Immersed in the Real Business of Life
Sripada Gour Govinda Swami (1929-1996)
One evening in late February I was on the top floor of the "Conch Building" at our ISKCON center in Sridham Mayapur, West Bengal. I'd finished my chanting for the day and was on my way downstairs to head across the campus to rest for the night. One flight down, I heard a group of devotees loudly doing kirtana, chanting Hare Krsna together, gathered outside one of the rooms. I headed in their direction, wondering what was going on.
Just then one of my godbrothers, Harikesa Swami, made his way out of the room and through the group of chanters. He was walking in the direction I was coming from. As he drew near I gave a quizzical look and asked, "What's up?"
"Gour Govinda Swami just left his body."
The expression "left his body" is a term devotees use where other people might say "died." It denotes more precisely what has taken place—the atma, the eternal spark of consciousness, has gone, leaving behind its temporary vehicle, the outward body.
But however the news might have been put, I was taken aback. Sripada Gour Govinda Swami was a leader of the Krsna consciousness movement, known for his learning and his devotion, and sometimes for unbending outspokenness. He was a sannyasi (a renounced saintly person). He was a member of the movement's Governing Body. He was the spiritual master of many disciples. And he was my personal friend.
He had shown no signs of ill health. And now, suddenly, he was gone.
I joined the disciples and godbrothers chanting Hare Krsna by his bed, and by the next day I was 350 miles south in Bhubaneswara, where by Srila Prabhupada's order he had built a magnificent temple. Next to the temple, in the small hut where he had lived and worked, his body was buried in the ground.
Now, for the first time since the departure of Srila Prabhupada, disciples in the Krsna consciousness movement would have to live and push on in the physical absence of their spiritual master. The inevitable circumstance that had come to us, Srila Prabhupada's disciples, had now come to them, the disciples of a disciple.
I spent the next days in their company, as they recalled and recounted their experiences with Sripada Gour Govinda Swami, their affectionate dealings with him, and the teachings he had given them by his word and his example. I remembered my own touch with him and shared in the acute sense of loss.
For here was a devotee who, till the last moment, had shown how to live immersed in the real business of life—hearing about, speaking about, thinking about, and serving the lotus feet of Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
An article on page 18 tells more.
Chanting Hare Krsna with Love
Thank you, Dvarakadhisa Devi Dasi, for the article on the important subject of inattentive chanting.
Dvarakadhisa has mentioned several reasons for chanting inattentively, such as laziness, tiredness, busyness, sickness, and mental disturbance. But the underlying cause of inattentiveness is that we are not attached to Krsna. Still, by hearing about Krsna, by going on trying to chant attentively, by associating with those attached to Him, and by engaging in His devotional service, we become attached to Him. Then we chant with love, in which our attention is automatically drawn towards Him.
Inattentive chanting is a perennial problem for aspiring devotees, but can be overcome by sustained effort in devotional service. We need to regularly read about and discuss the glories of the holy name. We should especially discuss the need to chant attentively and to pray to guru and Krsna for help to overcome this problem.
Bhakti Vikasa Swami
Hail to the Mail
Hare Krsna! I am very impressed with the humble and objective attitude of the BTG magazine. It is amazing how the editors include favorable responses as well as heavily critical responses from readers in the "Letters" section of the magazine. The magazine is so open-minded that I often read very critical letters without a single word of reply from the editors. And at other times I break into laughter by reading the smashing responses from the editors to destroy the misconceptions of some of the critical readers.
I was particularly impressed by Jayadvaita Swami's response about demigod worship in the last issue. He seems to have an extraordinary knack for getting a point across. I was also impressed by Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu's inconceivable topics about the soul's fall. I think the magazine does a great job at addressing the complaints and comments of the readers. Thank you.
Randolph, New Jersey
Better Things to Think About
I never gave the "jivas' fall from grace" question too much thought. After reading Ravindra Svarupa's essay I think I might have had the right idea.
Maharupa Dasa Hanford, California
Vraja Kishor Grows Old
I'm sorry, but I really have to say this: What happened to Vraja Kishor's articles? That was my favorite section.
Sarasvati Dasi Detroit, Michigan
OUR REPLY: Youth is not forever, at least not in the material world. Vraja Kishor Dasa tells us he has outgrown his column, which was intended mainly for straightedge kids. We look forward to publishing articles from him directed to a broader audience.
Worshiping Sri Ganesa For Devotion to Lord Krsna
It has been delightful reading the magazine. With reference to the article on Ganesa by Satyaraja Dasa, I would like to ask: How to go about worshiping Sri Ganesa and his mother, goddess Durga, for removing obstacles on the road to Krsna consciousness?
I would like to worship Ganesaji, because I have always found him to be extremely lovable. Hence, if you could direct me as how to go about doing it, I shall very much appreciate it.
Shri Uttan Vasudeva
OUR REPLY: In the Krsna consciousness movement we have no rituals for worshiping Sri Ganesa or other devas. Following the directions of Bhagavad-gita, we exclusively worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna (Visnu).
To invoke the blessings of Sri Ganesa or any other god or goddess for increasing your Krsna consciousness, we suggest that you simply offer them your heartfelt prayers. You should also understand what is meant by "obstacles." The only real obstacles are our material desires—desires for things other than pure devotion to Krsna. "Obstacles" does not refer to material problems, such as poor health, lack of money, or family difficulties. We should not think that we have to pray to anyone to relieve us of such material miseries. Rather, we should understand that when we become Krsna conscious all our material problems will seem insignificant. So, again, we should be careful that our prayers to any Deity are for pure love for Krsna, not for relieving material distress.
"Violating the Spirit of Hinduism"
Regarding the charges by the Federation of Hindu Associations (FHA) that Back to Godhead is "violating the very spirit of Hinduism" by scripturally distinguishing between Lord Krsna and the devas, or "demigods," I think that Jayadvaita Swami's reply, based firmly on the teachings of the Bhagavad-gita, showed decisively that ISKCON's philosophy speaks the essence of authentic Vedic scripture.
If teaching the conclusions of the Bhagavad-gita violates the spirit of Hinduism, then something is very much wrong about much of modern Hinduism.
Hansa B. Medley, MD Houston, Texas
I refer to the resolution of the Federation of Hindu Associations and the brilliant reply given by Jayadvaita Swami. It is so funny that the president of the association calls himself a protector of Hindu interests yet condemns the Puranas by calling them obscure.
If the Puranas are obscure, why do he and others attend so many programs directly based on Puranas? Without the Puranas Hindu society would have been left high and dry, as the Vedas are high and the Upanisads are dry for an ordinary Hindu. The Puranas are the basis for restoring the faith, and Srimad-Bhagavatam is the pinnacle of all Puranas.
Prabhupada's Krsna consciousness movement is not endangering Hinduism; it is the only organization which has brought out the true essence of Hinduism, namely following the sanatana-dharma. Since it is based on sastras [Vedic scriptures] and is highly convincing in logic and content, it is being accepted universally. The proof is the spreading of the Hare Krsna movement in every nook and corner of the world. I congratulate you for standing up for the truth without any compromise to please a few self-declared leaders.
Subuddhi Krsna Dasa (Subodh Sangar)
What is all this bickering about? I am a devout Hindu and my whole family is also. I intend to die a Hindu. Yet the FHA's resolution seems more out of line than anything said in BTG. To the best of my knowledge, BTG has never said Lord Sri Rama is a demigod. Rama and Krsna are the same.
I and my whole family are very grateful to ISKCON for all the wonderful work they do around the world—Food for Life programs, outreach programs, etc. May I point out that ISKCON's temples are open to all people of the world, no matter their religion, race, or creed.
In this age we are living in now (the Age of Kali), let us not bicker.
Namaste. Sita Rama.
Mrs. A. Shiva Hollywood, Florida
I thank you for your very strongly worded reply to Mr. Singh of the Federation of Hindu Associations. It was perfectly clear, scripturally sound, and logically conclusive.
William C. Willis San Diego, California
I was surprised by reading the FHA Resolution. However, you have given a very explicit, crystalline response with extracts from the sastras. I have been in the US since the last twenty-seven years. I came from India and was born into a Hindu family. However, I did not have a real knowledge about why Lord Krsna is the only Bhagavan [Supreme Lord] and the demigods are servants of Lord Krsna.
During 1971-72 when I saw devotees in downtown San Francisco on Market Street and Hollywood Street in L.A., distributing BTG and Bhagavad-gita, that really awakened me, and I decided to learn more about Sri Krsna bhakti.
Finally, during the mid-eighties my wife and I accepted Srila Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami as a spiritual master and surrendered to Srila Prabhupada's mission.
If a person takes pride in becoming a Hindu, then he should follow the Hindu bible, the Gita, educate others, and participate in many pious activities and preach
(1) why a cow is to be protected, (support the cow protection program)
(2) be a vegetarian and eat prasadam
(3) read and obey Sri Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam (humbly inquire more from sastra, guru, and a true sadhu).
(4) follow Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu's message: bharata-bhumite haila manusya-janma yara, janma sarthaka kari' kara para-upakara, "One who takes his birth in the land of Bharata should make his life perfect and then preach to others."
(5) Give up bodily concepts, learn spiritual realization, and make this life successful by going back to Godhead. Otherwise the human life is wasted.
This is Srila Prabhupada's Centennial Year. We followers of Srila Prabhupada see this year as an opportunity to expand the Krsna consciousness movement far and wide.
In these present days we see many new people coming to ISKCON temples allover the world and inquiring more about the Hare Krsna movement. Srila Prabhupada's literature, the chanting of Hare Krsna, and BTG will bring a revolution in the impious life of a misdirected civilization of the world.
NOTE: Not everyone was so pleased with what we had to say. A magazine in Malaysia has published an editorial criticizing BTG for "twisting of Vedic shlokas and the Gita to fit their view of the Hindu pantheon." Stay tuned.
We'd like to hear from you. Please send correspondence to: The Editors, Back to Godhead, P. O. Box 430, Alachua, Florida 32616, USA. Fax: (904) 462-7893. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
In the timeline of Srila Prabhupada's life (BTG, January/February), several readers have pointed out a serious omission: We failed to list Prabhupada's opening of Krsna conscious schools (gurukulas) in Dallas (1972) and Vrndavana (1977). Although we couldn't possibly list all of Prabhupada's accomplishments, these gurukula openings were milestones we ought to have included.
The subtitle in the article on Hanuman in the March/April issue said that Hanuman was "sired by Lord Siva," while the article mentioned Vayu as Hanuman's father. This may have caused confusion. A standard reference mentions both Siva and Vayu as Hanuman's father. We are researching the topic and will let you know what we find.
Lord Krsna comes in many ways to draw us back to Him.
A lecture given in Los Angeles on October 1, 1972,
by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
avatara hy asankhyeya / hareh sattva-nidher dvijah
"O brahmanas, the incarnations of the Lord are innumerable, like rivulets flowing from inexhaustible sources of water."
THERE IS NO LIMIT TO the incarnations of God, just as there is no limit to the waves in the ocean. Sattva-nidheh. Nidhi means "ocean," and sattva means "existential." Sattva also means "goodness." Here in the material world there are three modes of nature: goodness, passion, and ignorance. But real goodness is in the spiritual world.
In the material world goodness is, of course, taken as the highest quality, but such goodness is liable to be infected by the other two qualities: passion and ignorance. It is exposed. And here goodness is also the cause of bondage. As passion and ignorance are causes of bondage, material goodness is also a cause of bondage.
So we have to transcend material goodness also. Then, when we get stability of goodness, that is spiritual life. Goodness disturbed by passion and ignorance is not yet perfect. Therefore, sometimes we find that one of our students is doing everything nicely in goodness but he is attacked by passion and ignorance and he becomes entangled.
Real goodness—without being attacked by passion and ignorance—is in God. Hareh sattva-nidheh. The spiritual platform is called sattvam visuddham, goodness unaffected by other qualities. 'Visuddham means "completely pure, no adulteration." As long as we are on the material platform, goodness is, liable to be adulterated, just as the milk we purchase from the market is adulterated. Although there are so many laws by the government—"You cannot adulterate"—people have the propensity to adulterate. So you cannot get pure things. The whole atmosphere is so polluted.
Therefore here so-called goodness is also a cause of bondage. One has the tendency to think, "Now I have become a Vaisnava, a devotee. I have become learned." But God is so clever that He says, "If you are so good, now you fight with passion and ignorance." And the person fails. He falls victim to passion and ignorance.
Only by pure devotional service can you stay in pure goodness. Otherwise goodness will be adulterated.
What is that pure devotional service? Anyabhilasita-sunyam. Pure devotional service means one has no material desires. Material desires adulterate goodness. For example, if you are a brahmacari—in goodness—but you are always thinking of women and sex, that is an adulteration of your goodness. Such a person is described in the Bhagavad-gita as a cheater.
Therefore we have to think of Krsna always. Otherwise, as soon as there is a little loophole, maya will enter and adulterate our goodness. Lord Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita (14.26):
mam ca yo 'vyabhicarena
Anyone engaged in devotional service without any adulteration can surpass the three qualities of the material world. At that time he becomes completely spiritualized.
Every one of us is a spirit soul, part and parcel of God, but we are now covered by the material qualities. We are separated from God because due to envy we want to imitate God.
"Oh, God is the enjoyer? Why can't I become an enjoyer?"
"Yes," God says. "You become an enjoyer."
Then we fall into the material world.
We may compare God to a fire and the spirit souls to sparks of that fire. If a spark leaves the fire and falls on dry grass, a fire will start. If a spark falls on green vegetation, there will be some heat; the spark will not be extinguished at once. But if a spark falls into water, it will be extinguished immediately.
When a spirit soul who has fallen contacts the mode of goodness, that is like a spark falling on dry grass. A person in the mode of goodness is almost on the spiritual platform. The mode of goodness includes the brahminical qualifications: truthfulness, simplicity, full knowledge, control of the senses, control of the mind, practical application of knowledge in life, and complete faith in God.
The mode of passion can be seen in strong desire to enjoy the material world. Generally kings and politicians are very passionate to encroach upon others' property or other nations.
And the mode of ignorance—"All right, let me eat something and sleep." That's all. That is ignorance. A person influenced by the mode of ignorance is satisfied to get a good opportunity for sleeping.
One has to transcend the three qualities of the material world. And anyone can do that. Krsna does not say that only the person in goodness, who has the brahminical qualities, can be engaged in devotional service. If you engage in devotional service, you at once transcend the three qualities. You become more than a brahmana—you become a Vaisnava. A Vaisnava is transcendental even to the brahminical qualities.
But if you do not maintain even the brahminical qualities, then how are you Vaisnava? To become a Vaisnava is not so easy. But Lord Caitanya has made it easy, provided you stick to the regulative principles. Simply chant Hare Krsna regularly. The chanting of Hare Krsna is the special facility for the people in this age. By chanting you can remain steady in the transcendental position. Ceto-darpana marjanam bhava-maha-davagni-nirvapanam. As soon as you stay on the platform of offenseless chanting you become transcendental to the material qualities.
Very simple. You don't have to study Vedanta. The Vedanta, or the conclusions of Vedic philosophy, will be revealed to you:
yasya deve para bhaktir
The Vedanta philosophy will be revealed automatically. You haven't got to study. All the Vedanta knowledge will be revealed within you, provided you have unflinching faith in God and the spiritual master.
The Mercy of Krsna and Guru
In the Caitanya-caritamrta it is said that you can make advancement in spiritual life by the mercy of Krsna and guru. Don't bypass the guru and try to get Krsna's mercy immediately. That will not work. You have to go through the proper channel. It is wrong to think, "I shall make spiritual advancement without a guru." Even if you want to see a big man you have to go through his servant. You have to take permission. The servant may say to the big man, "Sir, so-and-so wants to see you. He appears to be a good man." "Oh?" the master says. "He is a good man? All right, bring him." The recommendation of the servant is required.
Therefore we sing daily, yasya prasadad bhagavat-prasadah: by the mercy of the guru we get the mercy of God. Yasyaprasadan na gatih kuto 'pi: if the guru is not satisfied, the disciple makes no advancement.
In today's verse it is said, "There are many incarnations." The guru is also an incarnation of God—the mercy incarnation of God. God is within you as caitya-guru, the guru within your heart. Isvarah sarva-bhutanam hrd-dese 'rjuna tisthati. Krsna says that he is seated in everyone's heart as the Supersoul, or Paramatma. So Paramatma is an incarnation of God. And when, being very merciful upon you, Paramatma comes before you to teach you from outside, that is the guru. Therefore it is said, saksad-dharitvena samasta-sastraih. The guru is the mercy incarnation of God. Saksat means "direct." Hari-tvena means the guru is Hari, God. Samasta-sastraih means "all the scriptures." It is not that somewhere it is stated that the guru is an incarnation of God and somewhere it is not stated. No. It is stated in all Vedic literature.
Then it is said, uktas tatha bhavyata eva sadbhih. Uktah means "it is said." Sadbhih means "devotees. "Those who are real devotees accept this. "Yes, the guru is exactly a representative of Krsna, a representative of Krsna's mercy."
The disciple must respect the guru as God, but the guru should not say, "Now I have become God." If he says that, then he is immediately fallen. He cannot say, "I am an incarnation of God, so you simply worship me."
Mayavadi, or impersonalistic, gurus say, "There is no difference between God and me." But a real guru says, "I am a servant of the servant of the servant of the servant of God." Gopi-bhartuh pada-kamalayor dasa- dasanudasah. Though given the honor of God, the real guru never declares that He is God. He always says, "I am the most fallen servant of God."
So as there are incessant waves on the ocean, countless incarnations of God are also coming. Why not? There are innumerable universes, not one universe. We have studied in the Brahma-samhita: yasyaika-nisvasita-kalam athavalambya jivanti loma-vilaja jagad-anda-nathah. Jagad-anda means "universe." In each universe there is a natha, or controller—Lord Brahma. So just imagine. By the inhaling and exhaling of Maha-Visnu in the Causal Ocean, so many universes are coming out. And in every universe there are so many planets. So just imagine how many incarnations are required to enlighten the people in every universe.
We are all sons of God, and we are trying to forget Him. But God cannot forget us, because we are His sons. God is trying to reclaim us. Krsna Himself is coming to canvass: "Why are you rotting here? Why don't you come? Just surrender and be happy."
"No. I shall work here." From Brahma down to the hog, everyone in the material world is trying to be happy by working. They will not surrender to Krsna. But Krsna wants them to go back home, back to Godhead. Therefore He says in the Gita (18.66),
"You have committed so many sinful activities during your material existence. There is no limit. But if you surrender unto Me, I immediately make you immune from all reactions to your sinful life. Immediately."
Mercy for Jagai and Madhai
Krsna simply wants us to give up our sinful activities and surrender to Him. This is shown by the story of Lord Caitanya's deliverance of Jagai and Madhai. These brothers were very sinful. They were engaging in illicit sex, intoxication, meat-eating, and gambling. They had been born in a nice brahmana family, but by bad association they became drunkards, gamblers, meat-eaters, and prostitute hunters. They were simply, creating disturbances.
Such people will always create disturbances. The whole world is now disturbed. Why? Because it is full of these sinful men: drunkards, gamblers, meat-eaters, and woman hunters. And people expect peace. Nonsense. Where is peace? First of all educate people to become sinless. Then talk of peace. Otherwise, there cannot be peace.
So these two brothers were creating a disturbance in the street, and a crowd had gathered. Lord Nityananda and Haridasa Thakura, close associates of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, were out for preaching. Lord Nityananda saw the crowd and inquired, "What is this crowd?"
Someone replied, "There are two most sinful brothers, and they are creating a disturbance. So there is a crowd."
Nityananda Prabhu said to Haridasa Thakura, "Why not deliver these two brothers? Then it will be a great credit for Caitanya Mahaprabhu."
That is the mood of a preacher. He wants the credit to go to his master, not himself, even if he risks his life.
When Lord Nityananda approached Jagai and Madhai to ask them to chant Hare Krsna, one of the brothers hit him in the head with a stone, and blood came out.
Lord Nityananda said, "All right. You have hurt Me. Blood is oozing out. That doesn't matter. Chant Hare Krsna."
Lord Nityananda is showing us how we must preach. It is not that we only stay safely somewhere and chant Hare Krsna. No. We have to go out and meet the Jagais and Madhais. That is Caitanya Mahaprabhu's mission, because the world is full of Jagais and Madhais.
When Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu heard that one of the brothers had injured Nityananda Prabhu, He became angry—like fire. If a devotee sees Visnu or a Vaisnava insulted, he should be firelike. Lord Caitanya taught, trnad api sunicena: a devotee should be as humble as straw in the street. But when a devotee sees the Lord or the Lord's devotee insulted, the devotee should not be like a straw—he should be like fire. Caitanya Mahaprabhu showed this by example. He became very very angry—"I shall kill these two brothers immediately!"
But Nityananda Prabhu entreated, "Oh, My dear sir, in this incarnation You have promised not to accept any weapon. In Your incarnation as Lord Ramacandra You took up weapons. As Krsna also You took up weapons. But this time You wanted to deliver these poor souls. So don't kill them. Excuse them. Accept them."
Nityananda Prabhu is the original guru, and He was showing that the guru's business is to be very merciful.
Jagai and Madhai fell at Lord Caitanya's feet and said, "We are so sinful. We have done wrong. Kindly excuse us."
Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu made one condition: "Your life is full of sinful activities. So if you simply promise, "I shall not sin anymore,' then I can accept you."
Jagai and Madhai said. "Sir, we'll not do these sinful things anymore."
That vow is required. When you are initiated, you promise: "No illicit sex, no intoxication, no meat-eating, no gambling." But if you privately do these things, then what kind of person are you? Don't be a cheater. When you promise not to do these things, don't do them again. Then you will remain in goodness. Nobody can disturb you. And if you pollute yourself silently, then goodness will go away.
This is the warning. Once you are initiated on the promise that you shall not do these nonsense things, then you remain perfectly in goodness. Mam eva ye prapadyante mayam etam taranti. Maya cannot do anything. But if you cheat yourself, cheat your spiritual master, cheat God, then you will be cheated by maya.
Thank you very much.
Cooking Class: Lesson 24
By Yamuna Devi
ISKCON DEVOTEES are now well into the year-long celebration of the Srila Prabhupada Centennial. Seeds planted months, even years, ago are now coming into full bloom in the form of group achievements, large festivals and conferences, and programs for distributing large numbers of Srila Prabhupada's books. For a cook, everyday activity can be tendered as a humble offering to glorify Prabhupada. The result of a cook's service is krsna-prasadam, and by eating and distributing it our lives will gradually become more and more spiritualized.
In many lectures, conversations, and morning walks, Srila Prabhupada stressed the importance of prasadam distribution, but more important, he lived his instructions. For example, he kept a jar of prasadam under his desk, and everyone who came to visit him left with a taste of prasadam, often received from Prabhupada's own hand. Prabhupada requested temple managers to ensure that guests received more than mere tastes of krsna-prasadam, but rather full plates. He showed us how the loving exchange of offering and taking prasadam purifies the heart and senses and pleases even those who witness the exchange.
As I mentioned in the last column, in this Centennial year, along with the ongoing cooking-class topics we will focus on items related to cooking that Srila Prabhupada stressed. This month: cleanliness.
Lord Krsna explains in the Gita that saucam, or cleanliness, is an aspect of knowledge. In a thirteenth-chapter purport, Srila Prabhupada explains, "Cleanliness is essential for making advancement in spiritual life. There are two kinds of cleanliness: external and internal. External cleanliness means taking a bath, but for internal cleanliness, one has to think of Krsna always and chant Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. This process cleans the accumulated dust of past karma from the mind."
In India temple cooks are almost exclusively members of the brahmana caste. ISKCON cooks and helpers may or may not be initiated brahmanas, but in any case they are expected to follow brahminical standards of cleanliness. Brahmanas generally bathe three times a day. They wash their mouth, gums, and teeth not only upon rising but any time after eating. In fact, they wash their hands, mouth, and feet even after drinking or just nibbling.
Cooks must wear clean clothes whenever they enter the kitchen, and they avoid wearing in the kitchen the same clothes they sleep in, even if the clothes are clean. Temple cooks never taste food while cooking, even to adjust seasonings. Cooks who follow these standards are considered suci, or "clean."
A temple kitchen should be kept as spotlessly clean as the Deity room. In India the kitchen is designed for cleanliness. Cleaners give mud stoves a new wash of mud after each use and wash the entire kitchen with water at least twice a day, or after every meal is cooked.
If there is one aspect of cleanliness in the kitchen that Srila Prabhupada stressed more than any other, it is spotlessly clean cookware. Prabhupada's test for kitchen cleanliness was the bottom of pots. He recalled how his mother would check the bottom of every utensil for spots. Prabhupada trained his cooks to clean his three-tiered brass cooker until the sides and bottom shone like gold. After cooking on an open fire, I used ashes and earth for the task, with excellent results. Sometimes Prabhupada condemned the pots in temple kitchens, saying that a Vaisnava cook should not even touch a pot with black spots on the bottom.
So now lets take a reality check. Right now, are you sure there are no black spots on the bottom of your cookware? It doesn't matter whether you are a temple cook, a restaurant chef, a traveling mendicant, or a household cook—if you're unsure, you're on shaky ground. You should know that there are none—zilch—no black spots on the bottom of your pots, because that is the standard Prabhupada gave us.
Above I quoted from a Bhagavad-gita purport where Srila Prabhupada writes that the process for cleansing the mind, heart, and senses is chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra. Chanting is so simple, but the benefits are so sublime. The best way to understand the benefits is to chant and hear. Devotees often play tapes of chanting when they cook, because the maha-mantra purifies the atmosphere of the kitchen. I have seen the maha-mantra work magic for years.
Spiritual cooking can be as powerful as prayer or meditation, a complete absorption on the transcendental platform. And hearing transcendental sound can enhance the process.
While cooking, devotees also often listen to tapes of classes on Krsna consciousness, because the sound of glorification of the Lord is as purifying as the Lord's holy name. In 1968 in Montreal, a new disciple was speaking before Prabhupada during the celebration of Prabhupada's appearance day. The devotee said that he would feel his life perfect if every day for the rest of his life he could simply roll capatis and listen to tapes of Prabhupada's lectures. The disciple's words brought tears to Prabhupada's eyes. "Yes," Prabhupada said. "Thank you for thinking like that."
Now into the Light Meals and Savories chapter of the class textbook, Lord Krishna's Cuisine.
Served as a delicious side dish or the center of a light meal, golden-brown koftas are often relished with "oohs" and "aahs." Cooks in different regions of India make and shape koftas differently. Cooks in the North most often make them by deep-frying a ball of shredded radishes, cauliflower, and potato or panir cheese, loosely bound with chickpea flour. Cooks in the West and East might shape koftas into sauteed savory cakes, like potato pancakes. And cooks in the South might make koftas with a mixture of vegetables or ground dals, fried into feather-light savory doughnuts.
For your cooking-class homework make at least three kinds of koftas from the class textbook-plus the two recipes above.
To further embellish your koftas, you might consider a number of chutneys or sauces. Sweet-tart Green-Apple Chutney goes well with Zucchini Kofta; Hot Green-Chili Sauce would be perfect with Chickpea Kofta; and Sour Cream Parsley Sauce would go well with almost any kind of kofta.
For a simple entree, serve the Potato Kofta Cakes and Tomato Cream with basmati rice and a saute of seasonal vegetables.
One's mind becomes clean by honoring prasadam prepared in a neat and clean kitchen and offered to Krsna with devotion. One day in Vrndavana, while I was pouring Srila Prabhupada a glass of water from a clay jug, he said that his disciples must learn to act in a brahminical way, carefully cultivating clean habits. If the disciple fails to do things properly, he said, it is not the disciple but the spiritual master who is criticized. He asked us to act in such a way as to bring him credit, not dishonor. In this Centennial year, let us all, old devotees and new, offer Prabhupada the honor and credit he deserves by living his teachings and sharing them with others.
Until next time, have fun exploring koftas.
Yamuna Devi is the author of the award-winning cookbooks Lord Krishna's Cuisine: The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking and Yamuna's Table. She is a regular contributor to The Washington Post and Vegetarian Times. Write to her in care o/BTG
Potato kofta cakes
These koftas are pan-fried into crispy cakes made with spiced potatoes, almonds, and bell peppers, bound together with a little chickpea flour.
2 pounds red potatoes, medium shredded
Place the shredded potatoes in a colander and rinse well; set aside to drain. Combine the remaining ingredients in a large bowl and toss to mix.
Place the potatoes between kitchen towels, press out any excess water, and add the potatoes to the other dry ingredients. Using your hands, mix until the mixture begins to stick together. Scoop out '/2-cup portions of packed kofta mixture, press it between your hands to make 12 flattened balls, and set them aside on trays.
Heat ¼-inch of ghee or oil in two large nonstick skillets until hot but not smoking; then reduce the heat to medium high. Moisten your palms and flatten each ball slightly to make a patty; then carefully slip it into the oil. Fry 3 or 4 koftas in each pan, without crowding, until richly browned, 3 or 4 minutes per side, turning once.
Offer the koftas to Krsna at once or transfer them to baking trays and keep them warm in a 250° oven for up to 2 hours. Serve 2 to 3 koftas per plate, with spoonfuls of warm Tomato Cream.
(Makes about 3 cups)
1 tablespoon ghee or virgin olive oil
Heat most of the ghee or oil in a saucepan, add the mustard seeds, and when they begin to change color add the asafetida. When the mustard seeds pop, stir in the tomato paste. Fry for a minute or so, add the water, whisk to blend, and bring to a boil. Remove the saucepan from the heat, and gently whisk in the yogurt or sour cream. Season with salt and pepper. Offer to Krsna. Before use, gently rewarm, but do not boil.
The Marks of a Warrior
By Vineet Chander
It was a typical Saturday night, and my parents had left for the evening. Like many sixteen-year-olds left home alone in America, I planned to do something forbidden. But unlike many sixteen-year-olds, my plans didn't include alcohol, cigarettes, girlfriends, or late-night parties. Instead, I chose to do something I couldn't do when my parents were home: put on tilaka.
I WAS BORN and raised in the U.S. by Indian immigrant parents from prominent Hindu families. About six years ago my parents took me to an ISKCON temple, where I met some devotees. Soon I started reading Srila Prabhupada's books, and I found what I had been searching for, for what seemed like lifetimes—something that made sense in this crazy world. Gradually, my dormant Krsna consciousness began to reawaken.
At first my parents were happy I was embracing my Vedic roots. But as they realized that this was more than just a passing fling or hobby, and as they saw that I wanted to make Krsna the center of my life, their pride turned to nervousness. My chanting made them nervous. My insistence on prasadam made them nervous. And, of course, my desire to wear Vaisnava tilaka made them nervous.
Why? I wish I knew, but I really don't. Perhaps they felt that my striving to be a devotee would be a slap in the face of the American dream of material success. Perhaps they felt they were losing their "little boy" to God and didn't want to let go.
In any event, I grew to accept my situation. The pain of separation from the Vaisnava practices, however, was hard to bear.
The Significance of Tilaka
Why should I make such a big deal out of wearing tilaka? Because marking the body with tilaka is much more than just a simple Vedic ritual. Srila Prabhupada's books and the writings of other Vaisnava acaryas abound with explanations of the significance of tilaka.
The main function of tilaka is to mark the body as a temple of Visnu. A devotee offers his life in the Lord's service and uses his body not to gratify his senses but to glorify the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krsna. So the body of the sincere devotee is as much a temple as any stone or mortar building, and it ought to be ornamented with the bona fide Vaisnava insignia—tilaka.
Tilaka purifies and protects the devotee. When the devotee applies the markings and chants the appropriate mantras as taught by Srila Prabhupada, he prays that he may remember Krsna and that Krsna may protect him. The present age, Kali-yuga, is full of demonic forces, but tilaka and the mantras for applying it protect devotees and help them remember and serve the lotus-eyed Lord. Even devotees unable to wear tilaka publicly often apply water instead of tilaka and chant the mantras to obtain the benefits.
Possibly the most important reason for the aspiring devotee to wear tilaka is to remind himself and others that we all are the Lord's servants. Just as the policeman's uniform reminds him of his duty, tilaka reminds the aspiring devotee that he must act properly as a Vaisnava. Tilaka also helps remind him that he is a representative of his spiritual master and the entire society of Vaisnavas and that he should glorify, not disgrace, them by his actions.
In bygone days certain Native American tribal warriors wore special marks meant to protect themselves in battle, identify themselves as sacred, and boost their fighting spirit. Similarly, we aspiring devotees must declare war on maya. The Hare Krsna maha-mantra is our best weapon, the tilaka our mark as warriors. By wearing tilaka, the devotee proclaims his allegiance to Lord Krsna and His devotees and gains the strength to fight harder against the temptations of maya and serve even more. The devotees I know testify that when they wear fresh tilaka they feel more inspired and enthusiastic in their devotional service. Indeed, wearing tilaka helps transform a neophyte into a strengthened veteran in Lord Caitanya's transcendental army. Devotees also gain inspiration from knowing that Srila Prabhupada was pleased to see his followers wearing tilaka. He has written, "When [the devotees in the Krsna consciousness movement] are dressed with saffron-colored cloth, with tilaka on their foreheads and beads in their hands and on their necks, they look exactly as if they have come directly from Vaikuntha."
Some devotees, because of shyness or fear of ridicule, do not mark themselves as Vaisnavas. But I've seen that although startling to some, the mark of tilaka evokes interest, and even respect, from others, and so we should not feel shy or fearful to wear tilaka.
On this topic, Srila Prabhupada told the story of a Hindu man who wore tilaka to work even after his Muslim employer had forbidden all workers to do so. Since the man was the only employee with the strength of conviction to defy the order, the Muslim employer decided to grant him alone the privilege of freely wearing tilaka in the workplace.
Those restricted from wearing tilaka must simply "hang in there." Remembering Lord Caitanya's instruction to be more tolerant than a tree, they should trust in Krsna and guru with faith and devotion. Gradually my parents have come to appreciate my desire to become a devotee. It has been more than a year since the day described in the beginning of the article, and now my parents allow me to wear tilaka and Vaisnava dress. They even accompany me to the temple. I attribute this to the mercy of Lord Caitanya.
War against maya is never easy, especially when she attacks in the form of nervous parents. But with or without tilaka to enliven me, I must fight with all my strength, calling out to Lord Krsna for help.
Even though I'm unworthy, I have a request of all Vaisnavas, young and old alike: Please stay in your positions as servants of Srimati Radharani. Please go on extolling the glories of the sankirtana movement of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. And please, whenever and wherever you can, wear your tilaka in confidence. Besides the reasons I've given here, and besides the reasons given in Vaisnava scriptures, please wear tilaka—if for no other reason—simply for the sake of those who cannot.
Vineet Chander, age 17, lives near New York City, where he frequently visits the ISKCON temple. He is the editor of Lotus Voices, the monthly newsletter of the ISKCON New York Youth Forum. He invites correspondence at 76-42 266th St., New Hyde Park, NY 11040. Phone: (718) 347-5665.
By Hare Krsna Devi Dasi
Srila Prabhupada Centennial note:
In the last issue I suggested growing something to offer for Prabhupada's Centennial feast on his appearance day in September. As you weed, water, and fertilize flowers and vegetables for the feast, remember to let the plants hear you chant Hare Krsna while you work.
LAST TIME WE SAW how women in England in the 1700s and 1800s set in motion the wheels of destruction of Western civilization. Their desire for "Kali's cloth," calico cloth imported from India, sped up the coming of the industrial revolution and its devastating effect on workers' lives. Now we'll see how the powerful goddess of material energy degraded civilization even further by entangling people more and more in material desires. And we'll see how Krsna's pure devotee Srila Prabhupada taught how to slash to shreds the bonds of material attachment by simple living and high thinking.
By the middle of the twentieth century, a funny thing happened in Western countries amid all the material progress and improvement in workers' lives: Multinational corporations discovered the miracle of cheap labor in the Third World. Once again, by a trick of the material energy, cloth makers found a way to make cheap cloth and clothing by using women and children to do the work. Today people are appalled to learn of the wide use of exploited children making rugs and clothing, and of women workers locked in Third World factories. But multinational corporations like women workers because, compared to men, women are cheaper and more compliant.
Unfortunately, hiring practices that favor women undermine the family. A man without a job feels he can't marry and support a family, but sex goes on anyway, and the babies keep coming. So when mother is at work, who takes care of the children? Who teaches them social values, spiritual values? Who gives them love? Is it any wonder that the gun and the needle abound in countries where the factory has practically wiped out the roles of mother and father? But, of course, that is not the concern of business.
In fact, women workers don't even have to be in a Third World country to be cheap, just from one. Indeed, the industrial revolution seems to have come full circle, because now we find instances of cheap clothing made in America with slave labor. In August 1995 authorities discovered about seventy illegal immigrants from Thailand—all women—held captive and forced to make clothing for prestigious retailers. And exploitation of illegal immigrants in places like New York's Chinatown appears more widespread than authorities had thought.
Reactions to Come
But whom should we pity the most, the suffering workers or the business owners who exploit them? The Srimad-Bhagavatam (5.26.36) tells us that people who enjoy wealth earned by sinfully exploiting others will soon pay a heavy price:
One who in this world or this life is very proud of his wealth always thinks, "I am so rich. Who can equal me?". . . Because of the sinful things he does to earn money, augment his wealth, and protect it, he is put into the hell called Sucimukha, where the officials of Yamaraja punish him by stitching thread through his entire body like weavers manufacturing cloth.
So what is that cloth we are wearing? It's the warp of the workers' agony now and the woof of the businessmen suffering in the future. No amount of boycotting and regulation can create happiness from such a product. Because machine civilization is driven by sense gratification, and because it relies on centralization, it is by nature impersonal and heartless. It is by nature opposed to humanity—and opposed to spiritual life.
So what is the solution? Prabhupada's solution is to redefine what we mean by "progress" in human civilization:
Devotee: Localization may be possible in India but not in America.
So progress does not mean that we import cloth from the other side of the world, manufactured by women and children treated like slaves. Progress does not mean setting aside humanity and spiritual life to make way for the triumph of the machine. These things are not progress.
Srila Prabhupada defines progress differently: Progress means to organize society so that each person's work is a loving offering to Krsna. That is called the daiva varnasrama organization of society. In progressive varnasrama, society is arranged so that people can make cloth right in their own homes. Very simple. No exploitation, no slavery. Making cloth at home is part of a way of life that makes room for spiritual realization. As Prabhupada put it, "It is my ambition that all devotees may remain self independent by producing vegetables, grains, milk, fruits, flowers, and by weaving their own cloth in hand looms. This simple life is very nice. Simple village life saves time for other engagements, like chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra."
In this way Prabhupada taught the importance of simple living and high thinking so we can throw off Durga Devi's cloak of ignorance and become Krsna conscious.
Hare Krsna Devi Dasi, an ISKCON devotee since 1978, is co-editor of the newsletter Hare Krsna Rural Life.
The following excerpt from Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami's Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta offers a poignant example of how one devotee used homespun wool for an offering to Prabhupada. The scene is in Prabhupada's room in Vrndavana, near the end of his time on earth.
Paramananda Dasa, the temple president of Srila Prabhupada's Pennsylvania farm project, Gita Nagari, came to be with Prabhupada. "So organize this farm project," said Prabhupada. "Simple living. Human life is meant for God realization. Try to help them."
"We're always feeling your presence very strongly, Srila Prabhupada," said Paramananda. "Simply by your teachings and instructions. We are always meditating on your instructions."
"Thank you," said Srila Prabhupada. "That is the real presence. Physical presence is not important."
Paramananda had brought a letter from his wife, Satyabhama. Tamala Krsna asked if he should read it, and Prabhupada agreed. Tamala Krsna read,
Dear Srila Prabhupada,
"Thank her," said Srila Prabhupada, and he reached for the shawl "Made with our wool."
"So you'll take rest now, Srila Prabhupada?" suggested Tamala Krsna.
Uhmmm," said Prabhupada. "This can be on the foot." And he gestured that the saffron-colored shawl be put as a blanket on his bed. Tears came from his eyes as he lay back.
NOTE: This shawl can still be seen on the altar of the temple at Gita Nagari.
Bhakti-yoga at Home
By Rohininandana Dasa
IN MANY PLACES in his books Srila Prabhupada describes the wonders of prasadam, food prepared with devotion and offered to Krsna. Prabhupada discusses such merits of prasadam as how it effectively immunizes one against the contamination of the material nature, how it frees one from becoming a ghost after death, and even how it is considered ecstatic nectar from the lips of Lord Krsna. In the Caitanya-caritamrta (Madhya-lila, 4.93, purport) Srila Prabhupada writes:
The Krsna consciousness movement vigorously approves this practice of preparing food, offering it to the Deity, and distributing it to the general population. This activity should be extended universally to stop sinful eating habits as well as other behavior befitting only demons. A demoniac civilization will never bring peace to the world. . . . When the people take to eating only prasadam offered to the Deity, all the demons will be turned into Vaisnavas. . . . It is then and then only that a peaceful condition can prevail in society.
Because prasadam is sanctified food and should be eaten with respect, we speak of eating prasadam as "honoring" or "respecting" it. Srila Prabhupada relished respecting the Lord's prasadam and enjoyed seeing others do so. In early ISKCON days he cooked and distributed the Sunday "love feast." And he kept a jar of syrupy gulabjamuns on hand for any of his spiritual children who might feel peckish. The sweets became known as "ISKCON bullets"—tasty weapons against maya. Prabhupada once popped a gulabjamun into his mouth and exclaimed, "We are eating our way back to Godhead!" Even in 1977 in Vrndavana, after months of fasting because of what would prove a fatal illness, Prabhupada called for his senior leaders, and in a faint, concerned voice he inquired, "Are the devotees getting enough prasadam?"
Once, after a festival in Mayapur, West Bengal, Prabhupada looked out from his veranda and saw some women and children licking used banana-leaf plates thrown on the rubbish heap. With compassionate intensity he said that no one within ten miles of an ISKCON temple should ever go hungry.
The Caitanya-caritamrta offers detailed lists of preparations cooked for Krsna and then relished as krsna-prasadam by Lord Caitanya and His devotees. Lord Caitanya was concerned that prasadam should be served as nicely as possible, and He often served the devotees Himself. Of course, no one would eat until the Lord had begun, and so after serving everyone for a while He had to sit down and begin eating, as some of His senior followers continued serving.
With this background the members of the Krsna consciousness movement have been busy for the last thirty years cooking and distributing large amounts of prasadam, and therefore the movement has sometimes been referred to as "the kitchen religion."
Prasadam, which literally means "mercy," nourishes the body, mind, and soul. It can liberate anyone from material bondage and bestow krsna-prema, love of Godhead. Prasadam is so powerful because food offered to the Lord becomes transformed into a spiritual substance nondifferent from Him. In a purport to Bhagavad-gita (4.24) Srila Prabhupada explains how this is so: "The Absolute Truth covered by maya is called matter. Matter dovetailed for the cause of the Absolute Truth regains its spiritual quality."
From this quotation we can see how the concept of prasadam extends beyond food to anything with a connection to Krsna. As soon as something or someone is connected to Krsna, it, she, or he becomes spiritualized—Krsna-ized.
The secret of this conversion is love. Krsna is attracted by the humility and love of His devotee. The spice of love is the tasty ingredient that induces the Lord to eat an offering. Devotees therefore try to do everything with love. Their words, thoughts, and actions are heartfelt.
Offering with Love
The Caitanya-caritamrta relates that the great devotee Madhavendra Puri saw his Deity, Gopala, eat a large offering of food and replace it with spiritual food, prasadam. Although the prasadam looked the same, the unoffered food had become transformed.
Srila Prabhupada says that to achieve the same result is very easy. "Even the poorest of the poor, without any kind of qualification," can offer Krsna something, he says. If anyone offers even a leaf or a little fruit or water in "genuine love," the Lord will be pleased to accept it.
We can develop the required love for Krsna in the company of those who already love Him. We get that company in two ways: by physical proximity to a pure devotee and, more important, by associating with a pure devotee's instructions. So in the absence of the physical association of a devotee, when we, for instance, cook something at home under his direction, we are in his company. And when, with whatever love to which we have access, we make our offering to Krsna through such a pure devotee, we can be confident he will offer it to the Lord on our behalf and the Lord will accept it.
Eating Our Way Home
Our position is therefore bright with the hope that we will be able to "eat our way" home to the spiritual world, where at lunch time Krsna and His cowherd-boy friends sit together on the sandy bank of the Yamuna River, where they have transcendental fun discovering the delicious sweets in their lunch boxes, where they feed one another, steal from one another, pretend to steal from one another, play all kinds of childish pranks, and laugh.
And one day, like these ever young boys and all other inhabitants of the spiritual world, we'll have no need to eat to live. Our eating will be a way of relishing loving feelings. We will be so fully immersed in and saturated by pure love that we will have no use or need for anything else. Our bodies, composed of pure spiritual essence nondifferent from ourselves, will express our love for Lord Krsna and for one another. We will then know what it means to wear our hearts on our sleeves.
Until such a time, we can continue with confidence with our Krsna conscious practices and as often as possible respect prasadam in the company of family and friends. To help us honor Krsna's prasadam with devotion, before we sit down to eat we can recite the following prayer by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura in Bengali, English, or both:
"O Lord, this material body is a lump of ignorance, and the senses are a network of paths leading to death. Somehow or other we have fallen into the ocean of material sense enjoyment, and of all the senses the tongue is the most voracious and uncontrollable. It is very difficult to conquer the tongue in this world. But You, dear Lord Krsna, are very kind to us. You have given us this nice prasadam just to control the tongue. So now let us take this prasadam to our full satisfaction and glorify Their Lordships Sri Sri Radha and Krsna, and in love call for the help of Lord Caitanya and Prabhu Nityananda."
Rohiniandana Dasa lives in southern England with his wife and their three children. Write to him in care of Back to Godhead.
A brief life sketch of
by Parantapa Dasa, Raghava Pandita Dasa, and Gokula Dasa
HIS DIVINE GRACE Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja, a pure devotee and very dear disciple of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, passed away from this world on February 9, 1996, in the sacred place Sridham Mayapur. To solicit his blessings upon us, we pay our homage with this brief account of his life of perfect devotion.
His Divine Grace made his appearance on September 2, 1929, in the village of Jagannatha-pura, not far from Jagannatha Puri Dhama in the state of Orissa, India. His family were strict Vaisnavas in the disciplic line from Syamananda Pandita, the great follower of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
Having performed auspicious ceremonies (samskaras) according to Vedic tradition, his parents begot their first son, whom they named Braja Bandhu. Sri Braja Bandhu, as His Divine Grace was then known, grew up in the village of Gadai-giri, where he practiced devotional service to Krsna from his early childhood. His grandfather, he later said, was a paramahamsa whose only business was to chant Hare Krsna and cry before the Deity of Krsna, known locally as Sri Gopal Jiu. To begin Braja Bandhu's education, this grandfather taught him how to count by chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra on one's fingers.
Braja Bandhu's father would read to Braja Bandhu from Srimad-Bhagavatam, completing all twelve cantos once a year. By the age of eleven Braja Bandhu had heard Srimad-Bhagavatam six times.
From the age of about five, Sri Braja Bandhu would travel in the company of his uncles from village to village, chanting Hare Krsna and singing the songs of Vaisnava acaryas like Narottama Dasa Thakura. Absorbed in the kirtana, young Braja Bandhu would sometimes dance ecstatically. The people of Gadai-giri have been among the most famous kirtana performers in Orissa since the time of Syamananda Prabhu (mid-sixteenth century). Three hundred years ago in the temple registers of Jagannatha Puri, the king of Orissa wrote that the kirtana party of Gadai-giri should come to perform kirtana for Lord Jagannatha whenever possible. In Orissa they are seen as kirtana-gurus.
From the age of six, Sri Braja Bandhu worshiped the Deity of Gopal by making garlands and sometimes, under the light of a candle, singing hymns for Him from palm-leaf manuscripts. Braja Bandhu would never take any food not first offered to Gopal.
By the age of eight Sri Braja Bandhu had read the entire Bhagavad-gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam, and Sri Caitanya-caritamrta and could also explain their meanings. As his erudition increased he began to give discourses, which attracted many people from the surrounding villages. At night many villagers would come to hear his recitation of the Oriya Bhagavatam, Ramayana, and Mahabharata.
Braja Bandhu was noted for his detached nature. He always avoided the frivolous play of his peers. From the very beginning of his life he was absorbed in chanting Hare Krsna, studying Vaisnava literature, and worshiping his beloved Gopal.
After the death of his father in 1955 he became responsible for maintaining the family. And when he entered household life, on the request of his mother, family burdens increased. He met his wife, Srimati Vasanti Devi, for the first time during the marriage ceremony. Owing to financial constraints he could not avail himself of university education. But he prepared himself at night to attend the examinations. Within two months he successfully graduated among the top students of Utkal University. In this way he completed his Bachelor of Arts and later his Bachelor of Education.
Despite many responsibilities, his devotion to Gopal never slackened. He would rise at 3:30 A.M., chant Hare Krsna, worship tulasi, and speak to his family from the Bhagavad-gita. He meticulously kept a diary of his devotional schedule.
During his time as a householder he adopted the profession of a school teacher. He accepted teaching positions in different towns of Orissa, where he is still fondly remembered to this day. He would take every opportunity to speak to his students about Krsna and the devotional principles. (Thirty years later some of his students would become his disciples.)
Living as a perfect sense-controlled householder, he begot seven children exactly according to Vaisnava principles. He always welcomed wandering sadhus (saintly persons) and offered them whatever he had at his disposal. On Sundays he would invite interested people to his home to hear from Bhagavad-gita and accept some halava prasadam. During leave from his teachings duties he would travel with his family or friends to holy places in search of sadhus. But he always felt that his family obligations were detrimental to his spiritual aspirations. He later said, "I was always thinking of when I would get out of that situation."
On April 8, 1974, his deep devotion to Krsna called him to renounce worldly life. At the age of 45 he left home and relatives, took up the name Gour Gopal, and went out in quest of spiritual perfection. Carrying only a Bhagavad-gita and a begging bowl he wandered around India for one year and visited many sacred places along the Ganges River. He was searching for his eternal spiritual master. After many philosophical debates with mayavadi sannyasis and yogis in the Himalayas, he proceeded on foot to Vrndavana, thinking that in Krsna's dear abode his desire would certainly be fulfilled.
Two weeks after arriving in Vrndavana he saw a huge signboard that read "International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Founder-Acarya His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada." Then he met a group of Western devotees, who gave him a copy of Back to Godhead magazine. When he read how Srila Prabhupada had spread the chanting of Hare Krsna all over the world, he remembered a verse from Caitanya Bhagavata predicting the worldwide spread of this chanting:
prthivite ache yata nagaradi-grama
Gour Govinda Maharaja later reminisced, "I thought, 'Yes! This Swami has fulfilled the prediction of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. I must meet him.' " At last Braja Bandhu was to meet his eternal spiritual master, whose association he had been awaiting for such a long time.
When Sri Braja Bandhu, a disheveled sadhu, entered Srila Prabhupada's room and introduced himself, the first question Srila Prabhupada asked was "Have you taken sannyasa?" Braja Bandhu replied that he had not. "Then I will give you sannyasa!" Srila Prabhupada said. Understanding that Srila Prabhupada knew his heart, Braja Bandhu surrendered himself at Srila Prabhupada's lotus feet.
Srila Prabhupada at once arranged a room for him and engaged him in translating Back to Godhead into Hindi. Within a year, Srila Prabhupada gave him first and second initiation.
In 1975, at the opening of ISKCON's Sri Sri Krishna-Balaram Mandir, Srila Prabhupada awarded him the order of sannyasa, giving him the name Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja. Then Srila Prabhupada sent him to spread Krsna consciousness in Orissa and construct a temple on a newly donated property in the state capital, Bhubaneswar.
At that time, the donated land was a wild jungle full of mosquitoes, snakes, and scorpions. It was far from the city center, dacoits used the area to hijack trucks on the nearby highway, and even at midday people feared to go there. But Srila Gour Govinda Swami, considering the desire of Srila Prabhupada his very life and soul, was undaunted and worked with unwavering determination to fulfill that desire. Sometimes residing in the storeroom of a tea dealer and even sometimes sharing a small hut with road construction workers, he began translating Srila Prabhupada's books into Oriya as he had been instructed.
Spreading Krsna consciousness, Srila Gour Govinda Swami would visit house after house, office after office, in and around Bhubaneswar, sometimes walking and sometimes riding on the carriage rack of a bicycle pedaled by a local student, who later became his dear disciple Sacinandana Dasa. In this way he collected some small donations, had a temple plan drawn up, and with his own hands constructed on the donated property a thatched hut.
In early 1977 Srila Prabhupada came to Bhubaneswar. Although arrangements had been made for Prabhupada to stay comfortably in the state government guest house, Prabhupada at once rejected this proposal. He said, "I will only stay where my disciple child Gour Govinda has built a mud hut for me." Prabhupada stayed in Bhubaneswar for seventeen days, during which he laid the foundation stone of the temple-to-be on the auspicious occasion of Lord Nityananda's appearance day. This was Prabhupada's last founded project.
In 1978, shortly after the passing away of Srila Prabhupada, Srila Gour Govinda Swami went to Mayapur. One day, amidst kirtana in the temple, he fell to the ground unconscious. He was carried back to his room, followed by several concerned devotees and ISKCON leaders. When doctors came to examine him they were unable to diagnose the cause of his condition. Someone even suggested he may have been possessed by a ghost. Finally, a pure devotee and dear Godbrother of Srila Prabhupada's, Akincana Krsna Dasa Babaji Maharaja, explained that Srila Gour Govinda Swami was manifesting symptoms of bhava, the advanced stage of ecstatic love of God.
Srila Gour Govinda Swami was in and out of external consciousness for the next several months. When he returned to Bhubaneswar he absorbed himself even more deeply in the mission of his spiritual master. Some Western devotees had been sent there to assist him, but most of them were unable to tolerate the austere conditions. They were amazed to see him always undisturbed, eating only once a day, and hardly sleeping. He would simply preach, chant, and write in his notebooks day and night.
In 1991, after sixteen years of determined endeavor, Srila Gour Govinda Swami fulfilled the instruction of his spiritual master with the opening of a magnificent temple of Sri Sri Krsna-Balarama, which now attracts thousands of people to Krsna consciousness. Srila Gour Govinda Swami said, "I have opened a 'crying school' here in Bhubaneswar. Unless we cry for Krsna, we cannot get His mercy." This was the message he preached so vigorously all over the world during the last ten years of his manifest pastimes.
Although Srila Gour Govinda Swami was always meek and humble in his personal dealings, in his classes on Srimad-Bhagavatam he would roar like a lion, smashing the pride and cutting the misconceptions from the hearts of his disciples. Sometimes he would read an apparently basic philosophical statement from Prabhupada's purports. Then he would laugh like a child and say, "Here the topic of krsna-prema comes up, but it requires further explanation." Then he would astound the devotees by giving more and more profound explanations of the same sentence for two or three hours. On one such occasion he said, "Look! Krsna is laughing at me because I am trying to completely describe this topic, which is unlimited."
In the course of his lecturing he would inevitably burst into song, nourishing everyone with the devotional sentiments of joy, humility and surrender as expressed in the prayers of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and other acaryas. Krsna-katha, the topics of Krsna, were his life and soul. He would often say, "The day that goes by without krsna-katha, that is a very bad day."
Srila Gour Govinda Swami's knowledge of scripture was formidable. He would substantiate everything he said with evidence from all over the Vedic literature. Sometimes he would question a disciple, and if the disciple could not answer with reference to the scriptures, Srila Gour Govinda Swami would at once exclaim, "He is a cheater! Don't be a crooked person. A Vaisnava quotes authority."
In this way Srila Gour Govinda Swami would always preach fearlessly. He would never compromise the conclusions of the scripture in the name of being practical, "One who cannot see Krsna," he would say, "is a blind man. He may speak about Krsna, but in his mind he is speculating. Therefore his words will never be effective. A real sadhu never speaks theoretically."
Time To Leave
In late January of 1996, Srila Gour Govinda Swami mentioned privately, "Srila Bhaktisiddhanta said that this material world is not a fit place for any gentleman. Therefore, because he was disgusted, he left this world prematurely. I may also. I don't know. I simply depend on Gopal. I will do whatever He wants." The next day Srila Gour Govinda Swami went to Gadai-giri to see his Gopal. The word of Srila Gour Govinda Swami's remarks quickly spread among his disciples, who felt confident that Gopal would not let him leave them.
For a further four days he preached more powerfully than ever to thousands of people who flocked to a Prabhupada Centennial festival in Bhubaneswar. Then he left for the annual ISKCON management meetings in Sridham Mayapur.
On February 9, 1996, the holy appearance day of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasavati, two senior devotees requested an appointment to see Srila Gour Govinda Swami. They had never spoken with him before, but they had become eager to hear from him after reading some of his books.
As if by providential arrangement, they entered his room at 6:00 P. M. and submissively inquired, "Why did Caitanya Mahaprabhu stay in Jagannatha Puri?" He laughed with delight and began to explain the confidential significance of Lord Caitanya's pastimes.
In answer to the question, he lovingly described the pain of separation felt by Radha and Krsna when Krsna was away from Vrndavana. Enchanting all the devotees in his room with the nectarean topics of Krsna, he gradually unfolded the pastime to the point where Radha and Krsna were finally united after Their long separation. He described how Krsna became so ecstatic upon seeing Radharani that He manifested a form with big round eyes, known as Lord Jagannatha. With a choked voice Srila Gour Govinda Swami said, "Then the eyes of Krsna fell upon the eyes of Radharani. Eye-to-eye union."
Overwhelmed with love for Radha and Krsna, he apologized with folded hands, "Please excuse me. I cannot speak." Then, in a barely audible voice, he gave his final instruction: "Kirtana! Kirtana!"
The five devotees still in the room began to chant as their spiritual master lay back on his bed, breathing very slowly and deeply. A servant nearby placed a picture of Gopal Jiu in his hand. Then, gazing lovingly at that picture of his worshipable Deity, Srila Gour Govinda Swami called out, "Gopal!" and departed for the spiritual sky to be united with his beloved Lord.
Every day before the Srimad-Bhagavatam class, Srila Gour Govinda Swami would sing a song he had learned as a boy. Now his prayer was fulfilled:
"O supremely blissful Madhava! Nectar is coming from Your lotus feet. Drinking that nectar, I blissfully sing 'Hari! Hari!' Taking the name of Hari, I am binding a raft on which Lord Jagannatha will ferry me across this ocean of material existence. My mind always remains at the lotus feet of that Lord Jagannatha, who has very large round eyes. In this way I call out, 'Alas! Krsna!' and give up my life. O husband of Radharani, please deliver me."
The sadhu never speaks theoretically.
Parantapa Dasa, Raghava Pan?ita Dasa, and Gokula Dasa are disciples of Sripada Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja.
The devotees wanted to worship a
by Atma-tattva Dasa (as told to Srimati Devi Dasi)
ON MARCH 24, 1984, at 12:20 A.M., thirty-five men armed with weapons and bombs attacked Sri Mayapur Chandrodaya Mandir, ISKCON's center in Mayapur, West Bengal. When the dacoits tried to steal the deities of Srila Prabhupada and Srimati Radharani, the devotees fearlessly challenged the attackers. How could the devotees see Srila Prabhupada and Srimati Radharani carried away? Both sides fired shots, and people on both sides were injured. Srila Prabhupada was rescued, but the Deity of Radharani was not.
The incident greatly disturbed the devotees. They had faced violence and harassment before, and now the management wanted a permanent solution. One manager suggested installing a Deity of Lord Nrsimhadeva, Krsna's ferocious incarnation as half-man, half-lion, worshiped especially as the protector of His devotees. The manager cited a precedent: When dacoits had threatened the devotees at the Yoga-Pitha, the nearby birth site of Lord Caitanya, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and his son Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura had promptly installed Sri Sri Laksmi-Nrsimhadeva (the Lord and His consort). There were no further disturbances.
Other devotees in Mayapur were not so keen to follow that example. According to scriptural rules, Lord Nrsimhadeva's pujari, or priest, must have been celibate from birth, and the worship must be strict and regulated. Who would be prepared to worship Him?
Despite such hesitancy, the managers asked me and an artist, Bhaktisiddhanta Dasa, to draw some sketches. They said the Deity's legs should be bent, as if He were ready to jump, He should be looking around ferociously, His fingers should be curled, and flames should be coming from His head. We sketched a Deity in this mood, in which He is known as Ugra Nrsimha—"Fierce Nrsimha."
The devotees liked it, and Pankajanghri Dasa agreed to worship Him. Radhapada Dasa, a devotee from Calcutta, offered to sponsor the carving and installation of the Deity. It seemed Lord Nrsimhadeva's appearance in ISKCON Mayapur would be a simple straightforward affair. Radhapada Dasa promptly gave 130,000 rupees, and we planned to have the Deity ready for installation in three months.
I left for South India to get the work started. By Krsna's grace I soon found a famous sthapati, or Deity sculptor. The man was obliging until I mentioned that the Deity we wanted carved was Ugra Nrsimha. He emphatically refused to make such a Deity. I then approached many other Deity sculptors, but the answer was always the same—no.
After six months and several trips to South India, Lord Nrsimhadeva had not yet manifested in His Deity form. Radhapada Dasa was anxious to see Lord Nrsimhadeva installed in Mayapur, and he asked me to visit the first sthapati and once again plead our case.
This time the sculptor was a little more congenial and offered to read me a chapter from the Silpa-sastra, the Vedic scriptures on sculpture and temple architecture and engineering. He read aloud some verses describing Lord Nrsimhadeva—His flamelike mane, His searching glance, and His posture, knees bent, one foot forward ready to jump out of a pillar.
I was amazed. This was exactly what we wanted. I showed him the sketch I had done. He was impressed and offered to draw an outline based on the scriptural description. We could use the outline as a guide for carving the Deity. He reminded me, though, that he would not carve the form himself.
The sthapati took a week to do the sketch, and it was impressive. I returned to Mayapur and showed the sketch to the temple authorities. Everyone wanted this same sthapati to carve the Deity. Once again I was sent back to South India to convince him.
I went straight to the sthapati's house. I felt anxious. What could I do but pray to Lord Nrsimhadeva to be merciful and agree to manifest Himself in our temple in Sridham Mayapur? I had hardly said two sentences when the man matter-of-factly said he would carve the Deity.
The sthapati had approached his guru, the Sankaracarya of Kanchipuram, about our request. His guru had at once replied, "Don't do it. Your family will be destroyed." But then, after a moment's reflection, the guru asked, "Who has asked you to carve this Deity?" When he heard that it was the Hare Krsna people from Mayapur, he became very concerned. "They want Ugra Nrsimha? Are they aware of the implications of carving and installing Ugra Nrsimha? Such Deities were carved over three thousand years ago by elevated sthapatis. There is a place on the way to Mysore where a very ferocious Ugra Nrsimha is installed. The demon Hiranyakasipu is torn open on His lap, and the demon's intestines are spilling out all over the altar. Once the standard of worship there was very high, with an elephant procession and a festival every day. But gradually the worship declined. Today that place is like a ghost town. The whole village is deserted. No one can live there peacefully. Is that what they want for their project?"
The sthapati replied, "They are insistent. They are constantly coming to talk to me about the Deity. Apparently they have some problem with dacoits." Handing his guru a sketch of the Deity, he said, "This is the Deity they want."
His guru took the sketch and looked at it knowingly.
"Ah, this is ugra category," he said. "But a Deity in this particular mood is called Sthanu Nrsimha. He doesn't exist on this planet. Even the demigods in the heavenly planets don't worship a form like this. Yes, this Deity belongs to the ugra category. Ugra means 'ferocious, very angry.' There are nine forms within this category. They are all very fierce. The one they want is Sthanu Nrsimha: stepping out of the pillar. No. Don't carve this Deity. It will not be auspicious for you. I will talk with you about this later."
A few nights later the sthapati had a dream in which his guru came to him and said, "For them you can carve Sthanu Nrsimha."
The next morning the sthapati received a hand-delivered letter from Kanchipuram. The letter, from the Sankaracarya, gave some instructions regarding temple renovations. There was a footnote. It read, "For ISKCON you can carve Sthanu Nrsimha."
The sthapati showed me the letter and said, "I have my guru's blessings. I will carve your Deity."
I was overjoyed. I gave him an advance payment and asked him how long carving the Deity would take. He said the Deity would be ready for installation within six months. I returned to Mayapur.
After four peaceful months in Maya-pur, I decided to go to South India to buy the heavy brass paraphernalia required for Nrsimhadeva worship and then collect the Deity. The trip was well organized and trouble-free until I visited the sthapati. I explained to him that I had bought all the paraphernalia for the worship and had come to collect the Deity.
He looked at me as if I'd lost my senses. "What Deity?" he exclaimed. "I haven't even found the suitable stone!"
I couldn't believe my ears.
"But you told me He would be ready in six months."
"I will keep my promise," he said. "Six months after I find the stone, the Deity will be ready for installation,"
His reply was emphatic, but I just could not understand or accept the delay. In frustration I challenged him, "There are big slabs of stone all over South India. What's the problem?"
He looked at me the way a teacher would view a slow student and said deliberately, "I'm not making a grinding mortar. I'm making a Deity. The scriptures tell us that only a stone that has life can be used to make a Visnu Deity. When you hit seven points of the stone slab and each makes the sound mentioned in the scriptures, then that stone may be suitable. But there is a second test to indicate whether the stone is living stone. There is a bug that eats granite. If it eats from one side of the stone to the other and leaves a complete trail visible behind it, then the second test of living stone has been passed. That stone is living stone, and expression can manifest from it. Only from such a slab can I carve your Nrsimhadeva. Such stone speaks poetry. All features of a Deity carved from such stone will be fully expressive and beautiful. Please be patient. I've been searching sincerely for your six-foot slab."
I was amazed and a little anxious. The devotees in Mayapur were expecting the arrival of the Deity soon. How was I going to explain the "living stone" search to them? Maybe they would decide to make Nrsimhadeva from marble. I turned to what I thought would be an easy subject: "Please forgive me, but I forgot to tell you last time I came that we also want a deity of Prahlada.* We want to worship Prahlada-Nrsimha-deva. What do you think?"
"I don't think that will be possible," the sthapati replied matter-of-factly. I looked at him incredulously, not sure what to say. He smiled and continued.
"You want everything done exactly according to the scriptures. Your Nrsimhadeva will be four feet high. Comparatively speaking, that will make Prahlada Maharaja the size of an amoeba."
"But we want Prahlada Maharaja one foot high," I interrupted.
"Fine," the sthapati replied. "But that means your Nrsimhadeva will have to be about 120 feet high."
We began to argue about Prahlada Maharaja's form. Finally the sthapati sighed in resignation and agreed to make Prahlada Maharaja one foot tall. At least now I had something positive to report when I returned to Mayapur.
After two months I returned to South India. There had been no developments. I shuttled back and forth between Mayapur and South India every thirty or forty days. Finally our stone was found, and the sthapati became a transformed man. For more than a week he hardly spent any time at home. Hour after hour, day after day, he just sat staring at the slab. He had chalk in hand but didn't draw anything. He refused to allow his laborers to do anything besides remove the excess stone to make the slab rectangular. The next time I visited him, he had made a sketch on the stone. That was all. I was worried. The Mayapur managers were becoming impatient.
"Are you sure this Deity will be finished in six months?" I asked in desperation.
"Don't worry. The work will be done," he replied.
I returned to Mayapur, only to be sent back to South India to check on some details of the Deity. I found the sthapati carving the form with intense care and dedication. The stone had gone and the shape had come. The sthapati had just started on the armlets. He took two weeks to carve them. All the features were so refined and delicate. I was impressed and happy.
The sthapati took a little more than twelve months to finish the Deity. When he completed the work he didn't inform me at once but decided to visit some friends for a few days. It was the monsoon season, there were few visitors, and he felt it safe to lock up Lord Nrsimhadeva securely in a thatched shed. Two days later his neighbors ran to tell him that the shed was on fire. Despite heavy rain, the coconut-tree roof had caught ablaze. The sthapati ran to the scene to find the shed burned to ashes but Nrsimhadeva untouched.
He phoned me at once.
"Please come and take your Deity. He's burning everything. He's made it clear He wants to go now!"
I traveled enthusiastically to South India, hired a truck, and half-filled it with sand. I arrived at the sthapati's studio thinking this final stage would be relatively simple. I had foolishly forgotten that Lord Nrsimhadeva is a very heavy personality. He weighed one ton! After two or three hours we managed to lift the Deity safely from the shed onto the truck.
To travel across the Tamil Nadu state border safely, we needed police permission, along with signed papers from the Central Sales Tax Department, the Archeological Director, and the Art Emporium Directorate. All the officers demanded to see the Deity before signing the papers. Once they saw Lord Nrsimhadeva, they all became obliging and efficient. We had the papers in hand within twenty-four hours—a miracle given the usual quagmire of bureaucracy found in Indian government offices. The trip back to Mayapur was also amazingly trouble-free and peaceful. Our protector was certainly present with us.
Usually the sthapati comes on the day of the installation ceremony, goes into the Deity room, and carves the eyes of the Deity. This is called netra-nimilanam, "opening the eyes." But our sthapati had already carved the eyes. He had also done the prana-pratistha (installing the life force) and worshiped the Deity. I'm sure that is why all the papers were prepared so obligingly and transporting the Supreme Lord was so easy. The Lord was already present. And who would dare say no to Lord Nrsimhadeva?
The installation of Lord Nrsimhadeva lasted three days—July 28-30, 1986. I remember feeling apprehensive that perhaps the installation was too simple. The grave warnings of the Sankaracarya of Kanchipuram had deeply impressed me. But my mind was soon appeased by the loud, dynamic kirtana. Sankirtana-yajna, the chanting of Hare Krsna, the only true opulence of Kali-yuga, was dominating the scene. I felt enlivened and satisfied. Lord Nrsimhadeva, the protector of the sankirtana mission, had finally decided to manifest Himself at Sri Mayapur Chandrodaya Mandir.
Atma-tattva Dasa, a disciple of Srila Prabhupada, has served in Mayapur for many years. He helped develop the curricula for the Mayapur gurukula. For the past few years he has taught courses on Bhagavad-gita As It Is to more than two thousand high school and primary school students throughout India.
Srimati Devi Dasi, a disciple of Harikesa Swami, has lived in Mayapur for ten years. She engages pilgrims to Mayapur in chanting Hare Krsna, and she heads up a team of brahmacaris who sell Srila Prabhupada's books.
Appearance Day: May 14
Vrndavana Dasa Thakura was the son of Narayani Devi, a niece of Srivasa Thakura, one of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's principal associates. When Narayani was a young girl, Lord Caitanya would give her remnants of His meals. Once the Lord ordered her to chant the name of Krsna, and although she was only four years old, her devotion was so strong that while chanting she fainted in ecstasy.
Vrndavana Dasa was born shortly after the disappearance of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and, at age twenty, accepted formal initiation from Lord Nityananda Prabhu.
Vrndavana Dasa wrote a biography on Lord Caitanya entitled Sri Caitanya Bhagavata. Devotees in the line of Lord Caitanya accept Vrndavana Dasa Thakura as an incarnation of Srila Vyasadeva, the compiler of the Vedas.
Arjuna Wins Draupadi
Disguised as a brahmana,
Translated from Sanskrit by Hridayananda Dasa Goswami
The sage Vaisampayana is telling the history of the Pandavas to their great-grandson, King Janamejaya. As the Mahabharata continues, the Pandavas, disguised as brahmanas, are attending a ceremony in which Princess Draupadi will choose a husband from among many young kings. Draupadi's father set up a challenge for her suitors: They must string a mighty bow and pierce a difficult target. The other kings having failed, the Pandava Arjuna now steps forward.
THEREUPON, WHEN ALL the kings had given up their attempt to string the bow, the wise Arjuna rose up from the midst of the brahmanas. Seeing that Arjuna, Prtha's son, shining like the flag of Indra, had set out for the center of the arena, the leading brahmanas cried out and shook their deerskins. Some were unhappy to see a brahmana going to compete with warriors, and others were filled with joy.
The sages were considered experts, and they lived by their intelligence. Some of them said to one another, "The kings of the earth, led by Karna and Salya, mighty monarchs renowned in all the world as masters of the military science, could not bend the bow. How then can a mere brahminical student, frail, lacking stamina, and untrained in weapons, string the bow? The kings will ridicule us brahmanas when this whimsical and thoughtless act comes to nothing.
"Whether out of pride or impulsiveness or unsteadiness in his life as a religious student, he has gone out to string the bow. He must be stopped! For God's sake, don't let him go! We shall not be ridiculed in public so that we are no longer taken seriously. And we shall not risk a conflict with all the kings of the world."
But others disagreed.
"This young man looks very good. He's built like the trunk of the king of elephants. His thighs, arms, and shoulders are bulging with muscles, and he seems as steady and hard to move as the Himalayan mountains.
"We can infer from his bold confidence that the task of stringing the bow and piercing the target is actually possible for him. He has power and great daring. A weak man could not go out there alone as he is doing. And after all, whether among gods, human beings, or lower life the brahmanas can accomplish any task. Eating only water or living on air or collecting fruits in the forest, brahmanas are fixed in their vows. And though apparently weak, by their spiritual power they are very strong. A brahmana should never be scorned, whether he behaves properly or has committed some fault, whether his work in this world is great or small, and whether his work brings apparent joy or sorrow."
An Easy Task For Arjuna
Coming to the center of the arena, Arjuna, as unmoving as a mountain, simply stood by the bow. Then he respectfully walked around the bow, keeping it to his right, and bowed down, touching his head to the ground.
Then that fiery warrior happily took the bow in his hands. In the wink of an eye Arjuna fastened the cord, took the five arrows in his hands, and shot the target. Pierced by Arjuna's shafts, the target fell suddenly onto the earth.
The heavens burst into sound, and a great roar filled the stadium. Indra, the lord of heaven, showered flowers on the head of Arjuna, the slayer of the wicked. Throughout the stadium people waved their cloths in jubilation. Some cried out in wonder, and others shouted their disapproval, while showers of flowers fell from the sky, covering the land with celestial blossoms. Hundred-piece bands broke into song, reciters began to recite, and bards and historical chroniclers praised the astonishing event with elegant voices and language.
Seeing Arjuna's feat, Drupada, destroyer of the enemy, was well pleased, and he stood ready with his army to help Arjuna.
As the great uproar continued unabated, the most virtuous Yudhisthira quickly returned to his residence with his twin brothers, Nakula and Sahadeva, the finest of men.
Seeing the target pierced, and seeing Arjuna shining with the brilliance of Indra, Draupadi took the white garland meant for the groom and went broadly smiling to Arjuna, the son of Kunti. As the brahmanas praised and honored Arjuna—for he had performed an inconceivable deed—he took the woman he had won in the arena of heroes. Followed by his new wife, he walked out of the stadium.
The Kings Protest
When King Drupada desired to give his daughter to the great-spirited brahmana who had won her, fury rose among the assembled kings, and they began to look at one another.
"This king passes over all of us, treating the assembled warriors like straw in the gutter, and instead he wants to give Draupadi, the best of women, to a simple brahmana. Let us kill this wicked king who thinks so little of us. He shows by his qualities that he is unworthy of respect or the consideration offered to the elderly. Let us kill this evil-doer and hater of kings, along with his son. First he calls all the rulers to his city and honors them and feeds them sumptuously, and finally he humiliates them.
"Are we to believe that in this gathering of royalty, like unto a council of the gods, he has not found a single ruler worthy of his family? Sages are not entitled to the privilege of choosing a princess. The Vedas declare that a svayamvara is for men of the royal order. On the other hand, if this fair maiden finds not a single one of us worthy of her, then, fellow kings, let us throw her into the fire and go back to our kingdoms.
"Even though the brahmana, out of immaturity or greed, has so displeased us, in no way is he to be killed. Indeed, we rule our kingdoms, spend our wealth, raise our sons and grandsons,' and live our very lives for the sake of the saintly brahmanas. Still, we must avoid the danger that kings henceforth be regularly insulted. We must protect the sacred principles of warriors so that other svayamvaras do not end like this one."
Bhima And Arjuna Protect Drupada
Having thus spoken, those tigerlike kings, bludgeons in hand and bristling with anger, rushed upon Drupada to arrest him. Seeing the furious kings rushing to attack him with bows and arrows at the ready, Drupada fled in terror and sought shelter of the brahmanas. The kings charged forward in pursuit like maddened elephants. But then two greatly powerful sons of Pandu—Bhima and Arjuna, subduers of enemies—went forward against them.
The kings could tolerate no more. Weapons raised with armored hands, their only aim now to kill, they flew forward upon Arjuna and Bhimasena, the two sons of the old Kuru king. Bhima, however, was a warrior of astonishing power and deeds. With his great strength he struck with the shock of a thunderbolt. With his bare arms that unique fighter jerked a large tree out of the ground, and like a lordly elephant he clipped off its leaves [so that the foliage would not soften his blow]. Staying close to Arjuna and brandishing his new weapon in his long, wide arms, Bhima, pain of his enemies, stood like the fearsome lord of death wielding his death-dealing rod.
Having first witnessed Arjuna's feat, which required more than human intelligence, and seeing now the inconceivable prowess of Arjuna's brother Bhima, Lord Krsna, known as Damodara, turned and spoke to His fiercely potent brother, Balarama, who was armed with His plow weapon. Lord Krsna said: "My dear Sankarsana, My brother, that one there who moves with the bearing of a maddened bull and who bent the mighty bow that stood as tall as a palm tree—he is Arjuna, as indisputably as I am all-pervading Vasudeva. And that one who returned at once when the kings became wild and who so easily tore out a tree—he is Bhimasena, playing the part of a human being, for no man on earth has the power to do what he just did here.
"That other one who left earlier—fair-skinned, with large eyes like lotus petals, a more slender physique, the gait of a great lion yet a humble demeanor, and a prominent and handsome nose that enhances his face—he, O infallible one, is surely the king of virtue, Yudhisthira.
"Those twins who seem like two young gods of war I reckon to be the sons of the Asvin gods. I have heard that the sons of Pandu and their mother Prtha were saved from the burning house of lac."
Trusting in the words of His younger brother Krsna, Lord Balarama, whose complexion is as white as the purest cloud, said to Him, "I am so happy that by the grace of Providence Our father's sister Prtha and her sons, the best of the Kurus, have all been saved."
The powerful brahmanas, shaking their deerskins and water vessels, said to King Drupada, "You have nothing to fear! We shall fight the enemy!"
When the sages spoke thus, Arjuna smiled and said to them, "Please, be spectators and stand to the side. Just as one can ward off poisonous snakes with mantras, so I shall stop these furious ksatriyas, dispersing them with hundreds of straight-shooting arrows."
Taking his prize bow, Arjuna stood with his brother Bhima like an unmoving mountain, for he was a maharatha, one who can fight alone against thousands of soldiers. Like fearless bull elephants rushing against a hostile herd, the two courageous brothers flew at the angry warriors, headed by Karna, who had now been roused to full fury.
The monarchs and their men declared, "Even a brahmana may be killed in battle if he desires to fight. So says the law."
Karna Fights With Arjuna
Karna went after Arjuna with tremendous power, like a battle-hungry elephant fighting another bull for the sake of his mate. Salya, the mighty lord of the Madras, attacked Bhimasena. Duryodhana and other kings battled the brahmanas, but gently and without effort.
Strongly bending his bow, Arjuna struck the attacking Karna with three arrows. Radheya [Karna] was stunned by the force of the sharp, sizzling arrows and approached with much caution. As Arjuna and Karna furiously battled each other, the skill and speed of the two fighters was incomparable, and each fought hard for victory. They addressed each other in words meaningful to heroes: "Just see how I countered your move!" and "See the strength of my arms!"
Realizing that the power of Arjuna's bow-wielding arms was unmatched on earth prompted Karna to fight with even greater fury. Counteracting the swift shafts fired off by Arjuna, he roared his battle sound, and his fellow warriors shouted with admiration.
Karna said, "I am satisfied by your performance in battle, O brahmana chief. There is great prowess in your arms, you have learned all the weapons, and you do not become discouraged. O noble sage, are you Dhanur Veda himself, or perhaps even Lord Parasurama? Are you Lord Indra, or possibly the infallible Visnu? To disguise yourself you have assumed the appearance of a brahmana, and using the might of your arms you now fight with me. Once I become angry, no one save Indra himself or the Pandava Arjuna can fight me."
Hearing Karna speak to him thus, Phalguna Arjuna replied, "I am not Dhanur Veda, O Karna, nor am I the powerful Parasurama. Quite simply, I am the best of fighting brahmanas, and I am the most skillful in the use of weapons. By the instructions of my guru I am expert in the brahma weapon and in the device of Purandara Indra. I therefore stand here in battle to conquer you, O heroic warrior. Be resolved!"
At these words Radheya Karna, the great chariot fighter, withdrew from the battle, having decided that the power of a brahmana could not be defeated.
At that very moment, O king, the two mighty warriors Salya and Vrkodara Bhima began to fight one another, each maddened with strength and hungry for victory. Like huge enraged bull elephants they taunted one another. With fist colliding against fist, knee smashing against knee, they dragged each other around the fighting ring. Then, in the midst of their battle, Bhima seized Salya in his arms, lifted him high, and slammed him against the ground. The brahmanas broke into smiles. Having brought down powerful Salya, the mighty Bhimasena, best among men, astonished everyone, for he did not strike and kill his foe.
With Salya now brought down and Karna hesitant, the ksatriyas grew doubtful and surrounded Bhimasena.
"These bull-like brahmanas have done very well indeed!" they said. "We should learn where they were born and where they reside, for who has the power to oppose Karna in battle if not Parasurama or Drona or Krpa, the son of Saradvan? Who has the power to meet Duryodhana in battle but Krsna, the son of Devaki, or the fiery Phalguna Arjuna? Salya, king of the Madras, is the strongest of men. Who could fight him but the heroic Lord Baladeva or the Pandava Vrkodara Bhima? Let us forge a truce and suspend fighting with these brahmanas. After we discover who they are, we shall fight again later."
Carefully watching the activities of Bhima, Sri Krsna believed that Bhima and Arjuna were the sons of Kunti. He therefore convinced all the warriors that Draupadi had indeed been fairly won, and thus He restrained them from fighting on. The noble kings were experienced warriors, and on hearing Lord Krsna's remarks they desisted from battle and returned to their kingdoms in utter amazement.
"The competition was dominated by brahmanas. The princess of Pancala now lives with the brahmanas, for they have chosen her." Thus spoke the kings who had gathered for the festival as they journeyed to their homes.
Meanwhile, surrounded by brahmanas clad in deerskins, Bhimasena and Arjuna could hardly move. Those two heroes of mankind at last broke free of the pressing crowd. While their enemies studied and stared at them, and as Draupadi faithfully followed them, they shone beautifully amid the tumultuous scene.
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.
Dramatic readings by Hridayananda Dasa Goswami of his Mahabharata translations may be purchased from: HDG Tape Ministry, P. O. Box 1156, Alachua, FL 32616. Phone: (904) 418-4644.
Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day
by Kalakantha Dasa
IT'S HARD TO THINK of a more macabre medico than Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the retired Michigan pathologist known affectionately as "Dr. Death."
Years ago he began his upsurge to fame by suggesting that before their execution, condemned prisoners be put to sleep and used for surgical experiments. Then, he said, harvest their organs while still warm.
"I want to use death to benefit humanity," he declared. "Now it's just a total waste."
Dr. Kevorkian's more recent mission: promoting his suicide machine. With a Hick of a switch, his terminally ill patients can painlessly take their lives. Since June 1990, more than twenty have done so Dr. Kevorkian makes a compelling argument: people who have no medical hope of survival should have the right to die in a peaceful, painless, dignified way.
Is suicide legal? People in the state of Oregon voted yes. But the state of Michigan argues that suicide is illegal and assistants such as Dr. Kevorkian are guilty of murder.
From the Vedas we learn that suicide only makes a bad situation worse. Every soul is destined by karma, the reactions to past misdeeds, to suffer a particular amount of pain in its present body. A suicidal attempt to prematurely end the suffering generates more painful karma in the next birth.
Why does suicide make more karma? Because no one has clear title to his or her body. Who owns yours? Your spouse? Your parents? Your government? The ravenous bacteria inside you awaiting your funeral? Or is it yours ... at least for now?
In fact, you got your God-given body for a purpose—to understand the God who gave it to you. It's not yours to kill. Kill it and you've earned yourself a new body even more prone to suffering and less prone to the ecstasy of God realization.
But what about the pain of terminal illness? Recently my brother-in-law succumbed to lung cancer. In his last months he was often too drugged on morphine to talk or think clearly. He died unconscious in a hospital.
Around that time, Srila Prabhupada's disciple Ratnaranjini Devi Dasi of Scotland gave up her cancer-ridden body. She refused pain-killers. "Just let me suffer my lot and get it over with." She left her body in Krsna consciousness, her Krsna Deity in hand.
In Bhagavad-gita (8.5), Krsna declares, "Whoever at the end of life quits his body remembering Me alone at once attains to My nature. Of this there is no doubt." Once you have attained Lord Krsna's abode at death, you've permanently solved your problems of disease and death in this world.
On the other hand, to forget Lord Krsna is suicide. The great devotee Narottama Dasa says, "My Lord, I have simply wasted my life. Having obtained the human body, I have neglected to worship Your Lordship, and therefore I have willingly drunk poison."
In other words, a godless life is its own suicide mission. Dying in ignorance, Dr. Kevorkian's patients will inevitably suffer a relapse—another birth. Of course, repeat customers may be good for the suicide business. But Dr. Kevorkian's good intentions for suffering humanity are dead wrong. Death does benefit humanity. It's a wake-up call: "Be Krsna conscious while you can."
Australia's Vrndavana Hills
A pleasing natural environment filled with glorification of Krsna makes New Govardhana a replica of Krsna's eternal home.
by Ambika Devi Dasi
AN HOUR SOUTH of Brisbane, Australia, the glitzy tourist area called the Gold Coast stretches along the Pacific. Farther south, imposing Mount Warning, the first peak in Australia to receive the rising sun presides over the beautiful Tweed Valley, with its green fields of sugar cane. At the base of this former volcano and set against a forested hill sits a 1000-acre (450-hectare) farm of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. Devotees bought the property in 1977 and with Srila Prabhupada's approval named it New Govardhana, after the sacred hill in Vrndavana, India, where Krsna would tend calves and sport with His friends.
With its subtropical climate and good yearly rainfall New Govardhana is generally green and scenic, its surrounding hills sloping gently down to the river flats. On one of the hills, commanding sweeping views, sits the spacious temple, built by devotees soon after the farm was bought. The temple's back wall is largely filled by a colorful stained-glass window depicting Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityananda amid peacocks, lotuses, and temple domes. The rising sun filters through the window to spread myriad colors throughout the temple.
Every day in New Govardhana one can hear the songs of many types of birds—the sweet warbling of the magpies, the "laughing" of the kooka-burras, and the trumpet call of the peacocks, some near and some distant. Bright red and blue crimson rosellas, rainbow lorikeets, and other parrotlike birds perch on branches.
A visiting sannyasi once said that New Govardhana reminded him of Vrndavana. "One need only be in the right consciousness to see Vrndavana here," he said. "Krsna is on New Govardhana Hill with Radharani by His side. The cows and peacocks are here, devotees are chanting the Lord's name, and a river flows by, just as the Yamuna River flows through Vrndavana."
About sixty-five devotees live at New Govardhana. Many community members have bought houses in nearby towns or rural areas. Some visit the temple daily, others weekly.
The devotees are a diverse group, coming from a variety of countries—France, Fiji, Sweden, England, Ireland, Scotland, India, Canada, Hungary, New Zealand, the former Yugoslavia, and the United States.
Ideally, a Krishna conscious farming community is intended for self-sufficiency based on wealth drawn from the land. Though there are efforts in place to achieve this goal, the economic base of New Govardhana is still a long way from being entirely land-oriented. Most families from New Govardhana support themselves by selling things at local craft markets, and some devotees own businesses in which they employ others.
Isvara Dasa, originally from England, moved to New Govardhana in 1992 and set up what is now a successful incense and perfume factory. Two families in the area have started a restaurant—Govinda's Natural Foods—on the main street of Murwillumbah. Govinda's has become a popular lunch-time venue for the town's business people and devotees alike. More recently, Kisori Vallabha Dasi registered on the farm a child day-care center, approved and funded by the government.
Whether living on the farm or in neighboring towns, the devotees of the New Govardhana community are finding ways to contribute to its ongoing success.
Ambika Devi Dasi was one of the first Australians to join ISKCON, in 1971. She has been teaching in the New Govardhana school for twelve years and is a prolific writer of children's songs. She is married and has two children.
Srila Prabhupada's Compassion
Because of Srila Prabhupada's extraordinary compassion, Krsna consciousness could take hold in the West.
by Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami
I WOULD LIKE TO DISCUSS the ways in which Srila Prabhupada extends his compassion to us. How Prabhupada applied his compassion to his followers, enduring any difficulty to do so, is a relishable and important topic. Prabhupada is Krsna's representative, offering us the priceless gift of Krsna consciousness. Although it is for each of us to accept this gift, Prabhupada has made it very easy for us to accept. That is his great compassion. If we are fortunate, we may also receive a drop of Prabhupada's compassionate mood and begin to care for the devotional lives of others.
Material compassion and spiritual compassion are two distinct entities. Prabhupada describes material compassion as rescuing only the coat of a drowning man. The sentiment may be sincere, but the compassion is misplaced. To understand spiritual compassion, we have to understand the essence of the living entity in his or her spiritual relationship with the Supreme Lord. Without this knowledge, we will not be able to understand the best interest even of ourselves, what to speak of others. Without spiritual understanding, our attempts at compassion will not benefit the soul.
Srila Prabhupada wanted to influence people everywhere to give up their sinful activities and to surrender to Krsna. He was successful because he combined humility, dependence on guru and Krsna, and confidence in Lord Caitanya's power to deliver the fallen souls.
Although we may think of a world reformer as aggressively ambitious, we should know that for one on the spiritual platform, humility and confident ambition are not mutually exclusive. Because the devotee knows he represents the most powerful person, Krsna, he is supremely confident. And because he sees himself as the Lord's servant, he is deeply humble. In the poem Srila Prabhupada wrote at sea during his 1965 voyage to America, he expresses this sentiment:
Sri Srimad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, who is very dear to Lord Gauranga [Caitanya], the son of mother Saci, is unparalleled in his service to the Supreme Lord Sri Krsna. He is that great saintly spiritual master who bestows intense devotion to Krsna at different places throughout the world.
From these verses we can understand something of Srila Prabhupada's humility and his confident dependence on his spiritual master and Krsna.
There are many world reformers as well as many persons who merely try to reform the little circle of their own lives. Some of these reformers may even express humility. But their attempts to create a compassionate change in the world are misplaced—like saving only the coat of the drowning man. Srila Prabhupada, however, whom Krsna imbued to the extreme with the dynamic combination of humility and spiritual confidence, was able to save the world.
Srila Prabhupada applied his compassion first in converting nondevotees and then in preaching to his new disciples. If we find ourselves sometimes taking ISKCON for granted, we should remember that ISKCON did not develop automatically. It developed because Srila Prabhupada made such a careful and relevant presentation of the Krsna consciousness philosophy. It developed because Prabhupada expended great love and care to adjust Krsna's eternal message for the Western world.
One example of this is Prabhupada's allowing women to live in his ISKCON centers, a practice unheard of in Indian temples. Another example is when Prabhupada first instructed his disciples to chant the Hare Krsna mantra on beads.
Prabhupada's spiritual master had taught that initiated devotees must chant sixty-four rounds a day; otherwise they were considered fallen. Prabhupada mentioned sixty-four rounds to his new disciples, but he could see that it would be impossible for them. Mukunda Swami tells in the Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta how Prabhupada negotiated with him before finally settling on the minimum daily quota of sixteen rounds.
We could call these examples of leniency more than of compassion, but leniency is a constituent of compassion. Prabhupada sincerely wanted people to take to Krsna consciousness. Therefore he was not rigid. That he was willing to bend and adjust according to time and place is an example of his compassion.
When Srila Prabhupada was asked if we could write his biography, his reply illuminated in one line the compassion behind his apparent leniency: "If you write my life story, you should say that what I did was like transplanting a tulasi plant." In other words, Prabhupada did not ignore the cultural differences between India and America. Rather, he preserved the Vedic plant and fed it according to the conditions of the Western soil and environment. Always his concern was to preserve the plant. Therefore he was willing to adjust his preaching to suit the Western mentality, yet without altering the purity and authenticity of Krsna's message.
Prabhupada expressed compassion in his willingness to preach to anyone, including the receptive hippies he encountered in the West. Prabhupada was completely different from the American and European hippies. He was cultured, elderly, and completely transcendental. Yet when he looked out to his audience of hippies, he chose to look beyond the gruffy exteriors to see the heart. He preached wherever it was favorable, and Krsna rewarded him. One time he even preached at a nudist commune, holding kirtana and lecturing. Afterwards, some of the members changed their ways and requested to join his movement. Prabhupada was so compassionate.
Caring For Fallen Disciples
Another unprecedented display of compassion is evident in Prabhupada's arranging the marriages of his disciples. In India the tradition was that no sannyasi would take part in arranging marriages. Srila Prabhupada in America, however, saw marriage as the only remedy for the otherwise unrestricted mixing of men and women in his movement. Often his young married disciples were successful, continuing to follow their initiation vows and working to spread Krsna consciousness. Often new centers were opened by such couples.
It wasn't long, however, before Prabhupada felt the shock of hearing that some of his Western disciples could not keep their marriage vows. In 1967, Prabhupada arranged the marriage of two of his disciples. Within a short time, however, the woman left her husband, found a new boyfriend, and remarried. When Prabhupada heard this, he was disgusted. "I am going back to Vrndavana," he said. "I am a sannyasi. Why do I have to hear about these things?"
Yet although he was disturbed, he continued communicating with both the woman and her new husband. Prabhupada told her that his main interest was that she become Krsna conscious. She had made a serious mistake, but he accepted her back because he so much wanted his disciples to continue their Krsna conscious life. He was confident that, by the power of their association with Krsna consciousness, his disciples could rectify themselves.
Prabhupada also felt the shock of seeing his young sannyasis forsake their vows. And again he responded with compassion. He assured them that they could continue practicing Krsna consciousness, if not as sannyasis, then as married men. He simply wanted all of us to chant Hare Krsna.
Prabhupada didn't take these disappointments lightly. Sometimes he cried, and sometimes he could not sleep at night because he worried about the problems his Western disciples brought him. Once he said, "You Western people have two permanent diseases. You are so attached to sex, and you are always quarreling." But although he sometimes spoke like that, he was always willing to take us back if we were sincere.
Following His Example
Coming to Krsna consciousness is rare. Prabhupada told us to be amazed not that so many leave, but at that so many stay. "We are spending gallons and gallons of our blood," he said, "just to make one devotee."
Following Srila Prabhupada's example, we too should be compassionate with our fellow devotees. Instead of finding fault with them for their minor discrepancies, we should remember that it took great effort for Srila Prabhupada to introduce them to Krsna consciousness. We should also remember that whoever takes to Krsna consciousness is dear to Prabhupada. And each of us, as servant of Prabhupada, should help the others become properly situated, thus preserving what Prabhupada worked so hard to establish. If we do this, then Krsna will be compassionate toward us, despite our many faults.
Prabhupada expressed compassion in all his activities. Out of compassion he wrote his books, battled the atheists and Mayavadis, and reprimanded his disciples. Out of compassion he does not tolerate any interference in the flow of Krsna's mercy to the living entities. Therefore we pray to Prabhupada throughout the day: "I offer my obeisances to His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, who is very dear to Krsna on this earth, having taken shelter at the lotus feet of the transcendental Lord."
By comparison with Prabhupada, we are on such a low level. But Prabhupada is so dear to Krsna that he can awaken our devotional creeper, purify us of mixed motives and impure chanting, and give us the confidence to reach the goal of life.
Prabhupada is compassionate and realistic. He compassionately gives his followers practical, relevant services in carrying on his mission. We therefore pray to have faith in our spiritual master. And we pray for the confidence to continue hearing from him, serving him, and accepting his protection.
Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami travels extensively to speak and write about Krsna consciousness. He is the author of many books, including a six-volume biography of Srila Prabhupada.
Here we conclude an exchange that took place in Paris on June 15, 1974, between His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, two priests, and two Christian scholars. As we join the discussion, a newly arrived American student launches into his philosophy of "All is light."
Srila Prabhupada: So there is only one path: surrender to God. Do all of you accept this?
Student: I think that each man finds his own way.
Srila Prabhupada: No. no. Do you accept this principle—that God is great and we are all subordinate to Him?
Student: My principle is the light—that there is only the light. If some people wish to call it God, they can call it God. God for me is just a word. It's a word no one can understand.
Srila Prabhupada: Simply you understand.
Student: I understand the light.
Srila Prabhupada: No. You think you understand God, or the ultimate truth. You say, definitely, "God is a word." That means you think you understand the ultimate truth, or God.
Srila Prabhupada: Then why do you say, "God is a word"?
Student: I say God is only a word and that's why I cannot speak of God, because it's a word and it cannot be explained.
Srila Prabhupada: But you are using words, and you are explaining. Why do you speak these contradictory things?
Student: No. I say that I cannot speak of God, because God is a word.
Srila Prabhupada: Now you are saying you do not know what God is. First of all, accept that you do not know.
Student: It is light. I speak of the light.
Srila Prabhupada: Now again you are saying you know God. You are speaking in both ways: that you do not know and that you do know. Sometimes you say you do not know, sometimes you say you do know.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Disciple: Yes. And in the end you say you do know. You've decided that God or the ultimate truth is simply light. So when you say "All is light," actually you're claiming you do know God.
Student (with hand on heart): I believe in what I feel here, and that is God for me.
Srila Prabhupada: That means that at other times, when you feel something else, that is God.
Student (still with hand on heart): I feel the light here.
Srila Prabhupada: You can feel the light anywhere.
Student: Light is this table, this floor. Light is everything.
Srila Prabhupada: That's all right. Then why do you say you do not know God? You know God: in His preliminary feature, as the all-pervasive light.
Student: Because for me. God is merely a word. How can you explain God with a word? What is God? Explain to me what is God.
Srila Prabhupada (to a disciple): Talk with him. He'll simply waste my time.
Student : If you can explain to me what is God, I would appreciate it.
Srila Prabhupada : [ To the disciple:] Just go and take him. [To the student:] You go and he'll explain to you. Please.
Student: He cannot explain to me.
Srila Prabhupada: Then you go away. Please. What can I do? I cannot waste time.
Student: If you cannot explain to me what is God ...
Srila Prabhupada: But you know everything. What can I explain? You know everything. [The student leaves.]
Madame Devi: Your Divine Grace, are there certain qualities that make some people more receptive toward the divine and other people less receptive?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. That I have explained: sattva-guna, rajo-guna, tamo-guna, the modes of goodness, passion, and ignorance. Those who are in goodness—they can understand the divine very easily. Those who are in passion—they have got difficulty. And those who are covered by ignorance—they cannot understand.
Madame Devi: Is this degree of covering a question of one's physical body? Is it hormones or a chemical state—that some people are more covered by ignorance than others?
Srila Prabhupada: "Covered" means dirty things in the heart. That's all. Just as the sun is covered by the cloud.
Madame Devi: So by repeating the mantra, the name of God, your heart becomes more ...
Srila Prabhupada: You become purified.
Disciple: Srila Prabhupada, you often give the example that the heart is a mirror. And the more we polish the mirror by chanting Krsna's names, the more we become enlightened.
Madame Devi: Therefore, we have to repeat the name of God every day, many times.
Srila Prabhupada: Hmm. Yes.
Madame Devi: Your Divine Grace, I would like to know about the problem of death: what happens at the time of death.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. You have to prepare yourself. Just as in a dream we think about what we have done previously, similarly, we are preparing our mental condition at the time of death by what we are doing in our daily life.
Madame Devi: I see. And would it be true, in a sense, that our thoughts are more important than our actions?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Thoughts are the subtle action.
Madame Devi: So, in other words, our thoughts begin the action, and they also determine the action?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Therefore, we give thoughts beyond your present thoughts. From the authoritative Vedic scriptures. For example, the Srimad-Bhagavatam describes Lord Buddha, in his youth, seeing the elderly and thinking, "In old age I'll be crippled like that? I am also going to be like that? No. What is the value?" Then he began meditation, so that he could escape the material world, this cycle of old age, disease, death, and rebirth.
As he studied the Vedas, he understood that by bad karma one becomes subjected to material tribulation. And most of the bad karma, he thought, is on account of our malice, starting from our practice of killing animals. So he wanted to stop this. That is Buddha's first teaching. Sadaya-hrdaya darsita-pasu-ghatam—"Stop animal killing."
Disciple: Srila Prabhupada, as you recall, here in Paris last year a man came to meet you—the president of the Court of Paris. He was supposed to be a Buddhist, and yet he said to you, "In the climate of India, maybe you can get away with not eating meat. But in the climate of the West, we must eat meat."
Srila Prabhupada: That is rascaldom. He's a first-class rascal. Therefore, the conclusion is, these religious and social leaders are rascals. If they want to be saved from their rascal position, this is the only method. Krsna consciousness. Genuine God consciousness. Otherwise, how can they be saved from the cycle of rebirth and death? They are atma-hana [killers of the soul]. Atma-hana means "self-killing." Suicidal. If you cut your own throat, who can save you?
So these so-called followers of Lord Jesus or Lord Buddha who actually do not follow—they're all rascals. We don't hate anyone. We want to raise them. But actually, they're all rascals.
Appearance Day: May 2
In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna says that He appears to protect His devotees and annihilate the demons. A graphic example of the Lord's protection and annihilation can been seen in His incarnation as Lord Nrsimhadeva, a half-man, half-lion. The following excerpt from the Srimad-Bhagavatam (2.7.14) briefly explains why the Lord appeared in this unusual form.
TRANSLATION: The Personality of Godhead assumed the incarnation of Nrsimhadeva in order to vanquish the great fears of the demigods. He killed the king of the demons [Hiranyakasipu], who challenged the Lord with a club in his hand, by placing the demon on His thighs and piercing him with His nails, rolling His eyebrows in anger and showing His fearful teeth and mouth.
PURPORT: The history of Hiranyakasipu and his great devotee-son Prahlada Maharaja is narrated in the Seventh Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam. Hiranyakasipu became very powerful by material achievements and thought himself to be immortal by the grace of Brahmaji. Brahmaji declined to award him the benediction of immortality because he himself is not an immortal being. But Hiranyakasipu derived Brahmaji's benediction in a roundabout way, almost equal to becoming an immortal being. Hiranyakasipu was sure that he would not be killed by any man or demigod or by any kind of known weapon, nor would he die in day or night.
The Lord, however, assumed the incarnation of half-man and half-lion, which was beyond the imagination of a materialistic demon like Hiranyakasipu, and thus, keeping pace with the benediction of Brahmaji, the Lord killed him. He killed him on His lap so that he was killed neither on land nor on the water nor in the sky. The demon was pierced by Nrsimha's nails, which were beyond the human weapons imaginable by Hiranyakasipu.
The literal meaning of Hiranyakasipu is one who is after gold and soft bedding, the ultimate aim of all materialistic men. Such demoniac men, who have no relationship with God, gradually become puffed up by material acquisitions and begin to challenge the authority of the Supreme Lord and torture those who are devotees of the Lord. Prahlada Maharaja happened to be the son of Hiranyakasipu, and because the boy was a great devotee, his father tortured him to the best of his ability. In this extreme situation, the Lord assumed the incarnation of Nrsimhadeva, and just to finish the enemy of the demigods, the Lord killed Hiranyakasipu in a manner beyond the demon's imagination. Materialistic plans of godless demons are always frustrated by the all-powerful Lord.
Krsna Wants to Glorify Prabhupada
by Lokanath Swami
MEMORIES OF THE Centennial Year inauguration in Mumbai (Bombay) are still fresh in my mind. We were expecting up to 10,000 people, which seemed a lot. But Krsna surprised us all—30,000 turned up. The many prominent citizens of Mumbai in attendance obviously came not for entertainment or free prasadam but to honor Srila Prabhupada, who was surely pleased by the attendance.
We had predicted an audience of 10,000 by estimating what percentage of people would respond to the invitations we sent out. But Lord Krsna, wanting to expand the glories of His pure devotee Srila Prabhupada, set His own communication channel going and inspired people from within their hearts to attend the function.
Seeing the city's leading stadium jam-packed with Mumbai's elite, and witnessing their overwhelming response to the lectures and programs, I became further convinced: Krsna wants to glorify Srila Prabhupada. We had been emphasizing this point throughout the four-year Centennial campaign, and Krsna proved it. Krsna is known as bhaktanama mana vardhanah, "He who enhances the reputation of His devotees."
Success Depends on Krsna
After the triumphant start of the Centennial, we feel more confident that our endeavor to glorify Srila Prabhupada throughout 1996 will be a grand success. The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna, is party to the Centennial celebration. In fact, He is at the very top of the Centennial organizational tree. The success of the Centennial celebration depends on Him.
Sometimes the public glorifies unqualified people and becomes victimized by ignorant and unscrupulous so-called leaders. It is said about mundane name and fame, "Name, fame, glory—same old story!" But this saying does not apply to the fame of a pure devotee of the Lord. Srila Prabhupada's fame, an integral part of his spiritual opulence in relationship with Krsna, is eternal and ever increasing. Srila Prabhupada is meant to be famous throughout the whole world, like devotees mentioned in Srimad-Bhagavatam, such as Dhruva Maharaja and Bhakta Prahlada.
Take the Opportunity
The Centennial year is a great time to introduce to the whole world Srila Prabhupada and his life and mission. So let us all take seriously this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and wholeheartedly glorify Srila Prabhupada.
By the time this issue of BTG reaches your hands, you must all be getting ready for the next Global Events of the Centennial—Padayatra Week and World Holy Name Day—to take place in the beginning of June. So we would like to appeal to everyone to go out in large numbers—on Padayatra, on harinama-sankirtana, or simply door to door—to invite as many people as possible to join in the Celebration of the Century. Please walk, talk, and chant the glories of His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada.
News and Events
Hare Krsna Utsava On the Road
The All-India Traveling Centennial Utsava ("festival") took to the road on February 1. Chief Minister of Orissa, Mr. J. B. Pattnaik inaugurated the first festival, in Bhubaneswar. The pious Orissan crowds flooding the Utsava camp showed overwhelming response to the high-tech shows, eighteen pavilions, Krsna Vision multi-projector show, and other uncommon attractions presenting the philosophy of Krsna consciousness. The festival site was packed for four days. A local newspaper titled its report "Krishna Consciousness Movement Invades Town."
The traveling festival next performed at the Hare Krsna World Convention in Mayapur, where hundreds of thousands of Bengali pilgrims gathered for Gaura Purnima, the ap-pearance day of Lord Caitanya.
The most spectacular response from the public and the largest devotee participation was in Mumbai, which hosted the traveling festival from March 20 through April 14. The event also commemorated the twenty-fifth anniversary of Srila Prabhupada's first pandal (tent) program in Bombay, held in March 1971 at the very same Cross Maidan grounds. The devotees' chanting parties, delightful plays, and thought-provoking lectures attracted a constant flow of thousands of appreciative visitors daily.
Prabhupada Road Inaugurated in Mumbai
On January 6 a three-mile long road in Mumbai was renamed Bhaktivedanta Swami Marg. The ten crossroads on the marg ("street") will also be renamed Bhaktivedanta Swami Crossroad 1, 2, 3, and so on. The mayor of Mumbai, accompanied by the local municipal cooperator and other promi-nent citizens, unveiled the black granite plaque commemorating the new street name.
Hundreds of devotees and members from Mumbai's three ISKCON temples joined a Padayatra held on the occasion and chanted enthusiastically around a bullock cart bearing a deity of Srila Prabhupada. The procession traveled the length of Bhaktivedanta Swami Marg and ended at Hare Krishna Land, where devotees held a formal function at the ISKCON auditorium in glorification of Prabhupada. Juhu mayor Sri Ramcandra Kadam assured ISKCON of the municipal council's support. ISKCON leaders Giriraja Swami, Radhanatha Swami, and Gopala Krsna Goswami addressed the audience and presented mementos to the chief guests.
So far 150 ISKCON centers have confirmed they'll take part in the Sahasra Tirtha Jala Maha Abhiseka sponsorship program. The sacred water was bottled in February, and in March at the Hare Krsna World Convention in Mayapur the Centennial Ministry delivered 1,500 sponsored kalasas (water pots) to Sahasra Tirtha Jala coordinators and temple presidents to carry back to their respective centers.
A booth at the convention displayed the 1,008 waters, the 7 categories of kalasas, a giant map of India showing the 1,008 tirthas (holy places), and photographs of the entire project—water collection, kalasa manufacturing, water bottling, office back up, and so on. The kalasa manufacturers expect to finish 20,000 kalasas by June.
Srila Prabhupada's 1996 Maha Vyasa-puja in Calcutta, his birth city, will be a very significant event. Dignitaries from India and abroad have been invited to attend and express their appreciation for Srila Prabhupada and his work.
The two-day program will begin with a grand reception of the 1,008 sacred waters, which will arrive by train from New Delhi and then be carried in procession through the streets of Calcutta. The highlight of the festival will be the bathing of the deity of Srila Prabhupada with the 1,008 sacred waters.
by Urmila Devi Dasi
THOSE WEEKLY girl scout meetings always began with us reciting our vows. "To be clean in thought, word, and deed," I would say carelessly, eager to begin our project or camping excursion.
FFor children being raised in Krsna consciousness, cleanliness isn't an abstract ideal but an important part of a progressive spiritual life. Though spiritual purity is the first concern, physical and mental cleanliness also count. In fact, they are usually symptoms of one's consciousness, and a clean body and mind help develop a clean consciousness, or Krsna consciousness.
Clean Body, Mind, Intelligence
We should teach our children that cleanliness is essential for good health. Most parents teach their children some hygiene, but devotee children do things that require special cleanliness, such as visiting the temple, eating krsna-prasadam, or preparing food to offer to Krsna.
For mental cleanliness, or mental purity, our children should learn how to avoid envious, hateful, deceitful, and selfish thoughts. They need to know how to deal with such thoughts, which enter the mind despite all precautions. We must also teach children to guard against mental speculation, by teaching them that philosophical and spiritual truths must be supported by Vedic literature. And since thoughts and words are closely related, our children should practice pleasing, helpful, and truthful speech.
As for purity of intelligence, we want our children to learn to use their intelligence to help themselves and others make spiritual progress, rather than-to increase material illusion.
The ultimate purity is unadulterated love for Krsna, free from personal desire and flowing unhindered like a mighty river to the sea. If our children gain such cleanliness of soul, their cleanliness will be revolutionary.
The two best ways to teach our children any kind of cleanliness are by our own example and by helping them form early habits. For example, the longer we wait to teach our children to wash their hands and mouth after eating, the longer they have to form a habit of uncleanliness. No matter what we do, they will form habits—clean or unclean. So we should start teaching about cleanliness as soon as they can understand.
When we help our child start a habit early, the child comes to see the behavior or attitude as normal, as simply part of life. To get the child to practice cleanliness will then be fairly easy. For example, if we bathe our child every morning from a young age, the child will naturally pick up the habit of early-morning bathing.
When to introduce a particular item of cleanliness depends on the age and needs of the child. An overall guideline is that the child must be physically and mentally capable of the cleanliness routine. For example, until a child gets all his baby teeth, teaching him not to put his hand in his mouth is unreasonable. But we can teach even a young child to wash after eating, simply by always washing the child's hands and mouth after meals. Gradually, the child can do this without our assistance.
Children of two or three can start learning to keep their personal environment clean and organized. Parents can help put things away and clean up inevitable messes. A four-year-old can have regular cleaning duties, though these should be easy and take little time. By the time a child is ten, he or she should be naturally clean and organized.
Here's how I teach a child of eight to clean and organize his or her room. First, we put everything away neatly in its place. Not having too much clutter makes the job easier. If clothes, books, or toys are not stored neatly, the child has to keep at it until the area "passes inspection." Then the child and I clean the surfaces, as the child learns which rag and cleaner to use on each surface. I teach the child to clean every surface regularly, including small ledges on walls, doors, and windows. We then look for dirt. Are there smudges around the light switches or door knobs? Has the ceiling been collecting cobwebs? Finally, we sweep and mop the floor together.
A child will gradually be able to do more and more cleaning without my assistance, although someone experienced in cleaning must always inspect, and sometimes re-inspect, before the cleaning is finished.
Besides the daily routine, to have one or two designated days a week for full-scale cleaning is helpful. In our household, cleaning on such days is a family festival, where we play tapes of lively devotional music and clean with great enthusiasm.
Children should learn that the home isn't the only place to keep clean. We should teach our children that a brahminical person leaves a place cleaner than he found it. We can practice applying this principle with our children when eating at highway picnic areas, or when staying overnight in temples, hotels, or friends' houses.
Our children also need to learn the reasons behind the different items of cleanliness. Otherwise, rules will seem just that—simply rules, ritualized formulas developed traditionally for reasons that no longer apply or never did.
Parents can nurture the mental, intellectual, and spiritual purity of a very young child simply by controlling what he or she is exposed to. But a growing child gradually meets with influences beyond the family, and even beyond the community of friends and relatives. Children who come with us shopping, preaching, and on other excursions into society at large, as they should, will confront an increasingly impure world. How important, then, that we show a joyful strictness as we clean our homes, bodies, words, minds, and hearts as an offering of love to Krsna. As the child imitates adult standards of cleanliness and purity, he or she will find such happiness in Krsna consciousness that there will seem no greater gain. Impure thoughts and actions will then be seen as what they are—dirty and disgusting.
Children clean in body, mind, intelligence, and soul can become real brahmanas. Even a small number of people who have achieved purity in their childhood can transform society.
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 a school for children aged 5-18. She is the main author/compiler of Vaikuntha Children, a gurukula classroom guidebook.
The Greatest Gift at Any Age
By Udayananda Dasa
IN JANUARY last year a woman in her early seventies came into my art shop at the local shopping mall. She bought several paintings for her home and while I framed them we talked. She told me her name is Harriet Barret, she is the mother of three children and the grandmother of seven, and she had been married for thirty-six years before her husband passed away in 1984.
Somehow we got to the subject of reincarnation. When Harriet mentioned that she believed in reincarnation, I replied, "It's not a question of belief but a matter of fact." I told her I've been a student of Vedic literature, specifically the Bhagavad-gita, for more than twenty years. I explained some of the Gita's teachings, and she was very receptive to the philosophy. At the end of our conversation I asked her to come again.
"There's a book I want to give you," I said.
When she came back two weeks later. I gave her a copy of Bhagavad-gita As It Is. She took the book and thanked me enthusiastically.
Every week since then she has been coming to my shop asking questions about vegetarianism, material attachments, the three modes of nature, and so on. One day she asked if I knew anything about meditation.
"Oh, yes," I said. "I've been doing mantra meditation for many years. Someday I'll show you how to meditate with beads."
A few weeks went by, and Harriet kept coming to my shop. "When are you going to show me how to meditate?" she would ask. But because of my busy work schedule, I just couldn't find time to show her how to chant Hare Krsna on beads.
Then one day she called me on the phone. By then she had read more than four hundred pages of the Bhagavad-gita.
"How do you pronounce K-R-S-N-A?" she asked.
"Oh, that's Krsna!" I said, pronouncing it for her.
Then she asked, "How do you pronounce H-A-R-E?"
"That's Hare!" I said.
"So," she asked, "you say, Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare? Is this the mantra you were going to teach me?"
"You got it!" I said.
I explained that this is the maha-mantra—the greatest mantra—and the highest form of meditation one can possibly perform. If she chanted this mantra, all her material attachments could be broken, her past karma removed, and eventually she could become completely purified. She could transcend the bondage of repeated birth and death and return home, back to Godhead.
Harriet started chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra. At first she chanted fifteen minutes a day. Gradually she increased. One day she called me in a very excited mood. She had just chanted for two hours without stopping.
I'm very happy at Harriet's progress. Her enthusiasm to learn more and more has also humbled me to begin to appreciate the incredible gifts Srila Prabhupada has given the world. How easy it is to take for granted the perfect wisdom of the Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam and the potency of the holy name.
The realization I've had is that billions of people never get the chance to have the most important questions of life answered—even by the age of seventy-one.
Harriet Barrett had led a thoroughly prosperous life, but something was missing. Now she is chanting Hare Krsna every day. The gap is filled. She says that the Hare Krsna mantra is the most valuable acquisition of her life.
"Never in my seventy-one years have I ever experienced such overwhelming joy and tranquillity," she says. "I am humbled that at my age the Supreme Lord would be so kind to give me this great gift of purification and the ability to understand it."
Udayananda Dasa, a disciple of Srila Prabhupada's, joined ISKCON in 1973. He lives in Efland, North Carolina, with his wife and their three children.
In Vedic literature Krsna is the central point of attraction, and His service is our activity. To attain the platform of love of Krsna is life's ultimate goal. Therefore Krsna, Krsna's service, and love of Krsna are the three great riches of life.
Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu
A pure devotee of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is always thinking of how fallen, conditioned souls can be delivered. The Supreme Personality of Godhead, influenced by the devotees' attempt to deliver fallen souls, enlightens the people in general from within by His causeless mercy.
His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
You cannot appreciate transcendental matters with the reasoning of the world. It is sheer nonsense to decry them with the measuring stick of your intellect.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura
An intelligent person should reject all bad association and instead take up the association of saintly devotees, whose words cut off the excessive attachment of one's mind.
Lord Sri Krsna
The demigods are not perfectly endowed with transcendental qualities. Indeed, their opulences are limited, and therefore they worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the Absolute Truth, who is simultaneously free of all material qualities and completely endowed with all transcendental qualities, which exist in His personal body.
Just as the Ganga is the greatest of all rivers, Lord Acyuta [Krsna] the supreme among deities, and Lord Sambhu [Siva] the greatest of Vaisnavas, so Srimad-Bhagavatam is the greatest of all Puranas.
Srila Suta Gosvami
The foremost process of cheating is to desire to achieve liberation by merging in the Supreme, for this causes the permanent disappearance of loving service to Krsna.
Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami
No one can understand Krsna as He is by the blunt material senses. But He reveals Himself to the devotees, being pleased with them for their transcendental loving service unto Him.
Srila Rupa Gosvami