Statement of Purposes
1. To help all people discern reality from illusion, spirit from matter, the eternal from the temporary.
Time to Celebrate
SRILA PRABHUPADA'S Centennial is here. After four years of preparation, the celebrations have started. Let us pray to Lord Krsna for the success of our attempt to glorify His pure devotee Srila Prabhupada.
We followers of Srila Prabhupada see this year as an opportunity to expand the Krsna consciousness movement far and wide. An unprecedented number of devotees can take part in increasing the distribution of books, prasadam (food offered to Krsna), and the Lord's holy name. We can revive and strengthen our bonds of spiritual friendship and love, renew our dedication to Srila Prabhupada, and work together to strengthen his International Society for Krishna Consciousness.
The momentum created by this Prabhupada-centered celebration can boost Lord Caitanya's movement into the twenty-first century. The Srila Prabhupada Centennial can prepare ISKCON to become the dynamic spiritual force it is meant to be.
As this column appears, the first major Centennial event is about to begin—the Hare Krsna World Convention. Srila Prabhupada wanted devotees to gather in India once a year for spiritual association. This year's month-long reunion will be the largest international gathering of Hare Krsna devotees ever, with programs in Mayapur, Calcutta, Delhi, and Vrndavana. The highlights of the convention are the grand opening of Srila Prabhupada's Puspa Samadhi (shrine) in Mayapur, the Navadvipa Mandala Parikrama (a pilgrimage through the land of Lord Caitanya's pastimes), 100-country processions in Calcutta and Delhi, and a grand finale in Vrndavana, featuring a spectacular boat festival at the sacred lake Kusuma Sarovara.
Srila Prabhupada was born on one specific day, but his Centennial lasts all year. So after celebrating the Hare Krsna World Convention together, devotees will disperse to organize and take part in local, national, and continental celebrations worldwide.
Among the Centennial activities are the Hare Krsna Utsava, a fifteen-month traveling festival to honor Srila Prabhupada in thirty-two Indian cities; the opening of large temple complexes in Delhi, Bangalore, and Ahmedabad; Centennial festivals in New York, Belgium, Moscow, Brazil, and many other places; 108 million books to be distributed—can we do it?—and the Sahasra Tirtha Jala Maha Abhiseka, a bathing ceremony for Srila Prabhupada with water from 1,008 holy places.
Ahead of us is a year of wonderful festivities, spiced with deep remembrances of Srila Prabhupada and happy meetings with old and new friends. Please spread the word and take part in the celebration of the century. At your local temple pick up a copy of the pamphlet "108 Ways to Celebrate Srila Prabhupada's Centennial" and choose the items that appeal to you the most. Whoever you are, wherever your are, please take part in the Centennial celebration. It promises to be spiritually rewarding for everyone. Be part of this attempt to glorify Srila Prabhupada with all our heart and strength.
May his fame spread all over the three worlds.
Consoled by BTG
Recently my cousin Reshma Rampersad, a very great devotee of Srila Prabhupada and Srimati Radharani, left her body. A week prior to this she spent a few weeks at Sri Sri Radha-Radhanatha temple in Durban and did a lot of service, especially in preparation for the Janmastami festival there. In order to console ourselves, and think of her death in a Krsna conscious manner, we turned to the Back to Godhead magazine. This made us stronger in our devotional service. I am sure this wonderful magazine will help many more devotees in the future—in all situations.
The Enemy Within
I would like to thank Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami for his excellent article "Where Are the Enemies?" appearing in the July/August issue. My personal experience of twenty years while presenting Krsna consciousness to the so-called high society of Bombay and other parts of India is that
(1) Gambling increases and feeds the enemy within the gambler by increasing his lust and greed, leading to further illusion.
(2) Meat-eating (including eating of eggs) increases the sins of anger and envy towards other living beings, leading to acts of madness.
(3) Intoxication quickly increases illusion and madness.
(4) Illicit sex thrives on lust, increases anger, envy, and illusion, and makes a person commit truly demonic acts of madness.
I might add a positive remedy also, emphasized repeatedly by Srila Prabhupada. To fully rid oneself of the last traces of the six enemies one should do at least the following five things (originally listed by Srila Rupa Gosvami, the great acarya who was a principal disciple of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu):
(1) Chant the maha-mantra—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. (Srila Prabhupada recommends that we chant at least 16 rounds per day without fail and avoiding offense.)
(2) Regularly read Bhagavad-gita As It Is and other books, such as Srimad-Bhagavatam, which are now available in almost all the major languages of the world from the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.
(3) Eat only prasadam (food offered to Krsna, literally "mercy").
(4) Associate with devotees by discussing topics of Krsna regularly.
(5) Live in a temple of Krsna. You can make your own house a small temple by putting Sri Sri Radha-Krsna at the center and having a proper Deity room for prayers, and so on.
By following the above, our soul will be purified. We will then be eligible to develop pure love of God and go back home, back to Godhead.
Sri Nathji Dasa
Reading and Sharing
BTG has been very valuable to me. It has helped me to open my eyes and has shown me many different aspects of the Krsna consciousness movement. I read each issue cover to cover many times and share it with others.
Subtly Becoming Hodge Podge
In regard to the decreasing quality of BTG articles, I liked the format change made a few years ago. I did not find everything in that new format attractive, but I found at least one or two articles of interest in each edition. I especially liked to read (1) the histories of holy places and pastimes there, (2) Hare Krsna Devi Dasi's articles, and (3) Sadaputa Dasa's articles. However, now it seems that the format of BTG has subtly changed to a hodge podge of short articles, none of which has enough substance to make it worth a subscription. Furthermore, the demigod articles seem to have been written for children, not anyone familiar with even the basics of Krsna consciousness.
Inappropriate Armenia Photos
While I offer you and all devotees my sympathy regarding the sobering incident involving fellow devotees in Armenia, I would like to express my extreme dissatisfaction with the article in the July/August issue of Back to Godhead which portrayed it. The photos were violent, more appropriate for a human-rights publication than an ISKCON publication. Besides the negative impact on children who might come across them, the emotional effect they could have on anyone seems to me to be against the ISKCON belief in the importance of peace, selflessness, and bhakti. I object to the insensitive inclusion of these pictures.
I feel strongly about this matter because of an incident that occurred at my home yesterday, when Back to Godhead arrived in the post. I live with two housemates—a woman and her four-year-old daughter—and when the child saw the magazine (which she knows always has beautiful, uplifting devotional pictures) she asked to look at it. We hadn't yet read it ourselves, but since this was an ISKCON publication there would certainly be no pictures that were inappropriate for her.
We were sorely mistaken. As one would expect, she was quite shaken by the photos. I felt angry, despite myself. It is evident that this article was published on selfish grounds. If Back to Godhead is going to include pictures of devotees being abused, then why not pictures of horrors towards other people as well? Or is ISKCON only concerned with its own? I think we should try harder to see things from a broader perspective.
What is required is more earnest devotion, not more sensationalist press. We need to inquire into what our personal duty entails rather than inducing anger towards others, however evil they may be. Only by adopting this philosophy and conveying this message can we sincerely say we are on the genuine path back to Godhead.
OUR REPLY: Several other readers conveyed to us similar views. Though the pictures quickly get across what happened, their brutality is an element not expected in BTG. Our apologies to those who felt shocked. The material world is a grim place. Though we prefer to highlight the joyous and transcendental, in Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna sometimes sees fit to remind us, also, that the material world is a place of horrors and miseries. But we shall try to be more sensitive about pictures that show these miseries so repulsively. We are against illicit sex also—but that doesn't mean we should print pictures of it.
As for selfishness, we sympathize with all victims of human-rights abuses. Yet BTG is a magazine concerned with Krsna and the Krsna consciousness movement. That is why we reported only on abuse toward devotees in Armenia, not on other atrocities committed in Armenia or elsewhere. To give an opposite example: We sometimes publish articles about children and families. But the articles concern families in Krsna consciousness, not family life in general. Our guiding principle: A topic fits BTG when Krsna and His devotees are the focus.
The article was indeed intended to arouse strong feelings. Even anger has an appropriate place in Krsna consciousness. A devotee feels the full range of human emotions—even anger. We understand that ultimately no one is evil—everyone is eternally a part of Krsna and therefore eternally good. Yet when the eternally pure soul picks up evil qualities and becomes violent towards the Lord and His devotees, a feeling of outrage is a natural spiritual response. Lord Krsna tells us in Bhagavad-gita that one reason for His descent to this world is to see to it that honest people are protected and evil-doers vanquished. We feel compassion even for the doers of evil. But we should show them kindness, we believe, not by passively sitting aside but by protesting their evil deeds and stopping them.
Exaggerated Tea Costs
In reference to Ravi Gupta's article "Helping Our Motherland" (July/August), he writes "I estimate that every year an average family in India spends 15,500 rupees, or about $500, on tea." With all due respects to the teenager, upon reading these figures, though an estimate, I couldn't fail to see the exaggeration. An average Indian family spending 1,280 rupees monthly on tea is unaffordable. My relatives in India, a family of four, for example, make do with a pension of 800 rupees along with the help of the land and the cow. Even if they spend 640 rupees monthly on tea—half of what Ravi Gupta estimates—they would certainly plunge into a hole of extreme poverty.
OUR REPLY: Thank you for pointing this out. Despite the questionable estimate, we hope readers caught the main point of the article—that the best we can do for people in India is to encourage them to give up non-Vedic habits, such as drinking tea.
Responding to our desire, Krsna gives us a chance to forget Him.
A lecture given in Tokyo, on April 20, 1972
by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Sri Sukadeva Gosvami said: O king, unless one is influenced by the energy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, there is no meaning to the relationship of the pure soul in pure consciousness with the material body. That relationship is just like a dreamer's seeing his own body working.
MANY PEOPLE INQUIRE, "How did the living entity, who was with Krsna, fall into the material world?" That question is answered here. The living entity's condition is simply the influence of the material energy; actually he has not fallen. An example is given: The moon appears to be moving when clouds pass in front of it. Actually, the moon is not moving. Similarly, the living entity, because he is a spiritual spark of the Supreme, has not fallen. But he is thinking, "I am fallen. I am material. I am this body."
The body has no connection with the soul. We can experience this. The body is changing, dying, but I am the same. The idea that we have a connection with the body is due to the handling of the illusory energy of Krsna. That illusory energy develops when we forget Krsna.
In other words, our illusory identification with the body is simply due to our forgetfulness. We wanted to forget; we wanted to give up Krsna and enjoy the material world. Therefore Krsna is giving us the chance. For example, when you play a part in a drama, if you feel, "I am king," then you can talk very nicely. And if you feel, "I am Karandhara*," then you cannot play a king so nicely. The feelings must be there. If you are playing the part of a king, you must believe you are the king and have his courage. You have to forget that you are Karandhara. Then you can play the part very nicely, and the audience will appreciate. But if you think simultaneously, "I am Karandhara, and I am playing the part of the king," then you cannot play.
*A disciple in the audience.
So because we wanted to play the part of Krsna, the enjoyer, Krsna is giving us the chance—"You feel like Me." The feeling that "I am master, I am king, I am Krsna, I am God" is created by Krsna: "All right. You want to play the part of a king. I shall train you in such a way."
The director of a play tries to create the feelings within you for the part you are playing. In my younger age I played in a drama about Lord Caitanya. Our director, Amritlal Bose, repeatedly said, especially to me, "Feel like that." So when we performed under his direction, all the people in the audience were crying. The play was artificial, but the effect on the audience was so nice.
Similarly, we have nothing to do with the material world, but we have been trained by the illusory energy in such a way that we think, "I am Indian," "I am American," "I am a brahmana," "I am a sudra," "I am this," "I am that," "I have to do this," "I have so many duties." These are all illusions. We have nothing to do with all this nonsense, but still we are taking it very seriously: "I have to do like that. I am this. I am that."
That is explained here. Atmamayam rte rajan parasyanubhavat-manah: "Unless one is influenced by the energy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, there is no meaning to the relationship of the pure soul in pure consciousness with the material body."
The example is given of a man dreaming. "Oh, there is a tiger, a tiger! Save me!" He is crying. An awake man observing may say, "Where is the tiger? Why are you crying?" But the dreaming man is actually feeling, "The tiger has attacked me."
Therefore this example is given: na ghatetartha-sambandhah. There cannot be any meaning of the relationship of the soul and the body except that it is like a dreaming man creating a situation. He is dreaming there is a tiger, and he is creating a fearful situation. Actually there is no cause of fear. There is no tiger. The situation is created by a dream.
Similarly, we have created the material world and material activity. People are running around—"Oh, I am the manager. I am the factory owner. I am this, I am that. We know his politics. We have to defeat our competitors." All these things are created just as a man creates a situation in a dream—svapna-drastur ivanjasa.
So when someone asks, "When did we come into contact with the material nature?" the answer is that we have not come into contact. By the influence of the external energy we think we are in contact. Actually we are not fallen. We cannot be fallen. We have simply created a situation. Rather, we have not created a situation; Krsna has given us a situation. Because we wanted to imitate Krsna, Krsna has given an opportunity: "All right. You want to imitate. You want to be an imitation king on the stage. So feel like this. Play like this. Do like this. People will applaud—'Oh, a very nice king.' "
Everyone in the material world is playing some part. "I want to be prime minister." "I want to become a very big business magnate." "I want to be a leader." "I want to be a philosopher." "I want to be a scientist." They are trying to play all these nonsense parts, and Krsna is giving the opportunity—"All right."
But these things are all nonsense. Simply dreaming. When you dream, the next moment the dream is gone, and everything in the dream is finished. No more tiger, no more jungle. Similarly, as long as the body continues, I think, "I am a responsible leader. I am this. I am that." But as soon as the body is finished, these ideas are gone.
Krsna says, mrtyu sarva-haras caham: "I am death. I take everything away." Just think of our past life. Suppose I was a king or something like that. From Bhrgu-samhita it was ascertained that I was a big physician in my last life, with a spotless character, no sins. I don't know. It may be. But I have no remembrance that I was a physician. So what do we know? I might have been a very big influential physician, with a good practice, but where is it all now? All gone.
So our contact with matter is just like a dream. We are not fallen. Therefore, at any moment we can revive our Krsna consciousness. We become liberated as soon as we understand, "I have nothing to do with matter. I am simply Krsna's eternal servant." Sometimes when a fearful dream becomes intolerable, we break the dream. Similarly, we can break the material connection at any moment as soon as we come to the point of Krsna consciousness. "Oh, Krsna is my eternal master. I am His servant." That's all. That is the way.
Actually we are not fallen. We cannot be fallen. The same example: Actually there is no tiger; it is dreaming. Similarly, our fallen condition is also dreaming. We are not fallen. We can simply give up that illusory condition at any moment.
So if you study all these verses very nicely, you will get all this knowledge quickly. Now what is the purport?
[A disciple reads:] "Maharaja Pariksit's question as to how a living entity began his material life, although he is apart from the material body and mind, is perfectly answered. The spirit soul is distinct from the material conception of his life, but he is absorbed in such a material conception because of being influenced by the external energy of the Lord, called atma-maya. This has been already explained in the First Canto in connection with Vyasadeva's realization of the Supreme Lord and His external energy. The external energy is controlled by the Lord and the living entities are controlled by the external energy."
Prabhupada: Krsna says, mam eva ye prapadyante mayam etam taranti te: "As soon as one surrenders unto Me, he has no more illusion." People are conditioned, encaged. Mayavadis, or impersonalists, undergo austerities and penances just to become liberated. Yogis also try to become "one." So many endeavors are going on. But the simple process is that as soon as you surrender you are not fallen. "It was illusion. I was dreaming. I am Krsna's." By thinking in this way, one immediately becomes liberated. Immediately. Within a second.
Liberation can be attained within a second, provided we abide by the order of Krsna. Sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja. This is the position. We are not fallen. We are thinking we are fallen. So we have to give up this nonsense thinking. Then we are liberated.
Is there any difficulty in understanding this point? Just see how important this verse is. It is already there, but you are not reading. Read each verse; read every day carefully. Try to assimilate, understand, and you will get more profit—every day a hundred yards forward. They are such important verses. How nicely composed by Vyasadeva! In two lines the whole thing is explained. This is called sastra.
Read the purport.
[The disciple reads:] "The external energy is controlled by the Lord, and the living entities are controlled by the external energy—by the will of the Lord. Therefore, although the living entity is purely conscious in his pure state, he is subordinate to the will of the Lord in being influenced by the external energy of the Lord. In the Bhagavad-gita (15.15) also the same thing is confirmed; the Lord is present within the heart of every living entity, and all the living entity's consciousness and forgetfulness are influenced by the Lord."
Prabhupada: Now, people may ask, "Why does Krsna within the heart give one type of consciousness to one and a different type of consciousness to another?" That is His kindness. I wanted to forget Krsna, so Krsna is giving the appropriate consciousness: "All right, you can forget Me in this way."
The karmis, or ordinary materialists, the Mayavadis, and the so-called yogis wanted to forget Krsna. So Krsna is giving them intelligence: "All right. You forget Me like this." And if you want to revive your relationship with Krsna, He will give you intelligence. Dadami buddhi-yogam tam yena mam upayanti te: "I shall give you intelligence to come to Me." Ye yatha mam prapadyante. As you want, Krsna gives you facility.
Go on reading.
[Disciple reads:] "Now the next question automatically made will be why the Lord influences the living entity to such consciousness and forgetfulness. The answer is that the Lord clearly wishes that every living entity be in his pure consciousness as the part and parcel of the Lord and thus be engaged in the loving service of the Lord as he is constitutionally made; but because the living entity is partially independent also, he may not be willing to serve the Lord, but may try to become as independent as the Lord is. All the nondevotee living entities are desirous of becoming equally as powerful as the Lord, although they are not fit to become so."
Prabhupada: The living entity will never be God, but we see that by the influence of the illusory energy many people think, "I am God," or "I shall become God by pressing my nose like this." This is going on. But they will never be able to become God. That is not possible. If everyone can become God, then there is no meaning of God.
Karmis say, "I shall become a millionaire. I shall become a trillionaire. I shall become head of state. I shall become prime minister." They struggle to attain these things.
And for yogis to think, "I shall become God" is simply another struggle. It is illusion. Krsna may give them some yogic success. In India there is a rascal who makes gold appear. And people are after him—"Oh, he is God, he is God." By producing a little gold, he becomes God.
Another yogi makes two rasagullas [sweets] appear. So by producing two rasagullas, four cents' worth, he becomes God. You see? This is illusion. I can purchase two rasagullas from the market for four cents, so he has become God for four cents. People think, "Oh, he is God. He can produce rasagullas." They have no sense. I can produce rasagullas in our kitchen. But rascals think, "Oh, this yogi is wonderful."
So Krsna gives a person some power of yogic siddhi, or perfection, and the person thinks, "I have become God." And some flatterers think, "Oh, you are God." Such yogis are in the same dream as the karmis. And as soon as death comes, everything is finished—your Godhood and everything, finished. Now comes doghood. And another dream: "I am dog." First of all "I am God," then "I am dog." This is going on.
Therefore Bhaktivinoda Thakura has said, (miche) mayar bose, jaccho bhese': "Why are you being washed away by the waves of maya? Just stand up." (Jiv) krsna-das, ei biswas, korle to ar duhkho nai. "Simply stay fixed on this point: 'I am an eternal servant of Krsna.' Then there is no more dream." And if you allow yourself to be washed away, Krsna gives you facility: "All right, come on. Be washed away."
[Disciple reads:] "The living entities are illusioned by the will of the Lord because they wanted to become like Him. Like a person who thinks of becoming a king without possessing the necessary qualifications, similarly, when the living entity desires to become the Lord Himself, he is put in a condition of dreaming that he is a king. Therefore the first sinful will of the living entity is to become the Lord, and the consequent will of the Lord is that the living entity forget his actual life and thus dream of the land of utopia where he may become one like the Lord. The child cries to have the moon from the mother, and the mother gives the child a mirror to satisfy the crying and disturbing child with the reflection of the moon. Similarly the crying child of the Lord is given over to the reflection, the material world, to lord it over as a karmi and to give this up in frustration to become one with the Lord. Both these stages are dreaming illusions only. There is no necessity of tracing out the history of when the living entity desired this. But the fact is that as soon as he desired it, he was put under the control of atma-maya by the direction of the Lord. Therefore the living entity in his material condition is dreaming falsely that this is 'mine' and this is 'I.' The dream is that the conditioned soul thinks of his material body as 'I' or falsely thinks that he is the lord and that everything in connection with that material body is 'mine.' Thus only in dream does the misconception of 'I and mine' persist life after life. This continues life after life, as long as the living entity is not purely conscious of his identity as the subordinate part and parcel of the Lord.
"In his pure consciousness, however, there is no such misconceived dream, and in that pure conscious state the living entity does not forget that he is never the Lord, but he is eternally the servitor of the Lord in transcendental love."
Prabhupada: Thank you very much.
Temple of Visnu
By Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami
DEVOTEES KNOW that their bodies are temples of Visnu, or Krsna. Krsna, the Absolute Truth, appears in three features: as the impersonal Brahman, as the Supersoul, and as Bhagavan, the personal feature, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. As the Supersoul, the Lord resides in every body, in the heart, along with the individual soul. Therefore, devotees respect their own bodies by keeping them clean and following good practices for health. Devotees don't perform needless austerities, and they especially avoid austerities harmful to the body or not prescribed in the scriptures. Krsna tells us that such austerities are in the mode of ignorance. Similarly, devotees avoid ignorant foods such as meat, fish, and eggs. Devotees follow the injunction of Bhagavad-gita that one should not eat too much or too little, sleep too much or not sleep enough. They don't want to torture either the individual soul or the Supersoul residing in the body. A devotee recognizes that he does not own his body; the body is only rented from Krsna. Like any rental, it should be treated responsibly.
Devotees know that other people's bodies are temples of Visnu also. Srila Prabhupada writes in his purport to Bhagavad-gita 9.11, "A devotee should see that because Krsna is present in everyone's heart as Paramatma [the Supersoul], every body is the embodiment of the temple of the Supreme Lord; so as one offers respect to the temple of the Lord, he should similarly properly respect each and every body in which the Paramatma dwells. Everyone should therefore be given proper respect and should not be neglected." A devotee therefore extends respect not only to other human beings but to living beings in all species of life. When we recognize the Lord's presence in everyone's heart, we are more inclined to respect every living being. The Bhagavad-gita tells us that a learned person sees with equal vision a brahmana, an elephant, a dog, and a dog-eater (outcaste). One can see all living beings equally when one perceives the same Supersoul within the heart of all.
In the Srimad-Bhagavatam (4.3.22) Lord Siva explains this to his wife, Sati: "My dear young wife, certainly friends and relatives offer mutual greetings by standing up, welcoming one another, and offering obeisances. But those who are elevated to the transcendental platform, being intelligent, offer such respects to the Supersoul sitting within the body, not to the person who identifies with the body."
Lord Siva said this after he was insulted by Daksa, his father-in-law, early in the world's creation. Daksa was performing a great sacrifice, to which he had invited the demigods. He was a prajapati, one of the universal progenitors, and was therefore powerful. His body emanated a beautiful aura, and when people saw it they naturally offered him respect. When he entered the sacrificial arena, however, although all the others present stood up to receive him, Lord Siva was lost in meditation on Krsna and did not notice Daksa's arrival. Daksa was offended and in turn insulted Lord Siva.
Srila Prabhupada comments, "It may be argued that since Daksa was the father-in-law of Lord Siva, it was certainly the duty of Lord Siva to offer him respect. In answer to that argument, it is explained here that when a learned person stands up and offers obeisances in welcome, he offers respect to the Supersoul, who is seated in everyone's heart."
Lord Siva was not neglecting Daksa; since Lord Siva was already offering respects to the Supersoul of the universe, those respects naturally included respects to the Supersoul in Daksa's heart.
Still, devotees offer respects not only to the Supersoul but also to the individual soul. Therefore a devotee may offer obeisances differently according to the soul's development. Although there is no such thing as "better" souls or "lesser," different living entities have different degrees of advancement. One living entity may identify with his or her bodily existence whereas another may be liberated from bodily identification. If we were offering respects only to Lord Visnu, we would offer the same respect to every living entity, but because we respect the individuality of the soul, we offer respect according to the living entity's nature.
Those in the gross mode of ignorance cannot see the soul. Those in the mode of passion, preoccupied with bodily forms, cannot see the underlying equality and unity of all beings. But Krsna defines knowledge in the mode of goodness as follows: "That knowledge by which one undivided spiritual nature is seen in all living entities, though they are divided into innumerable forms, you should understand to be in the mode of goodness." Srila Prabhupada writes, "A person who sees one spirit soul in every living being, whether a demigod, human being, animal, bird, beast, aquatic, or plant, possesses knowledge in the mode of goodness. In all living entities, one spirit soul is there, although they have different bodies in terms of their previous work."
"Oneness" in this sense does not mean that there is one soul in myriad bodies, as the impersonalists teach, but that an individual soul of equal quality is present in the heart of each living being. A plant has a soul, and we offer the respects appropriate for a soul in a plant's body. For obvious reasons, although we respect the presence of the soul and Supersoul in the body of a tiger, we do so from a distance.
Of course, we show the most respect to other human beings, but a devotee does not base that respect on a person's material position. Devotees shouldn't look at other living entities as objects to gratify their senses. Therefore, men should respect women as mothers and no one should try to exploit other living beings for sense gratification. To exploit others is to exploit the resources of the Lord's temple and thus defile it.
A devotee offers the most respect to pure devotees. The Nectar of Instruction advises that one respect devotees in terms of their relationship with Krsna: "One should mentally honor the devotee who chants the holy name of Krsna, one should offer humble obeisances to the devotee who has undergone spiritual initiation and is engaged in worshiping the Deity, and one should associate with and faithfully serve that pure devotee who is advanced in undeviated devotional service and whose heart is completely devoid of the propensity to criticize others."
The highest repository of respect for a devotee is someone advanced in pure devotional service and free from envy. Freedom from envy means freedom from the bodily concept. The nonenvious devotee has the ability to see the "one" soul in all living beings. Such a humble devotee has nothing to gain from anyone but everything to give, because he possesses Krsna.
Cooking Class: Lesson 22
By Yamuna Devi
THE SRILA PRABHUPADA Centennial year is a cause for great celebration and a chance for us to relish on many levels increased spiritual commitment. Our individual offerings and group projects are underway. We may be focusing on internal areas of our spiritual development, or heading up or joining activities from ISKCON'S twelve "lotus petals" of celebration. Either way, our devotional endeavors can lead us from a great year into an even greater future.
One way to make this a great centennial year is by discussing more about Srila Prabhupada. I plan to do that in this column. I'll recall more of Prabhupada's instructions in the form of recipes, cooking lessons, prasadam distribution, and exchanges in the kitchen. This should give you more insights into Srila Prabhupada the person. For me, writing more about Srila Prabhupada is an opportunity to remember him in greater detail, to uncover more of what is locked away in my memory. I hope my attempts, imperfect as they are, will enhance your appreciation of Prabhupada's purity and devotional qualities.
Once as I was offering Srila Prabhupada my obeisances, he said that to remember, we must first chant and hear. So to remember him, let us increase our chanting and hearing about him. Let us repeat stories over and over again for purification and inspiration, and pass them down for future generations to cherish.
Jams and Preserves
Jams and preserves are the next topic in the cooking class and the next subject in the class textbook, Lord Krishna's Cuisine. Prior to the incident that follows, I had seen no evidence that jams, jellies, or preserves have a tradition in the Indian kitchen.
The Ramana Reti Kitchen
ISKCON's Krsna-Balaram Temple in Vrndavana is located in an area known as Ramana Reti. In 1973, the construction of Srila Prabhupada's house in Ramana Reti, adjacent to the temple, was far from finished. In truth, he ate, slept, translated, and met with guests in the partially completed large main room. Several women, myself included, lived in what is now his dining room. His secretary's base camp was a small area now part of the main entrance, and his servant worked just off the main room in the small room that now houses museum artifacts. Aside from a brief stay in his quarters at the Radha-Damodara temple during the fall (Kartika) of 1972, when visiting Vrndavana Prabhupada stayed in his unfinished Ramana Reti house.
From the spring of 1972 through the fall of 1974, I was his unofficial Vrndavana cook. I took care of both the Radha-Damodara and Ramana Reti kitchens and did most of his cooking. The Ramana Reti kitchen was a makeshift affair in a room under construction—bare brick walls, a concrete floor, and unfinished window frames with temporary bars to ward off monkeys. Two metal trunks held pots, utensils, and dry staples like dal, rice, and spices. Like many kitchens in Vrndavana, this one had no electricity or running water, but Srila Prabhupada seemed to like it, wandering in on many occasions to observe activities in progress.
I worked within an area of the rough floor I'd marked off with bricks mortared together with Yamuna River mud. Every morning, 72-year-old Anand Prabhu, one of Srila Prabhupada's godbrothers and one of my all-time favorite cooking teachers, would walk nearly two miles to bring me two buckets of fresh, sweet well-water for cooking. I used two stoves—a gas burner and a portable wood stove, called a chula, which was little more than a five-gallon galvanized bucket covered with a thick layer of smooth mud. I cooked the main meal in Srila Prabhupada's three-tiered brass steamer, on either stove. But the capatis were always griddle-baked and flame-toasted on the chula, over a mixture of four parts aromatic neem (margosa) coals and one part dried cow-dung patties.
Prabhupada Makes Jam
One morning before leaving Vrndavana, Srila Prabhupada called for me and asked about several pending matters. After instructing me about his lunch, he asked whether good guavas were available in Loi Bazaar, Vrndavana's largest vegetable market. I hesitatingly said perhaps, having sporadically seen them in recent days but not knowing if I could find good-quality fruit. I had been thinking that the produce of the last fortnight had been only mediocre, and I knew Srila Prabhupada was aware of it. He had often said that no matter how able the cook, good flavor requires ingredients that are seasonal, high quality, and really fresh.
The guavas I ultimately bought were neither good nor bad but some-where in the middle. They were yellow, moderately sweet and moderately fragrant, with hard skins and seeds.
It was late afternoon when Srila Prabhupada came into his kitchen, inspected the fruit, and decided to make it into jam. He squatted down on his haunches and asked for a knife and cutting board. After washing his hands, the fruit, the knife, and the cutting board, he cut each fruit into eight pieces. While cutting, he told me that this jam was a favorite from his childhood, a special treat. He had learned to make it from his mother, who would bring it on family outings or as a gift when they visited his maternal uncle. Now he wanted to have some for his travels. He loaded the cooker with guavas and asked me to light the gas stove.
A Lesson on Waste
Indian wooden matches have always seemed inferior to me. They snap easily, their igniting tip is thin, often flaring rather than lighting, and they are anything but water-resistant. After retrieving the matchbox from the trunk, I knelt down before the stove and struck a match. It fizzled. I struck a second one, and it snapped into three pieces. The third went futz, futz and went out. The fourth flared briefly and went out. The fifth Srila Prabhupada took out of my hand before I could strike it.
I recall his movement almost as if it were in slow motion. With ease he struck the match against the box, cupping his hands around the budding flame as if protecting it from Arctic winds. The flame leapt out on the first strike as he lowered it to light the stove. As I looked at him with puzzled awe, he spoke before I could open my mouth. A devotee, he said, should become expert, know how to use things properly, and avoid waste. As I looked at my small pile of unlit matches resting before the stove (I see them again as I write), I realized how far I had to go in these three areas. I am still working on them today.
As Prabhupada made the jam, I noted down the ingredients and procedures. The measurements in the recipe given here are my own, arrived at by testing and developing the recipe. Adjust the amounts as desired, but end up with a product that is a cross between jam and a spicy fruit butter—thick, hot, and sweet.
This year, let us pray for ever deepening appreciation and glorification of Srila Prabhupada. Let us strive to increase our ability to relish him in new and fresh ways. Let us pray to understand more and more about the how, what, when, where, and why of Srila Prabhupada's mission.
And keep on cooking for Krsna ...
Spicy Guava Jam
(Makes about 2 cups)
Lord Krishna's Cuisine has a recipe for Rich Guava Jam by Pallika Dasi, who also learned it from Srila Prabhupada. Give both recipes a try, perhaps on buttered, flame-toasted capatis, on any nimki-like cracker, or on thin slices of homemade multi-grain toast.
1 ¼ pounds just-ripe guavas
Cut the guavas into eighths and steam them in a steamer basket for about 45 minutes. Over low heat, dry-roast the coriander, cumin, cardamom, kalanji, chilies, and cinnamon stick until the cumin darkens a few shades. Crush the cinnamon stick with a mallet, then coarsely grind all the spices, either in a spice mill or with a mortar and pestle.
Transfer the softened guavas to a saucepan and mash them to a puree (or pass them through a food mill). Place the saucepan over low heat and add the sugar and lime juice. Stirring, cook until the jam is thick, about 218-221 degrees F (103-105 degrees C) on a candy thermometer. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the powdered spices, and cool. Offer to Krsna.
Store the jam in well-sealed containers. Once opened, keep refrigerated. It will last for up to two weeks.
The Inconceivable ... One More Time
By Ravindra Svarupa Dasa
A NUMBER OF Back to Godhead readers have written—several at formidable length—to express doubts or objections concerning the essay "On Conceiving the Inconceivable," published in this column last summer (July/August). I hope it will be helpful for me to respond to the more significant points raised.
You may recall that the essay addressed the conceptually vexing question How did the conditioned soul—the jiva—get that way? Upon this topic—"the jiva issue"—a small but prolix band of people in and about ISKCON have piled up a great number of words. I was loathe to add to them. For to expend time and energy on this issue goes counter to the instructions of Srila Prabhupada. "What is the use of such discussion?" he wrote about efforts to comprehend the causal history of the jiva's falldown. "Don't waste your time with this." (1)
Why did I go against such clear instruction? How did I become so foolish as to rush in where angels fear to tread? It happened like this.
Last year ISKCON's Governing Body Commission, on which I serve, had to deal with an uproar caused by a 300-page book on the "jiva issue" that a couple of devotees had just written and published.
The controversy arose over the way in which the authors attempted to resolve the issue. The reader may recall that the issue centers upon the apparent incompatibility of two authoritative accounts of the origin of conditioned souls. One account—which receives by far the most stress in Prabhupada's teachings—tells that the conditioned souls were originally Krsna conscious, but that they willfully repudiated service to Krsna and in so doing fell from the spiritual into the material world. The second account holds that conditioned souls have been so perpetually, while the eternally liberated souls in the spiritual world never fall.
How are these two accounts to be reconciled? The controversial book before the GBC reconciled the two simply by throwing out the first of them. Yet how is it possible to dispose of that account? After all, it is a prominent leitmotif of Srila Prabhupada's teaching. It is presumed by the name Srila Prabhupada gave this very magazine. The story of the jiva's fall, theorized the book's authors, is Prabhupada's benevolent fiction. It is a myth, a white lie, invented by Prabhupada because we Westerners are mentally incapable of accepting the concept of a soul that has simply always been conditioned.
Asked to pass judgment on this theory, the GBC resolved that this way of solving the jiva issue was unacceptable. The GBC ruling went no further, but naturally in discussion the question came up of what sort of resolution would be acceptable. To further the GBC's discussion, I produced the little paper later published in these pages. I labored to keep the paper short—a minimalist work—because I wanted to be considerate of the GBC as well as faithful to Srila Prabhupada's instruction not to waste time—mine or the readers'—on this issue.
The editor of Back to Godhead read the little essay, liked it, and published it here. He saw the brevity of the article as a virtue.
Some readers, however, have seen it as a vice. Several in particular have deplored the paucity of "quotes"—they mean explicit citations and quotations from authorities. One reader claims that such references are a requirement, especially when presenting "a new elucidation," while another asserts their absence sufficient in itself to prove the article "mental speculation" and nothing more. (2)
It is not the case that a Krsna conscious article requires explicit citations and quotations. As a brand-new devotee, I received much knowledge and inspiration from a little piece by Srila Prabhupada called "On Chanting Hare Krsna." (3) A paradigm of brevity and elegance, (4) it is innocent of any quotations or references. Yet one who knows the philosophy of Krsna consciousness recognizes that every word is faithful to authority.
When I wrote the jiva article, I had supposed that devotees would similarly have little trouble recognizing the source of the ideas in it: Srila Prabhupada. Rather than presenting "a new elucidation," my article set forth my spiritual master's own resolution of the "jiva issue." In the rest of this essay, I will provide the quotations to show that.
Some of the demand for proof-texting focused on a premise of the article: that the account of the fall of the jiva is an authoritative narration. Is there indeed scriptural and traditional authority for it?
In the Fourth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam, Narada Muni narrates the allegorical story of King Puranjana. In the part that concerns us, Puranjana has just died and his widow, Vaidarbhi, is lamenting piteously. A brahmana approaches the queen and introduces himself as her "eternal friend." The brahmana, who symbolizes the Supersoul, says to the grieving queen:
My dear friend, even though you cannot immediately recognize Me, can't you remember that in the past you had a very intimate friend? Unfortunately, you gave up My company and accepted a position as enjoyer of this material world. My dear gentle friend, both you and I are exactly like two swans. We live together in the same heart, which is just like the Manasa lake. Although we have been living together for many thousands of years, we are still far away from our original home. (5)
Commenting on these verses, (6) Srila Prabhupada explains that the passage "gave up My company and accepted a position as enjoyer of this material world" refers to the soul's fall from the spiritual into the material world. To explain "how the living entity falls down into this material world," Srila Prabhupada quotes Bhagavad-gita 7.27: "All living entities are born into delusion, overcome by the dualities of desire and hate."
"In the spiritual world there is no duality, nor is there hate," Prabhupada says. But "when the living entities desire to enjoy themselves, they develop a consciousness of duality and come to hate the service of the Lord. In this way the living entities fall into the material world." He elaborates further: "The natural position of the living entity is to serve the Lord in a transcendental loving attitude. When the living entity wants to become Krsna Himself or imitate Krsna, he falls down into the material world."
In Narada's allegory, the brahmana speaks of himself and the queen as two swans—symbolically the Supersoul and the soul—who have wandered together far away from their "original home." What place is that? Prabhupada explains:
The original home of the living entity and the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the spiritual world. In the spiritual world both the Lord and the living entities live together very peacefully. Since the living entity remains engaged in the service of the Lord, they both share a blissful life in the spiritual world. However, when the living entity wants to enjoy himself, he falls down into the material world. (7)
It is clear that Narada Muni teaches here in Srimad-Bhagavatam that the conditioned souls dwelt originally in the spiritual world, their homeland, where they enjoyed a relation of active service with Krsna. However, these souls willfully gave up Krsna's company in order to become enjoyers. Srila Prabhupada explains that they wanted to imitate Krsna rather than serve Him. As Prabhupada states it elsewhere in his Bhagavatam commentary: "The first sinful will of the living entity is to become the Lord, and the consequent will of the Lord is that the living entity forget his factual life and thus dream of the land of utopia where he may become one like the Lord." (8)
In addition, Srimad-Bhagavatam repeatedly speaks of liberation in Krsna consciousness as a restoration, a return, a reawakening, a recovery, a remembering. Narada Muni uses such language himself a little further on in his allegory of the soul and Supersoul:
In this way both swans live together in the heart. When the one swan is instructed by the other, he is situated in his constitutional position. This means he regains his original Krsna consciousness, which was lost because of his material attraction. (9)
In this verse "regains his original Krsna consciousness" is a translation of nastam apa punah smrtim. Krsna consciousness is literally a lost (nastam) memory (smrtim) which is gained (apa) once again (punah). In Srimad-Bhagavatam this terminology of forgetting and once again remembering is invoked over and over. (10) Remembering, regaining, returning, recovering—all these terms presuppose a past state that had once been ours, had then become lost, and will be ours once more. Srimad-Bhagavatam teaches it, and so, of course, does Srila Prabhupada.
Srila Prabhupada as Authority
What I have given is sufficient to establish the authority of the account of the jiva's fall, and I will leave it at that. I may disappoint readers who will want proof-texting from authorities who stand between Narada Muni and Srila Prabhupada in the disciplic succession. I am confident, however, that Srila Prabhupada is a bona fide spiritual master. As such, he is a "transparent medium" who represents (literally, presents over again) the entire tradition coming from Krsna. To those readers who claim not to have found in those authorities confirmation of the teaching spelled out here, I can only suggest that you go back and look again. Srila Prabhupada undoubtedly understands those authorities better than you or I. Go back, and this time use Srila Prabhupada as your guide.
Srila Prabhupada is uniquely qualified to understand spiritual teaching. Such understanding is hardly a matter of academic scholarship. The Svetasvatara Upanisad, in its concluding verse (6.23), tells who among its readers will have revealed to them the purport of what they've read: only a great soul, a mahatma, who possesses pure devotion (para bhakti) to the Lord and, in equal measure, to his spiritual master. Srila Prabhupada himself exhibited extraordinary devotion to the Lord and to his guru. Only because of that devotion was he empowered to achieve unprecedented success in preaching Krsna consciousness throughout the world. I take the greatness of his success as a measure of his greatness of soul, and therefore I accept him as empowered by Krsna also with the ability to penetrate deeply into the meaning of spiritual teaching. It is therefore my policy to follow him in his understanding.
This is what I tried to do in my Back to Godhead article. It is not that Srila Prabhupada was silent on the "jiva issue." His disciples brought it up a number of times, and there are lectures, letters, and conversations in which he addressed it head on. Never once do we find him so much as hinting that Narada Muni's account of the origin of bondage is a myth or fiction. Rather, he defends that account vigorously and teaches his disciples how to reconcile it with the statements that there is no fall from Vaikuntha, the spiritual world.
The central point in Srila Prabhupada's reconciliation is that every single soul is in fact eternally liberated (nitya-mukta) and not a single soul ever really leaves the spiritual world. The so-called "conditioned souls" (nitya-baddha) only superficially appear to be so to themselves, and their apparently bound state is an illusion of such vanishingly small duration and significance that it is virtually of no weight at all in the true scale of things.
Thus, Srila Prabhupada said that the appellation nitya-mukta is factual, while the appellation nitya-baddha is only a manner of speaking. "You are not eternally conditioned," Srila Prabhupada wrote one disciple.
You are eternally liberated, but since we have become conditioned on account of our desire to enjoy [the] materialistic way of life, from time immemorial, therefore it appears that we are eternally conditioned. Because we cannot trace out the history of the date when we became conditioned, therefore it is technically called eternally conditioned. Otherwise the living entity is not actually conditioned. (11)
As Srila Prabhupada affirmed in a Srimad-Bhagavatam lecture, (12) "We cannot be eternally conditioned, because we are part and parcel of Krsna. Our natural position is ever liberated, eternally liberated." The term "eternally conditioned," according to Srila Prabhupada, is not accurate from the philosophical point of view, but is a figure of speech.
Constitutionally every living entity, even if he is in Vaikuntha-loka, has [a] chance of falling down. Therefore the living entity is called marginal energy. But when the falldown has taken place for the conditioned soul is very difficult to ascertain. Therefore two classes are designated: eternally liberated and eternally conditioned. But for argument's sake, a living entity being marginal energy, he can't be eternally conditioned. The time is so unlimited that the conditioned souls appear to be eternally so, but from the philosophical view they cannot be eternally conditioned. (13)
Even as Srila Prabhupada speaks of the soul's fall from Vaikuntha, he also upholds the statements that Vaikuntha is that place from which no one falls. The deep truth of the matter is that we are even now in Vaikuntha but we don't know it. Lecturing on Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.9.1, Srila Prabhupada directly says that now he will reply to those who ask, "How did the living entity, who was with Krsna, fall into the material world?" Prabhupada then states that the fallen condition is merely an appearance: It "is simply the influence of the material energy, nothing more; actually he has not fallen."
Prabhupada gives this example: Just as clouds passing in front of the moon at night make the moon appear to move, so the material energy makes the soul, who is eternally with Krsna, appear to be fallen. "Actually, the moon is not moving. Similarly, the living entity, because he is a spiritual spark of the Supreme, has not fallen. But he is thinking, 'I am fallen. I am material. I am this body.' "
The second example Srila Prabhupada uses comes directly from the Bhagavatam verse. A dreaming person manufactures an alternate dream-self that he temporarily takes to be his real identity. Thus, the dreamer imagines himself undergoing all kinds of adventures. Say in a nightmare he dreams he is running in panic through a dense jungle at night, a huge and hungry tiger chasing him down. With a thudding heart, he hears the tiger coming inexorably closer. Then claws rake his back, and fangs crush his neck, and he wakes up screaming in terror. With relief he sees he is safe in bed. The fictional dream-self is gone. All along he had been safe in his own bed. He was never lost in any tiger-infested jungle.
So, when someone asks, "When did we come into contact with this material nature, the answer is that we have not come into contact. By the influence of the external energy we think we are in contact. Actually we are not fallen. We cannot be fallen. We have simply created a situation. Rather, we have not created a situation; Krsna has given us a situation. Because we wanted to imitate Krsna, Krsna has given an opportunity.
As the dreamer forgets that he is safe in his own bedroom, so we have simply forgotten where we really are: the spiritual world. (15)
Crow and Tal Fruit
Srila Prabhupada gives a more elaborate description of the nature of the jiva's bondage in the paper entitled "Crow-and-Tal-Fruit Logic." (16) He sent this paper to the GBC representative in Australia in June of 1972 to settle a controversy that had arisen there over this issue. (17) "Crow-and-Tal-Fruit Logic" presents Prabhupada's most thorough statement of the solution, and the paper was circulated throughout ISKCON. I saw it in Philadelphia that year and studied it carefully. Upon it I have based my reflections in the Back to Godhead article on eternity and time.
Prabhupada begins his paper by asserting our eternal and permanent relation with Krsna. "We never had any occasion when we were separated from Krsna," he says, and then he uses Srimad-Bhagavatam's analogy of a dream to explain how the illusion of separation arises. He also takes care to explain how it is possible for even a liberated soul to become illusioned:
Our separation from Krsna is like that. We dream this body and so many relationships with other things. First the attachment comes to enjoy sense gratification. Even [when we are] with Krsna the desire for sense gratification is there. There is a dormant attitude for forgetting Krsna and creating an atmosphere for enjoying independently. (18)
He then continues his exposition:
We cannot say, therefore, that we are not with Krsna. As soon as we try to become the Lord, immediately we are covered by maya. Formerly we were with Krsna in His lila, or sport. But this covering of maya may be of very, very, very, very long duration; therefore [in the interim] many creations are coming and going. Due to this long period of time it is sometimes said that we are ever-conditioned. But this long duration of time becomes very insignificant when one actually comes to Krsna consciousness.
Here Srila Prabhupada explains how this condition of illusion is "very insignificant." Not only is it insubstantial like a dream, but it is also momentary. Although within the dream unlimited years seem to pass, in reality the dream lasts virtually no time at all—a "moment" or a "second."
Then Srila Prabhupada offers another example of how a seeming long duration of time can last only an instant. He recalls the story of how the cowherd boys napped under the spell of Brahma for only one truti (or 8/13,500 of a second) of Brahma's time while an entire year passed in human time. (19)
Srila Prabhupada invokes the relativistic temporal structure of creation to explain how the illusion of the jiva is insignificant, and I followed him in my article. I attempted only to elaborate Srila Prabhupada's explanation in a more systematic and explicit manner. In the example of the cowherd boys, one truti of Brahma's time is contrasted to one year of human time. If we consider the case of the sleeping jivas rather than the sleeping cowherd boys, how much greater would be the contrast between real time (in the spiritual world) and dream-time (in the material world)? Obviously, the "moment" in real time would become vanishingly small—infinitesimally small—while in "dream-time" it would become infinitely great—anadi, without a traceable beginning.
In short, Srila Prabhupada uses the example of dreaming to say that the soul never really leaves Vaikuntha. And he alludes to the contrast between eternity and time to show that the soul's period of illusion is objectively instantaneous, that it lasts virtually no time at all.
This is how I derived my explanation from Srila Prabhupada. I focused my article on the relation between time and eternity because that seems the source of much of the difficulty in thinking about the jiva issue. I did not for a moment think that I was going to figure out the inconceivable, as some readers have charged. Rather, I simply tried to highlight what makes the subject so difficult to conceive.
One reader objected that the account in my article presents "Mayavada philosophy." Quoting from my article, he writes, " 'For the logic of eternity dictates that no one falls from eternity—even if he does so.' Here the author attempts to convince the reader that conditioned existence is an absolute illusion, a mere figment of the imagination, because the conditioned soul never really left the spiritual world." As I have shown, Srila Prabhupada teaches that conditioned existence is indeed a figment of the imagination, and that the conditioned soul never really does leave the spiritual world.
This is not Mayavada philosophy, however. The impersonalistic Mayavada philosophy claims that the Absolute has no energies: There is no material world, no dreaming existence; indeed, there is no jiva who dreams. On the contrary, Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.9.1 clearly states that the agent which produces the jiva's illusion is Krsna's own, real energy. My statement "No one falls from eternity—even if he does so" can only be construed as denying material existence by ignoring the second half of the statement.
Another reader seems to have been misled by taking the diagram of the temporal structure of the world somewhat too literally. For simpicity's sake, I depicted that structure by means of an equilateral triangle. A more accurate diagram, of course, would have the two ascending sides converging infinitely toward the center axis—an asymptote—never actually to meet. Similarly, the two sides in descending would infinitely diverge as they grew closer and closer to the baseline.
A triangle with an apex, however, could suggest that the illusion of matter doesn't exit at all; it "disappears" absolutely. In fact, that illusion does exist as illusion. From the point of view of reality, however, that illusion suffers a radical reduction in value and being. Material existence is like the flicker of a hallucination so quick, so close to subliminal, that afterward you are not sure it was there at all.
Did it happen or not? Never mind—here's Krsna. Let's get on with our game.
1. See "Srila Prabhupada Speaks Out," page 29.
2. Both readers, however, neglected to supply the requisite "quotes" in support of these assertions.
3. Once the title article of a street distribution booklet published by ISKCON Press (New York), "On Chanting Hare Krsna" has been reprinted under the title "Chanting the Hare Krsna Maha-mantra," in the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust anthology The Science of Self-Realization.
4. Elegant in the sense that a mathematical proof is said to be elegant.
5. Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.28.53-54.
6. We are reminded that Srila Prabhupada called his commentaries "purports," comments to make clear the intended meaning, sense, and purpose of the verse.
7. Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.9.1, purport.
8. Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.9.1, purport.
9. Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.28.64.
10. For instance, Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.31.15, 4.20.25, 6.16.57, 10.84.25, 11.2.37.
11. Letter to Aniruddha Dasa, November 14, 1968.
12. Lecture on Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.10.5, given June 20, 1973, in Mayapur, India.
13. Letter to Upendra Dasa, October 27, 1969.
14. The lecture, given in Tokyo on April 20, 1972, appears on page 7 of this issue of Back to Godhead.
15. During a class in London (July 30, 1971) on Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.1.15, Srila Prabhupada answered a question about our position in the spiritual sky before we fell by saying, "You are already in the spiritual sky. . . . Actually we are always in the spiritual world."
16. The paper appears in this magazine, on page 29.
17. In that case, some devotees were propagating the theory that since no one falls from Vaikuntha, the conditioned souls must have fallen from the Brahman effulgence. In "Crow-and-Tal-Fruit Logic," Srila Prabhupada rejects this theory. A few years earlier he had responded to the same theory in a letter to Revatinandana Dasa (June 13, 1970): "Those who are in the Brahman effulgence they are also in the fallen condition, so there is no question of falling down from a fallen condition. When fall takes place, it means falling down from the non-fallen condition. The non-fallen condition is Krsna consciousness."
18. Srila Prabhupada consistently taught that souls do in fact have the option of exercising their freedom even in the spiritual world and hence of falling into the illusion of material existence. Because the soul is a spiritual part of God, he has inherent independence or free will, which some misuse. For a sample of Srila Prabhupada's elucidations on the point, see: Lecture on Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.1.5 (London, July 30, 1971); discussion at the end of lecture on Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila 7.108 (San Francisco, February 18, 1967); conversation with Dr. John Mize in Los Angeles (June 23, 1975); conversation with disciples in Mayapur (February 19, 1976); conversation with disciples in Washington, D.C. (July 8, 1976); letters to Jagadisa Dasa (February 27, 1970, and April 25, 1970).
19. "When Lord Brahma returned after a moment of time had passed (according to his own measurement), he saw that although by human measurement a complete year had passed. ..." Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.13.40. The word for "moment" in this verse is truti. A truti is the smallest measure of material time. According to Srila Prabhupada's purport to Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.11.14, a truti equals 8/13,500 of a second.
Srila Raghunatha Dasa Gosvami
Srila Raghunatha Dasa Gosvami is an eternally liberated associ-ate of Lord Krsna who appeared to join the Lord when He ap-peared five hundred years ago as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
Although the son of a very rich landholder, Raghunatha Dasa had no interest in the things of this world. His sole desire was to gain the association of Lord Caitanya and dedicate himself to the Lord's service. Seeing Raghunatha's spirit of renunciation even as a young man, his family tried to keep him at home by all means, including guards. Somehow Raghunatha was able to escape their vigilance, and he made his way to Jagannatha Puri to serve Lord Caitanya.
Raghunatha's life in Puri showed him to be absorbed in transcendental consciousness. In the Caitanya-caritamrta, Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami writes: "Who could list the unlimited transcendental attributes of Raghunatha Dasa? His strict regulative principles were exactly like the lines on a stone. Raghunatha Dasa spent more than twenty-two hours out of every twenty-four chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra and remembering the lotus feet of the Lord. He ate and slept for less than an hour and a half, and on some days that also was impossible.
"Topics concerning his renunciation are wonderful. Throughout his life he never allowed his tongue sense gratification. He never touched anything to wear except a small torn cloth and a patchwork wrapper. ... Whatever he ate was only to keep his body and soul together, and when he ate he would reproach himself thus:
" 'If one's heart has been cleansed by perfect knowledge and one has understood Krsna, the Supreme Brahman, he then gains everything. Why should such a person act like a debauchee by trying very carefully to maintain his material body?' "
Raghunatha Dasa Gosvami served Lord Caitanya for sixteen years at Jagannatha Puri. After the Lord departed this world, Raghunatha went to Vrndavana, where he lived for many years at the sacred lake Radha-kunda. His bhajana-kutir, or place of worship, still exists there. He is one of the six Gosvamis of Vrndavana.
Srila Madhvacarya was born in Udupi, South India, in the early thirteenth century. From his early childhood it was obvious that he was a remarkable person. He once cleared his father of debts by converting tamarind seeds into coins. Whenever his mother was disturbed, from wherever he was he would appear before her in one jump. When Madhva was five years old, with his toe he killed a demon in the form of a snake living near his home.
Most noteworthy, however, were Madhvacarya's spiritual qualities. He received brahmana initiation at the age of five and accepted sannyasa, the renounced order of life, at age twelve.
Madhvacarya met Vyasadeva, the compiler of the Vedas, in the Himalayas, where Vyasadeva had been living for thousands of years. Madhva became a great scholar by studying the Vedas under Vyasa and used his erudite scholarship to crush the Mayavada (impersonalistic) philosophy. By defeating several Mayavada leaders, he became famous throughout India. He initiated eight disciples, who became the directors of his eight monasteries. Madhvacarya was also famous for his physical strength. A person named Kadanjari, who possessed the strength of thirty men, once challenged Madhva to fight. Madhva placed the big toe of his foot on the ground and asked the fighter to lift it. Kadanjari could not and had to admit defeat. Once Madhvacarya was attacked by robbers, but he killed them all. Another time, Madhva's companion Satya Tirtha was attacked by a tiger, but with his great strength Madhva separated them.
One day, while Madhvacarya was meditating by the sea, he saw a large boat in danger. He helped the boat to safety and was rewarded with a large chunk of gopi-candana, sacred clay from Dvaraka, the city where Krsna had lived on the west coast of India. As the clay was being carried, it broke apart, revealing a Deity of Lord Krsna. The Deity assumed such a great weight that not even thirty people could carry Him, but Madhvacarya personally carried Him to Udupi and installed Him there. The Deity is still worshiped there according to the standards set by Madhvacarya.
Madhvacarya is the principal acarya, or spiritual teacher, in the disciplic line in which Srila Prabhupada, and therefore ISKCON, has come. That line is known as the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya Sampradaya.
Events At Every Iskcon Center
Inauguration of the Centennial Year
World Holy Name Day
ISKCON's Incorporation Day
Book Distribution Marathon
Srila Prabhupada's Maha Vyasa-Puja (Appearance Day Celebrations)
Grand Finale of the Srila Prabhupada Centennial Book Distribution Marathon
Srila Prabhupada Centennial Awards Ceremonies
December 23, '95-March 24, '97
The traveling Hare Krishna Utsava (festival), complete with Deities, stage programs, animatronic shows, Krishna Vision shows, and 18 pavillions with displays. Visits 32 cities in 14 months.
February 19-March 17, '96
Devotees from all over the world gather in India for the Hare Krishna World Convention, a four week festival in Mayapur, Calcutta, Delhi and Vrindavan.
September 6, '96
Srila Prabhupadas Maha Vyasa-puja is celebrated in a grand way in Calcutta, his birth city. VIPs and devotees from around the world gather at the Netaji Subhas Chandra indoor stadium for the Sahasra Tirtha Jala Abhiseka—bathing Srila Prabhupada's deity with 1,008 sacred waters.
November 16-November 21, '96
The Glory of India Festival—opening of temple complexes in Delhi and Bangalore.
January 6-January 12, '97
The Bhaktivedanta Institute's Second World Congress for the Synthesis of Science and Religion, in Calcutta. Participants include 3,000 scientists, philosophers, religious leaders, and eminent thinkers from the world over.
Gathering in Mayapur for the Prabhupada Centennial Global Awards Ceremony and for establishing a Centennial Memorial.
Sacred Water Collection Completed
After eleven months of intense travels and treks all over the Indian subcontinent, devotees have completed the task of collecting water from 1008 holy sites. Other Centennial workers are now processing and bottling the waters to prepare them for shipping all over the world beginning in March. The waters will be used to bathe Srila Prabhupada on September 6, 1996, the one-hundredth anniversary of his appearance.
Centennial Kickoff In Bombay
ISKCON India inaugurated its Centennial celebrations in Bombay on December 23. The highlight of the inauguration was the launch of the 14-month traveling Hare Krishna Utsava (festival). The Bombay festival is drawing large crowds daily. The festival will stay in Bombay for one month and then move on to visit 32 cities in India during the Centennial year. To join the Hare Krishna Utsava, contact Pancaratna Dasa at ISKCON Mayapur.
Hare Krishna World Convention
February 19-March 17
• MAYAPUR: Feb. 19-Mar. 6, Reception of Padayatra India / Installation of Sri Panca Tattva / Navadvipa Mandala Parikrama / Grand Opening of Srila Prabhupada's Samadhi / World Expo and Memorabilia Exhibition / Seminars / Hare Krishna Utsava stage programs and animatronic shows / Prabhupada Multi-Vision shows.
• CALCUTTA: Mar. 7, 100 Country Procession.
• DELHI: Mar. 8-Mar. 9, 100 Country Procession, evening auditorium program.
• VRINDAVANA: Mar. 11-Mar. 17, Pandal Program in Mathura / Maha Harinama in Vrindavan / Parikramas / Seminars / Srila Prabhupada Bullock Cart Govardhana Parikrama / Boat Festival in Kusum Sarovar.
• AND ... Special train journey from Calcutta to Delhi by the Prabhupada Shatabdi Express—Departure on Mar. 7, Full Prasadam Service, Prasadam Distribution, Maha Harinama in Allahabad and Bathing at the Triveni Sangam, Grand Reception in Delhi.
Memories of Prabhupada
The Remembering Srila Prabhupada Nectar Project is compiling devotees' remembrances. Tape or write detailed descriptions of your memories of Srila Prabhupada's particular incidents with him, special instructions you received from him, and what especially impressed you in your dealings with him. Send them to Aditi Dasi, c/o Centennial, P.O. Box 1987, Alachua, FL 32615, USA. Phone: 1-800-205-6108.
Database of Devotees
One of the petals of the "lotus" of Centennial activities is Uniting Prabhupada's Family. In pursuit of that goal, the Centennial organizers are compiling a database of all devotees who have been initiated in ISKCON. Send (to the address below) the following information about yourself and any devotee you know who is living outside the association of devotees:
1. Initiated name
To: Ramiya Dasa, P.O. Box 1987, Alachua, FL 32615, USA. (The database will be used for Uniting Prabhupada's Family only.)
Bhaktivedanta Centennial Reading Program
Honor Srila Prabhupada by making a commitment to increase your reading of his books this year. You can take part in the Centennial Reading Program even if you can read only fifteen minutes a day. You'll receive a certificate awarding you for the books you complete. For more information, in North America call 1-800-205-6108. Elsewhere, get in touch with your national Centennial office or your nearest ISKCON center.
• Centennial video
• Centennial T-shirts, pens, stickers, badges, posters (including 12-petal lotus of activities), photo stands, shoulder bags
• Sahasra Tirtha Jala video, poster, and presentation folder
• Centennial Master Plan
• Memorials Manual
• Prabhupadanuga, The International Newsletter for Uniting Prabhupada's Family
• Prabhupada Toshani, The Newsletter of the Centennial
• Centennial brochure (color)
• Sahasra Tirtha Jala
• 108 Ways to Celebrate Srila Prabhupada Centennial
He Came with the Message of the Absolute World
ALTHOUGH ONE candle kindles unlimited numbers of other candles, each with the same intensity as the first, there yet remains the original candle. Similarly, although the Supreme Personality of Godhead expands Himself in unlimited forms, He yet remains the original cause of all causes. In the Vedas, that supreme original cause is known by the name Krsna because He possesses unlimited transcendental qualities, which can attract all living beings.
Five hundred years ago, that same supreme cause, Lord Sri Krsna, appeared as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and declared that the chanting of His holy names—Hare Krsna, Hare Rama—would spread beyond the shores of India to every town and village in the world. Hundreds of years then passed as Lord Caitanya's faithful followers endeavored to expand His mission. Still they remained wondering just how and when the Lord's bold prediction would come true.
Then, on August 13, 1965, just a few days before his sixty-ninth birthday, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami—philosopher, scholar, and saint—set out for America to see what could be done. Begging passage from a local steamship company, he traveled as the only passenger on board a small weathered cargo ship named the Jaladuta. In his possession were a suitcase, an umbrella, a supply of dry cereal, about seven dollars' worth of Indian currency, and several boxes of books.
When the Jaladuta arrived in New York harbor thirty-seven days later, Bhaktivedanta Swami was utterly alone. He had come to America knowing no one, with absolutely no visible means of support, and with only the meager handful of possessions he had carried on board the ship. He had no money, no friends, no followers, not his youth, good health or even a clear idea of how he would accomplish his far-reaching objective—to present the spiritual knowledge of the Vedas to the entire Western society.
In a poem written in Bengali just after his arrival, Bhaktivedanta Swami expressed his humble faith in Lord Sri Krsna and the special instruction of his own spiritual master, who had intended him to spread the teachings of Krsna consciousness throughout the English-speaking world: "My dear Lord Krsna. ... How will I make them understand this message of Krsna consciousness? I am very unfortunate, unqualified, and the most fallen. Therefore I am seeking Your benediction so that I can convince them, for I am powerless to do so on my own. ... I am sure that when this transcendental message penetrates their hearts, they will certainly feel engladdened and thus become liberated from all unhappy conditions of life...."
"Now I can see that it is a miracle. Otherwise, how could one old man, with only a few books to sell for barely getting food, introduce a God conscious movement in a materialistic society?"
This poem was written on September 18, 1965. Just twelve years later, on November 14, 1977, Bhaktivedanta Swami passed away in India at the age of eighty-one. What happened in those twelve years? What was Bhaktivedanta Swami able to accomplish during this brief period, having begun with nothing, and at an age when most are ready to retire? The list of accomplishments is striking by any standard.
In short, between the years 1965 and 1977, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, or Srila Prabhupada, as his followers affectionately came to know him, had spread the teachings of Krsna consciousness to every major city in the world and had formed an international society comprising thousands of dedicated members. He had established 108 temples, with magnificent estates spread across six continents, and had circled the globe twelve times to personally guide the membership of his broadening mission.
As if this were not enough accomplishment for a person proceeding from his seventieth to his eighty-second year, Srila Prabhupada had also translated, written, and published fifty-one volumes of books in twenty-eight languages, tens of millions of which had been distributed throughout the world. He had delivered thousands of lectures, written thousands of letters, and taken part in thousands of conversations with followers, admirers, and critics alike. And he had won the esteem of hundreds of prominent scholars and social figures, who had genuine appreciation for Srila Prabhupada's contributions to religion, philosophy, and culture.
The astonishing story of how Srila Prabhupada achieved such a marvelous result in twelve short years is far beyond the scope of this article. But the remaining pages will provide you with a glimpse into his remarkable teachings and achievements.
"I have come here in this old age neither for sightseeing nor for personal interest. It is for implementing the science of Krsna, which will actually make people happy."
AFTER ARRIVING in New York City in September 1965, Srila Prabhupada struggled alone for the first year to establish his God conscious movement. He lived simply, lectured whenever and wherever he got the opportunity, and gradually began to attract some small interest in his teachings.
In July of 1966, while still working alone from an obscure storefront on New York City's Lower East Side, Srila Prabhupada nonetheless founded a spiritual society intended for worldwide participation. He called it the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, or ISKCON for short.
At the time of incorporation, Srila Prabhupada had not attracted even one committed follower. Undeterred, he enlisted volunteers from among the small group of regular attenders at his evening lectures to act as ISKCON's first trustees. That was then. Today, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness comprises more than 300 temples, farms, schools, and special projects throughout the world and maintains a congregation numbering in the millions.
Krsna consciousness is more than another sectarian faith. It is a technical science of spiritual values that is fully described in the Vedic literature of ancient India. The aim of the Krsna consciousness movement is to acquaint all people of the world with these universal principles of God-realization, which lead to peace, unity, and, above all, spiritual understanding.
The Vedas recommend that in the present age the most effective means for achieving self-realization is to always hear about, glorify, and remember the all-good Supreme Lord, who is known by many names. One of these names is "Krsna," which means "He who is all-attractive," another is "Rama," which means "He who is the reservoir of all pleasure," and "Hare" indicates the Lord's inconceivable energy.
Following the Vedic recommendation, the members of ISKCON are always seen chanting Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. This sublime chanting puts us directly in touch with the Supreme Lord through the sound of His holy names and gradually awakens us to our original relationship with God.
ISKCON's primary mission is thus to encourage all members of human society to devote at least a portion of their time and energies to this process of hearing and chanting about God. In this way they will gradually come to realize that all living beings are spirit souls, eternally related to the Supreme Lord in service and in love.
Distributing Spiritual Food
Along with teaching Vedic knowledge and spreading the chanting of the Lord's holy names, ISKCON also freely distributes spiritual food throughout the world. Like the philosophy and the chanting, vegetarian food that has first been offered to the Lord purifies the heart and mind. Thus it assists in the process of gradually uncovering one's original awareness of God. ISKCON's distribution of spiritualized food, therefore, through its program known worldwide as "Food for Life," is beneficial for the body as well as the soul of each recipient.
"Human life is simply awarded to a living entity so that he can realize his spiritual identity and his permanent source of happiness."
Of all his various contributions, Srila Prabhupada considered his books most important. In fact, he would often describe his work of translating and explaining the ancient Vedic texts as his very life and soul. In 1970, Srila Prabhupada founded the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, now the world's largest publisher of Vedic literature. Through its work over the last quarter of a century, millions of people have read at least one of Srila Prabhupada's books and have felt their lives genuinely enriched. Here is a brief introduction to the spiritual knowledge you will find within those books.
Srila Prabhupada's Books Highlight the Importance of the Human Form of Life
There are many forms of life on this planet. There are immovable forms such as trees and plants, and a vast array of aquatic, insect, bird, beast, and mammalian forms as well. Our human form is also one among these varied forms of life, yet even a casual observer would have to agree that we human beings are endowed with unique capacities that distinguish us from all other forms of life. What exactly are those unique capacities?
We can begin answering this question with another. What is it that distinguishes a living form from a nonliving form? The answer is consciousness, or awareness. All living forms display this symptom of consciousness to one degree or another. That is why we call them living rather than dead. Even the small microbial germ or the common houseplant shows signs of consciousness, whereas our dining table and chairs do not.
It is also evident that different forms of life display different degrees and levels of consciousness, and the human form represents the highest development of consciousness that we know. It is this greater development of consciousness, then, that distinguishes the human being from all other forms of life on the planet.
But what is it about our consciousness that makes it so different from that of the insect, the bird, the beast, or even the monkey? These creatures eat and we also eat; they sleep and we also sleep; they reproduce and we reproduce; they defend themselves and so do we. That we can perform these functions with greater sophistication may be one indicator that we possess higher consciousness, but it does not fully explain our excellence above all other forms of life.
A more satisfactory explanation is found in our ability to question our existence, reflect upon our selves, and inquire into our own nature and the nature of God. We can create languages, ponder the meaning of life, and puzzle in wonderment over the nighttime sky. Such an endowment is not present in any other form of life.
The Vedas therefore advise that in this human form of life we should be inquisitive to know who we are, what the universe is, what God is, and what the relationship is between ourselves, the universe, and God.
We should inquire about the solution to the ultimate problems of life, namely birth, death, old age, and disease. Such questions cannot be asked by the cats and dogs, but they must arise in the heart of a real human being.
Srila Prabhupada's Books Reveal the Perfect Knowledge of the Vedas
If we can accept the importance of this type of inquiry, our next consideration will naturally be where to find authoritative answers to such questions. Clearly, if perfect knowledge of the self, the universe, and God exists at all, that knowledge would have to be of a standard higher than just your opinion or my opinion, or for that matter Freud's or Einstein's or anyone else's opinion.
Because all of us have imperfect senses and because we are all prone to make mistakes, our relative opinions about matters beyond our experience can supply neither valid nor reliable information.
"The Vedas are not compilations of human knowledge. Vedic knowledge comes from the spiritual world, from Lord Krsna."
Thus our attempt to approach such matters empirically will be fraught with various imperfections and ultimately fail. Therefore, so-called truths established exclusively on the basis of mental speculation cannot help us understand the Absolute Truth, which is beyond the reach of the imperfect senses and mind.
The Vedas explain that if we want to know about things beyond the jurisdiction of our experience—beyond the limitations of human perception and cognition—the process is to hear from one who knows. The transcendental knowledge of the Vedas was first uttered by the Supreme Lord Himself.
The Lord, the supremely powerful being, cannot fall under the influence of any other force. Therefore, His knowledge must be perfect. And anyone who transmits that knowledge without change gives the same perfect knowledge. We need only accept this proposition theoretically to progress in our understanding of Vedic thought.
The idea is that the perfect knowledge of the Vedas has been preserved over time by transmission through an unbroken chain of spiritual masters. Srila Prabhupada represents one such disciplic chain or succession. That succession goes back thousands of years to Lord Krsna Himself. Thus the knowledge found within Srila Prabhupada's books is the same as that originally imparted by the Supreme Lord. Srila Prabhupada did not manufacture "truths." He merely delivered the timeless teachings of the original Vedas without addition, deletion, or change.
The writings of Srila Prabhupada are represented mainly by three Vedic texts—the Bhagavad-gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam, and Caitanya-caritamrta. Together these works of literature comprise more than twenty-five volumes of detailed information constituting the original Vedic science of God-realization, or bhagavata-dharma. Their translation into the English language, along with elaborate explanations, constitutes Srila Prabhupada's most significant contribution to the spiritual, intellectual, and cultural life of the world.
Srila Prabhupada's Books Present a Universal Science of God-Realization
The Vedic teachings presented in Srila Prabhupada's books can be summarized under three general headings, known in Sanskrit as sambandha, abhidheya, and prayojana. Sambandha means our relationship with God, abhidheya means acting in that relationship, and prayojana means the ultimate goal or perfection. These three divisions of understanding represent universal principles common to all religious teachings of the world.
The knowledge described in Srila Prabhupada's books enables anyone to advance in his or her understanding of God without having to change current religious, national, or cultural affiliations. The science of how to understand God, how to understand one's relationship with God, and how to develop love for God has nothing to do with sectarian designations like "Christian," "Hindu," or "Jew." These are objectives no religion in the world could deny. They are, in other words, the essence of religion—universal features by which all religions may be understood.
Preferences regarding God's holy name may differ from one religion to another, modes of worship may differ, and details of ritual and doctrine may differ as well. But the test is how much the practitioner actually develops knowledge of God and love for God. Real religion means to learn to love God. And how to love God is the sum and substance of the teachings found in Srila Prabhupada's books.
SriLa Prabhupada's Books Explain the Difference Between the Self and the Body
Without exception, all material phenomena have a beginning and an end. A prominent idea of modern culture is that consciousness is another such material phenomenon. Thus it is believed that consciousness (or the self) also ends with the death of the body.
"The scientists say life arose from matter. But they cannot actually demonstrate this in their laboratories."
This point of view, however, remains only an assumption. It has not been proven true by any scientific observation or experiment.
Nonetheless, the idea that the self ends with the body remains one of the great articles of faith of modern materialistic thought, and most of us have been educated from early childhood to think of ourselves in terms of such beliefs. Few of us, however, have thought through the philosophical implications of this type of thinking, which draws us unconsciously toward voidistic and nihilistic styles of life.
The most basic of the Vedic teachings stands in direct opposition to the modern scientific view of consciousness and life. According to that teaching, individual consciousness is not at all dependent upon neurobiological functions but permanently exists as an independent reality.
The presence within the material body of a conscious observer who re-mains always present throughout changing bodily and mental states indicates the existence of two energies—the spiritual energy (represented by the conscious self) and the material energy (represented by the temporary body). The Vedas explain that this spiritual energy, symptomized by consciousness, continues to exist even after the material body is finished.
If each of us is an eternal soul covered only by different temporary bodily dresses, we can reasonably conclude that the highest welfare activity for all of human society is that which awakens us to our true spiritual identity and our dormant relationship with God. That activity is called Krsna consciousness.
Just as there is neither glory nor profit in saving the dress of a drowning man, there is neither glory nor profit in humanitarian efforts aimed exclusively at improving conditions for the temporary, material body, which in the end is destined to grow old, become diseased, and die.
As Srila Prabhupada himself notes in Srimad-Bhagavatam: "The actual self is beyond the gross body and subtle mind. He is the potent, active principle of the body and mind.
"Without knowing the need of the dormant soul, one cannot be happy simply with the gratification of the body and mind. ... The spirit soul's needs must be fulfilled. Simply by cleansing the cage of the bird, one does not satisfy the bird....
"There is dormant affection for God within everyone. ... Therefore we have to engage ourselves in activities that will evoke our divine consciousness. This is possible only by hearing and chanting the divine activities of the Supreme Lord.
"Thus any occupational engagement which does not help one to achieve attachment for hearing and chanting the transcendental message of God is said ... to be simply a waste of time."
Srila Prabhupada'sTeachings Appreciated by Scholars
Srila Prabhupada often noted that although modern colleges and universities had many departments of understanding, there was no department that taught scientific knowledge of the self and God. By presenting the original Vedic science of God-realization through his books, Srila Prabhupada filled the gap and met this vital educational need. Over the years, hundreds of scholars who either personally met Prabhupada or read his books have expressed keen appreciation for both his personal qualities and the contribution his teachings have made to humanity.
For example, Harvey Cox, world-renowned professor of religion at Harvard University, describes how he gradually recognized the value of Srila Prabhupada's contribution: "When I first met the Hare Krishnas, I can remember how surprised I was, and I wondered what this meant. The costumes, the chanting, and the shaved heads appeared a little strange to me. But as I came to know the movement, I came to find that there was a striking similarity in the essence of what they were teaching and in the original core of Christianity—that is, living simply, not trying to accumulate worldly goods, living with compassion toward all creatures, sharing, loving, and living joyfully. I am impressed with how much the teachings of one man and the spiritual tradition he brought have impacted themselves into the lives of so many people. In my view Srila Prabhupada's contribution is a very important one and will be a lasting one."
"We are purchasing such big, big houses. Why? Just to give people the opportunity to hear about Krsna."
As already mentioned, ISKCON currently has more than three hundred temples, farms, schools, and special projects throughout the world. At each center members teach daily classes, perform chanting, and provide individual instruction on the science of Krsna consciousness. Each center also holds a weekly festival and vegetarian feast, as well as programs on festive occasions throughout the year. All programs are open to the public.
This article was written by the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. It has been printed as a brochure in several languages for widespread distribution during the Srila Prabhupada Centennial year. If you would like copies to distribute, please get in touch with an ISKCON center near you.
"As the embodied soul continuously passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. A sober person is not bewildered by such a change." (Gita 2.13)
SRILA PRABHUPADA EXPLAINS: In the modern age, people are so uneducated that they cannot understand that the body is changing at every moment and that the ultimate change is called death. In this life one may be a king, and in the next life one may be a dog, according to karma. The spirit soul is in a deep slumber caused by the force of material nature. He is put into one type of condition and again changed into another type. Without self-realization and knowledge, conditional life continues, and one falsely claims himself a king, a cat, or a dog. These are simply transformations brought about by the supreme arrangement.
Srila Prabhupada dictated this essay in reply to a question about the origin of the living entity: Were we originally with Krsna, or did we fall from Krsna's impersonal energy, the brahmajyoti? The essay was an addendum to a letter Prabhupada wrote to his disciple Madhudvisa Dasa in June of 1972. We have edited it lightly for grammar and punctuation.
WE NEVER HAD ANY OCCASION when we were separated from Krsna. For example, one man is dreaming, and he forgets himself. In a dream he creates himself in different forms—"Now I am the king." This creation of himself is as seer and as subject matter, or seen—two things. But as soon as the dream is over, the "seen" disappears. But the seer remains. Now he is in his original position. Our separation from Krsna is like that. We dream this body and so many relationships with other things. First the attachment comes to enjoy sense gratification. Even [when we are] with Krsna the desire for sense gratification is there. There is a dormant attitude for forgetting Krsna and creating an atmosphere for enjoying independently. At the edge of the beach, sometimes the water covers the sand on the shore, and sometimes there is dry sand; the ocean is coming and going. Our position is like that, sometimes covered, sometimes free, just like at the edge of the tide. As soon as we forget, immediately illusion is there, just as when we sleep a dream is there. We cannot say, therefore, that we are not with Krsna. As soon as we try to become the Lord, immediately we are covered by maya. Formerly we were with Krsna in His lila, or sport. But this covering of maya may be of very, very, very, very long duration; therefore [in the interim] many creations are coming and going. Due to this long period of time it is sometimes said that we are ever conditioned. But this long duration of time becomes very insignificant when one actually comes to Krsna consciousness. It is like in a dream: We are thinking it is a very long time, but as soon as we awaken we look at our watch and see it has been a moment only. To give another example: Krsna's friends were kept asleep for one year by Brahma, but when they woke up and Krsna returned before them, they considered that only a moment had passed.
Jaya And Vijaya
So this dreaming condition is called non-liberated life, and this is just like a dream. Although in material calculation it is a long, long period, as soon as we come to Krsna consciousness this period is considered a second. For example, Jaya and Vijaya had their lila with Krsna, but they had to come down [to the material world] for their little mistake.* They were given mukti, merging into the Brahma-sayujya [Lord Krsna's impersonal effulgence], after being killed three times as demons. This Brahma-sayujya mukti is nonpermanent. Every living entity wants pleasure, but Brahma-sayujya is minus pleasure; it consists of eternal existence only. So when those who get Brahma-sayujya mukti do not find transcendental bliss, they fall down to make a compromise with material bliss, for example by founding schools and hospitals. So even Lord Brahma is still material and wants to lord it over the material world. He may come down to become a germ, but then he may rise up to Krsna consciousness and go back home, back to Godhead. This is the position. So when I say yes, there is eternal lila with Krsna, that means on the evidence of Jaya-Vijaya. Unless one develops full devotional service to Krsna, he goes up only to Brahma-sayujya but falls down. But after millions and millions of years of keeping oneself away from the lila of the Lord, when one comes to Krsna consciousness this period becomes insignificant, just like dreaming. Because he falls down from Brahma-sayujya, he thinks that this may be his origin, but he does not remember that before that even, he was with Krsna. So the conclusion is that whatever may be our past, let us come to Krsna consciousness and immediately join Krsna. With a diseased man it is a waste of time to try to find out how he has become diseased; better to spend time curing the disease.
* EDITOR'S NOTE: Jaya and Vijaya, gatekeepers at a gateway to Vaikuntha, the spiritual world, once refused entrance to four great sages, the Kumaras. The sages then cursed Jaya and Vijaya to fall to the material world. The sages mitigated the curse, however, by saying that after three births as demons Jaya and Vijaya would be reinstated to their former post. Thus Jaya and Vijaya eventually attained sayujya-mukti, merging into the body of the Lord, and thereafter returned to Vaikuntha. (This is discussed in Srimad-Bhagavatam, Canto Three, chapters fifteen and sixteen, and Canto Seven, chapter one.)
On the top of a tree* there was a nice tal fruit. A crow went there and the fruit fell down. Some panditas—big, big learned scholars—saw this and discussed: "The fruit fell due to the crow agitating the limb." "No, the fruit fell simultaneously with the crow landing and frightened the crow so he flew away." "No, the fruit was ripe, and the weight of the crow landing broke it from the branch." And so on and so on. What is the use of such discussions? So whether you were in the Brahma-sayujya or with Krsna in His lila, at the moment you are in neither, so the best policy is to develop your Krsna consciousness and go there [back to Godhead]—never mind what is your origin.
*The tal-fruit tree is the palmyra palm.
Always With Krsna
Brahma-sayujya and Krsna lila—both may be possible. But when you came down from Brahma-sayujya or when you came down from Krsna lila, that remains a mystery. But at the present moment we are in Maya's clutches, so at present our only hope is to become Krsna conscious and go back home, back to Godhead. The real position is servant of Krsna, and servant of Krsna means in Krsna lila. Directly or indirectly, we are always serving Krsna's lila, even in dream. Just as we cannot go out of the sun when it is daytime, so where is the chance of going out of Krsna lila? The cloud may be there—the sky may become very gray and dim—but still the sunlight is there, everywhere, during the daytime. Similarly, because I am part and parcel of Krsna, I am always connected with Krsna. My finger, even though it may be diseased, remains part and parcel of my body. Therefore, we try to treat it, cure it, because it is part and parcel. So Krsna comes Himself when we forget Him, or He sends His representative. Awake or dreaming, I am the same man. As soon as I awaken and see myself, I see Krsna. Cause and effect are both Krsna. For example, cotton becomes thread, and thread becomes cloth. Still, the original cause is cotton. Therefore, everything is Krsna in the ultimate sense. When we cannot contact Krsna personally, we contact His energies. So there is no chance to be outside Krsna's lila. But we see differences under different conditions. To give another example: In the pool of water and in the mirror the same me is reflected, but in different reflections. One is shimmering, unsteady; one is clear and fixed. Except when we are in Krsna consciousness, we cannot see our actual position rightly; therefore the learned man sees all living entities as the same parts and parcels of Krsna. Material existence is impersonal because [in that existence] my real personality is covered. But we should think that because I am now covered by this clay, I am diseased. And we should think that I must get to business to get myself uncovered, not wonder how I got this way. Now the fruit is there—take it and enjoy. That is your first business. God is not bound by cause. He can change [anything]; He is the cause of all causes. Now don't waste your time with this kaka-taliya-nyaya, "crow-and-tal-fruit logic."
The worldwide activities of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)
Eight oxen and six teamsters are being trained in New Vrindaban by Balabhadra Dasa, head of the International Society for Cow Protection (ISCOWP). ISCOWP moved to New Vrindaban to help with a plan for a self-sufficient ox-powered village located on the road to Prabhupada's Palace. Balabhadra's goal is to train twelve teamsters and twenty-one oxen by next August.
Houston's top Hispanic radio station carries a monthly one-hour call-in talk show on Krsna consciousness. ISKCON congregational member Diana Hernandez hosts the show, which has attracted so many Spanish-speaking people to Krsna consciousness that the temple now has special Spanish lectures at the Sunday feast.
The Idaho Statesman ran a front-page article in August on Back to Godhead columnist Ravi Gupta, noting that Ravi, age 13, is a freshman at Boise State University with a 4.0 grade point average. The article told how Ravi credits his home life for his success. Marianne Flagg, the author, visited Ravi at his home—the Boise temple, run by his parents. She wrote, "It's an environment steeped in love of learning, a devotion to the Hare Krsna religion and the culture of India, where his parents were born."
Devotees in Edmonton, Alberta (Canada), opened a temple they built in the suburb of Millwoods. Omkara Dasa and his wife, Yadurani Devi Dasi, both professional architects, designed the temple, which opened last October. The building has a temple on the main floor and a kitchen and hall in the basement. Each floor is three thousand square feet. The devotees have installed Deities of Radha-Krsna named Radha-Govindaji.
Judges at the Lord Mayor's Parade in Manchester, England, awarded first prize to ISKCON's entry in last summer's parade. Devotees dressed as Sita and Rama chanted Hare Krsna and danced beside the Padayatra bullock cart carrying the Deities of Sri Sri Nitai-Gaurasundara. The devotees also passed out prasadam to spectators along the parade route.
Mayapur was hit with floods at the end of September. The grounds of ISKCON's Mayapur Chandrodaya Mandir were under six feet of water for two weeks. The whole area within five to ten miles of the temple was flooded. ISKCON sent out up to eight parties every day to give people prasadam (food offered to Krsna) and medical aid.
The flood severely damaged the temple's gardens and destroyed thousands of rupees in crops. The project's managers are seeking financial assistance to get things back into shape for the Hare Krsna World Convention in February.
A show on Krsna consciousness now broadcasts from Bombay on Hindus Ind, the cable network owned by the Hinduja family. The half-hour program, called Aatma, shows paintings by ISKCON artists, video excerpts from ISKCON Television (ITV), classes and discussions by ISKCON speakers, and musical performances by celebrity artists.
The channel now reaches 800,000 viewers in Bombay and 200,000 in Delhi and will reach twelve other areas of India this year.
Children competed for prizes at the Bal Utsav ("Children's Festival") held at the ISKCON Auditorium in Juhu, Bombay, last August. The areas of competition: Vedic dance, Krsna conscious writing and drawing, singing of bhajanas (devotional songs), talks on Srila Prabhupada, and recitation of Bhagavad-gita verses. Well-known singers Mitali and Bhupinder Singh inaugurated the program.
Two candidates for mayor swept the road in front of Lord Jagannatha's chariot to start ISKCON Baroda's Rathayatra festival last summer. The procession included two brass bands, three decorated elephants, a chanting party of one hundred devotees, and a group of young people dressed as Sita-Rama, Radha-Krsna, and Nrsimhadeva. Sri Vagheshkumarji, a leader of the Vallabhacarya disciplic line, spoke at the festival. The Gujarati daily newspaper Sandesh, the largest newspaper in Baroda, gave front-page coverage to the festival.
Sarajevans and officials from the United Nations and the Bosnian government flocked to a rare cultural event in war-torn Sarajevo last September—a program put on by Hare Krsna devotees. Agence France Press, a news service from France, reported: "Several [of the people in attendance] said after the show that they intended to join the sect, whose local leader Mirza Ajic said had 15 members in Sarajevo and up to 400 sympathizers. UN spokesman Alexander Ivanko commented: 'If more people were members of Hare Krishna, there would probably be fewer wars.' "
Bihac, Bosnia, Mayor Adnan Algic welcomed Hare Krishna Food for Life volunteers from Pula and Zagreb to his city last October. The devotees presented him with copies of Srila Prabhupada's books. The meeting was televised on Bosnian TV.
During their stay in Bihac, the Food for Life volunteers gave out hot meals, bread, cakes, and fresh fruit, and then chanted Hare Krsna while people enjoyed the prasadam. The devotees also visited schools to give school supplies to students.
Hare Krishna Food for Life has now opened an office in Bihac and plans to regularly distribute prasadam there.
More than 250 devotees from Poland and around the world assembled last July for the 1995 Laksmi Narasimhadeva Traveling Festival Summer Tour of Poland. The tour lasted five and a half weeks and visited thirty-five towns and cities. Besides giving out books, prasadam, and the holy name daily, the devotees put on sixteen major outdoor festivals, with 2,000-5,000 people attending each one.
The tour party, organized by Indradyumna Swami, was made up of thirty devotees from Polish temples, devotees from fifteen other countries, children from the St. Petersburg, Russia, gurukula school, and many ISKCON congregational members.
ISKCON congregational members from Slovenia, Croatia, and Austria gathered for a five-day retreat in northern Slovenia last summer. They camped in 130 tents, with one large tent serving as a temple, kitchen reception, gift shop, and kindergarten. Several ISKCON leaders gave seminars on various areas of Krsna consciousness.
A house designed by one of Norway's most famous architects has become a Radha-Krsna temple. Arnstein Arnebert, who designed the Oslo City Hall, King Harald's private palace, and the UN Security Building in New York, completed the neo-classical Elsero house in 1923. Though protected by the Norwegian government, the stately mansion (20,000 square feet) in Oslo had been vandalized in recent years. When reporting on the devotees' purchase of the building, Aftenposten, Norway's largest newspaper, wrote, "Finally this mansion has gotten into the best hands, those of the Hare Krishnas."
The Indian ambassador to Norway, S. K. Mathur, spoke at the temple opening.
The building was donated to ISKCON by Navalanga Devi Dasi, a disciple of Harikesa Swami.
Commonwealth of Independent States
The Chechen Government of National Revival has allocated 320 million rubles ($70,000) to help Hare Krishna Food for Life in Chechnya, where devotees have already given out 400,000 prasadam meals without government aid. The grant was reported by Itar-Tass, the Russian Information Agency.
Two one-ton eggless cakes were served to Moscovites taking part in City Day last September. Organizers of Moscow's "birthday" celebrations had asked Hare Krishna Food for Life to prepare the cakes for the event. People lined up for hours to get a piece of the cakes. Food for Life volunteers also passed out free meals. An estimated 5,000-7,000 people received prasadam.
President Ketumile Masire of Botswana met with ISKCON leader Bhakti-tirtha Swami for an hour in September. The president, who had heard about Bhakti-tirtha Swami's two-week tour of Botswana and had asked to meet him, listened with interest as Bhakti-tirtha Swami gave him ideas for building Botswana on a spiritual platform. The president, a vegetarian, was also happy to receive a Hare Krsna cookbook.
The first public Krsna temple in Zimbabwe opened in September, in Marondera, a city of about 50,000 people and the capital of Mashonaland East Province. A local Gujarati business man, Ashok Gulab, initiated in ISKCON as Sat-cid-ananda Dasa, financed and oversaw the construction of the 2,500-square-foot building on his estate. The mayor of Marondera and 250 native Zimbabweans attended the opening.
Six devotees spent a week walking in and around Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, last July. Led by Parasurama Dasa of the UK Padayatra, they walked about fifteen kilometers each day, chanting Hare Krsna and passing out books. Although summer in Iceland, the temperatures were around 10 degrees C (50 degrees F). The Padayatra was covered on local television and in the area's two largest newspapers.
For two weeks last July, 10-50 devotees walked 108 miles in and around Vancouver, British Columbia. They chanted and passed out books and leaflets during the day and held programs at the homes of hosts in the evening.
Twenty-six devotees performed a 70-kilometer, five-day Padayatra in Israel last September. They walked around the Sea of Galilee, which is both a place of pilgrimage for Christians and a summer resort area that draws people to the beaches during the holidays. Vacationers happily received the devotees, sometimes joining the classes and aratis (Deity-worship ceremonies) held on the beach.
Back to Godhead has been publishing (and plans to continue) a series of articles called "The Glories of the Demigods." Yet not everyone is pleased with it. We publish here an objection, along with our reply.
Federation of Hindu Associations (FHA), Inc.
The Federation of Hindu Associations, Inc. (FHA) takes strong exception to the article and subsequent rejoinders in the Back to Godhead magazine, May/June 1995, which in effect state that Shiva, Ganesha, Brahma, Rama and other deities can at best be considered as "demi-gods" and "a little higher" than human beings.
Statements of this type are extremely offensive and confusing to the devout Hindus and are destructive to the Hindu interests. Branding the worshipers of such deities as "offenders" is not fair to the compassionate and diversified philosophy of Hinduism.
With interpretations suiting to themselves, from obscure Puranas, since thousands of years, schools of Vaishnavism (Krishna), Shaivism and Shaktism (Durga) are unfortunately conflicting on this question. The attitudes reek of fundamentalism, violate the very spirit of Hinduism, and create the possibility of another offshoot from the mother religion. By following such interpretations, they are creating exclusive territories of influence and business around one deity, by eliminating or reducing the significance of others.
FHA considers that in Hinduism all deities represent the different forms, attributes, qualities, powers or shaktis of the same Almighty. A partial attachment to any of them, and not surrendering to all of the others remaining, does not complete surrender to all the qualities and components of the definition of God. Surrender to any deity is surrender to one of His attributes. Hence, all of them are worshiped, at one time or another, to complete the "Puja" [worship] of the Supreme. So, nobody should knock down, degrade or insult any of the Gods or Goddesses by creating classes or grades around these multi-faces of the same God. FHA proposes that, for the benefit of Hinduism, we should stop this discussion and treatment of superiority and inferiority.
FHA appeals to ISKCON to continue the good work initiated by Swami Prabhupada. FHA notes that even after the identification of this controversy by Radha Raman temple, Placentia [California], the statements of ISKCON are still confusing and hurting to the cause of Hinduism.
FHA appeals to ISKCON to make a clear statement that "there is no superior or inferior among Krishna, Shiva or Durga" and retract the objectionable statements and declare themselves belonging to the Hindu family and way of life, respecting everyone.
FHA appeals to all temples, associations and activists to join and work together in the best interests of Hinduism, to benefit this commonwealth of beliefs and protect it from any damage.
Please Remember: Confinement is not Hinduism. HINDUS, PLEASE SAVE HINDUISM.
Prithvi Raj Singh
Founded in 1944 by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Thank you for sending us a copy of your resolution. I am grateful to you for expressing to us your concern.
You have appealed to us to continue the good work initiated by Srila Prabhupada. Thank you for that request. We consider it your blessing.
You have also appealed to us to make a clear statement, and so we shall. Here it is: We reaffirm that Krsna alone is the original Supreme Personality of Godhead. He appears in unlimited Visnu forms such as Narayana and Rama. All other gods and living beings are His servants.
Now, let me respond in some detail to the points you have raised in your resolution.
Yes, we have referred to Lord Siva, Sri Ganesa, and Lord Brahma as demigods—but not Lord Sri Rama. We consistently distinguish between the forms of Visnu (the Supreme Lord) and the devas (the exalted servants of the Supreme Lord). According to authoritative scriptures, Lord Rama is another form of Visnu—He is identical with Krsna, the Supreme Lord Himself—and deities such as Lord Siva, Lord Brahma, and Sri Ganesa are His servants.
Yes, we refer to these exalted servants as "demigods." This is an English rendering of the Sanskrit word deva, and it means that they are partial manifestations of God. Yes, we say they are subordinate to God and are His servants.
Far from being insults, these are terms of high praise. According to the Rg Veda (1.22.20), to be subordinate to the Supreme Lord is the glorious qualification of the gods (om tad visnoh paramam padam sada pasyanti surayah). As conditioned souls, we are insubordinate—rebellious against the Lord—whereas the devas always humbly consider themselves subordinate and always look toward His lotus feet.
We therefore honor the devas for being exalted devotees. We do not call them ugly or bogus, dismiss them as "seducers," or consider them merely "a little higher" than human beings.
In a sheet attached to your resolution, you have enclosed a page from Back to Godhead in which you circle some passages to which you object. There we find the context in which we used the word bogus. We said that anyone who claims to be God but whose claim has no basis in scripture is "simply bogus." Do we still stand by that? Absolutely. An imposter who claims to be God is not God but a dog. Such an imposter is just the opposite of the devas (gods); he is an asura (demon).
Are the devas "a little higher" than human beings? No, we never said that. They are vastly higher. But they are still subordinate to Visnu, the Supreme Lord.
You are unhappy that we published a statement describing the worshipers of the devas as "offenders." But that word wasn't ours. It appeared in a direct quotation from the Padma Purana (one of the eighteen principal Puranas, and hardly obscure). The specific Sanskrit word used is pasandi. We have given the translation "offender." According to the Monier-Williams Sanskrit-English dictionary, alternatives are "heretic," "hypocrite," "imposter," or "anyone who falsely assumes the characteristics of an orthodox Hindu."
That's not our fault. That's what the scriptural quotation says. We have simply repeated it.
Anyway, for the moment let us leave the Puranas aside. In the Hare Krsna movement, our main source of teaching is Bhagavad-gita. That is our primary source of authority, the main scripture we follow. How about you? Do the members of your Association accept the words of Bhagavad-gita? I assume they must.
Then what do you make of this statement (Bhagavad-gita 9.23):
ye 'py anya-devata-bhakta
Here Lord Sri Krsna clearly says that those who are devotees of other gods (anya-devata) and who worship them with faith (sraddhayanvitah) are actually worshiping only Him (mam eva)—but they are doing it in the wrong way (avidhi-purvakam).
The Bhagavad-gita says it is wrong. Why should we say it is right?
Elsewhere in the Gita (7.20), Lord Sri Krsna says that because of materialistic desires (kamaih), those who surrender to other gods (anya-devatah) are bereft of intelligence (hrta-jnanah). The intelligent, Lord Krsna says (7.19), surrender to Him (mam prapadyante), knowing that He, Lord Sri Krsna, who appeared as the son of Vasudeva, is everything. He is the complete whole, the Absolute Truth, of whom all other living beings are a part.
Therefore, by worshiping Krsna one automatically worships all other deities, just as by watering the root of a tree one waters all the leaves and branches or by putting food in the stomach one feeds the entire body.
We can't water every leaf of a tree or offer food to every cell in the body. But when we pour water on the root or put food in the stomach, the entire tree or the entire body is satisfied.
As you say in your resolution, "Surrender to any deity is surrender to one of His [God's] attributes." True. But surrender to the Supreme Lord Himself is surrender to the source of all deities and all attributes.
You speak of the need to surrender to all the gods. But the Vedic scriptures tell us there are 330 million gods. So how will it be possible? We can't even think of all those gods, what to speak of surrender to them.*
*A friend has pointed out to me that to separately worship each of the 330 million gods withing the course of a year, we'd need to worship more than 900 thousand of them every day.
Therefore, we have to follow the method given in the Bhagavad-gita by Lord Sri Krsna, God Himself: surrender to Krsna. In that way our surrender will be complete.
God is the complete reservoir of all qualities, powers, and attributes, and yes these are represented by various gods. Therefore some people are attracted to one god, some to another. But as you say, "A partial attachment to any of them, and not surrendering to all of the others remaining, does not complete surrender to all the qualities and components." But because Krsna is the origin and refuge of all these gods, one attains the perfection of surrender to all—in one stroke—simply by surrendering to Him alone.
Whatever one might get by worshiping any other god is in fact bestowed by Krsna Himself (mayaiva vihitan hi tan, Gita 7.22). Why then should one refuse to surrender exclusively to Lord Sri Krsna?
The benefits one gets from other gods are temporary (anta-vat), and therefore Lord Krsna says in the Gita (7.23) that those who worship such gods are alpa-medhasa, "meager in intelligence." The devotees of such gods attain the abodes of those gods, which are all temporary and subject to distress (duhkhalayam asasvatam, Gita 8.15). The devotees of Krsna, on the other hand, attain the abode of Krsna Himself (yanti mam api), where they enjoy immortal bliss and knowledge.
Again, these are not our statements. They are the statements of Bhagavad-gita. We simply accept them. What else are we supposed to do?
You castigate us for violating "the spirit of Hinduism." But without the Bhagavad-gita, what is the meaning of Hinduism? The ideas to which you are objecting come directly from the Gita. So why are you objecting?
You accuse us of deviating from "the mother religion." But the mother religion is not "Hinduism." The mother religion—for all living beings—is sanatana dharma, or bhagavat dharma, devotion to Bhagavan, the Supreme Lord. In Bhagavad-gita (14.4) Lord Sri Krsna says that He is the father of all living beings (aham bija-pradah pita). He is even the father of the devas (aham adir hi devanam, Gita 10.2). The mother religion, therefore, is the worship of the Supreme Father (Bhagavan), the Supreme Lord, Sri Krsna.
The Vedic scriptures, in fact, may be compared to our mother, and the Supreme Lord to our father. If we are in doubt about who our father is, we should best consult our mother. And according to the conclusion of all the Vedic literature, the father of all living beings is Bhagavan Sri Krsna (krsnas tu bhagavan svayam).
Srila Prabhupada, therefore, in books such as Bhagavad-gita As It Is and Srimad-Bhagavatam, has presented the Vedic literature with scrupulous integrity. And he has distributed its message intact through the Krsna consciousness movement. Anyone born in India, the land of Vedic knowledge, is extremely fortunate. And we appeal to all such fortunate people to make their lives perfect by joining the Krsna consciousness movement and spreading it everywhere for the eternal benefit of all living beings.
On your letterhead I see the slogan garv se kaho ham hindu hai—"Proudly declare, 'I am Hindu.' " But in Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna never tells Arjuna to declare himself Hindu. Rather, He directs Arjuna to give up all other forms of religion and simply surrender exclusively unto Him (mam ekam saranam vraja). The Lord then says, kaunteya pratijanihi na me bhakta pranasyati: "O Arjuna, declare to the world that My devotee will never be vanquished." Therefore, if we are going to follow Bhagavad-gita, a better slogan would be garv se kaho ham bhagavan-sri-krsna-ke das hai—"Proudly declare to everyone, 'I am a servant of Lord Sri Krsna.' "
If Hinduism is to be saved, the way to save it is to accept Bhagavad-gita as it is. We may have been taught that all gods are equal and we should therefore surrender to them all. But Lord Krsna says to give up all such notions, accept Him as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and surrender to Him alone (sarva dharman partiyajya mam ekam saranam vraja).
As long as we refuse to surrender to Krsna we shall be confined to this material world (Gita 9.3). So if confinement is not Hinduism, we should at once surrender to Krsna. Lord Krsna will then at once grant us liberation from all material confinement and take us back home, back to Godhead. In this way—by following the divine instructions given in Bhagavad-gita by Lord Sri Krsna Himself—one attains the perfection of Hinduism, and the perfection of human life.
Is Experience the Best Teacher?
By Urmila Devi Dasi
AFTER GIVING Arjuna knowledge of matter and spirit, Lord Krsna tells him, "Deliberate on this fully, and then decide what you wish to do." Our children also have to choose between material and spiritual life. To prepare them for this choice, do we need to give them experiences of both? Do our children need any experience of materialism to choose Krsna consciousness?
The sages do indeed say that to be complete in knowledge one must study both spirit and matter. But our children can best gain knowledge of illusion by seeing both illusion and reality from the perspective of reality.
Srila Prabhupada tells us that the most intelligent people learn simply by hearing. Hearing about Krsna gives a child a direct perception of spiritual happiness and knowledge. And as Krsna tells Arjuna, "Upon gaining this one thinks there is no greater gain." Spiritual experience, then, can give any child the intelligence to stay clear of materialism just by hearing about it.
But even if a child isn't convinced by his spiritual experience, adults don't have to arrange for children to have a taste of material life. Even without intervention from parents or teachers, each child feels material life moment by moment. What child has no frustrations or disease? What child doesn't come across envy, anger, and greed, if not in himself then in others? And what child doesn't see aging and death, at least in the animals and plants that surround him?
Our children will also get direct experience of bodily and mental pleasure. As distress comes, even uninvited, material happiness will also come.
A caring adult will use a child's naturally occurring painful and pleasurable experiences as a connection to what the child has heard from scripture. As Dr. Howard G. Hendricks writes in The Seven Laws of the Teacher, "You don't have to get hooked on cocaine to be aware of its devastation, and even many who are hooked don't understand the danger. So a better way to say it is: properly evaluated experience is the best teacher." (author's emphasis)
When adults say that for our children to understand maya we must expose them to it, they often mean they want to expose children to the illusions of illusion. They suggest taking children to amusement parks, or showing them television, or engaging them in much of the frivolities of childhood. But children who get a taste for such illusions generally become—illusioned. Their higher knowledge and taste for Krsna become covered. The child asks for further and further indulgence in illusion, because, as Krsna tells us, material desires can never be satisfied. The parents then feel they must give the child maya because the child demands it; they forget that they themselves, the parents, sparked that demand.
A good parent or teacher tries to keep a child physically healthy. And there is a way to expose a child to disease in order to prevent disease—vaccination. The Vedic scriptures offer a similar method for material life in general. A vaccination introduces a disease in a form that isn't dangerous. Similarly, conditioned souls can safely deal with matter in a changed form—by using it in Krsna's service. So children can listen to music glorifying Krsna, eat food offered to Krsna, watch plays and movies about Krsna, use their talents to serve Krsna, and possibly later marry and raise a family in Krsna's service. This is a way to dovetail material inclinations with spiritual knowledge, to see both maya and Krsna and choose Krsna.
When maya is used in Krsna's service under the direction of a guru it ceases to work as a force of illusion. Rather, it acts spiritually to purify material desires.
Still, some adults insist that a child will learn best just through his or her own experiences, coming to Krsna consciousness naturally, just from experiencing material life, without any outside help.
In ancient times, also, there were parents who argued that their children would gain spiritual determination simply through their own material lives. An example cited in the Bhagavatam is that of Daksa. "Material enjoyment," he said, "is indeed the cause of all unhappiness, but one cannot give it up unless one has personally experienced how much suffering it is. Therefore one should be allowed to remain in so-called material enjoyment while at the same time advancing in knowledge to experience the misery of this false material happiness. Then, without help from others, one will find material enjoyment detestable. Those whose minds are changed by others do not become as renounced as those who have personal experience."
Sometimes we who have come to Krsna consciousness as adults assume that our determination to renounce material life is the result of a bad taste for illusory enjoyment. Yet in discussing Daksa's statement, Srila Prabhupada tells us that Daksa's philosophy is wrong. He writes, "The young boys and girls of the Krsna consciousness movement have given up the spirit of material enjoyment not because of practice [of material life] but by the mercy of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His servants."
Why is the experience of material "enjoyment" not enough to teach us? Prabhupada explains, "Material nature is so strong that although a man suffers at every step, he will not cease in his attempts to enjoy."
Experience, then, won't enable a child to learn unless hearing comes with it. One longs for the happiness of serving Krsna not merely because one has become disgusted with materialism but because hearing from a great soul has sparked love of God in one's heart, so that by comparison material life has no allure.
Urmila Devi Dasi, initiated in 1973, has worked in ISKCON education since 1983. She and her family live in Hillsborough, North Carolina, where she runs an ISKCON school for children aged 5-18. She is the main author/compiler of Vaikuntha Children, a gurukula classroom guidebook.
The Power of Prabhupada's Books
By Navina Nirada Dasa
In this column we present the experiences and realizations of devotees who give people Krsna consciousness by giving books by Srila Prabhupada and his followers.—The editors
The Old Book Distributor
ONCE WHEN I WAS selling books on a street in Germany I showed a teacher The Journey of Self-Discovery. He was skeptical and not interested in the subject. But then a man about sixty-five years old came by on a bicycle. He stopped and came over to us.
"Bhagavad-gita?" he asked. "Srila Prabhupada's books? These are very interesting."
The teacher asked him, "Do you know these books?"
"Of course I know these books," he said. "Who doesn't know these books? Which one are you holding? The Journey of Self-Discovery. That's a wonderful book. It tells you everything about yoga, karma, reincarnation, the science of self-realization—everything is in that book. You should read it. You should buy the book. Give him a donation. He's a nice boy."
Then he told the teacher, "And you know what the best thing is? If you read these books you understand who you are—that you are spirit soul and servant of God. Then when troubles come and nothing works anymore—you are fighting with your wife, your kids are rebelling, your job is hell—you sit down and very calmly sing and meditate on the Hare Krsna mantra. You know what happens then? Everything just turns very positive, very bright. You become happy and ecstatic and just go right off into the universe. You become so happy you just take right off."
The teacher was so surprised by the man's conviction that he happily gave a donation for the book. I explained what the book was all about. It turned out he was interested but just a little skeptical.
While I spoke with the teacher, the older man took off on his bike. Later he came back.
I said, "You must know these books, right?"
"Yes, of course," he said. "I've been reading them for eight years now. And every time I tell myself that something has to happen in my life, I go to the city and meet one of you and buy some new books. So that's exactly what I'm going to do. Show me what books you've got."
I showed him the books I had. He bought two.
I told him we have temples and asked if he knew about the Hare Krsna movement.
"Temples?" he asked. "You mean like churches?"
He didn't know about the temples. He thought we were just young idealists selling books. He didn't know there was a whole spiritual movement behind them. He was amazed to learn there is also a movement in which people practice the philosophy of the books.
"You know," he said, "nobody actually understands what is going on in this world. Just look at these people, how they are madly running around trying to gratify their senses and be happy in their material pursuits. Like animals, they have no aim in life. They simply know the pleasures of eating, sleeping, and sex. They don't know what's going on. Don't you find it difficult to speak to them about the knowledge of Bhagavad-gita? Do you actually know what you are doing here? Do you know that you are doing the most important work for the whole human society?"
I wanted to hear more, so I asked him, "Do you really think so? Do you really think the work we're doing here with these books is important?"
"Yes, yes," he said. "This is very important—the most important thing you can do, more important than breathing. You must give people these books so they can find out why they are living, so they can get some sense into their life."
The man left happily with his two new books, leaving me amazed at his conviction in the power of Srila Prabhupada's books and the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra.
Fed Up With Cults
Another time, I was distributing books in front of a post office in Germany. I tried to show the books to a businessman stepping out of his car. He was in his mid-fifties, well-to-do, and very tense and businesslike.
"You are all cheaters and rascals," he said. "And I don't want to get involved in this. You're all a bunch of hypocrites. It's all bogus."
So I said, "What? What you are talking about? This is Bhagavad-gita, ancient philosophy from India."
"Yes, yes, India," he said. "I know all these yogis and swamis and gurus, and this is all cheating. Tell me which guru is the head of your organization."
"His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada," I replied.
"Really?" he said. "Swami Prabhupada? Then I take back everything I said. I have great respect for that man. Show me what books you have."
I showed him. Then I asked him, "Do you know Srila Prabhupada?"
He said, "I can tell you why I like this man. It's because I read his book Life Comes From Life. In that book he calls modern leaders hogs, dogs, camels, asses, rascals, cheaters, and hypocrites. And he defeats them all—the scientists, the philosophers, the religionists. He tells it straight to their face."
He was very happy about Srila Prabhupada, and he took two books.
Navina Nirada Dasa, a disciple of Harikesa Swami, has been one of ISKCON's leading book distributors for many years. He is based at the ISKCON temple in Zurich.
One Family's Cow Protection
By Lavangalatika Devi Dasi
A note from our regular columnist, Hare Krsna Devi Dasi:
AS I READ Hare Krsna Dasi's description of milking cows at ISKCON's Gita Nagari Farm in Pennsylvania, I thought readers might be interested to hear about a different way of serving Krsna by taking care of cows. Milking our cow Hari Priya on a two-family farm in the South Konkan belt of Maharashtra, India, is quite different from milking cows on a big communal farm in the U.S.
Gita Nagari has big Radha-Krsna Deities—Sri Sri Radha-Damodara—and Prema Vihvala is a big Brown Swiss cow who at the peak of her production can give twenty liters of milk a day for Radha-Damodara. Our own Sri Sri Radha-Govinda Deities are less than three inches tall, and Hari Priya is a small desi, or native, cow who gives only two liters daily—just enough for some milksweets, such as rasagullas or mango or chikoo barfi, and a cup of hot milk for four or five people. Still, we feel great satisfaction taking care of her and offering her milk to Krsna.
An Intimate Milking Scene
You won't find commercial milk industries or milking machines in our area. Cows are milked the same intimate way they always have been. We tie up Hari Priya for milking and bring her calf to her. The calf, Jaya Radhe, sucks eagerly at the mother's udder, tail up in the air, nudging the udder with a hard shove to bring down the milk. Hari Priya licks the calf's body affectionately. After a few minutes, we pull Jaya Radhe away from the udder and hold her.
Indignant at the interruption in the nursing, she struggles while she watches someone else "stealing" her milk. But her mother continues to lick her contentedly, and soon Jaya Radhe starts to munch on hay and grains. By Krsna's arrangement, a cow produces much more milk than her calf needs, and we have to be careful that Jaya Radhe doesn't take too much, or she will get "scours," a kind of diarrhea that can kill young calves.
As soon as the calf is pulled away from the udder, we wash Hari Priya's udder with clean water. We milk her with one hand, holding the milking vessel in the other. Hari Priya's teats, small compared with those of Western cow breeds, are difficult to grasp with the whole hand. Using two fingers and a thumb is the easiest way.
Hari Priya stands patiently as I squat by her flank. The switch of her tail swatting flies falls on my head. The cowshed is quiet, except for the rhythmic squirts of milk. I can feel the udder emptying. Hari Priya, eyes are full of love for her calf, always holds back just enough milk for her. As soon as I'm finished, I release Jaya Radhe, who runs again to drink milk to her full satisfaction.
The whole process with Hari Priya is very simple. Hare Krsna Dasi describes using a strip cup to test for mastitis before each milking. This is a small tin cup with a screen over it. She squirts a bit of milk into the cup before milking and checks the screen for clots of milk that will warn of mastitis. We feel that mastitis isn't much of a danger here, so we don't use a strip cup. For one thing, mastitis more commonly affects cows that give a lot of milk, and Hari Priya is just a small cow, giving a small amount of milk.
Traditional Methods of Cow Care
Another cause of mastitis is that sometimes the udder is not milked completely dry. Jaya Radhe is very conscientious to make sure this is never a problem for Hari Priya. So we don't use a strip cup or any after-milking disinfectant such as iodine, because the threat of mastitis or other diseases is not very great.
Nor do we need bleach to clean our milking pots, because in India milk is traditionally heated rather than cooled, so there is less chance of contamination by bacteria. Once the milk is cooled and made into yogurt, the yogurt bacteria help prevent spoilage by other bacteria. With a simple system like we have, we can avoid artificial disinfectants, which we would regard as pollutants on our pure organic farm.
Nor do I have to wear pants to the milk shed. Since we have only a few small cows to deal with, my sari doesn't get in the way. In fact, here in India women always wear nice saris and ornaments, even to do manual labor. They would never want to be seen in something as unattractive and unfeminine as men's trousers.
In the summer we keep the cows tied up, because the pasture is dry and they would spoil the young mango trees. We bring the cows hay from the long grass we cut and dried slightly green after last year's monsoon, their favorite season, when they enjoy four months of roaming and eating lush green grass.
We also feed them grains, vegetable peelings, rice bran and wheat husk with chopped rice straw mixed in, cakes of peanut and cottonseed-oil, and whatever greens we manage to come up with in the dry season, such as creepers, cornstalks, marigolds, and tree leaves. The cows' big treat is fallen mangoes, which they munch on while the juice drips down their chins. They suck the seed and then spit it out the side of the mouth with a loud "Phat!"
The Rest of our Cow Family
Another of our cows is Laksmi. She is carrying her third calf. She has her second calf, a little bull named Bhim, and has just stopped milking. Her first calf was taken away by a tiger at her previous residence, fifteen miles deeper into the interior. Her behavior was wild when we first got her. It took five days of her kicking us and trying to butt us with her horns before she would let us milk her.
Then there is Lalita, a golden Jersey heifer (an immature cow) with beautiful lotus-petal eyes who came to us as a gift at six months and is now just old enough to be bred. She seems able to tolerate Indian conditions well. In general, local breeds are hardier and more resistant to disease. They also require less food and water than the Taurean breeds from Europe and North America.
We have only one bull calf. We will probably have enough work for only two bullocks, but we expect to have more calves, since we have enough land to feed them. This is also different from a farm like Gita Nagari, a communal farm in a cold climate. Devotees there have to be careful not to produce more animals than they can feed on the land, especially since their animals can't graze in the winter. As Prabhupada wrote in a letter, "We must be able to grow our own fodder for the cows. We don't want to have to purchase food for cows outside from some other party. That will run into great expense."
Enough Grazing Land
That's why the larger European breeds can be useful at a place like Gita Nagari. It takes far fewer animals to produce the same amount of milk. A cow like Prema Vihvala gives a lot of milk and can produce for two years every time she has a calf. A small cow like Hari Priya is easier to handle and takes less feed and water, which is good for a dry climate like India. But she also gives less milk and has to have a calf more often than a larger cow to keep milking. Luckily, we have enough land, so a few more animals are not a burden for us.
Having enough land to feed the animals is important for cow protection, especially with bulls. If feeding them costs too much, people want to sell them, and more so if they're not working. Unfortunately, this is often the case with bull calves born in the cities in India. They have little economic value since they can't do their natural work of plowing, and their food has to be purchased. So people in the cities often sell them.
In the states of West Bengal and Kerala, cow slaughter is legal, and in fact it goes on clandestinely everywhere, for a price. Animals are forced to travel long distances without food or water. They are jammed into big trucks, one on top of another, and shipped to the slaughterhouse. The methods used to kill them are too cruel to discuss here. Such hellish practices certainly create misfortune for all the parties involved, as the Lord is witness to the barbaric slaughter of the best of animals.
Cow Dung—A Treasure
We consider ourselves fortunate that our animals will never be subjected to such a fate. We're lucky to have plenty of land to grow their feed. We'll never have to compromise the cows' security because we can't afford to buy feed. And even a bull calf that doesn't work is valuable to us because he provides dung and urine, a great treasure to us for growing healthy trees, flowers, and vegetables. We can also process cow manure in our biogas plant to provide gas for cooking and lighting, and a rich slurry to fertilize our garden and trees.
And here's a natural fertilizer and pesticide the cows and bulls can help produce. Take a liter of cow urine and a liter of dung, mix them in a bucket with 350 grams of jagri (raw sugar) or molasses. Let the mixture sit in a bucket for a week. This makes an excellent fertilizer. If you filter it and mix it with ten parts of water, you can spray it on plants as a pesticide.
Protecting Cows, Thinking of Krsna
In our simple life, we appreciate more and more the value of the cows. When we see what goes on in the cities, we're thankful to be in a rural area, which is much more favorable to cow protection. Srila Prabhupada taught devotees that high technology won't make us happy. The cities, for all their technology, are just a haven for cow slaughter, meat-eating, and other sinful activities.
Instead, Prabhupada wanted us to practice simple living and high thinking. And protecting cows is a central part of a simple Krsna conscious life. They provide us with everything we need, and at the same time they remind us of Krsna. Prabhupada said,
In villages surrounding Vrndavana, villagers live happily simply by giving protection to the cow. They keep the dung carefully and dry it to use as fuel. They keep a sufficient stock of grains, and because of giving protection to the cows they have sufficient milk and milk products to solve all economic problems. Simply by giving protection to the cow, the villagers live so peacefully. Even the stool and urine of cows have medicinal value.
In the Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.6.16), Srila Prabhupada writes, "[Krsna's] first business is to give all comfort to the cows and the brahmanas. In fact, comfort for the brahmanas is secondary, and comfort for the cows is His first concern." We find that living on a small farm in the country, with our small herd of family cows, we can have a peaceful and happy life following the example Krsna has given.
Lavangalatika Devi Dasi is an early disciple of Srila Prabhupada's. She distributed Prabhupada's books for many years, a service she still loves to do when she's not at home milking the family cow.
Arjuna Fights A Celestial Being
Challenged by an angry Gandharva,
Translated from Sanskrit by Hridayananda Dasa Goswami
The sage Vaisampayana is telling the history of the Pandavas to their great-grandson, King Janamejaya. The Pandavas, living disguised as brahmanas in a brahmana's house, have just heard the history of the birth of Princess Draupadi of the Pancalas. As the Mahabharata continues, the Pandavas decide to leave for the Pancala kingdom.
HEARING OF THE birth of beautiful Draupadi, or Krsna, the Pandavas felt as if darts had pierced their hearts. All of them, mighty warriors, lost their normal composure and seemed to forget themselves.
The ever truthful Kunti, seeing her sons so confused and almost unconscious, said in private to her son Yudhisthira, "We have been living for a long time here in the brahmana's house, enjoying the charming city and collecting alms. O enemy-tamer, we have seen all the lovely forests and groves again and again. If we see them yet again, O Kuru child, they will not give us any more pleasure. Nor can we go on collecting alms as before. I think it good that we visit the land of the Pancalas, if of course you agree.
"We have never seen that place, son, and it will be quite a pleasant experience. O mighty one, the Pancalas are said to be a generous people who give freely in alms. And we have heard that King Drupada is very kind to brahmanas. I do not think it good for us to stay a long time in one place. So if you agree, my son, let us go straight there."
Yudhisthira Maharaja said, "Whatever you think should be done, I accept as the very best for us. But I don't know whether my younger brothers want to travel."
Kunti then spoke to Bhimasena, Arjuna, and the twins about the trip, and they all agreed. Then, taking permission of their brahmana host, Kunti and her sons departed for the charming capital city of the great soul Drupada.
Meeting with Vyasadeva
When those great souls, the Pandavas, were living in disguise, Vyasadeva, son of Satyavati, came to visit them. Seeing that he had come, those fierce princes rose from their seats and offered their prostrate obeisances. Respectfully greeting him, they stood reverently before him with folded hands.
Thus honored by the Pandavas, the holy sage was pleased. After greeting them in return and bidding them all sit down, Vyasadeva spoke to them out of his deep love for the family of Pandu.
"Are you living according to the laws of God, carefully following the holy books? O mighty princes, do you honor without fail the saintly brahmanas and all those worthy of honor?"
The saintly Vyasa, an incarnation of the Godhead, then spoke to them about their religious life and their practical plans. And after narrating for them many fascinating histories and tales, he said, "Once in a forest where ascetics dwell lived a great-souled sage whose daughter was endowed with all good qualities. She was very lovely, with a thin waist, curving hips, and tender brows. But by her activities in a former life, she suffered ill fortune and could not find a husband. She was unhappy, and to get a husband she began to perform austerities. By her severe self-denial she pleased Lord Siva.
"Being satisfied with her, Lord Siva said to the ascetic maiden, 'Dear humble girl, I am a giver of blessings. You may now choose a blessing from me, for I wish all good for you.'
"The girl was anxious to fulfill her wish, and so again and again she said to the lord, 'I desire a husband who has all good qualities.'
"The eloquent Lord Siva replied, 'My sweet child, you will have five husbands.'
"The girl said, 'Please give me just one husband.'
"Lord Siva again spoke to her in the finest language. 'Five times you told me to give you a husband. So when you have gone on to your next body, it will be just as you said.'
"That girl has recently been born in the family of King Drupada, and she is as lovely as a goddess. Her name is Krsna. This faultless maiden, in the line of King Prsata, is destined by the decree of Providence to be the wife of you five Pandavas. Therefore, mighty princes, enter the capital of Pancala, for when you win that girl you will be very happy without a doubt."
Having thus spoken, the greatly fortunate grandfather of the Pandavas, that great ascetic, bid Kunti and her sons farewell and departed.
The Gandharva's Challenge
Carefully protecting their mother and keeping her always in view in front of them, the Pandavas, strong as bulls, set out toward the north on the smooth and recommended roads. The powerful sons of Pandu traveled day and night until they reached the sacred area known as Soma-sravayana, on the bank of the Ganges. [As the sun set,] admirable Arjuna went in front of them, holding up a torch to illumine the path for safety.
They came to a lovely deserted stretch of the Ganges where a jealous Gandharva* king had come to play in the water with his women. As the Pandavas came down to the water's edge, the Gandharva king heard the noise, which drove that mighty being into a fierce rage.
*The Gandharvas are a type of celestial beings.
Seeing the valiant Pandavas there with their mother, the Gandharva brandished his awful bow and said, "When early evening enters and the forbidding twilight is stained with red, only the first eighty moments are fit for you people to be about. All the darkening time thereafter has been ordained for Yaksas, Gandharvas, and Raksasas to move about as they will. If human beings, in their selfish confusion, come roaming about at those hours, we and the Raksasas deal with those childish fools and drag them down. Therefore scholars of the Vedic science condemn any men—though they be kings and armies—who come to these waters at night.
"Stay back where you are! Don't come close to me! Why do you not recognize me, who have come here to the waters of the Ganges? Know that I am the Gandharva Angaraparna and I live by my own power. I am proud and jealous, for I am the dear friend of the great Kuvera. This forest along the Ganges, also called Angaraparna, is mine, and the colorful settlement called Vaka wherein I dwell is also mine. Not even a dead body is allowed here, nor gods, nor human beings, nor beasts with horns. How then do you people dare come here?"
Arjuna said, "You fool! In night or day or the time between, who dares claim the ocean or the Himalayan mountain or this sacred river? We are ready with power, and we dare to approach you now at the wrong time, for it is certain that only weak and powerless men will obey you in the hour of your cruelty.
"The Ganges flows freely from a golden peak in the Himalayas. Transforming into seven branches, she goes to the waters of the sea. She is a sacred river, Gandharva, and you cannot obstruct her or drive people away from her, because her pure waters lead to the kingdom of God. How could you even think to close off this river, an act against the eternal law? How can we not bathe in the pure waters of the Ganges as much as we desire? Her waters cannot be obstructed by your mere words."
Hearing these words, Angaraparna was furious. Bending his bow, he fired blazing arrows that shot out like deadly poisonous snakes. But Arjuna, whirling his torch like the finest of shields, drove away every one of the arrows.
Arjuna said, "These scare tactics are not effective with those who know weapons. Rather, such attempts to frighten collapse like bubbles and foam when used on an expert fighter. I recognize that all Gandharvas are superior to human beings. Therefore I shall employ divine weapons, Gandharva, and not mere magic. Brhaspati, the guru of Lord Indra, long ago gave this fiery weapon of the gods called Rgneya unto Bharadvaja, who then taught it to Agnivesya, who delivered it to my guru. And he, Drona, the best of brahmanas, gave it unto me."
Having thus spoken, the furious Pandava Arjuna released his blazing Rgneya weapon against the Gandharva, burning his chariot to ashes. Stunned by the missile's heat and bereft of his chariot, the mighty Gandharva tottered and fell head first toward the ground. Arjuna seized him by the hair on his head, which was adorned with wreaths, and dragged him back to show his brothers.
By this time the Gandharva was unconscious from the effect of the weapon. His wife, Kumbhinasi, desperate to save his life, surrendered to Yudhisthira and begged for asylum.
The Gandharva lady said, "O lord, my name is Kumbhinasi. I am a Gandharva woman, and I have come to you for shelter. Please, I beg you, Maharaja, forgive and protect us and release my husband." Yudhisthira Maharaja said, "Who would kill an enemy defeated in battle and deprived of his glory, especially the husband of a good woman and no longer resisting? Arjuna, O slayer of enemies, release him."
Arjuna said, "Take him, brother. Go now, Gandharva! Don't worry. Yudhisthira, the Kuru king, grants you immunity from all punishment."
The Gandharva's Gifts
The Gandharva said, "I admit defeat. I am giving up my name Angaraparna, for I can no longer be proud of my strength or name in a public assembly. With all my pride I tried to fight a younger, stronger man who holds divine weapons. But even in defeat I have achieved an excellent boon, for I have had the chance to know you.
"By the fire of your weapon, my fabulous chariot burned to ashes. So I who was known as Citra-ratha, 'he of the wonderful chariot,' have now earned the name Dagdha-ratha, 'he of the burnt chariot.'
"Whatever knowledge I have of the military science, I acquired by my previous austerities. I shall now give it all to the great soul who gave me back my life. When a warrior saves the life of an enemy whom he has quickly stunned and defeated and who has come to him for shelter, what beautiful gifts does he not deserve?
"First I give to you the science known as Caksusi, which Manu gave to Soma, who gave it to Visvavasu, who gave it to me. Even if given by a guru, if this science falls into the hands of a coward it automatically vanishes.
"I have told you the lineage of this science. Now I shall describe its power, so listen carefully.
"Anything within the universe a person wishes to see, he may see with this science, and exactly in the manner he desires. If a person stands on one foot for six months continuously, he may obtain this knowledge, but I present it to you, for so I have vowed. It is by this technology, O king, that we Gandharvas rise above the human kind, for by the power of this science we have become virtually indistinguishable from the gods.
"O best of men, I now wish to offer each of you five brothers a hundred horses of the type bred by the Gandharvas. The mounts of the gods and Gandharvas exude a celestial fragrance, and they move at the speed of the mind. Even when their energy is spent, they do not diminish their speed.
"These Gandharva horses change color at will and fly at the speed they desire. And simply by your desire they will appear before you, ready to serve. Indeed, these horses will always honor your wish."
Arjuna said, "Whether you have given these gifts out of love or in fear of your life, Gandharva, I do not want to take your science or wealth or even your accumulated knowledge."
The Gandharva said, "It is clearly seen that when people actually sit down together and unite in friendship, they derive a special pleasure. You have given me the gift of life. I am moved by what you have done, and I therefore give you this science. O best of the Bharata race, I shall take from you the superb Rgneya weapon, and thus our friendship will long endure."
Arjuna said, "I then choose from you the gift of your horses. May our alliance last forever. Now, my friend, tell me how people can be free of their fear of you Gandharvas. Tell me, O tamer of enemies, why you attacked us as we traveled at night, though we are knowers of the Supreme."
The Gandharva's Instructions
The Gandharva said, "You had no sacred fire or sacrificial offerings, nor did you place a priest before you. Thus I attacked you, O son of Pandu.
"O hero, the Yaksas, Raksasas, Gandharvas, Pisacas, Uragas, and human beings all discuss at length the glorious Kuru dynasty. I myself have listened to godly sages like Narada narrate the histories of your wise forefathers. And as I wander all about the ocean-skirted earth, I have witnessed the power of your family. I am familiar with your military professor, who taught you the Dhanur Veda, for that illustrious son of Bharadvaja is known throughout the three worlds.
"O tiger of the Kurus, I know well that six mighty beings—the lord of justice, the wind-god, Indra, the twin Asvins, and your own father, Pandu—are the force behind the Kuru empire. These forefathers of yours are truly the best among gods and men. Thus it is not surprising that all you Pandava brothers are divine beings, great souls who excel in all weapons, heroes who faithfully act for the good of all creatures. Actually, all of you possess a spiritual mind and intelligence, for your consciousness is fixed on the Supreme.
"Although I knew this, Partha, I still attacked you on the riverbank. In the company of women, Kauravya, a man cannot tolerate being slighted, and he tries to assert his own strength and prestige. At night our strength very much increases, and that is why, Kaunteya, my wife and I allowed ourselves to become so angry.
"O glory of the Kurus, you have defeated me in battle, but listen now as I tell you the principles by which you gained your victory.
"Celibacy in the service of God is the best religious principle, and you have regularly practiced it. Any ksatriya warrior who lives a promiscuous life should be opposed in battle at night, for there is no way he will keep his life. But even though a king may live a lusty life, he will be victorious in battle over all the creatures of the night if he is led by a saintly priest. Therefore, whatever benefit men hope to achieve, they must engage self-controlled priests in the task.
"Those who know and follow the laws of God, who are clean in body and mind, who are devoted to the essence of the six-limbed Veda, and who speak the truth should be the priests of kings. Victory on earth and then promotion to heaven are assured for a king whose priest knows and speaks the principles of religion, who practices them in his own life, and who is thus pure in spirit. A king who appoints and follows a fully qualified priest will gain all he lacks and preserve all he has.
"A monarch who abides by the decision of his priest may aspire to attain all the ocean-skirted earth, with handsome Mount Meru as its crown. A king who does not serve a brahmana will never conquer the world through family alliances or naked heroism. But a kingdom led by brahmanas, O glory of the Kurus, can be preserved for a long time."
Hridayananda Dasa Goswami led the team of devotee-scholars who completed the translation and commentary of the Srimad-Bhagavatam begun by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. He is now doing graduate work in Sanskrit and Indian Studies at Harvard University.
Devotional service of the Lord that ignores the authorized Vedic literatures like the Upanisads, Puranas, and Narada-pancaratra is simply an unnecessary disturbance in society.
—Srila Rupa Gosvami
May there be good fortune throughout the universe, and may all envious persons be pacified. May all living entities become calm by practicing bhakti-yoga, for by accepting devotional service they will think of each other's welfare. Therefore let us all engage in the service of the supreme transcendence, Lord Sri Krsna, and always remain absorbed in thought of Him.
—Sri Prahlada Maharaja
As a lamp in a windless place does not waver, so the transcendentalist, whose mind is controlled, remains always steady in his meditation on the transcendent self.
—Lord Sri Krsna
As a mass of clouds does not know the powerful influence of the wind, a person engaged in material consciousness does not know the powerful strength of the time factor, by which he is being carried.
Spiritual rasa [taste], which is relished even in the liberated stage, can be experienced in the literature of the Srimad-Bhagavatam due to its being the ripened fruit of all Vedic knowledge. By submissively hearing this transcendental literature, one can attain the full pleasure of his heart's desire.
—His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
A materialistic person, thinking himself to be very advanced in intelligence, continually acts for economic development. But again and again, as enunciated in the Vedas, he is frustrated by material activities, either in this life or in the next. Indeed, the results one obtains are inevitably the opposite of those one desires.
—Sri Narada Muni
One who has not listened to the messages about the prowess and marvelous acts of the Personality of Godhead and has not sung or chanted loudly the worthy songs about the Lord is to be considered to possess earholes like the holes of snakes and a tongue like the tongue of a frog.
—Sri Saunaka Rsi