Are You More than Green, Righteous, and Dead?
TWENTY YEARS AGO, no one gave a damn. You could gum up a river with factory sludge, chop down rain forests wholesale, spray fluorocarbons into the air like a kid sprinkling confetti, and no one would say boo.
No longer. Grade-school kids want to grow up to be ecologists. New York tycoons sort their trash to recycle. Rock singers play concerts to save prairies and wetlands. Political candidates tell us they're worried about the fate of the three-toed baboon.
Caring about the environment helps you feel good about yourself. At the supermarket you choose paper instead of plastic. You write your thank-you notes on paper made from ground up newsprint and cotton waste. You chip in a few dollars for Greenpeace. Hey, you care about the earth. You're a righteous person.
Yet too often our concern for the earth lacks a metaphysical grounding. Intuitively, living in harmony with the earth feels right. If the earth is the house we're going to live in, why litter the rooms with beer cans or pee all over the carpet?
But in an ultimate sense, so what? If life is just a series of chemical reactions, what does it matter if the chemicals go messy? Species come and species go. Why get all mushy and teary-eyed if a few berserk bipeds wipe out some hundred thousand kinds of their neighbors? The earth may be our mother, but sooner or later she's going to blow to atomic dusting powder anyway. And from a cosmic point of view that's just a few mega-moments down the line. So why all the fuss?
You can say it's for our children, it's for future generations. But they're also just a flash in eternity. Why bother for them?
Guardians of the green remind us urgently that dirtying and devouring the earth is short-sighted. But to be far-sighted we have to look beyond what seems clean, pleasant, and harmonious on a physical spot of earth on a brief ride through the universe. We have to ask ourselves not only how well we're treating the earth but why we're on it and where we are ultimately going.
Otherwise, though ecologically aware, we're metaphysically dead.
In this issue of Back to Godhead, starting on page 24, you'll find the story of an ecological effort that grows from a deep-rooted spiritual understanding. In one sense, it's the story of how a group of people are trying to restore a certain tract of earth. But the effort has a purpose that goes beyond the earth, beyond matter, beyond time, beyond all limits. It's a story not only of how people can restore harmony to the earth, but how in doing so they can bring the world more closely in harmony with Krsna.
Farming on Charity
It is relieving to find that interest in Vedic agriculture is gaining momentum in ISKCON. But I believe some adjustments are required in ISKCON farm infrastructure.
As Hare Krsna Dasi mentioned in her recent article [Nov/Dec'91], "Cow protection that depends on charity can never become the economic basis of society." But many ISKCON farm communities are in fact run on charity. Using methods of income employed in city temples, such as congregational solicitations and communal businesses, many farms can barely pay the bills, what to speak of providing inspiration for devotees who seek to live in a daivi-varnasrama society.
Perhaps the GBC [ISKCON's governing body commission] could do more in this regard. Present corporate setups often restrict the possibilities for private enterprise or co-op efforts on our farms. Legal adjustments could go a long way toward bringing about agricultural prosperity for individuals on ISKCON farms.
If many householders can be convinced that the Vedic model can fulfill their needs, then surely we will be able to broaden the roof of the house in which the whole world can live.
HARE KRSNA DASI REPLIES: Making ISKCON's farms self-sustaining is a challenge. And as you say, we need help from ISKCON's leaders. If our communities can't pay their own way, they'll never become stable enough to attract people. And without the help of the GBC I don't think we will make much progress.
But I believe that the GBCs interest will turn more in this direction. After all, what is the point of having a great farm if we can't create a farm-based Vedic economy to sustain it? The project would simply be artificial.
On the other hand, the burden of figuring these things out cannot fall solely on the GBC We can all give a hand by drawing on what we've learned from Srila Prabhupada and from our own experience.
Devotees are organizing forums for this purpose. The first, a Conference on Community Development, scheduled for August in LosAngeles, will already have taken place by the time this magazine reaches press. A Conference on Ox Power and Varnasrama is scheduled for early August 1993 at Gita Nagari Farm in Pennsylvania. These conferences will allow devotees to share their concerns and exchange knowledge on community development (either in person or by contributing papers).
One of the many topics for these forums will be our economic direction. Srila Prabhupada has given us a system for a local economy that avoids the great problems of centralization presented by both the capitalist and the communist systems. But how do we get there from here? How much can we make room for the market economy and still move ahead toward self-sufficiency? What is the role of private ownership and responsibility in Krsna consciousness? What is the role of the family in community development?
We urgently need to develop our communities and set up many Krsna conscious ox-power farms. As things stand now, just one full-scale oil war could jack up feed grain prices high enough to wipe outmost of the cows and bulls in the developed countries within a couple of years. Last time, the world got a reprieve: the conflict was brief and the economic disruption fairly small. Next time we may not be so lucky.
So we hope many devotees such as you will join in the discussion of how we can build farm communities that can stand on their own to spread the Krsna consciousness movement according to Srila Prabhupada's desires.
Please Come Back
It's not possible for us to read each issue of BTG. But the article on spiritual falldown and the letter written by Pusta Krsna Dasa [BTG March/April] are indeed very good. We are going to translate them into Chinese so that all the devotees here can read them.
We sincerely welcome those who have left this movement to come back, again surrender, and engage in devotional service. Yes, please come back!
We'd like to offer our respectful obeisances to Pusta Krsna Prabhu and Mr. Dan Richardson [same issue of BTG] for their coming back to do service again.
Krsna Dasa and others
Krsna Conscious Parenting
As parents of three young children, as doctors with special interests in family and pediatric medicine, and as aspiring servants of the servants of Lord Caitanya, we were touched by Cintamani Devi Dasi's article [BTG March/April]. Parenting is a tenderly powerful eye-opener to devotional practice and can teach what undivided service means. Pregnancy, childbirth, and early rearing of children expose parents to some of the greatest feelings of helplessness and vulnerability, heightening our dependence at the lotus feet of the Lord.
Like Cintamani Devi Dasi we too find that example speaks louder than words. The lives of the Vaisnavas speak for themselves. It is the underlying parental and community attitude that speaks to the impressionable children's hearts and spirits. Creating this requires direct participation of both mother and father, and also support of husband and wife for each other. This close family then needs the nurturing from the greater family of the Vaisnava community. And, of course, this creates fertile ground for reciprocation and advancing in the common goal.
Dr. Paul Oliver
Bhakti Yoga Club
I bought your latest magazine [May/ June]. I loved all the articles, especially the one about Anjali Sankhla's high school Bhakti Yoga Club. It's amazing that there's a time after school for students to learn about Krsna together. I wish there had been a Bhakti Yoga Club when I was in high school. Anjali's devotional activities at home and in school are very enlivening. I'd like to congratulate her for her superb job.
Parenting: Authoritative vs. Authoritarian
It was with great sadness that I read the recent article by Sri Rama Dasa about "Four Kinds of Parents." The ideas in that article epitomize the conservative authoritarian approach to child-raising that has failed so-called fundamentalist Christians and others who have sought to forcibly channel their children's behavior into socially acceptable and parent-gratifying lines.
First of all, Sri Rama Dasa Prabhu outlines four different parenting styles in a manner that could have been lifted verbatim from a right-wing educational diatribe, as if they were Vedic categories. It is grossly misleading when such descriptions are published unchallenged, and without a clear explanation of the real sources of the theories. The bias of the article is clearly seen in the choice of labels. "Permissive" is a pejorative term long applied by right-wingers in America to explain how it could have happened that a generation of young people turned away from war, animal slaughter, materialistic addiction, and slavish obedience to the government, turning instead to other lifestyles, including the Hare Krishna movement.
In his analysis of the "neglectful" parent, he lists as one of the unfortunate results of such a parental attitude a poor response to "discipline outside the home (from teachers, pastors, police, and so on)." Do devotees really want their children to give blind obedience to police and other representatives of the cruel, materialistic American society we find ourselves in? If those who are now members of the Krishna consciousness movement had given such obedience to karmi culture, they would today be good little meat-eating workaholics instead of ecstatic devotees of the Lord.
As the father of two small children, I certainly do not want my kids to learn slavish obedience to outside authority. We must not forget that we must be discriminating and judge who is a legitimate authority and who is not. We are given clear guidance that a leader must act in accordance with sadhu [saints] and sastra [scripture]. My wife and I want our children to grow up thinking for themselves. We accept very seriously our obligation as devotees to provide an atmosphere that will encourage and nurture our children's Krishna consciousness.
Of the devotee parents I know, some are open, loving, and generous and teach their children by example, while others are more stern and authoritative. That is variegatedness. I am aware of no categories given by Krishna or Srila Prabhupada that outline the divisions in parenting styles presented in this article. You do a disservice to the devotee community by publishing such a one-sided and misleading article.
My fear is that the article will have a chilling effect on parents in the Hare Krsna movement. Now those parents who, out of fear, practice the same authoritarian ways of child-rearing that their parents did (unsuccessfully) will be bolstered in their belief that if they just demand enough, their kids will grow up just like them. And those parents who seek to raise their children with affection and gentle exploration, while not compromising the principles of Krishna consciousness, may be intimidated into thinking that gentleness is somehow not Krishna conscious.
Another troubling fault in Sri Rama Dasa's article is the tendency, noticed increasingly in the pages of Back to Godhead, to refer to the authorities and experts of karmi, cow-killing society for advice. It should be clear that we should rely on more benign sources for our information and theories and not look to the culture that hates Krishna, delights in killing cows and human beings, has no concern for the unfortunate among us, and daily tortures innocent animals in laboratories.
Krishna consciousness flourishes when children feel love and unqualified support from their parents and the surrounding devotee community. Remember that honey attracts much better than vinegar.
Everyone, including devotees, is entitled to his opinions on various matters, under the guidance of guru, sadhu and sastra. But those opinions should not be presented in the pages of Back to Godhead as fact.
Let us be honest, loving, and open with our children and lead them by example. Then we are serving the Divine within them, and when we do that we are making the world a little more conscious of Krishna. Hare Krishna!
SRI RAMA DASA REPLIES: I must have failed to properly explain the difference between "authoritarian" and "authoritative" parenting. The complaints and fears expressed by Bhava Dasa seem directed at the authoritarian approach, a mode of action I definitely did not recommend.
Authoritative parenting embodies two primary concepts: (1) transferring values and (2) setting reasonable limits.
Parent's must try their best to pass on their genuinely held values. This is especially true for devotees. Otherwise, what is the meaning of the following injunction from Srimad-Bhagavatam (5.5.18): "One who cannot deliver his dependents from the path of repeated birth and death should never become a spiritual master, a father, a husband, a mother, or a worshipable demigod"?
Vedic culture was highly authoritative. Children received the same clear value messages from parents, teachers, relatives, neighbors, the government, and so on. Now, when children hear nothing but a conflicting cacophony of "situation ethics" from all sides, don't we owe them something more than just setting a good example? Shouldn't we take the time and trouble to explain why we lead the lives we do?
Srila Prabhupada also advised that we directly engage our children in devotional service. He said it is like fire: it will have its effect whether one knows its potency or not. Never forcing-but direction and encouragement.
Our children should and will learn to think for themselves. But at the right time. Prabhupada referred to Canakya Pandita's recommendation to treat them like friends at sixteen years-not before. From five to sixteen years a more disciplined approach is called for.
From everything I've seen, heard, and studied, children (including teenagers) want and expect parents to set reasonable limits on their behavior Limits inspire feelings of stability and concern. Properly applied, they show that parents believe enough in their values to take steps to instill them in their sons and daughters. Authoritarian parents say, "Do as I say or else!" Authoritative parents say, "Do as I do, and here is the reason why."
If one makes a detailed study of Srila Prabhupada's instructions to parents and teachers, one will find they fit the authoritative concept quite closely-clear and firm direction, but no force. Perhaps this approach hasn't worked for nondevotee parents because they had little to offer in genuine spiritual values. I don't think that should make us afraid to do the right thing ourselves.
The unconquerable Supreme Lord, whom even the greatest scholars can't approach, is controlled by the love of His devotees.
by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
gopy adade tvayi krtagasi dama tavad
Queen Kunti prayed: "My dear Krsna, Yasoda took up a rope to bind You when You committed an offense, and Your perturbed eyes overflooded with tears, which washed the mascara from Your eyes. And You were afraid, though fear personified is afraid of You. This sight is bewildering to me. Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.8.31
Here is an explanation of the bewilderment created by the pastimes of the Supreme Lord. The Supreme Lord is the Supreme in all circumstances. Here is a specific example of the Lord's being the Supreme and at the same time a plaything in the presence of His pure devotee.
The Lord's pure devotee renders service unto the Lord out of unalloyed love only, and while discharging such devotional service the pure devotee forgets the position of the Supreme Lord. The Supreme Lord also accepts the loving service of His devotees more relishably when the service is rendered spontaneously out of pure affection, without anything of reverential admiration.
Generally the Lord is worshiped by the devotees in a reverential attitude, but the Lord is meticulously pleased when the devotee, out of pure affection and love, considers the Lord to be less important than himself. The Lord's pastimes in the original abode, Goloka Vrndavana, are exchanged in that spirit. The friends of Krsna consider Him one of them. They do not consider Him to be of reverential importance. The parents of the Lord (who are pure devotees) consider Him a child only. The Lord accepts the chastisements of the parents more cheerfully than the prayers of the Vedic hymns. Similarly, He accepts the reproaches of His fiancees more palatably than the Vedic hymns.
When Lord Krsna was present in this material world to manifest His eternal pastimes of the transcendental realm Goloka Vrndavana as an attraction for the people in general, He displayed a unique picture of subordination before His foster mother, Yasoda. The Lord, in His naturally childish playful activities, used to spoil the stocked butter of mother Yasoda by breaking the pots and distributing the contents to His friends and playmates, including the celebrated monkeys of Vrndavana, who took advantage of the Lord's munificence. Mother Yasoda saw this, and out of her pure love she wanted to make a show of punishment for her transcendental child. She took a rope and threatened the Lord that she would tie Him up, as is generally done in the ordinary household. Seeing the rope in the hands of mother Yasoda, the Lord bowed His head and began to weep just like a child, and tears rolled down His cheeks, washing off the black ointment smeared about His beautiful eyes.
This picture of the Lord is adored by Kunti Devi because she is conscious of the Lord's supreme position. He is feared often by fear personified, yet He is afraid of His mother, who wanted to punish Him just in an ordinary manner.
Kunti was conscious of the exalted position of Krsna, whereas Yasoda was not. Therefore Yasoda's position was more exalted than Kunti's. Mother Yasoda got the Lord as her child, and the Lord made her forget altogether that her child was the Lord Himself. If mother Yasoda had been conscious of the exalted position of the Lord, she would certainly have hesitated to punish the Lord. But she was made to forget this situation because the Lord wanted to make a complete gesture of childishness before the affectionate Yasoda. This exchange of love between the mother and the son was performed in a natural way, and Kunti, remembering the scene, was bewildered, and she could do nothing but praise the transcendental filial love. Indirectly, mother Yasoda is praised for her unique position of love, for she could control even the all-powerful Lord as her beloved child.
This pastime presents an opulence of Krsna—His opulence of beauty. Krsna has six opulences: all wealth, all strength, all influence, all knowledge, all renunciation, and all beauty. The nature of Krsna is that He is greater than the greatest and smaller than the smallest (anor aniyan mahato mahiyan). We offer obeisances to Krsna with awe and veneration, but no one comes to Krsna with a rope, saying, "Krsna, You have committed an offense, and now I shall bind You." Yet this is the prerogative of the most perfect devotee, and Krsna wants to be approached in that way.
Thinking of Krsna's opulence, Kunti Devi did not dare take the part of Yasoda, for although Kunti Devi was Krsna's aunt, she did not have the privilege to approach Krsna the way He was approached by Yasodamayi, who was such an advanced devotee that she had the right to chastise the Supreme Personality of Godhead. That was Yasoda's special prerogative. Kunti Devi was simply thinking of how fortunate was Yasodamayi that she could threaten the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is feared even by fear personified (bhir api yad bibheti). Who is not afraid of Krsna? No one. But Krsna is afraid of Yasodamayi. This is the super-excellence of Krsna.
To give another example of such opulence, Krsna is known as Madana Mohana. Madana means Cupid. Cupid enchants everyone, but Krsna is known as Madana Mohana because He is so beautiful that He enchants even Cupid. Nonetheless, Krsna Himself is enchanted by Srimati Radharani, and therefore Srimati Radharani is known as Madana Mohana Mohini, "the enchanter of the enchanter of Cupid." Krsna is the enchanter of Cupid, and Radharani is the enchanter of that enchanter.
These are very exalted spiritual understandings in Krsna consciousness. They are not fictional, imaginary, or concocted. They are facts, and every devotee can have the privilege to understand and indeed take part in Krsna's pastimes if he is actually advanced. We should not think that the privilege given to mother Yasoda is not available to us. Everyone can have a similar privilege. If one loves Krsna as one's child, then one will have such a privilege, because the mother has the most love for the child. Even in the material world, there is no comparison to a mother's love, for a mother loves her child without any expectation of return. Of course, although that is generally true, this material world is so polluted that a mother sometimes thinks, "My child will grow up and become a man, and when he earns money, I shall get it." Thus there is still some desire to get something in exchange. But while loving Krsna there are no selfish feelings, for that love is unalloyed, free from the material gain (anyabhilasita-sunyam).
We should not love Krsna for some material gain. It is not that we should say, "Krsna, give us our daily bread, and then I shall love You. Krsna, give me this or that, and then I shall love You." There should be no such mercantile exchanges, for Krsna wants unalloyed love.
When Krsna saw mother Yasoda coming with a rope to bind Him, He immediately became very much afraid, thinking, "Oh, Mother is going to bind Me." He began to cry, and the tears washed the mascara from His eyes. Looking at His mother with great respect, He appealed to her with feelings, "Yes, Mother, I have offended you. Kindly excuse Me." Then He immediately bowed His head. Kunti Devi appreciated this scene, for this was another of Krsna's perfections. Although He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, He puts Himself under the control of mother Yasoda. In the Bhagavad-gita (7.7) the Lord says, mattah parataram nanyat kincid asti dhananjaya: "My dear Arjuna, there is no one superior to Me." Yet that Supreme Personality of God-head, to whom no one is superior, bows to mother Yasoda, accepting, "My dear Mother, yes, I am an offender."
When mother Yasoda saw that Krsna had become too much afraid of her, she also became disturbed. She did not actually want Krsna to suffer by her punishment. That was not her purpose. But it is a system, still current in India, that when a child creates too much of a disturbance, his mother may bind him up in one place. That is a very common system, so mother Yasoda adopted it.
This scene is very much appreciated by pure devotees, for it shows how much greatness there is in the Supreme Person, who plays exactly like a perfect child. When Krsna plays like a child He plays perfectly, when He plays as the husband of sixteen thousand wives He plays perfectly, when He plays the lover of the gopis He plays perfectly, and as the friend of the cowherd boys He plays perfectly.
The cowherd boys all depend on Krsna. Once they wanted to take fruit from a forest of palm trees, but there was a demon named Gardabhasura who would not allow anyone to enter the forest. Therefore Krsna's cowherd boyfriends said to Krsna, "Krsna, we want to taste that fruit, if You can arrange for it." Krsna immediately said yes, and He and Balarama went to the forest where that demon was living with other demons, who had taken the shape of asses. When the ass demons came to kick Krsna and Balarama with their hind legs, Balarama caught one of them and threw him into the top of a tree, and the demon died. Then Krsna and Balarama killed the other demons the same way. Thus Their cowherd friends were very much obliged to Them.
On another occasion, the cowherd boys were surrounded by fire. Not knowing anyone else but Krsna, they immediately called for Him, and Krsna was ready: "Yes." Thus Krsna immediately swallowed the whole fire. There were many demons that attacked the boys, and every day the boys would return to their mothers and say, "Mother, Krsna is so wonderful," and they would explain what had happened that day. And the mothers would say, "Yes, our Krsna is wonderful." They did not know that Krsna is God, the Supreme Person. They only knew that Krsna is wonderful, that's all. And the more they perceived Krsna's wonderful activities, the more their love increased. "Perhaps He may be a demigod," they thought. When Nanda Maha-raja, Krsna's father, talked among his friends, the friends would talk about Krsna and say, "Oh, Nanda Maharaja, your child Krsna is wonderful." And Nanda Maharaja would respond, "Yes, I see that. Maybe He is some demi-god." And even that was not certain—"maybe."
Thus the inhabitants of Vrndavana do not care who is God and who is not. They love Krsna, that's all. Those who think of first analyzing Krsna to determine whether He is God are not first-class devotees. The first-class devotees are those who have spontaneous love for Krsna. How can we analyze Krsna? He is unlimited, and therefore it is impossible. We have limited perception, and our senses have limited potency, so how can we study Krsna? It is not possible at all. Krsna reveals Himself to a certain extent, and that much is sufficient.
We should not be like the Mayavadi philosophers, who try to find God by speculative deduction. "Neti neti," they say. "God is not this, and God is not that." But what God is they do not know. Materialistic scientists also try to find the ultimate cause, but their process is the same: "Not this, not that." As much as they advance, they will always find "Not this, not that." But what the ultimate cause is, they will never find. That is not possible.
What to speak of finding Krsna, materialistic scientists cannot properly understand even material objects. They are trying to go to the moon, but actually they do not know what it is. If they understand what the moon is, why do they come back here? If they knew perfectly what the moon is, they would have resided there by now. They have been trying for the last twenty years to go there and stay, but they are simply seeing, "Not this, not that. There are no living entities, and there is no possibility of our living there." Thus they can report on what is not on the moon, but do they know what is there? No, they do not know. And this is only one planet or one star.
According to Vedic literature, the moon is regarded as a star. The scientists say that the stars are all suns, but according to the Bhagavad-gita the stars are of the same nature as the moon. In Bhagavad-gita (10.21) Lord Krsna says, naksatranam aham sasi: "Of stars I am the moon." Thus the moon is just like the many stars. What is the nature of the moon? It is bright because it reflects light from the sun. Therefore although the scientist say that the stars are many suns, we do not agree. According to the Vedic calculation, there are innumerable suns, but in every universe there is only one.
What we see in this universe we are seeing imperfectly, and our knowledge is not perfect. We cannot count how many stars or planets there are. We cannot fully understand the material things existing all around us, and therefore how can we understand the Supreme Lord who created this universe? That is not possible. Therefore in the Brahma-samhita (5.34) it is said:
panthas tu koti-sata-vatsara-sampragamyo
Space is unlimited, and the Brahma-samhita suggests: Suppose one travels by spacecraft for millions of years at the velocity of the wind or even the speed of mind. Everyone knows that the mind is so swift that in even one ten-thousandth of a second it can take us millions of miles. If we have seen something millions of miles away, the mind can go there immediately. But even if we can travel at that speed on a spacecraft manufactured by muni-pungavanam, the greatest scientists and most thoughtful men, will that be perfection? No. The Brahma-samhita says, so 'py asti yat-prapada-simny avicintya-tattve: still this creation will remain inconceivable to our understanding. And Krsna has created all these things, so how can we study Krsna? If we cannot understand the things Krsna has created, how can we understand Krsna? It is not possible at all.
Therefore the mentality of Vrndavana is the perfect status of the mind for devotees. The inhabitants of Vrndavana have no concern with understanding Krsna. Rather, they want to love Krsna unconditionally. It is not that they think, "Krsna is God, and therefore I love Him." In Vrndavana Krsna does not play as God; He plays there as an ordinary cowherd boy, and although at times He proves that He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the devotees do not care to know it.
Kunti Devi, however, was not an inhabitant of Vrndavana. She was an inhabitant of Hastinapura, which is outside Vrndavana. The devotees outside of Vrndavana study how great the inhabitants of Vrndavana are, but the inhabitants of Vrndavana don't care to know how great Krsna is. That is the difference between them. So our concern should be simply to love Krsna. The more we love Krsna, the more we shall become perfect. It is not necessary to understand Krsna and how He creates. Krsna explains Himself in the Bhagavad-gita, and we should not try to understand much more. We should not bother very much to know Krsna. That is not possible. We should simply increase our unalloyed love for Krsna. That is the perfection of life.
Thank you very much.
Is Krsna a Myth?
Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami replies to a letter
I have seen the letter you wrote to the editors of Back to Godhead. You describe yourself as a South Indian Hindu brahmana "asking questions and inquiring seriously about religion." You are a devotee of Krsna, but as you tell me, the scholarly books you are reading have confused you.
I think the reason you are confused is that these books are anti-religious. If you are inquiring about God out of a hankering to know Him, then you are searching in the wrong place. Professed atheists whose authority is the speculation of the mind and who study religion only as an academic or historical exercise cannot satisfy the needs of the self. Such persons are especially unfit to understand confidential topics about the nature of Sri Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
As a graduate student in computer engineering, you know that each science has its own experts. For example, to study computer science you have gone to recognized experts in computing. If you had wanted to learn medicine or law or violin playing, you'd have gone to doctors, lawyers, or violinists. Similarly, to understand God you have to approach experts in the science of God.
Every world religion has a theology, a scientific approach to understanding God. Among these theologies, the Vedic teachings are the oldest and most comprehensive. The actual science of Krsna, however, lies beyond even the student of religion; it can be understood only by one who is transcendentally qualified.
Those who are not Krsna's devotees can never be experts in understanding Him. So the Vedic literature forbids us to try to understand Krsna by hearing their commentaries and explanations. As stated in the Padma Purana:
"One should not hear about Krsna from a nondevotee. Milk touched by the lips of a serpent has poisonous effects; similarly, talks about Krsna given by a nondevotee can also be poisonous."
Commenting on this verse, His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada writes, "We should strictly follow this injunction and never try to hear from Mayavadis, impersonalists, voidists, politicians, or so-called scholars. Strictly avoiding such inauspicious association, we should simply hear from pure devotees."
Some of the books you have read declare that Krsna never existed and that He is just a myth. The authors speak from their own historical analysis, from disbelief in God's descent as an avatara, and from an inordinate trust in their own speculations. And so they dismiss the formidable evidence of the Vedic scriptures, the testimony of those who witnessed Krsna's appearance, and the teachings of learned Vedic scholars and devotees throughout the ages.
You are at a crossroads in your religious life. So you have to decide which authorities you are going to accept.
The ancient philosophers of India have thoroughly discussed the points upon which the empirical and scriptural authorities clash. Such persons as Sankara, Ramanuja, Madhva, and in the modern age the Vrndavana Gosvamis and Srila Prabhupada have all knocked apart the false arguments used to show that Krsna is just a myth or an ordinary man. Some of Prabhupada's followers have also written books discussing the claims of mundane Indologists. You may like to look at those books. I think they may help you. For example, see Archeology and the Vaishnava Tradition, by Steven Rosen. This book clearly establishes the pre-Christian roots of Krsna worship. Also, see my Readings in Vedic Literature, in which I give evidence that empirical approaches to Vaisnava teachings have been faulty and biased and have failed to let the tradition speak for itself. Also, see the books of Sadaputa Dasa. Sadaputa writes for the scientifically trained person who wishes to understand and confront the differences between mundane science and Vedic thought.
In the Bhagavad-gita (9.11) Sri Krsna states, "Fools deride Me when I descend in the human form. They do not know My transcendental nature as the Supreme Lord of all that be." Commenting on this verse, Srila Prabhupada states, "The scholar may be born an extraordinary man due to his previous good work, but his conception of Sri Krsna is due to a poor fund of knowledge." Materialistic scholars, Srila Prabhupada says, "do not know that Krsna's body is a symbol of complete knowledge and bliss, that He is the proprietor of everything that be, and that He can award liberation to anyone. Because they do not know that Krsna has so many transcendental qualifications, they deride Him."
You mentioned that some scholars criticize what they see as flaws in Krsna's character. "Krsna's retreat from the warriors Kalayavana and Jarasandha is inconsistent with His hero image. The destruction of the Yadava clan and the death of Krsna are themes derived from outside India." Again scholars are poking their noses into an area to which they have no proper access. The so-called flaws in Krsna's character are displays of transcendental variety in His pastimes. God always has a purpose to accomplish in His pastimes. Learned devotees understand that purpose and glorify Him as all-good.
For example, when Krsna ran from the demon Kalayavana on the battlefield, the demon thought that Krsna feared him. So the demon kept running after Krsna, and Krsna led him far away into a cave. Was Krsna hiding in the cave to avoid fighting? With this thought in mind, Kalayavana rebuked Krsna and followed Him inside. There Kalayavana saw a man lying asleep. Thinking it was Krsna, the demon kicked the man, who then awoke and opened his eyes. As soon as the man glanced upon Kalayavana, rays of fire emanated from the man's eyes, burning Kalayavana to ashes. This was a tactic Krsna used to kill Kalayavana and deliver the sleeping man, who was a great devotee of Krsna's named Mucukunda. Commenting on this narration, Prabhupada writes that when Kalayavana was following Krsna, running very fast, "he could not catch Krsna because he was not free from all contaminations of sinful life." Similarly, the mundane scholars cannot catch Krsna with their speculations of "mythology" and "character flaws."
When Krsna left the battlefield during His fight with another demon, Jarasandha, the Lord again had a special purpose. He wanted to attend to a confidential letter He had received from Rukmini, His future wife. By leaving the battlefield, Krsna also displayed the opulence of renunciation, showing that He was not attached to reputation or power. When time and circumstances were right, Krsna proved that He was competent to defeat Jarasandha.
Krsna's devotees do not consider Krsna's leaving the battlefield a shameful act. In fact, there are many temples, especially in Gujarat, where Krsna is worshiped as Ranacoraji, "He who left the battlefield." By hearing from pure devotees, we can understand that Krsna, Ranacoraji, left the battlefield not out of fear but for another purpose. In similar ways, there are transcendental explanations for all of Krsna's so-called controversial or contradictory activities. His dancing with other men's wives (the spiritual gopis of Vrndavana), His disappearance from the earth (which was not by "death" but by His return to the spiritual world)—all such pastimes can be understood only from self-realized souls. Those who are envious of Krsna will always try to find fault with Him. In the old days of British rule in India, missionaries used to criticize Krsna's boyhood by saying He was a notorious butter thief! But devotees always worship and find pleasure in Krsna's activities, despite the envious attacks of nondevotees.
In your letter you describe yourself as a devout Krsna bhakta, but you express being disturbed by the scholars' allegations. You see a conflict between religious faith and scientific evidence. Don't feel intimidated. Al-though people who approach Krsna sentimentally or with blind faith may not be acting scientifically, there is a science of Krsna—Krsna consciousness. It is both superior to and transcendental to all the limited and imperfect material sciences found in this world.
I would advise, therefore, that you become a scientific student not only of computers but of Lord Krsna, whom you have worshiped since your child-hood. If you are serious about inquiring into God consciousness, then avoid those who are inimical and unqualified in their approach to the science of Krsna. Go to those who have the transcendental qualification to teach you real religion.
Ultimately, Krsna is known through love. That love is dormant within the soul. What I have referred to as the science of Krsna is properly called bhakti-yoga, and it is the means to purify the heart and bring out the in-nate love of Krsna inherent in every-one. Whoever does this and attains even a little bit of love for Krsna becomes the most learned person.
Please forgive me for trying to instruct you, Harish. You are fortunate because by birth you have worshiped Krsna as God and heard about Him from your parents and from the scriptures. So you need not be affected by Western ways and awed by the apparent prowess of scientists and scholars. We who were born in Western countries, and who are not so fortunate as you, have heard this atheistic speculation throughout our childhood and youth. There was little chance we would ever understand Krsna. But by Krsna's grace His pure devotee Srila Prabhupada brought the science of Krsna to the West by teaching Bhagavad-gita As It Is and Srimad-Bhagavatam, transmitting the words of the sages who know Krsna in truth. It is only by Prabhupada's mercy that I dare offer you some advice and encourage you to embrace your original faith in Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami is the author of more than two dozen books, including a six-volume biography of Srila Prabhupada.
Bhakti-yoga at Home
The Art of Reading Transcendental Literature
By Rohininandana Dasa
When Suta Gosvami spoke the Srimad-Bhagavatam to the sages in the Naimisaranya forest, the atmosphere was so intensely respectful that even the birds ceased their songs. The sages didn't cough or shuffle their feet; they were enraptured. Lord Krsna Himself had appeared in the form of the Srimad-Bhagavatam.
Those sages have long since crossed the great ocean of material illusion and happily returned home, back to Godhead, on the boat of transcendental sound. Although we stay here, apparently marooned, we can also take advantage of the boat. It still lies on our side, and the simple act of approaching this mystical boat reduces the material ocean to a puddle. As the sages crossed, so can we, by following in their footsteps, by hearing as they heard.
We'll find the boat of transcendental sound safely moored in the harbor of Srila Prabhupada's books. We can recognize this boat by its brilliance, which destroys the darkness of ignorance and doubt; by its beauty, which captivates the mind and heart; and by its breadth, for it easily encompasses the entire world in a small corner of its hold.
We cannot replicate the scene in the forest of Naimisaranya, but we can learn and perfect the art of reading Srila Prabhupada's books. We can read as he wrote, pondering each word.
Srila Prabhupada's books are transcendental sound. When he spoke into the dictaphone, Lord Krsna and the members of the disciplic succession spoke through him. That spiritual sound was then transformed into the printed word, which, when read and assimilated, can once again manifest the full potency of the original sound.
Nondevotees cannot unlock the code of spiritual words, for Lord Krsna, the Absolute Truth, reveals Himself to whomever He chooses. On the pretext of mere scholarship, we cannot force our way into the mysteries of Krsna. Yet even the least educated person with the right attitude can understand the highest philosophical truths.
The Caitanya-caritamrta relates the story of a devotee in South India whose guru advised him to read the Bhagavad-gita every day. He would read at the local temple, and because he often made mistakes in reading and pronunciation, people made fun of him. But he didn't care. He felt happy as he attended to his guru's order. In fact, as he read, tears some-times welled up in his eyes, and his body trembled in ecstatic emotion.
Lord Caitanya once visited the devotee's village and saw him reading.
"Excuse Me, My dear sir," the Lord said, "How have you developed such ecstatic love? What portion of the Bhagavad-gita gives you so much bliss?"
The devotee shyly replied, "I am illiterate and therefore do not know the meaning of the words. Sometimes I read correctly and sometimes incorrectly, but in any case I just picture Lord Krsna as Arjuna's charioteer. When I think how the Supreme Lord so humbly serves His devotee, I can-not help but cry."
Lord Caitanya declared, "You are the actual authority in reading Bhagavad-gita. Whatever you know constitutes its real meaning."
This fortunate, humble person had faith in his guru's words and the scripture. To have faith in the Gita, one must have faith in Krsna, the speaker of the Gita. In the Introduction to Bhagavad-gita As It Is, Srila Prabhupada says that to understand the Gita one must at least theoretically accept Lord Krsna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Unless we do, how can we take His statements seriously?
Taking the Bhagavad-gita seriously is like stepping outside into the full sunshine. As the sun does not need anything else to prove its existence, so the Bhagavad-gita is its own proof. For the doubtful there is enough logic and reason to help coax them out of the darkness of their houses of skepticism and ignorance.
Some Practical Suggestions
To help us develop the necessary reverence toward the scriptures, we can keep our books in a special place. In Burma some temples place the Srimad-Bhagavatam on the altar as the main murti, or form of God. Imagine a complete set of Srimad-Bhagavatams installed in your home! Once one of Srila Prabhupada's disciples asked if he and his wife could worship small Deities as they traveled and preached. Srila Prabhupada advised them to worship his books.
The books should not be put on the floor or the seat of a chair, or used as a resting place for other things. Sometimes devotees keep the book they are currently reading wrapped in a piece of fine cloth.
It's also a good idea to offer prayers before we begin reading. In our ISKCON temples, before reading the Srimad-Bhagavatam devotees chant om namo bhagavate vasudevaya: "O my Lord, O all-pervading Personality of Godhead, I offer my respectful obeisances unto You." It's also good to have a prayerful attitude as we read. We can follow the example of Sanatana Gosvami, who prayed to Lord Caitanya that whatever the Lord had taught him would be manifest in his heart.
The sages of Naimisaranya, the devotee Lord Caitanya met, and Srila Prabhupada all had a service attitude as they heard, read, or wrote transcendental literature. When we read, let us remember that we are also Lord Krsna's servants.
When we read, it is important to remember that we are not alone. In a purport in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, Srila Prabhupada thanks Narada Muni for kindly appearing on the pages of this great literature. In other words, when we read Srila Prabhupada's books we are directly associating with Srila Prabhupada, all the previous spiritual masters, and the Supreme Lord Himself.
As with chanting, it's best to read daily, either a certain number of pages or for a certain amount of time. We can make a thorough study, noting interesting or difficult passages, or we can simply read our way through, confident of our spiritual purification. If we are surrounded by our children, we can paraphrase and dramatize the stories.
Srila Prabhupada explains that besides reading, when we discuss spiritual topics with others we become even more enlivened and make rapid spiritual progress. He tells us that the way to assimilate the knowledge of the revealed scriptures is to hear and explain them. Giving this essential knowledge to others will help us understand it ourselves. And anyone who makes a gift of the knowledge of Srimad-Bhagavatam will surely attain the highest perfection of life by returning home, back to Godhead.
Rohininandana Dasa lives in southern England with his wife and their three children. Write to him at Woodgate Cottage, Beckley Nr. Rye, E. Sussex TN31 6UH, UK
Why Hare Krsna And Hardcore?
By Bhakta Vic 108
IT'S NOTHING NEW.
Every curve and crevice of Krsna consciousness has always been tightly interwoven and saturated thick with music. Krsna philosophy says that music and sound are the very backbone on which the universe is constructed and therefore sound is the most powerful way to change the world.
It's true. Sound and music have fueled the machinery of every social change. The hippies and their acid rock. Limitless revolutions and its limitless anthems. Punk rock ... Straightedge ... New age ...
Just go to any concert and see the power of sound. Kids drive hundreds of miles and pay a good chunk of their money to get in the door. Once they're inside, sound will toss them around the dance floor, impelling, commanding them to jump and run and scream and sweat.
The Krsnas can channel this audio-force fully because their spiritual process is built on music and sound.
Like everything powerful, music can cause havoc if misused—leading people to sex, drugs, and hatred. But if you use it right, it can rescue human consciousness from the swamps of egocentric envy and malice, evaporating the ocean of struggle drowning the people of the world. That's the purpose of Krsna conscious hardcore bands.
Like I said, it's nothing new. Thousands of years before Shelter and 108, thousands of years before the first Fender guitar ever fuzzed to life, Hare Krsnas have been touring the world writing and performing Krsna conscious music, with the same purpose as today's hardcore bands.
Just to assure you I'm not dreaming this up as I go along, snowballing you to make you think I'm cool and hip, I'll quote from the ancient Vedic song called Srimad-Bhagavatam.
deva-dattam imam vinam
This is from a seriously long time ago, and it's sung by a devotee named Narada. He says, "I'm constantly touring, playing my instrument [the vina], and singing spiritual songs decorated with transcendental messages."
Getting a little more modern: About five hundred years ago, Caitanya Mahaprabhu (who is Krsna Himself) did a gigantic tour from town to town in India. He even sang while He walked. Everywhere He went audience participation was practically a hundred percent, and the lyrics were all holy names of Krsna.
Then there's Narottama Dasa Thakura. He's famous for his super-heavy lyrics (which inspired more than a few 108 songs). He toured eastern India, and his songs are still sung today.
More recently, just a few generations back, Bhaktivinoda Thakura wrote more songs than you can count. His lyrics inspired Shelter's Saranagati and are directly translated in 108's Gopinatha. Often he'd sing in people's houses. He called it nama-hatta ("the holy name right in your home").
You're still doubtful? You can agree that there have been plenty of Hare Krsna musicians in the past. But howling vocals? Electric guitars wailing away at full blast? A frenzy of passionate jumping around on and off the stage?
Well, try not to get carried away by the externals. Pierce the superficial and see hardcore for what it really is. It will become obvious that hardcore is a powerful medium for expressing Krsna consciousness.
Hardcore is a lot deeper than stage diving and gang vocals. By expressing emotion and philosophy through music, hardcore tries to make people happy by helping society and the individual progress.
The most progressive thing you can do is raise human consciousness out of egoism. It is egoism, self-centeredness, that gives birth to every puzzling crisis that strangles the eleven o'clock news.
When we put the interests of "I" before the interests of the environment, of the animals, of the hungry and the poor, that's egoism.
Krsna consciousness means turning around this insane attitude. It's like a shift from geocentrism to heliocentrism—a shift from gimme consciousness to Krsna consciousness. Krsna consciousness is the pinnacle of kindness and compassion because it pulls human consciousness from the suffocating quagmire of me-ism.
How? By expression of spiritual emotion and philosophy through sound.
Krsna conscious hardcore bands try to tune our consciousness back to Krsna, the true center of existence, through musical glorification of Krsna and His holy name. Yeah, so we turn the volume up a little louder—but the essential idea is still the same.
Krsna consciousness is not only compatible with hardcore; Krsna consciousness is the final evolution, the perfection, of hardcore and, for that matter, of all means of self-expression.
Bhakta Vic 108 joined the Hare Krsna movement about two years ago. He and his band are based at ISKCON's temple in Washington, D.C.
The Farmer and the Cows
By Hare Krsna Devi Dasi
The bull is the emblem of the moral principle, and the cow is the representative of the earth. When the bull and the cow are in a joyful mood, it is to be understood that the people of the world are also in a joyful mood. (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.16.18, purport)
IN MY LAST COLUMN I discussed how government policies often drive farmers off the land. One important exception came in the early days of American settlement. In Whereby We Thrive, Smithsonian agricultural historian John Schlebecker documents numerous bills and provisions that encouraged Americans to take up farming.
One government policy, that of making large tracts of land available to farmers at little cost, was a great stimulus to farming. This practice was similar to the Vedic system under which the ksatriyas (leaders) distribute land to vaisyas (farmers) for production. But as we have seen, the particular type of agricultural development the U.S. government promoted has led ultimately to a precarious situation for everyone.
What Went Wrong?
The major problem was that the whole agricultural policy developed around centralization and animal slaughter, especially cow slaughter. In contrast, Krsna advises in the Bhagavad-gita that central to economic development in a varnasrama society is go-raksya—cow protection. Let's examine how a policy of cow protection keeps things from getting out of hand.
As I've explained, cow protection implies using the oxen for farming. While Mother Cow provides milk, Father Bull produces grain for his human children and is valued as a beloved member of society. One common objection to using animal power is that it takes a lot of people to produce grain this way. If we use a tractor, the argument goes, one per-son produces grain, and the rest are free to do other things.
But free to do what? Free to work in hellish factories, to live in nightmarish cities, to eat the flesh of innocent animals, and to buy an endless variety of artificial services and manufactured goods—without ever becoming satisfied. That's not really freedom; it's slavery. It's becoming a slave to manufacturers and to the senses. Cow protection protects human society by saving us from all these things. Farmers work hard, but they're free from the oppressive environment of the city.
Cow Protection Means
Protecting cows is the most important component of protecting the earth. In Sanskrit go-raksya means "cow protection." But it can also mean "protection of the earth," be-cause the word go means both "cow" and "earth." The Srimad-Bhagavatam presents several accounts in which Mother Earth, Bhumi Devi, assumes the form of a cow. So the cow is the representative of Mother Earth, and when the cow and the bull are mistreated, Mother Earth withdraws her bounty.
Under the varnasrama system, small ox-powered farms can benefit human society, benefit animals, and benefit the earth. A simple life in the country working with animals provides a natural, wholesome environment for human society. On a small farm, the animals can be given the most caring personal treatment, and the earth can be saved by thoughtful cultivation and the use of manure.
The proper use of manure—critical to protecting the earth—can best be achieved with small-scale ox-powered farms. As we hear from Sir Albert Howard, the grandfather of organic gardening, "No permanent or effective system of agriculture has ever been devised without the animal. Many attempts have been made, but sooner or later they break down. The replacement of livestock by artificials is always followed by disease the moment the original store of fertility is exhausted." (1)
In The Violence of the Green Revolution, physicist and agricultural philosopher Vandana Shiva details how chemical farming causes desertification and ruins the soil. Manure from confinement cattle operations also causes immense environmental destruction. Authors like Jeremy Rifkin justifiably decry another horror of the cattle industry—the destruction of the Amazon rain forest for meat. (2) Exploiting cows ruins the environment. But we're missing out if we fail to see that cow protection is the most potent way to bring devastated lands back to lush growth.
With small-scale farming, the proper use of cow manure can provide the most valuable protection and enhancement of the soil. Only a small-scale farmer can fully use the miracle available in cow manure, because he's the one who truly cares for bulls and cows.
Still, someone may object that small-scale ox-powered farming doesn't make farmers a lot of money. It's true that this may mean farmers can't buy so many goods. But simple living eases the strain on the earth's resources.
Environmentalists are anxious to fight the pollution of the earth. If only they could realize the need to protect the cows and work the oxen. If all cows were well cared for and all our grain were grown locally with oxen, so many workers would be involved that the whole world would become practically de-urbanized. With no one to work in the factories, no money squirreled away for manufactured goods, and no need to ship food around on vast transportation infrastructures, a huge burden on the earth would be lifted. Producing food and grain with oxen would also put the scythe to the need for petroleum (and the devastating oil wars that come with it).
The word go has another meaning in Sanskrit. Besides "cow" and "earth," the word also means "senses." Krsna has designed the varnasrama social system to help different types of people bring their senses under control so they can make spiritual advancement. The farming and mercantile class is partly motivated by the mode of passion. In city life, this passion is fanned like a fire, and the urge to consume and to enjoy the senses becomes greater and greater. As Krsna explains in the Bhagavad-gita, lust to enjoy the sense objects causes anger, which then gives rise to delusion and bewilderment. The whole structure of urban life turns out to be a formula for violence and insanity.
But Krsna's varnasrama system is the opposite. In Krsna's system, farmers have the chance to exercise their brawny nature in situations where it is needed to control their animals. When a farmer uses his grit constructively—either to work the animals or simply to accomplish the hard tasks of farming—he becomes purified. And when the cows and oxen are well treated, they're affectionate and obedient the next moment after they're scolded.
On the other hand, in some situations, especially when milking cows, the farmer must learn to control his moods carefully. The cow won't give milk if she's upset by angry talk or tension.
If someone wants to be the controller, working with the animals provides a constructive outlet for this desire, as described by draft animal technical consultant Jean Nolle,
You should know that draft animals are pleased to work with their master. It is an honour for them to participate with him in useful work in the field. When the driver requests them to give the best of themselves, they do so. It is also a pleasure for the man to order an animal and to be followed immediately. No President can do the same with the citizens. Animals are more attentive to their duties than we are. (3)
Milk for Spiritual Understanding
Srila Prabhupada explained that milk nourishes the fine brain tissue needed for understanding spiritual knowledge. Therefore, society needs the cow for spiritual advancement. As Srila Prabhupada put it, "Milking the cow means drawing the principles of religion in liquid form." (4)
And only if we protect cows can we be sure of having milk. If we depend on an economic system that exploits the cow instead of protecting her, when that system collapses most cows will be killed and milk will be-come scarce. Evidently this is happening in the former Society Union with the collapse of state-subsidized agriculture. According to the February issue of Hoard's Dairyman, milk has become so scarce that a half gallon of milk (less than two liters) costs thirty hours of labor.
If we don't work the oxen and protect them, they won't be there for us when petroleum becomes too costly to use for food production. As Jean Nolle observed, "It is an incredible reality that farmers in the [industrialized countries], after having killed all their draft animals, are now sentenced to death by their own stupid economy." Neglect of cow protection means the end of human civilization.
A Special Way to Remember Krsna
The last and most important reason for cow protection is that it helps us think of Krsna. We can catch glimpses of His attractive and wonderful personality in many ways that would be more difficult without protected cows. When Srila Prabhupada visited Gita Nagari, he told the devotees, "This town life, industrial life, factory life, is asuric [demoniac] life. It is killing human ambition. It is killing civilization." He encouraged us to set an example by protecting cows and living as Krsna lived:
Krsna, in His natural life, is a village boy in Vrndavana. Vrndavana is a village. There is no factory, there is no motorcar, there are no big, big skyscraper buildings; it is a village. That Krsna likes.... Krsna is so fond of Vrndavana village life, with His cowherd boys and cowherd girls, His gopis, mother Yasoda, father Nanda, Upananda, uncles, big family, the cows and the calves, the trees, the Yamuna River. He is satisfied in that life. So at least those who are Krsna conscious, they should be satisfied with simple life in the village. That is part of Krsna consciousness.... Whatever Krsna has taught by His personal life, by His teaching, to follow that is Krsna consciousness. (5)
1. Sir Albert Howard, An Agricultural Testament (Oxford University Press 1940; Rodale Press 1972), p. 43.
2. Jeremy Rifkin, Beyond Beef: The Rise and Fall of the Cattle Culture (New American Library/Dutton 1992).
3. Jean Nolle, "Improve Animal Traction Technology," Animal Traction Network for Africa, Conference Proceedings, Lusaka, Zambia, January 1992.
4. Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.17.3, purport.
5. Srila Prabhupada, evening lecture at Gita Nagari Farm, Pennsylvania, July 15, 1976.
Hare Krsna Devi Dasi has been an ISKCON devotee since 1978. She spent several years on the Gita Nagari farm in Pennsylvania. She now lives in Maine. Her address: 9B Stetson St., Brunswick, ME 04011.
Miracle in Manure
I HAD PERSONAL EXPERIENCE of the miracle of cow manure while I lived at Gita Nagari Farm. In the fall of 1987 I dug a pit two and a half feet deep and filled it with fresh cow manure. I topped it with three inches of soil and compost and transplanted spinach and lettuce into it. Then I covered this hotbed with a cold frame (a four-sided box covered with plastic to let in the sun). The decomposing manure provided heat to grow the plants during the snowy months so that we could offer the Deities fresh garden greens in the winter. (The winter-grown greens were exceptionally flavorful.)
But the real eye-opener for me came the following year when my hotbed, six feet by four, was plowed under to become part of the potato garden. There was a horrible drought over most of the United States that year. Crops were so bad the government had to keep farms alive with disaster relief. Even our potato field looked bad. By the end of July, the tops of most of the potato plants were dry and yellow. But not the three plants that grew over last winter's hotbed. They just sank their roots into that rich, cool, moisture-holding cow manure and flourished in the hot sun. They were so green and healthy they looked like they'd never heard of the word drought. It was a striking lesson to me about how cow protection also protects the earth.—HKDD
Was There an Eve?
By Sadaputa Dasa
IN A 1987 ARTICLE in the prestigious journal Nature, three biochemists published a study of mitochondrial DNA's from 147 people living on five continents. The biochemists stated, "All these mitochondrial DNA's stem from one woman who is postulated to have lived about 200,000 years ago, probably in Africa." ** (Rebecca Cann, Mark Stoneking, and Allen Wilson, "Mitochondial DNA and Human Evolution," Nature, Vol. 325, January 1, 1987.)
The story became a sensation. The woman was called the African Eve, and Newsweek put her on its cover. There she was—the single ancestor of all living human beings.
Eve was one in a population of primitive human beings. But all human lineages not deriving from her have perished. For students of human evolution, one important implication of this finding was that Asian populations of Homo erectus, including the famous Peking ape men, must not have been among our ancestors. Those ape men couldn't have descended from Eve, it was thought, because they lived in Asia before 200,000 years ago.
Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) carries genetic instructions for the energy-making factories of human cells. Unlike other genetic material, it is transmitted to offspring only from the mother, with no contribution from the father. This means that the descent of mtDNA makes a simple branching tree that is easy to study.
Computer studies on the sample of 147 people (who represent the world population) show that the original ancestral trunk divided into two branches. Only Africans descended from one branch. The rest of the population, as well as some Africans, descended from the other. The inference was that the stem was African. In 1991 another analysis of exact mtDNA sequences from 189 people confirmed this and indicated that Eve was roughly our ten-thousandth great-grandmother.
The Fall of Eve
Unfortunately, however, Eve quickly fell down. In 1992 the geneticist Alan Templeton of Washington University stated in the journal Science, "The inference that the tree of humankind is rooted in Africa is not supported by the data." ** (Sharon Begley, "Eve Takes Another Fall," Newsweek, 3/1/92.) It seems that the African Eve theory evolved from errors in computer analysis.
The ancestral trees had been drawn from mtDNA sequences through what is called the principle of parsimony. The figure below gives a rough idea of how this was done. To create the figure, I used sequences of four letters to stand for the genetic information in mtDNA. In (1) I started with abcd as the original ancestor, and by making single changes, or mutations, I produced descendants avcd and abud. Then from avcd I got two more descendants, avcn and rvcd, again by single mutations.
Let's suppose we are given the sequences avcn, rvcd, and abud and we are asked to deduce their ancestry. How would we go about this? The method used by the scientists studying mtDNA was to say that ancestors and descendants should be as similar as possible. One way to measure how similar they are is to count the number of mutations from ancestor to descendant in the tree of descent. A tree with few mutations shows high similarity, so it is a good candidate for the real ancestral tree. Such a tree is said to be parsimonious.
For example, tree (1) has four mutations, and tree (3) has eight. Scientists would argue that (1) is therefore more likely to resemble the real ancestral tree. This seems promising, since in this case tree (1) is in fact the real tree. But tree (2) requires five mutations, and so it is nearly as parsimonious. Yet (2) shows a completely different pattern of ancestors.
The problem with the parsimonious tree method is that in a complex case there are literally millions of trees that are equally parsimonious. Searching through them all on a main-frame computer can take months. According to Templeton, the original findings on African Eve came from computer runs that missed important trees. When further runs were made, a tree with African roots turned out no more likely than one with European or Asian roots.
The parsimonious tree method rests on the idea that similar organisms should share close common ancestors, and less similar organisms more distant ones. This idea is the central motivating concept behind the theory of evolution. Since the span of recorded human history is too short to show evolutionary changes that mean very much, evolutionists are forced to reconstruct the history of living species by comparing likenesses and differences in living and fossil organisms.
For example, man and ape are said to share a close common ancestor because man and ape are very similar. In the late nineteenth century there was a famous debate between the anatomists Thomas Huxley and Richard Owen over whether or not human beings were cousins of apes. Owen maintained that they weren't, because a feature of the human brain, the hippocampus major, was not found in the brains of apes. But Huxley won the debate by showing that apes really do have a hippocampus major. Before triumphantly presenting his evidence for this to the British Association of Science, Huxley had written to his wife, "By next Friday evening they will all be convinced that they are monkeys." ** (Wendt, 1972, p. 71.)
Why Man and Ape Are Similar
Of course, man and ape really are similar. So if they don't descend from a close common ancestor, how can one account for this? Biblical creationists propose that God created man and ape separately by divine decree. To many scientists this story seems unsatisfactory. The geneticist Francisco Ayala indicated why in a discussion of the close likenesses between human beings and chimpanzees. He remarked, "These creationists are implying God is a cheat, making things look identical when they are not. I consider that to be blasphemous." ** (Joel Davis, "Blow to Creation Myth," Omni, August, 1980.) In other words, why would God fake a record of apparent historical change?
To illustrate the idea behind Ayala's comment, consider the legs of mammals. In all known land mammals the leg bones are homologous, or similar in form. Thus all mammals have a recognizable thigh bone, shin bone, and so on. Now imagine that genetic engineering becomes highly perfected. A genetic engineer might want to create an animal with legs suitable for a particular environment. But would he do this by simply modifying the shapes of the standard mammalian leg bones to make another typical mammalian leg? Why not create a whole new set of bones suit-able for the task at hand? And if human engineers might do this, why not God? The answer that God's will is inscrutable doesn't sit well with many scientists.
It is certainly not possible to second guess the will of God. But the Vedic literature offers an account of the origin of species that explains the patterns of similarity among living organisms. According to the Srimad-Bhagavatam, living beings have descended, with modification, from an original created being. All species, therefore, are linked by a family tree of ancestors and descendants. Forms sharing similar features inherit those features from ancestral forms that had them. So the theory given in the Bhagavatam accounts for the likenesses and differences between species in a way comparable to that of the theory of evolution.
But these two theories are not the same. The neo-Darwinian theory of evolution says that species descended from primitive one-celled organisms and gradually developed into forms more and more complex. In contrast, the Bhagavatam says that Brahma, the original created being, is superhuman. Brahma generated beings called prajapatis, who are inferior to him. These in turn produced generations of lesser beings, culminating in plants, animals, and human beings as we know them. From the prajapatis on down, these successive generations generally came into being by sexual reproduction.
The theory of evolution says that species have emerged by mutation and natural selection, with no intelligent guidance. But the Bhagavatam maintains that the entire process of generating species is planned in detail by God.
This point brings us back to the question why species should be linked by patterns of homology.
Several points can be made. The first is that a genetic engineer designing one special-purpose mammal might find it convenient to introduce one special design. But if he wanted to create an entire ecosystem of interacting organisms, he might want to do it with a general scheme in which he could produce different types of organisms by modifying standard plans. So a standard mammalian plan could be used as the starting point for producing various mammals, and similar plans could be used for birds, fish, and so on. It would be most efficient to organize these plans into a parsimonious tree to make short the design work needed.
This idea can overcome one of the drawbacks of the theory of evolution. Many living organisms have complex structures that evolutionists have a hard time accounting for by mutations and natural selection. Observed intermediate forms linking organisms that have these structures to those that don't are notoriously lacking. Evolutionists have often found it hard to imagine convincing possibilities for what these intermediate forms might be. But the structures are easy to account for if we posit an intelligent designer.
To illustrate this point, consider the problem of writing computer programs. A programmer will often write a new program by taking an old one and modifying it. After doing this for a while, he winds up producing a family tree of programs. But the changes required to go from one program to the next are often extensive. They're not the kind you'd be likely to get by randomly zapping the first program with mutations and waiting to get a new program that operates in the required way.
The point could be made, however, that a finite human engineer may need efficient design methods but God is unlimited and doesn't need them. Why then should He use them? We can't second guess God, but a possible answer is waiting for us to consider in the Bhagavatam (2.1.36). There Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is celebrated as the topmost artist:
Varieties of birds are indications of His masterful artistic sense. Manu, the father of mankind, is the emblem of His standard intelligence, and humanity is His residence. The celestial species of human beings, like the Gandharvas, Vidyadharas, Caranas, and Apsaras, all represent His musical rhythm, and the demoniac soldiers are representations of His wonderful prowess.
Orderly patterns of design are also natural in artistic works. Just as Bach dexterously combines and modifies different themes in his fugues, so the Supreme Artist may orchestrate the world of life in a way that shows order, parsimony, and luxuriant novelty of form. The patterns of parsimonious change follow naturally from the procreation of species. The novelty flows from Krsna's creative intelligence and cannot be accounted for by neo-Darwinian theory.
This brings us to our last point. The life forms descending from Brahma include many species unknown to us. The higher species, beginning with Brahma himself, have bodies made mostly of subtle types of energy distinct from the energies studied in modern physics. Manu, the Gandharvas, and the Vidyadharas are examples of such beings.
We may speak of the energies studied by modern physics as gross matter. The bodies of ordinary human beings, animals, and plants are all made of this type of matter. If they have descended from beings with bodies made of subtle energy, then there must be a process of transformation whereby gross forms are generated from subtle. Such a process, the Bhagavatam says, does in fact exist.
So the Bhagavatam's explanation of the origin of species makes the following two predictions: (1) There should exist subtly embodied beings that include the precursors of grossly embodied organisms, and (2) there should be a process of generating gross form from subtle form. It would be interesting to see if there is any empirical evidence that might corroborate these predictions.
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.
Teens and Celibacy
By Urmila Devi Dasi
CELIBACY IS SUCH an important part of Vedic education that the Sanskrit word for student is brahmacari ("celibate"). The pressure to give up celibacy begins, of course, in adolescence, the most dangerous age and often the turning point of one's life. Young adults need guidance before and during the teenage years to recognize and follow the right path.
Celibacy trains adolescents for self-restraint, whether they stay single or get married. It develops their inner strength, self-control, and good character. It also fosters good health and a fine memory.
Without celibacy we can never realize that we are spirit soul, distinct from the body. Sex reinforces the illusion that we are these bodies. Sexual attraction and its extensions in family and society are the main knots that bind us to material identification. Vedic education aims to free the child from these knots so the adolescent can act on the spiritual plane.
Children, of course, have no knowledge of sex. How do we train them to value celibacy before they reach puberty? By association and environment.
Modern educators know well how children's early impressions influence their later moral behavior. And these educators are passing on their decadent moral values to our children. For example, the New York City public school board recently introduced textbooks in the first grade that show families with two "mommies" or two "daddies," to get children used to homosexuality.
And schools aren't the only place kids learn to think well of illicit sex. Role models such as those on television, on radio, and in politics keep reinforcing the message. Parents add to the negative influence by using contraceptives or cheating on their marriage vows.
The result, of course, is that children enter adolescence with attitudes that lead them away from self-realization, or even civilized life. The illicit sex that results from years of indoctrination leads to chaos. Yet the very educators and politicians who promote illicit sex to children talk on about fatherless families and unwanted kids who turn to crime and drugs.
To be trained in celibacy, our young students should live with people who take pleasure in Krsna consciousness. Our first task is to shield our children from materialistic influences and surround them with positive, transcendental life. That's the only way to get them ready to face their transition into adulthood.
But childhood training isn't enough. Prabhupada told us we must carefully guide our children during their teens. Then surely they will come out first-class Krsna conscious devotees. We should be like a commanding officer who not only trains his solders but also serves with them on the battlefield.
Traditionally, a spiritually guided society helped young people with good association, vocational training, and marriage. Our teenagers need to train and study with Krsna conscious friends and teachers. Otherwise, Prabhupada once said, if from twelve to fifteen years of age they go to an ordinary school, by bad company they become rotten. It is sad to see this happen to a child who had strong childhood training and could have become a first-class human being.
Despite the best training and the best company, most teenagers want to associate with the opposite sex. Therefore, Vedic culture prescribes early marriage, on religious principles. That kind of marriage makes the mind peaceful and receptive to spiritual instruction.
Parents must help their sons and daughters find suitable marriage partners, except for children who are going to stay happy in lifelong celibacy. Parents should understand that adolescents have only three choices in sexual morality: celibacy, marriage, or immorality. Because of the danger in a society where boys and girls mix freely, marriage should be encouraged.
We sometimes mistakenly think that an "arranged" marriage means that the parents force a twelve-year-old girl to marry a thirty-year-old man—and they meet for the first time at the wedding. Prabhupada gives us a different picture. He tells us of a gradual process, usually spanning several years. The parents look for a suitable partner for their child, taking into account that the boy and girl should be equal in character, qualities, social position, and renunciation.
The parents judge the match through their own observations, by asking others, and through astrology. The wishes of the boy and girl are also important. Once the families and the boy and girl agree, a period of occasional, supervised association begins. It's as if the parents introduce their child to a suitable mate and then chaperone formal "dates" to prepare the children for marriage. When the children are old enough to marry, the girl may still spend long regular visits at her parents' home so she may gradually get used to being a wife. An extended family makes this easier by helping the new couple in their duties and relationship.
This time-tested process can be easily followed today. The girl engaged to a suitable boy doesn't have to advertise herself to find a man. And the boy knows he can't marry until he becomes responsible. He is therefore motivated to mature into a conscientious man of good character.
Built on the early training in renunciation, their marriage will be dedicated to Krsna, fulfilling our hope for their future.
Urmila Devi Dasi was initiated in 1973 and has been involved in ISKCON education since 1983. She, her husband, and their three children live at the ISKCON community in Hillsborough, North Carolina, where she runs a growing school for boys and girls aged 5-18. She is the major author and compiler of Vaikuntha Children, a gurukula classroom guidebook.
Devotees work together in a relief effort to recover
By Ranchor Dasa
WHEN MY SON was ten years old, I took him to India to visit Vrndavana, the home of Krsna. Having been brought up as a devotee of Krsna, he had been taught to see Vrndavana as a sacred forest, full of peacocks, cows, and deer. I had warned him that things were different now than five thousand years ago, but still he expected to see paradise. What he saw when we got there was an environmental disaster area. He was so disappointed that afterwards he said he never wanted to go there again.
His reaction is not unique. Many pilgrims to Vrndavana are profoundly shocked when they see how neglected and polluted it has apparently become. How did Vrndavana get into such a state, and what is being done about it? In the heart of Vrndavana rests Nidhivana—the sacred Forest of Sleep—its trees bent double with age. Some of them are many thousands of years old. Standing among them one can sense the great age of the place. Five thousand years ago, Krsna used to sleep here at night with His beloved Radha. Since then this holy ground has been kept a secret place, guarded by monkeys. Beyond its high walls crowd the intricately carved temples and houses of the holy town in a tangle of narrow lanes. But in here after dark no human being can set foot—it belongs to Krsna and to His monkeys.
Vrndavana lies at the heart of India on the Yamuna River, inside the "Golden Triangle" bordered by Delhi to the north, Agra to the east, and Jaipur to the west. It is the center of Krsna worship.
Vrndavana Then and Now
It is said that Krsna never leaves Vrndavana, and every tree and rock is permeated with His presence. Vaisnava saints have written volumes of devotional works describing it as an eternal divine realm where every living thing is conscious of Krsna. Pictures of Krsna in Vrndavana show Him garlanded with forest flowers amidst the trees, in the company of the cows, deer, monkeys, parrots, and peacocks. Now, however, most of the trees are gone, and along with them the animals. It takes spiritual vision to perceive Krsna's presence in the midst of the dried up and empty landscape.
In the sixteenth century, fabulous temples were built on the banks of the Yamuna, and Vrndavana became a great center of pilgrimage. The wealthy patrons who built these temples were the kings of Jaipur and Bharatpur, who have long since gone, leaving their magnificent buildings neglected and crumbling.
But Vrndavana is still alive with devotion for Krsna. Millions of pilgrims come every year from all over India, fulfilling their life's ambition to see with their own eyes the forests where Krsna walked.
When they come to Vrndavana, pilgrims go on parikrama, walking the seven-mile path which surrounds the town. By this act they worship the sacred place. Surprisingly, however, their route takes them through a dying landscape in which trees, water, and air are caught in a stranglehold of pollution and neglect. Where once stood beautiful groves rich with flowering trees and wildlife, now stand the ruins of the ornate temples and spires of old Vrndavana, surrounded by a wasteland of rubble and decay.
An essential part of the pilgrims' visit to Vrndavana is their bath in the Yamuna River. By bathing in her waters they wash away their sins. But the Yamuna has become a dumping ground for refuse and sewage. It is so heavily polluted by wastes from the factories and sewers of Delhi, seventy miles upstream, that the government of India has declared it unsuitable for drinking or bathing.
Pilgrims also see widespread evidence of ongoing deforestation. All over Vrndavana, mature trees have been felled, and unspoiled woodland has been cleared for development. The pressure of population growth and Vrndavana's popularity as a holy town make it a target for developers. Many of the new houses are second homes for well-to-do Delhi families. One developer's sign reads:
Welcome at this holy land of
But as soon as the houses are built, the tranquil forest has gone forever.
The loss of trees has brought the inevitable erosion of topsoil, turning garden to desert. Dense forest cools the air and induces rainfall, but now without trees the grueling summer heat gets even hotter, and rain falls less. Pilgrims find little shelter from the fierce heat of the summer sun. Wells built to supply them water stand high and dry above the parched sand.
According to local reports, the water table is falling as much as five feet a year, and the quality of the water is deteriorating. Reservoirs that in former times collected surface rainwater to replenish the underground water now stand empty. The sacred pond called Brahma Kunda, which marks the spot where Brahma offered prayers to Lord Krsna, is now neglected and ruined. Govinda Kunda, another of the original tanks of Vrndavana, is now a field.
With the demise of these tanks the traditional water system has fallen into obsolescence, replaced by modern water towers and piped water, which only serve to increase the demand on the already scarce water reserves.
Every year hundreds of great trees such as those in the sacred grove of Sutalavana die from old age and lack of care. These trees are said to have witnessed the dancing of Radha and Krsna and are worshiped as great souls. But although devotees embrace them and pray to them for spiritual protection, little is done to protect the trees or to plant new ones when they die.
I first visited Vrndavana in 1975. At that time I was unaware of the depth of its environmental problems. I saw the uncared-for surroundings and assumed they had always been that way. Srila Prabhupada had once commented that Vrndavana appears desolate in order to deter impersonalists from coming there. But he had also said that it was like this because of offenses and that one day it would again become green. I felt sorry to see the state of the place and wished to myself that one day I might have an opportunity to do something. That opportunity presented itself many years later, on the inspiration of a friend and colleague.
In 1989 my friend Martin and I were traveling by train to a meeting in northern England and discussing ideas for a school book on pilgrimage. As an illustration of Hindu pilgrimage, I suggested we look at Vrndavana. I told Martin how Vrndavana was once covered by the forests of Krsna but these forests had now vanished. Somehow, in all my years of visiting Vrndavana, I had never thought of the area as the victim of the same sort of deforestation that was taking place in such better known areas as the Amazon rain forest and the Himalayan foothills. Now, as I talked with Martin, with the green wooded landscape of central England speeding past our window, I realized that Vrndavana was such a victim.
We found ourselves talking of how we might be able to set up a reforestation project in Vrndavana. We knew that the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) would be interested in such a project to serve as an example of Hindu environmental values and inspire Hindus to take more interest in caring for their environment. Perhaps the Fund could be persuaded to support the initial setting up of the work.
Six months later I visited Vrndavana to do research for a book on Hinduism and ecology. I began to inquire into Vrndavana's environmental condition to see what, if anything, was being done about it.
I came across Sri Sewak Saran, a lifelong resident of Vrndavana, who has spent many years researching the environmental problems of the area and campaigning to revive Vrndavana's ecological traditions. Astonishingly, he seemed the only one to have taken an active interest in the problem. We had long discussions on the philosophical basis of ecology in the Hindu tradition. These became the basis for a chapter in my book Hinduism and Ecology. We then went on to discuss a scheme to plant trees along the parikrama path which encircles Vrndavana.
This path is followed by about two million pilgrims a year. Parts of it still have tree cover, but most of it is exposed and in need of reforestation. In many places it has changed from forest path to urban road, with hardly a tree in sight. If this path could be restored to its natural beauty it would draw attention to the disaster threatening Vrndavana and inspire others to take up similar restorative work.
I prepared a report for the WWF in Geneva. The WWF is committed to working internationally with religious communities to help revive ecological practices. Its members believe that a worldwide renaissance in environmentalism cannot happen unless people develop a more caring and spiritual understanding of their relationship to the natural world, as taught in the world's great religious traditions.
After further research and preparation, with two more visits to Vrndavana, I was able to present a full proposal, asking funds for a three-year project to revive Vrndavana forest. The WWF accepted the proposal and awarded the project a grant of about $40,000 a year for three years, starting in September 1991.
Our first task was to involve the local community of Vrndavana. Experience has shown that without the support and commitment of the local people, environmental projects fail to achieve much. An effective project must be aimed at changing the practices that led to the original problem, not simply doing superficial remedial work. So we visited Vrndavana Town Hall to enlist the help of the municipality. There we put together a series of public meetings to talk about our ideas with local political and religious leaders and seek their advice.
We explained that the millions of pilgrims who come to Vrndavana every year expect to see the beautiful landscapes they have seen in pictures of Krsna. They think of Krsna as the Lord of the forest, always surrounded by flowers, clear waters, and abundant wildlife. But when they come they see all around them signs of neglect and pollution. What sort of message does this give them? Either they will conclude that caring for Krsna's trees and land is not important or that the people of Vrndavana are neglecting their duty. Our central thesis was: one who cares for Krsna cares for His land.
I told our listeners how I had brought my own son to visit Vrndavana and how sad it had made him. I told them that my ambition was to bring him back in ten years, show him how things had improved, and give him hope for the future. Moved by what they heard, leaders of the community pledged themselves to support our work.
Step 1: The Nursery
One of the most difficult aspects of organizing a project of this sort is finding the right people. We were fortunate to be able to recruit Acyuta Dasa, a field worker for over five years in Vrndavana with ISKCON. With his local knowledge and his experience as an engineer and project manager he was the ideal man to organize the practical work.
Our first task was to establish a tree nursery. Working with devotees and local labor, Acyuta supervised the laying out of the nursery area. ISKCON agreed to allow us to use an acre and a half of its land adjoining the parikrama path. This made an ideal base for our work. Here we would establish our nursery.
During the hot summer of 1991, through the rains and into the autumn, the work went ahead. In planning the nursery we had the help of one of Delhi's top landscape architects, K. C. Sharma. When he heard about the project, he volunteered his services free.
We planned to invite guests to a special tree-planting ceremony on the parikrama path outside the nursery. We would place forty trees on the path to inaugurate the project.
To plant a tree in India is not as simple as it might seem. Enormous care has to be taken to protect it from sun, cows, goats, vandals, and thieves and make sure it is regularly watered. This can only succeed if the local people take part. Despite all the efforts of the Indian Forestry Service, their experience is that less than five percent of trees survive.
A well-known sadhu was one of many local residents who pledged us their help to protect the trees. His asrama is right beside the path, and he enthusiastically promised not only his own support but that of his one thousand disciples.
By October the nursery was beginning to take shape, with paths separating the seed beds, and an irrigation system connected by underground pipes to a tube well and a twenty-thousand-gallon water tank. For delicate seedlings we built a special grass-roofed shelter in which to keep up a micro-climate by using different plants and varying regimes of watering.
While this work was going on we met with as many teachers and local leaders as we could, to discuss ways of publicizing the project and involving the school children of Vrndavana.
A WWF team from Delhi came to see the work in progress and discuss the launch of the project, set for the full-moon festival in mid-November at the end of the Hindu month of Kartika. Together we all walked along the parikrama path, joining in with a group of pilgrims who happened to be there at the same time. Only one of the WWF team had actually been to Vrndavana before, and all the team members were moved by the experience of walking with the pilgrims. We went to Kaliya Ghata, where Krsna had jumped off the kadamba tree to fight with Kaliya, the poisonous serpent who was polluting the river.
On one level, Kaliya represented pollution, and by driving him out of Vrndavana Krsna showed that pollution should not be tolerated. The same kadamba tree, or its direct descendant, still stands in memory of Krsna the environmentalist. Now once again Vrndavana is polluted, and we are called upon to follow Krsna's example. Together we all stood on the sacred spot and committed ourselves to fighting against the environmental destruction of Vrndavana.
The Tree Planting Begins
Two weeks later, the project was launched. The ceremony was led by Padmanabha Goswami, head of the Radha Ramana temple in Vrndavana, with the vice-president of WWF India, S. P. Godrej, as the guest of honor. Speeches were made to an audience of several hundred local community leaders. After a charming play by local schoolchildren, Mr. Godrej offered an arati ceremony to Vrnda, the sacred plant after which Vrndavana is named.
We then moved down to the parikrama path to plant our trees. The District Magistrate, a powerful figure in local government, planted a kadamba tree. His Holiness Gopala Krsna Goswami, regional director of ISKCON, planted another. And a keen supporter of the project, the Chief Conservator of Forests for the state of Uttar Pradesh, joined us to plant another. The rest of the trees were planted by children from five Vrndavana schools. These trees belong to the future for these children, so we wanted them to plant as many as they could, symbolizing our desire to involve the community in improving their own environment.
There is now much work to be done. The empty tree guard—signifying that a tree has been planted but has since died—is to be seen everywhere in India. It is a symbol of good intentions but lack of long-term commitment. We must be sure that this is not what happens with the Vrndavana project. The Chipko—"tree-hugging"—movement, inspired by Sunderlal Bahugana, has demonstrated to the world the power of the community to save trees. Like him, we hope to inspire millions of Hindus and others worldwide to think more deeply about caring for nature.
As the project gains support, there are many other tasks to take up. The parikrama path round Govardhana Hill, twenty miles from Vrndavana, is another obvious target for restoration.
Already a group of ISKCON devotees, inspired by our first efforts, have committed themselves to raising the money to save the last piece of unspoiled woodland in Ramana Reti, where Krsna and Balarama used to play. Instead of falling before the developer's bulldozer, this spot will be preserved as a memorial garden to ISKCON's founder-acarya, Srila Prabhupada.
Vrndavana is worshiped as the sacred source of life on this planet. If even here—at the root of existence—pollution and environmental destruction rule, what hope is there for the rest of the planet? On the other hand, if here nature is protected, that positive spirit will spread far and wide.
I look forward to the day when I can return with my son to a Vrndavana where trees grow in abundance, cared for by devotees and in turn caring for the millions who come to worship Krsna amongst them.
A Bath in the Nectar at Nasik
The quest for immortality draws thousands to this holy site once every twelve years.
From reports by Jaya Vijaya Dasa and Maha-mantra Dasa
MILLIONS OF YEARS AGO, the most powerful beings in the universe, known as the devas (demigods) and the asuras (demons), fought in the heavens over a pot of immortal nectar. During their twelve-day battle, some of the nectar spilled onto four places in India: Allahabad and Hardwar in Uttar Pradesh, Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh, and Nasik in Maharashtra.
According to the Vedic texts, a day in heaven equals a year on earth. So once every twelve years the nectar still pours onto these four sites, during certain planetary configurations. At these times, millions of people come to partake of the nectar by bathing in the holy rivers and drinking the sacred water. These gatherings of pilgrims are known as the Kumbha Melas ("festivals of the pots").
When the Kumbha Mela was held at Nasik last year, from August 14 to September 20, more than two million pilgrims bathed there in the holy river Godavari.
The Puranas, or Vedic histories, say that the Godavari was created by Lord Siva for the sage Gautama, who wanted to bathe in her sacred waters to atone for accidentally killing a cow. To fulfill the sage's wish, Lord Siva dashed his matted hair (which carries the Ganges) against the mountain known as Brahma Giri, and some water from the Ganges sprang forth. This "Ganges of the south"—the Godavari—is also known as Gautami, in honor of Gautama.
It is said that Lord Siva once told all the sacred lakes and rivers on earth that for their own purification they should go to the Godavari during the Kumbha Mela, just as the demigods do.
The city of Nasik is on the western side of the Godavari. Here Laksmana, the divine brother of Lord Ramacandra, cut off the nose of Surpanakha, the sister of the demon Ravana. Nasik means "nose," and thus the city gets its name.
Across the Godavari from Nasik lies the place known as Pancavati. Here Lord Ramacandra and His wife, Sita Devi, lived with Laksmana during their exile. Near Pancavati is the cave where Sita hid while Rama battled fourteen thousand Raksasas (cannibals).
Nearby is Tapovana, a place of penance and meditation where great sages used to practice austerities. Here the Godavari River meets the Kapila Ganges. And close by is Kapila Tirtha, where the Supreme Lord in His incarnation as Kapila Muni taught His mother, Devahuti, about devotional service. Now, during the festival, Tapovana is the site of the main Kumbha Mela village, a cluster of about three thousand camps of sadhus and pilgrims.
The Kumbha Mela Bath
It is said that by bathing in the Godavari while the nectar falls one gains as much merit as by bathing in the Ganges for sixty thousand years.
During the Kumbha Mela, pilgrims bathe in the Rama Kunda area of the Godavari and at a place called Triambikesvara, about forty-five kilometers away. Triambikesvara, sacred to Lord Siva, is said to be the origin of the Godavari River. From here the Godavari flows across India and enters the Bay of Bengal at Rajahmundry in the state of Andhra Pradhesh.
On the first of four special bathing days during the 1991 Kumbha Mela, fifty thousand sadhus took part in the shani snan ("royal bath") at Rama Kunda. About two hundred recognized asramas marched, in assigned order, to Rama Kunda for this first bath. The head of each asrama sat atop an elephant, a horse, a truck, a jeep, a car, or a tractor, while his disciples and followers marched behind, chanting mantras. In all, about 800,000 sadhus and pilgrims bathed on that day.
On the main day of the festival, the parade of sadhus grew to 100,000, and the number of bathers passed a million and a half.
The ISKCON camp, on the main road to Rama Kunda, was crowded with visitors day and night. Every day, devotees passed out three hundred kilos of hot, tasty halva and hundreds, sometimes thousands, of Srila Prabhupada's books. At night, devotees filled the air with the chanting of the maha-mantra, the great chant for spiritual realization—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Jaya Vijaya Dasa, from America, is the leader of ISKCON's Padayatra in India, with which he has been walking since 1985.
Maha-mantra Dasa, also from America, is the director of the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust Library Party for India.
Bringing Krsna To The Arab World
Two devotees find many inhabitants of North Africa eager for the message of Krsna.
An interview with Gaura Bhakta Dasa—February 18, 1992.
BTG: When did you go to Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia?
Gaura Bhakta Dasa: November 1991. Abhidheya Dasa and I left from New Mayapur, our farm in France, after we had the blessings of the devotees. And we stopped for a program in Malaga, Spain.
BTG: So you went from Malaga to Morocco.
GB: Yes. Of course, we had to go through customs to enter Morocco. We were very afraid because we had eight hundred of Prabhupada's books hidden in the car. The customs people asked us what we had in the car. We said, "Just presents." They wanted to check. But Abhidheya said something to them, and somehow Krsna protected us and we were able to go through.
We stayed one day in Ceuta, a Spanish city on the north coast of Morocco. A very nice city, lots of tourists. We met a devotee there, Hari Narayana Prabhu. He's an Indian. He gave us a very nice reception, prasadam, and two or three hundred French magazines. He encouraged us to preach. Then we drove further into Morocco.
We arrived at Tetouan, a small city. The first day, we were chanting Hare Krsna and some people thought we were on drugs. Maya is always making plans to try to stop our service. When I spoke to them they were satisfied—"Yes, yes, yes, go on chanting."
Two days later we went to Tangier, an international city. Lots of tourists, writers, artists. We met Nayanabhirama Prabhu, an American devotee teaching English there. He arranged a program at his school with about twenty or thirty students. We gave an introduction to Krsna consciousness, and then everyone asked for a Bhagavad-gita. We told them we had just a few copies, but at the end everybody got a copy.
BTG: Arabic Gitas?
GB: French and Arabic. But the people there speak French more than Arabic.
After that we met an Indian family. The mother said, "I want all the English books you have." She invited us for a program at her home, and to our amazement she had big Deities of Radha-Krsna. She cooked, we showed a video about chanting, and we had bhajana [chanting of songs] and a lecture. Very nice program.
The next day we went out to sell Prabhupada's books. Abhidheya went to shops, and I was on the streets. It was amazing because all the people I met took the books. Someone even embraced me and said, "Thank you very much for bringing these books to our country." He realized the value of these books. And I realized how fortunate these people were for understanding the importance of the books.
Then we went to Rabat, the capital of Morocco. Here also we sold books in shops and on the street. We met very nice people who are interested in the philosophy of Krsna consciousness. They like Indian culture very much.
I noticed that in Morocco there are a lot of Hindu movies. The people like Indian songs, dances, and language. I even met some people who speak a little Hindi. We met some yoga teachers who teach gymnastic-type yoga. When we introduced ourselves as teachers of bhakti-yoga, they were amazed.
They said, "That's what we need in this country. Why don't you stay here and teach this bhakti-yoga also?"
We said, "We first want to see other countries and then think about it."
From Rabat we went to Casablanca, where people showed even more interest. We met more than 150 Indian people there. They are very attracted to Krsna consciousness, so they invited us for programs. The president of one Indian association invited us for prasadam, and he gave us presents. He said, "Whatever help you need, please don't hesitate to ask. I am here with all the Indian people, who are ready to give you a hand if you want to get established here."
Abhidheya had gone to Casablanca last year. He had met some Indian people, and when we returned he saw how they had improved. They were chanting, and they were reading Prabhupada's books. When they saw Abhidheya they were crying in ecstasy, they were kissing him. They said, "Please come to our home and do a program." Everyone was chanting, taking prasadam. It was amazing seeing these people chanting Hare Krsna in ecstasy. I could see they were relishing chanting Hare Krsna. They're devotees. And in every shop people took books.
After Casablanca we went to Marrakech for one or two days. And then we went to Agadir, on the west coast.
From there we went to Efran, in the mountains. We met two young men and invited them for chanting and prasadam. To our amazement, in the middle of kirtana one of them stood up and started dancing in ecstasy. We were shocked. He picked up the mrdanga and started to play, and his friend followed the tune of Hare Krsna on a guitar. Very naturally. We didn't ask them to dance, to chant. They just felt it.
It was like they'd just woken up from a dream, like they were devotees who had forgotten Krsna and when they heard Hare Krsna that was it—they woke up and started chanting and dancing. We chanted until one in the morning. And even then they didn't want us to stop.
From there we went to visit Abhidheya's family. They live in Morocco near the Algerian border. He has more than seventy cousins. We had programs with his cousins and distributed books in the shops. It was difficult because there was some political trouble. We arrived when people were preparing for the election. There were some people for and some against the Islamic movement. So it was not easy for us, because the police, the army, were everywhere, controlling the people, looking for people. They stopped us every hour to check our car. It was not easy to preach freely. So we decided to go to the Berber cities.
BTG: The people who were there before the Arabs?
GB: Yes. They are the real inhabitants of North Africa. They are different from the Arabs, because they have a different language and culture. Their culture is more Westernized in one sense. But they are Muslims by conversion.
We started in the city of Tizi Ouzou. They were very favorable to Krsna consciousness. Everyone speaks French, everyone took a book, everyone was excited by Krsna consciousness. There was no fanaticism. They were ready to hear about Krsna consciousness.
BTG: What city was that?
GB: Tizi Ouzou. It's the capital of the Berber cities. Very intellectual. We distributed lots of books. And from there we went to Setif, Algeria, where my parents live. They told me, "You practice Krsna consciousness, which is not part of our faith; it's not Islam." Yet because Abhidheya was there, they offered to host us. Because Abhidheya is from Morocco and speaks the same language as my parents, they were very excited.
Then my father said, "Now it's becoming too dangerous, so don't preach. If you do, you will get in trouble. Please don't do it here."
So from there we went to Bejaia. It's another Berber city, next to the sea, a very historical city. We sold books in the streets and the shops. We distributed lots of books, and the people were happy.
On the way we stopped at a small bookstore that belonged to a man I had met before. He had asked me to come see him when I visited my family. But he wasn't there, so I looked around and saw another bookstore. I offered the owner Bhagavad-gita and Krsna book. He said, "Yes, I will buy some." He wanted twenty of each. I said ok.
So he followed me to the car and said, "Hey, can I have all the books."
I said, "These books are for other countries. I cannot give you all the books; I can give you some."
He was not happy. He wanted to take everything. So I asked him why he wanted all the books. He said, "I am responsible for the Youth Hostel. People will love these pictures, these books, so I would like to give them these books." So we sold him Bhagavad-gita, Krsna book, Coming Back, and magazines. Lots of books. He was very happy.
Then we went back to Setif and then to Constantine, in the East. Here we visited the parents of a devotee from Algeria. Her parents were very happy. We met her brother and her sisters. They were all very excited. We preached to them for two hours. Everyone was laughing in ecstasy. In the beginning they were thinking that this is a very fanatic, very secluded movement. But when they saw us (they are Berbers like us) they were amazed that Arabs are in this movement.
BTG: Your background is Berber?
GB: Yes. Abhidheya also. He's Berber from Morocco, and I'm Berber from Algeria.
Although we had a lot of contacts to visit in Constantine, we left because we didn't have much time left and because of the political situation. My father had told us we should leave the country before the second election, January 16. So we went to Tunis, the capital of Tunisia. In Tunis was the real nectar. Krsna was so kind that after all the trouble we had in Algeria, He gave us some relief. We started going to shops, and I was amazed because shop after shop all took the books.
BTG: What kind of shops were they?
GB: Pharmacy, cloth store, shoe store, book store—one after another. Abhidheya said he did the same thing. After two hours we met each other, and I said, "Prabhu, it's so ecstatic, isn't it?" He said, "Yes, I also did lots of books. Ah! Krsna wants something here, huh?" So we continued very excitedly distributing books.
We had a contact, a Tunisian lady who had visited the Paris temple last year for a week. We'd been corresponding. When I phoned her she was so happy. She said, "Prabhu, please come as soon as possible to my home. I want to see you, and I want to make a feast and invite my parents to see you." She introduced us to some of her friends who are of the Bahai faith. They are very open and friendly to devotees. And they like to hear philosophy and share their realizations with us.
So the next day we went to where the lady lives. She has a nice temple. She has Prabhupada's books and a picture of the Paris Deities. She invited her friends. When they came, they all said, "Hare Krsna, Prabhu!" and offered obeisances just like devotees. They were all respectful. So we did a bhajana, cooked prasadam, and gave a lecture on Krsna consciousness. Everybody was in ecstasy. Day after day we had a program there.
And then we went to another program with others of the Bahai faith, Iranians. We showed them videos and cooked prasadam with lots of ghee. They took books. And from there, after one week, we went back to Tunis.
BTG: Where was that place?
GB: Madhvia. And from there back to Tunis. We continued to distribute books and have programs with the Bahai people there also. They were so excited by the program. There were about twenty people all wanting to invite us to their home for a program of prasadam, bhajana. But we said we cannot stay that long. Finally, we accepted one program, with Egyptians.
Tunisia is one of the best places. Maybe not as rich as Morocco, but people are more into spirituality than in Algeria or Morocco. We distributed about four hundred books. It was amazing. I never thought we could distribute books so easily in these countries. And we had more than twenty programs. We had very nice prasadam. We were given donations. Krsna arranged everything—the money for our maintenance, food, everything. People were crying in ecstasy. They said, "This is a very wonderful movement. We are just like in India now."
BTG: These are all Arabic people?
GB: Yes, all Arabs. Some are from Egypt, but most of them are from Tunisia. We had to decide whether to establish something there—incognito, of course—or continue traveling as we were. Because we had a plan to go to Turkey and especially to Lebanon to see the Druze, who are very fond of our philosophy, who like our books. And now we have a plan to go and preach in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia—all the neighboring countries.
Now we know how to preach in these countries by Krsna's grace. What to say, how to present it. And we're not afraid, because we know that there are devotees; they're just waiting for us. We are convinced that in all the Arabic countries there are devotees, just like in France, England, America. We go and see them and give the books.
So then we returned to France, happily and very enthusiastically.
BTG: Indian people will be very surprised to see that the Muslim people are chanting Hare Krsna and becoming devotees.
GB: Caitanya Mahaprabhu has done the whole thing. We are also surprised. We didn't expect such a response from them. They responded very enthusiastically to the message.
In the land of Lord Caitanya,
By Sadbhuja Dasa
IN VANDAVANA, in July of 1977, Srila Prabhupada said he wanted to go to Mayapur, where perhaps he could regain his health. He had asked before that a small house be built there so he could have a peaceful, quiet place to write his books. He had said that his Mayapur house "should be by the side of our decorative pond, positioned so that I may enjoy the summer breeze."
When the devotees directing the Mayapur project visited Srila Prabhupada as he lay ill, they showed him sketches for his house.
"It has not yet begun?" he asked.
"The plans are being drawn up," they replied. "The architects say there will be no problem building it, and we can keep working right through the monsoon season."
Srila Prabhupada said that for now it would be his residence and after he passed away it could be his samadhi (memorial tomb). He was preparing his disciples for his departure from this world, which took place on November 14, 1977.
Srila Prabhupada's body was buried in Vrndavana, and flowers from the garlands that had last adorned it were brought to Mayapur. With great ceremony the flowers were placed in the earth at the site Srila Prabhupada had selected for his house. There devotees laid a cornerstone for a memorial shrine.
Construction of Prabhupada's puspa samadhi ("tomb of flowers") began in 1980. The building stands 200 feet high, its dome spanning 120 feet. The architecture melds features of traditional Bengali brick temples, simple thatched-roof cottages, and grand European churches. All the work has been done by local Muslim and Hindu villagers, closely guided by ISKCON devotees to assure the best workmanship.
Concrete and brick are available locally, but gathering materials for the decorative finishings took devotees to many parts of India. From Makrana, Rajasthan, they brought carved marble, hand-selected from the mines, from Hindaun, Rajasthan, they brought sandstone, from Bombay Italian marble, and from Benares silver and brass work.
The structure is done, and the decorative work is well underway. The marble and sandstone in the main hall is almost all in place. The main hall, designed by Matsya Avatara Dasa, from Italy, uses striped Albata marble with green Baroda borders on the walls, pink marble with green bases on the columns. Inlaid into the floor will be a large lotus in Italian marble of red, yellow, and green. Niches in the walls will house bronze panels and sculptures.
The exterior of the dome, clad in polished white marble, is completed. Its kalasa (metal spire) will be ornamented with gold mosaic tiles made on site. Fitting the tiles has begun, and al-ready the golden spire can be seen from Navadvipa, across the Ganges River.
Inside, the dome will be covered with eight large mosaics depicting Prabhupada in some of his major achievements—translating and publishing books, preaching, building temples, installing Deities, setting up schools, holding Rathayatra festivals, starting programs for cow protection, and initiating disciples from all over the world. Above these scenes and overlooking the main floor, a museum of dioramas will show scenes from Srila Prabhupada's life.
The heart of the samadhi is the chamber, where a bronze form of Srila Prabhupada on an azure marble seat will preside. The chamber will be clad with carved white Indian marble, inlaid with gold mosaic tiles and marble of Italian red, Italian yellow, and Baroda green.
Outside, the pink sandstone walls of the veranda will be set off by red sandstone balustrades, columns, and arches. On the ground floor, terra cotta relief panels and sculptured figures, all finished in colored glazes, will depict the nine methods of devotional service. A frieze of terra cotta figures dancing, playing instruments, and singing Hare Krsna will encircle the building.
Landscaping is underway. The road that goes around the building will be bound by a hedge with thirteen arched entrances, decorated lampposts, and pots with plants. Srila Prabhupada's "decorative pond" has been surrounded by a rock garden.
Visitors to the samadhi will experience Srila Prabhupada's presence by seeing his deity form, by seeing the depictions of his instructions and pastimes, and by meeting his dedicated disciples and granddisciples. Srila Prabhupada's samadhi will be the focus for prayers glorifying him as more and more people realize his greatness and the value of his transcendental instructions. As Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura has written, the pure devotee lives forever by his divine instructions.
Now that the task of building the samadhi is nearing completion, we pray for the continued mercy of the devotees worldwide who have given funds to the project and who spread the glories of Sridham Mayapur, as presented by Srila Prabhupada.
The following conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and a journalist took place on December 30, 1968, in Los Angeles.
Journalist: I think an awful lot of our readers, and an awful lot of people in the United States, are terribly confused with the many people who claim to be avataras and who come from India to this country, one after the other.
Srila Prabhupada: I can declare, they are all nonsense.
Journalist: Could you elaborate on that a little more?
Srila Prabhupada: And I can say furthermore, they're all rascals.
Journalist: The Maharishi, for example.
Srila Prabhupada: He is rascal number one. I say it publicly.
Journalist: Could you explain that, give me a little background on that.
Srila Prabhupada: From his behavior I can understand he's rascal number one. But the wonderful thing is that the people in the Western countries, they're supposed to be so advanced. How are they befooled by these rascals?
Journalist: Well, I think people believe what they want to believe. They're looking for something, and he comes along ...
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. But they want something very cheap. That is their fault.
Srila Prabhupada: Now, for our disciples we don't give anything cheap. Our first condition is character, moral character. You see? So unless one accepts moral character, we don't initiate him. We don't allow him in this institution. And this Maharishi says, "Oh, you do whatever you like. You simply pay me thirty-five dollars and I'll give you some mantra." So people want to be cheated, and many cheaters come.
Journalist: Instant heaven.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Journalist: The Maharishi turned me off, and so many people. My daughter was involved in that kind of thing for a while, and she's terribly disillusioned.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. The psychology is that your people, all the Western people, especially youngsters, they are hankering after something, you see? But if somebody comes to me and says, "Swamiji, initiate me," I immediately say, "You have to follow these four principles [no meat-eating, no illicit sex, no gambling, no intoxication]." And he goes away.
And this Maharishi, he did not put any restriction, you see? Just like a physician might say, "You can do whatever you like. You simply take my medicine, and you will be cured." That physician will be very much liked.
Journalist: Yes, he'll kill a lot of people, but he'll be very much liked.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes [Laughs]. And if a physician says, "Oh, you cannot do this, you cannot do that, you cannot see this," that will be seen as a botheration. So people want something. That is a fact. But at the same time, they want it very cheap. Therefore the cheaters come and cheat them. They take the opportunity. "These people want to be cheated. Oh, let us take advantage."
They are advising, "You are God, everyone is God. You just realize this yourself. You have forgotten you are God. You take this mantra, and you will become God and become powerful. Whatever you like, you can control. But there is no need to control your senses. You can drink, you can have unrestricted sex, and whatever you like."
People like this. "Oh, simply by fifteen minutes of meditation I shall become God, and I have to pay only thirty-five dollars." So many millions of people will be ready to do it. Thirty-five dollars in your country is not so much. But thirty-five multiplied by a million becomes thirty-five million dollars.
But we cannot bluff. We say that if you actually want spiritual life, you have to follow the restrictions. If the commandment is "You shall not kill," I cannot say, "Yes, you can kill. The animal has no feeling. The animal has no soul." We cannot bluff in this way.
Journalist: Well, that's just about it. That's what I wanted to know. It's a shame that this thing, as I say, has turned off an awful lot of kids, a lot of very disenchanted young people because ...
Srila Prabhupada: So please try to help us. This movement is very nice. It will help humanity. It will help your country, the whole human society. It is a genuine movement. There is no bluffing, no cheating. It is authorized.
Journalist: Authorized by whom?
Srila Prabhupada: It is authorized by Krsna.
Srila Prabhupada acts as the model for
By Yadurani Devi Dasi
IN NEW YORK CITY, 1967, in Srila Prabhupada's Second Avenue apartment, he asked me to paint a picture of Lord Nrsimhadeva, the half-man, half-lion incarnation of Lord Krsna who appeared many millennia ago. In a print Prabhupada's disciple Hayagriva Dasa had brought from India, Lord Nrsimhadeva had about ten arms, and He was ripping apart the demon Hiranyakasipu in His lap, tearing out the demon's intestines. Prabhupada told me to paint only four arms, and he told me the story of Lord Nrsimhadeva.
I was already somewhat familiar with the story because Prabhupada had been giving lectures on Lord Nrsimhadeva and Prahlada, the Lord's pure devotee, whom the Lord had come to protect. Prabhupada asked me to do a big painting of the killing scene. In fact, he posed for me to demonstrate the proper postures for the action. Imitating Lord Nrsimhadeva, Prabhupada stretched out his hands and then drew them back, spreading his fingers straight a little apart from one another, like delicate claws. I could almost see long lotus nails protruding from his hands. As Prabhupada drew back his hands in a mock menacing way, he glorified Nrsimhadeva: "Your lotus hands have lotus nails with which You rip apart the demon Hiranyakasipu."
As Prabhupada was pulling his arms back, he opened his eyes wide and crossed them in an inimitable way. I could feel Nrsimhadeva manifesting through His pure devotee. Srila Prabhupada then dropped his arms, and his face at once gained its former composure.
In order to remember his expression for the painting, I asked Prabhupada, "Could you do that again?" He did it again, exactly as before.
Prabhupada then had Gargamuni (the temple treasure) and Brahmananda (the temple president) act out the death scene to show me the essence of the composition. Prabhupada was the director. He had one of them lie across the other's lap to mimic the way Hiranyakasipu was pulled into the Lord's lap and torn apart. I studied the scene and then set about to paint it.
I painted the blood sparingly, applying only a little on the floor and on Hiranyakasipu's body. Prabhupada looked at the painting and told me, "Paint blood everywhere." He saw the look of surprise on my face and posed a hypothetical question: "If God is not ferocious, then from where does ferocity come?"
So I painted a lot of blood and gore. But I still needed a reference picture for the rug under the Lord's feet.
Prabhupada in his lectures had described the opulence of Hiranyakasipu's palace. "What does a rug from an opulent Vedic palace look like?" I wondered. I remembered that there was an Indian picture in Prabhupada's room, right above where he would write his books or sit and talk with his disciples and guests. It showed Lord Ramacandra, Sita Devi, and Hanuman, with an opulent rug below their lotus feet.
I went into Prabhupada's room and looked high up on the wall trying to see the details of the rug in the picture. I couldn't really make out all the details without stepping on Prabhupada's mat to get a closer look. So I started standing on my toes and stretching. I must have looked pretty ridiculous.
Prabhupada, who was sitting on the mat, asked, "What are you doing?"
"I'm trying to see the print so that I can paint a similar rug in my picture of Lord Nrsimhadeva. But I don't want to step on your seat."
"In Krsna's service," Prabhupada said humbly, "you can step on my head."
When the painting was finished Prabhupada okayed the blue effulgence I'd painted around Lord Nrsimhadeva's head, although it would generally be perceived as yellowish white.
Soon after I'd completed the Lord Nrsimhadeva painting, my younger sister came to visit the temple. Her disbelief in God was overshadowed only by her criticism of the Hare Krsna movement, which she bad-mouthed to anyone who would listen.
I tried to find some common ground with her, so I showed her the Nrsimhadeva painting, hoping she could appreciate it, at least as her sister's work. As I told her the story, she insisted we should have more compassion for poor Hiranyakasipu.
"How could God kill someone," she asked, "especially the father of His devotee?"
I couldn't answer her, because our relationship was too familiar and she couldn't accept anything I said. So I brought her to Srila Prabhupada.
Defending his fledgling spiritual daughter, Prabhupada patiently explained to my sister that the father may love everyone but he especially loves his own children. Similarly, God loves everyone, but He shows special favor to His devotees. He explained that Prahlada was a five-year-old devotee and his father had repeatedly tried to kill him and others for their religious beliefs. so Krsna in His fierce form of Lord Nrsimhadeva killed Prahlada's demoniac father.
Prabhupada also told her that being slain by the Lord is not an ordinary thing. Actually, the demon Hiranyakasipu, because the Lord personally killed him, attained a position usually reserved for those who have dedicated their life to austerity and piety. Krsna was doing the demon a favor by killing him.
My sister couldn't accept anything Prabhupada said. She wasn't ready for spiritual life. She got up and left in acute frustration, not realizing the benefit she had derived from associating with a pure devotee.
Yadurani Devi Dasi lives at ISKCON's Krishna-Balaram temple in Vrndavana, India.
Seventy-eight U. S. television stations will show Great Vegetarian Dishes, a video series based on Kurma Dasa's book of the same name. ITV (ISKCON Television) produced the series, which will be listed in TV Guide.
The New Gopal Restaurant has opened in Stockholm, on Sodermalm, a section of the city that attracts people searching for alternative lifestyles. The restaurant is the devotees' second one here. In another part of town, Govinda's restaurant serves about 250 meals a day.
A large temple complex will go up on seven acres of prime land in Bangalore, the capital of Karnataka. The devotees plan to finish the project on the newly acquired land by 1996, in time to celebrate the centennial of Srila Prabhupada's appearance.
Besides a grand temple, the complex will include a museum, a performing arts center, a Vedic studies center, a theme park, and a network of ponds, gardens, waterfalls, and wooded groves.
Commonwealth of Independent States
Thousands of people in Moscow, Kiev, Riga, and St. Petersburg chanted and danced in ecstacy with the latest tour of ISKCON's Gauranga Bhajan Band.
Australia and New Zealand
More than two hundred devotees flew in from Europe, America, Japan, India, and New Zealand to attend "Srila Prabhupada's Family Reunion," held in Melbourne in early June. The weekend featured enthusiastic chanting of Hare Krsna, a grand fire sacrifice, picnics, readings about Srila Prabhupada, films of his Australian tours, a gulabjamun-eating festival, memory sharing, and re-enactments of Srila Prabhupada's historic morning walks in Melbourne.
As devotees discussed the bond that unites them—their relationship with Srila Prabhupada—they patched up old wrongs, offered respects to deceased Godbrothers and Godsisters, and cried tears of joy in renewing old friendships.
Another reunion is planned for Easter, 1994.
New Agers are getting Krsna in Hong Kong. Rama Sarana Dasa and Sravaniya Devi Dasi have started the New Age Forum, a workshop of spirituality, personal growth, and holistic health. At the workshop, Rama Sarana, a successful art wholesaler, and Sravaniya, a yoga teacher well-known in Hong Kong and Taiwan, teach Bhagavad-gita and the chanting of Hare Krsna.
The largest Rathayatra ever in Mauritius took place at Grand Bay, the country's most popular resort. Mauritius is an island nation in the Indian Ocean. Prime Minister Annarood Jagernnauth allowed the festival to be shown for five minutes on national state-owned television.
Having walked from Jaipur, Rajasthan, to the Himalayan foothills, now the Padayatra party is entering the Himalayas. From Rishikesh, they'll ascend along the Ganges to Kedarnath and Badrinath. They'll also visit the sources of the Ganges (Gangotri) and the Yamuna (Yamunotri).
The walk through Central America continues. Some time in September the devotees will finish their tour through El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama.
Countries with summer or fall Padayatras this year: England, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Mauritius, and Malaysia.
Confirmed for next year: New Zealand (January) and Hungary (summer).
"How to Start Your Own Padayatra," a detailed manual, is now available from the Padayatra Worldwide office in New Delhi. Cost: US $16, plus $4.00 for overseas postage.
62, Sant Nagar (near Nehru Place), New Delhi 110 065 India
Phone and fax: +91 (11) 642-1763
4969 Mills St., Apt. 10, La Mesa, CA 91941
Phone and fax: (619) 463-0168.
Bhaktivedanta Manor, Lecthmore Heath, Watford, Hertfordshire WD2 8EP, England
Phone: +44 (92) 385-7244
HERE'S A Krsna conscious project you might like to support or get involved in.
The Bhaktivedanta Swami Charity Trust
Sridham Mayapur, Nadia District, West Bengal, India
The Trust is overseen by seven trustees, of whom Jayapataka Swami is the chairman. The managing board is made up of devotees from ISKCON and other Gaudiya Vaisnava groups. Representing ISKCON are Subhaga Swami (chairman of the board) and Kiranasa Dasa.
To rediscover and restore the holy places in Bengal connected with the pastimes of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. To provide suitable arrangements for pilgrims in these places. To unite the followers of Lord Caitanya, especially those descended from Srila Prabhupada's spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Goswami Maharaja.
Once in Vrndavana during Srila Prabhupada's last days, he suddenly began to shed tears, lamenting that many of the old temples founded by Lord Caitanya's followers were giving way to ruin. He then expressed his desire to set up a trust to renovate these holy places.
Lord Caitanya had told the Gosvamis of Vrndavana to rediscover the lost places of Lord Krsna's Vrndavana pastimes. Later, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura found the place of Lord Caitanya's birth. Now Srila Prabhupada wanted to renovate the pastime places of Lord Caitanya and His personal associates.
Lord Caitanya started the Hare Krsna movement in the holy tract of land known as Gaura Mandala Bhumi (now West Bengal and Bangladesh). The places where He lived and the homes, temples, and Deities of His associates form the roots of the Krsna consciousness movement. By seeing to the health of these roots, we can help Krsna consciousness grow to encircle the whole world, with blossoms, flowers, and fruits in every town and village.
Srila Prabhupada, therefore, set up the Bhaktivedanta Swami Charity Trust. And he placed funds in a fixed-deposit account, so that interest from the account could provide for the work of the Trust.
To unite the devotees of Lord Caitanya, he also envisioned offering help to the temples of his Godbrothers in Bengal.
The Trust plans to put together a computerized database on the holy places related to Lord Caitanya and His associates. The database will note where the places are, what condition they're in, and what work needs to be done.
Temples falling apart need to be renovated. Lost places known only from old writings need to be found.
And neglected places known only to local residents need to be located and restored.
Another plan calls for setting up multilingual plaques to mark the way in holy places and provide information for pilgrims.
A book is to be published telling what Lord Caitanya's associates did in various places and giving directions for reaching those places.
With the onset of Western materialistic culture in India, local involvement in many of the old temples has seriously declined. Some temples lie in remote villages where people are too poor to maintain them.
Yet inflation has cut away at the value of the funds Srila Prabhupada allotted to the Trust. This limits how much work the Trust can do. Srila Prabhupada founded the Trust at the very end of his stay with us. So, unlike his other projects, it never developed under his direct guidance. Many devotees, therefore, are unaware of the Trust and its importance.
Busy with working around the world to spread Lord Caitanya's teachings, we may neglect places sacred to the heritage we are trying to spread. While we buy land in holy places for new temples and residences, old temples crumble.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
If you're able, come to Mayapur to help with research and renovation. Or else donate funds to help the work.
Once we renovate a temple, we need to maintain the daily worship there. You can "adopt a tirtha [holy place]." That means you take a personal interest in providing for the daily worship, clothes for the Deities, and so on. In a following article we will tell of some of the temples most badly in need.
The Bhaktivedanta Swami Charity Trust
c/o Mayapur Project
Union Bank of Switzerland
8021 Zurich, Switzerland
The Bhaktivedanta Swami Charity Trust
P. O. Box 16146, Circus Ave.
Calcutta-17, West Bengal
Krsna for President
By Suresvara Dasa
AS THE U.S. PRESIDENTIAL race roars on, one night last week I had a dream. The cows at Gita Nagari had me cornered in the upper pasture. They had heard I was going to vote.
"Who's it gonna be?" they bellowed. "Tweedledum? Tweedledee? Tweedle3?"
I hadn't voted since 1968, I told them, when I wrote in Dick Gregory on the Peace-and-Freedom ticket. The vote was a protest, a fistful of flowers. But now everyone was up in arms, desperate for leadership. I said that was auspicious.
"Auspicious?!" The voice was Cakra's, the herd spokesman. "Indeed! We've been desperate for leadership for five thousands years, since the reign of Maharaja Pariksit. Why are the candidates always cow-eaters?"
I hadn't heard this question discussed on the radio, so I started talking about how I wasn't living in a temple anymore, how I was holding a house, a wife, a child, and paying taxes, and how it was high time I voted again.
"Vote for whom?" asked Duhsala, who lowered her neck, munched a clump of grass, and looked up at me again. "Do any of the candidates know who they are, who they really are? Do they know who we are? We feel, same as they. Look at us. We lick and love. We eat and sleep and lock horns. We're souls inside, same as you, part of Krsna. Come clean, candidates."
Clean. Her words echoed the Bhagavatam. Clean, merciful, truthful, austere. These qualities could solve the dualities of the day: pro-life vs. pro-choice, black vs. white, ecology vs. economy, men vs. women, men vs. animals. But dualities die hard, especially when you're dreaming.
"Ladies and gentlemen!" I announced. "We are on the eve of a great moment in history. Politics as usual is dead. The enlightened people of this enlightened country are about to elect the first enlightened chief executive since the onset of the Kali-yuga, the present age of cheating and degradation."
Just then, a swarthy man dressed as Uncle Sam stepped from behind a sprawling oak. Buttons of all candidates covered him hat to toe. As he strode forward to shake my hand, a thunder of bellows and boos erupted from the herd.
"It's Kali!" cried Cakra. "Vice personified. I'd know him anywhere. Come on, Gopala, let's vote." Gopala, the herd tough, lowered his horns and charged. But Kali was already over the fence, tails and top hat flying. Deprived of their man, the herd turned on me.
"They're all Kali's men," scolded Makhana-cora, spitting gnats. "Kali's tweedles."
"Radio's got you hypnotized," muttered wild-eyed Rukmini, lumbering toward me. "Baba, all you gotta do is open up the First Canto to see what's going on. All those cannibals talkin' about the fiftieth anniversary of the holocaust and how we have to learn from history. Hey, citizen, the holocaust is now. Forty million cows murdered every year in America alone. Why isn't that an issue? Because the majority of the electorate eats us. That's why. So the politicians eat them. If you want mercy, you've got to give it."
I blinked and nodded. "Pride destroys austerity," lowed cream-colored Subhadra. She'd guessed right. I was too proud to buy everything the cows were saying. "If human beings would just control themselves," she went on, "what a society we would have. We cows make milk, 'liquid religion,' so your brain can take to transcendental knowledge. And we make more cows. And bulls to till the ground for food. And manure to make the grasses grow thick and tall for us to munch and make more milk, and on the cycle goes. Krsna's perfect cycle. Break that cycle and you start ruining the world. Listen to this."
Subhadra nosed through an old clay-colored Bhagavatam. One hundred fifty ears swung her way as she read from "The Punishment and Reward of Kali."
The cow stands with tears in her eyes, the sudra milkman draws milk from the cow artificially, and when there is no milk, the cow is sent to be slaughtered. These greatly sinful acts are responsible for all the troubles in present society. People do not know what they are doing in the name of economic development. The influence of Kali will keep them in the darkness of ignorance. Despite all endeavors for peace and prosperity, they must try to see the cows and bulls happy in all respects. Foolish people do not know how one earns happiness by making the cows and bulls happy, but it is a fact by the laws of nature.
If only my head wasn't so big, I thought, I could jump down a gopher hole.
"They get a little self-righteous, the Brown Swiss," said a quiet voice. It was Mallika, the lone Jersey in the herd.
"The first year I was here, I wouldn't even graze with them. Too sanctimonious. But they're right, you know. Kali really suckered you on this race, Suresvara. You should know better. Prabhupada saved you. Why don't you run for President?"
I told her there was no fire in my horoscope, and anyway ISKCON had its brush with politics in the seventies. We started the In-God-We-Trust-Party-for-Purified-Leaders. Prabhupada liked it, but he didn't want his devotees getting covered with the dirt of politics, so he stopped it. "We don't mind getting the post," he remarked, "but not at the cost of our God consciousness."
"Then give people something to vote for," Mallika persisted. "Engage us more, and Mother Earth as well. Like Krsna does. Live Prabhupada's books. Make a revolution. Not just tell it, show it. Show people how to be clean, kind, truthful, and merciful, and they'll demand it in their leaders. It starts right here."
She dug the earth with her hoof. "Krsna says, krsi-go-raksya: farm the land and protect the cows. Krsi means to pull. Pull the plow." She nodded toward Mayapur, our one-horned ox.
"He needs more work. Can you engage him? In a sane society, everyone has a cow and bull. You have two cars. You should have a cow and bull. A cow for your milk, a bull for your garden. You don't have to be a farmer. Just be a gentleman."
I don't know who was taking a bigger licking, me or the salt block. Vote for Krsna, the cows were pleading.
Live like Krsna, not like Kali. Kali has already killed '92. When will we challenge him? By '96? By Srila Prabhupada's centennial? Hmmm. A Vedic village in place and prospering by 1996. Now there's one for the ISKCON electorate ... I woke up sweating. No time for Tweedle Tuesday. We have work to do.