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.
RECENTLY I ATTENDED a conference held to honor an Indian missionary who'd come to America a century ago bearing India's message of Vedanta. Though in America his name is now all but forgotten (if ever it was known), back home in India his fame lives on, his impact on the West still an item of national pride.
The conference, a gala event put on for a million and a half dollars by a worldwide body of Hindus, featured, aside from singers, dancers, musicians, and politicians, an assembly of respected Indian swamijis discoursing on the glories of Vedanta.
Their talks went in various directions, and so did I: For a couple of minutes I'd sit and listen, and soon I'd know I ought to be somewhere else—anywhere else.
The speakers, you see, stood mainly for Advaita, for Oneness, for the doctrine that an abstract impersonal reality is all that truly is. All else is but an appearance, an illusion. We may revere whomever or whatever we choose. In the end it doesn't matter, for ultimately everything is God, everything is One. And as we give up our illusions, we merge with that One and become identical with God.
This doctrine has problems. Among them:
First: If I am God, why am I suffering like a dog? The swamijis will say it's because I've forgotten who I really am. But what kind of God is that?
Second: If all that exists is one supreme impersonal truth, where does illusion come from? Truth and illusion—that's not one, that's two.
And third (and this is the worst): To persuade myself that I'm God, I first have to dispose of Krsna, for all the Vedic scriptures speak of Krsna as God. For this the swamijis at the conference were at our service. Krsna, they told us, was merely a symbol of something higher. As one swamiji put it, "Krsna was the greatest product of Indian civilization."
But according to Bhagavad-gita, Krsna is Bhagavan, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is the source of everything—all truth, all illusion, all matter, all living beings. Impersonal oneness is but a partial display of Krsna's energy, as the sun rays are but a partial display of the sun. We are one with Krsna in quality, but Krsna is eternally great and we are eternally small; He is infinite, we are infinitesimal. The entire purpose of Vedanta, says the Gita, is to understand Krsna, the personal form of God, to be the ultimate truth and to surrender to Him in devotional service.
So although the speakers at the conference offered oneness as the ultimate profundity, that oneness was the last snare of illusion—"I am God"—the ultimate expression of false ego.
Krsna is not "a product of Indian civilization." Rather, Indian civilization—in fact, all civilization—comes from Krsna. And by minimizing Krsna, the swamijis were in fact attacking the very heritage they had supposedly come to uphold.
Rescue from Children?
I thank Urmila for her list of creative ideas for preschool children [BTG, May/June]. However, I have a generally uncomfortable feeling after reading her article because she de-values the importance of the family. The nursery, she says, frees mothers from having to divide their minds between children and housework. The community will benefit because mothers will have more time to help in a local temple or project. And even if there isn't a nursery, creating a nursery-school atmosphere for an hour or two at home will make children happy so a mother can devote more time to other service.
Actually I feel sad about these arguments, which imply that parents need to be rescued from their children. Why should mothers necessarily be pleased to have their children off their hands so they can do something else?
Factually the burden will be lifted the more parents love, accept and truly feel the joy of sharing their lives with their children. Many of us did not receive this kind of loving as children, and that makes it difficult for us to give, but we can change that. We can soften and heal ourselves and then find the space in our lives to fully embrace our children instead of passing on the "no time for you" attitudes we may have suffered ourselves.
Having eight children taken care of by one adult is good short-term economics because seven mothers are then free to work, but in my ideal society there would be no nurseries.
Syama Devi Dasi
URMILA DEVI DASI REPLIES: I'm sorry to have given you the impression that parents "need to be rescued" from their children. I've spent most of the last nineteen years or so taking care not only of my own children but the children of many other devotees. I find their association a great joy.
For a nursery school to succeed, the teacher should be serving for the sake of the children first, not for the sake of the parents. Helping the parents must be secondary. Yet it is a real consideration. Why?
First, life in a modern nuclear family where a woman must spend all day at home with just her children is unnatural. In a Vedic society the women share child care in an extended family. I have seen my brother-in-law's family, originally from Yemen, work this way. Each child has loving care from many "mothers and fathers." Those children are happy, peaceful, and well cared for. Such sharing of child care is good for the children, good for the aunts, good for the grandmothers, and good for the unmarried older girls.
And children themselves like what an extended family can give them. Children like to play with others their own age, at least for a few hours. And they like to have a time where they can have somewhat structured activities meant just for their spiritual development.
Unless a mother can afford servants, she simply does have more things to do than watch her children. Cooking, cleaning, laundry, shopping, and gardening, what to speak of spiritual duties, take up a lot of time. And most women want to spend at least some time helping in some preaching beyond the family. That is good for the mother because it reminds her that other people, beyond her bodily family members, are part of Krsna's family. It's good for the husband because it reminds him that his wife does not belong to him; he is protecting her because she is Krsna's servant. And it's good for the children because it shows them that their parents have concerns that extend beyond the walls of the house.
This can be overdone, but that doesn't negate the benefits. And Srila Prabhupada wanted this. He wanted nursery schools, or women who'd teach their young children as if in nursery schools. And he wanted everyone to give at least some time to helping spread Krsna consciousness, in addition to raising family members as devotees. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura set the example: he was a first-class husband and father, yet apart from his family duties and his work he wrote more than a hundred books.
Guides for Spiritual Pilgrims
I am glad that in your articles about places of pilgrimage you have finally started providing specific information on how to visit them. The articles should be written in such a way that readers can copy them and take them to India as guides on where to go, how to get there easily, where to stay, and so on. This will make the articles complete and most useful for everyone, especially those not so experienced in traveling in India. When people visit these holy places, they can have experiences that will purify and inspire them for the rest of their lives. So we want to make sure their pilgrimage can go smoothly.
Sri Nandanandana Dasa
Spiritual Vision, Not Television
I was especially impressed by Urmila Dasi's article about the influences of television [BTG, July/August]. For both children and parents, watching TV only reveals, and fosters, a lack of spiritual strength.
Sriman Pandita Dasa
Inspired by Shelter
The Shelter band is the most powerful connection between the youth of today and Krsna! I am delighted to see what has happened to the music scene ever since Shelter started a few years back. I see kids wearing tulasi beads at every show. The lacto-vegetarian diet is spreading rapidly. Not one day goes by when I don't hear Krsna in a conversation. Attitudes are changing and lives are being changed.
The best part of it all is the opportunity to attend a Shelter show and associate with great devotees. It is not just a show, it's an experience. The club is filled with an energy that goes unmatched by any bands around. The lyrics are taken to heart by hundreds of kids eager to move up front and sing along with Raghunatha Dasa.
There is simply nothing as sincere, pure, energetic and pleasing as the message and music that Shelter has brought us kids.
Thank you, Shelter, for presenting us "a better way." Prabhupada would have been very pleased.
Pedro A. Ramos Costa
Jayadvaita Swami's "Where do the Fallen Souls Fall From?" [BTG, May/June] misses the whole point. Srila Prabhupada does not reject the idea that the jivas [living beings] originally fell from the brahmajyoti [Lord Krsna's impersonal spiritual effulgence].
If we all fell directly from Vaikuntha (or Krsnaloka) [the personal abode of the Lord], then we would all be nitya-siddhas, eternally liberated souls like Arjuna, play-acting that we are in illusion. But Srila Prabhupada states over and over in his books that jiva souls are generally nitya-baddha, eternally conditioned souls. Why would Srila Prabhupada contradict Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami, who says, jivera svarupa haya krsnera nitya-dasa ("The actual form of the jiva is that of an eternal servant of Krsna")? And krsnera tatastha-sakti bhedabheda prakasa: The jiva is Krsna's tatastha-sakti, a manifestation of light simultaneously one and different from Krsna. The clear significance of this conclusion is that we are infinitesimal and insignificant. We are small; Krsna is great.
It appears that the Editorial Board of BTG is trying to establish (and has been for more than a decade now) that the jivas fall from the very personal company of the Lord. Your article is a clear challenge to the authority of our ISKCON GBC [Governing Body Commission], which in March 1990 resolved that its Philosophical Research Committee should deal with the issue. Like others, I believe that until a philosophical conclusion is reached through the authoritative department of the society, BTG should not canvass for any particular opinion of its own.
Swami B. R. Sadhu
JAYADVAITA SWAMI REPLIES: Tirthaprada Dasa tells us that Srila Prabhupada does not reject the idea that the jivas originally fell from the brahmajyoti. This statement might deserve credence if Srila Prabhupada hadn't placed his rejection in writing. But he did (in a letter to Revatinandana Dasa on June 13, 1970). So what am I supposed to say?
Tirthaprada's argument that if we fell directly from the Lord's personal abode we would all be eternally liberated is so obviously self-contradictory that it hardly needs comment.
Srila Prabhupada, of course, never contradicts the great authority Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami. And when quoting from Srila Kaviraja Gosvami directly, Tirthaprada Dasa stands on firm ground. The living being is eternally a servant of Krsna. So Tirthaprada's conclusion is right: We are small; Krsna is great. All's well that ends well.
Let me assure Swami B. R. Sadhu that the editors of BTG are not campaigning for some privately arrived-at philosophy. I simply presented what Srila Prabhupada said. That, as far as I know, is my job.
The GBC's resolution in 1990 asked that a committee write a paper giving scriptural information about the soul's fall. Can I repeat Srila Prabhupada's teachings without over-stepping that resolution? I believe so. Asking for a paper is different from imposing a gag order.
The main point of my article was that arguing on and on about where the fallen soul falls from is simply a useless waste of time. And that was Srila Prabhupada's main teaching about the subject.
As he told one disciple in 1972: "The conclusion is that whatever may be our past, let us come to Krsna consciousness and immediately join Krsna. Just like with a diseased man: it is a waste of time to try to find out how he has become diseased. Better to spend time curing the disease.... So wherever you were, in the brahma-sayujya [the brahmajyoti] or with Krsna in His lila [pastimes], at the present you are in neither, so the best policy is to develop your Krsna consciousness and go there [back to Godhead], never mind what is your origin."
Some of our friends may disagree. They may think that arguing about this topic ad infinitum is a worthwhile or essential engagement. That's their privilege. But fallen as I am, and as much as I might like to argue, I believe we have better things to do.
As jivas, or living beings, we emanate from, or belong to, Lord Krsna's tatastha-sakti, or marginal potency, and may therefore turn either towards the Lord or away from Him. About this there should be no dispute. We should simply use our tiny independence by properly engaging in Lord Krsna's devotional service, following the standard rules and regulations under the guidance of a bona fide spiritual master. That will bring us to the transcendental platform on which all questions are answered and all controversies resolved. Where did we fall from? Let's go back to Godhead now, and if we like we can argue about it later.
The Vedic literature reveals the essential
A lecture given in New York, November 22, 1966
By His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
"This knowledge is the king of education, the most secret of all secrets. It is the purest knowledge, and because it gives direct perception of the self by realization, it is the perfection of religion. It is everlasting, and it is joyfully performed."—Bhagavad-gita 9.2
We have different statuses of life in the material world. In education, someone is an M.A., someone is a B.A., someone is in school three years, someone four years. There are different grades of education. Now, what is the summum bonum—the highest or topmost education? The topmost education—raja-vidya—is Krsna consciousness. Real knowledge is to understand what I am. Unless we come to this point, we are not in knowledge.
When Caitanya Mahaprabhu began His preaching, His first disciple was Sanatana Gosvami, a finance minister of Nawab Hussain Shah. Being attracted by Caitanya Mahaprabhu's movement, Sanatana retired from service and joined Lord Caitanya. When he came to Lord Caitanya for the first time, he inquired, "What is education?"
Sanatana was highly educated. In those days the Persian language was being taught in India. Just as during British rule the English language was taught to us, during Pathan rule the Persian language was the state language. Sanatana Gosvami was a great scholar in Sanskrit also. Still, he inquired, "What is education?"
Why did he inquire like that? He told Lord Caitanya, "People in general consider me very educated, and I am such a fool that I accept that I am educated."
So the next question is "Then why do you think you are not educated? You are great scholar in Sanskrit, a great scholar in Persian. Why do you think you are not educated?"
Sanatana replied, "I think I'm not educated because I do not know what I am. I do not wish to suffer, but material miseries are forced upon me. I do not know where I have come from or where I will have to go, and still people think that I am very educated. They designate me a great scholar, and I am satisfied. But I am such a fool that I do not know what I am."
Actually, this is our present situation. We are very proud of our advancement of education. But if you inquire from various persons, "What are you?" hardly anyone will be able to answer. Everyone is under the conception that we are the body. But we are not actually the body. This we have discussed many times. So by passing this examination—by knowing "I am not this body"—one has come to real knowledge. That is the beginning.
Knowledge and Action
Of the knowledge Lord Krsna is now imparting to Arjuna, Krsna says, "This is raja-vidya." Raja-vidya means to know oneself and act accordingly. If I do not know what I am, then I am mistaken about my situation, and all my activities are mistaken and illusory. Simply knowing "I am not the material body" is not sufficient. You are not material; you are spiritual. So you must act accordingly. That spiritual activity is Krsna consciousness, and it is called raja-vidya, the king of all education.
Raja-guhyam means "very confidential." It is not possible to accept Krsna consciousness very easily. But by the mercy of Krsna and Lord Caitanya, it is very easily delivered to us through chanting Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Lord Caitanya has given an analytical study of the living entity. He has begun by saying that there are innumerable living entities all over the universe. If you dig into the earth, you'll find many living entities. If you study the air, you'll find many living entities. If you go deep into the water, you'll find living entities. So all over the universe there are different types of living entities.
Lord Caitanya divides the living entities into two classes: some are moving and some are not moving. Trees, stones, plants, grass—they cannot move. A stone has life, but a stone has no developed consciousness. It is too covered. Similarly, if a person in the human body does not understand his position, he's almost stonelike.
Then there are the moving entities, such as aquatics, beasts, birds, reptiles, human beings, demigods, celestial angels. Out of the moving entities, a very small number are human beings. There are 8,400,000 species of life. Out of them, only 400,000 are in the human body. Lord Caitanya says, "Out of these 400,000 human species, some are civilized. And out of many civilized persons, some are devoted to the scriptures." People say, "I belong to the Christian religion," "I belong to the Hindu religion," or "I belong to the Moslem religion." But in the present age, most people who claim "I belong to this religion" do not believe in the scriptures.
Three Kinds of Religious Acts
Those who do believe in the scriptures are mostly attracted by pious, philanthropic activities. They believe, for example, that charity is a good thing. Pious, religious acts are of three kinds: yajna-dana-tapah. Yajna means "sacrifice," dana means "charity," and tapah means "penance." The spiritual orders of brahmacarya (celibate student life) and sannyasa (renounced life) involve tapah. Tapah means voluntarily accepting rigid principles of austerity. Charity means voluntarily giving away one's material possessions.
Yajna means "sacrifice." Nowadays we have no experience of sacrifice. But we get information about sacrifices from such historical literature as the Mahabharata. Formerly kings performed big sacrifices. They distributed millions of rupees, millions of valuables, and gold and silver. That is not possible today. But formerly the kings did that. The kings used to collect taxes from the citizens, but when the kings performed sacrifices, they distributed wealth freely to the citizens. Nowadays the state simply collects taxes but never distributes. So we have no idea what is yajna.
Yajna is the duty of kings or heads of state, dana is the duty of the general householders, and tapah is the duty of the brahmacaris, sannyasis, and vanaprasthas (retired persons). These are different kinds of rules in religious life. Some who believe in scriptures adopt these rules. Mostly, however, people simply accept a certain faith. They say they accept a certain religion, but they do not do anything. Still, out of many millions of people like that, some are really religious: they perform sacrifice and penance and give charity.
Lord Caitanya says, "Out of many millions of persons actually engaged in charity, penance, and sacrifice, some come to the perfect understanding of what they are: 'I am not this body.' "
Now, simply theoretically knowing "I am not this body; I am spirit soul" is not perfect. You actually have to become liberated from material entanglement. That is called mukti, liberation. Out of many thousands of people who know what they are, some of them are actually liberated. And out of many thousands of people who are liberated, some can understand Krsna.
Symptoms of Liberation
So understanding Krsna is not easy. But Krsna is kind. He knows that in this Age of Kali it will be very difficult for people to become liberated by the ordinary process—first to become civilized, then to become religious, then to give charity and perform sacrifices, then to come to the platform of knowledge, and then to come to liberation. Therefore He came as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and gave us a direct method of becoming Krsna conscious.
After being liberated, you can know Krsna. That is stated in the Bhagavad-gita: brahma-bhutah prasannatma. The first symptom of a liberated person is that he is very happy. You'll never find him morose. Na socati na kanksati: he has no anxiety. We are full of anxieties. "Oh, I haven't got this thing. I have to secure that thing. I have to pay this bill. Oh, this I have to do"—so many anxieties. But a liberated person has no anxieties. Does this mean that because he has no anxieties he is a very rich man? No. Not necessarily. But he has no anxiety.
He also has no lamentation. He does not think, "I am poor." Why should he think he's poor? When I think, "I am a part of this material world, and I haven't got this material possession," then I think, "I am poor." But one who is liberated from the material conception of life has no concern for what he possesses or does not possess. Therefore he's prasannatma, joyful. "Oh, I have nothing to lose, nothing to gain. I am completely separate from here." That is liberation.
The liberated person's vision of life is samah sarvesu bhutesu: he does not see anyone as rich or poor, foolish or educated. There are so many dualities in the material world, but the vision of the liberated person is completely on the spiritual platform. He sees that every living entity is a part and parcel of Krsna. Therefore he tries to take all living beings back to Krsna consciousness. He does not distinguish "He is a brahmana. He is a sudra, a laborer. He is Indian. He's American," or "He's black. He's white," or "He's educated. He's noneducated." No. "Everyone should come to Krsna consciousness." That is his viewpoint. Samah sarvesu bhutesu. When one is qualified in that way, then mad-bhaktim labhate param. Lord Krsna says, "Then he becomes eligible to become My pure devotee."
The process of coming to liberation under regulative principles is not easy, especially in this age. The Bhagavatam describes the people of this age as prayenalpayusah: "Their duration of life is very short." And mandah. Mandah means "very slow." Out of twenty-four hours, people sleep twelve, and out of the remaining twelve, they're busy ten hours earning money. Two hours left. What can they do for spiritual understanding? There's no time.
Then the Srimad-Bhagavatam says: sumanda-matayo. If someone has the intention to make spiritual progress, then there are so many pseudo spiritual societies to entrap him.
Then manda-bhagyah: "And most of the people are unfortunate." Most people don't even have sufficient arrangements for the primary principles of life—eating, sleeping, defending, and mating. These are only primary principles; they are available even in animal life. But in this age, even these primary principles are difficult to obtain—shelter, food, a wife. And everyone is afraid. "When will war be declared and I'll be sent to the warfield?"
And finally, upadruta—"On top of all this, people are always disturbed with diseases and so many other things."
This is the position of people in this age. Therefore Lord Krsna thought that it would be impossible for such people to come to the point of liberation under the regulative process. So out of His causeless mercy, He came as Lord Caitanya and distributed the highest perfection of life—spiritual ecstasy—through the chanting of Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. This chanting is practical. It does not depend on whether you are liberated or nonliberated, on your position or your condition. Just come and take part in it, and you'll feel spiritual ecstasy. Therefore this process is called pavitram, "very pure." Anyone who takes to this process becomes purified. The purification begins at once.
Uttamam means "the highest," or "transcendental." Yesterday I explained the meaning of uttamam by quoting a commentary on today's verse. The commentator explained the meaning of uttamam by referring to a verse from the Padma Purana:
This means that when one is in Krsna consciousness—in the highest transcendental knowledge—gradually the seeds of all reactions to his sins become vanquished. We have studied in the Bhagavad-gita the example that if you put something into the fire, the fire turns it into ashes. Similarly, as soon as the fire of Krsna consciousness begins, all reactions of sinful activities from our past life are destroyed.
The Purpose of Scripture
Our suffering is due to sinful activities. And sinful activities are due to our ignorance. Sinful activities are done by persons who do not know what is what. A child does not know the result of touching fire, because he is ignorant. But as soon as the child touches fire, his hand becomes burned. The fire does not allow any concession for the child. The fire will act as fire. Similarly, we do not know how this material world is going on—what the laws are, who the controller is, how it is being controlled. Out of ignorance we act in some way, but nature is so stringent that it will never excuse us, whether we do it knowingly or unknowingly.
Therefore ignorance is the cause of suffering. So one should be put into proper knowledge. And proper knowledge means knowing things as they are: what we are, what the world is, what God is, what our relationship with God is. We should know these things. One should not simply become a technical expert or some departmental expert. That is not knowledge. Here is knowledge: you should know what you are and how you should act. And this knowledge can be achieved in the human form of life, not in the animal form of life. Therefore, to give you knowledge, to give you proper direction, there are so many scriptures in all parts of the civilized world. They should not be neglected.
Caitanya Mahaprabhu says, "Since time immemorial, people have forgotten their relationship with the Supreme Lord. Therefore the Lord has sent many representatives to give them the scriptures." So we should take advantage of the scriptures, especially the Bhagavad-gita. In Bhagavad-gita you'll find everything presented nicely. You can put your arguments. You can try to understand with your knowledge, with your intelligence. Everything will be clear.
So we should take advantage of the Bhagavad-gita. And our power to understand it will increase if we begin our study with this transcendental sound vibration: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Thank you very much.
Tat Srnu: Simply Hear
By Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami
RECENTLY I HAVE BEEN reading both the Caitanya-caritamrta and the earlier cantos of Srimad-Bhagavatam. Srila Prabhupada once said that the Bhagavatam contains many things: Joan of Arc is in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, and the sound of devotees hammering an altar together is the sound of the Bhagavatam. He also told us that the higher planets have millions of Bhagavatam verses. What we have here is only a condensed version.
Prabhupada's main instruction about approaching his books is tat srnu, simply hear. We also find this phrase spoken by Krsna in the Bhagavad-gita (7.1): "The Supreme Personality of Godhead said, 'Now hear, O son of Prtha [Arjuna], how by practicing yoga in full consciousness of Me, with mind attached to Me, you can know Me in full, free from doubt.' " Simply hear.
Krsnadasa Kaviraja, the author of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, explains that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is Krsna Himself mixed with the mood and complexion of Srimati Radharani. No one else can imitate Him. We can aspire to become vrajavasis, residents of Vrndavana, after millions of life-times, but we cannot become Srimati Radharani or fully enter Her mood as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu did. Because Krsna wanted to know the love She felt for Him, Krsna stole Her position. By this we can understand a little how glorious Srimati Radharani is.
From Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu we can learn of the deep sentiments experienced by a lover of Krsna. In the Gambhira, the room in Puri where Lord Caitanya stayed, Lord Caitanya felt the separation from Krsna that Radharani felt after Krsna went to Mathura. "By the ropes of His good qualities, Krsna, who is so unkind, has bound My neck and hands, and I am unable to get relief" (Cc. Madhya 2.1).
Are we willing to accept such deep unhappiness? Are we ready for such intense emotions in love of God? Are we ready to be constantly near death due to separation from Krsna? Where is the brahma-bhutah prasannatma we were promised, the sheer joy of spiritual life? Even Uddhava, an admirer of the gopis and an intimate friend of Krsna's, didn't want to enter that mood of intense grief but left Vrndavana and returned to Krsna's side in Dvaraka.
The meaning of Lord Caitanya's ecstatic manifestations is beyond us. Actually, the Lord chose to share them with only a few devotees. His moods are confidential. But Krsnadasa Kaviraja Goswami recorded them, and Srila Prabhupada translated them into English and asked that they be widely distributed.
"Topics about Krsna are like waves of nectar. If such nectar does not enter our ears, the ear is no better than the hole of a damaged conch shell. Such an ear has no purpose" (Cc. Madhya 2.31). Therefore, tat srnu. Just hear, free from distractions, free from doubt. Just hear submissively. Don't waste a minute in mundane talk. Time is so precious; though it separates us from our final destination at the lotus feet of Krsna, when we use our time to hear about Krsna time can also bring us closer. We hanker for the day when we can enter the spiritual world and leave time behind forever. Krsna can appear in the mind of anyone who hears submissively.
There are many benefits to reading Prabhupada's books, but I would like to point out this one: if we read of Lord Caitanya's ecstatic expressions or the service of the vrajavasis, our reading can serve to cut away any self-image we have of ourselves as advanced devotees. We become humble before the love of God expressed by Lord Caitanya and the gopis. The gopis aren't buoyant because they are anticipating lunch or because something good has come to them in this world. They are wholly absorbed in Syamasundara, Krsna. When He is not with them, their hearts catch fire; they change color and dry up. Where is our love? Where is our Krsna consciousness? At least we should know about this pinnacle of devotional love. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu quotes Srimati Radharani: "If by chance such a moment comes when I can once again see Krsna, then I shall worship those seconds, moments, and hours with flower garlands and pulp of sandalwood and decorate them with all kinds of jewels and ornaments" (Cc. Madhya 2.38).
In the stage of love of God expressed by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the slightest absence of that love is as noticeable as a spot of ink on a white cloth. When a devotee detects the absence of love, he at once condemns his whole expression of love of God as a lie. We cannot really understand the mind of a pure devotee. The Caitanya-caritamrta says, "Externally there appeared severe tribulation, as if Lord Caitanya were suffering from poisonous effects, but internally He was experiencing bliss" (Cc. Madhya 2.50).
As I read these verses, I'm trying to get above the pewee's cry in the trees around me, above the rustle of paper in the breeze, above the hum of Interstate 80, above the many other voices in my head. I just want to hear how Lord Caitanya saw the Deity of Jagannatha as Krsna in Vrndavana with a flute and charming smile. When Lord Caitanya returned to the Gambhira, He entered the mood of separation: "Where is Sri Krsna, whose form is curved in three places? Where is the sweet song of His flute; and where is the bank of the Yamuna? Where is the rasa dance? Where is that dancing, singing, and laughing? Where is My Lord, Madana-mohana, the enchanter of Cupid?" (Cc. Madhya 2.56).
Every person is looking for Krsna. We may seek Him in the pleasures of this world (anna-maya) or in the ideal of a long, healthy life (prana-maya). Some search for Him by culturing knowledge (jnana-maya). But all of us are seeking the same supreme bliss (ananda-maya) that can be reached only by those willing to serve Him. Peace in Krsna consciousness can be attained only when all material desires are burnt up in full-hearted service to Krsna. Until then, we will always be striving, always be restless, always be dutiful only for the sake of duty, always be marking time. We won't be decorating the moments of our lives with flower garlands and sandalwood paste.
Tat srnu, just hear. As Narada Muni told Vyasadeva, "Whatever you desire to describe that is separate in vision from the Lord simply reacts, with different forms, names and results, to agitate the mind as the wind agitates a boat which has no resting place" (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.5.14). Even Vyasadeva felt despondent because he had not glorified Krsna directly. His spiritual master, Narada Muni, analyzed the cause of that despondency and prescribed this cure: Vyasadeva should write of the Lord's inconceivable nature, explain that the living entities are His parts and parcels, and tell how they are meant only to serve Him. Without this understanding, there can be no peace in the world.
Vyasadeva composed the Bhagavatam on the order of his spiritual master. Now all we have to do is hear it submissively, with faith. Srila Prabhupada says, "The simplest thing for human beings is to follow their predecessors. Whatever is awakened by attachment to one's predecessor is the way of devotional service...." (Cc. Madhya 2.86, purport).
"This Bhagavata Purana is as brilliant as the sun, and it has arisen just after the departure of Lord Krsna to His abode.... Persons who have lost their vision due to the dense darkness of ignorance in the Age of Kali shall get light from this Purana" (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.3.43).
Every follower of Prabhupada has to find the brilliance shining in his books. We cannot neglect them. They are not irrelevant to our lives. Even the descriptions of Lord Caitanya's deepest ecstasies are relevant if we hear of them submissively. Srila Prabhupada has worked so hard to save us. Now all we have to do is follow what Krsna says: tat srnu, simply hear.
The Test of Education
By Urmila Devi Dasi
IN THE LAST WEEK of the last year of school, students sweat at the thought of the final exam. When they've passed their exams and earned their degrees, they'll be entitled to call themselves educated.
But the Vedic culture has a different standard. The sage Canakya, whose proverbs Srila Prabhupada would often quote, tested a person's education by three questions—questions of character and ethics.
Women as Mother
Test one: matrvat para-daresu. In the ideal system of education, a properly trained young man should be able to look upon any woman other than his wife as if she were his mother. In other words, his mind and heart should be free from desire for sex outside of marriage. Similarly, a girl should see men other than her husband as her father.
In Vedic society, boys were trained to address women as "Mother." Members of the Krsna consciousness movement teach this same etiquette today. Lord Jesus taught a similar principle when he said that a man who lusts after a woman other than his wife has already committed adultery in his heart.
Garbage in the Street
The second test of real education is how the graduate views the property of others. Canakya says, para-dravesu lostravat: a learned person looks upon others' property as he would stones or garbage in the street.
A child should be trained to be averse to touching another's things without permission. If I see one of our students touch something on another child's desk, I ask him, "Is that yours? Do you have the owner's permission to touch that? If not, put it down." I'm careful to show the same respect for the students' property that I expect them to show for each other's and for mine. I don't look through their desks or touch their things without their permission.
How to See Others
Third, atmavat sarva-bhutesu: an educated person sees other living creatures as he sees himself. Following the golden rule, he treats others as he wants to be treated. "Others" does not mean just one's own family, one's fellow citizens, or even just other human beings. As Srila Prabhupada would point out, even cruel, fierce animals such as tigers love their own cubs. It is when a person applies the golden rule even to an enemy or a defenseless animal that Canakya would award him a passing grade.
A person educated to see others as though himself will naturally be a vegetarian. He'll think, "I don't like pain, so why should I give pain to an animal just so I can eat?" He'll be honest: "I don't like to be cheated, so why should I cheat others?" And he'll always speak beneficially: "I like to hear the truth, I don't like to be insulted, and I want to hear what is useful to me. Let me speak to others that way." A truly educated person, therefore, will try not to hurt anyone, even by his words.
A student who knows the law of karma knows that what I do to others will be done to me. Even out of self-interest, therefore, he will follow the principle of treating others as though himself. And by understanding the law of karma, the student will gain respect for the power, justice, mercy, and love of the Supreme Lord. Then the student can go beyond ethics to become transcendentally educated.
Krsna Defines "Learned"
Krsna defines a learned person as one who sees all living beings spiritually as part of Him. And Krsna says that ultimately a wise person surrenders to Him, seeing Him as all there is.
Unfortunately, in this dark Age of Kali thousands of schools award diplomas without considering the ethical and spiritual character of their students. Do students at a typical university have a heart free from desire for sex outside marriage? Have they learned to respect the property and feelings of others? We read of date rape and rampant theft on campus, and we see people with advanced degrees who are also advanced in meat-eating and cruelty.
But we need not be resigned to letting our children be falsely assured of knowledge from a system that by Vedic standards teaches ignorance. Rather, let us raise a generation of students protected by ethical and spiritual wisdom.
Cooking Class: Lesson 10
By Yamuna Devi
Dry-Textured vegetable dishes are among the most favored dishes in Indian homes, yet you'll sample few of them in Indian restaurants. Because they take slightly longer to cook than their deep-fried counterparts, chefs prefer the ease of French fries* over pan fries. But any health-conscious cook will find exploring Indian-style pan-fried vegetables well worth the effort. They are certainly more healthful than their fat-laden deep-fried relatives.
* British readers: That's American for "chips."
I was first introduced to dry-textured vegetable dishes more than twenty-six years ago, in Srila Prabhupada's cooking classes held in his San Francisco apartment. He taught us two of his favorite dishes: cumin-scented hash browns and chili-laced diced green beans. Over the years, I've come up with many variations of these dishes, rarely making them the same way twice. I encourage you to experiment with the recipes offered below and come up with your own favorite variations. For a light meal, feature a generous portion of dry-textured vegetables and accompany it with dal or flame-toasted capatis and a seasonal salad.
Aside from high-quality fresh produce, the most important element for outstanding dry-textured vegetable dishes is the right cookware. In India the most commonly used pan is a heavy bowl-shaped iron vessel called a karai (similar to a heavy Oriental wok). Alternatively, a good saute pan or skillet will yield excellent results, provided it's heavy-bottomed. No matter what your choice, remember that for evenly cooked vegetables, heavy-gauge thick-bottomed pans are best.
Since writing Lord Krishna's Cuisine, I've cut back on the amount of fat I use in cooking. If you want to prepare vegetables with little or almost no fat content, I highly recommend nonstick cookware.
Recently, the Farberware company sent me a sample of their new Millennium cookware, and I've tested quite a few recipes with it. The outside is heavy-gauge professional-grade 18/10 stainless steel. The inside is a new nonstick surface called Excaliber Never-Stick, which has a twenty-year warranty. To my knowledge, no other nonstick surface on the market today has a longer warranty. The surface is guaranteed never to peel, blister, or wear off, even if you use metal utensils. The pans are well-balanced and have tight-fitting lids and stay-cool handles. They have superior heat distribution and are oven-safe to 425 degrees.
Students following this cooking series should read through the recipes in the section of Lord Krishna's Cuisine called "Dry-Textured Vegetables." You'll quickly notice that many of the dishes are prepared using one of the three methods mentioned in my July/August column. You'll also notice that most dishes call for raw vegetables cut small—perhaps a ¼-inch julienne, ¼-inch to 1/3-inch dice, or thin slice. If a recipe calls for precooked vegetables, you can cut them almost any size.
Root vegetables and vegetables with a low water content will do well with moisture added from water, tomato concasse, vegetable steaming liquid, homemade vegetable stock, or sliced oven-roasted tomatoes. Under most circumstances, moisture-rich, "watery" vegetables such as greens, eggplant, bell peppers, patty pan squash, and yellow and green zucchini cook well in their own juices.
Awareness in the Kitchen
You probably lead a busy life, with more things to do than time to do them. Avoiding occasional bouts of "automatic pilot" is difficult, especially when leisure time is a luxury more than the norm and you're on the tenth page of your "To Do" list.
But a primary goal in devotional cooking is to meditate on the task at hand. That requires focusing on one activity at a time, even while your mind jumps rapidly from one activity to another. The more you practice, the more skill you acquire. In time, the art of focusing your attention will manifest in a satisfying creative process.
Underneath it all, Vaisnava cooks add an awareness of the Lord. If you add this to your cooking, you'll get tremendous benefits:
You'll really enjoy what you're doing.
You'll notice an improved quality in your cooking.
You'll notice that less food will satisfy you more.
You'll increase your desire for self-realization.
Prabhupada-Style Hash Browns
For variations to this dish, try another group of potato dishes Srila Prabhupada favored: potatoes and greens. When the potatoes are nearly cooked, add a few handfuls of chiffonade-cut kale, spinach, collards, or Swiss chard. Cook briefly until the greens wilt and intensify in color. Alternatively, add a handful of chopped fresh fenugreek leaves.
1-3 teaspoons ghee or cold-pressed corn oil
Combine the cumin seeds and the ghee or oil in a large nonstick skillet. Place the skillet on medium-high heat and cook the seeds until they darken a few shades. Add the chilies, potatoes, and turmeric. Stir-fry for 3-4 minutes. Add the liquid, cover, reduce the heat slightly, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are soft and browned, about 15 minutes. Offer to Lord Krsna with homemade ketchup, tomato chutney, or barbecue sauce.
Chili-Laced Green Beans
Green beans, snow peas, sugar snaps, yellow wax beans, and the very thin French haricot verts (green haricots) all work well in this dish. Simply vary the cooking times as needed. For a more substantial dish, add one cup of cooked and drained chickpeas or other cooked whole legume.
1-3 teaspoons ghee or cold-pressed corn oil
Warm the ghee or oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mustard seeds, cover, and fry until the seeds pop. Add the next four ingredients and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat slightly, and cook until the beans are soft, about 10 minutes. Remove lid and cook until most of the liquid is gone. Season with salt and pepper. Offer to Krsna warm or at room temperature, with or without the added legumes.
Unemployment and the Decline of Small Farms
By Hare Krsna Devi Dasi
IN THE UNITED STATES, African-Americans have most severely felt the effects of being pushed off the farm and out of work. Some people may think that such an anomaly is limited to advanced industrialized America, but there are good reasons to ask if the African-American experience, rather than being an aberration, might not instead prove a prototype for all people around the world whose economies are taken over by commerce and industry.
So let's go back to the beginning of the black experience in America and examine black involvement in farming. To do this, we first go back even further, to Africa in the late Middle Ages. At that time, though trade was gaining importance in Africa, people lived mainly by agriculture and herding cattle and sheep. Historian John Hope Franklin describes that after clearing the land,
Seeds or sprouts were planted in mounds or embankments that had been carefully prepared. Frequent weeding was necessary, especially in new ground, in order to prevent the young plants from being choked. Millet, wheat, rice, cassava, cotton, fruits and vegetables were commonly grown. Dotting the countryside were towers from which watchmen drove away birds and other grain-eating animals.
A Different Kind of Farming
When Africans were taken to America as slaves, their farming skills were still used, but with important differences. To begin with, the slaves were working on land that belonged to someone else.
Actually, to say they had been working on their own land in Africa is not exactly correct. Land ownership resembled the Vedic practice described by Srila Prabhupada, in which "land was given to people for cultivation not for ownership"—they couldn't sell it.
Under the African system, when land was not used it reverted to the collective domain and could be re-allocated by a local government official called "the master of the ground." This arrangement provided stability for farming families and it discouraged the concentration of land ownership which strict private ownership fosters. Needless to say, black farmers were more inspired to care for the land under the traditional African system than under the exploitative and socially unstable plantation system found in the American South.
Then there was another difference: traditional African farmers worked first to provide food and fiber for their families and second to sell the surplus, but the American South was geared to growing cash crops such as cotton and tobacco. As I'll discuss in future issues, this focus on cash crops, combined with farming by machine, has spelled doom for African-American participation in agriculture—and will eventually spell doom for everyone else.
Officially, slavery in the U.S. ended with the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. As related by Franklin, former slaves looked forward to settling on the land and providing a peaceful life for their families. In America some blacks did get land because they received government bounties for their military service. Beyond that, Pennsylvania Representative Thaddeus Stevens introduced a bill granting "forty acres and fifty dollars" to each former slave family. But the bill was defeated by Congress, and for most of the 3.5 million former slaves "freedom" with no provision for subsistence was a mockery.
Often the only way blacks could make a living was to return to their former masters and take up sharecropping—under harsh terms dictated by the boss man. One former Alabama sharecropper put it this way: "They were still slaves, but they were free slaves—they could go anywhere they pleased. They were unfree slaves before the Civil War and free slaves after."
At least it was a living. But in the next century both sharecroppers and small farm owners were imperiled as farming was taken over by machines.
The Tractor Hits Hard
Although heavy machines began creeping into agriculture in the nineteenth century, most farming was still done by animal power. Farm workers—men and sometimes women—farmed their own land or helped farm someone else's with oxen, mules, or horses. But as the tractor moved onto the scene in the twentieth century, landless farm workers, both black and white, felt their jobs increasingly threatened. One perceptive sharecropper stated, "Here's what I think on it—the tractor's as strong against us as the drought."
Nor were small land owners secure. Machines, land hogging, and laws slanted toward large factory farms ganged up against small farm owners. So from 1900 to 1987 the number of white-operated farms dropped from 5 million to 2 million—a loss of 60 percent. And black farmers fared worse.
Between 1900 and 1987 the number of black-owned farms fell from 747,000 to about 23,000—a loss of 97 percent. And though during those years the percentage of Americans who were black remained almost the same (11.6 percent in 1900 and 12.3 percent in 1990) the portion of black-owned farms fell from 13 percent in 1900 to slightly more than 1 percent by 1990.
Off the Farm, into Misery
In 1990, attorney David Harris, Jr., director of the Land Loss Prevention Project, told a U.S. congressional sub-committee, "If the present rate of loss continues, there will be no minority farmers by the year 2000." Mr. Harris went on:
The socio-economic consequences of the loss of minority farmers are staggering. The qualities of self-reliance, independence, and a sense of efficacy and self-worth which have long been associated with landownership will be lost if the current trend continues. Land represents a source of food, income, shelter, self-employment and wealth....
What happened to minority farmers who were driven out of agriculture? To be sure, many were absorbed by the industrial cities of the North—which black activist Elaine Brown has appropriately termed "industrial internment camps." They were miserable places. But for several decades some blacks were able to make good wages there as factory workers. Some—but by no means most. While the number of black-operated farms dropped off, the number of black unemployed climbed steeply.
Unemployment Means War
Consistently, unemployment hit blacks harder than whites, and younger workers harder than older ones. And, nowadays, as employers struggle to keep prices competitive, labor unions can't protect factory workers from losing their jobs to cheap labor abroad. So unemployment keeps growing, and crime and other social miseries keep growing right along with it.
I have focused on the experience of African-Americans to study the problems associated with industrialization and the decline of small farms. But as indicated earlier, it may be time to stop regarding the black American experience as an aberration and begin to see it as a prototype for all people when their country faces industrialization. When we look at David Harris's statement about the benefits of farming for black Americans, we can substitute any other racial or ethnic group. His basic claims hold true. Mr. Harris is talking about more than the value of farming to African-American society—he's talking about its value to human society.
Widespread work in farming is essential for peace and well being—not only for black Americans but for people everywhere in the world. In the United States, racism has made African-Americans feel the crushing effects of industrialism most keenly. But soon everyone else will be suffering similar pain, as small farms around the world are wiped out and the resulting unemployment brings social instability.
What type of social instability? When leaders have no spiritual vision for a practical alternative, unemployment leads beyond crime, to civil strife and war. War can be convenient. It can shift hatred from an incompetent government to a foreign foe, and by fueling the fires of production, war can lift a country's economy out of recession. In the late 1970s, Srila Prabhupada analyzed the sinister connection between industrialized agriculture, unemployment, and war:
A machine means unemployment for the many. The tractor they're using means unemployment for bulls and plowmen. Then the bulls have to be killed. This is going on. If there are unemployed men, then kill them also. Send all the men to Vietnam to fight and kill them. As soon as there is overpopulation [of the unemployed]. they [the leaders in government] declare war so that people may be killed.
Recent experience supports Prabhupada's statement. Machines on American farms have taken more jobs away from blacks than from anyone else. And when people are out of work, where can they turn to earn a living? Many turn to the military. So black Americans have borne a disproportionate share of the casualties in recent conflicts. But we have to remember: any group can become cannon fodder after the tractor has plowed down their jobs. Therefore the question becomes, How can society provide not only blacks but also whites, Asians, Hispanics, and others with satisfying, meaningful work? As devotees of Krsna, our goal is to realize our eternal identity beyond such temporary bodily labels, but to create a peaceful atmosphere for spiritual progress we need the racial and ethnic harmony that begins by providing satisfying work for everyone. In my next column we will look at Krsna's varnasrama solution and see how a fully developed program of cow protection and small-scale farming can foster peace by giving people the right kind of work.
Bhakti-yoga at Home
TV for Free? No Thanks!
By Rohininandana Dasa
[Editor's note: Two issues ago, Urmila Devi Dasi in her column had some strong things to say about television. Now Rohininandana Dasa has more.]
In my childhood the television was pretty much the center of our family. We affectionately called it the "goggle box," and every evening we gathered faithfully around it. Looking back I can't imagine our sitting room without it. The TV is the first thing I think of, then the sofa, the fire, the rug, and then maybe the people in the room.
I used to hear people say how the TV had changed English culture. "Before the TV," they'd wistfully and, from my childish point of view, mysteriously recall, "people used to visit each other's homes much more, and parents and children did things together. They made things and painted and played musical instruments and talked." Perhaps the speakers regretted losing these things for the sake of the beloved box. But for me, life without the TV was unthinkable.
In fact, I remember viewing people and their feelings as if the people were characters from a television program. What people on TV say and how they look may appear important and dramatic, but before you know it you're into the next program. And you can always switch off whenever you like.
Switching off reality was one of the things the television programmed me to do. It was like a drug. At any time I could switch on the TV and get an instant effect.
The TV destroyed any hope we had for family intimacy. I can remember us sitting in the darkened room, hardly speaking a word, occasionally munching on biscuits, gazing hour after hour at the little black and white screen. Whether we were together or alone didn't seem to matter.
We'd watch TV until we felt tired, or until it said "Goodnight" to us and the screen went blank. Then we'd go our separate dreamy ways to bed.
So now here I am with my own family at a time of bigger and better color tellies, with remote control and a vast range of programs to choose from twenty-four hours a day. Someone even offered us one gratis. But we decided against it.
We did have a television once for a couple of months when our eldest child was a baby. A friend asked us to look after his TV while he went on pilgrimage to India. At first we stored it in a corner. But after a week or so we thought we'd see if it worked, so we plugged it in. The screen was blurred and crackly, but as we moved the little antenna around we got a picture.
Lo and behold if it wasn't Charlie Chaplin! We'd heard that Prabhupada had watched Charlie Chaplin and had sometimes illustrated talks by mentioning him. So we figured it must be OK for us to watch too. Still, my wife and I felt like a couple of naughty children.
After that we kept the TV plugged in and tried to manage it by selective viewing. We watched the news and anything remotely to do with Krsna consciousness, or at least in the mode of goodness—nature films and the like. But, frankly, the TV managed us more than we managed it. We ended up watching stuff we didn't intend to. We wasted time, which for a devotee is at a premium because Srila Prabhupada has given us so many things to do for Lord Krsna.
We didn't like the way the machine began to affect our lives, sitting there tantalizing us, almost demanding to be turned on. We didn't like the way we'd get glued to it. We didn't like the idea of trying to bring up a family with a goggle box in the home. I didn't like the idea of a repeat performance of my childhood.
Let's face it, the TV "culture" is not a free society. I sense the power of the television when I see one in someone's house. Even if it's not turned on, it seems to be in the center of the room. And if when I arrive it's already on and my host begins a conversation without turning it off, my eyes and mind flash over to the screen as I try to converse. I have a vague sense that I'll miss out on something if I don't keep checking in. Sometimes, at the risk of offending my hosts, I manage to build up the strength to ask them to turn it off.
Once I was passing out Prabhupada's books and collecting donations when I noticed I was near a TV shop. All the sets in the window were tuned to the same program. I vividly remember that it was a thriller movie in the snows of Russia with tigers attacking a horse-drawn sleigh. As I stopped people to talk to them about the books, I kept glancing over their shoulder at the film. I wasn't passing out many books that way. I looked over at my partner and saw him working purposefully, a steady stream of people walking away from him with Prabhupada's books under their arms.
The more I became distracted, the more guilty I felt. Wasn't I meant to be busy in the topmost occupation—giving people books capable of saving them from repeated birth and death?
But I was caught, good and proper. Eventually I stopped passing out books altogether and stared goggled-eyed at the window.
This little story didn't end with the end of the film. Oh, no. For the rest of the day the impressions of that silent drama in the snows interfered with my ability to be in the here and now, and you can imagine the result. When the last shoppers were leaving the precinct, my partner came over, put his hand on my shoulder, and asked, "What happened to you, Rohini?"
My wife, Radha Priya, grew up without television. She remembers the embarrassment she felt having to face kids at school who were full of stories about their favorite programs. But both she and her sisters (who do not practice Krsna consciousness) are thankful now as they appreciate the gains of time and freedom and ease of communication.
As for the news, we sometimes listen to it on the radio. We've also used the radio for our home schooling. (We home schooled Radhanatha until he was nine and want to do the same with the other children.)
Apart from our fears, I can't imagine us having the time for a TV. There are always so many things going on in our home.
A couple of years ago Radha Priya picked up a miniature TV at a sale—just in case there was anything worth watching. She has watched it perhaps half a dozen times. Although it lives out of sight in a drawer, I'm still wary of it. I did watch it once. I got halfway through a program about education when the batteries ran out.
Politics and I-Consciousness
By Vraja Kishor Dasa
THE WORLD DOESN'T NEED a political readjustment. The world needs a revolution in consciousness.
Politics itself is rotten at the bone. Re-adjust a rotten bone as much as you like—it will still be rotten.
We'll never solve the world's problems by political or sociological strategies. Such "solutions" are nothing more than a game of musical chairs played by the exploiters and the exploited.
The exploited get fed up, rise up, and overthrow leaders who have all become degraded. After the shakeup, new politicians make up new politics and take up the reins of the same horse they hated. The exploited become the exploiters, the exploiters become the exploited. Exploitation remains. The new politicians call it progress. They call it revolution. Big fat revolution.
The failure of politics (or sociology in all its subheadings) to make any concrete improvement in the world is a fact chiseled again and again in the stone slab of history.
When religious leaders become disgustingly corrupt and exploitative, the politicians overthrow them. This was our "Protestant Reformation."
When kings become gross exploiters of the citizens, the mercantile class overthrow the kings and take power. This was our "French Revolution" and "American Revolution."
When capitalists, hungry for dollars, exploit the people like it's going out of style, the exploited proletariat overthrows them and takes up the dictatorship. This was our "Communist Revolution."
I call the whole game musical chairs.
The real problem is not who is exploiting; the real problem is exploitation itself. Politics did not cause exploitation; politics is simply a manifestation of it. Politics cannot end exploitation; it can only compound it.
Exploitation is caused by the screwed-up "I-consciousness" that devours the modern social body like a ravenous burning virus.
I-consciousness means "I am the most important, and my interests come first. Let the starving starve while their countrymen grow tons of tobacco for my useless cigarettes. Let the environment rot for my useless hair spray. Let the poor sleep cold while I buy my caviar ..."
I-consciousness also walks in the guise of "mine-consciousness." My religion first. My nation first. My race first ... The hellish consequences are obvious.
I-consciousness has infiltrated from broad social levels all the way down to the details of our own interpersonal relationships. Warped I-consciousness has kidnapped peace from our lives and from the world. I-consciousness is what we must strive to revolutionize.
To stop the epidemic of I-consciousness we must surrender our selfish interests. Communism and humanism tried to do this but failed. The communist "state" and the humanist "collective humanity" are unfit to receive our surrender because neither is free from the urge to exploit. They will eventually take advantage of our surrender, and so we'll get fed up, rise up, and ... the game continues.
The fault of these well-meant attempts is their inability to liberate the individual from I-consciousness, a virus sterilized only by complete surrender of our selfish desires. The attempts fail because they can point out no entity free from the tendency to exploit, and thus worthy of receiving our surrender.
Lord Krsna, the origin and owner of everything, is supremely self-satisfied, free of all desire to exploit. He doesn't need to get anything from anyone—He already has it all. Therefore Krsna is the only worthy object of surrender, and only Krsna consciousness can successfully and utterly overthrow misery-generating I-consciousness once and for all.
I beg anyone who really wants to help change the world: dedicate your-self to learning and teaching Krsna consciousness and don't waste your valuable time trying to light the wet wick of the socio-political firecracker.
There is no lack of anything in this world except Krsna consciousness.
Vraja Kishor Dasa (formerly Bhakta Vic of 108) joined the Hare Krsna movement three years ago. He recently received spiritual initiation from Dhanurdhara Swami in Vrndavana, India. He and his band, 108, are based at ISKCON's temple in Dallas, Texas.
The Birth of the Pandavas
Translated from Sanskrit by Hridayananda dasa Goswami
King Pandu, the emperor of the world, killed a sage and his wife who were disguised as deer just as they were about to mate. Before the sage died, he cursed the king to die if the king ever tried to conceive a child. As the Mahabharata continues, the sage Vaisampayana tells of Pandu's lamentation and of the extraordinary birth of Pandu's sons.
Seeing the young sage pass away, the king was distraught. Agonizing over the accidental killing of a saintly brahmana, he and his wives lamented as if for their own kin.
People like me who lack spiritual advancement, even though born in noble families, come to misfortune by their own foolish acts. Such people are trapped in the network of their selfish desires.
I have heard that my father Vicitravirya, though born to religious parents, became absorbed in sex pleasure and by overindulgence that young king died childless. Therefore, the self-disciplined and divine sage Dvaipayana begot me in my father's wife. [What a blessed birth was mine!] And yet today my degraded mind became absorbed in evil passion, and I foolishly lost myself in hunting. I am so wicked that even the gods have abandoned me!
[I conquered the earth with military strength, but because I did not conquer my own material desires I remained in bondage.] I am determined to seek salvation, for bondage to this world is nothing but a great calamity. Now I shall follow the imperishable path of my father Dvaipayana. I have no doubt. I shall practice the most severe austerities and wander the world alone as a thoughtful mendicant, staying each day beneath the shelter of a single tree. I shall shave my head and cover my body with dust. I shall live in deserted houses or simply beneath a tree, and nothing will please or displease me. I shall not lament or rejoice for any material thing. Whether people ridicule or praise me, I shall accept both ridicule and praise equally. I shall not hanker for anything in this mortal world, or flatter any man for his favor. Heat and cold, happiness and distress, victory and defeat—I shall not waver in the face of these worldly dualities, nor shall I claim anything to be mine. I shall not ridicule or frown upon any creature. I shall always be of cheerful countenance and dedicate myself to the spiritual welfare of every living being. I shall not commit violence against any life, moving or unmoving, for I shall always look upon all God's creatures as my own beloved kin. I shall treat all living things with equality.
Speaking thus, King Pandu, deeply aggrieved, breathed heavily for a long time. Carefully meeting the eyes of his beloved Kunti and Madri, he told them, "Everyone must be told of the changes in my life. Many people depend on me, so as gently as possible you must inform my mother, the wise Vidura and King Dhrtarastra, and all our other relatives. Speak to the noble Satyavati and Bhisma, all the priests of the royal family, and the brahmanas, those great souls so strict in their vows who drink the nectar of the gods. Tell all the senior and elderly citizens who have faithfully served us all their lives. Tell them all that Pandu is gone, gone alone to the forest."
Hearing of his decision to live in the forest as an ascetic, the women replied with equal determination: "There are other stages of life for married people in which you can perform heavy austerities together with us, your lawful wives. Undoubtedly you will be successful and reach the heavenly abode. Both of us are ready to fix our mind and senses on spiritual life, for we are determined to follow you in this life and the next. We have decided to give up material lust and enjoyment, and we shall undergo serious austerities. O most learned one, O lord of the earth, if you reject us we shall immediately give up our lives. There is no doubt about it."
If that is what you have both decided, then you may come along, since your proposal is in accord with religious principles. But I warn you, I shall follow my vows strictly, following my father Dvaipayana Vyasa. I shall truly renounce all domestic comfort and concerns and perform severe austerities. I shall wander in the deep forest, dressed in tree bark, nourished on wild fruits, nuts, and roots. I shall sit by the fire, not only in freezing winter but in scorching summer. I shall bathe in the river not only in summer but in winter as well. I shall wear rags and skins and long matted hair, and my body will grow thin from my meager diet. I shall have to tolerate cold, wind, and heat. Hunger, thirst, and fatigue will be my constant companions. By all these difficult austerities, I must conquer and dry up the senses before they conquer me. If my senses overwhelm me, I shall immediately die, and not a glorious death.
In all my thoughts and acts, spiritual progress will be my only goal. With the fruits of the wilderness, ripened or not, and with my words and thoughts and all that I collect, I shall worship my venerable forefathers and the Supreme Personality of Godhead, whom they adored, and I shall revere the Lord's empowered servants who manage this temporary world.
As I wander about the wilderness, I shall never do anything to harm or displease the elderly who have retired to the forest for spiritual liberation. Nor shall I disturb my countrymen or any of the simple village-dwellers. I shall strictly follow the scriptural injunctions for renounced life in the forest. Indeed, I wish to follow the most severe of those injunctions, until this body is finished and I lie down in peace.
Having thus spoken to Kunti and Madri, the great Kuru monarch took off his jeweled crown, medallion, bracelets, and earrings, and he offered everything to the saintly brahmanas, including his invaluable wardrobe and the wardrobe and jewels of his wives.
Pandu then spoke again, this time addressing his followers and personal attendants: "Go to Hastinapura," he said sadly, "and make it known that Pandu, along with his faithful wives, has departed for the forest to live as a mendicant, without worldly riches or pleasure."
Hearing these heart-rending words from their beloved lord, Pandu's followers and personal attendants made a terrible cry and sobbed in anguish. Shedding hot tears, they turned away from their monarch and ran to Hastinapura to deliver his final message. When the Kuru leader Dhrtarastra heard from them all that had happened in the deep forest, he could not stop weeping for his younger brother.
Life in Hundred Peaks
In the meantime Pandu, the beloved Kuru prince, journeyed with Kunti and Madri to the mountain called Naga-sabha, along the way eating only wild fruits, nuts, and roots. Traveling like sages, they journeyed next to Caitraratha and beyond that to Varisena, continuing their trek by crossing over the mighty Himalayan range and going up to Gandhamadana. All along the way, Pandu and his women were protected by powerful higher beings such as the mystic Siddhas and liberated sages. Sometimes he stayed on smooth and easy earth, and at times on the steep sides of mountains. He lived at times in hardship and at times with an abundance of natural gifts. Reaching the famous lake of the primeval monarch Indradyumna, he crossed beyond to Hamsakuta and finally arrived at the mountain region called Satasrnga, "Hundred Peaks," where he surrendered fully to the practice of religious austerity.
The mighty Pandu lived for some time in the region of Hundred Peaks, perfectly executing religious austerities. Higher beings like Siddhas and Caranas, who frequented the area, appreciated his noble character and grew quite fond of him. They saw that Pandu was free of false pride, always eager to help others, and completely self-controlled in mind and senses. To some residents of Hundred Peaks he was like a brother, and to others a close friend. The senior sages loved him like their son and took care of him in every way. With the blessings of those sages and after long practice, Pandu achieved mastery in his religious austerities and became exactly like a powerful sage versed in the spiritual wisdom of the Vedas.
Once on a dark-moon night, the leading sages of Hundred Peaks, so strict in their vows, prepared to leave that place. These great ascetics wished to see Lord Brahma, the creator of the universe, and they were all leaving together. Seeing the sages ready to depart, Pandu said, "O eloquent masters, kindly tell me where you are all going."
The sages replied, "There will be a great meeting of saints on the planet of Lord Brahma. The demigods, the sages, the forefathers, and all the great souls will be there. We are eager to see Lord Brahma, and so we will also journey there."
Hearing their words, Pandu at once yearned to go with them and quickly rose from his seat. Eager to reach the heavenly abode, he prepared to depart with his wives toward the north, but seeing this the austere sages told him, "We are going very far to the north on our way to Brahma's abode. We shall be ascending Mountain King, the vast Himalayan region. In our previous journeys there, we have seen many lands that are difficult to cross, places where the gods themselves, as well as the Gandharvas and Apsaras, have established exclusive places for recreation. We have seen there the famous gardens of Kuvera, both flat and hilly, the undulating banks of mighty rivers, and impenetrable mountain canyons.
"There are lands en route that are always cold—icy places where no trees, animals, or birds can live. There are vast expanses of inaccessible terrain and zones of such heavy rainfall that even birds cannot cross, what to speak of other animals. Mystic Siddhas and liberated sages like us can make it across, but other than us only the wind goes through that land. How could your two wives possibly travel through Mountain King without collapsing on the way? Those fine ladies are the daughters of kings and are quite unaccustomed to such hardship. We might add that they hardly deserve such pain and trouble. O Bharata king, it is best that you not go."
King Pandu's Request
[Hearing the words of the sages whom he so deeply revered, Pandu bowed to their request. But since they were leaving, he revealed to them that which troubled his heart, despite all of his austerities.]
O most fortunate sages, authorities say that there is no way to heaven for a childless man. I confess to you all that being childless causes me great anguish. Strapped with four kinds of debts, men are born in this world, for they have dues to pay to the forefathers, to the gods, to the sages, and to other men—debts by the hundreds and thousands. Knowers of the law have established that a human being who does not acknowledge these debts at the proper time will not attain to the higher planets. One satisfies the gods by sacrifice, the sages by study and penance, the forefathers by children and sraddha rites, and humanity by kindness.
By law, I am freed of my debts to the sages, gods, and humanity, but I still owe a debt to the forefathers, and for this I feel pain, O ascetics rich in austerity. If a man leaves no descendants, when his body perishes his forefathers also perish. That is a fact. Thus it is to have progeny that noble men are born in this world.
Dear sages, even I was begotten in my father's widow by a great soul. By a similar arrangement, couldn't there be offspring from my wives?
O virtuous king, you certainly will have beautiful and sinless children, like unto gods. We know it by divine sight. O tiger of men, by your acts you must accomplish what is ordained by providence. An intelligent man, undistracted, enjoys a happy ending. Dear son, since the goal is already in sight, you must simply endeavor, and upon obtaining very qualified children you will attain to happiness.
Hearing these words from the ascetic sages, Pandu absorbed himself in thought, knowing well that because of the brahmana-deer's curse he could not beget a child. [The sages were gone, but Pandu fixed their words in his mind.] He then spoke to his lawful wife Kunti in a secluded part of the forest, urging that celebrated woman to accept the right and necessary means to beget children in times of difficulty:
"My dear Kunti, to beget good children is the very foundation of society, and thus it is enjoined in the sacred lawbooks. Sober authorities have therefore recognized that to raise good children is sanatana-dharma, a perpetual duty for civilized human beings. The performance of sacrifice, charity, and austerity, the careful observation of regulative principles—it is said that even all these will not suffice to sanctify the life of a childless man.
"Knowing this well, I clearly see that as a childless man I myself shall not achieve the blessed worlds. This is my constant worry, O sweet-smiling woman. O shy one, due to my immaturity I was cruel toward the brahmana-deer, and as I ruined his act of begetting, so my power to conceive a child has been ruined by his curse.
"Good woman, I cup my red-nailed hands like lotus petals, and placing them on my head in supplication, I beseech your mercy. O lovely-tressed lady, at my behest [and as authorized by scripture] approach a brahmana who is greater than I in his vows and austerity and beget sons endowed with every noble quality. With your help, broad woman, I will surely go to the blessed land reserved for the fathers of good sons."
Determined to help her husband and to please him, that lovely woman of tapering thighs then replied to her Pandu, who had conquered the cities of all impious kings: "While living as a young girl in my father's house, I was engaged in serving the respected guests who came to our kingdom. Once I received the fierce brahmana Durvasa, who is so strict in his vows. Durvasa bears frightening power and is extremely dangerous when displeased. It is moreover most difficult to understand what will please or displease him. I made every possible effort to serve him nicely, and at last that strict seer was satisfied. He gave me a boon and revealed a set of mantras invested with mystic power. He said this to me: 'Whatever demigod you care to summon with this mantra, he will certainly come under your control, willing or unwilling.'
"O Bharata, that brahmana thus spoke when I was still in my father's house. His words are true, and the time has come. O mighty, saintly king, with your permission, I shall summon a god with this mantra so that we may have a child. You know best what is right and true. Tell me, which god shall I summon? Know that I simply await your permission, for I am determined to carry out this mission."
This very day, O statuesque woman, you must act, and by the rule! Bring to you the god Dharma, good lady, for he among all the gods is devoted to virtue. Dharma would never join us in this endeavor were it unjust or evil. O statuesque lady, thus the world will conclude, "This act was lawful." Our little son will undoubtedly be the very image of justice for the Kurus. When he is given to us by Dharma, the lord of justice, his mind will never delight in adharma, injustice. Therefore, making dharma, virtue, our first priority, you must concentrate, sweet-smiling one. With reverence and the mystic mantra, seek the blessings of Dharma.
When Kunti was thus addressed by her husband, that excellent woman replied, "So be it!" She offered him her heartfelt obeisances and, with his permission, respectfully circumambulated him.
Sons of the Gods
My dear King Janamejaya, after a year of pregnancy, Dhrtarastra's wife Gandhari still had not given birth to a child. At that time Kunti summoned the unfailing Dharma so that she herself could become pregnant.
Kunti quickly offered an oblation to Dharma and carefully chanted the mantra given to her years ago by Durvasa Muni. Joining with Dharma, who appeared in his true form as a devoted servant of the Lord, the statuesque princess obtained as her son the best of all that breathe.
Exactly at noon, at a most auspicious moment, when the moon is especially benevolent and the stars foretell pious victory, Kunti gave birth to a son of glorious fame. As soon as he was born, an invisible voice spoke from the heavens: "Among all who faithfully follow the laws of God, this child is undoubtedly the best. The first-born son of Pandu will be known as Yudhisthira, 'steady in battle,' and his fame as a monarch will spread throughout the universe. Fully endowed is he with fame, strength, and kindness."
Having obtained a virtuous child as his first son, Pandu again approached Kunti and said, "It is said that a ksatriya king is preeminent in strength. [Our sons will be leaders, and they must have ideal qualities.] Therefore, choose for your boon a son who is the strongest of all men."
Being so instructed by her husband, Kunti summoned the mighty wind-god, Vayu, and from him was born a mighty-armed son named Bhima, "the dreadful one," for he would act with terrifying power. Indeed, Bhima's surpassing strength would never fail, and at his birth a heavenly voice declared, "Of all mighty men, the mightiest has now taken birth."
Indeed soon after his birth, a most amazing incident took place. Still an infant, Bhima once fell from his mother's lap and with his tender limbs pulverized masses of solid stone. On the tenth day after his birth, Kunti had taken her son to a charming lake to bathe him. After bathing him, she went to visit various religious shrines in the area to obtain blessings on her baby. Just as Kunti reached the foot of a mountain and stopped to rest, a huge tiger suddenly emerged from a mountain cave and rushed with deadly speed toward the helpless mother and child. Pandu had been keenly watching his wife as she walked toward the mountain. He always carried his bow and arrows to protect his family in the dangerous jungle. As the huge tiger rushed to kill, Pandu, with the prowess of the gods, pulled back his handsome bow and pierced the tiger's body with three deadly arrows. Lunging back into its cave, the mortally wounded beast filled the cavern with awful roars.
When the tiger attacked, Kunti had jumped up in terror, forgetting that her child slept peacefully on her lap. The infant Bhima fell from her lap and began to roll down the slope. He struck the stone mountain with the strength of thunderbolts hurled by mighty Indra. Indeed, as Bhima bounced down the slope, solid stone shattered into hundreds of pieces. When Pandu had seen his beloved son fall from his mother's lap, Pandu had come running, but when he beheld the shattered stone he was struck with awe.
On the very day Bhima was born, O lord of the abundant earth, Duryodhana also was born. Soon after Bhima's birth, Pandu again began to desire another son. "How can I have another excellent son," he thought, "a son who will be most exalted in this world? Success in life depends both on God's blessings and on our own honest endeavor. If we carefully follow the laws of God and act at the proper time, surely we can obtain His blessings.
"We have heard that among the demigods who manage our world, Indra is the chief. He is said to possess immeasurable strength, courage, nobility, and splendor. [Surely Indra could give us the greatest son of all.] I shall make a special effort to satisfy Indra by performing austerities, and I shall thus obtain a mighty son. Indeed, Indra will give a most exalted son. Yes, I shall perform very difficult austerities with my body, mind, and speech [to convince mighty Indra of our sincerity]."
Pandu discussed his plan with the great sages and he then instructed Kunti to observe an auspicious vow for one year. And with utmost concentration, Pandu underwent a grueling austerity, standing on one leg from sunrise to sunset without rest, determined to gain the favor of Lord Indra, the chief of the thirty principal demigods. After a long time, O Bharata, Indra addressed the virtuous Kuru king: "I shall give you a son who will be celebrated throughout the universe. That excellent child will fulfill the mission of the gods, the brahmanas, and his own loved ones, for I shall give unto you the first of sons, and he will vanquish all who oppose him."
Hearing these words from Lord Indra, and keeping them in his mind, the noble Pandu said to Kunti, "O sweet-smiling wife, we have received the mercy of the king of gods. O shapely wife, call him now and beget a son who will carry all the fire and might of the warrior race, a great soul who will be strict in moral principles, brilliant as the sun, invincible in battle, dynamic, and exceedingly wondrous to behold."
At these words, that illustrious lady called Indra, and the king of gods came to her and begot Arjuna. As soon as the child was born, a voice from the sky spoke out in such deep, clear tones that the heavens resounded with the message: "O Kunti, this child shall bring glory to your name, for he will be as invincible as his mighty father, Indra. Indeed, his power and courage will equal those of kings like Kartavirya and Sibi.
"Just as the Supreme Lord Visnu gave ever-increasing pleasure to His mother Aditi [when He appeared as Vamana], so your son Arjuna, who is like Visnu Himself, will increase your happiness more and more. He will subdue the Madra warriors, the Kekayas and the warriors of Cedi, Kasi, and Karusa, and thus he will establish the authority of the Kuru dynasty. By the strength of his arms, the god of fire will be fully satisfied by consuming all the creatures of the Khandava forest.
"This powerful leader of his people will heroically conquer the regional rulers of the earth and then with his brothers perform three great religious sacrifices. O Kunti, your son will be fierce in battle like Parasurama himself, and his deeds as glorious as those of primeval Visnu. Arjuna will be the very best of heroes, and none will defeat him, for he will secure unto himself the most advanced celestial weapons. Thus this best of men will bring back the glory and opulence of his dynasty."
Resting in the maternity room, Kunti heard these most extraordinary words which Vayu himself vibrated in the sky. As the learned ascetics of Hundred Peaks heard these loud declarations, the greatest joy arose among them. And so Lord Indra himself, with all the demigods, great sages, and other denizens of heaven, began to celebrate the birth of his earthly son. Celestial drums sounded forth, and a joyful tumult filled the skies. Showers of flowers floated to earth from the heavenly abodes as communities of demigods and godly beings, shouting congratulations, gathered to honor the exalted son of Prtha.
Pandu himself happily worshiped the Supreme Lord and His appointed representatives. Pleased with his worship, the demigods then addressed that best of kings: "By the mercy of the Supreme Lord, acting through his empowered demigod agents, Justice himself has taken birth as your first son, Yudhisthira; the mighty Wind has appeared as your powerful son Bhima, who will always crush the wicked; and now by the mercy of Indra, Arjuna has appeared as your son, endowed with all the potency of Lord Indra. Surely there is none more pious than you, for the gods themselves have become the fathers of your children. You are free of your debt to the forefathers, and you will attain the heavenly abode, for the merit of piety is yours to enjoy." Having thus spoken, all the demigods departed as they had come.
King Pandu, overjoyed by his blessings, was still not satiated, but rather felt encouraged to pursue further his intense yearning for exalted children. Again, therefore, the illustrious monarch requested his lovely and shapely wife Kunti to beget a child, but this time Kunti adamantly refused and spoke the following words:
"Even in times of crisis, authorities do not allow a woman to approach four different men. If I approach another man, I shall certainly become a fallen woman. A fifth time and I would become an ordinary harlot. Pandu, you speak like a madman. How can you think to violate my honor like this for the sake of another son, knowing as you do our religious principles? We should remember those principles!"
"Yes," said Pandu, "you are right. The religious principle is exactly as you have stated it."
Part Seven of an overview of the Sat sandarbha of Srila Jiva Gosvami
By Kundali Dasa and Satya Narayana Dasa
The Priti Sandarbha is the last of Srila Jiva Gosvami's six sandarbhas, or treatises. Here prayojana, or the ultimate goal of life, is defined as priti, or unalloyed love of Lord Krsna.
Srila Jiva Gosvami explains that everyone is interested in having an end to all miseries and attaining unending happiness; but happiness in this material world is always mixed with misery. Furthermore, happiness is always temporary, and we can never get as much as desired. So material happiness cannot be the supreme goal of life.
Beyond material happiness lies the ultimate spiritual bliss, described in the Vedic scriptures. That bliss is of two types—the bliss of self-realization and that of God realization. Of these two, the bliss of self-realization is small compared to that of God realization, because of the infinitesimal size of the soul. The Supreme Personality of Godhead is unlimited, so the bliss of God realization is unlimited. That realization, Srila Jiva Gosvami maintains, is the ultimate goal of life.
In self-realization, which here means impersonal realization, one's motive is to have one's own bliss. But in impersonal Brahman, the impersonal Absolute, the qualities and potencies of the Lord are not manifest, and so there are no varieties in Brahman realization; there is only a state of apparent oneness between God and the living entity.
In the four types of personal liberation the Lord's form, qualities, and other features are present, but for one's own purpose. Because one still does not love the Lord, one cannot realize the loving feature of the Lord, and therefore one cannot experience the ultimate bliss of priti, love of Godhead.
The Ultimate in Love
Love is supreme. Though a person may not possess many good qualities, if he has love for others he is appreciated because his love gives pleasure to others. This means that love surpasses all other considerations. And the highest love is love for Krsna, the Supreme Lord. Jiva Gosvami says that even if a person has many wonderful qualities, if he is devoid of pure love for the Lord he is not considered very glorious. But one who loves the Lord is always glorious.
The Lord has all wonderful qualities, and when we love Him and He reciprocates our love, we derive the supreme form of bliss. Because He is eternal and unlimited and because we are also eternal, He can reciprocate our love eternally. The resultant pleasure is indescribable.
Everyone in this material world hankers for love. As the saying goes, love conquers all. For the sake of love one may sometimes sacrifice one's dearest object—one's own life. So love is superior even to one's own self.
But in this material world there is no suitable object on which to repose one's love, because everything here perishes in time. No one wants to love something that will disappear. That's why people often change from one object of love to another. Jiva Gosvami concludes that ideally the object of our love must be permanent, able to reciprocate our love, and full of other attractive qualities as well. That ideal object can only be Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Earlier, in the Krsna Sandarbha, Srila Jiva Gosvami has already established that Krsna is the supreme object of love, for He is the origin of everything, sentient and insentient.
There is a world of difference between mere happiness and the bliss of priti, or love. Happiness is a quality derived from being in the mode of goodness, whereas priti is a potency of the Lord's internal energy. Priti is the essence of the Lord's pleasure potency, mixed with His knowledge potency. Priti includes bliss, but it is not just bliss or happiness.
Happiness is one's own experience of a favorable mental state, but love means acting only for the beloved's pleasure and thereby feeling happiness. Therefore either in union or in separation, a lover feels happiness if the beloved is happy. Happiness has no object but one's self, whereas love has both subject and object.
This state of priti always exists in the eternal associates of the Lord, and it is by their mercy that a qualified practitioner can acquire it.
The experience of melting of the heart signals the appearance of priti in the person of a devotee. This manifests externally in such symptoms as tears and rising of the hairs on the body while one is hearing krsna-katha, topics about Lord Krsna. When love appears and one loses all attachment to the material body, one's heart is completely purified. This exalted state of priti, or intense love for the Lord, can grow to its full intensity only towards Krsna and no other deity, because He is the complete Personality of Godhead.
Levels and Effects of Love
God is the supreme independent being, but He becomes dependent on any finite soul who loves Him. Indeed, He is conquered by love. His bliss is of two kinds. (1) He experiences the bliss of His own nature. (2) He experiences the bliss of His potency, which is of two types—bliss in the mind and bliss in His controlling potency. Of these, His experience of the bliss of devotion, which comes under the category of bliss in the mind, is the highest of all.
Love has two types of effect on the heart of a devotee: (1) It produces refinement in the heart. (2) It produces a particular type of ego.
When love produces refinement in the heart, it has these consequences: (a) That love for the Lord fills the devotee's mind with delight. (b) Out of intense love, the devotee feels the Lord to be his very own. (c) That love produces in the devotee a state of trust. (d) The devotee's love generates a type of pride, as he thinks, "The Lord is mine." (e) Love melts his heart. (f) Love generates an intense hankering for the Lord and gives great attachment to Him. (g) Love makes him feel that God is ever fresh. (h) Love intoxicates his mind with the unparalleled wonders of God's sweetness.
These states of love of God have different levels, which affect different devotees at different times. All together, there are eight levels of priti:
(1) Love in which there is an excess of delight in the loving mood of the devotee is called rati. At this stage Krsna is considered the only object of desire, and all else is insignificant.
(2) Love enriched with the feeling of possession, in which one feels "the Lord is mine," is called prema.
(3) Love of God accompanied by an abundance of trust in Him is called pranaya. At this stage one deals very intimately with Krsna and does not have reverence for Him.
(4) The conceit of excessive love that manifests itself in a crooked nature is called mana. When this type of love appears, even Krsna fears the angry mood of the devotee.
(5) Intense love that thoroughly melts the heart is called sneha. In sneha the devotee is dissatisfied even at the sight of the Lord and fears that demons may harm Him.
(6) An excessive longing in love for the Lord is called raga. Here even a moment's separation becomes unbearable. Union with the Lord makes great pain feel pleasurable, and separation from Him makes great pleasure feel like pain.
(7) That stage of love in which Krsna appears newer and newer at every moment is called anuraga. At this stage the Lord and the devotee feel dependent on each other, and even while in His presence the devotee feels the fear of separation. Hence the devotee loses his balance of mind and behaves strangely.
(8) The love that awakens a state of madness in a devotee owing to its unsurpassed wondrousness is called mahabhava. On this level even a moment's separation feels to the devotee like millions of years.
A person desiring to realize one of these stages of priti, or complete absorption in love of God, can do so by associating with and serving a devotee already situated in priti and acquire it from him. According to the level on which one's master is situated, the aspirant gets a particular kind of ego or relationship with the Lord.
Here Srila Jiva Gosvami goes into many technical details. He speaks of the criteria by which a devotee achieves a particular level of devotional service and explains how far one can progress beyond those given stages. He concludes the section by explaining that the maha-bhava of the gopis is the topmost experience of bliss of love of God and is not accessible to anyone else. Among the gopis, Srimati Radharani's love is unexcelled; She has no peer in loving Krsna.
Srila Jiva Gosvami then gives details regarding the various emotional moods (bhavas) of the experience of priti. These twelve emotional moods are called the sthayi-bhavas. The subject matter is too technical to present here.
Another point Srila Jiva Gosvami makes is that nondevotee rhetoricians say that bhakti, devotional service, is not a manifestation of rasa, a transcendental taste; they accept it only as a sentiment of the heart. Srila Jiva Gosvami refutes this idea by showing how rasa is impossible between human beings; it is possible only between the Lord and His devotees.
On the material platform, love is only a transformation of sattva guna, the material quality of goodness. It is not transcendental and has no possibility of any bhava, or emotional mood, comparable to the twelve moods in the spiritual sky. The mellow (rasa) experienced in mundane poetics, for example, is due to the expertise of the poet. It is nothing like the mellows experienced in relation to priti, which can put a devotee into a state of transcendental madness.
Thus with logic and examples from Srimad-Bhagavatam Srila Jiva Gosvami proves the superexcellent position of priti, which is nowhere better exemplified than in the gopis' love for Krsna.
Srila Jiva Gosvami concludes the Priti Sandarbha by pointing out that love of God is the desirable object for all devotees coming in the line of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. That understanding and the opportunity to realize it in full are Lord Caitanya's special gift to humanity.
Tirupati—A Glimpse of the Opulence of God
Thirty thousand pilgrims a day come to see awe-inspiring Lord Venkatesvara and offer in His service their rupees, their jewelry—even their hair.
by Visakha Devi Dasi
Wednesday, April 21, 1993, 5:30 A.M.
The path takes the group through a mountainside forest filled with fruit trees, flowering trees, deer, wild langur monkeys, and varieties of birds and butterflies. The sun and temperature rise together, but a cool breeze keeps discomfort at bay. During a rest, the children munch on wild tamarind they knock down from a nearby tree. As the Mandanlals near their destination, they pass flower-laden gardens, and finally—after 4 hours, 9 kilometers, and 4,047 steps (one of the children counted them)—they arrive in Tirumala, the home of Sri Venkatesvara, the Supreme Lord who resides on the Venkata hill.
Devotional music is broadcast over loudspeakers throughout the area. The music is periodically interrupted by an announcement given in four languages: "Caution to pilgrims: Tirumala is a holy religious pilgrimage center. Don't smoke here. Don't take intoxicating drinks. Don't prepare or eat non-vegetarian food. Always keep the premises clean...."
The story behind Tirumala begins in the second century B.C., when Sri Venkatesvara, a self-manifested Deity, was discovered on the hill-bound southern bank of Puskarini Lake, located west of Tirupati, 2,800 feet above sea level. South of the lake, devotees built a simple temple for the Lord—just pillars supporting a roof—and began worshiping Him. Over the centuries Sri Venkatesvara attracted the attention and devotion of the area's rulers, and they gave generously to build a grand, stone-carved temple around Him and to increase the grandeur of His worship.
In the eleventh and twelfth centuries, Ramanujacarya, the great Vaisnava preceptor and reformer, established in detail Sri Venkatesvara's mode of worship and an excellent organizational arrangement for His temple. So because of the munificence of pious kings, Sri Venkatesvara displayed His opulence, and because of the inspired influence of Ramanujacarya, the elaborate worship and operation of His temple was set up and has continued smoothly to the present day.
Once in Tirumala, Nirmala and the children wait for the rest of the family and then locate their car, their driver having dropped them off at the mountain base and driven up the mountain road to meet them.
"Walking here is a kind of prayer for us," Nirmala explains with a smile, "a fulfillment of our vow."
A similar faith and conviction draw pilgrims from all parts of India to Tirumala. To reach Tirumala from the town of Tirupati below, some walk, some take a private car or taxi, but most ride the public bus for ten rupees (about thirty U.S. cents). These pilgrims—35,000 daily and 100,000 on festivals and holidays—wait patiently in a queue for two to fifteen hours to get a glimpse of the Supreme Lord who resides on this remote mountain. In India, waiting is part of a way of life, and in Tirumala every type of person and all phases of life are represented in an unending queue: just-married couples still in their wedding dress; joint families with a host of children (the smallest asleep in their parents' arms); the educated; the illiterate; the well-to-do; the destitute; the elderly; the handicapped; and even the blind. While they wait, they talk, snack, tend their children, look at people who aren't on the queue, occasionally become angry and argue, and they meditate on the Lord for whom they have come to Tirumala and for whom they are sacrificing their time and comfort. After renting a room and bathing, the Madanlals will wait three and a half hours to see Sri Venkatesvara.
If we accept God, we must also accept His inconceivable potency. We cannot limit Him. If God desires, He can appear in a form suitable for receiving our worship and devotion. This is the Deity. The Lord also has an impersonal, all-pervading feature, but that feature does not evoke our love, reverence, and desire to render devotional service. It is God's kindness that He appears as the Deity for us to see and pray to, and to give us the privilege of being in His personal presence.
Yet this simple truth applies to all Deities of the Supreme Lord. It does not explain the unparalleled attraction to Sri Venkatesvara. And perhaps nothing can explain it. It is as mystical and inconceivable as the Lord Himself.
After sitting in a modern two-story complex that can accommodate 16,500 pilgrims at a time, the Mandanlals cross a covered bridge over the road that encircles the temple. Outside the temple walls, they wait patiently within the queue barriers (barred to prevent queue-jumpers). The lines move on, and the Madanlals step into the shallow, fresh water that runs nonstop at the temple entrance, cleansing the bare feet of all who enter.
The queue continues moving slowly, now along the south side of the inner temple, past the temple kitchen, where 250 brahmana cooks work in shifts throughout the day to prepare offerings for the Lord. Finally the Madanlals approach the inner sanctum, where the Lord waits regally beneath His golden dome. The Madanlals and the pilgrims around them are eager with divine anticipation. The crowd spontaneously swells with the chant "Govinda!" another name for Sri Venkatesvara.
Sri Venkatesvara is awe-inspiring. Solid black, He stands seven feet tall, His lustrous form dimly lit by ghee lamps. The first sight of Him is of His prominent tilaka, two large, white, vertical, slightly separated blocks adorning most of His forehead and nose and part of His eyes and cheeks.
Moving closer, the Madanlals can see His jewel-inlaid golden crown, His garland, His jeweled ornaments and, just faintly, their eyes now accustomed to the dimness, His benign smile. The Deity's right palm—open, facing forward, fingers down—beckons pilgrims to give up all varieties of religion and surrender to Him. His left hand, palm facing in and fingers curved to-ward His knee, indicates that for those who surrender He will give all protection. Surrendered souls need not fear. For them He reduces the enormous ocean of material tribulation to a knee-deep pond.
Lord Venkatesvara's presence is captivating. No one wants to leave. Yet after just a moment it is time. Thousands are yet to come, and the Lord awaits them also.
The next queue is to the hundi, a cloth-covered three-cubic-foot brass vessel into which pilgrims place their offerings to the Lord—money, precious metals, family treasures, and whatever else they feel would be of value to Sri Venkatesvara. When the hundi is full it is replaced with an empty one and carried to a barred room at the west end of the temple. There, twice each day, the hundis are emptied, and their contents sorted and counted. Each counting is a five-hour process performed by thirty men picked at random from the Tirumala staff. The whole procedure is observed by two pilgrims, also picked at random, as well as by closed-circuit video cameras. And everyone who leaves the room is thoroughly searched. The total donations are registered and deposited in the bank. Hundi theft is unlikely in Tirumala. The daily average: a million rupees (about US$30,000). Sri Venkatesvara is the wealthiest Deity in the world.
By temple policy, the funds are used for several purposes: (1) for the preservation, maintenance, and renovation of the temple, and for the Lord's clothing, ornaments, and decorations; (2) for the pilgrims—their food, housing, transportation, medical needs, water supply, and sanitation; (3) for the public—hospitals, orphanages, homes for the disabled, and care for lepers; (4) for education; and (5) for the propagation of sanatana-dharma, the eternal way of life of the living being.
The facilities provided for pilgrims in Tirumala are outstanding. The covered, lit walkway, the reforested mountainside, and the lush gardens are examples. Even more, every pilgrim is entitled to free food, free accommodations, and free medical treatment. Pilgrims who need more than bare necessities pay a nominal fee for accommodation (for example, 50 rupees a night for a furnished room with attached bath). Dr. C. Anna Rao, former Executive Officer of the temple, says, "Necessities should be provided free, comforts on a little payment, and luxuries avoided."
Before leaving the temple, each of the Madanlals receives a leaf cup containing maha-prasadam—food that has been offered to Sri Venkatesvara. They relish it, wash their hands, and spend a few minutes reading some of the more than 640 inscriptions of the temple's history engraved in local languages on the temple's stone walls. One of them reads: "On February 10, 1513, Sri Krishnadevaraya [a powerful king] and his two queens, Chinnajidevi and Tirumaladevi, visited the temple for the first time. The king presented Sri Venkatesvara a gold crown set with nine kinds of gems, and twenty-five silver plates for offering camphor. His queens each gave a gold cup for offering milk to the Lord." A temple attendant explains that even now those same cups are used nightly for the Lord's milk offering.
Finally, the Madanlals leave through the same large gate they entered. Tonight they will drive four hours southeast to their home in Madras. In three or four months, they will return to spend another day in Tirumala.
Putting the Lord in the Center
THOSE WHO THINK that in India too much time, energy, and money is devoted to meaningless traditions, superstitions, rites, and ceremonies, that resources are properly spent only in technological progress, will find their view opposed by Sri Venkatesvara's devotees. In Tirumala His devotees have put Him, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, in what they regard as His rightful place—the center. His picture or symbols (conch, disc, tilaka) decorate the mountain peak and every shop, bus, office, guest room, and telephone booth, as well as the heart of each sincere pilgrim and staff member. Sri Venkatesvara's presence gives material and spiritual solace to His followers. Without being balanced by such spiritual culture, unchecked materialism creates a moral vacuum in the minds and hearts of men, leaving them prone to violent acts—products of lust, greed, and anger—now seen too often in India and throughout the world.
On the role of temples in society in past ages, Dr. C. Anna Rao, former Executive Director of the Tirumala temple, writes,
Temples were conceived of not only as places of worship but also as places of comprehensive religio-cultural activities where instruction even in such subjects as music, architecture, sculpture, painting, dancing, etc., was given. The temple served as an inspiring center of the social and cultural life of the community—a center of great spiritual force and social advancement—and a place of learning, both religious and scientific.... A place without a temple had no amenities of life; there was want of righteousness and ... of truth among the people there.... When we see that the number of temples that are defunct and dilapidated is far greater than those that are functioning, we can realize how much harm has been done to the society, spiritually, morally, and economically.
Mr. D. V. Murti, the present Executive Officer in Tirumala, comments on the temple today:
The faith of these pilgrims is strong and is worth more than material knowledge, which often makes people faithless. Many of the pilgrims undergo hardships traveling great distances to come here. And once here, they surrender fully to the Lord—for a woman to shave her head, for example, giving her beauty to the Lord, is itself a great sacrifice. I have seen that the more a person gives selflessly, without wanting credit and without expectation of return, the more the Lord reciprocates in His own way. We cannot predict how. Actually, it is foolishness to ask anything of the Lord. He already knows what we want, and whatever He gives us—whether apparently good or bad—is exactly what we deserve and in our best interest. To serve Him and the pilgrims in Tirumala is our great fortune. Here our work is truly our service to the Lord.
Kamisetty Srinivasulu, director of temple audiovisual productions, comments:
Here God is not sitting quietly. He is actively benefiting everyone. Just the fact that people forget their economic status, their caste, creed, and sex, they forget all material designations, chant the Lord's holy name, and come before Him, all equal—in that alone there is great benefit. Besides, from a practical viewpoint, whether you believe in God or not, just see the job opportunities here. Tirumala-Tirupati Devasthanams [the official name of the temple management] employs 15,000 people directly and many times that number indirectly. These duties are not ordinary—they are godly. And the people who engage in them in the proper spirit will become godly. These duties can affect us in the most profound way, by reviving our God consciousness. And God consciousness more than anything else is what's lacking in our world today. In Tirumala no one need go hungry or be without shelter and medical attention. There is no social unrest.
With a smile he concludes, "This is all the mercy and the glory of Sri Venkatesvara. Whatever we give to Him, He returns a thousandfold."
TO FURTHER the goal of spreading sanatana-dharma, in 1984 Tirumala-Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) gave ISKCON a 99-year lease on 2.1 acres of land in Tirupati, not far from the mountain base and the road and path leading to Tirumala. TTD further supported ISKCON by building a small temple for the Deities of Sri Sri Radha-Govinda and a two-story house to serve as a brahmacari asrama and an elementary school.
Now there are eighteen full-time devotees. They maintain book tables in Tirupati and, during festivals, in Tirumala. On the temple property there is an eighteen-room guesthouse under construction and a goshalla (barn) with twelve cows. The first floor of the guesthouse—six marble-floored rooms with attached baths—is complete and often booked. All the construction funds for this project have been raised by the devotees, and when it is finished, fund-raising and construction will begin on a large temple for Sri Sri Radha-Govinda.
Every day, tour buses bring pilgrims to six noteworthy holy places in Tirupati, and the ISKCON temple is one of them. Four to five hundred pilgrims a day offer their respects to Sri Sri Radha-Govinda, meet devotees, and occasionally buy books. As many as five thousand local people throng to the temple on Janmastami, Krsna's appearance day, to chant, dance, see dramas, and feast on Radha-Govinda prasadam.
Visiting Tirupati and Tirumala
ALTHOUGH SOME state transit buses go directly to Tirumala, where the temple of Lord Venkatesvara is located, most pilgrims—traveling by air, rail, bus, car, or foot—first arrive in Tirupati, at the base of Tirumala hill. From Tirupati pilgrims walk or take buses or taxis up the hill to the temple. The buses run about every three minutes from 3:30 A.M. to 11:00 P.M.
Getting to Tirupati
Where to Stay
Tirupati—Free accommodations are provided at two dharmashalas (unfurnished hostels) connected with the two main temples in Tirupati: Sri Govindaraja temple and Sri Kodanda Rama temple. Furnished rooms (30-150 rupees) are available at Sri Venkateswara Dharmashala, S.V. Guest House, Sri Padmavathi Guest House, and the T.T.D. (Alipiri) Guest House.
The worldwide activities of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness
The mayor of San Diego attended the celebration for Lord Krsna's "birthday" in August at the Hare Krsna temple in her city. The mayor, Mrs. Susan Golding, said the temple grounds reminded her of Bali, Indonesia, one of her favorite vacation spots.
Eight hundred devotees met for a "family gathering," the second annual Prabhupada Festival, in Los Angeles last May.
ISKCON's school in Dallas celebrated its reopening in July after a $65,000 renovation. Srila Prabhupada first opened the school in 1972. Thirty students now attend.
Forty boys and girls vacationed in August at the tenth annual "Camp Krishna," at the Gita-Nagari farm in Pennsylvania. The program ran for ten days.
ISKCON Houston held a thirty-hour series of Krsna conscious seminars in July. Forty-five people attended.
The youth of ISKCON's farm in Mississippi sponsored the Rathayatra float in the New Orleans Mardi Gras last spring. They painted, decorated, organized, advertised, and raised funds for the project. Then they performed kirtanas and classical Indian dances on the float. One million people attended the parade.
Sumati Morarji is donating a granite floor for the Miami ISKCON temple. She has also offered to ship large altars waiting in India for the Deities. Through her shipping company, Scindia Steamship Lines, Mrs. Morarji sponsored Srila Prabhupada's first passage to America, in 1965.
An internal FBI memo suggests that acts of violence ten years ago against several Hare Krsna temples were perpetrated by Al-Fuqra, a U.S.-based Black Muslim group. Among acts that investigators have linked to the group: violence at the Hare Krsna temple in San Diego (August 1979) and firebombings of temples in Philadelphia and Denver (June and August 1984). Most of the targets of assaults attributed to Fuqra members have spiritual or cultural ties to India or hold Muslim views that Fuqra members regard as wayward, reported the New York newspaper Newsday. According to USA Today, Fuqra is suspected of sixteen bombings and six murders since 1979.
Devotees in Chicago held their first large-scale Rathayatra since the late seventies. In July, they pulled the 35- foot-tall cart down Gandhi Marg and passed out prasadam to thousands along the route.
Devotees in Brazil have purchased four hundred acres of land in the jungle four hours from Manaus. They plan to build a temple, a school, a guesthouse, and houses for families.
Two devotees from Belgrade brought prasadam to children's hospitals, children's refugee camps, and homes for the aged in Podgorica, in the Yugoslavian republic of Montenegro. Jugoslav Airlines provided round-trip flights, the Red Cross welcomed the devotees at the airport, and a government firm gave a free hotel room for ten days.
Devotees in London celebrated their twenty-fifth annual Festival of the Chariots on July 4.
The "Hare Krishna Summer Festival" drew two thousand local people to the ISKCON farm in Bavaria, Germany. The festival marked twenty-five years for ISKCON in Germany.
The Bhaktivedanta Institute presented a three-day lecture series to more than two hundred students and professors last summer at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Bombay. The school is one of India's five most important institutes for research in engineering and technology.
Fifty children attended ISKCON Secunderabad's first Bhakti-yoga Training Camp, held for ten days last May.
ISKCON Chandigarh will hold its fifth annual Rathayatra festival on November 6.
A convoy of fourteen vehicles delivered hot Krsna prasadam to the primary school in the black township of Gamalakke last summer. Gamalakke is one of South Africa's most troubled spots, with intense fighting between the Zulu and Xosa tribes. Devotees led the school's staff and students in chanting Hare Krsna. And after the fourteen hundred barefoot and hungry students were fully fed, the devotees passed out a thousand of Srila Prabhupada's books in Zulu.
The annual Festival of the Chariots took place this summer in Nairobi and Mombasa.
British actress Hayley Mills took part in the bathing ceremony for Lord Jagannatha in Christchurch this summer. She and city council member David Cox also attended ceremonies to start a series of programs leading up to the Srila Prabhupada Centennial in 1996.
Devotees in Singapore held their first Rathayatra last July.
Padayatra America this summer completed its 1,700-mile walk through all the countries of Central America. The walk began in December from the freezing hills of Costa Rica and ended in May in Colon, on the Atlantic side of Panama.
A group of devotees spent June bringing Krsna's holy names to the streets of fifty-four California towns. The devotees put on programs in thirty-seven homes during their travels.
For two months this year, twenty-five devotees toured the island of Cebu, visiting forty towns and putting on a festival every night. An average of three hundred people attended each program.
Padayatra Eastern Europe
In July and August devotees walking alongside a bullock cart chanted Hare Krsna from Moravia to Prague.
For more information about Padayatra, contact:
62, Sant Nagar, New Delhi 110 065, India.
Phone: +91 (11) 642-1736. Fax: +91 (11) 647-0742
1111 Grand Ave., San Diego, CA 92109.
Phone: +1 (619) 273-7262.
Bhaktivedanta Manor, Lecthmore Heath, Watford, Herts. WD2 8EP, England.
Phone: +44 (92) 385-7244
Nonsense Commentary On Bhagavad-Gita
This conversation took place in Allahabad, India, on January 18, 1971.
Guest (1): We believe in an incorporeal God.
Srila Prabhupada: Who says, "incorporeal"? Who says?
Guest (1): It is scripture—jyotir linga, "incorporeal."
Srila Prabhupada: You are bringing in something else besides Bhagavad-gita. You should know that we are preaching Bhagavad-gita. So this jyotir linga—all these theories—they are not in Bhagavad-gita. They may be in other literature, but we are particularly interested in preaching Bhagavad-gita. Because Bhagavad-gita has been wrongly preached all over the world by nonsense commentary, we want to rectify that. Therefore our society is specifically named "Krsna conscious."
Guest (1): What is wrongly preached about the Gita?
Srila Prabhupada: Yesterday, for instance, I went to that Gita Samiti [Gita Society]. There is a lamp [on display]. Why is there a lamp instead of Krsna?
Guest (1): I don't know.
Srila Prabhupada: You do not know. Therefore I say there is wrong preaching. Why is there a lamp in place of Krsna? Does Krsna say this?
Guest (1): The Gita Samiti people must evolve with this idea because ...
Srila Prabhupada: No, no. The Gita is spoken by Krsna. So why is there no picture of Krsna?
Guest (1): They didn't put the picture.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. That means they have not understood Krsna. Therefore, this so-called Gita Society is not bona fide. Suppose there is a political meeting. You keep Gandhi's photo or Jawaharlal Nehru's photo, because they are political leaders. Yet in this Gita Samiti they are preaching Bhagavad-gita, and there is not a single picture of Krsna. This is misguided. They are wrongly representing Bhagavad-gita. So our position is to rectify that wrong propaganda about Bhagavad-gita.
Guest (2): What is that wrong propaganda?
Srila Prabhupada: That is one instance. And there are many other instances. In the Ninth Chapter there is the verse man-mana bhava mad-bhakto mad-yaji mam namaskuru. [Krsna says to Arjuna: "Engage your mind always in thinking of Me, become My devotee, offer obeisances to Me, and worship Me."] One respected scholar says, "It is not to the person Krsna [but to the unborn within Krsna that one must surrender]." Where does the scholar get this nonsense idea?
Guest (1): V—has also said that ...
Srila Prabhupada: They are all nonsense. Anyone who deviates from the original text of the Gita is nonsense.
Guest (2): Swamiji, by declaring other interpretations nonsense ...
Srila Prabhupada: You cannot interpret! First of all, my proposal is that you cannot interpret.
Guest (2): We'll come to that. But if I say that you are not interpreting correctly, that does not make me correct. I must be correct also.
Srila Prabhupada: I am correct as long as I present the correct thing. If I present Krsna as He is, then I am correct.
Guest (2): Swamiji, most respectfully, how do you judge that "I am correct"?
Srila Prabhupada: Because I am presenting what Krsna says. First of all, you answer this: What is the standard of correctness? You cannot create correctness. When Krsna says man-mana bhava mad-bhaktah—"Just surrender unto Me, become My bhakta [devotee]—how can you say, "It is not to Krsna [one must surrender]?" Is this not nonsense? If I say, "Give me a glass of water" and you say, "It is not to Swamiji [that the glass of water should be given]," isn't that an interpretation?
Guest (1): But surrender is what Jesus Christ says, Mohammed says, everyone says.
Srila Prabhupada: Let others surrender to Christ. But why don't you surrender to Krsna?
Guest (1): That is true, but ...
Srila Prabhupada: That is true, but you do not know how.
Guest (1): Your way of thinking and your purpose is that Lord Krsna should be the Lord of the whole universe, so ...
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, Lord Krsna is the Lord of the universe.
Guest (1): So that is what you want to say to me?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Eager to Read About Krsna
Letters to the Moscow branch of the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust
A. F. Tsivon
Thank you for the books you are publishing. Why did I know nothing about Bhagavad-gita before? Now I only have to lament that I have wasted 44 years of my life.
V. N. Apopov
From your books one can derive more and more energy. As I read the translation and then the purports, sometimes I have a feeling that these books are the most important things in my house and that everything else is just vain, temporary, of less importance.
S. S. Siatdinova
Thanks to the books by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, I found my real self and I am very grateful to Lord Krsna.
In your TV advertisement for Bhagavad-gita, I heard sankirtana chanting. It sounded like thousands of devotees going side by side, like a gigantic sea wave. I had an impression that the wave was going to come up and carry me away. That is my great desire—to become just a tiny drop of that wave. Unfortunately I am not worthy of it. Still, I set my hopes upon the mercy of Lord Krsna. I hope that He will not only show me the way but give me strength and determination to follow it. Hare Krsna!
The books by Srila Prabhupada are of the greatest value for us. He moved a curtain, revealing the spiritual reality to the whole world. I consider it a great honor to bow to the ground before His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada.
Anatoliy K. Serov
Dear publishers, please consider my words. Since our country is in a great spiritual need, I am appealing to you—do not stop producing these books. They bring enlightenment to the people and I am convinced that many would share my opinion.
Boris, 17 years old
Thank you very much for your energy in sending the revealed scriptures by Sri Vyasadeva, which became widely known due to timely interference by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami and his spiritual masters.
What a wonder, what a great fortune for all of us, to have such a confidential source of knowledge accessible! Now there is hope that the quantity of ignorant people will not increase with such an oppressive speed and that in this very lifetime we will be able to see the teachings of God taught in schools by these very books.
Let me express to you my gratitude for all that you are doing, for it is the only thing that has a real value nowadays.
May the luster of the material world never overtake the fire of devotional service in your hearts!
M. V. Lipatnikov
We were brought up without any religion or knowledge about the spirit soul, the purpose of the human being, and the existence of the spiritual world. But our eagerness to know all this is so great. While listening to the radio and hearing the voices of your people—very gentle and pure in heart—I want to fly up and sing, my soul overwhelmed with some unknown feeling.
I have no Bhagavad-gita; therefore please send me one, for any price. I want my children to also know about this.
When I started reading these books, I was so captured by their topics that I read the Krsna book at one go, just swallowed it. I can swear to you, sirs, that for all my 37 years I've never read such an interesting and fascinating book. And when I started reading Bhagavad-gita, I realized that there is nothing to compare to it in the whole world.
V. E. Sokolov
Me and my friends are very interested in books published by you. We already have some of them, but not all. Your books are going from hands to hands and are read with great interest. And the most wonderful thing is that the people, who read your books become much more pure in their thoughts and actions. It would be very nice if we could keep our connection with you in the future.
S. Y. Sobolve
Bhagavad-gita opened a window to another world! A world where there are no soldiers and civilians, communists and capitalists, no wars, starvation, or epidemics.
Thank you that despite the terror of our times you are doing true necessary work for everyone with no exceptions—be one a minister or an unimportant worker.
I learned about the movement for Krsna consciousness long ago. Till recently I only felt respect for those boys singing and dancing on Nevskiy, tolerating scowl smiles and insulting laughs of the passersby. Only in May last year I became greatly interested in everything related to Krsna. After one night and half the next day in argument (in which I defended my atheistic views), I understood that worship of Krsna is not just idle whims but a scientifically based philosophy.
And now here I am, sitting and humming the Hare Krsna mantra, making the next bead for my new chanting beads.
I try to practice bhakti-yoga at home, but since I have no guidance of a spiritual master, everything works out as if I did it with my left foot. And then I think about how rough and insincere I am and that due to my ignorance I cannot approach the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna. I am unable to understand the deep spiritual meaning of Bhagavad-gita since I consider myself to be capable of offenses only.
At such moments I keenly feel my imperfection but then remember this prayer by Rupa Gosvami: "O my Lord, I do not have any love for You, nor am I qualified for discharging devotional service by chanting and hearing. Nor do I possess knowledge, pious activities, or the mystic power of a Vaisnava. Nor do I belong to a very high-caste family. On the whole, I do not possess anything. Still, O Gopijana-vallabha, because You bestow Your mercy on the most fallen, I have an unbreakable hope that is constantly in my heart. That hope is always giving me pain."
My situation is just like that. Sincerely wishing to be amongst you,
My prostrated obeisances to all the devotees! I intended to write this letter long ago, but something was holding me until now. And now when I am finally writing, all the words are gone, for there is just a single idea in the mind—to come to you and stay.
A year ago I knew nothing of the books, but already at that time I was often appealing to the Lord, not with material desires. I saw those who were serving the Lord but spoke badly of other religions and did not follow any principles. I could not be among them. After some time I bought Bhagavad-gita As It Is.
For half a year I was reading it, and my joy had no limit. I was reading about what was most important for me, what was always in my mind. I do not know if I can repay Lord Krsna for His mercy. But could it be possible for me to ever know anything without the mercy of His great saintly devotee, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada? Certainly not.
Now I have already 15 books, which I am studying step by step. After finishing I start reading again. How is it possible not to read them? They contain the full mercy of Lord Krsna.
If there is any opportunity, considering place, time and circumstances, I tell people about Krsna and what I have learned from the Vedic scriptures. My friend also accepted these teachings. My brother, by Lord Krsna's mercy, all of a sudden gave up all his bad habits. Some people hear me with understanding, some hear and think, "What nonsense," and others say directly, "You must be crazy." But I can see their ignorance, and thanks to them I only increase my faith and service. And I still hope to plant the seeds of love of Krsna in their concrete hearts. Everything depends on Krsna's mercy. He gives, He takes away, and this is all but His mercy.
Let me kneel before all the devotees for their great love of Lord Krsna, for their humility and wisdom. In great respect I bow down before all the real spiritual masters who were present on earth previously and who are present now.
I have an earnest request to you. I beg you to keep one set of 13 books for me till the end of March. At that time I will get my pension and redeem them. I am begging you to please keep the set of books for me. That would be a great gift for me. Please, put it away, hide it somewhere. Put this set away and hide it till at most April, otherwise my pension will be not enough. I am begging you to do something about it. Be merciful, help me, keep just one set. Better I will be lacking of cloth but have your books. Kindly give me the opportunity to put some money by. Please, have mercy in this world.
B. B. Vorozstov
Now we are learning mantras. "We" means a group of self-taught Hare Krsnas, about 10-14 people. We are making our own attempts to offer food to the Lord, learning mantras, listening to many tapes with different spiritual masters speaking.
Do you want to hear our story? About two years ago we took an interest in reading about UFOs. We started gathering to discuss and analyze the information. The conclusion was, God exists. Then we start looking into Christian literature. Then your books appeared. We tried them, and that was something! Your books are the most truthful; everything is explained. After practicing chanting of the maha-mantra we felt, "It works." Tried prasadam and concluded, "That's a real thing." Now we all have just one goal: to serve the Lord and come back to Him.
V. G. Vlasenko
I am Chaikin Eduard from Kazahstan, 17 years old. After seeing your advertisement in one of the magazines, I ordered by mail Bhagavad-gita As It Is. While reading it, I don't know why but I was believing every single word. Then for some reason I interrupted my reading for some time, but over and over I was thinking about what I had read. The other day I started it again and bought some other books of Vedic knowledge. I attained self-realization: I am not Chaikin Eduard but a spirit soul which is meant to go back home, back to Godhead.
I am 23 years old. Sometimes I am terrified thinking how engrossed I am in this unmeaningful existence devoid of anything spiritual. But I am sure that if I have a spiritual guide I will gain a real meaning of this life, without doubt. I am not cheating myself with false expectations that someone can transform my life and make me happy without my personal endeavors, but I feel a necessity of spiritual support, wise advise, a sincere word. Till now I thought such an attitude to be mere selfishness. But now, after reading some of the Vedic literature, I understand that this is needed on the neophyte stage of self-realization. This is a necessity for deeply understanding the meaning of one's life and the soul.
Though I am unable to do it by my own, one thing I know for sure: there is a way back to Godhead, the way on which one can find a real happiness. Please help me!
When I had a business visit to Moscow I happened to buy these books in the metro. That was the mercy of Lord Krsna. I read them and was terrified with my ignorance. What a great layer of the human civilization was kept away from the Soviet person, me.
I love Krsna very much, I want to serve Him:
1) by joining the Hare Krsna movement;
2) by giving Krsna consciousness to others;
3) by associating with servants of Krsna.
Olga Nikolayevna Tereshenko
Now when I have an opportunity to read the books of Srila Prabhupada, I can, thanks to his great work, distinguish a real servant of the Lord from one who is after satisfaction of his personal whims. This is the mercy given by the Lord Himself.
The most strong feeling which overwhelmed me while I was reading these books was the feeling of regret that I had no chance to read them before.
L. N. Shnaider
On seeing your advertisement, I ordered Bhagavad-gita. After I read it for the first time, I read it again for the second and then for the third time. Now I am reading it and cannot give it up. In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna advises us to take shelter of a spiritual master, but how can I find him? Whom should I approach? There is no Krsna conscious center in our town. Please tell me what one should do to learn how to perform devotional service to Krsna. What should one start with? I feel that something should be changed in my life, that its purpose is different, spiritual.
The other day my friend and I read one of the numerous books by His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada—Life Comes from Life—and came to the conclusion that this spiritual understanding is what we can never get from our present life, which we would like to change completely. All the author describes in the book showed us that human life is infinitesimally short and we have so much to do. We are very eager to dedicate our lives to the direct real service of God. Could you please send us the addresses of some Hare Krsna monasteries? Our intentions are serious.
Reading of the Vedic literature purifies my consciousness and gives me strength of mind. I became faithful to my wife and gave up smoking a year ago. This year I gave up alcohol, tea, coffee (and even do not feel any chemical dependence). I feel a great desire to associate with Krsna's devotees.
A. I. Tarasov
I am twenty years old. I was almost completely frustrated with life, but upon seeing your book advertisement all the dismal thoughts disappeared at once. Now I'm ready to dedicate my life to the distribution of Vedic knowledge.
I live in a village and never had a chance to meet a devotee while visiting the nearest towns. Nor is there any possibility to find a spiritual master. Therefore, please send me a set of your books. Although one can never comprehend and realize all the knowledge without the help of spiritual master, still I will accept every word of Bhagavad-gita as it is, without any personal interpretation.
I live very far away. Still, it is not a complete backwoods—your books reached it. I read Srimad-Bhagavatam, first and second parts. It was like a shock. I was overwhelmed with ecstasy.
I started following the four regulative principles, and others just wonder how one can manage to drink no alcohol on holidays and eat no sausages. I simply smile with pity in reply. My dearmost desire is to have talks with a person like Swami Srila Prabhupada. I know he had a lot of followers all over the world. Perhaps there are some in our country too. We are in the greatest need of them, since most of our people have completely lost their spiritual assets. Please give me just one address where I can find such a person, a teacher of Krsna consciousness.
I want to express to you my sincere gratitude that you are existing and bringing people this most confidential of all knowledge—knowledge of God, of love of God.
I offer my special respect unto His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, as well as unto you, his followers. By chance I came across one of his books and after reading just this one, I believed. And that was it. Now I cannot imagine myself without it. Perhaps because it answers all the questions I had since my very boyhood. I've prepared myself for one year to become a disciple. I am ready to accept any conditions, any difficulties. I want! I, the spirit soul, have a desire. I want to develop love for Krsna and go back to Him.
Please help me. Write to me how to become a disciple. I am prepared to accept any conditions.
My name is Yuriy. I am 19 years old. Recently I took up reading the books of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Also I try to follow the regulative principles and chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra. I notice a change in my inner consciousness. I would like to completely renounce this material world and engage myself fully in the service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead in the association of the believers.
Yuriy Aleksandrovich Trushaev
The service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krsna and His pure devotees is my very life. Thank you so much that you have spoken to the temple president.
Of course I agree to take a probational period. I accept any conditions just to live with you. Please tell the president I will do whatever you say to me. Just please don't leave me alone!
You have advised me to be prepared to meet difficulties, but what kind of difficulties are you speaking about? Can the lack of food be a problem when there is a possibility to see the pure devotees, to touch their bodies? Maybe you meant poverty? Well if I join you I will become the most rich man. Not without reason is Krsna called "the Lord of those who are materially exhausted." Is this what you called difficulties? I wish to have more of them.
Please, let me know the conditions for joining the Hare Krsna movement. Are there any centers in Voronej or other places of Russia? Thank you for distributing such books as Bhagavad-gita. It is the greatest of books. It revealed to me the meaning of my life. When I read it, I experience the greatest joy. Thank you so much for carrying out your mission.
While I am reading the Vedic literature with the help of His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada I realize more and more about the nasty and rotten world we live in. But these books are written in such a way that one becomes eager to read about Krsna again and again. After reading these topics, I lose all interest in other books.
HERE'S A Krsna conscious project you might like to support or get involved in.
BBT (Bhaktivedanta Book Trust) Center for Sanskrit Studies
Chapel Hill, North Carolina, U.S.A.
Gopiparanadhana Dasa, Aja Dasa
To train Sanskrit editors and translators for the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.
To produce books for the BBT and engage trainees in the work.
To offer ISKCON devotees a Vaisnava alternative to mundane university education.
To give BBT workers opportunities to teach Krsna consciousness and provide training in Krsna consciousness to people academically inclined.
Under the sponsorship of the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International, the Center for Sanskrit Studies opened its educational asrama in downtown Chapel Hill, near the University of North Carolina. The center functions both as a college ministry and as an ISKCON temple with Deities of Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai. Devotees have also opened a restaurant nearby.
The center now houses four full-time students. Gopiparanadhana Dasa, the school's director, teaches daily classes in Sanskrit grammar and Nyaya logic and gives individual tutoring. He's also a member of a team of devotees working on a translation and commentary of Srila Jiva Gosvami's major work, Sat-sandarbha, which the Center will be producing.
Aja Dasa manages the Center and its programs for spreading Krsna consciousness. He's also a Sanskrit student and an editor.
Ekanatha Dasa, a student from North Europe, is compiling a survey of the Puranas. Another student, Kamala-mukha Krsna Dasa, from Bangladesh, is researching the similarities and differences between Baladeva Vidyabhusana's Govinda-bhasya and the Vedanta commentaries of other Vaisnava schools.
As some of the full-time students become more proficient and form the core of a teaching staff, the Center can make itself more available to interested devotees and the public. BBT editors, gurukula teachers, and others will be able to come for short training periods and for special seminars. A home-study computer course in Sanskrit is also being prepared.
Although the Center welcomes qualified new students for three years or more of full-time training, at this point it can accommodate more full-time students only if sponsors come forward to support them or if the students can cover their own costs of tuition, room, and board.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Contribute a computer or useful books (write for details).
Inform the Center if you know of any candidates for training, especially if you can help sponsor a student.
Consider moving to the Chapel Hill area to take part in the rapidly growing programs for spreading Krsna consciousness there.
109 N. Roberson St.
Chapel Hill, NC 27516
Phone: (919) 932-9219
Are we deviating from Prabhupada's teachings?
There seems to be a disturbing trend in ISKCON today, and that has to do with the term "Vaisnava." This word seems to be more in vogue to the expense of "Vedic." Though it may seem silly to worry about semantics, the differences between the two terms go to the heart of ISKCON's mission and purpose.
Devotees within ISKCON use "Vaisnava" to mean devotee. Yet, to outsiders, "Vaisnava" implies a particular sect of Hinduism. A "Vaisnava" is opposed to a "Saivite" or other sects. Using the term "Vaisnava" implies that ISKCON is nothing more than an organization that follows the tenets of a particular sect of a particular religion. This implication is exactly what Srila Prabhupada wanted to avoid. He repeatedly emphasized that ISKCON propagates the science of the soul and explains what reality is; ISKCON does not simply practice a particular subsect of a particular religion. He, in fact, stated that ISKCON is not concerned with "isms"; that is, ISKCON is not here to propagate a particular religion. Yet one finds the use of the word "Vaisnavism," another "ism," by the GBC (Is Krsna Consciousness Hindu? BTG, July/August, 1992). Srila Prabhupada did not use Vaisnava or Vaisnavism too often because he realized that these terms do not summarize ISKCON's mission most clearly. Instead, he used the term "Vedic."
The term "Vedic" accurately delineates ISKCON's philosophy. ISKCON is based on the Vedic scriptures and propagates the essence of Vedic philosophy. If ISKCON gives up on the term "Vedic," that is tantamount to saying that ISKCON is not Vedic and the Mayavadis [impersonalists] are (since they use Vedic and Vedantic freely). It is a defeat for ISKCON. ISKCON wants to show that it is not merely another religious organization; ISKCON propagates pure knowledge about the soul's condition. "Vedic," as a term related to "knowledge," is much more apt for ISKCON's purposes. The problem here is not that of substance; ISKCON clearly follows the Vedic teachings. The problem is that of packaging; ISKCON must claim that it actually follows the essence of the Vedas and that the Mayavadis do not. In order to do so, ISKCON must use the term "Vedic."
Most people got attracted to ISKCON because ISKCON presents the truth about reality; most people did not join ISKCON because of ISKCON's immediate lineage in a particular sect or tradition. ISKCON should not get away from the teachings of Srila Prabhupada; ISKCON should follow his example and consciously use "Vedic" wherever possible. ISKCON will be fine as long as it follows Srila Prabhupada; most of the time, ISKCON does. On this issue, however, ISKCON has strayed from Prabhupada's words. Prabhupada certainly never wanted his ISKCON to give the Mayavadis the cloak of being Vedantic and Vedic; ISKCON has done so by default by not using the term "Vedic." Is ISKCON aware of the communication and packaging problems inherent in these semantic issues?
JAYADVAITA SWAMI REPLIES: The points you raise surprise me somewhat because, in fact, Srila Prabhupada commonly used both words, Vedic and Vaisnava. I haven't done a word count, but I do know that he used both words frequently.
An essential misunderstanding some hold is that "Vaisnavism" refers to a sectarian religion, or a mere subsect within a larger sectarian faith. And another misunderstanding seems to be that one can attain perfection in knowledge but still not become a Vaisnava.
Srila Prabhupada, however, used the term "Vaisnavism" to refer to nonsectarian devotional service to the Supreme Lord, the Personality of Godhead. And he made clear that only when one becomes a Vaisnava can one be considered to have attained perfect knowledge. According to Bhagavad-gita:
bahunam janmanam ante
After many, many births, when one reaches the perfection of Vedic knowledge one surrenders to Vasudeva, Krsna, the original Visnu, and thus becomes a Vaisnava.
Elsewhere in Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna says, vedais ca sarvair aham eva vedayah: "All the Vedic literature is meant for understanding Me."
And Sripada Madhvacarya quotes:
vede ramayane caiva
In the Vedic literature, including the Ramayana, Puranas, and Mahabharata, from the very beginning (adau) to the end (ante), as well as within the middle (madhye ca), only Hari, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is explained.
In the Rg Veda we find, om tad visnoh paramam padam sada pasyanti surayah: "All the demigods look constantly towards the lotus feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Visnu." And in Srimad-Bhagavatam Lord Siva himself is described as the greatest of the Vaisnavas (vaisnavanam yatha sambhu).
In other words, Vaisnava is not a limited sectarian designation. Even the demigods are Vaisnavas. And in fact, according to all the Vedic knowledge, to serve as a Vaisnava is the eternal occupation of the soul. Therefore Lord Krsna says in Bhagavad-gita that one should give up all other supposedly religious duties and just surrender unto Him, or, in other words, become a Vaisnava (sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja).
"Veda" means "knowledge," and knowledge is meant for everyone. Similarly, "Vaisnava" means a devotee of the Supreme Lord, and everyone ought to give up all sectarian designations and become the Lord's devotee.
Unfortunately, some people mistakenly think that the Vedic scriptures are meant only for certain sectarian, ethnic, or cultural groups—basically, only for Indians. And they think that Vaisnavas are merely adherents to a particular Indian sect or faith. We have to inform people, therefore, that the Vedic scriptures are meant to offer knowledge and self-realization to all human beings. And we must bring people to understand that Vaisnavism is the eternal spiritual function of all living entities. A Vais-nava, and only a Vaisnava, has attained perfect knowledge and become a perfectly self-realized soul.
Let me assure you that we shall not give up using the word Vedic. As mentioned above, when one reaches the conclusion of Vedic knowledge (vedanta) one becomes a devotee of the Lord (a Vaisnava). Krsna consciousness is "Vedic" and "Vaisnava," and therefore we shall continue to use both words.