Statement of Purposes
1. To help all people discern reality from illusion, spirit from matter, the eternal from the temporary.
From Master to Disciple
In the pages of Back to Godhead you may often come across the term "disciplic succession." It's an English rendering of the Sanskrit word parampara. The meaning of the word is simple yet important.
The parampara is the chain of spiritual masters and disciples through which Krsna consciousness is taught and received. In Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna says, "I taught this ancient science of yoga to the sun-god, Vivasvan. Vivasvan taught it to his son Manu. And Manu taught it to his son Iksvaku. In this way, through the system of parampara, disciplic succession, the science was understood by the saintly kings."
In the parampara system, then, the original teacher, the original spiritual master, is Lord Krsna, God Himself. The Lord gives perfect knowledge, and that knowledge is handed down from master to disciple. It's like a ripe fruit handed down from person to person, from the top of the tree to the ground.
In the chain of parampara, each spiritual master has the duty to transmit the knowledge of Krsna consciousness as it is. He is not to add anything, subtract anything, or change anything. He simply has to deliver the message, just as a postman delivers a letter, contents fully intact.
According to the Vedic scriptures, one who is serious about attaining self-realization or God realization or the ultimate goal in life must approach such a bona fide spiritual master. It is not optional; accepting a bona fide spiritual master is essential.
The method of accepting the spiritual master is explained in Bhagavad-gita: one must surrender to him, inquire from him, and serve him. Inquiry alone is not enough. One must humbly submit oneself before the spiritual master, accepting him as a representative of God.
The spiritual master is not God, and any so-called master who claims to be God should at once be rejected as bogus. But the spiritual master is honored as much as God because he intimately serves God through the disciplic chain. Because each spiritual master serves his own spiritual master, all the members of the chain are ultimately servants of God and therefore very dear to God. More precisely, the bona fide spiritual master is the servant of the servant of the servant of God, or Krsna.
This is one of the secrets of the parampara system: to be a genuine master, one must be a genuine servant. The student, therefore, surrenders to the spiritual master as a disciple and serves him, and the master responds by answering the disciple's questions, enlightening him with transcendental knowledge. For the sincere disciple who has full faith in Krsna and equal faith in the bona fide spiritual master, all the truths of spiritual realization are factually revealed.
The genuine disciple feels everlastingly indebted to the spiritual master and continues to serve him forever. In this way, even when the spiritual master leaves this world, the master and disciple are connected. The disciple continues to serve the spiritual master by following what the master has taught him, and by teaching it to others. Thus the bona fide disciple becomes a bona fide spiritual master, and the chain of succession continues.
This is regarding the translation of Mahabharata in January/February issue of BTG.
Could you please tell me the difference between the Kauravas, who wanted to kill the Pandavas, and the Pandavas, who killed a mother and five sons who came to beg food?
Hridayananda Dasa Goswami Replies: Thank you for pointing out the statement, in our translation, to the effect that the Pandavas intentionally left a drunken woman and her five sons to die in a blazing house of lac in order to convince the world that the Pandavas and Kunti had actually perished. I would also like to thank my Godbrother Sriman Amala Bhakta Dasa for pointing out this same issue.
Actually, the verse in question does not state that the Pandavas knowingly caused or permitted the death of the woman and her sons, and this will be corrected in the final version of our translation, which will come out in book form. The actual translation will be: [Yudhisthira said to his four brothers:] Igniting the armory and burning up Purocana (along with the house of lac), and having thus arranged things here, we six shall flee with our lives, undetected.
The confusion stems from the words sat praninah, "six who have life," since the word praninah in Sanskrit may be either the subject or object of the sentence. In the incorrect translation, the words sat praninah were taken as the object of the word nidhaya, "having arranged," with the sense that the Pandavas left behind six praninah, or living beings. However, the Mahabharata nowhere states that the Pandavas were ever aware that six drunken persons had fallen asleep in their house. Nor do we find that the Pandavas made any arrangement to secure or retain six persons to die in the blazing house of lac.
The Pandavas and their mother were world leaders, and the Kurus had certainly arranged a grand residence for them. Thus the house of lac must have been a large dwelling with many rooms for servants, guards, etc. Since the text mentions that on the night of the escape the Pandavas were anxiously preoccupied with carrying out their plan, obviously they did not search the building for drunken guests who had fallen asleep in one of the many rooms. Nor does the text mention anything of the sort. The death of the mother and her sons must therefore have been unintentional.
Gitas for the Qualified
In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna says that the subject matter of the Gita is highly confidential (Gita 9.2) and it should never be explained to those who are not austere, or devoted, or engaged in devotional service (Gita 18.67).
My question is, Is it all right to distribute hundreds of thousands of Gitas on the streets all over the world, against Krsna's instructions, mostly to people who don't even have basic morality, what to speak of austerity and devotion?
When asked, one devotee answered that a spiritual master is more merciful than the Lord. I was not satisfied by this answer. In my opinion, no one can claim to be as virtuous as Lord Krsna. The question of being "more" virtuous doesn't even arise. Krsna has infinite virtues in infinite quantities.
Please give me some convincing answers.
OUR REPLY: In Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (Adi-lila 7.23), the author, Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami, writes, "In distributing love of Godhead, Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His associates did not consider who was a fit candidate and who was not, nor where such distribution should or should not take place. They made no conditions. Wherever they got the opportunity they distributed love of Godhead."
Here we see the mood of Lord Caitanya and His associates. Lord Caitanya is Krsna Himself appearing as a devotee. Srila Prabhupada explains that even though Krsna, in the Gita, asked everyone to surrender to Him, people would not do so. Therefore Krsna came as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu to teach people how to surrender to Krsna. Lord Caitanya is called maha-vadanya avatara—the most merciful incarnation of Krsna. Krsna in His form as Lord Caitanya is less demanding than Krsna the speaker of the Gita.
To deliver the impious people of this age, Lord Caitanya freely gave His mercy. And He asked that His followers do the same. If He had been selective in giving His mercy, practically no one in this age would have been qualified to receive it.
Still, we do have some guidelines in following Lord Caitanya's example. The Srimad-Bhagavatam explains that a teacher of Krsna consciousness must distinguish between the innocent and the demonic. He is told to teach the innocent and avoid the demons. Although most people today are not austere or devoted, they tend to be innocent, but misled by demonic leaders. Had it not been for the boundless mercy of Lord Caitanya, carried by His pure devotee Srila Prabhupada, millions of innocent people would never have had the opportunity to take up Krsna consciousness.
Here's another verse about Lord Caitanya (Cc. Adi 9.29): "Not considering who asked for it and who did not, nor who was fit and who unfit to receive it, Caitanya Mahaprabhu distributed the fruit of devotional service." Srila Prabhupada comments: "This is the sum and substance of Lord Caitanya's sankirtana movement. There is no distinction made between those who are fit and those who are not fit to hear or take part in the sankirtana movement. It should therefore be preached without discrimination. The only purpose of the preachers of the sankirtana movement must be to go on preaching without restriction. That is the way in which Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu introduced this sankirtana movement all over the world."
Krsna consciousness, the essence of which is presented in the Gita, is meant to be spread all over the world. That implies that it will be presented to unqualified people. But Lord Caitanya's mercy is so great and the desire of His devotees so strong that, given the opportunity, even the most fallen souls of this age can become inspired to take up Krsna consciousness.
As for the devotee's being more merciful that Krsna, we can understand that Krsna, being a person, can display various moods. So even though Krsna is the reservoir of mercy, that mercy is not as apparent in the Gita as in the activities of Lord Caitanya. In the service of Lord Caitanya, the devotee sometimes tries to deliver fallen souls that Krsna has apparently rejected. The devotee, however, never takes credit for anything. He feels that he is simply delivering the mercy of Krsna. After all, what does he have to give? He is simply an insignificant servant of the Lord. That is the devotee's mood.
This is a deep subject. But we should at least understand that the devotee never feels in any way superior to Krsna.
Packing Up the TV
You are doing a wonderful service by producing such a nice magazine as BTG. It is helping many conditioned souls, such as myself, to reawaken their lost Krsna consciousness. One man in prison I've been corresponding with for nearly two years has become so enlivened by his new BTG subscription that he said he plans to pack up his TV so he can concentrate on reading his BTGs. He has thanked me over and over again for sending him such an enlightening magazine. I've never seen him so excited about Krsna consciousness in all these months.
I am especially impressed by the thirteen-year-old devotee Ravi Gupta, who writes the column called India's Heritage. His articles are so intelligently written and also devotional. All glories to the staff and writers of Back to Godhead!
In this day and age when the expert psychiatrists, psychologists, and psychotherapists highly recommend the value of talking out our problems and getting them off our chests, chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra most appropriately, adequately, and accurately makes sense. Chanting out reasonably loud in the privacy of my home helps relax my pent-up emotions the minute I start. It relieves all the built-up tension, and I enjoy blissful peace without spending hundreds of dollars consulting therapists.
Lord Caitanya anticipated this five hundred years ago. In Kali-yuga, when people are so stressed out, when everything else fails, chanting the maha-mantra helps us relax and unwind.
The Lord's name is no different from the Lord. I trust in Him, and it has worked for me. Twenty-seven years ago I moved from India to the United States; chanting has helped me survive the ups and downs in my life. I have raised three children—two lawyers, 26 and 24 years old, and the youngest, 22 years, still in college. Chanting the maha-mantra has a built-in therapeutic value.
Thanks for letting me share my humble thoughts.
BTG a Beacon
[A subscriber who gave a gift subscription to his brother received this letter.]
I thank you very much for the gift of the Back to Godhead. Nothing could have pleased me more than this wonderful gift. The moment I received your card intimating me of the gift, I was thrilled. For several days about two or three weeks before I received the intimation from you, the words "Back to Godhead" had come into my mind and given me ecstatic joy. Not so much because of the get-up or the contents as the significance of its title.
I can't now fully explain my condition at that time. But the title was like a beacon in the mundane darkness that surrounds me. It held the truth before me. It showed me the path to the desired goal. It enlightened me. I repeated in my mind "Back to Godhead" many times. And so enchanted I was in its new light that I thought I would write it in beautiful letters and keep it on my office table under a glass. It would remind me of the way to Godhead and would keep me in the right consciousness.
When I was in this state of mind, you were making me the gift of the Back to Godhead on the other side of the globe. God is kind that he has on several occasions indicated to me that there is much more to this universe than meets the eye. God is kind to me that I have you for my brother. Many of His kindnesses have come to me through you.
U. K. Pandey
BTG Gives Encouragement
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the staff of Back to Godhead for providing devotees such as myself with such a wonderful and inspiring magazine.
The magazine gives us renewed encouragement in our lives.
It was particularly nice to read in the March/April 1995 issue the article "Training Ground for Spiritual Leaders," by Nila Madhava Dasa, followed by comments by several of the young devotees.
Thanks again for such a fine and meaningful magazine and your service on behalf of Lord 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: email@example.com.
The Krsna consciousness movement
A lecture given in Paris on June 26, 1971 by
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, I thank you very much for your interest in the Krsna consciousness movement. This movement is especially meant for those in human society who are serious about fulfilling the mission of life. There is a distinction between human life and animal life. Animal life means one does not know the proprietor of the body. Those who are under the conception that the material body is the self are as good as animals. But in the human form of life one can understand that one is not the material body but a separate identity, spiritual in value.
We can understand this fact if we give little attention to it. We have been changing bodies since the beginning of our life. We learn from Vedic literature that after sexual intercourse of the male and female, if it is fruitful then the living entity is injected into the emulsion of the two secretions, and on the first night the body takes the shape of a pea. And because the living entity is there, the body grows gradually, and then nine holes evolve, which later develop into two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, one mouth, one rectum, and one genital.
When the body is complete, the living entity becomes conscious. As long as the body is not complete, the consciousness is almost dead. That state is called susupti, or sound sleeping. Then gradually, when consciousness comes, the child within the womb feels uncomfortable and wants to come out. Therefore at the seventh month of pregnancy sometimes the child moves.
That is the process of growing. And after coming out of the womb the body continues to grow. But if the child comes out dead, the body does not grow. Therefore it is to be understood that due to the presence of the spirit soul the body grows, or changes from one form to another. Learned scholars have concluded that the change of body is taking place every moment. But the soul is there from the beginning of the life, and when the body no longer persists, the soul changes to another body. That is called transmigration of the soul.
Transmigration is a fact, but the modern civilization does not deal with the subject. People are under the wrong impression that the body is the self. I have talked with many scholars, and they are also under the same impression that with the end of the body everything is finished. But the fact is different. We can remember our childhood body. We can remember our boyhood body. Although those bodies are not present, I, the spirit soul, the occupier of the body or the proprietor of the body—I am present.
Transmigration of the soul is the most important factor for human society to understand. Unfortunately there is no university, no department of knowledge, to understand this important factor. That lacking is very risky.
The soul is transmigrating from one body to another, and there are 8,400,000 species of life. After leaving this body we may accept any one of those species. We do not know which one. That will depend on our action at the present moment. Practically we are preparing our future body. According to our work and mentality, we get a particular body. Therefore we should be very cautious. Any intelligent man can understand that the future life is prepared at present. Just as a boy goes to school and college to prepare his future life, the human form of life is a preparation ground for our future life.
According to Bhagavad-gita we can transfer to other planets also. That is explained in our book Easy Journey to Other Planets. Man is now trying to go to the moon planet. But we get information from the Vedic literature that we cannot transfer ourself by mechanical arrangement to the moon planet. That is a futile attempt. Every planet has a different atmosphere. So to enter into a particular planet, we have to prepare ourself. Even if we go to a foreign country, we have to prepare by getting a visa and a passport. If on this planet we are so restricted, how foolishly we are to attempt to go to another planet without being prepared for entering that planet.
A sane man, an intelligent man, does not wish to enter any of the material planets, because wherever we go in the material world the four miserable conditions of existence are there: birth, death, old age, and disease. From the Bhagavad-gita we understand that even if we enter Brahmaloka, the highest planetary system of the universe, these four principles are there.
We learn from Bhagavad-gita that one day in Brahmaloka is millions of years of our calculation. The scientists say it would take forty thousand years to go there. Who is going to travel for forty thousand years? But from the Vedic literature we can understand that we can enter any planet, provided we prepare for that purpose. The exact words in the Bhagavad-gita are
yanti deva-vrata devan
If anyone prepares to enter into the higher planetary systems, said to be inhabited by demigods, he can go there. Similarly, we can go to Pitrloka, the planet of the forefathers, or we can stay on this planet. And at last, if we desire we can enter into the planet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. So it is all a matter of preparation.
But we must consider that any planetary system within the material universe is temporary. Even though the duration of higher planetary systems is very, very long, they will be annihilated, just as our body will be annihilated. There are different types of body. A human body may exist for a hundred years, but an insect's body may exist for twelve hours. So different bodies exist a relatively long or short duration, but they will be annihilated. But whoever enters Vaikunthaloka, the spiritual planets, gets eternal blissful life full of knowledge.
A human being, if he tries, can attain that perfection. It is very simple. In the Bhagavad-gita the Lord says,
janma karma me divyam
"One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna." People say, "God is great." But if we want to know how God is great, that can be known from authorized scriptures. In the Bhagavad-gita God Himself describes Himself. So we can know from Him. He says, "My appearance, or My taking birth just like a human being, is transcendental." God's body is not exactly like the human body, but God is so kind that He comes before us as an ordinary human being. Unfortunately, one who does not know about Krsna, or God, thinks that He is like one of us. That point is stated in the Bhagavad-gita. Avajananti mam mudhah: "Those who are mudhas, rascals, think Me as one of the human beings." Actually Krsna is not a human being.
We have the chance to know about God, provided we read the right literature under the right direction. And simply by understanding the nature of God, or Krsna, one becomes liberated. That is stated in the Bhagavad-gita.
With our human intelligence we cannot completely understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead. But with the help of Bhagavad-gita, the statements of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and the spiritual master, we can know God to the best of our capacity. And if we know Him, then immediately after leaving our present body we enter into the kingdom of God.
The Krsna consciousness movement is meant to propagate this higher scientific idea to the people in general. And the process is very simple. Simply by chanting the holy name of God—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—one cleanses the dirty things in the heart and can understand that he is part and parcel of the Supreme Lord and that his duty is to serve Him. And the process is also very pleasant. We chant the Hare Krsna mantra, dance rhythmically, and eat nice prasadam, food offered to Krsna. We enjoy this life and prepare to enter the kingdom of God for the next life.
These discussions are not made-up stories. They are all facts, although to the layman they may appears like stories. But if one is serious, then Krsna, or God, from within helps one understand. And the spiritual master also helps. The spiritual master is called the external manifestation of God. God is situated in everyone's heart as Paramatma, Supersoul. And the spiritual master helps those who are very serious about understanding the Supreme Personality of Godhead by showing them a bona fide spiritual master. In that way a candidate will be helped from inside and outside on how to approach God.
The Krsna consciousness movement is meant for that purpose. The spiritual master, or the living representative of Krsna, helps from outside, and Krsna as Paramatma helps from inside. In both ways the living entity can take advantage and make his life successful. We have many books in this connection. The Krsna consciousness movement is based on the authority of the Vedas, summarized in the Bhagavad-gita and many other books. We have published Bhagavad-gita As It Is, Teachings of Lord Caitanya, Easy Journey to Other Planets, The Nectar of Devotion, Srimad-Bhagavatam, and Krsna. And we publish our magazine, Back to Godhead. We request everyone to understand this movement by reading this authoritative literature.
Our program is to serve human society, to save people from the pitfall of entering again into the cycle of birth and death. That is our great mission.
Thank you very much.
Where Are the Enemies?
By Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami
Most people think that certain people are their friends and certain people their enemies and to succeed in this world one had better learn how to befriend one's friends and defeat one's enemies. That's practical worldly wisdom.
But devotees see things differently. Here is a verse from the Srimad-Bhagavatam that expresses Prahlada Maharaja's opinion: "My dear father, please give up your demoniac mentality. Do not discriminate in your heart between enemies and friends; make your mind equipoised toward everyone. Except for the uncontrolled and misguided mind, there is no enemy within this world. When one sees everyone on the platform of equality, one then comes to the position of worshiping the Lord perfectly."
This is the philosophy of a maha-bhagavata, the highest devotee of the Lord. This philosophy is just as wise and practical as that which discriminates between friends and enemies. Prahlada's philosophy tells us that since everyone is an eternal servant of God, there's oneness among all living beings and no point to seeing one group as friends and another as enemies.
We distinguish friends from enemies when trying to gratify our senses. If we meet someone who conflicts with our material desires, he becomes an enemy. When someone serves our desires, he becomes a friend. When our basic sense desires are met, we extend our friends and enemies to include those who either agree or disagree with our culture, religion, philosophy, skin color, or family identity. Then, going by all these distinctions, we strengthen ourselves with allies and stand against our enemies. In this way, we arbitrarily divide the world into two classes, friends and enemies. Then we're caught up in diplomacy.
But this all proceeds from dualities that don't really exist. Actually, we're all servants of God.
The Age of Kali brings on enmity, even among friends and within families. It brings out enmity even within religious movements in which devotees are striving to see one another as servants of God. Srila Prabhupada comments on how to conquer this enmity within a religious movement:
"Everyone should be friendly for the service of the Lord. Everyone should praise another's service to the Lord and not be proud of his own service. This is the way of Vaisnava thinking. There is no question of enmity between servants. Everyone should be allowed to render service to the Lord to the best of his ability, and everyone should appreciate the service of others."
That's how to practically apply what Prahlada Maharaja is teaching. By looking at another's service with respect, and not imagining that because we have a particular service everyone else should also be doing that same service, we will avoid enmity among devotees.
Krsna enjoys varieties of service. Therefore, He inspires us to serve Him in different ways. The spiritual world is full of variety, and that variety is a source of happiness. Srila Prabhupada liked to quote the English saying "Variety is the mother of enjoyment."
Srila Prabhupada also mentions that not only should we respect the varieties of service that other devotees perform, but we should honor those devotees for serving according to their capacity, which may be different from our own. Can we say that someone is not serving as well as we because we have a greater capacity for physical or mental work? To avoid enmity among devotees, we have to set aside such dualities and become friendly toward all Krsna's servants. If we can't do that even within our own movement, how will we perform the more difficult task of seeing all others in the entire world as servants of God and feel no enmity toward them?
If devotees are our friends and everyone else in the world is a servant of God, then where are the enemies? Srila Prabhupada writes, "One who is in Krsna consciousness knows that there are no enemies but those within oneself—the uncontrolled mind and senses."
These are the enemies—lust, greed, envy, anger, illusion, and madness—and they reside within us. These are the faults that prevent us from seeing everyone as an eternal servant of Krsna. The uncontrolled mind is our worst enemy. Therefore, conquering enemies begins with conquering our own mind, and then the senses.
Facing these enemies, devotees often become sorry they cannot progress in spiritual life. We all want to be ideal devotees, yet years go by and we are still hampered by our own mind and senses. Therefore, we should direct all our energy to conquering these enemies, which are stopping us from attaining Krsna consciousness, and not waste time and energy in the imaginary battle with others.
Prahlada's words make this clear. Even if someone is powerful enough to conquer all external opposition through politics, erudition, or military strength, unless one conquers the enemies within oneself one will still be defeated.
Still, there are people in this world who choose to act as our enemies. Doesn't that make them our enemies? No. Such people may see themselves as our enemies, but we don't look at them with enmity. Of course, if people are attacking temples or devotees, a devotee will defend Krsna and His servants. Arjuna and Hanuman are famous examples of devotees who, by the Lord's order, fought for the cause of God consciousness against those who were trying to stamp it out.
But a devotee doesn't hate anyone, because he sees everyone as Krsna's servant. He sees those who would attack him as misguided and deluded by bodily consciousness. How can anyone in that condition understand that Krsna consciousness is not inimical to them? Therefore, a devotee works to enlighten his enemies, not obliterate them. Prabhupada quoted the saying "Hate the sin, not the sinner." We are against sinful activities—gambling, meat-eating, intoxication, illicit sex—but that doesn't mean we hate those who do these things. Otherwise, how could we preach? No, we hate the activity and the web of karma it weaves around otherwise innocent people. So by spreading Krsna consciousness, we undermine sinful activity.
One time Prabhupada was speaking against "rascals and demons," and a devotee said, "Yes, Prabhupada, we should defeat them." Prabhupada answered, "No, they are already defeated. You should show them mercy." The demons are already defeated by material nature. They may not know it, but the devotee knows it. Therefore, he tries to give them the mercy of Krsna consciousness.
Prahlada provides a perfect example of this kind of thinking. When his father tried to kill him, Prahlada remained sweet-tempered and peaceful and never stopped being Krsna conscious. Prahlada refused to submit to demonic principles, but he was so nice that he simply wanted everyone to become a devotee, including his father. Srila Prabhupada had that vision too. He saw Krsna consciousness as a universal principle, and he didn't see why everyone shouldn't have access to it.
Therefore, although we are not such dreamers that we fail to see those who work against the Hare Krsna movement, we should always remember Prahlada Maharaja's teachings: Conquer the enemy within yourself and preach with compassion for those still caught in the grip of their own internal enemies. Otherwise, we will descend to the level of sorting out our friends from our enemies and have no time left to think about Krsna.
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 19
By Yamuna Devi
THIS COOKING CLASS, the last in a series on milk and its products, focuses on yogurt gravy (karhi) and dishes made with panir cheese.
In a previous column, I mentioned that the dairy products most widely used in a Vaisnava kitchen are plain milk, yogurt, and panir cheese. In rural India little has changed in the way these three forms of dairy are used. Traditional usage is strongest in village kitchens where refrigeration is still a rarity and cooking styles stay largely intact from generation to generation.
About Yogurt and Panir Cheese
Yogurt, to my mind, is the most amazing of any milk product. Yogurt is made with nothing more than quality milk and a culture. Unless you have a milk intolerance, you can probably easily digest yogurt in some form. Fresh yogurt is considered calming on the digestive system. Taken regularly, it is purported to help balance and restore healthy bacteria in the colon. And depending on how it is prepared, yogurt relieves either mild constipation or diarrhea. If you have ever lived in India, you know it is made daily in many households, twice a day in reputable yogurt shops, and considered stale if only a day old. Yogurt is an exciting ingredient for cooks—a full-bodied creamy milk-curd, with a pleasing balance of sweet, sour, and astringent flavors.
Panir cheese is often called the Indian equivalent of Oriental tofu, but the flavors and textures of these two curds differ considerably. Panir's milk curd is creamy, with a mild, delicate flavor, while tofu's bean curd is gelatinous, with a flavor so bland it eludes description. The texture of panir is a little firmer than unripened farmer cheese, but panir cheese is unique in that it can be browned, sauteed, pan-fried and even baked—without melting or disintegrating. In India panir still enjoys perhaps its greatest popularity in Punjab, where panir is served as an entree in a rich, succulent gravy, or in rices, stews, soups, legumes, and vegetable dishes.
I had my first sampling of Indian karhi (pronounced kah-ree) in 1966, when Srila Prabhupada cooked it for ISKCON's first wedding feast. The taste was so memorable that I noted the ingredients and have since reworked the original dish scores of times. Karhi is a custardlike gravy made by simmering varying proportions of yogurt, water, turmeric, chick-pea flour, and karhi (curry) leaves, when available, to yield a thick or thin texture. You can serve karhi as is, with chilies, chopped fresh cilantro, and fried spice seeds. Or you can add ingredients such as chick-pea fritters or seasonal vegetables. Karhi inspired its Western counterpart—curry sauce, a bechamel sauce spiked with curry powder.
Fried panir might be added to any number of regional Indian dishes—sak, sukta, bhaji, foogath, rasam, tarkari, and more. Many classic panir dishes—such as Panir and Peas, Panir and Spinach, and Panir in Rice Pilaf—are traditional at banquets and on holidays and other festive occasions. Indian restaurant menus are rarely without some variation of these dishes. But aside from the classics, a few panir cubes are a welcome addition to most pots of soup or beans.
Several times Srila Prabhupada requested ISKCON restaurant managers to include panir dishes on their menus, pointing out that it would satisfy the tastes of diners not accustomed to prasadam and pure vegetarian dishes.
Panir is a protein-rich food, one that marries well with the flavor of asafetida and fresh ginger-root and lends nutrition and distinction to many international dishes. Certainly it can be used in place of tofu in any dish. A few ways I've used panir in the last month include sprinkled on Italian foccacia and Arab khubz'arabee flat breads, layered in a Southwestern tortilla-bean-vegetable casserole, and with cabbage as a stuffing in baked Russian piroskis. You might use it in American-style veggie burgers and ... well, you get the idea.
Refer to the class textbook, Lord Krishna's Cuisine, and look over the titles on the subject I've discussed here. Pick out your top choices and work them into menus in the coming months. Experiment using panir in your favorite dishes.
A Moment of Thanks from the Kitchen Window
Before taking time to read the recipes, reach for the class textbook, or make shopping lists, take a few moments to sit and simply be grateful. The more you taste the nectar of Krsna consciousness, the more you will spontaneously feel grateful on many levels. As a cook you will find many ways to savor Krsna consciousness.
Certainly be grateful to Srila Prabhupada, and reflect on how his instructions on devotional cooking and distribution of prasadam have changed the lives of hundreds of thousands around the world. If you have a spiritual master, be grateful for the instructions you have heard on devotional cooking. Deeply drink in those principles, relish them, and share them with others. By embracing these instructions, you will get the will, patience, and enthusiasm required at every step of your spiritual journey. And even if this column is your first taste of Krsna consciousness, be grateful you can see the words in this magazine. Sincerely chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, and try to do your best in offering your food to the Lord. Continue with your own list of things to be grateful for—then get inspired and rattle those pots and pans!
Master Recipe For Karhi
¼ cup sifted chick-pea flour
½ tablespoon cumin and/or mustard seeds
2-3 cups broccoli or cauliflower florets; shredded spinach; mixed bean sprouts; cubed yams or potatoes; sliced carrots or bell peppers; cooked chick peas or other legumes
Place the spice seeds in a small pan and toast over moderate heat until they change color. Add the ghee or butter and the chilies and fry a little more. Pour the seasoning into the karhi and garnish with herbs or add an optional ingredient. Offer to Krsna.
Panir And Spinach
2 pounds fresh spinach, washed, trimmed and chopped
Place the spinach in a large pan, cover, and cook over moderately high heat until wilted (3-5 minutes). Add the remaining ingredients and warm throughout. If desired, fold in sour cream. Offer to Krsna.
An Offering of Love
By Urmila Devi Dasi
The students, from the beginners who can barely write to the almost-graduated, look up expectantly.
"Blank paper, everyone! For the next two or three days we're going to write an offering to Srila Prabhupada."
Every year, disciples and followers of Srila Prabhupada celebrate the anniversary of the day he appeared in the world by, among other things, writing letters in which they glorify him, offer him service, and express appreciation for all he did. The letters are offerings of love.
The traditional Vedic school is called the gurukula, "the place of the spiritual master." As the founder of ISKCON, Srila Prabhupada is in one sense the spiritual master of all its members, including my students, who will eventually accept initiation from one of Srila Prabhupada's disciples. Today, one of gurukula's primary purposes is still to teach the student, from a young age, service to the spiritual master. The yearly writing of an offering to Prabhupada, therefore, is an excellent time for children and adolescents to contemplate that goal of service.
"We should begin our offerings with obeisances to Prabhupada," I start. (The children respond with a chorus of "How do you spell ... ?")
"But let's not just write about how wonderful Prabhupada is or how we are grateful that he brought Krsna consciousness to the world. We can write that, certainly, but let's think about how we can serve him. What will we offer him during the next year and the rest of our lives?"
Soon the students come to my desk with rough drafts done or half done. I try to help them be specific and set attainable goals. For example, it is common for a student to write, "I want to preach all over the world."
"That's wonderful," I comment, "but how do you intend to do that? Will you preach in Argentina? How will you get there? Will you distribute books, or have a group of devotees who chant, or preach through radio ... ?"
Soon the students realize that I'm asking them to make a real offering. Gradually they write from the heart. They express a desire to dress the Deity of the Lord, or cook for Krsna, or teach in a gurukula, or develop a rural community.
Besides asking them to write about what lifetime service they can offer Srila Prabhupada, I ask them to write what service they can give in the coming year. That service can be related to their long-term goals, if they like. Often, however, their immediate goal of service is something such as chanting an extra round of Hare Krsna on their beads, getting their schoolwork done on time, or improving their friendships with other devotees of Krsna.
It is important for the children to be very specific. If they simply write, "Prabhupada, this year I would like to become more humble," they don't really know how to go about it or when they've achieved it. They need to think of specifics. How could they become more humble? Maybe "This year, when my parents or teachers correct me I'll remember to be grateful that they are helping me improve. I'll say 'Thank you' instead of making excuses."
Many managers and educators have noted the positive effects of setting short- and long-term goals. Children are no exception to the principle that all living beings work for some purpose. The personal philosophy of Krsna consciousness does not deny goals or plan making but substitutes the spiritual plan for the material. This substitution, which Krsna calls "the art of work," is the secret of yoga. A materialist's enthusiasm to attain goals keeps him bound to the material world and its miseries. A devotee's enthusiasm for spiritual goals leads to liberation.
Perhaps the most obvious difference between materialistic and spiritual goals is that the materialist desires to please himself and the devotee desires to please the spiritual master. But there is another important distinction: for a devotee, the work is more important than the result. Krsna tells Arjuna never to consider himself the cause of the results of his activities. Rather, Arjuna should work toward the goal that Lord Krsna desires and offer the work to Krsna, whether the actual result appears full or meager. After all, the result is up to Krsna.
When my students offer, for example, "I would like to open a temple for you, Srila Prabhupada," they know that their success lies in their sincere attempt to please the Lord, not in the praises of others or in external signs of accomplishment. Prabhupada exemplified this attitude when, upon first coming to America, he wrote an offering to Krsna. Prabhupada prayed that he would do his best to teach the science of devotion, and that it was up to Krsna to make the work a success or failure, as the Lord desired.
The children's offerings, then, surpass in enthusiasm an ordinary man's New Year's resolutions. And while enthusiasm for serving the spiritual master's mission is one of the main principles of success in God-realization, the service attitude itself is the foundation of that success.
By writing and working on a specific, personal offering of service, our children can go beyond the sentimental worshiper who makes a yearly emotional show—"I want to serve you, guru!"—but actually spends his or her time on other concerns. These children come to see that service to the spiritual master is their offering and their life.
Urmila Devi Dasi was initiated in 1973 and has been involved in ISKCON education since 1983. She, her husband, and their three children live at the ISKCON community in Hillsborough, North Carolina, where she runs a school for children aged 5-18. She is the main author/compiler of Vaikuntha Children, a gurukula classroom guidebook.
Helping Our Motherland
By Ravi Gupta
MY FATHER subscribes to an electronic conference that discusses issues related to India and the Indian community. Several times a year the topic comes up, How can nonresident Indians (NRIs), who live outside India, help their motherland?
Mathew Koshy from San Francisco writes, "The most productive thing for expatriate funds is to help people at the local level solve their own problems such as sanitation and health."
Krishnan Ramanathan writes that he donates funds to an eye hospital in Coimbatore. Sitansu Mittra contributes a modest amount to a boys home in West Bengal.
And Mahesh Prakasm writes, "My personal feeling is that pumping money into India is not going to make any big difference. Also, any other means of developing India is going to make only a physical change, which is temporary. ... The change should be a change in the minds of the people of India. ... India needs Moral Re-armament (MRA). ... a spiritual, philosophical, psychological, or scientific way of creating a change in an individual."
Yes, what India really needs is MRA and more. India needs a change of consciousness, from material to spiritual.
After all, how much money can we give? Foreign governments have probably given more dollars than NRIs will ever be able to give. How many hospitals can we open? We cure one disease, and soon another strikes. How many poor can we feed? Peace Corps volunteers have toiled with more sweat than most of us ever will. But have they improved the condition of India more than superficially?
The best way NRIs can help India is by their personal example. We NRIs have a golden opportunity to make a difference, not by pouring dollars or technology into India but by emulating the greatest NRI, Srila Prabhupada. He knew that we Indians consider imported things superior, so he came to the West and then returned to India to re-import the Vedic teachings. When we return to India or communicate with people there, we can also re-import the Vedic teachings through our example. Srila Prabhupada knew that residents of India naturally look toward NRIs as models because NRIs live in opulent countries. He desired that NRIs not imitate the West but accept the pride of India—Vedic living, or simple living and high thinking.
We can benefit our family and friends in India by encouraging them to shun the non-Vedic habits that have become common there. Take, for example, tea drinking. I estimate that every year an average family in India spends 15,500 rupees, or about $500, on tea. If Indians went without tea, there would be an instant annual savings of $500 times 100 million families, or $50 billion. And there would be immense savings on health costs. The money saved from following this one Vedic principle would surpass all donations. And this is only one such example.
Srila Prabhupada gave us the chanting of the Lord's holy names, and he gave us the four regulative principles: no gambling, no meat-eating, no intoxication, and no illicit sex. The biggest gift NRIs can give India is to become examples for others by following these principles:
Insist on eating only Krsna-prasadam.
Refrain from going to the movies or watching TV shows that promote illicit sex.
Refrain from intoxicants, including tea, coffee, cigarettes, and colas.
Refrain from gambling, including the state lotteries.
If we can influence people in India to follow these principles, the benefits will be great. People will get immediate material benefits, and develop good qualities that help them reach the ultimate goal of human life—self-realization. Without donating even a dollar to any fund, we will have contributed to the welfare of India.
Srila Prabhupada writes, "A person engaged only in ministering to the physical welfare of human society cannot factually help anyone. Temporary relief of the external body and the mind is not satisfactory. The real cause of one's difficulties in the hard struggle for life may be found in one's forgetfulness of his relationship with the Supreme Lord. ... Therefore, to act to revive this consciousness within the entire human society is the highest welfare work." (Bhagavad-gita 5.25, Purport)
We can send money to India, but if we want it to make a real change, we should give to people and funds that develop spiritual principles. Our money can then help satisfy both the immediate physical and the ultimate spiritual needs. For example, by giving money to feed people Krsna-prasadam, we satisfy their hunger and also help them spiritually.
All Indians are dutybound to give their countrymen the benefit of Krsna consciousness. As Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu taught:
bharata-bhumite haila manusya-janma yara
"One who has taken his birth as a human being in the land of India [Bharata-varsa] should make his life successful and work for the benefit of all other people." (Caitanya-Caritamrta, Adi-lila 9.41)
By Sivarama Swami
In this new column we'll present the experiences and realizations of devotees who give Krsna consciousness to others by giving them Srila Prabhupada's books and other books on Krsna consciousness. The following is reprinted from last year's Vyasa Puja book, a collection of letters written in praise of Srila Prabhupada in observance of his appearance day.—Ed.
DEAR SRILA PRABHUPADA
Please accept my humble obeisances at your divine lotus feet. All glories to you on the celebration of your appearance day.
While planning a composition for your offering, I was also attending to my regular correspondence. One letter stood out among the others. I enclose it here, translated into English, for your pleasure.
Dear Sivarama Swami,
Hare Krsna. Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada. I hope you do not mind my writing to you. I have never written to a spiritual master before. You do not know me. My name is Bhaktin Dora and I live in Pecs (Hungary). I am 14 years old, and I live at home with my mother and older sister.
In 1992 I went to the Hare Krsna Festival with a friend. I was not very interested, but I enjoyed the chanting and dancing at the end. After it was over I bought a book, The Science of Self-Realization. I do not know why; generally I never read. I think it was because of the chanting.
I took the book home and cannot remember what happened to it. One day my mother found it and was very angry with me. She thought that I was reading this kind of thing. You see, our family members are all very strict Catholics. They thought Krsna consciousness was some kind of "brainwashing." Actually I wasn't reading the book; I had forgotten all about it. Somehow it just "appeared." Anyway, my mother was going to throw it away.
My grandmother, who is 68, was in the kitchen at the time. She lives in the apartment upstairs. She came in and took the book. She looked at it and scolded me in a very heavy way. I thought that would be the end of it. I did not mind so much, as I was in a lot of maya at the time.
About a week later I overheard a conversation between my mother and grandmother. Granny was saying that this was not some ordinary book. She said that what Prabhupada was saying is what Jesus Christ said and that Krsna is God. I was very surprised. She said we should listen to what Prabhupada said and chant Hare Krsna because that was the religion for this age. There was a lot of talk about how Christianity was no more and no one was following the Bible but what Prabhupada said was pure and perfect.
Things really took a turn from there. One day my grandmother visited the nama-hatta [local Krsna center] here and began to chant on beads. She also began to buy Prabhupada's books one by one. She was spending all her pension buying what she called the "beautiful holy Bhagavatam." Sometimes she could only afford to eat potatoes, but she kept buying the books. The devotees even came to her flat and helped her set up an altar. When I went upstairs, there were Krsna pictures everywhere.
That was really the beginning. One night Granny had a dream about Prabhupada. Something really happened to her then. I don't know what it was, but she began to get very enthusiastic. Next she began to get the whole family involved. I mean, not just me and my mother and sister, but her two sons, their wives and six children, as well as her brothers, sisters, and relatives. Before, she used to carry a Bible with her and quote Jesus Christ. Now she has a Bhagavad-gita and quotes "the good Lord Prabhupada." She became a veritable transcendental terror. Everyone in the family has to chant at least one round a day. In addition Granny made everyone become a vegetarian, including my dog Sikra, and we offer our food to a picture of Prabhupada and Lord Caitanya.
Now I am also getting out of maya and chanting and reading a little also. Where I go to school my friends inquire about Krsna, since they know I am a devotee. The whole family goes to the nama-hatta, all sixteen of us. During the Christmas marathon [for book distribution], we all tried to distribute Prabhupada's books. Even Granny would take books with her to the market and sell them to the vendors. Everyone is afraid of her because she is fearless. They all think she has gone crazy, but she doesn't care.
Now she is saving to go to Budapest to see the newly installed Deities. She has heard that Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityananda "came" to Hungary and are being worshiped there by the devotees. She says she wants to see God just once in this life.
At this year's Hare Krsna festival, you were speaking to the guests after the kirtana. You must remember my grandmother because she came and sat right beside you and asked so many questions. At the end when you stood to leave, she even kissed your hand, remember? I also wanted to ask a question, but I was shy. Could I please ask you now? I hope you do not mind, Maharaja.
I want to know what kind of man Srila Prabhupada was. He must be so dear to Krsna to have spread this message all over the world. What are these books that changed my family so much? How is it possible that he can speak so powerfully through them? You must feel very fortunate to be his disciple. How great a man he is! Sometimes when my Granny chants in front of a picture of Krsna she cries. How does Prabhupada do that? I want to cry like that too. Granny dreams of Prabhupada, and sometimes she talks to his picture. Although it says on the cover of the book that he passed away, is Prabhupada really dead, or is he still alive? Do you think I can meet him some day?
I am sorry that I have gone on so. I would like to be a good devotee one day and help you and Prabhupada spread Krsna consciousness. Please could you answer my questions?
Srila Prabhupada, what is this brand of mercy that you gave this old lady I just barely met, which you never gave me? She never met you, never saw devotees. She is not even initiated by you. What is this kindness that you bestow upon her, which you do not give me, your "fortunate disciple"?
What am I referring to? It is just this. After having come in contact with you for just a few months, what inspiration did you give this Granny in that dream? What did you move in her heart that made her change her life in its final days, that made her turn against the current of banality and tradition and strike out alone to change her world? No sympathy, no association, no institutional support. Boldness I do not possess, changes I do not have strength to make.
Srila Prabhupada, I want to know what you say to her from your picture when she talks to you? I have so many pictures. You do not speak to me through them.
Although I worship Deities daily, I continue to see them as made of marble and wood. How is it this old lady has the conviction that God has "come" to her country? Why have you not given such vision to me? I want to cry like that too. When will you give me that mercy?
Srila Prabhupada, this is one letter, from one girl who came in contact with you. How many millions of such souls are there who have yet to write, who are directly experiencing your mercy daily, who read your books with implicit faith, whom you talk to in dreams and pictures, whose lives you change abruptly and reward with tears when chanting the holy names?
How many people cross the boundaries of rules and regulations by the strong boat of your mercy and practice and taste Krsna consciousness in a realm beyond logic and good fortune? When will you one day bestow some of this special mercy upon me that you give them?
If I am not to acquire it directly, even after begging for it, then I will serve such souls who have reached your mission. I will offer them prasadam, give them your books, and show them how to practice. I will chant with them. Thus I can hope to gain a new perspective of your greatness, even though I may never fully understand it.
Your insignificant servant,
Sivarama Swami is ISKCON's governing body commissioner for the United Kingdom and Hungary.
Bhakti-yoga at Home
Inviting the Lord
In a passage from the Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.11.13-15) recounting Lord Krsna's return to His city, Dvaraka, we hear how householder devotees welcomed and worshiped Krsna:
The city gateway, the household doors, and the festooned arches along the roads were all nicely decorated with festive signs like plantain trees and mango leaves, all to welcome the Lord. Flags, garlands, and painted signs and slogans all combined to shade the sunshine. The highways, subways, lanes, markets, and public meeting places were all thoroughly cleansed and moistened with scented water. And to welcome the Lord, fruits, flowers, and unbroken seeds were strewn everywhere. In every door of the residential houses, auspicious things like curd, unbroken fruits, sugarcane, and full waterpots with articles for worship, incense, and candles were all displayed.
In the purport, Srila Prabhupada writes, "The process of reception according to Vedic rites is not at all dry. The reception was made not simply by decorating the roads and streets as above mentioned, but by worshiping the Lord with requisite ingredients like incense, lamps, flowers, sweets, fruits, and other palatable eatables, according to one's capacity."
The Bhagavatam also describes that these presentations to the Lord were like "an offering of a lamp to the sun," because nothing can be offered to Lord Krsna that is not His already. He is fully satisfied and self-sufficient, and by His own potency He incessantly supplies the needs of everyone. Still, as one worships the deity of the sun by offering a flame, or worships the Ganges by offering her Ganges water, one must offer Krsna something generated by His energy. As Krsna mentions in the Bhagavad-gita, He accepts the love and devotion that saturates the gift, rather than the gift itself.
In the Padma Purana Lord Krsna says, "I am not in Vaikuntha [the spiritual world], nor in the hearts of the yogis. I stay where My devotees glorify My activities." This means that you and I may welcome Krsna into our homes. What was possible five thousand years ago is possible today, because Krsna is available now as He was then.
But how can we possibly invite Lord Krsna—the most famous, wealthy, and powerful person in the entire material and spiritual creation—to our little homes? After all, we may not have the necessary love to saturate our offerings. We may not be pure devotees or even spend much of our time glorifying Krsna's activities.
We can have hope, however, when we consider that Krsna is eternally manifest in two forms in the material world: His Deity form and His holy name. As we can easily chant Hare Krsna at any time and place and thus be in touch with Krsna, so we can also invite the Lord into our lives through the medium of His Deity form.
The Srimad-Bhagavatam lists eight materials from which a Deity can be made: wood, stone, clay, paint (a picture), sand, jewels, metal, or a form conceived within the mind. We can take any of these eight materials—most of them easily available—and shape it according to the descriptions given in the scripture, and to our great fortune Krsna may choose to be present there.
Once, as Srila Prabhupada was about to board a plane, a small child gave him a pencil drawing of Krsna. Prabhupada spent the flight gazing at it as he chanted on his beads. That picture was a Deity form of the Lord.
Actually, Krsna is already present everywhere—He is already in sound and in our homes and hearts. So inviting Him means appreciating His absolute presence everywhere and His ownership of everything. When we sincerely invite Krsna by acquiring and worshiping stone, metal, or wooden Deities or by placing His picture on our wall, our altar, or within our heart, He may manifest His presence there.
You may have noticed my use of the word "may." We cannot force or expect the Supreme Lord to do anything. Even if we worship Him in grand style, we cannot assume that the Lord is pleased to accept our offerings. This is not to say that we shouldn't do our best to offer a nice standard of worship. But even if our Deity worship is very humble, simple, or not yet fully regular, if we have sincerity of purpose we can satisfy the Lord. Lord Krsna is known as bhava-grahi-janardana, "one who accepts our innermost intention." Of course, sincerity and good intention will naturally propel us forward in our attempt to improve our standards.
Also important is our attitude towards Krsna's Deity form. Srila Prabhupada wrote to one disciple, "Never think of the Deity as made of stone or wood. Every worshiper must remember that Krsna is personally present. He is simply kindly presenting Himself before us in a way so that we can handle Him. That is His mercy; otherwise, He is unapproachable."
Should you wish to invite Krsna to your home, you can do so at once by placing a picture of the Lord in a special place and by offering such items as incense, water, fruits, and cooked food, as well as by gazing at, meditating upon, and singing to Him. You could also place a curtain in front of the Lord's picture at night to put the Lord to rest.
You may wonder which picture of Krsna to use. Lord Krsna in His pastime as Lord Caitanya is especially kind and easily approachable, and so devotees in the Krsna consciousness movement usually begin their practice by worshiping a picture of the Panca-tattva: Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His four principal associates. If you want to worship a three-dimensional form of the Lord, Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai (Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityananda) are suitable because an installation ceremony is not a prerequisite for Their worship and They do not consider shortcomings or even offenses to be very important. Rather, They notice all the positive things we may do. Lord Jagannatha, Lord Baladeva, and Subhadra Devi are similarly accessible, and sometimes devotees begin by worshiping them.
For more information, consult your local devotee friends. For detailed information you may also read such publications as Pancaratra Pradipa, ISKCON's comprehensive guide to Deity worship, available through BTG's Hare Krsna Catalog.
In my next column I shall describe offering the arati ceremony of worship to the Deities.
On Conceiving the Inconceivable
Some Principles in Understanding the Origin of the Conditioned Soul
Ravindra Svarupa Dasa
WE CONDITIONED souls are originally Krsna conscious living entities, but owing to a desire to be independent of God and to be the Supreme ourselves, we have fallen from our original position and become covered by maya (illusion), who provides us with false identities of gross and subtle matter. By the grace of Krsna and His pure devotees we fallen souls can regain our original Krsna consciousness and in so doing go back to Godhead.
This simple dramatic narrative tells the story of who we are, where we came from, how we fell, and how we can be restored. Srila Prabhupada tells us this story, and so do the previous acaryas and the scriptures. This story is the profoundest truth about ourselves, and there is no fault in it.
Yet the story becomes complicated when we discover (from the identical infallible sources) that the souls in the spiritual world are nitya-siddha, eternally or perpetually liberated souls, and that no one falls from the spiritual world. Further, the souls in the material world are nitya-baddha, eternally or perpetually conditioned, and we learn that their conditioned state is anadi, or without any beginning. These statements, also, are true without a doubt.
How can these facts be reconciled with the story of fall and redemption?
It is necessary to recognize that the seemingly straightforward linear narrative is more complicated than it appears because the narrative's scope of action spans two "worlds," one eternal and the other temporal.
We can get some sense of the relation between these two worlds if we recollect the temporal structure of the material universe as presented in Srimad-Bhagavatam. As one ascends from Martya-loka (our level or plane), through Svarga-loka (the plane of the enjoying and administrating demigods, or devas), and further through Mahar-loka and so on (the planes of the austere sages) to Satya-loka (the plane of Lord Brahma), time progressively dilates. Thus, as 360 years go by here in Martya-loka, only a year passes for the devas in Svarga-loka. And 300 billion years have to come and go down here for a single year to transpire in Satya-loka for Lord Brahma.
Srimad-Bhagavatam mentions that when Brahma, on earth, kidnapped the cowherd boys and calves from Krsna, the victims were gone a complete year by human experience, but for Brahma, operating on Satya-loka time, only a moment (a truti) had passed. A truti lasts exactly 8/13,500 of a second.
On another occasion Maharaja Kakudmi, seeking a husband for his daughter Revati, took her to Satya-loka to ask Lord Brahma to arrange the match. Brahma kept them waiting until he had finished hearing a recital by Gandharva musicians. When Kakudmi finally presented his request, Brahma burst out laughing. Everyone Kakudmi would have wanted for his daughter was long gone, for twenty-seven yuga cycles had passed (about 160 million years) while the supplicant and his daughter cooled their heels in the anteroom.
A live television broadcast on Satya-loka of events on Martya-loka would disclose everything moving with dizzying speed, a blur of mountains rising up and dissolving away, oceans swelling and shrinking, peoples and civilizations rushing on and off the earth. By the same token, a live broadcast on Martya-loka of current events on Satya-loka would transmit motion so slow as to be undetectable by normal human vision. Only time-lapse photography, snapping the shutter every thousand years or so, would disclose activity.
Keeping all this in mind, imagine the temporal structure of the universe depicted in the form of an equilateral triangle, with the base representing Martya-loka. Its width at the base stands for the duration of the universe in our years—that is, 311 trillion 40 billion years. As we go up, the triangle narrows, so that at the level of Brahma the duration of the universe (still depicted as the width of the triangle) is 100 of his years.
Now continue up the universe, past Satya-loka. The unit-measure of duration continues to dilate, time slows more and more, and finally, at the point where the material realm borders the spiritual, time has its stop. Here, at the apex of the triangle, we reach the point of translation between material and spiritual worlds, between time and eternity.
This is the "now moment of eternity," an everlasting instant without past or future. We have seen how, when we go up the universe, a unit-measure of time includes more and more of our years. What then happens when we take that process to the limit, as we do when we reach the apex? That single climactic moment embodies time without beginning and end. From this point of view, the lifetimes of a trillion, trillion Brahmas are over as soon as they begin. Who can even express such inconceivable things?
It remains to be mentioned, for the sake of thoroughness, that the apex of our triangle marks the limit of the ascent to the Absolute by mystical speculation. According to mystic speculators, the everlasting moment of eternity is necessarily spent in stasis, immobility. Vaisnavas, however, pure devotees of the Lord, know of transcendental variegatedness and activities. Although eternity is described as having no past or future, there is still sequence (for there are lilas, pastimes); and knowledge, bliss, and beauty eternally increase.
If we were to continue with our figure of a triangle, we would have to envision the two lines of its sides extending through the apex to form a second, inverted triangle. Let this triangle, with its base up and its apex down, signify the spiritual realm of transcendental variegatedness as it expands beyond the zero point of nirvana. The figure of the two triangles, apex to apex, is simply another representation of what the Bhagavad-gita signifies by the metaphor of an inverted tree, a reflection of the original tree standing on the water's bank.
Our minds boggle even at the "now moment of eternity" of the impersonal speculators. Even further from our conceptions is a realm in which transcendental time, which has neither past nor future, allows for activities—pastimes—and ever-increasing qualities of beauty, joy, and knowledge.
Now to consider the issue before us, we must not only contemplate that inconceivable eternal realm, but we must think about it in relationship with our world of past, passing, and to come. Let us proceed to do so.
As we have seen, the transcendental realm is eternal present, an everlasting instant. Every soul in that realm must accordingly be characterized as nitya-mukta, eternally liberated. This includes the souls that come from the material world. For if a soul enters that realm from the material world, can we ask, "When did that soul arrive?" The question does not apply. Once the soul gets there, that soul can only be nitya-mukta. He has, necessarily, always been there. This is the logic of eternity.
Now let us go to a matter equally inconceivable. Let us say, for the purposes of discussion, that a soul "falls" from eternity and sojourns in the material world. When did he enter the material world? We can only say that the fall is a non-temporal act that renders the conditioned soul bound from all time. The history of his incarceration in time has no beginning. The conditioned soul has always been conditioned. Strictly speaking, the question of when does not apply. Although bondage is not the soul's original condition, the state of bondage is necessarily described as anadi, or beginningless, and the conditioned soul himself is characterized as nitya-baddha—eternally bound or conditioned. There was no time when he was not bound.
Yet such souls can attain release and enter the spiritual realm. Let us say that the soul who has fallen from that realm into beginningless bondage now returns. The duration of that bondage spans time without limit, as we have seen. Yet now, if we inquire, from the perspective of eternity, "How long has that fallen and restored soul been absent?" the answer is "He never left." Or, alternatively, "The question does not apply." For the logic of eternity dictates that no one falls from eternity—even if he does so.
The logic of eternity also dictates that no conditioned soul can begin his eternal life—even though he does so. In considering both falling from and returning to transcendence, we must accept the logic of eternity to be true to what is real.
Thus we see that while it is true that no one falls from the spiritual world, we in fact have done so, and yet there is no contradiction.
The dramatic narration of a life with God, a fall from that life, a sojourn in the alien world of illusion, and a final restoration to God is not a fiction. It is a profound truth. It need not be rejected on the mistaken notion that it conflicts with other, equally true, statements of authorities.
For our better understanding, however, we need to be aware of one simplification that takes place—quite naturally—in the telling of the narrative of fall and redemption. This is the representation of all the events in the story as though they take place on a single temporal continuum. For example, we habitually characterize our entry into time as though it were itself a temporal occasion, a dateable event. However, as we have seen, once we become conditioned, we have always been conditioned.
Similarly, we think of our rebellion against God as a distant, aboriginal event, one that took place long ago and far away, in that world. In truth, that single act of rebellion is perpetual; that very same aboriginal event is taking place right now. We have only to look into our hearts to confirm this.
Furthermore, when we "return" to the spiritual world, it will only be to discover that indeed we never left, and "there" has always been right "here." We are right now with Krsna, for Krsna consciousness is our svarupa, our eternal identity. We need only wake up and see where we are.
All this is known to Srila Prabhupada and to the acaryas, previous teachers. They know how one can fall from a place no one falls from, enter into an ignorance that has always been, and return to a place one never actually left. Because such matters are inconceivable to mundane minds, when teachers speak of such things their words may seem contradictory. But in one way or another they all tell the whole truth.
The Social Role of Cows
by Hare Krsna Devi Dasi
"In My last birth I was born in the family of cowherd men, and I gave protection to the calves and cows. Because of such pious activities, I have now become the son of a brahmana."
—Lord Caitanya (Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila 7.111)
THROUGHOUT HISTORY many traditional societies have centered on a particular animal, and the relations the people develop with that animal influence the values of the whole society. We think of the role of buffalo in shaping the lives and values of the Native Americans of the Plains. Similarly, we think of the Laplanders and their reindeer, or even the New England whaling villagers and the whales.
In each case, without a particular animal the culture of the people would be entirely different. Because of relations to that animal, whether by shooting, herding, or sailing after it, the society encourages attributes such as toughness, bravery, gentleness, or respect for nature.
Vedic culture centers on the cow. In fact, without cows there can be no true Vedic culture. Veda means "knowledge"—in the highest sense, spiritual knowledge. And as Srila Prabhupada explains, cow protection and brahminical culture are "the two pillars of spiritual advancement." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.17.20)
Now, it is easy for even an outsider to understand why brahminical culture is considered indispensable for spiritual advancement. After all, brahmanas are the disseminators of spiritual knowledge and the exemplary maintainers of spiritual standards, just like the priestly class in any society.
But what about cows? What do cows have to do with spiritual advancement? And why cows? Why not sheep or goats or horses?
In his purport to Lord Caitanya's statement above, Srila Prabhupada gives us the clue. "The words of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the greatest authority, herein clearly indicate that one becomes pious simply by keeping cows and protecting them." How can that be? One reason is that cows are emblems of the mode of goodness.
In Vedic teachings different animals are associated with different material qualities. For example, monkeys, because of their extraordinary sex drive, belong to the mode of ignorance. Lions are said to be in the mode of passion, and cows in the mode of goodness. When humans ally themselves with an animal in the mode of goodness, they themselves gradually rise to goodness, which is favorable to spiritual advancement.
In the opening quote of this article, Lord Caitanya was teasing an astrologer who had determined that the Lord, in His past life, had appeared as an incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. To have some fun with the astrologer, Lord Caitanya ostensibly denied that He was the Supreme Lord, saying that in His past life He had been merely a cowherd boy, and that only by His pious activities had He now become a brahmana.
Of course, we know that God is never bound by any pious or apparently impious acts. Being the ultimate cause of all karmic reactions, He Himself is transcendental to such cause and effect. Nevertheless, even in His joking words we find important truthful instructions. Human beings can become elevated by taking care of cows (or degraded by slaughtering them.)
If we examine the specific qualities of the brahmanas, persons in the mode of goodness, we can begin to see how those qualities are automatically cultured in a society that relies for its economic base on farming and cow protection. In the Bhagavad-gita (18.42), Krsna lists the qualities of the brahmanas: "Peacefulness, self-control, austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, knowledge, wisdom, and religiousness." Let's look at how a person might develop these qualities by protecting cows.
Brahminical qualities and cow protection
Almost universally, cows are seen as an emblem of peace. Even the word "bucolic," referring to a peaceful pastoral scene, comes from the Greek word boukolos, which means "cowherd." Unlike dogs and cats, cows are generally not inclined to fight one another, even for food. They are sociable and fond of one another and affectionate to their caretakers. Because cows are naturally peaceful, cowherds tend to take on this quality.
Furthermore, one must have a peaceful demeanor for milking cows and training oxen. Cows and bulls are sensitive to human moods. Cows will not give milk if the milker acts upset. Oxen will not learn commands if the trainer is angry. The cowherd has to cultivate peacefulness to get the job done.
The most important aspect of self-control for one desiring spiritual advancement is control of the tongue. Prabhupada writes, "Only the animal killer [or eater] cannot relish the transcendental message of the Supreme Lord." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.3.24) When by caring for cows a person sees how friendly and loving they are, his compassionate nature is aroused. He can easily give up eating meat, not wanting to kill the animals he loves and depends on.
Eating only food offered to Krsna also promotes control of the tongue. When the cowherd offers Krsna milk products from Krsna's own cows, and grains and vegetables from His own land, and then takes the remnants in the form of prasadam, the cowherd's brain becomes spiritually purified, and the words he speaks become sober and happy in glorification of Krsna.
Training oxen is another important aid to sense control. There's a New England saying that you train the boy by having him train a team of oxen. There's truth in that. In Sanskrit go means "cow," and it also means "senses." A trainer can see that when the oxen (go) do whatever they feel like, they're useless. Once they're trained and controlled, they're useful and happier. The trainer can see that the oxen are proud and happy to work with him when they can control their senses. The comparison with his own senses (go) is automatic. The trainer sees that when he trains and controls his own senses to serve Krsna, he too will be happier and more productive.
In a society that truly practices cow protection, the bull is fully used for growing food and transporting it. As a valuable member of society, the ox is carefully maintained and protected from slaughter. Economically, using the ox as the means of transport rules out the pileups of wealth that go with trucking things around with coal, gasoline, and nuclear power. Each farmer can farm only so much land with oxen, much less even than with horses. So the use of oxen regulates the scale of production, which helps guarantee that land and wealth are fairly distributed. There are no 1000-acre agribusinesses. And no heaps of wealth to make it easy for people to become entangled in sense gratification.
Because the work of caring for the cows and the land is satisfying, artificial sources of pleasure are not required. As spiritual life develops, austerity and simple living become a pleasure, not a burden. The tendency will be to use any surplus or any natural opulence for worshiping Krsna, not for sense gratification.
Cows can tolerate a wide range of physical conditions. They thrive in the cold Scandinavian countries, in the hot, dry African plains, in the wet tropical jungles of Latin America. But they cannot tolerate filth. They quickly become diseased if not kept clean. As the cowherd works to keep the cows clean, he or she practices living a clean way of life.
Probably no other animal is as tolerant as a cow. If by your daily care and affection you convince the cow or ox that you are its well-wisher, it won't hold a grudge against you for reprimanding it. It won't attack you. For example, once, by my foolish negligence, one of our milk cows got loose from her stall, and when I walked into the barn I found her eating from a grain cart. I knew she could die from overeating if she didn't stop. So I yelled at her, but she didn't stop. I hit her on the back with a stick, but she still kept eating. Finally, I had to hit her in the face, which I hated to do, especially since it was my fault she got loose. But she stopped eating grain and returned to her stall. In five minutes she was mooing softly for me to come and pet her. She wasn't at all afraid of me, and she wasn't angry at me. I knew a dog or cat or even a child would never have such tolerance.
If a person can develop tolerance for being corrected, it is a wonderful asset for advancing in spiritual life. Of course, a spiritual master doesn't beat his disciple with a stick, but sometimes a disciple's ego gets hurt when his actions or beliefs are shown mistaken. The cowherd can learn tolerance from the cows and oxen.
Cows are straightforward, and their service demands straightforwardness. It's hard to cheat with them. Either you give them good food, water, and affection or you don't. Either you are punctual for milkings or you're not. Either you keep them clean or you don't. When you make a mistake or get lazy, you'll probably get a quick reaction. You're too lazy to clean out the water tank? Milk production will drop because cows don't want to drink that nasty-tasting water. You forgot about the six o'clock milking? You'll be kicking yourself tomorrow when you have to take care of a cow suffering from mastitis. You'll probably never forget again. Cow protection is a practical way of learning to be honest and conscientious.
KNOWLEDGE AND WISDOM
Cultivation of spiritual knowledge starts with a healthy brain. For this, milk is essential. Prabhupada explains, "The body can be maintained by any kind of foodstuff, but cow's milk is particularly essential for developing the finer tissues of the human brain so that one can understand the intricacies of transcendental knowledge." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.5.7)
Scientists support this view. They say that vitamin B12 is essential to maintain healthy nerve cells. (The brain is made up of nerve cells.) A vitamin-B12 deficiency can take years to manifest, but it is a deadly serious matter, as explained by nutrition expert Laurel Roberts. "The first signs of damage are a characteristic sore back, numbness and tingling in the feet, and diminished vibration and position sense. Then follow unsteadiness, poor memory, confusion, moodiness, delusions, overt psychosis, and eventually death."
The only natural source of vitamin B12 in a vegetarian diet is milk. (Obtaining B12 from meat products creates new problems because of the adrenalin and toxins one ingests with the meat.) In a peaceful society, therefore, milk is essential to properly maintain brain cells needed for spiritual intelligence. Prabhupada emphasizes this point:
For such important brain tissues we require a sufficient quantity of milk and milk preparations. Ultimately, we need to protect the cow to derive the highest benefit from this important animal. The protection of cows, therefore, is not merely a religious sentiment but a means to secure the highest benefit for human society.
—Light of the Bhagavata
Thus when the cowherd comes home and takes a cup of hot milk at the end of a day of hard work in the fields, he or she is making the brain fit to contemplate spiritual topics. And the peaceful fields and pastures provide the perfect environment to cultivate knowledge and wisdom.
"Milk is liquid religiosity," says Srila Prabhupada. So what could be more religious than to produce milk and grains to offer to Krsna? Lord Krsna says that a person can understand Him only by devotional service. (Bg. 18.55) And one can perform devotional service by doing one's daily work as an offering to Krsna. (Bg. 18.45,46) No need to be a great scholar. No need to be a powerful warrior, or even a highly talented craftsman. If the cowherd faithfully carries out the duties of caring for the cows and bulls and producing food to offer to Krsna, he or she will become spiritually satisfied.
Besides that, just by seeing the cows every day one can easily remember Krsna and His cows in Goloka Vrndavana, in the spiritual sky. That remembrance is the highest religiousness.
Through philosophy and scripture alone a few intelligent people can be motivated to undertake spiritual life. For them to get started on the path back to Godhead may be easy. But most of us are not like that. For us Krsna has very kindly sent the cow and the bull to coach us in developing qualities that will help us in Krsna consciousness.
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A Report from ISKCON Communications Europe
The case of the Hare Krsna devotees in Armenia has been taken up by Amnesty International. A report on the events recounted here has been prepared by the U.S. embassy in Yerevan and included in the U.S. Department of State's 1995 Human Rights Report on Armenia. The Swedish Foreign Office included this case in their 1995 report. The case has also been reported to the Office for International Human Rights of the CSCE. A letter-writing campaign directed at the President of Armenia was begun in September of last year, and demonstrations have taken place at various Armenian embassies around the world.
Persecution under the Soviet Union
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON, or the Hare Krsna movement) was introduced to Armenia in 1981. Within a few years some thirty to forty followers formed an association to practice their religion in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia.
During the Soviet regime in Armenia, members of ISKCON lived under the constant supervision of the KGB, in hiding, on the run, and later in prisons and mental institutions.
In 1985 and 1986 the KGB orchestrated two court cases against members of the Society. As a result, eleven Hare Krsnas were imprisoned in state prisons, labor camps, and psychiatric hospitals. Among them were Karen Saakian, Armen Saakian, Suren Karapetian, Sarkis Ogandzhanian, Gagik Buniatian, Agvan Arytyunian, Armine Hrtian, Ara Akopian, and Armen Sarkisian.
One of those imprisoned, Sarkis Ogandzhanian (23 years of age), died on December 27, 1987, from tuberculosis and malnutrition in labor camp YU-25/B, situated in the Orenburg Territory of the Russian Republic. He had entered the camp as a perfectly healthy young man and was due to have been released in January 1988.
Another member, Martik Zhamkochian (25 years of age), died in a psychiatric hospital in the Sovetashen District of Yerevan in July 1986. In the psychiatric hospital he was force-fed raw eggs, which were administered through a tube, and was injected with large doses of psycho-pharmacological drugs. After several days of such "treatment" he died.
In 1985, in Sweden, the Committee to Free Soviet Hare Krishnas was formed. The Committee publicized the violations against civil, religious, and human rights surrounding the persecution of the Soviet Hare Krsnas. Many human-rights organizations, such as Amnesty International, Helsinki Watch, International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, and The Committee for Human Rights in Eastern Europe, took part in the campaign to free the Soviet Hare Krsna devotees. Because of the efforts of the Committee and worldwide support for the campaign, in 1987 and 1988 most of the imprisoned Hare Krsna members were released.
Hopes for Freedom
In 1989-90 the proposed transition to a more democratic society promised hope for religious freedom. In 1990, for the first time, ISKCON was officially registered as a religion in Armenia. There are now about 250 ISKCON members in Armenia, and ISKCON maintains congregations in the towns of Kapan, Gyumri, Ashtarak, Eghnadzor, and Kirovakan.
Even before the official registration, ISKCON had started various religious and humanitarian programs, including Hare Krishna Food for Life, a food distribution program for the needy. In December 1988, three days after a devastating earthquake in Leninakan (now Gyumri), thirty Hare Krsna members from Russia and Armenia went to Leninakan and started free food distribution. The money for the program was collected internationally. For about five months the devotees distributed a thousand free meals daily to victims of the earthquake.
Unfortunately, the promise of religious tolerance was short-lived. Despite attempts by ISKCON members to make a positive social contribution and to live in peaceful coexistence with other religious communities, our members in Armenia have noted an increase in animosity towards them that seemed to parallel an increase of nationalism and a revival of orthodox Armenian religion. ISKCON's charitable activities have recently been prohibited by a direct order from Mr. Khachik Stamboltsian, chairman of the Supreme Council Commission on Refugees and Emergencies.
In spite of the restrictions on ISKCON's food distribution program, ISKCON members continue to distribute 1,000 free meals each day in Armenia, especially in hospitals and among refugees.
Here we chronicle the more recent systematic harassment of Hare Krsna members—by police, local government officials, and priests of the majority Armenian Apostolic church.
Within a month after the program started, a group of armed men broke in and demanded, on behalf of the government, that our members leave the country within twenty-four hours. ISKCON's members appealed to state minister Zirair Pogosian, who refused to help and actually declared support for the demands of the intruders.
After various attempts to get back the confiscated books, ISKCON members heard from reliable political sources that the books had been burned. Further information suggested that the order to burn them had come from the head of the Armenian KGB, David Shahnazarian. They were reportedly mixed with liquid fuel and burned in the ovens of the Yerevan thermal power plant. Informants say this was done in response to the international campaign against persecution of Hare Krsna members in Armenia.
ISKCON in Armenia has lodged an official complaint but has been advised that pursuing the case seriously may be unwise.
Krsna devotees appealed for justice in these cases to the Armenian Prosecutor and the Committee for Human Rights at the Armenian Supreme Soviet. The only response came from an investigator, Mr Kroian, who merely threatened to investigate all Hare Krsna activities in Armenia.
At the appointed time four people arrived at the temple. They started to abuse the temple residents and threatened violence. Before long a scuffle ensued, and suddenly, after just a few moments, a fleet of fourteen police cars appeared on the scene. The policemen surrounded the temple and arrested all the residents. Seventeen Hare Krsna members were taken into custody. In the police station the prisoners were abused and beaten.
Sixteen of those arrested were later freed from the state prison. They were nonetheless forced to stay under house arrest during a supposed investigation. After two months the charges were dropped.
As a result of the attack on the temple, one Hare Krsna member, Boris Agagabian, was hospitalized with head injuries and a severely damaged nose. Another, Mkrtchian Karo, has suffered severe head injuries, inflicted by a metal bar. Others also had to receive hospital treatment.
A mass-media campaign was orchestrated against ISKCON in the last six months of 1994. The reportage was sensationalistic and sectarian. When Ara Akopian (an ISKCON member) recently asked Voskan Maminonian, a correspondent from the newspaper Erkir, why he published blatant lies about ISKCON, Mr. Maminonian replied, "When a war is being fought against a political enemy, all means are to be used, both honest and dishonest."
"A Paramilitary Group Did This"
Statement by Marina Kutzian, senior lecturer, department of sociology, Yerevan University, Armenia.
In the case of Hare Krishna, the victims had bloody wounds, the temple was destroyed, and all their possessions were stolen. According to my impressions and informal information I have collected, a paramilitary group did this.
This paramilitary group was organized in Armenia before our national Army was established. But after that, the group was not disbanded or included in the regular Army. So, on the one hand the group is not official but on the other hand it is well known that they are supervised by government officials. I have the very strong impression that the group is now used by these officials against their ideological opponents.
"Srila Prabhupada could say just the right thing in the right way to deeply touch the heart of the listener."
By Giriraja Swami
EVERY MORNING when Srila Prabhupada was in Bombay he used to walk on Juhu Beach. One morning I had been feeling especially wretched and miserable. Although so many other devotees were present, Srila Prabhupada began to speak as if addressing me personally.
He quoted a Sanskrit verse and spoke about two words—anatha and sanatha. Natha means "master," so a-natha means "without a master" and sa-natha means "with a master." The whole goal of life is to become sanatha, "with a master."
In the morning on Juhu Beach many gentlemen used to walk their dogs. Srila Prabhupada pointed to a fat and fit gentleman walking with an equally fat and fit dog. The man was walking briskly and confidently with his dog on a leash, and the dog was walking equally briskly and confidently with his master by his side. Srila Prabhupada commented that every dog wants a good master. If the dog has a good master, the dog is happy. He holds his head high; he wags his tail. He knows that his master will maintain and protect him, so he has no anxiety.
But the street dog—"The poor fellow has no master. Therefore he is always suffering." Srila Prabhupada then pointed to some stray dogs. "They have no master. They do not know where they will sleep, how they will get food. Other dogs bark at them; children throw stones at them. They are always in anxiety."
Srila Prabhupada stopped walking. He planted his cane firmly in the sand of Juhu Beach. Although I stood behind many of the devotees, who moved close around him, with his eyes laden with love and compassion he looked into my eyes. "So we should be sanatha, protected, not anatha, orphan. We should have our master and be exclusively devoted to him. Then we will feel confident in his protection and always be happy."
Quoting the verse again, Srila Prabhupada explained each Sanskrit word. Mano-ratha: the chariot of the mind. Mental concoction is driving us here, there, here, there. We have no peace. But when we have our perfect master to serve, we become peaceful (prasanta) and jubilant: "I have got my master. I have no cares or anxiety." This is the ideal of life, to become sanatha-jivitam, living with hope: "I have got my master who will give me protection."
I knew that Srila Prabhupada was speaking directly to me, addressing my present need in Krsna consciousness. Without my even asking or saying anything, he knew my heart and gave the perfect solution through his instructions.
Thereafter, I always tried to remember and follow these instructions of Srila Prabhupada's.
Although I had caught some of the words from the verse and Srila Prabhupada's explanation, I very much wanted to find the verse but could not. Then several years later I came across the same verse quoted in Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (Madhya-lila 1.206):
bhavantam evanucaran nirantarah
"By serving You constantly one is freed from all material desires and is completely pacified. When shall I engage as Your permanent eternal servant and always feel joyful to have such a fitting master?"
Reading the purport, I found the same instructions Srila Prabhupada had given on Juhu Beach: "Just as a dog or servant is very satisfied to get a competent, perfect master, or as a child is completely satisfied to possess a competent father, so the living entity is satisfied by completely engaging in the service of the Supreme Lord. He thereby knows that he has a competent master to save him from all kinds of danger."
I realized that Srila Prabhupada is so perfect that he always spoke on the basis of scripture. And because of his tremendous compassion and humanity, he could say just the right thing in the right way to deeply touch the heart of the listener.
Now whenever I walk on Juhu Beach and see the different types of dogs—those with masters and those without—I remember Srila Prabhupada's instructions and pray that I will always remain Srila Prabhupada's dog.
Janmastami is the most important day of the year for devotees of Lord Krsna. Five thousand years ago Krsna appeared as the eighth son of Vasudeva and his wife Devaki. Janmastami is so named because Lord Krsna's birth (janma) occurred on the eighth day (astami) of the waning moon during the month of Hrsikesa (August-September).
The Srimad-Bhagavatam tells the history of the Lord's advent:
At the time of the marriage of Vasudeva and Devaki, a voice from the sky foretold that the couple's eighth son would kill King Kamsa, Devaki's evil brother. Kamsa therefore imprisoned Vasudeva and Devaki and placed guards to watch over them closely.
By His own potency, Lord Krsna appeared within the prison cell as the son of Vasudeva. He made the guards fall asleep and the prison doors spring open. Vasudeva, to protect his son, carried baby Krsna across the Yamuna River to Vrndavana, a village of cowherds. Vasudeva turned Krsna over to the protection of his dear friend Nanda Maharaja, the leader of the village.
Nanda Maharaja celebrated Krsna's birth with great pomp and splendor. Following custom, he gave generously to the brahmanas—gold ornaments, hills of grain, and thousands of cows. The brahmanas chanted Vedic mantras to invoke good fortune for the newborn child. Cowherd men and women bearing gifts came from all over Vrndavana to join the wonderful celebration. Men, women, and children danced and chanted in ecstasy, and joyous sounds could be heard throughout the village.
Today, in temples throughout the world devotees of Lord Krsna celebrate Janmastami with great splendor. The festivities include chanting, dancing, processions, the bathing of Lord Krsna, and dances and dramas depicting the pastimes of the Lord. At midnight, after fasting all day, devotees worship Lord Krsna and then enjoy a sumptuous feast prepared and offered to the Lord with love and devotion.
—Research by Raghunandini Dasi,
Gopala Bhatta Gosvami
In the year 1510, while Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was on tour of South India, the family of Vyenkata Bhatta had the great fortune of hosting the Lord during the four months of the rainy season. Gopala, Vyenkata Bhatta's seven-year-old son, served Lord Caitanya continuously and developed an intense love for Him.
When Lord Caitanya was about to leave, Vyenkata Bhatta fainted and Gopala Bhatta's eyes filled with tears of love. For Gopala Bhatta's sake, Lord Caitanya agreed to stay a few more days.
During this time, Gopala Bhatta had a spiritual vision in which Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu revealed Himself as Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and said that Gopala would someday meet in Vrndavana two jewellike devotees—Rupa Gosvami and Sanatana Gosvami, leaders in Lord Caitanya's movement.
When Gopala Bhatta awoke from trance, he wanted to leave for Vrndavana at once. Lord Caitanya told him to stay and serve his parents.
Gopala Bhatta then studied rhetoric, poetry, Vedanta, and Sanskrit grammar from his uncle Prabodhananda Sarasvati, a great devotee of Lord Caitanya.
After the passing of his parents, Gopala Bhatta traveled to Vrndavana, where he was lovingly met by Rupa Gosvami and Sanatana Gosvami. When Lord Caitanya heard that Gopala Bhatta was in Vrndavana, He was extremely pleased. The Lord sent some of His personal belongings to Gopala Bhatta, who worshiped them. The Lord also sent a letter instructing Gopala Bhatta to help Rupa and Sanatana compile transcendental literature. Gopala Bhatta accepted this instruction from the Lord as his life and soul, and he later engaged his disciple Srinivasa Acarya in carrying the writings to Bengal.
Once, on a trip to the Gandaki River, in Nepal, Gopala Bhatta obtained twelve salagrama-silas.(A sila is a special Deity of the Lord in the form of a stone.) The silas entered his waterpot as he filled it with water from the river. When he tried to return them to the river and refill his pot, they again entered the pot. Accepting this as the Lord's mercy, Gopala Bhatta decided to bring the silas back to Vrndavana.
One day, Gopala Bhatta felt the need to worship a Deity of Krsna in His humanlike form. The next morning he saw that one of his silas had transformed into a beautiful Deity of Lord Krsna. Gopala Bhatta named the Deity Radha-Ramana, "Krsna, who brings pleasure to Radharani." He established the worship of Radha-Ramana, and the Radha-Ramana temple is still one of the main places of pilgrimage in Vrndavana.
Gopala Bhatta is one of the renowned six Gosvamis of Vrndavana.
—Research by Sarasvati Dasi, Girls Vaisnava Academy, Alachua, Florida
In The Beginning Was Krsna's Word: The Vedas
On June 15, 1974, in Paris, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada received a visit from two priests and two Christian scholars. (Before his guests arrived, Srila Prabhupada briefly noted the Vedic literature's predictions for our age.)
tasmat ksudra-drso martyah
This means, "Gradually people will become dwarfs, and they will die very young. They will be mostly unfortunate, eat too much, and be very much sexually agitated. Gradually they will become poverty-stricken and aimless, and the women all unchaste." Just see. Everything's coming true.
"The cities will be full of rogues and thieves." Just see.
Disciple: That's Paris.
Srila Prabhupada: Anywhere. In Calcutta it is dangerous to go out, because you do not know whether you'll come back. People are so afraid. A man is going to work at the office; it will be God's grace if he returns. I was a guest at the place of one of our life members, sitting there in the morning, when someone came in—"Oh, that gentleman who was at the temple this morning has been killed." He was a very important businessman. He went to the temple, and coming back he was killed from behind.
About so-called saintly persons, the Bhagavatam predicts, tapasvino grama-vasa: "The so-called yogis—they'll live in the city." Actually, the yogis have no business in the city. They should go to a secluded place. But they will live in the city, just like any ordinary materialistic person. Some man is living a materialistic life in the city of Paris, and he's supposed to be a yogi.
Disciple: This is all in the Twelfth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Foretold five thousand years ago. Here it is said, tapasvino grama-vasa nyasino 'tyartha-lolupah: "And the sannyasis, the so-called renunciants—they'll be too greedy for money." And patim tyaksyanti nirdravyam bhrtya apy akhilottamam: "The common tendency will be to divorce the husband, especially when he has insufficient money or insufficient sex power." The wife will divorce. Divorce cases take place mainly in two instances: when the husband has no money and when the sex indulgence is not very good.
Here is more:
"In the Kali-yuga, the general public will lose their places of residence and will become homeless." You see. I was surprised when I saw, just after arriving in America, that so many people were lying on the street in the Bowery. They had no place of residence. Sometimes they had shelter at night; they would pay one dollar and lie down, and in the morning they would go away. I saw many signboards there.
Disciple: They call them "flophouses."
Srila Prabhupada: Anyway, vasa means "residence," anna means "food," and pana means "beverages"—milk or water or whatever, you require something to drink. And sayana: "sleeping," lying down on a bed. And vyavaya, "sex." Regulated sex, within marriage, for having nice children, is also required. But the Bhagavatam predicts, "These things will be nil." Even bhusanaih, proper clothing. Hinah pisaca-sandarsa bhavisyanti: "Being devoid of all these things, people will be just like urchins." These hippies—they are exactly like this. They have no place to sleep. Nothing of the sort. And with long, long hair—looking like pisaci. [To his Sanskrit editor:] What is the meaning in English?
Sanskrit editor: Ghosts?
Srila Prabhupada: Ghosts, yes. Ghostlike. Hinah pisaca-sandarsa bhavisyanti kalau prajah: "In the Kali-yuga, the prajah, the people in general, will become devoid of proper residence and food and drink and even proper resting places and bathing and clothing. They'll look like ghosts." And more:
kalau kakinike 'py arthe
This means that in the Kali-yuga, for a cent—for the matter of taking a cent only—a man will give up his friendship with others. And he'll even kill his own relatives to take two cents or five cents.
Disciple: Srila Prabhupada, your visitors have arrived.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, yes. And na raksisyanti manujah sthavirau pitarav api: "People will not even give protection to their elderly parents."
[To guests coming in:] Hare Krsna.
Disciple: Srila Prabhupada, I'd like to introduce these visitors who have come to see you. Father Canivez, here, is Secretary of the Bishops of France. And here are Father Fransad and also Madame Siaude, who is studying Ramanujacarya and Madhvacarya.
Srila Prabhupada: Very good. Vaisnava philosophy.
Disciple: And Mr. Misraki not only composes music but also wrote a book on life after death.
Father Fransad: Thank you, Your Divine Grace, for so kindly receiving us. May I ask, first, Do you believe that God is a person?
Srila Prabhupada: At least, Christians cannot believe in an impersonal God. Christians cannot say that God is impersonal. After all, Christ is God's son, and since the son is a person, how can the Father be impersonal?
And in the Bible it is said, "In the beginning was the word." That is God's word. So if one has a word, then he's a person. A word comes from a tongue and mouth. As soon as there is a word, the background is a tongue and mouth.
And the Christians pray in the church, "O God, give us our daily bread." So God has ears—so that He will hear and supply. But His personality, His word, His hearing—they're all transcendental, nonmaterial.
Father Fransad: I agree on this point. As you say, God is a person. That is why we can say we have a personal relationship with God.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, God is a person. Brahmeti paramatmeti bhagavan iti sabdyate: The Absolute Truth is realized from three angles of vision—Brahman, Paramatma, and Bhagavan. Brahman, the Supreme Person's impersonal, all-pervasive energy; Paramatma, His localized expansion in everyone's heart; Bhagavan, the Supreme Person.
Father Fransad: I'm accepting some of the things you are saying, but I don't think that I'm obliged to accept everything. I find many things agreeable in the Vedic literature, but I think it might be a mistake to say that the Bible is exactly the same thing as the Vedas. There are still distinctions.
Srila Prabhupada: Distinctions. Then it is to be considered which is perfect: the later edition, or the original.
By Ujjvala Dasa
On February 26, in Mayapur, West Bengal, devotees held opening ceremonies for a memorial to Srila Prabhupada. The same day, the following article appeared in Amrita Bazar Patrika, a Calcutta newspaper. (The photos were not part of the original article.)
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada spent his last days in the holy places of Sri Vrindavana Dham and Sri Mayapur Dham. He instructed his disciples to place his body in samadhi in whichever of these places he departed this world from and to make a pushpa ["flower"] samadhi in the other. Obeying these instructions, his disciples began his Pushpa Samadhi Mandir [temple] in Mayapur shortly after he departed this world in Vrindavana on November 14, 1977.
During the samadhi ceremony in Vrindavana, some of the flowers in contact with Prabhupada's divine body, as well as other objects such as hair, pieces of cloth, and personal articles, were saved in two boxes, one gold and one silver. The boxes were brought to Mayapur and interred ceremoniously deep beneath the central foundation of the mandir.
Srila Prabhupada's Pushpa Samadhi Mandir is an ambitious attempt to glorify Srila Prabhupada. It will be fully manifested in 1996, the one-hundredth anniversary of his birth. From the inauguration ceremony in February, the finishing touches will be undertaken in preparation for the mandir's official grand opening in early 1996.
Spectacular Memorial to a Great Visionary
The glistening main dome of the Samadhi towers 160 feet above the surrounding landscape. The dome spans 80 feet. It is clad with 36,000 marble tiles and capped with a 30-foot-high golden kalash [tower] covered with more than 230,000 glass tiles fired with dazzling gold. The interior mosaic ceiling is the largest in Asia. Twenty artists worked four years installing the 1,400,000 mosaic tiles inside the dome.
From the lotus-shaped fountain at the front of the building, a ribbon waterfall—the first of its kind in India—cascades 60 feet to a pool at the base of a sweeping marble stairway. The entire monument is surrounded by a multi-colored terra cotta frieze with more than 1,200 lifelike figures of Hare Krishna devotees chanting with Srila Prabhupada.
Around the ground floor of the mandir, statues and relief panels show the nine processes of devotional service to Lord Krishna. Each panel depicts a personality engaged in the particular service through which he achieved perfection. All the sculpting was done in Mayapur by local artists and devotees using traditional modeling techniques. Western technology was used for the glazing and firing.
The samadhi chamber is lined with white marble from Makrana, Rajasthan. It was hand-carved in Makrana and at Mayapur and is inset with red, green, and yellow marble imported from Italy. A bronze murti [carved figure] of Srila Prabhupada sits on a white marble vyasasana [seat of the guru] highlighted with beautiful blue South American marble. The teakwood chamber doors are six inches thick, hand-carved and inlaid with silver and mother-of-pearl. The main hall is surrounded by a parikrama [circular path], where visitors and devotees can see Jaya and Vijaya [gatekeepers of the spiritual world] and members of the disciplic succession.
The Mayapur Project
Srila Prabhupada's Pushpa Samadhi Mandir in Sridham Mayapur is a magnificent memorial to Srila Prabhupada—the great spiritual leader who spread the sublime knowledge of Krishna consciousness throughout the world. The inauguration of the spectacular Samadhi Mandir is a stage in the development of Sri Mayapur Dhama—a project that has been foretold since the time of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
Srila Prabhupada is the driving force behind the development of Sri Mayapur. His extensive writing and direction guide every aspect of the project, from community development to architecture. His vision of Sri Mayapur as an international center for learning, spiritual understanding, and the practice of pure Vedic culture is now being realized.
His vision continues to inspire everyone involved with this challenging project. As his great plan unfolds, Sri Mayapur Dham has already become an international place of pilgrimage and spiritual enlightenment. Srila Prabhupada's Pushpa Samadhi Mandir is the project's first major architectural achievement.
The Brahmana's Dilemma
Kunti hears a cry of grief sounding throughout the brahmana's house.
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, whom their enemies assume have burned to death, are living in Ekacakra disguised as brahmanas in the house of a brahmana family.
Those great warriors, the Pandavas, the sons of Kunti, went to Ekacakra. But what did they do after that, O best of brahmanas?
The sons of Kunti did not spend much time within the brahmana's house, for disguised as humble ascetics they went out begging. As they went about collecting alms, O king, they would see the charming varieties of forests, the fascinating geological regions, and the rivers and lakes of that country. The Pandavas, by their excellent character and qualities, became a very agreeable sight for the people of the city.
Every night the Pandavas would deliver their alms to Kunti, and each son would enjoy what she set aside for him. Four heroic brothers and Kunti herself would eat half of the food collected by begging, and mighty Bhima would eat the other half. As those great souls thus spent their days there, O mighty Bharata king, a long time passed.
One day, when the Bharata princes had gone out begging and Bhimasena had stayed behind to keep company with his mother, Kunti heard a terrible cry of grief sounding throughout the brahmana's house. My dear Bharata king, Kunti was a very merciful person, a godly woman with the mind of a saint, and when she heard the brahmana and his family wailing in anguish, she could not bear it.
Her heart suddenly churning with sorrow, the gentle lady called her son Bhima and in a voice filled with kindness said to him, "My son, we are living very happily in the house of the brahmana; we live as honored guests, without any strife, and completely hidden from the sons of Dhrtarastra. I am always thinking, son, whether I could possibly do something to please the brahmana, for when people live happily as guests in another's home, it is normal to offer something to the host. After all, a person's character is measured by his gratitude. When kindness is shown to a gentleman, he never forgets it, and he feels he must do even more in return. It is quite clear that some tragedy has befallen this brahmana, and if I can help him in his crisis, I will have done a good deed."
Bhima said, "We must find out what grief has arisen for this brahmana. Once we know it, I am determined to help him, even if it be a most difficult task."
O lord of men, as the two of them went on talking, they again heard a cry of anguish coming from the brahmana and his wife. Thereupon, Kunti rushed into the inner quarters of the noble brahmana like a merciful cow whose calf has been trapped. There she saw the brahmana with his wife, son, and daughter, his face transformed in grief.
The brahmana said to his wife, "What a curse, to be born in a world where our dreams go unfulfilled and instead we suffer a pain that burns like fire; we depend on others and take the deepest sorrow as our lot. To be alive is the greatest grief; to be alive is the hottest fever; to be alive and working in this world surely means to choose among conflicting delusions.
Even if a person lives alone and does not worry about worldly piety, prosperity, and bodily pleasure, a life without these is considered the greatest misery. Some people say that salvation is the greatest thing, but I have no hope that I will achieve it. And if a person acquires ordinary wealth, all hell besets him. To be greedy for wealth is the worst misery, and if one actually acquires wealth he suffers even more. And one who falls in love with his money suffers the greatest pain of all when he inevitably parts with it. In any case, I see no way to save myself from this disaster unless I flee to a safe place with my wife and children.
"You know very well, brahmana lady, that in the past I tried to get you to leave for your own good, but you did not listen to me. No matter how many times I begged you, foolish woman, all you could say was, 'I was born and raised here, and my father was born and raised here.' But your old father and mother went to heaven a long time ago, and so did your other seniors, relatives, and friends. So what pleasure is there in living here? You were so attached to your relatives that you did not listen to my words, and now your own family must perish, and I cannot stand the pain. The only solution is that I perish. I cannot bear to lose any one of my own family and go on living like a cruel and heartless man.
"I have always practiced religion together with my wife, and she is like a mother to me, always restrained, a true friend arranged by the gods. She has always helped me more than anyone in my life's progress. She was ordained for me by my venerable father and mother, and she has shared with me from the beginning all the duties and burdens of married people. My dear wife, you are an educated woman from a noble family, the mother of my children. Having accepted you in accordance with all our customs and wed you in sacred marriage with the chanting of mantras, how can I now sacrifice you, a saintly and faultless wife who are ever faithful, simply to save my own life?
"And how could I ever bring myself to sacrifice my beloved daughter, still a child, who has not even reached her full youth or developed the mature signs of womanhood. The exalted creator of this world has placed her in my care on behalf of her future husband. I aspire for higher planets where my forefathers dwell, but I can achieve them only through the goodness and piety of my daughter's son. And having brought her into this world, how could I dare abandon her?
"Some men think that a father has greater affection for his son than for his daughter, but my love is the same for both my children. On the son rests one's hopes for higher worlds, family lineage, and eternal happiness, but my daughter is an innocent child. How could I dare abandon her? If I did that, I would be rejecting my own soul, and I would suffer in the tenebrous worlds of fallen spirits. And yet if I leave them behind, it is clear that they also will not have the strength to live. To sacrifice any one of them would be an act of cruelty, condemned by the wise. Yet if I sacrifice myself, they will all die without me.
"I have fallen into such anguish, and I have no power to escape it. Oh damn! What will happen to me and my family? To die with all of them is best, for I can no more endure this life."
The brahmana's wife said, "You should never lament like that, as if you were an ordinary man. You are a brahmana, learned in the spiritual science, and under no circumstance should you lament. Destruction of the material body is inevitable; all men must die. There should be no lamentation for that which is bound to perish. Ultimately, a man cherishes all his possessions—his wife, son, and daughter—for his own satisfaction. The soul itself is eternal and dependent only on God. Therefore give up your anxiety through perfect spiritual knowledge, for I am determined that I myself shall go to that place. Since time began, the supreme duty for a woman in this world is to do what is best for her faithful husband, even at the cost of her life. Therefore by performing such an act, I shall bring you happiness, and I shall gain undying glory both in this world and the next.
"I shall now declare to you the religious principles that must guide our present actions, for they will clearly increase your prosperity and virtue: You have now fulfilled with me the purpose for which a man seeks a wife. I have given you a good daughter and a son, and therefore I have no further debt to you. You are capable of nourishing and protecting our two children. I cannot nourish and protect them as well as you. Without you, I would simply suffer, unable to satisfy the needs of the family. How would the two young children survive, and how would I live? Without you, I shall be an unprotected widow with two small children. How will I give a good life to my children and keep myself on the path of righteousness?
"How will I be able to protect our daughter when she is pursued by proud and indecent men unworthy of marriage with our family? Just as birds eagerly chase a piece of meat thrown on the ground, so do all men pursue and exploit a woman who has no strong man to protect her. O best of brahmanas, I will be disturbed by wicked men who will come lusting after me, and I will not have the power to stay on the godly path that is so revered by the decent.
"If you do not see to her religious education, how will I have the energy or authority to keep this young girl, your only daughter, on the path of her father and forefathers? How will I have the strength to instill good and necessary qualities in this young boy when he is fatherless and exploited all around? How will I teach him to care about religion as you do? Unworthy men will push me aside and go after your unprotected daughter, like the uncultured men who seek to force their way into the spiritual science. And if I don't want to give them this virgin girl, endowed with all your fine qualities, they will grow violent with me and take her by force, as crows steal clarified butter from the arena of sacrifice.
"When I am forced to see your son grow up unlike his father and your daughter fallen into the hands of unworthy men, and when I am despised by the people and forget my own soul in the company of polluted men, I shall undoubtedly die. My two young children will have already lost their father, and when they lose their mother there is no question but that they will perish, like two fish in a lake gone dry. Bereft of you, the three of us will thus perish without a doubt. Therefore, it is I whom you must sacrifice.
"O brahmana, for women it is the highest felicity and the noblest act to make the final journey before their husband, not to let the husband die and then try to take his place in their children's life. I am prepared to give up my son, my daughter, and all my relatives, because I live only for your sake. To live always for the good of her husband is far better for a woman than the practice of austerities, sacrificial rites, religious formulas, and all kinds of charity. That which I desire to do is a religious act, fully approved by the Supreme, and [considering the situation,] it is certainly desirable and beneficial for you and for our family.
"The sages know that a man wants children, property, and loving friends to free himself from trouble and woe, and he wants a wife for the same reason. Putting the whole family on one side and you on the other, all of us are not equal to you. That would certainly be the decision of rational people. Do with me what must be done, and act yourself to save yourself. Grant me leave, O noble one, and take good care of our two children.
"In any case, knowers of law say that the law definitely forbids the killing of women. They say that even Raksasas know these laws, and so he probably won't even kill me. Men will undoubtedly be killed, but the killing of women is doubtful. Therefore, you who know the law should send me there. I have enjoyed my life, for I have received much love and I have practiced virtue in my life. Now, having borne loving children by you, I will feel no pain by losing my life.
"I have had my children, and I am getting older. I only want your happiness. I have studied the whole situation and made my decision. Though losing me, noble man, you will find another woman, and your religious duties [as a husband and father] will again be firmly established. My gentle husband, it is not irreligious for men to take many wives, but it is most irreligious for women to betray their first husband. If you study the whole situation, you will see how abominable it is for you to sacrifice yourself. Rather, through me you must save yourself, your family, and our two children."
When the husband was thus addressed by his wife, he tightly embraced her, O Bharata, and they silently shed tears in deep anguish.
Listening to the words of her parents, who were grieving beyond measure, their young daughter felt her entire body seized by that same grief, and she said to them, "How is it that you are both so grief stricken that you wail as if there were no one to help you? I have something to say, so please listen, and then kindly do as I ask. According to our religious laws, it is I whom you must surrender. Surrender me, who without doubt am here to be given up; and thus by one, all will be saved. After all, when parents have children they think, 'My child will save me one day.' That time has now come, and you two must save yourselves with my help, for I am like a boat that will take you across the ocean of grief. Both in this world and in the next, a child is meant to save the family from the troubles of life, and that is why the wise have named the child putra, 'one who delivers from hell.' That is why grandparents always long to have children from their daughters. Now I will personally deliver my forefathers by saving the life of my father. My brother is just a child, and if you go to the next world, father, he will perish in a short time without doubt. Certainly if Father goes to heaven, my little brother will perish. The sacred offerings to the forefathers will be cut off, and that will create much suffering for them. If I am left without my father and mother and brother, then I shall go from misery to greater misery, and I would then die in a most unnatural way.
"If you, Father, along with my mother and baby brother, are free and healthy, then our family line and the offerings to the ancestors will undoubtedly go on nicely. A son is the father's very soul, and a wife is his best friend, but a daughter is simply trouble for her father. Free yourself from this trouble and engage me according to our religious laws. Otherwise, if I am deprived of my father, then wherever I go, an unprotected and wretched young girl, I shall find only misery. By executing such a difficult duty, my end will be beneficial to all. Either I shall set our family free, or else, dear Father, best of brahmanas, you will pass away, leaving me behind, and I shall become a miserable creature. Therefore you must consider me too.
"Thus for my sake, for religion's sake, and for the family's sake, noble man, sacrifice me and protect yourself, for it is I who should be given up. In the matter of an unavoidable duty, the Lord will not punish you, and the greatest good will come to me from the sacred water offered by your hand to a departed daughter.
"What could be more miserable than for you to go to heaven, Father, so that we are left to run around like dogs, begging food from others? Rather, when you and the family are freed from this trouble and are all healthy and strong, then I shall dwell in the immortal world, and my heart will be filled with joy."
Hearing from the young girl such entreaties, the father and mother, and the girl herself, all wailed and wept. Then, hearing all his family crying, the brahmana's tiny son opened his eyes wide, and the child spoke out in the broken, unclear speech of the very young.
"Daddy, don't cry; don't, Mother! Don't you, Sister!" Laughing, he went up to each of them one by one. He then took a straw in his hand and again spoke in a joyful tone. "I'll kill the man-eating Raksasa with this!"
In spite of the misery that filled their hearts, when they heard the mumbling speech of the little boy a great joy arose among them.
"Now is the time," Kunti realized, and she went to them, who were almost dead with grief, and brought them back to life with words like the immortal nectar.
Kunti Devi said, "What is the cause of all this suffering? I want to know the facts. Once I understand the situation, if there is any way to drive away your grief I shall do it."
The brahmana said, "O ascetic woman, the words you speak are to be expected from holy persons like you, but I must tell you that no human being can dispel our grief. Close to this city dwells a mighty Raksasa named Baka, and he rules the city and all the countryside. He is an evil-minded man-eater.
"That powerful and demonic Raksasa king protects the city, the countryside, and the entire state. Indeed, because of him we have no fear of other kings or creatures.
"But he has established a price for his protection: we must provide him a wagonload of rice, two buffaloes, and the person who delivers it to him. One by one, each person offers him food, and when a person's turn comes, after many years, it is not at all easy to escape. Whenever a man tries to get free of this atrocious duty, the Raksasa kills him with his wife and children and eats them. Our official king lives in Vetrakiya, but he has no plan whereby we might live in peace, forever free of this demon.
"Actually, we deserve our fate, for we have chosen to live in the domain of a weakling king. We are always in anxiety, for we have chosen the shelter of a bad king. After all, who can tell the brahmanas what they must do? The brahmanas have their own mind; they are not subservient to anyone's will. With all their saintly qualities, they blow about like the wind and go where they will like the birds.
"It is said that one should first find a good king, and after that a wife, and then one should seek one's fortune. One who gathers these three necessities will be able to maintain his relatives and children. Unfortunately, I acquired all this, but in the wrong order, and now we have fallen into the terrible calamity and are all suffering. You see, our turn has come, and it will destroy this family, for I must now pay the price of the demon's food by providing one human being. I could never raise enough money to purchase a man who would sacrifice his own life to enrich his family. And I could never bring myself to sacrifice one of my friends. I see no way to get free from the Raksasa. I have sunk into the great ocean of grief, and it is very, very difficult to escape. I shall go with all of my family to meet that Raksasa, and that hungry monster will consume all of us together."
Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day
Gadadhara Pandita Dasa
When asked by a London reporter what he thought about Western civilization, Mahatma Gandhi said that he thought it would be a good idea. At the time, Britain ruled half the world and set the tone of Western culture. Today America sets the pace. It exports images and technology worldwide, conquering mankind with American "culture."
American-made sound and light shape consensual reality, wherever a monitor can be found. American civilization is being spread by the PC and the TV. One has become the indispensable tool for getting ahead in life, and the other a substitute for life itself. The machines are manufactured all over the world, but programs born in the USA echo from one continent to the next. Even middle-class India is captivated by the glitter of Hollywood, the canned laughter of sitcoms, and the cult of the personal computer.
It's strange to see where some TV programs end up, long after they've faded from home. Whether it's "I Love Lucy" laughter ringing in prime-time Bombay, or Jerry Lewis films still drawing raves in Paris, America's old programs go on imprinting minds everywhere.
America's imprint on PC programs also casts a giant shadow. From word-processing to games and multimedia, the U.S.A. leads the way, setting the standards. Nearly 200 million PCs live in homes and offices around the globe. And with the Infobahn, you don't have to wait for prime time. You can be networked to programs while bobbing in the middle of the ocean. And it's fast! This kind of imaging spreads at speeds approaching that of light. Just plug in, download, and tune in to anything, anywhere, anytime. And along with American PC and TV programs, you get American language, attitudes, and values.
Because of American technology the world is adopting a new kind of impersonalism as an article of faith. Americans are no longer human beings but "human viewings," absorbed in a facsimile of life, once removed. The average American watches more than 7.5 hours of TV per day. "Computer widows," their husbands lost in cyberspace, are losing their kids too, as teenage game addicts sit for days, glued to an artificial world.
Something is missing along the Information Highway, where the next program can become an ongoing reality. Where's the life? Channel surfing won't tone the muscles. Interactive computer games won't help us interact better with our neighbors. We're moving apart from our families and communities to find private little worlds filled with flickering fantasies (not much more than static electricity). Edgar Allan Poe said, "All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream."
Few people care about who's programming the "dream machine." Do you know whose reality you're buying into? Where's the substance underneath the packaging? Perhaps that is what Gandhi meant when he questioned the content of Western civilization. As a student of Bhagavad-gita, he would have recognized that human life should not be squandered on British pomp and circumstance (or American programming). Human life is meant for God realization—the only program that lasts.
In the Gita, Lord Krsna explains that the material world is a gigantic machine built to entertain the desires of the living entities. You might think of it as "virtual reality," with unbelievable graphics. The problem is we do believe the graphics.
From the Gita Gandhi learned that beyond the fractals of the material world lies a transcendental vibration that holds the real substance of life. From the Gita he knew there was a higher culture, a more abundant life, waiting beyond the realm of the senses.
The process of going beyond matter is not a high-tech proposition. It has more to do with sound and memory than with modems and megabytes. Hear God's names, chant them, and remember Him. It's that simple. What could be more user-friendly? Everything can be found in just three little words: Hare, Krsna, and Rama—holy names of the Lord.
Beneath all the layers of programs that capture our desires is a timeless drama, moving faster than the speed of mind, rushing toward us on more channels than any satellite could carry. That drama is the constant unfolding of Krsna's creation, His pastimes, and our own unique parts as His beloved associates. Though older than creation, the transcendental vibrations carrying the drama are forever fresh, personal, and interactive. The drama is eternal, blissful, and full of knowledge, and it's open to everyone—any time, anywhere.
Trying to distract ourselves from life's hard lessons by grazing on the flickering images of TVs and PCs, we can easily miss a lesson found in true culture everywhere: the program of loving God. The Gita says that when you tune in, at the frequency of transcendental senses, "there is no greater gain. Being situated in such a position, one is never shaken, even in the midst of greatest difficulty. This indeed is actual freedom from all miseries arising from material contact." Compared to the eternal drama of our loving exchanges with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the image world of material broadcasting is no better than puppet shadows dancing on a wall.
As America basks in the spotlight of programming dominance, Americans might remember that their programs are insignificant unless we put God in the equation. And the Internet is a network to nowhere unless we use it to link up to God. Unless we can make "In God We Trust" the keystone of our cultural edifice, the contribution of American civilization may be of no significant matter—nothing but a computer virus spreading throughout the prime time of our lives.
Food For Thought
Gopala Acarya Dasa
One million dollars a minute—that was the cost for advertising spots during the televised broadcast of the Superbowl football game last January. And the ads themselves often cost a million to produce. For such expensive campaigns, advertising agencies compete for prestigious awards, in the process submitting their work for critiques.
Reading a review of high-profile ads, I learned that in one a man's dog licks his face while the man watches television and eats corn chips. The fellow in the ad is a popular Hollywood actor, and the dog is trained to perform on camera. In that sequence, the dog's trainer stood close by, out of view of the camera, and coached him. But verbal coaching wasn't enough. So to attract the dog to do his part, a studio man brushed dog food on the actor's face. After a few unsuccessful takes and several more applications of dog food, the problems were licked and the filming was completed.
Using animals to convince humans to buy snack food may seem a little preposterous. But there's more. According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, a major grocery-products company in England employs an expert who judges the taste of pet foods to determine their market appeal. This taste-tester is not a dog or a cat but a college graduate who wears pinstriped suits and speaks the king's English. His wife affectionately refers to him by the pet name Dog Breath. "Edwin chews a lot of mints," she says. "That does help."
Friends are somewhat skeptical when he invites them over for lunch, and they have been known to lift up the sandwich bread to sniff underneath before taking a bite. He is the only taste expert in his field who actually eats the product, and he admits that he favors the taste of gourmet cat foods. Through his work, Dog Breath is getting new ideas for human food products, ideas he plans to pass along to the folks in research and development.
So we live in a society where dogs are used to sell food for humans, humans are used to test food for pets, and cat food inspires new recipes for junk food. Society has been going to the dogs for years, but as we approach the twenty-first century man seems to be going to the dog's dish as well. It's a little too much to stomach, isn't it?
Srila Prabhupada referred to such degraded humankind as "a royal edition of the animals." In some parts of the world the slang for human is "long pig," and as we know, a pig will eat anything abominable while turning up his snout at savories.
As they say, "You are what you eat," and for that reason devotees of Krsna eat only sanctified foods, which purify our existence. The Bhagavad-gita says that those who eat prasadam, or spiritualized food, are freed from the reactions of karma. It is karma that perpetuates our material life, our encagement in these bodies made of flesh and blood—bodies susceptible to animal cravings. And Krsna prasadam is so delicious. That's why the Hare Krsna movement has earned the delightful reputation for being "the kitchen religion."
The materialists have created a dog-eat-dog world out there, but if they think I'm ready to trade in my capatis for Milk Bones biscuits, they're barking up the wrong tree. Please pass the halava. I'll have a second helping. Hare Krsna.
The worldwide activities of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)
Devotees traveled to New York City in June for two days of festivals—a reunion at 26 Second Avenue, ISKCON's first temple, and a Rathayatra parade down Fifth Avenue with a festival in Washington Square Park.
ISKCON Denver will host a reunion July 22-23 for all devotees who have served at that temple or were present when Srila Prabhupada visited. The reunion marks the twentieth anniversary of Srila Prabhupada's visit to Denver.
Children from the Hare Krsna farm in Mississippi entered the New Orleans Mardi Gras parade with a float bearing a huge form of Lord Jagannatha. More than a million people attended the parade.
A Canadian Hare Krsna couple won first prize in a garden contest sponsored by a respected back-to-the-land magazine. Harrowsmith Country Life recognized Jaya Gaura Dasa and Atmarama Devi Dasi for the best large garden in Canada. In the garden, at the Saranagati farm in British Columbia, they grow thirty-six kinds of fruits, herbs, and vegetables.
Devotees from the Bombay Hare Krsna temple are bringing Krsna conscious programs to the hundreds of charitable centers in the Bombay area. The programs include prasadam for 200 to 300 people and a talk on Krsna consciousness.
The governor of Tamil Nadu praised Srila Prabhupada in an address on Republic Day. The governor, Dr. M. Channa Reddy, also praised the leaders of ISKCON around the world for the way they are managing the Society. He said, "I am proud to be, I am happy to be, a Life Member of this great organization."
Nama Hatta Dasa, a devotee from Italy, passed away in Vrndavana in April. Once a leading distributor of Srila Prabhupada's books, he had become ill and had come to Vrndavana for his last days.
Slovenian President Milan Kuchan received a copy of Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta in the Slovenian language from Ljubljana temple president Avadhuta Dasa during the celebrations for Republic Day. Interest in Krsna consciousness is growing in Slovenia, part of former Yugoslavia. The Ljubljana temple has added fifty members in two years.
Commonwealth of Independent States
More than 100,000 victims of the Chechnya conflict have been fed by volunteers from Hare Krishna Food for Life over the past four years. Devotees run two programs near Chechnya, in Vladikavkaz and Nazran. They receive assistance from the Russian government.
Construction is more than two-thirds done on the new Hare Krsna temple in Kiev, Ukraine. Over the past two years, all the building materials have been donated, and the work has been done by full-time devotees.
A city councilor of Christchurch served the fifty-thousandth plate of prasadam, in March, at the city's Hare Krishna Food for Life center. The center recently received a $10,000 grant from the Community Trust.
Four Krsna conscious books in Vietnamese have been published by the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust: Sri Isopanisad; Easy Journey to Other Planets; Perfect Questions, Perfect Answers; and The Perfection of Yoga.
Srila Prabhupada's Centennial
To celebrate the Centennial, devotees in New Delhi have held more than 30 festivals in various local residential areas. Goal: 100 festivals by the end of 1996.
Three young people from India have begun an 88,000-kilometer bicycle trip around the world, their bicycles bearing plaques announcing the Srila Prabhupada Centennial. They plan to travel through eighty-five countries in two years.
The North American Padayatra took a break at the end of last year after a four-year 5,800-mile walk in which the last stop was Panama. The padayatris spent the winter in San Diego and should be back on the road again somewhere in the U.S. by the time this issue of Back to Godhead goes to press.
More than a hundred devotees from Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the Philippines gathered in Lloilo, Philippines, in February for a week-long Padayatra. Padayatra organizers plan to have more walks this year and next, bringing Krsna consciousness to many places where people have never seen devotees.
Religion without philosophy is sentiment, or sometimes fanaticism, while philosophy without religion is mental speculation.
—His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada
All kinds of activities, both auspicious and inauspicious, that are detrimental to the discharge of transcendental loving service to Lord Sri Krsna are actions of the darkness of ignorance.
—Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami
Even though one may be very learned and wise, he is mad if he does not understand that the endeavor for sense gratification is a useless waste of time. Being forgetful of his own interest, he tries to be happy in the material world, centering his interests on his home, which is based on sexual intercourse and which brings him all kinds of material miseries. In this way one is no better than a foolish animal.
In this material world the living entity's only business is to accept the path of bhakti-yoga and chant the holy name of the Lord.
Sri Krsna, the Personality of Godhead, who is the Paramatma [Supersoul] in everyone's heart and the benefactor of the truthful devotee, cleanses desire for material enjoyment from the heart of the devotee who has developed the urge to hear His messages, which are in themselves virtuous when properly heard and chanted.
Whatever a devotee experiences he should consider to be an expansion of Krsna. Thus seeing everything that exits within creation as the body of the Supreme Lord, Hari, the devotee should offer his sincere respects to the entire expansion of the Lord's body.
Only unto those great souls who have implicit faith in both the Lord and the spiritual master are all the imports of Vedic knowledge automatically revealed.
—Svetasvatara Upanisad 6.23