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.
Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare
Doves of Peace in South Africa
RECENTLY, for the first time, I traveled to South Africa to visit some of our Hare Krsna temples.
It's a beautiful country, blessed by Krsna with fertile land, a pleasant climate, and an abundance of fruits, grains, and vegetables.
Yet it's a country stretched by political tension and hemorrhaging with violence. While I was there, with elections upcoming, many people seemed hoping for the best and bracing for the worst. No one's quite sure what "the new South Africa" will bring.
What it will bring, for certain, is beyond anyone's control but Krsna's. Like everywhere else in the universe, it's Krsna's country, and every living being there is Krsna's servant. But like everywhere else in the universe, it's filled with souls who've forgotten their relationship with Krsna. And therefore it has become a place of struggle.
A conciliatory "new South African" slogan, displayed with an image of doves, calls for "Peace in Our Land." That peace can best be had—only be had—by understanding that what we call "our land," whatever land it is, belongs ultimately to Krsna, God. Krsna is the supreme owner of everything, and therefore we should dedicate everything—land and life—for Krsna's pleasure. And because Krsna is the most intimate well-wishing friend of every living being, when we act in this spirit of Krsna consciousness Krsna helps us attain true peace—peace within ourselves and peace with those around us.
The Hare Krsna movement in South Africa is showing how to do this. In Durban, on the east coast, devotees have built a magnificent temple for Krsna. There devotion and spiritual happiness prevail, and Indian, African, and European devotees work together for Krsna's pleasure.
Even South Africa's political leaders view the movement with respect. A recent political poster features Mr. de Klerk meeting an ISKCON sannyasi, and Mr. Mandela and the Inkhata Freedom Party's Mangosuthu Buthelezi have both made it a point to visit the Durban temple. And all three sent messages of good will for the recent Festival of the Chariots held on the Durban seashore. (The mayor was pleased to attend as guest of honor—and sample a giant cake of Krsna prasadam.)
Distributing prasadam, food offered to Krsna, is a service devotees in South Africa perform vigorously. In Durban alone, the movement's Food for Life program gives out eighty thousand plates a month. Devotees cook vats of vegetable biryani and dal, drive it in their jeep to black townships, and dish it out at schools to long lines of kids. Devotees give out another twenty thousand plates a month in Johannesburg.
Along with prasadam, devotees also give the chanting of the maha-mantra—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. A Zulu-speaking devotee teaches the words, and within minutes the whole school is chanting and dancing. When the kids go home they teach it to their parents. Drive anywhere in these townships and as soon as people see the Hare Krsna jeep they at once call out "Hare Krsna!"
There's more to tell of—the network of Hare Krsna congregations, the Hare Krsna "tent campaign," the Bhaktivedanta College—but that will have to wait for upcoming issues.
For now, enough to say that the doves of peace are nested at the lotus feet of Krsna.
Mothers and Sons
Just a small correction to Urmila Prabhu's otherwise very nice article [Nov/Dec 1993]. She writes, "... a properly trained young man should be able to look upon any woman other than his wife as if she were his mother.... Similarly, a girl should see men other than her husband as her father."
In a 1970 lecture in Los Angeles, Srila Prabhupada said, "The woman treats the unknown man as son, and the unknown man treats the unknown woman as mother. This is Vedic civilization."
Not only is that what Srila Prabhupada taught; it just makes sense.
Still, Urmila made her main point well: relationships between the sexes should be free from illicit desire.
Vegavati Devi Dasi
Stoop We Must
It was inspiring to read "One Book in Bengali," by Maha-Visnu Swami [Sep/Oct 1993]. For such a senior man, his stooping is exemplary. Stoop we must, especially after years of initiation into Krsna consciousness.
Spare those Snakes!
I was horrified to find [in BTG, September/October] the casual, even boastful relating of how one of the devotees "nailed" a rattlesnake with a shotgun. I truly thought that with your vegetarian pro-life stance you could see beyond the walls of the slaughterhouse, but apparently it's OK to kill certain beings.
Wow! "Nearly five feet"! Are you proud? I'm not. I'm sad. It may well have been a young Eastern Diamondback, a species fast disappearing in the Southeast due to man's encroachment on its God-given abode. I thought devotees would know better or, at least, if killing the poor thing was absolutely unavoidable, would show more reverence at its passing.
I too live in "rattlesnake country," and I'm proud to say that I haven't had to kill one in the 20-odd years I've lived here. Why? Because when I see or hear one (that tail-buzzer is a warning, not a threat) I (or my wife or children) run not for the shotgun but for the snakepole, with which a mere child can noose and bag an unwanted serpent for relocation out of harm's way. Safely.
I thought perhaps you might counter my criticism with the example from Srila Prabhupada's biography in which Srila Prabhupada, shocked at his spiritual master's apparent happiness over the killing of a serpent, is relieved to find a verse in the Vedas saying that saintly persons may rejoice at such things.
To that I say I seriously doubt that the sainthood of the shotgun-holder is comparable to that of Srila Prabhupada's guru. And furthermore the snake in that incident was almost certainly a mamba or krait (two species indigenous to India that also are the only venomous snakes on earth known to attack without warning). It certainly wasn't a cobra, known for its coexistence with man (if unmolested) and definitely not a rattler (nonindigenous to the Old World).
I would think devotees would set a better example.
The venom of the rattlesnake (unlike the neurotoxin of a cobra, mamba or krait) is part of its digestive process, intended for the small prey on which it feeds. In all my years of snake encounters I've never once encountered a rattler that was not retreating from a "prey" (me) way too big for his interest!
So put down the shotgun, pick up the snakepole (they're really easy to make, all of 10 minutes work—check your library for details), and please be cognizant of the fragile remains of the besieged Florida ecosystem you've relocated to. Give thanks for all the bounty of Lord Sri Krsna's creation, and above all, be kind, be kind, BE KIND!
ARCITA DASA REPLIES: Though Jayadvaita Swami wrote the editorial, I'm the person who shot the snake. I would have preferred not to have killed it. In fact, after I fired I must have looked pretty sad, because a devotee said, "What's the matter? You look like you just shot your best friend. Don't you know it's OK to kill venomous snakes?"
He then mentioned a verse (the one you alluded to) from Srimad-Bhagavatam (7.9.14). There Prahlada Maharaja, a five-year-old boy, was speaking to Lord Nrsimhadeva, Krsna's incarnation as half-lion, half-man. After the Lord had killed Prahlada's demonic father, Hiranyakasipu, the Lord was still angry. So Prahlada tried to pacify Him by saying, "My Lord, please cease Your anger now that my demonic father has been killed. Even saintly persons take pleasure in the killing of a scorpion or a snake. So all the worlds have achieved great satisfaction because of the death of this demon."
Srila Prabhupada begins his purport by saying, "The most important point in this verse is that although saintly persons never desire the killing of any living entity, they take pleasure in the killing of envious living entities like snakes and scorpions. Hiranyakasipu was killed because he was worse than a snake or a scorpion, and therefore everyone was happy."
As devotees we know that the soul is eternal, but we don't take this knowledge as a license for unnecessary killing. We've taken seriously your suggestion about snakepoles, and we'll look into getting some. Hare Krsna.
More to Tell about Television
Regarding television and technology, I believe readers of BTG will get the wrong understanding unless a proper focus is placed on using things in Krsna's service. Srila Prabhupada often commented that tape recorders, microphones, automobiles, etc., can all be used in Krsna's service. They are not inherently good or bad. What determines whether they are favorable or unfavorable to Krsna consciousness is their application.
The spirit soul is trying to enjoy in contact with matter (whether television or anything else), altogether forgetting about Krsna, or God. When what he's trying to enjoy brings too much anxiety or frustration, he rejects it. And after renouncing for a while, the enjoying mood prevails again. Thus the living being alternately tries to enjoy and renounce.
Krsna consciousness is different altogether. The essence of Krsna consciousness, or bhakti-yoga, is dovetailing one's life, work, relationships, and love with Krsna. Ultimately, one's senses should be engaged only for the loving service of the Lord.
Many beautiful and enlightening books, audiotapes, videotapes, and computer programs have been made by ISKCON's talented devotees, using up-to-date technology. Srila Prabhupada always applauded such efforts. Because everything is part of Krsna's energy, everything can be dovetailed in Krsna's service through the expert direction of one's bona fide spiritual master. Srila Prabhupada, as a liberated soul, had vision that was transcendental and fully dedicated to Krsna's satisfaction. So we need to keep very close to his lotus feet to keep the transcendental perspective in the forefront.
While television can become an addiction, it is here to stay, and its influence worldwide will undoubtedly become enhanced by the so-called information highway just over the horizon. I hope that creative devotees such as Yaduvara Dasa and Visakha Devi Dasi, whom I met filming in Vrndavana in 1971, will continue to use their talents in Krsna's service for the benefit of us all.
Pusta Krsna Dasa
Complete Faith in Guru
I would like to comment on the opinion expressed by two readers regarding the origin of the soul [BTG Nov/Dec].
The Vedic literature may appear to present contradictions, and that's why we need a guru to help us. It is stated in the scriptures, "One should not try to know more than the guru" and "One must have complete faith in his guru." In fact, it is the duty of the disciple to confirm the statements of his guru and not contradict him. Srila Prabhupada has clearly left us this instruction: "Speak as I have spoken and do as I have done." I think we in ISKCON should strive to do only that much.
Adi Purusa Krsna Dasa
The real issue here is not whether we originally descended from the spiritual planets or the impersonal effulgence but whether we really take Srila Prabhupada's statements as the first and last word.
In one sense it doesn't really matter whether we came from here or from there. What does matter is that Srila Prabhupada said certain things and if we begin to detach ourselves from his entirely transcendental perspective in the name of openmindedness we are asking for serious trouble.
Srila Prabhupada is not a Bengali gentleman whose understanding of reality was formed in reference to particular biases and traditions. Rather, he is a fully self-realized resident of the spiritual world. We have been charged by him to make his message understandable in all cultural circumstances; but we are not at liberty to change or ignore his definitive statements.
What may start as just a "little difference of opinion" can grow in time into an enormous gap. The habit of mental speculation breeds deviations and offenses, and so the propensity must be recognized and challenged whenever and wherever it appears.
I am writing this, somewhat wistfully and hopefully a little wiser, from personal experience, from being part of a glorious project that lost sight of its real identity (only temporarily, we hope). What starts as just a little deviation, barely noticeable to anyone, in time grows into a chasm. Therefore we pray: "Gurudeva, my only wish is to have my consciousness purified by the words emanating from your lotus mouth."
Srila Prabhupada made everything so clear and simple. And as long as we make his teachings our reference point, then our own lives will be clear and simple also.
While philosophers argue about "the truth," Lord Krsna and His devotees show the path to full knowledge and salvation.
A lecture given in New York, March 7, 1966
na tv evaham jatu nasam
"Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be."—Bhagavad-gita 2.12
"In the same way" means individually. I am an individual person. You are an individual person. He is an individual person. The individuality of every living being is a fact. Therefore we see that we have differences of opinion. You may not agree with what I think, because you have your individuality. Similarly, another gentleman may not agree with your thinking.
So everyone has his individuality. Yet one class of philosophers says that the soul is one homogeneous entity, and that after the annihilation of the body the soul will mix with that entity. For example, water takes the shape of the pot or bowl it is in. In a round pot the water will be round, in a square container it will be square, but if you mix the water of millions of pots, there will be no distinguishing shapes. So the theory of one class of philosophers is that when a soul is liberated it mixes with the Supersoul, just as a drop of water mixes with the sea when put back into it. The soul loses its identity. That is their theory.
But here Lord Krsna says, "I, you, and all others who have come here ..." The Battle of Kuruksetra was a great world war. About sixty million people took part, including all the kings of the world. And Krsna says, "They were individuals in the past, they are individuals now, and they will continue to be individuals even after the annihilation of the body."
So how will you adjust the two theories? One theory says that after liberation all souls become one, just as drops of water put into the sea become one entity, without distinction. And Lord Krsna says, "No, they keep their individuality. They do not mix."
Now, we are all ignorant laymen. But we have our discretion by which we can consider which theory is correct. For example, every one of you has some knowledge of history. Suppose you read in a history book about the world two hundred years ago. You find that all the people were individuals. And at present you can see that all living entities—birds, animals, human beings—are individuals. Then why should you not believe that in the future they will remain individuals? In the past they were individuals, and in the present they are individuals, so why will they not remain individuals in the future?
It is natural to conclude that they will continue to be individuals. Even if we do not have sufficient knowledge in either of these two theories—mixing or remaining individual—by our own small reasoning we can understand that since we have information from history that there were individuals in the past, and at present we are seeing that there are individual persons, why not in the future? How it is that in the future they'll mix and become one homogeneous thing?
Another example: Two hundred years ago in March the climate was the same as it is in March 1966. Naturally I conclude that in the future in March there will be the same climate. In astronomy also you find that on a certain date in March in 1966 the sun will rise at the same time it rose on that date in the past. The whole of astronomy is based on that principle. Astronomers prepare astronomical charts for a hundred years. How? By this calculation: in the past it was like this, at present it is like this, so naturally in future it will be like this.
Now you are speaking of the imminent springtime, because you have experience. You are foretelling. It is not really foretelling. From past experience you are saying what will take place.
So we can understand some things by our reasoning. But there are things beyond our reasoning, like God, or the existence of God. Of course, by our reasoning we take it for granted that because everything has a creator there is a God. For example, we know that this tape recorder has a manufacturer. The typewriter also has a manufacturer. Everything has a father or a manufacturer. I am created by my father. My father was created by his father. Similarly, we can naturally conclude that for the whole cosmic situation there is a creator. You see? This is simple reasoning. It is not very hard to understand.
But there are things beyond our experience, beyond our reasoning, beyond our conception. Those things are called acintya. Acintya means "inconceivable." How can we understand that which is beyond our conception? The scriptures say, acintyah khalu ye bhava na tams tarkena yojayet: "By arguments alone we should not try to understand that which is beyond our conception, beyond our reasoning power, beyond the approach of our material senses."
Another Vedic injunction says, tarko 'pratistha srutayo vibhinna: "If we consult different scriptures, we'll find that one scripture is speaking something, and another scripture is speaking something different." Take cow-killing, for example. The Hindus say that cow-killing is irreligious. The Muslims say, "No, cow-killing is religious." So which scripture shall I accept? Which one is right? Therefore it is said that if you consult different scriptures, you'll find contradictory statements. Your scripture may be different from my scripture. And nasav rsir yasya matam na bhinnam: If you consult philosophers, you'll find that one philosopher differs with another philosopher. A "big" philosopher is one who has cut down other philosophers and put up his own theory.
Then how can one conclude what is the right path? I cannot establish it by my imperfect arguments. I cannot even consult the scriptures. Neither can I take real instruction from different philosophers. Then what is the way of getting the real thing? Dharmasya tattvam nihitam guhayam: "The truth of religion is very confidential, very secret." So how to know it? Mahajano yena gatah sa panthah: We simply have to see how great personalities have taken up religion, and we have to follow them. That's all. For example, in the Christian religion one may not understand all the Biblical injunctions, but if one follows the ideal life of Lord Jesus Christ, one gets the same result he got. Similarly, if Muslims follow the ideal life of Hazrat Muhammad, they get the same result.
Now, in the city you can know, "I have come so far," because the streets are numbered and you know the location of this house or that house. But in the country every place is similar—the same jungle, the same field, the same grass. We do not know where we are going. I have experience of the sea. When I was coming from India I saw water everywhere. I could not tell which way the ship was proceeding. But the captain had a chart. He was calculating our position by latitude, longitude, time. In the Mediterranean Sea I asked the captain, "Where are we now?" He said, "We are so many miles from Italy. We are so many miles from Tunisia. Now we are coming to Gibraltar." But I was seeing only vast water. I kept thinking, "Just after ten miles I shall reach America."
So what are those charts? The charts are made by experienced sailors. The captain was consulting the chart because it was made by experienced sailors. Similarly, in calculating where to find salvation we have to follow the liberated souls. The difference between the conditioned soul and liberated soul is that a conditioned soul is imperfect in four ways: A conditioned soul is sure to commit mistakes, is in illusion, has the tendency to cheat others, and has imperfect senses.
Therefore, knowledge should be taken from a liberated soul. Why is the Bhagavad-gita so honored? The Gita was spoken in India, and people take it to be a scripture of the Hindus. So why are you Americans reading the Gita? In other countries also—Germany, England, Japan—there are great scholars of the Gita. Why? Because it is spoken by a great personality.
We Hindus accept Krsna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. But others, even though they don't accept Krsna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, accept at least that He was a great personality. Therefore, they also consult the knowledge of the Gita.
My point is that when such a great personality as Krsna speaks, His version is right. And Krsna confirms what we understand from our practical experience: There were individuals in the past, there are individuals at present, and there will continue to be individuals. We know this by our common sense, and it is confirmed by Sri Krsna, whom we call the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Krsna says, na tv evaham jatu nasam: "Don't think that I did not exist in the past." That means, "I was Sri Krsna in the past just as I am Sri Krsna at present. And you and the others are also individuals." Na caiva na bhavisyamah: "And don't think that we shall not remain." Sarve means "we all." It is plural. Janadhipah—"kings"—is also plural. Krsna says, "They are all individual souls."
The individual soul continues to exist. That is the version of the Bhagavad-gita. It is better to accept this version without unnecessarily commenting upon it or interpreting it in a different way. Interpretation is bad. A scripture should not be interpreted. A scripture should be taken as it is. When is interpretation required? When a thing is not properly understood. Otherwise, there is no need to interpret.
For example, someone may say, "Such and such village is on the sea." Now, the person who hears that may be confused: "How is that? How can there be a town on the water?" An explanation is required. The explanation is that "on the sea" does not mean "in the midst of the sea" but "on the bank of the sea." That is a needed interpretation.
But there is no need to interpret something that is very clear to everyone. Here the statement of Bhagavad-gita, as spoken by Lord Krsna, is very clear: "I, you, and all these people assembled here are individual persons. They were individual persons in the past, at present we see that they are individual persons, and they will continue to be individual persons."
I may not know what they will become in the future, but because Krsna is God His statement should be accepted. That acceptance makes my knowledge perfect. I'll give you a simple example. If a little boy asks his mother, "Who is my father?" the mother will reply, "Here is your father." If the child says, "I don't believe that he is my father," is it possible to convince him in any other way than the statement of the mother? No. Her statement is the final word. And if the boy says, "I don't believe it," that is his foolishness.
Similarly, a thing beyond our conception, beyond our limit of knowledge, should be taken from the authority. So here is an authority: Sri Krsna. His authority is accepted all over the world. In India there are five disciplic successions of authorities, made up of the Vaisnavites and the followers of Sankaracarya. Generally, there are two groups: impersonalists and personalists. There are four personalist schools: Ramanuja Sampradaya (the followers of Acarya Ramanuja), Madhvacarya Sampradaya, (the followers of Madhvacarya), Nimbarka Sampradaya, (the followers of Nimbarka Acarya), and Visnusvami Sampradaya (the followers of Visnusvami). Although they are four, their conclusion is the same. And a differing sect is the Sankara Sampradaya. But although these five sections of Hindus have different theses and philosophies, they all accept Sri Krsna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Sripada Sankaracarya is considered an impersonalist, one who does not believe in the personal form of God. But, still, he has admitted in Sankara-bhasya, his Bhagavad-gita commentary, "Sri Krsna is the Personality of Godhead." The Vaisnavites naturally admit that Krsna is God because they are believers from the beginning. But even Sankaracarya, an impersonalist, has clearly written, sa bhagavan svayam krsnah: "Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead."
In the Vedic scriptures there are many verses giving evidence that Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Brahma-samhita states,
isvarah paramah krsnah
Isvara means "lord." Lord means "controller" or "proprietor." You have some lordship over your environment, he has some lordship, I have some lordship, the President has some lordship. In this way you'll find different degrees of lordship. But here it is said that the Lord in the supreme, superlative degree is Krsna. Above Him there is no other Lord.
In this world we find that you are a bigger lord than I, he is a bigger lord than you, and someone is a bigger lord than he. In this way you can come to the lordship of the President. Then you can find a person who is more than the President, and then a person who is more than that person. But when you reach Sri Krsna by such an analytical process, you'll find that no one is greater than or equal to Him. Therefore Sri Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
So when Krsna says something, we must agree to accept it. If we don't agree, that will not be beneficial for us.
What Krsna says in today's verse is confirmed in the Vedic literature: nityo nityanam cetanas cetananam. Nitya means "eternal." We are all eternal. Among all the eternal living entities, Krsna is the chief. This is a definition of God. Cetananah means "conscious." We are all conscious beings. Krsna is the supreme conscious being.
Now, of course, there are some yoga schools in America that do not believe in God. But the yoga principle does not deny the existence of God. I have brought an authoritative book by two great professors of Calcutta University. The book is called Introduction to Indian Philosophy. After having studied all the philosophies of India, the authors have given a nutshell idea of each philosophical system.
They write, "Yoga, as distinguished from the Sankhya, is theistic." The yoga system was introduced by Patanjali, a great authority. These professors have studied carefully. Their book is very authoritative. This is the sixth edition, and it is used in universities all over the world. The authors, Dr. Chatterjee and Dr. Datta, are recognized scholars. I am therefore reading their opinion. What do they say? The yoga system is theistic.
They also write, "According to the yoga [system], God is the Supreme Person." Now, you have been in so many yoga societies. Did you ever hear there that God is the Supreme Person? Yet in the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna is telling us about the future and the past because He is perfect. He can see both past and future.
Because we are not perfect, we do not know past and future. Say your age is thirty-five years. Can you say where you were thirty-six years ago? You cannot say. Or suppose you live for a hundred years. Can you say where you shall be after a hundred years? You cannot say, because you are imperfect. But God is not imperfect. God is the perfect being.
The yoga system also accepts that conclusion. According to the yoga system, God is the Supreme Person, who is, above all, individual. Every living entity is individual. But this particular individual—God—is free from all defects. And because He's free from all defects, His statements are without defect. We must admit, "Because I am imperfect, my statements are also imperfect. I have no idea of the past and future."
How can I say that in the future you will be like this, or in the past you were like this? I cannot say. Only He who can see past, present, and future can say.
Today's verse is the statement of the Supreme Person. We have to believe it. If we don't believe it, then we are the losers.
God is the perfect being, eternal and all-pervading. You are present before me as a person, but you are absent from your residence. But God is not like that. Although Krsna is present before Arjuna, instructing him, Krsna's all-pervading at the same time. A crude example: At midday, you see that the sun is above your head. If you ask a friend five thousand miles away, "Where is the sun?" he'll say, "It is above my head." So if a material thing can be "all-pervading," is it not possible for the supreme spiritual being? He must be.
The Vedic scriptures also say that God is the eternal perfect being. His consciousness is eternal. Because He has eternal consciousness He can say, "You and I and all these beings were like this." He has actually experienced what I was in my previous birth. But because my consciousness is not eternal, I have forgotten. And I cannot say what I shall be in my next birth.
These are the distinctions between God and us. If we falsely claim, "I am God. I am that supreme consciousness," that is lunacy. We should not indulge in such talk, and anyone teaching in that way is cheating. It is not possible that we are God—the perfect being who is eternal, all-pervading, omnipotent, omniscient.
All living entities except God are subjected to ignorance and egoism. Without having God's qualifications, one declares, "I am God." This is egoism. All of us are subject to the reactions of our acts. If we do something good, we reap a good result. If we do something bad, we reap a bad result. And because we are defective, we do good things and bad things.
God is all-good. If we follow God or His representative, we become good. Because they are good, they cannot give you bad direction. Therefore everyone should follow the instruction of God. That is devotional service. No one should deviate from the service of the Lord.
The whole Bhagavad-gita is teaching that principle. Today's verse is from the beginning of the Gita. And at the end the Lord will say to Arjuna:
"Just surrender unto Me, and I shall protect you from all reactions of sinful life." If we want to be all-good, we have to follow the instructions of the all-good. That will make our life perfect.
Thank you very much.
Consolation Prize or the Goal of Life?
By Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami
WHEN PEOPLE hold contests, there's always a winner. Then come a second-place winner, a third-place winner, and runners-up. The first-place winner gets the car or the trip to the Bahamas. The second- and third-place winners end up with the power-tool set and the toaster. The runners-up get the consolation prizes: "Nice try. Thanks for taking part." Do we have consolation prizes in Krsna consciousness? In the Fourth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam the sons of King Pracinabarhi, the Pracetas, were performing severe austerities while submerged in a deep lake. By chanting a song given them by Lord Siva, they satisfied Lord Visnu, after ten thousand years of severe austerities. Lord Visnu then appeared to them, riding on the shoulders of His eagle, Garuda, and looking like "a cloud resting on the summit of the mountain known as Meru." After being blessed by the Lord and given instructions, the Pracetas offered the Lord prayers. The Pracetas first glorified the Lord and then, out of humility, expressed that they didn't expect to go back to Godhead at the end of their lives. They asked, therefore, that no matter where their later births might take them they might always be in the association of Vaisnavas, pure devotees.
Dear Lord, as long as we have to remain within this material world due to our material contamination and wander from one type of body to another and from one planet to another, we pray that we may associate with those who are engaged in discussing Your pastimes. We pray for this benediction life after life, in different bodily forms and on different planets. (Bhagavatam 4.30.33)
Although this is a humble statement—earlier in the chapter, Srila Prabhupada explains that the Pracetas attained perfection—it expresses an ambition to reach a certain stage of Krsna consciousness before the end of their lives. That is, they want to be fully attached to the association of devotees immersed in chanting and hearing about Krsna. Are they asking for the consolation prize? Isn't the first-place prize a trip back to the spiritual world? Prabhupada says in his purport:
This is the best benediction that a devotee can ask of the Supreme Lord.... A pure devotee does not pray for liberation or for cessation of the cycle of birth and death, because he does not consider that important. The most important thing for a devotee is getting a chance to hear about the pastimes and glories of the Lord. ... As long as he can hear about the pastimes of the Lord, or wherever he can chant, the Lord is personally present.
A devotee regards his material circumstances as destiny. He doesn't complain, "Why isn't this better? Why can't I have something else?" Whatever situation a devotee finds himself in, he continues to hear and chant about the activities of Krsna. This is the attitude that will carry the devotee back to the spiritual world. By his absorption here, he will be absorbed there. And his absorption here makes the material world as good as the spiritual world. Prabhupada says, "For the devotee, there is no need to pray to the Lord for transferral to the Vaikuntha world. A pure devotee can create Vaikuntha or Vrndavana anywhere simply by chanting the glories of the Lord without offense."
We should examine our days and see whether we are making arrangements for Krsna consciousness. Are we actually practicing Krsna consciousness? Are we chanting about and hearing about Krsna? Are we remembering Him throughout the day? Are we helping spread Krsna consciousness to others? Are we developing a taste for pure devotion?
The Pracetas had attained the goal of ruci (taste) for Krsna consciousness. But in bhakti, devotional service, the means to attain the goal and the goal itself are the same. Hearing and chanting, even in the stage of practice, can make us happy and bring us closer to transcendence. We should practice these as much as possible, and if at the end of life we feel we have not fully developed our devotion, we should pray as the Pracetas have prayed: Please give me the association of pure devotees in my next life so that I may always be surrounded by the chanting of Krsna's names and pastimes.
Narottama Dasa Thakura prays in a similar way in his song Nama-sankirtana: "This is my desire—that birth after birth I may live with devotees who serve the lotus feet of the six Gosvamis."
If we think that the goal of associating with devotees is a consolation prize, we haven't understood the nature of bhakti-yoga. We shouldn't wait until the end of life to realize the value of Vaisnava association. Hearing, chanting, and associating with Vaisnavas are essential practices of bhakti-yoga. Srila Prabhupada assures us that if we are doing these three things with ruci, with taste, then we are already in the spiritual world. We are interested in going back to the spiritual world not to escape the miseries of the material world but to associate with the Vaisnavas and with Krsna.
We may not be fully tasting Krsna in the form of His holy name, and when we look at the Vaisnavas we may be seeing only faults. Therefore in our present state our realization may have to be bolstered by scripture. The Pracetas say:
Even a moment's association with a pure devotee cannot be compared to being transferred to the heavenly planets or even merging into the Brahman effulgence in complete liberation. For living entities who are destined to give up the body and die, association with pure devotees is the highest benediction. (Bhagavatam 4.30.34)
And they add, "Whenever pure topics of the transcendental world are discussed, the members of the audience forget all material hankerings, at least for the time being. Not only that, but they are no longer envious of one another, nor do they suffer anxiety or fear."
Cooking Class: Lesson 12
By Yamuna Devi
ALMOST EVERYONE loves fried vegetables. Americans crave French fries as much as the British do their chips. Delhi streetside vendors sell vegetable fritters known as pakoras. In Tokyo they're called tempuras. The French love deep-fried souffle potatoes, Jamaicans nibble on shallow-fried plantain chips, and Italians savor pan-fried eggplant. Even for those of us who for health avoid fried foods, occasionally the taste of a perfectly cooked fried vegetable is irresistible.
Ever since cooks began frying food in hot oil they have been excited by the instant results—crisp, flavorful surfaces and soft, moist interiors. The secret to light, healthy deep-frying lies in the quality, quantity, and temperature of the cooking oil. Foods fried correctly are neither greasy nor soggy. Of course, any fried food—deep-, shallow-, or pan-fried—is more fattening than food cooked without oil. But food cooked in just enough oil to rapidly sear the surface so the oil doesn't penetrate the food is often less fattening than food sauteed in generous amounts of butter or oil, or foods bathed in rich sauces or dairy products.
The Right Oil
No matter what your choice, you can quickly detect a quality oil by its aroma and flavor. Generally, the less refined the oil, the more vibrant its taste. But unrefined oils are less stable than refined, usually have lower smoking-points, and last less time. Refined oils, like the nut and vegetable oils found in supermarkets, are processed with solvents. Such oils contain additives that increase shelf life, reduce foaming, and make the oil look clear. The solvents also destroy many of the nutrients of the oil. But refined oils are popular for deep-frying because they can be heated to high temperatures.
Which oil I prefer depends on what sort of frying I'm doing. Corn oil, peanut oil, soybean oil, and avocado oil all have high smoking-points and are good choices for deep-frying. Rich, unrefined oils like pecan and walnut and extra-virgin olive oil are best used uncooked, so they're not used in frying. Oil keeps best in tinted glass, since light hastens spoilage. Once opened, bottles stored for longer than two weeks should be refrigerated.
No doubt my all-time favorite frying oil is ghee—Indian clarified butter. It is easy to make and exceedingly delicious, especially when infused with flavors such as cloves, cumin, ginger, chilies, citrus zest, cinnamon, or sweet neem leaves. Ghee has for millennia been the favored frying median for Indian temple cooks, and once you try it, it may be yours as well. All you need to make ghee is sweet unsalted butter. In America, organic butter is sold by Organic Valley, and ready-made organic ghee by Purity Farms. Both products are available in larger natural food stores. Ghee keeps well in stainless steel containers or wide-mouth glass jars. Although ghee does not require refrigeration, I recommend making it in small quantities and storing containers over one week old in the refrigerator.
Technique and Temperature
The best vegetables for deep-frying without a protective shield of batter or crumbs are those with a fibrous flesh that seals quickly once the vegetable is submerged in oil. Potatoes remain the most widely fried vegetable, but other good choices include yams, beets, carrots, eggplant, plantains, cauliflower, and sweet potatoes.
If you don't have an electric fryer, you need to regulate the heat to keep the temperature constant. If you are a newcomer to deep-frying, a thermometer will be helpful. For most vegetable frying, you need to keep the temperature from 350 degrees to 380 degrees (365 degrees is the most common). The correct temperature depends on the size of the pieces to be cooked.
Remove small bits of food that float free in the oil during frying. Unless discarded periodically, they will burn and give the oil a bitter flavor.
A frugal cook often finds it wasteful to heat several cups of oil to use only one time. So, many cooks advocate reusing oil, frying again with it later. Others don't; they say the oil loses its flavor. No matter what your preference, use the least oil required for the frying task and avoid heating it to its smoking point. If you reuse oil, carefully strain it through a cheesecloth or coffee filter to remove fine food particles. Before reusing filtered oil, here's a way to neutralize its "off" flavors. Heat it to 360 degrees and fry both a piece of bread and the zest of half a lemon. When the bread turns brown, remove it and go on with your frying.
Srila Prabhupada's Instructions
I became attracted to the art of deep-frying the first day I assisted Srila Prabhupada in the kitchen, in 1967. One of the dishes he made was a rich slow-fried potato-stuffed pastry called aloo kachori. Until then, I had no idea that pastries could be slow-fried and still be greaseless.
Over the years, Prabhupada taught his cooks to make many fried vegetable dishes, and many of them can be found in the class textbook, Lord Krishna's Cuisine. If you are following the class, be sure to make the dish on page 11 and a few of his most often requested vegetables—Cauliflower and Potato Surprise, Deep-Fried Stuffed Hot Green Chilies, and Bitter Melon Chips with Coconut.
Plain Or Infused Homemade Ghee
(Makes about 1-¾ cup)
1 pound unsalted butter
Optional infusion ingredients:
2-3 tablespoons peppercorns, cloves, or cumin seeds
Place the butter (and one of the optional infusion ingredients) in a large casserole and bring the butter to a boil. Reduce the heat to very low and simmer the butter undisturbed for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the gelatinous protein solids have settled on the bottom of the pan and turned from white to golden brown. The liquid (butterfat) will be nearly transparent, with a thin crust on the surface. Using a skimmer, remove the dry crust (and optional infusion ingredients) and set it aside.
If the solids at the bottom are darker than golden brown, the temperature was too high. The ghee will still be usable, but next time reduce the heat further or reduce the cooking time.
Remove the pan from the heat and, without disturbing the solids on the bottom, ladle off the clear ghee and pour it through a coffee filter or towel-lined sieve. When you have removed as much as possible with the ladle, pour the rest, stopping just short of the solids. Cool the ghee and cover it. It will keep well for several months. (Some cooks use the solids in sandwich spreads and moist vegetable dishes.)
Butter-Soft Eggplant Wedges
This side-dish vegetable, which I learned from Srila Prabhupada in 1967, is elegant served with basmati rice. Serve it with a lemon wedge, zesty cooked tomato chutney, or a drizzle of herbed fresh chutney. Accompany it with a textured vegetable dish and salad or a light soup.
1 ½ tablespoons salt
Combine the salt, turmeric, and water in a shallow dish. Cut small eggplants in half, or larger ones into wedges roughly 2 ½ inches by 1 ½ inches by ½ inch. Coat the eggplant pieces with the turmeric mixture, set them aside for 15-30 minutes, and then drain them in a colander.
Pour ghee or oil to a depth of 1/3 in a large skillet and place the skillet over moderately high heat. Just before the ghee or oil reaches its smoking point, carefully add a layer of eggplant pieces. Fry them, turning them on all sides, until they turn a rich reddish-brown and are fork-tender. (The skin side of the eggplants cooks faster than the cut edges, and too much frying tends to toughen them.) Remove the eggplant pieces with a slotted spatula and drain them briefly on paper towels. Offer them to Krsna at once, piping hot and garnished with herbs.
Bhakti-yoga at Home
Ekadasi: Krsna's Special Day For Everyone
By Rohininandana Dasa
A FRIEND OF MINE in the British Air Force writes, "I've heard that on Ekadasi one should not eat, drink, or sleep at night. One should also not look at or speak to nondevotees on this day. I find all this impossible to follow in my circumstances. What is Ekadasi for anyway, and how do devotees normally observe it?"
I reply: "I like to think of Ekadasi as a special opportunity to increase my efforts to be Krsna conscious, rather than a list of don'ts." The don'ts may be present, but they are subservient to the do's: do remember Lord Krsna; do chant His names; do relish the chance to spend a long, uninterrupted period to hear and chant about Krsna; do take advantage of the opportunity to make some substantial spiritual progress.
Srila Prabhupada never told us we couldn't look at or speak to nondevotees on Ekadasi, nor that we had to observe a total fast or go without sleep. He simply asked us to use this day to increase our remembrance of Krsna. And he gave us only one restriction: On Ekadasi, don't eat beans or grains.
I've heard that Sanatana Gosvami commented that all the many rules and regulations he compiled in his book Hari-bhakti-vilasa are simply meant to help people remember Krsna at every step of their lives.
Narada Muni also states:
aradhito yadi haris tapasa tatah kim
"If Krsna is worshiped, what is the use of extraneous austerity? And if Krsna is not worshiped, what is the use of austerity?" The idea expressed here is that devotional service to Krsna includes austerity as a natural course.
For instance, if on Ekadasi I'm trying to chant and hear about Krsna more than usual, I'll naturally want to sleep and eat less. And when I begin to feel spiritually surcharged by my chanting and reading, I'll feel less sleepy and hungry than I normally might.
Krsna consciousness is intended not to burden us but rather to take away our burden. In Vedic literature there are many, many detailed instructions for all kinds of personal, social, and cultural affairs—Srila Prabhupada once said, "If I told you them all you would faint."—but their purpose is to help and not hinder us in becoming Krsna conscious in our practical day-to-day life. A person who follows Ekadasi should find himself becoming light and free, not heavy with worry.
Srila Prabhupada explained that Ekadasi means "the eleventh" and it refers to the eleventh day of both the waxing and the waning moon. So Ekadasi falls twice a month. Just as certain places have a special atmosphere conducive for our purification and spiritual advancement, so do certain phases of time. The Ekadasi day is spiritually surcharged with devotional energy.
There are many side benefits from observing Ekadasi, such as good health (regular fasting allows our digestive organs to rest) and economy (if everyone followed Ekadasi, imagine how much food would be saved). But by far the main purpose of following Ekadasi is to help us awaken our love for Krsna.
Prabhupada taught that following Ekadasi means minimizing the demands of the body and maximizing our service to Krsna. On Ekadasi we should eat more simply and try to put into practice the maxim "Eat to live, not live to eat."
Srila Prabhupada advised that on Ekadasi we increase our chanting of the holy names—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. To a disciple who asked, "Should we chant twenty-five rounds on Ekadasi?" Srila Prabhupada replied, "Why only twenty-five rounds? You should chant as many as possible."
Lord Caitanya asked His mother (and, through her, His other followers) to fast from grains on Ekadasi. Apart from taking more energy to digest, on Ekadasi grains are said to be affected by universal sinful reactions. Ekadasi is an extremely auspicious day, but anyone who eats grains is unconsciously implicated in those reactions.
Sometimes a person may forget that a day is Ekadasi and only remember after he has already eaten some grain. If this happens to you, best to refrain at once from eating any more grains. Then observe your Ekadasi fast the next day.
Once a year in the early summer there is a special Ekadasi known as the Pandava-nirjala Ekadasi or Bhima Ekadasi. Back in the days of the Mahabharata, five thousand years ago, Arjuna's elder brother Bhima had great difficulty fasting. (In those days everyone would fast completely from all food and water.) So he was given permission by the sage Vyasadeva to observe the full Ekadasi fast only once a year. In the Krsna consciousness movement many devotees are accustomed to following this Bhima Ekadasi, refraining from all food and water, to compensate for any discrepancies in their observance of the previous twenty-three Ekadasi days.
Some devotees choose to fast from food, water, and sleep as a regular austerity. They stay up all night, usually with some friends (it's hard to do this alone), and chant, sing, and read together. If you ever decide to do this, or to fast even from water (nirjala), there's a very healthful method of breaking your fast. Drink a glass or so of water with lemon juice, some black pepper, and a pinch of salt. Then before you eat anything, let a couple of hours go by.
Everyone has a different constitution, and for some people fasting even from water can be too much of a strain on health. Srila Prabhupada once told a disciple that in order of importance first comes health, then our sadhana (spiritual practices), and then our service to help give Krsna consciousness to others. This is not to imply that health is more important than chanting Hare Krsna! The idea is that without some form of good health it's difficult to do anything. In fact, Prabhupada instructed that if by fasting on Ekadasi a devotee feels too weak to do his devotional service, it's better for him to eat. He himself used to like to eat banana chips, amongst other things, as his "Ekadasi food." In our ISKCON temples the cooks sometimes prepare a feast on Ekadasis, using such ingredients as potato and buckwheat to make preparations that resemble their grain-based counterparts.
Whatever way you decide to observe Ekadasi, it's best to mentally prepare yourself the day before by planning what you intend to do. Try to make it a day in which you break your regular pattern of life and increase your spiritually oriented activities. Ekadasi is also a good time to reflect on your spiritual progress in general. Good luck!
The Return of the One-Room Schoolhouse
By Urmila Devi Dasi
"SO MANY COMPUTERS!" That's usually the first comment from someone visiting my classroom for the first time. Then, "Do you teach all ages at the same time in this one room?"
Like most children being educated in Krsna consciousness today, our students here in North Carolina have a one-room schoolhouse. Even in Krsna conscious schools with several classrooms, students at different grades or levels are generally taught together.
Because most parents, at least in the West, feel that one-room schooling is outdated, even primitive, you might wonder whether a teacher who teaches children of different grades in a one-room schoolhouse could do as well as teachers in a huge modern school complex.
To understand the value of one-room schooling, we need to look at history. When most people lived in villages, each school had so few children that students couldn't be divided by age. So teaching them together was a convenience. But parents, students, and communities also understood that the main curriculum was the teacher rather than the syllabus or the textbook. The teacher's personality permeated the school. The teacher gave each student personal attention. And the students were expected to learn character and behavior by working under a moral and self-controlled teacher, rather than by attending a "values clarification" course.
But industrialization pulled together large numbers of people to work in factories. So instead of a village school with twenty or fifty children, suddenly you had a town or city school with five hundred. How to teach them?
Apart from that, most students in a one-room school did chores at home. But when father and even mother shifted from the farm into the office or factory, life at home changed. No longer were there cows to milk, fields to tend, or corn to harvest.
Before, children not only learned adult duties but brought in money. A family could count its wealth by the number of children, as each child added to prosperity and security. Later, in the industrial era, families still needed their children to help with money, so the children too went to the factory. But gradually people realized that factory labor wasn't right for children, and countries passed laws to keep children in school. This not only made for more children in each school; it changed the makeup of the class. In the rural one-room schoolhouse, children mainly interested in crafts or farm work had left school after a little education. But now these children were forced to stay in school until their sixteenth birthday.
The present Western school system, therefore, has not come about because we've found a better way to teach. Rather, it has grown from cities and factories. And like so many adjustments to the industrial revolution, it has simply created more problems.
With the crowding of many students into one school, the concept of master and pupil is practically gone. The student is no longer expected to serve and emulate his teacher, because education now aims at a set of "learning objectives" decided by a committee of parents and union workers. Modern schooling is built on textbooks, not teachers. And even if a teacher has high moral and spiritual character, for him to put across his ideals to the students might offend some of the hundreds of families involved. After all, the school a child attends is not the one parents choose because of the teacher they admire but the one that falls in the school district where the parents live and work.
Schools responded to having large numbers of students by grouping them by age and then teaching all students of the same age the same things at the same time. But children learn at different speeds. So in a modern class of thirty students, may-be two can follow what the teacher is saying. The rest are either frustrated or bored. The students who can't follow become discipline problems, the frustrated ones often falling behind, later to become society's misfits.
In the days of the one-room schoolhouse, no one heard of a "generation gap." But today's fifteen-year-old student can avoid contact with most adults and with most young children. So we now have subcultures of children and teenagers with their own music, language, customs, and styles of clothing and hair. Denied an opportunity to mingle with all ages, children and young people lose a sense of responsibility and of their own place in life. For example, instead of helping adults, teenagers see them as being almost a different species.
Forcing children who aren't book lovers to stay in school brings the level of the whole school down. In an agrarian society, the upper levels of schooling were intellectually challenging. Any student who wasn't academically inclined would leave school to farm or take up a trade. But to keep students from the factory, the curriculum now has to "dumb down" to match the students. This is a matter of public record. In the United States the reading books used in 1900 for the eighth grade are now rated for twelfth grade; those used in 1900 for twelfth grade are now rated upper college. The subjects taught have also changed. How many modern schools teach logic and rhetoric?
Far from holding children back, a Krsna conscious one-room school revives much of what was healthy in a simpler society and gives you graduates better educated from every point of view. Students form a close bond with their teacher, whom they see as a model, and form friendships and a way of life based on higher values, rather than on what their peers are doing. Students learn at their own pace, with solid understanding. And if they have the aptitude, they can enter into deep spiritual and intellectual realms without being held back by students less interested.
So we shouldn't be surprised when we read what kind of teaching Srila Prabhupada wanted for ISKCON's first school, in Dallas. As related in Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta by Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami: "The best system of education ... was as he had known it as a child: one teacher in a room with up to fifty students of various ages and aptitudes. One at a time the students would come to the teacher's desk, receive guidance and a further assignment, and then return to work."
Yet we are not entirely going back to a former age: in our one-room schoolhouse we keep up the tradition of personal tutoring, while practically every student learns devotional and academic subjects with the aid of a computer.
A Morning with the Cows
By Hare Krsna Devi Dasi
The morning's at seven,
(apologies to Robert Browning)
Like so many devotees in the seventies and eighties, when I moved into the temple I never expected to leave. But things changed, and economics and family obligations forced me to leave my beloved Gita Nagari. Thanks to the generosity of the devotees, I found new service I could do, and by leaving Gita Nagari I also gained some understanding of Srila Prabhupada's teaching that devotional service is eternal. My work with Krsna's cows at Gita Nagari is still fresh and vivid in my heart and continues to be a source of inspiration and spiritual nourishment.
Sometimes people say to me, "Oh, I bet you wish you were back with the cows." In one way I do, but in another way I am still with the cows, so I don't feel gloomy and despondent. Greater than my hankering to return to the farm is my wish that thousands or even millions of people could learn the joys of taking care of Krsna's cows. If I could only convey some of those feelings! In this short space I can tell about only a fraction of the experience of one morning, but I hope that even from that you can get some understanding of what it was like. So, back to the barn....
Before I came to the barn today I went to the temple, dressed in my barn pants, flannel shirt, and kerchief, to catch the beginning of the Bhagavatam class. My inspiration is to hear the Jaya Radha-Madhava prayers before I milk the cows. Now the transcendental melody is in my mind as I climb the milk-house steps in my rubber barn boots. This small cement-block building attached to the barn is a holy place. There's a wonderful photo of Srila Prabhupada descending these same steps when he visited Gita Nagari in July 1976. The milk house is a great place to chant a couple of very loud rounds of Hare Krsna on your beads to get fired up for your service. But not today—I'm running late!
I grab a couple of milk cans and rinse them out with a spray of hot water. I dump the sudsy water onto the concrete floor of the milk house, and it swirls down the drain. The milk house always smells clean from bleach and detergent. The milk house has to be absolutely clean so the milk doesn't get contaminated. I rinse out a couple buckets in the sink—the white bucket for hand milking and the red one for a hot-water solution for washing the cows' udders. I then hang a cup and a little container of teat dip with iodine over the side of one the buckets.
I dash through the tiny barn office and into the cool barn. Ah! The alfalfa hay and cow manure smell great! Let the city slickers wrinkle their noses—they just don't understand the purity of cow manure. I'm not talking about hog manure. My Uncle Mike has a hog farm—I know what that smells like! No, I'm talking about cow manure. The Vedas say it's pure. In India a scientist named Dr. Goshal proved experimentally that cow manure has antiseptic properties. Anyway, what a great smell!
Now to get the stalls ready. When Sri Krsna Dasa taught me and Kaulini Dasi how to milk the cows, he said that, just as in Deity worship, the most important things are cleanliness, punctuality, and enthusiasm. First grab a hoe and scrape any manure into the gutter. Then sweep yesterday's hay or grain out of the mangers. Finally, scatter some clean golden straw in the stalls for the cows' bedding. Are the water bowls clean and fresh? Clean, cool water is important for good milk production.
One purifying thing about taking care of cows is that it helps me transcend worrying about my own senses. What do I like? What do I want? Those thoughts are put aside. That's also like Deity worship. Instead of worrying about what I would like, my meditation has to be focused on every-thing that will make the cows comfortable so they'll be relaxed and happy for milking.
The final touch is to put a scoop of sweet-smelling grain into each cow's manger. A cow gets one pound of grain for each three pounds of milk she produces.
Now everything is ready. I grab my trusty stick as I go out the side door to the pasture. I like a stick that's three or four feet long so I can steer my cows easily. I usually carry a stick when I'm around cows, especially cows who know me. Early on, I visited some of my cows in the pasture in the middle of the day. They got excited and frisky and started "horsing" around with one another to show off, and they knocked me to the ground. I wasn't hurt at all, but it showed me that at least a small person like me should carry a stick to keep things under control.
The cows are eager to come into the barn. I unhook the electric fence and encourage them. "Get your grain, Luggy! Come on, Hari Leela! Good girl, Prema!" I steer Hari Leela away from her favorite patch of pig-weed by the barn. Once in the barn, each cow goes automatically to her own stall and starts eating grain. I secure their neck chains to the front of their stalls.
I dash into the milk house to get the buckets. I stop in the office to get some brown paper towels to wash and dry udders. Quickly I pop my favorite milking tape into the barn stereo system—Srila Prabhupada singing the Guruvastakam prayers. The cows like everything to be the same every day, and so do I.
When I was milking three cows, we were still using the mechanized milking system. I would milk Hari Leela and Lugloo by machine and Prema Vihvala by hand. Gita Nagari had been a commercial dairy farm when ISKCON bought it, and we started out milking a lot of cows. Gradually, we decided it wasn't a good idea because we got more bulls than we could train to work. So we started breeding fewer cows. With Prema Vihvala, we began the switch to hand milking. It turned out to be a sweet experience.
In commercial dairying a cow is bred to have a calf once a year. (Unfortunately the dairymen don't care how many bull calves the cows produce, because the bulls are sent for slaughter.) The cow is milked about ten months. When her daily production falls below about thirty pounds (thirty pints), being milked by machine becomes painful, often causing mastitis infection, so they stop milking her just before she has her next calf (or they send her to slaughter). Our cows would never be slaughtered, but Prema was such a loving cow I just wanted to keep milking her when she hit thirty pounds, so Kaulini and I decided to milk her by hand.
Hand milking takes a lot of arm muscle, and I'm a 120-pound weakling. But my desire was great. For a week before the switch, I practiced on my son's hand grips to build my strength. The first week of milking was hard. After that I was fine. Prema was kind and patient. And it was worth it. A dairy cow usually gives fifteen to twenty thousand pounds of milk when she has a calf. But we milked Prema for 643 days, and she gave 25,587 pounds of milk. We were so proud of her!
What was it like to milk her? On the stereo, Srila Prabhupada is singing, "Samsara-davanala-lida-loka ..." I approach the stall from the rear, buckets in hand. I lean against Prema's hind quarters as she peacefully munches her grain. "Scootch over, Prema." Clop, clop. She politely steps to the right to make room for me. I sit down on my tie-on spring-coil milking stool. I wash her udder quickly with the hot-water solution, then dry her with a towel. Squirt, squirt. I squeeze each teat, "stripping" the milk into the screened strip cup to get rid of any contamination and check for mastitis globs. The washing and stripping stimulate the cow's milk let-down response and should take about fifteen seconds. We're fine today.
I place the white plastic bucket under Prema's udder. I lean my head into her belly and begin to milk with both hands, not pulling but squeezing thumb and forefinger together at the top of the teat and rhythmically squeezing the milk out with the other fingers. At first her full udder is hard. Squirt, squirt ... squirt, squirt ... squirt, squirt. She's peaceful as I milk her, keeping time with the music. Srila Prabhupada is singing, and Prema and I are serving Krsna together. Squirt, squirt ... squirt, squirt. Most devotee cow milkers hate to waste even a drop of milk. They know the love that goes into making it.
Soon the milk comes out forcefully, rhythmically. Beating on the bottom of the plastic bucket, it sounds like a mrdanga drum going with Prabhupada's singing. When I first started milking by hand, I was surprised how foamy the milk was. It looks so beautiful. Prema's udder is getting soft now as all the milk empties out. The barn cats take their cue and line up on the other side of her, hoping for a squirt. I don't disappoint them. Squirt, squirt—right in the mouth. They're surprised and pleased, licking their whiskers.
I'm done milking Prema. Quickly I dip her teats in the iodine solution to prevent mastitis. What will we use for teat dip when we're self-sufficient, I wonder. I lift the heavy milk bucket. This moment is the perfect teacher of humility. I may sometimes think I'm a hotshot devotee, but here's Prema, quietly producing so much milk for the Deities I can hardly lift it. What contribution do I have to compare to that? "Prema Vihvala, you're such a good girl, giving so much milk for Krsna's sweets!" I give her a big hug and pat her heartily. Still munching, she turns to give me an affectionate look.
I give the cats some milk, their reward for protecting the cows' grain from mice. What valuable opportunities there are in this farm life! Even the President of the United States may not get the opportunity to serve Krsna, but here are these scruffy barn cats, every day engaged in devotional service and hearing Prabhupada sing Hare Krsna—to their eternal benefit.
Back in the sunny milk house I weigh the milk from each cow and record it on a chart. Production is going up. The cows must love the new spring pasture. Then I pour the white foamy milk through a filter into the milk can. What a beautiful sight! The can goes into the old-fashioned water-cooled can cooler. I think what it might be like to keep the milk fresh as they do in India, by heating it instead of cooling it. A quick cleanup of the milk house, and it's time to take the "girls" out to their daytime pasture.
I unhitch them from their stalls. "Get up! Pasture, Prema! Pasture, Luggy! Get up, Hari Leela!" We amble down the sunny gravel road toward the alfalfa field. I tap the ground with the stick as we walk—clomp! clomp!—to show them we should be businesslike and not stop and munch too much on the way. Finally we're at the alfalfa field, which is being grazed in small paddocks each day. Today's paddock is about a hundred feet from the road, so the cows are tempted to meander into the adjoining oat field. "Stay on the cow path, Hari Leela!" I tap her on the rear, and she gets back on the path.
She knows what I mean. I taught her "cow path," and I taught the cows "grain" and "pasture." They know what I mean. It's such a simple plea-sure to communicate with them. I feel like a little girl teaching words to her kitten.
I open the electric fence to the lush green alfalfa paddock. The cows plunge in and start chomping on their favorite food. Tails swish contentedly, and the Indian brass bells around the cows' necks ring melodically. It sounds like a delicate Tulasi puja in the temple. The sky is blue, a refreshing breeze is blowing, and Krsna's cows are happy. What better form of devotional service can there be?
On Tour with Shelter
By Sri Kesava Dasi
This issue I've turned the column over to Sri Kesava Dasi, who's reporting on an important development in the Krsna conscious straightedge scene.
—Vraja Kishor Dasa
WHEN I ARRIVED, the Philadelphia temple was a hive of activity. Teenagers roamed the mansion (it hinted an opulent past but told plainly of the need for a paint job). Amplifiers cramped doorways, waiting to be loaded, and devotees ran in different directions, obviously driven by a deadline. In just twenty-four hours, the Krsna conscious straightedge band Shelter would launch its three-month summer tour.
This is not your average Shelter story. You won't hear of guitar licks, squealing amps, or bodies midflight off the stage. This was a tour with a difference—the once all-male Shelter camp was balanced, for the first time, with a party of women.
Krsna consciousness in the straightedge music scene had been labeled somewhat of an all-male sport. This label was stuck on by those few but inevitable critics who'd like to disqualify Krsna from the scene. And sadly the label left hundreds of sincere girls confused as to why they were so inspired by this science of God and yet somehow excluded, by dint of their sex, from practicing it. This tour would exile such misconceptions and provide an avenue for the inquisitive.
Aboard the Scooby Van (so named because of its startling likeness to the cartoon character Scooby Doo), seven of us young women set out on our maiden voyage across the U.S. We joined the caravan in the temple driveway, unsure whether our van would even make it out of Pennsylvania.
The girls quickly found their niche at the shows. Saci Mata would jump out and start selling books and magazines to the eager kids. Robin would man a table, selling books, bags, beads, CDs, tapes, and T-shirts. Chris and Sarah would pass out neckbeads and Shelter magazines, and Nancy and I would help cook the prasadam to be passed out at the show, or take names and addresses of kids we wanted to keep in touch with.
Equipped with harmonium, karatalas (hand cymbals), and mrdanga drum, we would often sit outside singing Hare Krsna to hundreds of kids waiting for the show to begin. They would sit and sing along. At one show the security guards came out to ask the crowd to return inside because no one was watching the supporting act. Krsna kirtana had captured the crowd!
The kids always asked a lot of questions. For most of them, an American dream that promises drugs, free sex, and a life whose value is inextricably linked to one's bank balance holds little attraction. They're intelligent, ambitious, and intent on living a positive alternative, so seeing like-minded kids who've adopted a clean and spiritual way of life gave them courage to maintain their convictions.
While traveling between shows, we had great times singing Hare Krsna together and studying the philosophy of Krsna consciousness. Several of the girls were fairly new to Krsna consciousness, so I would take them through The Vaisnava Primer, which covers various topics of Krsna consciousness, such as important verses from the scriptures, the history of the scriptures, and the importance of prayer. At each day's end, Kate or Robin would read Krsna's pastimes to those who hadn't yet been swept away by slumber.
One of the highlights of the tour was three days of camping in Grass Valley, situated beside a beautiful river bordered by towering mountains in northern California. There we filled each moment with swimming, kirtana, Krsna conscious plays and games, and prasadam unlimited.
After the tour, I wondered whether it had been fruitful. Would any of the new girls remember the Krsna conscious pleasure we'd shared? Then I'd recall Bhaktin Chris, sitting in Scooby Van in a California parking lot, engrossed in her new-found worship of the Lord, ringing bells, offering incense and flowers to a picture of Radha-Madhava ...
I vowed never to underestimate these girls—or the power of devotional service to Lord Krsna.
Sri Kesava Dasi, originally from Australia, plans to travel regularly with groups of young women new to Krsna consciousness.
The Funeral of Pandu and Madri
Translated from Sanskrit by Hridayananda Dasa Goswami
King Pandu died in the Himalaya's as the result of a curse, and his devoted wife Madri joined him on the funeral pyre. As the Mahabharata continues, the remains of Pandu's and Madri's bodies are carried back to Hastinapura, the capital of their kingdom, for a state funeral.
The Great Godly Sages performed the avabhrtha bath to conclude the funeral rites for Pandu. Thereafter the sages came together and took counsel.
"King Pandu gave up his kingdom and country and came here to undertake austerities under the shelter of the ascetics. That noble soul, that great ascetic, has now left his young sons and wife under our care and has gone to the spiritual world."
The ascetics of Sata-srnga, kind and self-realized men dedicated to the welfare of all creatures, placed before their own interest the interest of Pandu's sons. Those ascetics therefore decided to leave their peaceful forest retreat and escort the members of Pandu's family back to Hastinapura, the capital, and entrust them to Bhisma and Dhrtarastra. Taking the remains of Pandu's body, and of Madri's, the ascetics departed with Pandu's surviving wife and sons.
Kunti was joyful by nature, and although she faced a long journey, as an affectionate mother she thought about her children, and the long road seemed short. Before much time had passed she found herself once again in Kuru-jangala, the country of the Kurus. The illustrious lady approached the capital and arrived at the city gate known as Vardhamana.
When the people of the city heard that thousands of Caranas and learned sages had arrived, they were filled with wonder. As soon as the sun rose, the men of the city, accompanied by their wives, went out to see the ascetics, eager to receive those distinguished guests according to the generous principles of sacred law. Delegations of women and warriors rode out on crowds of vehicles, along with brahmana men and their wives. Similarly, groups of merchants and workers poured out of the city. In the midst of the mighty tumult, not a single person was jealous or disturbed, for all the citizens were spiritually minded people.
Bhisma, son of Santanu, came in person, as did Somadatta Bahlika, Vidura, and Dhrtarastra, the saintly king who had served with the eye of wisdom in Pandu's absence. Gandhari and Ambalika, Pandu's famous mother, accompanied by the godly Satyavati, came out with the women of the royal palace. And the one hundred sons and heirs of Dhrtarastra, headed by Duryodhana, all well adorned with colorful ornaments, came to greet the sages. The Kauravas bowed their heads to the ground before the host of illustrious sages and seated themselves nearby with their royal priests. In the same manner, the capital residents and country folk touched their heads to the ground, bowing to the sages, and sat near the Kauravas.
The Oldest Ascetic Speaks
Seeing the people sitting in silence, Bhisma respectfully offered the kingdom and country to the great sages. Then the oldest ascetic, with his matted locks and deerskin, stood up. Knowing the feelings of the other sages, the mighty seer said, "He who was heir to the Kauravya throne, the ruler of men named Pandu, renounced pleasure and property and went hither to Hundred Peaks. He lived a life of celibacy, with high spiritual motives, and so this son of his, Yudhishira, was begotten by Dharma himself, the god of justice. Similarly, the wind-god gave to that great soul and king a very powerful son named Bhima, who is most distinguished among powerful men. Lord Indra begot in Kunti this boy Arjuna, whose bold prowess lies in his dedication to the highest truth. It is his glory that he will defeat all the bow-wielding warriors of the world. And Madri begot twin sons by the twin Asvin gods. Her two sons, the very pride of the Kuru dynasty, are the young boys, tigers among men, standing here with bow and arrows.
"Thus while living in the forest, constantly devoted to the religious path, the illustrious Pandu has again raised and exalted the family of his forefathers. Seeing his sons take birth, grow, and flourish, and seeing them learn their Vedic lessons, he felt happiness and love ever swell in his heart. Yet even as he walked the path of the saints and obtained the gift of good sons, Pandu passed away to the blessed land of his fathers seventeen days ago.
"Knowing him to be on the funeral pyre, a sacred offering in the mouth of the holy flame, Madri too entered the fire, rejecting her own mortal life. She is with him now, having followed him to his world. Whatever is to be done for her soul and his, let it be done at once.
"Here are the remains of their bodies, and here are their excellent sons. Let these courageous young men and their mother be received with ceremony, honor, and kindness, and when the rites for the departed are done, may he who knew everything of virtue and justice, he who raised up the Kuru nation, may the illustrious Pandu receive the sacred oblations offered to the departed fathers."
Having spoken thus to the Kurus, the sages, together with the Caranas and Guhyakas, instantly vanished before the very eyes of the Kurus. Seeing the multitude of sages and perfected mystics vanish like a magical Gandharva city in the sky, the people were struck with the greatest of wonder.
Vidura, arrange all the funeral rites for Pandu and see that they are worthy of a king, for he was a lion among kings. And take special care for Madri. On behalf of Pandu and Madri, give presents of animals, garments, jewels, and valuables to anyone in need, and as much as they need. Kunti always honors her superiors, so now, following her example, you must honor Madri. May we not grieve over Pandu, but rather rejoice in his praises, for that glorious leader of men lives in his five heroic sons, who were born like sons of the gods.
"So be it," said Vidura to his brother, and together with Bhisma he arranged all the sacraments for Pandu in a most discreet area. The royal priests quickly brought from the city blazing sacred fires headed by the Ajyahoma. Pandu's relatives, close friends, and royal ministers stood near in prayerful attendance on the departed one. The remains of Pandu and Madri were placed in an exquisitely adorned vehicle drawn by an honor guard of men. The beautiful scene was enhanced by the royal white umbrella, white yak-tail fans, and the stirring sounds of all kinds of instruments. Men by the hundreds carried heaps of jewels and distributed them on behalf of Pandu to those in need, so that his charity might speed him to a godly destination. Then, for Pandu's sake, they brought (for distribution) large shining white umbrellas and beautiful garments.
White-robed sacrificial priests poured oblations into the sacred fires that moved along in front of the funeral wagon. Teachers, rulers, merchants, and workers by the thousands, sobbing and stricken with grief, followed their fallen king. "He has left us," they cried, "placing us in unending grief. The greatest protector no longer protects us. Where will our king go now?"
Pandu's Relatives Grieve
Crying out in grief, all the Pandavas, with Bhisma and Vidura, set down in a lovely corner of the forest on the bank of the Ganges the remains of Madri and Pandu, the lion of kings, ever truthful and ever victorious.
Pandu's mother cried out, "My son!
O God, my son!" and stunned with grief suddenly collapsed onto the earth. Seeing her fallen in such agony, all the capital residents and the country folk cried out at once with heart-rending sounds, for they loved the king, and the sight of his mother tore at their souls. Joining mankind, all the creatures, even the poor animals, let out their anguished cries, as if their lives were leaving them.
Bhisma, son of Santanu, the broadminded Vidura, and all of the Kauravas wailed from the depths of their grief. Then Bhisma, Vidura, King Dhrtarastra, their relatives, and all the Kuru women made the offering of sacred water for the departed. O king, when the sons of Pandu had made their offering and were pale and drawn from lamentation, all the government officials, themselves lamenting, surrounded the boys. That night, the young sons of Pandu simply lay down and slept there on the bare earth, and all the citizens, headed by the brahmanas, did not return to their homes but they lay there with them on the empty ground. For twelve nights the entire city, down to the little children, remained there with the Pandavas. There was no pleasure, nor did anyone feel sound or healthy, nor was there joy in a single heart.
Then Vidura, King Dhrtarastra, Bhisma, and the rest of the family offered Pandu the sacred offering of food and nectar meant for the departed and fed the Kuru people and the qualified brahmanas by the thousands, giving to the very best brahmanas excellent villages and heaps of jewels. When the Pandavas, the pride of the Bharata line, had cleansed themselves and put on new garments, the citizens took them along and entered the city of Hastinapura. Constantly grieving for the departed Bharata chief, the residents of the capital and the country folk all felt as if their own friend and kin had died.
When the sraddha ceremony for the departed was complete and Vyasadeva saw the people bewildered with grief and his own mother, Satyavati, agonizing over the loss, Vyasadeva said to her, "The happy times are passed, and dreaded times are coming quickly upon us. Now each new day will bring greater sin, for the earth has lost her innocent youth. Utterly infested with delusion, crowded and choking with hypocrisy, a terrible age is coming, and it will be the ruin of religion, sacrifice, and ideal conduct.
"You must go now. Take up the life of renunciation by linking yourself with God, and live in the forest with the ascetics. I do not want you to see the tragic devastation of your dynasty."
"So be it," she said, in complete agreement with her son. Satyavati then entered the quarters of her daughter-in-law and said, "Ambika, we have heard that the Bharata men, with their relatives and grandsons, will all perish, and it will happen by the wicked counsel of your son, Dhrtarastra. Let us take your sister, who is tortured with grief over the death of her son Pandu, and if you think it is all right, let us go to the forest and seek the blessings of the Supreme Lord."
"So be it," replied Ambika.
Satyavati, ever true to her vows, then received final permission from her stepson Bhisma, and taking her two daughters-in-law with her, she went to the forest. O best of the Bharatas, those godly women lived in the forest and performed the most difficult and frightening austerities. Then, giving up their mortal bodies, they all achieved the highest spiritual perfection.
The Lord of the Lion Hill
A visit to the south Indian shrine of Simhacalam.
By Bhakti Vikasa Swami
SIMHACALAM, in the south Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, is a place of scenic beauty, set as it is among the green hills overlooking Visakhapatnam and the sea. Yet people don't come merely for the scenic beauty; they come to visit the Simhacalam temple.
Over the course of years, many old temples in south India have fallen into decline, but this one hasn't, largely because of the growth of nearby Visakhapatnam, which has become a major city, with a population of over one million. The city serves as a natural reservoir of visitors. Many pilgrims also come from Orissa, the next state north.
Previously, up to the time of King Prataparudra, in the sixteenth century, this part of Andhra Pradesh was ruled from Orissa. And especially in the southernmost district of Orissa, Ganjam district, many, many people worship Lord Nrsimhadeva, Lord Krsna in His form as half lion, half man. The Simhacalam temple, dedicated to Lord Nrsimhadeva, is the Nrsimha temple nearest Ganjam, so throughout the year many pilgrims come from Ganjam, and especially on Candana-yatra.
Candana-yatra is the day the Lord gives darsana—that is, when His form is visible to devotees. Otherwise He appears like a Siva-linga covered with sandalwood pulp (candana). Throughout the year people come and take darsana of Him like this, in His nitya rupa, the constant form that you see, the form covered in candana. The nija rupa, His actual form, is revealed only on the day of Candana-yatra, when the priests break the candana covering and then again put the candana back. On Candana-yatra, thousands and thousands of people come from south Orissa especially, and also from Andhra Pradesh, and completely crowd out the whole area to take darsana of the Lord in this form.
The approach up the hill to the temple has about one thousand steps, and climbing them gives a great sense of achievement. Now, like many temples, Simhacalam has a bus service going up, which is convenient and much easier on the legs, but the real die-hard pilgrims still climb step by step by step, and their sense of meeting the Lord is heightened by the difficulty they go through to reach Him. Previously, of course, pilgrims would walk for seven days or two weeks or whatever to reach a holy place, and that walking would heighten their mood even more.
We have come on a Saturday, it's the full-moon day, and it's during the summer holidays, so there is a big crowd, with thousands of people coming and going. Traditionally in Andhra Pradesh, Monday is the day for visiting Siva temples and Saturday any other temple. Those who are not vegetarian observe vegetarianism on this day and visit temples, so we have a big crowd here.
Another time I came on a quiet day, at eight o'clock, just when the temple opened, and I stayed as long as I liked without disturbance, but today because of so much rush there's a different kind of atmosphere.
Everything is well organized for taking darsana, getting on buses, and so on, but with only three buses going up and down the hill, on a big day like this it's a bit of a strain on the transport system, and there's a lot of hurry-scurry. The bus winds its way up and down the ghats, past signs in Telugu and Oriya, and a few in Hindi also. Hairpin bends. Sheer drops. It's quite exciting.
On the Hill
As you reach the top of the hill, the bus stops, and you're welcomed by the sound of Visnu-sahasranama, one thousand names of Lord Visnu, played over loudspeakers from the well-known cassette by Laksmi Subhramanyam.
You see plenty of people walking around with their cloth wet, as it's a tradition in these holy places to bathe in a nearby sacred lake before taking darsana.
Another part of the traditional vow is to get your head shaved before taking the bath. Here in south India, particularly Andhra, this is common not only for men and children but even for women.
The priests of the Simhacalam temple belong to the Sri Sampradaya, the line that follows the revered devotee and philosopher Ramanuja. Simhacalam is one of the 108 places recognized by the Sri Sampradaya as divya-desams, spiritual places in this material world. The temple functions are performed by Sri Vaisnava priests as they have been since Ramanuja visited here nine centuries ago. Most of the temples of the Sri Sampradaya are connected with at least one of the Alvars, the great teachers previous to Ramanuja. This one is connected with Nama Alvar, who has written songs in praise of the Simhacalam Deity.
Lining the steps to the entrance of the temple (and also the steps up the hill), there's the usual line of beggars collecting rice, and women offering coins. Following custom, you give one rupee (100 paisa) and they give you 90 paisa in small coins back. The coins you give to the beggars at the different shrines, a little bit here and a little bit there, because at holy places you are supposed to give charity.
There are, of course, fruit sellers, flower sellers, sellers of coconuts to offer to the Deities, and sellers of books and cassettes, connected with the holy place. There are also sadhus, with different kinds of tilaka and dress, adding to the color. It's a small world in itself.
Approaching the Lord
At the main entrance of the temple you see commemorative footprints of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu installed in 1930 by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Goswami Maharaja, Srila Prabhupada's spiritual master, who installed Lord Caitanya's footprints in many places Lord Caitanya visited throughout India.
As soon as you enter the temple, you're hit by the smell of coconut and camphor. Thousands of people come every day, and they each bring a coconut, which is ceremonially broken to the chanting of mantras, and then a camphor light is burned, so the smell permeates the temple.
When you walk in, the temple is dark. If lighting is used, it's used sparingly, to retain that dark atmosphere. And you go through long passages with carvings on the walls and little chapels with deities of Alvars and different forms of Laksmi, the consort of Lord Visnu. The Sri Sampradaya comes originally from Laksmi, so its devotees prominently worship different forms of Laksmi. Then eventually you come to the sanctum sanctorum and hear the mantras being chanted, creating a very special atmosphere.
The idea of bhakti, devoting oneself to God, is a central part of Indian culture, but although pure bhakti is praised in song and literature, not everyone comes to the temple out of pure devotion. Their devotion is mixed. Most people come to worship with the idea of being rewarded with material boons.
This particular temple is famous for giving childless mothers the boon of children. Just outside the Deity room stands a pillar—decorated with cloth and surrounded by silver plates and flower garlands—that women are supposed to embrace, saying certain prayers and performing worship, to ask the Lord to grant that desire. And in general people come praying for money, family happiness, and removal of difficulties in material life.
But although that's still a long way from pure devotional service, it's far better than being a gross materialist with no religious idea at all. And some devotees, of course, come with only pure devotion in mind.
In various areas of the temple you'll find brahmanas engaged in puja or studying Sanskrit books and reciting Sanskrit texts. Other brahmanas have duties such as cleaning the temple, carrying vegetables for the Deity, carrying firewood for cooking, carrying the Lord in procession—so many different functions. Traditionally these duties are done generation after generation by the same families, who live just outside the temple precincts.
Going for darsana is a big rush. One man is assigned to push everyone along in line. And right in front of the Deities there are four or five men pushing and hoarsely urging everyone to move on. Still, being fond of ISKCON devotees, they allow me to stand to the side of the railings and offer my prayers in peace.
In the sanctum sanctorum the repeated chant of Om Namo Narayana, the chant of the Sri Sampradaya, plays over loudspeakers. Despite all the push and shove, it is exhilarating to be at this unique temple of Laksmi Varaha-Nrsimha Svami, a form of the Lord not found anywhere else.
Bhakti Vikasa Swami comes from England but has lived in India for many years. He now teaches Krsna consciousness at the ISKCON center in Vallabh Vidyanagar, Gujarat.
Lord Caitanya's Stay At Simhacalam
LORD CAITANYA Mahaprabhu, Krsna Himself in the role of a devotee of Krsna, visited Simhacalam about half a century ago, during His tour of south India. The Caitanya-caritamrta (Madhya 3.83-8) records His visit this way:
"According to His previous program, Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu went forward on His tour and after some days arrived at the place of pilgrimage known as Jiyada-nrsimha [Simhacalam].
sri-nrsimha, jaya nrsimha,
" 'All glories to Nrsimhadeva! All glories to Nrsimhadeva, who is the Lord of Prahlada Maharaja and, like the honeybee, is always engaged in beholding the lotuslike face of the goddess of fortune.'
ugro 'py anugra evayam
" 'Although very ferocious, the lioness is very kind to her cubs. Similarly, although very ferocious to nondevotees like Hiranyakasipu, Lord Nrsimhadeva is very, very soft and kind to devotees like Prahlada Maharaja.'
"In this way Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu recited different verses from the sastra [scripture]. The priest of Lord Nrsimhadeva then brought garlands and the remnants of Lord Nrsimhadeva's food and offered to them to Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
Festivals at Simhacalam
THE DEVOTEES at the Simhacalam temple celebrate various festivals in honor of the Lord. Minor festivals are celebrated weekly or monthly, and several major festivals yearly. Some of these festivals derive from scripture, and others have been established by custom.
The most important among the annual festivals are the Kalyanotsava and Candanotsava. These are authorized by scripture and observed on a grand scale.
The Kalyanotsava celebrates the marriage of the Lord to His eternal consort Laksmi, so it closely resembles what you'll see in a Hindu wedding festival. It begins on the eleventh day (Ekadasi) in the first half of the lunar month of Chaitra (corresponding to the month of March), and it extends for five days, through Purnima, the day of the full moon. During this time, all sorts of special rituals, processions, and festive events are observed.
The largest festival is Candana-yatra, which takes place on Aksaya-trtiya, the third day of the first half of the month of Vaisakha (April-May). On this day, early in the morning, the Deity is divested of His sandalwood covering, and devotees have the opportunity to see His underlying form. The Deity is ceremonially bathed, and in the evening again covered with sandalwood. Pilgrims journey from various parts of India to be present in Simhacalam on this day.
Eleven days later, the temple celebrates Nrsimha Jayanti, the appearance day of Lord Nrsimhadeva.
A Statesman, Scholar, and Saint
AMONG THE SAINTS who figure in the history of Simhacalam, one who stands out is Narahari Tirtha, a spiritual master in the line from which the present Hare Krsna movement descends. Inscriptions at the temple tell us he was active at Simhacalam at the end of the thirteenth century and the start of the fourteenth.
Narahari Tirtha was a statesman, scholar, and saint. Inscriptions at the temple of Sri Kurma, north of Simhacalam, tell us he was born in a family that served as righteous ministers to kings. We learn that he served as a minister to Bhanudeva I (1264-1278) and Narasimha II (1278-1305), kings of the Ganga dynasty who ruled the old realm of Kalinga. In those days, Kalinga stretched from the river Mahanadi, in present-day Orissa, to the river Godavari, in what is now Andhra Pradesh. It is while serving as minister, perhaps, that he saved the country from an invasion by the Sabaras, barbarians, as reported in an inscription from 1281.
The Madhva Vijaya Kavya, a biography of the great teacher Madhva, tells us this: While Madhva was touring India to spread his teachings, he passed through Kalinga. There he converted two great scholars—Sobhana Bhatt (Padmanabha Tirtha) and Shama Sastri (Narahari Tirtha). These two scholars served in turn as Madhva's successors at his headquarters, Udupi, now in the southwest Indian state of Karnataka. Scholars say that Narahari Tirtha took charge in Udupi in 1324. He passed away seven years later.
After meeting Madhva and before going to Udupi, Narahari Tirtha stayed in Kalinga (one source says for twelve years), and with his help the temples of Sri Kurma and Simhacalam flourished. Through his connections in the royal court, he was able to persuade kings and princes to donate land to the temples. He spread bhakti, devotional service, throughout the kingdom.
At Simhacalam, Narahari Tirtha was followed by Madhvaite saints who looked after the temple until the end of the fourteenth century, when that duty passed to the Sri Vaisnavas, the followers of the great teacher Ramanuja. Since then, the Sri Vaisnavas have guided the spiritual affairs of the temple, and they do so even today.
Srila Prabhupada's Visit to Simhacalam
SRILA PRABHUPADA came to Simhacalam with his disciples in February of 1972. His biography, Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta, tells of this visit.
"Srila Prabhupada chose to approach the temple by car, riding up the winding road past orchards of mango, jackfruits, and cashew, and fields of pineapple. On arriving at the temple, Srila Prabhupada and his disciples met one of the temple brahmanas, who showed them around the grounds.... "When Srila Prabhupada came upon an immense banyan tree at the lower end of the temple grounds, he said that the tree must be thousands of years old. As he stood beneath the tree, his servant, Nanda-kumara, handed him a small champaka flower.
"Extending his thumb and forefinger from his bead bag, Prabhupada held the champaka flower and looked fondly at it. 'This flower,' he said, 'is the color of Lord Caitanya. And this flower is the most loved all over India. This flower is beautiful to look at and beautiful to smell.' He carried the small saffron-gold flower between his fingers the rest of the morning.
"When Prabhupada and his group entered the inner sanctum, [the Deity was] entirely covered with ground sandalwood pulp mixed with camphor and other scents. Therefore, the Deity now appeared to be only a lump covered with a layer of sandalwood. Prabhupada commented that the sandalwood was to keep the Deity 'cool-headed.'
"Madhavananda [one of Prabhupada's disciples]: When Prabhupada was at the Nrsimha temple, ... he was very grave. We went into the temple, and there was a chamber. Then we went down. The walls were four feet thick, and it seemed like hundreds of feet of tunnels before we got into the inner sanctum.... As soon as we entered, Prabhupada said, 'Begin chanting the Nrsimha mantra.' So we started singing ... and we circumambulated the Deity. Then we stood before the Deity, and Prabhupada offered obeisances.
"Gurukrpa: He always manifested such devotion. That was what separated him from us—not only his vast learning or his great knowledge but his devotion. In these places we would see him become very silent, very grave, and when he would speak, such peace would fill us from within. When he would speak, you could feel it. He was constantly convincing us of Krsna consciousness. Not purposely, but he was just being himself. In these places it would come out.
"When Prabhupada stood with us before the Deity, ... it was a very devotional time. Prabhupada didn't say much, and the main reason was that these places are appreciated according to one's spiritual advancement. The details and facts and the history are not really that important. There is nothing really to say. Prabhupada would just make sure we had the proper respect and didn't commit any offense."
The History of the Deity
SIMHA MEANS "lion," and calam means "hill." So this is the lion's hill, the hill of Lord Nrsimhadeva. The Deity here, Varaha Nrsimha Svami, is popularly known in Sanskrit as Simhadrinatha or in the Telugu language as Simhadri Appanna ("the Lord of the Lion Hill").
Beneath the layers of sandalwood pulp that cover Him all but one day a year, the Deity stands 2-1/2 feet high in a threefold-bending posture, with two hands, the head of a boar, and the tail of a lion, on a human torso.
This unique form, not mentioned in the Vedic scriptures, is described in the Sthala Mahatmya or Sthala Purana, an old Sanskrit work describing the history of the place. (Many south Indian shrines have their own Sthala Puranas that describe them. Anandamaya Dasa, a devotee who sometimes traveled in south India with Srila Prabhupada, tells us that Prabhupada did not dispute the authenticity of such works, though he seemed to accord them less importance than the scriptures of the standard Vedic canon.)
The Sthala Purana of Simhacalam recounts the history of the great devotee Prahlada Maharaja and his demonic father, Hiranyakasipu. Hiranyakasipu's brother, Hiranyaksa, had been killed by Lord Krsna in the form of Varaha, the divine boar. But Prahlada, as a young child, became a Krsna conscious devotee, so his father ordered him tortured and killed. Yet Krsna always protected Prahlada, and all attempts to harm the child failed.
This account we also find in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, but the Sthala Purana has more to say.
As a last resort, Hiranyakasipu told his servants to hurl Prahlada into the sea and place a huge mountain over him. The servants chose to do this at Simhacalam. But before they could finish, Narayana (Krsna) rescued Prahlada by jumping over the hill and lifting him from the sea. Simhacalam, therefore, is the place where the Lord rescued Prahlada.
At Prahlada's request, the Lord then assumed the form of the Varaha-Nrsimha Deity, so that Prahlada could see both aspects of the Lord—the one by which He had already killed Hiranyaksa and the one by which He would soon kill Hiranyakasipu.
After the death of Hiranyakasipu, Prahlada built a temple around the Deity. But after thousands of years, at the end of that ancient age, Satya-yuga, the temple was neglected, and earth slowly gathered around the Deity. But at the beginning of another yuga the Deity was rediscovered by Pururava, the king of the lunar dynasty, who is mentioned in the Ninth Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam.
Riding with his wife, Urvasi, in an aerial chariot over the hills of the South, Pururava was drawn by a mysterious power to Simhacalam. There he discovered the Deity and cleared away the earth around Him. Pururava then heard a voice from the sky which told him to cover the Deity with sandal paste, worship the Lord in this form, and expose Him only once a year, on the day of Candana-yatra. Following this instruction, Pururava covered the Deity with an amount of sandal pulp equal to the earth he had removed, worshiped the Deity, and rebuilt the temple, which has flourished ever since.
(For the information in this section, and the information elsewhere in this article, we are indebted to the book The Simhachalam Temple, by Dr. K. Sundaram, published by the Simhachalam Devasthanam.)
The Priests of Simhacalam
FORTY MALE brahmanas reside at Simhacalam. Fifteen of them directly serve the Deity. Others cook, study the Vedas and the Puranas, and perform marriages and special functions. The brahmanas are supported by endowments, some of which have been in place for centuries.
Since the eleventh century, it has been a daily practice in the Visnu temples of Andhra Pradesh for appointed brahmanas to recite the Divya-prabandha, the songs sung by the twelve Alvars in praise of the pastimes of Lord Visnu. This still goes on at Simhacalam. Several expert brahmanas also recite the Vedas daily, a practice believed to have been going on since the temple was founded. Several more brahmanas read chapters every morning from the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, and the Srimad-Bhagavatam. And during a part of the daily worship, brahmanas chant the Vedic Purusa-sukta prayers and the Visnu-sahasra-nama (one thousand names of Lord Visnu).
The system of worship in the temple is believed to have been established by Ramanuja. The worship begins at 5:30 A.M. For about half an hour, priests chant verses, and a shenai band plays to gradually awaken the Lord. The brahmanas serve the Lord in various ways throughout the day, till it's time for Him to rest at night.
The brahmanas at Simhacalam generally come from families that have performed the same service to the Deity for many generations. The temple runs a school in Adivivaram, at the base of the hill, to train young men for service at the temple. By training and maintaining brahmanas, the temple management hopes to keep Simhacalam a center of brahminical culture.
How To Get There, Where To Stay
SIMHACALAM lies only ten miles north of Visakhapatnam, a major city on the east coast of India in the state of Andhra Pradesh. Visakhapatnam is readily accessible from all major cities of India by train and plane. Adivivaram, the village at the foot of the hill, lies 2 ½ miles from the Simhacalam Railway Station on the South Eastern Railway line. Accommodations are available at Simhacalam on the hill, where you can rent a room in the choultri, or guesthouse. As this article was being prepared, a new guesthouse was under construction.
The worldwide activities of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)
More than thirty interfaith leaders in northern Texas convened at the Hare Krsna temple in Dallas last October for a two-hour dialogue with Tamal Krishna Goswami, of ISKCON's governing body.
ISKCON New York will hold "Srila Prabhupada's Original Family Reunion" May 20-21. Organizers are inviting the original devotees from 26 Second Avenue and later temples in New York. Anyone whose life has been touched by Srila Prabhupada is welcome to attend.
A member of the extremist Islamic group Fuqra was convicted in October of conspiracy in the 1984 firebombing of the Denver Hare Krsna temple.
The yoga teacher in whose asrama Srila Prabhupada stayed upon first arriving in New York has passed away. The teacher, Dr. Ramamurti Mishra, died in September.
Devotees in Sarajevo continue to pass out prasadam in hospitals, even though to do so they must bicycle around the city at the risk of being shot by snipers. The devotees urgently need money for supplies to keep the program going. Donations can be wired to this account: Margot Sassan, 11000 Beograd, 1760216573, Bayerishe Und Wehsel Bank, Blz: 74320307 for Sarajevo.
The President of India met with ISKCON governing body commissioner Gopala Krsna Goswami to learn of ISKCON's New Delhi project, now under construction. The President, Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma, received a large framed drawing of the project and a full set of Srila Prabhupada's Srimad-Bhagavatams. He promised to visit the project when it is completed in 1996.
ISKCON volunteers distributed 250,000 rupees worth of goods in Maharashtra after the earthquakes last September. Devotees from Bombay and Secunderabad were among the first relief workers to reach the area.
Devotees from around the world will attend ISKCON's annual gathering in India in March and April. They will spend two weeks in Mayapur, West Bengal, the birthplace of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and then move on for a week in Vrndavana, the birthplace of Lord Sri Krsna. Just before the gathering, ISKCON's governing body holds its annual meeting, in Mayapur.
Former President Zail Singh spoke last November at ISKCON's Chariot Festival in New Delhi. He praised Srila Prabhupada's contributions to the world, and the work ISKCON is doing today.
Devotees gathered at ISKCON's New Govardhan Farm in Murwillumbah, New South Wales, for three days of festivals and reunions at the end of December: Rathayatra, Srila Prabhupada Family Festival, and the Gurukula Students Reunion.
F. W. De Klerk and Nelson Mandela sent messages of good will for ISKCON's sixth annual Festival of Chariots, held in mid-December in Durban. So too did Mangosuthu Buthelezi, president of the Inkatha Freedom Party. The Mayor of Durban inaugurated the five-day festival, thousands attended, and devotees served 100,000 plates of prasadam.
South African President F. W. De Klerk met ISKCON leader Indradyumna Swami at a meeting of Indian business and cultural leaders at Durban city hall. "Real peace and harmony will be achieved," Indradyumna Swami told the president, "when all of us—black, white, colored, and Indian—realize what we have in common: that is, that we are all spiritual souls, eternal servants of God." The president agreed.
Squatters in six shantytowns surrounding Johannesburg took part in day-long "Festivals for Peace" sponsored by ISKCON during the Christmas season. The festivals, held in rotation at the six places, featured chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra and distribution of Krsna-prasadam.
The Hare Krsna bakery in Rosario, Argentina, supplies forty shops with varied prasadam pastries. The bakery, called Jagannatha Prasadam, has been open two years.
Srila Prabhupada's Centennial—1996
The ISKCON Foundation has launched the Bhaktivedanta Centennial Reading Program to encourage reading of Srila Prabhupada's books. The Foundation will award certificates of completion for reading Sri Isopanisad, The Nectar of Instruction, The Nectar of Devotion, Bhagavad-gita As It Is, Teachings of Lord Caitanya, each canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam, and each lila of the Caitanya-caritamrta. For more information, write to the Bhaktivedanta Centennial Reading Program, c/o ISKCON Foundation, P.O. Box 1119, Alachua, FL 32615, USA; or call Rupanuga Dasa at (904) 462-2997.
Devotees are organizing an exhibit on Prabhupada they plan to set up in thirty-five shopping centers in major cities.
300,000 Srila Prabhupada-lilamrtas have been printed. Each month ISKCON Heidelberg is holding a festival dedicated to Prabhupada. Some of the goals set by the Centennial committee: to build a temple, to increase book distribution, to develop a large congregation, to set up an academic forum, and to get the government to recognize the Hare Krsna movement as a genuine religion.
A continuous four-year Padayatra is underway to promote the Centennial.
Temples have selected Pancaratna Dasa as chairman of the Centennial Working Committee and are supporting a central office. The committee is planning a Hare Krsna festival to travel throughout India in 1996.
In December, temples organized their congregations to compete in a marathon for distributing Srila Prabhupada-lilamrtas.
The following projects have been proposed: setting up a "Prabhupada room" in each temple, organizing a national pilgrimage to Mayapur in 1996, and translating into Italian all ITV (ISKCON Television) videos on Srila Prabhupada.
Devotees have begun a bimonthly newsletter to keep people informed about Centennial events, are preparing a book on Prabhupada's visit to Malaysia, and are translating Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta into Tamil, the language of most Indians in Malaysia.
Celebrations began in June with the installation of a deity of Prabhupada to travel with the Padayatra, which is scheduled to travel throughout both of the country's islands by 1996. Devotees will also plant a hundred memorial trees around the country.
In the midst of war, devotees are translating Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta into local languages.
The Centennial committee drafted a twenty-point national plan that includes major festivals, a postage stamp, a book on Srila Prabhupada in South Africa, and an all-Africa conference by the Bhaktivedanta Institute.
Govardhana Hill knows that the secret of serving Krsna is to serve Krsna's devotees.
A lecture given by Giriraja Swami in Johannesburg, South Africa.
hantayam adrir abala hari-dasa-varyo
Of all the devotees, this Govardhana Hill is the best! O my friends, this hill supplies Krsna and Balarama, along with Their calves, cows and cowherd friends, with all kinds of necessities—water for drinking, very soft grass, caves, fruits, flowers and vegetables. In this way the hill offers respects to the Lord. Being touched by the lotus feet of Krsna and Balarama, Govardhana Hill appears very jubilant.—Caitanya-caritamrta, Antya-lila 14.86 (quoted from Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.21.18)
IN SRIMAD-BHRgAVATAM, Sukadeva Gosvami describes the activities of Krsna and Balarama throughout the seasons. He describes Their pastimes in the summer season, in the rainy season, and in autumn. When Krsna and Balarama would enter the forest, the gopis, the cowherd girls, would think of Krsna's pastimes and glorify them. Although the gopis were at home discussing amongst themselves, because of transcendental vision and deep attachment for Krsna they would speak as if with Krsna in the forest or at Govardhana Hill.
In this verse the gopis speak with great joy. Hanta is an expression of joy. They say, ayam adrir: "this hill." If someone is near, we say "this." "This boy." Although the gopis were far from Govardhana Hill, they felt as if near. So they say, ayam adrir, "this hill," hari-dasa-varyo, is "the best among the servants of Hari, or Krsna."
We are also trying to become servants of Lord Hari. So how to serve Hari nicely can be learned from Govardhana Hill. In the Srimad-Bhagavatam, Tenth Canto, other devotees have been called hari-dasa, servants of Hari. Maharaja Yudhisthira is described as hari-dasa because he performed the rajasuya sacrifice to glorify Lord Krsna. Many sages and saintly persons came, many kings and other world leaders, not just to see Lord Krsna but also to see Maharaja Yudhisthira and the Pandavas. Because of the Pandavas' love for Krsna, Krsna regularly used to visit their home. Devotees are prepared to go to any length to meet Krsna, but the Lord Himself used to come to visit the Pandavas. And He used to act as their friend, their master, their servant, and their advisor in so many ways.
So Maharaja Yudhisthira is called hari-dasa. And not only did he and his brothers serve Lord Krsna, but their wife, their mother, and all of their citizens were fully engaged in the service of the Lord. So Lord Krsna was very much pleased with them, and in ecstasy, appreciating Maharaja Yudhisthira and the Pandavas, Sukadeva Gosvami speaks of them as hari-dasa.
Another hari-dasa mentioned in the Tenth Canto is Uddhava. Uddhava was the cousin of Lord Krsna and very near and dear to Him. Amongst all the associates of Krsna in Dvaraka, Uddhava was the constant companion of the Lord, discussing with Him, even advising Him, and serving Him always. Uddhava was so close to Krsna and so qualified that when Krsna thought of delivering a message to Vrndavana He sent Uddhava as His representative. Uddhava stayed in Vrndavana for several months, reminding the residents of Krsna and His pastimes. So Sukadeva Gosvami has also called Uddhava hari-dasa. And there are many other hari-dasas, like Narada.
Still, Govardhana Hill is called hari-dasa-varyo, the best of the servants of the Lord. Why is he considered the best? Rama-krsna-carana-sparasa-pramoda. Pramoda means "jubilant, exceedingly joyful." When a servant engages in the service of the master, the servant should feel joy. And by his service the master should feel joy. Both should feel joy. When the servant sees that the master feels joy, the servant's joy increases. And when the master sees that the servant feels joy, the master's joy increases. So there is competition between the master and the servant, each trying to give more pleasure to the other. By giving pleasure to the other, each feels more pleasure himself.
If a servant does not feel joy but rather complains—"Oh, I have been serving my master, but I had no time to take prasadam. I feel so hungry. And I had no time to get enough rest. I feel so tired"—then he is not the best servant of his master. The best servant of any master will feel joy in any condition—like Govardhana Hill.
Sometimes the question may be raised, How could the whole of Vraja (Vrndavana) fit under Govardhana Hill when Govardhana Hill is only part of Vraja? The acaryas, the previous spiritual masters, have answered that Govardhana Hill felt so much ecstasy in being lifted by Krsna that he expanded in size. And what was his service then? He had to shelter the residents of Vrndavana from fierce winds, from torrential rain and hail, and from the thunderbolts of Indra. But he never felt any distress—"Oh, I am being attacked by hail, rain, thunderbolts, and fierce winds." No. He was jubilant because of being touched by Krsna's hand and engaged in service to Krsna and Krsna's devotees. In any condition he felt jubilant to be engaged in the service of Krsna and the devotees, especially being touched by the lotus feet of Balarama and Krsna, or Radha and Krsna (rama-krsna-carana-sparasa).
Serving the Servants
Govardhana Hill is also the best servant of Lord Hari because he gives his whole body for the service of Hari and His devotees. They walk all over his body. If anyone—even our master—were to walk on our body, we might not feel jubilant. But Govardhana Hill, offering his own body for the service of the Lord, making his body the platform on which the Lord enjoys pastimes with His devotees, felt jubilant. And Govardhana Hill would offer respects (manam tanoti) not only to Krsna but to the cows and calves and cowherd boys (saha-go-ganayos tayor). Go means "cows and calves," and ganayos means "cowherd boys" or all those connected with the cows, including the gopis. In other words, Govardhana Hill didn't want to serve only Krsna, or only Krsna and Balarama. He wanted to serve Them along with Their devotees, not only the cowherd boys and girls but even the cows and calves. He wanted to serve all of them.
We should learn from Govardhana Hill that we can please the Lord better by serving the Lord's devotees than by trying to serve the Lord directly. In the book Krsna, Srila Prabhupada comments on this verse. He says that Govardhana Hill knew the secret of how to please the Lord by pleasing His most beloved associates. Govardhana Hill gave his body and everything else not only for the service of the Lord personally but for the Lord's servants as well. That's how he gave respect to them.
How did Govardhana Hill serve the Lord and His servants? Paniya: by supplying fresh drinking water, especially from his waterfalls. Krsna and the cowherd boys and calves would also wash their hands and feet in Govardhana's water and drink it as well. Suyavasa: "very soft grass." Some of the grasses from Govardhana were used to perform sacrifices, and other grasses, especially soft, fragrant grasses, were used to feed the cows so they would be strong and healthy and give nice milk. Kandara: "caves." Sometimes, when it was very hot, Krsna and Balarama, or Krsna and the gopis, would take shelter in Govardhana's caves and feel cool. And if it was too cold they would take shelter in the caves to feel warm. Kanda-mulaih: "by roots." The cows and the boys would eat roots from the hill, as well as fruits and vegetables and flowers and many other items. And when Krsna and Balarama would walk on Govardhana, he would melt in ecstatic love, and his stones would become soft like butter, giving pleasure to the feet of the Lord. And Govardhana would create natural thrones where Krsna would sit and enjoy pastimes.
How did Govardhana show his joy? His tall grasses were his bodily hairs standing up in ecstasy, his moisture was his ecstatic perspiration, and the trickling of drops of water through his stones were his tears of love. Everything of Govardhana is eternal, full of knowledge, and full of bliss.
Meeting and Serving Radha and Krsna
Although Krsna once revealed that He Himself is Govardhana Hill, here we see the gopis appreciating Govardhana as the best of Krsna's servants, not as Krsna. Why? The gopis are in the mood of separation. They want to meet and serve Krsna. They had not yet directly met Krsna, but by seeing Him or hearing about Him they had become attached to Him. So the gopis are thinking, "One can fulfill one's desires only by the mercy of great souls. Who are great souls? The servants of Lord Hari. And Govardhana Hill is the best of them. So we should go to Govardhana, and by his mercy all our desires will be fulfilled. We will be able to meet and serve Krsna."
Because the gopis were under the protection of their elders and other relatives, they had no chance to meet Krsna. So they thought, "We will tell our elders that we want to go to Manasi Ganga to bathe and then take audience of Hari-deva." Sri Hari-deva, Krsna in the form of Lord Narayana, is the presiding Deity of Govardhana Hill. So the gopis thought, "We will take permission from our elders to go and bathe and see Hari-deva." But actually the mercy one can get from hari-dasa, the Lord's servant, is better than the mercy one can get from Hari-deva, the Lord. So on the pretext of going to Govardhana Hill to worship Hari-deva, they went to get the mercy of Govardhana himself, the best of Hari's servants, to be able to meet Krsna.
All scriptures advise that we should serve great souls and get their mercy. From the First Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam (syan mahat-sevaya) to the Fifth Canto (mahat-sevam dvaram ahur vimuktes) and throughout, as well as from other scriptures and authorities, we know that by serving great souls—pure devotees—we can get the greatest mercy and the greatest benefit. And of all of the devotees, Govardhana Hill is the best. So if we go to Govardhana and get his mercy, we will get the greatest mercy that anyone can get, and our desire to meet and serve Radha and Krsna will be fulfilled.
Serving the Servant of the Servant
Question: Some say that Govardhana is Krsna's devotee, while others say he is Krsna directly. Which is correct?
Giriraja Swami: Both are correct. At the time of Govardhana Puja, Krsna expanded Himself into a huge form and declared, "I am Govardhana Hill." Actually He is Govardhana Hill. And the gopis worshiped Govardhana as the best devotee of Krsna, hari-dasa-varyo. So both ways of seeing are valid. But I think the mercy we can get from the devotee of Krsna is more than the mercy we can get from Krsna directly. By following the gopis we can benefit more.
We see that Gaura, Krsna Caitanya, is also Krsna, but as Krsna He could not give prema—love of Godhead—as He did as Gaura. As Gaurahari He was more merciful because He was in the mood of Hari's servant. If we aspire to serve Hari's servant, we can benefit more than if we try to serve Hari directly. Therefore Gaurahari aspired to be gopi-bhartuh pada-kamalayor dasa-dasanudasah—the servant of the servant of the lotus feet of Sri Krsna, the maintainer of the gopis. And by approaching Govardhana Hill, Caitanya Mahaprabhu fulfilled that ambition. I'll read an excerpt from the Caitanya-caritamrta (Antya-lila 14.104-111):
When Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu saw all the Vaisnavas, He returned to partial external consciousness and spoke to Svarupa Damodara. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu said, "Who has brought Me here from Govardhana Hill? I was seeing Lord Krsna's pastimes, but now I cannot see them. Today I went from here to Govardhana Hill to find out if Krsna was tending His cows there. I saw Lord Krsna climbing Govardhana Hill and playing His flute, surrounded by grazing cows. Hearing the vibration of Krsna's flute, Srimati Radharani and all Her gopi friends came there to meet Him. They were all very nicely dressed. When Krsna and Srimati Radharani entered a cave together, the other gopis asked Me to pick some flowers.
If we approach Govardhana Hill following in the line of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, we may also get the mercy to become a servant of the servant of the best of Lord Hari's servants. So we pray to Govardhana, "Please fulfill our desires."
HERE'S A Krsna conscious project you might like to support or get involved in.
Sign On to Krishna (The Hare Krishna Group for Deaf People)
Bhaktivedanta Manor, outside London, England
Bhakta Dinesh Sejpal, Bhaktin Kavita Kholi, Bhakta Chaten Darbar, Bhaktin Renata, Bhaktin Lisa, and Bhaktin Vishanti Ram
1. To bring Krsna consciousness to deaf people.
2. To spread "deaf awareness" among devotees.
3. To train devotees to become interpreters for lectures, classes, and plays.
Bhakta Dinesh, who is profoundly deaf, has been coming to Bhaktivedanta Manor for thirteen years. About a year ago, determined to bring Krsna consciousness to deaf people, Dinesh formed Sign On to Krsna with the help of Bhaktin Kavita Kohli, who has full hearing but is proficient in sign language. Dinesh and Kavita felt the need to help deaf people who become frustrated when they come to the temple but find no one to communicate with them.
Bhaktin Kavita, who now interprets for deaf visitors, says, "Imagine what it would be like to come to the temple and not be able to sing, hear the chanting or lectures, or ask questions about Krsna consciousness."
Sign On to Krishna organizes Krsna conscious programs for the deaf, provides interpreters for lectures and plays, and teaches sign language to hearing devotees and guests.
For Janmastami 1993 the group produced ISKCON's first sign-language video, about the birth of Lord Krsna.
Sign On to Krishna plans to produce a video introduction to Bhagavad-gita As It Is for Srila Prabhupada's Centennial, in 1996. The video will be sold through BBL Distributions Services Ltd., the U.K. agent for the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.
Sign On to Krishna also plans to produce a picture dictionary of Krsna conscious sign language. The dictionary will show, for example, how to "chant" the Hare Krsna maha-mantra in signs.
Not enough hearing devotees interested and available to take part. Shortage of money to produce videos.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Offer encouragement and find out more about the group.
Send donations to help with video productions. The costs include buying equipment, hiring a recording studio, and casting for professional interpreters.
Buy videos produced by Sign On to Krishna.
If you live near London, attend the Sunday classes for the deaf at Bhaktivedanta Manor.
Who Loves God?
The following conversation took place in London on August 14, 1971.
Our bhagavata-dharma gives this definition: sa vai pumsam paro dharmo yato bhaktir adhoksaje. The first-class religion is that which by following one becomes a lover of God. It doesn't matter which religion one follows, but the test will be whether one has become a lover of God.
Guest: So you don't try to convert people from other religions?
Srila Prabhupada: No. We are teaching how to love God. That's all.
Guest: So we're doing the same thing.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. But the test is there—whether one has become a lover of God or a lover of dog. If you find that one has become a lover of dog, then his religion is useless.
Guest: How does one know?
Srila Prabhupada: You can see whether he's loving God or dog. That's all. Caitanya Mahaprabhu says:
Yugayitam nimesena: "Every moment is just like twelve years." Caksusa pravrsayitam: "I am crying torrents of rain." Sunyaytam jagat sarvam: "Oh, I find everything vacant." Govinda-virahena me: "Without God." This is an ideal picture.
Another test: bhaktih paresanubhavo viraktir anyatra ca. If one has become a lover of God, naturally he will be detached from material enjoyment. Love of God and love of the material world cannot go together. Lord Jesus Christ never advised going for economic development, for industrial development. He sacrificed everything for God. That is one test—"Here is a lover of God." Lord Jesus Christ was punished. He was ordered, "Stop this preaching." But he did not. So that is love of God. He sacrificed everything.
The idea is that Lord Jesus Christ and his followers must both be, at least to some extent, at that point. That is the test. So we say that you follow any religious path. Which one doesn't matter. We want to see whether you are a lover of God. That is our propaganda.
And if one is serious about loving God, it doesn't matter which way he'll develop that dormant love. If a person wants to be a very nice student of mathematics, it doesn't matter from which university he takes the degree. Students sometimes go to other countries for education.
So if one is serious about loving God, then it doesn't matter in which way he learns that art. He won't discriminate, "Oh, I must learn this art from this university." No. Any university. It doesn't matter.
So our principle is that we are teaching love of God. Those who are after God are coming to us. It does not matter whether they are in America, in Russia, in Africa, or Canada. They are coming. And the method is simple. Chant the holy name of God. If you have a name for God, chant it. We preach this. We don't say that you must chant "Krsna." If you know any name for God, then chant that. If you haven't got any name of God, then chant our conception of the name of God—"Krsna."
Lord Caitanya says that there are many names of God and in each name the full potency of God is there. And there are no hard and fast rules for chanting the holy name of God. Anyone can chant anywhere, at anytime, in any circumstances.
Lord Caitanya says, "My Lord, You are so merciful that I can associate with You simply by chanting Your holy name. But I am so unfortunate that I have no attraction for that."
We are teaching our students to chant. They always carry a bead bag, and they chant: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Now, where is the loss? Where is the want of time? While walking in the street they are chanting. I am sitting here talking with you. As soon as I finish I shall chant Hare Krsna. Where is the difficulty?
But ask people to chant the holy name of God, and they won't accept. That is unfortunate. Chanting is such a simple thing. You don't have to go to the church or the temple or hell or heaven—in any condition you can chant the holy name of God. But people are so unfortunate they won't accept this theory. There is no charge, there is no loss. If there is some gain, why not try for it?
How I Came To Know Krsna as the Supreme Personality Of Godhead
By Bhakta Amit Bose
CALCUTTA, 1985. It was my final year in primary school, and I was visiting my grandmother. During my stay with her she happened to call a man who buys old newspapers and magazines. I helped her take out the bundles, and as I stood watching the man weigh them and bargain with my grandmother, my glance fell on a glossy English magazine named Back to Godhead. On the cover was a picture of smiling Gopala (Krsna) with a flute in one hand and a calf tucked under the other arm.
Out of curiosity I started looking through the pages. The pictures were of a strange sight—foreigners with shaven heads and wearing Indian clothes. I wondered what it was all about. I noticed other issues of the magazine, so I picked them up from the pile and took them to my grandmother's living room for a closer look.
The first article I read was entitled "The Final Point for the Bubble of Illusion." The author was His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. It was an explanation of a song by Acarya Narottama Dasa Thakura. The song begins hari hari! vifale janama gonainu: "O Lord, I've wasted my life!" I liked the article as much as my knowledge would permit, and I decided to take the magazines home with me.
Back home I read them over and over again, each reading bringing new realizations. Although born and brought up in India and therefore familiar with Krsna and some of His childhood pastimes, I didn't know that Krsna was the Supreme Personality of Godhead and that He had appeared in the Age of Kali as the Golden Avatara, Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
I was so carried away by the magazines that I stopped drinking tea and coffee and decided to become a vegetarian. I even started chanting Hare Krsna. Becoming a vegetarian was not easy; it took me about eight months to leave meat-eating altogether. I didn't know much about chanting, so I just chanted the Hare Krsna mantra on my fingers 108 times every night in bed, trying to experience the feeling of "going back home," as promised to me in the articles.
In December 1986 I went with my parents to Mayapur (about three hours north of Calcutta) and stayed at the ISKCON project there. I made friends with some of the devotees, talked with them about Krsna consciousness, and bought a copy of Bhagavad-gita As It Is.
After that trip, I had no contact with devotees for almost four years. But I kept chanting Hare Krsna and following a vegetarian diet. In July 1990, now in college, I was aimlessly going through the campus notice board when I saw an advertisement for a student seminar in Mayapur. I decided to get in touch with the organizers. I noted their address.
A few days later I made my way to the first floor of the "Mona Lisa" building, where I met Bhakta Sanjay (now Sahadeva Dasa) and Gauranga Dasa. As we talked about the seminar, I made up my mind to attend. But getting my parents' permission would not be easy. This would be my first time out on my own. But after a lot of arguments, they finally allowed me to go, on the condition that I take a friend along.
Mayapur was a whole new world, a world I could easily identify with. When I returned to Calcutta, I became a member of the Calcutta temple's youth group, Bhaktivedanta Youth Services.
Gauranga Dasa later told me that although the devotees had put up hundreds of advertisements all over Calcutta, I was the only new person who responded. Everyone else on the trip was already a BYS member.
When I look back I thank Krsna and Prabhupada for sending me those Back to Godheads. Because of those magazines, my life is a thousand times better.
* In the various parts of the world, the celebration officially falls on either March 26 or March 27, and in the US and UK on March 26. So some ISKCON centers will celebrate on Sunday, and others on both days.
LORD KRSNA SAYS in the Bhagavad-gita that He comes to this world age after age to establish religious principles. Five hundred years ago, Krsna came as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, whose identity is confirmed in Srimad-Bhagavatam, Mahabharata, and other Vedic scriptures. Although He is Krsna Himself, Caitanya Mahaprabhu came disguised as a devotee of Krsna to teach people how to serve Krsna.
At the end of the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna advised us to surrender completely unto Him and promised us all protection as His devotees. Unfortunately, people do not want to surrender to Lord Krsna. So when Lord Krsna returned as Lord Caitanya, He came with the same mission but performed it a different way. As Lord Sri Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, He ordered us to surrender unto Him, but as Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu He taught us how to surrender. Therefore He is considered the most merciful incarnation of Krsna.
When Lord Caitanya taught the process of Krsna consciousness, He emphasized the chanting of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. If one wants to become a devotee of Krsna, one must take shelter of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and the chanting of the holy names of the Lord.