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.
Pilgrims to India
WHILE PREPARING this issue of Back to Godhead, some of our staff members are getting ready to travel to India for ISKCON's annual Mayapur-Vrndavana Festival in March. ISKCON has important centers in Mayapur, West Bengal, the appearance place of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and Vrndavana (ninety miles south of New Delhi), the site of Lord Krsna's appearance and childhood pastimes. Srila Prabhupada started the Mayapur-Vrndavana Festival so members and friends of the Hare Krsna movement could come together in these holiest of holy places for pure spiritual association. The work of spreading Krsna consciousness around the world is demanding, especially in the contaminated atmosphere of the present day. The Mayapur-Vrndavana Festival is a chance for spiritual rejuvenation.
In India devotees get to see some of the great Vedic culture that guided Indian civilization for millennia. Although modern India suffers from the influence of the materialistic West, when one goes there one feels that the original culture is just below the surface. Srila Prabhupada used to point out that despite bombardment by Western materialistic propaganda, Indians remain attracted to spiritual subjects. For example, Srila Prabhupada would say, whenever there is a talk on spiritual topics thousands of people will attend.
Devotees attending the Mayapur-Vrndavana Festival witness the waves of people who visit ISKCON's Caitanya Candrodaya Temple in Mayapur for the anniversary of the appearance of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu in March. Many of the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims have traveled long distances to touch the land that was touched by the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Devotees from around the world gain inspiration by seeing the simple, deep faith of these people, untouched by Western cynicism.
In Vrndavana, too, one sees many examples of unpretentious devotion to Krsna. ISKCON's Krishna-Balaram Temple, on the edge of town, gets a steady flow of pilgrims all year long. During festival times—which are many here—the town can get really crowded. At the ISKCON temple, devotees have to cordon off a part of the temple just to make sure they have room to chant and dance before the Deities.
The enthusiasm Indian people have for spiritual life has left its mark on the land in many ways. Anywhere you travel in India you find astounding temples and other sites of great spiritual significance. In this issue of BTG, we visit an old temple in Belur, Karnataka, in southwestern India. Like most of India's great temples, it was built by a devotee-king who wisely used his kingdom's resources to glorify Krsna and so gained eternal benefit.
In upcoming issues, BTG will take you to more of India's holy places. In the next issue: Naimisaranya, where the great Suta Gosvami spoke the Srimad-Bhagavatam five thousand years ago.
Bhagavatam Is Relevant
I thank Satsvarupa Maharaja for writing his article "Is Srimad-Bhagavatam Class Still Relevant?" [Jan/Feb 1992] and reminding us of how essential hearing and chanting are for one who aspires to develop love for Krsna. Our psychologists, aerobics teachers, health counselors, and so on, will not be able to assist us at the time of death, but the lessons of Srimad-Bhagavatam will.
Mahavegavati Devi Dasi
The Right to Believe
In the January/February issue of this year I read the most heart-wrenching story about the people in Lithuania who want the right to practice Krsna consciousness. What hell they went through! Everyone has the right to believe in what they want to believe. I believe in Krsna consciousness.
Cheryl Ann Blum
My question concerns the day of Ekadasi. Many Indian families, mine being one of them, observe fasting on the days set by the Indian calendar. I have told my parents that since these calendars are made in India, the dates are accurate in India but not in the United States. I'm having a hard time convincing them. Would you please write an article on Ekadasi, its rules and regulations, its rewards, as well as reasons why we cannot follow dates set by the Indian calendar? I know we aren't the only family who disagree on this topic.
In our issue for January-February 1991 (Premier Issue), we published an article about which calendar days to observe. An article to explain the importance of Ekadasi would also be a good idea, so we'll keep that in mind for a future issue.
The main purpose of Ekadasi is to increase our devotion to Krsna. Because we are living in the West, there may sometimes be some confusion or disagreement about precisely how to follow the rules and regulations. But the essence of all the rules and regulations is to always remember Krsna and never forget Krsna. All other rules should be servants of this one.
Srila Prabhupada came to America before the days when we had calendars calculated for the West, so he used to follow the Indian calendar days. He didn't seem too concerned about the technical discrepancies in the dates. He just followed the principle as closely as possible and kept in mind the ultimate purpose—devotion to Krsna.
So even if you and your parents may disagree about the dates, if you can agree about the purpose, that will be very nice.
Let's Have Some Humor
I enjoy the new Back to Godhead very much, but I believe it's greatly lacking in one area: humor. As a devotee I understand that Krsna consciousness is a serious pursuit, but I believe Back to Godhead could serve its readership better by balancing the intense subject matter with some humor.
Most devotees I know have a very good sense of humor. From some things I've read and been told by other devotees, Srila Prabhupada had a delightful sense of humor.
I think Back to Godhead would more accurately reflect the Krsna consciousness movement by exhibiting this side.
You're right that Krsna consciousness is a serious subject, and Srila Prabhupada wanted us to present it seriously. Still, I think you are right that we can sometimes afford to be a little humorous. In Bhagavad-gita, Krsna says that a devotee of the Lord is jolly. So that joyful attitude should be reflected in BTG, and sometimes we may have some amusing anecdotes.
We'll try to keep an eye out for ways to introduce humor in BTG while still keeping our overall sober tone.
Where Are the Ox Products?
I like the fact that Hare Krsna Dasi got down to dollars and cents with her column [Nov/Dec 1992], the net loss of $720 per ox [when the ox is not productively engaged]. I hope she will go further along this line. Neither she nor most of the rest of us can own an ox at present, so where are the ox-power products we can purchase? There must be many products besides milk that are marketable and shippable.
Hare Krsna Devi Dasi replies: As far as I know, devotee ox-farmers are now producing and selling vegetables, fruits, herbs, flowers, and firewood, in addition to feed crops for animals. But you're right when you say there must be ox-power products more shippable than milk. Grain produced by ox power has been the basis of wealth in numerous societies for thousands of years partly for that very reason: grain can be easily stored and shipped. Ox-power produced grain and the flour, breads, and cookies made from it are important products that should be made available.
Unfortunately—and I hope devotees will correct me if I'm wrong—no one in ISKCON is growing or processing food grains with oxen. This is not because our farmers are lazy or ignorant of Srila Prabhupada's desires, but because of the great obstacles to such activity in the current economic environment. As I've indicated in past columns, market-oriented production is the great eradicator of farmers. And to counteract this fact is going to take a lot more than for us just to buy the right products. Though the market does have an important role to play in the agricultural economics of varnasrama, it's often hard for us to understand that it's a secondary role.
As I discuss in this issue, Srila Prabhupada indicated that the first aim of production should be to provide for the farmer's family. One challenge we face right now is how to get the farmer and his family securely situated on their land so they can farm for a living in a community of devotees. Then they can gradually become purified—without being distracted by exploitive market forces, mortgage payments, rent, and unreasonable taxes, all of which make subsistence grain production nearly impossible.
As you say, neither of us is in a position to work the oxen. Nor am I qualified to make policy that will encourage Krsna conscious farming. Neither have I the ability to raise funds for this purpose—though all these things are needed. But we can all chant Hare Krsna, and Krsna will give us the intelligence to help in whatever way we can. I'm researching and writing, someone else is leading, someone is farming, someone is fundraising, someone is telling a friend that productive use of the oxen will save animals and the earth and bring us closer to God. According to our desires, Krsna is sure to give us the best service to help fulfill His plans.
I want to congratulate the BTG team on the new contents. I enjoy all the different columns. It makes practicing Krsna consciousness more down-to-earth and gives a forum for discussions, presenting different angles of vision, problems and difficulties faced by individuals and the movement. That's what a magazine is, something dynamic—not static but ecstatic!
Gaurangi Devi Dasi
Praise and Encouragement
Here is one fallen soul who wants to offer some praise and encouragement for your efforts to spread and maintain the teachings of Krsna consciousness as given by Srila Prabhupada. Krsna must be pleased with your service, for how else could you produce such an inspiring magazine. I pray that you all remain pure and that your publication of Back to Godhead will enter the hearts of conditioned souls everywhere.
We welcome your letters. Send correspondence to The Editors, Back to Godhead, P.O.Box 90946, San Diego, CA 92169, USA.
A lecture by
May 15 marks the anniversary of the appearance of Lord Nrsimhadeva, Lord Krsna's half-man, half-lion incarnation. Lord Nrsimhadeva appeared to protect His devotee Prahlada from being killed by his demonic father, Hiranyakasipu. Srila Prabhupada gave the following talk after watching a play about the appearance of Lord Nrsimhadeva. The talk was given on May 5, 1974, in Bombay.
This is a very instructive history about the struggle between the atheist and the theist. The story of Prahlada Maharaja is eternally true. There is always a struggle between the atheist and the theist. If a person becomes God conscious, Krsna conscious, he will find he has many enemies, because the world is full of demons.
What to speak of the devotee of Krsna, even Krsna, when He personally came, had to kill so many demons. Even His maternal uncle, Kamsa, wanted to kill Him. As soon as any son was born to Krsna's mother, Devaki, Kamsa killed him. There had been a prediction that the eighth child of Kamsa's sister, Devaki, would kill Kamsa. So Kamsa killed all her children. At last Krsna came. But Kamsa could not kill Krsna. He was killed by Krsna.
Nobody can kill God. The demons, the godless society—they simply want to kill God. But actually, God is never killed, but the demon is killed by God. That is the law of nature. This is the instruction from Prahlada Maharaja's life. As Krsna states in the Bhagavad-gita, mrtyuh sarva-haras caham: "I am also death, in the shape of taking away everything—whatever you possess."
Hiranyakasipu was very clever, just as the materialists and scientists are very clever. Cleverly they are inventing so many things. What is the idea? The idea is "We shall live forever and enjoy sense gratification more and more." This is called atheistic advancement of civilization.
Hiranyakasipu was a typical materialist. Hiranya means "gold," and kasipu means "soft bed" or "cushion." Materialistic persons are very much fond of gold and sex. That is their business.
Prahlada Maharaja's name comes from ahlada, which means "transcendental bliss." The living entity's real identification is prahlada, blissfulness. But because of material association, we are in a miserable condition of life.
Hiranyakasipu wanted to become immortal, so he underwent such severe penances that the whole universe trembled. Lord Brahma had to come to pacify him—"What do you want?"
Hiranyakasipu said, "I want to become immortal!"
Lord Brahma replied, "Although I have a very long duration of life, even I am not immortal, so I cannot grant you immortality."
The duration of life of Brahmaji is stated in the Bhagavad-gita: sahasra-yuga-paryantam arhad yad brahmano viduh. This means that Brahma's day is sahasra-yuga. Sahasra-yuga means one thousand times the duration of the four yugas—Satya, Treta, Dvapara, and Kali—or one thousand times 4.3 million years. This comes to 4.3 billion years, which is twelve hours for Brahma. And he lives for a hundred years of such days.
So although Brahma lives for trillions of years, still he has to die. Wherever you go within this material world, either in Brahma-loka or in Patala-loka, you have to die. That is the problem. Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita, "The real problem is janma-mrtyu-jara-vyadhi: birth, death, old age, and disease."
Hiranyakasipu wanted to solve these problems in a materialistic way, but that is not possible. When Brahma said he could not make Hiranyakasipu immortal, Hiranyakasipu tried to secure immortality by trickery. He asked Brahma to grant that he not be killed in any of these ways: by any weapon; during the day or night; on land, in water, or in the sky; inside or outside; or by any man or beast.
So Hiranyakasipu thought he was immortal. But to protect Prahlada Maharaja, Lord Nrsimhadeva killed Hiranyakasipu without violating the boons granted by Lord Brahma. Nrsimhadeva was neither man nor beast but half man, half lion. Placing Hiranyakasipu on His lap, the Lord killed him with His fingernails, on the threshhold of the demon's palace, at dusk.
Prahlada is the opposite of Hiranyakasipu. He is the Lord's devotee. In any condition, a devotee always remains a humble servant of Krsna. Therefore he has no danger. Even if he has danger, he will be saved. Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita, kaunteya pratijanihi na me bhaktah pranasyati: "Arjuna, you can declare it all over the world that anyone who has taken shelter at My lotus feet—who has become My devotee—will never be vanquished." And Krsna says:
"Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear."
So these are the assurances. But the atheistic class of men like Hiranyakasipu cannot understand this. That is their defect. They always challenge God. The dissension between the father (Hiranyakasipu) and the son (Prahlada) was that the son was a believer in God, Krsna, and the father was not. So at the end the father saw God in the form of death. At that time he could not save himself.
That is the difference between theist and atheist. The atheist always challenges, "Where is God? Can you show me?"
"Well, you will see Him. Not now. Just at the maturation of your sinful activities—when death comes—you will see Him."
Prahlada Maharaja is one of our gurus. There are twelve gurus called mahajanas:
svayambhur naradah sambhuh
"Lord Brahma, Bhagavan Narada, Lord Siva, the four Kumaras, Lord Kapila [the son of Devahuti], Svayambhuva Manu, Prahlada Maharaja, Janaka Maharaja, Grandfather Bhisma, Bali Maharaja, Sukadeva Gosvami, and I [Yamaraja]."
If we want to make progress in spiritual life, we have to follow the mahajanas, the great personalities. They are mentioned in the scriptures.
Prahlada Maharaja is our guru in the disciplic succession. The Mahabharata (Vana-parva 313.117) states:
tarko 'pratisthah srutayo vibhinna
"Dry arguments are inconclusive. A great personality whose opinion does not differ from others is not considered a great sage. Simply by studying the Vedas, which are variegated, one cannot come to the right path by which religious principles are understood. The solid truth of religious principles is hidden in the heart of an unadulterated self-realized person. Consequently, as the scriptures confirm, one should accept whatever progressive path the mahajanas advocate."
We cannot chalk out the path of religion. It is very difficult to find out because there are many different scriptures and philosophers. Each philosopher has a different opinion. So how to get the real path of religion? You have to follow the footsteps of great personalities. And Prahlada Maharaja is one of them.
Prahlada Maharaja was born in a demon's family. His father was a demon. Prahlada Maharaja used to address his father as asura-varya—"the best of the demons." Hiranyakasipu was patting his son, "My dear son, do like this, do like that. Tell me the best thing you have learned."
So Prahlada Maharaja said, tat sadhu manye 'sura-varya dehinam. He never said, "My dear father." He said, "My dear 'the best of the demons.' " Tat sadhu manye. "I think this is very nice." What is that? Hitvatma-patam andha-kupam vanam gato yad dharim asrayeta: "That this worldly life—materialistic life—is self-killing, just like a dark well. So one should give it up and go to the forest and take shelter of Krsna. That is the best way of life."
So his father became very angry. The atheist and the theist will never agree. The theist will never submit to the atheist. This is the principle. Prahlada Maharaja was put into so many troubles by his father, but he never forgot chanting om bhagavate vasudevaya namah. He never forgot.
We should learn from this story that even in a dangerous position we should not forget Krsna. Krsna will save us. It is said in the Bhagavad-gita (6.22),
yam labdhva caparam labham
"Established thus [in Krsna consciousness], one never departs from the truth, and upon gaining this he thinks there is no greater gain. Being situated in such a position, one is never shaken, even in the midst of the greatest difficulty."
Krsna consciousness is so nice that if one gets Krsna consciousness, any other benefit or gain is never considered. This is so nice. We are hankering after getting this, that, this, that, this, that—so many things. But as soon as you get Krsna consciousness, you will be satisfied. Just like Prahlada Maharaja. He was offered all benedictions. Lord Nrsimhadeva said, "My dear Prahlada, whatever you like, you can ask for." But Prahlada never asked for anything. And he was so kind. He is the example of a Vaisnava son in the family. Despite so much trouble given by his father, still he begged from Nrsimhadeva, "My Lord, my father has committed so many offenses. Kindly give him liberation." He did not ask anything for himself.
So Narahari, Nrsimhadeva, immediately said, "Why do you speak of your father? Your father's father, his father—fourteen generations—all will be liberated because a son like you is in this family." This is the benefit. If a son becomes a pure Vaisnava devotee, he can deliver fourteen generations.
What service can we give our family or nation materially? But if we become a devotee, we can give the best service to our nation, to our family, to humanity. That is the philosophy of Krsna consciousness.
Our Krsna consciousness movement is preaching this philosophy: "You take to Krsna consciousness, and your life will be perfect." And the method is very simple. There is no secrecy. This evening I was talking with a boy who has gotten a mantra and must keep it very secret. But we have no secret mantra. Our mantra, Hare Krsna, is open to everyone. Why should it be a secret? If by chanting the Hare Krsna mantra we can approach God, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, why should it remain secret? It should be distributed like anything so that everyone can go back to God. So there is no secrecy. We don't approve of any secret mantra. It must be very open. The sastra never says that a mantra can be secret.
In this age of Kali it is very difficult to come to the right conclusion by philosophy and other methods. "Kali" means the age of quarrel, misunderstanding, and disagreement. Therefore in the scripture it has been openly declared:
harer nama harer nama
"In this age of Kali there is no alternative, there is no alternative, there is no alternative for spiritual progress than the holy name, the holy name, the holy name of the Lord."
Meditation, sacrifice, elaborate worship in the temple—in this age these things are impossible to perform, but even a child can chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra. That is proved by our experience. Whenever there is chanting of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, even the child can take part, even an old man can take part.
So this is the only method for God realization. There is no expenditure, but the gain is very, very great. That was the teaching of Prahlada Maharaja, and we are following his footsteps. Let us stick to his principle and become more and more advanced in Krsna consciousness.
Thank you very much.
by Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami
I AM IN VANDAVANA. It is night. The pigeons are roosting, crickets chirping. A man is intoning some sastra, fulfilling a vow by broadcasting scripture under the distant stars. They stand as cold witnesses.
I want to complain that I am being forced to stay awake and listen to his recitation, but being in Vrndavana means learning to adjust. One cannot simply call the police and complain, "Some guy is broadcasting his prayers over a loudspeaker. He is disturbing my rest." No policeman would dream of interfering with the sadhu any more than he would round up dogs or hogs or thieving monkeys. All creatures in Vrndavana—from the sadhus to the monkeys—have somehow gained shelter in Radharani's earthly Vrndavana.
It is we Westerners, our minds spinning over petty ambitions, who are an anomaly to Vrndavana's live-and-let-live mood. We, who think we are better than the residents of the dhama, the Lord's abode, are the ones who need to adjust.
* * *
A friend just entered the room. I could tell he had just come from bathing in the Yamuna by the soft gray color of his feet. He goes twice a day. I told myself, "As a water buffalo must enter the water regularly, you should also bathe in the Yamuna whenever your mind becomes troubled." Then I offered him my obeisances.
What will happen today? This is the question one always asks while residing in Vrndavana. Will I be able to hear of Lord Krsna's most wonderful friendships with His dear ones? Will I go into chanting and hearing in the right frame of mind? A disciple told me, "In Vrndavana there are no demons, so I know my troubles here are my own manufacturing." Everything is so much clearer in Vrndavana, even the source of one's troubles. Our troubles always arise from the mind, but in the West we tend to blame them on others or on the cold or the heat or the high cost of living or the seemingly all-pervading material energy. Vrndavana teaches us to chant and hear, to see Radha-Syamasundara, to see Srila Prabhupada. We do not go to Vrndavana to study logic or world religions or to make some plans for living in the material world; we come to culture transcendence. Vrndavana is the domain of Srimati Radharani. By Her mercy, we will learn to adjust.
* * *
Tomorrow is Ekadasi. My head is newly shaved, the breeze is pleasant. I am living on a transcendental college campus, ISKCON Vrndavana. I will start teaching a seminar in a few days.
Sometimes I observe all this as an outsider. Here is the group of sannyasis, staffs held high, standing before the closed altar doors just before greeting the Deities. I am among them when the conches blow and the doors slide open. The Deities give darsana as the "Govindam" prayers ring out over the loudspeakers. We stand worshiping Gaura-Nitai.
I observe this, but standing apart from it doesn't seem right. It occurs to me that I can choose whether I want to be part of the deeper meaning of Radha-Krsna's darsana. This same act—devotees waiting for the Lord to appear—has been going on for hundreds and thousands of years, but what does it mean? What are we supposed to be doing here? How can we keep doing it eternally? I pray to know my true self, the self who is Krsna's eternal servant, the self who is free from birth and death. I pray to still be here tomorrow, waiting for the Lord's darsana.
* * *
Days leaf like calendar pages. The flapping snap sound of pigeon wings permeates the air. Every day I go into Srila Prabhupada's room in the early morning. Although I cannot expect to be alone with Prabhupada for long, at least it is quiet for a few minutes and I can come close to Prabhupada's desk and prostrate myself before him. I feel only a semblance of his presence, but I take it as better than nothing. As with everything else in Vrndavana, I am learning to adjust to the reality of my devotion. The adjustment comes in learning to be patient with myself and in trying to improve by approaching Prabhupada again and again. In the West everything is won by revolution, but in Vrndavana change evolves quietly and deeply.
I read this passage from Bhaktivinoda Thakura's Kalyana-kalpataru (Upadesa, Texts 5-6):
My dear mind, you are falling into the illusory mistakes of the insensitive world of matter, and so your own real self has been transformed into an entirely different, false personality. Now just heed my advice, dear friend, and don't cheat your own soul any longer. From now on, please keep yourself in the company of the devotees of the Lord.
This is what Vrndavana can culture in us—this desire to reclaim our souls from the world of passion and ignorance. Vrndavana frees us from doubts in God's existence by standing as witness to Radha-Krsna's pastimes. And Vrndavana assures us that real wealth is to "keep continuous, intense absorption in the beautiful lotus feet of Sri Radha-Krsna."
Srila Prabhupada and all the previous spiritual masters have insisted we learn to keep Vrndavana in our hearts and minds, no matter where we are in the world. To do this, we have to imbibe deeply the Vrndavana mood when we are present in the dhama. We have to allow Vrndavana to work on us, to adjust and shape us. We have to have faith that Vrndavana will allow us to reclaim our real selves and leave our false selves behind. Then we have to go back to our duties in the West ready to be a little freer, more dependent on the dhama, and more responsive to working on ourselves in ways the dhama taught us. Everything is possible by the mercy of Srimati Radharani, the queen of Vrndavana.
Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami is the author of more than two-dozen books, including a six-volume biography of Srila Prabhupada.
On Mystic Perfections and Long-Distance Hypnosis
by Sadaputa Dasa
IT WAS 9:00 P.M., April 22, 1886. The four researchers—Ochorowicz, Marillier, Janet, and A. T. Myers—crept quietly through the deserted streets of Le Havre and took up their stations outside the cottage of Madame B. They waited expectantly. Then it happened. "At 9:25," Ochorowicz later wrote, "I saw a shadow appearing at the garden gate: it was she. I hid behind the corner in order to be able to hear without being seen." (1)
At first the woman paused at the gate and went back into the garden. Then at 9:30 she hurried out into the street and began to make her way unsteadily toward the house of Dr. Gibert. The four researchers followed as unobtrusively as possible. They could see she was obviously in a somnambulistic state. Finally she reached Gibert's house, entered, and hurried from room to room until she found him.
This was an experiment in long-distance hypnotic influence. Madame B., a person easily hypnotized, was the subject of many experiments arranged by Professor Pierre Janet and Dr. Gibert, a prominent physician of Le Havre. In these probes they were joined by F. W. H. Myers of the Society for Psychical Research, the physician A. T. Myers, Professor Ochorowicz of the University of Lvov, and M. Marillier of the French Psychological Society.
On this occasion the plan was that Dr. Gibert remain in his study and try to mentally summon Madame B. to leave her cottage and come see him. The cottage was about a kilometer from his house, and neither Madame B. nor any of the people living with her had been told that the experiment would take place. Gibert began issuing his mental commands at 8:55 p.m., and within half an hour she began her journey to his house. F. W. H. Myers wrote that out of twenty-five similar tests, nineteen were equally successful. (2)
This strange story tells of a kind of venture that meets with disapproval both from modern science and from the Vedic literature. The reasons tell us something interesting about both.
Let me begin by discussing how Dr. Gibert's experiment is seen by scientists.
We rarely hear much about people being able to influence others at a distance by mental commands. But many similar experiments have been performed. Here is another example from the late nineteenth century.
One Dr. Dufay was using hypnosis to treat Madame C. for periodic headaches and sickness that the usual medical treatments had failed to relieve. He found he was able to put her to sleep and awaken her by mental commands, sometimes at a distance.
On one occasion when called out of town, he arranged that Madame C.'s husband telegraph him when one of her headaches began and then report any later developments by a second telegram.
One morning at ten o'clock he received a telegram announcing that a headache had begun. So he mentally ordered the woman to sleep, and at four o'clock he ordered her to awaken. The husband telegraphed that she had gone to sleep at ten a.m. and awakened at four. The distance between Dr. Dufay and Madame C. was about 112 kilometers. (3)
Experiments of this kind fall within a field of study that early in this century was called psychical research and today is more often called parapsychology. This field deals with apparent powers of the human mind that are "paranormal," or hard to explain using accepted physical theories. Distant mental influence is a classic example of such a power.
How most scientists view parapsychology was recently summed up by Dr. James Alcock of Toronto's York University in the journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences. He wrote: "Although there has been over a century of formal empirical inquiry, parapsychologists have clearly failed to produce a single reliable demonstration of 'paranormal,' or 'psi,' phenomena.... Indeed, parapsychologists have not even succeeded in developing a reasonable definition of paranormal phenomena that does not involve, or imply, some aspect of mind-body dualism." (4)
Here Alcock brings up two important points. The first is that paranormal phenomena have not been reliably demonstrated. The experiments of Dr. Gibert and Dr. Dusart may indeed seem unreliable. They were rather loosely organized and didn't use the strict laboratory protocols we expect in scientific work. But many carefully planned tests of distant influence have been performed in laboratory settings.
For example, take the work done in the 1920's by Professor Leonid Vasiliev of the University of Leningrad. In one series of tests a subject named Fedorova would arrive at Vasiliev's laboratory at about 8 p.m. After about twenty minutes of rest and conversation, she would lie on a bed in a darkened chamber. She was told to keep squeezing a rubber balloon attached to an air tube as long as she was awake, and to stop squeezing it when she began to fall asleep. The air tube was hooked up to an apparatus in the next room that recorded when she would fall asleep and wake up. While in the darkened room, she had no further contact with the experimenters.
When Fedorova entered the room, the experimenter who had been talking with her would signal a colleague, called the sender, who was waiting two rooms away. The sender would then climb into a special lead-lined chamber and open a letter prepared in advance and not yet read by the subject, by the sender, or by the other experimenter. This letter would instruct the sender to do one of three things: (1) stay within the lead-lined chamber and mentally order the subject to go to sleep, (2) stand with his head outside the chamber and issue the same mental commands, or (3) stand with his head outside the chamber and make no commands.
To show the kind of results Vasiliev obtained, here is a list of how long it took the subject to go to sleep in twenty-nine runs of this test. (5) The times are in minutes and seconds.
TIME TO GO TO SLEEP
It seems the subject was falling asleep faster when a person two rooms away was mentally ordering her to do so.
Vasiliev ran many other carefully organized experiments of this kind, and he reported similar results. In one successful test, mental commands for sleeping and waking were even sent from Sebastopol to Leningrad, a distance of 1,700 kilometers.
Such research, of course, is rejected by scientists like Alcock. The methodology, they will argue, is flawed. In Vasiliev's experiment, neither the subject nor the persons talking with her should know whether a command to sleep will be given. But how do we know that this condition was met? The experimenter talking with the subject might have learned what was in the envelope and cued the subject, either deliberately or inadvertently. This might have influenced how fast the subject fell asleep. Or the subject might have cheated by pretending to doze off faster when the command to sleep was given.
Many scientists will insist that results such as those of Vasiliev must be tossed aside unless the work is iron-clad against fraud. Yet many scientific experiments less cautious of fraud are accepted. Why the stricter standard for parapsychology?
Here we come to Alcock's second point—that paranormal phenomena imply some kind of mind-body dualism.
When Vasiliev started his experiments, he argued that distant transmission of influences from one person to another must work through electro-magnetic waves. It must be a kind of radio, in which one brain sends signals to another.
As long as Vasiliev was able to argue this, his research was accepted and funded in the Soviet Union. But his experimental findings soon ruled out the radio hypothesis. For example, with the subject Fedorova the average time before sleep was the same whether the mental commands were sent within the lead-lined chamber or outside it. The chamber was designed to block radio waves, but it seemed to do nothing to halt mental signals.
These and other findings convinced Vasiliev that known forms of radiant energy were not involved in transmitting mental commands. But as soon as this became known, the support for Vasiliev's work was cut off, and remote mental influence was officially condemned in the Soviet Union as "an antisocial idealist fiction about man's supernatural power to perceive phenomena which, considering the time and place, cannot be perceived." (6)
Here too in the West, scientists reject the idea that the mind can do things that violate the known laws of physics. To them, such phenomena must be miracles, and they follow the philosopher David Hume in saying, "No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind that its falsehood would be more miraculous, than the fact which it endeavors to establish." (7) Since there is nothing miraculous about fraud, scientists still prefer it as the proper answer for anomalous parapsychological data.
Now, turning from modern science to the Vedic literature, we find a different outlook on the oddities we've been discussing.
According to the Srimad-Bhagavatam, there are eight primary siddhis, or mystic powers. These ultimately come from the potency of Krsna, and since all living beings are Krsna's parts and parcels, living beings are potentially able to manifest these powers to a minute degree. From the Vedic point of view, this is completely natural and not at all miraculous.
One of the eight siddhis, called vasita, is described by Srila Prabhupada as follows:
"By this perfection one can bring anyone under his control. This is a kind of hypnotism which is almost irresistible. Sometimes it is found that a yogi who may have attained a little perfection in this vasita mystic power comes out among the people and speaks all sorts of nonsense, controls their minds, exploits them, takes their money, and then goes away." (8)
This power is similar to the power of distant mental influence studied by Vasiliev and others. But here we find that the natural hypnotic power they studied can, it seems, be made stronger by appropriate techniques of yoga.
The point that yogis who acquire the vasita siddhi often use it to cheat people fits well with at least one idea of modern science. Scientists tend to think that people claiming this power are mostly cheaters, and the Vedic view agrees. Many psychics use their abilities, alleged or real, to separate foolish people from their money, and this gives a bad name both to psychics and to paranormal phenomena in general.
This brings us to an important Vedic point about the mystic siddhis. In the Uddhava-gita section of Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.15.33), Krsna says, "Learned experts in devotional service state that the mystic perfections of yoga I have mentioned are impediments and a waste of time for one practicing the supreme yoga, by which one achieves all perfection in life directly from Me."
Thus scientists and great devotees both regard mystic siddhis as undesirable. For scientists they distract people from "scientific truth," and for devotees they distract one from the path of service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
1. Vasiliev, L.L., Experiments in Distant Influence (London: Wildwood House, 1963) p. 211.
2. Vasiliev, Ibid., p. 213.
3. Myers, F. W. H., Human Personality and its Survival of Bodily Death (New York: University Books, Inc., 1961) p. 145.
4. Alcock, James E., 1987, "Parapsychology: Science of the anomalous or search for the soul?" Behavioral and Brain Science, p. 553.
5. Vasiliev, Ibid., p. 144.
6. Vasiliev, Ibid., pp. xviii, xxiii.
7. Hume, David, 1966, 2nd edition, Enquiries Concerning the Human Understanding and Concerning the Principles of Morals, Oxford: Clarendon Press, pp. 115-116.
8. A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, The Nectar of Devotion, (Los Angeles: The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, 1982) p. 12.
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.
Cooking Class: Lesson 2
Rice—Going with the Grain
by Yamuna Devi
UNTIL RECENTLY, nearly all the rice sold on Western grocery shelves was bland. Fortunately, India's premier long-grain rice, regarded as the finest in the world, is now available. It's basmati rice (literally "the queen of fragrance"), grown in the Himalayan foothills. The raw rice, delicately perfumed, cooks with the appetizing aroma of popcorn and has a subtle, nutty taste. Indian basmati is sold in Indian and Middle Eastern grocery stores.
It's been more than twenty-five years since I cooked my first pot of basmati rice for Srila Prabhupada's lunch. Though he's no longer physically present in the kitchen, I'm ever mindful of his many instructions on cooking rice.
In the fall of 1969, Srila Prabhupada spent a couple of months at John Lennon's estate near London. When we ran out of basmati one day for Prabhupada's lunch, my sister Janaki served him a mound of hot Uncle Ben's. The moment he glanced at the plate he asked, "What's this? Where is the rice?" Though she plaintively countered that it was indeed rice, he said, "No, this is not rice. Rice means basmati."
Srila Prabhupada once wandered into his kitchen in Vrndavana and saw two rice grains on the floor. In a soft voice, his grey eyes watery with emotion, he said, "Never waste one grain. It is Krsna's gift."
India's dependence on rice has weathered millennia of change. It's known as anna laksmi (anna means rice grain, and Laksmi is the goddess of fortune), for it provides sustenance for mind, body, and soul. More than two thirds of the Indian people live on it, and it's an integral element in temple worship and ceremonies. It's sprinkled on a sacrificial fire at birth, marriage, and spiritual initiation. On holy occasions, Indian women artfully paint their hearths and doorways with tinted ground-rice pastes. The throwing of rice grains on wedding couples started in India.
The thousands of rice strains cultivated in the world are generally grouped as long grain, medium grain, and short grain. Different strains cook differently. For example, some rices stick together when cooked. Others stay separate.
Rice is a versatile grain. It can be heated and puffed, pressed and flattened, or ground into grits or flour. In India rice is transformed into an endless variety of savories, snacks, confections, and ambrosial puddings. In this lesson we'll focus on dishes made from rice in its natural, whole form.
American-grown alternatives to Indian basmati are Texmati and Calmati brands, developed by crossbreeding Indian basmati with American long-grain. The flavor is similar to basmati, though a little less distinct. Another strain, jasmati, is a crossbreed of fragrant jasmine Thai and U. S. long-grain. Texmati will soon come out with a pure basmati strain, and organic basmati is already grown in Arkansas. These rices are available at natural food stores and supermarkets across the country.
Whether you're cooking for a family or an institution, it's good to note that rice is a nutrition plus in the diet. Rice is a lowfat, complex carbohydrate that contains all eight essential amino acids, which means the body can use its protein effectively. Brown basmati, brown Calmati, and brown Texmati have most of the bran layers left intact, giving them higher nutritional value. A plus for children and the aged: Rice is ninety-eight percent digestible and digests in one hour rather than the two to four hours of many other grains, legumes, and vegetables.
If you've purchased the course textbook, Lord Krishna's Cuisine or The Best of Lord Krishna's Cuisine, as recommended in my previous column, study the introduction to the section on rice. It gives you an overview of everything you need to know about rice cookery. In addition to preparing the dishes below, try making four other rice dishes this month. Take notes on the results and your preferences.
The following dishes are Srila Prabhupada's recipes.
If you use brown rice, cook it for 35-45 minutes.
Plain Basmati Rice
2 cups basmati rice
Wash and drain the rice. Place the rice and 3 ½ cups water in a heavy-bottomed, medium-size saucepan for 10 minutes. Bring to a boil, stirring to prevent sticking. Reduce the heat to very low, cover with a tight lid, and cook for 15-20 minutes. Let the cooked rice rest for 5 minutes, undisturbed and covered. Uncover, fluff the rice with a fork, and serve piping hot.
2 cups cooked basmati rice, fluffed
Place the rice, spices, currants, and pineapple on a tray and mix with your fingers until well blended. Whip the cream into firm peaks. Fold the sugar into the cream or yogurt and add it to the rice. Blend well, transfer to a serving dish, and chill 1 hour. Garnish with pineapple rings and toasted almonds.
1 cup basmati or long-grain rice
If you use basmati rice, wash and soak it as directed. Place the rice, water, salt, and coconut in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook and fluff as directed in the first recipe.
Heat the ghee or oil in a small pan over moderate heat. Add the peanuts and fry until golden, adding the crushed chilies in the last minute of browning. Pour the mixture into the rice and fluff. Serve with lemon wedges.
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.
Four Kinds of Parents—Four Different Results
by Sri Rama Dasa
WE WANT TO SEE our kids grow up like us. It's a primal instinct. Values, culture, morals, religion, way of life—we expect (or at least hope) to convey these intact.
In traditional cultures, passing the torch to the next generation tended to go smoothly. The whole society—parents, neighbors, teachers, relatives, government—sent similar cultural messages. Now, though, how many of us live in traditional cultures?
India, its roots in the best of traditional cultures, is losing touch with its spiritual heritage. Poverty, foreign influence, mundane government, and envy of the wealthy West have robbed India of its Vedic patrimony. And as India gives up the spiritual high ground for the passionate commodity pit of more "developed" countries, Indians living in the West often find themselves spiritually isolated in an ocean of materialism.
ISKCON should provide a unified spiritually-based culture—what Srila Prabhupada called "a house in which the whole world can live." When Caitanya Mahaprabhu's prophecies are fulfilled, when Srila Prabhupada's books are the law books for mankind, when we establish a society of simple living and high thinking—then we can look forward to a coherent culture that preserves the values, religion, and way of life we want to pass on to our children.
In "Twelve Steps for Success," an article I wrote in 1988, I cautioned ISKCON educators to think realistically about our present cultural atmosphere:
"It would be a mistake to think we live in Vedic culture. For the present, we live in 'ISKCON culture'—a unique blend of traditional Vedic culture, modern Indian culture, Western mass culture, and whatever our local culture happens to be."
Given this cultural confusion, parents can expect little help inspiring their children to accept their beliefs and way of life. And what greater pain is there than seeing our kids turn away from our most closely-held possessions: our spiritual way of life, our moral and cultural values, and the very concept of who we are and what our role in life is?
So what can parents do to help their children respect and emulate their way of life? Several academic studies show that different approaches to parenting get different results.
Four Basic Styles
NEGLECTFUL PARENTS tend to flee the responsibilities of parenthood. They may be too busy with their professional lives, or too consumed with their own problems. Their children receive neither discipline nor love.
PERMISSIVE PARENTS love and care about their kids, but fail to set limits. They often fear that discipline will drive children away or interfere with affection.
AUTHORITARIAN PARENTS like to say, "Do it because I say so!" They often fight with their kids and motivate by threats and punishment. Most parents fall into this category.
AUTHORITATIVE PARENTS set consistent, logical limits and are ready to enforce them. Yet they spend time explaining reasons for the limits and teaching their children how to make good decisions on their own.
Results Speak for Themselves
A study by the University of Wisconsin in the 1970's (see bar chart) rated results for these four approaches:
Children of neglectful parents fared consistently low in self-esteem and responded poorly to discipline outside the home (from teachers, pastors, police, and so on). Also, such children rejected their parents' religion and way of life.
Children with permissive upbringing ranked lowest in self-esteem but did better in the other categories than kids with neglectful or authoritarian parents.
Children from authoritarian homes had better self-esteem but were at the bottom in every other ranking.
Children of authoritative parents were consistently at the top in every category.
A twelve-year study by the University of California at Berkeley found similar patterns. Teenagers with permissive backgrounds had immature attitudes, low self-esteem, trouble getting along with peers, and difficulty with school work. They also tended to be sexually promiscuous and heavily involved with drugs.
The authoritarian approach seemed to backfire by adolescence. Though these children used drugs or alcohol less often, they had many emotional problems and were unhappy. They were immature, had poor images of themselves, lacked motivation in school, and scored lowest on standard academic tests.
On the other hand, sons and daughters of authoritative parents showed little problem behavior, were generally satisfied and mature, and scored highest academically.
Qualities of Authoritative Parents
Authoritative parents show a balance of love and discipline. When setting limits or requiring specific behavior, they take the effort to explain why. They're consistent in dealing with their children, and they teach by example.
As followers of spiritual culture, we have natural advantages in these areas, and we should use them. Knowledge of reincarnation and karma offers the most coherent view of the world around us. If we're well-versed in Vedic philosophy, we can give the best reasons for leading a moral, responsible life. Devotion to guru and Krsna provides tangible experience of our personal relationship with God—the ultimate motivation for good behavior.
But we must avoid using Vedic philosophy or culture as a tool for blind authoritarianism. In the moral void of modern society, it won't work to tell our children to do it our way "because that's what I did when I was your age." Nor will it be enough to ply our kids with platitudes and dogma. Guilt and threats of future lowly births won't work either.
The philosophy of the Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam is beautiful, comprehensive, and logical. If we know and live that philosophy ourselves, while explaining it in relevant ways to our children, we will be successful parents.
Sri Rama Dasa is Chairman of the ISKCON Board of Education. Send correspondence to 3764 Watseka Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90034.
The Origins of Cow-Killing Economics
by Hare Krsna Devi Dasi
By encouraging animal slaughter, the whole atmosphere becomes polluted more and more by war, pestilence, famine, and many other unwanted calamities.
—Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.7.37, purport
No one seemed to care that food-aid programs crippled small farmers in the countries that got the grain. For centuries these farmers had grown staple foods for themselves and their neighbors using simple farming methods, usually plowing with animals. When the U. S. dumped cheap tractor-produced grain on the market, food prices sank so low these farmers could barely earn a living. Many gave up farming and tried to find work in the cities so they could at least buy food. But machines in the cities were putting people out of work. So now many who'd come from the farms had neither land to grow food nor money to buy it.
When well-off countries tried to help by sending even more food aid, they made the problem worse by wiping out more farmers. Governments and international agencies couldn't see the value of keeping traditional farmers on their land.
In the 1970's the international food situation changed. U. S.-Soviet detente opened the silos for huge American grain sales to the Soviet Union (much of it to feed animals). This meant the U. S. no longer had to sell grain cheap for food aid.
So grain prices went up around the world. Countries that had been getting grain cheap now had to pay full price.
About the same time, there were several shocks in oil prices. So on top of paying more for U. S. grain, now developing countries had to pay more for petroleum for their fledgling industries.
One way to get money was to borrow from the World Bank. But the Bank expected to be paid back, and by the 1980's it was calling for austerities to make sure countries could repay their loans. One important austerity was for countries to lean less on imports, including grains. But this again hurt the poor, as prices for food shot up beyond their reach.
Another form of "help" proved even more destructive. Experts believed that instead of importing food, third-world countries should grow more—through the technology and miracle seeds of the "Green Revolution." But what should they grow more of? Cash crops to pay off international debts.
Profitable crops might be broccoli or strawberries or even carnations. But the biggest crop for bringing in cash was feed grains.
In Food Crops vs. Feed Crops, David Barkin, Rosemary Batt, and Billie DeWalt tell how, in country after country, feed crops for meat production edged out food crops as the Green Revolution advanced. In Mexico, for example, land traditionally used for corn and beans for people gave way to wheat and sorghum for animals. Productivity and profits went up. More people went hungry.
As food aid had pushed small farmers off their land by driving down crop prices, the Green Revolution pushed them off by driving up prices for land and rent. Farm land in the third world kept converging into the hands of a few. As wealthier farmers profited from credit and technological advances, they brought bigger harvests to market. This raised land values. So nearby subsistence farmers, unable to make enough to pay rent and taxes, got pushed off their land to join the hungry.
The Green Revolution featured new seeds called "high-yield." They were not inherently high yielding, but they yielded more in response to technological inputs—chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and so on.
The ecological toll of the Green Revolution was devastating. Vandana Shiva, physicist and agricultural philosopher, tells of it in The Violence of the Green Revolution. Switching from thousands of types of local grains to a handful of new hybrids dangerously shrank the genetic pool of local seed types. Switching from cow manure and green manure to chemical fertilizers degraded the soil, making it poor in micronutrients and toxic. The irrigation needed for the new hybrids made some land soggy and salty and turned other land into desert.
Green Revolution crops gave more grain because they grew on shorter stems. But in India, for example, the straw of the plant was a chief source of fodder for cows, which provided manure for fuel and fertilizer. Short-stemmed grains meant less fodder and manure. Sending animals to the forest to make up for lost fodder put heavy pressure on the forest ecosystem. Many forests were lost.
Large areas gave way to mono-cropping, growing just one kind of crop for harvest. Pulses, oilseeds, millet, and greens became scarce, and local people suffered nutritional disorders. Meanwhile, new pests invaded the fields, only to be fought by pesticides that contaminated food, soil, and water.
And farmers had to pay for each damaging input. As they switched from systems nature had sustained for centuries to one where every input had to be paid for, small farmers were swept off their land. Even large farmers saw profits sink as input prices rose and productivity declined. Social unrest followed, and factions fought for land, water rights, and credit.
Of course, the market offered other ways to earn money. Instead of raising animal feed, some countries raised animals. In Brazil, thousands of acres of Amazon rain forest were cleared to raise cattle to give meat for fast-food restaurants around the world.
Meanwhile, back in the U. S., where huge-scale commercial farming had gotten its start, things were worse than ever. Soybeans and corn, two chief moneymakers in animal feed, were catastrophically eroding the soil. The typical Iowa corn farmer lost two bushels of topsoil for every bushel of corn he reaped. Irrigation for feed crops was depleting water supplies.
Input prices kept rising, but farmers often had no choice but to sell to a single company that made sure the farmers couldn't raise crop prices. The better the farmers produced, the lower the crop prices fell, and the more money the farmers lost. They were being wiped out. In 1860, half the people in America worked on farms; by 1990, only two out of every hundred.
And the price of inputs promised only to go up further. Months before the Persian Gulf war, the U. S. Department of Energy predicted that oil prices would double by the year 2015, to $40 a barrel. The Department of Agriculture warned that by the year 2000 the U. S. would become a net importer of phosphate rock, ammonium, and potash, the main items in commercial fertilizer.
Even more ominous, with the farm lobby shrinking, the government talked about offsetting the national debt by abolishing farm subsidies. Rural sociologist Harriet Friedman predicted, "When that happens, American farmers will be decimated."
All over the world, agriculture was suffering similar problems. Slaughtering the ox to replace him with a tractor, and replacing food grains with feed grains for meat, had failed to bring peace, abundance, and prosperity. Instead, as Srila Prabhupada said, it had polluted the world with conflict, pestilence, and famine.
Next issue, we'll begin to look at a Vedic alternative to our modern socio-economic mess.
Hare Krsna Devi Dasi has been 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.
A true story by Ravindra Svarupa Dasa
Part III (Conclusion): The Prophecy Fulfilled
ON THE NIGHT of February 15, 1990, during a power failure, I was led across a rooftop high over New Delhi; the city had disappeared in darkness below, while overhead the firmament spilled open with a bright brocade of stars. On that rooftop stood a one-room concrete hut: it was the study of an astrologer and seer known to me simply as "Panditji." Sitting within that narrow, candlelit space, my companions and I heard the Pandit deliver an amazing prophecy.
It all began with Panditji's enthusiastic assertion at some point in our conversation that the International Society for Krishna Consciousness would one day transform the world. Wondering whether his vision owed more to pious hope than actual fore-knowledge, I inquired about something more specific and nearer at hand: the annual meeting of the Governing Body Commission of ISKCON, which was to begin in three days in Mayapura. I was flying out the next afternoon for that meeting. What would it be like?
Panditji then prophesied a wonder: In that meeting of the GBC a supernatural entity, something he called the "dharma-cakra of ISKCON," would be formed and set into motion. Thereafter ISKCON would extend its spiritual power all over the world and transform it. This dharma-cakra, or "wheel of religion," would get assembled, Panditji explained, because the members of the GBC would overcome personal interest and motivation and center themselves harmoniously on Krsna—like spokes properly aligned on the hub of a well-made wheel.
Then Panditji announced a date for the accomplishment of this act: March 7, 1990. We objected: How could it happen on one particular day? And anyway the GBC meetings were to end two days before! But Panditji stuck to his date: "March 7 will be a turning-point for ISKCON," he said with unruffled assurance. "The dharma-cakra will be formed and moving. Before, there were problems in your GBC—but after that date everything will be corrected."
Yet three days later in Mayapur, as I packed my briefcase for the opening session of the meetings, I harbored no expectation that Panditji's prophecy would be fulfilled. A harrowing trip from Delhi to Mayapur and an equally harrowing assault, upon arrival, of bureaucratic minutiae ("the death of a thousand nicks") had made the evening with Panditji seem distant and dreamlike, like a legend from a remote time.
At the same time I found myself unable simply to forget the matter altogether and be rid of it. It persisted stubbornly on the borders of consciousness, apparently gathering power, and very soon made itself known.
This happened, in fact, during my first trip to the GBC meeting place from my room on the third floor (second by Indian counting) of the "Lotus building." My door opened onto the wide marble-floored verandah, enclosed by fluted arches, that belted each story of the building. Down this verandah I set forth, file-laden. After descending the central flight of stairs, I turned right and followed the second floor verandah around the building. Clambering up a wooden staircase shoved against a low wall, I stepped onto the roof of the abutting building. Before me lay a vast, sun-battered expanse of concrete, gradually rising in stepped tiers like a terraced field. I started across it. Unseen beneath my feet passed the polished marble floors, the pendulous chandeliers, the echoing cavernous spaces of the temple. Midway across the roof, a tall parabolic dome, called a sikhara, rose above me on my left. Proclaiming the Lord's presence to the surroundings, this dome surmounted the altar room of Lord Nrsimhadeva, the half-lion, half-human incarnation of Krsna before whom we pray daily for the protection of the Krsna consciousness movement. That morning a gang of workers was beginning to lash thick bamboo rods to the dome. On my right, in the temple courtyard below, other workers were noisily laying flagstone.
From out of the open temple doors spilled the well-amplified hymning of a bhajana band, and here is where I felt something odd, a kind of emotional bump, followed at once by an unsolicited mental remark: "Ah ha! Rooftops. Bands." But I was preoccupied, and I brushed it aside. Reaching the roof's end, I rounded the base of the huge dome that rose over the main altar; Sri Sri Radha-Madhava stood directly below. Workmen were also cladding this dome in bamboo scaffolding. Mayapur was a perpetual construction site.
Going up a short flight of steps in the shadow of Radha-Madhava's dome set me onto the third floor verandah of the Conch building, which ran parallel to the Lotus building across the courtyard. I followed the verandah to the end of the structure—the southwestern tip of the U formed by the three buildings—and there, climbing and switching back interminably, made the roof.
This point of vantage revealed a great sun-saturated vista. I could look down upon the roofs of the Lotus building and the temple; on the courtyard where streams of visitors flowed in and out of the temple; on the flower beds, lawns, and fountains of the formal gardens before the temple. Everywhere the sun was forcing colors open, exposing their secret intensities, and slicing them brutally with shadows of jet, edged like razors.
Beyond the formal gardens rose the massive Florentine dome of Srila Prabhupada's samadhi (memorial), its marble cladding now in place, throwing back sunlight like a terrestrial moon. And beyond that the molten Ganges spread to the horizon. From her near bank, fields of vibrating green multiplied endlessly to fill the northern quadrant, punctuated by the distant spire of the temple marking Lord Caitanya's birthsite. Off the other side of the roof, past the fields to the south, you could see the dense tree line that marked the far bank of the Jalangi River, sunken from view. In that tree line rose a tangled hump of banyan that showed the spot, directly opposite us, where the house and samadhi of Bhaktivinoda Thakura stood.
It was when I turned from the view to face the GBC meeting room across the roof that I felt another, heavier, emotional bump. The meeting room was a penthouse perched on the east end of the Conch building roof. Only the tapering dome of Radha-Madhava, rising just alongside the meeting room and closing to a peak several meters above it, was higher.
This second emotional bump got my attention, and as I entered the GBC room I was fully conscious of a certain pattern of symmetries and contrasts: of two high rooftops, both reached by arduous assent of stairs, of two penthouses waiting on those roofs. Thus the beginning and the end were nicely parallel, I thought, but in the beginning there was night and starlight, and below the music of a wedding band. While in the end there is daylight and sunshine and the music of a bhajana band. That rooftop room was cramped, narrow, and windowless. This one was wide and open, lined on three sides with French doors giving out upon a balcony. Light was pouring in, and a breeze flowed evenly through the room. All around us, open to the gaze, lay Mayapur: beautiful, green, pure.
The narrative structure, I thought, was neat; the parallels with contrasts nicely done. However, this was "real life," not some well-wrought play by Shakespeare. Why then was it presenting itself to my consciousness with the signs of a work of literary art? I remembered noticing this effect already in Panditji's room, and the effect was persisting. It was as if I had been dropped through some trapdoor into another level or dimension of reality, where existence operated by symbolic structures. And I wasn't out of it yet.
At the same time, I also knew how thoroughly our own mind and senses process the world before it even presents itself to our consciousness. So I still maintained a critical distance from this apparent "dimension"; that seemed the sane thing to do. I was not yet a believer, but I was interested for sure.
And so I sat down in the rooftop room for the GBC meeting, taking a seat within the square of overstuffed sofas cased in white cotton. Our business began, and I became wholly absorbed in it, meeting every day for the scheduled six hours and racking up additional time in subcommittees and working groups. My life was completely contained within that complex of buildings; I had neither the need nor the time to leave it. My main movement was the commute back and forth between my room and the meeting room, traversing an architectural geography that now resonated uncannily with prophecy.
Panditji had said that this meeting would usher in a new spirit of harmony and cooperation, and I watched out for it. And, wouldn't you know, it was there. Nothing dramatic—no tongues of flame descended upon our heads. Indeed, we disagreed, we debated, we argued—that was usual, and to be expected, even desired. We made better decisions when all sides of an issue were vigorously represented. But there were no personal animosities, and clashes of will during the meeting would not continue afterwards.
In 1987 the GBC had undergone a crisis; some of its most prominent leaders had fallen, and the movement it led had suffered a crisis of confidence. As a result, the GBC had to undertake a difficult self-examination, issuing in a reconstitution, a reformation. That process had left wounds, but I saw that they were now at last healing, and a sense of trust and general good will suffused our deliberations.
Mayapur itself became a focus of our discussions. The din of construction on the dome scaffolding just outside had forced us to shut the doors and raise our voices. Now we made arrangements for thirty more years of it. Here at Mayapur Srila Prabhupada had laid the cornerstone for a monumental temple, the center of a spiritual city-to-be, but the planning for the temple and city had long been stalled. Now it came to life again. Conferring with an architect and city planner, we agreed on design specifications for the temple and on a Vedic layout for the city, the padmaka mandala. In the architect's drawing the city spanned the delta formed by the confluence of the Jalangi and the Ganges, its streets arrayed in a symmetrical pattern of radial and concentric lines that converged upon the huge temple in the center; I was reminded of a perfect spider's web strung in the fork of two branches.
Seeing this plan selected by the GBC, I thought of Panditji's dharma-cakra. For the city was a cakra: the temple forming the have and the roads spokes and rings. And the cakra-like city would itself be the center of a larger, world-spanning, ISKCON dharma-cakra—I liked the symmetry, the nesting of wheel within wheel, the macrocosmic-microcosmic mirroring. I felt sure all this had something to do with Panditji's vision, but it could not be the whole of it. For there remained the puzzle of March 7.
And then that was solved midway through the course of our meetings. One morning in the temple after Srimad-Bhagavatam class I was handed the just-published schedule for the festival that would start after the meetings. Curious, I opened the booklet to March 7. "Ekadasi," stated the calendar, and it went on to list two events for that morning: A report to Radha-Madhava by the GBC, to be followed by the installation of Sudarsana-cakra over Radha-Madhava's temple. Reading this produced more than a little emotional bump. A crash of feelings accelerated my heartbeat and set my nerves tingling. I rushed out into the temple courtyard and backed away until I could see the dome over Radha-Madhava. Sure enough: where the dome closed to a peak over the GBC meeting room there were just a couple of rusty iron rods sticking out. There was no golden, shinning cakra. I had never even noted the absence of what ought to have been there at the apex of the sikhara: the three stacked metal balls called a kalasa, and at the peak the Sudarsana-cakra. One of the four symbols of Visnu, the Sudarsana-cakra is famous as a razor-sharp discus wielded by the Lord to destroy the demonic. But more than that, the cakra is the energy by which the Lord creates and sustains the cosmos. As the symbol of the all-pervading power of Visnu, the cakra is found mounted at the top of all Vaisnava temples in India.
I went back into the temple and found Jayapataka Swami. He was on the committee that had planned the festival. I held out the open booklet.
"What's all this happening on the seventh?" I asked. " 'GBC report to the Deity.' We've never done that before."
"Well, we thought it would be nice for the GBC to report every year to Radha-Madhava. You know, give the state of the movement and what was accomplished during the meeting and what we hope to accomplish next year—like that. It's like Radha-Madhava are the main Deities of ISKCON. They preside at our world headquarters, so every year we should report to Them about the whole movement."
"The annual state of the union. Yeah, I think it's a great idea."
"See, its Ekadasi." He jabbed the schedule with his finger. "There's no prasadam in the morning, so we thought we would do this at that time. Make the report a ceremony every year during the Mayapur festival, on the first Ekadasi after the GBC meeting."
"And what about this? 'Installation of Sudarsana-cakra.' "
"Oh, that'll be really auspicious! It's a whole big ceremony. There's actually two cakras, one for Lord Nrsimhadeva and one for Radha-Madhava. They're installed the same as Deities, with a fire sacrifice and bathing. The cakras are actually deities. When you see the cakra on top of the sikhara, that's the same as having darsana of Radha-Madhava. So they'll be brought in here for an installation and then taken out with a big procession. Each cakra will be carried by someone on his head"—he swept both hands up above his head—"to the top of the sikhara. The kalasa will be there already, and the cakra is put on. Then it's bathed with pots and pots of water, and arati's offered."
"That's what all that scaffolding is for."
"Yeah, you have to get all the way up to the top."
"How come we've taken so long to install the cakras?"
He shook his head sadly.
"Well, this is a good time," I said. "Who's carrying the cakras in the procession?"
He shrugged. "Anyone..."
"You think I could carry Radha-Madhava's cakra? Would that be OK?"
"Yeah, fine, no problem, " he answered, looking a bit puzzled.
Then I let the cat out of the bag: "You see—Radha-Madhava's cakra is the dharma-cakra of ISKCON. Let me tell you an interesting story." And then I related the whole account of Panditji's prophecy. I explained how Panditji must have not only foreseen the installation on March 7, but he had also seen it's symbolic meaning, how it embodied the dharma-cakra of ISKCON. Radha-Madhava's sikhara was right next to the room in which the GBC, uniting in harmony and cooperation, would form the dharma-cakra of ISKCON. Yet that would actually be accomplished on March 7, when, as it turns out, the GBC reports to Radha-Madhava and the Sudarsana-cakra is installed. All this showed how Krsna was the doer: His grace formed the harmonious order within the GBC—aligned the members around Krsna like spokes on a wheel—and, as that was done, He made His missing cakra manifest over Radha-Madhava. That's why Radha-Madhava's cakra was the dharma-cakra of ISKCON.
When I finished my account Jayapataka Swami was grinning from ear to ear. Yelling, "Jaya! Jaya!" he seized my hand in a crushing grip and shook it vigorously while pounding me hard on the back.
As I told the story to Jayapataka Swami, I began to reflect that reality did indeed seem to be composed like a work of art. Were I to write a novel, say, about the GBC, and wanted something to symbolize its coming together in harmonious order, I could have hit upon nothing better than the installation of the Sudarsana-cakra. It was perfect. Yet we were not dealing with art but life: the cakra was a natural symbol. Reality itself possessed a natural symbolic structure, one that in this case linked the ordering of the GBC and the Sudarsana-cakra installation ceremony; through that structure Panditji had somehow been able to see the future.
Now there was nothing but to wait for it to come.
On the morning of March 7, the temple was profusely decorated and densely crowded. Whole banana trees were braced against the pillars and long ropey garlands of marigolds were looped and draped everywhere, their tang filling the air. Devotees coming from all around the world packed the temple wall-to-wall. Cord wood rose in a high pyramid at the center of the stage before Radha-Madhava's altar: the place of the fire sacrifice. From the left and right saffron-robed gurukula boys filed on stage led by teachers wearing elaborate, beautifully wrought headdresses. Each side taking alternate verses, the boys began chanting the purusa-sukta prayers from the Rg Veda. The room fell silent, and the ancient mantras, passing back and forth antiphonally across the stage, seemed to call forth from the crowd a calm and exalted consciousness.
And then the reports to Radha-Madhava: Bhakti Caru Swami, last year's GBC chairman, related the accomplishments and problems of the previous year to Them, and then the new chairman, Sivarama Swami, gave an account of the meeting just completed. Other devotees reported on noteworthy projects. Awards for special achievement were given. Then all devotees gathered there rose and silently and simultaneously delivered their personal reports to Radha-Madhava.
I had feared finding this ceremony tedious, but I was startled by the strong feelings it evoked in me. The reports were heartfelt, and the ritual made a powerful impression. I thought that we would see an extraordinary development of such performances as Mayapur city assumed its form and function.
Then the cakras, swaddled in silk imprinted with Krsna's names, were borne onto the stage and laid on the altar. Priests chanted mantras and anointed the cakras. I was called up and, touching Radha-Madhava's cakra, chanted and meditated as directed. Then the flames leapt upon the pyre, the boys began their mantras again, and the priests fed ghee to the fire with their long carved wooden ladles.
And then it was time to take up the cakras. Someone laid a folded cloth, block printed with the Hare Krsna mantra, on the top of my head. I took the cakra with both hands and lifted it to my head. Cast in bell-metal, it was no more than a foot in diameter. I carefully set its threaded base on the crown of my head and felt the weight in my neck and shoulders.
"It's heavier than it looks," I said to the devotee next to me as the procession was forming up on stage.
"Twelve kilos," he said. With a great shout, the procession set off, Sivarama Swami going before me with Nrsimhadeva's cakra on his head. First we circumambulated Radha-Madhava three times, the mob of roaring devotees crushing into the tunnel-like passageway around the altar room, where the chanting of various mantras, the throaty bellow of the conchs, the shrill ululations of the women, the thrumming of innumerable drums, the clashing of gongs and karatalas were endlessly reduplicated. Then our procession uncoiled itself and headed for the back of the temple. The rear section of the temple extended completely across the bottom floor of the Lotus building, and so we came out into bright daylight at the base of the wide staircase that took us up to the second floor of the Lotus building. When we turned left onto the verandah, I realized we would now follow the exact track I had worn back and forth during the meetings.
It was well the way was so familiar, for I could not look down to place my feet on steps or uneven ground. My head had become more or less locked in place by the cakra resting on it; the slightest vertical motion made the cakra slip, and any lateral movement released discouraging bolts of neck pain.
When our party arrived at the middle of the temple roof, we halted and turned to face Nrsimhadeva's dome. Sivarama Maharaja went forward and, with what I thought was tremendous athleticism, scampered up the dome's scaffolding, the cakra palmed in one hand. At that distance, the bathing of the cakra from the platform at the dome's peak took place above my range of vision. But lower down I could watch a bucket brigade passing overflowing brass and clay pots up the dome and see cascades of water gushing down the dome's sides.
This continued for what seemed a long time. The morning was getting on, and the sun was turning hard and brutal. Immobilized, I baked. Perspiration flowed down my face, stinging my eyes, blurring my vision. I couldn't wipe it away. The small, hard base of the cakra seemed to be boring into the crown of my head, the weight of it slowly crushing my cervical vertebrae. Pain flowed like water down my neck and into my shoulders; cramps seized my arms.
For some reason, my most joyful moments in Krsna consciousness, my peak experiences, have almost always been accompanied by physical distress of one sort or another. This was no different. The bath water was cascading beautifully down the sikhara, the kirtana was mounting from height to height, and I was entirely happy. The weight of the cakra filled me with joy. I felt complete.
I saw Sivarama Swami drop to the temple roof, and our procession upwards resumed: to the Conch building verandah, to the stairs, to the rooftop. There I could see the completed handiwork of the noisy laborers: a bamboo platform enclosed a new shining kalasa at the summit of Radha-Madhava's dome. How was I to carry the cakra out to that platform? By a narrow bamboo bridge or gangplank that arched across the emptiness to rest on the roof of the GBC meeting room.
That higher roof was accessed by a black iron spiral staircase, both steep and tight, and this is where I ran into trouble. I could use neither my hands nor my eyes to climb these stairs. The steps were metal triangles, slick against my bare feet. I began to grope upward, feeling I was about to topple over backwards, probing with my toes, I had to lift my foot high to find each step, and suddenly I came down upon cloth: my dhoti. The bottom of the front pleats lay under my toes, and I had no hands to lift them out of the way. I tried to say something, but my voice was lost in the kirtana. Somehow I made the next step without falling, but the cloth had pulled out more, and it was tangling horribly in my feet. Eager devotees were jostling me from behind. I was desperate. At last, someone noticed my problem, and hands began to steady me and steer me. Someone stuffed my dhoti in around my waist. I made the roof, my heart pounding, eyes stinging, arms aching.
And then the bridge: I saw that it didn't rest on the roof top but rather on the lip of the roof's guard wall. I walked up a steep ramp to the top of the wall, and found myself teetering over vast empty spaces. The workers had thoughtfully provided a railing for their gangplank, but I couldn't use it. Far, far below, the Ganges spread sparkling and glowing, the fields of Mayapur shouted "green!" to the heavens as far as the eye could see. I looked down upon the backs of flying crows. With my toes I could feel the bamboo slats that made the narrow bridge, but I could not see it. It was like stepping off into empty space. Would it be possible to fall through all that distance—with the cakra? What would that mean? I centered my gaze on the top of the kalasa and went, the bridge bouncing beneath my feet.
Bhakti-vidya-purna Swami was already out on the tiny shaky platform, dancing. Backlit by the sun, long arms and legs flying about, suspended over the emptiness, he was an extraordinary sight. "Haribol!" he said. "You made it." I pressed myself against the kalasa, lifted the cakra high over my head, and screwed it down into its fitting. The Maharaja passed me a fat-bellied pot filled with yogurt, and I emptied it out over the cakra. More pots followed, washing down the cakra, the kalasa, the sikhara. I was soaked. A wind had come up, spraying out the bathing liquids. The platform grew slippery. I stepped back, and other devotees began trotting across the bouncing bridge, to spill pot after pot over the cakra.
The kirtana still climbed. Now I could see the huge numbers of devotees lining the roofs and verandahs below, chanting as they gazed up. Then I offered arati to Sudarsana-cakra, the fire of the burning camphor lamp boiling up in the wind. Arati is a ceremony of reception. We were all receiving into the world the dharma-cakra of ISKCON, praying for His purposes to be fulfilled. I became so distracted by this that I kept fanning much too long with the yak-tail whisk, and Maharaja had to prompt me to stop.
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.
Devotees on the Hare Krsna farm near Jakarta hope to demonstrate
by Indradyumna Swami
FOR ME THE ISLAND OF JAVA always stood as a land of mystery and adventure. From stories of prehistoric Java Man to tales of sailors of yore shipwrecked off the island's rocky coast, my mind was always fascinated by this largest of the islands in the archipelago now called Indonesia. So with great expectations I accepted the invitation of my Godbrother Gaura Mandala Bhumi Dasa to visit Indonesia and New Govinda Kunja, ISKCON's small farm community just outside the capital city, Jakarta.
When I arrived on the island, the hustle and bustle of Jakarta's streets soon dispelled any fears I had of savage tribes roaming the jungles of a desolate island. Java is the most populous island in the world (130 million people). It's a predominantly Muslim country with fewer than ten million Hindus.
"Srila Prabhupada visited Jakarta in 1973," said Dayasara Dasa, president of the farm, as we headed north from the city on a one-hour drive to New Govinda Kunja. "Now, like then, we spread Krsna consciousness mostly among the Indian community and to the tourists who visit the island. Though the law guarantees religious freedom, we're not allowed to teach Krsna consciousness to the Muslims.
"We started our farm on Srila Prabhupada's aphorism 'simple living and high thinking.' He wanted Krsna conscious farm communities that would show how to live self-sufficiently, and Indonesia is an ideal place for that. Eight out of ten people here live on farms."
As we drove through the fertile valleys to our community, nestled in a prominent area of retreats, Dayasara said, "Historians say Indonesia was once part of the Vedic culture of India. We still find many remnants of that culture here."
I thought of ancient Dvaraka, described in Vedic scriptures as surrounded by flower gardens, fruit orchards, and reservoirs full of lotuses. No mention of factories or slaughter-houses. "Hard to find a place like Dvaraka now," I said.
Smiling, Dayasara turned to me and said, "You'll be seeing it in five minutes. New Govinda Kunja is just over the hill."
As we entered the farm, I was struck by the devotees' expert use of space.
"It's a small farm," said Dayasara. "Two and a half acres. We've kept it like that because it's what we can handle. We're only ten devotees here."
I looked out over the fruit trees, many of which I couldn't identify. Dayasara pointed them out—tapioca, papaya, coconut, mango, mangosteen, rambhutan, jambhu, guava, sahalak, jackfruit, durian.
As we passed the small rice field, devotees working under the hot sun looked up from beneath big straw hats and smiled and waved.
"Do you irrigate?" I asked.
Laughing, Dayasara replied, "We don't need to. This is the Puncak Valley. More rain falls here than anywhere else in the world."
"The Puncak Valley is also famous for those two mountains, Gunung Gede and Guna Salak," he said, pointing to two enormous mountains on either side of the valley. "They're two of the forty active volcanoes on Java. We're the most volcanic island in the world."
An ominous cloud of black smoke belched from the crater of one of the volcanoes. Dayasara didn't seem concerned, so I decided not to worry about it myself. After all, I'd only be here a week.
"An advantage of rural life is that you can build your own house cheaply," said Dayasara as we stopped in front of a Balinese-style home. "Our devotees built all the houses on the land, mostly from bamboo."
As we entered the home, a surprisingly cool structure, he showed me the walls and ceiling, woven by devotees from split bamboo.
"No glass windows?" I asked.
"No need," he said. "We only have two seasons: hot and dry. It never gets cold. It's like a replica of the spiritual world."
From the window we could see the barn where Yamuna, the devotee's cow, lives with her calf, Sita.
"Yamuna's famous in the region," said Dayasara. "She's still giving milk after a year. Most cows give milk only six months."
"How's that?" I asked.
"It's simple," Dayasara replied. "She feels welcome here."
I knew what he meant. I too felt welcome at New Govinda Kunja and looked forward to my next visit to this spiritual oasis. Of course, I'd keep my eye on Guna Salak.
Indradyumna Swami travels around the world spreading Krsna consciousness. He's based at the ISKCON temple in Durban, South Africa.
Even before her Krsna conscious club was approved,
by Vrnda Devi Dasi
A 1990 U.S. Supreme Court ruling (Board of Education v. Mergens) allows student-sponsored religious clubs to meet after classes in public school buildings. In March 1991 my sister, Anjali Sankhla, a straight-A student, started the first high school Krsna club in the U.S., at Paint Branch High School in Silver Spring, Maryland.
Anjali's teachers and friends knew she was a Hare Krsna devotee. Every year in high school she'd give a talk about Srila Prabhupada. Throughout her school years, whenever possible she would write her English papers on Krsna conscious teachings and bring in prasadam for her teachers and classmates.
In the ninth grade, Anjali dressed in saffron sannyasi clothes and carried a sannyasi's staff to give a class presentation about Srila Prabhupada's life. After Anjali's talk, her English teacher, Mrs. Ellen Rosier, went with her husband to Anjali's home to see her altar. The next day Mrs. Rosier excitedly told all the English teachers to go to Anjali's house and see her Deities. So Anjali's teachers and friends never misunderstood Krsna consciousness to be a cult; rather, they understood it to be a genuine spiritual practice. They appreciated Krsna conscious philosophy and would sometimes visit her home temple and enjoy vegetarian food offered to Lord Krsna.
Last year, ISKCON leader Gunagrahi Goswami, impressed with Anjali's efforts to share Krsna consciousness with others at her school, suggested she start a Krsna conscious club. He gave her some documents on the Supreme Court rulings.
Anjali then talked to her Comparative Religions teacher, Mrs. Bartley, who had visited ISKCON's temple in Potomac, Maryland. Anjali told Mrs. Bartley that since Anali's friends were enthusiastic about learning vegetarian cooking and Vedic philosophy, she would like to start a club that would meet once a week after school like other clubs, such as the Math Club or the Art Club. Mrs. Bartley agreed to be the advisor for the Bhakti Yoga Club and have the meetings and cooking demonstrations in her classroom.
After Anjali had everything settled with Mrs. Bartley, she went to the school principal, Dr. Ed Shirley, to get his approval. She greeted him with a garland of flowers from her Deities and some pakoras—vegetables dipped in spicy batter and deep-fried. He loved them. Then she told him what the club would be doing. She had already sent him an outline explaining the purpose of the club, the main students involved, how often and in which room the club would meet, and so on. So Dr. Shirley already had a good idea about the Bhakti Yoga Club. He happily agreed and told Anjali she could start the club as soon as possible.
The next day in school, Anjali put up posters advertising the opening of the Bhakti Yoga Club, and she had the first meeting announced in the morning announcements. At the first meeting, Anjali and I and our mother (Kiran L. Sankhla) held a cooking demonstration for the students, teaching them how to make pakoras. Anjali and the other students had intense philosophical discussions about vegetarianism, karma, reincarnation, and other Krsna conscious topics. They also chanted Hare Krsna and discussed Vedic readings. Anjali passed out several Bhagavad-gitas, Back to Godhead magazines, and Higher Taste cookbooks.
Anjali comments, "I feel that it's my duty to teach my friends about Lord Krsna, because Prahlada Maharaja taught his class friends to chant Hare Krsna. At this point in their lives, my classmates are inquisitive about life after death, karma, and God. They want to find all the answers. I want to help them understand the spiritual reasons why certain things happen, before they become frustrated with their lives and resort to drugs, alcohol, and illicit sex. I don't want that to happen to them. Being their age, I can explain Krsna consciousness to them in a down-to-earth way they can understand. It's a lot easier and more effective learning from someone your own age. The kids are fascinated by Krsna conscious philosophy and really relish it."
Two sincere students from Paint Branch High School who helped Anjali with the club, Bhakta Zack Eller and Bhakta Glenn Brown, are vegetarians and chant sixteen rounds on japa beads every day. Bhakta Glenn has moved into the Potomac temple, and Bhakta Zack will move into the temple when he's eighteen. Other students from the Bhakti Yoga Club visit the Potomac temple and are becoming vegetarians.
Now Bhakti Yoga Clubs are opening in other high schools across the U.S. Because of reading an article about Anjali's club, Jeff Jones, a student at Walton High School in Marietta, Georgia, has discussed with his teachers, principal, and interested friends about starting a Bhakti Yoga Club. As soon as he gets a faculty advisor, the club will be approved. Jamie Guy, a high school student in Baltimore, Maryland, is starting a Bhakti Yoga Club in his school. Anjali hopes these examples will encourage other devotee high school and junior high school students to start Bhakti Yoga Clubs in their schools.
In June 1991 Anjali graduated from high school with a 4.0 grade point average for all four years. She is now a pre-law student at the University of Maryland and has taken over the Vedic Cultural Society (a Krsna conscious club), which I started at the university four years ago. She recently received spiritual initiation. Her new name is Jahnavi Devi Dasi. For further information on starting a Bhakti Yoga Club, please contact Anjali Sankhla at 6 Fairdale Court, Silver Spring, MD 20905 USA. Phone: (301) 236-0564.
Vrnda Devi Dasi has a B.S. in microbiology from the University of Maryland, where she was president of the Vedic Cultural Society for four years. She is working on her Masters Degree and plans to become a medical doctor.
A student applies her academic skills to the greatest book of all time.
by Jahnavi Devi Dasi
LAST YEAR, when I was in high school, I finished reading the entire Srimad-Bhagavatam and most of the Caitanya-caritamrta. What mainly provoked me to read the Srimad-Bhagavatam was my honors English class. I used to have to read and analyze twenty to thirty books every year. I despised studying boring, worldly stories like Huckleberry Finn and Catcher in the Rye, which never gave me real happiness. Memorizing the characters' names and what they did and analyzing their actions in long essays made me feel like I was wasting precious time.
One day I was really fed up, and I thought, "What if I unexpectedly die tomorrow? Will all of this materialistic knowledge help me understand the real goal of life? Will this take me back to Godhead? All my years of straight A's in this education won't help me at the time of death. Only my devotional service to Lord Krsna will stay, and everything will be gone."
Starting that day I read two to four chapters of the Srimad-Bhagavatam every evening. I decided that along with my school education, I wanted to use my intelligence to get a spiritual education. I continued doing my school work, because I didn't want to show that devotees are dropouts who can't make it in the material world and can't compete. Lord Krsna tells Arjuna in the Bhagavad-gita (2.47):
karmany evadhikaras te / ma phalesu kadacana
"You have a right to perform your prescribed duty, but you are not entitled to the fruits of action. Never consider yourself the cause of those fruits, and never be attached to not doing your duty."
My duties in this stage of my life are to be a good student and, most important, to be a good devotee. I have seen by my own experience that whenever I use my time and energy for Lord Krsna's service without expecting anything in return—for instance, when I chant my sixteen rounds every day without fail and I read the Srimad-Bhagavatam—He helps me more and makes my school work easier. I end up spending a lot less time and energy than my friends on my school work because I do devotional service. It really happens—no kidding! In the Bhagavad-gita (9.22) Lord Krsna says,
ananyas cintayanto mam / ye janah paryupasate
"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."
This verse has done a lot for me. Lord Krsna really keeps His word.
When I started reading the Srimad-Bhagavatam, I felt immense satisfaction. I greatly enjoyed all the spiritual knowledge about Lord Krsna's incarnations, the creation of the world and the first living entities, what it's like in the spiritual world, how devotees are helped by Lord Krsna, and much more. The Srimad-Bhagavatam gave me answers to my questions about life in a pleasurable way. I learned how to pray to Lord Krsna properly and how to respect great devotees. I learned so much. I felt I was learning what I really wanted to learn.
I thought, "If I can study all that worldly literature and use all of my brain energy studying worldly books, I can surely use my intelligence for Lord Krsna." Then I remembered what Lord Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita (12.8):
mayy eva mana adhatsva
"Just fix your mind upon Me, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and engage all of your intelligence in Me. Thus you will live in Me always, without a doubt."
I felt I could study the Srimad-Bhagavatam and Caitanya-caritamrta just as I study my school books. I could use my intelligence to memorize what each devotee in the Srimad-Bhagavatam did, spiritually analyze the outcome of each narration to learn a spiritual lesson from it, and apply my new understandings to daily life.
I really loved using Cliff Notes while studying my school novels and plays because they give a concise summary of the plot of the stories and list the characters and tell what they did. Just before an exam, I would quickly read over Cliff Notes and have an excellent review. So while reading the Srimad-Bhagavatam and Caitanya-caritamrta, I took similar notes and wrote up a seven- or eight-page summary of each canto, so that in the future I would be able to skim over all the narrations in the Srimad-Bhagavatam quickly and easily, just as with Cliff Notes. And for each canto, I listed all the devotees and demons and briefly explained what they did.
As I read, I sorted lots of verses from the Bhagavatam and Caitanya-caritamrta into several categories under many subheadings. For example, I made a subheading entitled "No Meat-Eating" and listed all the references (Sanskrit and English verses) that explain that it's wrong to eat meat and kill innocent animals. Now I'm going to memorize all those verses so whenever I'm talking to someone I'll have abundant verses to cite to support the point we're discussing.
I did something special with the Srimad-Bhagavatam that Cliff Notes never did. I wrote a detailed family tree that accurately shows the ancestors and descendants of each person in the Bhagavatam. I wrote the family tree as I read the Bhagavatam, so to keep straight in my mind how everyone is related. Now, just by one glance at the family tree, I can get a good overview of the entire Bhagavatam. I can recall each narration merely by seeing the family tree, and that helps me speak about any part of the Bhagavatam. I feel like it's a map of the Bhagavatam that helps me easily find my way into spiritual understanding.
The family tree is beneficial for everyone, especially first-time readers of the Bhagavatam. They can easily keep track of how people are related to one another. It's also a good memory refresher for devotees who have already studied the nectarean Bhagavatam. Even kids can use and understand the family tree. I was sixteen years old when I made it, so its setup is simple and easy to follow. Several ISKCON spiritual masters liked the family tree so much they told me to print it for everyone to use as an aid to spiritual studies.
In the future, when I get married and have children, I'll help my children memorize the Srimad-Bhagavatam family tree. Then I'll test them by giving them the tree with random blank spaces for them to fill in with the missing names. This way they'll vividly remember all of Lord Krsna's incarnations and devotees and all the narrations in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, thus making them Krsna conscious.
I and my sister, Vrnda Devi Dasi, teach the family tree to our Sunday school students at the ISKCON temple in Potomac, Maryland. The students have already learned the Bhagavad-gita and most of the narrations in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. It took about two and a half years for them to learn all that. Now each student chants one round a day and studies the family tree at home and at Sunday school. I'll be giving them an exam of the family tree soon, so they'll have such great knowledge imprinted in their brains at an early age. I hope teachers all over ISKCON can use this as an idea for teaching their students the Srimad-Bhagavatam.
Jahnavi Devi Dasi studies pre-law at the University of Maryland. Despite her demanding studies, she faithfully fulfills her own daily quota of chanting twenty-nine rounds on her beads and reciting one chapter of the Bhagavad-gita.
The Embodiment of Lord Caitanya's Love
by Satyaraja Dasa
PART III (Conclusion)
Thieves working for the king of Visnupura stole priceless manuscripts Srinivasa and his friends were bringing to Bengal. Srinivasa therefore sent his companions ahead while he stayed in Visnupura. He recovered the manuscripts, made the king his disciple, and inspired him to spread Krsna consciousness throughout the kingdom.
NOW SRINIVASA needed to see his dear friends Narottama and Syamananda again. He had written them of the developments in Visnupura, but he knew little of what his friends were doing. He had heard that his teacher Narahari Sarakara Thakura was ill and getting ready to die, so he wanted to go to Srikhanda to see him and to nearby Jajigram to see his own aging mother.
Srinivasa Returns to Jajigram
Bidding farewell to King Virhamvir, Srinivasa took the chest of books to Jajigram. Upon arriving there, he told the devotees what had happened. All the holy town's people, especially his mother, rejoiced in his company. But they had heart-breaking news for him as well: Srimati Visnupriya had left this world. Srimati Visnupriya was Sri Caitanya's widow, an important person in the preaching mission of Bengal. On hearing of her passing, Srinivasa fainted, and the devotees had to revive and console him.
A few days later, a message came from Narahari Sarakara and Raghunandana Thakura asking Srinivasa to come to Srikhanda. Srinivasa left at once to see these two well-wishers who had guided him in his youth. During this meeting, Narahari suggested that Srinivasa get married.
"Your mother is a great devotee," Sri Narahari said. "She has been rendering valuable service in Jajigram for many years. You should fulfill whatever small desire she might have. I know she would be happy to see you married. Since she is a great devotee, you should comply."
Hearing this, Srinivasa resolved to marry and raise a family.
After a few more days in Srikhanda, Srinivasa left for Kanthak Nagara to visit the great Gadadhara Dasa, one of the personal associates of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. When Srinivasa arrived, Gadadhara Dasa embraced him with affection. He asked Srinivasa about the devotees of Vrndavana, especially the Gosvamis: How were they able to live in separation from the Lord and His confidential devotees? Where were they living and under what conditions? Gadadhara Dasa and Srinivasa talked about Caitanya Mahaprabhu and the plight of His devotees in His absence.
After several days, Srinivasa was to return to Jajigram. Before he left, Gadadhara Dasa blessed him: "One day you will taste the nectar of congregational chanting in the company of the Lord Himself, and in the company of His intimate associates. For now, you have my blessings to marry. May it bring you all good fortune."
Srinivasa Gets Married
The words of Gadadhara Dasa touched Srinivasa. Meditating on their import, he returned to Jajigram, where he met Gopala Cakravarti, an elderly brahmana with a beautiful and devoted daughter named Draupadi. Observing that Srinivasa and Draupadi were attracted to each other, Sri Raghunandana Thakura arranged the wedding.
After the marriage, Draupadi was called Isvari (some say it was her initiated name), honoring her devotion to God and acknowledging her marriage to a great saint. Her father, Gopala Cakravarti, soon accepted Srinivasa as his spiritual master, as did her two brothers, Syama Dasa and Ramacandra. Srinivasa quickly became one of the most prominent gurus in all of Bengal.
After some time, Isvari bore a son, and when Srinivasa wrote about the event to Jiva Gosvami in Vrndavana, Jiva sent back an exuberant reply and named the boy Vrndavana Vallabha. Some time after, Srinivasa married again (polygamy was common then). His second wife, Padmavati, was also a great devotee, and after initiation she was known as Gauranga Priya.
One may wonder why Srinivasa took a second wife. Most of the standard biographies do not elaborate, stating merely that the second marriage followed the first by a few years. But the Anuragavali informs us that his most intimate disciples asked that he remarry upon the death of his two sons from Isvari. They are said to have died young.
Isvari had three daughters—Hemlata, Krsna-priya, and Kancana, also known as Yamuna. Gauranga Priya had a son, Gati Govinda. Both Isvari and her daughters later had many disciples, and Srinivasa's bloodline is still said to continue in Vrndavana from Gati Govinda.
The Passing of Narahari Sarakara
Some time after Srinivasa's marriage, Narahari Sarakara Thakura left the world, having seen Srinivasa one last time. Srinivasa organized a massive festival to honor Narahari's memory. Everyone from Srikhanda and neighboring villages attended, and Vaisnava festivals soon spread throughout the region. Ceremonies to install Deities of Krsna took place with elaborate festivities, including singing, dancing, and sharing of sacred food (prasadam). By such festivals the Hare Krsna movement spread throughout Bengal.
In due course, Srinivasa decided to return to Vrndavana. Ramacandra Kaviraja, one of his most renowned followers, went with him on this trip. Ramacandra was considered Srinivasa's "other eye and other arm." Ramacandra and his brother, Govinda, who was also Srinivasa's disciple, were the sons of an intimate associate of Lord Caitanya. Both Ramacandra and Govinda were celebrated scholars, artists, and poets, but Ramacandra came to be widely accepted as Srinivasa's most noteworthy disciple. This was in some measure due to Narottama Dasa Thakura, who at Srinivasa's request took charge of Ramacandra and forged an intimate friendship with him while schooling him in all the details of Vaisnava philosophy.
With the help of King Virhamvir of Visnupura, Srinivasa spread his preaching in Bengal to the districts of Birbhum, Bankura, Burdwan, and as far as Tripura in the East. He taught all over Bengal and made hundreds of disciples.
To the list of his prominent disciples, Hemlata Thakurani, his daughter, is often added. Although as a blood relation she is not properly counted a disciple, she was one of his most notable followers. A highly educated and vigorous preacher, she has been compared to the revered Jahnava Devi in spreading the movement throughout Bengal. She was a gifted and devoted leader, initiating both men and women into the Gaudiya Vaisnava tradition. One of her disciples, Yadunandana Thakura, became a famous scholar and poet. He composed simple Bengali versifications of Gaudiya literature, some at her personal request.
In time she married a great devotee and had several children. Today her descendants live in the villages of Maliati and Budhaipad, in the Murshidabad district of Bengal, where she revolutionized the preaching of Gaudiya Vaisnavism.
Srinivasa Returns to Vrndavana
Srinivasa had not been to Vrndavana since recovering the stolen books. The Gosvamis were eager to show their appreciation, and when Srinivasa arrived they did so gloriously. And now Srinivasa had come to Vrndavana with Ramacandra Kaviraja. Such a worthy disciple showed Srinivasa's merit as a preacher. So Gopala Bhatta Gosvami, who had wanted Srinivasa to take over the worship of the Radha-Ramana Deity in Vrndavana, gave the duty to his other disciple, Gopinatha Pujari, and insisted that Srinivasa keep preaching in Bengal. The descendants of Gopinatha's brothers are still in charge of the Radha-Ramana temple.
Syamananda Pandita returned to Vrndavana about the same time as Srinivasa, so they were able to deepen their friendship. Together they resumed their studies. Gradually, Srinivasa began to reveal his mystic potency, and it became apparent he was fully absorbed in the most intimate love of God.
Back to Visnupura
But the missionary work was incomplete, and after several months Srinivasa and others returned to Bengal, encouraged by the Vrndavana Gosvamis. On the way, they stopped in Vana Visnupura to see King Virhamvir, who was delighted by the presence of his guru and the other devotees.
The king's devotion showed throughout the kingdom. In the words of D.C. Sen:
Raja Vira Hamvira would not do anything without the advice of his guru [Srinivasa Acarya], even in political matters. His [Srinivasa's] voice prevailed alike in the court and in the domestic circles of Vishnupura. We find that repeating the name of God a fixed number of times was made compulsory by penal law in the State. Sacrifice of animals at the altar of the gods was also discountenanced, though not actually prohibited by law. Worldly dignity attended the guru who had brought spiritual glory to the country. We find that on every occasion of Vaishnava festivities of any importance, valuable presents were given to Srinivasa, while Raja Vira Hamvira was ever ready to minister to his physical comforts in every possible manner. But true to the traditions of a brahmin scholar and saint, Srinivasa contented himself with living in a strawroofed hut, though he might have built palaces with the help of the Raja and other influential disciples. The money he received was mainly spent in feeding his disciples, of whom there was always a large number residing at his house. (1)
The Glories of Visnupura
The pervasiveness of Krsna consciousness in Bengal, especially in Visnupura, lasted well after the time of Srinivasa and into the following centuries. King Virhamvir's successor, Raghunatha Singh I, built Vaisnava temples in many distant villages to make Krsna consciousness popular with the tribal people. In fact, the kings of Visnupura from the time of Virhamvir onward assumed great responsibility for the material and spiritual wellbeing of their subjects.
According to Dr. Sambidananda Das:
In short, the Vaishnava kings, from Vira Hamvira downwards, developed Vaishnava culture in all its branches. The practical religious lives of the kings ... made the people of Vishnupura God-fearing, virtuous, humble, and courteous in manner and pure in heart. It is not an easy matter to make the whole population happy and pious. [But] the people regarded their kings as their gurus. To this day it is their custom to offer edibles to Sri Caitanya's altar in the name of the king, on the occasion of public worship. Thus did Srinivasa, through Raja Vira Hamvira, start a new epoch in the religious life of the country. (2)
Srinivasa's Daily Activities
The activities of Srinivasa Acarya can fill volumes, and they have. Several books offer details of his daily life in Visnupura and Jajigram.
In the early morning he would read from scriptural books, explaining and interpreting them for his disciples. The study of these books would occupy him until ten o'clock in the morning. Then, till two in the afternoon, he would chant on beads in solitude, occasionally worshiping Krsna according to his inner meditation. From four o'clock to six in the evening he would perform congregational chanting with his disciples. The form of kirtana for which he became famous is called Manohar Shoy. Some say it is the only authentic classical style that has survived. At night he used to instruct his disciples and talk with them of Krsna's pastimes.
His Literary Work
It is said that Srinivasa composed only five songs. He also wrote a commentary—studied and respected to this day—on the four essential verses of the Srimad-Bhagavatam. His other works include the famous Gosvamy-astakam ("Eight Prayers to the Six Gosvamis"). Though his literary work is spare, its content and style are nectarean. It has left a unique mark on the Gaudiya tradition.
Just as the authorized biographers of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu leave aside the details of His passing from this world, Srinivasa's followers are silent about Srinivasa's disappearance. But although his divine ascension remains a mystery, his life remains an inspiration.
1. D. C. Sen, The Vaishnava Literature of Mediaeval Bengal (Calcutta University, 1917), pp. 156-157.
2. Sambidananda Das, The History and Literature of Gaudiya Vaishnavas and Their Relation to Medieval Vaishnava Schools, Unpublished Ph. D. Thesis (Calcutta University, June 1935), p. 819.
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.
Where Is Your Religion?
This conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and a journalist took place in Los Angeles on December 30, 1968.
Journalist: Why do you feel that the younger people today are turning more and more toward Eastern-oriented religions?
Srila Prabhupada: Because you have failed to give them satisfaction. Your materialistic way of life will not satisfy them any more. When one is poverty-stricken he may think, "Money, a woman, a good apartment, a good car can give me satisfaction." They are after this. But after such enjoyment, they see, "Oh, there is no satisfaction." Because matter cannot satisfy you.
In America especially, you have got enough for enjoyment. You have got enough food, you have got enough women, you have got enough wine, you have got enough houses—enough of everything. This shows that material advancement cannot give one satisfaction.
There is more confusion and dissatisfaction in your country than in India, which is said to be poverty-stricken. You'll find in India still, although they are poverty-stricken, because they are continuing their old culture they are not disturbed. Why? Because they have got a little tinge of the spiritual platform. So it is necessary now that people should take to spiritual life. That will make them happy.
Journalist: Would you say that the message of Western-oriented religions is not relevant, or is it that they have failed to present their message properly?
Srila Prabhupada: In the case of Christianity, the gospels were spoken long, long ago to primitive men living in the desert. Of course, in the Bible, or in the Old Testament, the idea of God is there. That is all nice. For example, there is the Biblical statement "God created this world." That is a fact. But now, at the present moment, people are advanced scientifically. They want to know how the creation has taken place. But that explanation is not there in the Bible, and neither can the church give the explanation. Therefore people are not satisfied. Simply officially going to the church and offering prayers does not appeal to them.
Besides that, practically they do not follow the religious principles. For example, there is the commandment "Thou shalt not kill." But killing is very prominent in the Christian world. They are regularly maintaining slaughterhouses, and they have manufactured a theory that animals have no soul. They say the animal has no feelings, so they can kill it—give a dog a bad name and hang it. Why do they say the animals cannot feel? Why are people committing these sinful activities?
The priestly class, they will not say anything. They will not discuss the matter. Everyone is silent. That means they are deliberately disobeying the Ten Commandments. So where are the religious principles? If you don't obey the commandments of your scripture, how can it be said that you are following your religion nicely? How can you kill that which you cannot create? And it is plainly stated there, "Thou shalt not kill." What is the answer? Why are they killing?
Journalist: Are you asking me?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Journalist: Well, yes, obviously, "Thou shalt not kill" is an ethic, and it's timeless and it's valid, but man is not really interested in...
Srila Prabhupada: They are not interested in religion. It is simply a make-show, show bottle. Then how can they be happy? If you do not follow the regulative principles, then where is your religion?
Journalist: I'm not arguing with you. I couldn't agree with you more. I'm in total agreement. It doesn't make any sense. "Thou shalt not kill," "Thou shalt worship no other gods before Me," "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife," "Thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother." Those are beautiful ethics, but they are not obeyed.
Srila Prabhupada: "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife." So who is following this?
Journalist: No one, very few.
Srila Prabhupada: You see? So how can you expect that they'll be religious? And without religion, human society is animal society.
Journalist: How does your ethic differ from the basic Jewish-Christian ethic of the Ten Commandments?
Srila Prabhupada: There is no difference.
Journalist: Then what do you have to offer that is different from the Christian ethos or the Jewish ethos?
Srila Prabhupada: As I told you, none of them are strictly following God's commandments. I simply say, "You follow God's commandments." That is my message.
Journalist: In other words, "You obey those principles."
Srila Prabhupada: I don't say, "You Christians become Hindus." I simply say, "You obey these commandments." I'll make you a better Christian. That is my mission. I don't say, "God is not there, God is here." But I simply say, "You obey God." I don't say that you have to come to this stage and accept Krsna as God and no other. I say, "Please obey God. Please try to love God." And I give the way how to love God very easily. I can teach you, provided you agree.
(continued in the next issue)
Devotees of Lord Krsna see His absolute beauty
by Yadurani Devi Dasi
IN 1967 AT ISKCON'S FIRST TEMPLE, at 26 Second Avenue, New York City, Srila Prabhupada had just received a postcard from his disciples in Montreal. The city was hosting the World's Fair—Expo '67—and the devotees were asking if he had any paintings they could display at the Fair. Prabhupada showed me the postcard and asked if we had any.
"Well, Swamiji," I said, "We have a painting of Lord Varaha just finished by Kancanabala Dasi. But I don't think people will believe it."
After all, the picture showed Lord Varaha, Krsna in His incarnation as a giant boar, holding the Earth on his tusks and fighting with a big demon. The demon was at least ten times bigger than the Earth itself.
Prabhupada didn't care for my objection. Instead, he told me a relevant story about Lord Caitanya.
"When Lord Caitanya was thinking of going to Benares, the devotees told Him not to waste His time there. The people there were all impersonalists, and they wouldn't believe in or take part in the chanting of Hare Krsna. But Lord Caitanya said, 'If they don't like what I have to sell, I'll take it back.' "
Prabhupada then raised his arms in the air, imitating Lord Caitanya. "So He chanted Hare Krsna and danced and everyone bought it."
He was impressing upon me, as he often did, to present Krsna "as He is" and not be overly concerned about "so-called public opinion."
Some months later Srila Prabhupada began dictating his translations and commentaries for the Third Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, which includes the story of Lord Varaha. He would send a cassette tape to Satsvarupa Dasa, the president of the Boston temple, who would transcribe it and send it back to Srila Prabhupada. Prabhupada would then erase it and dictate the next set of texts and purports on the same tape. Before we sent a tape back to Prabhupada, I used to listen to it while I painted. Sometimes I'd copy the dictaphone tape onto a regular tape before sending the original back.
After listening to the story of Varaha, I wrote to Srila Prabhupada to ask if I could paint the descriptions.
He wrote back, "Yes, try at your convenience to paint pictures from the Bhagavat statement, in terms of the purport and explanation."
Lord Varaha appeared in this universe when a demon named Hiranyaksa forced the Earth to fall from its orbit into the Garbhodaka Ocean at the bottom of the universe. Lord Varaha saved the Earth by picking it up in His huge tusks and killing the giant demon.
I began trying to paint "from the Bhagavat statement." I had to ask Prabhupada questions on specific details that were not described on the tape. I asked him about the demon who was fighting with Lord Varaha. "How big could that demon have been?"
He replied on February 15, 1968.
"I thank you very much for your nice letter of February 10. As always, I am so happy to hear about all the nice artwork you and your associates are doing. The demons could assume any gigantic shape they liked. They can play jugglery; they are not ordinary human beings. You must know that a person with whom God had to fight is not an ordinary person. He could play almost equally with the Lord, but nobody can excel the Lord. Therefore, he was killed. To expand and reduce the body is sometimes performed by a successful yogi."
I asked him about Lord Varaha Himself. Was He half human and half boar as I'd seen in Indian sculptures and paintings? And how could a boar be a beautiful incarnation of God? Or could God have incarnations that aren't beautiful?
"Yes," he replied, "Varaha is very beautiful. Generally the Boar picture is depicted as half human and half boar, but in the Bhagavatam it's stated that He's a full boar. You can make the first two legs as two hands and the rear legs as legs, and make it as beautiful as possible."
Prabhupada had written in one of his books that the boar incarnation was red, and in another book he said He was white. "Which one was He?" I asked.
"Yes, there are two Boar incarnations; one is reddish, and the other whitish. Varaha is the first. He is reddish just like a boar."
With the help of Bharadvaja Dasa and Muralidhara Dasa, I finished the painting about a year later. A few years later it was printed in the Second Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam.
Yadurani Devi Dasi is project head of CIVA (Cultural Institute for the Vedic Arts), which is producing Krsna conscious picture books and comics. She lives at ISKCON's New York temple.
The worldwide activities of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)
Dr. P. V. Ranga Rao inaugurated the Bhaktivedanta Library at ISKCON Secunderabad on December 31, marking the preliminary phase of a proposed cultural, educational, and training center. Dr. Rao is the minister for education in Andhra Pradesh and the son of India's Prime Minister, Sri P. V. Narasimha Rao.
Addressing the one hundred devotees and guests present, Dr. Rao expressed his deep appreciation for Srila Prabhupada's work. He noted Srila Prabhupada's outstanding contribution of spreading Vedic culture by opening more than a hundred temples and printing more than a hundred million books.
Delhi's ISKCON Youth Services (IYS) sponsors monthly tours to Vrndavana. During the two-hour train ride, IYS members walk through the train chanting, dancing, and passing out Srila Prabhupada's books. The IYS has fifty registered members, all of whom follow the four regulative principles and chant a quota of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra every day. They hope to enroll a thousand IYS members by 1996, the centennial year of Srila Prabhupada's appearance.
Srimati Devi Dasi has organized a program whereby pilgrims in Sridham Mayapur are given a card with the Hare Krsna maha-mantra written on it and asked to chant it 108 times. In eighteen months more than 108,000 pilgrims have taken part.
Sridham Mayapur attracts and inspires VIPs from all over India. Here are some of the comments written in the ISKCON temple guest book in 1991:
"I am very much impressed! The cleanliness and upkeep are excellent, and the prasada served was most delicious. Such institutions are very rare."
G. B. Chugh
"To get eternal peace one must visit, at least once in life, the holiest of institutions—ISKCON. To realize the basic philosophy of the human life, all the individuals of the world should follow the ideals of ISKCON Mayapur."
"ISKCON Sri Mayapur is a great institution established by Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. A noble man as he was, his charming personality, sincere devotion to Lord Krsna and his efforts for the salvation of the human beings have attracted people in India and abroad. The charming Deities, which are being worshiped with great devotion, made us feel the very existence of God."
Abanai Mohan Dutt
"ISKCON has established a modern asrama from where His [Caitanya Mahaprabhu's] work is carried on: the chanting of Hare Krsna and the practice of Krsna bhakti. We are greatly impressed. And, if we may say so,
P. D. Desai
Commonwealth of Independent States
A hundred million people in the former Soviet Union were potential viewers of a forty-two minute television program on the Krsna consciousness movement. The program, which aired in January, could also be seen in Poland, Yugoslavia, and other European countries.
ISKCON's brightly colored float won second prize at Lautoka's Sugar Festival, the city's annual carnival, in December. During the parade, devotees passed out three thousand packets of Prasadam and a thousand copies of The Krishna Sun, ISKCON Fiji's quarterly newspaper.
Durban hosted its fourth annual Rathayatra festival, organized by devotees from ISKCON's Temple of Understanding in Chatsworth. Beginning on December 26, the five-day festival focused on ISKCON's twenty-fifth anniversary in the West. The festival was launched by the cutting of a 100-kg cake. Durban's mayor, Guys Muller, gave the opening speech, toured the festival site, and took lunch with visiting ISKCON leaders. In his speech he praised the devotees for promoting peace and culture in a strife-torn country.
The festival received extensive media coverage, including a front-page story in Durban's largest newspaper, The Daily News, and footage on two popular national television programs.
Two devotees recently traveled for thirty days through East Africa to spread Krsna consciousness there. Jalakara Dasa, from England, and Vidura Dasa, from Ireland, visited Kenya, Uganda, Zaire, Rwanda, and Tanzania. They distributed books in war-ravaged Uganda, dodged ravaging troops in Zaire, and had their car break down in the middle of the West Tanzania desert, where it's five hundred miles between gas stations (luckily, they made it to one).
During the trip, they laid the groundwork for Hare Krishna Food for Life programs in the cities of Kampala, Kigali, and Mwanza.
ISKCON Nairobi has received permission—after twenty years—to build a new temple on the site they now occupy. The plans call for the present temple, a former hostel the devotees bought in 1972, to be demolished in stages and the new temple erected atop the remains. The site is located on a hillside with panoramic views of central Nairobi.
Temple vice-chairman Umapati Dasa, originally from Benares, India, says that although the construction would cost about $800,000—too much for the small group of devotees there to collect—ISKCON life members will donate construction materials that will greatly reduce the total expenditure.
Tangiers now has a chance for Krsna consciousness—or bhakti-yoga, since yoga has no religious connotations in Morocco. Nayanabhirama Dasa, an early disciple of Srila Prabhupada, has moved there. He teaches English during the day and bhakti-yoga in the evening in the garage of an Indian friend. The population of Morocco is ninety-nine percent Sunni Moslem.
Two other devotees, Abhidheya Dasa and Gaura Bhakta Dasa, both originally from the Middle East, are spreading Krsna consciousness in North Africa from Morocco to Egypt, traveling through Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya. During a recent one-month stay in Morocco, they sold eight hundred books on Krsna consciousness.
For more detailed news, see ISKCON's monthly newspaper, ISKCON World Review. To subscribe, see page 59. Any news from your town or village? Please let us know!
The members of Padayatra America are spending six months walking through central America. They finished the Belize portion of the walk (100 miles) in January and then spent a week driving 176 miles over treacherous dirt roads through the jungles on the way to Guatemala City. Although the trip was difficult—the Padayatra vehicles suffered flat tires, broken springs, broken tail pipes, and worn-out brakes—hundreds of people in remote towns and villages received Srila Prabhupada's books and heard the chanting of Krsna's holy names.
The devotees plan to walk through Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and into Panama.
Malaysia's fourteen-day Padayatra last December went through the northern states of Penang and Kedah, covering the main towns first and then the rubber, oil palm, and cocoa plantations. The daily evening programs drew an average of about four hundred people. Because drug abuse and addiction is a great problem in Malaysia, the theme of the Padayatra was "Propaganda Against Drug Abuse" (PADA). During the walk, the devotees stopped at drug rehabilitation centers to put on Krsna conscious programs for the inmates.
Heavy rains marked the first day of the Fiji Padayatra in January, ending a six-month drought in western Viti Levu, Fiji's main island. About fifty devotees began the forty-kilometer walk from Lautoka City to Ba, and after a few days the number grew to 150. The padayatris passed out seven thousand pieces of prasadam and five thousand books during the pilgrimage.
Fifty devotees, led by Tamal Krishna Goswami and Lokanath Swami, walked through seven of the most prominent municipalities of Metro Manila in January. The procession included a colorful twelve-foot-high cart drawn by a pair of beautiful white bullocks. During the seven-day walk devotees passed out 25,000 brochures and small books and 30,000 bags of popcorn prasadam.
An Indian immigrant in America finds a solution to the cultural conflicts that challenge Indians in the West.
by Hari Mohana Dasa
I AM A DEVOTEE OF KRSNA and have been one for the past seven years. I'm also of Indian origin, and my story is a typical one.
I've lived in North America since I was nine years old. My parents came here to finish their higher education, and upon completion of their doctorates, they decided to settle in Canada, their adopted country. As their family grew, so did their careers, households, mortgages, and so on. Along with material success came several perplexing questions: How to relate to a materialistic Western society without losing Indian values? How to bring up children in the West and yet protect them from the excesses of Western culture? How to teach children something of their cultural background? What goals to pursue? What values to transmit to their children?
For us in the second generation, the questions were just as perplexing. How to balance the clash of cultures? Our parents expected us to behave in one way, our friends, teachers, and colleagues in another. This clash of cultures would lead to some hilarious situations, and to some tragic ones, but always to conflict. How much loyalty were we to give to our cultural origins, and how much were we to imbibe from the culture we lived in? What values were we to take from our parents, and what values were we to find on our own?
I believe ISKCON can play a valuable role in resolving these questions, for both parents and children, because of the nature of ISKCON and the genius of Srila Prabhupada.
Srila Prabhupada did with ISKCON what each of us tries to do individually: He took the essential elements of India's culture, transplanted that culture into the Western environment, and made it work. Srila Prabhupada's genius lay in his being true to the original culture while making the changes necessary for it to flourish in the West. He called ISKCON "a cultural presentation for the respiritualization of society." ISKCON is a culture—maybe a very special culture, but a culture nonetheless. It's not just a local temple or an international organization, but a whole culture, with eternal cultural values. Let's look deeper.
In the mid-nineteenth century, Lord Macaulay spoke his famous Minute on the floor of the British parliament in which he belittled Indian language and letters. His speech led to the founding of several schools in India, usually run by missions, with two aims: To expose Indians to the English language (as Indian literature was not seen as having any merit), and to expose them to Western scientific, cultural, and religious ideals (by which, it was hoped, the people would see their own beliefs as backward, superstitious, and hopeless and convert wholesale to the religion of their masters).
But the hopes of the colonists didn't work out as expected. The schools didn't produce many Christian natives. Rather, the students retained the prevailing European doctrines of the time: rationalism and humanism.
The mission schools spared no pains in deriding the native faith. They made every attempt to show its inferiority to Christianity. They condemned it as primitive, superstitious idol-worship, the work of the devil himself. Indians developed an inferiority complex about their own culture and looked for an alternative. The Brahmo Samaj in Bengal and revisionists in other parts of India formulated different versions of Hinduism, usually at the expense of the original faith. This original faith was the path of bhakti, as taught by great saints such as Tulasidasa, Tukarama, Suradasa, Tyagaraja, Mirabai, Jnanadeva, and Kabir. It was also elucidated in the Srimad-Bhagavatam and the Bhagavad-gita and rigorously expounded by great acaryas such as Madhvacarya, Ramanujacarya, and Vallabhacarya. The revisionists, however, who aped European philosophies, regarded the saints and acaryas as somehow inferior to the rationalists and humanists of Europe.
Eventually, the revisionists developed a version of Hinduism with a political message. The goal of Hinduism no longer centered on devotion to the Deity; rather, it was about social work—to feed and clothe the starving millions. Political Hinduism finally developed to where it's goal became political independence for India.
The revisionists knew that in spite of Western education the intellectuals (and the common man) of the day would not be interested in the revisionists' political philosophies unless cloaked within the garb of religion. The Indian, the most religious of people, would accept traditional authority. So the revisionists cleverly grafted their ideas of political independence and social work upon the tree of Vedanta. The philosophy of Sankaracarya, while much respected but little followed and of interest mainly to a certain class of brahmana intellectuals, became the vessel by which their ideas gained respectability.
My parents' generation was the heir to this ferment of ideas in India. To gain an education in science and technology, they unhesitatingly took to schools that followed the Western model. Their aims were noble enough: they wanted to make India self-sufficient and independent. Through the long years of India's freedom movement, they went to school, eagerly learning everything, waiting to take their place among those who struggled to make India strong and free. They graduated after independence, however, and found that opportunities were few, salaries low, and their services not so welcome by the socialists and communists in the government.
They came West and settled. Meanwhile, the original faith of devotion, ridiculed as irrelevant in the "new" India and contrary to progress, lay neglected and abused for at least three generations. Then, in 1965, as if by a miracle a sixty-nine-year-old saint with a trunk full of books and forty rupees in his pocket set sail for America on a tramp steamer. He came to teach the principles of bhakti on a foreign shore, after many years and many attempts to do so in India had failed.
Though immigrants to North America face a great struggle, the Indian immigrants had some advantages. They were not refugees, and they were educated. They were the dispossessed elite of an ancient civilization. Opportunities came soon, and success was quicker than expected. Of course, this is a generalization. There were several waves of Indian immigration to North America. The most recent ones are those of refugees from Africa and Sri Lanka. But by and large the Indian immigrant has succeeded.
The problems of Indian immigrant parents are, briefly, those of (1) culture, (2) success, and (3) children. The bond to India remains quite strong, with relatives, land, and culture still tying one to the home country. Should we remain here or, upon retirement, return to India? To what extent should the quest for material success influence our lives? How to teach our children the things of value in their own culture and convince them that they should retain them?
Let's see the solutions ISKCON can offer to these questions.
My parents, busy getting themselves established in the West, were not much concerned with questions such as these. Their first contact with ISKCON occurred when they saw the devotees dancing in the street, with shaven heads and tilaka. What a shock to see the familiar in a completely unexpected context! Curious, they visited the temple and quickly recognized it as authentic. Upon attending the Sunday feast lectures, they encountered questions about their culture and faith for the first time since leaving India—maybe for the first time in their lives.
First the question of culture. Srila Prabhupada stressed that he was not trying to establish Indian culture or Hinduism. Rather, he was introducing "eternal culture." He stressed that Krsna consciousness was not just for some small sect but was the natural function of the soul. To practice the eternal culture of Krsna consciousness one didn't have to be in India. Krsna consciousness could be practiced right here in North America. For many Indians, ISKCON temples became their home away from home.
Secondly, the question of success. Srila Prabhupada severely criticized Indians who came to North America just to make money. And, if we are honest, we'll admit he was right to criticize us. My personal experience is that wealthy Indian families who place all the emphasis on success and little, if any, on cultivating spiritual and moral values are swiftly traversing the path of corruption and decadence. Alcoholism and drugs, what to speak of meat-eating and smoking, are no longer strangers to such families. ISKCON has always emphasized the need to follow certain basic moral standards and has maintained this standard of purity throughout its history.
Finally, the question of the children's values. My parents' attempts to instill values in their children ended in failure, for several reasons. First, my parents were unsure about what they were trying to teach us. For example, to teach us about religion, they'd say something that reflected the confused, revisionist philosophy they were taught—"Deities are just representations of the ultimate reality, but you should worship them." And that was the end of that.
My parents' attempts at passing on their values would involve aspects of Indian culture that were not terribly important or relevant in our lives. While struggling with arcane aspects of classical music or dance, on the inside we'd be singing along with the Beatles or dancing with Michael Jackson.
ISKCON made the essential aspects of Vedic culture available to all of us in English, rather than in Sanskrit or other Indian languages, which we, unfortunately, only barely understood. Srila Prabhupada had already sifted through the vast field of Indian culture and successfully implanted the essential elements of it in the West. It is a successful model, presented by him clearly and logically. To fully take part in the culture of Krsna consciousness is to imbibe the eternal values, the norms, and, most important, the basic attitudes of Vedic culture and integrate them in daily life. There is no question of irrelevancy or confusion in Srila Prabhupada's presentation of Vedic culture.
My father was the first to take me to an ISKCON temple. Aside from the fascination of seeing the devotees, especially the women in saris, I didn't like it at all. I was young, my mind bent on sense enjoyment. I especially didn't like what I considered a "conservative Hindu" philosophy. I wanted to have fun with my Western friends.
My preference for having fun in opposition to my father's concern for values is, of course, the clash of cultures so common in immigrant families. I wasn't familiar with the background or history of my parents' education or attitudes, or why they came to the West in the first place. Yet I had to deal with their attitudes and reconcile them with those of the society I lived in. No one was teaching Indian children how to resolve this conflict. In some ways the reaction of our parents to this problem only compounded it. They would become overly protective, especially with the girls, stifling creativity and causing great resentments.
ISKCON provided a way to resolve this dilemna. About ten years after my father took me to an ISKCON temple, I met a devotee on the street who invited me to visit a center they had near the university I attended. This was my first real encounter with the devotees. My father, who would always encourage me to visit the temple, became alarmed when I actually started to do so. Religion was fine, he said, but it should be practiced at a distance.
ISKCON's greatest help was that it gave me a chance to talk with people my own age, Western and Indian, who shared my concerns. Here were young people putting universal values into their lives. ISKCON was also a bridge between the generations. I could now understand my devoted grandmother in a way my parents could never understand. I saw that I could live in the culture of Krsna consciousness and in the culture of the West.
I now have friends who are Indians, French Canadians, English, and so on, who are all of the same faith and culture. I'm also a part of a worldwide family, so wherever I go I'll always be welcome in the family of devotees.
In the schools we Indian youths attended, and in the cultural activities we were enrolled in, our teachers never discussed values or morality. In stark contrast, Srila Prabhupada was adamant that his disciples follow some basic rules of behavior. This was quite a shock for some of us. There was no ambiguity about ISKCON's standards. For example, take the question of vegetarianism. Our family was completely vegetarian, but my parents never went out of their way to stress its value. When, because of peer pressure, I started to eat meat in high school, my parents didn't discourage me. In fact, they expected that their children would take up this habit, and they even felt that they themselves were somehow wrong in being vegetarians. Once I became a devotee, however, I could easily explain to my peers why I don't eat meat. I've finished my university education and worked for five years in business without having to compromise this ideal.
Finally, and most important, the philosophy of Krsna consciousness transcends all material cultural considerations. It's not that I'm practicing "Indian" culture or following "Hinduism." The path of devotion to Krsna is, as Srila Prabhupada proved, something anyone, regardless of origin or nationality, can pursue successfully. This universality removes once and for all the dichotomy of the culture clash.
So far I've spoken only of the first and second generations. But we should think of the succeeding generations. One reason for my writing this essay is that my wife and I are blessed by Krsna with a beautiful young son. So the circle comes around, but with one exception: Krsna Himself. Because of Srila Prabhupada's Krsna consciousness movement, I'm confident my son will have an easier time imbibing the eternal values of our culture than I did.
Yet I don't feel confident for the future of the Indian community in the West. The second generation has already moved far from the cultural values of their parents. The assimilation will be complete in the third or fourth generation. Fearing this, the Indian community is frenetically building temples and establishing cultural associations. But these well-meaning projects will fail if they don't put real spiritual meaning into people's lives.
ISKCON allows its members to take part in a dynamic, growing society. In ISKCON's early years the members may have been inmature in their attitudes toward several social and cultural issues. But because the central values of the Vedic culture are strong, ISKCON will survive and grow.
I request Indian readers to please take part in this discussion. I also invite Indian parents and children (as well as others) to take part fully in the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. To become a full participant in this Society one must become serious about spiritual life. This means more than just attending the Sunday feasts. Specifically, this means that one should accept an authentic guru, follow his instructions, chant the maha-mantra, and follow the basic regulations of the Society. This will start one on the path of devotion. One will find his life transformed and beautifully enriched. This opportunity is open for everyone, for all differences of culture, race, or origin are resolved at the lotus feet of Sri Krsna.
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 Prabhupada Benevolent Foundation (P. B. F.)
Stanmore, Middlesex, England
Executive Trustees: Joan Wilder (President), Asta Sakhi Devi Dasi (Secretary), Leonard Wilder (Treasurer and Director of the Lotus Clinic). Trustees: Sivarama Swami, Dhananjaya Dasa, Bala Gopala Devi Dasi, Andrea Wilder. Patrons: Indradyumna Swami, Jayadvaita Swami, Mukunda Goswami, Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami.
To see to the health and welfare of Krsna's devotees by offering Krsna conscious health services, combining Ayurvedic, alternative, and conventional medicine.
To run a clinic and, long range, to set up a convalescent home, a retirement home, and a hospice.
Finally, to share Krsna consciousness with others through a devotee-run holistic welfare service.
The Prabhupada Benevolent Foundation was registered as a U. K. national charity in July 1990. Since then it has provided medical treatment and counseling to many devotees.
Through the Foundation, Leonard Wilder, a dental surgeon, and his wife, Joan, opened the Lotus Clinic in their home in October 1990. The P. B. F. funds the Clinic, which also receives contributions from patients. The Clinic is open two or three days a month and offers a wide range of therapies.
The Clinic has two consultant medical doctors and a consultant homeopath. All the practitioners are highly qualified and offer their skills as a service to devotees.
The Clinic has hosted seminars on various therapies, and the Foundation subsidizes a weekly hatha-yoga class near the Bhaktivedanta Manor.
The P. B. F. recently set up the Nilamani Trust to aid Vaisnava children.
This year the P. B. F. will offer more service to devotees through the Lotus Clinic. The P. B. F. plans to move its offices and the Clinic to a building where the Clinic can work full time. Long-term plans call for a retirement home and then a hospice. The P. B. F. hopes to become an international charity.
The main obstacle is a shortage of funds and fund-raisers. The P. B.F. needs a building and a full-time staff to realize its goals.
Another obstacle: While focusing on spiritual concerns, devotees often downplay the need to care for their health. But as Srila Prabhupada told Dhananjaya Dasa in 1972, "Of all things, health comes first. With good health you can chant sixteen good rounds, and with sixteen good rounds you can do good service."
How You Can Help
The P. B. F. needs health professionals, care-givers, fund-raisers and other inspired devotees to help advance its causes. It needs a building and office equipment, such as a fax machine, a photocopier, and a computer.
If you can help in any way or would like to send a tax-deductible donation, please contact the Foundation (U. K. registered charity number 803720):
The Prabhupada Benevolent Foundation
For more information on any aspect of the P. B. F., write to Dr. Leonard Wilder at the above address.
The Temple of Lord Channa Kesava
It took a century to build, and eight centuries have not diminished its grandeur.
by Lavangalatika Devi Dasi
THE TWELFTH-CENTURY Visnu temple at Belur, in the Indian state of Karnataka, was built by the Hoysala king Vishnuvardhana. The Hoysalas were originally a tribe of the Western Ghats, the mountain chain that runs along the west coast from Gujarat to the southern tip of India. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries the Hoysalas came to rule that part of the Deccan. King Vishnuvardhana converted from Jainism to Vaisnavism, as taught by Sri Ramanuja, around the time when Ramanuja publicly defeated the Jain texts.
Sri Channa Kesava, the nine-foot-tall Deity in the temple, is still worshiped, but not with the splendor of seven hundred years ago. The temple is maintained by the government of India, and has become a tourist attraction. It's a small, squat, star-shaped structure on a raised platform. Although small compared to other South Indian temples, with their the towering gopurams (ornate gateways), it's covered within and without with distinctive, intricate, and expressive stone sculpture, glorifying the pastimes of the Lord. The sculpture indicates how refined were art, music, and dance in the Vaisnava culture at that time.
It took 103 years to build the temple, begun in 1117. The inside is dark and cool, with forty-eight pillars, each unique in shape and design, carved with elaborate bas reliefs. All around the walls are high stone ledges and steep steps, sitting places for worshipers and observers. In the center before the Deity is a smooth, round, black stone platform where dancers performed for the pleasure of the Deity. On the ceiling above, lit by a spotlight, is a big rosette carved from a single stone. Lord Nrsimhadeva is at its center. In each corner of the rosette is a female dancer, one being the queen of Vishnuvardhana, Shantiladevi, who used to dance before the Deity. The other dancers are Gandharva Kanya, a heavenly maiden; Mayuri, a maiden with a peacock at her side and a parrot on her hand; and Kesava Srngari, a maiden dressing her hair, wet from bathing, and wearing stone bangles on her wrist.
Over the silver doors to the shrine of the Deity stand are two guardian beasts, each formed of seven animals in one—cow's ears, elephant's trunk, lion's paws, crocodile's tail, and so on. Beside the doors stand graceful seven-foot sculptures of Jaya and Vijaya, the gatekeepers of Visnu, slightly bent at the waist, with long delicate fingers, their beautiful expressions making them look alive.
On the outside of the temple are the forms and incarnations of Lord Visnu. Lord Nrsmhadeva, the half-man, half-lion incarnation, is carved in such minute detail that His nails plunge deep into Hiranyakasipu's knee. The demon's entrails garland the Lord's neck. There are scenes from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, and pastimes of Lord Krsna. Arjuna stands with his bow, its string worn away by the touch of hundreds of thousands of pilgrims. And Visakanya, a poisonous maiden, has a scorpion biting her toe.
Around the base of the temple are friezes, three high, of elephants for patience, lions for strength, and horses for speed. Each animal is unique. At the four entrance doors are sculptures of a boy fighting a lion.
In the courtyard a flame burns atop a tall stone pillar, and from the gate tower a loudspeaker plays devotional songs.
Behind the main temple is the temple of goddess Laksmi, the consort of Lord Channa Kesava.
Crowds of tourists come by bus to see the carvings of the Channa Kesava Temple. Official temple guides speak to large groups in several languages, though usually in Telegu and Kannada, the languages of the region. There's no fee for the tour, but you can give a donation. The guides are busy, so it's hard to find one who'll give a complete tour in English for just a couple of people. But the guides are knowledgeable, so it's worth the wait.
During my visit, a brahmana ran here and there charging four rupees to shine a spotlight and ten rupees for his barely understandable English commentary. As I viewed a gold-painted wooden Sesa Naga, the serpent-couch of Visnu, the brahmana said, "Sesa Naga" and threw a couple of coins into the serpent's coils, inplying that I should follow this example.
Belur is a small town four hours west of Bangalore, four hours north of Mysore, and about six hours by state transport bus from Udipi through the gorgeous scenery of the Western Ghats. The area is poor, and there are many small hotels with tiny rooms for forty rupees a night. You're given a bucket of hot water for your morning bath.
The Karnataka State Tourist Department hotel is ninety rupees, but you'll need advance booking. Its restaurant is nonvegetarian. The Hotel Gayatri on the main street has good, cheap vegetarian meals and can give helpful information about bus timings and routes.
Lavangalatika Devi Dasi, an American disciple of Srila Prabhupada, was a leading distributor of his books for many years. She and her husband now live in Bombay.
JANUARY 1992 was a crucial month for legal developments impacting ISKCON's future. On January 10 the United States Supreme Court granted review of ISKCON v. Lee in a case involving the right of ISKCON members to distribute religious literature and receive voluntary donations in the terminals of the New York metropolitan airport. Then, on January 30, the California Court of Appeal reversed the punitive damages awarded to Marcia George in George v. ISKCON and remanded the case to the lower court for a new trial.
ISKCON v. Lee
The right of ISKCON members to sell religious books in the public spaces of airport terminals has been solidly established for more than two decades. In February 1990 the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that airport terminals were not a public forum presumed to be available for free speech activities, and that while the distribution of religious literature could not be prohibited, the solicitation of donations could. The court acknowledged that although it had originally intended to rule in ISKCON's favor, an intervening opinion in a United States Supreme Court case involving suburban postal sidewalks "altered public forum" analysis. And so, despite the vast similarities between airport terminals and a "bustling metropolitan boulevard," the court was compelled to uphold the ban on solicitations.
In its opening brief, filed on February 18, ISKCON argued that "modern airport terminals mirror the cities they serve, with spacious pedestrian walkways lined by a surprisingly varied array of shops and services aimed at attracting travelers and nontravelers alike." After examining the history of transportation terminals, and how such areas as wharfs, train stations, and even Ellis Island were frequented by religious colporteurs and missionaries, the brief concluded that "history and experience demonstrate that airline terminals are important and appropriate fora for expression."
ISKCON is being supported in its efforts by an unprecedented array of organizations committed to freedom of speech and religion in public facilities such as airports. A group of major newspaper organizations, led by Gannett Satellite Information Network (U. S. A. Today), The New York Times Company, The Washington Post, and The American Newspaper Publishers Association, is filing "friend of the court" briefs, as are numerous religious, civil rights, and civic organizations, including The American Tract Society, the AFL-CIO, The American Jewish Congress, The Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, The Christian Legal Society, The National Association of Evangelicals, The National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., The American Civil Liberties Union, People for the American Way, Project Vote, Concerned Women of America, The Free Congress Foundation, and others.
The case is scheduled to be argued in Washington, D. C., on March 25, 1992, and an opinion is expected by the end of June 1992.
George v. ISKCON
In another important victory, the court of appeal in San Diego overturned $2.5 million in punitive damages awarded to Marcia George for libel and intentional infliction of emotional distress and ordered a new trial on damages. In a 3-0 ruling, however, the court left intact $485,000 in compensatory damages awarded to Marcia George and her daughter, Robin. With interest, this exceeds $900,000.
In overturning the punitive damages award, which in April 1991 the U. S. Supreme Court had ordered the court of appeal to reconsider, the court stated that evidence of a defendant's net worth—absent in this case—is an essential element of an award of punitive damages. The court of appeal also observed that the impact a punitive damages award will have on "innocent third parties," such as members of the congregation, donors, and devotees having no involvement with the objectionable conduct, must also be considered. As stated by the court, "On retrial, the only issue for the jury to determine is the amount of punitive damages necessary to punish and deter defendants without financially destroying them."
While ISKCON is pleased that, at least for the time being, it appears that its temple buildings in Los Angeles, New York, New Orleans, San Diego, and Laguna Beach have been saved, substantial risks remain. The Georges have repeatedly vowed to "fight to the death," or at least until ISKCON's temples are closed down. Marcia George has also promised to contribute a substantial amount of any money she receives to the "anti-cult" movement. Moreover, the case must be retried in Santa Ana, California, a conservative venue that once before revealed its prejudice toward ISKCON by awarding $32.7 million in damages to the Georges. Fortunately, that award was thrown out by a higher court.
ISKCON, therefore, intends to appeal the underlying judgment to the California Supreme Court and, if necessary, the U.S. Supreme Court. While certain mistakes may have been made in assisting Robin George in her decision to become a full-time devotee by helping her hide from her parents, no ill-will or harm was intended. So it's difficult to fathom, not to speak of accept, an award of even $1 million, which would still require the sale of many properties being used in Krsna's service.
By March or April this year the California Supreme Court will decide whether it intends to hear appeals by either ISKCON or the Georges.