Back to Godhead magazine is a cultural presentation to respiritualize human society. It aims at achieving the following purposes:
1. To help all people distinguish more clearly between reality and illusion, spirit and matter, the eternal and the temporary.
Maya's Hat Trick
Some time ago this item came out from the Associated Press:
A man in California was driving to his wedding when suddenly his hat blew off onto the highway. Tucked into the brim of the hat was a one-hundred-dollar bill. So in the middle of traffic the man tried to brake his car and jump out to retrieve his hat.
But cruising behind him was a Highway Patrol car, and the officer inside blared to him over the loudspeaker to stay in his car and keep moving.
The man obeyed, but at the next exit he turned off to a roadside motel. There he dashed out of his car, climbed a fence, tore across the highway, braving four lanes of traffic, and plucked up his hat. Mission accomplished, he dodged the next oncoming car, only to be hit by another one and killed.
Devotees of Krsna will be quick to see an analogy.
In human life we're meant to move straight on the road back home, back to Krsna. But Maya, illusion, is so strong that she diverts us. She grabs us by our senses and pulls. "Come on," she says. "It's all yours. Go after it, hold onto it, and enjoy."
Maya's trick is fairly simple: Get you thinking about something passing till you're stuck on it, then reel you in.
Once the eyes or the tongue or the ears or any of the senses gets fixated on something, that sense starts lugging at the mind, absorbing it in whatever Maya's offering at the moment. Then she can carry away our intelligence, and once our intelligence is towed away, that's it—we're lost.
Back to Godhead, therefore, is meant to help us strengthen our intelligence and use it to keep the mind steadily focused beyond the lures dangled by Maya. With mind and intellect strengthened by spiritual realization, we can control our senses, master our senses, and keep moving steadily toward the perfection of life.
In the Right Direction
I am very happy that the BTG has begun once again. By its spiritual potency, I think my hard heart has been penetrated somewhat in that I'm finding I want to give some of Krsna's money back to Him. I will be sending money on a regular basis.
I was initiated by Srila Prabhupada in 1975 and distributed his books for eight years. Now I distribute newspapers every morning. I haven't done any service since I left in 1983, and I do not live near a temple. I do not use my spiritual name, because I no longer act in a spiritual manner. Sending this money is my first step in the right direction.
Currently, I'm working toward a computer engineering degree. After graduating, I would like to find work near an ISKCON temple where I could increase my service and get association with devotees. Possibly ISKCON will have some use for my engineering skills.
I would very much like to ask a favor. To avoid any further persecution and harassment, is it possible for you to mail the "Back to Godhead" magazine in an envelope? My mailbox has been vandalized several times, and someone put four bullet holes into the front windshield of my truck. My car has also been pelted with raw eggs as well as vandalized. Thank you for your help!
Of course! Thank you for staying with us through all that. Other readers: If you'd like to receive your BTG's in a plain envelope, just drop a note to our Subscriber Service Center, P.O. Box 16027, N. Hollywood, California 91615-9900. It costs us a few pennies more, but it's worth it to us—we want subscribers, not martyrs.
Complete Lectures are Better
The mood of BTG seems much more authorized now that you are printing complete Prabhupada lectures instead of excerpts. I feel more satisfied, and I feel that Krsna is more pleased now that Srila Prabhupada's mood and personality are being presented, not just quotes and instructions (though these are also important).
Kamra Devi Dasi
As a parent with two teenage children, and so experiencing the struggle to provide for them, I am sympathetic to Rohininandana's "Fifty Percent Puzzle" [BTG, November/ December]. But I have a doubt about his conclusion. [Householders, Srila Prabhupada says, should give fifty percent of their money for devotional service. Rohininandana suggested that this means fifty percent of what's left after expenses.]
There's the old maxim "A job expands to the time allotted." So also with one's expenses.
Using Rohininandana's proposed formula, if I have only two dollars left over at the end of the month and give one dollar to Krsna, I'm properly situated.
How do we factor in the example of Kolavecha Sridhara, Lord Caitanya's childhood associate? He earned his small livelihood selling leaf plates and fruit and was sometimes obliged to live only on meals made of tamarind leaves. But he still spent fifty percent of his income on worshiping the Ganges.
Like aiming at offenseless chanting and pure devotional service, better to concede one's current inabilities and accept these instructions as goals to strive for, rather than create a philosophy of a compromised fifty percent for the guilt-free 90's.
To conclude on an encouraging note: In temples I've managed and in my personal life, I've always seen time donated to ISKCON's service as a portion of the fifty percent formula. Working all week at a job and then putting in solid service on the weekends or in the evenings should factor into the equation.
San Diego, California
Badrinarayana Dasa is the president of ISKCON's San Diego temple and a member of ISKCON's Governing Body Commission.
I really appreciated reading the last issue of BTG, as it dealt with a real, very tangible problem in our life as devotees—falldown. Maybe this article indicates that we are mature enough to face and discuss this reality without shunning it out of fear, etc. Thank you for this issue.
Smita Krishna Swami
Almviks Gard, Sweden
Recently in San Diego a group of women devotees with the same question have formed a women's support group. Here the women are able to reveal their minds in confidence and get spiritual support from one another without being judged. It has helped us develop real open relationships with one another. It has helped me overcome the obstacle that Karnamrta Dasa mentioned: "If a devotee's not introspective enough, 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."
If anyone has a question regarding how we formed our support group, please write to:
Women's Support Group
1077 Emerald St., Apt. F
San Diego, CA 92109
San Diego, California
St. Louis, Missouri
As a good devotee friend and I read the article aloud together, we felt Krsna's presence and love very strongly and experienced a lot of healing as we related our lives and observations with what we were reading.
However, the "Straight Talk" column really angered and scared me. I was disturbed by the derogatory phrases, sarcasm, and "we vs. them" attitude. I was a fervent "Jesus person" in my teens and twenties and learned through painful experience the results of becoming spiritually enthused by putting down others.
Bhakta Vic, I respect your dedication, but please be aware that to be sarcastic and judgmental is abusive to yourself and others. I express my reaction as a kindness, not a criticism, and hope it will contribute to growth.
The article on Christ and Krsna consciousness was also very much appreciated. Having a Christian background, I have a deep love and respect for Jesus and his teachings. I was happy to see that there is no conflict according to Prabhupada and that I don't have to feel guilty or inferior because I learned much of my spiritual teaching from a non-Vedic source.
I express my gratefulness for the mercy of God in the many ways He has appeared to us all.
Three Rivers, California
Falldown is real. Falldown is caused by misuse of one's free will, one's choices. At every waking moment, the jivatma [living being] is free to choose to follow the wanderings of the mind and senses or to surrender to Krsna. When the pattern of choices is contrary to the interests of devotional service to the Supreme Lord Krsna, the regulative principles that tame the mind and senses become progressively more difficult to follow. Knowledge alone is insufficient. One may, in full knowledge of one's predicament, slip back into the pattern of sense gratification.
Having lived outside the movement for fifteen years, I have had many realizations about my life in ISKCON. To begin with, I was very young and inexperienced in so many ways. Although I tried to deal fairly with devotees, I now realize many of my shortcomings. I often regret that as an administrator in the movement I may have stepped on more than a few bhakti creepers. [Scripture likens one's life in bhakti, devotional service, to a creeper or flowering vine.] I also regret my inability to be honest, both with myself and with my spiritual master, when difficulties and doubts arose. This happened not from envy but from immaturity and a fear of being a disappointment should one fail to live up to the most exalted standard of pure devotional service.
The knowledge and realization that come from devotional service are genuine. They are reinforced from within. Once, however, the service attitude is compromised and replaced by the enjoying mode, one is left with many spiritual signposts or road markers yet has nowhere to go. This is the dilemma of falldown. Your devotional service has had the brakes temporarily put on it, and real spiritual advancement is slow. This does not mean, however, that you forget Krsna. It takes many, many years of contemplation to sort out the whole experience.
It is natural for some devotees in the ISKCON framework to feel threatened by the devotee who "bloops" or falls down. But I must share with you the perspective of the fallen devotee. I have had the association of hundreds of such so-called fallen devotees over the last fifteen years. A common theme that comes from many of them is that they feel they had been exploited and then rejected. This, of course, has led many to feel somewhat depersonalized by the movement. It is ironic and heartbreaking that the movement which preaches Vaisnava personalism can somehow [sometimes] depersonalize individuals. Some devotees felt that nobody (i.e., no temple administrators) really cared about them, or loved them, but only wanted them for the tasks they could perform for the temple. When the devotee left the movement, the problem was then sometimes compounded by the disregard or disdain that came upon them when visiting the temple following "falldown." From the harsh treatment they may have received, such devotees even sometimes wondered who had fallen. These are very difficult issues to confront.
Alas, you may think I must be some kind of demon to say such things, but I am not. I have simply been observant and am now being painfully honest. For too long, many devotees, such as myself, have waited for the time when we might feel proud to be identified in the community as "Hare Krsnas." That time will come when each bhakta begins to value each individual he or she meets because that individual is a part and parcel of Krsna. It is proper for devotees to engage everyone they can in the service of the Lord, but don't lose sight of the individual you've just engaged. We're intended to be the servant of the servant of the servant of Sri Krsna.
I have nonetheless come full circle. By Srila Prabhupada's causeless mercy, I am again surrendering and engaging in devotional service, also helping to establish an ISKCON-affiliated temple in Santa Cruz, California. Many of us here are older and more emotionally mature, yet we still see many potential problems ahead. Some devotees left ISKCON altogether and have continued in their capacity to render devotional service. I encourage them to find a way back. Share your maturity with ISKCON. This is Srila Prabhupada's creation.
The introduction of any new cultural movement must be expected to at times be difficult. Much dirty water has now been washed off the "baby" and can be discarded. But don't throw away the baby with the bathwater!
I try to envision myself sitting before Srila Prabhupada and submissively asking him what he wants of me. It is easy to understand what he wants for me and for ISKCON. As the jagat-guru, he wants Krsna consciousness to flourish in every individual and every corner of the world for the pleasure of Sri Krsna. As guru, he holds up a standard for spiritual advancement that we might all aspire to. He wants his disciples to fully reestablish their transcendental loving service with Krsna in this lifetime.
When we alter that standard, then all the potency is lost, for the Vaisnava principle is that service rendered under the guidance of the genuine spiritual master will be acceptable and pleasing to Krsna. Krsna will reciprocate, and everything auspicious to one's spiritual advancement will follow.
We need to nurture each other along on our spiritual journey. When a Godbrother or Godsister is having difficulty, show concern and help them if you are able and willing. Don't trample on their delicate bhakti creeper. Don't be indifferent to those who aspire to render some service to Sri Krsna.
I hope that those who read this, especially the bhaktas who have dedicated their lives to Lord Caitanya's movement, will take this in the constructive mode in which it is intended.
I envision an ever-glorious future for ISKCON, both inside and outside of India, if maturity, honesty, and caring follow from the first twenty-five years of the movement's growth and experience.
Every conditioned soul in the material world is fallen. It is the rule rather than the exception. Those exceptional souls who have at some time in this life sought shelter of Krsna and His representative must be treated with exceptional care. Falldown does not terminate one's devotional service, but rather interrupts it. You must provide encouragement for that service to be resumed.
All glories to Srila Prabhupada!
Pusta Krsna Dasa
Boulder Creek, California
Thirst for Krsna
While I am not a member of ISKCON, I am a devotee of Lord Krsna and was expecting the new BTG to help quench some of my thirst for Krsna. To my surprise, there was actually very little about Krsna in it.
The magazine was primarily concerned with ISKCON as an institution—its problems, goals, activities, etc. While I'm sure these are important issues that deserve a forum, I question whether Back to Godhead is the appropriate one. It was my understanding that BTG is geared toward a general audience and that its purpose is to bring its readers close to Krsna. To this end, the articles and pictures should relate to Krsna—His form, pastimes, great devotees, worship, and so on.
Most of the pictures, however, were of the authors of the articles, which is curious considering that Krsna conscious philosophy puts no importance on outward appearance. It does not matter what the authors look like. BTG should feature beautiful pictures of the temple Deities and of Krsna in His various incarnations and activities. I realize that color printing is expensive, but where else are your readers going to find this nectar?
The articles and columns themselves focused heavily on ISKCON members' dilemmas or on social theory. I believe BTG should focus on Krsna. Your articles should serve to help the reader remember Him, should ignite the flame of bhakti in the heart. You could have articles discussing His form, qualities and activities, articles examining the finer points of Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam, and about the theory and practice of bhakti-yoga.
Krsna is the Ultimate Truth, the meaning of life; no other topic is as fascinating and relishable. Please, therefore, revise your editorial outlook to include more of Him and less of yourselves.
Since we relaunched BTG, about a year ago, we've purposely been printing articles about ISKCON's goals, strategies, and struggles. These were topics we hadn't said much about before, and we figured we ought to. Krsna's movement, after all, is dedicated to Krsna. So these topics, we think, deserve space too. We believe that many of our readers, even outside ISKCON, will find these topics spiritually important and rewarding.
We welcome your letters. Send correspondence to The Editors, Back to Godhead, P.O.Box 90946, San Diego, CA 92169, USA.
Sri Gaura Purnima
The Appearance Anniversary of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu
March 18, 1992
For details, call a Hare Krsna center near you.
A lecture in Mayapur on the appearance day of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu: March 16, 1976
by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
ittham nr-tiryag-rsi-deva jhasavatarair
"In this way, my Lord, You appear in various incarnations as a human being, an animal, a great saint, a demigod, a fish, or a tortoise, thus maintaining the entire creation in different planetary systems and killing the demoniac principles. According to the age, O my Lord, You protect the principles of religion. In the Age of Kali, however, You do not assert Yourself as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and therefore You are known as Triyuga, or the Lord who appears in three yugas."—Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.9.38
Here is a specific statement about Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Caitanya Mahaprabhu is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, but He's channa. Channa means "covered." Lord Caitanya is a covered avatara, or incarnation, of the Supreme Lord because He appeared as a devotee. An avatara should be confirmed by great devotees, and their opinions must be upheld by statements in the sastra, the scriptures. Today's verse is a statement from the Srimad-Bhagavatam confirming that Lord Caitanya is an avatara. The Eleventh Canto (11.5.32) gives another direct statement about Lord Caitanya:
"In the Age of Kali, intelligent persons perform congregational chanting to worship the incarnation of Godhead who constantly sings the names of Krsna. Although His complexion is not blackish, He is Krsna Himself. He is accompanied by His associates, servants, weapons, and confidential companions."
Caitanya Mahaprabhu is also described by Vrndavana Dasa Thakura as yuga-dharma-pala, the protector of the religion for the age.
Caitanya Mahaprabhu is described here as channah kalau. In the Kali-yuga He does not appear directly like other incarnations, such as Nrsimhadeva, Vamanadeva, or Lord Ramacandra. He appears as a devotee. Why? Because He is the most magnanimous avatara. People are so foolish that they could not understand Krsna. When Krsna said, sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja—"Give up all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me"—they took it: "Who is this person ordering like that? What right does he have?"
That is our material disease. If somebody is ordered to do something, he protests, "Who are you to order me?" This is the position. God Himself, Krsna—what can He say? He orders. As the Supreme Person, the Supreme Being, He must order. He's the supreme controller. He must order. That is God. But we are so foolish that when God orders, "You do this," we take it otherwise—"Oh, who is this man? He's ordering like that. Give up everything? Why shall I give him everything? I have created so many dharmas, 'isms.' Shall I give them up? Why shall I give them up?" Therefore the same Lord Krsna came again as Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
Today is Caitanya Mahaprabhu's appearance day, so we must discuss this very thoroughly. Rupa Gosvami understood Lord Caitanya's position. To understand Lord Caitanya we have to go through the guru, and Rupa Gosvami is our guru.
Narottama Dasa Thakura, who is also our guru, has written, rupa-raghu-natha-pade hoibe akuti, kabe hama bujhabo sri yugala-piriti: If we want to understand the transcendental position of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, we have to go through the guru, the guru-parampara system. Otherwise it is not possible.
The whole process is submission. Krsna wants this—sarva-dharman parityajya. So if we want to approach Krsna, we have to become very submissive.
To whom do we become submissive? "Krsna is not here. To whom I shall submit?" Submit to His devotee, to His representative.
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu appeared on this day to give mercy to the fallen souls, who are so foolish that they cannot take to Krsna consciousness. He is personally teaching how to take to Krsna consciousness. And that process is this kirtana, chanting Krsna's holy names.
In our Teachings of Lord Caitanya there is a picture of Lord Caitanya chanting in Prayag, and Rupa Gosvami is offering his obeisances. That is the first meeting with Rupa Gosvami, and he composed this verse:
"O most munificent incarnation! You are Krsna Himself appearing as Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu. You have assumed the golden color of Srimati Radharani, and You are widely distributing pure love of Krsna. We offer our respectful obeisances unto You."
So this is channa-avatara. He's Krsna, He has come to give you krsna-prema, but He's acting like a Krsna devotee. This is the meaning of "covered incarnation." He is not commanding now, "You do this." Or He's commanding, "Do this," but in a different way, because people misunderstood Krsna—"Oh, who is this person commanding?" Even a rascal so-called scholar has said, "Krsna's demanding too much."
"Sophisticated" persons think like that. But our process is to submit. Unless we submit, there is no hope of advancing in Krsna consciousness. That is Caitanya Mahaprabhu's teaching: trnad api sunicena taror api sahisnuna / amanina manadena kirtaniyah sada harih. If you want to chant the Hare Krsna mantra, you have to take this principle: trnad api sunicena. You have to become humbler than the grass. When grass is lying on the street, everyone tramples it, but it never protests. And you must be more tolerant than a tree—taror api sahisnuna. The tree is giving us so much help. It is giving us fruits, flowers, leaves, and, when there is scorching heat, shelter also. The tree is so beneficial. Still, we cut it down. Whenever I like, I cut it down. But there is no protest. The tree does not say, "I have given you so much help, and you are cutting me?" No. It is tolerant.
Therefore Caitanya Mahaprabhu has selected taror api sahisnuna and amanina manadena. The devotee should not expect any respectful position but should offer all respect to anyone. If we acquire this qualification, we can chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra without any disturbance. This is the qualification.
Caitanya Mahaprabhu came to teach these principles. He is Krsna Himself. Svarupa Damodara, Lord Caitanya's secretary, has written, na caitanyat krsnaj jagati para-tattvam param iha: Paratattvam, the Supreme Truth, is Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. The Supreme Truth is Krsna, but Caitanya Mahaprabhu is not different from Krsna. Brahman, Paramatma, and Bhagavan—these are the three features of the Supreme Absolute Truth.
vadanti tat tattva-vidas
"Learned transcendentalists who know the Absolute Truth call this nondual substance Brahman, Paramatma, or Bhagavan." The Absolute Truth is one, advaya-jnana. There is no difference. But according to our qualification for understanding, the Absolute Truth appears as the impersonal Brahman, the localized Paramatma, and the beloved Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna. If you want to understand the Absolute Truth as impersonal Brahman, you realize that. If you want to realize the Absolute Truth as Paramatma—everywhere, all-pervading—you can realize Him. And if you want to see Him as the most beloved, then you can also have that. That is the meaning of ye yatha mam prapadyante. You can realize the Absolute Truth any way. He is prepared to manifest Himself as you desire.
Originally there was water all over the universe. So at that time the Lord came as a fish. Similarly, He became a tortoise. Then He became Nrsimhadeva. He became Vamanadeva, and so on. Don't think the avatara comes only to the human society. He appears amongst the animals, amongst the insects, amongst the trees. Therefore in the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna says, "Among the trees, I am this tree. Among the animals, I am this animal. Among the fighters, I am this fighter . . ."
He's everything, but He points out a few examples. He is prepared to be appreciated by you in any condition of life if you take His instruction on how to realize Him. And if you manufacture your own way, it is not possible to realize Him. But even if you are the most ordinary man, you can realize Him. There is no difficulty. How? Krsna says, raso 'ham apsu kaunteya: "My dear Arjuna, I am the taste of water."
Now, who does not drink water? Anyone? The animal drinks water, and the human being drinks water. But the animal cannot understand God, although God is there in the water. The man can understand because he is a human being. Therefore a human being is different from an animal.
Still, if we are drinking water but we are not realizing Krsna, then we are animals. When we drink water we have so many chances to remember Krsna. And that is the process of devotional service. Smaranam, remembering. Every time you drink water and remember Krsna, you are in devotional service.
Where is the difficulty? But the rascals will not take it. As soon as you drink water and the taste of the water appeases your thirst, if you simply remember, "In the Bhagavad-gita it is stated that this taste is Krsna," then immediately you remember Krsna. And as soon as you remember Krsna, it is devotional service, smaranam.
Where is the difficulty? Where is the difficulty for becoming Krsna conscious? Prabhasmi sasi-suryayoh: "I am the illumination of the moon and the sun." Who does not see the sunshine and the moonshine? In daytime you see the sunshine, and at night you see the moonshine. So you can see the sunshine and moonshine and remember Krsna's instructions: "I am this sunshine and moonshine." Where is the difficulty?
Pranavah sarva-vedesu. Now, you may think, "I'm a learned Vedantist. Why shall I study the sunshine and moonshine? I shall chant om." But Krsna says, "Rascal, I am this om. You are a big Vedantist. You chant om, but I am om." Every Vedic mantra is chanted after the vibration of omkara (om).
So whether you are a Vedantist or an ordinary human being who does not know anything, you can realize Krsna. There is no difficulty.
Krsna taught everything for becoming Krsna conscious, but still we are such rascals that we could not understand Krsna. Therefore Krsna came again: "These rascals failed to understand Me, and now I shall teach how to become a devotee of Krsna by My personal behavior." That is Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. He taught by His personal example. Don't think that because He's playing the part He's a human being like us. For example, someone may be massaging my body and not doing it properly. And I might take his hand and begin to give the massage, "Do like this. Do like this." That does not mean I am a masseur or I am a servant of that person. Similarly, don't forget that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna. You are worshiping Radha-Krsna, and there is Caitanya Mahaprabhu's Deity also. Some people protest, "Why should Caitanya Mahaprabhu's Deity be placed along with Krsna?" But they do not know. Sri-krsna-caitanya radha-krsna nahe anya. Sri Krsna Caitanya is Krsna. It is confirmed by the sastras. In today's verse it is said, channah kalau yad abhavah. In the Kali-yuga, He does not appear directly as an incarnation like Nrsimhadeva or Vamanadeva or Lord Ramacandra, but He appears as a devotee. But He's an incarnation: Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
"Therefore sometimes You are called Triyuga." There are are four yugas, or ages, but He is known as one who appears in three yugas. Because in three yugas He appears distinctly and in the fourth yuga, the Kali-yuga, He appears as a devotee, He's called Triyuga.
So today is the birthday, or appearance day, of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and this is His birthplace—Mayapur. It is your good fortune that you are all present here. Always remember Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and chant sri-krsna-caitanya prabhu-nityananda sri-advaita gadadhara srivasadi-gaura-bhakta-vrnda. This will make your life perfect.
Thank you very much.
Preparing for a Pilgrimage
by Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami
I AM PREPARING to go to Vrndavana for a pilgrimage. To travel thousands of miles to reach a holy place will take a lot of effort, and to live without the ease of home will take tolerance. The packing alone—the separating out the essential from the nonessential—makes me slow down and take stock of my life. Why am I going on this pilgrimage? I need to remind myself that there is no home in the material world. I need to remember how to use my time well, how to defer the invitation Maya offers at every second to slip into unconsciousness. I need to remember that Krsna is with me now, even in the West, even in my own little life.
Going on pilgrimage brings remembrance of Krsna. According to The Nectar of Devotion:
An unalloyed devotee who has developed ecstatic love for Krsna is always engaging his words in reciting prayers to the Lord. Within the mind he is always thinking of Krsna, and with his body he either offers obeisances by bowing down before the Deity or engages in some other service. During these ecstatic activities he sometimes sheds tears. In this way his whole life is engaged in the service of the Lord, with not a moment wasted on any other engagement.
Visiting the holy sites will allow me to immerse my thoughts in Krsna's pastimes and offer my obeisances to Him. It will release me from the day-to-day concerns that are background noise in my life. I will be able to move out of my plans for the future into the immediate present, where Krsna is with me now.
This is the essence of what I hope to achieve during this pilgrimage: to see Krsna's presence in the everyday. I want to spend each day learning to depend on Krsna, for this is how I can always be with Him. I should not need physical austerity or the objections of others to drive me to Krsna's shelter; I should be able to turn to Him in any situation simply because I love Him.
We can know Krsna in any situation, but we have to ask Him for His association. We do that by praying, by chanting His holy names, and by expressing to Him our heartfelt feelings. We also need the strong conviction that Krsna will give Himself to us. That is called asa-bandha, the mood of thinking, "Because I am trying my best to follow the routine principles of devotional service, I am sure that I will go back to Godhead, back to home."
Krsna consciousness simply means awakening to what is. Krsna wrote in His letter to the gopis that He is never apart from them. He told them not to doubt this existential fact. For us it is easier to realize Krsna's presence when we go on pilgrimage, especially to Vrndavana, where life is made difficult by the absence of familiar comforts.
* * *
I am writing this partly to forestall nervousness about going to the dhama, Vrndavana, Krsna's sacred abode. I can lose my spiritual conciousness just by worrying whether we will ever reach there. I can never have peace in my present material body and mind. Going to Vrndavana is not going to change that fact. Therefore, let me abide in Krsna by chanting Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
To arrive in Vrndavana is a great success. The dhama offers blessings to the pilgrim. But even the preparation and travel to get there is important. The pilgrim is always advancing—advancing toward surrender to the dhama and to Krsna. Lord Caitanya taught that while chanting we should think ourselves lower than a blade of grass and should be more tolerant than a tree. Then no one can obstruct us from our constant chanting. To truly approach the dhama we must enter this state of mind.
* * *
Also we have moved on from our campground in northern France and we are on our way. The internal journey is not a fragile state I will lose at someone's whimsical words. It doesn't depend on whether our plane connections go smoothly or I am surrounded by gentle friends or the prasadam is hot or the pen refills remembered. These are not what I depend on to practice Krsna consciousness.
I am going home. I will have to travel so far to recognize that my home is in Krsna and that Krsna is everywhere. I will have to travel so far to remember that the material world offers no home, no peace, no shelter, no comfort. Whatever comforts I am attached to serve only to strand me in a barren wasteland of godlessness. I will have to travel so far to see that home means chanting sixteen rounds and serving Srila Prabhupada, that home is not a place but a shelter in Krsna consciousness.
* * *
Special among holy places, Vrndavana is where Krsna chose to appear and perform His pastimes. Srila Prabhupada encouraged us to go to Vrndavana to add depth to our Krsna consciousness and bring home the reality of Krsna.
Devotees from around the world go to Vrndavana on pilgrimage. They go to increase their chanting and hearing and remembrance of Krsna, and to share their realizations with one another. The sincerity of purpose one finds in these devotees inspires one's own Krsna consciousness. As the Vedas state, there is no point in going on pilgrimage for relief from sins if one does not associate with saintly persons.
The chanting is our way to be with Krsna wherever we are in the world. And Vrndavana is the best place to go to realize this. In the Padma Purana the Lord says: "I am not in Vaikuntha or in the hearts of the yogis. I reside where My devotees glorify My activities."
So let me go to Vrndavana and chant in the association of my Godbrothers and Godsisters. Let me travel the thousand or so miles to find that Krsna has been with me all along. And let me realize while there that I have no home in the material world, no shelter, and no existence separate from what exists in the practice of Krsna consciousness.
Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami is the author of more than two dozen books, including a six-volume biography of Srila Prabhupada.
Cooking Class: Lesson 1
The Vaisnava Kitchen: Hands to Work, Hearts to God
by Yamuna Devi
ONE OF THE MOST MEMORABLE aspects of visiting a temple of Lord Krsna is sampling its renowned food—artful Indian vegetarian cuisine prepared and offered for the pleasure of the Deity. This food is distributed as prasadam, or the mercy of the Lord, and temple visitors who understand its spiritual value feel fortunate to sample even a little portion.
In India temple cooks are generally regarded as the country's finest chefs. Aspiring temple cooks apprentice from two to six years. Only at the end of the training is a student allowed to cook in the temple kitchen.
While mastery of technique is a prerequisite to culinary excellence, the more substantive merit of a Vaisnava chef—whether cooking in the temple or at home—is purity of the heart, mind, and senses. The standards for cooking at home differ from those in the temple kitchen, yet cleanliness and purity are essential wherever one cooks for the Lord. So I'm beginning this series of cooking classes by discussing external and internal cleanliness as they relate to cooking.
Cleanliness is invigorating and purifying. And it's catching. Cleanliness in the kitchen will filter into other rooms of your house.
Your first task is to clean the kitchen from floor to ceiling—every nook and cranny. Clean under the sink; then move on to each drawer, cupboard, and shelf. Thoroughly clean the refrigerator, freezer, oven, and stove. Scrub your utensils and pot bottoms until they sparkle. Wash the floors, counters, walls, and storage containers.
As far as possible, this is the way your kitchen should stay. To keep this standard, clean as you cook and avoid leaving clutter and messes while you work. If flour spills into a drawer, clean it before you move to another area.
Next, take a look at the organization in your kitchen. Unless you designed your kitchen, you probably want more countertop work space. It's likely there, but covered by decorative bric-a-brac, storage containers, and small appliances. Move these items elsewhere and clear your counters for working. Keep often-used equipment within easy reach, and less-used wares tucked in out-of-the-way spots.
Keep spices, oils, grains, and legumes in well-sealed containers and store them in a cool, dark area for the longest shelf life. Nuts and seeds will last twice as long when kept frozen in zip-lock bags. Sharpen the knives and treat yourself to a new cutting board if you need one.
I recently asked Brahmananda Dasa, one of Srila Prabhupada's first disciples, to recall what rules Prabhupada had given for internal purity in the kitchen.
He replied unhesitatingly, "Think of Krsna, chant Hare Krsna, and don't taste food while you cook it."
I then asked him how one should make cooking a meditation, or a devotional offering to the Lord.
He replied, "Simply remember that the food is for Krsna's pleasure."
To think of Krsna, you have to read about Him, discuss His teachings, and chant or sing His holy name, alone or in congregation. Try daily chanting the maha-mantra—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. While you clean the kitchen, for example, try chanting either in a monotone or to a melody.
Reading, discussing, and chanting the glories of the Lord is good for the mind, body, and heart. And for a Vaisnava cook, it is the recommended process for internal purification. It gives you insights on how best to please the Lord with your endeavors.
Srila Prabhupada established simple guidelines about kitchen standards in the 1960's through instructions and letters. To establish a Vaisnava kitchen in your home, adopt these attitudes and note the positive effects:
"The main thing is that whenever food is offered to the Lord, everything should be respectfully and cleanly presented and prepared."
"Place everything you have made for the Lord on a special plate and offer it with love and devotion. Think, 'Krsna, I have made this for You. Please take it.' "
"The Lord can eat as many times as you can offer ... He is neither hungry nor poor, nor unable to eat, but He accepts everything when such eatables are within the groups of vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, dairy, etc."
"Hands should be always washed when preparing prasadam, and in this way everything shall be prepared cleanly and purely."
"Smelling and tasting of foods being prepared for the Lord should never be done. Become familiar enough with your ingredients so you can calculate the desired outcome. Offer first, taste later."
* * *
The recipe this month is a drink for breaking a fast or for taking in the morning upon rising. Srila Prabhupada suggested it in April 1967 for the first ISKCON observation of Lord Caitanya's birthday—Gaura Purnima.
1 cup spring water
Whisk until blended. Serve at room temperature.
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.
Imitators of Life
by Sadaputa Dasa
Omni: "So then, aren't you artificial life guys playing God?"
THE DREAM OF CREATING LIFE is hard to resist. For many years, artificial intelligence seemed a sure way to this goal. Researchers at universities like MIT would regularly claim that within ten years computers would surpass humans in intelligence. But decades passed, and by the 1980's researchers widely conceded that these claims were a bit premature.
Then came artificial life. In 1987 a young scientist named Chris Langton, from Los Alamos National Laboratories, put together in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the first conference on artificial life. The essence of life, he said, is organization transforming by rules, so we can study life effectively through computer simulations. Conference speakers offered studies of computer-simulated "organisms" and "ecosystems." By the widely publicized second conference, in 1990, this new field of scientific study had lots of players.
Their idea was to aim for realistic goals and not have to backpedal like their colleagues in artificial intelligence. As artificial life advocate John Nagle put it, "We need to start low. Where do we get off trying for human-level capabilities when we can't even build an ant?" (2) Of course, ants are formidably complicated. As Nagle admitted, "We just don't know how ants work." (3)
Yet despite the humble start, artificial lifers seem confident that life will one day be embodied in silicon and freed from the constraints of carbon-based wetware. Then evolution will speed along, and human beings will have to confront their evolutionary successors.
At the second artificial life conference some speakers gleefully projected that this might occur within a hundred years. We should accept the inevitable, they said, and give up pride in our ephemeral human body. Others expressed reluctance, or even fear. The reasons for celebrating the replacement of human beings by machines, said conferee Michael Rosenberg, "need to be examined." (4)
The idea that humans may be replaced by superintelligent machines is an old one. So instead of trying to analyze the prospects for artificial life, let me relate some stories from past history. For this I turn to a treatise on machines in ancient India written by a Sanskritist named V. Raghavan. (5)
In Sanskrit a machine is called a yantra. As defined by the Samarangana Sutradhara of King Bhoja, in the twelfth century, a yantra is a device that "controls and directs, according to a plan, the motions of things that act each according to its own nature." (6) This is close to Langton's definition of life. And in ancient and medieval India mechanical imitations of life were something craftsmen in fact came up with.
Some of their automata were used for divertissements in royal pleasure palaces. These included birds that sang and danced, a dancing elephant, elaborate chronometers with moving ivory figures, and the gola, an astronomical instrument with moving planets. The machines were built from common materials in a readily understandable way: "Male and female figures are designed for various kinds of automatic service. Each part of these figures is made and fitted separately, with holes and pins, so that thighs, eyes, neck, hand, wrist, forearm, and fingers can act according to need. The material used is mainly wood, but a leather cover is given to complete the impression of a human being. The movements are managed by a system of poles, pins, and strings attached to rods controlling each limb. Looking into a mirror, playing a flute, and stretching out the hand to touch, give pan, sprinkle water, and make obeisance are the acts done by these figures." (7)
This all sounds quite believable, but other machines described may seem less so. These include robots capable of complex independent action.
Many stories in Indian literature tell of a yantra-purusa, or machine man, that can behave just like a human being. In the Buddhistic Bhaisajya-vastu, for example, a painter goes to the Yavana country and visits the home of a yantracarya, or teacher of mechanical engineering. There he meets a machine girl who washes his feet and seems human, until he finds that she cannot speak. (8) In another account, a robot palace guard stands at the gate with a sword, ready to "quickly and quietly kill thieves who break into the palace at night." (9) We even hear of a complete city of mechanical people, presided over by an Oz-like human king who manipulates them from a control center in his palace. (10)
These stories sound like mere products of the imagination, and quite likely this is just what they are. Once one sees a mechanical figure that imitates some human functions, it's easy to imagine robots with human or even superhuman capabilities. This is what modern advocates of artificial life or artificial intelligence are doing. But unlike the old Indian storytellers, they are seriously intent on convincing people that human beings are simply machines, awaiting replacement by superhuman machines in the future.
Ancient Indian thinkers compared the body to a machine. But they understood that a completely nonmaterial entity within the body—the jivatma—animates the body, endowing it with sentient behavior. The link between the jivatma and the body was understood to be the Paramatma, a portion of the Supreme that stays with each living being. Thus in Bhagavad-gita (18.61) Krsna says, "The Supreme Lord is situated in everyone's heart, O Arjuna, and is directing the wanderings of all living entities. They are seated in the body as on a machine [yantra], made of the material energy."
We can't resist mentioning that Raghavan, the authority on Indian yantras, finds the metaphor used in this verse regrettable. He laments that in other countries machines led to a materially focused civilization but in India they only reinforced the idea of God and spirit. Thus, "Even writers who actually dealt with the yantras, like Somadeva and Bhoja, saw in the machine operated by an agent an appropriate analogy for the mundane body and senses presided over by the soul." Or an alternative analogy: "the wonderful mechanism of the universe, with its constituent elements and planetary systems, requiring a divine master to keep it in constant revolution." (11)
In ancient India, people entertained ideas about advanced mechanical control systems quite different from our modern computerized devices. Let us examine some of these ideas to see if they have any relevance for modern technological thought.
It may come as no surprise that control systems in ancient India were used in military applications, where competition is always intense. In the battle between Krsna and Salva, for example, Salva's airplane, flown by Danava soldiers, suddenly became invisible. The technique for invisibility seems not to have blocked the transmission of sound, for the soldiers could still be heard screaming taunts and insults.
Krsna then dealt with them as follows: "I quickly laid on an arrow, which killed by seeking out sound, to kill them, and the screeching subsided. All the Danavas who had been screeching lay dead, killed by the blazing sunlike arrows that were triggered by sound." (12)
These arrows seem similar to modern missiles with infrared sensors and onboard microcomputers that seek out the heat of a jet engine. How did they work?
We can get some idea by considering the weapons used by Arjuna. He got these weapons from various devas, so they were known as celestial weapons. They worked through the action of subtly embodied living beings whom Arjuna could directly order from within his mind. Here is a description of how Arjuna prepared himself to use these weapons: "And seated on that excellent car with face turned to the east, the mighty-armed hero, purifying his body and concentrating his soul, recalled to his mind all his weapons. And all the weapons came, and addressing the royal son of Partha, said, 'We are here, O illustrious one. We are thy servants, O son of Indra.' And bowing unto them, Partha received them into his hands and replied unto them, saying, 'Dwell ye all in my memory.' " (13)
This suggests how the sound-seeking arrows could have worked. They could have been guided by sentient living beings linked to controllable mechanisms built into the arrows. This would mean that the arrows would be examples of artificial life. They would in effect be cyborgs, cybernetic organisms—a fusing of living organisms and machines. But unlike today's hypothetical cyborgs, they would have used features of life that go beyond the realm of gross matter.
According to Bhagavad-gita, the body of a living being consists of two components: the gross body, made of earth, water, fire, air, and ether, and the subtle body, made of mind, intelligence, and false ego. The three components of the subtle body are material elements finer than the gross matter we perceive with our ordinary senses. The jivatma interacts directly with the subtle body through the agency of the Paramatma. The subtle body in turn interacts with the gross body through ether, the finest of the gross elements.
If this is true, it should be possible to create a technology of artificial life that directly takes advantage of the properties of the subtle body and the jivatma. We suggest that this is the kind of technology used in the celestial weapons of Krsna and Arjuna. Just as modern computers make cam-and-gearwheel devices old-fashioned, this Vedic technology would leave silicon chips in the dust. Once developed, it would render gross physical technology—with its imagined super-human robots—obsolete.
1. Christopher Langton, "Interview," Omni, Oct., 1991, p. 134.
2. John Nagle, "Animation, Artificial Life, and Artificial Intelligence from the Bottom, or Some Things to Do with 100 to 1000 MIPS," submitted to the Second Conference on Artificial Life, Feb., 1990, p. 4.
4. Michael Rosenberg, "Future Imbalance between Man and Machine," submitted to the Second Conference on Artificial Life, Feb., 1990, abstract.
5. Raghavan, V., 1956, "Yantras or Mechanical Contrivances in Ancient India," Transaction No. 10, Bangalore: The Indian Institute of Culture.
6. Ibid., p. 21.
7. Ibid., p. 25.
8. Ibid., p. 5.
9. Ibid., p. 26.
10. Ibid., p. 19.
11. Ibid., p. 32.
12. van Buitenen, J.A.B., trans., 1975, The Mahabharata, Books 2 and 3, Chicago: The Univ. of Chicago Press, p. 264.
13. Ganguli, K.M., trans., 1976, The Mahabharata, Vol. IV, New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd., p. 78.
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.
A true story by Ravindra Svarupa Dasa
PART II: THE JOURNEY
ONLY LAST NIGHT I had been led across a Delhi rooftop to a small candlelit room filled with ancient books and burnished yantras. There Panditji, the astrologer and seer, had by his occult art pierced the veil of the future and seen a wonder arise, a marvel born from—of all things (I feel compelled to add)—the 1990 meeting of the Governing Body Commission of ISKCON. Toward that very meeting I was now making my way, an embarkation commemorated by the blaze and bake of noon, the shrieking and shaking of jet-tortured air, the reek of kerosene.
At that meeting-to-come, Panditji had prophesied, ISKCON's governors would unite in a newfound harmony of purpose. Out of that spirit would be assembled something Panditji had called "the dharma-cakra of ISKCON"; thenceforward, through the operation of this "wheel of dharma," the Hare Krsna movement would manifest world-transforming power. Panditji went so far as to specify an exact date, March 7, for the completion of the dharma-cakra. A marvel, a world-historical marvel, would be born.
It had been a memorable night, but already it seemed far remote, already swallowed up in the dark backward and abysm of time. As I worked my way through the gritty marble halls of the New Delhi airport, the very drag of my baggage, heavy with GBC paperwork, exorcized all prophecy and visions and marvels. That morning in sullen resignation I had reviewed my files: pounds of proposals, reports, complaints, projects in progress—pounds of paper that now condemned me to the overweight luggage line. There I had leisure to ponder this fact: I had enlisted in the Hare Krsna movement to become a mystic, a visionary, a saint; now, two decades later, I found myself a religious functionary, an ecclesiastical bureaucrat engaged chiefly in what Max Weber, the renowned German sociologist of religion, had called "the routinization of charisma."
Are wonders born of committees? I thought not.
Waiting in line, I realized that my discontent sprang from a refusal of duty. Although last night's prophecy had cast the coming assembly in a dramatic and glamorous light—endowing it with legendary or mythic proportions—I knew from experience that the reality would be different. An annual GBC meeting was an unrelieved three-week ordeal that could leave one mentally, emotionally, even spiritually exhausted, and I shrank from it.
But now, I told myself, it was time to surrender. The meeting taking shape in the womb of the future, the present stalled queue I was stranded in, the great glacial shifts of civilizations carrying us insensibly along—all of it played in concert, being orchestrated and conducted by Krsna to His end.
Let me just be His willing instrument. I needed to seize, without shirking, the myriad nettlesome details forever springing up, attend steadily to the mundane, unglamorous tasks and worries of a worldwide institution. That was my job. So I became wary of dwelling on Panditji's prophecy; it presented a temptation to escape into romanticism or historical melodrama. The nuts and bolts of the daily grind required my dedicated attention, and it was wrong for me to devalue them. In divine service, even parliamentary procedure becomes sanctified.
In the departure lounge other members of the GBC were waiting, all converging toward our gathering place on the Ganges. As we began to talk easily of topics to come up, the lounge slowly filled, our departure time came and went. We talked and waited, and time passed.
Finally, as the sky outside turned smoky with evening, we heard angry yelling erupt in the lounge. A group of gesticulating, screaming businessmen had closed in around a frightened-looking man with shoulder boards on his white shirt, a walkie-talkie clenched in his fist. As the protestors pressed forward, the man kept falling back, so that the maelstrom of agitation slowly traversed the width of the lounge, reached the far wall, and drifted back again, gaining in size and volume all the time. Then the man in the center somehow managed to disappear, and his tormentors dispersed, muttering angrily. I asked several who passed nearby what was going on, but they ignored me. Then the man in shoulder boards was back, and a larger, more voluble and violent mob collected around him. As their fury reached a new high, the berators switched to English to better convey their contempt and outrage: colonialism's legacy kept English the preferred language of abuse. Again the mob drifted through the lounge, someone yelling over and over, "You are treating us just like urchins! You are treating us just like urchins!"
In time a plane was produced. In the U.S. I had become used to ancient DC-9's, but here we boarded a dazzling, brand-new, state-of-the-art Airbus 320—a plane that just then happened to be much in the news. Three days before, one of them had plowed into the ground in Bangalore, killing 89. Indeed, after belting in, I opened the International Herald Tribune just to encounter an account of this event; it held me fascinated as I waited helplessly for takeoff. I read that a controversy raged over Indian Airlines' decision to acquire a fleet of the high-tech aircraft. Experts thought the plane far too complex to be properly maintained in India; its electronics had already proven vulnerable to the heat, the dust, the monsoon rains. Its pilots had threatened not to fly it; its engineers had gone on strike for more training. I was not reassured, therefore, to discover, as we taxied toward the flight line, that the signs and lights on the right side of the cabin were dead and the P.A. system stuttered unintelligibly while a succession of baffled flight attendants took turns punching futilely at a control panel all aglitter with little green and red lights.
This went on through the whole flight. Watching the staff in their frustration and bewilderment, I became preternaturally aware of the humming and ticking of all the ingenious complications of electronics and machinery around me—and of all the human machinery of neurons and muscle—the network of millions of tiny happenings that had to go on just so at every moment to keep our aircraft poised over thirty thousand feet of emptiness. It had to be a miracle. In the same way, the sustained order of the world, the ever-working intricacies of interlocking cosmic machinery, of which this flying plane was one tiny, fragile subsystem, required a constant supervisory sustaining force, required a vast and continuous intelligent intervention—a constant miracle, in fact—to keep going, to keep from crashing instantly into chaos. That vast active living intelligence bore us up at every moment. It sustained the flying aircraft, the orbiting earth, the floating universes. That same intelligence, for all its immensity, could speak to us intimately from within our hearts: friendly, trustworthy, and directly approachable. When you knew that, saw that, then there was no fear. I watched an ignorant flight attendant pound on the beautiful control panel with the heel of her hand; and still the plane flew.
After touching down in Calcutta, the plane taxied far too long in the darkness, with no sight of terminal lights swinging into view through the windows. We stopped in pitch blackness. An announcement: while aloft our flight had received a bomb threat and had parked far from the terminal as a precaution. We were to remain calm, gather our belongings, stand in the aisles and, when the stairs were brought up, exit in a swift but orderly manner. The passengers stood for twenty minutes, joking nervously, before the doors cracked open and the humid night air of Bengal swept in.
The ordeal was not over. Buses took us on a long ride to the terminal, but our baggage didn't follow. After two hours of hearing porters and guards respond to all interrogations with "just now coming," a group of passengers in a very ugly mood began storming airport offices, looking for someone in charge. There was no one to be found. Things were getting tense. Guards nervously shifted their rifles. But finally we were put back aboard the buses and driven to where our Airbus stood like a monument, glowing brilliantly within a circle of floodlights. Groping in the pitch dark outside, I was at last able to retrieve my overweight luggage.
In the morning I set out by car on the last leg of my journey. This was a final three-hour obstacle course running north into the remote hinterlands over a narrow asphalt road, squeezed hard on both sides by a dusty, noisy clutter of shops and workplaces set among plant life spectacularly erupting in fountains, sprays, and cascades. The great rulers of this little roadway were the lorries that crowded both lanes. Adroitly darting and dodging in and out among them, my driver pounded the horn in strict obedience to the injunction posted in fancy script across each lorry tailgate: "HORN PLEASE!"
The lorries themselves were often works of art, sanctifed with images of Krsna, Siva, Durga, or Kali, decorated with baroque floral designs of lotus and tulasi, protected with painted eyes and swastikas. But they were just as often dangerously overloaded, sagging and listing on their flattened springs, with the huge tarp-covered cargo ballooning far up and out beyond the sides, like monstrous mobile bread loafs.
Frequently we passed the scorched and mangled remains of horrendous accidents, so plentiful in some stretches as to make it seem as if the spearhead of a blitzkrieg had just battled its way up the road. We ourselves pressed forward in an unrelieved succession of what seemed to me near misses and hair-breadth escapes; I soon got used to it, and the little jots of adrenalin knocking my body tapered off and stopped.
In truth, I liked this ride. Everything heralded arrival. When finally the country began to open itself into wide eye-soothing panoramas of green, I recognized in myself the growing impatience of homecoming. Travel means travail, but arrival makes it worthwhile if you are coming home.
And why should I be thinking of Mayapur as home? I had never lived there. Wondering about that, I kept scanning the road and fields for landmarks.
Mayapur was the center, the hub of the sankirtana movement, and I realized that wherever in the world I dwelt or traveled, an invisible line, a mystic cord of memory, stretched back from me to Mayapur.
In some interior spiritual geography of mine, Mayapur was fixed at the center of the world, even though it was apparently so remote, so isolated from the world's traffic, so lost among the endless fields of green. Yet from this place five centuries ago Lord Caitanya had sent out His sankirtana party, His preachers and chanters, with a prophecy: "One day My name will be chanted in every town and village of the world." And so in 1969, in Philadelphia—a good stretch in space and time—I had encountered Krsna's new American devotees chanting on a windy sidewalk.
I thought about that encounter: A single sight of devotees—their robes and tilaka and shaven heads and drums and cymbals and dancing and chanting—and I was struck by an intellectual lightning bolt, seized by the sudden and certain knowledge—almost a revelation—that the world would never again be the same, that everything was utterly changed. Disguised to myself at that time as a graduate student in religious studies, I had become a researcher into the terminal spiritual agony of Western civilization. Now I had been shown a critical clue: Missionaries from India, offering a radically different culture, were able to find a niche in the West's spiritual ecology. Only a vast cultural shift could have made that possible, a shift on the scale of the Renaissance or Industrial Revolution. It had begun, and it would transform everything.
In a flash, I had seen the future, but details had escaped me: I hardly foresaw that two years later I would be robed and shaven and chanting in the streets myself. A radial line had gone out from Mayapur to Philadelphia; it had touched me, connected me, and in time it led me back to the hub.
That first journey was remarkable. Having acquired land at Mayapur and started construction on a large building—the first in what would be a spiritual city—Prabhupada ordered in 1974 the first of the worldwide annual pilgrimages to Mayapur at Gaura Purnima, the day of Lord Caitanya's appearance. Every year from then on, Prabhupada said, devotees from all over the world would gather for a festival, and at the same time the Governing Body Commission would hold its single annual meeting to plan the course of the movement for the following year. The influence of the holy place and time, Prabhupada said, would purify the deliberations and decisions of the GBC and keep it on track.
I remembered that first pilgrimage—how we camped among cement bags and stacks of lumber, grew weak and thin from diarrhea. But tired and sick we found strength to go every day on parikrama, chanting and dancing, to the holy sites. It was a landmark occasion. In the last century, Bhaktivinoda Thakura had revived Lord Caitanya's movement, infusing it with preaching power, and had predicted that the day would come when devotees from all countries would coverge in Mayapur and chant "Jaya Sacinandana! Jaya Sacinandana!" And so we did.
On one bright day, a flotilla of wooden boats, wallowing heavily, gunwales dipping in the water, their decks packed with standing devotees, brought us to the far bank of the Jalangi, where the house and samadhi tomb of Bhaktivinoda Thakura stood. For some time we sat on the outdoor cement platform before the samadhi, gazing at his statue while a devotee sang Bhaktivinoda Thakura's sweet Bengali songs. I was surprised then by bliss, being filled, for no reason, by a feeling of peace and security beyond measure. It was as if a cool breeze were blowing from Vaikuntha, the spiritual world, banishing the anxiety of material existence.
This sensation grew more powerful. I became aware then of the presence of some vast paternal spirit: peaceful, powerful, and infinitely caring. He gathered us under the embrace of his arm. I was so happy the hair on the back of my neck was standing up. I looked at the samadhi and recognized the presence I felt so powerfully. In fulfillment of the prophecy of Bhaktivinoda Thakura we had traveled to this place, and he had come out to greet us. We were all in his personal presence. I looked at the devotee next to me. He was radiant. "Isn't this amazing?" I said. "Yes," he answered happily.
Remembering this, I eagerly watched familiar places going by, and finally I saw the huge white dome of Srila Prabhupada's samadhi rise above the tree line to command the horizon. I had arrived at the center, come back home.
Panditji's prophecy came into my mind. Although I had tried to put it aside, it seemed to have loitered in the wings, casting its peculiar spell. I realized I had been instinctively scrutinizing the scenes and incidents of my journey for some omens, some signs, some hidden indications. The clear indication was—everywhere—Krsna: now hidden, now manifest, always present, always working.
Now, against all odds, Krsna had brought me to Mayapur, and Mayapur was on record as a place where prophecies were fulfilled and miracles took place. Srila Prabhupada wanted us to meet here for very good reason. Who could tell what would happen?
(concluded in the next issue)
Ravindra Svarupa Dasa, ISKCON's Governing Body Commissioner for the U.S. mid-Atlantic region, lives at the Philadelphia temple, where he joined ISKCON in 1971. He holds a Ph.D. in religion from Temple University.
An Alternative to Nondevotional Schooling
by Sri Rama Dasa
HUNDREDS of Krsna conscious centers now dot the world, and sincere devotees live in thousands of other communities. Still, ISKCON has only about thirty schools for all its children. In previous columns, I've talked about some of the reasons for our slow development in education, as well as plans for growth. But talk of the future does little for parents who must address the need for Krsna conscious schooling today.
Many parents have given up hope of finding a Krsna conscious school for their children and are sending them to nondevotee schools. Judging from letters I receive, quite a few parents find this solution unsatisfying. I don't blame them.
Here's the biggest secret in the teaching world: The main purpose of education is not to give students knowledge and skills—it's to put across to the next generation the culture and values of this one.
That's why the values and character of the teacher are all-important. In devotional service, association is everything. Lord Caitanya advised devotees to avoid the association of nondevotees. How then can we neglect applying that instruction to our children? Every devotee child has the right to be educated by another devotee. Our duty as parents is to give them that chance.
Till we pull together a well-developed ISKCON school system, an increasingly popular alternative is home education.
Who should try home education?
Home schooling is for parents who want to take direct responsibility for their child's education. The decision often comes down to this: "There's no Krsna conscious school nearby, and I can't bear sending my child to a school with nonspiritual values. So I'll teach my kids myself." If you're willing to take the steps needed, you can do a good job of teaching—and comply with local laws.
But since most of us were educated in institutions, home education paradoxically seems foreign to us. Here are a few concerns, along with some short answers:
"I don't have the time."
You'll have to sacrifice some time. Raising children always takes time and effort. But a good teaching program need not monopolize your time. You can organize teaching to fit your schedule. Parents in the same community may even team up and share the teaching.
"I don't have the money."
What you'll need for home schooling costs less than sending your child to a private school (including most ISKCON schools). Of course, nothing is as cheap as a "free" public school. But there you pay by losing control of your child's educational destiny. (British readers: What you call a "public school" is what Americans call a "private school.")
"I'm not competent."
Many packaged home-school curriculums are designed for inexperienced parents. In the beginning, most parents should probably use one of these. After a few years of experience, you'll feel confident enough to be more flexible. Don't be afraid to ask help from those who've been doing home schooling longer.
"I want my child to get a quality education."
A real "quality education" is one that helps your child develop spiritual values and strength of character. It's one that helps your child become Krsna conscious and free from material existence. Apart from that, many home programs are accredited. With some planning and diligence, your child can go on to any program of higher education.
Where to go from here?
Dozens of home-school packages are available, and so are specialized magazines and resource books. Organizations for home-schooling parents exist in many states and countries. For a listing of these resources, along with other helpful information on the subject, please send $3.00 for our bulletin called Home Education Basics.
Sri Rama Dasa, Chairman
"I'm Not This Green Hair"
by Bhakta Vic 108
I publish a "fanzine" called Enquirer—subculture stuff. This, along with being in the bands Shelter and 108, has rewarded me with a flood of mail—questions about Krsna, appreciation of Him, and a few reports on my crass stupidity. Recently there's been a new brand of letter: kids telling me of their own ecstatic experiences. Here are two of my favorites, followed by a letter about questioning Krsna consciousness.
When I was in Florida visiting my parents, I went to your show in Palm Bay, with Zero Tolerance, Edgewise, and Greenday. I bought the Enquirer #5 from you.
Maybe you remember who I was. I had green and yellow hair in braids and my nose was pierced in the middle. Although I kind of think that, in a way, all this body piercing and hair dying is a waste, I also like the way it looks and whatnot. But get this...
I was on the city bus the other day, and this old woman started to go off on me, telling me I was ugly, and an eyesore, and stuff. In any event I would have been polite, no matter how irritated I was, because I feel that these people don't understand and there is no reason to get angry.
Well, I politely told her, "How can you know I'm ugly when you don't even know me."
She said she could see that I was ugly.
So I told her that I was not this body, that I was the spirit/soul, and that she shouldn't judge me by my looks.
She said that I was right and she was very impressed by my knowledge! And imagine, without the Enquirer I would have just sat there without that knowledge!
Keep up the good work.
Hare Krishna! I was sitting in class the other day, and we were having an in-depth conversation on equality and racism. My class is pretty small, and we get involved in discussions fairly well. Everyone was expressing their ideas and theories, back and forth, back and forth. My teacher was about to express her ideas on the matter when I raised my hand. She said, "OK, Chrissy, what do you feel about this?"
I told my class what I had learned about the soul from your examples [she'd just read a pamphlet we put out called The Core of Equality]. All of a sudden our raucous class fell silent. I heard people whispering to their neighbors, "Wow, that was deep." My teacher, who has a Masters in sociology, looked at me and said, "I'm not gonna even bother saying what I wanted to say now. Nothing I could say would express my feelings so clearly as the way you did."
I told them I couldn't take the credit for this myself. I told them about my involvement in Krishna consciousness. Well, this idea was revolutionary, because I go to a Catholic school.
I met you and the rest of the band at the Unicorn show here about three weeks ago. I just finished reading the fanzine I got at the show and now I have a lot of questions about the Krishna religion and the band. [Among them:] Do you ever question your feelings toward the Krishna religion?
Genella (Gene) Taylor
Do I ever question my feelings towards Krsna consciousness? Yes. The more questioning the better. Sincere devotees are always questioning. Questioning what? Mainly their own motives for doing what they do.
Srila Prabhupada describes doubt as a symptom of healthy intelligence. Naturally in the beginning of your involvement with Krsna consciousness you have doubts. These doubts shouldn't be frowned on or suppressed. They should be brought out in the open and put before others who can help solve them.
Krsna consciousness is a lot more than a set of feelings or beliefs; it's a spiritual science. Science means that you can verify the theory by your own direct experience. It's not blind faith—"Hold your breath and hope; you'll find out when you die." It's not like that. You verify the faith, in this life.
Faith can be either blind or reasonable. Krsna consciousness grows from reasonable faith and scorns blind faith.
Here's an example of reasonable faith: You have every reason to believe that Hong Kong exists. You may never have been there, but you have faith that it exists. And you have good reason to—you've seen pictures of Hong Kong, you've read about it in the newspapers, you've talked to people who've been there, and so on. It's reasonable faith. It's not sentiment.
Reasonable faith in Krsna consciousness increases as you make progress. It's just like if I gave you directions to get from Brown Deer to Washington, D.C. "Go south till you see the 7-Eleven, then make a left. Soon you'll see Freeway X. Get on it. Drive till you see a big red house just past the Maryland border... "
At first you may be a little skeptical. But you trust me enough to give it a try. You get out on the road, going south. Hey, there's the 7-Eleven! You feel more confident. Your faith increases. You go a little further. Sure enough, there's Freeway X. Now it's reasonable for you to have more faith in my directions, and eventually, when you get to D.C., your doubts are gone.
The same thing happens in Krsna consciousness. We have a road map for getting back to our original spiritual consciousness. And the landmarks along the way are elaborately described. As you go along, you find these landmarks, and your faith solidifies more and more. Gradually, doubts diminish, being answered. Finally, in the fully mature stages of Krsna consciousness, they disappear altogether.
Bhakta Vic 108 joined the Hare Krsna movement about two years ago. He and his band are based at ISKCON's Washington, D.C., temple.
The Origins of Cow-Killing Economics
by Hare Krsna Devi Dasi
STARTING AROUND 1840, American farming became increasingly centralized. Replacing oxen with horses freed people to move to the cities to work in factories. And the new city dwellers became consumers for the products they'd once grown.
The village miller with his ox-powered grist mill gave way to automated mills in large Midwestern cities. As the mills of the Midwest began selling wastes back to farmers to feed animals meant for meat, the mills and grain companies grew still larger and richer. Grain prices became something for Chicago investors to gamble on. (1)
Better steel-making helped the railroads develop, and refrigerated railroad cars helped great slaughterhouses develop in places like Chicago, St. Louis, and Kansas City. As the twentieth century began, profits from cow slaughter surged. Meat-packers shipped millions of pounds of beef products being exported to Europe. (2) But the biggest force for cow slaughter was yet to arrive—the tractor.
The first big push for the tractor came during World War I when U.S. farmers shipped more than 1.5 million draft animals to Europe for the military. To buy tractors to replace these animals, the farmers took out big loans, risking their land in the process. Within the next two decades, "Gasoline had replaced oats as the main 'fuel' used in agricultural operations, freeing millions more acres of grainlands for cash food crops." (4)
Boosting yields with chemical fertilizers and hybrids, farmers began using more land to grow grain for cash. Grain output shot up fifty percent or more. What to do with all that grain?
The ready availability of a seemingly inexhaustible supply of cheap corn helped to make the United States a nation of steak eaters.... These steers were truly 'hides stuffed with corn.' In a sense, this was and is a wasteful use of grain.... But America had lots of grain, and a food system grew up that made it possible—even economically necessary—to run as much grain as possible through livestock. (5)
But American farmers were still turning out more grain than America or the export markets could absorb. When this made grain prices drop, the U.S. Department of Agriculture was stuck: it had to pay huge subsidies to bail out farmers—and then pay to store the excess grain. Meanwhile, grain firms saw profits dwindling. What could be done?
To strategists at the USDA, [and] Cargill and Continental [two multi-national grain firms], the solution to the surplus problem was self-evident. It was to get people in other countries to eat the way Americans did. A global economy in which millions of rice-eaters in Asia were converted to wheat bread was one that absorbed some of the perennial U.S. wheat surpluses. And a food system in which affluent countries bought billions of dollars of U.S. corn and soybeans to feed their beef, hogs, and poultry every year was one that helped the American balance of payments and trade. (6)
In 1954 the U.S. passed a bill, Public Law 480, to get rid of excess grain by turning it into foreign aid. Under P.L. 480, Uncle Sam offered selected countries long-term, low-interest loans with which to buy grain. In many developing countries, this started people eating American wheat instead of locally grown rice and millet.
In newly industrialized countries, grain from P.L. 480 put meat on middle-class plates.
By 1956, under P.L. 480 America exported half of its output of 295 million bushels of feed grains. (7) And after 1962, Europe's Common Agricultural Policy shielded European Community farmers, so about the only grains America could profitably sell in the EC were feed grains, especially soybeans.
So feed grains took over from food grains. "Livestock rather than people became the main market for American grain, and soybeans and corn ranked with jet aircraft and computers as the country's major exports." (8)
Outside America, as people's incomes rose, they wanted more meat. "Between the late 1950's and 1983, total world meat production (by volume) increased about two and a half times." (9) Slightly more than half the increase came from poultry and pig meat, but clearly the goal was to eat like Americans—and this meant eat beef.
Srila Prabhupada notes, "Modern civilization is centered on animal killing." (10) History, in fact, shows a grim picture: the sacred cow killed for the sacred dollar.
In the short term, the U.S.D.A. and the large grain companies seemed to have solved their problems. Once again big money could be made selling grain. But long term the effects were disastrous, as we shall discuss in the next article of this series.
1. Robert West Howard, The Vanishing Land (Villard Books, 1985), p. 129.
2. John Schlebecker, Whereby We Thrive (Iowa State University Press, 1975), pp. 80-81, 157-158.
3. Howard, op cit, p. 159-160.
4. Dan Morgan, Merchants of Grain (Viking Press, 1979), p. 98.
5. Ibid., p. 99.
6. Ibid., p. 99.
7. Harry Fornari, Bread Upon the Waters (Aurora Publishers, Inc., 1973), p. 118.
8. Morgan, op. cit., p. 139.
9. Phillip Raikes (Catholic Institute for International Relations, 1988), p. 128.
10. Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.27.11, purport.
Hare Krsna Devi Dasi has been involved in ISKCON since 1978. She spent several years on the Gita Nagari farm in Pennsylvania. She now lives in Maine, where you can write to her c/o The Ox Power Alternative Energy Club, 9B Stetson St., Brunswick, ME 04011.
Bhakti-yoga at Home
Dealing with Bad Association at Work
By Rohininandana Dasa
SOMETIMES PEOPLE THINK, "It's all well for the devotees who live in the temple. They don't have to spend all day with nondevotees. But I've got my job and a house to run. It's hard to keep up my spiritual practices and feel enlivened about Krsna consciousness."
Those of us in this position need to ask ourselves, "So what do I want? Do I want to be Krsna conscious or not?" Rough roads never discourage determined travelers. And if Krsna consciousness is actually spiritual, how can anything material stand in the way? "If I want to serve Krsna," we can think, "surely I'll be able to, whatever the circumstances. Arjuna attained perfection by serving Krsna even on a battlefield."
So we can progress in Krsna consciousness, even if we have to work in materialistic association. But we shouldn't be reckless. We're affected by the company we keep. Materialistic consciousness is a spiritual sickness. If I associate intimately with a diseased person, there's every chance I'll catch the disease. But if my own health is strong and I don't get too close, I'm unlikely to be affected. And even if the disease is highly contagious, if I've been inoculated against it I should be OK.
The practices of Krsna consciousness inoculate us against material consciousness. And we can easily implement these practices. We can come at once to the spiritual platform simply by chanting Hare Krsna or taking prasadam. We may not have the special opportunity to be "hospitalized" in a temple, but we can still conscientiously take our spiritual medicine and get the same benefit. As a good diet, clean habits, a peaceful mind, and regular exercise promote physical health, so a combination of prasadam, chanting, prayer, scriptural reading, and other spiritual practices promote our spiritual health.
Despite our daily inoculation and our determination to be Krsna conscious, we may still find our work a spiritual drain—the stream of endless talk that goes nowhere, the sound system pumping out "sense enjoyable tidings of the flickering mundane world," the salacious pictures spread on the walls, the cigarette smoke, the canteen, the general tedium, the arduous journey to and from work.
Can I change any of this by adding Krsna consciousness? A little touch of Krsna works wonders, like putting a one in front of a line of zeros. Can I talk about Krsna or about His opinions and so add a spiritual dimension to conversations? Can I distribute books to my colleagues? Can I add some transcendental tapes to the repertoire? Can I put up devotional pictures for my sore eyes? Can I campaign for a smoke-free zone around my work area? Or a more wholesome choice at the canteen? Or how about forming a Krsna conscious study group?
If I'm not in a position to be so assertive, there are still many things I can do.
The Isopanisad advises us to study the material and the spiritual side by side. In the morning we can study the scriptures, and during the day we can see how the teachings apply. We can consider how, by Lord Krsna's mercy, our values have changed. Now we see material life as an abnormal condition. Having to hear useless talk may be a bore and a drain, but it can also solidify our conviction about Krsna consciousness. If we're fixed in the truth, even though surrounded by untruth we'll be untouched by it, just as the lotus is untouched by the water.
We can further enhance our Krsna consciousness by taking a Bhagavatam or Gita to work, by going for lunchtime walks to chant on our beads, or by listening to tapes or reading as we travel to and from work.
When we try to share the happiness and freedom of Krsna consciousness with the people we work with, we should remember that our lives more than our speech will attract them.
Often people who know nothing about Krsna make tremendous spiritual advancement by their dealings with a devotee. Our sincerity and the strength of our spiritual practice will enable us to help others, no matter how unfavorable the external conditions.
We can reach people at work in other ways besides our speech and personal example. We shouldn't forget or underestimate the power of prasadam. An irate government official in South Africa was once about to deport a foreign Hare Krsna devotee, but he changed his mind while eating a Simply Wonderful—a sweet that had been offered to Krsna. In the Caitanya-caritamrta, Srila Prabhupada writes that prasadam has the power to turn even demons into devotees.
It's easy to distribute prasadam to people wary of evangelistic fervor. We can take biscuits for the tea break, remember birthdays with a prasadam cake, or make pies at Christmas. We can offer our garden produce to Krsna and give it to friends at work.
We're pioneers breaking new ground. We're trying to introduce a spiritual culture in a society where spirituality has largely been lost. It's not surprising there will be difficulties. A sign that our spiritual culture is beginning to take root is that we're discovering ways to maintain and nurture Krsna consciousness in our own lives. If we can't, or rather won't, do it, how can we expect anyone else to?
As the Krsna conscious culture spreads, people will practice devotional service in hundreds and thousands of homes. Only time and perhaps our own timidity separate us from such a happy society.
One hundred years ago, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura yearned for the day when people from all classes, countries, and creeds would come together at the holy city of Mayapur under the banner of Lord Caitanya and chant the holy names. We can share in his vision, and we can work and hope for such an enlightened future in our own hometown.
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.
Devoted pilgrims travel hundreds of kilometers and wait all night to see their Lord for a few moments.
by Lokanath Swami
THROUGHOUT the provinces of India, the Supreme Lord is worshiped in various forms. In Andhra Pradesh He appears as Tirupati Balaji, in Kerala as Guruvayurappan, in Karnataka as the beautiful Udupi Krsna, in Gujarat as Dvarakadhisa and Ranacora Raya. And in Pandharpur, the spiritual capital of Maharashtra, the Lord is worshiped as Sri Vitthala. His devotees also fondly call Him Vithobha or Panduranga.
Pandharpur Dhama is located about four hundred kilometers southeast of Bombay. Some call it Bhu-vaikuntha, "the spiritual world on earth." Others call it Daksina Dvaraka, the Dvaraka of the South. The town is located on the western bank of the river Bhima. Because of the way the river bends as it reaches Pandharpur, it is known there as the Candrabhaga ("crescent moon"). For the devotees of Vitthala, this river is as holy as the Ganges.
Along the riverbank are fourteen ghatas, or bathing places. The main one is Maha Dvara Ghata. The short street that links this ghata to the eastern gate of the Vitthala temple is lined with shops and stalls selling tulasi, flower garlands, coconuts, incense, and sweets, all to offer to the Lord.
Temple and Deity Worship
The black stone temple hosts the five-thousand-year-old self-manifested Deity of Lord Vitthala. As one enters through the main door, one sees a deity of Sri Ganesa, to whom the Vitthala devotees pray to remove all obstacles to their worship.
Across the courtyard, up a few steps, one enters the darsana-mandapa, the hall where one can see the Lord. To proceed to the Deity room, visitors queue up through corridors built alongside the walls. Flanking the entrance of the Deity room are huge four-armed statues of Jaya and Vijaya, the doorkeepers of Vaikuntha, the spiritual world.
The slightly smiling, blackish-complexioned Deity of Sri Vitthala is three and a half feet tall. He stands on a brick, His hands resting on His hips. This posture reflects His pastimes in Pandharpur.
The Padma Purana and the Skanda Purana briefly describe why the Lord journeyed to Pandharpur and why He stays there in this form.
Once Srimati Radharani, Lord Krsna's consort in the village of Vrndavana, visited Dvaraka, where Lord Krsna lived as a king. At that time, Rukmini Devi, Lord Krsna's queen, noticed that Krsna was dealing more intimately with Radharani than He had ever done with her. Upset, she departed for the forest of Dindirvana, near Pandharpur.
Lord Krsna followed Rukmini to apologize, but His apology left her unmoved. So the Lord moved on to Pandharpur to visit one of His devotees, Bhakta Pundarika, now popularly known in Maharashtra as Pundalika.
When the Lord reached Pundarika's asrama, Pundarika was serving his elderly parents. So Pundarika gave the Lord a seat of brick and asked the Lord to wait. The Lord did as told. He stood, lotus hands on His hips, waiting for Pundarika to return.
While He was waiting, Rukmini, having forgotten her distress, came from Dindirvana and rejoined Him. Both of Them stayed in Pandharpur in Deity form. To this day the Lord stands on the same brick, but now He's waiting for all His devotees to come see Him.
While waiting, the Lord seems to tell the devotees, "Do not fear. For those who have surrendered unto Me, I have reduced the depth of the ocean of material suffering. See, it is only this deep."
He indicates the shallowness of the ocean by placing His hands on His hips.
Elegantly dressed in yellow and other colors, Lord Vitthala wears around His neck a vaijayanti garland and tulasi, whose aroma permeates the darsana hall and the surrounding area. His right hand holds a lotus flower and His left a conchshell. On His chest He bears the mark of Bhrgu's foot. His ears are decorated with shark-shaped earrings, and on His forehead beneath His crown is a broad mark of tilaka. The Lord's smile irresistibly enchants His devotees. Each pilgrim who approaches Him gets a glimpse of His peaceful smiling face and considers this the perfection of life.
The worship of Lord Vitthala begins with the mangala-arati ceremony at four o'clock in the morning. After arati the Lord is offered pancabhiseka, a bath with milk, yogurt, ghee, honey, and sugar water. At some point the bathing is interrupted so that the Lord may be fed butter mixed with sugar candy. A big lump of butter is literally put into His mouth. Then a short arati is offered, and the bathing resumes. After the bath, the Lord is meticulously dressed and profusely garlanded. Finally, He is offered a mirror in which to view His appearance.
As a token of His merciful nature, Lord Vitthala allows everyone to watch His bathing ceremony. After this the crowds, till then restrained along the walls of the darsana hall, are let into the sanctum sanctorum.
Daily, thousands of devoted pilgrims take darsana (seeing of the Lord). It is also the unique tradition in Pandharpur that everyone can go up to the altar and touch the lotus feet of the Deity. Some pilgrims even rest their heads upon His feet. But one has to move on quickly.
After taking darsana, pilgrims re-enter the darsana hall. Looking back, they get a last glimpse of the Lord's attractive form. In the buzzing atmosphere of the darsana hall they fall flat on the floor, offering obeisances. Then, holding each ear with the hand across from it, they turn about, springing up and down on the same spot, begging the Lord to forgive any offenses they may have committed at His lotus feet.
One of the pillars of the hall—the Garuda Stambha—represents Garuda, the eagle who serves as the carrier of Lord Visnu. Pilgrims embrace the pillar, with the prayer that toward the end of life Garuda will carry them back to Vaikuntha.
On the way out of the darsana hall, one sees hanging from the ceiling the famous eight prayers known as Pandurangastakam, composed by the acarya Sankara during his visit to Pandharpur in the eighth century. Each verse glorifies the beauty, qualities, and devotees of the Lord and ends with the refrain para-brahma-lingam bhaje pandurangam, meaning "I worship the supreme spiritual form of Lord Panduranga."
In the same temple compound, behind Lord Vitthala's shrine, stands the shrine of Srimati Rukmini Devi, the Lord's beautiful consort. Darsana, offerings, and aratis go on all day, except for a short break in the afternoon when the Deities rest. After the last arati, at eleven o'clock, the pujaris change the Lord's dress and chant special hymns asking Him to rest for the night.
Just as the Lord played the role of father and grandfather in Dvaraka, here too He reciprocates affectionately with His devotees. A famous painting depicts Him in a fatherly mood, carrying several devotees, some on His shoulders, some around His waist, and others holding His finger as they walk beside Him.
Devotees of Lord Vitthala
Some illustrious devotees of Lord Vitthala traveled widely throughout Maharashtra. Their preaching and their exemplary devotional mood left a permanent impression on the people. Their unanimous conclusive instruction to their followers was this: "Go on singing, go on dancing, and when you get to the lotus feet of the Lord, beg for love from Him." So nama-sankirtana, congregational chanting of the Lord's holy names, is very popular in Maharashtra.
In a letter dated July 30, 1977, Srila Prabhupada encouraged me in this way: "The whole of India and specifically your Maharashtra are enthused with Krishna. Now you have to revive their Krishna consciousness. This is Tukarama's country, but now they are becoming bad politicians. So revive them by the process of the sankirtana movement."
Saint Tukarama was the most famous of all Maharashtrian saints. He lived during the seventeenth century, and over the last three hundred years his devotional influence has been deeply felt by the local people. His poems, the 4,500 verses known as the Abhangas, have become part of the public memory of Maharashtra. They are sung in every village and every home.
Tukarama preached throughout his life, exhorting his countrymen to take to the path of bhakti, devotional service. His language was so simple and down to earth that even the most simple villagers understood it completely. He is the main force behind the continuous kirtanas and bhajanas performed at the many festivals in Pandharpur.
In his autobiography, Tukarama says he was initiated in a dream by Raghava Caitanya Kesava Caitanya. Though not everyone agrees, Gaudiya Vaisnavas (such as the ISKCON devotees) understand this to mean Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
As Srila Prabhupada comments (Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya 9.282, purport), "The sankirtana party belonging to Tukarama is still very popular in Bombay. [It] exactly resembles the Gaudiya Vaisnava sankirtana parties, for they chant the holy name with mrdanga and karatalas." They also wear neck beads and tilaka similar to those of the Gaudiya tradition.
Tukarama Acarya was a great devotee of Lord Vitthala. As mentioned before, the Deity is self-manifested. That is, He spontaneously appeared, without being carved and installed. Expressing full faith in this Deity of Lord Vitthala, Tukarama wrote, "If anyone says that this Deity was once installed, his mouth will be filled with worms."
Saint Tukarama sometimes had to suffer humiliation and opposition from envious people, but he always stayed more humble than a blade of grass, thus changing the hearts of his enemies. The saint left for the spiritual world in his selfsame body while engaged in nama sankirtana, chanting of the holy names of the Lord, with the residents of his home village. The villagers attested they saw a spiritual airplane descend and saw Tukarama board the plane and leave for the spiritual sky.
Another exalted spiritual leader among Lord Vitthala's devotees was Jnanesvara, who lived in the thirteenth century. At the age of sixteen, he translated the complete text of Bhagavad-gita into simple Marathi, the language of Maharashtra. His work is known as Jnanesvari. He attained samadhi (passed away) at the age of twenty-one.
Also famous is the life of Saint Namadeva. Once when Namadeva was a young boy, his father, who worshiped a Deity of Lord Vitthala at home, went out, leaving Namadeva in charge of the Deity. When the time came to offer food to the Lord, Namadeva prepared a plate, placed it on the altar, and sat down, begging the Lord to accept the offering. Following his father's advice to give the Lord some time to eat before taking back the plate, Namadeva left the Deity room and patiently waited, expecting the Lord to literally eat up the food. From time to time the boy would check, but the Lord seemed to be standing still.
After quite some time had passed and Namadeva saw no sign that the Lord would ever eat, Namadeva decided to intervene. Entering the Deity room, he appealed to Lord Vitthala, insisting that the Lord eat right away. And if He wouldn't, the boy threatened, he would smash his own head against the wall. To the boy's surprise, Lord Vitthala then took His lotus hands off His hips and physically ate the offering.
Dindi Procession: 200,000 Pilgrims
The most outstanding display of the Maharashtrians' devotion to Lord Vitthala is the Dindi Yatra, a pilgrimage on foot that culminates in Pandharpur. It has been performed annually for the last seven hundred years.
In fact, every month at Pandharpur on Sukla Ekadasi (the eleventh day of the waxing moon), a festival is held that attracts a large number of pilgrims. But, four of these festivals are especially large. And the main one, Dindi Yatra—the huge Asadhi Ekadasi festival—draws a crowd of 700,000 people. As many as 200,000 come on foot. The festival falls during the month of Asadha (July) and marks the beginning of Caturmasya, the four months of the rainy season. According to the Padma Purana, on that day the Lord goes to sleep for four months. When He wakes up, at the end of the month of Karttika, another festival is held, the second biggest.
For each of these festivals, pilgrims come from all the districts of Maharashtra and from other provinces of India like Gujarat, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh. The pilgrims follow in the footsteps of their many saints and spiritual leaders. Many of the pilgrims are varkaris.
The word varkari combines the words vari and kari, the former standing for the regular trip to Pandharpur, the latter meaning the one who does it. Varkari thus means "one who journeys to Pandharpur at a specific time in the year." Varkaris vow to visit Pandharpur every month, or at least once a year, during an Ekadasi festival.
The varkaris form well-organized and disciplined processions called Dindis, which start off from the birthsites and samadhi places of various saints and converge in Pandharpur. The pilgrims travel 150 to 300 kilometers, depending on where they start. The biggest of all Dindis is that of Jnanesvara, which forms a gigantic procession. It originates in Alandi, near Pune, and covers about 250 kilometers in an eighteen-day walk. Some of the smaller groups are on the road for about a month. Many more come by bus and train.
The men on the procession, dressed alike in white dhotis, kurtas, and typical Gandhi hats, walk in lines of six or seven abreast. They beat small brass cymbals, called tal, in such a perfect rhythm that even when several hundred play, it sounds like one person alone. In the front, several men carry saffron flags. Next, a group of men on each Dindi carry a decorated palanquin (palaki) bearing symbolic footprints (padukas) of the saint they follow. The leader of the group walks at the back, playing the vina, accompanied by one or more drum players.
Behind the men follow the women, dressed in bright colorful saris. Some carry tulasi plants in decorated pots on their heads. Others carry pots with water to serve their fellow varkaris.
Fifty to five hundred people walk in each Dindi group. Responding heartily to their kirtana leaders, they sing the mantras jaya jaya vithobha rukhumai! jaya jaya vithobha rukumai! and jaya jaya rama krsna hari, interspersed with lively songs glorifying Lord Vitthala.
Day after day, undaunted by heat or rain, the pilgrims fill the air with tumultous chanting. Sometimes they dance and sometimes run, rushing ecstatically towards Pandharpur and their Lord. In the midst of this procession the words spoken by the Lord in the Padma Purana come alive:
tatra tisthami narada
"O Narada, I stay where My devotees glorify Me."
Each Dindi is supported by vehicles—trucks and bullock carts—carrying crews ahead to cook and set up tents. When the pilgrims stop to rest and have their meals, each group finds its supporting crew just as calves recognize their mothers in the midst of a herd.
No one goes hungry on Dindi. The bigger groups cook in gigantic pots and distribute prasadam to anyone who sits in the line. The government supplies water for drinking and bathing.
The walkers reach their day's destination by late afternoon. The convergence of pilgrims, and the symbolic presence of their saints, awakens the sleepy villages with intense religious fervor. In the evening, groups everywhere perform kirtana, and crowds of thousands listen to various speakers, who spice their discourses with songs of the saints, to the tune of musical instruments. These speakers are like one-act players. They entertain and involve their audience, inspiring them to sing along.
On Dindi everything is done collectively. Crowds are cooking, crowds sitting in lines for prasadam, crowds sleeping side by side, crowds moving around, crowds queuing up for darsana in the temples along the way, crowds meeting the calls of nature in the fields.... You're never alone on Dindi.
The dense crowd stretches many kilometers, people walking ahead or struggling in the back to keep up. Many people independently follow the Dindi, carrying their few belongings upon their heads. Some begin walking as soon as they get up, as early as 2 A.M. The main group starts at 6:30.
Walking about fifteen kilometers a day, the Dindis finally reach the outskirts of Pandharpur and unite at Wakhari, a small village three kilometers away. On the eve of the Asadha Ekadasi, still more people join for the last leg of the pilgrimage. The three-kilometer stretch from Wakhari to the holy town of Pandharpur turns into a river of humanity flowing towards the ocean of mercy at the Lord's lotus feet. In his writings, Bilvamangala Thakura warns travelers passing through Pandharpur, "Do not walk on the bank of the river Bhima. A bluish-black person stands there, and even though His hands rest peacefully on His hips, He is expert at stealing the heart of anyone who sees Him."
It seems that the varkaris carefully ignore Bilvamangala Thakura's advice. In fact, they are especially eager to meet that person.
Upon reaching Pandharpur, the pilgrims take a dip in the Candrabhaga River. Then, carrying the palanquins on their shoulders, they perform nagara-pradaksina, walking a circle around the holy town. The circle complete, they queue up all night at the temple to catch a glimpse of Lord Vitthala on the Ekadasi day. In the heavy rush, each will get to see the Lord for perhaps a few seconds. For them it will be enough: their souls will be satisfied, and it will have been worth the trouble.
Lokanath Swami, a native of Maharashtra, grew up near Pandharpur. He leads ISKCON's worldwide Padayatras, or walking pilgrimage parties.
Pilgrims From Abroad
LOKANATH SWAMI: Amongst the multitude of pilgrims on Dindi Yatra, a pilgimage on foot that culminates in Pandharpur, there are always a few visitors from abroad, their eyes and ears wide open in amazement.
In 1989, some fifty fortunate ISKCON devotees, about a dozen of them foreigners, took part in the Dindi with Padayatra India, our own traveling party. All of us were treated nicely, without discrimination. Our saffron-robed party sparkled amidst the white dhotis and kurtas of the varkaris (pilgrims to Pandharpur). The Vitthala devotees would greet us Krsna devotees with a friendly "Hare Krsna."
Many people were impressed by our strict following of the Vaisnava principles. The varkaris, most of them householders, are devoted and very faithful to Lord Vitthala, but for lack of a living example to follow they sometimes still have a few attachments, such as tea, onions, and bidis (leaf-rolled cigarettes). So they saw our devotees as real renunciants. Varkaris would often dive to touch our devotees' feet.
A constant flow of pious souls would encircle the Padayatra Deity cart, eager for darsana, thrusting hands towards the pujari for maha-prasada and caranamrta, the water from the bathing of the Deity. But it wasn't rare to see a man wearing tilaka take off his shoes to receive the sacred caran-amrta with his right hand while holding a bidi in his left.
Dr. Thomas J. Hopkins, chairman of the Department of Religious Studies at Franklin and Marshall College, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, relates his experience of Dindi: "Pandharpur is pervaded by much of the same quality of genuine devotion to Krsna that you find in a place like Vrndavana. There's a simple, popular movement there [Dindi] which draws people from a very wide range of backgrounds—college professors, professional people, peasants from farms—all brought together in a conscious community of believers. You really see the power of devotion break through all these ordinary barriers of caste and education and bring people together for worship.
"When I was there in 1969 during the festival period ... both of us Westerners there at that festival were welcomed with open arms. There was no question of separation or difference due to caste or nationality.... The association of genuine devotees can exert a powerful effect upon one's consciousness. I can still not just remember but almost hear the singing of certain devotees at Pandharpur."
Iskcon At Pandharpur
ACROSS THE Candrabhaga River, right on the bank, rests a small and peaceful Hare Krsna asrama, started by ISKCON devotees from Maharashtra in the early 1980's. They cultivate the land, keep cows, and during Ekadasi festivals help serve the pilgrims. The devotees supply Srila Prabhupada's Marathi Bhagavad-gita, always popular.
The ISKCON asrama served as host for our Padayatra's first visit to Pandharpur, in December of 1984. During that visit, the priests of the Vitthala temple warmly welcomed us and gave us the special privilege of bathing the Deity of Lord Vitthala.
We were on a pilgrimage of our own to celebrate the appearance of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu five centuries before. So we installed symbolic footprints of Lord Caitanya under a huge pipal tree on the ISKCON property, commemorating Lord Caitanya's visit to Pandharpur.
Caitanya Mahaprabhu's Visit
LORD CAITANYA VISITED Pandharpur while on a journey through South India, apparently to search for His sannyasi brother, Sankararanya, formerly known as Visvarupa.
After traveling down the east coast of India through the province of Tamil Nadu and up the west coast through Kerala and Karnataka, Caitanya Mahaprabhu entered Maharashtra. As stated in the Caitanya-caritamrta (Madhya 9.282-283), the Lord went to Pandharpur, where He happily saw the Deity of Lord Vitthala and chanted and danced.
In Pandharpur Lord Caitanya met Sri Ranga Puri, a Godbrother of His spiritual master, Isvara Puri. They talked about Lord Krsna continuously for five to seven days.
Sri Ranga Puri recalled that he had once been to Navadvipa, Lord Caitanya's birthplace, where he had visited the house of a brahmana named Jagannatha Misra. Sri Ranga Puri remembered the taste of a curry cooked from banana flowers by Jagannatha Misra's wife. Jagannatha Misra's eldest son had accepted the renounced order. Sri Ranga Puri had later learned, he said, that this son had passed away in Pandharpur.
Jagannatha Misra, Lord Caitanya then revealed, had been His father, and the son who had passed away had been His brother.
Lord Caitanya stayed four more days in Pandharpur, before moving on. During His tour of South India, Lord Caitanya was constantly on the move, but He stayed in Pandharpur for about eleven days. His pastimes there, and those of His brother, establish yet another link between Pandharpur and the Gaudiya Vaisnava tradition followed by the present-day Hare Krsna devotees.
by Satyaraja dasa
[From The Lives of the Vaishnava Saints © 1991 by Steven Rosen (Satyaraja Dasa). All rights reserved. Order from Folk Books, P.O. Box 400716, Brooklyn, NY 11240.]
It was the middle of the sixteenth century. Aspiring for perfection in spiritual life, young Srinivasa had tried to meet Lord Caitanya and His disciple Gadadhara. But Srinivasa came too late—they passed away before he could become their student. And so too did the great Rupa Gosvami and Sanatana Gosvami. But as Srinivasa journeyed to the holy town Vrndavana, Rupa and Sanatana appeared to him in a dream. Go on to Vrndavana, they told him, and learn from the great gosvamis Jiva and Gopala Bhatta.
Jiva and Gopala Bhatta Gosvamis
THE WORDS OF Sri Sanatana and Rupa somewhat relieved Srinivasa's heavy heart. He could travel again, and soon he felt the dust of Vrndavana beneath his feet. He approached Rupa Gosvami's Govindadeva Temple hoping to find more solace at Lord Govinda's lotus feet.
As Srinivasa sat before the Deity, Jiva Gosvami and his many followers entered the temple. Srinivasa introduced himself, and Sri Jiva greeted him with warmth and loving hospitality. Srinivasa spent the night in comfortable quarters at Sri Jiva's temple, Sri Sri Radha-Damodara. The next day, Srinivasa offered his homage at the tomb of Sri Rupa in the temple courtyard.
Then Jiva introduced Srinivasa to Gopala Bhatta Gosvami, who greeted him with kind words and expressed his disappointment that Srinivasa had not arrived sooner, as Rupa and Sanatana had been anxious to meet him. Gopala Bhatta took Srinivasa to his Radha-Ramana Temple and asked the Deity there to bless him. Gopala Bhatta Gosvami and Jiva Gosvami gradually introduced Srinivasa to the inhabitants of Vraja.
Narottama and Duhkhi Krsnadasa
Gopala Bhatta Gosvami initiated Srinivasa and taught him. And as Jiva Gosvami was the preeminent Vaisnava philosopher of the period, Gopala Bhatta directed Srinivasa to him for higher instruction, all in accordance with the desires of Lord Caitanya and Rupa and Sanatana Gosvamis. The Prema-vilasa states that Sri Jiva took care of Srinivasa and gave him a thorough spiritual education.
Another young scholar, the illustrious Narottama, had been studying under Jiva for one year when Srinivasa arrived in Vrndavana. Narottama had been initiated by Lokanatha Gosvami, who had sent him to Sri Jiva for additional spiritual instructions. Then young Duhkhi Krsnadasa came, sent by his guru, Hrdaya Caitanya. The three young devotees studied under Jiva Gosvami with the utmost enthusiasm and became his best students. They were widely known as inseparable friends. Jiva Gosvami ordered them to study the forests of Vrndavana with Raghava Pandita, who knew all the sacred groves and their significance.
Eventually Srinivasa, Narottama, and Duhkhi Krsnadasa were given a special mission. They were to distribute the books of the Gosvamis—the bhakti-rasa scriptures—in Bengal and other areas. Vaisnavism was widely embraced in Bengal, but literature explaining the Vaisnava philosophy was wanting. Nityananda Prabhu's wife, Jahnava Devi, had visited Rupa and Sanatana in Vrndavana some years earlier and was well aware of the prolific spiritual literature the Vrndavana Gosvamis were producing, so she contacted Jiva Gosvami and suggested that the books be sent to Bengal. To comply, Sri Jiva summoned his three best men.
The Mission Begins
In a large assembly of Vaisnavas, Sri Jiva called forth Narottama Dasa: "From this day forward, you will be known as Narottama Thakura Mahasaya." Then he called Srinivasa: "You will be known as Srinivasa Acarya." And finally, Duhkhi Krsnadasa: "Because you have brought so much pleasure [ananda] to Radharani [Syama], you will now be called Syamananda." Then Sri Jiva told them of their mission to Bengal, Orissa, and other provinces of India.
Srinivasa, Narottama, and Syamananda did not want to leave Vrndavana, but they understood the importance of their mission. They went to their initiating gurus, who gave their blessings, instilling in them the necessary enthusiasm for the task.
Sri Jiva began the preparations for the long and arduous journey. These devotees were his best students, and he would spare no pains for their welfare. He had a rich merchant disciple from Mathura supply a large cart, four strong bullocks, and ten armed guards. The manuscripts—original works by Rupa, Sanatana, Gopala Bhatta, Raghunatha Dasa, Jiva, and others—were placed in a large wooden chest, which was bolted and covered with a waxed cloth. Sri Jiva also secured a special passport from the king of Jaipur that his three students would need to show as they traveled to eastern India. Then Srinivasa, Narottama, and Syamananda left Vrndavana.
The Journey to Bengal
As they began traveling, Sri Jiva and several other devotees accompanied them, unable to bear being separated. As the caravan neared Agra, the well-wishers stayed behind. Now the journey was underway. There could be no turning back.
After many months, the party reached a small village named Gopalapura, just within the boundaries of the Malla kingdom of Vana Visnupura, in Bengal. When they retired that night, they felt confident that their mission was almost complete.
Visnupura is in the district of Birbhum, bounded on the north by the Santhal Pargannas and on the south by Midnapura. The king of Visnupura, Virhamvir, was the leader of a strong group of bandits who were the terror of the adjoining countries. He had employed a large number of thugs and assassins who infested the highways and killed and robbed wayfarers. The astrologers of the court were ever ready to submit to him confidential reports as to what fortunes the stars would grant him if he carried on robberies in particular localities.
Stealing the Books
The king's dacoits had been following the cart from afar. This cart was especially interesting because the king's astrologers had said that it held a great treasure. Although the dacoits had been following the cart for quite a distance, they thought it wise to wait until the cart reached their own kingdom.
The dacoits saw only fifteen men escorting the cart—ten armed soldiers, two cartmen, and three holy men. The band of dacoits, numbering over two hundred, inflamed one another's imaginations with the astrologers' words: "This cart is filled with jewels more valuable than gold." They almost overtook the party in a village named Tamar, but circumstances did not permit it. They followed the party through the towns of Raghunathapura and Pancavati.
Finally, in Gopalapura, the party spent the night near a beautiful lake. All fifteen men slept soundly, tired from the journey. When they awakened, their worst nightmare had come to pass: the manuscripts had been stolen.
They could not contain their tears. Srinivasa, the leader of the party, advised Narottama and Syamananda to proceed to Bengal and Orissa with the teachings of the six Gosvamis. He would take it upon himself to retrieve the manuscripts. He wrote to Jiva Gosvami and told him all that had happened.
The King's Regret
Meanwhile, as King Virhamvir was rummaging through treasures stolen from various travelers, his servants appeared with the court's most recent acquisition—Srinivasa's carefully wrapped chest of "the most precious jewels." Virhamvir dropped everything else and feverishly unwrapped his latest prize. Having heard the prophesies, he could scarcely imagine what splendors awaited him. In one suspenseful moment, he removed the cloth covering and opened the trunk to reveal—manuscripts.
Where was the priceless treasure? Lifting out the top manuscript in disbelief, the king saw the signature "Sri Rupa Gosvami" written on a palm leaf. When he examined further and began reading Sri Rupa's beautiful exposition of Vaisnava philosophy, he felt something change deep within. He reverentially returned the book to the trunk and retired for the evening, aware of the grave sin he had instigated.
Srinivasa Appears in a Dream
That night, the king had an unusual dream. He saw a beautiful and effulgent person whose body was filled with divine energy. "Do not worry," the person said with a loving smile. "Soon I will come to Visnupura and we will meet. I will retrieve my manuscripts, and you will be relieved of all sinful reactions. Your joy will be boundless. Know for certain that you are my eternal servant and I am your eternal well-wisher."
The next morning the king awoke and started his life anew, waiting for the day when the mysterious prediction of his dream would come to pass.
Meanwhile, Srinivasa Acarya made his way to the outskirts of Visnupura, where he met a brahmana resident named Sri Krsna Vallabha. The two became friends, and Krsna Vallabha invited Srinivasa to be a guest in his home. Gradually, Krsna Vallabha realized Srinivasa's exalted position and surrendered to him as a disciple. In due course, Krsna Vallabha mentioned that the king regularly convened a Bhagavatam study group for all who were interested. Srinivasa was curious about the nature of the Bhagavatam presentation and asked Krsna Vallabha to take him to the next meeting.
When they arrived, Vyasacarya, the court pandita, was reciting and commenting upon the Bhagavatam. Srinivasa was unimpressed but said nothing. The next day, they found Vyasacarya pontificating in the same fashion. After two weeks of the court pandita, Srinivasa could not contain himself, and after the meeting he spoke to Vyasacarya.
"You, sir, do not follow the text," said Srinivasa, "nor are your commentaries in line with Sridhara Svami or the other standard exponents of Bhagavata philosophy."
Vyasacarya listened to Srinivasa's comments but ignored his advice. The king, however, who was nearby, overheard what was said and found it interesting.
The next day at the recital Vyasacarya again attempted to elucidate the esoteric section of the Bhagavatam that delineates Sri Krsna's rasa-lila.
Respectful but firm, Srinivasa interrupted with a question: "Sir, how can you comment on such confidential subjects without referring to the statements of Sridhara Svami? You are obviously unfamiliar with his work."
Vyasacarya became angry. He disliked being challenged in front of his sycophantic assembly, who were accustomed only to his peculiar rendition of Bhagavatam commentary.
Before another word was said, however, the king began to defend Srinivasa's position: "How is it that this brahmana scholar finds fault with your explanations? Perhaps your interpretations are questionable."
"Who can interpret the texts better than I?" the arrogant Vyasacarya replied. "This newcomer is an upstart, and he dares to question me in the presence of Your Majesty."
Then he turned to Srinivasa. "If you are such an authority on the Bhagavatam," he said, "why don't you come sit here and explain these verses in a better way?"
Srinivasa rose to the challenge. He sang the Bhagavatam verses beautifully and then commented upon them with great verve and authority. He drew upon existing Vaisnava explanations and yet offered his own unique presentation. No one had ever heard such a masterly enunciation of Bhagavata philosophy.
The king encouraged him to go on, allowing him to speak for several hours. When he finished, the whole assembly applauded, ecstatic with Srinivasa's contagious love for Krsna. Vyasacarya could not believe his ears. He was defeated, but he was happy.
King Virhamvir was greatly moved. "No one has ever come to this kingdom and shared so much love and scholarship in the way you have," he said to Srinivasa. "Please, tell me your name and where you come from."
"My name is Srinivasa and I am a native of this country," said Srinivasa. "I came here to see your magnificent court and to relish the Bhagavatam."
The king then gave him the best accommodations in the palace and asked him to stay as long as he liked.
The King Surrenders
Later that evening, the king asked Srinivasa to dine with him, but Srinivasa said that he took only one humble meal per day and had already eaten. Nonetheless, Virhamvir encouraged him to have some fruit, and he complied, not wanting to offend his distinguished host.
As Srinivasa ate his fruit, the king sat at his side like a humble servant. The king had never felt this way about anyone: Srinivasa was that effulgent person he had seen in his dream—his guru—and he wanted to render some menial service.
That night, he heard Srinivasa repeating the name of Krsna in his room. It seemed as if Srinivasa did not sleep. "Here is a genuine saint," thought the king. "He is simply absorbed in the name of God." With this pleasant idea, the king fell asleep, listening to Srinivasa Acarya's blissful voice in the next room.
The following day in the great assembly Srinivasa again spoke from the Bhagavatam. Once again, the eager, expectant audience relished every word. Srinivasa astonished all who listened. Chroniclers of the event have reported that "even the stone walls of the hall seemed to melt with emotion." Srinivasa spoke with erudition, sensitivity, and devotion, honoring his Vaisnava predecessors, and everyone present agreed that the wisdom of the orator far exceeded his years. One by one, people came and bowed at Srinivasa's feet, hoping to become his disciples.
Later, the king submitted himself to Srinivasa as a lowly beggar: "You are the real king," he said, "for you have love for Krsna. I am not even worthy to be in your presence."
Srinivasa, with all humility, merely shook his head; he was not able to accept his own exalted position.
But the king persisted: "Allow me to be your servant. Please! How can I serve you? My entire kingdom is at your disposal."
"I came from the holy city of Vrndavana with a mission from Gopala Bhatta Gosvami and Jiva Gosvami," Srinivasa replied. "I was to bring their writings to Bengal. But unfortunately this treasure was robbed within your kingdom. If I cannot retrieve these books, I would prefer to lose my life. Can you help me get them back?"
The king burst into tears. "A poor worm am I," he said, "lost hopelessly in this land of birth and death. My own men pillaged for years and years under my order, and then they came upon your party. We were told you carried the greatest treasure in the universe, and we naturally pursued it. I cannot express my sorrow."
Reflecting for a moment, the king said, "But there is a positive side to all of this. Our meeting would not have otherwise occurred. I would commit these sins again and again for but a moment of your association."
Srinivasa laughed and reassured the king that sinful life was unnecessary for attaining his association. Srinivasa then forgave the king for all his sins and asked him to sin no more.
The Books Are Safe!
The king led Srinivasa to the room where his treasures were kept, and Srinivasa saw the trunk with the Gosvamis' literature. Srinivasa felt ecstasy and took the garland of flowers from his own neck and placed it on King Virhamvir. Srinivasa asked the king to bring him tulasi leaves, flower garlands, sandalwood paste, and other items to worship the sacred books. The king brought everything, and his own initiation ceremony followed. By reciting into the king's ear the maha-mantra—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—Srinivasa initiated him.
According to the Prema-vilasa, Srinivasa gave him the name Haricarana Dasa. Jiva Gosvami later showed the king special mercy by writing a letter in which he renamed him Caitanya Dasa. The king's wife, Queen Sulaksana, and their son, Prince Dhari Hamvir, also became Srinivasa Acarya's surrendered servants. The queen's initiated name is unknown, but the boy was named Gopala Dasa. Krsna Vallabha and Vyasacarya also became dedicated disciples.
Visnupura as a Vaisnava Center
The initiation of the king and his loyal subjects was an important event in the history of the Gaudiya tradition. Visnupura soon became a great center of Vaisnavism. In all of India, only in Vana Visnupura did Gaudiya Vaisnava culture and art develop without foreign or distracting influence. Even the Muslim intrusion was minimal. Consequently, the architectural and sculptural art of Bengal, from the beginning of the seventeenth century onwards, is nowhere found in such abundance and in such pristine form as in the Vaisnava monuments of Visnupura. This is one of the many virtues of royal patronage.
King Virhamvir reigned from 1596 to 1622 and in that time wrote many songs in praise of Krsna, Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and Srinivasa Acarya. Much of his exquisite poetry can be found in the Bhakti-ratnakara and the Pada-kalpataru. The king's beautiful voice, reflected in his literary work, helped him in his mission of spreading Vaisnavism throughout his domain.
Srinivasa had thus accomplished his mission in Visnupura. He wrote to Jiva Gosvami that not only had the books been retrieved but the main bandit, a king, had taken up Gaudiya Vaisnavism. All of Vrndavana rejoiced and sang the glories of Srinivasa Acarya. King Virhamvir and his entire kingdom were now converted to Vaisnavism, and Srinivasa was developing an important center there.
(concluded in the next issue)
Satyaraja Dasa is a disciple of Srila Prabhupada and a regular contributor to Back to Godhead. He has written several books on Krsna consciousness. He and his wife live in New York City.
Srila Prabhupada placed great spiritual value on the sometimes crude paintings of ISKCON's first artists.
by Yadurani Devi Dasi
TWENTY-SIX SECOND AVENUE, New York City, 1967: Govinda Dasi had recently painted Srila Prabhupada's quarters—blue walls with gold borders. His desk was his trunk from India. He sat on second-hand mats donated by his disciples.
Prabhupada showed me a beautiful print of Radha and Krsna with the eight principal gopis, standing together in the moonlight in a garden in the Vrndavana forest. He wanted me to copy the scene onto a large canvas.
Prabhupada told me that the gopis in the picture had Bengali beauty because they'd been painted by a Bengali artist. The flowers at Krsna's feet didn't seem very clearly painted to me. They looked like colored blobs. I asked Prabhupada what kind of flowers I should paint. "You can take any flower and transport it to Vrndavana," he answered.
"What color should I paint Krsna's eyes?" I asked. Sometimes we read that Krsna's eyes are red.
"They are reddish, reddish black," he said.
"It's stated that Krsna is the color of a fresh raincloud, but exactly what color is that?" I asked.
"They say that Krsna is the color of a fresh new raincloud... " Prabhupada began. Then he lowered his head a little and covered his face with his hand. Bringing his hand down slowly and lifting his head, he said in a muffled and innocent voice, "But I do not know what color He is."
Of course, he did know. He was seeing Krsna personally—face to face at each moment—but he was so humble.
Prabhupada also told me to make Krsna a little shorter than He was in the Bengali painting, where He was much taller than Radharani. Prabhupada also said that in the original, Krsna looked "a little fatty."
Later in Boston I worked on the painting, a 4' by 5' canvas. When I was about half done, Srila Prabhupada arrived. After his evening lectures he would invite some of the leading male devotees to his quarters. He didn't invite me, and I wanted to see him, so I was envious and a little angry. But I remembered Prabhupada saying that he is present when we serve him. So I ran over to the painting, confident that if I became absorbed in service I would have his association. As I painted I prayed to the gopis in the painting to make me a pure devotee.
After his month-long stay in Boston, Prabhupada went to Montreal and asked me to send the painting there. When it arrived, Prabhupada wrote me, "The picture which you sent to Montreal is well-received here, and everyone is speaking highly of your painting capacity, and I am so pleased to see the picture. You have improved very much in your painting capacity also by serving Krishna so faithfully by the talent which Krishna has endowed you with. Yesterday there was a meeting of the Indians, and all of them spoke very highly of your picture. Please try to paint the following pictures in quantity, namely the 'Mohan Madhuri' which you have sent here in Montreal, that is to say, Radha and Krishna with the 8 principal gopis; the Samkirtan picture of Lord Caitanya; and Panca Tattva [Lord Caitanya and His four main associates]. These pictures should be popularized in our movement and try to paint them very nicely. I am anxious about you because you are conducting one of the important departments of our activities, namely painting of pictures, and this will make your life successful."
Months later, on August 31, 1968, Prabhupada arrived in New York. A devotee called us in Boston saying, "Prabhupada would like to see you." So we all went down to New York.
On the next day, the New York devotees, Boston devotees, and guests were in the temple with Prabhupada. He began talking to me about the Mohana Madhuri painting—right in front of everyone.
"That painting you did of Radha and Krsna and the gopis is so nice... " Then, after a short pause, he said, "I have no capacity to repay you."
I was bewildered, amazed, flattered, and flustered. His words reminded me that Krsna had said the same thing to the gopis when He was leaving Vrndavana to go to Mathura. Yet I knew that by his mercy Prabhupada had dragged me into some semblance of devotional service. There was no credit on my part.
"And if you preach," he continued, "then everyone will be happy."
Then he turned to all the brahmacaris and said, "You should not see these girls as objects of your sense gratification; you should see them all as associates of Krsna."
A year or so later Muralidhara Dasa in California wanted to do a painting of Radha-Krsna with the gopis for the Los Angeles temple. He wrote to Srila Prabhupada to ask his permission.
Prabhupada replied, "You have mentioned a picture of Krishna and the Gopis, but Krishna and the Gopis without Radharani cannot be. If you mean to say the picture of Radha-Krishna and the 8 Gopis, then that is all right. I do not know what is this Krishna with the Gopis. There are many unauthorized pictures painted by so-called imaginative artists, but we don't want such pictures in our temples."
The next year, when the Boston temple moved to North Beacon Street, I did another painting on the same subject. I thought it was technically better, but my consciousness was much worse. After I'd completed the painting and devotees showed it to Prabhupada, he commented, "Why has she painted this in such haste?"
Because I had not taken less time to do the painting, I could understand from Prabhupada's comment that he could read our consciousness when he saw our work. My first painting of Radha-Krsna and the gopis was later printed in Prabhupada's Krsna book.
Yadurani Devi Dasi is project head of CIVA (Cultural Institute for the Vedic Arts), which is producing Krsna conscious picture books and comics.
How Can There Be Peace?
This exchange between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and some of his disciples took place in Geneva, Switzerland, on June 2, 1974.
Disciple: Srila Prabhupada, in a recent study by U.S. agricultural officials, they found that it's uneconomical to eat meat. It takes so much energy and man hours to raise and transport and slaughter the cows that it's very wasteful.
Srila Prabhupada: Wasteful, yes. Therefore I say they have no brain. They are all rascals. Rascal leaders. A little labor in agriculture will be sufficient to produce the family's food stock for the whole year. You work only three months, and you get sufficient food for your whole family. And in the remaining nine months, you chant Hare Krsna.
But these rascals will not do that. They will work hard like asses simply for eating. Nunam pramattah kurute vikarma yad indriya-pritaya aprnoti. They will not accept an easy life.
Disciple: In that agricultural report it said that if people were to eat all the grains they give to the cows and animals, they could get twenty times more calories than by eating meat.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Wrong civilization, rascal civilization. And this is due to this rascaldom called nationalism—"This is my land." At any moment a person will be kicked out by death, but still he claims, "It is my land." Janasya moho 'yam aham mameti. This is the illusion. Nothing belongs to him; still he is fighting, "This is mine. This is mine." "I" and "mine"—identifying oneself with the body and wrongly conceiving that "This is mine." This is the basic principle of a wrong civilization. Nothing belongs to us. I have come here to Switzerland. Suppose I remain here for one month and I claim, "Oh, this is mine." What is this?
So, similarly, we come to this world as guests. We come to the womb of a mother and live here for seventy years or so. And we claim, "This is my land." But when did it become yours? The land was there long, long before your birth. How has it become yours? But people have no sense. "It is mine—my land, my nation, my family, my society." In this way, they are wasting time.
These things have been introduced by Western civilization. In the Vedic civilization there is no such thing as nationalism. You won't find it there. Have you seen the word "nationalism" in the Bhagavad-gita? No such thing.
Nationalism is the idea of tribes. In Africa there are still groups of tribes. Nationalism is the most crude idea of civilization. It is nothing but developed tribalism. Modern man is not advanced in civilization. This nationalism is another form of tribalism, that's all.
Disciple: Today, so-called civilized people are actually just cannibals because they maintain themselves on eating the cow.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. And they are suffering. Therefore you'll find that in recent history, every twenty-five years there is a big war with mass slaughter of people. Nature does not tolerate animal slaughter.
Now India has learned to slaughter animals, imitating the Western countries. And now there is war between India and Pakistan. During two wars between Pakistan and Hindustan, millions of people were killed unnecessarily, without any gain.
Disciple: Just recently India exploded an atomic bomb, and now Pakistan is hurrying to get an atomic bomb also.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
This is going on.
Disciple: The Indian government promised that nuclear energy would be only for peaceful purposes.
Srila Prabhupada: No, what do they know about peaceful conditions? They are all rascals. They do not know what a peaceful condition is. The actual peaceful condition is described in the Bhagavad-gita:
"A person in full consciousness of Me [Krsna], knowing Me to be the ultimate beneficiary of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods, and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities, attains peace from the pangs of material miseries."
This is peace. Unless there is Krsna consciousness, where is peace? There cannot be peace. All rascaldom. Na mam duskrtino mudhah prapadyante naradhamah. These rascals and fools—mayayapahrta-jnana—have lost all knowledge. How can there be peace? Their endeavors for peace are all useless.
The worldwide activities of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)
The High Court has turned down an appeal to let people keep coming for worship and festivals at ISKCON's Bhaktivedanta Manor. Unless reversed, the decision means the Manor will have to close its doors to the public after a grace period of two years. The Manor is the site of the oldest Hindu shrine in the UK.
In response, the Manor has taken its case one step higher, to the Court of Appeal. Will the Court hear the case? As this magazine goes to press, we're still awaiting word. If the Court agrees, they'll hear the appeal about six months from now. The two-year grace period begins only after all appeals have been decided.
About 250 schools have invited Hare Krsna devotees to visit Religious Education classes this year.
Krsna steals butter and gives it out to the monkeys in a new book for children, The Butter Thief, by Chris Murray and Kim Waters Murray. Lots of colorful pictures. Published by the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.
Forthcoming from the BBT: Prayers of King Kulasekhara, a twelfth-century south Indian text, translated, with commentary. Begun by Srila Prabhupada, completed by his disciples.
Bhagavad-gita in Gaelic is waiting to be published. The translation is done. Funds are needed for printing. If you'd like to help, write: Svarupa Damodara Dasa, Corneenflynn, Glenevlin, Cavan, Republic of Ireland.
Swedish devotees have opened a second Hare Krsna restaurant in Stockholm.
Hungarian and British devotees will tour Hungary again in October. On their previous tour, last September, they held festivals in fourteen major cities. Average attendance: 750. Budapest: 2,200.
A Bulgarian edition of the Krsna book has been printed in Sofia, and ten thousand Romanian books have been sent to Timisoara, in western Romania.
Commonwealth of Independent States
Seventeen thousand Russians mailed in to buy Bhagavad-gita in response to a newspaper item. Last summer a weekly newspaper, Arguments and Facts, ran a letter from someone who'd seen ISKCON's subway posters for the book. What was the Gita about, he wanted to know. The paper ran a reply by Krsna Kumara Dasa, president of ISKCON's Moscow temple. Result: In the space of a month, 17,000 people wrote in to order books. Even months later, orders were still coming in—hundreds a day.
The next Russian book has gone to press—Srimad-Bhagavatam, Second Canto.
Shoppers at Moscow's GUM department store bought fifty thousand to a hundred thousand Krsna conscious books every week last December. Devotees sold the books from twenty-five tables in the store.
Russian TV has been broadcasting the glories of Krsna. In December came a 45-minute film called "Devotees," in January a film on the saint Haridasa Thakura. TV ads for Bhagavad-gita have shown nightly.
Two hundred Moscovites a day enjoy meals at Cafe Govinda, a prasadam restaurant stall at a suburban Moscow train stop.
Fifteen kids in Moscow now attend gurukula, a Krsna-centered school. Classes are held in two rented rooms in a school two blocks from the ISKCON temple. There is talk of starting gurukulas in Armenia and Ukraine.
Devotees in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, have purchased a two-story building downtown for an ISKCON temple. ISKCON now has two temples in Yerevan—one downtown, the other on the outskirts. The money for the new center was given by Harivilasa Dasa, an American devotee of Armenian descent.
Devotees in the former Soviet Union are waiting to see how the breakup of that nation will affect them.
A "family reunion" will bring together devotees from the early days of the Hare Krsna movement in Australia. It will take place in Melbourne in May, to mark seventeen years since Srila Prabhupada opened the Melbourne temple.
"We're going to search out and invite all of Prabhupada's disciples and churn the nectar of his activities here in Australia," says Subhalaksmi Dasi, coordinator for the event. "We hope to attract devotees from all over."
For more information, contact Subhalaksmi Dasi or Kurma Dasa at ISKCON Melbourne, P.O. Box 125, Albert Park, Victoria 3206. Phone: (03) 699-5122.
Kids up to fourteen can attend ISKCON's school at Murwillumbah, New South Wales, since the government okayed two more grades.
Diverse cities celebrated the Festival of the Chariots during the last few months. Among them: Tokyo, Berlin, Paris, Kiev, Rio de Janeiro, Povoa de Varzim (Portugal), Durban (South Africa), and Chandigarh (India).
25th Anniversary Celebration
Distinguished guests and ISKCON members came to Mayapur in November to celebrate ISKCON's 25th anniversary. High-court judges, central goverment ministers, and members of the West Bengal legislature spoke to crowds in praise of ISKCON. Among the speakers: Mr. Pranab Mukherjee, Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission of India. The celebrations took place for a week, during the Rasa Purnima festival.
Some sixty devotees toured Assam, Orissa, and West Bengal, holding nightly programs in major towns. The tour started in November and went on for ninety days. It was sponsored by ISKCON Mayapur and Nama Hatta regional congregations. Attendance: up to 20,000 people a night.
Yearly Worldwide Gathering
Devotees from around the world will gather for ISKCON's annual Mayapur-Vrndavana festival. It takes place this year from March 3 through March 31. New this year: One week on foot visting holy places in the Mayapur area.
New Press Rolling
The press is installed and rolling at the new Bhaktivedanta Book Trust building.
The first phase of a new guesthouse should be finished at the end of February. Now a new residence is going up for unmarried men. And about twenty new dwellings are being built for householders at the gurukula school.
Second Electrical Plant
A second electrical plant to power the Mayapur project should be ready in April or May.
Memorial to Srila Prabhupada Nearly Done
The samadhi shrine where Srila Prabhupada's body lies is at last nearly done. The scaffolding is down, and gleaming marble covers the shrine, inside and out. Left to complete: final work on lighting, grills, gates, and a few extras here and there. Embellishments can still be added, say the local managers, depending on how much money is on hand.
The samadhi stands in the entrance courtyard of the Krishna-Balaram Temple. The courtyard's front wall, sealed while the samadhi was going up, will be rebuilt with a newly designed gate.
"Save Vrndavana" Campaign Begins
Plant trees and protect Vrndavana—this was the message as devotees and dignitaries gathered to launch the "Save Vrndavana" campaign.
The campaign aims at restoring and preserving the natural beauty of Vrndavana, which is being spoiled by pollution, misuse, and neglect.
The campaign is being sponsored by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). The director for the project is ISKCON devotee Ranchor Dasa.
Among those on hand to launch the campaign were Dr. Karan Singh, former central government minister and ambassador to the U.S.A.; Saksi Maharaja, member of Parliament for the Mathura district; and Mr. Hari Krishna, the Mathura district magistrate. Vrndavana lies within the district of Mathura.
Local schoolchildren planted more than a hundred trees. National TV broadcast highlights of the program.
The campaign will plant trees and train the local people on how to care for the Vrndavana environment.
ISKCON has donated the land on which the first trees are being planted, by the pilgrim path near ISKCON's Krishna-Balaram Temple.
The campaign was launched on November 21, the appearance day of Vrnda Devi, the goddess who presides over the Vrndavana forests.
Advanced Courses Well Attended
About 170 devotees took part in the fall sessions of ISKCON's Vaisnava Institute for Higher Education. The Institute, which offers advanced training for ISKCON devotees, began a few years ago with hardly thirty students.
New Places to Live
Construction has started on householder dwellings being built by the Mayapur-Vrndavana Trust. The first thirty units should be done in twelve to eighteen months.
On March 3 residents of Vrndavana celebrate Siva Ratri by visiting the temple of Gopisvara (Lord Siva) and praying for devotion to Lord Krsna. On March 18 Vrndavana celebrates Holi. People throw powdered dyes here and there—watch out!
April 17 marks the full-moon night for Krsna's springtime rasa dance at Govardhana Hill.
Toward the middle of March, summer comes in, and Vrndavana gets hot. It stays hot till June, when the monsoons arrive.
From Dvaraka, in Gujarat, on the shore of the Arabian Sea, the Padayatra heads for the Gujarati city of Ujjain, east of Ahmedabad. Ujjain is where Lord Krsna attended school as the student of Sandipani Muni. The Padayatra devotees will arrive there for the Kumbha Mela festival in mid-April. Next they'll walk on to Jaipur, in Rajasthan. They plan to reach Jaipur in May, then trek up to Badrinath, in the Himalayas.
Starts again in May. Route: Southern France, Spain, Portugal, and Italy. In July the devotees will halt for two weeks in Barcelona during the Olympic Games.
On January 13, devotees started walking from Brisbane to Sydney. They'll reach Sydney on March 18, the appearance day of Lord Caitanya.
Devotees went on Padayatra in mid-January, starting on the island of Veti Levu and ending at Lautoka.
In the course of a two-week Padayatra in December, devotees held Festivals of the Chariots in two cities—Penang and Kulim. Theme for the Padayatra: "A Pilgrimage Against Drug Abuse."
Started January 2 from Manila and walked throughout the island of Luzon. Prasadam for 4,000 people a day. Theme: "Steps Toward Peace and Progress."
For more information about Padayatra, write to:
HERE'S A Krsna conscious project you might like to support or get involved in. We'll tell you what the goals are, who's involved, what's going on, what's blocking the way, and how you can give a hand.
The Bhaktivedanta Archives.
ISKCON's New Dvaraka Community, Los Angeles, California.
Ranajit Dasa (books, photo archives), Ekanatha Dasa (digital audio tape, Srila Prabhupada Tape Ministry, compact disks), Dulala Candra Dasa (computer infobase, photo scanning), Visnu Murti Dasa (Manager of European Division).
To preserve Srila Prabhupada's recorded words and the photo, film, and video images of him.
The Bhaktivedanta Archives began in 1978. Starting with original reel-to-reel tapes from the Golden Avatar studios and other sources, it collected Srila Prabhupada's recorded lectures and conversations—two thousand hours worth. Now available from the tape ministry: 711 sixty-minute tapes. For preservation and further mastering, these are being re-recorded on digital audio tape.
In the early 1980's devotees transcribed the tapes and filmed the transcriptions on microfiche. They also made fiches of Srila Prabhupada's letters.
The Archives is publishing this material in books. The following are available: Collected Lectures on Bhagavad-gita As It Is (seven hardbound volumes), Conversations with Srila Prabhupada (thirty-seven soft-bound volumes), and Srila Prabhupada Siksamrta, a compilation from Srila Prabhupada's letters (three hardbound volumes).
Tapes of Prabhupada's singing are being re-mastered onto compact disks. Eight disks are now available.
Computer technology has enabled the Archives to put Srila Prabhupada's books, letters, and talks into a single database for research by scholars and devotees.
In 1992 the Archives will start digitizing its photographic collection as computerized data, a superior way to preserve photos for publication.
The Archives wants to further develop the research database for CD-ROM and establish a memorial museum and library for the original photos, tapes, and other materials from Prabhupada's life.
A shortage of people and funds.
How you can help
Take advantage of the storehouse of transcendental knowledge available in the Bhaktivedanta Archives. Order Srila Prabhupada's tapes, compact disks, and archival publications. For computer-assisted research, consider the complete infobase of Srila Prabhupada's teachings.
For information, please contact:
The Bhaktivedanta Archives
P.O. Box 34453
The Bhaktivedanta Archives
Raising kids and realizing Krsna—do they go together?
by Cintamani Devi Dasi
"ONE WHO CANNOT deliver his dependents from the path of repeated birth and death should never become a spiritual master, a father, a husband, a mother, or a worshipable demigod" (Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.5.18).
As a parent I often wonder if I am up to the task. After all, full engagement in devotional service is the only way to become free from the cycle of birth and death. Prahlada Maharaja instructs us in nine methods of devotional service: "Hearing and chanting about the transcendental holy name, form, qualities, paraphernalia, and pastimes of Lord Visnu, remembering them, serving the lotus feet of the Lord, offering prayers to the Lord, becoming His servant, considering the Lord one's best friend, and surrendering everything unto Him (in other words, serving Him with the body, mind, and words)—these nine methods are accepted as pure devotional service" (Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.5.23)
Any devotee parent will attest that practicing these methods becomes so much more difficult when one has children. Sometimes devotional engagements seem impossible. During the arati service in the temple, my attention is always with the children—what are they up to now? I can't absorb myself in the kirtana anymore. I'm just trying to stop Madhva from creating havoc, I'm getting him endless glasses of water or snacks, or I'm feeding baby Radhika.
Bhagavatam class? Tougher to attend. Japa ... after every other mantra I have to speak to the children or do something for them. And if they happen to both fall asleep at the same time, I'm so tired out that I have to struggle not to snooze. I'm surprised I don't fall back into the whirlpool of material life myself, what to speak of saving my children.
Yet many parents do maintain their spiritual lives. Even single parents, for whom the problems are compounded, have proven it's possible to stay in devotional service and bring up children as devotees too. Often such parents seem even more fixed in devotional service than childless devotees who don't struggle with the same impediments.
"Well," I moan to myself, "the parents who manage must be superhuman. They obviously don't need to eat or sleep, and they're immune to mental and physical exhaustion."
But in more honest moments I have to admit they're people not much different from me. So what's the secret of their success?
Well, I'm hardly in a position to give definitive answers, but I'd like to share some thoughts and realizations about Krsna conscious parenting.
The first is that being a parent is as much devotional service as being a cook, book distributor, manager, or gardener, if we do this service for Krsna's pleasure. That is to say, our motivation should not be just to equip our children for material life but to help them become Krsna's devotees so they need never again take birth. Like any service, parenting has its austerities and its advantages. Its austerities we know too well. So now, what are its advantages?
The adage "Man proposes, God disposes" seems to hold one essential ingredient for success in spiritual life: If we really want to surrender to Krsna, He'll help us. Why should we doubt it? After all, He is fulfilling the desires of even the materialists who don't worship Him, so why shouldn't He fulfill the desire of someone who wants to surrender to Him? The problem is we don't want to surrender to Krsna, because that means giving up our illusory independence and sense gratification.
Having children has helped me in two ways to strengthen my desire to surrender. First, now I've directly seen how painful and hazardous is birth. Even if by good karma we're born healthy into a caring family, we're still forced to suffer the agonies of cholic, teething, and nappy rash. Tame stuff, you might think, but not if you've ever had children and seen how acutely they suffer.
For a child, something with an innocuous name like "nappy rash" can seem as painful as third-degree burns. And that's only the beginning. As a parent you become mindful of the dangers facing your child—from electricity, bleach, and cars to deranged and evil-minded people. These dangers await a spirit soul born into the best circumstances. What if you're born to people who don't want you or can't take care of you? Phew! It's surprising anyone gets through childhood alive!
As a baby I was blissfully ignorant of these dangers, but now as a parent I see what it means to be a baby. From this vantage point I know: I don't want to ever take birth again.
The thought of taking birth again scares me. This fear helps my spiritual life, because now I can more feelingly pray to Krsna to help me surrender to His lotus feet. I know that though I'm weak Krsna is strong and if I really want to get out of the material world He will help me.
Besides fear for myself, my love for my children also keeps me praying to Krsna for help and makes me more alert to how He is helping me. When I look at my defenseless children, I naturally think, "How can I protect them from the troubles that await them in life? Maybe by good schooling or good money." But who am I kidding? How will these protect my kids from war, depression, or cancer? I know in my heart that the only thing that can save my children in any circumstance is knowing how to take shelter of Krsna. If we can remember Krsna, then we can transcend even the pain of death, what to speak of other difficulties.
In short, I know that if I really want to help my children, I have to help them become conscious of Krsna. To do that, I too have to become Krsna conscious. After all, you can't give what you don't have. Children are sensitive to hypocrisy. You can't tell them "Chant Hare Krsna, offer your food to Krsna, don't take drugs or have illicit sex" unless you practice what you preach.
If we want our children to be devotees, we have to teach by our own example. To me this is a powerful reason to set the best example I can and to pray constantly to Krsna to help me do better. I don't want these children to suffer in ignorance and be forced to be born again. Since I love them, I want to help them get out of the material world.
When I was childless I didn't feel the same urgency to become Krsna conscious. I'll do my best, I thought, but if I don't make it in this life, there's always the next, or the one after ... But now, though my material load makes devotional life harder to practice, I feel more urgency. I really have to pray to Krsna to help me—and to give me the intelligence to recognize how He is helping me. I have to try to be serious. If I do this, I know He will help me, because that's His promise. "Those who always worship Me with exclusive devotion, meditating on My transcendental form—to them I carry what they lack, and I preserve what they have" (Bhagavad-gita 9.22).
Also, feeling more dependent on Him forces me to remember Him more, which after all is the essence of devotional service: "Krsna, the origin of Lord Visnu, should always be remembered and never be forgotten. All the rules and prohibitions in the scriptures should be servants of these two principles" (Padma Purana).
So, fellow suffering parents, don't give up. Keep trying. And if you have any doubts, realizations, or stories about how to cope, please write and share them with the rest of us. Hare Krsna.
Cintamani Dhama Devi Dasi, an Iranian raised in England, holds a joint honors degree in philosophy and politics from Bristol University. She joined the Krsna consciousness movement in 1980. She and her husband have two children and run the Manchester ISKCON center, which they opened in 1986.
IN INDIA there are sacred places where yogis go to meditate in solitude, as prescribed in the Bhagavad-gita. Traditionally, yoga cannot be executed in a public place, but for kirtana—mantra-yoga, or the yoga of chanting the Hare Krsna mantra: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—the more people present, the better.
When Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu was performing kirtana in India some five hundred years ago, He organized in each group sixteen persons to lead the chanting, and thousands of persons chanted with them. This participation in kirtana, the public chanting of the names and glories of God, is very possible and is actually easy in this age, whereas the meditational process of yoga is very difficult.
It is specifically stated in the Bhagavad-gita that to perform meditational yoga one should go to a secluded and holy place. In other words, it is necessary to leave home. In this age of overpopulation it is not always possible to find a secluded place, but this is not necessary in bhakti-yoga.
In the bhakti-yoga system there are nine processes: hearing, chanting, remembering, serving, worshiping the Deity in the temple, praying, carrying out orders, serving Krsna as a friend, and sacrificing for Him. Out of these, sravanam kirtanam, hearing and chanting, are considered the most important. At a public kirtana one person can chant Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, while a group listens, and at the end of the mantra, the group can respond, and in this way there is a reciprocation of hearing and chanting. This can easily be performed in one's own home with a small group of friends, or with many people in a large public place.
One may attempt to practice meditational yoga in a large city or in a society, but one must understand that this is one's own concoction and is not the method recommended in the Bhagavad-gita.