Back to Godhead Magazine

Volume 27, Number 01, 1993


Statement of Purposes
From the Editor
Victory Over Death
Lessons from the Road
Lord Krsna's Cuisine
Schooling Krsna's Children
The Land, the Cows, and Krsna
Science: The Vedic View
Bhakti-yoga at Home
Through the Eyes of Sastra
On Pilgrimage
The Six Treatises Of Srila Jiva Gosvami An...
Cover Story Tulasi Devi, Beloved of Krsna
Coming To Krsna
Project Profile
Srila Prabhupada Speaks Out
Every Town & Village
The Vedic Observer

© 2005 The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International

Statement of Purposes

Back to Godhead magazine is a cultural presentation to respiritualize human society. It aims at achieving the following purposes:

1. To help all people distinguish more clearly between reality and illusion, spirit and matter, the eternal and the temporary.

2. To present Krsna consciousness as taught in Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam.

3. To help every living being remember and serve Sri Krsna, the Personality of Godhead.

4. To offer guidance in the techniques of spiritual life.

5. To expose the faults of materialism.

6. To promote a balanced, natural way of life, informed by spiritual values.

7. To increase spiritual fellowship among all living beings, in relationship with Lord Sri Krsna.

8. To perpetuate and spread the Vedic culture.

9. To celebrate the chanting of the holy names of God through the sankirtana movement of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

From the Editor


SOMETIMES THE ARTICLES in BTG weave themselves around one theme without our intending it. We just put the articles together into an issue, and at the end we find that a theme has emerged. So it is with this issue.

The theme this time is death. Srila Prabhupada in his article talks about it. Ravindra Svarupa tells of his encounter with it. On page 41, death comes looking for a devotee in South Africa. In our article on Tulasi Devi, death comes again.

So for this page I knew fairly well what I would write about. Death.... death ... But what would I say? How would I deal with it?

Simple: I put it off.

I knew I had nothing profound to say—the profound points are made elsewhere. And I didn't want to say anything trite.

So I answered my mail. I cleaned up my office. I plunged into managerial decisions. Made some phone calls. Cleaned my office again ...

And now it has come: the deadline.

And still, I confess to you, I'm not ready. I don't know just what to say. I don't feel prepared.

Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

Well.... That's always the right thing. Chant Hare Krsna and you'll think of Krsna. And when you think of Krsna, your problems are solved. And if they're not yet solved, then you chant some more.... Hare Krsna. Hare Krsna.... and your mind starts to become clearer. The dust disperses, the mirror of the mind starts to unfog ... Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare.... You start remembering that Krsna is everywhere as the all-pervading Brahman, that He's within your heart as the Supersoul, and finally that in His most attractive, most splendid feature He's the Personality of Godhead, the eternal form of bliss and knowledge. Hare Rama, Hare Rama....

Krsna Himself is known as Rama, meaning "the reservoir of all pleasure," and He also appears as the incarnation known as Sri Ramacandra—or, more simply, Lord Rama.

Rama Rama, Hare Hare. In each incarnation, Krsna reveals Himself to His devotees, performs wonderful pastimes, gives sublime instructions. He attracts the mind. And when we're attracted to Krsna—when we revive our Krsna consciousness—we're restored to our natural, eternal relationship with the ultimate source of all existence.

What then do we care for other things? Let us go on chanting and hearing the glories of Krsna—all the way to our ... to our ... to our deadline.

Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

—Jayadvaita Swami

Use back button to return.

Return to top


Cite True Authority

Thank you, editors, for printing Bhava Dasa's letter [Sep./Oct.] in regards to Sri Rama Dasa's "Four Kinds of Parents" article (May/June '92). As a father of five children I appreciate BTG's commitment to Krsna conscious education of our children.

In Bhava Dasa's letter he made several valid points. One was his objection to Sri Rama's reference to two "karmi" university studies (almost exclusively) to confirm his view. This is not to say that his points of contention had no validity (many did), only that bar charts from this university or that study don't necessarily help to verify them.

In his reply to Bhava Dasa, Sri Rama has quoted the Srimad-Bhagavatam and referred to Srila Prabhupada and Canakya Pandita to verify his points of contention. This is true authority, confirmation, and verification. If these references were used in the article instead of university bar charts, etc., perhaps Bhava Dasa wouldn't have felt such great sadness when he read it.

Guttiea Rensselaer,
New York

Krsna Clubs

I am very impressed with the new BTGs. Although they don't have as many color pictures, they have more in-depth matter about Krsna consciousness, which is more important.

I especially enjoyed reading the article entitled "Bhakti Yoga at School." Jahnavi's devotion to Krsna and her enthusiasm to preach the holy name have encouraged me to do the same. I am hoping to start a Bhagavad-gita club in my school with the help of one of my friends.

I have already started a club at my high school called S.A.A.V.E.—Students Against Animal Violence Everywhere. I feel that as a devotee of Krsna it is my duty to protect or at least attempt to protect His creation.

I would like to encourage all teenagers to also start a Krsna conscious club in their high school. Don't be afraid or embarrassed. I was at first, but just let Krsna take control—and watch what happens!

Sangeeta Kumar
Toronto, Canada

Clarify Wife's Role

I would like to comment on the article by Mulaprakriti Devi Dasi and Visakha Devi Dasi [July/August]. Knowing them both as very strong and independently capable persons, I'm glad to see such spiritual understandings being expressed.

What worries me, though, is that many unscrupulous men misinterpret the concept of the wife fulfilling all the "material desires" of the husband. It should be clear that this does not include physical or psychological abuse. An innocent service attitude is never meant to be exploited for sense gratification.

Kavicandra Swami
Tokyo, Japan


I received the Oct./Nov. BTG, and I am sorry to say I was very disappointed. I'm curious to know how many devotees in this movement are disappointed with BTG. My basic complaint is that it is not dynamic or exciting enough to attract people to ISKCON as much as it should. I would like to distribute BTG, but not as it is now.

Vivasvan Dasa
Tampa, Florida

We welcome your letters. Send correspondence to The Editors, Back to Godhead, P.O. Box 90946, San Diego, CA 92169, USA.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

Victory Over Death

Though beautiful, the setting sun represents the passing of our days and the steady march to our final appointment.

By His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness

A lecture given in Los Angeles, June 12, 1972

ayur harati vai pumsam
udyann astam ca yann asau
tasyarte yat-ksano nita

"Both by rising and by setting, the sun decreases the duration of life of everyone, except one who utilizes the time by discussing topics of the all-good Personality of Godhead."

—Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.3.17

THE SUNRISE AND SUNSET decrease our life. This is a very nice example. The sun's business is to take away a portion of your span of life. But it cannot take away the life of a devotee, because a devotee is going to live. The Krsna consciousness movement is meant to give the living entity a permanent span of life.

When a man becomes diseased, the physician tries to get him relief from the infection. Our material body is an infection. Actually, we spiritual souls have no death. Death is due to this infection, the body. This infection is called "dirty things." Actually the body is dirt. "Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." That's a fact. Because as soon as I, the soul, leave this body, it will be immediately decomposed, and after a few days it will be earth, dust. So actually it is dirt. And we have to cleanse this dirt from our real identity—spiritual life. The cleansing is very nicely done simply by hearing the message of Uttama-sloka, or Krsna. You haven't got to scratch the soul with some machine. No. It will automatically be cleansed if you simply give aural reception to the message of Uttama-sloka, which is called krsna-katha.

Krsna-katha means the words of Krsna. Katha means words. In the Bhagavad-gita, Krsna is personally giving us words of instruction. If we simply read the Bhagavad-gita, then the sun cannot take away our duration of life.

What is the proof? We find the proof in the Bhagavad-gita, where Lord Krsna says, janma karma ca me divyam evam yo vetti tattvatah: "Anyone who understands My birth and appearance does not take birth again." The Lord Himself does not take birth. He is Aja, "one who never takes birth—ever-existing." But still we see that Krsna is taking birth. We are observing the birth anniversary of Lord Krsna. This is a mystery. Krsna does not take birth, and still we are observing the birth anniversary of Krsna, Janmastami. So this is to be understood in truth—tattvatah.

The Vedas say, na tasya karyam karanam ca vidyate: "The Supreme Lord has nothing to do." Why should He have to do anything? Yet we see that from the day of His appearance at His maternal uncle's prison till His going back to His own abode, Krsna was always active, especially in killing the demons. But the demons could be killed without the presence of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. If there is a little earthquake, millions of demons can be killed. It is not a very difficult job. If the Pacific Ocean floods this city, millions of people can be killed. If there is a war, millions of people can be killed. If there is an epidemic, millions of people can be killed. So Krsna does not come to kill the demons. Rather, Krsna's many agents can kill the demons without any difficulty.

But He comes. Lord Nrsimha did not appear in order to kill the demon Hiranyakasipu. He could have been killed otherwise. But the Lord appeared for Prahlada. Prahlada Maharaja was being so much teased and tortured. The Lord could not tolerate it. He wanted to show His devotee, "I shall kill your torturer in front of you." That was His purpose. He did not appear for killing Hiranyakasipu. He appeared to give encouragement to Prahlada Maharaja. As Lord Krsna says, kaunteya pratijanihi na me bhaktah pranasyati. He asks Arjuna, "My dear Arjuna, you declare that My devotee will never be vanquished." So therefore He comes. These are the understandings of the Supreme Personality of Godhead in toto.

We were discussing krsna-katha, the words of Krsna. Every Vedic literature is krsna-katha. But two books are especially krsna-katha: Bhagavad-gita—Krsna directly speaking; and Srimad-Bhagavatam—directly spoken about Krsna.

Here it is said uttama-sloka vartaya. Varta means message, words. If we pass our time simply by reading and talking about Krsna, then the sun will not be able to take away our life. This is the secret. If you want to become immortal, then always be engaged in krsna-katha. Always, twenty-four hours—think of Krsna. This is Krsna consciousness.

Everyone is dying, but those who are engaged in krsna-katha, in Krsna consciousness, those who are busy in Krsna's business, they are not dying. They are living. How? Because the span of life of the ordinary man is being taken away by the sunrise and sunset every day. If a man is fifty years old, fifty years has already been taken away by the sun. It will never come back.

"But what about the devotee? He is also the same. His life is being taken away."

No. His life is not being taken away, because he is going to live. Superficially we see that the body of a devotee is also taken away. But this is not the real body. The real body is the spiritual body. Krsna says, tyaktva deham punar janma naiti mam eti: "After giving up this body, he does not take birth. He comes to Me." So who comes to Him? The self.

Materialistic persons, so-called scientists, philosophers—they do not know that the body is the cover of the self. The real self, the real person, goes to Krsna to live forever. Those who are devotees, those who are in Krsna consciousness, they are giving up this infected body and getting their original, spiritual body.

Therefore, as soon as you get the spiritual body, the sun has no power to take it away. That is explained in the Bhagavad-gita: "Fire cannot burn it, weapons cannot kill it, water cannot moisten it ..." Spirit cannot be destroyed by anything material. This body is matter. It can be cut into pieces. But the spirit soul cannot be. The body can be burnt into ashes, but the spirit soul cannot be.

The modern scientists say there is no life on the sun planet. But that is not a fact. What is the sun? It is a fiery planet, that's all. But the spirit soul can live in the fire, and on the sun he gets a fiery body. Here on this planet, on earth, we have these earthly bodies. They may be very beautiful, but they are earth. Someone showed me some plastic trees, exactly resembling real trees. But they are not trees. Similarly, this body is as good as a plastic body. It has no value.

Krsna speaks of our giving up the body, but the body is like a plastic body. "Giving up the body" is like giving up a cotton shirt or a plastic shirt. That does not mean you die. That is also explained in the Bhagavad-gita: vacamsi jirnani yatha vihaya... As one gives up an old garment for a new one, similarly, death means to give up this plastic body and take another plastic body. And with that plastic body you have to work again. If you get a nice body, then you can work nicely. If you get a dog's body, then you act like dog.

Krsna says, "Anyone who understands Me in truth will not take birth again." So how will you understand Krsna? Simply hear about Him; then you will understand. Hearing is not difficult. But you must hear from the realized soul. If you hear from a professional man, that will not be effective. Hearing must be from a sadhu, a devotee, just as Maharaja Pariksit heard from Sukadeva Gosvami.

Even if you read books, you will save your life. If you simply read Krsna book or the Bhagavad-gita or Teachings of Lord Caitanya, then the sun is unable to take your life. If you constantly read, where is the opportunity of the sun's taking your life? That means you are becoming immortal.

People are very much anxious to become immortal. Nobody wants to die. Everyone knows, "I shall die." But if there is some danger—say, fire—immediately everyone will go away from this room. Why? I do not wish to die. I know I must die, so why do I go away? I could think, "Oh, let there be fire. I have to die today or tomorrow. Let me die." No. I do not wish to die. Therefore I go away. This is the psychology.

Everyone wants to live forever. That's a fact. So if you want to live forever, then you have to take to Krsna consciousness. This verse confirms it. Ayur harati vai pumsam udyann astam ca yann asau. The sun is rising early in the morning. As it is rising, gradually it is taking your life. That's all. That is its business. But if you want to defeat the sun ... The sun is very powerful. It is very difficult to fight. But you can fight with the sun. How? Simply by reading krsna-katha, the words of Krsna.

This is the simple process. Don't waste your time talking nonsense. Rupa Gosvami has advised,

atyaharah prayasas ca
prajalpo niyamagrahah
jana-sangas ca laulyam ca
sadbhir bhaktir vinasyati

Our devotional life can be finished, or baffled, by six things. Those in devotional life, Krsna consciousness, are fortunate. This fortune can be ruined by six things. Be careful. Atyahara means eating more than necessary or collecting more than necessary. Ahara means collecting. We require to collect some money, but we should not collect more than necessary. Because if I get more money, then immediately Maya will say, "Why don't you spend for me?"

Ahara also means eating. Don't eat more than necessary. Actually, we have to come to the point of nil—no eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. Of course, that is not possible because we have the body, but we must try to keep these activities to the minimum.

Prayasah means unnecessarily spoiling our energy. We should not take great risks so that we have to work very seriously. We must accept something which can be easily done.

Prajalpa means talking nonsense. This is the nature of the living entity in the conditioned state. Just as when crows gather together—caw caw caw caw ... [Laughter.] The frogs—any living entity—as soon as they gather, they talk all nonsense. Don't do that. We have a great assembly. We have facility for mixing. But don't take advantage of this assembly and talk all nonsense—"What is the politics?" "What is this?" "What is that?" That is called prajalpa.

Niyamagrahah means not accepting the rules and regulations. Niyamagrahah also means blindly following the rules and regulations.

So, one, atyahara; two, prayasa; three, prajalpa; four, niyamagrahah; five, laulyam, greediness; and six, janasangah. Jana-sangah means to associate with ordinary men, those who have no sense of Krsna consciousness-the so-called karmis, jnanis, and yogis. They do not understand Krsna. Or scientists and philosophers—we should not associate with them. Because we know, harav abhaktasya kuto mahad-guna. Anyone who does not understand Krsna and Krsna's service, even though he may be very big man in the ordinary estimation, we don't give him any value. Because persons such as him are mental speculators. They have no value. They have value in their own way, but according to our line of thought, they have no value.

There is a tendency to talk, so talk of Krsna. That is Krsna consciousness. We assemble together, a few friends, and we want to vibrate some sound. The child is also vibrating sound. That is nature. A bird will vibrate; a beast will vibrate. So we have to vibrate transcendental sound. Then we shall be saved from the plundering business of the sun.

This is the secret. Always talk of Krsna, and you must know that you are saving yourself. You are not dying. Because talking of Krsna means you will understand Krsna. And Krsna says, "Anyone who understands Me rightly, then after giving up this body he comes to Me." And as soon as you go to Him, back to home, back to Godhead, your life is eternal, blissful, and full of knowledge.

Why should we lose this opportunity? The most rascal persons give up this opportunity. They do not take advantage of krsna-katha. Therefore the scriptures say, smartavyah satatam visnur vismartavyo na jatucit. We have to remember Visnu always, everywhere.

This is the process of Krsna consciousness. We have to hear about Krsna, we have to chant about Krsna, we have to remember Krsna, and we have to worship Krsna. This is our movement. We are worshiping Krsna in the temple, we are thinking of Him, we are talking about Him, and we are hearing about Him.

These things do not require any monetary exchange or any high education. Everyone can hear about Krsna. After hearing, everyone can talk about Krsna. And while hearing and talking, everyone can remember Krsna. And everyone can worship in the temple. Where is the difficulty? By prosecuting these four principles of Krsna consciousness, you become immortal. No austerity, no penance, no education, no riches. Simply by following these four principles, you become immortal.

This verse is very important. If you have spare time, don't sit idly. If there is no facility for reading books or talking about Krsna, chant Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare. Always be busy with Krsna. The sun will not be able to kill you. You are going to live forever.

Thank you very much.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

Lessons from the Road

A Preacher's Diary—Visit to the Caribbean

By Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami

I STEP OVER the chrome faucet. A pair of bulging eyes meet mine. It's a friendly lizard. Welcome to the Caribbean. As I arrived in Trinidad the other day, I realized that Prabhupada wants us to serve him by preaching. I often say I am serving him, but sometimes it sounds only official. The other day I really felt it—Prabhupada does want us to preach widely, to sit down and talk with people, to come to places like Trinidad and Guyana and Santo Domingo. Tonight I will speak to Trinidadian devotees on our inability in Krsna consciousness and on longing for the pure state. Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Narottama Dasa Thakura have explained these things to us through their songs.

* * *

We drove to the airport at 3:00 this morning to catch our 4:20 A.M. flight to Guyana. I plan to speak on Manah-siksa, Raghunatha Dasa Gosvami's "Prayers to the Mind." The Guyanese audiences are already familiar with Krsna conscious philosophy, but they don't need novel topics—the people are also easily satisfied. (Such a strange hour to travel; the plane is almost empty, but it's the only flight.) Entering Guyana requires more paperwork than most countries: Form C-14A, a declaration of how much money you are carrying, plus two other forms. The government acts as if it is a great privilege to enter the country, although the place is rough and undeveloped.

* * *

After my lecture, one devotee asked, "How can we relate to Raghunatha Dasa Gosvami, who was so advanced in his desire to give intense and extraordinary love to his spiritual master, to Krsna's abode and its residents, to the holy name, and to Sri Sri Radha-Krsna?" I told him that the spiritual master will teach us how to apply Raghunatha Dasa Gosvami's exalted sentiments even to our own lowly state. In addition to hearing Manah-siksa, we also need to hear from our own initiating and instructing gurus.

For example, Raghunatha Dasa Gosvami instructs his mind to give up all pride. Often we are not even aware that our minds are filled with pride. We have to examine ourselves. We tend to think we are the best lecturer or best kirtana leader or best floor sweeper. Krsna is so kind that He reciprocates with our pride and allows us to feel some satisfaction with our own talking or singing or sweeping—but He does not give us the pure nectar of the holy name. For that we have to give up all pride. The spiritual master can direct us in our vigilance in following the instructions of Raghunatha Dasa Gosvami.

* * *

The breeze blows through the open slats of the window in the temple. O Lord, O energy of the Lord, please engage me in Your service.

Be dum dum dum, be dum dum dum—from the neighbor's house, a reggae bass line reverberates this Sunday night as the last rays of red disappear in the west and the last guests are leaving the Sunday Feast. Feasts end early here so guests can travel home before it gets dark.

How to chant with devotion, intent, praying to pay attention and call for the Lord to appear in my chanting on my beads? Bhaktivinoda Thakura says that inattentive chanting is the cause of all other offenses. One is inattentive because his mind is attracted to other things, to material desires. One is lazy. The quota of chanting assigned by the guru becomes difficult to complete because of lack of taste.

When I gave the Srimad-Bhagavatam class this morning, I tried for jokes. The audience is easy to provoke into laughter, but mine were serious little jokes—laughing at our foibles in attentive chanting. Much of the humor was at my own expense; it was a veiled account of me as a jaundiced, inattentive chanter. Rupa Gosvami says that the essence of all advice is to chant and hear twenty-four hours a day and to live in Vrndavana, Krsna's abode. How can we all run to Vrndavana when we have Prabhupada's charge to spread his mission? Rupa Gosvami tells us, then, to live in Vrndavana in our minds.

* * *

Water running outdoors. Devotees bathe in the backyard, drawing rain water from a tank. Roosters crow. Last night, I heard a man in the neighborhood crying out for help.

Last night's flowers are wilted. I can hear devotees chanting their beads next door and in the room below this one—a beehive of chanters.

Tomorrow we travel to New Panihati, our Guyana farm, in Berbice. The journey takes three and a half hours, maybe four, depending on how long we have to wait for the ferry. The ferry people publish schedules, but devotees don't consult them because the real schedules are so erratic.

* * *

Luckily, we didn't have to wait long for the ferry. Guyana is a nation of blacks and Hindus. A few tired-looking whites board the ferry, possibly businessmen or missionaries.

Two men and a woman carry onto the ferry a varnished coffin. By their casual behavior, I assume it's empty. The lady uses the coffin as a seat.

On the way to the ferry I read Vilapa-kusuma-jali by Raghunatha Dasa Gosvami. I felt the presence of Rupa Gosvami, the land of Vrndavana, the hopes expressed by the author. "For me, somehow, the present moment is flooded by a nectar ocean of many hopes. If You [Radharani] do not give Your mercy, then what use to me are this life, the land of Vrndavana, and Sri Krsna, the enemy of Baka? ... If You will not give Your great mercy to suffering me, then what is the use of all the worlds?"

As we travel out on the dark waters, I think of how the River Yamuna is often described as dark. Yamuna and Krsna are the dark color called syama. I look up and a pair of eyes are examining me, curious about what I am doing. I look the other way over the steel boat rails to my dark Yamuna.

* * *

We arrived at New Panihati and saw the beautiful forms of Radha-Krsna, Radha-Gokulacandra. Radharani offers blessings to the devotees with Her upraised hand.

I would like to encourage the devotees to stick to the poor earth of Berbice, where the canal runs by the front door and the jungle is just off in the distance. This can all be Vrndavana because the center of their lives is service to Radha-Gokulacandra. This canal can be the flowing Yamuna and the jungle can be the forest of Vrndavana.

And the mosquitoes? Well, it takes a little imagination. Or rather, it takes meditation and determination. Krsna says, "For one who always remembers Me without deviation, I am easy to obtain ... because of his constant engagement in devotional service" (Bhagavad-gita 8.14). In the purport, Srila Prabhupada says a devotee serves, anywhere and anytime, with-out impediments. "Some say that the devotee should remain in holy places like Vrndavana, ... but a pure devotee can live anywhere and create the atmosphere of Vrndavana by his devotional service."

Toward the end of my lecture, the western horizon blazed red. The sun was setting in what seemed a small area of the sky. Flat against the land, the sky was a deep, fiery red.

The soft breeze is welcome after the day's heat. Guyana seems so backward in some ways. This temple is in such an isolated place. Few people walk by and the canal provides a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

But it is all a matter of consciousness. According to Rupa Gosvami, we are meant to live in Vrndavana.

By proper consciousness and association, we can be transported from Berbice, Guyana, to the land of Vrndavana.

Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami is the author of more than two dozen books, including a six-volume biography of Srila Prabhupada.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

Lord Krsna's Cuisine

Cooking Class: Lesson 5
An Introduction to Capatis

By Yamuna Devi

The First Bite of a hot capati is memorable. Mine was in September 1966, at my first lunch cooked and served by Srila Prabhupada. Once the vegetable, rice, and dal portion of the meal was served, he proceeded to pass out a tall stack of just-off-the-flame capatis. Thin and flexible, the char-flecked wheat breads glistened with a film of sweet butter. The devotees showed me how to tear off bits of capati and scoop up morsels of the accompanying dishes. The tastes were sensational, and the bread was one of the best I had ever eaten. My memory is not unique. I know few people who don't become lifetime capati aficionados with their first bite.

Classic Indian breads roughly fall into three categories: griddle-baked, griddle-fried, and deep-fried. Handsdown, the preferred daily bread is griddle-baked, known as capatis, phulkas, or rotis, depending on their thickness or size. Whole-wheat capatis are the most popular. They're fairly thin and five-to-seven inches across.

In India today, capatis remain close to their ancient origins. A capati pantry relies on few ingredients: wholewheat flour, an assortment of other flours or grains, water or yogurt, and optional butter or ghee. The equipment: a rolling pin and a griddle. With these simple elements, you can make capatis with a vast range of flavors and textures. Once you conquer the techniques for rolling and cooking, there are no right or wrong capatis, only breads that reflect your sense of taste.

Each time I teach a capati class, I sense both the eagerness and the trepidation of the students. Even experienced yeast bakers are sometimes threatened by flat breads, and more than a few are frustrated with the stiff capati discs gleaned from some cookbooks. I assure students that no matter what the size, shape, or thickness of their first attempts, the capatis will be mouthwatering.

To introduce students to some of the subtlety of the art of classic capati cookery, I often relate the following pastime of Srila Prabhupada.

In India, a cook's skill is often judged by the preparation of flat breads. My first apprenticeship capati test was in the fall of 1972, while residing in Vrndavana, just above Srila Prabhupada's rooms in the Radha-Damodara Temple.

Before Prabhupada's arrival, I had prepared for the test, asking locals about the nuances of preparing a classic Vrndavana capati called Vraj Phulka. I obtained a preferred strain of wheat known as Pisi Lahore—soft, plump wheat with an amber-gold hue. Ground at the local flour mill, it was fine and light, nearly bran-free, and ready for use within the next twenty-four hours.

I learned that to make the Vraj Phulka I would have to roll the dough evenly into a paper-thin disc ten-to-twelve inches across. I would cook it on a griddle till nearly done and then rest it directly on wood embers to puff up into a balloon when done.

I bought a portable cooking stove and covered it with several coats of fresh Yamuna River mud. For fuel I used Vrndavana's favorite fire source for flatbreads—margosa wood (neem) with a touch of dried cow chips. Like apple and alder, dying margosa embers give off an aromatic smoke treasured in bread baking. When a nearly cooked capati is set on the embers to balloon, its surface is licked with fragrant smoke.

The test location was in Srila Prabhupada's newly refurbished kitchen. We'd tried to preserve the existing design of the room, divided by a row of bricks into a cooking area and an eating area. Two coats of white paint brightened the ceiling and walls. All preparation and cooking took place on the immaculate pinkish-grey sandstone floor.

When Srila Prabhupada entered his kitchen, its sparseness was filled with his presence, and he smiled in appreciation. He commented on everything from the clay water jugs to the newly stenciled maha-mantra that circled the room near the ceiling. Before taking his seat on the floor, he gazed out the window toward the samadhi tomb of Rupa Gosvami and folded his hands in respect.

Within moments I served him the meal and a hot capati. With the first bite of the capati, he noted, "You have everything right. It is Pisi Lahore, milled yesterday, and the neem gives it special distinction. One thing, cook it for one or two seconds more on the griddle, then it will be perfect."

I was stunned by his perceptive critique. (This was the first in a series of critiques of my cooking, and he always amazed me by his knowledge of the subject). For me, few tasks have been more satisfying than cooking these capatis and having Srila Prabhupada relish them.

No matter what your degree of involvement with capatis, it will be satisfying. I recommend that you become familiar with both hands-on and food-processor doughs. I'm not including capati recipes in this short column; there is too much important information to impart. If you are following the cooking class, read and study the section on griddle-baked breads from the textbook, Lord Krishna's Cuisine, and experiment with two or three recipes. If you decide to make a quantity, you can wrap and freeze them, and when you need them, thaw and flame-toast.

The recipe below is a formula for delicious sandwiches, and the possibilities are endless. For more traditional fare, try kicchari or dry-textured vegetable capati roll-ups with a fresh chutney as a side accent. Get creative with your favorite ingredients.

Capati Roll-Up Sandwiches

(Makes 6)

6 capatis
¾ cup creamed avocado, seasoned chickpea puree, or herbed yogurt cheese
½ cup diced sun-dried tomatoes, diced roasted bell peppers, diced fresh tomatoes, or diced cucumber
2-3 cups sprouts, shredded spinach, or romaine or leaf lettuce
2-3 cups finely shredded carrots or red or Chinese cabbage
½ cup tomato chutney or salsa

Rest a capati on a cookie rack and hold the rack over a burner on high heat. Warm 10 to 15 seconds on each side, until the capati puffs slightly or balloons, with char-flecks dotting the surface. (Do not let it harden or burn). Set it aside in a warm towel. Warm the rest of the capatis the same way.
Lay the capatis on a work surface. Spread each one with chickpea puree, avocado, or cheese. Just below center of each capati, lay rows of your selected items end to end across the capati.
Dot with chutney or salsa. Tuck the end of the capati over the fillings and roll it up tightly into a jelly roll. Serve or wrap tightly in plastic.

Yamuna Devi is the author of Lord Krishna's Cuisine: The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking and is a regular contributor to The Washington Post.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

Schooling Krsna's Children

Now Can We Work Together?

By Sri Rama Dasa

SOCIOLOGY PROFESSOR Burke Rochford told me, "No religious movement has ever survived when it lost its second generation."

Srila Prabhupada had high expectations for ISKCON's second generation. He envisioned their taking roles of leadership in the movement. Yet if what he wanted is actually to happen, ISKCON must develop a clear path students can follow to become part of adult ISKCON society—and so far the path has been rocky. We teach philosophy fairly well. But when, say, a fourteen-year-old student thinks about what he's going to do with it—what sort of work or service he might take up as his future career—ISKCON may seem to have little to offer. We're a long way from the occupational training Srila Prabhupada envisioned.

This educational gap (among our other shortcomings) leaves many of our young people feeling disconnected from ISKCON—and often misunderstood and unwanted. Although ISKCON may be getting better at addressing their needs, if we're making progress we're making it slowly—and kids grow up fast.

Some of our young people, therefore, have begun to organize themselves through newsletters and gurukula school reunions.

The events of the gurukula reunion in Los Angeles last August took everyone a bit by surprise. After the Rathayatra festival, large and small groups of devotees from ISKCON's first and second generations met to discuss the difficulties of growing up in ISKCON. Most exciting to me: When the talking was over, we had a program of action to benefit our whole society of devotees.

Gopi Dasi, a former gurukula student in her early twenties, tells of the details:

Project Future Hope

The day after Rathayatra, the North American ISKCON Board of Education met, and they asked members of the second generation, or gurukula alumni, to talk. No one on either side was prepared for the candidness of the speakers. The young people spoke from the heart. More important, the adults heard and began to understand exactly what it meant to be raised in an ISKCON gurukula. On the other hand, former students began to sense that ISKCON leaders were not impersonal or uncaring. Leaders admitted mistakes, apologized, and expressed a sincere desire to help. I don't think anyone was untouched after hearing the sincere expressions from all sides.

Far and away, Vaisnava Dasa's description of gurukula life and his vision of the future was the most moving. What echoes most in my mind are his words "I don't agree with the way the seeds of our training were planted, but they're there, and there's no way around it." What parent or student can't relate to that? Now we have to act.

Sri Rama Dasa later summed up his perceptions: "How do we make the best of things and move on to a better future? Since we lack much centralized structure right now, common sense seems to dictate we solve our problems person to person. Put open and intelligent adults and young people together, and the association will bridge the gaps."

Following the main meeting were two days of intense smaller meetings. We worked to find a way both generations could work together. This evolved into Project Future Hope, a system for connecting former gurukula students—now potential apprentices and employees—with devotee teachers and employers. Someone has given a computer, and a programmer is already organizing the personal networking—the essence of Project Future Hope.

When I mentioned these meetings to some of my peers, I got the usual response: "Sure, but it's all talk. Nothing will come of it." We all grew up with some skepticism, and in a sense I feel it's healthy. I like to consider myself somewhat of a cynic. It keeps you on your toes.

So devotees of the first generation have quite a job convincing us of their sincerity. But some of them did in those few days in August. It's a first step down a long road.

Afterword (Sri Rama Dasa)

Many of our young people feel let down that their education was so short of the high ideal they were taught to expect. So I can appreciate the cynicism. But Project Future Hope is unique in that it's not one-sided. It's a joint venture of the Gurukula Alumni Association, the North American Board of Education, and the ISKCON GBC Board of Education. Bahulasva Dasa, aged twenty-two and head of the Gurukula Alumni Association, is chairman of the Project. Now members of both generations have decided to work together. Success or failure will be equally shared. Either way, we will grow closer.

If you would like to take part in Project Future Hope in any way, please write: Project Future Hope, Box 1126, Culver City, CA 90223.

Sri Rama is Chairman of ISKCON's Board of Education. His new address: Box 91, 125284 Moscow, Russia.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

The Land, the Cows, and Krsna

Ox Power or Horse Power?

By Hare Krsna Devi Dasi

SUPPLIES OF PETROLEUM are dwindling, and that poses a special problem for farming. In his book Family Farming, Marty Strange summarizes a study at the University of New Hampshire:

By 2020, domestic supplies of both oil and gas will be depleted, and if agriculture's technological base does not shift, 10 percent of the oil and 60 percent of natural gas consumed in the United States soon after that will be used in food production.... A farming system so dependent on fossil fuels can't last forever—not even for long.

Our recent experience in Kuwait shows that military needs and destruction of resources could exhaust supplies of fossil fuel even sooner than we once thought. Nearly a decade before Saddam Hussein ordered retreating Iraqi troops to torch the oil wells of Kuwait, Marty Bender considered the problem of dependence on fossil fuel and proposed an alternative. In an article called "Industrial Versus Biological Traction on the Farm," he wrote, "It is estimated that the United States has three decades of petroleum and natural gas reserves at the current level of production.

We will then have to rely mostly on foreign imports of petroleum until the world's reserves are depleted in another generation or two...."

He suggested, "By 2013, the United States should try to have a sizable population of working horses and mules ... if we are to have a food supply that does not require importing foreign fuels."

Articles like this acknowledge the critical vulnerability of farms powered by petroleum, but often the remedy proposed is farms powered by the horse. So we may ask, how does horse-powered farming fit in with the development of spiritual communities?

"Where Are the Oxen?"

Our first clue comes from Srila Prabhupada. Paramananda Dasa, a disciple, once told how devotees tried to impress Prabhupada with their efforts toward self-sufficiency. During one of Prabhupada's first visits to a West Virginia farm, they harnessed a team of horses and showed him how they could work the animals. Prabhupada responded: "Where are the oxen?" For Paramananda, that was the end of working horses. From that moment his interest shifted to oxen.

Not only would horses deprive oxen of rightful employment, but as Prabhupada was well aware, horses are temperamental, and their health can be shaky. So when one devotee wrote him about buying a horse to get around on the farm, Srila Prabhupada advised against it: "If you keep horses you have to take care of them, and for a little convenience of transportation you have to take so much botheration to keep the horse fit."

From the Battlefield to the Farm

Before the horse, in most countries the ox was the main animal used for plowing. For the battlefield, passion and speed made the horse better suited. In "What Pulls the Plow?" an article in Country Journal, Ronald Jager writes, "The English Great Horse, immortalized in legend and art, was not a draft animal but originally a war horse, large, fast, strong for armor bearing, and high-strung."

As the Medieval Crusades came to an end and the horse collar was invented, people found that horses could plow land faster than oxen. So in northern Europe horses began to push the ox off the farm. The transition was not without debate, however, and writers from Walter of Henley in the 1200's to Sir Anthony Fitzherbert in the 1500's spoke out in favor of the ox. (In the New World in the 1700's, Ben Franklin continued to argue for the ox.) Oxen, they pointed out, "produced better manure, were cheaper to keep, were more versatile, and were often healthier than horses." Sir Anthony concluded, "All thyngs consydered, the ploughe of oxen is moche more profytable than the ploughe of horses."

Central to Sir Anthony's argument was this: During idle winter months, oxen could live on hay alone, but horses "must haue both hey and corne to eate." So horses were far more costly. But despite the extra cost, on European farms the horse gradually won out.

Society Shifts to the Mode of Passion

One topic absent from the dialogue of the time was the effect of horse power in transforming society from rural to urban. But modern scholars have picked up on the shift in social structure:

The invention of the horse collar and traces literally revolutionized the power situation on European farms.... Modern European agriculture made it possible for a farmer to produce much more than any farmer had ever produced before. For the first time in the history of mankind it became possible for the urban population of a region to exceed the rural population, because, for the first time, one farmer could produce more than enough to feed his own family and another family in the city.

As we have described in this column before, horse power set in motion the urbanization that helped bring on the industrial revolution. Although this chain of events is often applauded as a sign of progress, it has degraded our environment and our society. The fact is, horse power was an important step away from a simple rural life in the mode of goodness.

The Only Nonviolent Choice

Another argument against horse power, lost on contemporary scholars, is implicit in Prabhupada's remark "Where are the oxen?" The bull calf is an automatic by-product of milk production, and unless the bull is productively engaged, economic necessity says he must be slaughtered.

From time to time we hear admiration expressed for several old-fashioned religious groups who rely largely on horse power. For anyone in touch with these groups, it is apparent they are very pious people. Beyond that, they are expert in numberless details of self-sufficiency which they are kind enough to share with neighboring Hare Krsna devotees.

Unfortunately, however, their gentleness cannot be complete with their present system of farming. Because the bull has no job on their farms, they have to cut his throat. This was brought home to me at Gita Nagari, our Pennsylvania farm, which the devotees bought in the 1970's from an Amish dairy farmer. There the building we used as a shed for garden tools was formerly a smoke house for the meat of slaughtered cattle.

Not Enough Horses? Try Oxen

Using horses for farming means bulls must be killed. Inverse corollary: If you don't have enough horses, you can use oxen. This idea seems to have slipped by Marty Bender. He advocated (in 1984) that the U.S. should at once begin breeding its eight million recreational horses and mules into twenty-five million working horses and mules.

But according to 1990 statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. has ninety-nine million cattle and calves, from which fifty million oxen could easily be bred in just one year. If trained, they could be out working the fields in just two years more. So why go out of our way to breed more workhorses when the energy-efficient, disease-resistant ox is so readily at hand?

But Don't Wait Too Long

With about a hundred million cattle, you might think we needn't worry about having enough oxen to work. But we have to see this figure in perspective. With prices rising for land, fuel, and chemical inputs, the number of cattle in the U.S. has dropped steadily for the past couple of decades. In 1975 we had 132 million cattle; in 1980, 111 million; in 1985, 110 million; and in 1990, 99 million. During an energy crisis, as we have mentioned before, farmers send more cows to the slaughterhouse. So we don't have unlimited time to train oxen as an energy alternative.

Father Bull or Father Horse?

The final argument in favor of ox power over horse power is subtle, but should not be overlooked. According to Vedic literature, when a spirit soul comes to earth to take a human body he first takes the form of grain. So whoever plows the field is in a sense the first father of a human being.

For most of us born in the countries of the West, our original father was Father Tractor, so it's not surprising we are easily enamored of machines. Even the horse, a passionate animal used for war, cannot be the best father for human society.

The ideal father is Father Bull, the embodiment of religion, the very symbol of goodness. Part of the reason Father Bull can raise the best human beings is not so mystical as it may seem. A society that depends on the bull for growing grains must be centered in the country, the place most favorable to spiritual life.

And when cows are protected the human father will naturally be a gentle man, satisfied with living simply and working honestly for Krsna. He'll be a man who works at home and shares in bringing up his children. And that gives a human being a most fortunate start on the journey back home, back to Godhead.

The Cubans saw the logic of ox power. To make up for some of the petroleum they no longer get from the Soviet Union, they developed a nationwide program to train 400,000 oxen for transport and farming. Unintentionally, no doubt, they rescued those 400,000 animals from the slaughterhouse, at least for the time being—an example that devotees in the Hare Krsna movement should take as a challenge to surpass.

It may be that Krsna wants to reciprocate with Cuba's unintended efforts toward cow protection: Devotees are now proposing an ox-cart Padayatra to bring the holy name through Cuba.

Hare Krsna Devi Dasi has been an ISKCON devotee since 1978. She spent several years on the Gita Nagari Farm in Pennsylvania. She now lives in Maine. Her address: 9B Stetson St., Brunswick, ME 04011.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

Science: The Vedic View

World Views: Vedic vs. Western

By Sadaputa Dasa

In The Late Eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, European scholars and scientists began to come in contact with the culture of India. Many were impressed by the antiquity of Vedic civilization and the deep spiritual and material knowledge contained in the Vedic literature. But other European intellectuals were dismayed by these developments. For example, in 1825 the British scholar John Bentley wrote of his conflict with the scientist John Playfair, who was an admirer of Indian culture:

By his [Playfair's] attempt to uphold the antiquity of Hindu books against absolute facts, he thereby supports all those horrid abuses and impositions found in them, under the pretended sanction of antiquity.... Nay, his aim goes still deeper; for by the same means he endeavors to overturn the Mosaic account, and sap the very foundation of our religion: for if we are to believe in the antiquity of Hindu books, as he would wish us, then the Mosaic account is all a fable, or a fiction.1

For Bentley, a devout Christian, the matter was simple. The Mosaic account in the Bible says that the earth was created in about 4004 B.C., and it completely contradicts the Vedic scriptures. Therefore, either the Bible or the Vedic scriptures must be false.

Bentley and pioneer Indologists such as Sir William Jones and Max Muller worked hard, and quite successfully, to convince people that the Vedic scriptures are nothing but fables and fiction. They started a school of thought that is solidly established in modern universities, both in Western countries and in India itself. One of the teachings of this school is that all Vedic literature, from the Rg Veda to the Puranas, is essentially a fraudulent concoction written in recent times.

In the early days of Indology, writers such as Bentley openly expressed the opinion that the authors of the Vedic scriptures were impostors, cheaters, and superstitious fools. Today scholars customarily express these conclusions in moderate language, which often gives the impression that they are favorably disposed toward Vedic culture. But the conclusions are the same. For example, Clifford Hospital teaches at Queen's University at Kingston in Canada, and he has been principal of the Theological College since 1983. In a recent interview conducted by the Vaisnava scholar Steven Rosen, he discusses the date of the Srimad-Bhagavatam:

Steven Rosen: And it [the Bhagavatam] predates Vopadeva?
Dr. Hospital: Oh yes. Absolutely. On a separate note, though, what's interesting about their [J. A. B. van Buitenen's and Friedholm Hardy's] work is that they do a detailed analysis about the relation between certain parts of the Bhagavata and the South Indian Alvar tradition. I think they make a very good case for what people have long suspected: that many of the ideas of the Bhagavata are coming out of the South Indian tradition.

The point here is that if many of the ideas of the Bhagavatam come from the medieval Alvar tradition of South India, then the Bhagavatam was not composed five thousand years ago by Vyasadeva. Since the text of the Bhagavatam says that it was composed by Vyasadeva, Dr. Hospital's comment is tantamount to saying that the real author of the Bhagavatam was a fraud. But Dr. Hospital says it nicely, without using harsh language.

All Indologists, historians, and archaeologists in modern universities agree that there was no civilization in the Ganges basin of India five thousand years ago. To say that there was such a civilization is considered utterly indefensible. This means that no modern-day scholar can say that the pastimes of Krsna recounted in the Bhagavatam and the Mahabharata really happened. According to accepted scholarly conclusions, the civilization in which those pastimes are said to have occurred simply did not exist. The stories of that civilization are mythological and were gradually invented over the centuries, beginning with early versions of the Mahabharata in the third century B.C. and culminating in the Bhagavatam in perhaps the ninth century A.D.

Indologists often say that ancient Indians were content with fables and had no interest in recording history. Yet some traditional Vedic scholars strongly disagree with this. For example, Pandit Kota Vankatachela has written a book giving an unbroken sequence of kings of Magadha from the time of the Mahabharata up to the invasion of India by Muhammad Ghori in 1193 A.D. He uses the Puranas and related Sanskrit texts to give dates for the reigns of these kings. The table on page 18 lists the kings and the dates of their reigns, from Jarasandha to the dynasty of Candragupta Maurya.

According to Vankatachela's presentation, recorded history in India extends all the way back from the Middle Ages to the time of the battle of Kuruksetra. But his dates disagree with accepted scholarly conclusions. For example, note that the dates for the reign of Candragupta Maurya are 1534-1500 B.C. According to the Indologists, Candragupta Maurya was a contemporary of Alexander the Great, who invaded India in 326 B.C. They would reject Vankatachela's list of kings as largely fictitious.

What is the truth? To find out with reasonable certainty requires extensive research. Indologists have written hundreds of books and scholarly articles expounding their views, and these need to be carefully studied. Historical information is found in many Sanskrit texts, including major and minor Puranas, commentaries on Puranas, and related works. Other sources should also be researched—temple records, jyotisa sastras, calendrical records, the works of traditional panditas such as Vankatachela, and finally, archaeological evidence and records from other ancient civilizations.

One of the key stratagems of the early Indologists was to use science as a weapon to show the absurdity of Vedic scriptures. They observed that to break people's faith in the philosophical and metaphysical teachings of the scriptures is difficult, since these involve subjects beyond the reach of our senses. But by showing that the scriptures give an unscientific account of observable natural phenomena, Indologists could make people lose faith in all scriptural teachings. Bentley made this point in connection with the science of astronomy:

It is by the investigation of truth, and the exposure of Brahminical impositions, which can only be done through the means of astronomy, that the labours of those who are laudably endeavoring to introduce true religion and morality [i.e. Christianity] among the Hindus can have their true and beneficial effect. So long as the impositions and falsehoods contained in the Hindu books, which the common people are made to believe are the productions of their ancient sages, are suffered to remain unexposed, little progress can be expected to be made: but let the veil be withdrawn, uncover the impositions by true and rational investigation, and the cloud of error will of itself disappear; and then they will be not only more ready, but willing to adopt and receive the word of truth. (4)

Since Bentley's time, Indologists have tried hard to show that Indian astronomy consists of unscientific ideas originating in India, and misrepresented scientific ideas borrowed from the Greeks and the Babylonians.

We can argue that this is not correct, but much research is needed. A beginning has been made with the publication of our book Vedic Cosmography and Astronomy.

As it turned out, the strategy of using science to discredit the Vedic scriptures backfired. Science was also used to discredit Christianity. As a result, many of today's Indologists tend to take a secular stance, and reject the Vedic literature as false, not because it disagrees with Christianity, but because it disagrees with fundamental tenets of modern science. Likewise, instead of becoming ready to receive the Christian "word of truth," college-educated people in India now accept the mechanistic world view of modern science. The impact of modern scientific thinking on people's understanding of Vedic literature is shown by the following remarks by Dr. H. Daniel Smith, a professor of religion at Syracuse University. He comments on the Ramayana:

Dr. Smith: Well, to get right down to basics, it has to do with how one understands the word avatara, more specifically, in what sense, if any, the avatara of Rama was historical. If so, when? If so, where?
Steven Rosen: They say Treta-yuga.
Dr. Smith: That's the answer given. And the literalists can even give a date, in July or something of such-and-such a year. And that's fine for the believer—but it's only one of several possible perspectives. You see, it's that literalist commitment to the historicity of it—just as Christians are absolutely committed to the historicity of Jesus—that is at the crux of the matter.
Steven Rosen: Right.
Dr. Smith: Just as many Christians affirm that Jesus really did exist in Jerusalem in the year One, also many Hindus say with the Ramayana: Rama really did exist, and he lived in Ayodhya, and when he went, he went out to Lanka, and there he fought and defeated Ravana and laid low all the Raksasa hosts. Now that's a real tight bind that people put themselves in. Whereas on the other hand, another way of dealing with it is to say that it is all a myth. Now please don't misunderstand me: this view doesn't necessarily hold that the story is fictional; what it says is that the Ramayana is telling a story that doesn't have to be taken literally on all counts, and that it is basically a story, if nothing else, that tells us quite a bit about human nature.
Steven Rosen: And some believers take it like that?
Dr. Smith: Oh, indeed. Quite a few Hindus share that perspective—not many but there are definitely those who do. For example, how do college educated Hindus deal with it? Well some, to be sure, just go back to their childhoods, saying, 'Oh Rama. Bless Rama.' Others, however, do try to think in terms of mythic meaning, and try to probe for deep, psychological references in their own experiences.

Note the attempt to soften the blow: A myth is not necessarily fictional; it's just a story that doesn't have to be taken literally and that tells us something about human nature. The reasons Smith gives for calling the Ramayana a myth are significant. First, there is the problem of saying that Lord Ramacandra lived in Ayodhya in the Treta-yuga. This is ruled out by the Darwinian theory of evolution, which says that in that time period, more than 864,000 years ago, there were no humans of the modern type.

Careful research, however, can reveal evidence contrary to the accepted scientific view and in agreement with the Vedic picture. Drutakarma Dasa and I have just completed a 900-page book, Forbidden Archeology, which gives extensive evidence showing that human beings of the modern type have been living on the earth for many millions of years.

Another problem raised by Smith is that if we take the Ramayana literally, then we are obliged to accept the existence of beings such as Raksasas, endowed with remarkable mystical powers. Smith refers to the world of the Ramayana as a "Walt Disney world" of fantasy—a world that scientifically educated people can hardly take seriously. This problem applies to all the Vedic literature, which presents a view of reality that assumes the existence of mystic powers, beings with subtle bodies, transmigration of souls, and avataras of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

This too is an area where the findings of careful research support the Vedic world view. A great deal of evidence in the domain of the paranormal supports the reality of subtly embodied beings and mystic powers. Official science tends to reject this evidence because it violates accepted theories. Theoretical frameworks can change, however, and many eminent scientists have seriously studied paranormal phenomena. Research findings in the domain of the paranormal fit consistently into the Vedic world view. They give empirical support to the reality of the Vedic picture, and the Vedic literature provides a rational, scientific framework for understanding paranormal phenomena.


1. Bentley, John, 1825, Historical View of the Hindu Astronomy, Osnabruck: Biblio Verlag, reprinted in 1970, p. xxvii.

2. Rosen, Steven, 1992, Vaisnavism: Contemporary Scholars Discuss the Gaudiya Tradition, New York: Folk Books, p. 71.

3. Vankatachela, Kota, 1957, Chronology of Ancient Hindu History, Arya Vijnana Grandhamala.

4. Bentley, p. 213.

5. Pingree, David, 1976, "The Recovery of Early Greek Astronomy from India," Journal of the History of Astronomy, pp. 109-23.

6. Thompson, Richard, 1989, Vedic Cosmography and Astronomy, Los Angeles: Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.

7. Rosen, p. 42.

8. Cremo, Michael, and Thompson, Richard, 1992, Forbidden Archeology, San Diego: Bhaktivedanta Institute.

9. Drake, Stillman, 1978, Galileo at Work, Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

Bhakti-yoga at Home

Devotees and Health

By Rohininandana Dasa

WHEN I FIRST LIVED in a Hare Krsna temple, another new devotee, Bhakta Michael, won my admiration for his complete neglect of his health and hygiene. I had learned that the self was different from the body, but not knowing how to apply that understanding, I thought Bhakta Michael must be an advanced soul. As I read Srila Prabhupada's writings, however, and understood more about the real transcendentalist's attitude toward the body, I gave up my admiration for abuse in the guise of detachment.

Prabhupada would sign his letters, "I hope this meets you in good health." He was concerned that his disciples led a healthy life, including cleanliness, exercise, and a proper diet. When an early disciple became ill, Prabhupada advised him, "Your first business is to look after your health, because if you don't feel well everything will be topsy-turvy." He would sometimes tell sick devotees to suspend work and take complete rest.

Sometimes Prabhupada would recommend special diets, which might include barley, fruit, milk, or raw cereals soaked in water overnight. Diet, after all, can be the mother of either health or disease. Prabhupada also gave medical advice for conditions ranging from a toothache or an infected finger to constipation or jaundice. If an illness was serious he suggested consulting "some approved physician." To one disciple, who was making money for Krsna through business, Prabhupada wrote, "You must have the best kind of treatment available, and you can spend from the money you are collecting on behalf of Krishna."

As for surgical operations, he was wary. As far as possible, he said, operations should be avoided. But "when there is no alternative, of course we have to take shelter of such demonic treatment."

Prabhupada said that his own body was "a broken old house." He would often say he could pass away at any moment. But he wanted his disciples to live for a long time "to push on this Krsna consciousness."

Above all Srila Prabhupada advised his disciples to depend upon Lord Krsna. "Actually, medicine is not the remedial measure for our bodily troubles unless we are helped by Krsna. Therefore, whenever there is bodily trouble we may adopt the prescribed methods of medical science and depend upon Krsna for His mercy."

As we may err on the side of neglecting the body, we may also be too concerned about pampering it. As a new devotee I was impressed by the vitality of a devotee who worked at our London restaurant, then called Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise. He looked the picture of health as he chewed ginseng and punched the till keys.

We lived in the same house, and I felt awed by his vibrant health. He worked out on dumbbells, humidified his bedroom by putting damp cloths on the radiator, avoided eating salt, sugar, and milk products, took a variety of vitamins and mineral supplements, and "never" got ill.

Seeing my struggles with one bout of flu after another, he convinced me to try a course of vitamins. I spent £25 and didn't notice much difference except that my urine turned bright yellow.

That devotee went to live in the States, and a year later I was sorry to hear he had contracted leukemia. It took only six months for his strong body to become an uninhabitable wreck. When he died I gave up my attempt to achieve perfect health.

Srila Prabhupada referred to the body as vyadhi-mandiram, "a temple of disease." He said that as long as we have a material body there must be some kind of trouble, but because the body is external we should not be very much disturbed by it.

In a lecture Prabhupada was comparing disease to "Maya's agent." Even Krsna, he said, was attacked every day by Maya's agents, what to speak of Krsna's devotees. "But," he continued, "Krsna promises, 'My devotee is never vanquished,' so therefore our business is to become His devotee. Then everything will be all right."

Rohininandana Dasa lives in southern England with his wife and their three children. Write to him at Woodgate Cottage, Beckley Nr. Rye, E. Sussex TN31 6UH, UK.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

Through the Eyes of Sastra


By Ravindra Svarupa Dasa

THE HEROES OF MY YOUTH were the great healers of humanity. While it's true that in those days I could be seen with other American boys paying homage to the likes of Elvis Presley and Joe DiMaggio, I rendered them only lip service. My real—if somewhat secret—devotion was reserved for a pantheon of great medical pioneers like William Jenner, discoverer of the smallpox vaccination; Robert Koch, who identified the tuberculosis bacillus; and Ignaz Philipp Semmelweise, who crusaded to save women from childbirth infection by teaching doctors to disinfect their hands. I avidly studied the life stories of these saviors and dreamed of becoming like them by slaying some modern scourge—leukemia, say, or coronary thrombosis. In my eyes there was no higher calling than to wage war on behalf of humanity against disease and death.

I entered college intent on medical studies, but a little over a year later abandoned that aim. I had not been fatally disheartened by my encounter with other premed students, profiteers eager to mint gold from disease. A book, rather, had destroyed my vocation and my faith.

Mirage of Health: Utopia, Progress and Biological Change is a pioneering study of medical history written in the late fifties by a physician named Rene Dubos. His conclusion devastated me: Progress toward some utopia of health is an illusion. Disease will never be "conquered." Disease is so inescapable a part of our human condition that today's remedies inevitably become the agents of tomorrow's ills.

Using an abundance of historical evidence, Dubos shows how the diseases we suffer from arise out of the complex social, political, and economic dynamics of our particular society; as society changes, our ills change with it. Some diseases fade away, and others, out of the inexhaustible bounty of material nature, rise to take their place.

In modern industrial societies, as Dr. Dubos points out, we no longer suffer and die from smallpox, typhus, typhoid, diphtheria, and the other microbial plagues of the past. We have made "progress": We suffer and die instead from cancer, coronary heart disease, emphysema, and mental disorders (with their attendant drug abuse and suicide).

According to Dubos's analysis, even my boyhood heroes, those unswerving foes of deadly microbes, had little to do with the disappearance of infectious diseases. These afflictions were retired mainly by the social and economic reforms that followed industrialization. At the same time, that same process was ushering in a whole new set of scourges. And even those old diseases are by no means "conquered," Dubos warns. They are merely held at bay (at a high price), and they can reenter human history any time the conditions are right.

I was undone by Dr. Dubos's lesson. Medicine at once underwent a catastrophic devaluation in my eyes. I wondered why that should be. Dubos, of course, never claimed that medicine was useless, a waste of time. True, it may not save humanity, but it can save humans. That ought to be enough, I argued with myself. I could still live by ideals, modest though those ideals might be. Surely, real heroism lies in doing humbly what little good one can, without some fantasy of wide-screen, Hollywood heroics, soundtrack booming in the background. Be realistic: There are no saviors of humanity, because humanity will not be saved, and that's that.

Still, I could revive no enthusiasm for medicine. The truth of the matter was that at heart I badly wanted to be saved from disease and death altogether, and I had possessed a real faith that scientific progress would, at the end of its struggle, win just that for all of us. To me it had been a foregone conclusion that through science and technology nature would be eventually conquered and tamed, made entirely serviceable to us, and we would live without worries in a manmade paradise on earth. Although I had never spelled out this conviction to myself, it had insensibly become my true faith, my religion.

How was it a religion? Religion and science—like faith and knowledge—are supposed to be opposites. Yet somehow science itself had be-come a religion—call it "scientism"—an ardent faith that progress in science and technology will so improve upon man and nature as to rid earthly life of all ills. This religion was—and still is—the true faith of America, the spiritual motor that drives its enterprises.

Where had I absorbed this religion? I had bowed before no altar, recited no creed, sung no hymns, enacted no rites. However, this religion does not need special buildings or ceremonies. As the true religion of America, it is woven completely into the fabric of life. I had absorbed it all along from my parents and teachers and friends, from the Cub Scouts and the Boy Scouts, from museums and theme parks, from My Weekly Reader and Reader's Digest and Life and Post and Popular Mechanics. I had soaked it in from "Meet Mr. Wizard" and the unending iteration of corporate commercial slogans ("Progress is Our Most Important Product" and "Better Things For Better Living Through Chemistry"), from the biographies of my medical heroes, not the least from my hoard of science-fiction paperbacks.

The faith that formed America was a creation of the so-called Enlightenment of the eighteenth century. Eager to extend Newton's success in describing nature in rational, mathematical form, a coterie of European thinkers battled to dethrone traditional religion and morality and replace them with empirical science and natural reason as the valid guides for human activity.

Unenlightened and superstitious Christians believed in a future millennium, a thousand-year kingdom of God on earth that would start with the prophesied second coming of Christ. That belief had to go. Yet the savants of the Enlightenment replaced it with their own secularized faith, their manmade millennium: Steady progress in science and enlightened reason would gradually bring the natural and human world totally under rational scientific control. Nature and society will be consummately engineered. Free from drought and flood, poverty and crime, disease and even death, man will have established on earth the kingdom of God—without God.

This was my faith, and I had lost it. Science would not save us; there was no "progress." That explained my strong reaction to Mirage of Health.

In the years since I read that book I have come to recognize the striving for release from material nature, the struggle against disease and death, as profoundly and essentially human. It's a struggle we cannot avoid. Even though we may be unaware of it, it drives and shapes our lives. For this reason, even popular culture is about serious things. It is not mere whimsy that leads people to describe Joe DiMaggio as a baseball "Immortal," or makes them believe that Elvis Presley could not possibly have died. Operating with more sophistication, Enlightenment thinkers set themselves against religion, but they merely replaced salvation through Christ with salvation through science. They could not free themselves from the desire for transcendence, the urge to go beyond the limits of nature into everlasting life.

We are all transcendentalists at heart. The problem is that most of us are foolish ones, whose various schemes for liberation are doomed from the outset. We persist in worshiping idols and gods that fail. We engineer projects for salvation that only increase our bondage. Nature can send mile-high sheets of ice flowing over continents and level cities with a twitch, yet we embark on a quixotic war to conquer her. An ant-hill has as good a shot at it as "advanced civilization." Or consider this: Survival is the primal urge of life, and for millions of years all organisms have struggled for survival, just as we now struggle. Now, look at the record. Where are the winners? In all of history, has anyone survived? The death rate is one hundred percent. It is a foredoomed attempt, but we cannot help ourselves.

We must be transcendentalists, but what makes us invest and reinvest in foolish, impractical schemes? Let me suggest the reason. At the root of our foolishness lies a dumb insistence in trying to actuate a self-contradiction, make real an absurdity: We want to transcend material nature, become free from her control, while at the same time we want to continue to enjoy and exploit her.

This was the answer I discovered. After my crisis of faith, I studied philosophy and religion for years; it was, in effect, a quest for successful transcendentalists. And I thought that I had finally discovered them at the vital center of the great spiritual traditions of the world. In spite of their differences in culture and style, they seemed unanimous in this: They agreed that to succeed in transcendence we must become free from the mentality of enjoyment and exploitation. All of them recognized the systematic endeavor to gain mastery over the mind and senses, to extinguish material desires, as necessary for real salvation or liberation of the spirit. These successful transcendentalists understand very well that material nature binds and controls us precisely through our desire to enjoy and exploit her. That desire is, there-fore, our ultimate disease. Cure that disease, we shall become free from disease and death altogether.

Eight years after Dr. Dubos destroyed my faith in material progress, Srila Prabhupada initiated me into the path of bhakti-yoga, transcendental devotional service. I was attracted by the magisterial way Srila Prabhupada exposed what he called "the illusory advancement of civilization." On the street a Krsna devotee had handed me a tract containing these simple but impressive words of Srila Prabhupada: "We are trying to exploit the resources of material nature, but actually we are becoming more and more entangled in her complexities. Therefore, although we are engaged in a hard struggle to conquer nature, we are ever more dependent on her. This illusory struggle against material nature can be stopped at once by revival of our eternal Krsna consciousness." Srila Prabhupada hadn't done the research of a Dr. Dubos, but somehow he understood it all. His clarity astonished me.

Attacking the idols of scientific progress and other ersatz religions, Srila Prabhupada did not compromise in presenting the truth—if we want transcendence, we must become free from material desires. He was the only contemporary transcendentalist I'd encountered who did not offer any cheating religion, an accommodation with material ambitions for cheap popularity among the foolish.

My heroes still are those saviors who wage war on behalf of humanity against disease and death: Srila Prabhupada, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, Srila Rupa Gosvami, Thakura Haridasa, Madhvacarya, Narada Muni, and many others form my pantheon. These heroes have won the war against death because they have mastered the actual science of transcendence and delivered it to humanity.

In the meantime I credit Dr. Dubos with a good deal of prescience. Events have proven him uncannily accurate. Even as researchers in high-tech laboratories feverishly sought the "magic bullet" to destroy cancer, a brand-new plague erupted, surprising almost everyone. Studies predict that Acquired Immunity Deficiency Syndrome will have claimed about 400 million lives by the middle of the next century. Like horror films that spawn even more ghastly sequels, some old-fashioned diseases have begun staging spectacular revivals: A new, drug-resistant version of Koch's bacillus threatens a tuberculosis epidemic in North America, where a remake of the scarlet fever microbe is implicated in a run of deadly cases of sudden, massive septicemia. Pediatricians report a steady rise in children with chronic bronchitis and asthma, apparently the result of pollution. Indeed, a family of new afflictions of the immune system, all apparently related to manmade chemicals in the environment, has led to the establishment of a new medical specialty called clinical ecology. Some studies show that in the industrial nations up to forty percent of all diseases are "iatrogenetic." That means "caused by physicians."

In Pittsburgh recently, a man survived seventy-one days on an implanted baboon's liver, which was still in good shape at autopsy. Transplant technicians are planning farms where genetically engineered animals will grow crops of organs for use in humans; biomedical engineers are machining body parts out of space-age plastics and microchips. They're promising immortality by the end of the next century.

Ravindra Svarupa Dasa, ISKCON's Governing Body Commissioner for the U.S. mid-Atlantic region, lives at the Philadelphia temple, where he joined ISKCON in 1971. He holds a Ph.D. in religion from Temple University.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

On Pilgrimage

Chitrakut—Lord Rama's Forest Home

Though exiled from His kingdom, Lord Ramacandra lived happily in this beautiful holy place.

By Bhakti Vikasa Swami

LORD RAMACANDRA LIVED for twelve years in the Chitrakut forest with His wife, Sita Devi, and His brother Laksmana. The story of how they came here and what they did is recounted in the Ramayana.

Rama was exiled to the forest for fourteen years. When He first entered the forest with Laksmana and Sita, He asked Bharadvaja Muni where they should stay. The Muni advised them to go to Chitrakut, about ten miles from his asrama.

The rsis in Chitrakut had been praying that Rama would come there. They had been thinking, "The world is full of disturbances, especially from the Raksasas (man-eaters). If Rama stays in Ayodhya, how will He fulfill His mission of killing all the demons?"

When Rama came to Chitrakut, Raksasas were spoiling the peaceful atmosphere of the place by attacking the rsis. So He killed many Raksasas during His stay there.

Rama's brother Bharata had been away from Ayodhya when Rama was exiled. When Bharata returned, he learned that he was supposed to be the king in Rama's absence. Greatly disturbed by this news, Bharata went with a large retinue to Chitrakut to ask Rama to come back and rule the kingdom. Today, the Rama-Bharata Milap commemorates the spot where they met.

Although Bharata was sorry about Rama's exile, Rama was undisturbed. Bharata insisted again and again that Rama should come back to Ayodhya, and many others who had come with Bharata agreed. But Rama repeatedly refused the kingdom. "No, I've given my promise to my father. That's more important."

Finally, Rama gave the decision over to Janaka Maharaja, his father-in-law.

Rama said, "Janaka Maharaja is very experienced, religious, and expert—let him decide whether I should stay here in Chitrakut and complete the term of exile or go back to Ayodhya and take up the kingship."

Janaka Maharaja, knowing the purpose of the Lord, said that Rama should stay in Chitrakut.

Rama spent twelve years of His fourteen-year exile in Chitrakut. Then, for his own purpose, He went to Dandakaranya.

A Place for Sages

Chitrakut means "delightful asrama," and it has long been a place of austerity. The hills and forests have many caves, providing shelter for sages and ascetics. The area is beautiful and suitable for spiritual life. The air is fresh and pure—forest air with nice winds. We went in early October. The nights and mornings were a little crisp and cool, and the daytime still a bit hot, but not unbearably so.

There are big hills all around, with forests filled with singing birds and many, many monkeys. Although Lord Ramacandra was banished to live in the forest, Chitrakut was pleasant for Him and Sita.

Even today Chitrakut is ideally situated for an ascetic life. It is distant from any major city, situated where the plains of Uttar Pradesh in northern India give way to the hills, forests, and mountains of Madhya Pradesh in central India. The present town of Chitrakut has two sections, one in Uttar Pradesh and one in Madhya Pradesh.

The local people live simply and austerely. The rooms for pilgrims are extremely simple, and so is the food. Since Chitrakut is away from the big cities, the only fruits or vegetables available are those grown nearby.

Chitrakut has many temples. Most are near Rama-ghata, where Lord Rama would bathe in the Mandakini Ganges, and around Kamada Nathaji Hill ("the hill of the desire-fulfilling Lord"). Most are Sita-Rama temples, but there are also two Nrsimha temples, a few Krsna temples, a Jagannatha-Baladeva-Subhadra temple, and quite a few Siva temples. It seems that about a hundred years ago there was a lot of building in Chitrakut because so many temples date from around that time. Many Maharajas built temples here.

Most of the temples are taken care of by married couples or a few sadhus. The arrangements for the deities are nice, and the temples are kept neat and clean. Most of the temples have many salagramas (a Deity in the form of a stone). The salagramas are well-cared-for, shining with fresh tilaka (clay markings) every day.

Temples are also at Janaki-kunda, where Sita, or Janaki, would bathe. There are two Janaki-kundas. One is at Gupta Godavari, and the other is three kilometers from Rama-ghata.

There are quite a few asramas in Chitrakut, although not as many as temples. In two asramas, chanting the names of Lord Rama goes on nonstop day and night. In one of the asramas this has been going on for more than twenty-five years, and in the other, more than forty years.

At one of the Janaki-kundas, there's an asrama where about ten sadhus live, and twice a day they feed all the visitors who come there. On the day we went, they fed about twenty-five sadhus and forty other pilgrims. While taking prasadam, the guests hear the pastimes of Lord Rama, as a reading goes on twenty-four hours a day.

We met a schoolteacher, one of the residents of Chitrakut Dhama, as it's known. He was most appreciative of the spiritual qualities of the place. And like many others, he stopped to speak to us.

"Those who are pure can see Rama even today here in Chitrakut," he said. "Rama walking, Rama bathing, Rama stooping down to drink from the river ... Yes. Those who are pure can still see Rama at Chitrakut."

Bhakti Vikasa Swami is from England but has been teaching Krsna consciousness in India for many years. When he's not traveling around India writing articles for BTG (which you'll be seeing more of in upcoming issues), he works with the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust in Bombay.

Rama Describes Chitrakut

HAVING LIVED in Chitrakut for some time, one day Lord Ramacandra began to point out the beauty of Chitrakut to Sita Devi:

"O Fortunate Princess, when I behold this ravishing mountain, neither the loss of the kingdom nor the absence of My friends distresses Me. O Fortunate One, behold that mountain abounding with flocks of birds of every kind, where the metals lie, crowned with peaks that seem to kiss the skies. See how amongst the summits some have the radiance of silver, others of gold; some are the colour of madder [a reddish dye], some yellow, and some sparkle like precious stones or resemble flowers or crystals or ketaka trees; they shimmer like quicksilver; those regions contain many metals; that Indra among mountains is full of herds of tame deer, tigers, panthers, and bears and is enlivened by flocks of birds. The serried ranks of mango, jambu, asana, ... and many other trees, covered with flowers and laden with fruit, affording magnificent shade, make this mountain an enchanting retreat.... See how, from the crevices, the waters fall in cascades from every side, causing the mountain to resemble an elephant with the ichor flowing from its forehead. Who would not be filled with delight by these glades from which the fragrance of many flowers issues, pleasing to the senses? O Peerless One, if I am to live with thee and Laksmana for many autumns here, no grief will visit Me. This mountain, laden with flowers and fruit, the enchanting resort of flocks of birds, with its ravishing peaks, captivates Me, O Lovely One."

From The Ramayana of Valmiki, translated by Hari Prasad Shasrti, Shantisadan, London, 1962, vol. 1, p. 297.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

The Six Treatises Of Srila Jiva Gosvami
An Overview

By Satya Narayana Dasa and Kundali Dasa

Part 2: Tattva Sandarbha

SANDARBHA MEANS "essence" or "heart." Sad means "six." The Sad Sandarbhas are six treatises that give the essence of six topics about the Absolute Truth.

In the course of these six works, the author strongly establishes three points: (1) The Srimad-Bhagavatam is the highest source of knowledge. (2) Krsna in Vrndavana is svayam bhagavan, the original Personality of Godhead. (3) Prema, love of Krsna, is the supreme goal of life, beyond the happiness of impersonal realization and beyond all other forms of devotion.

Srila Jiva Gosvami upholds the first point in Sri Tattva Sandarbha, the second in the Krsna Sandarbha, and the third in the Priti Sandarbha.

The treatises of Srila Jiva Gosvami begin with the Tattva Sandarbha, or The Essence of Truth. Of the six this is the smallest, but that does not lessen its importance. For here Srila Jiva Gosvami lays the foundation for the philosophy of Krsna consciousness by setting forth its epistemology. He concludes that the Srimad-Bhagavatam is the highest scriptural authority for all human beings.

Sri Tattva Sandarbha has two sections. In the first Srila Jiva Gosvami tackles the question of pramana, or the valid means of acquiring knowledge—not just any knowledge but transcendental knowledge, knowledge beyond the range of our senses and intellect. In the second section he defines the prameya, or object of knowledge.

He begins his task of writing the Sad Sandarbhas by quoting as an invocation a verse from Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.5.32):

krsna-varnam tvisakrsnam
yajnaih sankirtana-prayair
yajanti hi su-medhasah

"In the Age of Kali, intelligent persons perform congregational chanting to worship the incarnation of Godhead who constantly sings the names of Krsna. Although His complexion is not blackish, He is Krsna Himself. He is accompanied by His associates, servants, weapons, and confidential companions."

Through this verse, Jiva Gosvami indirectly tells us that Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu is his worshipable Deity and that he, Jiva, accepts the authority of Srimad-Bhagavatam as the ultimate.

Next Srila Jiva Gosvami explains why he is writing the Sandarbhas. He says that Sanatana Gosvami and Rupa Gosvami, his spiritual master, have directed him to write this book and so he is doing it as a service. He also expresses gratitude to Srila Gopala Bhatta Gosvami, whose notes and earlier attempt at writing the Sandarbhas form the basis of the present work.

Then Srila Jiva tells who he is writing for: "I write for those people whose only desire is to render service at the lotus feet of Lord Sri Krsna. Please do not show my book to anyone else. I curse the person who studies this book but does not desire to serve Krsna."

Alternatively, the last sentence may be read, "You [the reader] must vow not to show this book to anyone who does not desire to serve Lord Krsna."

Pramanas: The Valid Means Of Knowledge

To begin the book proper, Jiva Gosvami quotes a verse that sets forth the three basic divisions of spiritual life: knowledge of our relationship with the Supreme (sambandha); the process for realizing that knowledge (abhideya); and the ultimate goal of life (prayojana). He then asks, "Where do we get evidence about this?"

In reply he lists the ten kinds of pramana, or means of acquiring knowledge, customarily used in India's philosophical traditions. He reduces the ten to three, because these three contain the other seven. This was shown by the great scholar and devotee Srila Madhvacarya.

The three pramanas Jiva accepts are sense perception (pratyaksa), inference (anumana), and verbal testimony (sabda). Of these he promptly discards sense perception and inference as unreliable.

All human beings, he says, are subject to four defects: We all make mistakes, we all have imperfect senses, we are all subject to illusion, and we all have a cheating propensity. Our sense perception, therefore, is hardly a reliable means for gaining knowledge, and for knowledge of what exists beyond our senses it is entirely useless. Inference he disposes of as equally unreliable, because inferential reasoning rests on sense perception, which he has already shown wanting. In short, the same defects that directly plague sense perception indirectly plague inference.

In the end, Srila Jiva Gosvami accepts sabda pramana, or verbal testimony, as the most reliable means of gaining knowledge because it is the only method that can deliver knowledge free of all human frailty.

Verbal testimony is of two types. One kind we are familiar with, for we routinely depend on the testimony of experts such as doctors and authorities such as teachers. But none of these sources is flawless. None is exempt from the four human defects listed above.

Therefore the second type of verbal testimony, called apauruseya sabda, is the one he has in mind. Apauruseya sabda means verbal testimony that has no human origin; it is revealed knowledge coming to us as a gift of the Divine. Such superhuman knowledge has no taint of the four defects of human beings. Srila Jiva Gosvami suggests that since we have no other means for gaining knowledge of the transcendental sphere, sabda pramana is worthy of closer inspection.

Where is such flawless knowledge to be found? Srila Jiva affirms that the Vedas are the answer.

Originally the Vedas were not written by any man or group of men. They emanated from the Supreme Lord, who revealed them to Lord Brahma, the first created being, who then passed them down. Since they are a product neither of human sense perception nor of human reasoning, the Vedas are not subject to the four human defects. Srila Jiva Gosvami says that since the original message of the Vedas has not been changed, the Vedas are the best candidate for a source of perfect knowledge.

One may contest Jiva Gosvami's stand on sabda pramana. For example, one might try to put aside the divine origin of the Vedas as nice myth. No doubt a thinker of Jiva Gosvami's stature could have foreseen many objections to his stand and could have written a thick volume to refute them; but he didn't. Instead of dwelling long on such discussion, he simply asserts that for his means of knowledge he will strictly limit himself to apauruseya sabda pramana, or the evidence of transcendental sound. Then he gets on with his main purpose.

He is right. Without allowing for the validity of transcendental sound, the best we can do is infer, "There is transcendence. Something is there." Beyond that we can only speculate, and we would not be able to validate our speculations. Any such approach would surely lead to endless futile debate, as in fact it has in the Western philosophical tradition.

Srila Jiva Gosvami now goes on to explain that the Vedas are no longer available in their entirety. Originally there were some 1,130 branches to the Vedic tree of knowledge, but scholars at the time of Jiva's writing found only twenty branches still extant. Jiva Gosvami argues that from such a small representation we cannot be sure we understand the message of the Vedas. The subject matter is difficult; the language, Sanskrit, is difficult; the line of teachers who might have helped us has broken; and even the twenty branches left entail more volumes than we can sort through in a lifetime. According to tradition, also, study of the Vedas is not open to everyone but only to the priestly class. Thus Srila Jiva Gosvami concludes that the highly abstruse message of the Vedas can no longer be understood from study of the Vedas themselves.

As an alternative he proposes to study the Puranas, which have the same origin and so are also apauruseya sabda but were meant for those who cannot understand or approach the Vedas.

So now he analyzes the Puranas. But he finds that each Purana asserts that its particular deity is supreme. The Siva Purana says Lord Siva is supreme, the Skanda Purana says that Skanda is supreme, the Devi Purana says Devi is supreme, and so on for eighteen Puranas. So what is the conclusion?

To ascertain this, Jiva Gosvami analyzes further. He finds that the eighteen Puranas have three divisions: six are in the mode of ignorance, six in passion, and six in goodness. He says that we should focus our attention on the six in the mode of goodness because, as Krsna states in the Bhagavad-gita, ignorance leads to sleep, passion to greed, and goodness to knowledge.

But from the six Puranas in goodness, still there is confusion as to whether Lord Rama or Lord Nrsimhadeva or Lord Visnu or Lord Krsna is supreme. Here Jiva Gosvami takes a different tack. He says, "If we can find a book which explains Vedanta, which explains the Gayatri mantra, which is apauruseya, which is completely available, and for which a disciplic line exists, then we should analyze that book."

He finds that the book which best fits these criteria is the Bhagavata Purana, or Srimad-Bhagavatam, and so he will analyze the Srimad-Bhagavatam. The Sad Sandarbhas are nothing but an in-depth analysis of the Bhagavatam.

Srila Jiva Gosvami now establishes that the Srimad-Bhagavatam is the natural commentary on the Vedanta-sutra. The Bhagavatam is completely available in eighteen thousand verses, it begins with the Gayatri mantra, and there is a disciplic line for it as well. And great scholars in the past, such as Adi-sankara, Madhvacarya, and Ramanujacarya, held the Bhagavatam in high regard. From all this he concludes that of the six Puranas in the mode of goodness Srimad-Bhagavatam is the ultimate sabda pramana and therefore worthy of detailed analysis.

Jiva Gosvami says, therefore, that although he will quote other sources, he will quote Bhagavatam as the highest authority, not to reinforce his words but to establish the meanings from the Bhagavatam that he wishes to explain. He mentions that he will quote Sridhara Svami's commentary, Bhavartha Dipika.

Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu accepted Sridhara Svami's commentary. Jiva Gosvami, therefore, in accord with Lord Caitanya's wishes, will quote from Sridhara Svami's words whenever possible. Jiva notes, however, that in some places Sridhara Svami did not speak clearly enough. So in those places, Jiva says, he will make his own comment.

Again, some of Sridhara Svami's comments are not strictly in line with the bhakti principles, because Sridhara Svami was using the logic called badi-samisa nyaya, which means that if you want to catch fish you have to feed them meat. Your goal is not to feed the fish but to catch them. Similarly, Sridhara Svami didn't want the impersonalists to reject him out of hand, so he wrote a mixed commentary, though he made clear from the outset that he accepts the personal feature of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

Jiva Gosvami has been criticized in contemporary academic circles for using Sridhara Svami for his own purpose and not really respecting his authority. But Jiva makes no secret of his motives. He makes clear that in his system of authority Sridhara Svami plays only a supporting role.

Srila Jiva Gosvami ends the first section of the Tattva Sandarbha by pointing out that Madhvacarya wrote a commentary on the Bhagavatam and that although Sri Ramanuja did not, the Bhagavatam is an often quoted reference in his works. There can be no question, therefore, that these great philosopher saints accepted the Bhagavata Purana as authoritative.

Prameya: The Knowable

Jiva Gosvami next declares that he will analyze the heart of Sukadeva Gosvami, the speaker of the Bhagavatam, through a verse by Suta Gosvami. In that prayer, Suta says, "I bow to Sukadeva Gosvami, the destroyer of all sins, the son of Vyasa. His mind was filled with the bliss of impersonal realization, and he was devoid of all worldly thoughts, yet His heart was drawn to the enchanting pastimes of Ajita [Krsna]. Sukadeva Gosvami has compassionately revealed this Purana, which revolves around the Supreme Personality of Godhead. My salutations unto Sukadeva Gosvami."

Suta mentions that Sukadeva was absorbed in impersonal realization. This means that Sukadeva had no material desires. Srimad-Bhagavatam, therefore, must not be mundane, because Sukadeva had already gone beyond interest in anything mundane. Furthermore, the knowledge in Srimad-Bhagavatam must surpass the happiness of impersonal realization. What Sukadeva spoke to Pariksit Maharaja could not have been impersonalism, because Sukadeva had already rejected that along with materialism.

Having analyzed the heart of the speaker, Jiva Gosvami now wants to analyze the heart of the writer, Vyasadeva. Srila Jiva wants to elicit our agreement that the writer and the speaker are of one mind. His study of Vyasa proceeds from the Bhagavatam verses in the second chapter that state, "By bhakti-yoga he saw the Purna Purusa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, along with His potencies and all His associates. Vyasa also saw the living entities bewildered by Maya...." Vyasadeva concludes that simply by listening to the Bhagavatam one is freed from the clutches of illusion and attains devotion to Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

After writing the Bhagavatam, Vyasa taught it to Sukadeva Gosvami. Why Sukadeva, who wore not even a loincloth? Why not one of many other disciples? He taught Sukadeva, Jiva says, because Sukadeva was completely nivrtta (detached from material life) and had no scope at all for misusing this highest knowledge.

The section of the Bhagavatam Srila Jiva Gosvami is quoting here shows the heart of Vyasadeva and the heart of the Krsna conscious philosophy. This passage directly mentions bhakti and Krsna and the energies of the Lord. No one, therefore, can accuse Jiva of juggling words or merely putting forward the partisan views of his school. Rather, he goes deep into the original message of the author himself and mines it for all its worth. Srila Jiva originally called his work the Bhagavata Sandarbha, or the essence of the Bhagavata Purana, for he reveals the heart of the Bhagavatam.

Srila Jiva Gosvami next analyzes the heart of Suta Gosvami, again with a similar format: he takes verses spoken by Suta in the second and third chapters and analyzes them to arrive at the same conclusion of bhakti. Srila Jiva Gosvami says we can go on analyzing this way for all the principal speakers—Maitreya Muni, Narada Muni, and others. If we do so, he says, we will see beyond a doubt that the whole purpose of Srimad-Bhagavatam is to explain three things: sambandha, abhideya, and prayojana.

The first four Sandarbhas, therefore, deal with sambandha, the fifth deals with abhideya, and the sixth with prayojana. The sambandha portion takes four books because on this one aspect there is rampant confusion and there are many conflicting philosophies. Srila Jiva considers this topic, therefore, in minute detail.

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 U. S. as a computer software consultant, he joined ISKCON in 1981. He later received spiritual initiation from ISKCON leader Bhakti-svarupa Damodara Swami. He now teaches Sanskrit at the Bhaktivedanta Swami International Gurukula in Vrndavana and is translating the Sad 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 Sad Sandarbhas.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

Cover Story
Tulasi Devi, Beloved of Krsna

One of Krsna's most intimate servants comes in a special form to bless us with extraordinary fortune.

By Govinda Dasi

Devotees of Krsna worship a little tree. But she's not an ordinary tree. She's Tulasi Devi, Krsna's favorite plant.

Tulasi has delicate purple and green leaves, flower tassels like miniature temple spires, and an arresting, sweet fragrance famous for attracting the minds of yogis to Krsna's service.

Tulasi's wood is carved into the japa beads on which devotees chant Krsna's name. Devotees wear strands of Tulasi beads around their necks. Her leaves and flowers decorate the Deity of Krsna in the temple and are placed on food offered to Him. She has taken the form of a tree so that everyone, even the poorest person, can offer something wonderful to Krsna.

MY FASCINATION with Tulasi Devi began very soon after meeting Srila Prabhupada in 1967. I searched Indian stores all over New York City to find a set of Tulasi japa beads. One clever man sold me rosewood beads, assuring me they were Tulasi. When I presented them to Srila Prabhupada, he held them and looked at them with scrutiny, then simply said, "No, not Tulasi." But he chanted on them anyway.

Later, in 1968, as I was cleaning Srila Prabhupada's room I found his Tulasi japa beads lying near his bead bag on his cushion. As I carefully put them back into their bag, I was mesmerized by their smooth touch and golden glow. They were large, round beads, shiny from years of use, with a mystical quality that still sticks in my mind.

In 1969, Srila Prabhupada sent me to Honolulu to open a temple. I spent much time at the research library of the University of Hawaii's East-West Center. I found many ancient texts from India, some by Srila Prabhupada's guru and other Vaisnava saints. And I found information on Tulasi Devi—her botanical names, her history, and ways to grow her. My desire to grow Tulasi became an obsession, and somehow I got seeds from India.

The first set of seeds did not grow. I daily worshiped a thin green sprout until it became painfully evident that it was a blade of grass. The second batch of seeds proved fruitful, however, and tiny heart-shaped seedlings spread their delicate leaves in our Honolulu home. That was the beginning.

I still didn't know why growing Tulasi was important to Srila Prabhupada or his mission. But when I later presented two small Tulasi plants to him in Los Angeles, he was delighted. He held one of the small pots in his hand for a long time, gazing at the seven-inch seedling, noting that she was indeed Srimati Tulasi Devi.

Prabhupada talked on and on about the glories of Tulasi Devi, and he was in such joyful spirits! Srila Prabhupada's servant, Kartikeya Dasa, was astonished. He later told me that he had not seen Srila Prabhupada so light-hearted and happy in over a year.

At one point, Srila Prabhupada told us that Tulasi Devi was a great devotee of Lord Krsna, and that her husband, a demon, was killed by Krsna. Then Prabhupada stopped short and became thoughtful. My intuition was that he had given us as much as we could then understand.

So my understanding became quite basic: somehow, growing Tulasi made Srila Prabhupada very, very pleased. That was enough. I proceeded to cultivate Tulasi plants on a large scale. I wrote a booklet entitled "How to Grow Tulasi Devi," sent seeds and booklets to every temple, and tried to offer advice and assistance to devotees in their efforts to cultivate Tulasi.

Later, I came across the following purport by Srila Prabhupada in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (4.8.55):

It is specifically mentioned herein that tulasi leaves are very dear to the Supreme Personality of Godhead and devotees should take particular care to have tulasi leaves in every temple and center of worship. In the Western countries, while engaged in propagating the Krsna consciousness movement, we were brought great unhappiness because we could not find tulasi leaves. We are very much obliged, therefore, to our disciple Srimati Govinda Dasi because she has taken much care to grow tulasi plants from seeds, and she has been successful by the grace of Krsna. Now tulasi plants are growing in almost every center of our movement.

Only then did I become truly aware of the importance of cultivating Tulasi plants. I realized that my initial attraction to Tulasi and my obsessive desire to grow Tulasi plants, though not inspired by a direct instruction from Srila Prabhupada, were communicated from within the heart by the Lord to please and assist Srila Prabhupada in his mission. I felt humbled and joyful that even in my ignorance I had been given an opportunity to serve him in this way.

Learning Respect for Tulasi

In 1968, before Tulasi made her appearance in the West, Srila Prabhupada sometimes talked about her. I recall him saying that in India every-one considers Tulasi plants sacred, and no one will cut or uproot them. Even non-Hindus, he said, will not destroy Tulasi to build a house on a spot where she is growing—they'll look for a place not inhabited by Tulasi. When Bhaktivinoda Thakura discovered the birthplace of Lord Caitanya, it was so overgrown with Tulasi that no one had settled there, thinking it to be a sacred place. Even non-Hindus considered that disturbing Tulasi plants would bring ill fortune.

When Prabhupada came to Hawaii in 1971, he admired our lush Tulasi garden in front of the entrance to the temple. Because these Tulasis had grown far larger than we had expected (some nearly seven feet tall and with stalks two inches in diameter), we had a problem. The Tulasi branches were beginning to cover the entrance, and people unavoidably brushed up against her. We pointed this out to Srila Prabhupada and asked his permission to trim some of the branches. He became alarmed and exclaimed, "You cannot cut Tulasi—that is the greatest offense! You must never cut her. But you can tie back the branches obstructing the entrance."

Even after tying back the branches, Tulasi kept growing, and the problem continued. When we told Srila Prabhupada that people had to bend down when passing through the Tulasi archway on the way into the temple, he was delighted. He smiled, his eyes sparkled, and he said, "That's good. It is good that they have to bow to Tulasi before entering Krsna's temple."

When Srila Prabhupada came for a later visit, he carefully entered the Tulasi archway by going through sideways to avoid brushing against her leaves and branches. And while walking along the walkway to the temple, which was lined with more Tulasi plants, he told his secretary, Syamasundara, "Don't step on her shadow." In these ways Srila Prabhupada showed great respect for Tulasi Devi.

In his books, too, Srila Prabhupada called attention to the exalted position of Tulasi Devi. He writes in a purport to the Srimad-Bhagavatam (3.16.21):

The goddess of fortune, Laksmi, is sometimes envious of the tulasi leaves which are placed at the lotus feet of the Lord, for they remain fixed there and do not move, whereas Laksmiji, although stationed by the chest of the Lord, sometimes has to please other devotees who pray for her favor. Laksmiji sometimes has to go to satisfy her numerous devotees, but tulasi leaves never forsake their position, and the Lord therefore appreciates the service of tulasi more than the service of Laksmi.

In The Nectar of Devotion, Srila Prabhupada quotes from the Skanda Purana:

Tulasi is auspicious in all respects. Simply by seeing, simply by touching, simply by remembering, simply by praying to, simply by bowing before, simply by hearing about, or simply by sowing this tree, there is always auspiciousness. Anyone who comes in touch with the tulasi tree in the abovementioned ways lives eternally in the Vaikuntha world.

Srila Prabhupada taught us never to think of Tulasi as an ordinary plant. She is a great devotee standing before us in the form of a small tree. She appears as a delicate tree in this world to serve the Lord and uplift human society.

Tulasi Devi can be used in many ways to please the Supreme Lord, but never for gratifying one's senses. To offer Tulasi Devi with a material incentive—to destroy one's enemies, to remove anxieties, to make medicine—will be the bridge by which one enters the hellish regions.

Tulasi Devi has come to the West to give us the opportunity to serve her for our benefit. If we care for her nicely, she can grant us love for Krsna.

Serving Tulasi's Home

In November 1989, I met "Vrnda Kunda Baba," or Madhava Dasa, a renowned scholar and Vaisnava saint, and a great devotee of Srimati Tulasi Devi. He had spent years in Vrndavana working to restore and develop Vrnda Kunda, the eternal home of Vrnda Devi, the cowherd-girl form of Tulasi Devi. Madhava Baba's knowledge of the scriptures, especially those relating to the glories of Tulasi Devi, was vast. Not surprisingly, I felt an immediate connection.

Because Baba had become old and ill, he wanted to leave his work to reliable people who were also devoted to Tulasi Devi. Somehow, by the divine arrangement of the Lord, he ended up at ISKCON's Krishna-Balaram temple.

On meeting him, I felt a strong urge to assist him and began by helping with his medical expenses. Later, when he became bedridden in February and March of 1990, I worked with Vidya Devi Dasi, Muralidhara Dasa, and Mohana Dasa to help provide nursing and medical care for him in his final days.

At that time, I was inspired to paint a picture of Vrnda Devi. Madhava Baba knew all the scriptural references to Vrnda Devi, and he carefully supervised the tiniest details of this painting. The scriptures describe Vrnda Devi as having a beautiful complexion like molten gold, a shimmering golden effulgence, and an enchanting pearl on her nose. A gentle smile decorates her lips.

She wears blue garments and is decorated with pearls and flowers. Her right hand is raised in blessing the devotees, and on her left hand she holds her yellow parrot, Daksa, who has thousands of parrot disciples of various colors: red, green, yellow, blue, white. The parrots serve Vrnda Devi by carrying messages to various parts of Vrndavana.

Vrnda Devi is in charge of the Vrndavana lila—the pastimes of Radha and Krsna. She decides which flowers will bloom, which birds will sing, which songs will be sung, which breezes will blow, which food will be served, which games will be played, which musical instruments will be played.

Lord Krsna and Srimati Radharani have given Vrnda Devi her role as queen of Vrndavana. Vrnda Devi may be likened to a grand director or choreographer of the Vrndavana lila, and her parrots are her communication service. She always stays in Vrndavana, absorbed in love for Radha and Krsna. Her great yearning is to expertly arrange Their meeting, and by doing this she feels the greatest joy.

When the painting was finished, I would hold it up before Baba daily, and he would chant his prayers to Vrnda Devi, his worshipable deity. Often he would cry when he saw her.

Once he looked up at me and very humbly said, "Thank you, Mataji. You have made just the exact replica of Vrnda Devi."

I told him, "Baba, because you are now unable to walk and go see your beloved deity, Vrnda Devi has arranged to come to see you."

We pressed Baba to tell us his life story so we could tape it for future publication. He was reluctant.

"No Mataji, I don't want name and fame."

We persisted, imploring him that it would be a necessary part of continuing the development of Vrnda Kunda. We pleaded that name and fame would come after he had left this world. He finally agreed, for the service of Vrnda Devi, and we began documenting his life story and the story of the development of Vrnda Kunda.

Srila Prabhupada had told us that Vrndavana is named after Vrnda Devi. It means "forest of Tulasi."

Baba explained, "This Vrndavana-dhama belongs to Sri Krsna. It is the shining crest jewel of all the Vaikunthas, and Srimati Radharani, the daughter of King Vrsabhanu, has made Vrnda Devi the ruling monarch of Lord Krsna's opulent and auspicious abode of Vrndavana."

Every day Baba talked to us of the glories of Vrnda Devi as described in the Skanda Purana, Brahma-vaivarta Purana, Padma Purana, Garuda Purana, Narada Purana, and other Vedic texts. He carefully translated the Vrnda-devyastakam by Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, and he told us about the mercy of Lord Caitanya. We learned that the Lord would have a Tulasi tree carried before him in His sankirtana party.

During this time, I visited Vrnda Kunda. There is a small, simple temple there, and a lovely pond lined with Tulasi trees. The atmosphere was surcharged with a unique spiritual essence. I sat quietly and chanted and meditated beside Tulasi Devi. In my mind I had a fleeting "glimpse" of a beautiful palace, with winding crystal staircases and shimmering decor. I wondered at this, and when I saw Baba I asked him about it. He began to describe such a palace from various scriptural quotations. I was stunned.

In a miraculous way that only Lord Krsna could have designed, this aged saint, who was born in a highly situated brahmana family and who had spent his entire life as a sadhu, was now being cared for by a small crew of American and European disciples of Srila Prabhupada. Witnessing his love and devotion for Vrnda Devi was our greatest gift. It was as if Srila Prabhupada had arranged for us to receive further instruction and opportunity to serve Srimati Tulasi Devi by sending Baba into our midst.

A Divine Soul Departs

Baba's passing away was glorious. It was early, just after mangala-arati, on March 27, 1990. Vidya and I were in the temple making Tulasi garlands when Baba's nurse rushed in, telling us to come quickly. On the way to his room I grabbed the painting of Vrnda Devi to take to him.

As I entered the room, I was a bit shaken by the hanging presence of impending death. Death is a powerful, compelling force, hard to describe, yet almost tangible.

I held the painting for Baba to see and said, "Vrnda Devi has come."

He focused on the beautiful form of Vrnda Devi and tried to say his Sanskrit prayers to her. His last audible words were "Krsna! Krsna!"

We sat beside his bed and chanted Hare Krsna on our beads. Dinabandhu Dasa arrived and began playing the harmonium and singing. It was a soft and gentle kirtana, penetratingly sweet and melodious. The whole room was filled with a golden glow. Baba's eyes were fixed on Vrnda Devi, and when he could no longer see externally, his eyes were shining in ecstasy and focused on some other world. It was as if he was clearly seeing Krsna and his beloved Vrnda Devi.

A beautiful smile was on his lips. His breath came in tiny gasps, and with each breath his ecstasy increased. His face shone with a remarkable radiance. Then he was gone. It was a moment of incredible awe and ecstasy! We were seeing a divine soul depart for the realm of Goloka, and we cried for joy.

Baba's departure left on indelible imprint on my mind. I saw the energy of death in action—compelling, relentless, moving forward like a bulldozer, pushing the soul out of the body. It was fierce and final, frightening and overwhelmingly real. This was the essence and inner meaning of time. I tasted the divine words of the Gita: "I come as death."

Then I saw the devotee's response to death: full surrender at the Lord's lotus feet with pure love and trust. And I witnessed the Lord's divine protection of His devotee. What may be fearful and horrible for others was for Baba a joyous reunion with his beloved Lord. Krsna came and filled the room with His love and radiance, and Baba left with Him to eternally serve Vrnda Devi at her home in Vrnda Kunda.

Baba's work at Vrnda Kunda was left unfinished. I believe it was his gift to us, Srila Prabhupada's generations of disciples. Because of Srila Prabhupada's efforts in spreading the glories of Tulasi Devi all over the world, Vrnda Devi led Baba Madhava Dasa to choose ISKCON to continue her service at Vrnda Kunda.

The small crew of us who cared for Baba all feel deeply committed to carrying on his work at Vrnda Kunda. By Krsna's grace, the daily worship of Vrnda Devi is still going on. We promised Baba that a compound wall will be built around Vrnda Kunda and other improvements will be made. Through this work, our spiritual strength will be increased and our understanding of krsna-bhakti will become mature. There is great spiritual merit accrued from caring for holy places. And of all holy places, Vrnda Kunda is one of the most auspicious.

Govinda Dasi became a disciple of Srila Prabhupada in 1967 in San Francisco. She now lives in Hawaii.

Our thanks to Manjari Devi Dasi of Oakland, California, for her help in putting together this article.

Worshiping Tulasi Devi

The following list was compiled from scriptures and from Srila Prabhupada's instructions.

• Tulasi's body is spiritual. Although Tulasi appears as many individual trees, she is one person, and she comes wherever she sees devotion to Krsna.

• Every morning devotees should water and pray to Tulasi Devi and circumambulate her three times.

• Worship Tulasi with nice food, flowers, incense, a ghee lamp, and other traditional articles of worship.

• Protect the delicate Tulasi seedlings from birds and insects. It is an offense to turn the seedlings back into the soil.

• In places where Tulasi cannot survive the winters when planted in the ground, provide a suitable house for her.

• Every day provide Tulasi fresh air, water (as needed—be careful not to water too much), and sunshine (or plant lights).

• Neglecting to care for or water Tulasi properly is a great offense. Do everything carefully.

• When picking Tulasi leaves, chant the following mantra:

tulasy amrta-janmasi
sada tvam kesava-priya
kesavartham cinomi tvam
varada bhava sobhane

"O Tulasi, you were born from nectar. You are always very dear to Lord Kesava. Now, in order to worship Lord Kesava, I am collecting your leaves and manjaris. Please bestow your benediction on me."

Pick only the leaves that grow next to the manjaris (flowers) and the leaves that are ready to drop—they will turn a pale color—not the new, green ones. Pick the manjaris as soon as they blossom. Avoid letting them go to seed, which takes much energy from the plant that can be used to make more leaves and flowers for Krsna's service. Pick the leaves one at a time with your fingertips. Don't shake or stroke the branch and damage healthy leaves. Pick with care and attention. Avoid using cutting tools.

• Never cut or prune Tulasi Devi. This is a great offense. Remove dead branches if absolutely necessary. If branches obstruct a passageway, tie them back, but don't cut them.

• Pick Tulasi leaves and flowers in the morning, never at night (from sunset to sunrise).

• Never use chemical sprays on Tulasi.

• Collect leaves once in the morning for worshiping Krsna and for putting on the plates of food to be offered to Him. Put at least one leaf on each preparation. Never pick Tulasi leaves for any other purpose than to offer to the Lord.

• Lord Krsna likes garlands of Tulasi leaves. Tulasi leaves mixed with sandalwood pulp and placed on the lotus feet of the Lord is the topmost worship. Do not place Tulasi leaves on the feet of anyone other than Lord Visnu in His various forms. Srimati Radharani can be given a Tulasi leaf in Her hand for offering to Lord Krsna.

• Krsna accepts even dry Tulasi leaves.

• Tulasi wood (taken after a plant has fully dried naturally) can be used to carve worship paraphernalia, such as beads. Place leftover Tulasi wood within the earth.

• Never use Tulasi leaves or flowers to make teas or juices, even after they've been offered to Krsna. It is a great offense to cook or heat Tulasi, or to use her for mundane purposes, such as medicines and ointments.

• Never cut down or pull up living Tulasi plants. This is a great offense.

• Avoid stepping on Tulasi Devi's shadow.

• Tulasi Devi is very, very dear to the Lord. Therefore, most important is to serve her with love and devotion.

Benefits of Worshiping Tulasi Devi

Although we can never fully describe the glories of Tulasi Devi, an eternal associate of Lord Krsna, the scriptures give us a hint of the value of worshiping her. The following list comes from the Padma Purana.

—Tulasi is the essence of all devotional activities.

—The leaves, flowers, roots, bark, branches, trunk, and shade of Tulasi Devi are all spiritual.

—One who with devotion applies the paste of Tulasi wood to the Deity of Krsna will always live close to Krsna.

—One who puts mud from the base of the Tulasi tree on his body and worships the Deity of Lord Krsna gets the results of one hundred days' worship each day.

—One who offers a Tulasi manjari to Lord Krsna gets the benefit of offering all other varieties of flowers, and he goes to the abode of Krsna.

—One who sees or comes near a house or garden where the Tulasi plant is present gets rid of all his sinful reactions, including that of killing a brahmana.

—Lord Krsna happily lives in the house, town, or forest where Tulasi Devi is present.

—A house where Tulasi Devi is present never falls on bad times, and it becomes purer than all holy places.

—The fragrance of Tulasi Devi purifies all who smell it.

—Lord Krsna and all the demigods live in a house where mud from the base of the Tulasi tree is found.

—Without Tulasi leaves, Lord Krsna does not like to accept flowers, food, or sandalwood paste.

—One who worships Lord Krsna daily with Tulasi leaves attains the results of all kinds of austerity, charity, and sacrifice. In fact, he has no other duties to perform, and he has realized the essence of the scriptures.

—One who puts into his mouth or on his head Tulasi leaves that have been offered to Lord Krsna attains Lord Krsna's abode.

—In Kali-yuga, one who worships, remembers, plants, keeps, or performs kirtana before Tulasi burns up all sinful reactions and quickly attains Lord Krsna's abode.

—One who worships Lord Krsna with Tulasi leaves releases all his ancestors from the realm of birth and death.

—One who remembers the glories of Tulasi or tells others about them will never take birth again.

The Tulasi Arati Prayers

Srila Prabhupada gave his disciples the following prayers for worshiping Tulasi Devi.

Sri Tulasi Pranama

(Recite when bowing to Tulasi.)

vrndayai tulasi-devyai
priyayai kesavasya ca
krsna-bhakti-prade devi
satyavatyai namo namah

"I offer my repeated obeisances unto Vrnda, Srimati Tulasi Devi, who is very dear to Lord Kesava [Krsna]. O goddess, you bestow devotional service to Lord Krsna and possess the highest truth."

Sri Tulasi Kirtana

(Sing during the arati. This song is in Bengali.)

namo namah tulasi! krsna-preyasi
radha-krsna-seva pabo ei abhilasi

je tomara sarana loy, tara vancha purna hoy
krpa kori' koro tare brndavana-basi

mor ei abhilas, bilas kunje dio vas
nayane heribo sada jugala-rupa-rasi

ei nivedana dharo, sakhir anugata koro
seva-adhikara diye koro nija dasi

dina krsna-dase koy, ei jena mora hoy
sri-radha-govinda-preme sada jena bhasi

"O Tulasi, beloved of Krsna, I bow before you again and again. My desire is to obtain the service of Sri Sri Radha-Krsna.

"Whoever takes shelter of you has his wishes fulfilled. Bestowing your mercy on him, you make him a resident of Vrndavana.

"My desire is that you will also grant me a residence in the pleasure groves of Sri Vrndavana-dhama. Thus, within my vision I will always behold the beautiful pastimes of Radha and Krsna.

"I beg you to make me a follower of the cowherd damsels of Vraja. Please give me the privilege of devotional service and make me your own maidservant.

"This very fallen and lowly servant of Krsna prays, 'May I always swim in the love of Sri Sri Radha and Govinda.' "

Sri Tulasi Pradaksina Mantra

(Sing while circumambulating Tulasi.)

yani kani ca papani
brahma-hatyadikani ca
tani tani pranasyanti
pradaksinah pade pade

"By the circumambulation of Srimati Tulasi Devi all the sins one may have committed are destroyed at every step, even the sin of killing a brahmana."

Eight Names of Vrnda Devi

Vrnda Devi: She has thousands and thousands of sakhis (associate maidservants).

Vrndavani: She never leaves Vrndavana.

Visvapujita: The whole world worships her.

Visvapavani: She is the sanctifier of the whole world.

Puspasara: She is the essence of all flowers.

Nandini: She gives happiness to everyone.

Tulasi Devi: She has an incomparable form.

Krsna-jivani: She is the life and soul of Lord Krsna.

Serving Vrnda Kunda

In a letter requesting contributions for Vrnda Kunda, Madhava Baba once wrote, "Vrnda Devi is known as Srimati Tulasi Devi and is worshiped by all Sanatanists. The worship of Tulasi Devi is the life of Sanatana Dharma. Negligence of Tulasi seva means the negligence of entire religion.... Sri Vrnda Devi Temple and its twin Kundas (Vrnda Kunda and Gupta Kunda) are glorified in sixty ancient Sanskrit and Bengali books."

The following are plans for the upkeep and development of Vrnda Kunda:

• Build a boundary wall around the two-acre site.

• Build a samadhi (tomb) for Baba Madhava Dasa.

• Build a good road to the site.

• Level the site.

• Build steps around the Kunda.

• Deepen the Kunda.

• Renovate and expand the temple.

• Dig for fresh drinking water.

• Plant trees.

• Buy land for growing vegetables and keeping cows for self-sufficiency.

• Build guestrooms for pilgrims.

To contribute for this work, please write to:

Vrinda Trust

1504 Riverton Road

Cinnaminson, NJ 08077



Vrinda Trust

Sri Krishna-Balaram Mandir

Bhaktivedanta Swami Marg

Raman Reti, Vrindavan, UP India

Sri Vrndadevy-astaka

"Eight Prayers Glorifying Sri Vrnda Devi," by Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura
Translation by Baba Madhava Dasa

(1) gangeya-campeya-tadid-vinindi-
vrnde namas te caranaravindam

O Vrnda Devi, I offer my respectful obeisances to your lotus feet. You are bathed in your own splendor, which defeats the effulgence of lightning and the golden campaka flower. The luster of your transcendental garments is the friend of the leandhilia flower.

(2) bimbadharoditvara-manda-hasya-
vrnde namas te caranaravindam

O Vrnda Devi, I offer my respectful obeisances to your lotus feet. Your face is illuminated by the splendor of the pearl decorating the tip of your nose, and by the extraordinary gentle smile on the two bimba fruits which are your lips. You are enriched by the beauty of the amazing and colorful jewels and ornaments you wear.

(3) samasta-vaikuntha-siromanau sri-
krsnasya vrndavana-dhanya-dhamni
dattadhikare vrsabhanu-putrya
vrnde namas te caranaravindam

O Vrnda Devi, I offer my respectful obeisances to your lotus feet. Srimati Radharani, the daughter of King Vrsabhanu, has made you the ruling monarch of Lord Krsna's opulent and auspicious abode of Vrndavana, which is the crest jewel of all the Vaikuntha planets.

(4) tvad-ajnaya pallava-puspa-bhrnga-
mrgadibhir madhava-keli-kunjah
madhv-adibhir bhanti vibhusyamana
vrnde namas te caranaravindam

O Vrnda Devi, I offer my respectful obeisances to your lotus feet. Because of your order, the groves where Lord Madhava performs His pastimes appear very splendid, decorated with blossoming flowers, bumblebees, deer, and other auspicious animals, flowers, and birds.

(5) tvadiya-dutyena nikunja-yunor
atyutkayoh keli-vilasa-siddhih
tvat-saubhagam kena nirucyatam tad
vrnde namas te caranaravindam

O Vrnda Devi, I offer my respectful obeisances to your lotus feet. Who can describe your good fortune? You were the messenger who brought about the perfection of the amorous pastimes of Radha and Krsna, the youthful couple, who enthusiastically sport in the groves of Vrndavana.

(6) rasabhilaso vasatis ca vrnda-
vane tvad-isanghri-saroja-seva
labhya ca pumsam krpaya tavaiva
vrnde namas te caranaravindam

O Vrnda Devi, I offer my respectful obeisances to your lotus feet. The living entities who attain the service of the lotus feet of your Lord reside in Vrndavana. And the desire to understand the Lord's amazing pastimes of the rasa dance is only by your mercy.

(7) tvam kirtyase satvata-tantra-vidbhir
lilabhidhana kila krsna-saktih
tavaiva murtis tulasi nr-loke
vrnde namas te caranaravindam

O Vrnda Devi, I offer my respectful obeisances to your lotus feet. Those who have studied the Satvata-tantra glorify you. You are Lord Krsna's potency for performing pastimes, and you are known as Tulasi Devi in the human society.

(8) bhaktya vihina aparadha-laksaih
ksiptas ca kamadi-taranga-madhye
krpamayi tvam saranam prapanna
vrnde namas te caranaravindam

O Vrnda Devi, I offer my respectful obeisances to your lotus feet. Those who are devoid of devotion to Lord Hari, and who are thrown by their offenses into the waves of lust and other inauspicious qualities, may take shelter of you.

(9) vrndastakam yah srnuyat pathed va
sa prapya vrndavana-nitya-vasam
tat-prema-sevam labhate krtarthah

O Vrnda Devi, I offer my respectful obeisances to your lotus feet. Let a person who becomes like a bumblebee at the lotus feet of Radha-Krsna, and who reads or hears these eight verses describing the glories of Vrnda Devi, eternally reside at Goloka Vrndavana. He attains devotional service in pure love of Godhead, and all his spiritual aspirations become fulfilled.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

Coming To Krsna

Saved by Krsna

"I tried to imagine how my wife and children would feel when they found my dead body."

By Jamnadas Vanmali

ALONG THE JOURNEY of life we all have milestones, major events that direct us and mold us to become the individuals we are. Sometimes these fateful events are joyous and pleasant; often they are tragic or miserable. One of mine was frightening.

In 1987, I, my wife, Chanchar, and our two children (Dharmesh, 15, and Kavita, 5) were living in our home in Groblersdal, South Africa, a quiet village about two hundred kilometers north of Johannesburg. Our new home was a lonely farmhouse about ten kilometers from town.

One weekend, Chanchar and the children were away visiting my parents in Durban, and I was home alone.

It was a typical quiet evening on the farm, with not much to listen to other than crickets chirping in the fields. Living far away from anyone—the nearest neighbor more than a kilometer away—we never locked our doors or took precautions of that sort.

Relaxing on my recliner, I heard footsteps moving quickly around the outside of the house. Before I had time to react, three men burst through the front door. One pointed a revolver at me.

My mind spun: "How to get out? Where is the telephone? Can I get my hands on a knife or any weapon? These black men are going to kill me. I know it. The racial hatred between blacks and wealthy Indians is the cause of this. My time is up."

Two men ransacked our belongings while the third held the gun to my face. For more than fifteen minutes, which seemed like eons to me, they packed cash, jewelry, and other valuables into their car. A fourth man had driven up to the house after they'd entered. I remained helpless, looking down the barrel of the gun.

Although I was not born or raised in India, my ancestors were. My grandfather had immigrated to South Africa from Gujarat. Our family continued to worship Lord Krsna throughout my childhood.

As I sat with death staring down at me, ideas started to flash across my mind. I had read in the newspapers that sometimes robbers shoot people and roll them up in a carpet to die. There have been many such murders in recent times. To eliminate possible witnesses, robbers sometimes murdered old people after robbing their houses.

"They're going to do the same to me," I considered in horror.

I thought of many things I wanted to do. I tried to imagine how my wife and children would feel when they found my dead body.

Then I remembered, "Now I'm going to die. I must remember Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The time has come for me to face my life's ultimate test. I must remember Krsna."

I could vividly visualize His beautiful form, standing next to His eternal consort, Srimati Radharani. His smiling face and beautiful lotuslike eyes relieved me of all my anxiety and fear. I stopped worrying about the robbery, the people threatening my life, and the barrel of the gun pointing at my head. I felt that if I could die now, that would be the perfection of my life.

Quick footsteps and the sound of a car starting brought me back to my external senses. The intruders had made a dash for their car and were driving off. Another car had miraculously driven into my yard, and the robbers had run away. My friend Reg had unexpectedly arrived. Although apparently the headlights of his car had been my savior, in the depth of my heart I knew Krsna had saved me.

A few months later we moved from that lonely farmhouse to Durban, but racial tension in South Africa continued to haunt my family and nation. In 1989 we decided to move from South Africa. I developed some business contacts in Australia, arranged proper visas, and made airplane reservations.

Around that time I received an invitation from the ISKCON temple in Durban to attend a fund-raising banquet for "phase two" of the center's development. My wife and I attended and heard the address given by ISKCON leader Bhakti Caru Swami.

"Five hundred years ago, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu predicted that the Krsna consciousness movement would spread throughout the world, in every town and village. That prediction has been fulfilled by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. He spread this movement all over the world, establishing temples of Radha-Krsna in all the major cities."

"It's really true," I reflected. "Wherever I've been I've seen ISKCON temples."

Bhakti Caru Swami continued: "Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu requested all Indians to help spread this movement by preaching the glory of Krsna. To engage them in His mission, He placed Indians in different parts of the world. It is time that they become engaged in that service of Supreme Lord."

I wondered, "What have I done to help spread Krsna consciousness, to help spread Indian culture?"

"All problems of the world today are due to man's forgetfulness of Krsna," he said. "The more people reject God, the more difficult becomes the situation of the world. Remembrance of Krsna as the supreme proprietor, the supreme enjoyer, and our dearmost friend is the ultimate solution to all problems. The Krsna consciousness movement, which is reminding people all over the world about the Supreme Personality of Godhead and showing how to establish our lost relationship with Him, is the only way to solve the world's problems."

His words entered my heart. I thought, "Yes, Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is the supreme controller, and if we surrender unto Him then all our problems will be solved."

For the first time in my life I realized that all problems are due to man's forgetfulness of God, and if we want to solve these problems we must remind everyone who God is.

"Why am I running away from South Africa like a coward?" I thought.

I resolved to stay there and help the Krsna consciousness movement spread. That evening I donated 100,000 rands (US$40,000), and from then on I became more involved in ISKCON.

As time went by, Chanchar and I developed faith by associating with devotees. My life has changed. I have a mission, a worthwhile goal to my existence. My wife and I chant sixteen rounds daily. Chanchar performs services several times a week at the Durban temple.

In 1990 I was fortunate enough to realize a sizeable profit from my business. While driving Bhakti Caru Swami to the Rathayatra festival in July, I promised to donate another one million rands to ISKCON.

I realize, perhaps more than others because of my experience, that all material assets are temporary. Believe me, that fearful night when I faced death is etched in my memory. It sometimes haunts me. I know that at any moment all I have worked for can be ripped from my hands. My possessions are not really my own—they have been bestowed upon me by God. It is my duty to use them in His service. All glories to the sankirtana movement of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu!

Jamnadas Vanmali is now an initiated disciple of Bhakti Caru Swami, who has named him Srinathaji Dasa.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

Project Profile

HERE'S A Krsna conscious project you might like to support or get involved in.


ISKCON World Review.


San Diego, California (moving to Alachua, Florida, this year).


Mukunda Goswami (Executive Editor), Sarva-satya Dasa (Administrative Director), Kunti Devi Dasi (Editor).


To publish news of the worldwide activities of the Hare Krsna movement, to foster communication and cooperation among its members, and to promote their projects, activities, products, and services.


ISKCON Communications, headed by Mukunda Goswami, published the first issue of ISKCON World Review in May 1981, under the management of Uddhava Dasa.

IWR readers have witnessed the rise of Hare Krsna temples, schools, Food for Life programs, and many other projects in nearly every region of the world. They have seen kings, presidents, and other prominent people meet with ISKCON officials.

IWR documented the struggles of the Soviet Hare Krsnas incarcerated for their beliefs. It marshaled aid for their freedom and then reported ISKCON's becoming the first registered religion in the Soviet Union. IWR gathered support for saving New Mayapur, the French temple the government tried to close; Bhaktivedanta Manor, the English temple under legal attack by a few neighbors; and several North American temples threatened by the Robin George lawsuit.


Today ISKCON World Review receives reports from fifty-two inter-national correspondents and goes to subscribers in sixty countries, as well as to scholars, religionists, government leaders, the media, and leaders of animal rights, vegetarian, and environmental movements. Temples send their members ISKCON World Review, which Navina Krsna Dasa of the ISKCON Foundation calls "an excellent way to build pride in ISKCON and strengthen confidence in our future."

The paper's editorials have been on the cutting edge of ISKCON's social progress, championing innovations like ISKCON credit unions, community development, and apprenticeships for second-generation devotees.

The paper has become a major venue in ISKCON for devotional commerce. The IWR Marketplace presents opportunities for devotional service, employment, education, health care, and the distribution of transcendental books, tapes, and other products.

Recently, IWR sponsored the premier issue of The Hare Krsna Directory and Resource Guide, the first compilation of ISKCON's temples, projects, Governing Body Commissioners, spiritual masters, other devotees, and a variety of other resources.


Because of a lack of money and staff, IWR now comes out bimonthly, but IWR leaders aim to make it a monthly. The way to accomplish this, they feel, is to help temples develop their communities.

The staff plans to index all previous issues of IWR and offer them on computer disk. They also hope to preserve the photos and the papers through archival methods.


Devotees around the world are not fully aware that they can use IWR to promote their projects and enterprises. The paper is not merely a North American publication. It is one of the few vehicles that connects ISKCON members worldwide.

Temples building congregations need to understand the importance of using IWR. They can send it to prospective members and submit stories and photographs about their center. IWR may be able to help centers unable to do their own membership mailings.


Use ISKCON World Review—by subscribing, advertising, ordering bulk quantities, patronizing its advertisers, and getting involved with the projects it advocates.

For $20 or more you can sponsor a section of the newspaper, such as Cow Corner, Books are the Basis, Srila Prabhupada Centennial, World News Briefs, or ISKCON in India. Or you can send a tax-deductible donation. For more information, please contact:

ISKCON World Review, P. O. Box 99103, San Diego, CA 92169. Phone (619) 270-6110; fax (619) 270-4183. Please see the ad on page 56.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

Srila Prabhupada Speaks Out

LSD And Liberation

The following conversation between Srila Prabhupada and the poet Allen Ginsberg took place in Columbus, Ohio, on May 11, 1969.

Srila Prabhupada: Nobody is free from service because we are constitutionally servants. Either we become the servant of the Great or maya. Just like in any condition of our lives, we have to abide by the state laws. If you don't abide, then you come to the prison house. You will be forced. Similarly, maya and Krsna. If we don't abide by Krsna, then we come to maya. We cannot be free. That is not our position. Freedom results in frustration.

Allen Ginsberg: Do you remember a man named Richard Alpert? He used to work with Timothy Leary in Harvard many years ago. And then he went to India and found a teacher and is now a disciple of Hanumanji, or a devotee of Hanuman. We were talking about maya and the present condition of America. So he said that his teacher in India told him that LSD was a Christ of the Kali-yuga for Westerners.

Srila Prabhupada: Christ?

Allen Ginsberg: Of the Kali-yuga for Westerners. As the Kali-yuga got more intense, as attachment got thicker and thicker, salvation would also have to get easier and easier.

Srila Prabhupada: That is a very nice statement that in the Kali-yuga salvation becomes much easier. That is the version of Srimad-Bhagavatam also, but that process is this kirtana [chanting the names of God], not LSD.

Allen Ginsberg: Well, the reasoning was that for those who would only accept salvation in a purely material form, in a chemical form finally, Krsna had the humor to emerge as a pill.

Srila Prabhupada: No, the thing is that with any material form, where is there salvation? It is illusion.

Allen Ginsberg: Well, the subjective effect is to cut attachment during...

Srila Prabhupada: No. If you have got attachment for something material, then where is the cut-off of attachment? LSD is a material chemical.

Allen Ginsberg: Yeah.

Srila Prabhupada: So if you have to take shelter of LSD, then you are taking help from matter. So how are you free from matter?

Allen Ginsberg: Well, the subjective experience is, while in the state of intoxication of LSD you also realize that LSD is a material pill, and that it does not really matter.

Srila Prabhupada: So that is risky. That is risky.

Allen Ginsberg: Yeah. Now, so if LSD is a material attachment, which it is, I think, then is not sound, sabda, also a material attachment?

Srila Prabhupada: No, sabda is spiritual. Just like in the Bible it is said, "Let there be creation." This sound is spiritual sound. Creation was not there. The sound produced the creation. Therefore, sound is originally spiritual, and from sound, sky develops; from sky, air develops; from air, fire develops; from fire, water develops; from water, land develops.

Allen Ginsberg: Sound is the first element of creation?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, yes.

Allen Ginsberg: What was the first sound traditionally?

Srila Prabhupada: The Vedic literature states, om. So at least we can understand from your Bible that God said, "Let there be creation." So there is this sound, and then there is creation. God and His sound are nondifferent, absolute. I say, "Mr. Ginsberg," and this sound and I are different. But God is nondifferent from His energy. Sakti saktimator abhedah. Sakti, energy, and saktimat, the energetic. They are nondifferent. Just like fire and heat, they are nondifferent, but heat is not fire. You cannot differentiate heat from fire, or fire from heat. But fire is not heat.

Allen Ginsberg: Well, the sound Krsna...

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, it is nondifferent from Krsna.

Allen Ginsberg: Under all circumstances.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, under all circumstances. But it is a question of my appreciation, or my realization. That will depend on my purity. Otherwise, this Krsna sound and Krsna are nondifferent. Therefore if we vibrate the sound Krsna, then we are immediately in contact with Krsna. And because Krsna is wholly spiritual, then we become spiritualized. Just like if you touch electricity, immediately you're electrified. And the more you become electrified [by vibrating the sound Krsna], the more you become Krsna-ized. So when you are fully Krsna-ized, you are on the Krsna platform. Tyaktva deham punar janma naiti mam eti so 'rjuna. You don't come back to this material existence. You remain with Krsna.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

Every Town & Village

The worldwide activities of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)

World News

North America

Devotees from seven countries gathered in Topanga, California, in August for ISKCON's first conference on rural community development. Among the topics discussed: a conceptual economic model based on the Bhagavad-gita, strategies for an ox-power, grain-based economy, and the need for long-range planning in farming (permaculture). Copies of the conference proceedings and audiotapes of the presentations are available from Vaishnava Community Development, P. O. Box 90143, San Diego, CA 92169.

High-placed public officials from nineteen countries visited the Bhaktivedanta Cultural Center in Detroit in August. The group, which included supreme court justices and attorney generals, dined on a full-course prasadam dinner and received a guided tour of the temple complex. They were sponsored by the U.S. State Department to take part in its International Visitors Council program, which invites up-and-coming international leaders to the United States and teaches them about the U.S. judicial system.

ISKCON governing body commissioner Ravindra Svarupa Dasa addressed the dignitaries, impressing upon them the universal nature of the principles of Krsna consciousness and the authentic heritage of the Hare Krsna movement. Each guest received a copy of Srila Prabhupada's biography.

The Girls Vaishnava Academy has moved into a new 2,500-square-foot house on five acres of land near ISKCON's New Ramana Reti Farm. The school has eighteen girls (ages twelve to eighteen), from the United States, Japan, Scotland, South America, and Germany. Last summer the girls won the appreciation of the local people by helping plant 32,000 flowers along a county highway.

Three thousand watched as Ravana burned at the Festival of India held last September in Spanish Fork, Utah. The effigy-burning was the climax of a Ramayana play put on by local devotees.

The San Francisco branch of the Bhaktivedanta Institute has moved across the bay to Oakland. Their new address:

P. O. Box 29737, Oakland, CA 94604. Phone: (510) 465-7618; fax: (510) 465-5471.

Vice Mayor Mike Haggerty cut the ribbon to officially open Govinda's at ISKCON's Caitanya Cultural Center in Tucson, Arizona. Under the direction of Dasaratha Dasa, devotees have transformed an acre of desert land into a paradise with palm trees, gardens, walkways, waterfalls, fountains, and an aviary with parrots and peacocks. Mr. Haggerty said that he is glad that Tucson finally has a vegetarian restaurant and that it is located in such a beautiful place.

A hundred thousand people saw Lord Jagannatha's chariot roll down Yonge Street during Toronto's twenty-second annual Rathayatra festival. The parade included three lavishly decorated chariots, five floats depicting Lord Krsna's pastimes, and many classical Indian dance performances. At the festival site, on Toronto Centre Island, devotees passed out twenty thousand plates of Krsna prasadam.

Participants in the International Geographical Congress heard about Lord Caitanya at their gathering in Washington, D. C., last fall. Mrs. Hasi Das, a Calcutta college professor and wife of ISKCON advisor A.C. Das, presented a paper entitled "Mayapur: The Sacred Place of International Fame." She told of ISKCON's plan to develop Mayapur as a spiritual city with a magnificent temple.


Leaders at the Bhaktivedanta Manor have submitted a 200-page document to the European Court in Strasbourg, France, in a final effort to preserve public access to the popular ISKCON center near London. It will take about a year to hear back from the court. For more than six years the devotees have been appealing the decisions of local and county councils to deny public worship at the temple.

BBC Radio listeners could hear Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita As It Is every day during October. The readings included a verse from the Gita, a short purport, and a story from the Bhagavatam to illustrate the purport. Estimated audience: 500,000 a day.

Eight devotees are traveling around Germany in the Spiritual Skyliner, a forty-foot bus they've converted into a temple. Last year they put on seventy programs in various towns and cities.

Two Hare Krsna families are unleashing a revolution in Romania. Paramguru Dasa, Timisoara temple president, and his wife, Tadadhina Devi Dasi, operate a successful business that sells Prabhupada's books to stores all over the country. They sold a thousand books their first month.

"The people here are poor," says Tadadhina, who holds a university degree in economics. "But when they see an attractive book at a store, they'll save their money and purchase it later on. As our business contacts expand and we get more titles in Romanian, we expect the books to become a nationwide rage."

On another front, Murari Krsna Dasa (Dr. Marius Crisan), a lecturer at the University of Timisoara, teaches a weekly seminar on bhakti-yoga. Assisted by his wife, Syamala Devi Dasi, he has translated a wide range of materials from the Bhaktivedanta Institute, the scientific branch of ISKCON.

Murari Krsna says he believes the growing interest in the Vedic science of cosmic origin is a sign he will soon be teaching seminars in universities all over the country.

Visitors keep coming back to Radhadesa, the Hare Krsna movement's castle in Durbuy, Belgium. The former Chateau de Petite Somme is nestled in the rolling hills of the Ardennes region, where the Battle of the Bulge was fought in World War II. Last year more than 25,000 guests toured the rooms of the chateau, including the temple, where they viewed the presiding Deities, Sri Sri Radha-Gopinatha.

Orphans, the aged, and the sick receive prasadam from devotees in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, as part of the Hare Krishna Food for Life program. The government, private farms, and other organizations give free food supplies to the devotees. Since last April, more than five thousand people have received Krsna prasadam.


A quarter of a million people attended festivities during the five-day Janmastami celebrations at ISKCON's temple in Juhu, Bombay. The ISKCON auditorium, one of the best in the city, was packed each day with people eager to see performances for Krsna's pleasure by world-renowned musicians and dancers, including Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia, Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, Anuradha Paudwal, Shekhar Sen, Anup Jalota, Ashit Desai, and Hema Malini. Chief guests included actor Anil Kapoor, state minister Ramarao Adik, and Bombay mayor Chandrakant Handore.

At midnight on Janmastami, devotees bathed Sri Sri Radha-Rasavihari with 108 pots of honey, milk, and Ganges water.

The president of India, Shanker Dayal Sharma, visited ISKCON's temple in New Delhi on Janmastami, the appearance day of Lord Krsna.

Three tons of prasadam were passed out during the Hyderabad Rathayatra parade. Dr. P. V. Ranga Rao, state education minister for Andhra Pradesh and son of India's prime minister, swept the road in front of Lord Jagannatha's chariot to inaugurate the seven-kilometer parade.

India's largest publisher of religious books has published Passage From India, by Steven Rosen (Satyaraja Dasa). The book is a summary study of Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami's Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta, a seven-volume biography of Srila Prabhupada. Passage From India will be part of a series of biographies studied at high schools and universities in India and Europe.

Construction has resumed on ISKCON's temple in Baroda, Gujarat, after a five-year delay due to lack of funds. The temple will be topped by three yellow domes of the traditional Somapura style of Gujarati temple architecture. The spacious basement of the temple has served as living quarters, offices, and a temporary temple. Temple president Vasu Ghosa Dasa says the number of visitors to the temple has tripled since construction resumed.

Dr. Vibhakar J. Mody of Washington, D.C., and originally from Baroda, has pledged $50,000 to the project, in memory of his mother, who passed away in Baroda in June 1991.

Devotees are planning the development of ISKCON's 31-acre plot in Jagannatha Puri, Orissa. They plan to use the five-acre beachfront for a guesthouse and a naturopathic health clinic. Two acres will be leased to devotees for housing. The rest of the land will be used for agriculture, a temple, a day school, a cowshed, a memorial to Srila Prabhupada, a prasadam hall, a museum, and asramas for men and women.

Although non-Indians are not admitted into Puri's famous Jagannatha temple, local acceptance of ISKCON devotees, including Westerners, is improving. The king of Puri, Gajapati Maharaja Dibyasinga Dev, invited ISKCON members to attend the road-sweeping ceremony before the start of last summer's Rathayatra festival. For the first time, many Western devotees were welcome to chant and dance before the original Jagannatha deities.


Five thousand people attended the Janmastami celebrations at the Phoenix temple, ISKCON's main center in this island nation. American-born Vasu Ghosa Dasa, temple president of ISKCON Baroda, Gujarat, delivered the main address in Hindi.

Middle East

Bahrain's labor and social affairs ministry has granted registration to "The Hare Krishna Group," making Bahrain the first Persian Gulf state to officially allow the practice of Krsna consciousness. The group is made up of Indian professional and business people, most of whom were already enrolled as ISKCON life members, and is headed by Dr. Sitaram, senior emergency physician at Salmaniya Hospital and chairman of Indian School. The group meets in the evening to chant Hare Krsna and study Srila Prabhupada's books. Other activities include festivals, programs for children, in-depth study courses on the Bhagavad-gita and the Srimad-Bhagavatam, and competitions on scripture.

ISKCON governing body member Jayapataka Swami presided over the opening of the group's center.

Commonwealth of Independent States

Professor C. G. Kotovsky visited the ISKCON center in Moscow recently. He spoke to Gopala Krsna Goswami and others about his meeting with Srila Prabhupada in 1971. The professor had a prasadam lunch, saw the Deities of Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai, and received a copy of Bhagavad-gita As It Is in Russian.

For more detailed news, ISKCON puts out a monthly news-paper, ISKCON World Review. To subscribe, see page 56. Any news from your town or village? Please let us know!

Vrndavana News

Marble Supply Interrupted

The supply of marble for Srila Prabhupada's samadhi was held up from June through September by an exceptionally wet rainy season that flooded mines in Rajasthan. Now the work has picked up again.

Front Gate Reopens

By March, if all goes well, visitors will enter ISKCON's Krishna-Balaram Temple through a new marble front gate. The front entrance has been closed for years by the work to build Srila Prabhupada's samadhi. The reopening signals that the work is nearing an end.

Trees Destroyed

In September vandals cut down thirty trees at the garden ISKCON is growing with the World Wide Fund for Nature. The trees—bamboo, champak, banyan, and poinsettia—had been growing for a year. ISKCON's site manager, Acyuta Dasa, at once replaced the cut trees with new ones. "They're not as big," he says, "but everything is growing."

Apart from the garden, ISKCON and the WWF have planted trees along half the pilgrimage path that encircles Vrndavana. The state government has planted shrubs and trees along the other half. Planting is easy, says Acyuta. The hard part is to maintain what is planted.

Acyuta proposed a test to the government officer in charge: "Let's see who'll maintain their half better."

The officer responded, "As long as I'm here, I'm taking up your challenge."

Governor Visits

Among recent visitors to the Krishna-Balaram Temple: Sri Satya Narayan Reddy, the governor of the state of Uttar Pradesh, where the temple is located.

Institute Well Attended

In September and October, 160 devotees attended month-long Krsna conscious seminars in Vrndavana at ISKCON's Vaisnava Institute for Higher Education. The next seminars there start the second week in January.

Feeding the Residents of Vrndavana

ISKCON has been asked to provide daily meals for some 150 babajis (ascetics) at Radha-kunda, a holy place in the Vrndavana area. ISKCON has tentatively agreed. ISKCON also feeds one hundred Vrndavana widows every day at the Krishna-Balaram Temple. The next program: distribution of prasadam in surrounding villages.

Padayatra News

Padayatra India

Devotees completed their Himalayan pilgrimage in September, having reached Gangotri, Yamunotri, and Badrinath. In October they joined other ISKCON members in a month-long walking tour of Vrndavana. Now they're headed to Jagannatha Puri, on the east coast. On the way they'll pass through Naimisaranya, where Suta Gosvami spoke the Bhagavatam; Ayodhya, the birthplace of Lord Rama; Allahabad, the confluence of the Ganges, Yamuna, and Sarasvati rivers; and Gaya, where Lord Caitanya received initiation.

Padayatra America

The padayatris entered Costa Rica in October and should be in Panama, the last country in their Central America tour, in early January. They've walked through El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua.

Padayatra Europe

The international group of devotees walking through Europe started in southern Spain in May. After three months in Spain, they walked through France along the Mediterranean coast and reached Genes, Italy, in September. After a few months in Italy, the party will begin the walk to Greece, the next leg of the journey, which will end in Moscow.

Padayatra Siberia

Hundreds of devotees chanting Hare Krsna and carrying a palanquin bearing a picture of Srila Prabhupada have been visiting many towns and cities throughout Siberia.

Padayatra England

Parasurama Dasa led a small party made up of his wife and children and a few other devotees along the roads of England for several months last year. They put on thirty-two festivals with puppet shows, plays, chanting, and prasadam distribution and attracted much media coverage.

Padayatra New Zealand

Devotees began a 43-day walk through the North Island on December 26. In 1991 the New Zealand Padayatra toured the country's South Island.

Padayatra Switzerland

Last summer, fifteen devotees with an ox and a cart toured the villages surrounding their farm in the Alps. During the three-day walk, they passed out two hundred hardbound books.

Padayatra Trinidad

Devotees here have held several one-day walks. Many schoolchildren and members of the temple's congregation joined in.

For more information about Padayatra, write to:

Padayatra Worldwide

62, Sant Nagar (near Nehru Place), New Delhi 110 065 India. Phone: +91 (11) 642-1736. Fax: +91 (11) 647-0742

Padayatra America

1111 Grand Ave., San Diego, CA 92109. Phone: (619) 273-7262.

Padayatra Europe

Bhaktivedanta Manor, Letchmore Heath, Watford, Herts. WD2 8EP, England. Phone: +44 (92) 385-7244

Use back button to return.

Return to top

The Vedic Observer

Of Gold and Nectar

Olympic gold medals can't compare with the rewards of a swift moonlit walk around Vrndavana's most sacred hill.

By Suresvara Dasa

OUTSIDE HIS NATIVE SPAIN Daniel Plaza Montero's Olympic gold medal in the twenty-kilometer walk last summer drew little notice. As one commentator remarked, "Race-walking is like a contest to see who can whisper the loudest."

But I was enthralled. Montero's heels and toes and swinging elbows took me back to the fastest walk of my life. Twenty-two kilometers around India's Govardhana Hill.

It was the autumn of 1987, on the full-moon anniversary of Lord Krsna's dance with the gopis, the cowherd damsels of Vrndavana. At dusk a local swami led me and two other Americans on Govardhana parikrama, a walking tour around the hill Krsna lifted with the pinky of His left hand.

Chanting Hare Krsna, the swami took off like a bullet. Parikrama is a pilgrimage, not a race, but I liked the pace. Somehow the speed revealed the urgency of the chanting. "O Lord, O energy of the Lord, please engage us in Your eternal loving service."

Single-file, we scooted barefoot over the parikrama path. The path was like life—now rough, now smooth—and even the smooth spots sometimes surprised us. We had to pick our feet up high, or the uneven ground would bang our heels and toes. Serious pilgrims never let Nike or Reebok come between their feet and the holy land. Nor do they spit, gab, run, or look back.

To our left, the full moon was rising through the trees, showing Govardhana, low and lovely, to our auspicious right. We passed villagers placing fresh pots of sweet rice in full view of the moon. Its beams "dripped nectar" into the pots, they said, in honor of Krsna's divine dancing with the gopis.

Lickety-split went Krsna's names, over our tongues, through our ears, and into our hearts. As the trail snaked through a dimly-lit town, the rough terrain ripped the bandages off my blisters. Then ... squish! I stepped into a pile of pure cow dung. And another and another. The trail was full of the magic manure, providing antiseptic "shoes" for my tender Western feet. Govardhana was helping me keep pace.

Outside the town, we hit a sandy stretch lined with tall trees, where dogs were howling at the moon. We passed teens who called "Angres!" ("English!") and laughed. All types of people walked the trail—farmers, businessmen, professionals, gypsies. One robed man with matted locks stepped quickly, touching giant cymbals to a slow three-beat and calling holy names in a high pitch: "Radhe-Syama!" Another was literally prostrating himself around Govardhana. Stretching forth his arms in the dust, he placed a rock as a marker to begin his next prostration. That sort of parikrama would take months to complete. Slow and steady (and purely devoted) wins the race.

The swami was flying as we approached the village of Radha-kunda, nearly full circle on the parikrama path. Suddenly, a group of ruffians rushed out of the shadows. Our torrid pace amused and excited them. They laughed and danced among us, flashing fiery punk sticks near our eyes and shouting, "Radhe! Radhe!" after Krsna's favorite gopi.

Our feet rushed over the stones as we entered the village, a small stampede of rough and gentle pilgrims. Even the ruffians in this sacred land are Krsna conscious, I thought. But I focused on the heels ahead of me, afraid of falling behind.

We raised our arms and pressed our palms as we passed the kunda, Radha's sacred bathing pond. Descending the sandy steps, we bowed and sprinkled a few drops of her holy waters on our heads. The ruffians were gone. Our starting point was only a few hundred yards away. At last, we bowed in the moonlit dust of Govardhana Hill. I looked at my watch: 3 ½ hours flat.

By the path, an old man stirred steaming milk in a large wok. Cow bells jingled in the night as we sat at his stand and spoke of Govardhana. No one gave us any medals for walking so swiftly around the hill. Everyone was too busy loving the One who lifted it. (Now there's one for the Olympians!) Montero got his gold, but we got the nectar. An immortal evening of Krsna consciousness.

Afterthought: The next Olympics is 1996, the same year as Srila Prabhupada's centennial. Imagine a Hare Krsna Olympics, glorifying the superhuman feats of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and His pure devotee Srila Prabhupada. The perfection of cheers!

Suresvara Dasa chants and walks the country roads around Gita Nagari, ISKCON's farm in Pennsylvania.

Use back button to return.

Return to top