Statement of Purposes
1. To help all people discern reality from illusion, spirit from matter, the eternal from the temporary.
The Myth of Old Age
Bradley Stinkbrain, 73, is in the prime of his life ... and having the time of his life. Now, you can too! Thanks to the amazing, new "anti-aging" discoveries, enclosed ...
And there, bursting with good health, shone Living Proof, our man Bradley, strong, relaxed, his smile radiant, his hair a rich gray crown, his tan body popping out of its little red swimsuit, studio lights shining off well-oiled 73-year-old muscles a man could envy at thirty.
And across the envelope, poised lightly, brightly, sprightly on a chair, sat Penny Pink-chip, 52, slim, young, smiling, and healthy, ready at any moment for a round of tennis, a dip in the pool, an afternoon of canoeing, a quick jog around the park ...
Was I going to break open the envelope for my FREE Guide to 101 Ways to Reversing the Aging Process?
Of course! And inside, there were Bradley and Penny and their friends—strong, vibrant, energetic people, people in track shoes and T-shirts and swimsuits and leotards, people in their fifties and sixties, biking, hiking, and LIVING life to its FULLEST.
"I thought 50 would be depressing," says Penny. "But I've never felt better! 'Old age' is a myth."
And that's the myth the magazine they're pitching will dispel—with Energy Remedies ... Nutrition Remedies ... Stress Remedies ... Fitness Remedies ... Health Remedies ... Weight Remedies ... Pain Remedies ... Age Remedies ...
"ALL those symptoms and problems can be prevented or remedied. EASILY. This is MY life—and I plan to live it to the FULLEST!"
Well, bully for you.
But we think it's all foolishness and your magazine's full of beans.
Old age is for real. It's as real and natural and sad and depressing as—should we say it in the face of all those smiling, healthy, strong, relaxed, vibrant young people in their fifties and sixties? As real as death.
We saw it in New Orleans on a bumper sticker:
"Eat right. Stay fit. Die anyway."
Old age is a gift, all right: it's your warning that the next thing to hit you will be death. And what are you going to do about death, Bradley—wish it away?
Forget the Weight Remedy, Stress Remedy, Age Remedy, Pain Remedy. What you need, fella, is some Illusion Remedy.
Better than trying to make a picnic out of old age is to face what it is—a drag. A colossal, irreversible, incurable drag. And so is disease. And death.
And that's a powerful reason to get serious and try to understand what these Cosmic Drags are all about. We should ask ourselves, "Why do I have to get old? Why diseased? Why die?"
These are the real issues in life, and these are the questions to which an intelligent per-son must address himself. If we fail to ask ourselves these questions, we may think we're living life to the fullest, but our brains are running sadly close to empty.
Old Age Isn't Natural? In the material world, it's as natural as the great outdoors. To get to where old age isn't natural, we have to get beyond our material bodies and come to a higher reality, a higher nature—our spiritual nature. And that's the reality we're aiming at in Back to Godhead.
Krsna Conscious Home Programs
I would like to share with you the benefits of Krsna conscious home programs in the lives of my husband and me. We and several other householders who live in southern California 30-50 miles from a temple host these programs in our respective homes every Saturday and enrich our Krsna consciousness.
During the program we enjoy the association of devotees with our families and friends while engaged in bhajanas, kirtanas, japa class, reading from Bhagavad-gita, Bhagavatam, and Caitanya-caritamrta, and concluding with arati and accepting nice prasadam.
Since 1990, my husband and I have been very happy in improving our Krsna consciousness through these home programs. Both of us chant on beads, offer cooked food to the Deities, and read Bhagavatam every day.
I would strongly recommend to other householders that they join us in fulfilling our spiritual master Srila Prabhupada's mission.
For more information call Svayambhuva Dasa (310) 839-1572.
EDITOR'S NOTE: For information on home programs outside southern California, get in touch with the Hare Krsna center nearest you.
Mercy for the Deaf and Dumb
I read in the July/August issue about the Krsna conscious program in England for deaf people. What concerns me is the plight of deaf and dumb people. They cannot chant or hear the mantra. Are these people fallen souls with no hope to chant the maha-mantra, or is there a way for them to go back to Godhead? Does ISKCON cater to deaf and dumb people?
OUR REPLY: Few ISKCON centers have programs like the one in England. But people who can't speak or hear can still associate with devotees, read Srila Prabhupada's books, and render pure devotional service. Those people can "hear" the maha-mantra by reading it, and they can chant it within the mind and get the full benefit. Chanting out loud helps us concentrate and gives other living beings an opportunity to hear the mantra, but one can become purified even just by chanting the holy name within the mind.
Also, the maha-mantra is a transcendental sound vibration. So even though one may not physically hear it with one's material ears, the sound still penetrates and benefits the soul within. So anyone can get the benefit of the maha-mantra.
I really enjoy the magazine and hold it in the highest respect. I like the addition of "Vedic Thoughts." I have a question regarding the quote from Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura in the Sept./Oct. issue. He writes, "The prayers of the impersonalists offend the Lord more than denunciation by His avowed enemies." I thought people who are devotional in prayer, even if they don't recognize Krsna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, are not offensive but just misguided. Why are they more offensive than enemies of Krsna?
OUR REPLY: The problem with the impersonalists is that their prayers are hypocritical. Whom are they actually praying to? You can't pray to something impersonal. They may pretend to pray to someone, even addressing him as a person, but ultimately they think that God is impersonal—that God has no form, no qualities, no head, no face, no hands. How can God be pleased by the prayers of someone who thinks of Him that way? If I want to please you but I say, "Dear Tamara, you are beautiful, but you don't have a face—in fact, you don't have a form at all," will you like that? No. And God doesn't either.
Moving Toward Krsna
I subscribe to the BTG magazine and have been reading it for a few years now. It has improved tremendously—the presentation is good, and the articles are inspiring.
I was converted to Christianity in my late teens, but I gradually drifted out of it after marriage because it offered neither consolation nor satisfactory solutions to the financial and relationship problems I encountered. In the ensuing years, I attempted mind-control courses, psychic-healing sessions, and also a couple of meditational approaches. All these did some good, but I found them lacking after a period of time.
One day a friend introduced me to the Bhagavad-gita. At that time my concept of God was impersonal. So I was not ready, there and then, to accept all that he told me.
The fortnight that followed was definitely one of bewilderment for me. But one morning when I woke up, my first thought was "Man is made in the image of God." Consequently, I could and can accept Krsna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Another important realization came later. 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 a 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 to an appreciable degree. With Krsna's mercy I hope to advance from strength to strength to nurture my devotional service. 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.
Pure love for God is its own reward.
A lecture given in New York City, November 30, 1966
By His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
daridrya-nasa, bhava-ksaya,—premera 'phala' naya
"The goal of love of Godhead is not to become materially rich or free from material bondage. The real goal is to be situated in devotional service to the Lord and to enjoy transcendental bliss."
—Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila 20.142
WE SHOULD NOT EXPECT that by our devotional service to Krsna our miserable material condition will improve, or that we will be liberated from material entanglement. Thinking in that way is a kind of sense gratification. Yogis and jnanis, or impersonalistic speculators, try to become free from material entanglement. But in devotional service there is no such desire, because devotional service is pure love. In pure devotional service one has no expectation that "I shall be profited in this way." Devotional service is not a profitable commercial business where one thinks, "Unless I get something in return, I shall not practice devotional service in Krsna consciousness."
Lord Caitanya prays to Lord Krsna:
na dhanam na janam na sundarim
"O my dear Lord, Jagadisa, supreme master of all the worlds, I pray unto You that I do not want any wealth, I do not want any number of followers, I do not want a very nice wife."
"Then what do you want?"
"My dear Lord, I may be put into any condition of life, but please bestow this benediction: that I may not forget You. That's all. Due to my forgetfulness I am suffering so much. So if I can remember You, I don't mind any condition."
Janmani janmani means "birth after birth." Lord Caitanya does not even want liberation. Lord Krsna says, mam upetya tu kaunteya punar janma na vidyate: "One who reaches the kingdom of God hasn't got to come back again to take birth here." But Lord Caitanya does not even aspire to reach the kingdom of God.
Lord Caitanya gives us the proper understanding, confirming the teachings of Lord Krsna. In the sixth chapter of the Bhagavad-gita, while explaining the yoga system Lord Krsna says, yam labdhva caparam labham manyate nadhikam tatah: "One who achieves the perfection of yoga has no other desire to achieve."
We may achieve something in the material world, but that does not stop our desire to achieve something more. I may achieve millions of dollars, but that does not make me satisfied. I want more—ten million dollars. And when I get ten million dollars, then I desire a hundred million dollars. But one who possesses devotional service does not think anything in the world more valuable.
Krsna consciousness is not different from Krsna. Therefore a Krsna conscious person possesses Krsna, and what can be greater than Krsna? So a Krsna conscious person is fully satisfied. And Lord Krsna further says, yasmin sthito na duhkhena gurunapi vicalyate: "One situated in Krsna consciousness is not shaken despite the severest type of miseries."
A Krsna conscious person is steady in all circumstances. Prahlada Maharaja was a great devotee even as a five-year-old boy.
Prahlada's atheistic father told him, "Oh, you rascal boy. You are chanting God's name? Who is God? I am God. Why don't you chant my name? If you don't, then I shall throw you into the fire."
But Prahlada was steady. He said, "Father, I cannot stop chanting."
"You nonsense! You cannot? How dare you speak to me like this? Even the demigods are afraid of me."
"Oh, yes, father, I speak like this by the mercy of the same person who allows you to speak."
"Oh, I don't care for anyone's mercy ..."
Prahlada's father had so much wrath, but Prahlada was steady. That steadiness is one of the characteristics of a pure devotee of the Lord. Even in the greatest difficulty, even in the greatest danger, he is not shaken; he is steady. That is the perfection of yoga. And that steadiness can be achieved easily by Krsna consciousness.
So we should not aspire to improve our material condition or to attain liberation. To aspire in that way means we have material desires. Some people say that we must become desireless. But because I am a living entity, desire cannot be completely absent. So my desire should be not to forget Krsna. That's all—that one desire. That is real desire. And all other desires are foolish. We cannot be desireless, but we should have only bona fide desires.
I am part and parcel of the Supreme. So if I desire to work in cooperation with the Supreme, that is a natural desire. That is desirelessness. In the material condition, to desire to eat is natural. As long as you possess a body, you have to eat. No one will criticize you for your desire to eat.
So desirelessness means to desire the natural thing. To desire remembrance of Krsna is natural. Since I am part and parcel of Krsna, how can I forget Him? But somehow I have forgotten Him, and my forgetfulness is the cause of my many desires. And as soon as I desire Krsna, there will be no other desire. That is desirelessness.
As part and parcel of the whole, we get our highest pleasure by reciprocating with the whole. That reciprocation we should aspire after. We should not think that in Krsna consciousness we should desire some material profit.
In the next verse, Lord Caitanya says:
veda-sastre kahe sambandha,
"In the Vedic literature, Krsna is the central point of attraction, and His service is our activity. To attain the platform of love of Krsna is life's ultimate goal. Therefore Krsna, Krsna's service, and love of Krsna are the three great riches of life."
Now we aspire to possess something material. But as this verse explains, we should aspire to possess Krsna, to reciprocate with Krsna, and ultimately to love Krsna. In the material world we see a reflection of love in the exchange between two lovers. They don't want anything besides each other. He wants her, and she wants him. But that relationship is only a perverted reflection of real love, which is reciprocated with Krsna.
In the material world there is no possibility of love. What is called love is lust. But we call it love because it is a reflection of love. Love of Krsna is real, and love in the material world is unreal. Lust is like the shadow, and love is the reality. There is gulf of difference between the shadow and the reality.
A devotee is not anxious for liberation, because he is liberated in his intimate connection with Krsna. One cannot be in intimate touch with Krsna unless one is liberated. So liberation and intimate connection with Krsna are the same thing. Lord Krsna says:
yesam tv anta-gatam papam
What is the translation?
Devotee [reading]: "But those men of virtuous deeds whose sin has come to an end, freed from the delusion of dualities, worship Me steadfastly avowed."
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. So to worship Krsna steadfastly means one is liberated from delusion. That is called mukti. One who still has some doubt—"Why shall I worship Krsna?"—is still in delusion, and the reactions of his sinful life are not finished. If one has a slight doubt, that means there is still a slight tinge of sinful reaction. One free from all sinful reactions has no more duality. Duality means thinking, "Shall I stick to the process of Krsna consciousness or not?" One free from sinful reactions has firm faith—"Yes! Krsna worship is the final goal."
One who worships Krsna is already liberated. For example, if a man is sitting on the bench of the high court, it is to be understood that he has passed all the educational requirements and is a good lawyer. There is no need to ask whether he has passed his M.A. or his law examination. Similarly, if one is strictly in Krsna consciousness, it is to be understood that he is liberated.
The definition of liberation is given in the Srimad-Bhagavatam: muktir hitvanyatha rupam svarupena vyavasthitih. We each have different conceptions of life. I have one idea, you have another idea, and another person has another idea. Mukti means to be free from these different ideas and be situated in our constitutional position.
And what is our constitutional position? We are part and parcel of the Supreme, Krsna. Then what is our duty? The duty of the part is to serve the whole. Your hand is part of your body, and its duty is to serve the body. Similarly, because you are part and parcel of the Supreme, your duty is to serve Him. You have no other duty. One who understands this point firmly and with conviction is liberated.
Now, someone may ask, "Oh, how can you say such a person is liberated? He goes to the office. He dresses like an ordinary man. What do you mean he is liberated?"
But does mukti mean that a person must dress differently or have four hands or eight legs? No. All that is required is a change of consciousness. Krsna consciousness means a change of consciousness. We now think, "I am this matter. I have got so many duties within the material world." In Krsna consciousness you change that thinking—"No, I belong to Krsna. I am part and parcel of Krsna; therefore my whole energy should be used for Krsna."
That kind of thinking is Krsna consciousness. Now I apply all my energy to the material conception of life. When I apply my energy—transcendental energy—to Krsna, I am liberated.
Therefore a pure devotee of Krsna does not hanker after mukti. Bilvamangala Thakura, a great devotee of Krsna, says, muktih svayam mukulitanjalih sevate 'sman: "Oh, the mukti lady stands with folded hands and asks, 'My dear sir, what can I do for you?' " And the devotee doesn't care. "Oh, what can you do for me? I don't want your help."
Bilvamangala Thakura lived for seven hundred years in Vrndavana, and he became a great devotee of Krsna. The story of his life is instructive.
In the beginning of his life Bilvamangala was an impersonalist. He was a South Indian brahmana, a very rich man, and very sensuous. He had an ongoing relationship with a prostitute. He was so devoted to the prostitute that even while attending his father's funeral he was asking the priest, "Please make haste. I have to go. I have to go."
After the ceremony Bilvamangala took very nice food in a bag and left for the prostitute's house. When he came out of his home, it was raining in torrents. But he didn't care about the rain. He had to cross a river, but there was no boat. Even though the waves were furious, he swam across the river.
The prostitute thought, "Oh, it is raining, so he may not come." So she blocked the door and went to sleep.
When Bilvamangala came to the house, he saw that the door was locked. It was still raining. To pull himself over the wall into her courtyard, he grabbed a snake. Just see how intensely he was attached to the prostitute.
When Bilvamangala went to the prostitute, she was astonished.
"Bilvamangala, how do you dare come here like this?"
So he described his journey. "Yes. I did this, I did this, I did this, I did this."
Cintamani, the prostitute, said, "My dear Bilvamangala, you have such intense love for me. If you had the same love for Krsna, how sublime your life would be!"
"Oh, yes. You are right." Her words struck him. He left at once.
He began to travel to Vrndavana, but he became attracted to a woman on the way, and he followed her. She belonged to a respectable family. When she arrived at home, she told her husband, "This man is following me. Please ask him what he wants."
The husband asked Bilvamangala, "My dear sir, you appear to be a very nice gentleman and to belong to a very aristocratic family. What do you want? Why you are following my wife?"
Bilvamangala said, "Because I want to embrace her."
"Oh, you want to embrace her? Come on. Embrace her. You are welcome."
The brahmana told his wife, "He is a guest. He wants to embrace you and kiss you. So please decorate yourself nicely so that he may enjoy."
The woman followed her husband's instructions.
When Bilvamangala came inside before the woman, he said, "My dear mother, will you kindly give me your hairpins?"
"I have got some business."
Then he took the hairpins and pierced his eyes—"Oh, these eyes are my enemy." He became blind. He thought, "Now no more shall I be disturbed."
Then he went to Vrndavana, and he performed penance and austerities there. Krsna as a boy came to him.
"Oh, my dear sir, why are you starving? Why don't you take some milk?"
"Who are you, my dear boy?"
"I am a cowherd boy of this village. If you like, I can give you milk daily."
So Krsna supplied him milk. There was friendship between them.
And Bilvamangala has written, "Bhakti is such that mukti is nothing for me." In other words, he thinks, "When Krsna comes to supply milk, oh, then what is the use of mukti?"
You see? That's a great soul—Bilvamangala Thakura. It is worth remembering his name. He has written a nice book, Krsna-karnamrta, a very authoritative book. Lord Caitanya found the book in South India, and He recommended that all His devotees read it.
Thank you very much.
Between Two Worlds
By Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami
THERE ARE TWO WORLDS, the material world and the spiritual world. Great liberated devotees can experience the spiritual world, even while in their present bodies. When Uddhava, Krsna's chief associate in Dvaraka, was fully absorbed in the transcendental ecstasy of love of God, he actually forgot all about the external world. Srila Prabhupada says, "The pure devotee lives constantly in the abode of the Supreme Lord even in the present body, which apparently belongs to this world. The pure devotee is not exactly on the bodily plane, since he is absorbed in the transcendental thought of the Supreme. ... A living entity can live either on the material plane or in the transcendental abode of the Lord, in accordance with his existential condition."
Srila Rupa Gosvami draws the metaphor of a plant. The seed of devotion to Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is already present in the heart of every living entity, but when the living entity comes in contact with a pure devotee the seed is awakened and begins to grow. Then as the living entity continues to water the seed with hearing and chanting about Krsna, the plant sprouts and grows through the limits of this universe and into the spiritual world. By hearing from Srimad-Bhagavatam, we gain faith in and realization of the spiritual reality. In other words, we can live either in the spiritual world or in the material world, depending on our existential condition.
In the Bhagavatam, Uddhava's ability to live in the spiritual world while in his physical body is described. Vidura, another great devotee of Krsna, was on pilgrimage when he came upon Uddhava and inquired from him about Krsna. Vidura asked many questions—about creation, about the position of the living entity, about the position of God, and so on—but he was particularly keen to hear Uddhava talk about Krsna, the Lord of the Yadu dynasty. At the mention of Krsna, Uddhava became fixed in thought of Krsna. Not that Uddhava wasn't already remembering Krsna, but Vidura's questions served as a catalyst to intensify his remembrance. Love of God is not static. Although the ocean of spiritual love is not troubled by the waves of material miseries, it has its own waves, which constantly intensify a devotee's remembrance of love of the Supreme.
At first, Uddhava was unable to speak due to his ecstasy. "Uddhava had all the transcendental bodily changes due to total ecstasy, and he was trying to wipe away tears of separation from his eyes. Thus Vidura could understand that Uddhava had completely assimilated extensive love for the Lord." In Vidura's presence, Uddhava experienced the eight types of ecstatic symptoms, but Uddhava's ecstasy wasn't only due to remembrance of Krsna's sweetness or His greatness: Uddhava actually traveled to the spiritual world.
The spiritual world is not allegorical. It does not exist only in the heart of a devotee. It is a real place where Krsna engages in real pastimes with His associates. A pure devotee can leave this material world and go to the spiritual world to associate with the Lord because these different worlds exist.
I can give an example from Prabhupada's life: In 1966 Prabhupada said that when he was in India he would hear about America and think it a vastly different place. "But now that I have come, I see that it is just the same as India. I see the same moon, the same sun, and the people are not that much different. Even in the park I see the squirrels are the same." (One lady who was listening said, "No, the squirrels in America are much bigger than the squirrels in India." Prabhupada said, "That I admit, that I admit.") Prabhupada's point was that no matter where we go in the material world it will be about the same but the spiritual world is completely different. The spiritual world is full of ecstasy and eternality; the material world is full of misery and anxiety. Even if we travel to another country in the material world, we are in anxiety about where we will stay, what we will eat, and whether we will be robbed of our money. The spiritual world is anxiety-free.
A devotee can go to the spiritual world, even while on the human plane. How this happens can only be understood by experience. What sent Uddhava to the spiritual world? Vidura asked him to speak about Krsna.
Again, we can draw an example from this world. If we meet someone from another country where we've never been and ask that person to describe his homeland, he may close his eyes and enter a kind of trance of remembrance. He may even cry because he misses his home. That person has actually gone home by his remembrance. Similarly, when Uddhava thought of Krsna and remembered serving Him, Uddhava was able to go home, to the spiritual world, to be with Krsna.
What about us? Can we go to the spiritual world? We go there by gradual increments when we hear and chant about Krsna. By our participation in Krsna consciousness, we make a radical break with the material world and begin to experience the existence of a different world. Srila Prabhupada used to say that the Hare Krsna temples are not in Los Angeles or London but in the spiritual world. They are in the spiritual world because "the existential situation" is worship of Krsna.
All devotees want to get out of the material world, and we hope we will at the time of death. But we should be changing ourselves now, even while living in these bodies. Don't invest your love or your energy in the material world. Concentrate on the spiritual world. Eat food offered to Krsna (spiritual food). Transform your body with that spiritual food, and your mind by hearing about the spiritual energy. Learn the science of devotion to God in the spiritual world, and your emotions, intellect, and body will all be transformed into spiritual energy.
When I first joined ISKCON in 1966, I had a strong impression of the two worlds, the material and the spiritual. It was very early in my attendance at the storefront temple, and I hadn't yet given up all my bad habits. One night I was at the storefront with Prabhupada and the devotees, and by taking part in the chanting and in hearing Prabhupada's lecture I felt part of the spiritual world. It was vastly different from my experience of living on the Lower East Side and indulging in the nightlife with my friends. As I kept attending Prabhupada's evening program, that spiritual feeling stayed with me. And when the program was over I would walk out into the night and feel like I was entering the material world. But when I finally surrendered to Prabhupada, I felt like I was leaving the material world forever. This experience is common among devotees. We can just as easily experience the bigger difference between the two worlds when we go from the material world to Goloka Vrndavana.
Uddhava's experiences are amazing, and they are the proof that the spiritual realm exists. We can glimpse his experience in our own lives. Living in the material world means living for the senses—eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. The conditioned soul tries to enjoy these four activities, but the result is always suffering. That's because the material world is only full of perverted pleasure. We are in such ignorance that we don't even know what real happiness is.
Devotees don't indulge in sense gratification. In the beginning of devotional service we may still have a taste for the material world, but by our higher intelligence, and by the force of the guru's order, we refrain from pursuing our material desires. This is called vaidhi-bhakti. First come the rules and regulations, then assimilation of and steadiness in the spiritual principles, then pure love of God. By avoiding illicit sex, meat-eating, intoxication, and gambling, we begin to enter the spiritual world. That is, we no longer live in the material world; we live in the spiritual world, in a not-fully-realized way, a hopeful but going-through-the-motions way. When we become actually fixed in devotional service, we will begin to taste real spiritual life, and we will fall in love with Krsna and His abode. Then everything material will be forgotten.
Mundane or atheistic psychologists will say that devotees avoid the material world out of fear or frustration or a sense of failure, but devotees avoid the material world because there is a spiritual world. Uddhava did not feel imaginary feelings or undergo imaginary ecstatic transformations. We are aspiring to experience what Uddhava experienced. A saintly person lives in this world but is not of this world. A devotee invests everything in the spiritual reality, and eventually he finds himself back in the spiritual world, never to return.
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 17
By Yamuna Devi
LIKE THOSE WHO become lifetime gardeners from a first harvest, I fell in love with cows and milk some twenty years ago, when I got my first chance to take care of a cow. Fresh from a four-year stay in India, I ended up with a small group of devotee women in Oregon's idyllic Rogue Valley. I wanted to keep living the Indian-village way of life, centered on the land, the cow, and the temple, so along with kirtana and cooking came tilling and fencing. We even had a white Swiss-style barn, its walls decorated with stenciled designs and Sanskrit mantras.
Our Guernsey cow was born on the day that marks the passing of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, Srila Prabhupada's guru. We named her Bimala Prasad, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta's original name. The doe-eyed calf was sweet-tempered and beautiful, with a silky coat of fur and a delicate brown mouth. Two years later Bimala was a regal half-ton cow with a new calf at her side. She began giving an astounding 4-1/2 gallons of milk a day.
The ambrosial white liquid bore little resemblance to the variety bought in stores in paper and plastic containers. It was one of the purest ingredients I had ever used in a kitchen, full of subtle energy and outstanding flavor. After working with it daily for three years, I began to realize why this sattvic food (food in the mode of goodness) has long been valued as potent leverage for longevity and physical strength.
Milk in an Ayurvedic Diet
For decades we in the West have been encouraged to drink or serve ice-cold milk at meals, or on its own as a pick-me-up. No wonder savvy health-conscious people today link milk with allergies, digestive problems, and high fat and cholesterol. In India's Ayurvedic tradition, milk is a liquid food and most beneficial when consumed properly. To aid in digestion, the Ayur Veda recommends boiling milk three times and then serving it hot, warm, or cool, but never ice cold.
People with a lactose intolerance find milk hard to digest. For some it tends to create mucus or congestion. If milk disagrees with you, try adding a slice of fresh ginger or a tiny pinch of turmeric to the milk before boiling it, and before you drink it sweeten it to taste with honey or raw sugar. Taken at night, hot ginger-milk calms the mind and nourishes the body. Adding cardamom to hot milk helps reduce its mucus-forming properties. A teaspoon of ghee in hot milk at bedtime helps relieve constipation.
Yogis and transcendentalists have long regarded milk as brain food. Many times Srila Prabhupada mentioned that milk nourishes the finer tissues in the brain for cultivating spiritual life. Like many in India, he sipped hot milk from a silver cup, a practice that further promotes strength and stamina. Confirming my experience, others who cooked for Prabhupada have said that he requested milk a few ways—plain, slightly sweetened with honey or crushed rock-sugar, and on occasion prepared using the almond milk recipe below.
The type and quantity of dairy products in a healthy diet depend on your age, constitution, and power of digestion, and the season, but as a rule of thumb two cups of milk or milk products is sufficient, more for youths and active men.
In a Vedic diet, aside from plain milk, three milk products are prominent—yogurt and yogurt cheese, an unripened fresh cheese called panir or chenna, and ghee or butter. I devoted my last column to butter and ghee. In this one we shall briefly explore the other two milk products.
An experienced Indian cook can prepare thousands of dishes featuring yogurt or fresh cheese. If you are following the cooking class series using the textbook Lord Krishna's Cuisine, you will find verbose (I confess) but infallible information on making and using yogurt and fresh cheese. Read well and then cook.
Yogurt and Yogurt Cheese
Yogurt is nothing but milk transformed into solid curds by adding a live culture. Though twenty years ago few people ate it daily, today it is popular for all ages. Some good commercial yogurt is available, both organic and biodynamic. It is convenient when time is short. But I prefer homemade yogurt—for freshness, quality, and economy. A creative cook can use yogurt in place of higher-fat products such as cream, butter, and sour cream.
Fresh Panir and Chenna Cheese
I hope that fresh panir (cheese curds) will one day be as available and as popular as tofu. In India fresh panir is available commercially, though it is so easy to make at home that many prefer to do it that way. Whether known as panir in India or fromage blanc in France, it is wonderfully versatile and does not disintegrate or melt when sauteed or pan-fried. Like tofu, it lends itself to a wide usage and in fact can be used in place of tofu in many international vegetarian entrees. In my latest cookbook, Yamuna's Table, I came up with several entrees that use panir and tofu interchangeably—good recipes for entertaining or special holiday meals.
In India the cheese is called panir when pressed of excess whey, and chenna with a higher whey content. Milk transformed into fresh cheese is considered a protein, and like other proteins in the diet you don't need much of it. Four ounces per person goes a long way in a stir-fry, casserole, or chunky tomato-vegetable sauce, though it is so good some aficionados have trouble stopping at portions three times that size.
If you have never sampled this cheese, at least try the recipe below and use it in your favorite dishes instead of tofu. Readers following the classes should try one of the many classic uses for panir or chenna in the textbook. Made with whole milk, infused chenna is a cross between Italian ricotta and French boursin, delicious served on crackers, good bread, toasted capatis, or seasonal crudites.
The activities of the Supreme Lord Sri Krsna serve to highlight the importance of the cow and its milk products. Krsna appears as the son of cowherds and, along with all of the residents of Vrndavana, eternally engages in wonderful pastimes focusing on herding and enjoying the by-products of cows. Whether you are a newcomer to this cuisine or a seasoned hand, take time out to read passages from Prabhupada's book Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Absolutely guaranteed to be rewarding.
Srila Prabhupada sometimes requested this milk. Nandlal Pareek, a teacher of classical Vaisnava music, recommends it for maintaining a good throat and a powerful voice. The Ayur Veda recommends it for increasing energy. In America organic milk is available under the Horizon label, available at larger supermarkets.
10 raw almonds, soaked overnight and peeled
Combine the almonds and ½ cup of milk in a blender and process until fairly smooth. Add the remaining milk and the cardamom and pepper. Process on high for 3-4 minutes. Bring the milk to a boil three times. Sweeten. Offer to Krsna hot.
Panir Cheese With Flavor Variations
(Makes about 1 pound of panir or 1 ¼ pounds of chenna)
1 gallon milk
Poor the milk into a large heavy-bottomed pot. If desired, add the ingredients for one of the optional variations listed below. Bring the milk to a rolling boil, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat, and gently stir in the lemon juice. If the milk does not at once separate into whey and white cheese, place the milk momentarily over the heat.
Drape a double thickness of cheesecloth over a colander resting in a sink. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the large curds to the colander; then pour the whey and smaller cheese bits through it. Gather the cheesecloth ends and rinse the cheese under warm running water.
To make panir or chenna, drain the cheese over a bowl for 6 hours in a cool place or until it weighs about 1 pound (for panir) or 1 ¼ pounds (for chenna). Alternatively, place a 5-pound weight over the wrapped cheese and press to the desired weight on a slanted board. Store the cheese, tightly covered, in a refrigerator for up to 1 week.
2 tablespoons each: chives, parsley, tarragon, and minced chervil
1/3 cup finely chopped cilantro
2-3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
¼ cup each: finely diced carrots, celery, and red, green, and yellow bell peppers
¼ cup finely chopped mint
Protection by the Government
By Hare Krsna Devi Dasi
According to Vedic civilization, a qualified ksatriya monarch is given the same respect as the Lord because he represents the Lord by giving protection to the prajas [citizens]. Modern elected presidents cannot even give protection from theft cases, and therefore one has to take protection from an insurance company.
—Srila Prabhupada, Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.6.31, Purport
Because I live in America, I'll talk about fighting crime here. But since crime is a worldwide problem, much of what I say applies everywhere.
The Iron Triangle
If crime is a problem in America, the problem is not for a lack of spending to fight crime. Just to run our prisons costs $25 billion a year. According to David C. Anderson, an authority on criminal justice and other urban issues, the total yearly cost of fighting crime, including trials, incarceration, and police salaries, is about $74 billion.
What is the result of this immense expenditure? In "The Crime Funnel," an article in The New York Times Magazine (12 June 94), Anderson explains that for the 35 million crimes committed in the U.S. each year (25 million of them serious), 3.2 million people are arrested, 1.9 million are convicted, and only 500,000 actually go to prison. So, as Srila Prabhupada suggests, potential victims of crime get little benefit from the government's expensive efforts at crime control.
But other groups do benefit. In a front-page Wall Street Journal article entitled, "Making Crime Pay" (12 May 94), Paulette Thomas describes the business and political interests who profit from the crime industry:
Americans' fear of crime is creating a new version of the old military-industrial complex, an infrastructure born amid political rhetoric and a shower of federal, state and local dollars. As they did in the Eisenhower era, politicians are trying to outdo each other in standing up to the common enemy; communities pin their economic hopes on jobs related to the buildup; and large and small businesses scramble for a slice of the bounty. These mutually reinforcing interests are forging a formidable new "iron triangle" similar to the triangle that arms makers, military services and lawmakers formed three decades ago.
And even though the vast majority of crimes go unpunished, the article says, "the U.S. already has the highest percentage of its population behind bars of any nation in the industrialized world—about 1.4 million people."
Ironically, unemployment, a big contributor to crime, also fuels enthusiasm for more prisons. For example, a New York Times article, "Residents of Dying California Town See Future in a Prison" (8 May 94), explains how residents of a struggling California lumber town pin their economic hopes on building a maximum-security prison at the base of beautiful Mount Shasta.
What is the meaning of a system of crime control treatment that does almost nothing to protect victims but makes businesses wealthier and politicians more powerful? What is the meaning of a society where citizens are so desperate for work that they pray a prison will move into the neighborhood?
Surely such a society must be insane. What is the alternative to this insanity? We can learn a lot from the Vedic social model.
Whom to Protect
In the Vedic society, crime control focuses not so much on clever ways to catch and incarcerate the bad guys but on whom to protect. In the Vedic model, potential victims are never forgotten in multi-billion-dollar "crime fighting" crusades.
And who are the first to be protected? Srila Prabhupada lists five groups and explains the importance of their contribution to society:
In the glorious days before the advent of the Age of Kali, the brahmanas, the cows, the women, the children, and the old men were properly given protection.
—Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.8.5, Purport
If all these groups are free from fear and harassment, they can contribute their full productive and creative potential in society. Then society will be peaceful and virtually crime free. If none of these groups is protected—as in today's society—how can there possibly be anything but increasing anarchy and violence?
So how does Vedic culture protect these valuable members of society? Does it use high-tech blinding foam? Smart guns? Spiked barrier strips?
In Vedic society, providing defense begins with the brahmanas, the intelligentsia. But instead of working as material scientists researching a new laser gun, the intellectual brahmanas work as spiritual scientists researching the scriptures. Their aim: to properly guide society's leaders in varnasrama, the scientific division of society for spiritual advancement.
As we shall see next time, spiritual sociology—rather than material technology—is the first line of defense in protecting society from crime.
Pay the Price
By Urmila Devi Dasi
AS THIS DARK AGE progresses, so does the philosophy of automatic spiritual enlightenment. In bookstores, seminars, and certainly in the literature of professional educators and psychologists, we learn that children are best left to their own devices. Parents, teachers, and society may have to invest some moments here and there of "high-quality time," but basically if we leave our children alone they will find the right path. As some put it, the more we help our children, the more they are likely to go in the wrong direction.
Such ideas come wrapped in the blanket of attractive language, woven with some threads of half-truths. We hear that "forcing" children to do what is right will make them bitter, or that "imposing" our ideas on them will stifle their intellectual development. A large "unschooling" movement in America and Europe propounds: "No formal education." Any attempt at formal learning, you see, will destroy the child's natural interest, creativity, and ultimate knowledge. Better the child not read until thirteen, they say, than risk not liking to read.
How did we arrive at this modern point of view? According to the ancient Vedic perspective—the original perspective—childhood, when the soul's material desires from previous lives are held somewhat in abeyance, is an opportunity best used for spiritual training. Then, when the desires come out in youth, the soul is prepared to transcend them for a higher goal.
The soul is by nature all-good and full of knowledge. But because the soul now identifies with the body, the soul's goodness is covered. Seeing only the external covering, Western religionists in the Middle Ages depicted humans as inherently evil. Western education for hundreds of years, therefore, aimed at repressing what educators called "the child's sinful nature." Children were taught they were sinful, despicable beings whose only chance at goodness came from harsh discipline and adherence to dogma.
But because the soul, covered though he may be, is all-good, an educational philosophy of repression could not last. As the humanism of the Renaissance gradually challenged the stiff doctrines of the Middle Ages, educators turned 180 degrees. Children are pure, innocent, and good, the humanists said. Their bad tendencies arise from negative teachings about sin and guilt. Remove those concepts, leave the child alone, and he will achieve material and spiritual peace and happiness.
But why subscribe to either of these one-sided views? What is needed is a dedication to training that removes rather than represses a child's artificial material leanings.
Training children is certainly more trouble, in the short run, than letting them make their own moral and philosophical choices from as early an age as they can manage. Talking theology with children is certainly more trouble than putting them in front of the television. Getting the children up to worship with the family before sunrise is certainly more trouble than letting them sleep. Running a gurukula or teaching at home is certainly more trouble than sending children to the free government schools. And teaching children the details of devotional practices—which seems a never-ending job—is certainly more trouble than letting them coast along as they please.
But although training a child is troublesome in the beginning, as the child's actual self emerges the parents become more and more joyful and satisfied. On the other hand, whatever pleasure we get from taking the seemingly easy way is quickly replaced with the frustration of a child who cannot understand self-realization.
Bhakti-yoga at Home
Devotional Service "in Secret"
By Rohininandana Dasa
I HAVE RECEIVED the following letter:
My problem arises from my attempt—or rather my eagerness—to love and serve Lord Krsna. It must be a typical situation, really: my parents want me to marry a wealthy young man and enjoy material benefits, and I want to practice spiritual life. For my part, I haven't helped calm them down, because I've been so excited about my visits to the temple and I've talked a lot about the Lord and the purpose of life. Now I have to keep my visits to the temple top secret. How can I practice bhakti-yoga at home in the light of all this? I'm attached to my parents and don't want to hurt them. At the same time, I want to love Krsna.
As I reply, my first consideration is Amba's Krsna consciousness—whatever may happen at her home or whatever agreement or disagreement she reaches with her parents.
I write: "You should know that devotional service is transcendental to material circumstances. Nothing can check it. A vivid example is Prahlada Maharaja. You can read in the Seventh Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam how, as a five-year-old boy, he cooperated with his father—who was completely inimical to Krsna consciousness—by going to school and otherwise obeying his father. But at the same time he fully carried on with his Krsna consciousness. Absolutely nothing, not even the possibility of death, could impede the steady flow of Prahlada's remembrance of Lord Krsna.
"You may not be able to imitate Prahlada Maharaja, but as his father could not restrict Prahlada's thoughts and feelings, your parents cannot restrict yours. Your parents may impose physical restrictions on you, but they can't really interfere with your inner world.
"The Vedic scriptures say that the essence of all instruction is to always remember Krsna and never forget Him. So try to see every aspect of your daily life in relationship to Krsna. Feel a thrill each moment as you connect with Krsna by seeing how everything is happening under His direction, and how all that is beautiful and wonderful—and all that is frightening too—is but a spark of His splendor. Try to see how all that you do—from breathing to eating to working to playing to loving—can be done as an offering to Krsna.
"Besides remembering Krsna, you can rise early and have your own regular spiritual program, or sadhana. You can go on a daily walk while you chant Hare Krsna on your beads. When walking with disciples early in the morning, Srila Prabhupada would sometimes say that the joggers were doing their physical exercise and we are doing our spiritual exercise.
"You can also offer all your food to Krsna. If you are prevented from offering it openly, you can mentally say prayers of offering, such as, 'My dear Lord, I offer this to You,' and then chant Hare Krsna.
"The Nectar of Devotion tells of a devotee who was unable to serve Krsna as elaborately as he desired, so he practiced meditating that he was making grand, royal devotional offerings. At times in my own life I have applied this idea. Once I was ill with a fever, and another time I was in a prison cell, arrested for 'obstructing the footpath' as I tried to sell Srila Prabhupada's books. Both times I meditated on the entire morning program at the temple. I sang, offered arati, chanted japa, danced in a kirtana, gave a class—all in my mind. I look back on those experiences as very important for me in my spiritual development.
"So if you want to serve Lord Krsna and practice bhakti-yoga at home or in any other circumstance, you can—if for no other reason than it is your eternal right.
"Although devotional service is our rightful 'inheritance' from our supreme father, Lord Krsna, still, as prodigal children we chose to turn our backs on Him and enter the material supermarket to purchase its illusory wares. We may now be coming to our senses and getting sick of paying the high price of repeated birth and death, but we can't expect Krsna to hand us our freedom on a silver platter, gratis. Srila Prabhupada says that Maya tests us to see if we are serious in our commitment to Krsna consciousness. Do we really want to be Krsna's devotee? Sometimes the fire of adversity may help us decide.
"Perhaps your particular circumstance will ultimately prove greatly beneficial to you. Perhaps you will become increasingly determined to practice Krsna consciousness and to become a pure devotee. Many stories in the Srimad-Bhagavatam—in fact most of them—depict a devotee facing a circumstance that is difficult or painful. It is not surprising that in this world, where most of us are determined to forget Krsna, practicing devotional service to Him is often fraught with difficulties. Devotees, however, by their devotion to Lord Krsna, eventually come out of any-thing with flying colors. They know the art—which we can also learn—of using absolutely any circumstance in Krsna's service. Even amidst great hardship they are always free.
"The sense of spiritual freedom is so valuable to a devotee that he or she may come to welcome hardship. Queen Kunti, the mother of the five Pandavas, prayed that all the calamities she had faced would happen 'again and again,' because the calamities gave her more chances to be with Krsna. So never despair. Sooner or later things will work out.
"Lord Caitanya once instructed someone in a situation similar to yours. A young man named Raghunatha desperately wanted to leave home to join Lord Caitanya. His parents were horrified at the idea of Raghunatha's leaving home and, seeing his determination, employed ten people to guard him. His parents even considered binding him with ropes. They married him to an exquisitely beautiful girl and provided him with vast riches. They reasoned that if these things couldn't tie him down, nothing could. But Raghunatha could think only of getting away. He tried again and again, but was always caught.
"Eventually Lord Caitanya visited Raghunatha's neighborhood. Raghunatha begged his parents on the plea of his life to allow him to spend a little time with the Lord. Seeing his utter earnestness, and being devotees themselves, they gave their permission. Raghunatha was so happy to be with Lord Caitanya and serve Him that he began to think of cheating his parents and not returning home as agreed.
"Understanding Raghunatha's mind, Lord Caitanya advised him, 'Be patient and return home. Don't be a crazy fellow. By and by you will be able to cross the ocean of material existence. ... But for the time being enjoy the material world in a befitting way and do not become attached to it. Within your heart you should always keep yourself very faithful, but externally you may behave like an ordinary man. Thus Krsna will soon be very pleased and reveal to you how you may be delivered from the clutches of Maya. ... If one has Krsna's mercy, no one can check him.' (Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila, Chapter 16)
"I know it may not presently be easy for you, Amba, but try to see the plusses of your present circumstance. Take advantage of them to go forward in your resolve and deepen your spiritual life."
From Ignorance to Bliss
by Vraja Kishor Dasa
TWO GUYS see a Hare Krsna. One thinks it dumb; the other thinks it interesting.
Why is that?
Adau sraddha. One guy has sraddha; the other guy doesn't.
Sraddha means "faith." Not "Amen, I believe" faith, but respect. Faith really means respect. When you respect something, you can trust it, believe in it, put your heart into it. Faith implies a lot more than just respect, but first and foremost faith means respect.
If you respect something, you find it interesting. You want to read about it, hear about it, find out about it. A person with a trace of respect for God or the saintly finds the sight of a Hare Krsna slightly interesting; he wants to know what Hare Krsnas are all about.
The kid with sraddha finds Hare Krsnas interesting. The kid without sraddha couldn't care less.
But why does one kid have sraddha and the other not?
Sukrti. "Good deeds."
What kind of good deeds lead to sraddha? Deeds done for the All-Good, acts of service to the Supreme.
So service to the Supreme (sukrti) leads to respect for the Supreme (sraddha).
Service and respect are naturally linked. The servant respects the master. Of course, in this world the respect is usually just a facade—the "master" is a jerk, and the "servant" just wants a paycheck. But still, respect and service are intrinsically linked. And if you serve people who really are admirable, you'll develop strong respect (sraddha) for them. That's unavoidable.
Why does one kid have sraddha? Because he unknowingly did some service to the Supreme in this lifetime or in previous ones.
How does someone unknowingly perform an act of transcendental service? Well, suppose someone already loves God and is engaged in His divine loving service. That person may engage others in such service without their even knowing it. For example, Prabhupada sent Hare Krsnas into the streets to chant God's names. When someone hears the chanting, that's devotional service—because Krsna likes it when we hear His names. And if someone remembers the chanting, that's service too.
So why does one kid have sukrti? Why did he get the chance to do some service unknowingly? It was simply the causeless mercy of a devotee. That's all. For no apparent cause, the devotee kindly engaged that kid in divine service. That's how his good fortune begins.
Devotion comes from a devotee (bhakti comes from a bhakta). So devotion ultimately has no cause other than itself. Devotion is caused by devotion. It is causeless, absolute.
We have found the root of all good fortune, and we have traced the way it sprouts.
Devotion gets a person serving the Supreme. And by engaging in service he naturally engages others (without their knowledge). They then develop a fragment of sraddha—faith (respect). Having that faith, when some kid in New Jersey sees a Hare Krsna hanging what look like pink bed sheets on a clothesline, he thinks, "Weird. I wonder what that's all about."
Commence now on the journey from ignorance to bliss.
In the next article we'll come to the first landmarks on the journey: from sraddha to sadhu-sanga (association with devotees) to the outskirts of bhajana-kriya (devotion in practice).
Should We Reject Modern Science
By Ravi Gupta
MANY INDIANS want to come to America or the West. The scientific progress of Western civilization and the obvious comforts, luxuries, technology, and efficiency afforded by modern science attract people. Are these amenities purely material distractions? How should the fruits of progress be used?
Historian Charles A. Beard in his book A Century of Progress suggests that progress "implies that mankind, by making use of science and invention, can progressively emancipate itself from plagues, famines, and social disasters, and subjugate the materials and forces of the earth to the purposes of the good here and now."
Srila Prabhupada, however, explains progress differently: "Material advancement of civilization means advancement of the reactions of the threefold miseries." That is, miseries from other living beings, miseries from Mother Nature, and miseries from one's own body and mind. "There are many calamities like excessive heat, cold, rains or no rains, and the after-effects are famine, disease, and epidemic. The aggregate result is agony of the body and mind. Manmade material science cannot do anything to counteract these threefold miseries. They are all punishments from the superior energy of maya under the direction of the Supreme Lord." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.14.10, Purport)
But how can this be? Advancement in science adds to our sufferings? But there are so many obvious comforts. Diseases have been eliminated, damage from natural catastrophes minimized, and so many mechanized luxuries produced.
Srila Prabhupada gives the answer with the example of an equation. In solving a mathematical equation, if the first step is done wrong, no matter how well we may do the rest, we are just going further away from the right answer. In the same way, modern society has done the first step wrong by accepting the self as the body. So by trying to make perfect arrangements for the body and neglecting the spirit soul, society is going further away from the truth and degrading itself.
No matter how hard science may try to subdue the forces of nature, Mother Earth sends greater calamities and leaves us baffled. We stamp out one disease, and a new, more dangerous one appears. Identification with the body makes us want to secure as much as possible for ourselves and our families, communities, and nations. This selfishness ultimately leads to wars. Because of neglecting the Supreme Lord, we suffer.
So should we give up scientific advancement and go back to living without computers and cars? Beard says, "When critics and scoffers, writing under soft lamps, or lecturing for fees to well-fed audiences, in comfortable rooms electrically lighted, venture to speak of an alternative, they can only offer a return to agriculture and handicrafts. ... Are we merely to surrender the tractor and return to the steel plow? Why not the wooden plow? Or better still, to the forked stick hardened by fire? In the process of retreat are surgery and dentistry to go into the discard? ... The problem is not one of retreat, but of ends and methods, of choices and uses."
The perfect use of modern technology lies in the service of Krsna. Instead of throwing material conveniences away, we must use them for Krsna. This is andha-pangu nyaya, the logic of the blind man and the lame one. Though India has a rich spiritual culture, she is lame in material progress, and though the West is materially progressive it is blinded by the glamour of materialism and can't see the real goal of human life—self-realization. But if the blind person takes the lame on his shoulder, the lame can direct and the blind may walk, and both may work successfully. India is the land of dharma, the land where Krsna appeared and all the Vedic knowledge was stored. Indians have a natural inclination towards Krsna consciousness. So if India provides the spiritual vision for materially advanced America, then human society can peacefully work in the proper direction for spiritual advancement. This was Prabhupada's vision, to unite the East and West. He knew that since India is hankering after Western technology, if he made the West Krsna conscious then India (and the world) would follow. He said he was bringing Sita, the goddess of wealth, back to Rama, the Supreme Lord, by using wealth in the Lord's service.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura employed this principle of yukta-vairagya, using the material energy in the service of the energetic, Krsna. Later Srila Prabhupada, on his spiritual master's instruction, crossed the ocean to spread Krsna consciousness. When people asked him why he wore watches, traveled in cars, and flew in planes, Prabhupada replied that he didn't own a thing—everything belonged to Krsna, and Prabhupada was using everything in Krsna's service.
When we use everything in Krsna's service, whatever we use is spiritualized. Prabhupada gave an example. When a thief steals your money he will spend it, and if you had kept it you would have spent it. So either way it would be spent. Why then is he a criminal? Because your money should be spent for your purposes and he has diverted it for his purposes. Similarly, everything belongs to Krsna, so when we use it for Krsna we are acting spiritually, but when we use it any other way we are acting materially and we are thieves. So when we change the focus of science from serving the body to serving Krsna, we straighten out the equation of civilization.
Ravi Gupta, age twelve, lives at the Hare Krsna center in Boise, Idaho, run by his parents.
Bhima Fights The Man-Eater
Having escaped one calamity,
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 and their mother have escaped the burning house of lac, and Bhima is leading—and sometimes carrying—his mother and brothers through the jungle.
Bhima quickly moved through the jungle, O king, his powerful thighs sending the trees and thickets whirling about, stirring up winds that blew like the summer blasts in the months of Suci and Sukra. Mighty Bhima made his own road by shattering branches, flattening creepers and lordly trees, tearing out bushes that entered his path, and demolishing the forest giants that grew from the earth and gave their fruits in the sky. Immeasurable was Bhima's prowess, and as he went crashing through the forest, his speed and force left the Pandavas dizzy and dazed.
More than once the Pandavas swam across wide rivers. On land they assumed disguises, fearing Duryodhana, the son of Dhrtarastra. When the going was rough—on treacherous land and up the banks and mountain slopes—Bhima carried his glorious mother, whose body was most delicate.
As evening settled in, those bulls of the Bharata race came to a corner of the vast forest where the fare of roots, fruits, and even water was scarce and where the birds and beasts were cruel and ghastly. Grim was that twilight. Horrible birds and beasts roamed all about, all directions fell blind with darkness, and unseasonable winds howled.
Afflicted with fatigue, thirst, and irresistible sleep, the Kauravyas could go no farther. Then, carrying the others, Bhima, best of the Bharatas, entered a vast and frightening forest where no man lived. He moved quickly to the shelter of a wide and charming banyan tree, where he placed down all the family.
Bhima said, "I shall search for water here. My lord Yudhisthira, all of you should now rest. Water-going cranes are crying out their sweet songs, so I think there must be a large reservoir of water in this area."
"Go ahead!" said the eldest brother.
Bhima went to the place where the water birds were crying out. There, O king, he drank good, clean water and bathed. Then with his upper cloth he gathered up drinking water for his family. He quickly returned the distance of several miles, eager to bring water to his mother. Seeing his mother and brothers sleeping on the bare ground, Vrkodara [Bhima] was filled with unhappiness, and he grieved for them:
"How ironic that in Varanavata my mother and brothers could not fall asleep on the most costly beds and now they sleep so soundly on the bare ground. Behold this lady, Kunti. Her brother Vasudeva crushed the hosts of wicked enemies. Kunti, the daughter of King Kuntibhoja, is glorified by all the marks of divine and noble birth. She is the daughter-in-law of Vicitravirya and the wife of the great soul Pandu. She has always slept in palaces, and she shines like the bright whorl of the lotus. She is the most delicate of women, and by all rights she deserves the costliest bedding. Just see her now so unfairly lying on the dirt of the earth! She bore her sons from the god of justice, from the king of heaven, and from the Wind, and now that same innocent woman lies exhausted on this bare land.
"What could be more heartbreaking for me than this—that I must now watch my own brothers, tigers among men, sleeping here on the empty ground? Whatever kingdom may be in the three worlds, this king, Yudhisthira, deserves to rule it, for it is he who knows the Law. How can that very king lie here exhausted on bare ground like a most wretched and vulgar man? And Arjuna, who has no equal among men in this world, whose divine hue is dark like a bluish rain cloud—he too lies here on the empty land like a wretched person. What is sadder than this? And the twins, endowed with beauty like that of the celestial Asvins—they too rest on the hard surface of the earth as if the poorest of men.
"A man who has no biased and scheming relatives to disgrace his family lives very happily in this world, like a tree that stands alone in a village. That single tree, full of leaves and fruits, becomes sacred to the village, and because it stands alone, without a jungle of relatives, the people honor and revere it.
"Of course, those who have many courageous relatives and who are devoted to religious principles also live happily in this world, free of distress. Powerful, prosperous people who love and take care of their friends and family live by helping and depending on one another, like trees in a noble forest.
"But Dhrtarastra and his wicked son have driven us out of our home. Somehow, by the instruction of Vidura, we were not burned to death. And here we are under the shelter of a tree. What direction shall we take, now that we have come to the worst trouble of our lives?
"I seem to make out a city not too far from this forest. Someone had better keep guard while the others sleep, so I myself shall stay awake. My mother and brothers will drink water later, when they awaken and are rested and relaxed."
Thus making up his mind, Bhima guarded his family throughout the night.
Hidimba, The Man-Eater
Not far from the forest where the Pandavas slept lived Hidimba, a Raksasa, a monstrous creature who preyed on human flesh. He made his home in a huge Sala tree and possessed great power and might. His deformed features were hideous. He had bright yellow eyes, a gaping mouth with saber-like teeth, and an insatiable lust for human flesh. Afflicted by hunger, he was roaming the night when he happened to spy from a distance the sleeping Pandavas and their mother. Shaking his head, its hairs harsh and grizzly, and scratching it with his fingers pointed upward, the Raksasa opened wide his great mouth and yawned, looking again and again toward the sleeping princes.
The wicked giant, who preyed with terrible strength on human flesh, smelled the aroma of human meat and said to his sister, "After a long time, some food has come that I really like. My mouth is watering with relish, and my tongue is licking my lips. Finally I can sink my eight deadly razor-sharp teeth into juicy, fleshy bodies. I shall step over these human necks and rip open the jugular veins, and then I shall drink lots of hot, foaming blood. Go and find out who they are, sleeping so confidently in the forest.
"The aroma of human meat is very strong, and it gives me great pleasure. Go kill all those humans and bring me their bodies. You have nothing to fear from them, for they sleep in my domain. We shall very nicely prepare the meat of those humans, and then we shall feast together. Quickly, do what I say!"
Obeying her brother's order, the Raksasi monster, jumping from one tree to another, went swiftly to where the Pandavas slept, O best of the Bharatas. Arriving there, she saw the Pandavas and their mother, Prtha, sleeping on the ground, and she saw the invincible Bhimasena standing guard over them. But when she saw Bhimasena standing as tall and sturdy as the trunk of a Sala tree and incomparably handsome, the Raksasi desired him.
"That dark, handsome man has powerful arms, shoulders like a lion, and a body that seems to glow. His neck is thick and precious like a conch shell, and his eyes are like the petals of a lotus. He is fit to be my husband! I shall never execute the cruel order of my brother. The love a woman feels for her husband is much stronger than her friendship with a brother. If I kill these people, my brother and I will be satisfied for an hour or so, but if I don't kill them I shall enjoy forever."
Able to change her body at will, the Raksasi then took the form of a gorgeous human female, adorned herself with celestial ornaments, and very slowly, like a bashful creeper, approached the mighty-armed Bhimasena.
Hidimba smiled at Bhima and said, "Where have you come from, noble man, and who are you? Who are the men who sleep here as handsome as gods? And who is this very delicate woman, tan and luminous, who has come here to the forest with you and lies sleeping as securely as if she were in her own house? She doesn't know that the wild jungle is inhabited by Raksasas and that a most wicked Raksasa named Hidimba dwells in this very place. That evil Raksasa is my brother, and he sent me here because he wants to eat the flesh of all of you, O divine one. But when I look upon you, as handsome as a child of the gods, I desire no one else for my husband. I tell you the truth.
"Now that you know this, please treat me properly. My mind and body desire you, so accept me as I have accepted you. O innocent one, be my husband, and I shall save you from that man-eating Raksasa. Then, O mighty-armed, we shall live together, with the mountains as our citadel. I can fly through space and wander where I will. Come with me, and discover pleasure you have never known before!"
Bhimasena said, "My dear Raksasi, what man would abandon his mother, an older brother, and younger brothers like these when he has the power to protect them? How can a man like me hand over his sleeping brothers and mother as food for the Raksasas and go off pining for romance?"
The Raksasi said, "Whatever you like I shall do. Wake them all up, and I shall gladly save all of you from the man-eating Raksasa."
Bhimasena said, "O Raksasi, my brothers and mother are peacefully sleeping in these woods, and I will not wake them all up out of fear of your wicked brother. O timid one, O lady of lovely eyes, neither Raksasas, humans, Gandharvas, nor Yaksas can withstand my prowess. Either go or stay, good woman. Do as you like, or send at once your man-eating brother, my thin beauty."
The Man-Eater's Challenge
Noticing that his sister had been gone for a long time, Hidimba, lord of the Raksasas, descended from his tree and went to hunt the Pandavas. His arrogant bulging eyes were red with rage. His hairs standing on end, the mighty demon stood so tall that his body bruised the clouds. Repeatedly throwing around his mighty arms, he smashed his palm with his fist, and he ground together the sharp fangs that lit his hideous face.
Seeing that awful monster coming to attack them, his sister Hidimba was terror-struck and said to Bhimasena, "He's going to attack! He's a wicked man-eater, terribly cruel. You and your brothers must do exactly as I say. I have all the strength of the Raksasas, and I can go anywhere at will. Climb onto my hip, my hero, and I will take you away through the skyways. Please, mighty one! Wake up your sleeping brothers and your mother, and I will take all of you and flee through the celestial sky."
Bhimasena said, "Do not fear, shapely one. He is nothing in my presence. O thin-waisted lady, I shall kill him before your attentive eyes. This degraded Raksasa is no match for me, my timid one. Why, not even all the Raksasas combined can withstand my pressure in battle. Just look at my bulging arms, as wide as elephant trunks, my thighs, as tough as iron beams, and my hard, massive chest. Lovely lady, do not insult me by thinking I am an ordinary human being, for you will see now, shapely one, that I am equal in prowess to Indra."
Hidimba said, "I am not insulting you, O tiger of men, for I see that you are as handsome as a god. But I have also seen the havoc wrought by this Raksasa upon human beings."
O Bharata, as Bhimasena and Hidimba were thus speaking, the man-eating Raksasa heard Bhimasena's words and flew into a rage. Hidimba then saw that his sister had assumed a human form, with a garland atop her head and a face as lustrous as the full moon. Her nose, hair, and eyebrows were all exquisite, her skin and nails most delicate. She was dressed in very thin garments and adorned with all sorts of jewelry. Seeing her in such a charming human form, the man-eater suspected her of lusting after a man, and this only fanned the fire of his wrath.
In full fury the Raksasa bulged out his huge eyes at his sister, O noble Kuru, and rebuked her, "Who is this fool who obstructs me when I'm hungry? Hidimba! Are you so bewildered and deceived that you do not fear my rage? Damn you, shameless woman! Lusting after men! You disgust me, for you bring infamy to all the Raksasa lords who have come before us. Taking the side of these humans, you have unkindly offended me. I shall at once kill all of them, and I shall kill you too!"
Having spoken thus, Hidimba, his eyes red with rage and furiously gnashing his teeth, rushed upon Hidimba to kill her. Seeing this, mighty Bhima, best of fighters, shouted in a menacing voice, "Halt! Stand right there!"
Seeing the Raksasa raging at his sister, Bhimasena laughed and said to him, "Why should you wake up these people sleeping so peacefully? Come and attack me, you stupid man-eater. Hurry up! I've done you no wrong. You are the offender, but at least try your blows on me and don't strike a woman.
"You stupid Raksasa, it is you who are the infamy of your family. This girl is an innocent child, and she could not help desiring me, for she was moved by the god of love who dwells within her body. By your command she came here, and upon seeing my God-given beauty she desired me. This shy woman does not defile your family. The fault was committed by Cupid, and when I am standing here, you wicked Raksasa, you are not going to strike a woman. Let's come together, man-eater, one on one, and I shall send you now to the abode of Yama, lord of death.
"Now, Raksasa, I'm going to pound your head into the ground till it shatters as if smashed by the foot of a mighty elephant. Let the vultures and jackals be happy to drag your body on the earth, for this very day I shall slay you in battle. For too long you have defiled this forest, devouring innocent men, but now in one moment I shall free the forest of its painful pest.
"Even though an elephant is as big as a hill, a powerful lions kills it and drags it over the land. So today your sister will see you killed and dragged by me across this earth. When I slay you, O disgrace of the Raksasas, the men who live in this forest will wander here free of harassment."
Hidimba said, "What is all your useless roaring and boasting, son of man? First do all that you say and speak with action! Don't go on forever bragging in vain. You think you are strong and invincible, but you will now learn in battle that I am stronger than you. You offend me with your words, you fool, but I promise that I will not slaughter these people sleeping here so happily until I have first slaughtered you. But when I have drunk the blood of your limbs, then I shall slay these others, and I shall murder this woman who dares disgust me."
The Deadly Fight
Having thus spoken, the man-eater grasped his own arms and with terrible fury rushed upon Bhimasena, the slayer of enemies. As the demon rushed, swinging his deadly fist, Bhima, of frightening prowess, swiftly caught and held the Raksasa's arm and laughed at him. As the Raksasa struggled in Bhima's mighty grasp, Bhima dragged him eight bow-lengths from that spot as easily as a lion drags a petty animal.
Held in the mighty grip of Pandu's son, the furious Raksasa wrapped his arms around Bhimasena and screamed out in a terrifying voice. Again powerful Bhima dragged him on the ground and said, "I don't want this noise to wake up my sleeping brothers."
Bhima wanted to fight, and the two of them attacked and dragged one another with sheer power. Both the Raksasa and Bhima demonstrated extraordinary prowess, breaking giant trees and tearing apart the toughest jungle vines as furiously as two maddened bull elephants that have grown mighty for sixty years.
Awakened by the great sound of the battle, the Pandavas and their mother opened their eyes and saw the lady Hidimba standing before them.
Seeing the superhuman beauty of Hidimba, the tiger-like Pandavas and their mother, Prtha, were astonished. Studying her carefully, and amazed by her gorgeous features, Kunti spoke to her in words that were gentle, sweet, and comforting.
"You are as bright as a child of the gods. Who is your guardian, and who are you, fair lady? Where do you come from, shapely woman, and what duty brought you here? Whether you are a venerable deity of this forest or an Apsara goddess, please explain everything to me. How is it that you are standing here before us?"
Hidimba said, "The forest you are seeing, as vast and luminous as the blue rain-bearing clouds, is the residence of the Raksasa Hidimba, and it is my abode as well. You may know me to be the sister of that Raksasa lord. Noble lady, my brother wanted to kill all of you, and therefore he sent me here. I came here on the order of that cruel and wicked demon, but then I saw your powerful son, whose skin is like gold. Cupid moves in the heart of all beings, good woman, and he has put me under the control of your son. I chose your mighty son as my husband, and I tried to take him away, but he would not be controlled by me. Then, knowing that I had been gone for a long time, that man-eater Hidimba came himself to kill all of your sons. But your intelligent son, who is my beloved, with his strength, stamina, and skill smashed my wicked brother and dragged him away [so the fight would not disturb you]. Look, you can see them there, roaring and tearing at each other, man against Raksasa, both of them full of power and courage."
Hearing her words [and suddenly realizing that their brother Bhima was engaged in mortal combat], Yudhisthira, Arjuna, Nakula, and mighty Sahadeva all jumped to their feet and saw the two fighters clasping and dragging each other like two furious lions in a savage fight for victory. Bhima and Hidimba raised a dust cloud like the smoke of a forest fire. Covered with earth and dust, they seemed like two mountains, and they shone like two great slopes covered with mountain dew.
As Arjuna watched his brother struggling with the Raksasa, he laughed and whispered to him, "Bhima, don't be afraid, mighty-armed one. We were exhausted and sleeping soundly, and we didn't know you were fighting with such a ferocious enemy. I'm here to help you, Partha. I shall fight with the Raksasa, and Nakula and Sahadeva will protect Mother."
Bhima said, "Just stay on the sideline and watch. And don't be confused by this exercise. There's no way he's going to live, now that he's come within the reach of my arms."
Arjuna said, "Bhima, why let this sinful Raksasa live so long? We have to leave soon. We can't stay here, O tamer of foes. End this fight before the western horizon turns red and the twilight begins, for in that eerie hour the Raksasas gain tremendous power. Hurry up, Bhima. Don't play with him! Kill this horrible Raksasa before he works up his magical powers."
Thus addressed by Arjuna, Bhima hoisted aloft the body of the ferocious Raksasa and whirled it around more than a hundred times.
Bhimasena said, "With useless meat you maintained your useless life and grew strong, but with a useless brain. You deserve a useless death! So now you will be useless no more!"
Arjuna said, "If you consider the Raksasa a burden for you in this fight, then I can help you, but he must be killed instantly. Or I alone shall kill him, Bhima. You have done a good job and you are tired, so it's the right time for you to rest."
Hearing these words from Arjuna, Bhimasena fumed with indignation and pulverized the demon against the hard ground, slaughtering him like a sacrificial animal. As Bhima dealt him death blows, the Raksasa blasted the air with horrible screams that filled the entire forest, echoing like a moist and booming kettledrum. The powerful and beloved son of Pandu then grasped the Raksasa's body firmly in his hands and broke it in half, delighting his anxious brothers.
Seeing Hidimba dead, the Pandavas became wildly enthusiastic, and they honored Bhimasena, tiger among men, who always tamed his foe. Having praised and honored the great soul Bhima, of awesome prowess, Arjuna again spoke to him.
"Bless you! I think, my lord, there's a city not far from this forest. Let us go there quickly so that Duryodhana does not discover us here."
Everyone agreed, saying, "So be it."
Those fierce warriors, tigers of men, took their mother and departed, and the Raksasa lady Hidimba went with them.
Hridayananda Dasa Goswami led the team of devotee-scholars who completed the translation and commentary of the Srimad-Bhagavatam begun by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Fluent in several languages, Hridayananda Dasa Goswami has extensively taught Krsna consciousness in India, Europe, the United States, and Latin America. He is now doing graduate work in Sanskrit and Indian Studies at Harvard University.
"Vague ... Bogus ... A Waste Of Time"
Here we continue 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 Prabhupada's disciples translating the official's remarks from French.
Official: We can have spiritual realization and still live in the material world.
Srila Prabhupada: But what is that spiritual life? What is the distinction between spiritual life and material life? What is the goal? You cannot define spiritual life.
Official: I think we should want to know how a person who has actually realized the perfection lives his life.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Official [pointedly]: Tolerant. Above all, he is tolerant.
Srila Prabhupada: "Tolerant." That is a part of spiritual life, that's all. But in your way of spiritual life, what is the process? There must be some process—some definite process.
Official: That comes when you become initiated in the movement. We give you the process for arriving at this tolerance.
Srila Prabhupada: That's all right. But suppose I want to enter. So you must give me some formula—"You have to do this like this." Otherwise, how can I enter?
Official: There are many techniques, but ultimately they are really all the same, be-cause they lead to the same conclusion.
Srila Prabhupada: Why don't you tell us some of the techniques?
Official: The first thing is that we have to awaken our internal consciousness, which is ninety percent asleep.
Srila Prabhupada: So, what is the process?
Official: I don't care to talk about it here.
Srila Prabhupada: Then how can I accept it? I cannot enter into some vague thing.
Official: All the systems have to do with meditation, concentration—things that will reawaken your consciousness.
Srila Prabhupada: What is the object of meditation?
Official: Many different objects.
Srila Prabhupada: But tell one of them.
Official: The body, for example. There is "the eternal meditation number three."
Srila Prabhupada: So what is the "number one"?
Official: This particular meditation—number three—is basic. It is given to all our students.
Srila Prabhupada: "Number three," and no "number one."
Official: The idea is that you will meditate on the number three, and in this way you will wake up the consciousness in your body, starting from the tips of your toes and working upward. Now, it may seem easy to you, but all the great masters of the Orient have taught this, and no one can succeed without doing this.
Srila Prabhupada: That means your knowledge is not perfect. It is all bogus. If you meditate on the body, what do you gain?
Official: You wake up your psychic consciousness, which is sleeping inside the body.
Srila Prabhupada: But you tell me—what is that process?
Official: Well, I would like to talk to you a little bit about a book I am reading, which describes how the Russians have just discovered the soul. They have photographed the soul, the soul's aura. They have found the soul, and they have described all the various phenomena of parapsychology and extrasensory perception. The Russians have made great discoveries, and the book is incredible, although I have not finished it as yet.
Srila Prabhupada: That is the Russians. I am asking about your process.
Official: Our order knows the destiny of human life, the state of Christic consciousness, nirvana—call it what you will—with an understanding that is a million times beyond your understanding.
Srila Prabhupada: If it is "beyond understanding," how can I accept it?
Official: This is a genuine understanding, and it is translated onto the objective level.
Srila Prabhupada: If I do not understand whom to love, how can I love?
Official: This understanding is in the heart of everyone. Simply it is a question of repressing the false ego—eliminating the old man, the false ego.
Srila Prabhupada: What is that?
Official: I don't understand why you are objecting. After all, love is a part of everyone.
Srila Prabhupada: I am objecting because if you ask me to love, I want to know whom I shall love.
Official: A mystic loves everything, everyone.
Srila Prabhupada: If you love everyone, that means you love the animals, also. Does your community allow animal killing?
Official: When you come into the movement, there are no regulations required of you. But little by little, it comes to that point. Then, for a short period, our students are required to give up intoxication and meat and things like that. But it is not permanent.
Srila Prabhupada: And then they can take these things.
Official: Yes. Afterwards.
Srila Prabhupada: So in the beginning, why stop? Why, in the beginning, are your students requested to give these things up?
Official: Our order does not force any-thing, does not make you do anything.
Srila Prabhupada: But the ideal must be there. One may follow or not follow.
Official: Our order doesn't reject anyone.
Srila Prabhupada: So your order approves animal killing?
Official: There are no restrictions. The order doesn't require.
Srila Prabhupada: Then let us stop here. No more questions. This is a waste of time.
The Bhaktivedanta Swami International Gurukula—ISKCON's flagship school for boys—is proving the value of teaching the time-honored Vedic way.
By Nila Madhava Dasa
A DAY OR TWO after arriving in Vrndavana, I had just finished my lunch and was waiting to wash my plate at the communal water taps. Just in front of me was a group of cute-looking little boys dressed in yellow dhotis. Each boy had a tiny tuft of hair hanging down from the back of his otherwise clean-shaven head. The boys were playing together and enjoying themselves in a way only six-year-olds can while doing something as ordinary as washing a plate.
I was fascinated by them, and as they chattered away amongst themselves at a hundred miles an hour I tried to engage them in a conversation. They told me they had been to the Yamuna River that morning but hadn't been able to swim because the river had swollen and was too dangerous. One tiny little boy told me he had tried to swim but had been dragged off by the currents and "Prabhuji" (the asrama supervisor) had swum out to save him.
"You're very lucky that your Prabhuji was there. Otherwise, you would have been in real trouble," I said, picturing this half-pint-sized boy in the raging river.
The boy was a little surprised at my reaction. He looked me squarely in the eyes and said, "No. Don't forget that this is Vrndavana, Krsna's holy place, and the Yamuna is His holy river. If you die here you go back home, back to Godhead." With a big smile he flung his hands in the air, said, "Hari bol!" and then skipped off to catch up with his friends.
That was the first time I had received spiritual instruction from a six-year-old. And it wasn't the last, because I ended up staying a year at the Bhaktivedanta Swami International Gurukula.
Gurukula means "the school of the spiritual master," and this school gets its name from its founder, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. His disciples and grand-disciples now run the gurukula and train a hundred local and foreign boys by following the ancient Vedic standard of knowledge. Besides attending classes on scriptures, mathematics, geography, and languages, the boys learn cleanliness, honesty, tolerance, and simplicity. In recreational time they learn swimming, painting, drama, and music. They follow a strict program of "early to bed and early to rise" and take part in the spiritual activities of ISKCON's Krsna-Balarama Mandir, one of Vrndavana's most popular temples.
The school may sound like something from Satya-yuga (the golden age), and it is—except for the computers and the school bus. Some may doubt whether it is possible to re-create Satya-yuga in this most fallen of ages. If you're skeptical, maybe you'd like to judge for yourself by meeting some of the staff and boys.
Meeting the Staff
The first person you should meet is the principal, Dhanurdhara Swami. At dawn he can be seen pacing up and down the long verandas of the gurukula building, softly chanting the maha-mantra on his japa beads. He has been working at the school since it was founded by Srila Prabhupada almost twenty years ago. Dhanurdhara Swami's plans and hopes for the gurukula stretch far into the future. His spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, gave him a vision of an institution that would "train honest brahmana brahmacaris" and play a major role in respiritualizing the planet.
Dhanurdhara Swami invites me into his office. He reverently shows me his altar with his Govardhana-sila, a worshipable form of Krsna. Then he sits me down and in his strong New Yorkese shares with me his enthusiasm for the gurukula:
"Srila Prabhupada told us that the gurukula depends on the teachers. They have to be good devotees and qualified teachers. The secret of a successful gurukula is to create the right atmosphere to attract such people. Here in Vrndavana we have always tried to maintain the vision of Srila Prabhupada. He said that the goal of gurukula is to train children to be Krsna conscious so they can help spread Krsna consciousness. Because we have kept a pure objective, we have attracted very qualified devotees to come here and teach.
"But I want to make a point here." The swami raises his index finger and looks at me intently. "Just because we are an institution with spiritual goals, that doesn't mean our students are uneducated." His hand thumps onto the arm rest.
"Recently a woman from Europe visited our school. She runs a successful secular school in her country. Yet she was surprised at how much more our students learn. She was seeing the capacity for our students to learn because of their discipline and obedience. That discipline is not forced—it's the natural result of the whole gurukula system. The children obey because of their affection for their teachers. When you have that principle in a gurukula, then you can really talk about learning. The students will become just like sponges for knowledge. When students are self-controlled and follow the brahmacari system of celibacy, their capacity to learn is enormous.
"I'm the principal, and I can say to you that this year not one boy has come to my office for discipline.
"The school has really come a long way in these twenty years. When a boy comes here now at the age of five, he's going to get the proper education; he's going to get the proper care. He enters an atmosphere in which all the students greatly respect their teachers.
"When the boys leave our school, they can do anything. Whether they're inside or outside ISKCON temples, we want them to be dedicated to Srila Prabhupada's mission. We want them to have a clear spiritual objective in life. In other words, their lives should be based on getting love of God. Whatever else they do is just to help them achieve that goal. Someone may become a householder, someone else a brahmacari monk. Someone may be a priest in the temple, someone else may work outside. But whatever they do is done only because it fits with achieving their spiritual goal.
"The boys are equipped to do whatever they want to when they leave the school because they have been trained to learn. They know how to receive knowledge. Even though our school is not a part of any government system, our graduates have been able to adapt to government standards for tertiary education because our students have discipline. Today's world is so unpredictable that the real element of success is going to be someone's character.
"Our objective is to give the boys such a depth of Krsna consciousness that they can become acaryas, great spiritual teachers. That takes training. Our idea is that we should have boys from all over the world and we should train them as acaryas. They should be so learned, so powerful, and so determined that they'll be respected wherever they go. Canakya Pandita said that a wealthy man is respected in his own village but a wise man is respected all over the world. Srila Prabhupada said here in Vrndavana during his last days, 'Train young men as preachers.' And I can see now that such young men are coming and they are being trained. We're hoping that the face of the planet will be changed by powerful preachers trained in the gurukula system."
Just two doors down from Dhanurdhara Swami's room you'll find the room of Yadu Dasa Brahmacari, the coordinator for Sanskrit studies. He always seems to have a group of students in his room and two or three other classes to supervise here and there in the building. If you want to stop him as you pass him in the corridor, just ask him about the Sanskrit grammar book for Vaisnavas by Jiva Gosvami. Yadu's eyes will light up, and with expressive Latin American gestures he will outline for you his ten-year teaching strategy for producing Sanskrit masters:
"We take the boys at age five, when their memories are keen, and give them three thousand grammar rules to memorize in four or five years. By nature's arrangement children of that age remember things very easily and they enjoy memorizing. When the boys reach ten they become a little more analytically inclined. We then begin to explain the meaning of the rules. The boys leap ahead because they already know every rule and every form by heart. With a little practice, they will be ready to tackle any Sanskrit text.
"Jiva Gosvami has cleverly designed the grammar so that every rule somehow contains at least one name of Krsna. Our boys often sound as if they're chanting Vedic mantras when in fact they're just learning grammar. Even if someone doesn't complete the full course and become a pandita, he still becomes a good devotee because he has done so much chanting."
After talking with Yadu, I go upstairs and see the local pandita, Satya Narayana Dasa. You'll always find Satya Narayana in his room on the second floor. He'll be seated in lotus position behind a low desk. As you open the door he will slowly lift his head from a pile of manuscripts, and with a gentle movement of the eyebrows he will invite you to come sit on the big straw mats that cover the stone floor. As you look around, you realize that the musty smell is coming from hundreds of old manuscripts, carefully wrapped and stacked on shelves that tower above you on every centimeter of wall space. When you're seated, he'll put down his pen and set aside his translation work. With another movement of the eyebrows and a gentle smile, he'll indicate that he's at your service.
You seize the opportunity to get rid of your doubts: "Panditaji, why so much emphasis on Sanskrit? No one speaks it anymore, and it's so hard that some boys may never master ..."
"First of all," Satya Narayana cuts in, "as a teacher I always think that the students will learn." Although he speaks with strong conviction, somehow his intonation never seems to vary. The soft no-frills monotone suggests that he relies more on reason than rhetoric. "All our scriptures are in Sanskrit, so even if you learn a little, that is helpful. Here in India there are many people who don't know English fully—they cannot speak it. Still, whatever they do know is helpful for them. Even the ricksha drivers know a few sentences in English, and that's helpful for them: 'Oh, Loi Bazaar? Ten rupees!' So it's the same with Sanskrit; whatever you learn will be useful for understanding the scriptures. And understanding the scriptures is vital for a Vaisnava.
"In India education doesn't count for much anymore. Getting a job ultimately depends on whether you know someone or how much of a bribe you can give. What's more, at the schools the students just pick up bad habits. But here there are good devotees, good association, and a good atmosphere.
After all, the life of a child is molded by his association. Especially in Vrndavana—because of the place, the people, the visitors—there is a holy effect. Everything is related with holiness here. The children go outside on a Sunday, and they hear more about Krsna. During the holy month of Kartika and on Janmastami, Lord Krsna's appearance day, there are festivities going on everywhere. All this greatly affects a child's mind. The boys go outside and see so many people dressed in dhotis, and on every wall is written, 'Radhe! Radhe!' Vrndavana is also a good place for teachers; it attracts good people."
On the ground floor we meet "Candrika Mataji," as the children call her. On the order of her spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, Candrika Devi Dasi and her husband brought a handful of Western children to India seventeen years ago.
"Every day I go before Radha and Krsna in the temple with a list of little requests. Radharani knows I'm from the gurukula because I'm always asking for things we need—maybe a boy's health, or a teacher's resident visa."
Her forehead furrows with genuine concern as she explains the measures the school is taking against child abuse: "The bad influence of the Age of Kali is such that child abuse is rampant in schools all over the world. We can't be naive. Although we live in a holy place, we still have to protect the children. That's why we've set up a full child-protection program at the school. The program was developed by the New South Wales Department of Education in Australia. Both teachers and children follow a twenty-day course. We have arranged the timetable and the layout of the school to ensure that the children are always safe. Someone would have to be pretty stupid to try anything at this school."
On the first floor is the classroom of Vaijayanti Mala Dasi. Although she has been teaching for the last eighteen years (inside and outside ISKCON), she says she has never been happier as a teacher:
"Because the children live here in the asrama, they become very spiritually minded, very Krsna conscious, and therefore they are a pleasure to teach. We screen both children and teachers before allowing them to be part of the school. They are all first-class devotees. There is no one of dubious character on our staff. In such an environment the students really blossom. Then the teachers are inspired to teach, and the energy of the school just keeps on increasing.
"For teachers to be so enthusiastic to go to school every day is rare. In most schools, teachers have to take sedatives before they go to class. Otherwise they can't last, because today's children put so much pressure on the teachers. But here the children are of such good character and are so Krsna conscious that we as teachers are inspired to dedicate ourselves completely."
While we're on the first floor, we should go and meet the Hindi teacher, Nrisinghadeva Goswami. He's the son of a priest at the historic Radha-Ramana temple here in Vrndavana. His family can be traced back to the first priests appointed by Gopala Bhata Gosvami 450 years ago. Nrisinghadeva Goswami has been serving in the Radha-Ramana temple since he was ten years old. He has a B.A. and a B.Sc. and is presently doing his M.A. in Hindi literature. De-spite his aristocratic manner and imposing presence, he turns out to be very eager to chat (in Hindi, of course):
"We used to live in Madhya Pradesh, and we would come to Vrndavana quite often to serve Radha-Ramanaji. When my father retired, he decided to come to Vrndavana to live and dedicate himself fully to Krsna. I had just graduated from the university, and I thought, 'I should also go to Vrndavana and get the association of the Lord's devotees.' Satya Narayanaji would come to our house sometimes, and one day he suggested that I come to the gurukula to teach. Of course, some of my friends from the university are surprised to see me wearing dhoti and tilaka, but they're also surprised to see me so happy.
"This gurukula is really filling a big gap in our modern society. Material education by itself is not enough to make human society happy or successful. What is really lacking now is spiritual and moral training. There is no higher spiritual or moral message than that of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, which is taught in this gurukula. The lives of the boys at this school will be auspicious, and they will make the lives of others auspicious."
Some Facts and Figures
Total number of boys: 81
Age range: 6-16
Age range: 27-63
Average age: 41
Average teaching experience: 10 years
Average years of devotional service: 14 years
Teacher to student ratio: 1:5
Birthplace: Kotakot, Nepal
Years at gurukula: 6
"People back home say, 'Why are you becoming a devotee at such a young age?' I just reply that the Srimad-Bhagavatam says,
kaumara acaret prajno
"You should practice this spiritual life from a young age. If you wait, you'll never practice, and you'll never remember Krsna. You could end up in a hellish existence in the next life. Not for me! I have the opportunity to serve Krsna now, so I should take advantage."
Birthplace: Perth, Australia
Years at this gurukula: 3
"The best thing in the gurukula is learning Sanskrit. I want to know Sanskrit so that I can read lots of books. If you know Sanskrit you can teach with Sanskrit verses and understand the meaning.
Birthplace: Ridi, Nepal
Years at gurukula: 4
Birthplace: Wabdif, Bulgaria.
Years at this gurukula: 4
Birthplace: Ittawa (near Agra), U.P., India
Years at the gurukula: 5
Birthplace: Gujurat, India
Years at the gurukula: 8
Birthplace: Adelaide, Australia
Years in this gurukula: 4
"I came here because my father asked me to. I understand now that he cared for me and wanted me to get a full spiritual education. Also, I want to be trained properly so that when I grow up I can travel and preach with Indradyumna Swami."
Birthplace: Split, Yugoslavia
Years at gurukula: 3
Years at the gurukula: 5
Birthplace: Dallas, Texas
Years at this gurukula: 3
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.
Years at this gurukula: 2
"In gurukula you have so many good friends. Life would be so bad if you had to be alone. You need to have friends. The best friends are devotee friends because they can really help you; they help you to become Krsna conscious."
Birthplace: Melbourne, Australia
Years at this gurukula: 3
On gurukula: "My mother's Guru Maharaja asked her to send me here. I was six. My mother brought me here, but she only stayed a few days. When she left I only cried once, because Krsna helped me. I had a dream: Krsna came to me and told me not to worry. He told me to chant Hare Krsna and that He would protect me. So I chanted, and Krsna protected me.
"When I'm in Vrndavana I have so many friends. We play together, we chant and dance together, we go to the Yamuna River and swim together. When I go back to Melbourne, I don't have so much to do. I just think about Vrndavana, my friends, and Krsna and Balarama."
Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day
An Effort For The Sake Of Eternity
by Krsna Dharma Dasa
PRESIDENT Francois Mitterrand of France has been taking "professional advice on death and the afterlife," according to today's Guardian. Apparently the doctors have told the President, who is undergoing treatment for cancer, that he will be dead by April, soon after this issue of Back to Godhead goes to press.
He has sought the advice of the eminent Catholic philosopher Jean Guitton, asking him to "shed light on the mysteries of mortality." Professor Guitton praised the President for "giving everyone a marvelous example by his courageous attitude."
Monsieur Mitterrand's actions are indeed most praiseworthy. One should certainly enquire into the afterlife, especially when served notice of impending death. I am reminded of another famous leader, King Pariksit, the grandson of Arjuna. Given one week's notice of death, he too engaged a great philosopher, Sukadeva Gosvami, in giving him the final teaching. As a result, of course, we now have the book known as Srimad-Bhagavatam.
King Yudhisthira, a grandfather of Pariksit, marked as the greatest wonder of the world that although every day so many people die, one rarely thinks, "I too shall soon have to die."
The first instruction of Vedanta-sutra, the essence of the Vedas, is athatho brahma-jijnasa: "Now [that is, now that you have a human body] you should enquire into the Absolute." At least enquire. If we can find accurate answers, so much the better. But surely there can be no more important business than to make such enquiries.
At best we live only for a hundred years. But we die, at least from our present body, for an eternity. Should not our endeavors in this life take account of that ratio of time? A minimal effort for the sake of the body, and maximum for the sake of eternity.
Monsieur Mitterrand has clearly realized something important. He is fortunate that death has served him notice. For us death may come entirely without warning. Hardly ever does one wake up thinking "This shall be my last day on earth." But surely the day of death will come. So why not take notice now?
What should one do on the verge of death? The entire Srimad-Bhagavatam is a response to that most important question. So don't wait to be told. Get a copy of the Srimad-Bhagavatam and dive deeply into its immortal nectar.
Health Care For Hiranyakasipu
by Mathuresa Dasa
A SON BORN two centuries ago in Limone, Italy, to Cristoforo Pomaroli and Rosa Giovanelli sheds some light on why modern health care costs so much. The boy's descendants in Limone carry a simple mutation in a protein of "good cholesterol" that prevents fat from clogging their arteries. With no fear of strokes or heart attacks, they eat red meat and sausage to their hearts' content while regularly living into their nineties.
"They eat like hell, the worst diet," says Dr. Cesare Sirtori, the professor at the University of Milan who discovered the Limone phenomenon.
Pharmacia A. B., a Swedish biotechnology firm, is supplying the laboratory version of the good cholesterol, Apolipoprotein A-1 Milano, or Apo Milano for short, to researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Pharmacia is gambling that their new product will become part of a regular treatment for heart disease. A Pharmacia director declares, "If it works, it would be revolutionary."
The excitement over Apo Milano highlights an important objective of the modern health-care client: to live a long life while eating like hell. This desire may assure revolutionary profits for Pharmacia and the sausage industry, but it doesn't bode well for health-care budgets.
And the craving for a hellish diet isn't the only item that breaks the health-care bank. For a fuller revelation of our health-care goals we need to turn our attention from the residents of Limone to a fellow out of the Srimad-Bhagavatam named Hiranyakasipu who took the trouble to conquer the entire universe for the fulfillment of his appetites. High-cholesterol foods were likely one of Hiranyakasipu's foibles, but his chief cravings were for gold (hiranya) and soft beds (kasipu). In other words, he wanted money and sex.
And a long life in which to enjoy them. In fact, he wanted his body to live eternally, a difficult proposal even had he followed a diet of sprouts, unrefined sugar, and other fat-free delights.
Hiranyakasipu conceded offhand, as we do, that no one could make him live forever, yet strove, as we do, to get rid of the conditions of his mortality. Pharmacia A. B. had not yet incorporated, so he instead managed to earn nonbiotech blessings protecting himself from every conceivable cause of death. So he couldn't be killed during the day or night, indoors or out, on land, on water, or in the air. He couldn't be laid low by man, beast, or weapons.
Hiranyakasipu died anyway, but his aspirations are alive and well in the field of health care. Instead of man, beast, and weapons, we seek protection from cancer, AIDS, and heart disease; instead of immunity indoors or out, we beg not to die during youth or old age. If only we could check each of our countless afflictions, then maybe we could stop the big one, death.
As tiny Hiranyakasipus we are suckers for every Apo Milano that rolls off the assembly line. If we have the money we gladly pay the price; if we don't we expect someone else to foot the bill. Our body, consisting of the mind and five senses, dictates that we battle the enemies of physical immortality at any cost. The mind and senses thus become six enemies that steal the authentic wealth of the human body—the ability to understand our eternal self. Our dreamed-of indestructible material body is a perverted reflection of that real self, described in the Bhagavad-gita (2.23, 25): "The self can never be cut to pieces by any weapon, nor burned by fire, nor moistened by water, nor withered by the wind. It is said that the self is invisible, inconceivable, and immutable. Knowing this, you should not grieve for the body."
A long, healthy life for realizing the self is a fairly reasonable desire. Though neither longevity nor health can be guaranteed, health care towards self-realization could be a sane and affordable objective. A long, healthy life of indiscriminate sense indulgence, on the other hand, is far less reasonable and far more prone to hefty medical bills, even if you are from Limone, Italy. And the tacit desire of modern health-care patients, the tacit promise of the health-care industry—an eternal life of material sense enjoyment—is unaffordable in any sense.
This fantasy of immortality steals away our health-care dollars and our valuable time, making the purveyors and consumers of snake oil look sensible by contrast. Proud as we may be of advancements in health care, we have made no progress at all towards slowing the afflictions that besiege us from all directions. As Prahlada, Hiranyakasipu's self-realized son, told his father shortly before his father's death, we are following an old, old pattern: "In former times there were many fools like you who did not conquer the six enemies that steal away the wealth of the body. These fools were very proud, thinking, 'I have conquered all enemies in all ten directions.'" (Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.8.10)
Foolish promises of conquest will continue, giving us ample opportunity to strive for victory over the enemies of our material body. Dr. Sirtori himself has another card up his sleeve. It turns out that sausage isn't the only vice the residents of Limone enjoy into their nineties. "They are almost all smokers," he confides.
Pharmacia A. B., take notice.
SOUTH AFRICAN President Nelson Mandela paid a state visit last November to ISKCON's Sri Sri Radha-Radhanatha Temple of Understanding in Durban. More than five thousand people were on hand to welcome Mr. Mandela, whose visit marked the annual Indian Diwali festival, also known as "the Festival of Lights."
Before addressing the audience, the President toured the temple, garlanded the form of Srila Prabhupada, and respectfully bowed his head to the floor. He also viewed the Deities, as the temple filled with the sound of devotees chanting Hare Krsna.
In his address Mr. Mandela encouraged the Indian community to work with his government for peace and harmony in the new South Africa.
Especially impressed by the ISKCON temple's Food for Life program, which feeds five thousand people a day, Mr. Mandela, scheduled to stay only one hour, cancelled another official engagement and stayed nearly three.
Mr. Mandela took a full meal at Govinda's Restaurant with the thirty members of his entourage, including American Consul General Pamela Bridgewater. After the meal, devotees presented a copy of Prabhupada's Science of Self-Realization to the President and everyone in his group.
This was the first official visit by a South African President to a Vedic temple.
by Satyaraja dasa
SIVA IS AMONG the most widely worshiped deities in India. With names such as Mahadeva ("the great god") and Nataraja ("the king of dancers"), he is venerated in ancient holy cities like Benares, where Saivites (as his worshipers are called) devote their lives to him, viewing him as the Supreme Lord.
The fact is, he is supreme. As the scriptures say, "Srimad-Bhagavatam is supreme among Puranas just as the Ganga is the greatest of all rivers, Lord Acyuta [Visnu] the best among deities, and Lord Sambhu [Siva] the greatest among devotees of Lord Visnu [vaisnavanam yatha sambhu]." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 12.13.16) According to this and similar statements, Siva may correctly be considered the greatest—at least among devotees—but among gods the supreme is Visnu. This is made clear as far back as the Rg Veda (1.22.20): "The lotus feet of Visnu are the supreme objective of all the demigods. Those lotus feet of the Lord are as enlightening as the sun in the sky."
Saivites, however, tend to see Siva not just as the greatest devotee but as God Himself. There is some basis for this in scripture. In the Bhagavatam (4.7.50) Lord Visnu Himself says, "Brahma, Lord Siva, and I are the supreme cause of the material manifestation. I am the Supersoul, the self-sufficient witness. But impersonally there is no difference between Brahma, Lord Siva, and Me."
In other words, all three divinities are one because they are all avataras, or descents of the Supreme, for the creation, maintenance, and annihilation of the material world. In this context, they are known as guna-avataras, and they preside over the modes of passion (embodied by Brahma, the creator), goodness (embodied by Visnu, the maintainer), and ignorance (embodied by Siva, the destroyer). All three of these avataras are considered aspects of the same principle of Godhead.
The Mahabharata too (Anusasana-parva 135) says that Visnu and Siva are nondifferent and even counts the names Siva, Sarva, Sthanu, Isana, and Rudra—names traditionally identified with Siva—among the thousand names of Visnu. Such identification between Siva and the Supreme Lord seemingly gives weight to the idea of contemporary Hinduism that all the gods mentioned in the Vedic literature are one.
But a close study of scripture shows that while there is reason to see Siva as nondifferent from Visnu, there is also reason to distinguish strongly between them. According to Bhagavad-gita, which is accepted by nearly all classes of transcendentalists in India—including Vaisnavas and Saivites—Visnu (Krsna) is the ultimate Godhead, to whom even Siva must bow down. This is not a matter of opinion or sectarian prejudice. Krsna identifies Himself as the source of all material and spiritual worlds (Bg. 10.8), and Arjuna confirms that Krsna is indeed supreme (Bg. 10.12). Krsna is "the God of all the gods" (devesa, Bg. 11.37).
In countless incidents from the Puranas, Siva is clearly seen to be Visnu's devotee. For example, there is the story of Vrkasura, a demon who practiced severe austerities and then asked Siva for a boon—the power to kill at once any living being whose head Vrkasura would merely touch. Siva granted the boon, but was soon to regret his decision, for Vrka came after him to try out the newfound power. Lord Siva ran to all parts of the universe to escape this power-mad devotee and finally ended up at the door of the kingdom of Visnu.
Hearing the words of a frightened Siva, Visnu devised a plan to help him. Visnu appeared directly before Vrkasura and told him Siva was not to be trusted. "Siva is fond of joking and even lying," said Visnu. "I am sure he is not telling you the truth. He was just teasing you. Touch your own head, and you will see that nothing will happen."
Vrka, of course, touched his own head and died. But the point of this story, in the present context, is Visnu's superiority over Siva, who could not resolve the problem on his own. After racing through the entire material cosmos to escape Vrkasura, Siva sought refuge in Visnu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
To counter this, Siva devotees cite traditions in which Rama, for example, is seen as a devotee of Siva. This would make an avatara of Visnu subservient to Siva, and thus support the tenets of Saivism. But upon closer study Rama's worship of Siva turns out to be a later tradition, not supported in Valmiki's Ramayana. Moreover, even these later traditions explain that Rama became a devotee of Siva only out of etiquette: Rama wanted to become a greater devotee of Siva than the evil Ravana was, and then ask Siva for permission to defeat Ravana.
The Ramayana offers many stories about the glories of Siva—his destruction of Daksa's sacrifice, his marriage with Uma (Parvati), his drinking of the ocean of poison, his killing of the demon Andhaka, his cursing of Kandarpa—but ultimately the Ramayana makes the supremacy of Rama quite clear. Rama (as an incarnation of Visnu) is supreme.
The differences between Siva and Visnu should be further underlined. As Srila Prabhupada says (Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.9.16, purport),
Of the three principal agents controlling the three modes of material nature, Visnu is the Almighty; even though He is within material nature for the purpose of maintenance, He is not controlled by the laws of material nature. The other two, Brahma and Siva, although almost as greatly powerful as Visnu, are within the control of the material energy of the Supreme Lord.
Siva is superior to Brahma, who is an empowered soul (jiva), but Siva is not quite on the same level as Visnu. It is therefore said that Siva is a unique living being who merits his own category, known as siva-tattva.
To clarify Lord Siva's position, the Brahma-samhita (5.45) offers an analogy: "When milk is transformed by acids into yogurt, the yogurt is neither the same as nor different from the milk. I adore the primeval Lord Govinda [Krsna, Visnu], of whom Lord Siva is a transformation for performing the work of destruction."
Though milk and yogurt are essentially nondifferent, yogurt is a product of milk. One can use milk to make ghee, cheese, ice cream, or yogurt, but one cannot turn yogurt into milk. Clearly, then, Siva's divinity is intimately connected with, even dependent upon, his relationship to Visnu.
This is made clearer still in the Bhagavatam (3.28.22): "The blessed Lord Siva becomes all the more blessed by bearing on his head the holy waters of the Ganges, which has its source in the water that washed the Lord's lotus feet."
Srila Prabhupada comments, "Lord Siva is important because he is holding on his head the holy Ganges water, which has its origin in the footwash of Lord Visnu.
"In the Hari-bhakti-vilasa, by Sanatana Gosvami, it is said that anyone who puts the Supreme Lord and the demigods, including Lord Siva and Lord Brahma, on the same level at once becomes a pasandi, or atheist. We should never consider the Supreme Lord Visnu and the demigods to be on an equal footing."
So, theologically, Siva is both God and yet different from God as well. Because of Siva's intimate contact with the quality of ignorance and with matter (which is innately ignorant), the living beings in this world cannot receive the same spiritual restoration by worshiping him as by worshiping Visnu.
And yet they try. As mentioned earlier, the worshipers of Siva are second in number only to the worshipers of Visnu. Saiva Siddhanta, a form of Siva worship found mainly in South India, is a force to be reckoned with, and Vira Saivism (or Lingayatism), another form of the religion, is popular in the South Indian state of Karnataka.
There are other forms of Siva worship as well, but the only authorized form comes down in the Rudra Sampradaya, also known as the Visnusvami Sampradaya, an authorized Vaisnava lineage in which Siva is worshiped as the greatest devotee of Visnu. Its adherents say that ultimate liberation comes from devotion to Visnu. And Siva, they say, showed how to be the perfect devotee. Even Siva himself confirms that one can achieve the supreme destination only by the mercy of Visnu. Lord Siva says, mukti-pradata sarvesam visnur eva na samsayah: "There is no doubt that Visnu is the deliverer of liberation for everyone."
The Birth of Lord Siva
The pastime of Lord Siva's birth is described in Srimad-Bhagavatam (3.12.7-13): "Although Brahma tried to curb his anger, it came out from between his eyebrows, and a child of mixed blue and red was immediately generated. (7)
"After his [Siva's] birth, he began to cry: O destiny maker [Brahma], teacher of the universe, kindly designate my name and place. (8)
"The all-powerful Brahma, born from the lotus flower, pacified the boy with gentle words, accepting his request, and said: Do not cry. I shall certainly do as you desire. (9)
"Thereafter, Brahma said: O chief of the demigods, you shall be called by the name Rudra by all people because you have anxiously cried. (10)
"My dear boy, I have already selected the following places for your residence: the heart, the senses, the air of life, the sky, the air, the fire, the water, the earth, the sun, the moon, and austerity. (11)
"My dear Rudra, you have eleven other names: Manyu, Manu, Mahinasa, Mahan, Siva, Atadhvaja, Ugrareta, Bhava, Kala, Vamadeva, and Dhrtavrata. (12)
"O Rudra, you also have eleven wives, called the Rudranis, and they are as follows: Dhi, Dhrti, Rasala, Uma, Niyut, Sarpi, Ila, Ambika, Iravati, Svadha, and Diksa." (13)
Siva and Parvati, as his wife is also known, have their abode in Siva-loka, between the material and spiritual worlds (see Brahma-samhita 5.43). This description is of how Siva appeared in the material world.
The worldwide activities of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)
An ISKCON conference on education focused on how best to teach devotee children, both in ISKCON schools and through home schooling. The conference brought together teachers, students, parents, and administrators. It took place in October in Alachua, Florida.
The National Federation of Indian-American Associations (NFIA) has recognized ISKCON devotee Alfred Ford (Ambarisa Dasa) as a special "Friend of India." Ambarisa, the great-grandson of Henry Ford, was honored at the NFIA national convention last September in Chicago. In his keynote address, Ambarisa spoke on the value of combining American prosperity and India's Vedic heritage.
Delegates to the World Archeological Congress heard radically different ideas about human evolution from BTG associate editor Drutakarma Dasa. The Congress took place in early December in New Delhi. Drutakarma's paper, "Puranic Times and the Archeological Record," drew on the eight years of research that he and others put into their book Forbidden Archeology. In late November Drutakarma did an intensive U.S.A. speaking tour in conjunction with that book and its condensed version, The Hidden History of the Human Race.
The memorial to Srila Prabhupada in Sridham Mayapur, West Bengal, opened to the public at the end of February. The form of Srila Prabhupada was installed in the central chamber, and daily puja (offerings of respect) began.
The memorial is a puspa samadhi, a shrine with flowers that adorned Srila Prabhupada's body at the time of his passing away.
A school outside Surat, Gujarat, combines regular academic courses with Krsna conscious training. The government-accredited English-medium school, run by ISKCON members, now has 130 students, 40 boarding at the school and attending a full early-morning program of spiritual practices. The school teaches five levels, from nursery through third standard, and will add one standard a year until it reaches twelfth. For more information, see page 61.
Devotees and guests celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary, in October, of the London Hare Krsna temple. Located near Oxford Street, the temple is the oldest Vedic temple in London. Dr. L. M. Singhvi, the Indian High Commissioner, presided over the function. A thousand guests attended.
Ratnaranjini Devi Dasi, a disciple of Srila Prabhupada's, passed away in Scotland at the end of December. She was the wife of Glasgow temple president Balabhadra Dasa and the mother of two children. She faithfully served Lord Krsna in South Africa and the U.K. for many years. Even while enduring a brain tumor the last few years, she inspired many devotees by her firm determination to remember Lord Krsna.
Devotees have opened a center in downtown Rome. Named the Hare Krsna Forum, the center distributes Krsna-prasadam (food offered to Lord Krsna) and offers courses on Bhagavad-gita As It Is, Ayur Veda, hatha-yoga, and astrology.
A prominent political figure in Bosnia and Herzegovina has visited the ISKCON temple in Sarajevo. In November Mr. Stjepan Kljuic, leader of the Republican party, feasted on Krsna-prasadam at the temple and received a copy of Bhagavad-gita As It Is. Despite the danger and turmoil in former Yugoslavia, devotees in Sarajevo regularly pass out prasadam, sell Srila Prabhupada's books, and hold public programs.
The Durban Rathayatra festival received nearly fifteen minutes of nationwide television coverage on "Good Morning, South Africa." The perfect December weather helped draw large crowds to the four-day festival. Guests of honor included Durban Mayor Mike Lipschitz and U. S. Consul General Pamela E. Bridgewater.
Thailand's royal family received a set of Srila Prabhupada's Srimad-Bhagavatam in October. At the Grand Palace, home of the legendary Emerald Buddha, Her Royal Highness Princess Maha-chakri Sirindhorn formally accepted the books on behalf of His Majesty Bhumibol Rama IX.
The Hare Krsna Students Newsletter goes out to two hundred schools and colleges in Mauritius.
Ten thousand people attended ISKCON's Ratha-yatra in Porto Alegre, Brazil. The seven-hour festival was held in September in Redemption Park, in the heart of the city.
Srila Prabhupada's Centennial—1996
A thousand people joined two hundred ISKCON devotees on a Srila Prabhupada Centennial walk from Mayapur to Calcutta in December. The beats of one hundred mrdangas (drums) accompanied the chanting of the holy names.
To commemorate the Centennial, ISKCON Mayapur has released a book/tape set of Srila Prabhupada's Gitar-gan, his rendering of Bhagavad-gita into Bengali verse. Six tape cassettes give the verses, chanted by professional singers in Indian classical tunes. Along with the cassettes comes a hardbound edition of the text: the original Bengali for distribution in Bengal, or for elsewhere a transliteration in Roman characters and an English translation.
To celebrate the release, a program was held on February 5 at Kala Mandir, the largest and best auditorium in Calcutta. A Manipuri dance troupe performed. Shrikumar Banarjee, the music director for the Gitar-gan tapes, gave a sarod recital. Then, introduced by Bhakti Caru Swami, the artists who recorded the Gitar-gan performed it live.
ISKCON Vrndavana has started a program to give 108 Hindi sets of Srila Prabhupada's books to asramas, colleges, and public libraries in the greater Vrndavana area.
Each book in the 25-book set will contain a foil sticker stating, "Books donated by ISKCON (The International Society for Krishna Consciousness), Founder-Acarya His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Visit Krishna-Balaram Mandir in Vrndavana. Please chant Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare to attain life's perfection." For information on contributing to this project, please see page 61.
Several teams of devotees from ISKCON Mayapur are holding programs at schools all over Bengal to acquaint students with the life and teachings of Srila Prabhupada. The programs include talks, quizzes, awards, and distribution of prasadam.
Padayatra India celebrated its tenth anniversary in September, when the party entered the holy town of Pandharpur, Maharashtra. The party was received by Mr. Suhakar Paricharak, a member of the legislative assembly, and Mr. Lakshminarayan Bhattad, the mayor, who garlanded the Padayatra Deities and all the Padayatra devotees. Padayatra India is now on its fourth tour of the country and has covered 45,000 kilometers. The devotees plan to stay on the road at least through 1996. ISKCON Television (ITV) has released a ninety-minute video on Padayatras around the world. To order, see page 60.
For more information about Padayatra, contact:
62, Sant Nagar, New Delhi 110 065, India
Phone: +91 (011) 646-9633; fax: +91 (011) 647-0742
Padayatra England and Europe
Bhaktivedanta Manor, Letchmore Heath,
Because of so-called improvements in material opulence, people have entirely given up the path of realization. Practically no one is interested in God, one's relationship with God, or how one should act. Modern men have altogether forgotten such questions because they are mad for material possessions. If this kind of civilization continues, the time will soon come when the Supreme Personality of Godhead will take away all the material opulences. Then people will come to their senses.
—His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
The Supreme Person, Sri Krsna Himself, who is the life of Srimati Radharani and is the Lord of the universe in creation, maintenance, and annihilation, appears as Gaura [Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu], O Mahesvari.
—Lord Ananta Sesa
After searching through all the Vedic literature, one cannot find a method of religion more sublime for this age than the chanting of Hare Krsna.
There is no eye equal to knowledge, no austerity equal to speaking the truth, no misery equal to attachment, and no happiness equal to detachment.
If one is worshiping Lord Hari [Krsna], what is the use of performing extraneous penances? And if one is not worshiping Lord Hari, no such penances will save one.
Just as those who are greedy see everything as a source of money-making and those who are lusty see everything as conducive to sex, the most perfect devotee sees Narayana [Krsna] everywhere.
The neophyte Vaisnava devotees' ringing the bell even once during worship of the Deity of the Supreme Lord is a million times more valuable, spiritually and otherwise, than the charitable fruitive workers' building hospitals, feeding thousands of the poor, or building homes, or even the empiric philosophers' Vedic studies, meditation, austerities, and penances.
—Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura