With the Help of Lord Srinathaji
THIS ISSUE OF BTG takes us to Nathdwara, the sacred town in Rajasthan where Lord Krsna resides as the celebrated Deity known as Srinathaji.
Our feature on Nathdwara started small and quickly grew. I suspect that Lord Srinathaji Himself had a hand in it.
We were planning to lead off this issue with something else. But when that "something else" fell through, we turned to other stories on hand. Our top pick was the article by Bhakti Vikasa Swami that starts on page 25.
We felt that he and his camera-toting companion Maha-Visnu Dasa had done well in capturing the mood of Nathdwara. Yet we wished we could tell still more about the Deity, His devotees, and His worship. What was there to tell? We weren't sure.
Two days later in San Francisco, I ran into the right person to fill us in. Yasomatinandana Dasa has for years been in charge of ISKCON's centers in the Indian state of Gujarat. He's a learned devotee, he's Gujarati, and with Gujarat only a short way from Nathdwara, the Deity of Srinathaji plays a big part in Gujarati devotional life.
Yaso, as we call him, agreed to give us what we were looking for. He sat down with a tape recorder and gave us the article you'll find on page 31.
Now I was satisfied. I had the joy of an editor who has gotten what he needs.
Then I got a call from Govinda Dasi, a devotee I'd first met nearly twenty-five years ago in my first year in Krsna consciousness. Now she'd heard we were doing an article on Nathdwara, and she had close friends in the pusti-marga, the line of devotees in charge of Srinathaji's worship. By chance, she told me, she had just arrived for a week or so in San Diego. Would I be willing to let her get involved?
As it turned out, Govinda Dasi's help was invaluable. One of her friends, a pusti-marga scholar in San Diego, agreed to check the facts in our articles—and gave us still more nectar to enrich what we already had.
Finally, Govinda Dasi told us that still another friend, Navnit Shah of Ocean Township, New Jersey, had many beautiful paintings of Lord Srinathaji. She was sure he'd have something splendid for our cover.
By yet another seeming coincidence, in a day or so Navnit Shah would be flying on business to Los Angeles. He agreed to bring some paintings with him and even offered to drive them down to San Diego. And so we gained not only our cover picture but also the charming painting of Yamunaji on our inside cover. (To top things off, another ISKCON devotee from Gujarat, a lifelong devotee of Srinathaji, came forward to pay for the high-quality transparencies our printer would need to reproduce the art.)
So by Lord Srinathaji's own arrangement we're pleased to bring you this issue of Back to Godhead.
"Smog" Too Heavy?
I just finished reading your editorial ["Fighting in the Smog," July/August] and was shocked by the coarse, insensitive manner used to convince your readers to surrender to Krsna. Your article presented you as a most uncaring, cold Ayatollah Khomeini type, hardly inspiring a loving attitude in anyone.
What you've stated in the editorial may not be "wrong." It's true that whatever we do in the material world (except for cooperating in even the smallest way with Sri Krsna sankirtana) goes up in smoke, or worse. But the Vaisnava understands that he is no better than the lowest of the low and that going back to Godhead does not mean escape from witnessing the tragic misuse of human life. Now we may be initiated and on the right path. But by having misused our lives in previous births, or even earlier in this birth, we have helped to create the thick layers of karma we now see from a different vantage point.
We don't need to move out; we, especially, need to move in and let people know we're here to help, not with swords, guns, and fire but with the holy name, books, and prasadam. The other articles do this so nicely; what a shame to give such a preface to an otherwise wise and compassionate issue of Srila Prabhupada's magazine.
Sarasvati Devi Dasi
Apart from being dismayed by my heartlessness, several readers brought up another point. I'd said that Lord Ananta, a form of Lord Krsna, sometimes gets so angry He feels like torching the entire universe. Is that my own idea? Where does it appear in scripture? Answer: Srimad-Bhagavatam, 5.25.6, and Prabhupada's purport.—JS
BTG Really Helps!
Hare Krsna! I love BTG. It has helped me in so many ways. I go to public school and get teased about being Krsna conscious. Several of your articles have helped. I'm in junior high and kids can be so cruel. BTG really keeps me in touch with what's going on all over the world in Krsna consciousness. Keep up the great work!
Narayani Devi Dasi
Hard-Hitting Vic's OK
I'd like to address the letter by G. S. Senan [July/August] in relation to Bhakta Vic's articles.
I am an "older generation" devotee and can understand why a gentle-man like Mr. Senan (obviously with a highly cultured background) would express a sense of disturbance in regards to the mode of approach used by Bhakta Vic in his articles, but let's look a little beyond the mode of presentation and see the truths he is addressing.
It is a fact that some readers may feel some shock or even a sense of abhorrence at Bhakta Vic's mode of address, but BTG is a magazine for everyone who has interest in the philosophy of Krsna consciousness, and that includes readers who would very much appreciate Bhakta Vic's mode of approach, and who through that mode of approach can understand the philosophy better.
Lord Caitanya is called Patita Pavana, and He empowers different devotees to preach His message in different ways so that persons of all character and diversified backgrounds can take up the process of Krsna consciousness. I can attest to the fact from my own experiences in preaching to different types of people that in certain cases the very graphic, direct, hard-hitting approach is more effective in getting the message across to certain people, as opposed to the approach which uses "good taste," "subtlety," "grace," and "tact."
Sukanya's Example Impractical
I felt such anger and fear after reading Mulaprakrti and Visakha dasi's article ["Light for the Dark Well," July/August] that I had to sit down and write you this letter. They live in a world very different from mine. For me it wasn't enlivening to read about the selfless qualities of a wife for a husband who didn't care for her. I would have been more inspired and hopeful if they would have talked in detail about her path in Krishna consciousness, her courage and love for Krishna.
I admit I don't appreciate or understand the lesson of Sukanya, perhaps simply because all I know of the story is what little was mentioned in the article. I don't think anyone can do what she did in this day and age. There's no training, love, or guidance. Mulaprakrti and Visakha may be fortunate to have good marriages, but for the majority, yes, majority of women, I think it completely unrealistic to ask them to be like Sukanya. Why don't the men write articles on how men should treat their wives?
Mulaprakrti Devi Dasi and Visakha Devi Dasi reply: Thank you for your frank and heartfelt letter. We are sorry you and perhaps others felt discouraged by the seemingly impractical standards of our article. We agree that the responsibilities and qualities men require in marriage were not stressed enough—we do need men to write about this. We never intended to endorse women's being abused or unloved. Relationships with men are often difficult. Therefore discrimination is needed in choosing a trustworthy man. There is so much we all need to learn in developing healthy and happy relationships. We have found that this is best done when devotees of the same sex support one another with honesty, commitment, confidentiality, and good examples. This is of utmost importance.
A lecture by
Los Angeles, December 9, 1969—
THERE IS A NICE STORY about a sage giving different blessings to different types of persons. To a prince, he blessed, raja-putra ciram jiva: "You are a king's son, a prince. May you live forever." And he blessed the son of a saintly person, muni putra ma jiva: "Don't live." And the sadhu, the devotee, he blessed, jiva va maro va: "Either you live or you die—as you like." And there was a butcher. The sage blessed him, ma jiva ma mara: "Don't die, don't live."
These words are very significant. A prince is enjoying his senses, that's all. He has enough facility for sense enjoyment. So his next life will be hellish, because if you indulge in unrestricted sex life, Krsna will give you facility to have sex three times in an hour, just like the pigeons, the monkeys, the sparrows.
Princes are after sense enjoyment. So the sage blessed the prince, "Better you live forever, because after your death you do not know what is going to happen to you. You are going to get a hellish life. Better you live for some time. Go on with your enjoyment.''
And muni-putra ma jiva. The brahmacari student working under the strict disciplinary guidance of a spiritual master is blessed, ma jiva: "You'd better die. You are trained so as to enter into the kingdom of God, so why should you take so much trouble? Better you die and go back to Godhead.''
The sage blessed the devotee, jiva va maro va: "My dear devotee, either you live or die," because for a devotee it's the same.
And the butcher the sage blessed, ma jiva ma mara: "Don't live, don't die.'' What's a butcher to do? His life is so abominable. From the morning, he has to slaughter so many animals, see the blood stains, the ghastly scenes. That is his livelihood. What a horrible life this is! So "Don't live. And don't die also.'' Because after death—oh, he is going to be in such a hellish condition, nobody can describe it. So both conditions—life and death—are horrible.
Apart from the others, for the devotee both birth and death, appearance and disappearance, are the same.
My spiritual master appeared at Jagannatha Puri. He was the son of a very big government officer, Bhaktivinoda Thakura, who was a magistrate. In those days a magistrate was a big officer in the government, practically next to governor. And Bhaktivinoda Thakura was in charge of the Jagannatha temple. That is the system in Jagannatha Puri. The manager in charge of the temple is the district magistrate.
Once during the Rathayatra festival, Lord Jagannatha's car stopped in front of Bhaktivinoda Thakura's house. At that time, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, my Guru Maharaja [spiritual master], was a child in the lap of his mother. So the mother took the opportunity to come onto the car. Because she was the magistrate's wife, people gave way so she could go onto the car and place the child at the lotus feet of Jagannatha. There were many garlands, and one garland fell upon Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, blessing him.
When he was a child two or three years old, he ate a mango which was kept for offering to the Deity. His father mildly rebuked him, "Oh, you have done a very wrong thing. It was meant for the Deity, and you have taken it. You should not have done it.''
The child was two or three years old, but he took it so seriously that after that he never ate a mango. Whenever we offered him one he would say, "No, I am an offender. I cannot take mangoes.'' He was thinking like that, you see. Never in his life did he take a mango. He was thinking, "I offended in my childhood by taking the mango of the Deity.''
This is the characteristic of acaryas. They teach by their life's action that one should be so determined. A child took the mango—there was no offense. But he took that vow.
Another instance, in my presence. At that time, I was a young man. One of my Godbrothers, Dr. Oudh Bihari Lal Kapoor, was also young man, and his wife was also young. We were sitting together, talking with Guru Maharaja, and the girl proposed, "My dear master, I want to speak with you.''
Guru Maharaja said, "Yes, you can say whatever you like.''
She said, "I want to talk with you privately, not in everyone's presence.''
Guru Maharaja said, "No. I cannot talk with you privately. You can talk in the presence of my other disciples.''
Even though the girl was like his granddaughter by age, he refused to talk with a young woman in a private place.
Bhaktivinoda Thakura had many other sons. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati was the fifth son. And he did not marry. From childhood he was a strict brahmacari [celibate]. And he underwent very severe penances for starting this worldwide movement. That was his mission.
Bhaktivinoda Thakura wanted to do this. In 1896 Bhaktivinoda Thakura wanted to introduce the Krsna consciousness movement by sending the book Shree Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, His Life and Precepts to the West. Fortunately, that year was my birth year.
By Krsna's arrangement I came in contact with my Guru Maharaja. We were born in different families. Who knew that I would come to his protection? Who knew that I would come to America? Who knew that you American boys would come to me? These are all Krsna's arrangements. We cannot understand how things are taking place.
In 1936, thirty-two years ago, I was doing business in Bombay. At that time, Guru Maharaja was a little indisposed, and he was staying at Jagannatha Puri, on the seashore. So I wrote him a letter. "My dear master, your other disciples—brahmacaris, sannyasis—they are rendering you direct service. And I am a householder. I cannot live with you. I cannot serve you nicely. So I do not know how I can serve you.''
Simply an idea. I was thinking of serving him. "How can I serve him seriously?''
The reply was dated 13th December, 1936. He wrote, "My dear such and such, I am very glad to receive your letter. I think you should try to push our movement in English. And that will do good to you and to the people who will help you.'' That was his instruction. And then on the 31st of December—that means just a fortnight after writing this letter—he passed away.
I took that order of my spiritual master very seriously. But I did not think that I'd have to do such and such things. I was at that time a householder. But this is the arrangement of Krsna. If we strictly try to serve the spiritual master's order, then Krsna will give us all facilities. That is the secret.
I took my spiritual master's order a little seriously by studying a commentary by Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura on the Bhagavad-gita. In connection with the verse vyavasayatmika-buddhih ekeha kuru-nandana, Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura comments that we should take up the words from the spiritual master as our life and soul. We should try to carry out the instruction, the specific instruction of the spiritual master, very rigidly, without caring for our personal benefit or loss.
So I tried a little bit in that spirit. And he has given me all facilities to serve him. Things have come to this stage, that in my old age I have come to your country and you are also taking this movement seriously, trying to understand it. We have got some books now. So there is a little foothold for this movement.
So on this occasion of my spiritual master's departure, as I am trying to execute his will I shall also request you to execute the same order through my will. I am an old man. I can pass away at any moment. That is nature's law; nobody can check it. That I may die is not very astonishing. But this is my appeal to you on this auspicious day of the departure of my Guru Maharaja: At least to some extent you have understood the essence of the Krsna consciousness movement. You should try to push it on.
People are suffering for want of this consciousness. As we daily pray about devotees,
When one is a Vaisnava, or devotee of the Lord, his life is dedicated for the benefit of the people. You know—most of you belong to the Christian community—how Lord Jesus Christ said that for your sinful activities he sacrificed himself. That is the determination of devotees of the Lord. They don't care for personal comforts. They love Krsna, or God, so they love all living entities, because all living entities are related with Krsna. So similarly you should learn this. The Krsna consciousness movement means to become a Vaisnava and feel for suffering humanity.
To feel for suffering humanity there are different angles of vision. Some people think of the suffering of humanity in terms of the bodily conception of life. They try to open hospitals to give relief from disease or try to distribute food in poverty-stricken countries. These things are certainly very nice. But the actual suffering of humanity is due to lack of Krsna consciousness.
Bodily sufferings are temporary, and cannot be checked. Suppose you distribute food in a poverty-stricken country. That does not solve the whole problem. The real beneficial work is to invoke every person's Krsna consciousness.
Suppose a rich man's son is loitering in the street, forgetting his father's opulence and property, and somebody, out of sympathy, gives him some food. But another person comes to him and says, "Oh, my dear boy, I know you. You are the son of such and such rich man. Why you are loitering in the street? Come on. I shall take you to your father.'' So if that gentleman takes the loitering boy to his father, the father is glad, the boy inherits his father's property, and his whole problem of life becomes solved.
Similarly, every living entity has been loitering within this universe in different bodies, in different planets, from time immemorial. And he doesn't know that he belongs to the kingdom of God, that he is the direct son of Krsna, God, that Krsna is the proprietor of everything, and that he can enjoy his father's property and automatically solve the problems of material conditioned life.
If you become a rich man, if you can possess millions of dollars, then your poverty is automatically solved. Similarly, if you become Krsna conscious and you act in that way, then all other problems in the material conditional life are solved.
In Bhagavad-gita the Lord says that people's sufferings are due to their sinful activities, and sinful activities are caused by ignorance. Suppose a foreigner like me comes to America and does not know that cars are driven on the right side of the road. In India the car is driven on the left side. So suppose a person does not know and he drives the car on the left and gets involved in an accident. If he is taken into police custody and says, "Sir, I did not know that here the car is driven on the right side,'' that does not excuse him. The law will punish him.
So ignorance is the cause of sinful activities or breaking the law. And when you commit some sinful activity, you have to suffer the result. The whole world is in ignorance. And due to ignorance everyone is implicated in so many actions and reactions, either good or bad.
Ultimately, there is nothing good within this material world; everything is bad. We have manufactured something good and something bad. But in the Bhagavad-gita we learn that this place is duhkhalayam asasvatam, a place for misery. So in this miserable condition how can you say, "This is good'' or "This is bad''? Everything is bad.
One should be very much pessimistic about the material world. Then one can make advancement in spiritual life. Duhkhalayam asasvatam. This place is full of miseries. If you study analytically, you'll find simply miserable conditions.
Therefore we should give up our material conditional life, and in Krsna consciousness we should try to elevate ourselves to the spiritual platform and thereby be promoted to the kingdom of Godhead. Having gone there, no one comes back to this miserable world. That is the supreme abode of the Lord.
This Krsna consciousness movement is authorized and very important. Now, you American boys and girls who have taken to this movement, please take it more seriously. That is the mission of Lord Caitanya and my Guru Maharaja. And I am also trying to execute their will by disciplic succession. You have come forward to help me. Although I shall go away, you shall live. I request you all: Don't give up pushing on this movement. Continue. You'll be blessed by Lord Caitanya and His Divine Grace Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Goswami Prabhupada.
Thank you very much.
Begging for the Nectar of the Holy Name
By Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami
Recently I Took time out from traveling and lecturing to work on my practice of japa (quiet chanting on beads). Although I have been following Srila Prabhupada's order to chant at least sixteen rounds of the Hare Krsna mantra daily, I knew my japa had become poor and needed special care. I tried doubling the minimum quota and chanted in the early-morning hours in the company of other chanters, but my first discovery was that the more I chanted, the more dry it felt. And I could not control my mind.
I began reading statements in Prabhupada's books that glorified the holy names of Krsna. The scriptural claims that chanting is easy and full of nectar seemed to contradict my own experience. But as I went on chanting and reading, I began to understand that my gut feeling about my own japa was not the last word in understanding the holy names.
The more I read, the more I became encouraged about the glories of the holy name. Was I wrong to think I was benefitting from the holy name, even if I felt no ecstasy while chanting? No. To be encouraged in that way is not wrong.
Srila Prabhupada states that the change of heart that comes by chanting should appear in one's daily activities. He quotes Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, who says that detachment from material life is itself an important symptom of the good result of chanting Hare Krsna. Tears and other such bodily ecstatic symptoms are not always shown even by the most advanced devotees, and those symptoms may even by imitated by a pseudo devotee (prakrta-sahajiya).
Therefore, Prabhupada mentions symptoms of "steady ecstasy" as results to watch for in effective chanting. Those symptoms, mentioned in The Nectar of Devotion, include pridelessness, intense utilization of time, forbearance, attraction for chanting, attachment to living in Krsna's holy abode, and always expecting Krsna's mercy.
So it isn't wrong to believe we are benefitting when we chant our rounds, even in the beginning. I decided to be optimistic and be grateful for even the simple gains of staying alert and awake, hearing the correct pronunciation of the mantra, sitting up straight, and chanting at a brisk pace.
Devotees at every ISKCON temple are making significant progress during the japa hours, as long as those devotees are sincerely trying. And not just in the temple buildings but wherever devotees chant their japa and strive to utter and hear the holy names, gains are being made. When we chant Hare Krsna, either privately or in public, benefit comes not only to the individual chanters but to the nonchanters also. Among the benefits that come to human society from chanting the holy name, Srila Prabhupada mentions peace, material prosperity, political progress, and all-around good fortune.
Even when we don't notice the good qualities developing in a chanter or in society, we should have faith that the holy name is all-powerful and that its influence is improving everyone's life.
For the person who chants, sinful reactions are vanquished. Therefore he gives up illicit sex, intoxication, meat-eating, and gambling. And even if one cannot completely give up all traces of bad habits, one is released from past karma.
Great benefits come to anyone who utters the holy names. Whether I feel dry or "wet" when I am chanting, the chanting works to destroy sins, provided I don't deliberately commit sins on the strength of chanting. "If one chants the holy name of the Lord, even in a helpless condition or with-out desiring to do so, all the reactions of his sinful life depart, just as when a lion roars all the small animals flee in fear." (Garuda Purana)
I want to improve. I want to avoid offenses and chant with attention and devotion. But even when my rascal mind roams out of control, the holy name reigns supreme. I chant with this faith: "If a person unaware of the effective potency of a certain medicine takes that medicine or is forced to take it, it will act even without his knowledge because its potency does not depend on the patient's understanding. Similarly, even though one does not know the value of chanting the holy name of the Lord, if one chants knowingly or unknowingly, the chanting will be very effective" (Bhagavatam 6.2.18-19).
When I gave special attention to my chanting by raising the quota, the results were unspectacular. But rather than dwell on my own inadequacy, I turned to the scriptures and I began to feel grateful for the gift Srila Prabhupada has given us. Srila Prabhupada writes, "We had fallen into abominable lives as meat-eaters, drunkards, and woman-hunters who performed all kinds of sinful activities, but now we have been given the opportunity to chant the Hare Krsna mantra. Therefore, we should always appreciate this opportunity" (Bhagavatam 6.2.34).
I found it helpful to remember the personal mercy of Srila Prabhupada, who had saved me from a suicidal course. Prabhupada himself did not take credit. He said it was the mercy of the holy name, which he brought to us on the order of his spiritual master. Nevertheless, I received that gift from my spiritual master. As an attempt to repay him (guru-daksina), I will go on chanting and telling others about the chanting. When people ask me how I feel when chanting, I may admit that I feel dry due to my offenses against the holy name. But I will also point out that the medicine of the holy name is working.
Spending extra time trying to improve my chanting has convinced me that I have a lot of work to do, and that this is the most important area of my practice. As taught by Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the chanting of Hare Krsna is the best and only means for deliverance of all souls in Kali-yuga, the present degraded age. Since this chanting is so important to Lord Caitanya and to Srila Prabhupada, how can I dare neglect it? The holy name is the most munificent person, Krsna, who is eagerly waiting to give us all the benefits of His direct association. Faith in God, purity of heart, and ultimately love of God are all direct results of proper chanting of the holy names.
So as stated in the Caitanya-caritamrta (Adi-lila 8.28), "As a result of chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, one makes such great advancement in spiritual life that simultaneously his material existence terminates and he receives love of Godhead. The holy name of Krsna is so powerful that by chanting even one name, one very easily achieves these transcendental riches."
We have all heard similar powerful and inspiring statements from the scriptures about the glories of the holy name. It is good to accept them as axiomatic, regardless of our own limits in spiritual experience. But that is not enough. Chanting is worth working on so that the day will come when not only will we quote the scriptures as a matter of policy but we will say with full conviction, "Chant Hare Krsna, and your life will be sublime."
Cooking Class: Lesson 4
Introduction to Dal: Badi—Sun-Dried Legume Nuggets
By Yamuna Devi
I Was Away From My Column last issue, but I'm glad to be back. Continuing on with our study of dal, I'll open with a story.
November 1970. The large iron key, sent by registered post, fell heavy onto the sandstone roof of Delhi Dharmashala. Ten hands darted to retrieve it. We passed it around respectfully, knowing that it was our passport into Vrndavana, Lord Krsna's eternal abode, whose counterpart in this world lay only ninety miles south.
Srila Prabhupada's hand-written note that came with it told our small group to travel to Vrndavana and clean his quarters in the Radha-Damodara temple compound. The rooms had been vacant for two years. He described them as two rooms—a kitchen and a bedroom-study—separated by a veranda. These rooms were his eternal quarters in Vrndavana, he wrote. They had been his residence just before he had come to the West and introduced Krsna consciousness. With great eagerness we made arrangements for our first visit to Vrndavana.
The gray wooden door to the kitchen swung open slowly, iron hinges groaning from disuse and the weight of the door. Shafts of sunlight shone through carved window shutters and fell on shades of silvery grey. The scene was like a still life from a previous century. Every surface was coated with two inches of powdery Vrndavana sand that obliterated corners and angles and made all forms look ethereal.
Sweltering in ninety-degree heat, we took hours to remove bucket after bucket of sand. It was late afternoon by the time we could inspect the contents of the kitchen. The equipment was sparse—spoons, metal plates, two clay jugs for water, an iron griddle for capatis, a bowl-shaped karai frying pan, and a Bengali knife, the kind that's held between one's feet for cutting vegetables. A pair of reading glasses and a paper notebook rested alone in a tiny niche in the wall.
The shelf for dry goods was empty save for a few jars of spices and one jar with a screw-on lid. The contents of this jar were strange to us—rock-hard golden dollops the size and shape of Hershey's chocolate kisses. Curious to know what they were, I set the jar aside for later. By the time we'd finished washing everything, evening was upon us.
Leaving the temple, we crossed paths with Sarajini Devi, a longtime Vrndavana resident who had sometimes helped Srila Prabhupada in his cooking by shopping, building coal fires, or washing dishes. I showed her the jar and asked about its contents.
With a toothy grin she answered, "Mung badi, mung badi, one of Bhaktivedanta Swami's favorites, especially with potatoes in a soup."
Delighted with the information, I was eager to learn how it was made and everything else about badi.
With a letter of introduction, the next day we called on Dr. O. B. L. Kapoor, one of Srila Prabhupada's Godbrothers. During our pleasant visit, I asked about mung badi and showed him the jar. He explained that badi was made from wet-ground legume pastes, seasoned, shaped, and dried until brittle. He then ushered us into his kitchen and showed us three homemade varieties: mung badi with green chilies; spicy urad badi, Punjabi style; and mung badi with tomato mixed with urad badi with peppercorns.
On the spot I got a detailed lesson on how they are made and stored and several ideas for usage. Dr. Kapoor insisted we stay for lunch, featuring a badi dish. The meal included fresh wheat capati flatbreads, a yogurt salad, and a dish we called "Vrndavana Badi Sabji."
Which brings us to the present. Badi, also called warian and wadi, is India's equivalent to TVP, textured vegetable protein. Aside from adding toothsome texture to a dish, it is a fat-free protein source with varied flavor. It is easy (though time-consuming) to make at home, and you can freeze it for up to one year. The good news for busy cooks is that badi is available ready-made at larger Indian grocery stores.
Aside from badi's traditional use in Indian cuisine, I have added pan-toasted badi bits to everything from chili to potato salad to taco stuffing to Spanish rice.
Try the following recipe. To experiment further with the versatility of badis, check the index in Lord Krishna's Cuisine or The Best of Lord Krishna's Cuisine and work through several more dishes. Then come up with a few creations of your own.
Vrndavana Potato-Badi Stew
For an everyday meal, Sunday brunch, or company dinner, try this dish with flame-toasted capati flat breads and a salad.
1 cup yellow mung badi
Crush the badi into roughly ½-inch bits. Heat the ghee or oil over moderate heat in a heavy casserole. Add the badi and pan-fry until lightly browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Add the ginger and cumin and fry them until the seeds darken a few shades. Stir in the turmeric, cayenne, and tomatoes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly pulpy, about 10 minutes.
Add the badi, potatoes, water, and half the herbs. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook about 30 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Add the remaining herbs, season with salt and pepper, and set aside covered for 10 minutes before serving.
What is the Secret?
By Krsna Smarana Dasa
THROUGH ASSOCIATION with the Hare Krsna movement, many people move into its temples and significantly change their way of life. Some make their home into a temple, and others go to the Sunday feast every week. Still others give time, money, and energy to various projects.
People come to the Krsna consciousness movement even though it doesn't offer them monetary or other material compensation. The movement's leaders never promise that if you become a devotee the movement will send your kids through college or pay your mortgage. No. Still, people take to Krsna consciousness, sometimes leaving behind luxurious lives. Why do people all over the world from all walks of life join the Hare Krsna movement? What inspires them to do so? What is the secret?
My first glimpse of this secret came in 1983, on Janmastami, the appearance day of Lord Krsna. One of my friends coaxed me to go to the Atlanta Hare Krsna temple. Even as we approached the temple, I was attracted by the sweet sound of the drums and karatalas (small cymbals). My steps quickened to the temple room—packed and utterly captivating! The devotees, absorbed in the chanting, danced in a circle.
I watched a tall devotee with glasses (Parampara Dasa)—he had a smile from ear to ear. Every now and then he would raise his arms high in the air and lose himself in the kirtana. How happy he looked! I was moved by his expression of joy and devotion.
After some time the kirtana ended, and the next item—reading from Krsna book—brought back old memories.
My thoughts went back to my heritage. I was born and raised in a large family, rich in the tradition of the Sri Vaisnava Sampradaya, and my parents had taught me how to celebrate religious occasions such as Janmastami. We'd decorate the house with flowers, ghee lamps, and other items. My mother would draw tiny pairs of footprints with rice flour from the entrance doorstep to the altar to show the way for baby Krsna. We'd recite prayers and read Krsna stories till late at night.
We'd also sing songs about Krsna. My father would make a huge offering to Krsna of fruits, sweets, savories, vegetables, rice, condensed milk, and many other delicacies. Finally, we'd have the arati, and my mother and sisters would sing.
I never expected this in a Hare Krsna temple. The devotees did everything strictly in accordance with the Vedic standards I'd been used to. And what devotion they had for Krsna! So powerful that in a flash my long-forgotten training came lucidly back to my mind.
I'd been a victim of false propaganda by newspapers, movies, and people who had no clear idea of the Hare Krsna movement. This negative bias was soon to give way to a genuine respect for the devotees, who were truly representing the Vedic culture.
After I got married in 1987, my wife and I began visiting the temple more, and I was increasingly impressed by the devotees. They reminded me of my own early spiritual upbringing, which I had rejected in favor of satisfying my materialistic goals.
The Hare Krsna temple became our favorite place. We'd go there almost every weekend. There I was able to think of God peacefully. We loved the prasadam, the kirtanas, the Deities, the devotees, the books, the morning programs, the classes. And above all, we felt fortunate to be getting a full dose of our own culture, which we had left behind long ago. Who would have expected that the Hare Krsnas would perfectly adopt our culture and teach it again to us?
Years ago I had received spiritual initiation into the Ramanuja Sampradaya. I had taken vows to practice regulative principles of devotional life and try to remember Lord Narayana in all my activities. But because of dwindling spiritual association during college, I eventually forgot.
The devotees, aware of the illusory potency of the Lord, were sympathetic and explained how I could fulfill my earlier vows. They said Lord Caitanya was giving me another chance to taste the bliss of devotional service.
As we visited other ISKCON temples, whether in the midst of the bustling traffic of New York City or in the quiet woods of North Carolina or on the beaches of Miami, we found the same mood of devotional service to Krsna. Rising early in the morning, the devotees went about their devotional duties with great dedication. Sometimes we felt the spiritual aura for blocks around the temple.
Still, clouds of doubt would at times hang over my head. In spite of a good upbringing, I was having trouble maintaining my spiritual life. Yet these devotees, even though born and raised in a non-Vedic culture, seemed easily able to follow the path of bhakti-yoga. How was this possible?
I tried to rationalize in many ways. Perhaps they were also more easily prone to fall down. After all, this was their newly discovered religion. So it wasn't surprising they were showing so much interest. They were like children enjoying a new toy. Surely, I surmised, in time they'd leave Krsna behind.
These doubts, and others like them, scattered as I read and heard Srila Prabhupada presenting the philosophy of Krsna consciousness. His teachings followed right in line from Lord Krsna, Brahma, Madhva, and Lord Caitanya.
Besides the philosophy, I couldn't ignore the devotees' deep commitment to Krsna and Srila Prabhupada. Nor could I ignore Krsna's personal reciprocation with His devotees. I was especially touched by the devotees' sincere efforts to spread Lord Caitanya's message. In return, I saw, Krsna gave the devotees the strength and intelligence to carry on with their service.
I soon realized that trying to under-stand the devotees' secret by guessing was like trying to taste honey by licking the jar. To understand would require humble submission. I'd have to go after the nectar like a bumble bee.
Soon my wife and I started chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra regularly, and our taste for devotional service grew. We found that the Hare Krsna temple provided a simple method for satisfying our senses in the service of Lord Krsna. Our senses were no longer satisfied by materialistic engagements. Gradually, by hearing from the devotees, our consciousness was becoming purified. And we knew we were hooked by Krsna. Whatever the secret, it didn't matter. We were going for it.
Today, as my appreciation for Srila Prabhupada's teachings keeps growing, I'm able to understand the secret of the Hare Krsna movement more and more. Strictly following the Vedic scriptures, Srila Prabhupada created ISKCON, a society for devotees of the Lord, to help them grow together in spiritual life. Recognizing that maya, illusion, is strong and the individual soul tiny, Srila Prabhupada, out of his great compassion, wanted to give us a chance to go back to God-head together.
Even though the Sri Sampradaya is much older than ISKCON, only because ISKCON provided a society of devotees in all parts of the world was I able to carry on. I find that in ISKCON even weak devotees become fixed in devotional service quickly by associating with strong devotees. Even the beginning devotee is able to act on the platform of purity and taste the nectar of devotional service.
Lord Caitanya's special oceanic mercy can make anyone chant the holy name of Krsna and dance in ecstatic love of Krsna. He freely distributes the holy name to everyone. And Srila Prabhupada is His specially chosen devotee. Through the Hare Krsna movement Lord Caitanya is pouring His mercy on all of us, without discrimination. This mercy is so powerful it can flood the entire universe with Krsna-prema, love of God. Perhaps this special mercy was what I saw doing its work on that Janmastami day.
"Do You Force Your Children?"
by Urmila Devi Dasi
WE SIT IN THE Calcutta Airport waiting for an announcement, the flight three hours late. The many ceiling fans do little to refresh the air, polluted by cigarette smoke and hundreds of bodies. My ten-year-old son and I sit by a door, opened a crack but with negligible effect. I talk with a blue-saried nun from Puna who wishes us the best in our spiritual journey. Then I talk with a couple who supervise testing for students seeking admission to European and American schools.
Then, from an Indian gentleman, the inevitable questions.
"Is this your son?"
"Yes, and we have a seventeen-year-old son and a thirteen-year-old daughter."
"Are they also practicing Hare Krsna?"
"Do you force them?"
I take one of the last drinks from my bottle of mineral water and lean forward.
Force. Everyone wants to know if we force. The devotees at our project in Mayapur discussed this with me at length, and here it is again. Our three children certainly do not feel forced. Yet we expect, and to some degree require, their active and willing participation in our spiritual life, especially the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra. But how can one require willing participation? I've explained it countless times, and again I beg the Lord to give me intelligence and the ability to ignore the second-hand tobacco smoke.
"I don't like the word force," I say at last. "Don't parents 'force' their children to brush their teeth and wear clean clothes? Yet neither parents nor children generally see this as force. Why?"
"Well, we try to explain the reasons."
"Yes, and we set an example."
"Yes, we try to develop spiritual habits in the children. Of course, spiritual life and a love for Krsna's name are natural for the soul, so these things are not externally imposed by habit. But developing habits in children brings them to take as natural what is actually natural."
"Like—you wake up early, right?"
"Yes, three-thirty. So to our children that's simply a normal time to wake up. They see six o'clock as late. In the same way, a normal person likes clean air and clean lungs. Not like this room."
We both lean back, and my son Kesava continues to chant on his beads.
"Mata," he asks me, "I want to see if I can leave this area and walk around the airport."
I turn to the gentleman. "It may sometimes appear that we demand things of the children, but the point is to awaken their natural attraction for Krsna. It's like training children to brush their teeth regularly so they'll come to feel uncomfortable with an unclean mouth."
My acquaintance is satisfied and turns to his newspaper.
Just how do we instill in our children love for spiritual life? First, we should surround them with spiritual activities, especially the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra, and protect them from all opportunities to grow fond of the modes of passion and ignorance. These precautions won't narrow children. Doing these things is as reasonable as surrounding children with a clean house and getting rid of dirt from clothes, floors, and furniture. Letting children live with dirt won't broaden them.
We sit our children by us when we chant, and we expect them to chant too, just as we put clean clothes in their drawers and expect them to wear them. We teach our children the Hare Krsna mantra, show them how to finger the beads and play musical instruments, and guide them daily, as much as we check every day to see if they're dressed for the weather or have finished their chores.
It's easy to understand how to teach the mechanical, external aspects, but is it even possible to teach the internal, the feelings?
Just by teaching the externals, of course, we give a powerful yet subtle message: "This is important." For example, when a mother, during her japa chanting time, always insists that her young child play quietly, the child realizes the seriousness with which his mother approaches her chanting. So the child will naturally imitate.
Beyond that, one can set the example of a deep commitment to spiritual perfection throughout one's life. The children should see that this is a joyful commitment, free from hypocrisy and self-righteousness. The children need to be inspired by regularly hearing the philosophy of Krsna consciousness. And, finally, we can pray to Krsna, who is in the heart of our children, to reveal His glories to them.
With this program and the mercy of Lord Krsna, as our children mature they will voluntarily choose to work for the ultimate treasure, love of God.
Urmila Devi Dasi became a disciple of Srila Prabhupada in 1973. She has been involved in ISKCON education for the last seven years, primarily as the principal of the Detroit gurukula. She recently moved with her husband and their three children to the ISKCON community in Hillsborough, North Carolina, where she is working to establish a model of spiritual education.
By Bhakta Vic of 108
NOT SO LONG AGO I wrote a column—I don't know if you'll remember it—about "Mr. Sex-Is-Great." I got some funny feedback about that. Just last night I gave a class in Baltimore on the same subject—and I got the same response:
People say I'm messing up their self-esteem.
They say that when you stress how the body is a tourniquet of pain, a bowl of blood and bones ... when you stress the stupidity of being attracted to the opposite sex ... when you point out the insanity of seeking protection in material relationships ... they say this makes people get all downcast and negative about themselves.
And when I sometimes hear even devotees say this, it freaks out my brain.
Why do people object to a plain statement of facts? The body is a vehicle of torture, and to get involved in material love affairs is stupid. This is basic reality. If that hurts us to hear, we're out of touch.
Yeah, you might find what I say more comfy if I put the whole thing in sofa-cushion words or pad it with New Age fluff. Then what's being said will be vague, and even if we're fuzzy about what it means, we can all pretend we agree.
I'd rather be blunt and make sure I make my point.
Anyway, why such a pained response? Neither my article nor my class stressed the "negative" aspects of the body. My main theme was positive: that loving Krsna is the way to solve all problems. But as soon as you mention something negative about the body, everything else you say is forgotten. Why is that?
Again and again I was told that "harping" on the yukky facts about this body and this world will make people get all twisted and sullen. But one simple thing is being overlooked, so simple it's totally basic—as in the most basic:
You're not this body. You're not of this world.
If hearing the bad news about the body and world gets you down on yourself, it's because you still think the body is your self and that you're part of this world.
I'm not at all against self-esteem. But the point is: You can't get genuine self-esteem from something that ain't your self.
Being real "happy" with "who you are" (in other words, with your body and mind) ... smiling all peachy and being "positive" about the material world ... It's a hallucination, a drug. You can put fancy makeup over the ugly facts, but don't expect it to last through the hard cold shower of reality.
The body stinks, to be attached to it is dumb, and we're torturing ourselves if we're prolonging our petty material relationships. Finessing these facts won't make us feel good. It'll wind us up getting our faces slammed against the dark sidewalk of ignorance. Can we pretend it's not true?
I'm not chopping down self-esteem. What I'm down on is false esteem. Real self-esteem we want and need. Real self-esteem comes from the real self. Yes, this body is a cesspool. But I'm not this body.
Who am I in the smiling land of Vrndavana? What unique artistic talents will I engage in loving worship of the lotus feet of Sri Sri Radha-Krsnacandra? Will my singing voice charm Them? Will I dance with grace and enthusiasm, delighting the unlimited spiritual minds of the divine couple?
I am the dear servant of the servant of the most wonderful loving persons in existence. That is self-esteem.
Anything else is self-deception.
Bhakti-yoga at Home
Mantras in Your Home
By Rohininandana Dasa
MY FAMILY AND I spend a few minutes each morning memorizing Sanskrit verses, or slokas. One of us recites a sloka line by line, and the rest of us repeat. We've followed this simple practice for a year now, and already I can see some good effects. Our home is becoming more spiritualized, more "Krsna-ized."
Srila Prabhupada explains in Bhagavad-gita As It Is that the practices of Krsna consciousness respiritualize us. A transcendental flow of sound in the form of mantras can animate our spiritually inert minds.
The Hare Krsna maha-mantra is the chief of all mantras. And the verses of the Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam are all considered mantras. Krsna's own words and the descriptions of His qualities and activities are on the same absolute platform as Krsna Himself. They are therefore known as sabdabrahma, transcendental sound.
Learning verses helps us remember Krsna at various times of the day. When the moon floats in the sky or the sun rises, we can remember, prabhasmi sasi-surayah: "I am the light of the sun and the moon" (Bhagavad-gita 7.8). When we drink—raso 'ham apsu kaunteya: "I am the taste of water" (Bhagavad-gita 7.8). When we cook—patram puspam phalam toyam yo me bhaktya prayacchati: "If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit, or water, I will accept it." (Bhagavad-gita 9.26). When we go to work—karmany evadhikaras te ma phalesu kadacana: "You have a right to perform your prescribed duty, but you are not entitled to the fruits of work" (Bhagavad-gita 2.47). Or when our mind feels disturbed—asamsayam maha-baho mano durnigraham calam/ abhyasena tu kaunteya vairagyena ca grhyate: "O mighty-armed son of Kunti, it is undoubtedly very difficult to curb the restless mind, but it is possible by suitable practice and by detachment" (Bhagavad-gita 6.35).
Lord Krsna in the form of sound can be with us in all phases of our life. Krsna is already with us, but we have lost touch with Him. Learning verses is an effective way to remember Him again.
Learning verses will also help us become purified of the muddy covering of Maya, the goddess of illusion, who uses her charms to distract us from life's purpose of spiritual perfection. Maya allures everyone in gross and subtle ways. TV, music, football, computers, sex, gossip, a new mountain-bike, the beauty of nature—all these temporary shadows of reality are apt to distract us from our eternal connection with Krsna. But the challenge of learning a new verse will help our wandering mind concentrate on something real and strengthen our ability to distinguish reality from illusion. Through the eyes of scripture (sastra-caksuh) we'll see the world for what it is.
Learning verses is fun, too. As a family, we have a lot of fun quizzing one another and bringing verses into our conversations.
Srila Prabhupada wanted his followers to learn verses. The verses he learned as a child proved useful in his preaching later on. And your children too, by learning some verses, will later in life be able to draw upon a storehouse of essential knowledge in concise form.
The Vedic culture is preserved mainly through sound. So the Krsna consciousness movement, through sound, is trying to establish spiritual culture in every home. One way we can take part in this great effort is by being repositories of mantras. Our attempt to understand Krsna consciousness and spread it to others will be enhanced when supported by the sound of scripture.
You may be finding all this a bit daunting. When you hear a class at a temple or listen to a taped lecture by Srila Prabhupada, you may sometimes feel lost in a maze of unfamiliar verses and unfamiliar words. But as you hear more, you'll pick up certain words that appear regularly. Besides the names of Lord Krsna, you'll often hear words like karma, jnana, bhakti, tattva, jiva, and dharma. As these words become familiar, your knowledge will expand until you feel at ease reading Srila Prabhupada's books or hearing him or his devotees speak.
If you have a big block about Sanskrit, it's fine to simply learn the verses—or at least the ideas—in English. The pure sound of the Sanskrit language has benefit, but as Srila Prabhupada explained, the thoughts behind the language are its most important feature.
Somehow or other, add mantras to your life.
The Farmer and Krsna
By Hare Krsna Devi Dasi
I'VE TALKED ABOUT how farming declines when leaders make it hard for would-be farmers to get land. And even when the U.S. government made land easier to get, eventually cow slaughter and centralized agriculture made it nearly impossible for the small farmer to make a living.
Now let's look at the recent history of China, where the government gave farmers their own land and where farmers, by tradition, protected working oxen. Though I don't condone the extreme methods China used to change from centralized to family farming, a look at the history is informative.
Between 1949 and 1952, the new Communist regime took about forty-four percent of China's arable land from rich farmers and landlords and gave it to poor and landless peasants. Most of the land became family farms of about equal size. This land reform inspired farmers to work harder, and grain yields went up quickly. (1)
By keeping some form of cow protection and putting farmers on the land, China improved the life of millions of its citizens. But two developments undermined self-sufficient family farming: farm families gradually lost their land to collectivized production, and the Chinese became more willing to kill bulls for food. Tractors replaced bulls. And for tractor farming to pay off, landholdings had to be larger.
More subtle but perhaps even more important, the efforts at land reform had nothing to do with God.
Unless one nurtures one's essential relationship with God, farm work can quickly turn into drudgery. Then people lose their enthusiasm. So they run to jobs that pay them enough to buy new pleasures for their senses. As modern China turns more and more from the farm to the factory, she repeats the experience of other countries that have shifted from farming to industry—and the military. Consider this report from Song, a small Chinese village in the province of Henan:
Young people complain that there is another problem with Song. There is nothing to do here. "It's terribly boring here," complained Chen Yangmin, an 18-year-old native son. "Everybody wants to leave..." For the young men of Song, the Army is a major escape route. (2)
And this report from the province of Guangdong:
One prosperous township brimming with companies is Houjie, ... which has an official population of 75,000, mostly peasants who used to wade through surrounding rice paddies. But it is also a temporary home to more than 80,000 migrant laborers who work on assembly lines in the township's 900 factories. "There was nothing to do at home," Yan Jimei, a 20-year-old woman, said of her village in nearby Guanzi Province. "So I came here to look for a job. Life's much better here." (3)
Simple Living, Simply Boring
In the end, you'll find it hard to support yourself, sustain your farm, or practice permaculture without high thinking, or cultivating your eternal bond with the Supreme Lord. Simple living without high thinking is boring.
Seeing the misery caused when a few people hoard wealth, the Chinese Communists asked citizens to give up their greed and take only their given share. But if the search for pleasure is part of human nature, it can't be held down forever. "Just say no" is a motto that won't work in the real world. As Krsna Himself states, nigrahah kim karisyati: "What can repression accomplish?" Krsna explains that the only lasting and effective way to get past sense pleasure is to get a higher taste. That higher taste comes from devotional service to the Lord, performed under the guidance of His envoys the brahmanas (self-realized souls).
Sustainable, self-sufficient farming, therefore, calls for these three basics: The farmer must have land, he must protect and employ the cow and the bull, and he must be guided by qualified spiritual leaders.
Spiritual Leaders Ward Off Disaster
Spiritual leaders need a sound understanding of the scriptures to fulfill the role of reminding people of the will of the Lord. If spiritual leaders are unfit or not respected, they can't protect society.
For example, the Bible states, "Thou shall not kill," and even more specifically, "He that killeth an ox shall be as if he slew a man" (Isaiah 66.3). If early American spiritual leaders had truly grasped what this means, they could have warded off widespread social and ecological disaster—not to speak of senseless cruelty to millions of animals. But they didn't. So farmers now find themselves boxed into unsustainable corners, and machine-heavy countries face the likelihood of an agricultural collapse just a few years down the road.
Spiritual Culture Motivates the Farmer
But spiritual leaders can't simply lay down prohibitions. "You shall not raise cows for slaughter. You shall not waste grain to make beer ..." Beyond that, spiritual leaders must help farmers (and everyone else) come closer to the Supreme Lord and find satisfaction in devotional service.
This may sound abstract, so let me give some examples from my experience at Gita Nagari Farm and the way the Lord's holidays are celebrated there. Though each holiday has its own special features, one of my favorites is Govardhana Puja. It commemorates Krsna's lifting Govardhana Hill to shield the residents of Vrndavana from a devastating rain.
Early in the day many guests arrive to help make a huge feast for the Lord. They bring vegetables and flowers from their own gardens. Someone mixes up a huge batch of oats, wheat-flour, soymeal, and molasses, and the children make several hundred sticky molasses balls to feed the cows. Once the kids are are all washed off, they run to the barn to paint the cows with bright-colored hand prints. One special cow (often the milker's favorite) is decorated with golden hoofs and ankle bells, a bright silk blanket, and a feathered headdress. The whole barn is done up with bright-colored streamers and flags.
Back at the temple, the growing number of feast-makers listen to accounts of Krsna's Govardhana pastimes. Other guests help decorate the ox-cart and the ox who will pull the Deities of Sri Sri Radha-Damodara to the barn to visit Their cows.
At last, as the chanting begins, the Deities in Their new jewelled outfits are placed onto the cart, and the ox pulls up the road to the barn amid the dancing and singing of the devotees. The Deities tour the barn and see all Their cows, to the constant chanting of the kirtana party. Devotees then worship the Deities and the cow with incense, flowers, and water, just as Krsna Himself did five thousand years ago. As the ceremony ends, the children dash for the boxes of molasses balls and make sure each cow gets a share (personal favorites get extra).
The ox-cart procession returns to the temple. Soon the time comes to worship Krsna holding up Govardhana Hill. At Gita Nagari the hill takes the form of a large mound of sweet, buttery halava, adorned with candy rocks, bushes, and streams, and even candy snakes. After the guests sing and walk around the hill, they get to eat pieces of it. Finally, everyone enjoys a great feast that's been offered to the Lord.
From year to year, devotees add new features to this wonderful celebration of Krsna's pastime among the cows and cowherds of Vrndavana. Sometimes devotees compete in sawing firewood and in other games. Sometimes the ox-workers read to the Deities from a notebook listing services the oxen have done during the year.
The festival calls for a lot of extra work. At the end of the day, everyone is physically exhausted but spiritually refreshed and satisfied.
No mundane festival can match the natural simplicity and beauty of spiritual festivals held in a country setting. A festival for anything other than the Supreme Lord and His pastimes can never give the same satisfaction. Krsna is in the heart of all living beings, even the cows and plants, and He can reciprocate in a personal way no one else can come close to. Devotional service is Krsna's internal potency for pleasure, so nothing can match the pleasure of serving Him.
The spiritual pleasure a person feels by serving the Lord in a festival like this is not like the pleasure one gets from watching television or taking intoxicants. It's more like the pleasure of drinking cool spring water on a hot day. The pleasure we get from serving Krsna is a pure pleasure we need to survive.
And if we can't get real pleasure from serving Krsna, we may have to slave away in a hellish factory to get money to buy some plastic unsatisfying pleasure. This is an important lesson not only for China but for every-one else too.
1. "What's Next in Chinese Agriculture?" Macroeconomics: Principles & Applications, by Robert P. Thomas (Dryden Press, 1990), p. 780.
2. "Far from Tiananmen: Color TV and Contentment," Nicholas D. Kristof, The New York Times, 7 Oct 1990.
3. "Free-Market 'Dragon' Gains in the Fight for China's Soul," Nicholas D. Kristof, The New York Times, 26 March 1992.
On God and Science
By Sadaputa Dasa
IN A RECENT BOOK REVIEW in Scientific American, Harvard evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould points out that many scientists see no contradiction between traditional religious beliefs and the world view of modern science. Noting that many evolutionists have been devout Christians, he concludes, "Either half my colleagues are enormously stupid, or else the science of Darwinism is fully compatible with conventional religious beliefs—and equally compatible with atheism, thus proving that the two great realms of nature's factuality and the source of human morality do not strongly overlap." (1)
The question of whether or not science and religion are compatible frequently comes up, and Gould himself points out that he is dealing with it for the "umpteenth millionth time." It is a question to which people are prone to give muddled answers. Definitions of God and God's modes of action in the world seem highly elastic, and the desire to combine scientific theories with religious doctrines has impelled many sophisticated people to stretch both to the limit. In the end, something has to give.
To help us locate the snapping point, let's look at what a few scientists have said about God.
Dr. John A. O'Keefe, a NASA astronomer and a practicing Catholic, has said, "Among biologists, the feeling has been since Darwin that all of the intricate craftsmanship of life is an accident, which arose because of the operation of natural selection on the chemicals of the earth's shell. This is quite true...." (2)
O'Keefe accepts that life developed on earth entirely through physical processes of the kind envisioned by Darwin. He stresses, however, that many features of the laws of physics have just the right values to allow for life as we know it. He concludes from this that God created the universe for man to live in—more precisely, God did this at the moment of the big bang, when the universe and its physical laws sprang out of nothing.
To support this idea, O'Keefe quotes Pope Pius XII, who said in his address to the Pontifical Academy of Science in 1951:
In fact, it would seem that present-day science, with one sweeping step back across millions of centuries, has succeeded in bearing witness to the primordial Fiat lux ["Let there be light"] uttered at the moment when, along with matter, there burst forth from nothing a sea of light and radiation, while the particles of chemical elements split and formed into millions of galaxies. (3)
Now this might seem a reasonable union of religion and science. God creates the universe in a brief moment; then everything runs according to accepted scientific principles. Of the universe's fifteen-billion-year history, the first tiny fraction of a second is to be kept aside as sacred ground, roped off from scientific scrutiny. Will scientists agree not to trespass on this sacred territory?
Certainly not. Stephen Hawking, holder of Isaac Newton's chair at Cambridge University, once attended a conference on cosmology organized by Jesuits in the Vatican. The conference ended with an audience with the Pope. Hawking recalls:
He told us that it was all right to study the evolution of the universe after the big bang, but we should not inquire into the big bang itself because that was the moment of Creation and therefore the work of God. I was glad then that he did not know the subject of the talk I had just given at the conference—the possibility that space-time was finite but had no boundary, which means that it had no beginning, no moment of Creation. (4)
Whether or not Hawking's theory wins acceptance, this episode shows that science cannot allow any aspect of objective reality to lie outside its domain. We can get further insight into this by considering the views of Owen Gingerich of the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. In a lecture on modern cosmogony and Biblical creation, Gingerich also interpreted the big bang as God's act of creation. He went on to say that we are created in the image of God and that within us lie "a divine creative spark, a touch of the infinite consciousness, and conscience." (5)
What is this "divine spark"? Gingerich's words suggest that it is spiritual and gives rise to objectively observable behavior involving conscience. But mainstream science rejects the idea of a nonphysical conscious entity that influences matter. Could "divine spark" be just another name for the brain, with its behavioral programming wired in by genetic and cultural evolution? If this is what Gingerich meant, he certainly chose misleading words to express it.
Freeman Dyson of Princeton's Institute for Advanced Studies arrived at ideas similar to those of Gingerich's, but from a non-Christian perspective.
I do not claim that the architecture of the universe proves the existence of God. I claim only that the architecture of the universe is consistent with the hypothesis that mind plays an essential role in its functioning.
Dyson fully accepts Darwin's theory of chance variation and natural selection. But he also explicitly grants mind an active role in the universe: "Our consciousness is not just a passive epiphenomenon carried along by chemical events in our brains, but an active agent forcing the molecular complexes to make choices between one quantum state and another." (7) He also feels that the universe may, in a sense, have known we were coming and made preparations for our arrival. (8)
Dyson is verging on scientific heresy, and he cannot escape from this charge simply by saying he is talking about religion and not science. Quantum mechanics ties together chance and the conscious observer. Dyson uses this as a loophole through which to introduce mind into the phenomena of nature. But if random quantum events follow quantum statistics as calculated by the laws of physics, then mind has no choice but to go along with the flow as a passive epiphenomenon. And if mind can make quantum events follow different statistics, then mind violates the laws of physics. Such violations are rejected not only by physicists but also by evolutionists, who definitely do not envision mind-generated happenings playing any significant role in the origin of species.
It would seem that O'Keefe, Gingerich, and Dyson are advancing religious ideas that are scientifically unacceptable. Unacceptable because they propose an extra-scientific story for events that fall in the chosen domain of science: the domain of all real phenomena.
To see what is scientifically acceptable, let us return to the remarks of Stephen Jay Gould. In his review in Scientific American, Gould says, "Science treats factual reality, while religion struggles with human morality." (9) We can compare this to a statement by the eminent theologian Rudolf Bultmann: "The idea of God is imperative, not indicative; ethical and not factual." (10)
The point Gould and Bultmann make is that God has nothing to do with facts in the real world. God is involved not with what is but what ought to be, not with the phenomena of the world but people's ethical and moral values.
Of course, a spoken or written statement of what ought to be is part of what is. So if God is out of what is, He cannot be the source of statements about what ought to be. These must simply be human statements, and so must all statements about God. As it's put by Don Cupitt, Cambridge philosopher of religion, "There is no longer anything out there for faith to correspond to, so the only test of faith now is the way it works out in life. The objects of faith, such as God, are seen as guiding spiritual ideals we live by, and not as beings." (11)
This may sound like atheism, and so it is. But we shouldn't stop here. Human religious activity is part of the factual world, and so it also lies within the domain of science. While religious people "struggle with morality," inquisitive scientists struggle to explain man's religious behavior—unique in the animal kingdom—in terms of the Darwinian theory of evolution. This was foreshadowed by a remark made by Darwin himself in his early notes: "Love of the deity effect of organization, oh you materialist!" (12) Religious ideas, including love of God, must arise from the structure and conditioning of the brain, and these in turn must arise through genetic and cultural evolution. Darwin himself never tried to develop these ideas extensively, but in recent years sociobiologists such as Edward O. Wilson have. (13)
So is the science of Darwinism fully compatible with conventional religious beliefs? That depends on one's conventions. If by God you mean a real spiritual being who controls natural phenomena, even to a slight degree, then Darwinism utterly rejects your idea—not because science empirically disproves it, but because the idea goes against the fundamental scientific program of explaining all phenomena through the laws of physics. Religious beliefs are compatible with Darwinism only if they hold that God is simply a human idea having something to do with moral imperatives. But if this is what you believe, then instead of having religious beliefs, you have "scientific" beliefs about religion.
Judging from the theistic ideas of O'Keefe, Gingerich, and Dyson, many far-from-stupid scientists do believe in God and Darwinism. But in their efforts to combine truly incompatible ideas, they succumb to enormously muddled thinking. And so they commit scientific heresy in spite of themselves. If one is at all interested in knowledge of God, one should recognize that such knowledge is not compatible with mainstream science, and in particular not with Darwinism.
1. Gould, Stephen Jay, "Impeaching a Self-Appointed Judge," Scientific American, July 1992, p. 119.
2. Jastrow, Robert, God and the Astronomer, NY: Warner Books, Inc., 1978, p. 138.
3. Jastrow, Ibid., pp. 141-2.
4. Hawking, Stephen, A Brief History of Time, NY: Bantam Books, 1988, p. 116.
5. Gingerich, Owen, "Let There Be Light: Modern Cosmogony and Biblical Creation," an abridgement of the Dwight Lecture given at the University of Penna. in 1982, pp. 9-10.
6. Dyson, Freeman, Disturbing the Universe, NY: Harper & Row, 1979, pp. 251-52.
7. Dyson, Ibid., p. 249.
8. Dyson, Ibid., p. 250.
9. Gould, Ibid., p. 120.
10. Cupitt, Don, Only Human, London: SCM Press, Ltd., 1985, p. 212.
11. Cupitt, Ibid., p. 202.
12. Paul H. Barrett, et al., eds., Charles Darwin's Notebooks, 1836-1844, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1987, p. 291.
13. Wilson, Edward O., On Human Nature, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1978.
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.
By Satya Narayana Dasa and by Kundali dasa
SRILA PRABHUPADA considered the Sat Sandarbhas (Six Treatises) the most scholarly and exacting of all texts on the philosophy of Krsna consciousness. They put forward a rigorous analysis of Srimad-Bhagavatam. In this first installment of a seven-part series on the Sandarbhas, we shall give some background on the life of the author. Further, so that readers can better appreciate why the need arose for such an exacting work, we shall also give a sketch of the main philosophical systems of India.
Whoever hankers for a precise and flawless presentation of theology can find it in the Sandarbhas. In describing the transcendental abode of God and how its intricate affairs are conducted, the Sandarbhas go deeply into detail, leaving hardly a query or doubt left unanswered. No loose ends, no nettlesome inconsistencies. For the author, Sri Jiva Gosvami, leaves nothing to chance. Indeed, in the nearly five hundred years since the Sandarbhas were written, no one has attempted to refute them, and no one seems ready to try.
Jiva Gosvami was born in 1511 in the village of Ramakeli in Bengal. Anupama, his father, a sold-out pure devotee of Lord Ramacandra, passed away while Jiva was still young.
When Lord Caitanya visited Jiva's uncles, Rupa and Sanatana, Jiva was four or five years old. Later, when his uncles left Ramakeli for Vrndavana, Jiva went to Navadvipa, Bengal, where he met Lord Caitanya's associate Lord Nityananda. Jiva was only fourteen. Lord Nityananda took him on what became the first pilgrimage tour encircling Navadvipa. Afterwards the Lord sent Jiva to join his two uncles in Vrndavana.
On his way to Vrndavana Jiva went first to Benares, which was and still is one of the great seats of learning in India. Jiva became a student of Madhusudana Vacaspati, a renowned scholar in many branches of Vedic knowledge. This scholar is said to have been a disciple of Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya, whom Lord Caitanya had defeated and converted in Jagannatha Puri.
Under Madhusudana Vacaspati's tutelage Jiva Gosvami quickly mastered various Sanskrit grammars, the Vedas, astrology, the six systems of philosophy, and other fields of scholarship. When finished with his studies, Jiva went on to Vrndavana, where he became the editor for his uncles, Rupa Gosvami and Sanatana. Later he wrote commentaries on some of their works and wrote numerous other works as well.
Srila Jiva Gosvami was the most prolific of the six Gosvamis of Vrndavana. His books together are said to equal the eighteen Maha-puranas.
His way of writing is worthy of mention. He would compose a verse in its entirety within his mind. Once he had it complete he would write it down. It is said that he composed and wrote so rapidly that he would not wait for the ink to dry on the page; he would write the next verse on a new page while the first page was drying. By the time he finished the second verse, the first page would be dry, and he would write the third verse on the back of the first page. Once he committed a verse to paper, he never edited or changed it.
In beginning the Sat Sandarbhas, Srila Jiva Gosvami says that another of the Gosvamis, Srila Gopala Bhatta, composed a work of this sort but did not complete it. Jiva, therefore, for the pleasure of Rupa Gosvami and Sanatana, set out to complete the task.
To appreciate his motive fully, we need to know something of India's philosophical development up to Jiva's time, which coincides with the Renaissance in Europe.
Indian philosophy in the early sixteenth century was quite developed, compared to the philosophical traditions of the West. Even before Lord Buddha, who appeared five hundred years before Christ, Indian metaphysics was already far ahead of what was developing in Europe.
In India, philosophy is usually divided along two main lines, theistic and atheistic. Buddhist and Jain philosophy, and the materialistic philosophy of Carvaka Muni, are counted as atheistic or unorthodox because they do not accept the Vedas. The Vedas are commonly accepted by their adherents as having originally emanated from God, not from any imperfect human intellect or speculative source. So in the Indian tradition any system of thought not grounded in the Vedas, even if it includes belief in God or gods, is automatically counted as atheistic.
Opposing the three atheistic systems, then, are the six theistic systems, which do accept the Vedas. These six systems are as follows:
1. Sankhya. The central idea in this system is that a living being can become free from ignorance by understanding the twenty-four elements that constitute matter. (There are two types of Sankhya philosophy—one theistic, the other atheistic.)
2. Yoga. In this system, mind is the cause of bondage and also the cause of salvation. By meditation, one should control the mind and thus transcend matter. This system was propounded by the sage Patanjali.
3. Nyaya. This is a system of logic. It states that there are twelve knowables and four means of knowing. With their help one should understand ultimate reality and attain salvation. Nyaya was propounded by Gautama Muni.
4. Vaisesika. This system was developed by a sage called Kanada. He taught that there are nine elements and twenty-four qualities and that understanding these leads to self-realization.
5. Purva Mimamsa. The gist of this system, taught by Jaimini, is that one attains perfection by performing sacrifices according to the Vedic injunctions.
6. Uttara Mimamsa. This system is more commonly known as Vedanta, which means "the supreme end of knowledge." Its writings were compiled by Vedavyasa, the guru of Jaimini. It has two branches. In one, devotion is the means to perfection. In the other, one realizes oneself by understanding the all-pervading, impersonal Absolute Truth.
Because certain of the systems complement one another, the six systems are generally paired into three groups. Thus we have Sankhya and Yoga, Nyaya and Vaisesika, and Purva Mimamsa and Uttara Mimamsa. Despite this arrangement, however, the Uttara Mimamsa, or Vedanta-sutra, is widely accepted as the apex of all six systems because it deals exclusively with the Absolute Truth. It does not concern itself with any feature of the mundane world.
Originally the Vedas were too vast for a person to study and assimilate in a single lifetime, what to speak of discerning their conclusion. Therefore Srila Vyasadeva, the compiler of the Vedas, summarized their essence in Sanskrit sutras, terse codes. And so the Vedanta-sutras, also known as the Brahma-sutras, set forth the essence of Vedic wisdom.
Various thinkers have focused their attention on understanding and explaining the Vedanta-sutras through elaborate commentaries. These commentators fall into two general categories—Advaita-vadis and Dvaita-vadis.
The Advaita-vadis interpret the sutras to mean that the Absolute Truth is formless. Having no personal attributes, the Absolute is an eternally conscious but otherwise featureless state of existence, to which all variegated manifestations are inferior. This view held by the Advaita-vadis is called the impersonal conception. The favorite slogan of the Advaita-vadis is brahma satyam jagan mithya: impersonal reality is the only truth, and all else is illusory or false.
Dvaita-vadis interpret the same sutras to reach the opposite conclusion: The Absolute Truth is a person. He has a spiritual form and many variegated attributes. The impersonal feature described above is but the brilliant light emanating from the transcendental body of this Absolute Person, Lord Sri Krsna. This is the personal conception of the Absolute Truth.
Srila Vyasadeva himself has written his explanation of Vedanta, the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Therein he establishes that the Absolute Truth is indeed a person. All who come in the line of Srila Vyasadeva, including Srila Jiva Gosvami, accept, therefore, that the Srimad-Bhagavatam is the natural and authoritative commentary on the Vedanta-sutras. It is the final word on the matter, having flowed from the pen of the original author. After all, who could know the mind of Vyasa better than Vyasa himself?
Yet the Sanskrit grammar of the Bhagavatam is so complex that it lends itself to being twisted in any number of ways. Predictably, the members of the impersonalist school have gone in for such twisting.
To further complicate matters, the personalist schools, of which there are four, stand in broad agreement about the personal nature of the Absolute Truth yet differ on many fine details. Hence the need arose for a thorough going analysis of the Srimad-Bhagavatam that could put to rest the many thorny issues of interpretation.
Finally, five hundred years ago, Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu ordered His chief followers, the six Gosvamis, to write books about unalloyed devotion to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna. So the Gosvamis wrote many books on the glories of pure devotional service, giving from many angles of vision the true purport of spiritual life.
Among these many texts, Srila Jiva Gosvami's six analytical treatises on the Srimad-Bhagavatam hold a special place. In his introductory words, Srila Jiva Gosvami says that he will now reveal the heart of Srila Vyasadeva. He then proceeds to analyze the Bhagavatam with such rigor that he leaves little room for doubt: Srimad-Bhagavatam does reveal the highest feature of the Absolute Truth, who is indeed a person, and the identity of that person is Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
The Sandarbhas are so profoundly satisfying that no matter how many times one may have read the Bhagavatam and relished it, reading it again in the light of Jiva's analysis puts the experience on an entirely different plane. It raises one to new heights of spiritual relish and delight. A single reading should be enough to convince one that Srimad-Bhagavatam is indeed a spotless revelation, with not a tint of mundane ideas or futile speculations.
As already mentioned, there are six parts or books, each delving into a different aspect of the Bhagavatam philosophy. First is the Tattva Sandarbha, which has two divisions. In the first division Srila Jiva Gosvami sets forth the pramanas, or the epistemology of the personalist school. Here he tackles such questions as What are the means of attaining knowledge? and What is the evidence or proof in support of those means? In the second division he gives the prameya; that is, he explains the object to be realized by knowledge.
Bhagavata Sandarbha is the second book. Here Srila Jiva Gosvami speaks about the Personality of Godhead, His abode, and His associates. In the Paramatma Sandarbha Srila Jiva tells of the various Supersoul manifestations of the Supreme Lord and describes how the Supersoul is related with each individual soul in the material world. Srila Jiva also describes maya, or the external potency of God.
In the Krsna Sandarbha Srila Jiva shows that the form of Lord Sri Krsna is the original Personality of Godhead and explains why He is the object of loving devotional service. Then, in the Bhakti Sandarbha, Jiva establishes the path of devotion as the sole means to direct God realization. Finally, in the Priti Sandarbha, he analyzes prema-bhakti, devotional service in pure love of God, and shows how it is the supreme goal of life for all living beings.
In the next installment we shall give a synopsis of parts one and two of the Tattva Sandarbha.
Satya Narayana Dasa was born in a family of devotees in a village between Vrndavana and Delhi. He holds a postgraduate degree in engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology. While working in the United States as a computer software consultant, he joined ISKCON in 1981. He later received spiritual initiation from ISKCON leader Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Swami. He now teaches Sanskrit at the Bhaktivedanta Swami International Gurukula in Vrndavana and is translating the Sat Sandarbhas.
Kundali Dasa joined ISKCON in 1973 in New York City. He has taught Krsna consciousness in the United States, India, the Middle East, and eastern and western Europe. He has written many articles for Back to Godhead and is now editing Satya Narayana Dasa's translation of the Sat Sandarbhas.
Lord Krsna in His enchanting form as the lifter of Govardhana Hill draws thousands of pilgrims to one of India's most popular temples.
By Bhakti Vikasa Swami
IN KALI-YUGA, the present age of quarrel and hypocrisy, so many bad qualities prevail, but when we reached Nathdwara we found the quality of devotion to Krsna still strong.
Nathdwara is in the Indian state of Rajasthan, but most of the pilgrims who come here are from the state of Gujarat, whose border lies less than a hundred kilometers away. So the mood in Nathdwara is very much influenced by the Gujaratis.
Gujaratis have gone all over India and all over the world, and they are a very successful kind of people, especially in business. Many are doctors, professors, and professionals. The Gujaratis are a cultured, sophisticated people. They are capable, modern, intelligent, "with it," but at the same time they have their devotion to Krsna. It's an inseparable part of Gujarati life. So Gujaratis are sometimes said to be the most pious people in the world.
In Nathdwara we find Gujaratis not only from Gujarat but from Bombay (Gujaratis are the main business community there), and also Africa, England, and even America and Canada. You see them everywhere in the temples and on the streets, men wearing silk kurtas and chains of tulasi and gold, and women in fine saris. The people have fine features.
Gujaratis are also famous for wonderful food, and this is reflected in Nathdwara. This is a holy place, but definitely not a place of austerity. Food that has first been offered to Krsna is called prasadam, and this article could be titled "Nathdwara—Prasadam City." Nathdwara is famous for the Deity of Srinathaji and maybe just as famous for the prasadam of Srinathaji. I'll get back to that later.
"All glories to Lord Krsna!"
Nathdwara is a town that lives around its Deity. It's a small town. You'd find it hard to say what the actual population is. When you ask people they give you different ideas, but I would guess around twenty thousand, though there must be an equal or greater number of visitors. Many of the people who live here are priests, temple workers, and merchants who sell flowers, fruit, and vegetables to offer to the Deity. Then there are those who sell prasadam and pictures of the Deity, others who sell tape cassettes with devotional songs, and others who cater to the needs of pilgrims by providing hostels and hotels, buses, auto-rikshas, and so on. Nathdwara has every-thing a good-sized town should have, but somehow or other nearly everything is connected with the Deity.
The standard greeting here is "Jaya Sri Krsna!" ("All glories to Lord Krsna!") All about, you'll see written the words "Jaya Sri Krsna!" Sometimes you'll also see the mantra of the Vallabha Sampradaya, sri krsna saranam mama ("Lord Sri Krsna is my shelter"). In Nathdwara the Hare Krsna movement is well known, so often people greet us by saying "Hare Krsna!"
The Rajasthani villagers in Nathdwara stand out brightly. They're a lively, robust people, with their own language, their own food, and their own traditional dress. And they're deeply devoted to Lord Srinathaji.
Early in the morning, a Rajasthani milk seller calls out in a deep, gutsy voice, "Jaya Sri Krsna. Jaya Vamsidhari." The high-powered devotion of the Rajasthanis and the gentle devotion of the Gujaratis makes an interesting contrast.
At quarter after five in the morning, a shenai band playing over loudspeakers calls everyone to the temple for mangala-arati, the early-morning greeting of the Lord. The band itself sits on the arch above the main entrance to the temple, playing musical instruments and chanting. The sound creates a spiritual atmosphere as you walk in.
Until some years ago, foreigners were not allowed into the temple, but now they are. In any case, members of the Hare Krsna movement have always been welcome.
Getting to See the Lord
The arati starts at 5:30. The temple doors open, and everyone just piles in. They may be sophisticated businessmen or whatever, but when it comes time to see the Lord it's "get in somehow or other."
The hall for darsana (seeing the Deity) has a series of broad step-like platforms gradually going higher toward the back, as in a sports stadium. The entrance is on one side and the exit on the other. Women enter toward the front, men toward the back.
It's pretty rough and tumble. The temple staff at the doors and by the altar in front constantly move people on, saying, "Calo Ji!" ("Please keep moving"). The sevakas, or assistants, by the altar hang onto ropes with one hand to keep their balance and lean into the crowd, waving cloth gamchas in the other hand to whisk people on. Everyone is moving, saying their prayers, and at the same time being pushed and shoved. But for a few seconds before you get moved on you get a very nice, close darsana of Srinathaji.
The self-manifested Deity of Srinathaji appeared, it is said, from a big rock on Govardhana Hill in Vrndavana. Physically He appears as a bas-relief, the front of His form emerging from the stone. He is dressed with cloth wrapped about Him in a stylish and pleasing manner. His dress is changed several times throughout the day. The weather here, as in most of Rajasthan, is ferociously hot in the summer, cold in the winter. So in summer He is lightly dressed, and on winter mornings at mangala-arati He is wrapped up so warmly you can only see His face.
Although the temple now has electric lights, torchbearers inside the temple still keep up the tradition of shedding light on the Lord with torches (thick sticks topped with cloth soaked in burning oil). When the Lord gives His darsana, beneath His lips shines a large diamond, said to be a gift from the Muslim emperor Akbar himself.
After the mangala-arati, darsana goes on and on. The mukhiyajis—as the priests here are known—close the curtain in front of the Deity, but everyone cries for more darsana. So the curtain is raised and lowered several times.
Finally the mukhiyajis close the door, but still people clamor for more darsana, and so it is opened again. People call out names of the Lord, "Jaya Kanaiyalala! Jaya Vamsidhari!" Then the door is finally closed, and a curtain made of bamboo is let down in front of it, and that's the end.
People at once offer obeisances and then take up brooms to sweep the temple and the adjoining courtyards. You can see that the people sweeping are not temple staff. They're people who have taken up the work in the mood of seva, devotional service.
The Mood of the Spiritual World
This mood of doing service for the Deity is a wonderful feature of Nathdwara. When I entered the temple yesterday, there was a big pile of chopped-up logs for use in cooking for the Deity, and people from the temple staff were telling everyone to take it inside to the kitchen. Seva karo: "Do service!" So people were doing it. I also was fortunate enough to get a chance to help.
And there's all sorts of service you can do. There are places you can help chop vegetables, places to make garlands, places to churn milk, and so on. Even people coming from big rich families feel happy to do some menial service for the Deity.
Out in the courtyard people sit in circles, cutting vegetables in the early-morning sun. This groups cuts one kind of vegetable, that group another. Panditas in the courtyard sit and read from scripture.
In another courtyard a cultured-looking kirtana group sits chanting with various instruments, but few people are there to listen, because everyone is busy bringing things for the Deity or carrying wood or doing other service.
One might ask, "There are temples of Krsna in Bombay, and people even have temples in their homes, so why should people come all the way here to do this service or see this Deity?" One answer is that people feel that this Deity is very special, powerful, and attractive.
Krsna is one, but the atmosphere generated in each temple is somewhat different. Here the atmosphere is certainly wonderful. So in many ways you feel like you're entering part of the spiritual world, where everyone is serving Krsna. The devotees who stay here and the devotees who visit create an atmosphere of service to Krsna: "Come serve the Lord, take darsana of the Lord, take prasadam of the Lord, and be happy in Krsna consciousness."
A Well of Ghee
Another important part of seva is giving things to the Lord. In front of the temple early in the morning, you can buy milk, flowers, vegetables, and fruits and bring them into the temple to offer to the Lord. People also give lots of money. The temple of Srinathaji is said to be the second richest in India, after the South Indian temple of Tirupati.
People also give ghee and grains. Most of the food prepared for the Deity is cooked in pure ghee. People give ghee in cans of ten, fifteen, or twenty kilos. Sometimes a whole train car full of ghee arrives in Nathdwara. The donor often prefers to stay anonymous. The shipment is simply marked, "From Srinathaji. To Srinathaji."
The temple has a literal well of ghee. Cans of ghee are cut open and slightly heated, and the ghee is poured into the well. A pipeline extends from the well to the Deity's kitchen—ghee on tap. Ghee, of course, is expensive. But money is no bar in the worship of Srinathaji.
In the grain stockroom, everything is very orderly. All the grains that come in and go out are recorded. And when it goes out it goes only to the kitchen of Srinathaji. Nothing given is ever resold in the market. It's all used in the service of the Lord.
The temple has many storerooms that pilgrims can see. One room is for keeping the Lord's clothing and jewels. Another room, just opposite the temple, is called Sri Krishna Bhandar, "Sri Krsna's Storeroom." (It's named after Krsna Dasa, the first manager of the temple.) This is the treasury and accounting office, and it's where gold, pearls, saffron, and expensive clothing are kept.
There's a room for flowers. There's a tailoring room where clothes are sewn for the Lord. Another room holds gold and silver pots. There's a rose room, where rosewater and rose scents are prepared. And there's a room where books are on hand, spiritual teaching is given, and new publications are put out.
There's a room for vegetables, a room for milk, cream, and butter, and a room for misri (rock sugar). There's a grinding room for grinding grains (it's still done with a big wooden mill, powered by bulls). Then there's a room where the ingredients for the Lord's meals are assembled before they are prepared and offered, and a room where offered food is kept just before it's distributed.
No One Goes Hungry
The prasadam from the Deity is distributed profusely. A portion of the prasadam goes to the sevakas and temple workers, many of whom sell it. Right after the early-morning mangala-arati you'll find pujaris standing just outside the temple, holding steel plates bearing clay cups full of different kinds of liquid milk sweets. Later in the morning, pujaris go around to hotels and dharmashalas with covered baskets full of varieties of prasadam to sell to pilgrims.
Apart from the pujaris, in the bazaar outside the temple you'll find shops where you can buy prasadam, and pushcarts selling prasadam, and people sitting on the street selling prasadam.
In Caitanya-caritamrta we find that the Deity Gopala, the same Deity known as Srinathaji, told Madhavendra Puri, "In My village, no one goes hungry." Now, here in Nathdwara, where Gopala has come, we see that this is true. Even the street dogs here are fat. I've traveled all over—in India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Burma—and never have I seen street dogs look so well fed. Here even the dogs get plenty of prasadam—lucky dogs.
Prasadam is available all through the day, and in countless varieties—different kinds at different times. After the midday raja-bhoga offering you can get a leaf-cup full of tasty vegetables for only one rupee (less than the cost of the ingredients themselves). You can get a leaf-cup of acar (pickle), again only a rupee. There are many kinds of chutneys, fruit salads, and a unique raita made with chopped fruit in thin yogurt spiced with mustard seeds. There are big capatis full of ghee for two or three rupees, depending on the size. You'll find rice, dal, curry sauce, fried vegetables, and samosas so huge that one is practically enough for a meal.
Then there are milk sweets and sweets made with grains and sugar, rich with ghee. You can buy big blocks of laddu, made with grain, ghee, and sugar, for a hundred rupees. Some sweets include such costly ingredients as musk and saffron. People don't haggle much over prices. Whatever the shopkeepers say, people just accept it, and that's that.
Items like grain sweets and sugar-crusted fried puris keep for months without losing freshness. A pilgrim traveling abroad from Nathdwara may bring prasadam of Srinathaji to his friends overseas. Like the Deity Himself, the prasadam of Srinathaji is famous all over the world.
By Yasomatinandana Dasa
SRI NATHDWARA MEANS "the gateway of Lord Srinathaji." The town was built in the seventeenth century for the Deity of Lord Srinathaji, after He was brought to Rajasthan from the town of Jatipur, at the foot of Govardhana Hill in Vrndavana. Devotees from Jatipur had fled to Rajasthan with the Deity to protect Him from the destructive reign of the Muslim ruler Aurangzeb. Of course, the Lord doesn't have to flee from anywhere, but simply to give His devotees a chance to serve Him He engages in the pastime of fleeing from one place to another.
Nathdwara lies near Udaipur in the hills of Mewar, a brave and chivalrous area of Rajasthan. For centuries the armies of Mewar succeeded in resisting aggression by many Mogul kings and preserved the Vedic culture intact.
The great Mewar king Bappa Rawal thwarted assaults by the first Mogul attacker, Mohammad Bin Kasim. Later, Maharana Kumbh, Maharana Sanga, and other kings fought valiant battles against the Moguls, stopping them from taking over Mewar. Even the powerful emperor Akbar faced a great battle in Mewar, and only for a few years could he subjugate Mewar, until Maharana Pratap Singh chased the Moguls away.
The Founding Of Sri Nathdwara
At the time of King Akbar, several members of the royal family of Mewar were ardent devotees of Lord Srinathaji, or, as He was known at Govardhana, Lord Gopala. Initiated by Vitthalanathaji, the son of the revered teacher Vallabhacarya, they were anxious to have Srinathaji in their kingdom, and they prayed to the Lord that He come there. But in the reign of King Akbar religious tolerance prevailed, so there was no need for the Deity to move. But fifty-three years after Akbar came the fanatical king Aurangzeb, who desecrated and destroyed Hindu temples, especially in the area of Vrndavana. And the forces of Aurangzeb also threatened Govardhana.
When the devotees saw the Mogul army advancing on Govardhana, they somehow showed the attackers the various titles and gifts given to the temple by the Mogul kings. Thus the devotees persuaded the leaders of the army that the temple had always been looked upon gracefully by the emperor of Delhi. So the army commander said, "We will not attack you. But move the Deity from here as soon as possible." Thus Srinathaji was allowed to move from Govardhana.
For almost six months the Deity stayed in Agra, where His devotees observed the Lord's festivals in secret. Then He set out for Mewar. In the places along the way, devotees were enthusiastic to welcome Srinathaji, and they would oblige Him to stay with them, sometimes for as much as one or two months. Thus the journey from Govardhana to Mewar took some thirty-two months to complete.
In Mewar the Lord's chariot gradually reached the town called Sinhad, where a princess had resided who was a great devotee of the Lord. She had strongly desired that Lord Srinathaji make this His home, and the Lord had promised her in a dream that He would do so. Now the princess had passed away, but the Lord inspired His devotees to build a beautiful temple there, next to the Aravalli hills. This abode of the Lord, established around the year 1675, came to be known as Sri Nathdwara.
The atmosphere of Mewar calls to mind Vrndavana. Mewar has pleasant hills that resemble Govardhana, and the river Banas reminds one of the Yamuna.
The temple of Srinathaji differs in design from most of the temples of India. Most temples have large decorative domes called sikharas, conspicuous from a long distance. But the temple of Srinathaji, and other places of worship for the followers of Vallabhacarya, are more like houses. Called havelis (Persian for "home"), they are made to suggest the Vrndavana house of Krsna's father, Nanda Maharaja. The temple, therefore, is also known as Nanda Bhavan or Nandalaya, "the house of Nanda Maharaja."
Decorating the top of the Srinathaji temple is a spire, or kalasa, as well as the disc of Lord Visnu and seven flags. A guard stands by the flags twenty-four hours a day, protecting them from the discourtesies of the birds.
The History of the Deity
According to the Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, the Deity of Srinathaji is none other than the Gopala Deity who appeared in a dream to Madhavendra Puri, the great spiritual forefather of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. The Deity had been lost, so in the dream the Deity told Madhavendra Puri to find Him on Govardhana Hill, extricate Him from the thickets, and establish Him in a temple. "Please pull Me out of this forest, make a beautiful temple for Me, and hold a great festival."
Commanded by the Lord, Madhavendra Puri inspired the local villagers to rediscover the Deity and perform the festival to install Him atop the hill. So the followers of Lord Caitanya and those of Sri Vallabhacarya are united in adoring this Deity of Srinathaji as the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
The Beautiful Form of Srinathaji
Srinathaji is Lord Sri Krsna in His pastime of lifting Govardhana Hill. Thus the Lord's left hand is upraised. His right hand, closed in a fist, rests on His waist. It is also said that the Lord waves His devotees towards Him with His left hand and keeps the nectar of devotion in His right. His eyes look downward, guiding us to devote ourselves to His feet.
The Deity appears in a large black stone, from which His form emerges in bas-relief. The stone itself, surrounding the Deity, bears several marks: a parrot by the Lord's head, two sages seated on His right side and a third on His left, and below the sages a snake, two cows, another snake, a lion, and two peacocks. On the Lord's neck appears a flower garland, resembling a black snake.
Here is how the devotees understand these markings. The parrot symbolizes the sage Sukadeva Gosvami or the great poet Lilasuka. The snake is the divine serpent Ananta Sesa, the sages are the devotees of the Lord, and the two cows stand for religion and the earth. The lion protects the Deity from being seen except through devotional service, and the peacocks symbolize pure love for the Lord and detachment from material things. The stone slabs represent Govardhana Hill and the groves of Vrndavana.
Once when Sri Vallabhacarya defeated a large group of impersonalist scholars at Vidyanagar, King Krishnadeva Raya gave him a gift of many gold coins. Sri Vallabhacarya gave most of these to the local brahmanas and kept only seven. Those seven coins were then made into an ornament for Srinathaji. It is still used to adorn the Lord today.
The servitors of Srinathaji say that the Deity is the original form of Sri Krsna, known as Nikunja Nayaka, "the Lord of the Celestial Bower." Since this form of Lord Krsna includes all others, His devotees see Him both as Sri Radhanatha (the Lord of Radha) and as child Krsna. The Deity, therefore, is sometimes entertained with childish toys like spinning tops and silver animals and sometimes offered a herding stick meant for a cowherd boy. Srinathaji is most renowned for His amorous pastimes with the gopis, the dairymaids of Vrndavana. Although much of the poetry sung before Him tells of His childhood pastimes, most of it depicts these exchanges with the gopis.
The temple is under the management of the main acarya (spiritual leader) of the Vallabha Sampradaya. He is called the Tilakayata and is the head of the temple. He is assisted by a committee of prominent devotees who help him run the temple and make major decisions. He is the chairman of the committee. They approve most of the expenses.
The monthly expenses of the temple come to some 500,000 rupees, but the income is more. At least ten million rupees are kept as a savings fund.
In recent times the government of Rajasthan has taken charge of the temple, but the Tilakayata is still the authority on all the details of worship.
The holdings of the temple include 829 shops and buildings and six thousand acres of land, with many farms and cow pastures. The temple has a dairy with five hundred cows, one of which, called "Srinathaji's cow," comes from a lineage that has served the Deity for generation after generation. The milk from this cow goes only for Srinathaji to drink. Milk from other cows makes various sweets for the Deity.
The way of devotional service taught by Vallabhacarya is known as pusti-marga, "the path of nourishment." In Sri Nathdwara the devotees nourish the Lord, and, even more, the Lord nourishes the love of His devotees.
We can scarcely think of the holy town of Nathdwara without Sri Vallabhacarya, the great religious reformer and teacher. His pusti-marga has brought millions of people in western India to Krsna consciousness.
Sri Vallabhacarya was born in 1479 in the forest of Camparanya, near the present city of Raipur, in central India, while his parents were returning from pilgrimage. His father, Laksmana Bhatta, a renowned scholar from a brahmana family of South India, died while Vallabha was still a child. His mother therefore stayed at the home of her parents, and Vallabha soon went to study at Varanasi, where he became a great scholar. He studied under the saint Madhavendra Puri.
Vallabha realized that since the world comes from Brahman, the Supreme Absolute Truth—Lord Sri Krsna—the world cannot be false. As the ornaments fashioned from gold must be golden, the world created by Brahman, the supreme reality, must be real.
After studying in Varanasi, Sri Vallabhacarya began traveling all over India, speaking about the Srimad-Bhagavatam and teaching sublime devotion to Lord Krsna. The eighty-four "seats," or places where he taught, are held in great esteem by his followers. These baithaks, as the seats are known, are marked by shrines where he is offered daily homage. As part of the worship, Srimad-Bhagavatam is placed upon the seat, for it is felt that Sri Vallabhacarya stays there to this day, revealing from the Bhagavatam the glories of Lord Sri Krsna.
Sri Vallabhacarya once visited the great city Vidyanagara, on the bank of the River Tungabhadra. There he enlightened Krishnadeva Raya, the great South Indian king, and defeated the impersonal Sankarite philosophy. This victory moved the other scholars to glorify him with a grand procession.
At the time of Sri Vallabhacarya, India's religious life had been torn by the Mogul invasion. Spiritual practices had worn down, and the schools of Buddha and Sankara had brought confusion. Sri Vallabhacarya spread the true spirit of the Vedas through dialogues and debates at many of the eighty-four seats.
He taught, "The one scripture is Bhagavad-gita, the Supreme Godhead is Sri Krsna, the supreme mantra is Sri Krsna's name, and the best work is His service."
The strong personal devotion taught by Sri Vallabhacarya closely resembles the spirit of the followers of Lord Caitanya. Lord Caitanya's followers point more toward public congregational chanting of the holy name of the Lord, while the tradition of Vallabhacarya centers more on private chanting, worshiping the Deity of Lord Krsna within the home, and singing devotional songs for the Deity's pleasure.
Sri Vallabhacarya urged his followers toward humility and told them to rely on Lord Krsna's grace. If there is a means to get the Lord's grace, he taught, it is humility.
Vallabhacarya's book known as Sodasa-grantha, his Anubhasya commentary on Vedanta-sutra, and his Subodhini commentary on Srimad-Bhagavatam are among the most famous of the many books he wrote.
One of Sri Vallabhacarya's two sons was Sri Vitthalanathaji. He brought a wealth of devotional art, music, and culture into the pusti-marga and raised the worship of Srinathaji to a very high standard. He arranged for the Deity to be adorned every day according to the seasons and festive occasions.
With the changing of the seasons and the time of day, the Lord wears different fabrics and colors, and different types of ragas and poems are used to praise Him. The foods chosen for the Lord also vary, following the Ayurvedic scriptures. In the hot season, for example, cool foods like mung sprouts are offered, and in the cold season the Lord enjoys a spicy milk sweet called svadhsont.
Vitthalanathaji was also famous for attracting many kings to the service of the Lord. He converted the king of Mewar, Udai Singh, and since that time the royal family of Mewar have been pusti-marga devotees. Even the great Mogul emperor Akbar was drawn to Vitthalanathaji and gave large tracts of land for the service of the Deity.
The Lord's "Eight Friends"
During the time of Vallabhacarya and Sri Vitthalanathaji, the asta capa poets (literally, the Lord's "eight friends") were selected to sing the praises of Srinathaji at each of His eight daily darsanas. These famous poets left a wealth of verses glorifying the Lord. These are still sung daily before the Deity. Sura Dasa, perhaps the most famous among the poets, is said to have written more than 100,000 verses. In one well-known poem, another of the asta capa poets, Caturbhuja Dasa, sings of Srinathaji's splendor:
Today He is something.
Helping Srila Prabhupada
We disciples of Srila Prabhupada are grateful to the pusti-marga devotees because they aided Srila Prabhupada early in his mission. Srimati Sumati Morarji, a lifelong follower of Sri Vallabhacarya, was a main trustee of the Srinathaji temple. She helped Srila Prabhupada print his books and served as a patron for him in Bombay. As the head of a shipping company, she arranged for his original passage to New York on one of her ships, the Jaladuta. And since that time, faithful followers of Sri Vallabhacarya have helped Srila Prabhupada's efforts to spread Sri Krsna's glories through-out India and the rest of the world.
Darsanas and Festivals
STARTING FROM EARLY in the morning, eight offerings and six aratis are performed for the Lord each day. The Lord has His last darsana in the evening and then takes rest. When He lifted Govardhana He was just a young boy, so He rests early.
There is a well-known story that Srinathaji once tore His garment while rushing back to the temple to be on time for darsana. From that day on, it has been a custom to blow the conch and then wait several minutes before opening the altar doors. That way, Srinathaji may return leisurely to His temple from wherever He may be sporting in the land of Vrndavana.
Practically every day there is a festival in the temple. There are swing festivals, processions, flower festivals, boat festivals, and festivals in which thousands of mangos are offered.
In April, roses are abundant, so there is a rose festival. The Deity is sprinkled with rose water and rose scent, and beautiful flower decorations are arranged.
In May the appearance day of Vallabhacarya is observed with great pomp.
In the hot summer season, a courtyard in the temple is filled with water. Pilgrims can stand on a ledge at the back and see the Deity without getting wet, but most devotees enjoy coming forward and standing in water up to their knees. Lord Srinathaji is sprayed with scented water, smeared with sandalwood, and adorned with many garlands. Music plays, and because of the water everything is cool, and the people are happy.
Toward the end of the hot season comes the Ratha-yatra. The Lord is taken around in a silver chariot, and 100,000 mangos are offered.
In the afternoon in the rainy season (June-July), the Lord is swung on a big swing. There are many swings for the Lord—a golden swing, a silver swing, a swing of glass, one of flowers, and a swing made of leaves such as sandalwood.
On Janmastami, the appearance day of the Lord, which comes in August or September, the Lord is bathed in five kinds of nectar and honored by a 21-gun salute. The next day, known as Nandotsava, is also celebrated with great joy.
The Annakuta Festival
One of the largest festivals in Nathdwara is known as Annakuta. It celebrates the pastime in which the people of Vrndavana worshiped Lord Krsna by worshiping Govardhana Hill. The Annakuta festival of Srinathaji draws people from all over India. Many come in special trains, and all the guesthouses are full. Even the aborigines from the surrounding hills come to take part with great enthusiasm, wearing only a loincloth or a garment down to their knees. Groups of people wander about in the town, chanting and dancing in praise of the Lord.
In the late afternoon, in a special courtyard called the Govardhana Puja Chowk, a replica of Govardhana Hill is made of cow dung, and beautiful ceremonies are arranged. Many cowherds bring cows and feed them, cows are worshiped, and two cows are led to walk over the hill. People throng the roadsides, windows, and terraces to see the unique scene.
As part of the celebrations, a hill of rice is offered to the Lord—2,500 kilos. Then the temple gates are closed.
In the evening the gates are opened for the darsana of Srinathaji, and as soon as they open the people start looting the rice prasadam from the Govardhana Hill. While the aborigine women stand at the door, their men grab rice from the hill, fill up their shoulder bags, pass the rice on to the women, and then go back for more. All this adds to the festive scene.—YD
"Always Remember Krsna"
These four well-known verses by Sri Vallabhacarya present the essence of his teachings.
evam sada sma kartavyam
atah sarvatmana sasvad
"Always worship Lord Krsna, the Lord of Vraja, with all your feelings. This is the true dharma. There is no other at any time or place.
"Always remember this, and Krsna will accomplish the rest. He is all-powerful, so have no anxiety.
"If Lord Krsna, the Lord of Gokula, resides within your heart, enabling you to experience Him everywhere, what else is there to attain from the world or the scriptures?
"Therefore, always have full devotion for Lord Krsna's lotus feet. It is my view that you should never leave His remembrance or His worship."
A look at the past, present, and future of the Hare Krsna Movement.
By Drutakarma Dasa
Reprinted from India West Magazine, July 3, 1992.
IN 1965, AN ELDERLY swami arrived in New York aboard the Jaladuta, a freighter of the Scindia Steamship Company. His only possessions were his saffron robes, forty rupees, his translations of Srimad-Bhagavatam (the Bhagavata Purana), and unflinching devotion to Lord Krsna. The sadhu's name was A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
A year later, Srila Prabhupada, as his disciples fondly called him, founded the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) at a small storefront center in New York City. Over the next twenty-five years, ISKCON grew into a world network of more than three hundred temples, asramas, schools, institutes, and farm communities, serving the spiritual needs of people around the world.
This year ISKCON celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary and looks forward to 1996, the hundredth anniversary of Prabhupada's birth.
Srila Prabhupada was born on September 1, 1896, in Calcutta, the son of Gour Mohan De, a cloth merchant. Prabhupada was raised a strict Vaisnava. He later graduated from Scottish Churches College, but as a follower of Gandhi he refused his degree. One of his classmates was Subhash Chandra Bose.
In 1922, at age twenty-six, Srila Prabhupada met his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, a Vaisnava acarya in the line from Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who spread the movement of bhakti, or devotion, appeared at Mayapur, West Bengal, in 1486. During the forty-eight years of His presence, Caitanya Mahaprabhu spread the congregational chanting of the holy names of the Lord (Hare Krsna, Hare Rama) all over the Indian subcontinent. He predicted that the same chanting would spread to every town and village in the world.
Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, eager to see the prophecy fulfilled, asked Prabhupada to spread the teachings of Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Lord Krsna to the Western world.
In 1944, Prabhupada started a fortnightly English paper called Back to Godhead. In 1954, he retired from family life, and in 1959 formally accepted sannyasa, the renounced order. Taking up residence in the holy town of Vrndavana, where Lord Krsna had appeared several thousand years before, Prabhupada began translating the Srimad-Bhagavatam.
In 1965, with the first three volumes printed, he departed alone for the United States.
Growth of ISKCON
At first Srila Prabhupada found his warmest welcome among young educated Americans dissatisfied with what they saw as a materialistic culture. Many gave up promising careers to join the fledgling Hare Krsna movement.
After a few years, in which ISKCON spread rapidly throughout North America and Europe, Prabhupada returned to India. There he began large temple projects in Bombay, Vrndavana, and Mayapur (West Bengal). During this time, many leading citizens of India became life members of ISKCON. And many Indian young people also became Srila Prabhupada's disciples.
Of course, all was not sweetness and light. Some caste-conscious people thought that Prabhupada was violating Vedic rules by initiating non-Hindus as brahmanas. To such critics, Prabhupada responded by giving much evidence that people from any part of the world can become Vaisnavas and brahmanas if they come to the proper standard of behavior.
Still other critics debated ISKCON's commitment to Hinduism. In this regard, Srila Prabhupada emphasized the universality of the Hindu or Vedic teachings, with their message of love for God as the highest goal of life. He did not take a narrow sectarian view. He often said that one should be ready to recognize love of God wherever it was displayed—be it among Hindus, Christians, Muslims, or Jews.
Meanwhile, back in America, Europe, and other parts of the world, members of the Indian community began to visit the ISKCON temples in growing numbers.
In the early 1970s, when ISKCON was in the midst of its initial expansion, there were few Hindu temples in North American other than those of ISKCON. So there was nowhere else Indian immigrants of Vaisnava background could see the Deities (murtis) of Lord Krsna being worshiped.
"When I came to this country as a young student, I felt all alone," says C. Patel of Chicago, now a successful businessman. "Then I found the Hare Krsna temple. I felt so much at home there. The devotees were so kind to me and everyone else who came. I experienced much satisfaction seeing Lord Krsna being so nicely worshiped. I vowed that someday, if I ever became successful, I would repay them.
"Years later I went to the temple and asked them what was the balance on their mortgage. When they told me, I wrote a check for the entire amount. I felt it was the least I could do. Not only was I paying back my own personal debt—I was also ensuring that the experiences that meant so much to me would continue to be available to others."
The encounter between Indians and Westerners in ISKCON temples was not without some rough spots. Some of the Western disciples were a little suspicious of the Indian immigrants.
By coming to the West, hadn't those Indians given up their spiritual heritage to chase after the illusion of material progress?
But most Western disciples were happy to receive the Indian visitors, many of whom were lifelong Vaisnavas. The Indians conferred respectability upon the fledgling Hare Krsna movement, and their advice and contributions were welcome.
From the side of Indians, there were also mixed feelings. For one thing, ISKCON was a distinctly missionary movement. Prabhupada came to America not just to lecture among Indians but to introduce Vedic philosophy and culture to everyone. It was a revolutionary idea, a seemingly impossible task. But somehow he was succeeding.
Yet, as one might expect, the Hare Krsna movement encountered opposition. Some Western parents objected to their adult children taking up an alien religion and way of life. A few parents brought lawsuits against the movement. Other people objected to the aggressive presence of Hare Krsna members in public places. Millions of people purchased copies of Bhagavad-gita from the devotees, but other people were annoyed and turned off.
For many members of the Indian community, eager to get established in American society and not too eager to rock the boat, the negative press ISKCON sometimes received was troubling. To see young Westerners going vegetarian, giving up intoxicants, and taking to the discipline of bhakti-yoga was wonderful. But the notoriety of these enthusiastic young converts made many Indians uneasy.
After Prabhupada's Passing
Inevitably, the movement also had its internal ups and downs, especially in the first years after Prabhupada passed away, in 1977. Some successor gurus fell by the wayside. And New Vrindavana, the largest ISKCON community in North America, was expelled from ISKCON after its leaders were implicated in crimes and started blending Vaisnavism with Christianity. But as the years have passed, the Hare Krsna movement appears to have weathered these tests, and it continues to expand.
As Prabhupada envisioned, the administrative leadership of the movement has passed to a governing body of thirty members from around the world. And individual spiritual guidance is provided by a multiplicity of gurus, none of whom has a uniquely privileged status.
Continuing to Spread Vedic Culture
As ISKCON's leadership looks toward the next twenty years of growth, it hopes to build better relations with the Indian community.
Of course, the West now has many Indian cultural and religious groups to help preserve regional customs and traditions. And there are many Indian business, professional, and political groups to speak out on government policies that affect the Indian community.
But among these organizations, ISKCON believes it retains a certain uniqueness. It reaches beyond the Indian community to the world at large and has proven successful in getting non-Indians to adopt the undiluted values, teachings, and practices of the Vedic culture.
ISKCON is performing that duty in North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and the islands of the Pacific. As a result, people of all nationalities and races have given up bad habits and taken to bhakti-yoga, devotional service to Lord Krsna.
Under KGB oppression in the former Soviet Union, young men and women in ISKCON risked their lives to spread the teachings of Bhagavad-gita. Many of these people—Russians, Ukrainians, Lithuanians, Armenians—went to prisons and labor camps rather than give up their devotion to Lord Krsna.
Now that times have changed, ISKCON has established dozens of temples large and small in Russia and other former Soviet republics.
Yet even today, men and women of ISKCON are spreading the message of the Gita and Vedic culture in places that cannot be mentioned, for fear of endangering the devotees' lives. It is this willingness to sacrifice personal safety and comfort for the sake of other's spiritual welfare that guarantees ISKCON's second twenty-five years will be as inspiring and productive as the first.
ISKCON and Its Accomplishments
ISKCON BELIEVES THAT PEOPLE everywhere need Vedic knowledge to break free from illusion and the suffering it brings.
To spread this knowledge, ISKCON's sister organization, the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, has become the world's largest publisher of books on the Vedic teachings. It has sold more than 400 million books in over ninety languages.
ISKCON members, through Project Matsya, have toured India making microfilm copies of thousands of rare Vedic manuscripts that were in danger of being lost.
ISKCON's Bhaktivedanta Institute studies modern science in the light of Vedic knowledge—and presents Vedic knowledge from a scientific point of view. The institute is now planning a Vedic Planetarium and Science Museum.
The 280 major ISKCON temples serve as cultural, religious, and educational centers for millions of Indians and others drawn to Vedic culture.
In ISKCON temples, beautiful Deities are worshiped with love and devotion. Full-time pujaris (priests) perform five to seven aratis and bhoga offerings daily. ISKCON temples provide darsana, puja, discourses, and samskaras (weddings, grain ceremonies, etc.), purifying the lives of millions of devotees and other interested souls.
ISKCON has set in place more than forty temples and cultural complexes in India, such as Hare Krishna Land at Juhu Beach in Bombay, the Krishna-Balaram temple in Vrndavana, and the Caitanya Chandrodaya Mandir in Mayapur, West Bengal. ISKCON has also been active in renovating temples and shrines at pilgrimage places all over India.
At ISKCON's forty-one farming communities around the world, devotees are giving loving care to cows, bulls, and calves.
More than 900 million plates of prasadam, spiritual vegetarian food, have been served through ISKCON's temples, festivals, restaurants, and food relief programs.
ISKCON has also celebrated more than five hundred Rathayatras in the world's major cities, including London, New York, Moscow, Sydney, and Bombay.
In a new development, supporters of ISKCON—Indian and American—have formed the ISKCON Foundation. Its chairman is Alfred Brush Ford (Ambarisa Dasa), a disciple of Srila Prabhupada and great-grandson of Henry Ford. Among the vice chairmen: Dr. Vibhakar J. Mody of Washington, D.C., Dr. Arvind Singh of Houston, Texas, and Mr. Dahyabhai Patel of Irvine, California.
The Foundation's purpose is to help ISKCON and its local communities work more effectively to achieve the many goals Srila Prabhupada set out.
"The ISKCON Foundation is a vehicle to carry Srila Prabhupada's movement into the next millennium," says Ford. "Only by offering people the genuine Vedic culture of India can we satisfy their desires for peace, prosperity, and spiritual fulfillment."
Krsna Consciousness Is Not Possible For Everyone
This conversation between Srila Prabhupada and the poet Allen Ginsberg took place on May 12, 1969, in Columbus, Ohio.
Allen Ginsberg: It's difficult for me to conceive everybody in America ...
Srila Prabhupada: Nothing is accepted by everybody.
Allen Ginsberg: Or even a vast, vast number of people living a Hindu-language-based, Hindu-food-based, monastic life in America. And many of us have been thinking what form of religious practice, what form of simple meditation exercises could be set forth in America that could be adopted by a great, great, great many people on a large scale. We haven't solved the problem. One thing I have noted is that the Krsna temples have spread and are firmly rooted and solidly based. There are a number of them now. So that really is a very solid root. So I think that will continue.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Allen Ginsberg: But I'm wondering what the future is there? What's the future of a religious observance so technical as this? So complicated as this? It requires so much sophistication in terms of diet, daily ritual—the whole thing that you've been teaching. How far can that spread? By its very complexity ...
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, it is complex. The whole idea is to keep the devotees always engaged in Krsna consciousness. That is the program.
Allen Ginsberg: Well, the orthodox Jews have a very heavy, complicated, moment by moment ritual daily existence for the same purpose. It was to keep them conscious of their religious nature. And that has maintained a small group of Jews over the centuries as an integral unit. But this has tended to disappear in the later generations now simply because modern life does not allow that much Krsna consciousness or Jewish consciousness or religious consciousness and attention, act by act throughout the day. So my question is how far can total Krsna devotion, act by act all day, spread? How many people can that encompass in a place like America? Or are you intending only to get a few followers, like several hundred or a thousand who will be solid and permanent?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Yes. That is my program. Because Krsna consciousness is not possible for everyone. In the Bhagavad-gita we learn, bahunam janmanam ante: after many, many births one can come to this. So it is not possible that a mass of people, a large quantity of people, will be able to grasp it. You see? Another place in the Bhagavad-gita it is said, manusyanam sahasresu kascid yatati siddhaye: Among many thousands of men, one may be interested in how to liberate himself. And out of many such liberated persons, one may understand what is Krsna. So understanding Krsna is not a very easy thing. But Lord Caitanya is so munificent that He has given us a very easy process, the chanting of Hare Krsna. Otherwise Krsna consciousness is not easy. Because Krsna is the last word of the Absolute Truth.
Generally, people are just like animals. Out of many such persons, one becomes interested in the scriptures. And out of many such persons, if they're attracted to the scriptures they're attracted to the ritualistic ceremonies for improving their economic condition. You see? Not just Christians—everyone. They take up religion with the motive to improve their economic condition. Dharma, artha. Dharma means religion. Artha means money. And then why artha? To satisfy the senses. That is kama. Dharma, artha, kama. And when one becomes frustrated in sense gratification, then one desires liberation, moksa—to merge. These four things are going on. Dharma, artha, kama, moksa.
But the Srimad-Bhagavatam says that dharma is not meant for acquiring money. Money is not meant for satisfying the senses. Sense gratification should be accepted simply to maintain this body. That's all. The real business is tattva-jijnasa, to understand the truth. The human form of life is meant for understanding the Absolute Truth. Kama, sense gratification, does not mean that you have to increase the volume of sense gratification. No, you have to accept sense gratification only so far as to be able to live nicely. The real business is tattva-jijnasa. Every human being should be inquisitive to know the Absolute Truth. That is the real business of human life. So to come to that business, you won't find masses of people. It is not possible. You shouldn't expect it.
Allen Ginsberg: Your plan here in America, then, is to set up centers so that those who are concerned can pursue their studies and practice?
Srila Prabhupada: Personally, I have no ambition.
Allen Ginsberg: Yeah.
Srila Prabhupada: But the mission of human life is to come to that point. So at least there must be some center or institution that may give people this idea. It is not that everyone will come.
The worldwide activities of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)
Hurricane Andrew's 120-mile-per-hour winds caused minor damage to the ISKCON temple in Miami, Florida—a broken window and some uprooted trees. Devotees were attending mangala-arati when the heart of the hurricane, headed straight for Miami, turned south to Dade county, where the 150-mile-per-hour winds caused billions of dollars in damage.
Two devotees died when their small plane crashed less than a mile from the airport where they were supposed to land. The devotees, Uttama Seva Dasa Brahmacari and Danavira Nitai Dasa Brahmacari, were returning from delivering prasadam to victims of hurricane Andrew in Louisiana. The two were mainstays of the New Orleans temple.
The "KrishnaFest" traveling party has been touring the U. S., presenting cultural programs with chanting, philosophy, prasadam, and a drama called "The Age of Kali."
New temples are rising at two ISKCON farms—New Ramana Reti in northern Florida and Gita Nagari in south-eastern Pennsylvania. The new temples will replace old ones now too small. The temples will both be Indian style.
ISKCON Detroit is building "Srinathaji Hall," a temple for the Deity Srinathaji.
The Hinduja Foundation is joining forces with ISKCON to build a cultural center in New Delhi. The center will include a temple, museum, library, park, and center for performing arts. Work has begun at the three-acre hilltop site, overlooking Nehru Place.
Twenty thousand people took part in the seventh annual Rathayatra (Festival of the Chariots) in Bhubaneswar, capital of Orissa. The festival went on for nine days.
Nicaragua is receiving visits again from devotees of Krsna. Long absent, devotees have lately been spreading Krsna consciousness in Managua, the capital.
Dr. Nelson Mandela visited ISKCON's Temple of Understanding in Durban, South Africa. He and twenty-five members of the African National Congress toured the temple and had lunch at its restaurant, Govinda's.
Commonwealth of Independent States
Nearly 3,000 devotees gathered in Gorky Park in July for Moscow's annual Festival of the Chariots.
Having walked through El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua, the devotees continue their journey south, through Costa Rica and Panama.
Countries that held 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.
For more information about Padayatra, write to:
62, Sant Nagar (near Nehru Place), New Delhi 110 065 India. Phone: +91 (11) 642-1736. Fax: +91 (11) 647-0742
1111 Grand Ave., San Diego, CA 92109. Phone: (619) 273-7262.
Bhaktivedanta Manor, Lecthmore Heath, Watford, Herts. WD2 8EP, England. Phone: +44 (92) 385-7244
HERE'S A Krsna conscious project you might like to support or get involved in.
ISKCON Prison Ministries (IPM).
New Ramana Reti, Alachua, Florida
Candrasekhara Dasa, director; Mankumari Devi Dasi, secretary; Bhaktilata Devi Dasi, Montreal; Haridhvani Devi Dasi, Los Angeles; Amala Bhakta Dasa, Los Angeles; Syamapriya Devi Dasi, San Diego; Nidra Devi Dasi, Denver; Sarva-drk Dasa, Denver; and several inmates who have been trained in Krsna consciousness and are now teaching others.
To bring Krsna consciousness to prisons around the world, to provide opportunities for inmates to practice Krsna consciousness, and to guide inmates in their spiritual life.
In 1962 Srila Prabhupada wrote as one of the goals in the prospectus for his League of Devotees (the precursor to ISKCON): "To take charge of moral upliftment by spiritual process even for the criminals and prisoners of state, and to accept all kinds of help and facilities from the police and government concerned."
ISKCON Prison Ministries continues the work of ISKCON devotees who have been helping inmates for at least fifteen years. Devotees worldwide are writing to inmates and visiting prisons. IPM is trying to expand and coordinate this work in North America and beyond.
The Ministries' preachers counsel and inspire inmates trying to become Krsna conscious. IPM has been successful in getting Srila Prabhupada's books to inmates who want them. The Ministries' programs in prisons feature chanting, sharing prasadam, and studying and distributing Srila Prabhupada's books. Some inmates quickly become vegetarian and understand that Lord Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. As inmates refer other inmates to Krsna consciousness, the work expands.
To place Srila Prabhupada's books in prison libraries worldwide, to start The Freedom Journal, a newspaper for inmates, to provide inmates a correspondence course on Krsna consciousness, and to find devotees in each state in the U. S. to place books in prison libraries in their state.
Shortage of devotees willing to start prison programs in countries around the world.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
• Write to prisoners. IPM has a list of inmates who would like a Krsna conscious pen pal.
• Give books (new softbounds are best) or money for books.
• Give money for postage.
• Give a computer, an electric typewriter, or a portable electronic typewriter.
• Start a prison program in your state.
• If you live outside the U. S., you can help get books to prisoners in your country. Contact the Ministries to find out how.
To help in any way, to send a tax-deductible donation, or for more information, please contact:
ISKCON Prison Ministries
P. O. Box 819
Alachua, FL 32615
Letters From Inmates
I've been reading my Gita a lot lately. I love it! It's like reading the best novel of my life. I just can't put it down!
I don't engage in meat-eating, illicit sex, gambling, and intoxication, not anymore. I chant Hare Krsna several times a day. I also read and pray daily. I'll be sure to ask you any questions I may have because I want to know all there is to know about Krsna consciousness. I've just begun to learn, and already I'm fascinated!
I've been practicing my chanting Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. It seems that once you start chanting Hare Krsna it stays in your mind like a tune that captivates your mind. It seems that good things have started to flow out from Krsna since I have started chanting and also since I have become a vegetarian and offer my food up as a sacrifice to Krsna. The police no longer antagonize me with their crude comments. I have made a little altar. I feel somewhat better and slightly more energetic since I have quit eating meat, fish, and eggs. I had no problems obtaining a vegetarian diet. I'm surprised. Usually anything like that requires two miles worth of red tape. I feel that Krsna is pointing me in the right direction for getting out of prison.
MORE THAT 35,000 PEOPLE packed Moscow's Olympic Stadium in mid-July for a Hare Krsna music festival, the climax of a week-long tour that had thousands chanting and dancing in St. Petersburg, Riga, and Kiev.
In each city, a traditional Bharata Natyam dance opened the program, which then moved on to devotional songs with Indian instruments. Then the Krsna Vision multimedia show merged a Russian soundtrack with slides from twelve projectors to tell of reincarnation and karma. And last the Gauranga Bhajan Band, a mantra-rock music group, got the crowd chanting, dancing, jumping, and running hand-in-hand in joyful circles to the sound of the Hare Krsna mantra.
In Moscow, popular musician Boy George headed the bill, and Olympic Stadium sold out. As large scoreboards flashed "Hare Krsna" and "Hare Rama" in Cyrillic, Boy George sang songs like "My Sweet Lord" and "Bow Down Mister" and then led the crowd in chanting Hare Krsna. The 35,000 people in the stadium formed the largest group ever assembled to chant the Hare Krsna mantra.
Hare Krsna leaders in Moscow say there are 15,000 dedicated Hare Krsna people in the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Baltics. Millions more study Krsna conscious books at home. Since 1990, devotees have sold more than five million books in Russian.