Statement of Purposes
1. To help all people discern reality from illusion, spirit from matter, the eternal from the temporary.
The Evil Computer
YES, I'VE GOT ONE. Use it all the time. And I've been close to them for more than twenty years, since the days when we first computerized our typesetting. They save lots of work, and make the impossible possible.
But they're dangerous, devilish machines, and we use them at our peril. I'm not talking about low-level radiation, or the computer's role in weapons of mass destruction. What I have in mind is its role in mass distraction.
Here I am with a short human lifetime, and somehow, by good fortune, I've discovered it's meant for spiritual realization. But for spiritual perfection one needs to focus tightly. One has to mold one's life in such a way that one constantly remembers the Supreme, or Krsna.
In the present age, therefore, the Vedic sages have recommended we focus our minds on the Absolute, on Krsna, through the chanting of transcendental sound, as found in the Hare Krsna mantra: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. As soon as we say "Krsna," we're at once in touch with Krsna, so meditation becomes very easy.
We can chant Hare Krsna, talk about Krsna, hear about Krsna, remember Krsna, serve Krsna. And in this way we can absorb ourselves in Krsna consciousness and attain the perfection of life.
But Maya says no—Maya, "the illusory energy," the force whose job it is to distract us from what's real and enchant us with what's false, to draw us away from spirit and keep our eyes on matter.
"Here," she says, "have a computer." And a wonderful thing it is. You can calculate, simulate, innovate, communicate. The French were perhaps the first to discover you can even use it to fornicate. (When France got its homes all wired up with the Minitel, a little box that tells you train schedules, checks your bank account, and whatnot, the clever French soon found more colorful uses—they came up with "la messagerie rose," a sort of online brothel.)
But even apart from la messagerie rose, the computer is an invitation to illusion. The Vedic sages say the main illusions we get hooked on are two: "I am the enjoyer" and "I am the controller." And for being the controller, the computer is great. You give it instructions, commands. You figure out how to make it do things. You point and click.
And soon, as with the television, as with the car, you think you've got a computer, but in fact the computer has you.
Soon our minds are there, deep in silicon, preoccupied with chip speed, disk drives, memory, modems, operating systems, applications, upgrades, viruses, bugs. We meet with our friends and talk hardware, software.
And what happened to spiritual realization? What happened to Krsna? Forgotten. For hours at a time, days at a time, entire lifetimes ...
Computers are great—like everything material, we can use them for Krsna. Then they have spiritual value. But as with everything material, we should use them with constant mindfulness of Krsna, or we'll end up used by Maya. We need to stay focused undistractedly on Krsna, the ultimate goal of life. At the end of life, our computer won't save us. Krsna will.
I have been reading your books, but still they raise many questions. For instance, Krsna consciousness seems to build entirely on the teachings of Lord Caitanya and assumes it has all truths. Especially the total emphasis on chanting. I have read other books on the history of religion in India, and in some Lord Caitanya isn't even mentioned, though many other teachers are. I'm wondering why.
I still think you're too literal in interpretation, like Christians who believe that every word in the Bible is exactly true and given by God through Jesus. True believers or fanatics cause a lot of trouble in this world. They are certain of their rightness, and much blood has been shed in the name of religion.
OUR REPLY: For many years Western scholars failed to recognize the importance of Lord Caitanya, so their books scarcely mention Him. But in the last two decades, with the spread of the Hare Krsna movement, Lord Caitanya has come prominently to scholarly attention. More recent books, therefore, discuss Lord Caitanya extensively, and several scholars have specialized in Lord Caitanya and His teachings.
It was on well-established scriptural grounds that Lord Caitanya emphasized chanting Hare Krsna. Lord Caitanya's teachings are in fact the essential teachings of the Vedic literature, presented for the modern age in a cogent and practical form.
The disciples who followed Lord Caitanya wrote many books offering strong logical arguments for accepting Lord Caitanya's teachings as true and correct. And when Srila Prabhupada brought Krsna consciousness to the West, he made these books the basis of his movement.
To accept what these books say as literally true is not a fault. An authority, after all, is a source of knowledge one regards as reliable enough to accept as is. For example, we accept without need of interpretation what we find in a good map, a dependable text on science, or a book of recipes written by an expert cook. The followers of Lord Caitanya have argued persuasively that the Vedic teachings should similarly be accepted.
Without philosophy, religion easily becomes fanaticism. And as you say, fanatics cause trouble. They do so in the name of religion, of country, of freedom, democracy, peace, revolution, conscience, safety, love, business, security—you name it, some fanatic has spilled blood for it.
Lord Caitanya therefore taught a philosophy of love for God with a strong underpinning of philosophical understanding. And at the same time he gave the chanting of Hare Krsna, which cleanses the heart of the passion and ignorance that allow lust for bloodshed to drag people down from love of truth.
On the Way to Krsna
Thank you for your article "Srila Prabhupada's Speaks Out" in the March/April issue, where Srila Prabhupada speaks with a representative of an impersonalist movement.
Being influenced by older family members, I was once affiliated with an impersonalist movement for almost nine years. Originally my impression was that the studies of this movement would bring me closer to God, but to the contrary I felt myself becoming more alienated from God. I eventually decided to leave, vowing to unlearn everything I learned from them. Needless to say, I was disappointed, disturbed, angry, sad, and confused.
Years later I took it upon myself to assist in a family crisis which was so disturbing that I had no answers to offer. I had reached the point of desperation when I came across an ISKCON TV program one Saturday afternoon. I was immediately attracted to the pictures of Krsna and Srila Prabhupada, and to the music of Brahma-samhita. At the conclusion of the program I called the phone number provided and arranged to obtain a copy of Bhagavad-gita As It Is.
I had known of Bhagavad-gita for some time but was never moved to read it until now. This was surely the right time, for not only did I start to read, I also began my spiritual relationship with Srila Prabhupada. I became completely convinced that Lord Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead and that Srila Prabhupada is Krsna's representative and a bona fide spiritual master whereas the so-called masters of the impersonalists are all bogus.
From just reading the first few chapters I was able to put my family's problems in perspective and to happily prepare for the birth of my daughter.
It took some months, but I was able to complete my reading, with Srila Prabhupada's spiritual encouragement. Since then I have prayed daily for his guidance in my spiritual progress, and by his grace my household and I are progressing every day in Krsna consciousness.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the devotees and sponsors for their work in "On the Way to Krsna" on Vision TV Canada. All glories to Srila Prabhupada!
Back to Godhead magazine is brilliant! I look forward to every issue.
I am a student at King's College in London, U.K. I just received the Jan/Feb issue and noticed your e-mail address, so I couldn't wait to offer my pranamas [respects] unto you. I'd just like to say thank you and keep up the good work.
Jaya Srila Prabhupada!
Plaudits from Poland
I'm a twenty-three-year-old Polish student. I've been interested in bhakti-yoga since the summer of 1991, when I bought Bhagavad-gita As It Is. I visited a few Polish Hare Krsna temples, the Polish farm (New Santipura), and many ISKCON temples in west Europe as well. I started to chant the maha-mantra, became a vegetarian, etc.
Since March '93 I've been a fortunate subscriber to Back to Godhead magazine. It's a wonderful and enlightening magazine. I enjoy it very, very much. You're doing important service for the whole earth. I'm sure of this. I wish you all the best in spreading His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada's mission. Let Lord Caitanya, who is God Himself, bless you million of times and more.
Thanks for Helping Restore Respect
[Written to our columnist Ravi Gupta.] I am writing to thank you for the inspiring article you wrote in the May/June issue of BTG, "Restoring Our Respect for Sadhus." It was very clear and informative, with proper support of guru, sastra [scripture], and sadhu [saintly persons].
How important it is for us practicing devotees to be consistently attentive to Vaisnava [Krsna conscious] etiquette and behavior as taught by Srila Prabhupada and the Vaisnava sampradaya [community of teachers].
Tusta Krsna Dasa
One thing we know for sure is this: Living at longitude this and latitude that equals absolute hell if you don't have a good compass. So we want to thank you for the nice presentations in BTG that keep us pointed in the right direction, like "Vedic Thoughts."
Pracetas Dasa and family
In my article on the ontology of the Bhagavad-gita, recently published in BTG, I stated that I had personally translated all of the many dozens of verses cited from the Gita. However, my Godbrother Riktananda Dasa has pointed out to me that in fact I have used Prabhupada's translation for verse 7.23 and that my translation of verse 4.6 includes portions of Srila Prabhupada's translation. I am sorry for the unintentional oversight in my citation.
Hridayananda Dasa Goswami
Pass (up) the Chives
I have a question about the March/April '95 issue of BTG. In Yamuna Devi's recipe for French-Herb Cheese, she lists chives as an ingredient. Chives are in the onion family and I assume not offerable to Krsna. Please comment on this.
Sandhini Devi Dasi
YAMUNA DEVI REPLIES: You're right—chives are onions and not offerable to Krsna. Sorry for the error.
There's only one sure way to control the mind's desires.
A lecture given in Bombay, January 4, 1975
By His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
From the false ego of goodness, another transformation takes place. From this evolves the mind, whose thoughts and reflections give rise to desire.
THE MIND is material because it is a product of the transformation of the mode of goodness. Gradually, being contaminated by different kinds of material desires, the mind becomes degraded. Kama esa krodha esa rajo-guna-samudbhavah. When the mind deteriorates, from the standard of goodness it comes to rajo-guna. Rajo-guna means lusty desires, unending desires. And if desires are not fulfilled, then there is krodha, anger. In this way, kama krodha lobha moha matsarya—lust, anger, greed, illusion, and envy—become prominent, and we become the servant of these propensities.
This gradual degradation of the mind is called illusion. The business of the mind is sankalpa and vikalpa. Sankalpa means to decide to do something, and vikalpa means to reject something. Everyone desires peacefulness of mind, but the nature of the material mind is sankalpa and vikalpa—restlessness.
If you can control the senses by the mystic yogic process, the mechanical endeavor to control the mind, then you can again be placed in the original spiritual status. That is the purpose of the yoga system. The yoga system is recommended for a person whose mind is very restless.
Actually, everyone's mind is restless. To bring the mind into a peaceful status is difficult. As long as desires are there, to bring the mind to complete peace and tranquility is impossible. It is impossible because of sankalpa-vikalpa. Therefore Kaviraja Gosvami writes in the Caitanya-caritamrta that even persons who act piously are not peaceful. There is no question of peace of mind for the sinful. But even those who act piously cannot control the mind. And those who desire to stop material activities completely, pious or impious, also cannot control the mind.
The first group, those interested in pious activities, are karmis. And those interested in neither pious activities nor impious activities want to stop all kinds of activities. The Buddhist philosophy, for example, speaks of nirvana: "Stop the activities of the mind, or desires." But in that status, also, it is not possible to control the mind, though one may try to meditate. Finally, the yogis also cannot control the mind. So what to speak of the ordinary man, who is interested in neither pious activities nor liberation nor yogic perfection?
Controlling the Mind
When Krsna advised Arjuna, in the Sixth Chapter of the Bhagavad-gita, to practice yoga for controlling the mind, Arjuna refused. Arjuna said, "My dear Krsna, You are advising me to control the mind by practicing yoga, but I have no such opportunity, because I am a family man. I am also a politician, a member of the royal family. I have to see to the administration of the kingdom. And besides that, in family life I have to seek my material interest. So how is it possible for me to control the mind?" Arjuna flatly said:
cancalam hi manah krsna
"My dear Krsna, I think the mind is very, very restless." Cancalam hi manah krsna. "Like a madman." Pramathi. "And it is very strong. I want to control the mind, but it does not come under my control. That is my position. Therefore, although You are asking me to control the mind, I think that is more difficult than controlling the wind." Tasyaham nigraham manye vayor iva suduskaram.
Suppose there is a very strong wind, a cyclone. If you want to stop it, that will not be not possible. Arjuna compared the mind to a cyclone. How can such a mind be controlled? So Arjuna rejected Krsna's proposal that Arjuna should control his mind. But to encourage Arjuna, Krsna said that Arjuna should not be disappointed: Because Arjuna's mind was always engaged in the lotus feet of Krsna, Arjuna is the best of all yogis.
yoginam api sarvesam
Krsna encouraged Arjuna: "Don't be disappointed, because your mind is always engaged in Me." Arjuna might be anything, but he was always thinking of Krsna. He was always associating with Krsna. He did not know anything else but Krsna. That is the position of the first-class yogi. Otherwise, to control the mind from kama, krodha, lobha, moha, matsarya is not possible. You have to change the position of such activities.
Here it is said kama-sambhavah. Kama means "desire." The mind is restless, always desiring something. So the best policy to control the mind is to desire to spread Krsna consciousness. Narottama Dasa Thakura has said, kamah krsna-karmarpane: engage your desires by working for Krsna.
You cannot be free from desire. That is not possible. Some teachers say, "Become desireless." No, that is not possible. How can I? If I become desireless I die. As long as I am a living entity, I must desire. I cannot check desiring. At present we desire to become happy in the material world, to acquire so much money, to acquire this, to acquire that—that is kama, desire. But if you engage your mind in Krsna's service by thinking of how to spread Krsna consciousness, how to convince people about Krsna, how to take them to Krsna's desire—if you go on making plans for spreading Krsna consciousness—then your mind is controlled.
You cannot stop desire. That is not possible. The mind's position is to desire. I desire something, and if I find it not very palatable, then I reject it. And I accept another desire.
You cannot keep the mind vacant even for a single moment. If by force you try to do that, you are simply laboring. Therefore Lord Krsna says, kleso 'dhikataras tesam avyaktasakta-cetasam: to engage your mind in the impersonal or void is very, very difficult.
Busy Making Plans
Everyone is making plans based on desires. In our central government, in India, there is a planning commission. For the last twenty years they are simply making plans, and no plan has become successful; every plan fails. One result, for example, is that rice, our staple food, has risen dramatically—to eight rupees per kilogram.
As long as you are materially affected and making plans to get free, material nature is so strong that it will baffle all your plans and you will have to remain perpetually restless. You make a plan, and it is baffled by the stringent laws of nature. And at last—making plans, making plans, making plans—one day Time comes and orders, "Please vacate your presidency, your prime ministership."
A man will try to make successful plans up to the point of death—pralayanta. And then he will entrust everything to his family. He'll say, "My dear son, my dear daughter, I could not fulfill this plan, so you do it. Now I hand it over to you." And the son also goes on making plans, plans, plans. But the plans will never be fulfilled.
That is the verdict of the sastra, scripture: durasaya ye bahir-artha-maninah. Durasaya means "success is impossible." Therefore sankalpa-vikalpa—accepting some plan and then rejecting it—is going on perpetually. The plans will never be fulfilled, but for making plans I perpetually give up one body and accept another. I give up residence on one planet and go to another:
urdhvam gacchanti sattva-stha
There are plans in the modes of goodness, passion, and ignorance. Different plans give different kinds of body and different residential quarters in different planets.
We have experience even in Bombay. If a man is living here in Bombay for fifty years, how many plans he has made and how many apartments he has changed. And still, his plan-making business is going on.
Just as this plan-making business is going on in this span of life, it is going on life after life. Intelligent persons should understand how to stop this unlimited plan-making business. Athato brahma-jijnasa. That is life—when one is inquisitive to know the broader plan, the Brahman plan. Brahman means "the biggest." If one becomes inquisitive about the biggest plan, one's real life begins.
With ordinary inquisitiveness we ask, "What is the price of rice today?" or "What is the situation of the strike? What is the situation of this, that?" That you can ask from the newspaper or from anyone. But for brahma-jijnasa, inquiry about Brahman, the greatest, where shall you inquire? Will you go to the exchange market or some other market? No. Tad-vijnanartham sa gurum evabhigacchet. That is the injunction of the Vedas: You must find a guru. Samit-panih srotriyam brahma-nistham. The guru's qualification is brahma-nistham, "fixed in Brahman." And srotriyam: one who has heard from the disciplic succession is guru, not just any magician.
Krsna is the original guru. He is the guru of Brahma, the first created being. Who can be a better guru than Krsna? Tene brahma hrda ya adi-kavaye. He instructed Brahma, Brahma instructed Narada, and Narada instructed Vyasadeva. And Vyasadeva has given us so many books of Vedic literature. That is called the parampara system, disciplic succession.
Vyasadeva gave us four Vedas: Sama, Yajur, Rg, and Atharva. He then explained them in the 108 Puranas and summarized them in the Vedanta-sutra. Then he explained the Vedanta-sutra by writing Srimad-Bhagavatam. In every chapter of Srimad-Bhagavatam you will find Vyasadeva's statement brahma-sutra-bhasya, "commentary on Brahma-sutra, or Vedanta-sutra."
Brahma-sutra-bhasya, the commentary on Vedanta-sutra, is not Sankaracarya's bhasya, known as Sariraka-bhasya. That commentary is artificial. Brahma-sutra was written by Vyasadeva, and because he knew that in the future so many rascals would misinterpret the Brahma-sutra, he personally compiled the bhasya on Brahma-sutra. That is Srimad-Bhagavatam. Bhasyam brahma-sutranam vedartha-paribrmhitam: "The meaning of the Vedas is completely described in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, the original commentary on Brahma-sutra."
Srimad-Bhagavatam begins with the words of Brahma-sutra: jivasya tattva-jijnasa. As the Brahma-sutra says athato brahma-jijnasa, the Bhagavatam says jivasya tattva-jijnasa: "The living entity's only business is to inquire about the Absolute Truth." Nartho yas ceha karmabhih: "No other business."
Generally people think, "By becoming religious we shall become economically developed." If you actually follow dharma, or religious principles, economic development will come. There is no doubt. But we do not know what dharma is. That is the difficulty. That we have to learn from Krsna—athato brahma-jijnasa—from the guru. And what does the guru say? What does Krsna say? Sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja: "Give up all so-called religion and just surrender unto Me." That is dharma. Anything else is all cheating.
Dharmah projjhita-kaitavah atra. Kaitava means "cheating." And Sridhara Svami, the original commentator on the Bhagavatam, says, "Moksa is also cheating." Moksa means thinking, "I shall make myself void. I shall finish my individual existence. I shall merge into the existence of the Absolute." Sridhara Svami says that such thinking is cheating because you cannot become one with the Supreme. As it is said in the Bhagavad-gita, mamaivamso jiva-loke jiva-bhutah sanatanah: you are part and parcel of the Supreme. How can you become one?
Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita, "My dear Arjuna, I, you, and all the soldiers and kings assembled on this battlefield were the same individuals in the past, are individuals now, and will continue to remain individuals." So where is there oneness? In the past, present, and future the individuality is there.
Snuffing out individuality is a concoction. It is called spiritual suicide. If a man becomes disappointed and cuts his own throat or hangs himself or takes poison, does that mean he is finished? By putting an end to the body does he put an end to himself? No, that is not possible. He is a rascal, because he does not know na hanyate hanyamane sarire: "The self is not slain when the body is slain." The result of his suicide is that because he violated the rules of nature he becomes a ghost. That is his life. One who commits suicide becomes a ghost. He does not get a gross material body; he remains in the subtle body of mind and intelligence.
Therefore a ghost can go anywhere very quickly because he is in the mind. Mind speed is very swift. If you have a gross material body you cannot go at once a hundred miles off. But if you are in the mental body, you can go a thousand miles within a second. So ghosts can do wonderful things. But they are not happy, because they have no gross body. They want to enjoy. The ghost is a materialist. He has committed suicide for some material want. He could not fulfill that want in his body, so he committed suicide. But the desire is still there, and he cannot fulfill it. He becomes perplexed. Therefore ghosts sometimes create disturbances.
Engaging the Mind
Desires cannot be finished. Kama-sambhavah. Therefore the best thing is to fix your mind on Krsna, in Krsna consciousness. Then you will be happy, the mind always engaged in Krsna's business, planning how to satisfy Krsna.
That is intelligence. Krsna wants everyone to surrender unto Him. When Krsna says, sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja, He does not speak only to Arjuna; He speaks to everyone. So that is Krsna's desire, and if you want to serve Krsna, to fulfill His desire, that means you canvass everyone to surrender to Krsna. That is preaching. Krsna wants it. He has declared so.
Your business is to satisfy Krsna. Why don't you do it? Why are you aspiring after mukti, siddhi, and bhukti—liberation, mystic perfection, and material enjoyment?
Anyone executing pious activities, acquiring punya, will go to the heavenly planets. That is sense gratification. In the heavenly planets you live for many thousands of years, many millions of years, and get the association of apsaras, or celestial dancing girls, a very nice standard of life, and so on. These are all personal comforts, bhukti. To go to the heavenly planet means to achieve a standard of life millions of times better than on this planet. This planet is Bhurloka. As you go up and up you come to Bhuvarloka, Svarloka, Janaloka, Maharloka, Tapoloka, Brahmaloka—so many lokas, or planets. Urdhvam gacchanti sattva-sthah. If you increase your mode of goodness, then you are gradually promoted to a more and more comfortable situation.
If you go to Siddhaloka, at once you become a perfect yogi. The yogis try to get some material power, or siddhi. For example, if one gets prapti-siddhi, whatever he likes he can get at once. And people will come to him, "Oh, here is God. He is creating rasagulla*." [Laughter.]
*A milk sweet.
A yogi in Benares will make two rasagullas appear in a pot when anyone comes to see him. And even big, big men become surprised—"Oh, here is God." They don't ask, "What is the price of these rasagullas?" Say, four cents? So by jugglery of four cents he became God. This rascaldom is going on. By jugglery of four cents, eight cents, or four hundred, or four thousand—if one can make some jugglery, then he becomes God. This is foolishness.
Therefore Krsna says that this kind of yoga practice is simply cheating. Krsna describes the first-class yogi: yoginam api sarvesam mad-gatenantar-atmana. One who thinks always of Krsna—"Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna"—is a first-class yogi.
Hear from a Devotee
Some foolish people are cheated by yogic jugglery, and the yogi gets some material position. But there are many ways to get some material position. Even a politician may attract many millions of people to hear him speak. But what is the benefit of such hearing? First of all we have to see what is the benefit. Sravanam kirtanam visnoh. If you are interested in hearing lectures, then sastra says, "Hear of Visnu," not of any rascal. Hear from a Vaisnava, a devotee of the Lord. Then you will be benefited. Otherwise you will not be benefited. Avaisnavo gurur na syat. That is the injunction of the sastra. One who is an avaisnava, a non-Vaisnava, cannot become guru.
Sat-karma-nipuno vipro mantra-tantra-visaradah. A brahmana may be very expert in sat-karma, six occupational duties: patana, patana, yajana, yajana, dana, and pratigraha. Pathana means that a brahmana must be a very, very learned scholar by reading Vedic literature. Pathana means that he must teach others the Vedic literature.
Formerly it was the custom that brahmanas not accept service under anyone. They would sit down anywhere and open a school to teach Vedic literature. And the students would go door to door for begging—"Mother, give me some alms." Whatever they would bring would be cooked and offered to Krsna, and the prasadam would be distributed amongst themselves. That was the traditional process of education—not paying some fee and giving some bribe to enter school and then receiving a rascal education. No. First-class education, without any fee, from the realized soul—that was the educational system, varnasrama-dharma.
So we have to find out such a guru—a Vaisnava. Sastra says, sat-karma-nipuno vipro mantra-tantra-visaradah. The brahmana must not only be expert in six kinds of occupational duty, but also mantra-tantra-visaradah: "He must know Vedic mantras and tantras—chants and rituals—perfectly well." Avaisnavo gurur na sa syat: "But if he is an avaisnava, he cannot be a guru." An avaisnava does not believe in the Supreme Personality of Godhead Visnu, or he believes that demigods, such as Lord Siva or Lord Brahma, the best of the demigods, are equal to Visnu. For example, Ravana was a very learned scholar and the son of a brahmana. And he was economically developed. His only fault was that he was an avaisnava: he did not care for Lord Rama. So he is designated a raksasa, an uncivilized atheist.
One who is not a devotee of Visnu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, cannot become a guru. That is not possible. And vaisnavah sva-paco guruh. Sva-paca means the dog-eaters, candalas, the lowest of mankind. Candalo 'pi dvija-srestho hari-bhakti-parayanah. If somehow or other such a person has become a Vaisnava, then he can become guru. But the expert brahmana who is not a Vaisnava cannot.
Krsna says, "Anyone who takes shelter of Me, even if he belongs to the papa-yoni—the candalas—is eligible to go back home, back to Godhead."
One should not consider whether a Vaisnava is born of a low family, not a brahmana family. Such a consideration is naraki-buddhi, hellish. Sri Sanatana Gosvami says:
If an avaisnava, a Mayavadi, speaks about Bhagavatam or Bhagavad-gita, one should not hear his speech. One should avoid it because it will create some misunderstanding. Caitanya Mahaprabhu has forbidden strongly—mayavadi-bhasya sunile haya sarva-nasa: "If one hears from a Mayavadi impersonalist about Bhagavad-gita or Srimad-Bhagavatam, then one is doomed." Therefore, tad-vijnanartham sa gurum evabhigacchet: one should approach a Vaisnava to accept him as guru and then take lessons from him and make one's life successful.
Thank you very much.
"Your Material Formulas Will Not Help You"
By Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami
SRILA PRABHUPADA told us that a devotee doesn't make plans. As a matter of fact, he said that not making plans is the first symptom of a person fixed in Krsna consciousness. How can he live without making plans? He depends on Krsna.
Often when people hear that, they think it's utopian. That's because the ability to depend solely on Krsna belongs to a devotee who is very advanced. An advanced devotee may not even make arrangements for financial security. His only plan is to depend on Krsna.
There are many stories in the scriptures that point to success in depending on Krsna. Narada Muni once came across a hunter named Mrgari. When Mrgari surrendered to Narada, Narada instructed him to break his bow. But his bow was his livelihood. If he broke his bow, how would he feed his family? Narada assured him that by not making any plans and just depending on Krsna, he would receive everything he needed.
It turned out that Mrgari became famous as a hunter-turned-Vaisnava. Many people came to see for themselves the converted hunter and brought offerings of rice and other foods. Mrgari had such an abundance of food that he was able to offer charity to others.
Devotees should strive for this kind of dependence on Krsna. Krsna will take care of us. As Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita, we have to give up desires that arise from mental concoction and the bodily concept of life. If we agree that we are Krsna's servants, then we should have faith that He will take care of us.
Srila Prabhupada said that his own spiritual master thought like that. Although Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura was a preacher and the head of a big religious movement, he would never speak definitely about his plans. When asked the details of a program he was to hold, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati would say, "Yes, the lecture will be in the town hall, if Krsna desires."
We are sometimes so caught up in our passionate activities that this kind of statement frustrates us. Does a devotee make such a statement out of laziness or foolishness? A devotee is always active and alert, and certainly a devotee working under the order of his spiritual master is not foolish. Rather, it is because a devotee is intelligent that he makes no plans of his own.
Prabhupada said a devotee works under Krsna the same way an apprentice works under a craftsman: he does only what his superior tells him. Even when a devotee matures, he always consults guru and Krsna—his higher authorities—and does not act independently. That is a sign not of laziness or overdependence but of intelligence.
Here is another story, this time from the Ramayana. Lord Krsna in His incarnation as Lord Rama sent Hanuman to Lanka to find Sita. After searching the whole city, he finally found Sita alone in an asoka garden, met her, and secured from her a token of her love for Rama. Hanuman's mission was fulfilled, but instead of returning at once to Rama, Hanuman decided to do more for his Lord. Therefore he announced his presence in the city and single-handedly defied the demons and set Lanka on fire. Was he surpassing Rama's instructions? No, when Lord Rama saw Hanuman again, Lord Rama embraced him and called him the best servant. A first-class servant uses his intelligence to serve the heart of his Lord's instructions, and while doing so depends on Krsna for the results.
Being prepared to follow Krsna's plan is the platform of steadiness. When a devotee is on that platform, the mind's usual policy of accepting and rejecting situations based on the comforts of the body no longer affects his determination to serve.
All material plans arise from physical or mental considerations. Although we devise a plan to make things better, the new plan just brings a different way for things to be bad.
A devotee's only real plan is to surrender to Krsna and thus become free of all material misery. The fool, however, prefers a headache to the pain he feels in his back but has no thought of becoming free of all pain. Srila Prabhupada told a story to illustrate this point. In India, there is a type of boatman who pulls boats up a river by walking the shore with a rope and lugging the boats along. One of these boatmen was imagining he was becoming rich. "When I become rich, I will cover the banks of this river with pillows. Then I will no longer hurt my feet on the pebbles and thorns as I pull the boats." He was so foolish that he didn't even realize that his wealth would free him from having to pull the boats at all.
In the Bhagavad-gita, Krsna says that the symptom of a man fixed in transcendence is that he gives up all varieties of desires. He doesn't become desireless, but all his desires become spiritual. Prabhupada describes this as "dovetailing the individual consciousness with the Superconsciousness." This is the natural relationship of the subordinate living entity with the Supreme.
A devotee surrenders his material desires not because Krsna is more powerful than he is but because of love. He depends on Krsna because he loves Krsna, he trusts Krsna, and he knows that Krsna wants his surrender. Krsna will accept our offerings if they are offered with devotion, like the item a child offers his father from the child's plate at the dinner table. The child's offering is insignificant—the father has already provided the entire meal—but the father is touched by the child's affectionate gesture. This is the mood a devotee wants to have with Krsna—unselfish, loving, and interested only in Krsna's pleasure. All other desires are simply plans to increase our suffering.
Our material desires form the blueprint for our next bodies, and if those desires are not even the authorized plans for human behavior, then we will have to take a lower birth. The fixed devotee, therefore, sees all material desires and their results as phantasmagoria. He knows he can find satisfaction in the self alone. What is satisfying to the self? Only service to Krsna.
In a memo, Prabhupada said to one devotee: "Your material formulas will not help you. Krsna consciousness means to become mad after Krsna and to follow the order of the spiritual master. Why have you missed this important point?" Therefore, surrender is the only plan a devotee makes.
Cooking Class: Lesson 20
By Yamuna Devi
Talk about cooking up a storm! If you think preparing meals for your family is a job, imagine feeding up to twenty hungry teenagers every day. That requires the dedication and commitment of a special person. So along with a glance at salads, the next subject in our cooking class, this month you get the benefit of a recent chat I had with one such dedicated person.
Atadhvaja Swami is the asrama teacher at the Vaisnava Academy for Boys in Alachua, Florida. The Academy draws students from all over the U.S. His work days average sixteen hours, with responsibilities from shopping and cleaning to gardening and administration.
Yamuna Devi: How do you plan your menus?
Atadhvaja Swami: The meals are not grand or elaborate. They loosely follow repetitive formulas. The students practically grow overnight and need three substantial meals a day.
Making breakfast is not time consuming. I make dishes that simmer away in a pot with only an occasional stir—grits, oatmeal, perhaps kicchari [rice-and-dal stew]. Once a week I spend more time and make pancakes with syrup. Lunch centers on rice, dal, capatis, vegetables, and salad. The students love the salad. I usually make a salad of greens with a sour-cream dressing.
Dinner is early—about five o'clock—and consists of rice, dal, and a vegetable. Or rice, a vegetable, and bread sticks. Or rice, dal, and puris or capatis. Pasta and pizza are favorites anytime. The boys love my pizza.
Within this simple framework there's plenty of variety.
YD: Can you give examples of that variety? What changes have you made in response to the likes or needs of the students?
RS: We have an organic garden at the Academy, and a long growing season in Florida. So I can introduce really fresh seasonal produce into the meals. Of course, I take into consideration the requests of parents. If I left it up to the students, they would eat sweets, sweets, and that's it. I work two sweet meals into the weekly menus—pancakes and syrup and oatmeal. And on Sunday they can relish rich dishes at the Sunday feast. Students with a strong sweet tooth can always satisfy it by rendering temple service in exchange for maha-prasadam sweets. Invariably, if someone earns a large bowl of maha-prasadam sweets by winning a scholastic contest, the sweets are shared by one and all.
For convenience, when traveling we eat a simple breakfast of puffed cereal and milk. We don't eat grains cooked by nondevotees.
YD: Please define "cooked grains." Do you eat prepared breakfast cereals? Do you puff and grind your own wheat?
RS: No to both questions. With the exception of puffed wheat and rice, which Srila Prabhupada ate, we don't eat boxed breakfast cereals. The principle is that we don't eat grains prepared or cooked by nondevotees, including bread, crackers, and tortillas. We eat only Krsna-prasadam, food offered to the Lord for His pleasure.
Everything we eat I make from scratch—puris, capatis, pizza, bread sticks. Instead of making tortilla chips from store-bought corn tortillas, or burritos from store-bought white-flour tortillas, I make tortilla chips and burritos from fresh whole-wheat capatis. I want the students to see how easy it is to live without eating food prepared by nondevotees, a principle Srila Prabhupada repeated so many times. I keep the menu fast, fresh, and healthy.
YD: Are the students interested in cooking? Do you teach classes?
RS: Not formally. If someone shows an interest in cooking and requests training as a chef, I have enough skill to teach him how to make almost anything. Though the kitchen is Spartan by some standards, stocked with only the basics, I can expand it when a student desires to increase his skill. I begin by teaching how to assist—cleaning, cutting, sometimes rolling capatis or frying puris. The boys watch, assist, and learn like an apprentice.
YD: What makes cooking for Krsna a spiritual activity?
RS: Arjuna was a fighter, a warrior, and he fought for Krsna. He was thinking of Krsna while fighting. Similarly, if you have some ability to cook, Krsna says you should use that in His service. Simply do your best to please Krsna, your spiritual master, and the devotees by cooking nicely, and not only do you become enthusiastic, so does everyone who tastes the prasadam.
Cooking for Krsna in an inspiration and a meditation—it purifies the heart and mind. Cooking for Krsna helps you control your senses, because by the time you've finished your meditative cooking and the meal has been offered with love, you almost feel like you've absorbed nutrition from the empty pots and your appetite is satiated.
YD: What do you most emphasize in relation to prasadam?
RS: Prasadam should be honored; it is Krsna. Now there are fourteen boys in the asrama, up to twenty at meal time, with ages ranging from eleven to fourteen. So the policy is that whatever is served as prasadam, students should not be critical of it; rather, they should respect it. For example, not everyone may like the one cooked item I prepare for breakfast, but everyone should respect it because it is prasadam. Maybe the next day someone likes the dish more or less, but whatever it is, prasadam should be relished. Of course, there are always exceptions, and no one is forced. Taking prasadam should be a joyous experience.
YD: Yes. Thank you very much.
Now on to classic Indian salads. As discussed in the last column, in India yogurt raita salads are popular in many areas. The other type of salad most commonly served as part of a full meal is known by various names: salaat, kachambar, kosumalli, and kosumbara. In the north it is as simple as sliced tomatoes or cucumbers sprinkled with salt, pepper, toasted cumin seeds, and lemon juice. In other regions it more often takes the form of chopped raw or blanched vegetables dressed in salt, cilantro, chopped chilies, lime juice, and oil infused with spice seeds. You can play with these concepts as you like, according to available seasonal produce.
If you're following the class series with the textbook, Lord Krishna's Cuisine, you know what to do. Working from the chapter on salads, prepare several salads, including selections of small and side-dish salads. Observe how the type and amount of seasoning in a recipe complements the featured ingredients. Experiment with available seasonal produce. Instead of chick peas, try another legume. Instead of coriander, feature another fresh herb. Fill a hollowed-out tomato with salad. Come up with some new variations of your own. If you have teenagers who like salad greens with a rich sour-cream dressing, try the salad below.
Use any lettuce you like. Atadhvaja Swami says his students like iceberg lettuce the best. Some students don't like bell peppers, so he cuts them into ½-inch dice so they can be easily removed. Adjust the ingredients according to tastes. To cut down on fat, use yogurt instead of sour cream.
¾ pound trimmed and sliced iceberg lettuce; or torn romaine, green, or red-leaf lettuce
½ tablespoon mustard seeds
Toss the salad ingredients in a bowl. Place the mustard seeds in a small pot over moderate heat. When they start to crackle, add the ghee or oil, partially cover, and cook until the seeds turn grey and pop. Remove the pan from the heat and sprinkle in the asafetida. Pour in the water and whisk in the sour cream or yogurt. Season with salt and pepper. Just before serving, toss the salad and dressing. Offer to Krsna.
4 cups water
Place the water, asafetida, and butter in a medium saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil. Stir in the grits. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 10-15 minutes, or until thick. Remove from the heat. If desired, stir in optional cheese or potatoes. Season with salt. Offer to Krsna.
Lord Vamana, an incarnation of Lord Krsna, appeared in this world in a previous age, millions of years ago. When He appeared from the womb of Aditi, He was equipped with disc, club, lotus, and conchshell—the symbols of Lord Visnu. After His appearance the Lord assumed the form of a dwarf (vamana). Great sages performed rituals for the Lord's birth ceremony, and when the Lord received the sacred thread worn by brahmanas, demigods came from all over the universe to offer Him gifts.
Lord Vamana approached Bali Maharaja with a mission to recover for the demigods the heavenly planets, which Bali had conquered. When Bali Maharaja requested the Lord to ask for something in charity, Lord Vamana said that He would be satisfied with three paces of land, as measured by His own steps. With two steps Lord Vamana covered the entire universe. When the Lord asked Bali where He could put His third step, Bali offered his own head, thus revealing himself to be a surrendered devotee of the Lord. Because of this pastime, Lord Vamana is also know as Trivikrama, "one who took three great steps."
Names and Dates
By Urmila Devi Dasi
THE ELEVEN-, twelve-, and thirteen-year-olds raise their hands with questions.
"Do we need to know the difference between the Constitution and the Articles of Confederation?"
"Will there be questions on the test about the Revolutionary War?"
"Do we really need to know this stuff?"
During the years I helped write the American history textbook used in many ISKCON schools, I also often asked myself, "Do our children really need to know this stuff? What will they do with their knowledge of history?"
Srila Prabhupada told gurukula teachers that students must know the most important facts of their country's history. The children should not appear to be fools, he said.
So we teach our children history. But we obviously have a different view of what history is about. As devotees of Krsna, the main way we identify ourselves is not with our nation but with the Supreme Lord who lives eternally in the spiritual world. And the material world with all its nations is just a flash in eternal time. So when our children learn history, they see it in a different perspective.
But although we are spiritual beings, we are born into this material world, and that means being born in a particular country. So we have to deal with that. People commonly allude to historical persons and events. So our children should be familiar with what is assumed to be common knowledge.
Moreover, as future teachers of Krsna consciousness, our children need to have not only a theology but a vision of how that theology can apply to present domestic and international problems. By studying how to apply spiritual principles to past events, they can more easily analyze modern problems and propose solutions with some depth of understanding.
For example, in our American history course we ask the students, "Name the problems that arose between the Native Americans and the pioneers. In what modern situation do we find the same kinds of problems? What spiritual advice can we give in such situations? Use one quote from Prabhupada's books."
When studying America's Civil War, we assign the following essay: "Srila Prabhupada teaches us how to relate to different types of people from a spiritual point of view. One should help and teach those less advanced, make friends with equals, and serve those more advanced. Materially, people generally exploit those who are lower, try to criticize and tear down those who are equal, and are envious of those who are higher. Show how the dealings between the North and the South after the war were on the material platform. Describe in at least one hundred words how relationships after the war could have been resolved from a spiritual point of view."
Studying history also gives our students a scriptural basis for their attitudes toward concepts such as civil rights and democracy, institutions such as labor unions, and events such as wars and revolutions.
Let's take the example of labor unions. When studying scripture the child learns that people are most happy in a simple agrarian society where varnasrama is the social system. Then the student learns how his nation rejected such a life for industrialization. He learns how industrialization drew workers from farms and cottage industry to the factories, where exploitation of workers through long hours, low pay, and dangerous conditions sparked the need for unions.
The study of history does more than influence our children's attitudes about major trends, events, and governments. Our children can better understand contemporary society when they know the cultural and historical influences that shape it. For example, because Srila Prabhupada understood how the cruelty and degradation of European kings led to revolutions, he knew that a modern Westerner would associate "king" with tyranny and exploitation. When he presented monarchy as the ideal system of government, therefore, he often emphasized the contrast between Vedic and medieval kings.
Our children can use knowledge of history to give examples of the truth of scriptural predictions about the results of good and bad work. For example, they study how greed for gold, whether in the California and Alaska gold rushes or in Spain's conquests in the Western hemisphere, led to ruin, cruelty, and personal disappointment.
The students can also learn from good and bad examples of historical figures and gain inspiration to serve Lord Krsna. We may wonder how a materialistic person, no matter how great, could be a devotional inspiration. But Narada Muni, the great sage and devotee, said, "Does not a thing, when applied therapeutically, cure a disease that is caused by that very same thing?" So mundane qualities, when used to serve Lord Krsna, can become glorious. Our children examine, Does this famous person have some quality I could also use to serve the Lord? If so, is there an example of a devotee who has used this quality?
Here are some examples of inspiration from American history: John Hancock is famous for his bold signature in defiance of the British king. A child may suggest Hanuman, who boldly allowed the demon Ravana to capture him so that Hanuman could assess the demon's weaknesses and set the city on fire. Patrick Henry is famous for saying he would rather die than live without liberty. A child may think of Haridasa Thakura, who kept chanting Krsna's name even when the local government official had him beaten for practicing Krsna consciousness. Nathan Hale is known for devotion to his country. The Vedic king Prthu is famous for working for the welfare of all of his citizens. We might think it difficult to find devotional inspiration from the traitorous example of Benedict Arnold. Yet Ravana's brother Vibhisana became a traitor to his nation to serve Lord Rama.
Finally, when our children study history they can gain a perspective on current events. How many great wars, heroes, and civilizations are no more than names in a history book? And what to speak of ordinary people, who are forgotten after a generation or so? Our children should learn to see beyond worldly events, knowing that these events are ultimately insignificant.
Our children gain this perspective not only from the way we study history but from how much time we give it. Prabhupada told us, "Don't bother much." So rather than what I was subjected to in school—practically ten years of names and dates—we concentrate our study during the two or three years when children can apply some depth of thought to history. We also focus on what Dr. Bruce Wilkinson in "The Seven Laws of the Learner" calls the "irreducible minimum." Our children need to learn only those facts that will enable them to understand history and apply that understanding. We don't want to teach children facts for the sake of facts.
Could our children realize these goals from merely any history class or textbook? Yes, but a materialistic history book will present only a materialistic understanding.
Although a Krsna conscious study of mundane history can help our children in their practical life and spiritual realizations, the greatest benefit comes from direct study of genuinely important history. That history is found in scriptures such as the Puranas, Ramayana, and Mahabharata. By learning the histories of Lord Krsna and His devotees, our children will gain not only knowledge and its application but spiritual wisdom and bliss.
Books Are the Basis
By Navina Nirada Dasa
In this column we 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 editors
Srila Prabhupada considered it his most important activity to translate into English the essence of Vedic knowledge. To spread that knowledge, he established the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, which has become the world's largest publisher of books on Indian religion and philosophy. Appreciating the great treasure of Vedic knowledge revealed through Prabhupada's books, many of his disciples and grand-disciples have become inspired to dedicate their lives to distributing them.
Struck by Lightning
One day while distributing books in a parking lot in Oslo, Norway, I noticed a man who seemed strange. As he walked across the lot, he was leaning over and almost losing his balance. He stopped, took a few steps forward, a few steps back, a few steps to the side, and then went on walking.
I went up to him and showed him the books. He was a big tall man. I could understand from his speech that despite his size he was a softhearted man and a man of discrimination.
He took two books but had only a very small amount of money. He gave me that and said, "That's all I have. I can give you that. But I'll go to the bank now, and when I come back I'll give you some more."
I said, "All right. That's OK." I gave him the two books.
He came back later and waited patiently while I sold books to someone. Then he came up to me and handed me more money.
I asked him, "Perhaps you already know about this subject matter?"
He said, yes, he had been reading esoteric books for a long time. Fourteen years earlier he had been struck by lightning in the mountains. He had been paralyzed and in a coma for a long time. For about twelve years he was in a wheelchair, and now he sometimes loses part of his memory and has problems with his balance.
Since the accident he has been interested only in spiritual subjects. His family and friends left him. He still has his old job, driving trucks, but he said he does the job out of habit, to earn money, and then the rest of the time he studies spiritual life and spiritual literature.
I told him that Prabhupada's books are the real spiritual literature. I took him to the car, and he took all the books I had and gave me all the money he had.
He said, "I went to the bank today to get some money. Somehow you came to give me all these wonderful books, and I gave you all the money. I think this is the will of Providence, God's arrangement, because otherwise we would not have met here."
He was very enthusiastic to receive Srila Prabhupada's books.
Junkie in Bern
I was distributing books in Bern, the capital of Switzerland, and a young junkie, drug addict, walked by me. He looked very, very down and out. I was thinking to let him go by, because drug addicts are usually not so interested in books and are sometimes very aggressive. There were so many other people around, so I tried to avoid him.
But he walked by me, turned his head, and smiled with the most incredible bright smile.
I said, "Why are you smiling? Do we know each other? Do you know these books?"
He came up to me and said, "I read those books for years when I was in a psychiatric hospital. My parents bought me the books. I have AIDS, and I'm going to die within a couple of months. I simply read Srila Prabhupada's books, and therefore I'm actually very happy. I know I have nothing else to do in my life but read Srila Prabhupada's books. That's all I have to do."
We had an interesting talk, and then he left with his three new books.
Louis and His Problem
I was traveling in the U.S. with Kaustubha Dasa from KrishnaFest. One evening we were filling up at a gas station, and the gas station attendant, named Louis, started talking about his life. He was depressed because his mother had died. He couldn't understand why she had died, because she was such a nice person and she never did anything wrong, never did any harm to anyone. But somehow she had died and he couldn't understand the world anymore. Life seemed so empty and bleak.
Louis said he had gone to a psychiatrist because of his depression and lack of interest in life. "Do you know what the psychiatrist told me? He told me I should go out and feed the birds. So I went to the park and fed the birds. I felt so stupid, like a little kid. And it didn't help."
He had become more and more depressed and frustrated and tired of life. He didn't know what to do—should he kill himself? He didn't know what he was living for.
Kaustubha told him, "Well, first of all you should understand that your mother didn't die."
Louis became shocked, and his eyes opened wide. "What? She didn't die? Then where is she now?"
"Your mother just changed her body. She is a spirit soul, like you and me, and she just changed her body. Just as a person can move from one car to another, your mother has simply moved on to another body. She is still alive.
"And second of all you should understand that your psychiatrist is simply a cheater, taking your money but not helping you a bit to understand the real facts of life. You should read this book, The Journey to Self-Discovery, and the story of Ajamila, who had a near-death experience."
Louis became excited. "Wow, my mom didn't die? That's wonderful."
He took two books and happily gave a donation.
Srila Srinivasa Acarya
Srila Srinivasa Acarya's parents were present when Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu accepted sannyasa, the renounced order of life. Soon after that, they traveled from their village in Bengal to Jagannatha Puri to visit Lord Caitanya, who told them that they would have a son who would be empowered to spread the teachings of the Rupa Gosvami and Sanatana Gosvami, two of Lord Caitanya's foremost disciples.
Srinivasa was absorbed in Krsna consciousness from an early age. In his youth he traveled to Jagannatha Puri. There, Lord Caitanya having returned to the spiritual world, Srinivasa met many of the Lord's intimate associates. Srinivasa returned to Bengal but soon left for Vrndavana, where he accepted Gopala Bhatta Gosvami as his spiritual master. Under the care of Jiva Gosvami, Srinivasa learned the complete teachings of Lord Caitanya.
Along with Syamananda Pandita and Narottama Dasa Thakura, Srinivasa Acarya carried the writings of the Gosvamis to Bengal and Orissa. Srinivasa initiated many disciples and wrote devotional songs, including Sri Sad-gosvamy-astakam, eight prayers glorifying the six Gosvamis of Vrndavana.
by Satyaraja Dasa
According to the Vedic literature, behind the workings of the cosmos stand powerful controllers, know as devas, or demigods. As we people in this world control our cars or homes, the devas control various aspects of the cosmos. The are among the exalted servants of Lord Krsna.
Everything in the universe begins with Brahma, the four-headed (catur-mukhi) demigod who rides a swan and carries in his four hands the Vedas, a ladle, a water vessel, and a mala, or string of prayer beads. He is known in the Mahabharata as Pitamaha, "the grandfather," for he is the oldest person in the universe, the original instructor, or guru, of the sages. He is the first created being—the original progenitor of mankind—and he is the founder of the esoteric lineage to which ISKCON belongs.
In India the Hare Krsna tradition (sampradaya) is known as the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya-sampradaya. That is to say, Brahma relayed eternal knowledge to his successors, it eventually reached Madhva, a great teacher who systemized the knowledge, and about five hundred years ago the whole tradition was revitalized by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who appeared in Bengal, then called Gauda-desa. Hence: the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya-sampradaya. And the line is carried on to this day through ISKCON.
How did Brahma originally receive Vedic knowledge? The Supreme Lord uttered the eternal truths of Krsna consciousness to Brahma at the beginning of time. Brahma's enlightenment is described in Srimad-Bhagavatam (Canto 2, Chapter 9), which depicts him, at the dawn of creation, being born on a lotus sprouted from the divine navel of Visnu. Brahma, finding himself in a new world, is wholly ignorant, both of his own identity and of his purpose in life. Seeking a clue as to his origin, Brahma climbs down the stem of the spiritual lotus, but to no avail. With a heart resigned to his fate, he hears the voice of his Lord and master, Visnu, calling out two syllables: ta-pa, literally, "austerity," or "penance."
The syllables are deep with meaning, and Brahma obeys by performing austerity in the form of meditation for one thousand celestial years. Brahma can then see first the Lord's abode and then the Lord Himself, who lovingly shakes Brahma's hand and recites for him the four seminal verses of Srimad-Bhagavatam, which contain its essential meaning and, indeed, the meaning of life.
When we speak of Brahma meditating for one thousand celestial years, we should understand just how long Brahma's life actually is. Bhagavad-gita (8.17) gives us a hint: "By human calculation, a thousand ages taken together form the duration of Brahma's one day. And such also is the duration of his night."
What is meant here by "ages"? Here an "age" is the Vedic divya-yuga. If you add together one Satya-yuga (1,728,000 years), one Treta-yuga (1,296,000 years), one Dvapara-yuga (864,000 years), and one Kali-yuga (432,000 years), you have one divya-yuga. That comes to 4.32 million of our years.
Now, according to the Gita verse quoted above, if you put 1,000 of those divya-yugas together, you get 4.32 billion earth years—a mere 12 hours (one day) in Brahma's life. So his day and night come to 8.64 billion years. Each of Brahma's years takes 360 of those days and nights. And he lives a full 100 years.
Before we brush off Brahma's inconceivable life span as some kind of outlandish mythology, we should keep in mind that time is relative. Imagine if we could explain our life span to a microorganism whose life lasts but a few seconds or minutes. The creature would be extremely skeptical, to say the least, unable to accommodate the concept of a week, a month, a year. So although Brahma's life may seem inordinately long to us, for him it seems perfectly natural, perhaps even a little short.
Since Brahma is, essentially, an extraterrestrial, living on a higher planet, his perceptions of time and space are entirely different from our own. Indeed, the Vedic literature tells us that demigods are made of subtle substance; in Brahma's case, he has a body composed of pure intelligence. His feet never touch the ground, he doesn't blink, and he casts no shadow. Demigods are simply different kinds of living entities, and there is no reason to expect them to conform to our conceptions of time and space.
Because Brahma's life span is the longest in the cosmic creation, he outlives all other living things. At the beginning of each of his days all varieties of life forms appear, and with his night comes partial annihilation until the next day, when he sets everything in motion again, re-creating the various forms of life.
The details of creation may differ slightly from day to day, but one thing remains the same—Brahma begins each day by meditating on the Supreme Lord. At that time he says, "I pray only to engage in the Lord's service in the creation of the material world, and I pray that I not be materially affected by my works, for thus I may be able to give up the false prestige of being the creator." (Srimad-Bhagavatam, 3.9.23)
In fact, Brahma takes every opportunity to glorify Visnu, or Krsna, as supreme and to acknowledge his own subservience. In the very first verse of Brahma-samhita, for example, Brahma says, "Krsna, who is known as Govinda, is the Supreme Godhead. He has an eternally blissful and spiritual body. He is the origin of all. He has no other origin, for He is the prime cause of all causes."
Later in the same work (5.49), Brahma makes clear that he is indeed subservient to the Supreme Lord Krsna: "The sun manifests his brilliance in a gem, although it is stone. Similarly, the original Personality of Godhead, Govinda, manifests His special power in a pious living entity. Thus that living entity becomes Brahma and manages the affairs of the universe. Let me worship Govinda, the original Personality of Godhead."
Unlike many other demigods, Brahma is rarely mistaken for the Supreme. For that reason, in all of India Brahma has only one major temple dedicated to his worship—in Puskara, Rajasthan.
Still, Brahma is deeply revered as a great devotee. In fact, he is considered by all Vaisnavas to be a guna-avatara, a manifestation of the Lord who presides over the mode of passion. Thus his passionate nature is put to work, and he is engaged in creation, as described above. He is therefore known as the "creator god," in contradistinction to Visnu, who is seen as "the preserver" (and the master of the mode of goodness), and Siva, "the destroyer" (who presides over the mode of ignorance).
In popular Hinduism this triad of avataras (trimurti) is viewed as merely diverse modalities of one and the same God—and there is a scriptural basis for this—but a careful study reveals that both Siva and Brahma are subservient to Visnu.
In fact, making this clear—that Krsna is supreme—was one of the main reasons why Brahma wrote his Brahma-samhita. Commenting on the Brahma-samhita, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura notes that it refutes pancopasana, the popular Hindu worship of five gods: Visnu, Surya, Ganesa, Durga, and Siva.
"The worship of Visnu as found in pancopasana," Srila Bhaktisiddhanta says, "does not please Visnu; it is heterodox and highly improper." Visnu is the Supreme, the Personality of Godhead; no one is equal to or greater than Him. But the worship of Visnu as one of the five deities brings Him down to the level of the others, as though He were one of several deities, and this is a great spiritual offense.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati continues, "It is the eternal duty of all jivas [living beings] to serve [only] Krsna, the Lord of all lords. All other deities are His servitors. Their function is only to carry out Govinda's commands." Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati concludes that those who "conceive of the deities as the different names and bodies of Visnu instead of knowing them as His servitors" will never acquire liberation. One becomes perfectly liberated only by surrendering fully to Visnu, Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Dolls of Devotion
A fun way for kids to become absorbed in Krsna consciousness.
By Rukmini Devi Dasi
I grew up in a gurukula asrama, a Krsna conscious boarding school, and a few of my friends had dolls of Krsna in His form as Lord Jagannatha. I always wanted to have Krsna dolls. Once an Indian lady gave me a doll, but because it wasn't related to Lord Krsna, I didn't like it.
My mother started making a Krsna doll for me, but she didn't finish it for several years because she was so busy with her temple service. By the time I got the doll, I was already out of the asrama. So I regret that I didn't get to grow up taking care of Lord Krsna.
When I had my first daughter, Mallika, I was determined to provide her with Krsna conscious dolls. At the time, Cabbage Patch dolls were very popular. I saw how the children became attached to their dolls and those mundane dolls became their heroes. Children need heroes, and the media provide a host to choose from—Barbie, Barney, Ninja Turtles, G.I. Joe. But in the Vedic literature we find the most heroic personalities. So for Mallika's third birthday I made twenty-five dolls related to Krsna consciousness. I made Radha and Krsna, Lord Caitanya, Nityananda, Advaita Acarya, Gadadhara, and Srivasa Thakura. I also did Sita, Rama, Hanuman, Lord Nrsimhadeva, and many more.
Mallika inspired me to do this service, so I'm grateful to her for that. My idea was not to start a business. I just wanted to give my daughter an opportunity to play in Krsna consciousness. But other parents saw the dolls and asked me to make some for their children. Now I receive orders from all parts of the world.
Although I sell the dolls, I consider making them to be devotional service rather than business. The dolls provide a fun way for children to become absorbed in Lord Krsna's pastimes. The children's attitude is that the doll is Krsna. They listen to Krsna book tapes and act out the pastimes with the dolls. They tie up baby Krsna, as His mother did when He was naughty. They give Krsna butter, which, of course, He loves. They offer incense to Krsna.
Because these activities are devotional service, I am glad I'm helping the children do them. I'll make any Krsna conscious doll a child wants. Once a two-year-old girl received a Krsna doll for her birthday. She wasn't satisfied with just Krsna. She didn't want Krsna to be without Arjuna. Her father sent me a letter saying his daughter was constantly asking, "Where is Arjuna?" So we made her a special doll of Arjuna with a helmet, a mustache, arrows, and a quiver. She was so happy to have Krsna and Arjuna together.
Worshiping Krsna in the form of dolls is not a new idea. Five thousand years ago some of the greatest devotees worshiped dolls of Lord Krsna. In a purport to Srimad-Bhagavatam (3.2.2), Srila Prabhupada writes about Uddhava, the Lord's confidential devotee: "From natural instinct he used to serve Lord Krsna, even in his childhood. He used to play with dolls in the form of Lord Krsna, he would serve the dolls by dressing, feeding, and worshiping them, and thus he was always absorbed in the play of transcendental realization."
Later in the same purport, Srila Prabhupada writes, "Maharaja Pariksit also used to play with Krsna dolls in his childhood. In India the children in good families are still given dolls of the Lord like Rama and Krsna, or sometimes the demigods, so that they may develop the aptitude of service to the Lord. By the grace of the Lord we were given the same opportunity by our parents, and the beginning of our life was based on this principle."
The children automatically become very close to their dolls. If the mother is out working, the child may seek refuge in the doll. Several mothers have ordered Lord Nrsimhadeva dolls because their children were having disturbed sleep. The children had so much faith in Nrsimhadeva that as soon as they received Him they slept peacefully. By having a doll, they feel that Krsna is close by, just as their parents are close by, and they develop strong faith in Krsna.
If the young children develop an affinity for service to Krsna, that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Srimad-Bhagavatam (3.2.3) says, "Uddhava thus served the Lord continually from childhood, and in his old age that attitude of service never slackened."
Not only do the dolls help the children's Krsna consciousness, but they also improve mine. When I make the dolls, I become fully absorbed in thought of the Lord. That's why I call this project Dolls of Devotion.
Once, while making a doll of Lord Nrsimhadeva, I was going through a tough court case. I prayed so much to Him, and sometimes I felt He was real. He was there to protect me from this trying experience. I couldn't take Lord Nrsimhadeva into the court room, but He was there in my mind, and I was confident no one could harm me.
Another nice thing is that I do this service together with my mother. She sews everything; I stuff and paint. Mallika and Mohini (my younger daughter) like to help too, so it has become a family project.
Since the dolls are forms of the Lord and their clothes are made out of cloth worn by the temple Deities, they are sacred. Parents may have to train their children how to handle them. A child might be playing with Krsna and Balarama, for example, and then suddenly get into something else. So the parents have to guide the children and make sure they put the dolls away properly. The dolls come with a stand, and when the children are not playing with them the dolls should be on a shelf, just like Krsna conscious books.
This should not discourage parents from getting dolls for their children. Sometimes parents tell me they're worried about getting their children dolls because the children are too young. I tell them I wouldn't hesitate. My daughter Mohini has grown up since birth with these dolls. The children quickly learn to respect the dolls, either by watching other kids who have dolls or by listening to Krsna conscious storybook tapes.
A while ago I was supplying dolls to a gift store. The woman who managed the store told me that when people walked into the store they could sense that the dolls were special. They would ask if the dolls were demigods or if you should worship them. She asked me to write a description of who the dolls are and how they should be treated.
Since then I've had second thoughts about selling dolls to nondevotees. I told the lady I couldn't do it anymore because there is a special need for them in our society. The devotees are ordering, and I have to take care of them.
Maybe one day we could mass-produce the dolls and make them available to everyone, but I don't think I would sell Radha and Krsna to nondevotees. For nondevotees I would make cowherd boys and cowherd girls. Right now, though, serving the devotees is my priority, and I feel a lot happier because I know who's getting the dolls.
Parents call or write me from all over the world thanking us for doing this service. Many tell me they've been wanting this for years and they're happy and appreciative we're doing it. This kind of response keeps me going. As long as the devotees give me their blessings, I'll continue with this service.
by Tattvavit Dasa
"In a restaurant or place for drinking cold water, many travelers are brought together, and after drinking water they continue to their respective destinations. Similarly, living entities join together in a family, and later, as a result of their own actions, they are led apart to their destinations."
I recall sitting on the lap of my father and entertaining company with my parents, and now it is forty years later, a letter has arrived for me in Hong Kong from my mother saying my father has died in Arizona, so I am remembering him and reflecting on death.
In English we sometimes say "pass away" for "die," but the similar term "pass on" comes closer to the everyday understanding of half a billion of the world's people here in the East. Reincarnation is what they learn from their scriptures and what their forebears have always believed. It's what I now believe: that your personality survives the death of your body and travels on to live in another body until you attain the Supreme.
For part of my youth in a tiny Catholic town in Minnesota, I thought of death in terms of heaven, hell, and purgatory, without knowing there were other ways to understand dying.
But I encountered some of them in college in 1970. Scientists and psychologists taught that life is reducible to a brain state and ends when the body dies. I rejected their ideology because I worked in the university hospital and saw people die, and sought deeper philosophical explanations of life and death.
In the Hare Krsna movement I found a strong and important intellectual tradition that explains life and death.
When I joined the Hare Krsna movement, my father took it hard because he wanted me to get involved in a field where the jobs pay well. Every father wants success for his son. But for him success had nothing to do with what state of being we might attain after death.
I told my dad, ten years after he retired in Arizona's Sun Belt, "You'll forget your wife and home when you die."
He ordered that in his house I should keep my philosophy to myself and even added, "This is my temple." Yet he enjoyed his dominion only a few years more. As a philosopher once wrote, time, the supreme teacher, kills all its pupils.
Naturally, my father's achievements were as short-lived as everyone's. He just hated being reminded that death would remove him from everything, because he'd grown up poor and worked hard to make his fortune. For business, through many snowy winters, he'd gotten up at four in the morning.
His young grandson once told him. "You are going to die."
And he protested, "No I'm not."
My father had the right idea according to the sage Canakya, who advised, "If you want to succeed materially, think you will live forever."
But Canakya added, "If you want to succeed spiritually, think you will die at any moment." He meant that we must be spiritually ready to meet death.
My sister and brothers said nothing in their letters about the fate of Dad's soul. They helped carry out my parents' decision to cremate Dad's body and bury his ashes next to the graves of my maternal grandparents, and my uncle in the granite business prepared a polished tombstone: Born—February 16, 1916.
Dad's birthday wasn't his real beginning. Bhagavad-gita says that we souls have lived before, in other bodies, and will live again in new ones.
"As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, the soul accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones." (2.22) This verse reminds me of a clothing store I saw in India called The Garment Galaxy. Nature is like a cosmic garment warehouse outfitting the soul with the apparel of aquatics, plants, insects, reptiles, birds, beasts, human beings, and demigods. Nature provides the body, just as a tailor provides a suit. The living entity within the body is not created by material nature; he is an eternal part of God.
On what turned out to be Dad's last birthday, five months before he died, I wrote him a letter acknowledging his good character. "In these respects I admire you: You stayed married, supported us, and took us to church."
Because my father acted piously and impiously, from scripture I'd expect him to attain mixed results. His religious ideas about the afterlife happen to fit into the framework explained in Bhagavad-gita (14.14). If his piety was enough to gain him a place in Christ's association, he'll attain the Supreme in the near future. But before then he might have to endure punishments, or enter a purgatory from which he can advance by the intercession of relatives.
My father's destiny will turn too on what he remembered at the moment of death. Bhagavad-gita (8.6) says, "Whatever state of being one remembers at the time of death, that state he will attain without fail." Memories, in other words, form the boundaries of our states of being and mold our natures. They hold thoughts and feelings, as sponges hold water, and they affect the dying person's consciousness.
Even though the memories of one life create the next life, those memories eventually fade completely. People hardly ever remember their previous lives or where their soul came from before entering their mother's womb. This is a reason why hardly anyone in the West takes transmigration of the soul seriously. But memory is an unreliable thing. We're lucky if we can remember a person's name five minutes after we've met him. So even if we did live past lives, it's not surprising we forget them.
Living in the framework of an Old Testament creation epic also influences beliefs about reincarnation. As John Boslough wrote in National Geographic in March 1990, "The Western idea that past, present and future are arranged in a straight line ... seems to have grown out of a Judeo-Christian tradition in which events like the creation and Christ's resurrection take on special meaning because they occur in a sequence. It may also lead to a belief in life after death, rather than earthly reincarnation."
Boslough asks whether "our concept of time as a one-way track also lies at the heart of the follies of our you-only-go-around-once culture—the cult of youth, the type A personality, a relentless consumerism always in search of something new."
Bhagavad-gita lets us understand that time moves in ages like seasons of the year and that the world is repeatedly created, maintained, and destroyed.
God created the world to reclaim the fallen souls, who meet with repeated birth and death as they transmigrate through various species of life. In the human form a soul has an opportunity to become free from this cycle of birth and death and attain the kingdom of God. Such freedom arises when the soul properly develops a full realization of his nature as an eternal spiritual being and uses his mind and senses solely to please God.
Without this developed consciousness, we misidentify ourselves with the material body, as lower forms of life do, and like other species of life we act merely to satisfy material desire. While we populate and work to build the world, we entangle ourselves in webs of mundane identities.
And because we fail to realize our human potential, when we pass away all our material desires come before our minds, and we remain in the world of the dying, attached to whatever state of life we remember or wish to return to.
God accompanies the soul as it travels through different bodies. He is in everyone's heart. He thus knows what everyone deserves, and He sanctions all desires accordingly.
To teach everyone about an eternal life of perfect knowledge and bliss, God Himself sometimes descends personally and sometimes sends His representative in the form of His son or servant. Those who are advanced in spiritual culture and knowledge can train us to become absorbed in the names, forms, qualities, and pastimes of the Supreme. That absorption is called Krsna consciousness, and the training culminates in the final test: how to die.
Lord Krsna says in Bhagavad-gita, "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. Whoever, at the end of his life, quits his body remembering Me alone at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt." (Bg. 4.9, 8.5)
If we do have some doubt, it might help to remember that science can never "prove" reincarnation or, for that matter, anything else. All scientists can do is gather data and try to explain it consistently and reasonably. When the body of data grows, scientific explanations should grow with it. And because of the work of certain researchers, the body of data has grown large enough to suggest that reincarnation is a fact.
Devotees of Krsna, however, have another way to get understanding: We accept that the Bhagavad-gita conveys the words of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the supreme intelligence behind the workings of reincarnation and the universe.
Krsna appreciates any of our efforts to know and serve Him. He even assures us that if we can't carry on with spiritual life throughout our lives, there is no loss or diminution. Krsna is so kind that He never forgets a person's service. Whoever fails to become fully Krsna conscious in this life receives an opportunity in a future life to live in the association of elevated sages or in a righteous or aristocratic family. "On taking such a birth," the Gita says, "he revives the divine consciousness of his previous life, and he again tries to make further progress in order to achieve complete success." (6.43)
So I can be confident that because my dad believed in God, his faith will endure, even if covered by material desires in his next human life. And if he becomes convinced that God exists and that God is omnipotent, then he will go beyond faith to fact. The fact is that God can descend into the world and display His activities so that His devotees can understand His actual position. God speaks about Himself and His pastimes in Bhagavad-gita. He makes it possible to understand Him.
The last time I visited Dad he limped pitiably, from partial paralysis caused by heart trouble. I said to him, "I'm also getting old. No one avoids it."
When he lived in a youthful body and held me on his lap, he cared nothing for infirmity or old age. The poet Coleridge says of youth and age, "Dew-drops are the gems of morning, but the tears of mournful eve."
Like a child who outgrew his favorite game, Dad had to stop playing golf because traversing the fairways on his electric cart proved too laborious. I wish he had realized what my spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, observed in America: that old men, after working hard their whole lives, squander the valuable time they have left working hard to hit a ball into a little hole.
But if we spend our time on the process of self-realization in Krsna consciousness, ultimately we will stop old age, disease, and birth and death from happening to us again. "For the soul," Krsna says, "there is neither birth nor death at any time. He has not come into being, does not come into being, and will not come into being. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, and primeval."
Prabhupada Centennial 1896-1996
Bathing Srila Prabhupada with 1,008 Sacred Waters
September 6, 1996, will mark the one-hundredth anniversary of the appearance of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. On that day, following Vedic custom, devotees will bathe Srila Prabhupada in his deity form—not only with traditional substances such as yogurt and honey, but also with water from 1,008 holy places in India.
The bathing ceremony will take place in Calcutta, the place of Prabhupada's appearance. Thousands of people, including an international delegation of devotees, will take part. Sealed pots containing the mixture of 1,008 holy waters will also be sent to every ISKCON temple, enabling devotees everywhere to take part in this once-in-a-lifetime event by bathing Srila Prabhupada in their own temple.
Teams of devotees are traveling throughout India to collect the sacred waters. They expect to complete the collection by the month of Kartika (October-November) this year.
Lokanath Swami, who oversees the Global Centennial campaign, says, "This bathing is an arrangement to worship one of the greatest persons history has ever seen in a way history has never seen. This opportunity will never present itself again."
"And the Word Was God"
Here we continue an exchange that took place in Paris, on June 15, 1974, between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, two priests, and two Christian scholars.
Srila Prabhupada: So all you nice gentlemen and ladies should accept what the Vedas say, because the Vedas emanate from God. In the words of Vedanta-sutra, janmady asya yatah: "Everything is an emanation from God." Whatever exists has emanated from God. In the Bible, also, there is the statement, "Everything that has been made comes from God." So whatever exists emanates from God.
Another Vedic injunction says it even more forcefully. Sarvam khalv idam brahma: "Ultimately, everything is the Supreme Brahman." Everything is the Supreme Lord, in His impersonal feature. So the impersonal feature we are seeing all around us is an expanded energy of God, just as the sunshine is an expansion—the bodily rays—of the sun-god.
Therefore, the Bhagavad-gita says, brahmano hi pratisthaham: "The foundation or source of the impersonal energy is God, Krsna." [To his Sanskrit editor:] Find this verse, brahmano hi pratisthaham.
Sanskrit editor: Yes, Srila Prabhupada. From the fourteenth chapter of Bhagavad-gita:
brahmano hi pratisthaham
And the translation of Lord Krsna's words: "I am the basis of the impersonal Brahman, which is the constitutional position of ultimate happiness, and which is immortal, imperishable, and eternal."
Father Fransad: Your Divine Grace, will you tell us how old are the oldest of the Vedic scriptures? How long have the Vedas existed?
Srila Prabhupada: They have existed from before the creation—tene brahma hrda ya adi-kavaye. [To his Sanskrit editor:] Find this verse: janmady asya yato 'nvayad itaratas carthesu abhijnah svarat tene brahma hrda ya adi-kavaye muhyanti yat surayah.
Sanskrit editor: Srila Prabhupada, that will be in the first chapter of Srimad-Bhagavatam, echoing Vedanta-sutra:
janmady asya yato 'nvayad itaratas carthesu abhijnah svarat
And here is the translation: "I offer my obeisances unto Lord Sri Krsna, the son of Vasudeva, who is the supreme, all-pervading Personality of Godhead. I meditate upon Him, the transcendent reality, who is the primeval cause of all causes, from whom all manifested universes arise, in whom they dwell, and by whom they are destroyed. I meditate upon that eternally effulgent Lord, who is directly and indirectly conscious of all manifestations and yet is beyond them. It is He only who first imparted the Vedic knowledge into the heart of Brahma, the first created living being."
Srila Prabhupada: So this is Vedic knowledge. [Again to his Sanskrit editor:] Now read another verse, aham adir hi devanam.
Sanskrit editor: In the tenth chapter of the Bhagavad-gita, Krsna says, aham adir hi devanam maharsinam ca sarvasah: "Neither the hosts of demigods nor the sages know My origin, for in every respect I am the source of the demigods and the sages."
Srila Prabhupada: Aham adir hi devanam maharsinam ca—"I am the source of the demigods and sages," says the Supreme Lord. Similarly, in the Bible it is said, "In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God." That is Vedic knowledge. That word—that divine sound—is the Vedas. So before the creation the Vedas were there. You cannot find the beginning of the Vedas. If you could find out when the creation began, then before that the Vedas were already there.
Father Fransad: According to our understanding, God revealed Himself little by little, and then at a certain moment He revealed Himself in His totality. But in the Vedic literature it is said that the whole knowledge was given at the beginning—everything together.
I very deeply respect your vast learning, and yet I'm asking that we should not say that the contents of these two bodies of literature—the Bible and the Vedas—are the same. The Bible and the Vedas are two different things.
For another example, the verse you referred to—"In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God"—that is similar to what is taught in the Vedas, but if we take that verse and the rest of that chapter from the Bible and look at them closely, we find discrepancies, differences.
Srila Prabhupada: What discrepancies do you find?
Father Fransad: For example, in that same verse and chapter the Bible also says that the word of God became flesh and this flesh was the son of God, Lord Jesus Christ.
Srila Prabhupada: That simply means that although Jesus Christ appeared in the material world, he is transcendental, not of the material world.
Father Fransad: But we think that Lord Jesus was a human being. He was spiritual, but he was also part of the material world.
Srila Prabhupada: No. If anything, the material world is part of Jesus Christ, but Jesus Christ is not part of the material world.
Father Fransad: We beg to disagree. We feel that Jesus had a human body, a material body.
Srila Prabhupada: That body appears human, but Jesus did not have material flesh and blood. If Jesus had had a material body, then how could he have manifested his resurrection?
Father Fransad: Well, we would say that God could create a glorious resurrection of someone's material body by His inconceivable power.
Srila Prabhupada: That is beside the point. These rascals who wanted Jesus Christ dead—why did they think they could actually accomplish this? Because they themselves also thought, "Jesus has a material body." So Jesus bewildered them more, so that they would remain rascals. They would go on thinking that Jesus had succumbed to death at their hands and that he had a material body.
Madame Siaude: Jesus bewildered them?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, he bewildered them more, by saying, "All right, go on thinking like that." That is their punishment. They remain always in darkness, thinking, "Jesus had a material body."
Father Fransad: Again, we respect your explanation, but we have another explanation.
Srila Prabhupada: But to give an explanation, we must rely on reason and evidence. You cannot explain all this whimsically. If Jesus Christ is the son of God, that means he has a spiritual body.
Madame Siaude: Yes, we accept that Jesus Christ has a spiritual body, but we say that he also assumes a material body.
Srila Prabhupada: No. And another thing. You accept Jesus Christ as God's only son. Do you not? And yet when you pray in the church you address God as "Our Father." Then why do you say Jesus Christ is God's only son, when you say in your prayer that everyone is God's son? If you want me to address God as my Father, then I am also God's son. So why do you say that Jesus Christ is God's only son?
Madame Siaude: Yes, we say that we are "adopted sons." All of us are also God's sons, but by adoption.
Srila Prabhupada: So therefore these adopted sons' bodies and Jesus' body cannot be equal. The adopted son—not the real son—has a material body.
The worldwide activities of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)
Houston mayor Bob Lanier proclaimed Lord Ramacandra's appearance day Hare Krishna Cultural Center Day. A thousand people attended a festival held that day, April 9, at the Center, ISKCON's six-acre project known as Hare Krishna Dhama.
Krsna conscious television is on the air in Houston. The first shows introduced viewers to vegetarianism, the lives of devotees, and the chanting of the holy names.
Devotees from the San Diego and Laguna Beach temples set up six booths at San Diego's twenty-fifth Earth Day celebrations. Other Hare Krsna centers in various parts of the world also spread the message that the earth belongs to Lord Krsna.
A thirty-minute video on Srimad-Bhagavatam aired in April on public-access television in Ft. Collins, Colorado. Potential viewers: 100,000.
Twenty-four hours of nonstop Hare Krsna chanting filled a hall provided by Toronto's Bengali club last April. More than eight hundred people took part in the program, organized by ISKCON life member Raja Sarangi.
Deities of Radha-Gopinatha have been installed in a new temple on ISKCON's land in Bhubaneswar, Orissa. The temple joins the already existing temple for Krsna-Balarama and Lord Jagannatha.
Devotees in Surat, Gujarat, are building a new 36-room guest house and restaurant adjacent to their temple. Target for completion: November.
The future of Hare Krishna Food for Life in Armenia is uncertain because of persecution of the devotees there. Before the attack last April on the Hare Krsna temple in Yerevan (covered in the previous issue of BTG), devotees had been passing out prasadam to a thousand people a day.
Channel 111 of Croatian radio broadcast a five-part series on Vaisnava music. The first one-hour show featured recordings by Srila Prabhupada. The other shows presented works of ISKCON musicians and discussions with ISKCON leader Sacinandana Swami on the history of Vaisnava music.
ISKCON's location in Oslo, Norway, has shifted to an aristocratic house purchased in the center of the city. Devotees in Oslo also plan to expand their restaurant, which lies directly across from one of the biggest subway stations in Oslo.
The secretary general of the United Nations received a flower garland and a copy of Bhagavad-gita As It Is last April in Sydney. The secretary general, His Excellency Dr. Boutros Boutros Ghali, received the gifts at a conference on Global and Cultural Diversity.
The prime minister of Singapore attended a performance of the Ranganiketan Dance Troupe, organized by ISKCON leader Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Swami. The troupe, from the remote northeast Indian state of Manipur, performs songs and dances in glorification of Lord Krsna.
Delegates to the Second National Congress for the Environment, held in Quito, Ecuador, heard Krsna devotees speak of spiritual compassion toward all species. Devotees proposed a God-centered society as the solution to environmental problems.
The island of St. Lucia was blessed in May with Krsna consciousness for the first time. Devotees chanted Hare Krsna on the streets of Vieux-Forte and Soufriere. They also met with the minister of education and culture and discussed opening a center in St. Lucia in 1996.
Commonwealth of Independent States
Devotees have acquired land for new temples in Kishinev, Moldova, and three Ukranian cities—Lugansk, Lvov, and Nikolayev. In Nikolayev, materials are being donated, and work has already begun. It is all being done by local devotees.
September 17 marks the thirtieth anniversary of Srila Prabhupada's arrival in America. So from Commonwealth Pier in Boston, where Srila Prabhupada first landed, Padayatra America will begin a walking tour of the U.S. The devotees will first walk to New York City and from there travel by car to hold walking festivals in other American cities. The festivals will be part of the Srila Prabhupada Centennial, in 1996.
A Padayatra success story: When the members of Padayatra America traveled through Nicaragua last year, they met two men who had been reading Prabhupada's books for eight years but had never before met devotees. By speaking with the devotees, the men became inspired to start a temple. When the Padayatra returned to Nicaragua this year, devotees spoke on Bhagavad-gita at the temple the men have opened.
Last May fifteen devotees from England ferried to Portugal, where they walked from Porto, on the coast, to Lisbon. During the three-week walk devotees passed out 1,450 Back to Godhead magazines, 25,000 leaflets, and 9,000 packets of popcorn prasadam.
For more information about Padayatra, contact:
1030 Grand Avenue
Phone: (619) 483-2500
Padayatra England and Europe
Bhaktivedanta Manor, Letchmore Heath,
Srila Prabhupada's Arrival in America
After a thirty-five-day sea journey from Calcutta, Srila Prabhupada reached Boston's Commonwealth Pier on September 17, 1965. He took a short walk into the city and then returned to the ship. As he awaited the ship's departure for New York, Srila Prabhupada composed a Bengali poem, entitled "Markine Bhagavat-dharma" ("Teaching Krsna Consciousness in America"). Here are some verses from that poem:
My dear Lord Krsna, You are so kind upon this useless soul, but I do not know why You have brought me here. Now you can do whatever you like with me.
Organizers of the new Hare Krsna farm and village in France hope to develop an ideal place for families to live in Krsna consciousness.
Interview by Jayadvaita Swami with reporting by Tattvavit Dasa
Guru Sakti Dasa, 36, originally from Italy, joined the Hare Krsna movement seventeen years ago in Schloss Rettershof, Germany. He is a disciple of one of Srila Prabhupada's leading disciples, Harikesa Swami.
For almost ten years Guru Sakti distributed Krsna conscious books, mainly in the French-speaking area of Switzerland. Twelve years ago he married, and now he and his wife, Visnu Devi, have two children: a five-year-old son named Syamasundara and a four-year-old girl, Yamuna.
For almost seven years, Guru Sakti has been the president of the Hare Krsna temple in Zurich, Switzerland.
In 1993 he negotiated the purchase of a farm in France, known as Chateau Bellevue. The farm has started to become a Krsna conscious village, and Guru Sakti serves on the village council.
This interview took place in India last March.
BTG: What is the concept for your French village project?
Guru Sakti Dasa: We want to create a place where families can settle down, have their own houses, do some business, send their children to a Krsna conscious school, and at the same time live in the association of devotees.
I got involved in community development four years ago because I saw the need for such communities in the Krsna consciousness movement. People join a temple, get married, and then go out again. And somehow it's easy to get entangled in many activities just to maintain your family. Then you can become isolated and have difficulty keeping your Krsna conscious standards.
So we want to create a place where devotees can live peacefully in a natural environment and develop their loving relationship with Krsna and other devotees. In this way we can show how to practically apply our philosophy. We can show people that our philosophy is not limited to temple life or monastic life. We can demonstrate how to live according to Krsna's ideal for society.
BTG: How many people live in the community?
GSD: About thirty—some families and some unmarried devotees.
BTG: Do the devotees living on the project own their own land?
GSD: At present everything belongs to the Society, to ISKCON. But we plan to divide the property, sell plots to individual families, and keep a central section as the direct property of the Deity.
BTG: Are you looking for a certain kind of people to join the community?
GSD: We want people to come who will take advantage of the community but who also have something to give. That means people who are qualified and experienced and can contribute materially and spiritually.
We do best with mature devotees who know what they want and can understand what we're trying to do. We explain what they can expect from us, what we expect from them, and in this way everything is clear.
BTG: What rules do you expect people to follow to live in the community?
GSD: One has to follow the four regulative principles,* but one doesn't have to come to the daily morning program or chant sixteen rounds a day. Of course, when people are initiated we expect them to follow the program and chant sixteen rounds. But this place should be broad enough to allow many friends, devotees, and congregational members to come help in some way and gradually become more and more involved in Krsna conscious life. In the association of devotees they will become purified and automatically take up the chanting and the rest of the program.
*Devotees initiated in the Hare Krsna movement vow to follow four principles—no intoxicants, no meat-eating, no illicit sex, and no gambling. They also attend an early-morning program of classes and group chanting, and chant a strand of 108 meditation beads at least sixteen times a day.
BTG: How is the community governed?
GSD: For now we have a village council that meets twice a month. The department heads and senior devotees are on the council. The community is still too small to have a mayor, but in the future we will have one.
BTG: How does your economy work? How is the farm supported?
GSD: From the beginning we organized various departments that are financially independent to avoid a centralized treasury. Decentralization lets devotees take immediate responsibility for their lives. Everyone on the farm is economically independent, so everyone has to be productive; otherwise he cannot maintain himself. This is a healthy challenge to the development of the individual.
Of course, there are some expenses that affect the entire project. So our central administration rents land and rooms to the various devotees and departments, and in this way the regular income covers the insurance, taxes, electricity, and whatever other expenses there are.
BTG: What sort of work is going on now? How are people earning a living?
GSD: We have a preaching department, a kitchen department, a cow department, an agriculture and garden department, and a management department. Only the managers, who take care of legalities and finances, are maintained by the temple budget. The preaching department takes care of itself. The kitchen department gets money by cooking for the other members of the community. The cows from our previous farm are old and somewhat unproductive, so the Swiss temples maintain the cow department. And the agriculture and garden department maintains itself by selling vegetables and flowers to community members and the temple in Zurich.
BTG: What are your economic plans for the future?
GSD: We want to set up businesses related to agriculture and make products we can market professionally. Of course, first we want to sell to the devotee community and congregational members, but we can expand and sell to stores. Mainly we want to depend on agriculture, because that is the most secure and the least artificial economic platform.
BTG: What sort of agricultural work is going on now at the farm?
GSD: In the first year we produced a big quantity of grains, vegetables, and flowers for the Deities and devotees in Zurich. This year we have more of an infrastructure, so we'll produce even more.
Our aim is to grow all the food needed for the devotees in the Swiss temples for the whole year. We especially want to provide for the book distributors so they can stay healthy and strong and distribute many books for many years. The more we become aware of the unhealthy ways that food in the materialistic society is produced, the more we want to eat our own food so we know what we're eating.
BTG: What's your attitude toward the use of technology?
GSD: We want to get rid of needless technology, but that has to happen gradually, as people learn to work with natural means. Why work hard in factories in the name of progress and forget about God? Here we want to restore God consciousness and a natural means of earning one's livelihood.
BTG: What role do you play on the farm?
GSD: My role mainly is to inspire devotees, give them a vision, and help them settle at the farm. I also take care of finances, construction, administration, organization, and legal affairs.
In the beginning you have to put a lot into organizing. But as the project takes shape and stands more on its own—say in another year—I hope that other people can take up the management and I can do more counseling. I am also involved in getting the school established.
BTG: So far, then, you don't have a school.
GSD: Not yet. We want to develop a gurukula, of course, a Krsna conscious school. Otherwise, where will our kids go for schooling? So first we'll start a day school, then later add a boarding school. If we have a good school, automatically devotees and friends will settle at our place and enroll their children. That will make the project a success.
Devotees need communities, and children need a Krsna conscious education. We can't expect the renounced members of our movement to see to this; it has to come from the householders' side. So more and more senior householders should take this need seriously and invest their time and energy into developing communities and schools. Prabhupada gave us many wonderful instructions in this regard. If we discuss his instructions and how to implement them, then Krsna will give us the intelligence to make them happen.
The chateau sits in a good location for spreading Krsna consciousness. It is near the Swiss and German borders and is three hours from Zurich, two hous from Basel, two hours from Geneva and Lausanne, and two hours from Paris. The nearest town is Dole, with forty thousand inhabitants, just ten minutes by car. And two bigger towns, Dijon and Besancon, about twenty minutes away, have about four hundred thousand people.
An important highway passes near the project. It comes from northern Germany and goes to southern Spain. So the Swiss and Germans who go on holiday to southern France or Spain take that highway.
The devotees plan to attract tourists by advertising their guesthouse and vegetarian restaurant. The project is already being used for Krsna conscious retreats and seminars.
Bhima Frees Ekacakra
While in hiding disguised as a brahmana,
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 are now living disguised as brahmanas with a brahmana family. Kunti, the mother of the Pandavas, has overheard the family speaking about a great dilemma: one of them must deliver food to a Raksasa—a man-eater—and so give up his or her life. Kunti offers to solve the family's dilemma.
KUNTI DEVI SAID to the brahmana, "You should in no way be depressed over this danger, for there is clearly a means to get free from the Raksasa. You have a little son and a saintly virgin daughter. I don't think that you, the children, or your wife should go. I have five sons, brahmana, and one of them will take the offering on your behalf and go to the sinful Raksasa."
The brahmana said, "Though I wish to live, I shall absolutely not do what you suggest. When a brahmana is a guest in my home, I shall never take his life to serve my own interest. Even among the most low-born and irreligious women, there is no such rule that a woman is to sacrifice herself and her son for a brahmana. I should know what is best for me, so it seems, and between murdering a brahmana and killing myself, better that I take my own life.
"Killing a brahmana is the greatest sin. There is no atoning for such an act, even if committed unknowingly, so it is best that I take my own life. I do not desire to be killed, good woman, but if killed by others I would be guilty of no sin. Were I to intentionally cause a brahmana's death, I see no means of atonement for such a shameless act of cruelty. In just the same way, to sacrifice a person who has come to my home seeking shelter, to cause the death of one begging me for charity, I would consider the supreme cruelty. In ancient times the great souls who understood religious duties performed in times of trouble stated that one must never perform an abominable act or an act of cruelty. It is better that I myself perish with my wife, for I shall never allow the killing of a brahmana under any circumstances."
Kunti Devi said, "Learned brahmana, my mind will not move from my conviction that sages such as you must be protected. Nor is it that I don't love my own son. Even if I had a hundred sons, I would dearly love every one of them. The simple fact is that the Raksasa does not have the power to kill my son.
"My son has perfected the art of mantras. He is powerful and can burn like fire. My mind is convinced that he will deliver all the food to the Raksasa and then free himself. We have already seen many strong and giant Raksasas do battle with my heroic son, and every one of them was killed.
"But this is not to be spoken to anyone, no matter what, O brahmana, for surely people would desire to get this knowledge, and out of curiosity they would harass my sons. And without the permission of his guru, even if my son were to teach his knowledge to another the science would not perform its function. That is the opinion of the saintly sages."
At these words of Kunti the brahmana and his wife joyfully welcomed her proposal, which seemed to them like the life-giving nectar of the gods. Thereupon, Kunti and the brahmana went and spoke to Bhima, telling him that he must execute the task. He agreed and said, "So be it."
O Bharata, after Bhima had given his word, saying, "I shall do it!" the other Pandavas returned home, bringing the alms they had gathered.
Yudhisthira, son of Pandu, knew his brother well and could see from Bhima's appearance that something was happening. Sitting down with his mother in private, Yudhisthira asked her, "What is Bhima about to do, with all his awesome prowess? Has he received permission for something he desires to do here?"
Kunti Devi said, "Yes. Bhima, burner of the foe, will on my order perform a great task to help the brahmana and set the city free."
Yudhisthira Maharaja [understanding the task] said, "What is this rash enthusiasm that has led you to such a thoughtless act? The saintly do not recommend that a mother sacrifice her own son. Why do you want to give up your own son for the sake of someone else's son? By sacrificing your son, you have violated the moral codes of this world. By depending on his two arms, we all sleep peacefully at night and shall take back our kingdom, stolen from us by wicked cousins. Such is Bhima's immeasurable strength and courage that just by thinking about him, Duryodhana and Sakuni cannot lie down peacefully in their many mansions. By the strength of that mighty hero, we were saved from the house of lac and from other wicked men. He is the one who slew Purocana. Because we depend upon his strength, we are confident we shall cut down the sons of Dhrtarastra and regain our rightful rule over this most abundant earth. What were you thinking of that convinced you to abandon him? Could it not be that your intelligence was overcome by your many troubles and you lost your discrimination?"
Kunti Devi said, "Yudhisthira, you need not lament for Bhima. Nor did I reach my decision because of weak intelligence. Here in this brahmana's house we have been living very happily, my son, and I have correctly concluded that we must do something for him in return. After all, a man is measured by his gratitude; a great man remembers what another has done for him.
"Having seen Bhima's great prowess in the house of lac and the killing of Hidimba, I now have full confidence in him. The great power in Bhima's arms is equal to the strength of thousands of elephants, and by that strength all of you, who are yourselves like elephants, were carried out of Varanavata. There is no one with the strength of Bhima, nor will there be. Why, he could stand up in battle to thunder-wielding Indra, the best of the gods. Long ago, just a few days after his birth, he fell from my lap onto the hillside. So strong was his body that his limbs pulverized the mountain stone.
"With proper intelligence, I recalled the actual strength of Bhima, and I made up my mind, Pandava, to repay our debt to the learned brahmana. This decision is not a result of greed or ignorance, nor does it proceed from delusion. With careful thought I have determined our duty. Two purposes will be accomplished: we shall repay our stay in this house, and we shall perform an act of great piety. I have heard from authorities that a warrior who helps a brahmana in his hour of need attains to the planets where the pious dwell. A warrior who saves another warrior from death achieves widespread glory in this world and in the next. A warrior who helps a merchant in battle will certainly gain popularity among the citizens of every country. And a king who saves a laborer who has come to him begging for shelter will take birth in a wealthy family honored by the government.
"Vyasadeva, the incarnation of Godhead, has already declared these instructions, O Kaurava son, and he is extremely wise. Therefore, this is the desirable course of action."
Yudhisthira Maharaja said, "You acted, Mother, out of compassion for a suffering brahmana, and I see now that your plan is proper and well-conceived. Bhima will surely slay that man-eater and return to us. But we must seriously advise and restrain the brahmana so that the residents of the city do not discover us."
Bhima Confronts Baka
When the night had passed, the Pandava Bhimasena gathered the food and went to where the man-eater was waiting. Approaching the Raksasa's forest, the powerful Pandava called out the Raksasa's name, Baka, inviting him to come and eat the food. Thereupon the Raksasa, hearing Bhimasena's words, came in a fit of rage to where Bhima was stationed. Baka's body was huge, and as he came at great speed he seemed to shatter the earth. He tightened his eyebrows, which stood up like tridents, and he chewed horribly on his lips.
[While waiting for the demon, Bhima had begun to eat the food.] Seeing that Bhimasena was eating food meant for him, the Raksasa opened his eyes wide and angrily said, "Who is this stupid man who before my very eyes eats food sent for me? He must be eager to visit the lord of death!"
Hearing this, O Bharata, Bhima simply laughed, rudely ignored the Raksasa, looked away, and continued to eat. Then with a heart-stopping scream, the man-eater raised his hands and rushed to kill Bhimasena. But the mighty Pandava warrior again showed his contempt for the Raksasa, for without even looking up he continued to eat the food.
Wild with indignation, the Raksasa stood behind Kunti's son and slammed him in the back with both fists. Thus severely struck by the powerful demon, Bhima did not even glance at the Raksasa but went on eating.
Bhima gradually finished his meal. After washing his hands and mouth with water, that best of men stood up with all his enormous power, overjoyed at the opportunity to fight.
Newly enraged, the mighty Raksasa uprooted a tree and again rushed upon Bhima, trying to smash him with this weapon. As the tree was furiously hurled at him, powerful Bhima simply grabbed it. He held it with his left hand and laughed loudly, O Bharata.
Thereupon the demon pulled many kinds of trees out of the earth and hurled them at Bhima, who hurled them back at the Raksasa. A terrifying fight with trees arose between Baka and the Pandava, O king, and all the forest trees were ruined.
Proudly shouting his own name, Baka then rushed up to mighty Bhima and seized him with his arms. Bhimasena then wrapped his own huge arms about the Raksasa. As the demon writhed mightily in Bhima's grip, powerful Bhima dragged him about, and the demon dragged him in turn. Thus the man-eater was afflicted by intense fatigue. By the great power of the two fighters, the very earth shook. Battling their way through the forest, they pulverized gigantic trees.
Seeing clearly that the Raksasa was coming to the end of his endurance, Vrkodara, Bhima, slammed him against the ground and pounded him with his fists. Then Bhima pushed hard with his knee on the demon's back, holding the demon's neck with his right hand and seizing the demon's waist cloth with his left. As the demon screamed and bellowed in horrible anguish, Bhima broke him in two. As the horrible monster was being cracked apart, blood flowed from his mouth.
Terrified by the sound, the Raksasa's loyal followers rushed out of their homes, O king, accompanied by their servants. The powerful Bhima calmed them down, for they were practically fainting with fright. That best of fighters then made them agree to a treaty: "You Raksasas are never again to commit violence against human beings. Those who commit violence will at once be killed in the same way as Baka."
O Bharata, when the Raksasas heard this command they replied, "So be it!" and accepted the terms of the treaty. From that time on, O Bharata, the Raksasas of that country became peaceful and could be seen moving about the city with the humans who dwelled there.
Bhima took the lifeless body of the man-eater, threw it down by the city gate, and departed unseen. Having killed the demon, Bhima returned to the house of the brahmana and told King Yudhisthira all that had happened.
At daybreak, when the people began to walk outside the city gates they beheld the Raksasa lying dead on the ground, ripped asunder, blood still oozing from his body, which resembled a mountain summit. Seeing the frightful scene, they went back into the city of Ekacakra and reported the news.
Then, O king, the men of the city came there by the thousands with their wives, elders, and young children to see the slain Baka. They were all astonished at this superhuman deed, and all the people offered prayers and worship to their deities. The citizens calculated whose turn it had been that day to feed the demon. Thus they approached the brahmana and inquired from him about the awesome event.
Although questioned repeatedly, the brahmana protected the Pandavas. That best of sages declared to all the townspeople, "When ordered to feed the demon, I was weeping with my family when a very mighty brahmana with perfect knowledge of mantras saw me in that pitiable state. He first inquired about the cause of my suffering and then about the misfortune of our city. Laughing as if to encourage me, that most noble brahmana bravely declared, 'I shall deliver this food to the evil Baka! Do not fear for my sake.' He took the food and went toward Baka's forest. Clearly it was that saint who accomplished this feat for the good of the world."
All the brahmanas and ksatriya princes were quite amazed. Together with the merchants and workers they joyfully celebrated a festival in honor of the brahmanas, [for a brahmana had saved them]. Soon after, all the countryfolk came to the city to see the great wonder. The sons of Prtha continued to dwell in the very same place.
"He That Killeth an Ox"
by Hare Krsna Devi Dasi
Srila Prabhupada used to say that changing from one religion to another to make spiritual advancement is not necessary. All that's necessary is to actually follow the rules given in the revealed scripture of one's own religion. Srila Prabhupada emphasized that the fundamental principles for spiritual advancement are the same in every religion: truthfulness, austerity, cleanliness, and mercy. The Vedas say that these principles are maintained by avoiding four sinful activities: gambling, intoxication, illicit sex, and meat-eating.
Because all scriptures promote the same basic principles, we find in all religions prohibitions similar to these.
Still, sometimes people assert that their scripture permits them to kill and eat animals. Srila Prabhupada pointed out that such a belief is due to a mistaken interpretation of scripture. For example, he was concerned that many who call themselves Christians cripple their chances for spiritual advancement by eating meat, defying the Bible's commandment "Thou shall not kill."
Some people try to evade the meaning of this commandment by using the argument that the rule is meant to apply only to the killing of humans, not animals. But the Bible gives other statements opposing animal slaughter, some of which are quite explicit.
For example, the prophet Isaiah says, "He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man." (Isaiah 66.3) Even someone outside the Christian tradition can appreciate that this statement is true in many ways and how devastating animal slaughter is to spiritual advancement.
Killing the loyal workmate
The most obvious point is that a cow or bull is an exceptionally evolved creature of God, capable of fear, of learning commands taught by humans, and of expressing loyalty and affection to humans. To kill an animal that can serve so ably, faithfully, and affectionately is just like killing a man. With the same mental deviousness by which a person represses his horror at the sinful act of animal killing, he also shuts his heart, dulling its ability to perceive the true message of God. To enjoy meat one must set aside mercy and moral honesty—at the cost of spiritual awareness. Prabhupada writes, "Only the animal killer cannot relish the transcendental message of the Supreme Lord." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.3.24, purport)
Killing the poor and hungry
If I kill a bull and eat him, I and my wealthy friends may have a few meals, but if that animal had lived for ten or twenty years he could have produced enough grain to feed hundreds of people. Consider this example: When the bulls of South America are valued as raw material to export for hamburgers, the bulls become too costly for poor farmers who need them to produce grains for their families. If I want to enjoy eating a hamburger, I make it harder for poor farmers to come up with their daily sustenance.
Beef-eaters starve the poor in other ways too. Sometimes poor farmers are pushed off their land, and livestock are grazed directly on fields that used to feed peasants. More often the dynamics of growing feed grains for the meat industry causes the farmers' misery. As soon as you hear that it takes sixteen pounds of grain to produce one pound of beef, you know someone has to suffer. Both mercy and austerity are destroyed with every bite of hamburger.
The global pattern of poor farmers being shut out by invasion of the meat industry is described by David Barkin, Rosemary Blatt, and Billie De Walt in Food Crops vs. Feed Crops: "Staple cereals, traditionally produced by small-scale farmers for themselves and for most of their neighbors to consume, are being displaced by grains produced commercially for animal feed, for sale in middle and upper income markets, and export."
So how do the poor survive once they have lost their food and homes to help expand the meat industry? Not very well according to Barkin and his colleagues:
Once traditional food production systems are destroyed and small producers displaced, it is extremely difficult to reverse the process. Displaced producers often leave rural areas altogether in search of other means of livelihood. This disruption and migration is wreaking havoc with existing organization of society in many countries, while no alternative productive activities are emerging for these displaced populations.
Killing the body
Doctors and scientists warn of the deadly toxins, pathogens, and cholesterol ingested by eating meat—so much for the principle of cleanliness. In light of the injunction "He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man," we can understand that when a man kills and eats a bull, in one way the man he is killing is himself. Worse yet, if he takes his kids to a hamburger stand for a treat, the man he kills may be his son, since children more than adults are at risk of dying of kidney failure by eating tainted meat.
Killing Mother Earth
The cow is the emblem of Mother Earth, and when we raise cows and bulls for slaughter we are killing Mother Earth. Crowding cows into a cattle ranch is a far cry from having a couple of oxen and cows for plowing and milk. Commercial beef production is one of the most ecologically ruinous businesses of the industrial age. Without encouragement from the meat-eater, the whole disastrous business would quickly end. Meat-eating is killing Mother Earth.
Killing the slaughterhouse worker
In 1988 the U.S. House Committee on Government Operations found conditions in the meat-packing industry to be more dangerous than in any other industry, including coal mining and construction, with nearly a third of slaughterhouse workers suffering job-related injuries or illnesses annually. As described by one union vice president, "Workers stand in a sea of blood ... on treacherously slippery floors covered with animal fat buildup. ... Nearly all the workers wield razor-sharp knives and power tools. ... Because of breakneck chain speeds and close working conditions, workers frequently are accidentally stabbed by their neighbors."
Working conditions in the slaughterhouse are so hellish that annual turnover rates commonly run between sixty and a hundred percent. What does this kind of work do to a person's ability to act and feel as a normal human being? We don't want to think about it. Washington Post columnist Colman McCarthy summarized the invisible plight of the butchers: "Flesh-eaters keep the workers as far out of sight as they do the idea of swallowing pieces of animal corpses out of mind." ("Those Who Eat Meat Share in the Guilt," 16 April 1988)
Do Unto Others ...
As we see, there are many ways to "kill a man" simply by eating a hamburger. And every principle for spiritual advancement is destroyed when we kill an ox and eat his flesh.
Yet, ironically, when I once shared Isaiah's admonition with a self-proclaimed Christian, he maintained that Christians are exempt from the teachings of the Old Testament of the Bible and had only to follow Christ's instruction "Do to others what you would have them do to you." (Luke 6.31) What he failed to see was that Christ's instruction leads to the same conclusion.
Would he like to have his throat cut in a slaughterhouse surrounded by screaming, terrified animals? Would he like to have hear his children crying in starvation because he couldn't afford a bull to produce their food? Would he like to be a child with his body racked with fever and pain from eating poisoned meat? If he were Mother Earth, would he like to see his forests and fields destroyed by the cattle industry? Would he like to annihilate his human sensibilities by having to work in a slaughterhouse? Would he like to have any of these things done to him? No? Then how can meat-eating be considered compatible with his claim of being a Christian—especially with the complex set of miseries meat-eating creates in the modern context?
To truly follow Christ's instruction would mean to be free from such sin by not taking part in the meat-eating culture at all. As Vaisnavas, we're not planning to follow all the details of the Christian's scripture, and we don't expect him to follow all the details of our scripture. We're only asking that he make his spiritual life successful by following the injunction given in his own scripture: "Thou shall not kill."
Full Prasadam for All
By Ravi Gupta
When we at our Hare Krsna center in Boise, Idaho, suggested that members of our congregation sponsor the Sunday feasts, some guests from the Indian community questioned ISKCON's emphasis on mass distribution of prasadam, food offered to Krsna. In India, our guests said, temples usually give a little piece of rock candy or some fruit, not a full meal. So much prasadam is not needed. The temple is meant for worship, not for socializing over full meals.
Our reply, in summary, was that everything should be offered to Krsna, including full, opulent meals, and the Vaisnava practice is to liberally distribute Krsna's prasadam (literally "mercy") and encourage people to honor it (eat it) to their full satisfaction.
In the eighteenth chapter of the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna says that one should never abandon the giving of charity. In the present age the recommended charity is the distribution of prasadam—charity in a form everyone can appreciate. And because the food has been accepted by Krsna, it is completely spiritualized. So the more we distribute prasadam, the more it satisfies the recipients' bodily and spiritual hunger.
Prasadam for Everyone
So charity, in the form of prasadam, should be given in abundance to everyone. That practice is still observed in many places in India. For example, thousands of people receive full prasadam every day from the Jagannatha temple in Puri and the Balaji temple in Tirupati. And now, through Hare Krishna Food for Life, ISKCON centers distribute prasadam to thousands of people throughout the world.
Srila Prabhupada wrote in a letter, "If we believe that Krsna is providing and maintaining everyone, then why should we be misers? This means losing faith in Krsna and thinking that we are the doers and suppliers. We are confident Krsna will supply! Let the whole world come; we can feed them."
Bhakti-yoga at Home
IN MY LAST COLUMN I wrote about inviting and welcoming the Lord in His Deity form into your home. Now I'll discuss how to please such a special guest. A beautiful method is to offer arati, made available to us by the enlightened teachings of the scriptures, the previous saints, and the bona fide spiritual master.
Arati is a ceremony in which one offers various items to the Lord. The main ingredient, however, is love, which makes any offering acceptable to Lord Krsna. So try to see how the following procedures can enhance your loving attitude.
Before offering arati you should bathe, decorate yourself with tilaka, put on clean clothes, and perform acamana,* but if for some reason you are unable to do these things, you can chant Hare Krsna. The Srimad-Bhagavatam says that although this age, the Kali-yuga, is an ocean of faults, one redeeming quality, the holy name of the Lord, can make everything perfect. So if ever you are doubtful what to do, or think you've made a mistake, or sense some lack in your practice, chant Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, and everything will be just fine. By chanting the holy names, any mistakes become rectified, any incompleteness becomes complete, any uncertainty or fear goes away, and any uncleanliness becomes purified. So take shelter of the holy names and, as Lord Krsna says, "Don't worry." (Bhagavad-gita 18.66)
*Acamana is the process of sipping water for purification. To perform acamana you need a small cup of water and a spoon. Either purchase a metal set from your temple shop, or use something locally available (which preferably has not been used for anything else.) Clean both hands by sprinkling them with water and then, holding the spoon in your left hand, pour three drops of water into your right palm. Chant om kesavaya namah ("I offer my obeisances unto Kesava, Lord Krsna"), and sip the water. Pour a few more drops into your palm, chant om narayanaya namah ("I offer my obeisances unto Narayana, Lord Krsna"), and sip. Once again a few drops, chant, om madhavaya namah ("I offer my obeisances unto Madhava, Lord Krsna"), and sip.
While ringing a bell with your left hand, offer your Deity incense, a burning ghee-wick*, a flower, and a fan. Using your acamana cup and spoon, sprinkle a few drops of water on each article of worship and offer it to Krsna. According to the Pancaratra-pradipa, ISKCON's guide to Deity worship, you can offer the incense by waving it in seven graceful clockwise circles around the body of the Lord. Offer the burning ghee-wick by making four circles to the Lord's lotus feet, two circles to His navel, three to His face, and seven to His whole body. Offer the flower (or flowers) in the same manner as the incense, and wave the fan before the Lord several times.
*To make a ghee wick, soak in ghee (clarified butter) a small cotton ball with a tuft of cotton extended and twirled into a wick. Although making a ghee wick sounds simple, getting it right takes some practice. If you live near a temple, ask an expert ghee-wick maker at the temple to show you how.
If you like you can also offer some water in a little conch shell, followed by a cloth. You can do this after you offer the flame, and in the same manner as the incense and flowers.
We cannot approach the Lord directly and worship Him unless we are pure devotees. Therefore, we offer arati on behalf of our spiritual master, who in turn offers arati on behalf of his spiritual master, and so on. So before offering each item to your Deity, first offer it to a picture of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (or of your own spiritual master and then to Srila Prabhupada).
While you offer arati, other family members and friends can, as their offering to Krsna, sing, dance, clap their hands, and play musical instruments. If you are alone, you may wish to sing or to play a recorded kirtana or bhajana.
I mentioned at the start that Krsna is your guest. Actually, you are His guest, and you can you show this by creating an altar in your (Krsna's) home. Then whenever you clean or improve any part of your house, the work can be for Krsna and so a part of your Deity worship. The kitchen, especially when you prepare offerings of food for your Deity, is a direct extension of your altar, so keep the kitchen as clean and neat as possible.
This is a simple outline. Should you wish to know more details, please consult your devotee friends or available literature, such as Pancaratra-pradipa.
The bestial civilization of eating, sleeping, fearing, and sense-gratifying has misled modern man into forgetting how powerful a soul he has. ... The soul is a spiritual spark many, many times more illuminating, dazzling, and powerful than the sun, moon, or electricity. Human life is spoiled when man does not realize his real identity with his soul.
—His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
For the soul there is neither birth nor death at any time. He has not come into being, does not come into being, and will not come into being. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.
—Lord Sri Krsna
With one-pointed attention, one should constantly hear about, glorify, remember, and worship the Personality of Godhead, who is the protector of the devotees.
No one can understand Krsna as He is by the blunt material senses. But He reveals Himself to the devotees, being pleased with them for their transcendental loving service unto Him.
—Srila Rupa Gosvami
"The living entities are fragmental parts of the supreme shelter, Krsna, but have fallen from Krsna's kingdom of spiritual pastimes. Because of forgetting the Supreme Lord, they become prone to sinful life and turn their attention to dangerous material objects, which fill them with constant fear. If one desires to subdue the mind, which is constantly engaged in the duality of mental concoction, one must take to the devotional service of Lord Krsna."
—Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura
Devotion, direct experience of the Supreme Lord, and detachment from other things—these three occur simultaneously for one who has taken shelter of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, in the same way as pleasure, nourishment, and relief from hunger come simultaneously and increasingly, with each bite, for a person engaged in eating.
—Sri Kavi Rsi
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.