anywhere and I'm swimming upstream.
And I just wanted to say that Satsvarupa Maharaja's books have really helped me and a lot of other devotees with that struggle because he gives very honest accounts of his own struggles in devotional life and lets us see that it's okay to be feeling these things.
Sometimes we feel there's something wrong with us—"I'm having this doubt in devotional life"—and we begin to doubt ourselves. But he lets us see, "Here's an advanced devotee who's making it, and he felt this way too."
Bhaktin Karen: This might be along the same lines. When we talk of falldown, maybe we're being a little too hard on each other. Maybe you're going through some problems and you go out and have a drink or something. Maybe it's not a falldown but in a sense you're working on getting better, so everyone shouldn't be pointing—"Look what he did, look, look, look!" You know, it's just that we're human and we make mistakes, and it's not a falldown.
JS: Well, we come back to definitions here. Earlier we seemed to agree that a minimal definition of falling down would be breaking the vows one makes to the spiritual master.
So there may be an a occasional falldown or an accidental falldown, which may be less grievous than obstinate perpetual falldown. But there's also the danger of writing off one's mistakes as being less serious than they are. And that's another kind of maya. Maya gets us coming and going.
Bhaktin Lael: One of the worst pitfalls seems to be rationalization. We rationalize: "It's not so bad" or "My guru wouldn't mind."
JS: Another tool of maya—rationalization. "Well, you know. I'm a ksatriya, you know."
Manohara Dasa: Getting back to the point about formalizing some kind of counseling, I think that it could be helpful.
Prema Bhakti Marga Dasi: Dhanurdhara Maharaja was saying that Prabhupada desired that there be a class of brahmanas and they could provide counseling. But who would decide who those people would be?
JS: I have an answer to that. You decide. If you're having difficulty, then you're going to decide. I may be appointed the Minister of Counseling for Distressed Souls, but if the distressed souls decide they don't like me anyway, they're going to approach someone else. Ultimately, each person's going to decide whom he or she has faith in.
But getting back to what Dhanurdhara Maharaja said—
Dhanurdhara Swami: I was just saying that if people become qualified, people in need of help will take shelter of them. We have to offer training. Those who have the inclination will take it up, and then people will seek them out.
It wouldn't do any good to designate—"This is the person." When a person's spiritual qualities become evident in his dealings with others, people will seek him out.
Jean Lee: I'm only a visitor. I'm not new to devotion, although I'm new to the community of Krsna. But I'd like to make a point. As I understand it, God is everywhere. So sometimes the answer comes not from institutional experience but, for example, from the purity of a child. And so in looking for help one becomes purified by the chanting and by contemplating the qualities of God and by prayer.
JS: Krsna can help us.
Badarayani: We've been conditioned for millions of lifetimes, and on our own we have no power, because the material energy is insurmountable. But Krsna declares emphatically in the Bhagavad-gita that one can get free from this if we surrender unto Him. And part of this surrendering process is prayer. So when a devotee has difficulty, that can be an impetus for really taking shelter of one's guru and Krsna and praying for the strength and intelligence to overcome the difficulty he's been caught in.
JS: I'll tell you a story. One time, maybe in the early 1970's, when the movement was starting to spread a bit, Prabhupada was with some disciples in his room in Los Angeles. The temple was big and opulent, for those days. And Govinda Dasi had made Prabhupada a coat with peackock feather tassles to tighten its hood, and someone had given Prabhupada a gold lame bead bag.
Prabhupada said, "Now we are getting so many things. So I'm just praying to Krsna that I may not fall down."
Seeing Others Fall
JS: Sometimes we see that even big devotees fall down, devotees we look up to or admire, devotees who are considered advanced. When that happens, how do we see it, and how should we see it?
Ravindra Svarupa Dasa: Well, when someone who's well known or elevated or respected falls down, we tend to think, "Here was such an advanced devotee, and he fell down. So what chance is there for me?" It's discouraging. And we say, "What's wrong with Krsna consciousness that this person fell down?"
Prasannatma Dasa: When a person you respect deviates, naturally you doubt not only that person but the whole thing.
Sankarsana Dasa: We shouldn't think that if someone falls there's something wrong with the process. The process is perfect, but one's application of it may have some defect. Spiritual life is like a razor's edge—it shaves us clean, but if we're not careful we can get cut.
JS: When a person falls, I'd look upon it not as a problem with our philosophy but a confirmation of it. The philosophy predicts that if a person does certain things he'll fall down. So when a person does those things and falls, that confirms it.
Rukmavati Dasi: Sometimes I feel that I want to blame other people, not the one who fell. In this world, there is always danger from maya. So how is it that his intimate associates didn't see it coming? Was there no sign? All of a sudden, there it was? Didn't anyone know it was coming? Didn't anyone try to help him avoid it?
JS: Good point. Do we ask ourselves not only what was wrong with him but what was wrong with us that he wasn't helped?
Vegavati Dasi: If we're really personalists, it seems like when we see a person having difficulty we should say something and try to help him, even if he's in a higher position.
Ravindra Svarupa Dasa: Well, sometimes what you see, especially when prominent people fall down, is that they had managed to get themselves into an official position where there was nobody who could say anything. They had worked themselves into a situation where to say anything would be an official offense.
So one of the first causes of falldown can be a lack of fraternal relationships with your Godbrothers or Godsisters.
Govinda Vallabha Dasi: Please forgive me if I'm being paranoid, but I've been yearning to hear this topic of falldown discussed, but so far I've been a little disappointed. I've heard so much discussion of the scriptural principles and definitions, and yet I feel like ... I mean, I'm fallen—and I feel like there's so little of what Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu was referring to in the way of relationships. And I have a lot of emotions about that.
Ravindra Svarupa Dasa: You're saying that there's not enough association among devotees for discussing these things. People can't reveal their minds without feeling judged, condemned, or whatever. Is that what you're talking about?
Govinda Vallabha Dasi: Yes. I want to stay in the association of devotees. And I have been, in some capacity, for twenty years now. I've gone through my personal changes, and I don't want to leave.
Yet when I come to the temple, sometimes I feel ... intimidated. By only hearing such an emphasis on ... And yet Prabhupada's my guru and—what can I say?—those words are coming from him. And the scriptures are there, and I can't deny them. But I feel like something is kind of missing—or maybe that's what we're here for.
JS: How do we regard those who have fallen? Does someone want to speak to this point?
In Or Out?
Haryasva Dasa: Sometimes that something we feel missing is personal reciprocation. When you develop relationships, then you can actually feel that someone cares when you're in difficulty. And the Vaisnavas do care—but when you're in difficulty you have to know that.
Krsna Smaranam Dasa: Very often the problem is not simply that the organization is failing to help. The individual has an important role in revealing his mind, coming forward to someone he can trust.
Arcana Siddhi Dasi: I've had a lot of dialogue with Govinda Vallabha about this. We have some close devotee friends in Baltimore who have left, and they said that the reason they left is that they'd rather be good Christians than bad devotees. And there doesn't seem to be a place for devotees who aren't up to par. Once you've been initiated, either you're following the four regulative principles, chanting sixteen rounds, or if you're not doing that or can't do that then there's really no place for you.
Devotees who feel that they just can't come up to the standard feel like they have to choose—either all or nothing. And I think that's an issue we really haven't so much confronted.
JS: I suppose that this is a classic problem, not unique to our organization. When you have high-commitment groups with high standards, you get this sort of polarization. You're either in or you're out.
Ravindra Svarupa Dasa: In commenting on the twelfth chapter of Bhagavad-gita, Srila Prabhupada makes it really clear that the Hare Krsna movement is in principle made up of three groups of people.
Krsna says, "Surrender to Me." So first are those who are spontaneously attracted to surrender to Krsna.
Then Krsna says, "If you can't do that, follow the regulative principles of devotional service." And in the purport Srila Prabhupada makes it clear what this means: rising early, taking a shower, going to the morning program, and so on, under the supervision of the spiritual master. So those who do this are in the second group.
Then Krsna says, "If you can't do that, then work for Me." And Srila Prabhupada says that this means that at least one should be sympathetic to the propagation of Krsna consciousness. Every organization requires land, capital, labor, and organization, so you can contribute one of these things. Those who do this are in the third group.
These three groups make up the Hare Krsna movement. So there's absolutely nothing wrong with the movement's having all kinds of people who aren't following the strict regulative principle. Where we have a problem is with people who at one time or another have taken formal vows to follow the principles of the second group and then found themselves unable to keep to them.
When I was a new devotee and people blooped, we were really surprised when they kept coming back to the Sunday Feast. We wished they would just go away. You couldn't preach to them. They'd already heard everything, and now they were blooped. And it took us a long time before we finally noticed that these people, no matter what we did, no matter how rude we were, still kept coming around. And eventually we realized, "Hey, these are our people! They're part of our movement!"
I think one obvious lesson from this is that people should be more careful about taking vows. And when you take vows you should be into it for the long run. When Prabhupada spoke of vows, he meant vows.
But apart from these lessons, my feeling is that many people who took those vows and broke them will again one day be following them, and until then we should help them stay in as much association with Krsna consciousness and get as much benefit from being devotees as they can.
To say, "You're so fallen, you can't even come to the temple," or to give out vibes that say, "You're just outside the pale," is just very uncharitable and inhumane. And one should feel that one could any day be in that position oneself.
I've been a devotee now for twenty years, and I've seen people come and go and come back again, and my conviction is that the material nature is so arranged that eventually everyone will learn the lesson of renunciation. Sooner or later—it may take a while—people will learn. Growing old teaches us things we couldn't understand when we were twenty about the nature of the material world. So we just have to be tolerant and give people as much association and help as we can.
Varsana Swami: Krsna places so many obstacles, so many tests. So even if we might see some fault in a devotee for some time, especially if he's a senior devotee we have to be very careful not to criticize and not to judge, because he's Krsna's devotee and therefore it's up to Krsna to purify him. And sometimes Krsna will let some fault linger for some reason that's beyond our ability to comprehend. So we have to learn not to be judgmental, because that makes it more difficult for someone who's having a hard time.
JS: Prabhupada said our devotees are like bomber pilots. During the war the Air Force would be careful not to lose its bomber pilots. The country had put so much energy into training each one of those pilots that to lose one was a great loss—they were practically irreplaceable.
Our trained devotees are like bomber pilots: so much experience in devotional service, so many skills, so much devotion cultivated.
So we should be so concerned for the welfare of our devotees: if someone is having difficulty, how to hold on to him, and if someone has left, how to bring him back. Such valuable devotees.
And Krsna says that whatever devotional service a person has performed is permanently recorded. So that devotional asset can be magnified. If there's something left of that spark of devotional service, it can be enlarged. Then again he comes into the fire of Krsna consciousness.
Making Things Worse
Muralivadaka Dasa: I've been struck by the way Srila Prabhupada worded the conclusion of his purport on the api cet su-duracaro verse. There he excuses accidental falldown, but says that if a fallen devotee doesn't improve his character by devotional service he is not a high devotee. In other words, he is a devotee. So Prabhupada indicates that someone having difficulty as a devotee should still be recognized as a devotee.
Vegavati Dasi: Srila Prabhupada also says that no one should deride a devotee for an accidental falldown. But then there are those who continue in their fallen position but invent new philosophies. They seem to say, "Why are you trying to tell me anything? I'm a devotee. I have a right to an equal vote and an equal say in what's going on." And I find this puzzling.
Ravindra Svarupa Dasa: Well, if I fall down, there are a few things I can do that really make it worse. Because if I'm fallen, then I'm a divided person. I've got an internalized set of ideals—the voice of the spiritual master, the voice of the community, the voice of Krsna—saying to me, "This is the way you ought to be." And my own perception is, "I'm not that way."
So one develops an acute sense of being ill at ease. And there are a few really unhealthy reactions.
One is to indulge in bluffing, hypocrisy, which we've seen a lot of in our time. Another is simply to propagate a different standard. People start to try to change the philosophy around to accommodate their actual practices. Or they join some other group, in which other people will validate their behavior. "Better to be a good Christian than a bad Hare Krsna."
I think these are unhealthy reactions. Better to be—
Ravindra Svarupa Dasa: Better to be honestly fallen. That's great progress!
What bluffing and hypocrisy do is make one a fault-finder. Or one substitutes other things for actual devotion, things like ritualistic correctness. Or one says, "If you're really serving Krsna, pleasing Krsna, then you'll make a lot of money. And I make a lot of money, so it proves I'm a solid or advanced devotee."
JS: And when you do that, you cut yourself off from the mercy of the devotees. Pretty soon, you're seen as a bluffer, you're seen perhaps as a dangerous person with a competing philosophy or standard, and then you're shunned. So you've cut yourself off.
Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami: If and when we do fall down, humility is really going to be needed. We've seen several times that when big devotees have fallen down they've been given some prescription by the Governing Body, setting forth what they should do. Maybe sometimes what they were told wasn't fair. But sometimes it seemed fair—to go to Vrndavana for six months and chant Hare Krsna or something of that sort. But in most cases they didn't have the humility to do it.
But in other cases, when people did do it, very quickly everyone was admiring them, talking about them, saying "He's a good devotee." We almost try to push past one another to show that we're enough of a devotee to recognize him and give him some substantial service again.
Govinda Vallabha Dasi: Well, I think that we as a Society, and especially our leaders, have to take on more responsibility for promoting that mood of compassion.
I would like to think that I could accept a position on a lower rung, or however you want to see it, if I could see that it's still within devotional service. I can derive happiness from serving other devotees, doing something to help them in their service. But if I'm made to feel that it's not legitimate or not okay, then that's where I think there's a tendency to try and find shelter somewhere else. Because you still may really sincerely be aspiring for spiritual life, and we all have different karma, different situations, and ...
Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami: I think she's referring to a practical fault in our movement: When we're not able to give devotees sufficient engagement and compassion when they fall down, that drives them away.
JS: Srila Prabhupada was so extremely compassionate and extended such great mercy to the devotees. But we may not be so generously endowed with compassion and mercy and understanding.
Ravindra Svarupa Dasa: Well, there are some reasons for that. For example, if my hold on Krsna consciousness is somewhat precarious, then when somebody falls down that's a big threat to me.
When I was a new devotee and there were six of us in the temple and somebody left, it became a community crisis, because we ourselves were all nearly on the verge of leaving. And to psych ourselves up to stay, we had to get together—those of us who are old devotees may recognize this behavior—and condemn the person who'd left. We had to show systematically how he was off, he was wrong, he was bad ...
JS: He was insincere.
Ravindra Svarupa Dasa: Yes, insincere. But somewhow we were still okay.
You see, something inside us was thinking, "Boy, I'd like to bloop, at least for a little while." So when a person left, we were almost envious of his opportunities for material enjoyment.
So a lot of times what happens when we condemn other people is that we're condemning precisely what's wrong with ourselves. That's why it's said that when you point your finger at someone, three fingers of your hand are pointing right back at you.
It's unintentionally very revealing. If somebody's going around condemning, "This person's having illicit sex, he's having illicit sex, he's having illicit sex," you can suspect that the person speaking has sexual problems he's not going to honestly deal with. He notices the problem in other people because he's worried about himself but doesn't have the courage to confront it.
I hope that now in our movement we've become a little more secure in our Krsna consciousness, so we don't have to feel like it's such a threat when somebody goes away. And we can afford to be a little more compassionate.
Dhanurdhara Swami: I don't want to change the subject. But how do we reconcile compassion with the need to set standards? For example, if someone threatens the welfare of children or runs off with someone else's wife, how are our leaders supposed to react? In a Vedic society, these things are punishable. I'm not sure we can attribute everything to just feeling envious or seeing our own problems in others.
JS: We've seen Srila Prabhupada be very compassionate, but he could also deal really hard with someone.
Dhanurdhara Swami: Punishment has value.
Ravindra Svarupa Dasa: I think that if a person is not only fallen but also a threat, a danger, to other devotees—either to their physical, mental, or spiritual welfare—then it's the duty of the Society to protect the rest of the devotees from him.
Krsna Smaranam Dasa: Prabhupada said that our movement is like a diamond merchant. We're not interested in collecting a lot of people who want to buy glass. So we definitely have to maintain our principles. And especially we should require that those involved in important services stick to the standards of the Society.
Prabhanu Dasa: I wanted to bring up another aspect of falldown. We've been talking about blooped devotees, big devotees. But we've experienced in our movement that a lot of devotees have had to move out of the temple due to economic circumstances—generally householders.
We had been devotees for many years—some of us for fifteen or twenty years. And none of us had spent much of that time preparing ourselves to deal with the material energy to support a family.
So when all of a sudden the Society could no longer support us, many householders found themselves in a situation of bewilderment. You're no longer within that protective structure of the temple and the close association with devotees, and you find yourself with all this material energy you have to deal with.
My personal experience has been a very slow process of trying to understand how to deal with that and put it into perspective and try to be a devotee again and render some kind of devotional service that would help Prabhupada. And I've talked to many householders who are experiencing the same thing for many years, trying to deal with this.
JS: Traditionally it's an assumption that those who are involved in family life are going to be pulled at by the illusory energy. So one of the traditional duties of the sannyasis or preachers is to go from house to house and not necessarily spread the word—because these people already have the word—but just to encourage and inspire.
Prabhanu Dasa: To encourage that sympathetic feeling, because they're devotees and they still have that sympathy. So, to keep that spark alive.
Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami: This brings up the possibility of calling people fallen who are not fallen. There's sometimes the idea that if you move outside the temple then you're fallen. In the history of ISKCON that has definitely sometimes been the case, and in some parts of the world in ISKCON it's still like that.
But it's coming to pass that living outside the temple is not going to be seen as in any way a sign that one is fallen. One can be equally a devotee outside the temple or inside.
Ravindra Svarupa Dasa: It used to be that nearly anybody who moved outside of the temple did in fact fall down. In the temple the devotees were like bees in winter—you know, they form a tight ball and beat their wings nonstop—just really huddled in against the material energy. And as soon as somebody left that little conclave, they'd pretty much be swept away. And it's because there was no support—living in the temple was the only way you got association with other devotees.
So it's perfectly fine for somebody to live outside the temple, and it's entirely possible not to be fallen. But if someone lives outside without the association of devotees, he starts to get into a risky situation.
And so what has to happen is that social structures have to develop for association with devotees outside the temple, or the temple has to be able to interact with those outside to provide opportunities for association. As long as there's association with devotees. . .
JS: Association with devotees who are strong.
Ravindra Svarupa Dasa: Well, association with devotees, I think, doesn't mean hanging out. I think there must be a certain quality of spiritual content to it. Otherwise it's association with each other's mundane mentalities.
Karnamrta: It's been my observation that many devotees who've moved out and are beginning to get their economic structure together are looking for opportunities to band together. There seems to be a growing desire and need among these devotees to again huddle together. They miss the association they had when they were working together for a common goal. So they start looking for ways to work together again.
JS: Devotees start going into business together and so on.
Ravindra Svarupa Dasa: Prabhupada did say that it was bad for a devotee to be employed by a nondevotee. That's a classic case of bad association. So that's another thing that has to develop: devotees' being able to organize businesses that can hire other devotees so they can work together on common economic enterprises. And then you can also have those enterprises doing purely uncompensated, nonfruitive spiritual activity for spreading Krsna consciousness, not just for family maintenance.
Govinda Vallabha Dasi: I did sankirtana, collecting funds and distributing books, for eight to ten years, and I never kept any of the money I collected. And then I had children. I was still living in the temple, and trying to collect money to support the temple, but it just got impractical: I wasn't able to really take care of my children properly. So I just sort of reluctantly moved out. And I think a lot of us have gone through that.
Friends In Different Orbits
Mahendrani Dasi: On the point of making devotees who are living a less strict lifestyle feel welcome and making them feel they belong, I have a problem of not knowing how to relate properly. For example, there's a person I was extremely good friends with. We had real rapport. And then when she started to live a less strict lifestyle, in fact a different lifestyle, she still felt that I was her dear friend, and every time we met we'd say "Haribol" and hug and everything, but there couldn't be any deep exchanges, because we weren't like-minded anymore. And I don't know how to relate to someone in a situation like that. They don't really want to talk about Krsna consciousness anymore, and I don't really want to chat about the movies. So I don't really know what the solution is.
Rukmavati Dasi: The way you deal with it is that you have to see that there's some good quality in every living entity, and that represents Krsna. And somehow, whatever that quality is that's godly or goodly or saintly in them, even if they're not on the platform of Krsna consciousness, you have to search that out and fan that flame. There's something in everyone that's inherently good, and we have to keep trying to help them uncover it.
Dhanurdhara Swami: Of course, we should be sympathetic, but we still have to be careful about our association.
Varuna Dasa: Our philosophy is that we should associate with like-minded people.
Ravindra Svarupa Dasa: Just to speak about Mother Mahendrani's problem: This is a social situation that's common all over. You know, you're a college student, and you have a friend who drops out and gets a job—you're still close friends, but there's not a whole lot to talk about, because you're moving in different orbits. Or two kids—one of them goes to a different high school, and they no longer have that much in common.
Still, the minimum we can do is still maintain a friendly attitude and friendly relationships. An occasional visit, a phone call, prasadam and things like that, so that the avenues are open and if that person wants to start to get a little more serious about Krsna consciousness they don't feel they've been cut off. We can't take bad association. But if nothing else, at least one should be friendly. That's one of the qualities of a devotee—maitra, friendliness.
JS: I think you have to selectively decide what you're going to validate. I don't know that I'd say, "Well, I really understand that from where you're coming from you may really be getting something spiritual from the cinema, and that's okay—I respect that." But if you're chanting one round a day again, great!
Coming Back To Krsna
Malini Devi Dasi: There is a way, instead of preaching to these people, to show them the nectar of Krsna consciousness. By the example of our happiness, they may come back. I say this because I've seen the example of devotees who've come back to Krsna consciousness that way to do service for Srila Prabhupada.
JS: That a person stays away may be an index to the extent to which those of us still here are fallen. If we're absorbed in chanting Hare Krsna, taking prasadam, distributing prasadam, and spreading the message of Bhagavad-gita—if we're really in the fire of Krsna consciousness, as it were—then anyone who comes in touch with us is going to feel that. And if we're involved in something less, then people who come around again are going to feel that too.
Jagadisvari Devi Dasi: Could you speak about how a devotee should feel if they have broken their vows?
Ravindra Svarupa Dasa: He will feel bad. I don't think you have to say he should.
JS: If he's genuinely a devotee, he'll feel bad—and he'll want to rectify it. Srila Prabhupada one time explained that because devotional service is pure, falling from devotional service is something like falling on the ground. A child who falls on the ground picks himself up by pushing on the same ground.
So a devotee who falls will naturally feel some discouragement, but he shouldn't overindulge in discouragement. He should feel, "Somehow or other I've fallen," and quickly pick himself up again.
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura says that sometimes the material energy and spiritual energy cross and cause an accidental falldown. So the devotee sees, "Somehow or other I've fallen, but let me go on serving in Krsna consciousness." Then he quickly comes back to his real life, and the falldown is forgotten.
Dhanurdhara Swami: And therefore when devotees leave and then come back to the temple, generally they don't want to talk about movies—they want to talk about Krsna.
JS: There's a real thirst out there among many of those who have left. They're not getting what they used to be getting. So after some time, after the first thrill of falldown wears off and it just becomes what it used to be before they became devotees, they may start getting really thirsty and want to get back into association and get some Krsna consciousness.
Indulekha Dasi: As their friends, we can pray for them—pray to Krsna for their spiritual well-being.
JS: The ultimate person in all of these dealings is Krsna. One who falls can pray to Krsna. Or one who sees others falling can pray to Krsna, "You please intervene."
Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami: And the same holds true for one who doesn't want to fall.
by Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami
Technically, a devotee falls from Krsna consciousness when he breaks the rules against illicit sex, intoxication, meat-eating, or gambling. We all try to avoid falling. But when a devotee does fall, how can we help him?
In The Nectar of Devotion, Srila Prabhupada states that if one regularly discharges devotional service, one won't fall down. "But even if circumstantially there is some falldown, the Vaisnava [devotee] need have nothing to do with prayascitta, the ritualistic ceremony for purification. If someone falls down from the principles of devotional service, he simply has to execute the rules and regulations of discharging devotional service, and that is sufficient for his reinstatement."
Our main service to a person who has fallen, then, should be to convince him or her not to despair but to resume Krsna conscious activities.
When devotees fall, we shouldn't discourage them by treating them like outcasts. No matter how serious their offenses or mistakes, Krsna can forgive them. Therefore, devotees too should be forgiving and helpful. Otherwise, if a fallen person thinks he must stay fallen, his sins may become habits, and his chanting and fellowship with devotees may stop.
Devotees should help other devotees who have slipped on the path. Lord Krsna Himself advises that no one deride a devotee for some mistake. "Even if one commits the most abominable action," the Lord says in the Gita (9.30), "if he is engaged in devotional service he is to be considered saintly because he is properly situated in his determination." Srila Prabhupada comments that this is a warning that a devotee should not be derided for an accidental falldown. "He should still be considered saintly even if he has accidentally fallen down."
An advanced devotee is sometimes like a thunderbolt and sometimes like a rose. Spiritual masters sometimes enforce strict discipline, as when Lord Caitanya banished Junior Haridasa for a slight mistake. This was in fact a spiritual pastime between Lord Caitanya and His liberated devotee. In this instance, Lord Caitanya wanted to set a strong example for others. But Lord Caitanya and His devotees were often lenient towards those who fell. Prabhupada once said that he himself, Bhaktivinoda Thakura, and all the other Krsna conscious spiritual masters were "eighty percent lenient" toward their followers. This leniency grows from faith that the best remedy is not to push fallen devotees away but to encourage them to continue their devotional service.
On this point, Lord Caitanya's dealings with His servant Kalakrsna are instructive. Kalakrsna was the only person to travel with Lord Caitanya on His tour of South India, but unfortunately a woman allured Kalakrsna to join a band of nomads (Bhattatharis). Lord Caitanya went personally to the nomads and risked violence to save him, but when Lord Caitanya returned to Jagannatha Puri, He told Kalakrsna He wanted nothing more to do with him.
Yet although Lord Caitanya rejected Kalakrsna, Lord Caitanya's devotees, led by Lord Nityananda, did not. They devised a plan by which Kalakrsna could serve as a messenger to Lord Caitanya's devotees in Bengal. This was certainly the best medicine for the fallen Kalakrsna. It made him blissful and grateful and kept him in the association of devotees. "Therefore," Srila Prabhupada writes, "the Lord's devotees are more merciful than the Lord Himself. . . the Lord Himself may sometimes be very hard, but the devotees are always kind."
With a devotee named Subuddhi Raya, it was Lord Caitanya Himself who showed the forgiving and purifying power of bhakti-yoga. Subuddhi Raya's falldown was mostly circumstantial. In his early life he had once beaten a Muslim servant. By fate that servant eventually became a politician and was appointed governor, and that governor, instigated by his wife, took away Subuddhi Raya's caste status. He did this simply by sprinkling on Subuddhi Raya's head a little water from a pitcher used by a Muslim. By the Hindu customs in those days, that was enough to get one cast out from the Hindu community.
When Subuddhi Raya went to consult learned brahmanas at Benares, asking them how this shame could be counteracted, they advised him, "Drink hot ghee and give up your life." But other brahmanas gave him different advice, so he was doubtful about what to do. In perplexity, he met Lord Caitanya at Benares and explained his position. Lord Caitanya advised him, "Go to Vrndavana and chant the Hare Krsna mantra constantly."
This advice from Lord Caitanya certainly stands in contrast to the harsh advice of the caste-conscious brahmanas. Lord Caitanya said, "Begin chanting the Hare Krsna mantra, and when your chanting is almost pure, all the sinful reactions will go away."
Srila Prabhupada comments that according to Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's instructions one should not wait to purify himself before chanting the Hare Krsna mantra. Whatever our condition, we should start chanting right away. The power of the Hare Krsna mantra will gradually relieve us of all material contamination, and thus we will find shelter at the lotus feet of Krsna, the ultimate goal of life.
So a genuine spiritual movement should forgive and encourage. Sometimes devotees, because of their own mistakes or events beyond their control, may leave the association of the other devotees and the ISKCON temples. If devotees who have left are treated at this crucial time as "outcasts" or "fringies" and not treated with kindness, they may become bitter or disgruntled and lose faith. One devotee complained that after he made a mistake, no devotees visited him or spoke to him. He then grew disillusioned and said, "I want to see good, moral and happy examples of people in daily life, with their friends, families, and disciples. Not just so-called good classes from high seats."
Srila Prabhupada told his disciples that they would not become contaminated by extending themselves to nondevotees. So we should extend ourselves even more to followers of Krsna consciousness who have temporarily fallen away. As we offer Krsna consciousness to newcomers by giving them Srila Prabhupada's books and inviting them to Hare Krsna temples, restaurants, and festivals, how much more we should befriend those who have already served Krsna but been tricked by Maya. This may be the best way to fulfill one of Srila Prabhupada's last requests: "Your love for me will be shown by how you cooperate among yourselves."
by Visakha-devi dasi
I thought for many years that from my single-minded attempt to serve Lord Krsna everything else would come. But what finally came was a stark realization: my service mood was incomplete; I was missing something.
It's difficult to say when I realized this, but it was long after 1977, when Srila Prabhupada passed away. During the trying years following his passing, all his devotees, me included, were seeking solace. And solace was available—in Srila Prabhupada's books, in his remembrance, in our service, and in chanting the holy names of the Lord. Yet, I found out, when such solace is shared with a friend, its sweetness and strength increase dramatically. That's what had been missing.
Srila Prabhupada created devotees all over the planet from all economic, emotional, political, intellectual and personality strata. Devotees are inextricably linked, for Srila Prabhupada reunited us with our Father, Sri Krsna, and in so doing made us a family of Godbrothers and Godsisters. We share the home he built for us, and we share the same library, the words of Krsna and His devotees. We share the same moral standards, philosophy, habits, diet, values, and goals, and the same process for reaching them. Automatically, we share a bond with all Vaisnavas. Brothers and sisters by birth often have less in common than we do. (While respectful and friendly toward nondevotees, devotees generally cannot share with them the same friendship as with other devotees, simply because nondevotees base their lives on different principles.)
There are different grades of devotees (Srila Prabhupada warns that there are even some who dress as devotees but are not), and a devotee behaves toward them differently. With some he'll sincerely offer his respect. With others, he'll engage in pleasant and enlivening conversation. And with a few, he'll reveal his mind in confidence and inquire confidentially.
Intimacies in friendship between like-minded Vaisnavas begin when there is mutual trust, as well as mutual respect for and faith in each other's Krsna consciousness. When, over time, such trust, respect, and faith become firm and unwavering, one has support for the bhakti-lata, one's climbing plant or creeper of devotion. With this unique and invaluable support, one's creeper may flourish beyond expectation. And one deeply loves the friend responsible.
It is the intimacy of love between devotees that makes life in the material world bearable. And it is that love and its unusual divine products that make life celestial. One such product is Krsna's blessing. Addressing some friendly devotees, the Lord said, "I am very much pleased by the friendly relationships among you. All of you are engaged in one occupation—devotional service. I am so pleased with your mutual friendship that I wish you all good fortune. Now you may ask a benediction of Me" (Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.30.8).
Another product of loving intimacy between devotees is friendly admiration. As explained by Srila Prabhupada, "Everyone should be friendly for the service of the Lord. Everyone should praise another's service to the Lord and not be proud of his own service. This is the way of Vaisnava thinking, Vaikuntha thinking" (Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.5.12, purport). In this mood, a devotee will not judge a Vaisnava friend, but appreciate him.
Krsna, our supreme friend, is waiting in our hearts for us to turn to Him, and He is the supreme judge of our response to His friendship. And as Srila Prabhupada says, "If we are following the rules and regulations given by God, then the judgment will be better. And if we are not following the laws, the judgment will not be in favor. This is natural to conclude." We, as Krsna's servants, are dutybound to judge, to discern, that which brings us closer to Him from that which removes us; to discern piety from impiety.
But while one may need to judge oneself, one may be better off resisting the urge to judge another devotee. This is not because devotees are beyond judgment (although Krsna and His unalloyed devotees are); it's because each devotee who has accepted the supreme goal and the means to attain it will in due time arrive. Such a devotee has a special place in the Lord's heart. Lord Krsna boldly declares that His devotee "will never perish," and Krsna promises to "carry what he lacks and preserve what he has" (Bhagavad-gita 9.31, 9.22). Even more, the Lord says, "Whoever renders service to Me in devotion is a friend, is in Me, and I am also a friend to him" (9.29). "Who am I," a devotee thinks, "to judge one who is dear to the Lord?"
Even if a devotee peer falls down—and in this difficult age, falldowns along the spiritual path can easily happen—still one can think, "Given the temptations that that person faced, how much better would I have fared?" And one can be confident that a devotee is never forsaken by the Lord. As Srila Prabhupada explains, "Even though he falls down, a devotee is never to be considered the same as a fallen karmi (fruitive worker). A karmi suffers the result of his own fruitive reactions, whereas a devotee is reformed by chastisement directed by the Lord Himself" (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.5.19, purport). If the Lord doesn't leave His friend, why should we? Best to be strict with oneself, following Krsna's instructions, and patient with others, knowing that they're in Krsna's all-competent hands.
And if even a fallen devotee remains in Krsna's care, what can be said of a devotee who hasn't fallen? There are riches to be mined in such a person's company.
"How can I become a better person?" I asked a devotee I'd known for years but only recently become close with. She didn't answer. I repeated the question a few days later, and a third time a few days after that.
Finally, she was about to answer. I expected her to say, "Become softer, more open; get in touch with your emotions more and express them," and so forth. Instead she said, "How's your concentration?"
"Well, when I do my artwork, it's good—the day passes in a flash."
"What about when you chant Hare Krsna?"
"Oh, well, I chant sixteen rounds every day, but my concentration is so bad I've given up on concentrating."
"I'm a firm believer in the effects of chanting with concentration," she said, and proceeded to glorify the holy names of Lord Krsna.
Such is an uncommon friend.
The worldwide activities of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)
A California court is considering ISKCON's appeal of the Robin George "brainwashing" case. Following guidelines from the U.S. Supreme Court, the California court is expected to hand down its judgment in December.
Texans are enjoying more than 20 varieties of sweets from Kalacandji's Bakery and Sweet Shop, newly opened at ISKCON's temple in Dallas.
"Krishna Productions" reels off a new book on tape every few months. The latest release: the Krsna books for children. For further information, see page xx.
New cookery videos are cooking at ISKCON Television. Soon to be released, they feature Kurma Dasa, from Australia, in his second series of televised cooking classes.
A group of five Hare Krsna devotees from Bangladesh toured America this summer, singing traditional devotional songs at Hare Krsna festivals. Two of the devotees—Krsna Kirtana Dasa and Nityananda Prana Dasa—had previously toured the U.S., Germany, Yugoslavia, Switzerland, Italy, and Austria.
Instructors at Yale and Louisiana State University have recommended The Lives of the Vaisnava Saints, a new book by Hare Krsna devotee Steven Rosen (Satyaraja Dasa), to students studying religion this fall.
ISKCON in England has abandoned the idea of finding a new site on which to build a temple to replace Bhaktivedanta Manor for public worship. Instead, ISKCON is challenging a decision banning visitors from the Manor, the Society's seventeen-acre estate outside London.
The local Hertsmere Council gave notice of the ban, but the Department of the Environment is holding it off for up to two years, to give ISKCON time to find a new site.
The idea of finding a new site originally came from the Council itself, which promised to help the Society find one. But now, ISKCON leaders say, the Council has reneged on its promises. This left ISKCON vainly searching for a proper site in an area already congested, where prices are sky-high and planning obstacles nearly impossible to overcome.
"The only real hope for continuing public worship seems to rest on access to the Manor," says ISKCON spokesman Akhandadhi Dasa, "and the campaign to achieve that is far from over."
ISKCON has now taken that campaign to the High Court. The Court's decision is expected a few days after this issue goes to press.
The first Festival of the Chariots in Milan rolled down Corso Europa for four hours to Duomo Square, where two thousand people feasted on prasadam from Govinda's restaurant.
The government of Czechoslovakia has recognized ISKCON as an organization in which conscientious objectors may serve as an alternative to the military. Devotees may thus apply for exemption from military service.
A new farm serves as home for a community of eighty devotees and twenty cows, ninety-four miles from North Sydney, Australia. The first chores: building an irrigation dam and a school.
The Festival of the Chariots comes again to Surfers Paradise, in Queensland, Australia, on December 29.
Fiji's fifth Gopal's restaurant opened in Lautoka. It features the popular homemade ice cream that helped the four other Gopal's succeed in Lautoka, Labasa, and Suva.
People in Papua New Guinea can now read about Krsna through a newly published book, Krsna Consciousness: The Matchless Gift. Seven thousand copies printed.
Vallabha Caitanya Devi Dasi, a Soviet devotee, passed away in Vrndavana, India. In 1979 in Leningrad she received spiritual initiation over the telephone because her spiritual master could not enter the Soviet Union. In 1990 she became one of the first Soviet devotees to visit India. Her body afflicted by cancer, this year she came to Vrndavana to spend her final days.
Here's news from the two places most sacred to Hare Krsna devotees: Mayapur (90 miles north of Calcutta) and Vrndavana (90 miles south of Delhi).
ISKCON's annual Mayapur-Vrndavana festival, which draws devotees from all over the world, begins on March 5. More details in the next issue of BTG.
A festive month
From October 24 through November 21, devotees celebrate the autumnal month known as Karttika or Damodara. According to the Padma Purana, this month—a time of many festivals—is especially fine for performing devotional service to Lord Krsna in Vrndavana.
On November 7, Vrndavana celebrates Lord Krsna's lifting of Govardhana Hill. Mountains of food are offered to Lord Krsna in His temples, and then the food is given out to the public.
On November 8, brothers and sisters bathe in the river Yamuna at Visrama Ghata in Mathura. Here the goddess Yamuna once offered lunch to her brother Yamaraja (the punisher of sinful souls). After bathing in the river and enjoying a sumptuous lunch, Yamaraja declared that after a brother bathes here on this day and is fed by his sister, neither of them need fear him.
November 10 is the disappearance anniversary of ISKCON's Founder-Acarya, His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Devotees at ISKCON's Krishna-Balaram temple observe special ceremonies to honor Srila Prabhupada, who passed away here in 1977.
November 14 marks the day when young Krsna was first given charge of pasturing the cows. Residents of Vrndavana gather at the temple of Nanda Maharaja, Lord Krsna's father, atop a hill in Nandagram. After a senior man of the village sings traditional songs and the devotees perform the noon arati, the villagers descend the hill with their fully decorated cows and feed the cows puffed rice with sugar and tender grass.
On November 15, devotees circumambulate Vrndavana in memory of the day when Akrura took Lord Krsna away in his chariot to Mathura. Devotees circumambulate in the mood of following the Lord.
On November 19, ISKCON holds a feast for the sadhus (saintly people) at Vrnda Kunda.
Our thanks to Mahanidhi Swami for telling us about these festivals.
Padayatra is now in Gujarat, traveling from Surat to Dvaraka, the holy city of Lord Krsna on India's northwest coast. There, at the end of November, it will celebrate the opening of the "ISKCON Padayatra Gate," a monument commemorating the Padayatra's first encirclement of India.
From Dvaraka the Padayatra will head east for Jaipur, in the state of Rajasthan. The party hopes to reach Jaipur by Gaura Purnima, the appearance day of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, in mid-March.
The weeds of deviation—choking the plant of bhakti—take firm root in offenses to the holy name.
By Suhotra Swami
Part Four: Kartabhaja and Neda-Nedi
Worshipers of Guru as God
In India people generally associate the Kartabhaja apasampradaya (deviant sect) with the Baulas of Bengal (another deviant sect). The Kartabhajas and the Baulas are indeed similar in many ways. They share, for example, the concept of jiyante mara—living death—as the highest goal.
But the Kartabhajas are distinguished by their doctrine of guruvada. All the deviant tantric sects have a philosophy of guruvada, or veneration of the guru, but only the Kartabhajas go to the extreme of proclaiming the guru to be God incarnate. Kartabhaja guruvada arises from the Mayavadi idea of absolute oneness. For the Kartabhajas, the guru alone is the worshipable form of God. No other form than the guru's is worshipable, not even that of the arca-murti, the temple Deity. The Kartabhajas chant no name other than the name of the guru. They do chant the name Krsna, but only because they say that the guru is Krsna. And for the Kartabhajas the names of Krsna and Khoda (Allah) are just as good, because all are names of the guru.
The Kartabhaja sect was founded by Karta Baba Aul Cand, a fakir who lived from 1686 to 1779. His followers say he was the reappearance of Lord Caitanya Himself. Aul Cand's principal disciples were Karta Ram Sharan Pal and his wife, Sati. The Kartabhajas consider them adi purusa (the original man) and adyasakti (the original woman). Their house in Ghosepara, in the Nadia district of Bengal, is preserved as a Kartabhaja place of pilgrimage. Nowadays, many Baulas come to the the Ghosepara Kartabhaja center during the three-day Dola Yatra festival. This may be why many people associate the Kartabhajas with the Baulas.
The Kartabhajas have their own scripture, the Bhaver Gita, mostly written by Dulalcand in the form of songs. The text is puzzling and deliberately contradictory: it is to be understood only by initiates. Yet it clearly hints at Mayavadi and tantric ideas. The Kartabhajas, unlike the Baulas, do not have a reputation for promiscuity. They are enjoined to marry and be true to their partners. On Fridays (the Muslim sabbath) they must refrain from sexual relations and be vegetarian.
In the last century, the Kartabhajas were a powerful force against the jata-gosani and smartas, who had become the sedentary establishment of Gaudiya Vaisnavism. The Kartabhajas and other sahajiya groups converted thousands of common folk on the plea that "the company" (the Gaudiya Vaisnavas) was once rich but now bankrupt. Out of the ruins of the old company, the Kartabhajas said, a new company had arisen (the Kartabhajas themselves). And this company, they said, did not carry out business in the name of religion.
In 1893, Karta Dulalcand, a famous Kartabhaja songwriter and guru, was invited to the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago (where Vivekananda lectured). But the invitation was a little late: Dulalcand had already been dead sixty years.
The Kartabhajas address their gurus, beginning with Karta Ram Sharan Pal, as Karta ("master" or "boss"). All the Kartas have lived at the residence of the first Karta and run the Kartabhaja mission from there. The faithful followers of the Kartas are called Baratis, "members of the bridegroom's party." The Baratis accept and worship the Karta as God on earth. Whatever words he speaks are themselves scripture, to be blindly obeyed. His activities are divine, even if he dances naked at a wedding of his disciples, as did Karta Baba Aul Cand.
The Kartabhajas say that deceased Kartas continue to initiate disciples through living representatives known as rtviks.
Neda or Neda- Nedi
Neda means a shaven-headed man, nedi a shaven-headed woman. Members of the Neda- Nedi sect can be seen in the area of Navadvipa, West Bengal. They resemble other Vaisnavas, with shaved heads, tilaka, and white clothes.
It is said that Sri Virabhadra Gosvami, the son of Lord Nityananda and Jahnava-mata, converted more than a thousand Nedas and a thousand Nedis to Vaisnavism from tantric Buddhism. Under his direction, they took to the chanting of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra. Most of them accepted marriage, ending their indulgence in illicit sex, which they held to be tantric meditation. But after some time, a number of them resumed their old practices while claiming to be Vaisnavas. Nowadays, the Neda- Nedi is taken to be a type of Baula.
In the first part of this series, I mentioned that a genuine devotee of Krsna is known by his good qualities. Because the Vedic scriptures prescribe the chanting of the holy name of Krsna as the essential dharma, or spiritual practice, in the present age, a devotee of Krsna is to be known especially by the quality of his chanting.
As Srila Prabhupada explained, "Nobody can strictly follow all the rules and regulations. In the Kali-yuga [the Age of Degradation] it is not possible. Therefore Caitanya Mahaprabhu has recommended that hari-nama, chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra, should be very rigidly performed."
A person may advertise himself as a follower of Lord Caitanya's and chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, but if he deliberately commits namaparadhas (offenses to the holy name) he disqualifies himself.
The link between namaparadhas and deviation from the path of Krsna consciousness is indicated by Srila Jiva Gosvami. He warns in his Bhakti-sandarbha that there are offenders to the holy name who are acikitsya, or incorrigible (jnana-lava-durvidagdhastra-acikitsya-atva-dupeksa). As soon as they acquire a little knowledge from the Krsna conscious community of devotees, they become insolent and arrogant. They are excluded from the genuine devotional community because of three kinds of offense to the holy name: sadhu-ninda (blasphemy of devotees), guru-avajna (disregard of the spiritual master), and sruti-sastra ninda (blasphemy of the Vedic scriptures).
The incorrigible offender never admits his offenses. He cannot understand that the mercy of the spiritual master and the association of pure devotees are indispensable for the chanting of the holy name. He considers the spiritual master not a transcendental teacher but a worldly one and tries to measure the person and instructions of the guru by his own mental standards. Thus he commits guru-avajna. Because he values worldly knowledge and accomplishments, he looks down upon the simple devotees who have surrendered themselves to devotional service. Thus he commits sadhu-ninda. Finally, he studies the revealed scriptures as if they were ordinary books, accepting whatever seems to support his preconceived notions and rejecting the rest. Thus he commits sruti-sastra ninda (blasphemy of the Vedic scriptures).
The incorrigible offender mistakes the growth of these and other offenses within his heart for the growth of the bhakti-lata (the plant of devotion). He mistakes his fallen condition for great advancement. Such is the illusion from which the apasampradayas, or deviant sects, have sprung.
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.
In preparing this series, I have drawn from a number of sources. The most important are the books, letters, and lectures of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. I drew a great deal upon Apasampradaya Svarupa, a work by one of Srila Prabhupada's Godbrothers, Sri Bhakti-vilasa Bharati Maharaja. This was translated for me from the Bengali by Bhakta Krishanu Lahiri, a student of languages at Calcutta University and a member of Bhaktivedanta Youth Services. Krishanu was ably assisted by Sriman Sarvabhavana Prabhu and Kishore Ghosh. I consulted The History and Literature of the Gaudiya Vaisnavas, an unpublished manuscript by another Godbrother of Srila Prabhupada's, Sambidananda Dasa. I also consulted the following books: Vaisnavism in Bengal, by Dr. Ramkantha Cakravarti (Sanskrit Pushtak Bandhar, Calcutta, 1985), Obscure Religious Cults, by Dr. Sashi Bhushan Das Gupta (1976 reprint by Firma KLM Ltd.), The Bauls of Bengal, by Rebati Mohan Sarkar (Gian Publishing House, New Delhi, 1990), and Braj—Centerof Krishna Pilgrimage, by Alan W. Entwistle (Egbert Forsten, Holland, 1987). Sri Bhakti Vikasa Swami Maharaja and Kiranasa Prabhu brought me up to date on the modern deviant sects they have encountered in their years in Bangladesh.
Here's a Krsna conscious project you might like to support or get involved in. We'll tell you what the goals are, who's involved, what's going on, what's blocking the way, and how you can give a hand.
The International Society for Cow Protection (ISCOWP), incorporated as a non-profit charitable orgainzation.
Efland, North Carolina.
Balabhadra Dasa, 45, initiated by Srila Prabhupada in 1969.
1. To educate human society in the practicality of cow protection by training bull calves as working teams of oxen, thus providing a natural and permanent alternative to petroleum-dependent tractors and farm machinery.
2. To use such ox-training programs and educational seminars to provide hands-on experience in living classroom settings.
3. To demonstrate the usefulness of the natrual by-broducts of the cow by encouraging the production of methane bio-gas from cow manure as a valuable alternative energy source.
4. To present the benefits of a lacto-vegetarian diet through educational literature, nutritional cooking classes, organic gardening instruction, and the production of cruelty-free dairy products from lifetime-protected cows.
5. To show a simple agrarian way of life, with a sound ecological relationship between man, cow, and earth.
6. To set up small farm sanctuaries, following the Vedic example of cow protection.
Every summer for the last four years Balabhadra has traveled to major U.S. cities with oxen. Thousands of people, most of whom eat meat, have been able to see and pet the oxen and have received educational literature about vegetarianism, ox power, and cow protection. Balabhadra's travels with the oxen have attracted three hundred people from all walks of life to sign on as members of ISCOWP.
On April 19, 1991, ISCOWP, with funds provided by its members, saved two bull calves (Vraja and Gita) from the slaughterhouse. Devotees will train them as working oxen on the first ISCOWP farm, recently established in Efland, North Carolina. The farm will provide an example of a small, self-sufficient family farm based on cow protection and powered by oxen. Each spring, devotees on the farm will teach seminars on ox training, ox-powered field work, organic gardening, and vegetarian cooking.
How You Can Help
Membership is $15. Members receive the quarterly ISCOWP News as well as other literature and benefits.
Your tax-deductible donations support ISCOWP activities (federal tax I.D. number: 23-260-4082).
ISCOWP has land and wants people to help establish Krsna conscious farm communities based on cow protection.
4607 Timberwood Trail
Efland, North Carolina 27243
Phone: (919) 563-3643
By Rasaraja Dasa
In the South Indian city of Madras, the reigning Deity of Krsna is known as Partha Sarathi. And as in many Krsna temples, on festive days the Lord goes out on procession. The main Deity stays in the temple, and the pujaris (priests) bring the Lord out touring in a form known as the utsava-murti, or festival Deity.
"Amma," I shouted, throwing down my school bag. "Give me tiffin."
I'd just returned from school and wanted to go quickly out for play.
"Wash your hands and feet first," my mother responded from the kitchen.
I ran into the bathroom, splashed water everywhere, and ran back into the kitchen.
"I saw a procession of Lord Partha Sarathi going somewhere," I volunteered as I sat waiting for the tiffin to appear.
My mother, reaching into the upma pot, suddenly stopped, turned around, and fired a volley of questions—"Lord Partha Sarathi? Where did you see Him? Why is He going out today—and at four in the afternoon?"
"I saw Him being carried on a palanquin near Luz, that's all. I don't 'know why or where He was going—just please give me my tiffin now. It's getting late," I cried out, sensing the imminent delay.
My grandmother, who always sat in one corner of the kitchen silently observing all proceedings, was now intently peering at the calendar.
"Today is the harvest tax collection day," she announced. "The palanquin I will be passing through Eldams Road."
My mother began to calculate how long it would take for the Lord's procession to pass by Eldams Road, one block from our street.
"When exactly did you see the procession near Luz?" she demanded.
"At three-forty," I said. "Just before I caught the bus."
"That means He'll be here in twenty minutes," my mother said, her voice now full of anxiety. "What can I make for the Lord in twenty minutes?"
"Rava-keshari. That's the easiest," my grandmother replied, cool and alert.
By now my mother was already putting the steel wok on the stove and pouring a cup of farina into it, simultaneously setting a pot of water to boil.
"Just what is harvest tax collection day?" I asked, resigned to a delayed tiffin.
"Once a year Lord Partha Sarathi visits the fields He owns just outside Madras city," my mother explained. "The farmers bring the harvested grain in front of the Lord, measure it, and then pay a portion of it as tax to the Lord. The grains are used to make offerings at the temple throughout the year."
"Why does the Lord have to go?" I asked. "Can't the pujaris collect it?"
"Well, the pujaris feel that when the Lord is in the field there's less chance of the farmers trying to reduce the tax by hiding some of the harvest. But, as important, people who live far away from the temple get to see the Lord."
"This also gives the Lord a chance to get out of the temple," my grandmother sagely added.
By now my mother's cooking was nearing the end. "Five more minutes and the Lord will be here," she calculated, looking up at the clock. "Now go to the corner and stand there till you sight the procession. When it nears our street, wave to the pujari to stop. Go right now—run!"
I reached the corner in no time. Shielding my eyes against the evening sun, I peered across the street.
"What if the Lord has already passed by," I worried.
Suddenly, there it was, turning onto Eldams Road! A stately but small procession of four palanquin carriers bearing the utsava-murti of the Lord, a Sri Vaisnava pujari in front. I was surprised to see the procession moving so quickly, the palanquin carriers almost trotting. I waved frantically, afraid I would go unnoticed, since the procession showed no signs of slowing down for me.
As it neared, I looked over my shoulder and was relieved to see my mother appearing out of the house, practically running. Grandmother was behind her, making slower progress. My mother was carrying the pot of rava-keshari covered by a fresh banana leaf.
"Please, stop!" I shouted to the pujari. "My mother has brought an offering."
The procession halted, and the carriers set down the palanquin. By now my mother had arrived. Handing me the pot she said, "Give it to the bhattar."
As I struggled with the weight of the pot, the pujari reached over and took it.
"Namaskaram," he brightly greeted my mother.
By now my grandmother had joined us. She pulled some camphor from the corner of her sari and gave it to the pujari. He placed the pot of rava-keshari in front of the Lord, removed the banana leaf, and put it next to the pot. He placed the camphor in a brass holder, lit it, and then offered it to the Lord, sonorously chanting Vedic hymns, all the time ringing a bell. The three of us folded our palms and fell before the Lord to offer our respects.
As the pujari returned half of the offering to my mother, he said, "In this Kali-yuga, not many people know how to receive the Lord when He comes in procession. May the Lord bless you and your family for your loving devotion."
My mother responded, "May He always remain glorious and keep us as His servants."
My grandmother offered advice as usual. "Don't go too fast," she told the pujaris. "On a hot day like this, you should make sure He's comfortable."
Soon we were back in the kitchen, and I was busy eating my evening tiffin, now supplemented by the keshari prasadam freshly offered to the Lord.
"Delicious!" I exclaimed. "I don't mind a late tiffin every day if you can make a sweet like this."