Statement of Purposes
1. To help all people discern reality from illusion, spirit from matter, the eternal from the temporary.
THE VERY WORD plague brings dread. We recall medieval images of the Black Death, scourging fourteenth-century Asia and Europe. We envision rampant rats and dying children.
Late in 1994, as plague broke out in the Indian state of Gujarat, people fled in the hundreds of thousands. Neighboring countries sealed their borders. Airlines cancelled flights. Even doctors grabbed their stethoscopes and scrambled for their lives.
Now, of course, life is back to normal. The outbreak has been quelled. We're no longer in the fourteenth century; the plague bacillus yields to tetracycline.
Yet all of us find ourselves still encircled by death. Rats!
It may be today from plague or tomorrow from cancer, old age, a car crash, an armed burglar. All we're doing is putting death off—we think.
Everyone has an appointed time to live, say the Vedic sages, and an appointed time to die. When your time comes you go, plague or no plague, medicine or none. And so it sometimes happens that a hopeless case survives and a man the doctors tell us ought to live drops dead.
Anyway, while life is still in us, what are we living for? If we don't know and don't ask, what's the use of our life?
Matter will be finished—all of it. Every material body is destined to be a corpse, every universe a cinder. The more we embrace matter and try to hold onto it, the more we suffer, and the more we lose. Material enjoyment is an oxymoron. Security is humbug.
This is the plague of the material world. For one who is born, says the Bhagavad-gita, death is certain. And after one dies one is sure to be born again. Tetracycline isn't a cure for the cycle of birth and death.
While we're speaking of birth and death, this brings us to another point: It seems to us that the Indian health people were contradictory in their approach to the recent outbreak of plague. On one side, the authorities want to hold down the population. So they hand out free contraceptives and promote "medical termination of pregnancy" as a health measure. But then when nature comes along with a free program that could knock the population back down to the comfortable size it was back in, say, 1947, the health people put up a fight.
The problem appears to have been one of public relations. Modern Indians gradually seem to be buying the idea that when you're blocking pregnancy or killing babies in the womb you're promoting "family welfare." But they're not yet ready for the concept of a well-managed epidemic. Well, I guess in some respects we're still back in the Dark Ages.
The severest plague, worldwide in its extent, is that of spiritual ignorance. It is this plague that has driven us into the material world, and that keeps us here suffering. It is this plague that fools us into making our problems still worse. And this plague of ignorance can be cured only by spiritual knowledge.
I am writing in loving memory of my mother, Mary Elizabeth Johnson. She left her body as the result of a heart attack on July 17, at the age of 61.
Although my mother was never formally initiated, she performed devotional service since 1975. In 1976 she attended a lecture given by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in Los Angeles. My mother always accepted Krsna consciousness as the Absolute Truth and was devoted to her service as the servant of the servant of the servant.
At the time of her first heart attack, five days before the fatal one, she was chanting Hare Krsna, fully accepting that this might be her time to go. When her time did come, by Krsna's grace I was with her. Janaki Dasi Prabhu and I were there chanting the maha-mantra until her heart finally stopped and she left her body.
I know that it was by the mercy of Lord Nityananda that she stayed long enough to hear the holy name. This makes the death of her body a glorious event. My only prayer is that by the mercy of Lord Nityananda I too can hear the holy name at the time of my demise.
All glories to our ocean of mercy, Srila Prabhupada.
Thank You for Vedic Thoughts
There is absolutely no doubt that the new section "Vedic Thoughts" is a beautiful addition to our magazine. I find it extremely beneficial, and I hope many others also feel the same way. Thank you and please continue this section.
Whole Outlook Changed
I was taught that I am this body and I have a soul. It is an eye-opener to learn and realize that I am soul and I have a body. This has changed my whole outlook on material life, with its ups and downs, and has brought about detachment. With Krsna's mercy I hope to advance from strength to strength. Hare Krsna.
We'd like to hear from you. Please send correspondence to: The Editors, Back to Godhead, P.O. Box 430, Alachua, Florida 32615, USA. Fax: (904) 462-7893. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
When God says we're his energy, does that mean we're God?
A lecture given in Bombay, March 30, 1971
By His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
bhumir apo 'nalo vayuh
apareyam itas tv anyam
Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence, and false ego—all together these eight constitute My separated material energies.
Besides these, O mighty-armed Arjuna, there is another, superior energy of Mine, which comprises the living entities who are exploiting the resources of this material, inferior nature.
HERE KRSNA EXPLAINS how He is everything. Material scientists study the five gross material elements: earth, water, fire, air, and sky. And psychologists and philosophers study the three subtle elements: the intelligence, the false ego, and the stages of the mind—thinking, feeling, and willing. Here Krsna says, "These eight material elements are My separated energy."
We can understand "separated energy" in this way: I am speaking, and the tape recorder is recording my voice. When the tape is played, you'll find that I am speaking again. But that speaking is different from my present speaking. That speaking is separated energy.
Although the material world is Krsna's separated energy, it acts under His direction. It is not independent. The material scientists think that there is no God and that matter is working only by actions and reactions. But that is not the fact. Matter is dependent on the direction of the Supreme Lord. As Krsna states in the ninth chapter of the Bhagavad-gita, mayadhyaksena prakrtih suyate sa-caracaram: "The material energy is acting under My superintendence."
The idea that the material energy acts independently is not a very good understanding. This electric fan is running, but it is not running independently. To run the fan we need electric energy, a powerhouse, and a superintending engineer in the powerhouse. So at the end there is a living force—the engineer.
Matter cannot work independently. We have no experience of matter working independently. When we see matter working, we must know that it is working because behind it is spiritual existence.
Krsna says that the material elements come from Him. But we cannot understand that from a person all these material manifestations are produced. The gigantic sky, the innumerable planets with varieties of energy—how is it possible that these are produced from a person? Therefore, those who are poor in knowledge think of the Supreme Absolute Truth as impersonal. But in fact He is a person.
The universe develops from Krsna, the supreme spirit, just as our body develops from the small spiritual spark. The size of that spiritual spark is described in the Vedic literature:
If you divide the tip of a hair into one hundred parts and then take one of those parts and divide that again into one hundred parts—that one-ten-thousandth of the tip of a hair is the size of the spirit soul. And on the basis of the spirit soul, the body develops.
From the Vedic literature we learn that the spiritual spark takes shelter in the semen of the father, who injects the semen into the womb of the mother. Then, if the situation is favorable, the body begins to develop. First it is the size of a pea. That pealike body develops, and then different holes manifest. They develop into the eyes, the ears, the mouth, the nose, the genitals, and the rectum—the nine holes in the body.
So anyone can understand that the small spiritual spark develops the body. Similarly, the whole universe develops from the spiritual body of Krsna as Paramatma, the soul of the universe.
The Buddhist theory is that the combination of matter produces living symptoms. But from Bhagavad-gita and other Vedic literature we understand that spirit produces matter. According to Lord Buddha's philosophy, the body is a combination of matter and if we dismantle that matter we will have no more pains and pleasures. That is the philosophy of the sunya-vadis. But we are neither sunya-vadis nor nirvisesa-vadis, those who think that everything is ultimately formless. We are savisesa-vadis: we accept that the spirit soul has form.
We are changing our bodies, just as a person gives up old garments and accepts new ones. Because our spiritual body has form—hands, legs, and so on—we develop a material body that has form. That we can understand very easily. Just as your coat and shirt have hands and legs because you have hands and legs, the material body, which is considered a garment, has developed on the body of the spiritual form. That understanding is called savisesa-vada.
The external feature of the Lord includes the eight elements mentioned in this verse. And of those eight, three are subtle forms: mind, intelligence, and false ego. Although they are subtle, they are material, not spiritual. So because the mind is a subtle form of matter, to think that mental speculation is spiritual is incorrect.
At night our subtle body works and we think we have a separate body and have gone somewhere else, away from our house, away from our room. We forget the physical material body. Similarly, after death our mind and intelligence carry us to another body according to our thinking at the time of death, and we forget the body we have now.
Now, false ego consists of thinking, "I am a product of matter." Actually, we are Brahman, spirit—aham brahmasmi. Above all the material elements mentioned here is the platform of the spirit soul. The spirit soul is part of the Supreme Soul, Krsna, and Krsna is the origin of everything, both material and spiritual—janmady asya yatah.
Krsna has various kinds of energy. Parasya saktir vividhaiva sruyate. The material energy is one of them. It is called the external energy. Just as my body or your body is our external energy, the whole cosmos is a manifestation of the external energy of Krsna.
After listing the material elements, Krsna says, "The material energies are inferior." Apara means "inferior." Just as we compare things in this world and say that one thing is inferior and another superior, here Krsna analyzes Himself. He says that His eight material energies are inferior and that there is another nature, which is superior. And that superior energy is jiva-bhuta—the living entities.
We are energies of Krsna. The Mayavada philosophy claims that we are the same as Brahman, the impersonal aspect of the Supreme, or Paramatma, the Supersoul. But Bhagavad-gita says that we living entities are simply energy and Krsna is the energetic.
There is a difference between the energy and the energetic. Take the example of fire. Fire is the energetic source, and light and heat are the energies of fire. Or consider the sun and the sunshine. The sunshine is the energy of the sun. If you think that because the sunshine has entered your room therefore the sun has entered your room, you are mistaken.
The energy and the energetic are simultaneously one and different. That is the philosophy of Lord Caitanya: acintya-bhedabheda. Many philosophers say that God and the living entity are the same but that the living entity fails to realize this because he is covered by maya, illusion. Yes, the living entity is covered by maya, but God cannot be covered by maya. That is not possible. A cloud may block the sun from my eyesight, but a cloud can never cover the sun. So how could the living entity be the same as God?
Maya is an energy of God:
visnu-saktih para prokta
All of the multifarious energies of Krsna are spiritual. If Krsna is complete spirit, His energies must also be spiritual. Therefore the Visnu Purana says, visnu-saktih para prokta: "Originally, the energies of God are spiritual." Para means "spiritual." Ksetra-jnakya tatha para: The ksetra-jna-sakti, or jiva-sakti—the living entity—is also para sakti, spiritual. Avidya-karma-samjnanya trtiya saktir isyate: But there is another energy, which is avidya, ignorance. Though originally spiritual, that energy is now acting as ignorance.
One kind of avidya is to think that Brahman, God, is covered by maya, illusion. How can Brahman, which means "the great," be covered by maya? Then maya would be the great, not Brahman.
If maya covers Brahman, then maya becomes greater than Brahman, and that is not possible. Maya is an energy or a product of Brahman, just as a cloud is a product of the sun. By the heat of the sun the sea water is evaporated and transformed into clouds. So a cloud is nothing but a transformation of the energy of the sun. Similarly, maya-sakti is an energy of Krsna.
So Krsna controls maya; maya never controls Krsna. The idea that maya controls Krsna is not a very good theory. Such thinking is due to a poor fund of knowledge. Krsna cannot be covered.
When Vyasadeva, the compiler of the Vedas, saw Krsna and maya by bhakti-yoga meditation, maya was in the background—like a shadow—not in the front. Maya cannot cover Krsna. That is a wrong philosophy. Maya can cover the individual soul.
Because the individual soul is apt to fall down under the clutches of maya, the soul is called tatastha-sakti, the marginal energy. The soul's position is similar to that of the seashore, which is sometimes dry and sometimes covered by water. When we are covered by maya, that is called the jiva-bhuta stage, and when we are no longer covered, that is called the brahma-bhuta stage. When we are Krsna conscious, then we are brahma-bhuta, and when we are not Krsna conscious—when we are materially conscious—that is maya. As soon as we are freed from the clutches of maya, we become prasannatma—joyful—just as a person feels happy when freed from the contamination of a disease.
Here Arjuna is addressed as maha-baho, "the great fighter." Krsna is saying that as a great fighter Arjuna can understand these things. Who is a great fighter? One who acts under Krsna's direction.
Those who preach Krsna consciousness are also maha-baho. They "fight" with persons who are not Krsna conscious. They push forward the Krsna consciousness movement by fighting. But that fighting is a different kind of fighting. Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu taught that kind of fighting. Krsna-varnam tvisakrsnam sangopangastra-parsadam. Astra means "weapons." Caitanya Mahaprabhu fought maya not with a machine gun but with His most confidential associates—sri-krsna-caitanya prabhu-nityananda sri-advaita gadadhara srivasadi-gaura-bhakta-vrnda. His fighting weapons were Sri Advaita Prabhu, Sri Nityananda Prabhu, and many other devotees.
So Lord Caitanya's movement is also fighting, but in a different way. For example, Lord Caitanya sent one of His soldiers, Nityananda Prabhu, to deliver the sinful brothers Jagai and Madhai. Trying to deliver the sinful is also fighting.
All the devotees, all the preachers of the Krsna consciousness movement, are maha-baho—strongly armed by the weapons of Krsna. They cannot be defeated. They will push on in the fight with illusion.
What is that illusion? The living entity under illusion is thinking that he will be happy by material comforts. That is not possible. So the Krsna consciousness movement is a declaration of war with maya. And the war is fought by chanting Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. The transcendental vibration will clarify the whole atmosphere. And as soon as the Krsna conscious soldiers come out victorious, the whole world will be peaceful.
So the individual living entities are part of Krsna as energy. As stated in this verse, the living entities are prakrti, not purusa. Purusa means "enjoyer," and prakrti means "enjoyed." A crude example of purusa and prakrti is man and woman. Man is understood to be the enjoyer, and woman is understood to be the enjoyed. Similarly, the living entity—prakrti—is not the enjoyer; prakrti is the enjoyed. That is our natural position. And if we artificially try to be the enjoyer, we never become happy.
According to the Vedic scripture Manu-samhita, a woman has no independence: na striyam svatantratam arhati. A woman should always remain dependent, and that is her real happiness. When young, let her remain dependent under the protection of her father. Then let her remain dependent under the protection of her husband. And, finally, in old age let her remain dependent under the protection of grown sons. Those are the directions of Manu, who has given us law.
Actually, if a woman is dependent on a suitable father, husband, or son, she is happy. Therefore, according to our Vedic civilization, when a girl is young the father is dutybound to find a suitable boy to take charge of her. When he finds a suitable boy, the father is relieved—"Now I have given charge of my girl to a suitable boy, and I am happy."
Perhaps you saw our wedding ceremony yesterday. The husband promised, "I take charge of you to make you comfortable throughout your life." And the wife promised, "Yes, I accept you as my husband, and I shall devote my life just to make you happy." These are the proper relationships.
Here Krsna says that jiva-bhuta—the living entity—is prakrti (the enjoyed), not purusa (the enjoyer). How can the prakrti be the enjoyer of the material world? That is not possible. That is artificial. Therefore, our main disease is that although we are meant to be enjoyed by Krsna we are trying to be the enjoyer. We are meant to be predominated by Krsna, but we are trying to be the predominator. That is our fault. Don't try to be the predominator. Try to be predominated by Krsna, and you will be happy.
Again, take the example of a woman. As soon as she is under the protection of a good father, a nice husband, and a nice grown son she is very happy. And as soon as she is independent ... I have seen practically that in Europe and America, where so many women have declared independence, they are most unhappy. In old age they are very, very unhappy. In youth also—because they do not get a good husband they are very unhappy. When one young girl sees that another young girl has a husband, she thinks, "Oh, this girl has a husband." That is a girl's nature.
As prakrti, we should remain dependent on the supreme husband or on the supreme father. You can accept Krsna as your father. You can love Krsna as your father, as your husband, as your master. Remain dependent on Krsna.
Krsna has come to teach us the natural position of the living entities. We should not be puffed up, thinking, "I am God, I am Krsna, everyone is Krsna." That is maya, the last snare of maya. Maya dictates, "Become the biggest, richest man in the world." And you struggle to be the leader.
Actually, nobody is the leader. Only Krsna is the leader. That is the Vedic injunction. And Krsna Himself says, bhokta aham: "I am bhokta, the enjoyer." Krsna does not say, "You living entities are also bhokta." He never told Arjuna, "You are bhokta; I am bhokta."
We have to accept our position as prakrti and become dependent on Krsna. Then Krsna will take charge. Krsna says, aham tvam sarva-papebhyo moksayisyami: "I will deliver you from all sinful reactions." He will give us protection. Kaunteya pratijanihi na me bhaktah pranasyati: "My devotee will never perish."
If we accept this philosophy—that we are dependent on Krsna—then our life is successful. Otherwise, we will simply struggle for existence.
Krsna says, jiva-bhutam maha-baho yayedam dharyate jagat: The whole material world is moving because of the jiva-bhuta, the living entities. This city, Bombay, is important because there are so many living entities here. And if something happens and all the people leave, then a big, big skyscraper will not draw even two hundred rupees' rent; it will be unimportant. Similarly, the whole material world is important because the jiva-bhuta is struggling here, falsely thinking himself the enjoyer.
And everyone in the material world—from Brahma down to the insignificant ant—is struggling hard to become equal to Krsna, to be the bhokta. So the Krsna consciousness movement is meant to bring people to the sane condition. We are teaching, "You are not bhokta; Krsna is bhokta. Become bhogya, the enjoyed, not the enjoyer. Then you will be happy."
Thank you very much.
Meditation on Krsna
By Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami
WHEN THE SAGE Vyasadeva, after compiling the Vedas, felt despondent, his spiritual master, Narada, told him that the cause of this despondency was that Vyasadeva had not fully glorified Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Vyasadeva therefore meditated on Krsna in mature deliberation, on the bank of the River Sarasvati. There Vyasadeva attained a full vision of Krsna and His internal energies—Goloka Vrndavana, Srimati Radharani, and all of Krsna's associates. He saw as well the material energy deluding the souls trapped in the material world.
In Vyasadeva's vision, the material energy stood behind Krsna and was under Krsna's control. While witnessing the suffering of the conditioned souls, Vyasadeva realized that their suffering could be alleviated by the practice of bhakti-yoga.
We have heard of many people who have had visions of God, but Vyasadeva's vision was so precise and full that he was able to undertake the work of compiling the eighteen thousand verses that became the Srimad-Bhagavatam.
Why had Narada advised Vyasadeva to meditate on Krsna? It is because Krsna's activities are unparalleled. In a purport to Srimad-Bhagavatam (2.9.45), Srila Prabhupada writes, "Impersonal Brahman has no activities, but the Personality of Godhead has many activities, and all such activities are transcendental, without any tinge of material quality. If the activities of the Supreme Brahman [the Supreme Absolute] were material activities, then Narada would not have advised Vyasadeva to meditate upon them. And the param brahma [Supreme Brahman] is Lord Sri Krsna, as confirmed in the Bhagavad-gita."
When speaking about Vyasadeva's meditation on Krsna, Srila Prabhupada assures us that we should also meditate on Krsna. And the most recommended way to meditate on Him is as He appears in the pages of Srimad-Bhagavatam.
Srila Prabhupada presented the Bhagavatam with his Bhaktivedanta purports and asked that it be translated and distributed worldwide. Yet sometimes he noticed that his disciples were not taking the time to read it. He said, therefore, that his books were not just for selling; they were there to be read by the devotees. If we don't eat, our bodies will die. And if we don't read Prabhupada's books we will die in spirit. The Bhagavatam is meant to nourish us.
Readers of the Bhagavatam often question the relationship between their work and the spiritual practices of chanting and hearing. Prabhupada told us we should work and think of Krsna at the same time. Remembering what we have read in the Bhagavatam provides a foremost way to practice Krsna meditation.
We have other duties. We cannot read and chant all day long. But we shouldn't give up our meditation on Krsna while we perform those duties. In the Bhagavad-gita Krsna tells Arjuna to fight on the battlefield and think of Him. "The most confidential part of knowledge," Srila Prabhupada writes (Bg. 18.65), "is that one should become a pure devotee of Krsna and always think of Him and act for Him. One should not become an official meditator. Life should be so molded that one will always have the chance to think of Krsna. One should always act in such a way that all his daily activities are in connection with Krsna. One should arrange his life in such a way that throughout the twenty-four hours he cannot but think of Krsna."
Krsna recommends, "In all activities just depend upon Me and work always under My protection. In such devotional service, be fully conscious of Me." The ideal form of work is to remember Krsna in all our activities.
But what if the work we do demands our attention? Is it enough simply to think we are working on Krsna's behalf? Does this constitute "meditation on Krsna"?
In a purport to Bhagavad-gita (18.57), Srila Prabhupada gives us a phrase to think of while we work: "I have been appointed to discharge this particular duty by Krsna." While thinking and acting in this way, Srila Prabhupada says, one naturally has to think of Krsna, and this is perfect Krsna consciousness.
If we're not advanced enough for Krsna's pastimes to appear spontaneously in our minds, we can remember this phrase Srila Prabhupada gives and apply it as our meditation as we work. Then we don't have to worry that we are not big meditators. If we take shelter of the Krsna consciousness movement, we can be meditating this way day and night.
We can know we are working on Krsna's behalf when we take Krsna's order directly from the Gita and when we accept the direction of the bona fide spiritual master. This is an open secret. Even such apparently simple work as sweeping the floor or washing the pots can be accepted as bhakti if performed in the proper consciousness.
When we engage in any service, we can remember our purpose and then remember Krsna and His activities. And we can chant constantly: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
The original source of meditation on Krsna is the Srimad-Bhagavatam. The Srimad-Bhagavatam is special. It describes not ordinary religiosity but pure devotional service. By our study of Srimad-Bhagavatam, the Lord appears in our hearts. When Suta Gosvami was asked by the sages at Naimisaranya where religious principles could be found after Lord Krsna's disappearance, he responded: "This Bhagavata Purana [Srimad-Bhagavatam] is as brilliant as the sun, and it has arisen just after the departure of Lord Krsna to His own abode, accompanied by religion, knowledge, etc. Persons who have lost their vision due to the dense darkness of ignorance in the Age of Kali shall get light from this Purana." Thus the Srimad-Bhagavatam is Krsna in literary form.
By studying the Bhagavatam and then remembering it in our day-to-day work, we can attain samadhi, the height of meditation. Prabhupada writes in one purport that distributing Krsna conscious books is real samadhi. Samadhi does not mean just sitting in yogic trance; it means absorbing your body, mind, and words in Krsna's service. Any service can be a vehicle for that samadhi if one's mind is focused on Krsna.
Even if we have to work in the material world, we can stay focused on Krsna. When I first met Prabhupada, I worked at a welfare office. Because I was around nondevotees all the time, I developed a habit of chanting silently to myself. One morning before going to the office, I asked Prabhupada, "If one of my fellow workers is talking nonsense, I chant in my mind. Is that all right?" He replied, "Not only are they sometimes talking nonsense, but even the greatest philosophers of this world are always talking nonsense. Yes, you can do this chanting in your mind."
There is the example of Mukunda Dasa, a doctor once sent to diagnose the Nawab of Bengal. The Nawab had several servants fanning him with peacock fans. When Mukunda Dasa saw the fans he at once thought of Krsna, went into ecstatic trance, and fell off the high platform on which he was sitting. The Nawab ran to him and asked, "Are you all right? What happened?" Mukunda Dasa recovered his composure, hid his ecstasy, and replied, "I'm all right. I have a disease similar to epilepsy."
Meditation on Krsna is open to all of us at all times. It is simply a matter of turning our minds in His direction. The externals of our situation don't matter. Chant and hear from the Bhagavatam, associate with devotees, and always think of Krsna. That will be the perfection of meditation and the success of your life.
Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami travels extensively to speak and write about Krsna consciousness. He is the author of more than two dozen books, including a six-volume biography of Srila Prabhupada.
Cooking Class: Lesson 16
By Yamuna Devi
GHEE—fully clarified butter—is an amazing substance. At room temperature ghee is semisoft and creamy. Melted, it pours like liquid gold. In fragrance ghee is sweet like caramel and more intense than butter. Because of its extraordinary taste, a little ghee goes a long way in flavor. Ghee is golden yellow to alabaster white, depending largely on its carotene content and the type of grasses eaten by the cows that gave the milk for the butter. Unlike butter, ghee can be stored at room temperature for months, and it can be heated to frying temperatures without burning.
The people of India have valued ghee for millennia, as they still do today. Ghee is the choice for classic dishes, it is essential for many aspects of temple worship, and Ayurvedic medicine praises it for health.
The cooking classes in this column follow the textbook Lord Krishna's Cuisine. This month, as we begin a new chapter—"Dairy Products and Dairy-Based Dishes"—the focus is ghee. If you've been following the classes, most likely you've made ghee, but if you haven't, now is the time to buy some unsalted butter and make a few ghee variations.
Some Facts About Ghee
Both Indian ghee and French clarified butter are made the same way, the only difference being that Indian ghee consists of pure butterfat fully clarified and French ghee is not fully clarified. Ghee is made from unsalted butter, composed essentially of water, butterfat, and solids of the protein casein. To make ghee one slowly heats the butter until the water fully evaporates and the casein separates from the pure butterfat. French clarified butter, which still retains some water and casein, should be kept refrigerated to prevent spoilage.
Removing the casein from butter has the advantage of holding down cholesterol. Pure ghee contains no lactose or oxidized cholesterol. Though you're best off checking with your doctor, many lactose-intolerant people find little or no difficulty digesting ghee. Since ghee has no casein, it is similar to many nut or vegetable oils.
Ghee contains beta carotene and vitamins A, D, E, and K. Beta carotene and vitamin E are both valuable antioxidants that help fight off disease and injury. Besides ghee, no edible fat except fish oil (if you consider that edible) contains vitamin A, which helps maintain good vision and keep the outer lining of the eyeballs moist. Ghee contains four to five percent linoleic acid, which helps the body properly grow and develop. Linoleic acid is an essential fatty acid often lacking in a vegetarian diet.
Modern research backs up the kitchen granny wisdom that mixing herbs and spices with ghee makes the herbs and spices more useful and beneficial. One or two daily teaspoons of ghee improves digestion, helps assimilation, and nourishes the brain. According to Caraka Samhita, an Ayurvedic text on health, ghee is "good for the eyes, stimulates digestion, supports skin glow, enhances memory and stamina, promotes longevity, and helps protect the body from various diseases."
Like all fats and oils, ghee is high in calories, so how much you can eat will vary with your age, weight, and activity.
Where to Buy Ghee
Shoppers will have to look around to find quality ghee on the shelves. Like oil, ghee does not need refrigeration, but to keep its goodness it must be properly stored—ideally in a cool, dark place in a well-sealed container. The only brand of ready-made ghee I buy is organic. It comes from Purity Farms, Inc., and is available at many large natural food and grocery stores. To find a store near you that sells it, you can get in touch with the company: 14635 Westercreek Road, Sedalia, CO 80135, phone (303) 647-2368. Organic ghee is not cheap; a one-pound jar costs $7 to $8, whereas you can make ghee at home from organic butter for about $4. If you live near an ISKCON farm community, call to see if they sell ghee.
The bulk of the world's commercial ghee comes from Holland, Australia, and Scandanavia. The quality ranges from acceptable to poor. Buy in small amounts to check quality. Look for vacuum-sealed containers. Don't confuse "vegetable ghee" with pure ghee—vegetable ghee is basically margarine.
Where and How to Use Ghee
Unlike butter, which burns at high temperatures, ghee can be used to saute, pan fry, and deep fry at temperatures from 250 ¼ to 375 ¼ F. You can use ghee in place of other fats in pastry dough to make the dough flaky. A little ghee jazzes up most plain foods. If you're trying to eat less fat, spray or barely drizzle warm ghee on plain steamed or baked vegetables. A few drops of ghee and freshly chopped herbs add a wonderful flavor garnish to unadorned fat-free soup, rice, pasta, or cooked beans.
Perhaps the most expressive use of ghee is in a seasoning called a chaunk or baghar. For a chaunk, ginger, chilies, and whole spice seeds are fried in small amounts of ghee until fragrant and added at either the start or the end of a dish. The possible flavors are virtually endless. Srila Prabhupada once commented, "Good ghee, good chaunk."
Yamuna Devi is the author of the award-winning cookbooks Lord Krishna's Cuisine; The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking and Yamuna's Table. She is a regular contributor to The Washington Post and Vegetarian Times. Write to her in care of Back to Godhead.
How To Make Ghee
I have made hundreds of pots of ghee in the last thirty years, and I always enjoy doing it. Preparing ghee is so easy and saves so much money that I rarely buy ghee. Like other fine-quality oils in my kitchen, most of my batches of ghee are flavor-infused with herbs or spices. My current favorite is made with cloves, cinnamon, and fresh curry leaves. I often make extra to bottle as gifts.
Of course, the quality of the ghee rests on the quality of the butter, so use the best available. You can get organic unsalted butter in some large natural-food stores, and you can always try to find a local organic dairy that has it.
To infuse ghee with flavor, for every pound of ghee you make add one, two, or even three of the following seasonings:
3-4 sprigs of fresh curry leaves
Place all of the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, with the surface of the butter at least 2 inches below the rim of the pan. Melt the butter over moderate heat and bring to a gentle boil until the butter is covered with foam. Reduce the heat to very low, and simmer the butter uncovered, stirring occasionally.
Cook until the casein solids have settled to the bottom of the pan and turned from white to rich brown. A thin transparent crust should appear on the surface of the clear, golden, near-motionless ghee. (Toward the end of cooking, watch closely to prevent burning.)
With a skimmer remove the crust and set it aside to use in rice, legumes, or vegetables. With a ladle remove all but the bottom inch of clear ghee and pour it into a sealable container through a coffee filter or a fine sieve lined with a paper towel. Then pour the rest of the ghee from the pot, stopping just short of the brown solids.
When the ghee has cooled to room temperature, seal the container well. The ghee will keep for a few months at cool to moderate room temperature. When the weather is warm, keep the ghee in the refrigerator.
Purported to strengthen a weak fire of digestion.
½ cup honey
Yield: about ¾ cup
Blend until well mixed. Spread on bread, toast, or flame-toasted capatis and offer to Krsna.
Divine Consciousness Of a Previous Life
By Urmila Devi Dasi
THE BHAGAVAD-GITA tells us that a child with good opportunities for genuine spiritual life must have progressed in yoga, or Krsna consciousness, in a previous life. Krsna tells Arjuna some symptoms of such a child. First, the child will be attracted automatically to the yogic principles, even without seeking them. Second, he or she will be an inquisitive transcendentalist. Third, the child stands always above the ritualistic principles of the scriptures.
Attracted to Krsna
Natural attraction to yogic principles—specifically, to serving Lord Krsna with love—is probably the most obvious symptom of previous devotion. That attraction shows in a child's delight in seeing a Deity or picture of Krsna and in enthusiasm when chanting in the kirtana. Such a child also quickly and naturally under-stands a theology that even for scholars seems difficult.
Keeping our children's attraction to Krsna alive—no, increasing it—is simple in theory but not always in practice. Every day we must give them ample opportunities to meet the object of their enthusiasm, and we must keep them from what will divert or dampen that enthusiasm.
The child who daily chants Hare Krsna, sees the Lord in His Deity form, keeps company with other devotees, and reads or hears the stories of Krsna or the philosophy of Krsna consciousness naturally grows in spontaneous attraction and affection for Krsna. Such a child does not have to seek that attraction or struggle to cultivate it. Since his or her heart is already fertile and the seed of devotion already there, the simple water and sunshine of devotional life quickly produce a healthy plant of love of God.
Yet many children who show natural devotion when very young can become materialistic as they mature. Generally this is because parents, teachers, and society have artificially suppressed, or at least neglected to culture, the children's innate feelings. We suppress those feelings when, for example, we have ordinary television programs playing in our house, when we send our children to schools full of friends and teachers who encourage material life, or when we in any way surround a child with influences contrary to his own devotional nature.
Besides showing signs of being attached to Krsna, as the child grows he or she will also show signs of being an inquiring transcendentalist.
Although children start asking questions practically as soon as they can talk, philosophical inquiry and answers become most crucial to a child's spiritual development beginning around age ten, when the child approaches physical and intellectual maturity. For the next five to ten years, a child often shows a previous connection with Krsna consciousness by an intense interest in philosophy. True, not all children are philosophically inclined to an equal extent. Yet a supportive atmosphere can often release a flood of interest in what may have appeared a dry riverbed of a child.
A supportive atmosphere means that adults who deal with children between the ages of ten and sixteen welcome questions as a sign that the child is a natural devotee. The questions may sometimes seem heretical or disrespectful; still, a wise adult welcomes them with warmth and kindness. Arjuna presents his demons of doubt to Lord Krsna. So must our children air their doubts, confusion, or understanding.
Of course, happily accepting questions is not enough. The child may be unsure whether discussion is welcome. I suggest setting aside two or three times a week, in school or at home, for discussing philosophy. The child can read a section from the Vedic literature and write down his questions about that section. We can then use those questions as a basis for discussion. Sometimes, of course, we may wander far from the original topic to points the child finds really of concern.
Above the Rituals
When we find a child who is not only attracted to Krsna consciousness and inquisitive about it but also beyond ritualistic principles, we know that this is a soul who has already understood the goal of religion. But this symptom of children with divine consciousness is probably the most difficult to understand and encourage.
Why? Because we adults may ourselves think in terms of ritual and religion. We may want to teach our children that Krsna consciousness is their "religion"—that they should identify themselves as "Hindus" or "Hare Krsnas" or "Vaisnavas" the way others identify themselves as "Catholics" and "Muslims." And we may feel that our religious identity and that of our children depend primarily upon accepting a certain ritualistic formula in contrast to the rituals of other religions. If we present spiritual life in this way, our children will probably reject it.
Krsna tells Arjuna that children born in families with good opportunities for spiritual advancement have already rejected a ritualistic concept of religion in a previous life. Why should they accept it now?
We show our love for our children when we emphasize sanatana-dharma. Sanatana means "eternal," and dharma means "the intrinsic nature of something." Our integral nature, without beginning or end, is to love and serve God, Krsna. If we successfully convince our children that Krsna consciousness is real and universal, they willfully and joyfully embrace it as the goal of their life.
We show the reality of spiritual life when we present our child with evidence to support what we're trying to convey. The best evidence is people who are achieving the spiritual success described in the scriptures. Our children should know such people, not only from stories in the scriptures but personally. Our children should also learn of empirical findings that can be thoroughly understood only from the Vedic literature. Sadaputa Dasa'a book Alien Identities is a good example of this kind of information. Another example is a Krsna conscious study of empiric evidence about the origins of life.
We can help our children understand the universality of the Vedic principles by showing how everyone, in various ways, is trying to know and love Krsna. While teaching our children about different religions or philosophies, we can show how sanatana-dharma is the most perfect expression of the essential principles of those religions and philosophies. Srila Prabhupada's discussions on philosophers and Satyaraja Dasa's books on comparative religions are very helpful. Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami also has many publications that accentuate the universal principle of sanatana-dharma.
Our children learn further that Krsna consciousness is universal when they see us applying it to every aspect of our life. Everything we do, eat, say, and think can be directed toward loving Krsna. Our example can take our children from the theoretical to the practical. They can then accept the practices of Krsna consciousness not as formalities or "rituals" in a negative sense, but as sensible, reasoned ways of achieving the goal of life.
When parents or teachers realize they have a prodigy to train—in music or mathematics, perhaps—they generally spare no trouble or expense to give the child the best opportunity to develop his or her talents. How much more we should do for the spiritual prodigy—the child fortunate to live in a Krsna conscious home.
Urmila Devi Dasi was initiated in 1973 and has been involved in ISKCON education since 1983. She, her husband, and their three children live at the ISKCON community in Hillsborough, North Carolina, where she runs a school for children aged 5-18. She is the main author/compiler of Vaikuntha Children, a gurukula classroom guidebook.
The Purpose of Pilgrimage
By Ravi Gupta
EVERY YEAR, as eagerly as Westerners flock to Hawaii on vacation, millions of Indians journey to tirthas, holy places of pilgrimage. According to the 1993 edition of the Guiness Book of World Records, the world's largest-ever gathering of people took place in 1989 at Prayag, India, where "fifteen million persons assembled with a common purpose"—to bathe in the sacred waters of the Ganges and Yamuna during the auspicious festival known as Kumbha-mela.
Every spring, despite local political turmoil, hundreds of pilgrims journey to the snow-covered peaks of Vaishnodevi, in Jammu and Kashmir. Similarly, thousands wait hours at a time to get just a moment's audience with Lord Balaji at Tirupati, in South India, and to sacrifice their hair, money, and jewelry for the pleasure of the Lord. Gangasagara, Kedarnatha, and Puskara are other examples of popular pilgrimage sites.
Pilgrimage is of such importance in India that it is undertaken even at the risk of life. The desire for darsana of the Lord who resides in a holy place—that is, to see the Lord and receive His mercy—is often so great that it seems to override all considerations of home, family, and friends.
My mother still remembers when her parents, some forty years ago, left home for the long pilgrimage to Badrinatha, high in the Himalayas. At the time the path was so treacherous that my grandparents were half expected never to return. Family and friends grieved and lamented. Still, my grandparents knew that the pilgrimage was something they just had to do.
What is the impetus behind such strong desires to visit holy places?
For many the impetus is the quest for spiritual pleasure. Dr. David Haberman, assistant professor of religion at Williams College in Massachusetts, says, "In my own work, I became very intrigued with the tremendous tapas, the tremendous difficulty, of the pilgrimage, and its relationship to the stated goal of the pilgrimage—ananda, or bliss ... It is basically these two divergent experiences—austerity and bliss—about which I would ask pilgrims. Why undertake such a grueling pilgrimage? ... I would hear again and again that they were doing it to experience ananda—joy or bliss."*
* Steven J. Rosen, ed., Vaisnavism: Contemporary Scholars Discuss the Gaudiya Tradition (New York: Folk Books, 1992) p. 324.
People also go to holy places to atone for sins and thus gain immortality. The Srimad-Bhagavatam explains, however, that merely washing away sinful reactions may be of little value, because such atonement can be like the bathing of an elephant. After an elephant cleanses itself in a river, it comes out of the water and throws dust all over its body. Similarly, as soon as pilgrims return from a pilgrimage, they may start committing sinful activities again, because they may still be dirtied by their material desires.
The sage Jamadagni advised his son Lord Parasurama on the actual meaning of atonement: "My dear son, killing a king who is an emperor is more severely sinful than killing a brahmana. But now, if you become Krsna conscious and worship the holy places, you can atone for this great sin." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 9.15.41)
So real atonement comes from becoming Krsna conscious, which requires the association of devotees. Srila Prabhupada explains, "Because an ordinary person cannot immediately surrender to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, he is advised to go from one holy place to another to find saintly persons and thus gradually be released from sinful reactions."
Srila Prabhupada says that one should go to holy places to meet pure devotees of the Lord. He writes, "Common men go to pilgrimage sites to get themselves purified of all sins. Thus the places of pilgrimage become overburdened with the sins of others. But when [pure] sages visit overburdened places of pilgrimage, they sanctify the places by their presence." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.19.8, purport)
Indeed, any place where pure devotees are present is a holy place, for it is they who sanctify it. When Vidura left home and went on pilgrimage, he met the sage Maitreya and heard from him the pastimes of Lord Krsna. After returning home, Maharaja Yudhisthira said to him, "My lord, devotees like your good self are verily holy places personified. Because you carry the Personality of Godhead within your heart, you turn all places into places of pilgrimage." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.13.10)
By hearing from a pure devotee in the pure atmosphere of a holy place, one realizes the true purpose in human life—love for Krsna. In Vrndavana, Srila Prabhupada once reprimanded a devotee for not attending a lecture and instead going off to visit holy sites. Prabhupada told the devotee that holy places were not for sight-seeing but for hearing about Krsna.
There are many holy places related with the Supreme Lord Krsna—Badrinatha, Dvaraka, Navadvipa, Vrndavana, Ramesvaram, Jagannatha Puri. These holy places provide unlimited spiritual benefit and fulfill all desires. Now, by the mercy of Srila Prabhupada, there are dhamas, or holy places, not only in India but all over the world. Prabhupada established hundreds of temples where we can easily obtain sadhu sanga, association with devotees, and worship Krsna in His Deity form. We can take advantage of New Jagannatha Puri in San Francisco and New Dvaraka Dhama in Los Angeles. We can obtain darsana of Radha-Rasavihari in Bombay, Radha-Paris-Isvara in France, Radha-Gokulananda in Brazil and London. And all over the world we can hear from people who have dedicated their lives to the service of the Lord. In this way we can turn all our travels into pilgrimages.
Ravi Gupta, age twelve, is the son of Ananta Rupa Dasa and Aruddha Devi Dasi, who run the Hare Krsna center in Boise, Idaho.
The Real Mother Earth
By Hare Krsna Devi Dasi
From the Srimad-Bhagavatam we learn that the earth is controlled by the goddess Bhumi Devi. The Bhagavatam's ancient Sanskrit texts give the history of her dealings with a king named Prthu Maharaja, an incarnation of the Supreme Lord's power to rule. When Mother Earth (Bhumi Devi) stopped feeding all the living entities on the planet, Prthu threatened her, and she assumed the form of a cow. Now the personality of Earth will reveal how she can be pleased if people use her resources properly.
"In the past you were my protector. Once, in the form of a transcendental boar, with your tusks you rescued me from the water at the bottom of the universe. You became famous as Dharadhara, he who holds the planet earth. But now, in the form of a great king, you threaten me with your sharp arrows. I cannot understand your actions."
Still poised to shoot, and unmoved by Mother Earth's flattery, Prthu Maharaja glared at her angrily.
Mother Earth was frightened, but she was determined to state her full case to Prthu Maharaja. Her words give an important message to leaders of nations today:
"Great sages say that human society can prosper by offering in sacrifice to the Supreme Lord the grains and herbs I produce. That's why I have provided these things abundantly in the past. But now, my dear King, all the seeds, roots, herbs, and grains I have produced for sacrifice are being used by exploitive atheists opposed to spiritual life.
"Not only are my grains and herbs being wasted for sense gratification, but I am not being properly maintained. The leaders of the world don't care about the pain they are causing me. They stand by indifferently, refusing to punish the rascals who steal the gifts I have offered my human children for their spiritual welfare. The negligence of the leaders fosters greed and destruction. Such leaders encourage thieves to use my offerings for their own pleasure and indulgence. That is why I have hidden all the seeds."
Someone may wonder why grains were not being properly used for sacrifice in a kingdom ruled by such an ideal leader as Prthu Maharaja, a plenary incarnation of the Lord. The answer is that Prthu Maharaja succeeded the reign of the demoniac king Vena, who had stomped out all religious activities, especially sacrifices to the Lord. Since Prthu Maharaja had just taken the throne, he had not yet fully re-established the principles of religion in his kingdom.
In the present day we can see that Bhumi Devi's statement is quite appropriate. For a long time Mother Earth has produced massive amounts of grain. But as the world has become more demoniac, people have stopped offering grains in sacrifice and have stopped receiving food with thanksgiving to the Supreme Lord. Instead, with chemicals they whip Mother Earth into producing grain for profit—producing grain to fatten animals for slaughter.
Mother Earth provides grains for sacrifice so that her human children can make spiritual progress and all her children can live peacefully together. But we've practically obliterated spiritual life, and we've devastated the earth's environment through commercial cattle raising and large-scale agriculture. Nor are Bhumi Devi's human and animal children living peacefully together. And the highest offense to Mother Earth? Although the cow represents Mother Earth herself, the crops Mother Earth provides for spiritual advancement are used to expand cow slaughter.
So it is not surprising that Bhumi Devi has begun to check the grain and food production by drought, floods, earthquakes, and erosion, especially in areas that support the production of meat. For example, along the Mississippi River several hundred thousand acres of prime farmland—an important source of cattle feed—are now covered with two to five feet of sand from the floods of the summer of 1993.
Those who take crops intended for sacrifice to God and use them for their own profit and sense gratification are considered thieves. "Because people are without Krsna consciousness," Srila Prabhupada explains, "they have become thieves, and consequently they are being punished by the laws of material nature. No one can check this, not even by introducing so many relief funds and humanitarian institutions. Unless the people of the world take to Krsna consciousness, there will be a scarcity of food and much suffering."
Prthu Maharaja listened as Mother Earth defended her actions. She then suggested what the king should do:
"O great hero, protector of all living entities, if you want to relieve the living entities by supplying them with grain, and if you desire to nourish them by taking milk from me, you should arrange to bring a suitable calf and a pot for the milk, as well as a milkman to do the work. Since I will feel affectionate toward my calf, your desire to take milk from me will be fulfilled."
After hearing the pleasing and auspicious words of Bhumi Devi, Maharaja Prthu set aside his bow and agreed to her suggestion. He transformed Svayambhuva Manu, the lawgiver of mankind, into a calf and milked all the herbs and grains from her udder, cupping his hands to catch them to offer in sacrifice.
Following the example of King Prthu, other living beings also took the essence out of the earth. Bhumi Devi is a loving mother not only to humans but to all living entities. Under the reconciliation begun by Prthu Maharaja, she began to supply nourishment for all of them.
The great sages transformed Brhaspati, the priest of the demigods, into a calf, made the senses into a pot, and milked all kinds of Vedic knowledge to purify words, mind, and hearing. The demigods made Indra, the king of heaven, into a calf, and from Mother Earth they milked the soma-rasa beverage. Nourished by drinking that nectar, the demigods became men-tally and physically powerful. The demons extracted various kinds of beer and liquor, which they put into an iron pot.
The inhabitants of the heavenly planets of Gandharvaloka and Apsaraloka drew the milk into a lotus-flower pot. The milk took the shape of beauty and sweet musical art. The snakes and scorpions took poison from Mother Earth as their milk, and they kept the poison in their holes.
Four-legged animals like the cows made a calf out of Nandi, Lord Siva's bull, and made a milking pot out of the forest. Thus they got fresh green grasses to eat. Ferocious animals like tigers transformed a lion into a calf and were able to get flesh as their milk. The birds made a calf out of Garuda, Lord Visnu's eagle. They took milk from Mother Earth in the form of moving insects and nonmoving plants and grasses.
One after another, all forms of living entities received their own kind of nourishment from Mother Earth. From then on, King Prthu was very much satisfied with Bhumi Devi because she supplied food for all the living entities. He developed an affection for the planet Earth, just as if she were his own daughter.
In that way, Prthu Maharaja demonstrated the ideal example of how a leader should maintain Mother Earth and teach the citizens how to use the things she provides. Srila Prabhupada explains, "Just as a cow cannot deliver sufficient milk without being affectionate to her calf, the Earth cannot produce sufficient necessities without feeling affection for those who are Krsna conscious.... If human beings are well-behaved, animals will also receive sufficient food and be happy."
Today the lessons from the dealings of Prthu Maharaja and Bhumi Devi are more crucial than ever. How can we best please Mother Earth? She is pleased when she sees her human children making spiritual advancement. That means they are happy. She is pleased to see them worshiping the Lord with the food she has provided and then taking the remnants as nourishing prasadam. She is happy when people chant Hare Krsna and dance in glorification of the Lord.
In some ways she is like a human mother. Usually no one wants to be kicked, yet a pregnant young mother feels great happiness when she gets kicked by the baby in her belly. She knows the baby is developing nicely. Similarly, though usually no one wants to be jumped on, when Mother Earth feels her human children jumping
Bhakti-yoga at Home
The Regulative Principles Of Freedom
By Rohininandana Dasa
EVERY NEW INITIATE in the Krsna consciousness movement vows to follow—for the rest of his or her life—four regulative principles: no gambling, no meat-eating, no illicit sex, and no intoxication.
Gambling, meat-eating, illicit sex, and intoxication disturb any spiritual practice, and they are said to be the four pillars of irreligion. They are at the root of all sins.
Our tendency to sin—to transgress God's laws and act independently—goes a lot deeper, of course, than drinking a pint of beer. But restricting harmful behavior helps create a suitable internal and external environment in which to practice Krsna consciousness.
If the four regulative principles seem strange or daunting, more to restrict than free us, we need to consider this: how severely restricted we are now as conditioned souls. Even our body shackles us at every turn as it goes through its phases of birth, growth, disease, dwindling, and death.
In fact, our present condition is a kind of disease. But Krsna consciousness offers us the correct diagnosis (that we are sleeping in maya), an effective medicine (chanting and hearing about Krsna), a suitable diet (prasadam), and the proper behavior (mercy, cleanliness, truthfulness, and austerity—the antitheses of the four sins).
If we try to be free by going our own way and neglecting the regulations of Krsna consciousness, we'll find that we end up under the dictatorship of our senses. The late Christian theologian Thomas Merton wrote, "It should be accepted as a most elementary human and moral truth that no man can live a fully sane and decent life unless he is able to say 'no' on occasion to his natural bodily appetites. No man who simply eats and drinks when he feels like eating and drinking, who smokes whenever he feels the urge to light a cigarette, who gratifies his curiosity and sensuality whenever they are stimulated, can consider himself a free person. He has renounced his spiritual freedom and become the servant of bodily impulse. Therefore his mind and his will are not fully his own. They are under the power of his conditioning, his appetites."
We need to understand that we are never masters but always servants. By our very nature we always serve someone—either "the devil" or the Lord. A person may be more or less sophisticated in serving the senses, but the end is the same: under dictatorship of the senses we do things that repeatedly get us into trouble, body after body.
Actually, we are thieves. For many births we have been taking and using Krsna's property and calling it our own. I may not consider myself a very big thief, but even if I take a glass of water and think, "This is mine," I'm a thief. As it's said in India, whether you steal a cucumber (khira) or a diamond (hira), stealing is stealing.
And because we are thieves, we are imprisoned by the walls of our independent spirit. A devotee therefore wants to become free of such "independence," and he feels great relief in his humble submission to the Lord.
In other words, a devotee feels a change of heart and a sense of contrition. He thinks, "My dear Lord, for so long I've avoided You. Trying to be the master, I've caused suffering to myself and others, and also, in some respect, to You. But now I intend to change; from now on I am Yours."
Despite such sincerity of purpose and conviction, one may still have difficulty following the four regulative principles. Despite the higher taste of Krsna consciousness, one may still retain the lower tastes.
Here are some tips to make following the regulative principles easier:
Suppose we find giving up meat-eating difficult. Within the Krsna conscious diet are preparations that taste almost like "the real thing." A dish called kofta—deep-fried dal patties in tomato sauce—tastes surprisingly like meat. Eggplant pakoras, made by deep-frying eggplant coated in a spiced batter, can satisfy the taste for fish.
We can also satisfy our hankering for meat by cooking with ghee. Ghee is said to contain the essence of meat because ghee comes from milk, which is produced from the cow's body. Also, on the market today are many meat substitutes, often made mostly of soya, which may help a person make the transition away from meat.
Another great tip and guiding principle concerns choosing the people with whom we associate. When my family and I visit my mother, for instance, she often remarks that if she could be with us all the time, for her to be a vegetarian would be easy. But as soon as we go, she slips back into her old habits. So association is important, and we should try to always associate with devotees.
But if we are determined to change we can, good association or no, despite our lifelong habits. Though living alone, a woman I knew became a vegetarian—at age eighty-six.
What about the sex problem? The regulation "no illicit sex" does not mean "no sex." It means sex for pro-creation only. Sex can be a spiritual act in the service of Lord Krsna. Devotee couples usually bring their newborn babies to the temple and place them before the altar as offerings to the Lord. Children are an important fruit of a marriage, and that fruit is all the sweeter when a child is planned for and wanted.
Knowing that in Krsna consciousness the rule is to have sex only to conceive children, couples coming to Krsna consciousness can try to create a suitable atmosphere of restraint, mutual support, and open communication, so that they can naturally and happily remove illicit sex from their relationship and replace it with the higher taste of Krsna conscious loving exchanges. Otherwise, attempts at celibacy may feel repressive, and the resultant frustration may create great strain for both the couple and their family. Repression, Lord Krsna says, doesn't accomplish anything.
Gambling is a popular pastime, and for some people a dangerous addiction. In the United States alone, sixty percent of the people gamble away millions upon millions of dollars. What a waste of human potential!
How to give up a penchant for gambling? We can start, as we do with the other principles, by dovetailing our gambling proclivity. In 1973, in England, Srila Prabhupada said that we don't actually give up gambling, because we are, in a sense, gambling that Lord Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. We stake our lives on this truth. If you are fascinated by the thrill of staking your hard-earned money, imagine the thrill of staking your hard-earned human life!
We can also consider that there's no such thing as chance. We can never successfully deny or beat the law of karma. Narada Muni explains in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.5.18) that happiness from sense enjoyment comes automatically in the course of time, just as miseries come even though we don't desire them.
We can also meditate on what must be the most momentous gambling match of all time: Maharaja Yudhisthira's game of dice with Sakuni and Duryodhana—which led to the great Kuruksetra war.
As for intoxication, I vividly remember how in the same 1973 lecture I mentioned earlier, Srila Prabhupada said that in Krsna consciousness we don't actually give up intoxication, because Krsna consciousness, or love of God, is itself a form of spiritual intoxication. We must simply learn to swim in the ocean of this kind of intoxication to leave our shallow, stagnant backwaters far behind.
People commonly use sex, eating, gambling, or intoxication compulsively to try to numb inner pain or assuage cravings for love and attention. But with the support of loving friends in Krsna consciousness, one can recognize and meet those inner needs and so feel more whole and fulfilled. When a person no longer feels driven to fill up an empty hole inside himself, following the "four regs" becomes much easier.
To want happiness and pleasure is natural. The Vedic mission, Srila Prabhupada says, is to make everyone happy: sarve sukhino bhavantu. Lord Krsna is as ananda-maya—by nature full of happiness. So we, as part of Him, are naturally happy too. The only thing that remains, therefore, is to uncover and connect with the source of our natural happiness. Srila Prabhupada has written a small book about this, called Krsna, the Reservoir of Pleasure.
In fact, as Krsna is unlimited and ever-increasing, so is the pleasure felt by His devotee. We will not find anywhere within the material world the intensity of happiness for which we hanker, because the material world is by constitution temporary (anityam) and unhappy (asukham), as certified by its creator, Lord Krsna (Bhagavad-gita 9.33). The very fact that we hanker for unending, unlimited, ever-increasing pleasure is proof in itself that this place is not our home.
If we still feel daunted by the prospect of following the four regulative principles, we can remember that we have a very powerful and kind friend who has our interest at heart. If we put ourselves on the line for Krsna, He will help us. "God helps those who help themselves." There are many wonderful accounts of how Krsna has helped people who sincerely try to walk the spiritual path but who sometimes slip and stumble.
Beginners who sometimes fall short in their efforts to follow the regulative principles can still chant Hare Krsna and add the lotus-eyed Lord Krsna to their lives. Sooner or later everyone who does this will become fixed in the regulative principles, progress to the perfect stage, and go home, back to Godhead. That is Srila Prabhupada's wonderful gift.
The Start of an Exploration of Meaning
By Hridayananda Dasa Goswami
This paper, originally presented to the Committee on the Study of Religion, at the University of California at Los Angeles, examines five topics in the Bhagavad-gita. The first four of these topics appeared in parts one and two. Now the paper concludes with the fifth topic.
5. Krsna Has Spiritual Form
IN THE Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna stresses the personality of the Godhead as the highest feature of the Absolute Truth and therefore the goal of the yoga process. For example, at 8.8-10, Krsna states:
"One who is engaged in the practice of yoga, meditating with undeviating consciousness on the Supreme Divine Person, goes to that Supreme Person. One who constantly remembers Him as the primeval scholar, the steady ruler, smaller than the smallest, the creator of everything, as He whose inconceivable form is luminous like the sun and beyond darkness ... one who remembers Him thus attains to that Supreme Divine Person." ** (abhyasa-yoga-yuktena cetasa nanya-gamina paramam purusam divyam yati parthanucintayan (Bg 8.8) kavim puranam anusasitaram anor aniyamsam anusmared yah sarvasya dhataram acintya-rupam aditya-varnam tamasah parastat (Bg 8.9) prayana-kale manasacalena bhaktya yukto yoga-balena caiva bhruvor madhye pranam avesya samyak sa tam param purusam upaiti divyam (Bg. 8.8-10)) (1)
Similarly, Arjuna declares Krsna to be the "eternal divine person," ** (purusam sasvatam divyam (Bg. 10.12)) (2) and later Arjuna says, "I consider You the eternal Person." ** (sanatanas tvam puruso mato me (Bg. 11.18)) (3) At this point it is good to recall the strict ontological rule that Krsna enunciated at the very beginning of His teaching: "Of the temporary there is no real existence, and of the eternal there is no cessation." ** (nasato vidyate bhavo nabhavo vidyate satah (Bg. 2.16)) (4) Thus when Arjuna declares Krsna the eternal person, it is understood that Krsna's personality has no beginning or end. Indeed Arjuna states that Krsna is ajam, "unborn" (Bg. 10.12). It is significant that Krsna states that not only He Himself but in fact individual souls in general are beginningless: "Know that both material nature and the individual person [purusa] are beginningless. It is the accidental qualities and transformations of prakrti that come into being." ** (prakrtim purusam caiva viddhy anadi ubhav api vikarams ca gunams caiva viddhi prakrti-sambhavan (Bg. 13.20)) (5) So the sanatana-purusa, the "eternal person," cannot refer to a material form.
Since Krsna is an eternal, supreme, divine person, it is natural that He has an abode, and that is also described within the Gita: "The sun does not brighten it, nor the moon, nor fire. Having gone to it, they never return—that is My supreme abode." ** (karna tad bhasayate suryo na sasanko na pavakah yad gatva na nivartante tad dhama paramam mama (Bg. 15.6)) (6) Similarly: "It is said to be unmanifest and indestructible, and they call it the supreme destination. Having achieved it, they never return from My supreme abode." ** (avyakto 'ksara ity uktas tam ahuh paramam gatim yam prapya na nivartante tad dhama paramam mama (Bg. 8.21)) (7)
According to the Bhagavad-gita, the supreme personality of the Godhead is not merely myth, poetry, or symbol, but rather spiritually tangible form and being, which is avyakta, unmanifest, only to the materially conditioned soul. Thus in the seventh chapter of the Gita, Lord Krsna says, "The unintelligent think that I am unmanifest, but that I have become a manifest, visible person, for they do not know My supreme nature, which is inexhaustible and of incomparable excellence." ** (avyaktam vyaktim apannam manyante mam abuddhayah param bhavam ajananto mamavyayam anuttamam (Bg. 7.24) ) (8)
So important is this verse that we shall examine its key terms in detail. Lord Krsna says that "the unintelligent [abuddhayah, plural of abuddhi, literally "those without intelligence"] think [manyante] that I am avyaktam, unmanifest, but that I have become vyaktim, a manifest person." The term avyaktam contrasts with the term vyaktim not only in the sense of the invisible versus the visible, but also in contrasting a type of impersonal existence with a personal, individual reality. This sense of avyakta as impersonal, in contrast to the personal, is clearly evident at Bg. 12.1 and Bg. 12.3, and is also strengthened by the fact that here at Bg. 7.24 Lord Krsna contrasts avyaktam not with its immediate antonym vyaktam, "the manifest," but with the cognate vyaktim, which more specifically indicates a manifest, individual person.
Krsna says, then, "The unintelligent think that I am impersonal and unmanifest but that I have become a distinct, visible, individual person. They think this because they do not know my supreme, transcendental nature [param bhavam] ..." The param bhavam, or "supreme nature," mentioned here is clearly the transcendental nature of the vyakti, or visible personal identity of Krsna. It is difficult to find another straightforward reading of this simple Sanskrit sentence.
Lord Krsna's statement at Bg. 7.24 contrasts in a curious way with another use of the terms avyakta and vyakti at Bg. 8.18. There the Lord says, "On the coming of the day [of Brahma] all the individual beings come forth from the unmanifest, and on the coming of the night [of Brahma] they are merged into the very place called the avyakta." ** (avyaktad vyaktayah sarvah prabhavanty ahar-agame ratry-agame praliyante tatraivavyakta-samjnake (Bg. 8.18)) (9)
There are several significant features of this statement. Krsna uses the term vyaktayah, the plural nominative form of vyaktih, and He says that all these vyaktis (my translation: all the individual beings) come forth from the unmanifest, avyakta, during the day of Brahma. Since there is clearly a plurality of living beings mentioned here (and everywhere else in the Gita), and since the term vyakti is here used to describe the beings at their specific stage of manifestation, coming forth with Brahma's day, it is clear in this context also that the term vyakti refers to an individual, manifest person, active within the world.
Because one might tend to associate the term vyakti with the conditioned souls visible in this world, Krsna takes care to emphasize, when using the word to refer to Himself, that He does not, as do the conditioned souls, acquire a visible form upon coming to this world. Indeed the entire argument at Bg. 7.24 is that Lord Krsna does not assume His visible, personal form at all, but that His personal form is His superior nature, param bhavam. In fact, Krsna explains almost immediately after this, at Bg. 8.20, that the param bhavam (inflected here as paro bhavah since it shifts to the nominative from the accusative) is beyond the avyakta, the unmanifest from which the ordinary souls come forth on the coming of Brahma's day.
Although Lord Krsna describes that paro bhavah as being a superior avyakta or unmanifest realm, we find at Bg. 8.21 that here the paro bhavah actually refers to the Lord's supreme abode. In other words, although to ordinary persons His supreme abode is not manifest, Krsna descends from His abode so that we can see Him as He is. This is the highest sense of avatara.
The same term paro bhavah has been used at Bg. 7.24 to indicate the spiritual nature of Krsna's personality, and at Bg. 8.20 the term is used specifically to describe the spiritual quality of the Lord's abode, but in either case it is clear that the paro bhavah at Bg. 8.20, or indeed the param bhavam mentioned at Bg. 7.24, is beyond the avyakta mentioned at Bg. 8.18 as the status from which conditioned souls, also called vyaktis, come forth to manifest in this world.
The conclusion is that the Gita affirms the spiritual personality of the Lord, which is not a mere symbol of, incarnation of, or way of getting at, etc., an unmanifest impersonal Absolute Truth. Rather Krsna is a person. Indeed He is the supreme, eternal, and divine person to whom we are to surrender. And this, in a nutshell, is what the Bhagavad-gita is essentially teaching. But the personal form of the Lord is not to be known by mental speculation. Thus the term vyaktim is used also at Bg. 10.14 when Arjuna says to Krsna, "Neither the gods nor the demons, O blessed Lord, know Thy personality [vyaktim]." ** (na hi te bhagavan vyaktim vidur deva na danavah (Bg. 10.14)) (10) Rather, "It is by devotion that one knows Me in truth, as I actually am." ** (bhaktya mam abhijanati yavan yas casmi tattvatah (Bg. 18.55)) (11)
Krsna's Humanlike Body
That Lord Krsna is ultimately to be known as the Supreme Person is made even more explicit at the beginning of the twelfth chapter. Arjuna asks the Lord, "Who are the greatest knowers of yoga—those who are Your devotees, always engaged in worshiping You, or those who worship the unperishing unmanifest?" ** (evam satata-yukta ye bhaktas tvam paryupasate ye capy aksaram avyaktam tesam ke yoga-vittamah (Bg. 12.1)) (12) Here Arjuna places personal devotion to Krsna and worship of the avyakta, the unmanifest feature of the Absolute, in direct competition. Krsna at once replies, "Always engaged in fixing their minds on Me, those who worship Me with transcendental faith I consider to be most intimately united with Me in yoga." ** (mayy avesya mano ye mam nitya-yukta upasate sraddhaya parayopetas te me yuktatama matah (Bg. 12.2)) (13) Both in Arjuna's original question (Bg. 12.1) and in Lord Krsna's reply, the personal pronoun indicating Krsna (Arjuna's tvam, "You," and Krsna's mam, "Me") is used to indicate the personal concept of God, in contrast to the impersonal unmanifest.
The artificiality of the impersonal path for the eternal individual soul is made clear at Bg. 12.5, wherein Lord Krsna says that in contrast to the path of bhakti, which is susukham kartum, "very joyful to perform" (Bg. 9.2), the path of meditation on the unmanifest, the ineffable, all-pervading Absolute is just the opposite. It is duhkham, or miserable to perform. Indeed, Krsna calls the impersonal path kleso 'dhikataras, or "exceedingly troublesome." (Bg. 12.5)
Sri Krsna also states: "Because I in here in a humanlike body, foolish people disrespect Me, for they do not understand My transcendental nature." ** (avajananti mam mudha manusim tanum asritam param bhavam ajananto ... (Bg. 9.11)) (14) It is certainly noteworthy here that Lord Krsna repeats exactly the same words as in Bg. 7.24—"not knowing My transcendental nature" (param bhavam ajananto ... Bg. 7.24, Bg. 9.11). Thus the unintelligent (abuddhayah) who think that Krsna has assumed His personal form are compared to the foolish (mudhah) who disrespect Krsna because He appears in a humanlike body.
Krsna states at Bg. 9.11 that He inheres in a humanlike body. The Sanskrit phrase is manusim (humanlike) tanum (a body) asritam (I have inhered in). That which is inherent is essential and intrinsic, and this notion that the Lord originally manifests in a spiritual form is also indicated elsewhere in the Gita. Let us turn to chapter four, wherein Krsna elaborately describes His descent into this world. Lord Krsna states:
"Although I am unborn and My Self never deteriorates, and although I am the Lord of all beings, utilizing My own energy I appear by My own potency. Whenever there is a decline of dharma, O Bharata, and a prominent rise of adharma [irreligion], at that time I manifest My Self. To deliver the pious, to destroy the evil-doers, and to establish dharma, I appear in every age." ** (ajo 'pi sann avyayatma bhutanam isvaro 'pi san prakrtim svam adhisthaya sambhavamy atma-mayaya (Bg 4.6)) (15)
Some of the problems infecting Western Indological studies can be seen in how one scholar has paraphrased the above verses, and then translated the last of the three, in a well-known textbook on Hinduism:
In reality he is apart from the world as the Lord of all beings, but whenever worldly righteousness declines he creates a form for himself out of Prakrti by his mysterious power [maya] and manifests himself among men:
(Bhagavad Gita 4.8)
There are two grave problems with this translation:
First, the scholar inserts the foreign notion that Krsna "creates a form for himself out of Prakrti by his mysterious power." The view that Krsna is different from His personal form, a form presumed here to be made of matter, is not in accord with what Krsna says. Indeed He says the opposite.
At Bg. 4.6 the Lord says that He is "unborn" and that His self "never deteriorates." The word for self is the standard term atma, and avyaya means "unperishing, undecaying." The term avyaya-atma is hard to construe as designating anything different from the personal form of Krsna, because in the very next verse Krsna states that when He descends He does so by manifesting that same atma (tada atmanam srjamy aham Bg. 4.7). In other words, the form Krsna sends forth to this world is eternal.
In English syntax, Krsna simply says, tada aham srjami atmanam: "Then I manifest [My] Self." The verb here is srj: to let go, release, discharge, send forth; also: to create, beget, procreate. We cannot apply here the latter sense—creating, begetting, etc. After all, Lord Krsna has just stated that His atma is avyaya, imperishable, and the Gita has clearly said from the outset that things which arise in time also end in time: "For that which is born, death is certain." (jatasya hi dhruvo mrtyur Bg. 2.27) Thus within the clear ontology of the Gita there is no way in which anything, much less a divine "self," can come into being and then last forever. There is no such entity in the Bhagavad-gita.
If we then accept the verb srj in the alternative sense—to release, discharge, send forth—we still have nothing like the scholar's "he creates a form for himself." Krsna appears to be saying something quite different, and quite simple and straightforward: "I send Myself forth to this world." After all, who else but Krsna could order the descent of Krsna, the supreme authority by whose order (Bg. 9.10) all the universe turns?
The other problem with the scholar's translation is that the phrase "I come into being" makes no sense. Lord Krsna has explained that He has always existed (na tv evaham jatu nasam Bg. 2.12); in fact (Bg. 2.12, 13.20), not only Krsna but all living entities are beginningless.
The verb the scholar has translated as "I come into being" is sambhavami, the present tense, first person singular, of sam-bhu, which means, first, "to be or come together." Thus we should understand that Lord Krsna is simply stating that by His descent (avatara) He comes together with the souls of this world for their eternal benefit. As Krsna has stated twice in the Gita (Bg. 9.17, 14.4), He is the father of all living beings, and thus (Bg. 5.29) He is the well-wishing friend of all.
An additional sense of sam-bhu is "to be born or produced from." But this sense normally requires an ablative noun—the subject of the verb must be born or produced from something. In the verse the scholar is translating, such an ablative word is conspicuously absent, and, as explained above, that meaning is anyway theologically impossible.
A third sense of the verb is "to arise, spring up, develop." This inapplicable sense may be the one the scholar has in mind. But in that case, we may say that Krsna arises in this world as the sun rises in the eastern horizon. Surely we would not say that the sun "comes into being" daily.
A fourth sense of the verb, which like the first clearly does apply, is "to prevail, be effective." The verb has yet other senses, but the first and fourth, for various contextual and grammatical reasons, are the likely candidates.
Lord Krsna concludes the topic of His descent into this world at 4.9, where He states: "One who thus understands, in truth, My divine birth and activities does not, upon leaving the body, go to another birth. He goes to Me, O Arjuna."
Krsna says that His birth and activities are divine, divya, and of course this is the same adjective we have seen used many times to describe Krsna as the supreme divine person. Krsna stresses that one must understand His birth in truth (tattvatah). But if, as some scholars claim, Krsna's birth was merely the assuming of an ordinary material form, why would this word of caution be used? And how would mere understanding of His birth be enough to guarantee liberation? The text forces us to look at the position of Krsna more seriously.
There is much more to say about the position of Krsna in Bhagavad-gita. The topics we have covered, though important, are but a few. One may or may not choose to believe what Krsna is saying, but before examining whether it is true one should first understand Krsna as He is. And this can be done by reading Bhagavad-gita As It Is, by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
by Satyaraja Dasa
THE JOYOUS ELEPHANT-FACED DEITY known as Ganesa is revered by one billion Hindus worldwide, and though his worship has little place in the modern-day Hare Krsna movement, his personality and pastimes are part of ISKCON's heritage.
Ganesa is often seen as the creator and remover of obstacles, as the guardian at entrances, and as a spiritually potent figure who can avert all evil influences. In popular Hindu lore he is thus the god to be worshiped first, before all religious ceremonies, public and private. Things tend to start off with Ganesa, and this is reflected even in common idiomatic phrases. For example, in Maharashtra when a dedication or inauguration is to be performed, a Marathi speaker may refer to the occasion as sri ganesa karne ("doing the Sri Ganesa"). Another such expression is ganapatice kele ("to conceive a child"). Similar phrases are found in other Indian languages.
Since Ganesa is considered the lord of beginnings, for the first installment in this series about the demigods we start with him.
According to the Vedic literature, behind the workings of the cosmos stand powerful controllers, known as devas, or demigods. As we people in this world control our cars or homes, the devas control various aspects of the cosmos.
Ganesa is a popular hero whose image adorns the walls of shops, homes, and temples throughout India. Even for people unfamiliar with Indian culture or the Vedic literature, Ganesa is perhaps the easiest of all demigods to identify, with his human body, elephant head, and potbelly. He is usually pictured standing, sitting, or dancing, with his jolly elephant face looking straight ahead. Ganesa is at times depicted with quill on palm leaf, for as Vyasa dictated the Mahabharata, Ganesa served as the scribe to write it down.
Ganesa is missing one tusk, a piece of which can sometimes be found in one of his four hands. In another hand he sometimes holds a hatchet (parasu), which, according to some texts, is for cutting away illusion and false teachings. Another of Ganesa's hands often gestures fearlessness and reassurance (varada-hasta-mudra). He also holds a goad (ankusa), like that used by an elephant trainer, symbolizing his insistence on proper training or spiritual discipline. He sometimes holds a noose (pasa) used for restraining wild animals, here representing the restraint of passion and lustful desires. Sometimes he is seen holding sweets (modaka), for which he is said to have an inordinate fondness. Hence the belly.
Who is this strange-looking god, and what, if anything, does he have to do with the worship of Krsna or Visnu?
Vedic texts reveal that Ganesa is the son of Siva and Parvati, although his sonship, like that of his half-brother, Skanda-Subrahmanya, is peculiar. According to one version, Siva "emits" from his body a handsome son who becomes a seducer of women. Parvati is offended by her son's exploits and curses him to have the head of an elephant and a big belly—in other words, to be ugly. Though with this he would seem fated to celibacy, he gradually settles down with two wives: Buddhi ("wisdom") and Siddhi ("success"), who can see beyond his physical ugliness.
As time passes, Ganesa becomes the commander of Siva's troops (gana-isa or gana-pati), and because he becomes famous as one who creates obstacles for the demons and removes obstacles for the demigods or the devotees, he is known as Vighnesvara ("lord of obstacles") and Vinayaka ("one who removes [obstacles]"). The "obstacle" theme also tells us why Ganesa uses a rat as his vehicle. As rodents generally succeed in gnawing their way through any obstruction, the rat, it is said, symbolizes Ganesa's ability to destroy every obstacle.
In another, more popular version of the Ganesa story, Parvati, wanting to seclude herself from her passionate husband, Siva, especially while bathing, creates a son from her perspiration and appoints him the guardian of her quarters. Soon after, when Siva seeks admission into Parvati's inner chambers, Ganesa, unaware of Siva's identity, refuses him, pushing him away from Parvati's door. Not one to be slighted, the enraged Siva summons his attendants (ganas) to do away with this bothersome upstart. But Ganesa defeats them one by one. Finally Visnu arrives, and drawing upon His maya (mystic potency) He creates confusion on all sides. This enables Siva to cut off Ganesa's head.
Parvati, furious at what has become of her "son," decides to send a multitude of goddesses to harass the demigods. These celestial women succeed in making it clear to the noble gods that their queen can be appeased only if her guardian is revived. Siva then tells the gods to go north and cut off the head of the first living being they see. The head is to be mystically placed on the body of the decapitated Ganesa, who will then come back to external consciousness. As fate would have it, the first living being to cross the path of the gods is an elephant.
The various Ganesa stories described above—found primarily in the Siva Purana and the Brahma-vaivarta Purana—are somewhat divergent, and tradition accounts for this by placing the variations in different cycles of cosmic time. "Because of the distinction between kalpas [ages]," the Siva Purana explains, "the story of Ganesa's birth is told in different ways." The cyclical structure of Vedic time allows for repeated descents of the Lord and His devotees, so details of the pastimes may vary.
According to popular Indian tradition, Ganesa is a benign and helpful deity who brings success and assures worldly well-being. Since devotees of Krsna are more interested in spiritual realization than in worldly security, ISKCON tends to forgo the worship of Ganesa. Lord Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita (9.23), "Those who are devotees of other gods and worship them with faith actually worship only Me, O son of Kunti, but they do so in a wrong way." Lord Krsna uses the word avidhi-purvakam: "in an inappropriate way." Why is such worship of demigods inappropriate? Because it is materially motivated. As Lord Krsna says, "Men in this world desire success in fruitive activities, and therefore they worship the demigods." (Bg. 4.12)
Since we are essentially spiritual beings in a material body, material rewards can never truly satisfy us. Only spiritual rewards are satisfying for a spirit soul. Therefore Srila Prabhupada, concurring with the above two Gita texts, says, "[To worship] Ganapati is not required, but sometimes we do it. Just like the gopis—they worshiped Goddess Durga, Katyayani. They did not require to worship her, but that was part of the social system. But they asked, 'Mother Katyayani, give us the opportunity to have Krsna as our husband.' Their aim was Krsna." (Morning walk, Los Angeles, January 10, 1974)
So the worship of Ganesa, like that of his mother, Durga (Parvati), is not condemned, but it should be done for the proper reasons: Ganesa is a devotee of Lord Krsna, and we can pray to him to remove obstacles on the road to Krsna consciousness. In this regard, Brahma-samhita (5.50) explains that Ganesa is Krsna's devotee. The success achieved by worshiping Ganesa depends on Lord Krsna, and therefore such worship should ultimately be directed to Krsna: "For the power to destroy all obstacles to progress in the three mundane worlds, Ganesa holds on his elephant head the lotus feet of Govinda. I worship Govinda, Krsna, the primeval Lord."
This is the continuation of an exchange between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and an official from an impersonalist ("God-is-simply-everyone-and-everything") movement. The exchange took place in Paris, on August 13, 1973, with Srila Prabhupada's disciples translating the official's remarks from French.
Official: Many great masters like you from the East tend to smile at our explanation that the Absolute is beyond words. So what can I say?
Srila Prabhupada: Your knowledge is not perfect.
Official: Yes, my knowledge is not perfect, and like you, I am simply trying for perfect knowledge.
Srila Prabhupada: But unless you know your goal perfectly, how can you make progress?
Official: Well, our organization as a whole is the guru, and our organization as a whole knows the ultimate goal.
Srila Prabhupada: But you are part of that organization, and you do not know.
Official: The evolution of man—the goal of our order—is something mystical. It is not scientific, that it is so easily explained.
Srila Prabhupada: That means your goal is vague. It is not distinct.
Official: I am surprised that you raise such objections. I thought that you were also searching for something mystical. I have heard your chanting. I thought you were also searching.
Srila Prabhupada: No, no, we have a definite goal—Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He has His form, He has His place, He has His name, He has His pastimes, He has His kingdom, and we want to enter that kingdom.
Official: In any event, ours is not a new order. It goes back at least as far as ancient Egypt.
Srila Prabhupada: That's all right. But you do not know what is the goal of your spiritual pursuit.
Official: All I can do is repeat to you my previous answer. Our goal is to reach the perfection of consciousness, at which point man is in communion, in unity, with the beyond, the inexplicable.
Srila Prabhupada: But you say you cannot express what is that "beyond." You cannot describe what God is. That is imperfect knowledge.
Official: Communion with God, knowledge of God, is something subjective. It is something you experience, not something you describe.
Srila Prabhupada: Knowledge achieved that way is imperfect.
Official: According to every individual's place of birth, his age, his upbringing, he will experience this communion with God differently.
Srila Prabhupada: No. God is God. If the experience actually comes from God, then it will be equally available for everyone.
Official: What we are looking for in our order is the ultimate realization—when all these other relative communions with God will disappear and there will be one common realization, one common experience of God.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, that's all right. But if you cannot describe what that ultimate goal is, then how can others be attracted?
Official: But in our society we have many different religions, many different groups, and we don't ask anyone to leave being Christian or Jew or Muslim or Hindu or anything like that.
Srila Prabhupada: Nor are we asking in that way. We are asking, "What is that ultimate goal?"
Official: Ultimately, by following a process that our order gives its students, one reaches the goal.
Srila Prabhupada: Suppose you want me to go to London. That means you must tell me enough about London to make me interested in going there. Otherwise, what is the use of going to London?
Official: Our students feel the need for this ultimate perfection, and that is why they come to our movement.
Srila Prabhupada: But if they do not know what that ultimate perfection is, this is bogus.
Official: The ultimate perfection is realization of God.
Srila Prabhupada: But, for instance, if I say, "If you do this, you can make one million dollars," first you have to know the value of one million dollars. Then you'll endeavor. But if we don't know what the value of that one million dollars is, why should we endeavor?
Official: All of our students—they know the value of realizing God in their heart.
Srila Prabhupada: How do they know? How do they know?
Official: We have many people who are aspiring after a richer, more spiritual life.
Srila Prabhupada: What is that spiritual life?
Official: High spiritual values.
Srila Prabhupada: These are simply words. What is that spiritual life? I want to know. You are simply speaking. You do not know what the aim is, what the goal is, what spiritual life is. This is useless. You have no tangible knowledge of anything that I have asked. I asked you, What is spiritual life? You cannot describe it. So how will you distinguish between spiritual life and material life?
(to be continued)
The Fire At Varanavata
Knowing of Duryodhana's evil plans, Vidura,
Translated from Sanskrit by Hridayananda Dasa Goswami
The sage Vaisampayana is telling the history of the Pandavas to their great-grandson, King Janamejaya. As the Mahabharata continues, the Pandavas leave Hastinapura, their capital, for the charming city of Varanavata—and a trap set by Duryodhana.
THE PANDAVAS yoked their chariots with purebred horses that ran like the wind. As the Pandavas were about to mount for the journey, they felt sad to leave their family and friends. The Pandavas respectfully embraced the lotus feet of Bhisma, King Dhrtarastra, the great soul Drona, and other venerable elders like Vidura and Krpacarya. Thus the Pandavas offered heartfelt respect to all the senior Kurus, embraced peers, and accepted respectful greetings from the younger generation. Having begged permission to leave from all the elder ladies, whom the Pandavas regarded as their mothers, and having circumambulated the especially venerable ones, the Pandavas and all their ministers departed for Varanavata. The very wise Vidura and other Kuru leaders and citizens, their hearts pulled by the sorrow of separation, followed as the Pandavas, those tigers of men, departed.
Then, O noble Bharata, some brahmanas there, grieving terribly for the sons of Pandu, fearlessly began to speak out:
"King Dhrtarastra is completely covered by darkness, and he sees with unfair partiality. So bad is his intelligence that he cannot see the laws of God. Yudhisthira, the eldest Pandava, is a sinless man who will never approve a sinful act, nor will Bhima, best of the strong, nor the son of Kunti, Arjuna. And Nakula and Sahadeva, the two sons of Madri, are mature and great in wisdom and would never do evil. These men rightfully received the kingdom from their father, and Dhrtarastra cannot tolerate that. But why does Bhisma allow all this injustice—that the best of the Bharatas, the sons of Kunti, be improperly driven from their home?
"In the old days, the saintly king Vicitravirya, son of Santanu, was just like a father to us, and so was Pandu, the beloved of the Kurus. But now that King Pandu, a saintly tiger of a man, has gone to his blessed fate, Dhrtarastra will not tolerate the king's own sons, who are still like children. But we shall not tolerate this crime. Every one of us shall give up our home and leave this fine city to go with Yudhisthira."
When the shrewd and grief-stricken brahmanas had spoken thus, Yudhisthira, the king of virtue, was extremely pleased. He said to the brahmanas and the other citizens, "We have accepted the king as our father, as our best teacher. Therefore we have sworn to do without hesitation whatever he tells us. All of you are our well-wishing friends, so kindly circumambulate us and gladden us with your heartfelt blessings. Then please return to your homes. When the time comes that we need your help, you will surely act for our happiness and welfare."
"So be it," said the people, swearing their loyalty to Yudhisthira. Then, after circumambulating the princes and gladdening them with heartfelt blessings, the people went back to the city.
When the citizens had retired, Vidura, learned in all the principles of justice and religion, alerted Yudhisthira to imminent danger. Vidura clearly saw the best means to protect both body and soul. Learned in the art of riddles, he spoke to his wise nephew Yudhisthira, who was trained to understand them.
"One must act to escape disaster by understanding a sharp weapon, not made of iron, that cuts the body to pieces. This weapon does not strike the one who knows it and who turns it against his enemy; it slays the underwood and strikes down the cold. But it does not burn the inhabitants of holes in the great hiding place. One who guards himself lives.
"The eyeless know not the path; the eyeless find not the direction; the irresolute attain not the weal; awaken, thus alerted. A man who accepts the gift, a weapon not of iron, given by those who are not close can be saved from the devouring fire by going to the refuge of the porcupine. Wandering about, he knows the ways by the stars and finds his direction. Subduing the five with his mind, he will not be subdued."
Having accompanied the Pandavas for a short stretch and given these instructions, Vidura then circumambulated them, granted them permission to begin their journey, and returned to his home.
When Vidura, Bhisma, and all the townspeople had gone back to their homes, Kunti called her son Yudhisthira, who hated no one, and said to him, "When Vidura spoke to you in the middle of the crowd, it seemed like he was not saying anything coherent, and yet you agreed to his words. We don't understand the conversation you had with him. If we are able to hear about it, and there is nothing indecent, then I would like to hear all about it."
King Yudhisthira said, "Vidura told me we must beware of poison and fire. He also said that no path should be unknown to us. And he said, 'You will gain the abundant earth if you conquer your five senses.' I then said to Vidura, 'I have understood it all.'"
Arrival In Varanavata
On the eighth day of the month of Phalguna, under the star Rohini, the Pandavas and their mother departed. Upon arriving in Varanavata, they gazed upon the town and its people.
Hearing that the sons of Pandu had arrived, all the citizens came out of the city of Varanavata with joy and vigor. Riding on thousands of vehicles and carrying auspicious gifts as enjoined in the scriptures, they went toward the Pandavas, the greatest of men.
The city residents, known as the Varanavatakas, reached the sons of Kunti and offered blessings for their success. Then the people surrounded the Pandavas, eager to serve them in any way. Encircled by the citizens, Yudhisthira, a tiger of a man, shone forth like the king of the gods, thunderbolt in hand, surrounded by the immortals. Honored by the citizens, the faultless Pandavas honored them in turn and entered the beautifully decorated and bustling city of Varanavata.
Upon entering the city, O king, the heroic princes went at once to the homes of the brahmanas, who were busily and happily engaged in their religious duties. The brothers similarly visited the homes of the city governors and the noble chariot warriors. They next paid respectful visits to the homes of the merchants and workers, and in every house the Pandavas, leaders of the Bharata dynasty, were honored by the cityfolk. Finally they went to their own temporary lodging, where Purocana [Duryodhana's adviser], there to receive and welcome them, offered them valuable seats, fine food and drink, and clean, shining beds.
Worshiped by the local townfolk, the Pandavas dwelled there with their royal entourage, honored by Purocana and enjoying the most luxurious furniture and household accessories. After the Pandavas had stayed there for ten nights, Purocana brought them to that inauspicious house called Siva-grha, "the auspicious house." At Purocana's bidding, those tigerlike men entered the house with their royal entourage, just as the mystic Guhyakas enter fabled Mount Kailasa.
Yudhisthira could expertly analyze the properties and qualities of things. Carefully observing the house and smelling the subtle aroma of fat mixed with butter and lac, he said to Bhimasena, "This residence is clearly made to go up in flames. Hemp and resins were used to build it, and the straw, rope, bamboo and other materials have all been sprinkled with clarified butter, O mighty one. It was well constructed by expert craftsmen who are trusted servants of evil Purocana. He now wants to burn me alive when my guard is down. Vidura is very intelligent, Partha, and having seen this danger he has already alerted me to it. Now that he has apprised us, we have recognized this to be an 'inauspicious house,' well built by our respectable teachers who seem to be secret followers of Duryodhana."
Bhimasena said, "If you think this house was built to go up in flames, then we had all better go back to our previous residence."
Sri Yudhisthira said, "No, I feel we should live here for now, acting very innocent and casual. Our enemies will think we are already lost, and that will give us time to think of a sure way to escape. If Purocana discovers any clue to our real plan, if he sees fear or anxiety in our faces, then he will act at once. By the most violent and unpredictable means, he will burn us to death. Purocana does not fear public censure or the reactions to sin. He is a fool who cares only about the desire of Duryodhana, and he functions precisely on that basis.
"If we were to burn alive, perhaps our grandfather Bhisma would be enraged and not merely lament, and perhaps he would then rouse the Kauravas to anger for the atrocity. If he should be moved to fury, understanding that the sacred law demands it, then perhaps the other Kuru leaders would react in a similar fashion.
"If, on the other hand, we now flee in fear of being burned, certainly Duryodhana, out of his greed for the kingdom, will have us murdered by his spies. We have no position now; rather, he occupies the capital. We are without allies, but he is surrounded by them. We are bereft of a royal treasury, but his treasury is vast. Therefore it is certain that by various means he will have us murdered.
"We must cheat this wicked Purocana and his wicked master Duryodhana. We shall stay here for now, but we shall move here and there, concealing our whereabouts. We shall show a keen interest in hunting, and travel all over the country. By this means we shall acquire a good knowledge of all the roads and paths, and that will be necessary when the time comes to flee.
"Let us begin at once to build a very well hidden hole in the earth. If we conceal our endeavor, the consuming fire will not burn us. We must be very careful and dwell here in such a way that neither Purocana nor any of the local people discovers us."
O king, Vidura had a dear friend who was a professional excavator. One day he met the Pandavas in a secluded place and said, "Vidura has sent me. I am expert at digging, and Vidura told me, 'The Pandavas need help.' Please tell me, what can I do for you? Vidura told me in private, 'Have full faith in the Pandavas and try your best to help them.' So tell me, what can I do for you?
"On the fourteenth evening of the dark fortnight, Purocana will put fire in the door of your house. Duryodhana's determined plan, as I have heard it, is this: 'The Pandavas are leaders of the people, and they are to burn to death with their mother.' When you were leaving the city, Pandava, Vidura spoke a few words to you in the dialect of the Mlecchas, and you replied to him, 'So be it.' I say this to gain your trust."
Dedicated to truth, Yudhisthira, son of Kunti, then replied, "I know, kind sir, that you are truly a well-wishing friend of Vidura's, and that you are innocent, trustworthy, and always trying to please us. Your firm devotion to our cause is obvious, and there is no need for a password from the learned Vidura for us to recognize you. As Vidura is to us, so are you. We see no difference in you; we shall be true to you as we are to him. Now, please save us as the learned Vidura would.
"I am aware that Purocana built this so-called home, on Duryodhana's order, to burn us to death. The sinful son of Dhrtarastra has a great treasury and allies, and being a wicked, evil-minded man, he constantly harasses us. When we are burned alive, Duryodhana's desire will be fulfilled. But you, sir, must work to save us from that fire.
"Next door to us here is the fully equipped armory of wicked Purocana. Its ramparts come flush against our big house. Vidura certainly knew previously of Purocana's wicked plan, and therefore he took care to warn us. The crisis he had foreseen is now upon us. You must save us without exposing our plan to Purocana."
The excavator vowed to do as Yudhisthira asked, and set about the task with zeal. He dug a tunnel and a large hole in the middle of the house, with a deceptively small mouth so that it could be easily covered and the floor kept smooth and even. Fearing evil-minded Purocana, who practically lived in the doorway of the house, the excavator disguised the hole so well that it could not be detected.
The Pandavas spent their nights in the house, keeping their weapons near at hand, but during the day, on the pretext of a fondness for hunting, they wandered from one forest to another. Feigning confidence though having none, and feigning satisfaction though always in anxiety, the Pandavas lived in the greatest distress. But they successfully deceived Purocana. Nor could the residents of the city discover them, except for one man, a most skillful excavator, who was a trusted adviser to Vidura.
The House Of Lac Burns
Seeing the Pandavas happily dwelling there for one full year, and observing them fully confident and at ease, Purocana rejoiced. Yudhisthira was wise in the ways of men, and seeing Purocana so joyful, he said to his brothers Bhima, Arjuna, and the twins, "Wicked Purocana is convinced that we fully trust him, but that cruel man is deceived. I think it is time to escape. We shall ignite the armory and burn up Purocana, along with this house of lac, leaving six bodies here so we shall escape unnoticed."
That night, O king, on the pretext of giving charity, Kunti arranged a huge reception to feed saintly brahmanas and their wives. After the brahmanas ate, drank, and enjoyed as they desired, they begged their leave from Kunti and returned late at night to their homes.
The hand of destiny brought to that celebration a low-class Nisada woman and her five sons, who came to beg food. She and her sons became drunk and wild from drinking liquor, until they collapsed in the house of lac and slept without a trace of consciousness, as if dead.
A noisy wind blew that night, and all the city slept, O mighty king, when Bhima arose and ignited a blazing fire on the very spot where Purocana lay asleep. A roaring fire arose, consuming the armory and the house of lac. So ferociously did it roar and burn that all the city awoke.
The citizens said, "Sinful and stupid Purocana, engaged by Duryodhana, had this house built and burned down and thus destroyed his own soul. Damn the foolish mind of Dhrtarastra, who worked through his counselor to burn the pure and innocent Pandavas! The only good thing is that wicked Purocana himself has burned to death. His brain was so incredibly evil that he killed with fire the very best of men, the faultless sons of Pandu, who had such faith in him."
Thus the people of Varanavata spoke to one another. Surrounding the devastated house of lac, they kept vigil throughout the night.
Meanwhile, escaping unnoticed through the tunnel under the house, the Pandavas fled with their mother. The mighty Pandavas and their mother were very disturbed and unhappy, having passed the night without sleep in extreme anxiety, and they could not find the energy to run. Bhimasena, however, bristled with power and courage. Taking his brothers and his mother, he pushed forward, O king. Placing his mother on his shoulder, the twins on his hips, and his two powerful brothers Yudhisthira and Arjuna in his arms, mighty Bhima moved swiftly along under cover of night, breaking down trees, tearing apart the earth with his two feet, and blazing ahead with the power of the wind.
The Citizen's Anger
When the night was over, every man and woman in the city rushed about the ruins looking for the beloved sons of Pandu. When the people finally extinguished the blaze, they saw from the remains of the house that it had been intentionally built with lac and that the minister Purocana had burned in the blaze.
"Surely Duryodhana, that evildoer, arranged this to destroy the Pandavas," the people wailed. "Without doubt, Dhrtarastra's son has burned to death the heirs to Pandu's empire, and Dhrtarastra did not forbid this murder. It is now clear that Bhisma, son of Santanu, does not really follow the religious principles, nor do Drona, Vidura, Krpa, and the rest of the Kauravas. We ourselves shall send a message to the wicked Dhrtarastra: 'Your greatest desire is now fulfilled. You have burned to death the sons of your own brother Pandu.' "
Searching for the Pandavas, the people removed what was left of the burned house and saw the Nisada woman with her five innocent sons, burned to death. While helping to clean and purify the area, the very same excavator who had built the tunnel covered the hole with debris so that it was unnoticed by the other men.
The people of the town then sent word to Dhrtarastra that the Pandavas, along with the minister Purocana, had burned to death in a fire.
Upon hearing the shocking news of the destruction of the the sons of Pandu, Dhrtarastra lamented in great agony.
"Today my beloved brother King Pandu has died and there will be no other like him, for his heroic sons have burned to death along with their poor mother! Men must go at once to the city of Varanavata and offer the highest final honors to those heroes and to the precious daughter of King Kuntibhoja. Arrange at once for large, magnificent urns for their remains, and let all those who loved them, who were their friends, pay homage to them in this tragic moment. In these trying circumstances, anything I can do to benefit the departed souls of the Pandavas and Kunti must be done, and we shall spend for it!"
Having thus spoken, and surrounded by his relatives, Dhrtarastra, the son of Ambika, offered the holy water for the sons of Pandu. The Kauravas cried and shrieked in the depths of anguish, but Vidura lamented only briefly, for he knew the truth.
On The Run
In the meantime, the Pandavas, having escaped the city of Varanavata, sought safety to the south, and with great speed they made their way. Heading steadily south, they easily found their way by the stars. With much endeavor, O king, they reached the deep jungle under cover of night. Thereupon the sons of Pandu, pained by thirst, blinded by sleep, and their energy spent, spoke again to the great champion Bhima.
"What could be more miserable than for us to be here in this deep jungle? We have no idea where we are, and we don't have the strength to go any farther. We don't even know if Purocana has actually died in the fire. What can we possibly do to save ourselves from this danger without anyone's seeing us or knowing that we are alive? Carry us again, like before, and keep going. You are the only one of us who has any strength left, for only you can go on forever like the wind."
Thus addressed by Yudhisthira, who spoke for all the brothers, the mighty Bhima picked up his mother, Kunti, and his brothers, and raced forward.
Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day
A Dog's Life
by Mathuresa Dasa
"THE CORPORATION is not a family anymore. It's a team," advises William Morin, chairman of an outplacement firm in New York City. Mr. Morin and other job consultants are attempting to explain why "families" such as IBM and Proctor & Gamble have laid off tens of thousands of relatives in the past few years.
"Team" is the answer.
When business booms, the corporation can afford to treat you like family, employing you for a lifetime if you toe the line, take assignments that may repulse you, and agree to uproot your wife and kids at the drop of a hat.
When business doesn't boom, well, the corporation is a team, where non-essential players get the axe.
Known variously as restructuring, downsizing, and re-engineering, axing means you are a negligible creature, a dog begging for a home and scraps. This you get for years of service, and years too, before that, of education, including higher education. Was there something you missed at school?
"Modern university education," Srila Prabhupada replies, "practically prepares one to acquire a doggish mentality with which to accept the service of a greater master. After finishing a so-called education, the so-called educated persons move like dogs from door to door with applications for some service ... (Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.3.19, purport)
It's a wonder our educational systems produce so many M.A.'s and Ph.D.'s so little inclined or equipped for an independent livelihood, so eager for service as corporate dogs. Makes you wonder if the corporation has a hand in formulating your curriculum.
Not that service to others is in itself a flaw. Service is the dharma, or eternal nature, of every living thing. But human beings should aspire to serve with some degree of independence. In the strictly economic sense this may mean nothing more than taking the initiative and having the determination, come what may, to run your own business and be your own boss.
In the final analysis, however, independence, as far as independence is possible, requires realization of our eternal selves. If like dogs we think we are bodies—bundles of senses whose pleasure is life's primary goal—we can hardly help acting like dogs. Dogs are noted not for their work ethic, though they may work hard too, but for their servility to the demands of eating, sleeping, mating, and defending.
The most resourceful entrepreneur is still only a polished animal if he ignores the transcendent self and dedicates his life to serving the senses, which, like all bad masters, are never satisfied. At the Paris ISKCON center in 1973, Srila Prabhupada, speaking to a guest, clarified this sensual plight of the doggish worker.
"Suppose one thousand francs will provide for his family, himself. He's not satisfied with one thousand francs. He wants ten thousand. Therefore he does not find time for Krsna consciousness. That is the disease. Otherwise, if he is satisfied when the necessities are supplied and he saves the balance of time for Krsna consciousness, there is no difficulty. But he is always twenty-four hours busy, how to increase, how to increase."
Workers eager to enjoy self-realization, or Krsna consciousness, are content with the thousand francs. Such workers may sometimes work for others, but since their consciousness is transcendental to the body they can live simply, keeping their needs and expenses in check. Their senses do not act as a compounding set of domineering bosses, chaining them to the corporate family.
Workers not interested in self-realization should at least be wary of those outplacement people. They say the cure to corporate dependency is to become a free agent, cultivating and marketing your individual talents. Learn computers, learn a second language, make your own contacts and go where the rewards suit you best. No need to grovel. The employee-employer relationship is changing.
"It's a more equal partnership now, as opposed to a dependency," claims Jackie Fernandez, a Miami market researcher. "Like a marriage, it has to be good for both of you."
Ms. Fernandez intends well with the marriage analogy, but if corporations axe relatives and team players, we can't imagine the fate awaiting spouses.
As for becoming a free agent, if you're consulting an outplacement firm you already are a free agent, courtesy of your former employer. And now again, this time in the name of cultivating your talents and making your own contacts, you're being told to learn new tricks and go barking door to door.
The Garbage Index
by Gopala Acarya Dasa
I LIVED IN TEXAS during the state's economic boom days, through its worst recession in history, and through its recovery. When times were tough, economists in Houston, where I was living, kept sniffing around for any telltale signs of a recovery. One day they announced that the "Garbage Index" was improving. My reaction was a little ambivalent—I didn't know whether that was good news or bad. Besides, I'd had enough business experience to know that most economic predictions are garbage anyway.
It turns out that the Garbage Index was one of the city's fundamental economic indicators, and it was quite literally a measure of garbage.
In case you would like to start a Garbage Index in your own community, here's how the index works: Economists in places like Houston follow the old maxim "garbage in, garbage out." In other words, if the population is affluent the affluence will express itself as effluence, or an outpouring of waste. During the recession, Houstonians had very little money to spend, so they had very little trash at the curb for the sanitation department to haul off every Tuesday. As the economy recovered, the sanitation department had to gear up for a windfall of landfill. As factory output increases, garbage output increases. It's time to curb inflation when the garbage is on the curb.
Early in the morning when I put out my garbage I used to feel embarrassed. I wondered what the neighbors thought about my big trash. I was relieved to return home after work and find it gone. But little did I know that big trash is a status symbol, a sign of prosperity. And prosperity breeds prosperity: the more you spend, the more mailing lists you get on for junk mail, the more trash you have to throw out, and the more your Garbage Index goes up. As they say, "Them that's got gets."
But it is also said, "He who owns little is little owned." In the Vedic culture austerity is considered wealth, and the goal is "simple living and high thinking."
In the September/October issue of this magazine, I read a quote from the Srimad-Bhagavatam (8.19.21): "Even the entirety of whatever there may be within the three worlds to satisfy one's senses cannot satisfy a person whose senses are uncontrolled." Ben Franklin said that it is easier to curb the first desire than to curb all the other desires that will follow it. So we can either curb our desire for garbage or store up garbage till it's flowing to the curb.
According to the Bhagavad-gita, the desire for garbage begins in the mind, as we meditate upon the stuff. But controlling the mind will bring us satisfaction and peace so we can forget about grabbing on to the material things that will soon be trashed. And how do we control and purify our minds? The Vedic writings teach us that the sublime and simple method is to chant Hare Krsna. It is an economically viable, ecologically responsible, time-tested waste-management system. And as they say, the mind is a terrible thing to waste.
Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the appearance of Iskcon's Founder-Acarya
By Lokanath Swami
The Saint Who Walked Amongst Us
HARE KRSNA devotees all over the world are getting ready to celebrate the centennial of Srila Prabhupada. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada appeared* on September 1, 1896, in a family of Vaisnavas (Krsna devotees) in Calcutta, India. He was destined to become the Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krsna Consciousness.
* As explained in the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna and His representatives (and in fact all living beings) are eternal. So rather than speak of the "birth" and "death" of a devotee, we speak of his "appearance" and "disappearance."
Soon after Srila Prabhupada appeared, an astrologer foretold that at the age of seventy he would travel across the ocean as a great religious teacher and establish 108 temples. True to this prediction, at the age of sixty-nine he embarked for America in pursuance of the order of his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvat" Thakura. In New York in July 1966, after a year of struggle, penniless and without support, Srila Prabhupada founded ISKCON, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.
Srila Prabhupada deeply realized the teachings of the acaryas (spiritual masters) who had preceded him, and he presented their teachings suitably for the people of modern times. The eighty books he wrote will serve as a source of inspiration and guidance for generations of devotees. Even now, these writings are the law books of the Hare Krsna movement.
With unwavering devotion, courage, and compassion, Prabhupada brought the essence of Vedic culture—Krsna consciousness—beyond the borders of India and spread it throughout the world.
The Centennial Campaign
As 1996, the year of Srila Prabhupada's Centennial, draws closer, Srila Prabhupada's disciples, grand-disciples, friends and well-wishers want to take this opportunity to unite to glorify him and further distribute his teachings. For this they have launched a worldwide "Centennial Campaign."
This year, ISKCON devotees are focusing on the upcoming celebration. In many parts of India the campaign has been formally inaugurated by government officers and other prominent people. In 1996 the celebrations will extend throughout the year. Some of the events to take place that year will become annual. The centennial celebrations will serve as a sort of gateway through which the Hare Krsna movement can enter the twenty-first century.
More than simply a celebration, the Centennial can serve as an occasion on which all devotees can work together to strengthen Srila Prabhupada's movement. So the Srila Prabhupada Centennial has evolved into a multi-faceted event. Plans for the celebrations have taken the shape of a colorful many-petaled lotus, each petal representing one aspect of the centennial campaign. (See inside front cover.)
Here are some of the major centennial projects undertaken so far.
• Three magnificent temples
Amongst the most prominent offerings with which ISKCON wishes to honor Srila Prabhupada are several majestic temple complexes the size of Hare Krishna Land in Bombay. The new temples—at Delhi, Bangalore, and Ahmedabad—will include guest houses and Vedic museums. Construction is in full swing at all three sites. The temples are due to open in 1996.
• 1,000 libraries
By 1996 the Bhaktivedanta Archives plans to establish 1,000 Bhaktivedanta Libraries. The libraries, to be set up in schools, temples, and the homes of devotees, will each consist of a full set of Srila Prabhupada's books and all the available tapes and videos of Srila Prabhupada. By June 1994, four hundred such libraries had already been established.
• Memorials, gold coins, and commemorative stamps
The South African government mint will produce a gold coin bearing Srila Prabhupada's image. In India and several other countries, devotees are working for the issuance of Centennial commemorative postal stamps. Devotees plan to install monuments and memorial plaques in places Srila Prabhupada visited and in major holy places in India. In Bombay, Vrndavana, Warangal, and several other places, devotees plan to erect permanent memorial gates.
• Padayatra in 100 countries
For Srila Prabhupada's pleasure, devotees plan to organize Padayatras (walking festivals) in one hundred countries. By the end of 1994, fifty countries had taken part. Centennial Padayatras will also walk throughout India. And in 1996 the Padayatra that started in Dvaraka twelve years earlier will have traveled fifty thousand kilometers on its uninterrupted pilgrimage to spread Krsna consciousness around the Indian subcontinent.
• Distribution of books
As a special offering to Srila Prabhupada, many devotees who usually do not distribute books will join the regular distributors. We hope to distribute Krsna conscious books in quantities never seen before. And we hope to stay in touch with people who receive the books to give them further opportunities to understand Srila Prabhupada's message.
• Strengthening ISKCON
In 1996, we want to offer Prabhupada a still stronger and more closely united Society. To this end, we are compiling a database of all initiated devotees. And we are planning reunions and an international newsletter to bring devotees closer to Krsna and closer to one another. Several years ago, devotees with experience in business and other professions formed the ISKCON Foundation to help support ISKCON and offer guidance to strengthen its management. As part of the Centennial programs, the Foundation will organize training seminars to help temples achieve excellence in temple management.
• Writing down what Srila Prabhupada did
Some devotees are writing books of their memories of Srila Prabhupada. Others are compiling accounts of what Srila Prabhupada did in different parts of the world. By 1996 we hope to have published accounts of Srila Prabhupada's activities in France, Italy, Canada, Malaysia, Australia, and places in India such as Delhi, Bombay, and Vrndavana.
• Other new books
Devotees plan to publish a high-quality book of photographs of all the ISKCON temples in the world and a fully illustrated edition of Srimad-Bhagavatam for children. Other devotees plan to publish manuals giving Srila Prabhupada's instructions for painters, for his women disciples, and so on.
• Grand Bathing Ceremony
(Sahasra Kalasa Maha-abhiseka)
In Calcutta, September 6, 1996, the actual anniversary of Srila Prabhupada's appearance, the sculptured form of Srila Prabhupada will be bathed with holy waters collected from 1,008 sacred rivers, ponds, confluences, and estuaries in India. Similar ceremonies, on a smaller scale, will be held at every ISKCON center.
• Personal offerings
Some devotees are pledging offerings that pertain to their own spiritual development and purification. Some are learning one hundred verses from Vedic literature. Others are increasing their chanting of Hare Krsna. Some have even pledged to get rid of one hundred inner contaminations!
• 1996 events worldwide
The 1996 calendar of Centennial events includes traveling festivals, academic conferences, a World Feast Day, and a special "Srila Prabhupada Marathon" for distribution of Srila Prabhupada's books (devotees hope to beat all previous records).
Events In India
Apart from the celebrations already mentioned, in India a traveling festival will hold programs in twenty-five towns and cities. In Calcutta the Bhaktivedanta Institute will sponsor, in Srila Prabhupada's honor, a six-day gathering of scientists, religious leaders, and scholars—the Conference for the Synthesis of Science and Religion. In February and March, thousands of devotees will gather at ISKCON's center in Mayapur, West Bengal, for a Hare Krsna World Convention. And in October/November devotees will hold the grand openings for the new ISKCON temples in Delhi, Bangalore, and Ahmedabad.
Be A Part Of It!
The success of the celebration depends on how much energy we put into getting ready for it. Our goal is to involve everyone. All the followers of Srila Prabhupada can take part: everyone who practices Krsna consciousness, or reads Srila Prabhupada's books, or in any way appreciates him—any man, woman, or child.
Our plans for Srila Prabhupada's Centennial won't be accomplished by temple devotees alone. We are depending on all Srila Prabhupada's followers and admirers to step forward. The Centennial offers an opportunity for everyone to serve Srila Prabhupada. It is an occasion through which we can all show our love for him by working together to spread Krsna consciousness all over the world.
Srila Prabhupada has glorified Krsna so much, so now Krsna wants to glorify him. Unseen, Krsna is at the top of the Centennial Campaign, overseeing all the arrangements to honor His pure devotee.
Everyone, get involved! It is time to come forward and celebrate together. Krsna wants you to glorify Srila Prabhupada. And while we attempt to glorify Srila Prabhupada, we also purify ourselves.
All glories to our ever well-wisher, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. He lives forever, and his followers live with him.
"Srila Prabhupada once said that devotees actually celebrate the appearance of the spiritual master and Krsna at every moment. But a centennial celebration, which happens on a particular date, is an excellent opportunity for us to focus the attention of many people on the glories of Srila Prabhupada."
"I have outgrown the cynical idea of thinking of the Prabhupada Centennial as a hype. It is a genuine effort by sincere devotees to glorify our spiritual master and to wake up the nondevotees to the importance of Srila Prabhupada."
—Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami
"Let us begin individually. If we become better devotees, then we'll be able to work better collectively. In this way we can offer Srila Prabhupada a spiritually very healthy, strong, enlivened, dynamic, and expanding ISKCON on his Centennial celebration in 1996."
"If we increase the hearing of Srila Prabhupada's words through his lectures and read his books carefully for the Centennial celebration, this will glorify Prabhupada very much. We will be associating with him directly."
"One of the main reasons for the degradation of today's world is the lack of great personalities. At a time when the world is craving for a real hero, from the spiritual world has come the greatest hero for all times, the pure devotee of the Lord. Now it is up to us to make the world aware of him."
—Bhakti Caru Swami
"The whole world should appreciate the valuable service he has done. In glorifying Srila Prabhupada, whatever is possible we should do, and do it so wonderfully that the whole world will ask, 'Who is Srila Prabhupada?' "
—Bhakti Svarupa Damodar Goswami
"For most of us, such a rare opportunity to glorify Srila Prabhupada will not come again in this lifetime."
—Gopala Krsna Goswami
"In our movement much healing has taken place in the last several years, and I see the Centennial as a culmination of this healing process."
"What better way to help people appreciate the glories of Srila Prabhupada than to give them a book by or about him? Therefore massive distribution of Srila Prabhupada's books is essential for the success of the Srila Prabhupada Centennial."
—Navina Nirada Dasa
How Can I Serve?
Our Centennial office in New Delhi received this letter from a gentleman from West Bengal.
I am very interested to make the Centennial a grand success, giving this present demoniac civilization a big push to rethink its aims and ways. This Srila Prabhupada Centennial is surely a great opportunity to shake the consciousness of the people, as well as make ourselves more advanced spiritually through serving such a very dear devotee of Krsna.
Of course, I am a very ordinary school teacher with little spiritual merit. Still, I aspire to make my humble self connected with the great endeavour to correct the misguided civilization. That is why I dare to write. How can I serve? Kindly show me the way. I live in a remote village area, so facilities are scanty. Yet as the people need Prabhupada, we have to do something. What and how?
Of course, I've taken a decision to get others to read Prabhupada's books. My target is 100 persons. Further instructions from you expert ones may help me.
One Leader's Commitment
For 1996 I've already committed myself to overseeing big Centennial festivals here in Poland and in Russia, three major Rathayatras in South Africa (Durban, Johannesburg, and Cape Town), and two months of festivals in New Zealand. Whatever little time is left, I want to spend with the Centennial in India, as I promised you. I plan to bring about fifty Eastern European devotees with me to link up with the Centennial celebrations there.
1996 Centennial Events
EVENTS AT EVERY CENTER
• Padayatra Week and World Holy Name Day (April 21-28): A global effort to spread the holy name of Lord Krsna.
• Vyasa Puja Day (September 6): The anniversary of Srila Prabhupada's appearance. Celebrations in every temple. Special celebrations in Calcutta.
• World Feast Day (November 23): Distribution of prasadam (food sanctified by the mercy of Krsna) from every temple and the home of every devotee. Massive distribution in cities like Durban and Calcutta.
• Book Distribution Marathon (December): Distribution of Vedic literature on a massive scale.
FESTIVALS IN SPECIFIC PARTS OF THE WORLD
Australia (January). India (January-December). Europe, North America (May-August). South America (October-November). South Africa (December).
INTERNATIONAL EVENTS IN INDIA
• Hare Krsna World Convention (February 19-March 19): A gathering of devotees from all over the world for four weeks of festivities and spiritual programs in Mayapur and Vrndavana.
• Grand Vyasa-Puja (Calcutta, September).
• Opening of new ISKCON centers in Delhi and Bangalore (October-November).
• Commemoration of Srila Prabhupada's disappearance (Vrndavana, November 14).
• Convocation of sadhus to glorify Srila Prabhupada (Vrndavana, October-November).
• Second World Congress on the Synthesis of Science and Religion (date to be announced).
What Will You Do?
Here are some of the services you can do for the Srila Prabhupada Centennial.
Make a personal commitment: Commit yourself to doing something special as your personal Centennial offering.
Sponsor a memorial: Select a type of memorial from the Centennial Ministry's "Memorials Manual" and sponsor its construction or installation.
Donate funds: Contribute funds to local, national, or global Centennial projects. Your donation, no matter how small—or no matter how big—will make a difference.
Distribute books: The more book distributors, the more books distributed! One per day, one per week, or one per month, but distribute books. Nothing is more pleasing to Srila Prabhupada.
Hold "Prabhupada Nights" at home: Invite your friends to special gatherings to read about Srila Prabhupada, share memories and realizations about him, sing bhajanas and cook for him....
Attend the Hare Krsna World Convention: Join thousands of devotees from around the world. Take part in the 1996 festival in Mayapur and Vrndavana—several weeks of festivities, walks, seminars, reunions, processions, cultural programs, and more.
Join Action '96: Contact the Centennial Ministry to enroll in Action '96—a program especially designed to engage an unlimited number of people in Srila Prabhupada's Centennial.
Write articles about Srila Prabhupada: Get them published in ISKCON publications or in other newspapers and magazines.
Take part in Centennial traveling festivals: Traveling festivals will be organized on several continents, and especially in India. Take part in organizing them or join when they visit your area.
Become a member of a Centennial committee: Link up with Centennial organizers and actively push forward the Centennial campaign.
Volunteer to organize 1996 events: Take time off your regular schedule to help coordinate 1996 events—locally, globally, or in India.
Collect holy water: Join one of the teams traveling India to collect water from 1,008 holy places for the grand ceremonial bathing of Srila Prabhupada.
The Centennial is the most important thing happening. Participate!
Increasing Prabhupada Consciousness
How can we better remember and cherish Srila Prabhupada's life, teachings, and personality? Here are a few suggestions. Besides the sources listed, many of these items may be available from your local ISKCON temple.
The worldwide activities of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)
Computer users can now access Srila Prabhupada's books, letters, lectures, and conversations using the new Windows version of the Srila Prabhupada Folio Infobase. Apart from the features offered by Windows, the new infobase includes more than a hundred previously unpublished letters and talks. A Macintosh version will be released this month. The infobase is published by the Bhaktivedanta Archives. (Where to contact them? See page 53.)
The Indian consul general at Chicago spoke as chief guest this past summer at ISKCON Chicago's Festival of the Chariots (Rathayatra). The consul, Mr. K. R. Singh, praised Prabhupada's work in spreading Vedic culture.
The September issue of Vegetarian Times featured a three-page review of "Cooking With Kurma," a set of cooking classes on eleven videos from ISKCON Television. The review begins, "Hare Krishnas view cooking as a kind of worship, a connection to God and an act of love. In this video series hosted by Kurma Dasa, the appreciation of food is contagious. Kurma, a former head chef of Gopal's, a Hare Krishna restaurant in Melbourne, Australia, has a gentle style that is a happy contrast to the frantic and frenzied style of most television cooks. His subtle wit and enthusiasm, combined with his fabulous-looking dishes, can renew your culinary excitement and creativity." To order these videos, contact ITV (see page 19).
More than a hundred devotees toured Vrndavana, Krsna's holy land, during ISKCON's eighth annual Vraja Mandala Parikrama, held during the month of Kartika (October-November).
Millions of pilgrims will converge on Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, for the "half Kumbha Mela." The Mela, or festival, runs from mid-January through mid-February. ISKCON devotees will be there to pass out Krsna-prasadam, Krsna books, and Krsna's holy names. The full Kumbha Mela occurs every twelve years. The "half Kumbha Mela" takes place six years later.
Devotees from around the world will gather in March in Mayapur, West Bengal, for the annual Mayapur-Vrndavana festival, honoring the appearance of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. For the festival schedule, see page 57.
The future of Bhaktivedanta Manor likely hangs on a decision from the environment secretary, John Gummer. The Manor, ISKCON's center in Hertfordshire, outside London, is revered as the site of the most popular Hindu shrine in the UK. Devotees have been resisting attempts by the local Hertsmere Borough Council to close the shrine to public worship.
Responding to complaints of traffic problems caused when the annual Janmastami festival attracts large crowds, ISKCON has proposed to build an access road to bring visitors directly to the Manor, bypassing the local village. On January 17 an inspector will hear arguments for and against the road. The inspector will then make recommendations to Mr. Gummer.
Devotees in Kampala, Uganda, have received a donation of a building in the heart of the city, the nation's capital. They'll use it as a base for spreading Krsna consciousness.
The Rathayatra chariots rolled in August down the streets of Mombasa and Nairobi. This was the tenth year for the festivals.
Devotees in Nairobi opened their new Radha-Krsna temple on November 19. The main hall can fit twelve hundred people.
Fifty thousand people attended ISKCON Durban's three-day Janmastami festival, South Africa's biggest spiritual event. Among the special guests: Durban Mayor Mike Lipschitz.
A Catholic philanthropic organization in Rome recently gave six million lire (about US $5,000) to the Bhaktivedanta Swami Gurukula in Vrndavana, India. Monsignor Muratore, the founder and president of the organization, has met with devotees several times and owns a set of Srila Prabhupada's Srimad-Bhagavatam.
Five hundred devotees attended ISKCON's Rathayatra festival last July in Paris. They came from France, Belgium, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. Devotees passed out seven thousand prasadam sweets along the eight-kilometer parade route.
Devotees in Riga, Latvia, held their fifth annual Rathayatra festival last July.
A busy street near Tokyo's giant Shinjuku train station was the site last July of ISKCON Tokyo's fifth annual Rathayatra festival. The festival was held on a Sunday, when the street closes to traffic and becomes a popular place to relax.
ISKCON Tokyo now has Deities of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Nityananda Prabhu. An installation ceremony for the Deities took place last August.
Devotees in Trinidad have started a Hare Krishna Food for Life program to commemorate Srila Prabhupada's Centennial.
A group of devotees from Mauritius visited the tiny island of Rodrigues to spend eight days passing out prasadam and telling the people about Krsna consciousness. Rodrigues lies about 600 kilometers northeast of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean.
Government ministers in Singapore are learning about Srila Prabhupada. To prepare for Srila Prabhupada's Centennial, devotees are meeting Singapore leaders to make Srila Prabhupada known. So far, devotees have met with representatives of the president and the prime minister, and with the ministers of finance, defense, and community development.
Forty devotees took part last June in the Padayatra in Germany, from Heidelberg through Frankfurt to Weisbaden.
In July, devotees in Finland walked and chanted from Tampere to Helsinki, about two hundred kilometers. The procession included an ox cart bearing Deities of Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityananda.
In England, the Padayatra crew from Bhaktivedanta Manor walked with their carts and oxen in the nearby Watford Carnival parade, held last August on Janmastami, Lord Krsna's appearance day. The devotees' "floats" won first prize, and Gita Dasi, daughter of UK Padayatra director Parasurama Dasa, was elected queen of the carnival.
Padayatra South Africa
South Africa became the forty-sixth country to take part in the campaign to hold Padayatras in 100 countries for Srila Prabhupada's Centennial. Devotees in Durban wheeled a chariot down the main street to city hall, where Mayor Mike Lipschitz cut a ribbon to launch Padayatra South Africa.
A materialistic person, thinking himself very advanced in intelligence, continually acts for economic development. But again and again, as enunciated in the Vedas, he is frustrated by material activities, either in this life or in the next. Indeed, the results one obtains are inevitably the opposite of those one desires.
In the modern setup of democratic states the citizens can have no cause for grievances, because the whole administration is conducted by the people themselves. If the people themselves are dishonest, the administrative machinery must be corrupt. Although a damned government of the people may be given a good or fancy name, if the people are not good they cannot have a good government, regardless of which party governs the administration. Therefore good character is the first principle for good government and equal distribution of wealth.
—His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
What is painful for saintly persons who strictly adhere to the truth? How could there not be independence for pure devotees who know the Supreme Lord as the substance? What deeds are forbidden for persons of the lowest character? And what cannot be given up for the sake of Lord Krsna by those who have fully surrendered at His lotus feet?
With sword in hand, intelligent men cut through the binding knots of reactionary work [karma] by remembering the Personality of Godhead. Therefore, who will not pay attention to His message?
The seven mothers are the cow, the earth, the queen, one's natural mother, one's nurse, the wife of a brahmana, and the wife of one's teacher or spiritual master. The five fathers are one's natural father, one's spiritual master, one's father-in-law, a man who gives one food, and a man who gives one protection.
Men who are like dogs, hogs, camels, and asses praise those men who never listen to the transcendental pastimes of Lord Sri Krsna, the deliverer from evils.
One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna.
—Lord Sri Krsna
Do you have vedic thoughts you'd like to share?