Statement of Purposes
1. To help all people discern reality from illusion, spirit from matter, the eternal from the temporary.
Arch Enemy: Mc-Cow-Killer Comes to India
THE PEOPLE WHO'VE served cow flesh to billions, beneath golden arches around the world, have now come to the land where the cow is sacred. And they're being ever so careful to be Indian.
No Big Macs here, no indeed. No cow flesh, no pig fat, lest Hindus or Muslims be offended. In India, it's the Maharaja Mac. The menu is full of veggies spiced just for the Indian palate, and the slaughter of choice is chickens and sheep.
And trendy Indians, it seems, are lining up to swallow it. When the doors opened in Delhi in early October, day one saw a reported twenty thousand customers, and in Mumbai the crowds on opening day stretched half a mile.
Some voices, of course, spoke out in protest. Some griped that McIndia uses mono-something-or-other, a taste-boosting chemical. Others groaned at being catered to by a videshi company, a company of foreigners.
But an Indian taste for McAmerica and an American appetite for rupees seem to have found one another. And if the cow is your mother and the business of the arch people in the rest of the world is to dish out your mother's flesh on a bun, what does it matter? The sheep and chickens, we're assured, are svadeshi, home grown, so everything is all right.
The svadeshi sheep and chickens, of course, might have thought otherwise, had they thought about it. But mere birds and beasts can't think about it, nor can men who've become hardly better.
For birds and beasts are obliged by nature to live entirely for their senses, with no higher thoughts. And a man who sacrifices the higher values of life merely to earn a rupee or spend it for his tongue is descending to the life of a beast.
It is the beasts who have no higher concern than eating, sleeping, fighting, and gratifying the sex drive. Only when we turn towards spiritual realization do we begin to rise above the life of the animals.
The culture of spirituality has long been the pride of India. But now even Indians are becoming proud to follow America in becoming cheaply fed beasts.
Like elsewhere in the world, McBeast in India queues up beneath the golden arches, not thinking beyond the whims of his senses, not thinking of Krsna, Gopala, the eternal master of the cows, and not realizing that by giving up higher consciousness for burgers and shakes he is slaughtering his own spiritual life.
He is a spiritual living being, an eternal spark of consciousness, wise by nature, and eternally connected with Krsna. But when allured by the golden arches of material enjoyment his spiritual wisdom pales, and he lines up to slide down into passion and ignorance.
For the people of the arch are not kind to beasts, though they are beasts themselves. In the world of false enjoyment, "billions served" means billions cheated, and no good will come of it, not any more for the beasts served as customers than for the beasts served on the buns.
Good will come to us only when we turn back to Krsna, back to Godhead.
The Position of Lord Siva
Jayadvaita Swami's critique of Prithvi Raj Singh's resolution ["Is Back to Godhead an Offender?" January/February 1996] needs some in-depth comments. I consider myself lower than a servant of the servants of the servants of Lord Siva and Lord Krsna and His other Visnu forms. Therefore, for me it becomes difficult to comment on Their graces. However, my hope is that whatever I have collected from the scriptures will be taken as a devotional exercise and the Lords will accept it in their praise and not consider me an offender.
You rightly do not differentiate between the Supreme Lord Rama and Lord Krsna or His other Visnu forms. But you do differentiate them from Lord Siva, whom the Supreme Lord Himself worships.
Quoting Ramcaritamanas, Lanka Kanda 2: Lord Rama established a temple for Lord Siva, and after establishing Lord Siva's emblem Lord Rama worshiped Him. He then said, "No one is as dear to Me as Siva. One who considers Siva his enemy and calls himself My devotee cannot attain Me even in dreams. One who is opposed to Sankara [Siva] and aspires to be My devotee is doomed and dull-witted." In South India even today, Rameshwaram, where Lord Rama established Siva's temple, is considered among the most sacred places of pilgrimage.
It is given in the Ayodhya Kanda (106), "After bathing, Lord Rama with great joy adored Lord Siva and then worshiped the deities in the prescribed manner." Lord Sankara is also busy, day and night, meditating on Lord Rama or Lord Krsna. Lord Siva is stated to be servant, master, and companion of Lord Rama. What an adorable relationship! In the scriptures some of the most commonly used names of Lord Siva are Mahesa and Mahesvara—Lord of lords.
Maybe you do not consider Ramcaritamanas an acceptable scripture, but how about the Siva, Linga, Kurma, Matsya, or Skanda Puranas? They all sing the glories of Lord Siva as the Supreme Lord. Even in the Padma Purana, which primarily glorifies Lord Visnu as the Supreme Lord, Lord Brahma speaks of Lord Siva as Bhagavan [the Supreme Personality of Godhead]!
Let us go to the Srimad-Bhagavatam (4.6.42-43). Sri Brahmaji prays and sings the glories of Lord Siva:
jane tvam isam visvasya
"I know that You are the Lord of the entire universe and the mother and father of the cosmic manifestation."
sakteh sivasya ca paraµ
"I know that You are the Supreme Brahman beyond the cosmic manifestation."
tvam eva bhagavann etac
"You create, maintain, and destroy the universe."
Lord Visnu says (4.7.54):
"Brahma, Visnu, and Mahesvara are the same, and only We are in the nature of all living beings. Therefore, one who does not see any difference between Us, he alone attains peace."
In Srimad-Bhagavatam (8.6.33-37) there appears a beautiful description of the devatas' attempts to move Mandara Mountain. When the devas could not carry the mountain any further, totally dejected they dropped it on the way to the ocean. The mountain was very heavy, and when it fell many devatas and demons got crushed. Seeing this, Lord Visnu, knowing everything, suddenly appeared there and by His nectarean eyes revived the devatas and as if in play picked up the mountain and put it on Garuda with Him. Thus in this situation He did not need anyone else to take care of the problem.
However, the situation was entirely different when the all-powerful acute poison halahala came out of the churning of the ocean (Bhagavatam 8.7.18-35). These beautiful verses are full of devotion to Lord Siva and Lord Visnu. Rather than giving all the verses and making the reply very long, I am quoting only a selected few.
In verse 19 the hopeless situation of the devas and demons is depicted:
tad ugra-vegam disi disy upary adho
"All the devas, along with the Supreme Lord, approached Lord Siva. Being very afraid of the powerful poison and feeling unprotected, they sought shelter of Lord Siva."
In verse 22 they pray to Lord Siva:
tvam ekah sarva-jagata
"You alone are the ultimate controller of the entire universe. Liberation and bondage are from You."
In verse 23:
"O Lord, You are the Supreme, and You create the world by Your energy. You take the names Brahma, Visnu, Mahesa."
tvam brahma paramam guhyam
"O Lord of the universe, You are the inconceivable cause of all causes."
In verse 31 it is said that Lord Siva is not understandable to Lord Brahma, Lord Visnu, or Indra (na ... virinca-vaikuntha-surendra-gamyam).
In verse 33:
te nunam utim avidams tava
"Not knowing Your activities, those who criticize You are certainly shameless."
Besides these very few references, there are hundreds of other Vedantic and Vedic references where the Supreme Lord Visnu (Sri Krsna) has worshiped the Supreme Lord Siva and vice versa. The literature is replete with references of equivalence of the Supreme Lord.
So please leave Lord Siva out of your comments, lest we unknowingly commit some offense. As regards Durga, she is sakti [the energy] of Saktiman Siva [the possessor of the energy].
May the all-kind Lord Krsna give you more strength and conviction to continue on the path of His devotional service. For myself, my prayers are to Lord Krsna (His forms) and Lord Siva to accept whatever service I can render and provide me with the will to continue on that path. Jai Sri Krsna.
Dr. Gopal H. Singhal
OUR REPLY: We have no quarrel with your glorification of Lord Siva. Lord Siva is unlimitedly glorious. Apart from the verses you've quoted, there are indeed many more praising his glories, in the Bhagavatam and elsewhere.
Lord Siva is in fact far above the other devas like Indra and Lord Brahma. The others are all jivas; they are conditioned living beings empowered in various ways for the administration of the material world. But Lord Siva is above them all. He is practically on the same level as Lord Visnu Himself.
Still, a distinction exists, for Lord Siva is directly in touch with the material energy whereas Lord Visnu is always beyond it. The Brahma-samhita gives the example that Lord Visnu is like milk whereas Lord Siva is like yogurt. There is no difference between yogurt and milk. Still, milk is the original substance, of which yogurt is a transformation.
Lord Siva may properly be regarded as being nondifferent from Lord Visnu, because Lord Siva is an incarnation of Lord Visnu for performing specific functions. So when Lord Siva is glorified as the Supreme Lord, the glorification is correct because Lord Siva is the most highly empowered and exalted representative of Lord Visnu.
In one sense, all living beings are nondifferent from Lord Visnu, because Lord Visnu is everything (vasudeva sarvam iti). In another sense, all living beings are different from Lord Visnu, because Lord Visnu is the supreme and all others, including even Lord Siva, are His eternal servants. Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu explained this state of affairs as acintya-bhedabheda-tattva, or simultaneous oneness and difference.
By describing the relationship between Lord Visnu and Lord Siva to be adorable, you are absolutely right. According to the Bhagavatam (12.13.16), Lord Siva is the greatest of all Vaisnavas, or devotees of Lord Visnu. The relationship between Lord Visnu and His devotees is very intimate and sublime, and especially so for the greatest of His devotees, Lord Siva.
In a spirit of transcendental love, Lord Krsna, although the Supreme Lord, takes the role of a charioteer for a devotee like Arjuna, or a dependent child for a devotee like Yasoda. In this way, the Lord becomes the devotee of His devotee. Similarly, at Rameshwaram and elsewhere, the Lord acts as the devotee of His most exalted devotee Lord Siva.
On the Battlefield of Kuruksetra, it was in fact Lord Krsna who won the victory, but He did so through His devotee Arjuna, in order to glorify His devotee. Similarly, it was Lord Visnu who saved the devas from the terrible poison, but He did so through His empowered incarnation Lord Siva, in order to show Lord Siva's glories.
With this understanding, the devotees of the Hare Krsna movement worship Lord Siva with the greatest reverence and respect.
We'd like to hear from you. Please send correspondence to: BTG, P. O. Box 430, Alachua, FL 32616, USA. Fax: (904) 462-7893. Or BTG, 33 Janki Kutir, Next to State Bank of Hyderabad, Juhu, Mumbai 400 049, India. Phone: (022) 618-1718.
How to understand the universe
A lecture given in Los Angeles, October 5, 1972
by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
etad rupam bhagavato
The conception of the virat universal form of the Lord, as appearing in the material world, is imaginary. It is to enable the less intelligent [and neophytes] to adjust to the idea of the Lord's having form. But factually the Lord has no material form.
This Is a Very Important Verse. When we speak of "formless" we mean that God or the living entities—all of us—have no material form. Our present form—our body—is temporary, and after death it will never come again. As soon as this form is finished, I will have to take another form. And that form may not be exactly like this one.
Unlike us, Krsna has no material form. He has a spiritual form. Therefore His form is eternal. Because our form changes, we do not remember our past lives. But Krsna remembers because His form does not change.
The evidence for this appears in Krsna's teachings in the Bhagavad-gita. Arjuna asked Krsna, "How can I believe that You spoke this philosophy of Bhagavad-gita to the sun-god 400 million years ago?"
Krsna replied, "Yes, you were also present there, because you are My constant companion. But you have forgotten; I remember."
As long as our form stays the same we do not forget things. But when our form changes we forget. We experience this every night. My form is lying on the bed, but I am dreaming in a different form: I am flying in the sky and forgetting that my real form is lying on the bed. We forget "I am American" or "I am the son of such and such gentleman." We forget everything. As soon as the form is forgotten, then everything is forgotten.
The impersonalists are very fond of the universal form. But what is the universal form? It is an external expansion of the supreme form, Krsna. We living entities are very minute spiritual forms. Materially we cannot understand this. We cannot see the spiritual form with our material eyes. But we get information from the sastra, scriptures. Sastra says that the size of the living entity is one ten-thousandth the tip of a hair. Just imagine the tip of a hair, and divide it into ten thousand parts. One such part is the size of the living entity.
"When the upper point of a hair is divided into one hundred parts and again each of such parts is further divided into one hundred parts, each such part is the measurement of the dimension of the spirit soul." (Svetasvatara Upanisad 5.9) That is the dimension of the living entity.
That atomic particle of spiritual energy takes shelter by superior control. When a person dies, the spirit soul is taken to the court of judgment of Yamaraja, the lord of death. And according to the living entity's previous actions, he is then given a new body for his next life.
How? The Srimad-Bhagavatam states, karmana daiva-netrena: "by superior arrangement." When you work somewhere, your service record is kept. So many things are judged. At the end of the year, or at the end of some period, the service record is checked, and you are given a promotion. Similarly, all our activities are being recorded. And after death we are taken to the court of Yamaraja for the day of judgment. As the higher authority, Yamaraja decides what kind of body we shall get.
You cannot say, "Now give me the body of a king." Now you are an American, but you cannot dictate, "Give me another American body—as the son of Rockefeller." No. What you have done will be judged, and you will get your next body accordingly.
Of course, you have received your present opportunities because of past pious activities. To take birth in a rich family or nation is due to pious activity. Janmaisvarya-sruta-sribhih. Janma (birth), aisvarya (riches), sruta, (education), and sri (beauty)—these things are obtained according to past activities. Not that everyone becomes educated. There is no such chance.
Nothing by Chance
We were discussing this morning how nothing happens by chance. Everything depends on some cause. Not that by chance anyone becomes a very rich man. No. One has to work for it. Not that by chance one becomes very educated. These things are not chances. So if there is no chance, then there must be a cause, and there must be judgment. Otherwise why is one man born rich while another man works hard but has to sleep in the street?
By superior judgment the small spiritual particle—the living entity—is transferred to the semen of a particular father. Then the living entity is injected into the womb of the mother, the male and female secretions combine, and the living entity develops a body. This is the science. If you use contraceptives, that means you contaminate the emulsion, and the poor living entity cannot take shelter there. You cannot kill the living soul, but you make the circumstances unfavorable for his staying. Then he has to be transferred to another womb.
After conception the body develops. That we can see. Not that on the day of pregnancy the body develops at once. No. First it is just like a small pea, then gradually it develops. After birth the child also develops. That is not really development but transmigration from one body to another. For example, in a cinema film there are many pictures, but when they are moved very swiftly we see the action. Similarly, the process of our change of body is so swift that we cannot perceive it. We think the body is growing. But the body is not growing; we are getting different bodies.
Krsna's External Body
So our point is that the small spiritual spark develops the body. Similarly, the huge gigantic body of the universal form is the development of Krsna's external body. As your bodily functions go on nicely because the spiritual spark is within, similarly all material activities in the universe are going nicely because of the presence of the Supreme Lord. The rascal scientists cannot understand that our bodily functions are going on nicely only as long as the spirit soul is there. But any sane man can understand this. Similarly, the big manifestation of the material world is going on nicely because Krsna is there. That is explained in the Bhagavad-gita.
Arjuna asks, "Krsna, kindly explain how Your energies are acting."
Krsna explains in the Tenth Chapter. Then He says,
atha va bahunaitena
"Arjuna, I shall go on explaining how My energies are working, but you can summarize that I—in one of My plenary portions—enter the material world, and therefore it is going on so nicely." (Bg. 10.42)
As our material body is not our real form, the universal form is not Krsna's real form. Our body is described as a garment. A garment is made when there is a real form. Because you have arms, your coat has arms. But you are not the coat. Similarly, because we are spiritual forms we grow our hands and legs and head and so on. We are materially "coated."
The Great and the Small
Here it is explained that people are very fond of the universal form. They cannot imagine that a person—Krsna is a person—can work so wonderfully. They think that He is very small, like us. They do not understand that we are like a small fire and Krsna is like a big fire. A spark can burn only a small area of your cloth, but a big fire can burn so much more. Similarly, although God and we are qualitatively one, He is great and we are small.
We have the same qualities as God but in very small quantity. We can play very wonderfully by inventing some machine, say the capsule that goes to the moon. Or we float something in the sky. But that is imitation of God. God is floating gigantic planets like the sun and moon in space. You cannot do that. You can float a small sputnik.
You have creative power, and God has creative power, but God's creative power cannot be compared with your creative power. You cannot become God. You can imitate or do something very small—just like little children playing with little toys. You can play with little toys and advertise yourself as a great scientist. That's all. But you are nothing. That is to be realized.
That realization is called bhakti-yoga. The rascals are puffed up—"I am God." Foolish. How can you be God? You may have some very minute quality of God, but you cannot claim you are God. A small particle of gold is gold, but it cannot be compared with the gold mine.
People very much appreciate the gigantic universal form. They think, "Oh! Why shall I worship Krsna? I worship the gigantic universal form." But this gigantic form is a product of Krsna's energy. They do not know that. Here it is said, maya-gunair viracitam: by Krsna's material energy the universal form is created. The material energy—as much as the spiritual energy—comes from Krsna's body.
Whatever we see consists of different energies of Krsna. In the Visnu Purana it is said,
The vast universal form you are seeing is nothing but parasya brahmanah saktih, the manifestation of the energy of the Supreme Person. How? The example is given, eka-desa-sthitasyagneh: just like fire. Take the example of the sun, the biggest fire within the universe. The sun is situated in one place, but the sunshine is distributed everywhere. The sunshine may cover the whole universe, but that is not very important. The sun globe is important. Similarly, Krsna is playing with the gopis, the cowherd girls, in His spiritual abode Goloka Vrndavana, and His shine is creating the whole universe. Not that because Krsna is playing there He is absent elsewhere. No. Goloka eva nivasaty akhilatma-bhutah: Krsna is in Goloka Vrndavana, but He is present everywhere. That is Krsna. I am sitting here, so I am not in my apartment. That is my position. But Krsna's position is that although He is always in Goloka Vrndavana, He is present everywhere.
How? Andantara-stha-paramanu-cayantara-stham: He is within every universe and every atom. That is Krsna. Don't think that because Krsna is playing as a cowherd boy or as a friend of the gopis He is an ordinary man.
The rascals imitate Krsna. They say, "Oh, Krsna has enjoyed the gopis? Oh, let me gather some young girls and enjoy."
We say, "But first you become universally represented everywhere. Then you enjoy."
But the rascal cannot do that. He can simply imitate how to be in the midst of young girls and enjoy. That is the difference.
Thank you very much.
The Mysterious Incarnations
By Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami
THE OTHER DAY I was reading the Bhagavatam and I came upon this verse: "Whoever carefully recites the mysterious appearances of the Lord with devotion in the morning and in the evening gets relief from all miseries of life." (Bhag. 1.3.29) In his purport, Srila Prabhupada refers us to Bhagavad-gita 4.9, where Lord Krsna says, "One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna." If we understand Krsna's incarnations—why They appear and the nature of Their activities—we can become free of misery. Not only of misery, but of repeated birth and death.
Because the avataras are mysterious, Srila Prabhupada says, "only [to] ... those who carefully try to go deep into the matter by spiritual devotion is the mystery discovered."
Srila Prabhupada makes it sound enticing. What is this devotion to which he refers? What is the depth of this mystery we are meant to understand? Does one who worships the Lord's incarnations come to understand the source of Parasurama's power to kill disobedient kings, Buddha's ability to create faith, or Rama's fame? If we hear carefully, will we see Balarama's beauty? Will Lord Kapiladeva's transcendental teachings suddenly enlighten our hearts?
In the Age of Kali, the holy name of Krsna is the primary incarnation of the Lord. The Bhagavatam assures us, "Living beings entangled in the complicated meshes of birth and death can be freed at once by even unconsciously chanting the holy name of Krsna, which is feared by fear personified." (Bhag. 1.1.14)
This is the secret: we cannot see or appreciate Krsna or His incarnations with our blunt material senses, but when we chant the holy name our spiritual senses are gradually uncovered, and we see the spiritual reality—the reality of ourselves and the reality of Krsna's appearance and pastimes.
Chanting Hare Krsna cleans the dust from the mirror of the mind. Why does the mind need cleaning? Because the dirt and clouds of material identification seem inseparable from the soul. Just as a person seeing clouds passing over the moon may think the moon and the clouds are moving together, so we may think we are moving with our material body in this world. It's not true. When the mind and heart are cleansed, we will understand that.
Krsna is revealed only through devotional service, and devotional service begins with hearing and chanting. If one is fortunate enough to hear from a pure devotee, who speaks from sastra, then at once one can enter the mysterious region of Krsna's nature. Srila Prabhupada writes in The Nectar of Devotion:
The maha-mantra (Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare) is also simply an address to the Lord and His energy. So to anyone who is constantly engaged in addressing the Lord and His energy, we can imagine how much the Supreme Lord is obliged. It is impossible for the Lord to ever forget such a devotee. It is clearly stated in this verse that anyone who addresses the Lord immediately attracts the attention of the Lord, who always remains obliged to him.
When we make an effort to chant the holy names, Krsna becomes grateful, and He will reciprocate with our desire to understand Him. We may even be struggling to chant purely, but Krsna magnifies whatever good we do and gives us His mercy. Thus we are able to enter into the mystery of His appearance in this world, and at the time of death go to Him.
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.
Cooking Class: Lesson 28
By Yamuna Devi
In AMERICA, EUROPE, and elsewhere in the West, grocery shelves are loaded with varieties of potato chips, popcorn, pretzels, and tortilla chips, available plain, flavored, salt-free, reduced-fat, and fat-free. Foot traffic is lured with the aromas of freshly roasted chestnuts or in-shell peanuts from corner vendors. India's most popular family of hand-nibbled munchies—marvelously diverse and irresistible—is loosely called chidwa or chewra.
Types of Chidwa
A savory snack, chidwa can be as simple as salted and seasoned dried fruits, fried julienned potato straws, or whole or split fried nuts—plain or in any combination. Other simple chidwas are little more than hot and spicy fried green chickpeas, split mung dal, or double-fried smashed white chick-peas. Quickly assembled nut and dried fruit chidwa blends might pair pistachios and golden raisins, peanuts and raisins, or cashews and dates.
One of the chidwas most popular and easy to make at home is a light blend of seasoned nuts, raisins, and puffed rice. Complex chidwa blends might include up to thirty ingredients, including ten or more seasonings. Chidwa connoisseurs insist that it must be fresh and homemade, but scores of ready-made varieties are available in chidwa shops and good grocers for those too busy to cook.
Srila Prabhupada and Chidwa
Reliable stories abound from Srila Prabhupada's servants and cooks about his love for chidwa. In Calcutta in his childhood his mother had made chidwa in mustard oil for his celebrations of the Jagannatha Rathayatra. In later years, in Vrndavana and Bombay he often asked for nut chidwa. In Surat he said potato chidwa was his spiritual master's favorite afternoon snack. In London, New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco he taught disciples to make chidwa of puffed rice. He said he enjoyed almost any type of chidwa, provided it was well prepared.
In my experience, the variety he asked for most often was simple puffed-rice chidwa or one I coined Bombay Chidwa, after a variety he taught me to make in Bombay. If you are following the cooking class series, be sure to make both of these, and several more from the class textbook, Lord Krishna's Cuisine.
My godsister Dinatarini Devi recalls a pastime with Srila Prabhupada in Bombay in the spring of 1974. At the time Prabhupada was on a special diet. Pallika Devi was his cook, and Dinatarini shopped and sometimes assisted. Each morning, Pallika included chidwa on his breakfast plate. One morning, they overheard Prabhupada comment to Satsvarupa Maharaja that the chidwa was causing indigestion. So chidwa didn't appear on the next day's plate. But even before the plate was before him, Prabhupada asked "Where is the chidwa?" Pallika explained about overhearing his remark, and Prabhupada immediately replied "Bring me my chidwa."
After it was placed before him, Prabhupada laughed and said, "Yes, this chidwa is killing me, but I like it so much I cannot stop." And then he laughed and nibbled.
A Centennial Thank-You
Last year many readers got in touch with me through BTG or in person to express appreciation for these Centennial cooking classes. I'm grateful for your correspondence and delighted that you want to learn about Srila Prabhupada in the kitchen and honor, glorify, and relish his kitchen legacy. Hare Krsna.
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 of BTG.
(Makes one large bowl)
3 tablespoons minced candied ginger
Combine the first nine ingredients on a small plate near the stove. Heat half the ghee or all of the oil in a large thick-bottomed pot over moderate heat. Add the popping corn, then cover and shake the pot. When you hear steady popping (after about two or three minutes), remove the lid for only a second to slide in the first nine ingredients. Then at once re-cover the pot. Continue shaking the pot for about 2 or 3 minutes more, until the sound abates and the corn is popped. Discard any unpopped corn. Drizzle with the rest of the ghee or butter, toss well, and offer to Krsna.
A Visit to a Hare Krsna Temple
By Rohininandana Dasa
MOST HARE KRSNA temples have rooms where guests are welcome to stay for a few days. What lodgings are available will differ from temple to temple. To arrange for your stay, it's best to get in touch with the temple in advance.
When you come, be prepared for some new sights and sounds. If your background isn't Indian, some of the traditional ceremonies and activities might at first seem strange, but most likely you'll find them easy to understand once they're explained.
Let's suppose you arrive early one evening. What are you likely to expect?
After settling into your room, which you might be sharing with other residents or guests, it might be time for the evening kirtana (chanting) in the temple and a class on Bhagavad-gita. After class you'll probably be offered a cup of hot milk and maybe an evening snack of prasadam, food offered to Krsna.
Try to get to bed early, because you'll want to rise early with the devotees to bathe, dress, and make it to the temple in time for mangala-arati, a worship ceremony that in most temples begins at 4:30. Don't let the prospect of such an early start put you off. You'll benefit from the age-old tradition of rising early for spiritual practices. By breakfast time you should have gained quite a taste of Krsna conscious insight and satisfaction.
After mangala-arati, which lasts about half an hour, the curtains or doors to the Deity chamber close. Then devotees worship tulasi, a confidential associate of Krsna who has appeared in this world in the form of a bush. While one devotee offers flowers, incense, and a flame, the others sing a centuries-old song in tulasi's glorification. During the ceremony the devotees walk around tulasi and each of them sprinkles a few drops of water on her roots.
The japa meditation period comes next. Japa means soft chanting. For one and a half to two hours devotees sit, stand, or walk while chanting the Hare Krsna mantra on meditation beads.
At 7:00 or 7:15 the curtains or doors to the Deity chamber open to reveal the freshly decorated Deities. A tape plays beautiful Sanskrit poetry set to music, and the devotees sing along or offer their own prayers. The devotees look at the Deities for a few minutes and then bow to the floor. Then each devotee receives in the palm a few drops of sanctified water and sips it.
Next comes a ceremony of worship for Srila Prabhupada. All ISKCON temples have a special seat—called a vyasasana—on which a picture or statue of Srila Prabhupada sits. Everyone offers a few flower petals to Srila Prabhupada's feet as an act of gratitude, especially for the teachings he has given in his books. During the ceremony the devotees sing a traditional song glorifying the spiritual master, followed by the chanting of Hare Krsna.
Next a devotee gives a lecture on a verse from the scripture Srimad-Bhagavatam. After the lecture, questions are encouraged.
Then it's time for breakfast, and then devotees go on with their service to Krsna. For devotees living and serving in a Hare Krsna community, daily activities vary greatly—cooking, cleaning, gardening, teaching, worshiping the Deities, going out to spread Krsna consciousness. You may take part in these activities or spend your time reading or discussing Krsna conscious philosophy with devotees.
On Friday or Saturday nights devotees usually hold a chanting procession in a nearby city or town, winding their way through the crowds for an hour or so. The procession offers a unique chance to see Lord Krsna's material and spiritual energies side by side.
On Sundays comes the world-famous Hare Krsna Sunday feast. Devotees cook special dishes for the many guests who come. The devotees often put on plays or show videos or slide-shows.
Particularly good times to visit the temple are on Lord Caitanya's birthday (in February or March), Lord Krsna's birthday (August or September), and Rathayatra, the Festival of the Chariots (summer).
All in all, you should find that your stay at a temple, however brief, provides you a taste of the special pleasure of Krsna conscious life. You'll make friends and perhaps get more of an idea how to make your own life spiritually more successful.
Rohininandana Dasa lives in southern England with his wife and their three children. Write to him in care of Back to Godhead.
1997—The Year of the Ox
by Hare Krsna Devi Dasi
ACCORDING TO the East Asian calendar, 1997 is the Year of the Ox. And as one devotee has put it, "Ox power is fifty percent of cow protection, because bulls are fifty percent of the herd."
Our friends the vegans may hope to escape the sin of animal slaughter by avoiding commercial milk products. But eating tractor-produced grains implicates all of us in the slaughter of bulls, because tractors deny bulls their God-given work of tilling the field. Hardly one bull calf can be saved from the slaughterhouse even by a thousand vegans. If there is no use for the bull calf, the farmer must kill him.
The real way to save the bull is to engage him in productive work. When you work with a trained ox, you see how he enjoys working. The ox has big muscles, and like an athlete he gets pleasure from using them. The ox likes working as an intimate partner to a human being who shows gratitude for the ox's power and loyalty. And the ox can help us toward a simple life conducive to spiritual advancement.
In this Year of the Ox, let's think about the advantages of letting Father Bull do his part in building a peaceful, Krsna conscious society.
FEBRUARY: 13—Appearance of Sri Advaita Acarya. Fasting till noon. 19—Appearance of Lord Varaha. Fasting till noon on Ekadasi, the previous day. Feasting today. 20—Appearance of Sri Nityananda Prabhu. Fasting till noon. 27—Appearance of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. Fasting till noon.
* Dates are for Mayapur, West Bengal, and may vary by one day in other parts of the world.
EKADASIS for 1997*
(Fasting from grains and beans)
Jan. 5, 19; Feb. 4, 18; Mar. 5, 19; Apr. 4, 18; May 3, 18; Jun. 1, 16, 30; Jul. 16, 30; Aug. 15, 29; Sept. 13, 27; Oct. 12, 27; Nov. 11, 25; Dec. 10, 25
* Dates are for Mayapur, West Bengal, and may vary by one day in other parts of the world.
Fasting and Feasting for the Soul
By Ravi Gupta
FASTING IS AS POPULAR as feasting in India. Almost every day of the week is dedicated to a fast for some deity, generally for a material purpose—to get wealth, to cure a sickness, to obtain political power, to get a good marriage partner. Fasting for material purposes can produce results, but those results, being material, are temporary.
Besides, fasts for material gains are like business transactions between us and God. We worship the Lord for some benediction, and as soon as we get what we need, we stop the worship. Srila Prabhupada calls such rituals "material religion." My father still remembers that when he was a child, his grandmother would do a fast for the goddess Sitala-mata, for protection against smallpox. Today smallpox is gone, and so is the fast.
An aspiring devotee fasts to help his spiritual life. Srila Prabhupada writes, "The basic principle is not just to fast, but to increase one's faith and love for Govinda, or Krsna." Fasting should help one purify the body, control the mind, and engage more fully in the devotional service of the Lord. Fasting also shows our determination to serve the Lord.
Srila Prabhupada prescribed fasting—at least from grains and beans—on Ekadasi, the eleventh day of the waxing and waning moon. He also told devotees to fast on the appearance and disappearance days of the Lord and His devotees. These fasts are to be done only for the satisfaction of the Lord. Srila Prabhupada writes, "The real reason for observing fasting on Ekadasi is to minimize the demands of the body and to engage our time in the service of the Lord by chanting or performing similar service."
For many generations people in India fasted on Ekadasi. But people today are not so interested in spiritual life, so few observe Ekadasi. When my aunt decided to observe Ekadasi, there was much opposition from her relatives. "Ekadasi is only for old people," they said. "What are you going to gain by keeping Ekadasi?"
Srila Prabhupada considered fasting on Ekadasi and other holy days an important part of spiritual life: "All these rules and regulations are offered by the great acaryas [spiritual authorities] for those who are actually interested in getting admission into the association of the Supreme Personality of Godhead in the transcendental world. The mahatmas, great souls, strictly observe all these rules and regulations, and therefore they are sure to achieve the desired result."
The main point is that fasting should aid our spiritual life. If fasting hindered a devotee's service, Srila Prabhupada would allow him to eat.
Devotees also consider that eating only prasadam—food offered to Krsna—is a kind of fasting, because one forgoes the demands of the tongue. In this sense, devotees fast every day. And such fasting for the pleasure of Krsna, while hearing and chanting His glories, is a true feast for the soul.
Ravi Gupta, age fourteen, lives at the Hare Krsna center in Boise, Idaho. The center is run by his parents. Ravi, who was schooled at home, is a second-year student at Boise State University.
Loving Our Children
By Urmila Devi Dasi
HERE IN THE material world it's easy to become absorbed in attachment and love for our family, especially our children, and forget about loving God, Krsna. We often see a child's photo or shoes or artwork given a prominent place within a home, almost as if the child were the worshipable deity of the household. Though the Vedic scriptures advise us to detach ourselves from such affection, Srila Prabhupada also comments that these feelings are natural. Are there ways our attachment to our children can bring us closer to Krsna? There are.
Parents may sacrifice for their children in ways they wouldn't for themselves. For example, a father may take a second job to send a son through college, or a mother may spend seemingly endless hours driving her children to clubs and lessons. This same tendency to sacrifice can be used in the Lord's service.
Parents not concerned enough about their own spiritual well-being to regularly worship Krsna and chant His names may still train their children to do so, thus helping themselves as well.
When a mother teaches her children the importance of offering food to Krsna, she naturally has to offer Krsna the food in her home. A father who wants to teach his children to stay clear of time-wasting materialistic activities won't spend his free time in front of the television.
So in countless ways our love and concern for our children can motivate us to do what is most beneficial not only for them but for ourselves. Vedic culture is so perfect, in fact, that even speaking to our children with affection can purify the whole family.
Generally, followers of Vedic culture name their children after Krsna or His great devotees. So every time a mother calls "Govinda Dasa, it's time for your meals!" "Govinda! You left your shoes out in the rain." "Where is Govinda?" she is chanting the holy name of the Lord.
Such chanting, even to call one's son or daughter, can bring parents the highest benefit of love of God. Indeed, thousands of years ago this happened when Ajamila named his son "Narayana," which is a name of Krsna.
Though religious as a boy, Ajamila did not become a spiritually minded father. He left his wife for a prostitute and made his living through cheating and crime. Absorbed in attachment to his family by the prostitute, he was still having children in old age. So even at eighty-eight he was cultivating his affection not for Krsna but for his little son Narayana.
Ajamila's fatherly attachment was intense to the point that while dying he called for his son—"Narayana!" At once the servants of Narayana, Lord Krsna, came to save him from the hell he would have gone to for his degraded life. They granted him more years, which he used to worship Lord Krsna. Finally he attained to the spiritual world.
Of course, we shouldn't purposely try to cheat Krsna, thinking we can live a low life and still find perfection simply through the names we give our children. But from this story we can learn the potency of Krsna's names and know that if we mold our lives to train our children as saints, we just might end up becoming saints ourselves.
Urmila Devi Dasi and her family run a school for boys and girls in North Carolina. She is the major author and compiler of Vaikuntha Children, a guide to Krsna conscious education for children.
A 16th-Century Bengali Masterpiece
By Kalakantha Dasa
BY ANY STANDARDS, Caitanya Mahaprabhu led a most remarkable life. As a child-scholar, He refuted the leading philosophers of His day. Later, as a young renunciant, He traveled widely, converting kings, panditas, Muslims, Buddhists, and thousands of their followers to the path of Krsna-bhakti. In His final years, He exhibited unprecedented miracles and devotional ecstasies. Even today, five hundred years later, Lord Caitanya's movement reverberates around the world with startling religious vitality.
Yet Caitanya Mahaprabhu is much more than a famous medieval Indian religious leader. He is Lord Sri Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself, appearing as a devotee. Lord Caitanya fulfilled the ancient Puranic prophecy that Lord Krsna would incarnate in the present age of godlessness, known as Kali-yuga, to distribute love of Godhead throughout the world.
In the late 1500s, the aged and learned Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami chronicled Lord Caitanya's pastimes in Sri Caitanya-caritamrta. Working in a simple mud dwelling on the bank of the sacred lake known as Radha Kunda, Krsnadasa Kaviraja drew extensively from the diaries of Lord Caitanya's secretaries. From their descriptions, and first-hand accounts of other eyewitnesses, he compiled a detailed biography. He emphasized the Lord's later pastimes, as well as His divinity and His profound philosophical teachings.
Over time, prominent Bengali-literate Western scholars of religion came to value Sri Caitanya-caritamrta highly for both its biographical and philosophical excellence. In the early 1970s, one of America's leading specialists in Indian religions began an eagerly awaited first English translation. He intended to make the work available for scholars and postgraduate students of Indian religions.
During the same period, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada began his own translation of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta. Srila Prabhupada's purpose, however, was quite different. He had founded the International Society for Krishna Consciousness in 1966, and now many of its thousands of members, his disciples, had begun to mature in Krsna-bhakti. So Srila Prabhupada, having completed the Bhagavad-gita As It Is (the fundamental text of spiritual life) and many volumes of the vast Srimad-Bhagavatam (a graduate-level scripture), at his disciples' request began work on Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, a text he called the "postgraduate study of spiritual life." Among his many other gifts, Srila Prabhupada wanted to leave his followers an authorized translation of this ultimate devotional classic.
Like Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami, Srila Prabhupada began his project at an advanced age. Unlike his great predecessor, Srila Prabhupada was the leader of a worldwide spiritual society that needed his constant travel and challenged him with diverse problems. Rising early and working before dawn each day in the course of his international travels, Srila Prabhupada nonetheless managed to complete Sri Caitanya-caritamrta in just eighteen months. He painstakingly translated each Bengali and Sanskrit verse to English, word for word, followed by a full translation and purport. The result of his extraordinary literary efforts would ultimately be published in seventeen full-sized volumes.
But to Srila Prabhupada's dismay, publication lagged behind. The two leading managers of the BBT, Prabhupada's Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, were still working on the Bhagavatam. Yet they presented Prabhupada an ambitious plan for increasing the BBT's pace of production fourfold—one book a month. Srila Prabhupada shocked them by his response: "It is not fast enough. You have to do all the books in two months' time."
The managers stared in disbelief. Seventeen books in two months?
"Srila Prabhupada," one ventured, "I think that's impossible. Maybe we can go faster ..."
Srila Prabhupada responded without anger, but very gravely: "Impossible is a word found in a fool's dictionary."
Consulting among themselves, the BBT leaders and staff resolved to meet Srila Prabhupada's challenge. Srila Prabhupada himself agreed to provide special help. Thus began an unparalleled two-month publication marathon in which Srila Prabhupada's personal example fueled the BBT workers with inspiration.
The managers quickly assembled a team of fifty devotee workers. Photographers flew off to India. Bengali editors double-checked each text with Srila Prabhupada, while the English editors, typesetters, proofreaders, and layout artists worked seven days a week from dawn to midnight and beyond. The BBT artists whose original paintings would illustrate each volume sacrificed their personal styles to accommodate a faster, more efficient method of finishing one another's work together. Even the BBT's printer, Kingsport Press in Tennessee, pushed back other work in order to accommodate the intense printing schedule. The marathon was on!
The BBT workers adopted the devotional mood of atma-nivedanam, surrendering everything to Krsna. Typesetters worked in shifts twenty-four hours a day. The typesetting computer man barely slept. Determined to fulfill Srila Prabhupada's order, the devotees pushed themselves to new heights of accomplishment.
Soon new volumes of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta began to be offered on the altar in Los Angeles, BBT's home temple. To the trained eye, the shiny gold volumes fell slightly short of BBT's high editorial and artistic standards. Nonetheless, Srila Prabhupada handled each new volume with satisfaction.
Two months from the day of Srila Prabhupada's order, the last of the seventeen volumes of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta arrived from Kingsport Press. The jubilant BBT press workers basked in the glow of Srila Prabhupada's blessings. By the grace of guru and Krsna, an "impossible" miracle had been done.
In addition to larger runs of certain volumes, the BBT printed twenty thousand complete seventeen-volume sets. Many sets were instantly snapped up by eager scholars and academic libraries. Readers bought thousands more for their home libraries. Devotees sold individual volumes in public places. In addition, BBTs in India, South America, and Europe began translating Sri Caitanya-caritamrta into dozens of languages.
Grateful scholars heaped praise upon the publication. Dr. J. Bruce Long of Cornell University called it "a cause for celebration." Teachers could now introduce their students to direct source material about Lord Caitanya's life and teachings, and they loved it.
Many years later, when the noted American Indologist finally published what was now the second English translation of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Srila Prabhupada's work had already circled the globe. But Srila Prabhupada's translation did much more than simply fill a significant vacuum in the academic study of Hinduism. As a pure devotee of Lord Caitanya, Srila Prabhupada conveyed the true spirit of Lord Caitanya's life and teachings. As a result, Lord Caitanya has now touched millions of hearts and become part of millions of lives in every corner of the world. In this way, Srila Prabhupada has fulfilled one of Lord Caitanya's own prophecies: "In every town and village of the earth, My holy name will be sung."
Kalakantha Dasa, a devotee since 1972, is a member of the ISKCON Foundation staff. He lives with his wife and their two young daughters in Alachua, Florida.
Empowered Biographer of the Lord
THE AUTHOR OF Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami, born around the beginning of the sixteenth century, was a disciple of Raghunatha Dasa Gosvami, a confidential follower of Caitanya Mahaprabhu's. Raghunatha Dasa, a renowned ascetic saint, heard and memorized all the activities of Caitanya Mahaprabhu told him by Svarupa Damodara Gosvami. After the passing away of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Svarupa Damodara, Raghunatha Dasa, unable to bear the pain of separation from these objects of his complete devotion, traveled to Vrndavana, intending to commit suicide by jumping from Govardhana Hill. In Vrndavana, however, he encountered Srila Rupa Gosvami and Srila Sanatana Gosvami, two of the most confidential disciples of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. They convinced him to give up his planned suicide and impelled him to reveal to them the spiritually inspiring events of Lord Caitanya's later life. Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami was also residing in Vrndavana at this time, and Raghunatha Dasa Gosvami endowed him with full comprehension of the transcendental life of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
By this time, contemporary and near-contemporary scholars and devotees had already written several biographical works on the life of Sri Krsna Caitanya. These included Sri Caitanya-carita, by Murari Gupta, Caitanya-mangala, by Locana Dasa Thakura, and Caitanya-bhagavata. This latter work, by Vrndavana Dasa Thakura, who was then considered the principal authority on Sri Caitanya's life, was highly revered. While composing his important work, Vrndavana Dasa, fearing that it would become too voluminous, avoided elaborately describing many of the events of Caitanya Mahaprabhu's life, particularly the later ones. Anxious to hear these later pastimes, the devotees of Vrndavana requested Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami, whom they respected as a great saint and scholar, to compose a book narrating these episodes in detail. Upon this request, and with the permission and blessings of the Madana-mohana Deity of Vrndavana, he began compiling Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, which, due to its literary excellence and philosophical thoroughness, is today universally regarded as the foremost work on the life and profound teachings of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
Krsnadasa commenced work on the text at a very advanced age and in failing health, as he vividly describes in the text itself: "I have now become too old and disturbed by invalidity. While writing, my hands tremble. I cannot remember anything, nor can I see or hear properly. Still I write, and this is a great wonder." That he completed the greatest literary gem of medieval India under such debilitating conditions is surely one of the wonders of literary history.
From the Introduction to
As with Srila Prabhupada's other books, scholars greatly appreciated his presentation of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta. Here we present excerpts from one of many favorable reviews when the book first appeared.
The appearance of an English translation of Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami's Sri Caitanya-caritamrta by A.C. Bhaktivedanta (founder-acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness) is a cause for celebration among both scholars in Indian studies and lay people seeking to enrich their knowledge of Indian spirituality. ... It will fill a most serious lacuna in our libraries and in our courses on the religious traditions of India.
For the first time we possess a readily accessible edition for this great religious classic that will provide opportunity for scholars in Indian literature and followers of the Krsna conscious tradition alike to compare the original text with a modern English translation and become acquainted with the deeper spiritual meaning of this work through the learned commentary of Sri Bhaktivedanta.
Anyone who gives a close reading to the commentary will sense that here, as in his other works, Sri Bhaktivedanta has combined a healthy mixture of the fervent devotion and aesthetic sensitivity of a devotee and the intellectual rigor of a textual scholar. At no point does the author allow the intended meaning of the text to be eclipsed by the promotion of a particular doctrinal persuasion.
These exquisitely wrought volumes will be a welcome addition to the libraries of all persons who are committed to the study of Indian spirituality and religious literature, whether their interests are sparked by the motivations of the scholar, the devotee, or the general reader.
Dr. J. Bruce Long
Bringing Out the New Edition
In 1975, Srila Prabhupada called on his disciple Dravida Dasa to help edit the first edition of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta. Nearly twenty years later, leaders of the BBT (Bhaktivedanta Book Trust) again called on Dravida to help produce a special Srila Prabhupada Centennial project: an updated reprinting of the entire work.
The project shows how much technology—and ISKCON itself—have changed in twenty years. In 1975, ISKCON and the BBT were best established in America, and all the production took place at BBT headquarters in Los Angeles. Today, help to assemble the new printing came from flourishing BBT divisions not only in America but in India, Europe, and Australia. In 1975, devotees painstakingly laid out every page of the seventeen-volume Caitanya-caritamrta by hand, using razor blades and wax to affix the typeset galleys to "boards." And the indexes were compiled using, well—index cards. Today you can do all that by computer.
But since for the new printing there were no original computer disks to work from, devotees had to start from the already printed volumes.
In India, Naresvara Dasa, a BBT trustee, engaged a crew of skilled Bengali editors to key in the original Bengali script. Another editorial crew in Korsnas Gard, Sweden, set right the Roman-letter transliterations of the thousands of Bengali and Sanskrit verses, and supplied nine new Bengali-Sanskrit indexes using sophisticated computer programs. In America, the Bhaktivedanta Archives supplied the scanned text of the entire book.
When the revised transliterations had been entered into the master files, Dravida printed it all out at his office in San Diego—about ten thousand sheets double spaced. He began reading the text, comparing it often to the original transcripts of Srila Prabhupada's dictation from the Bhaktivedanta Archives. As Srila Prabhupada had previously entrusted him to do, Dravida occasionally made editorial adjustments, improving the English as needed, without changing the meaning. In the course of his work he found remarkably few mistakes—he changed far less than one per cent of the text. Those he did find had generally grown out of the breakneck speed at which the original version had been produced—fourteen of the seventeen books in two months.
Dravida engaged Grahila Dasa, a veteran BBT indexer living in Florida, to redo all the subject indexes. So that editions in other languages could use them easily, Grahila indexed the text by chapter and verse rather than page number. To re-index the text took him a year.
Language scholar Gopiparanadhana Dasa, another veteran from the original book, double-checked the Bengali and Sanskrit texts while working in Sweden, Russia, and North Carolina. He and Dravida, who used to pass work back and forth in adjoining offices, now swapped huge files across the Atlantic by e-mail.
In September 1995, Dravida flew to Brisbane, Australia, to oversee the final stages of layout, proofreading, and production. After some final work with Naresvara on typefaces, dust covers, illustration captions, and other details, the new nine-volume sets were printed in Melbourne, ready to ship to readers around the world during Srila Prabhupada's Centennial year.
Reflecting on his work, Dravida Dasa said, "When I think about my great good fortune in being able to work on Srila Prabhupada's Caitanya-caritamrta, my heart fills with gratitude. I really possessed no special qualification to do this work—no degree in English, no special knowledge of Sanskrit or Bengali. But I have always had a strong desire to help the part of his mission most dear to Prabhupada: the spreading of Krsna consciousness through producing and distributing his books.
"Lord Krsna put me in the right place at the right time—the old Brooklyn temple in 1973, where I joined—to take up the service of proofreading and then editing. Now all these years later I am still doing the same service. I have no desire to do anything else. I simply pray that Prabhupada accept my insignificant efforts and bless me with the opportunity to render him similar service, birth after birth."
Draupadi Marries The Five Pandavas
"In order of age, and on successive days, each royal prince took the hand
Translated from Sanskrit by Hridayananda Dasa Goswami
The sage Vaisampayana is telling the history of the Pandavas to their great-grandson, King Janamejaya. The princess Draupadi, in a former life, had prayed to Lord Siva five times for a husband, and Lord Siva had therefore blessed her to marry five former Indras in her next life. These Indras had now appeared as Yudhisthira and the four other Pandava brothers. The sage Vyasa has just finished telling this story to Draupadi's father, King Drupada, who had questioned the propriety of Draupadi's proposed marriage to the five Pandavas.
KING DRUPADA SAID, "It was only because I had not heard these words from you, Maharsi, that I first endeavored to do things in a certain way. What is ordained by providence cannot be avoided, and that alone is the relevant rule here. The knot tied by destiny is never to be undone; nothing will be accomplished by our own effort if we strive against the will of the Supreme. Arrangements were made for a single bridegroom, but the preparations are quite suitable for many.
"Previously, Draupadi requested Lord Siva several times to give her a husband, and he pronounced her blessing accordingly, for the lord surely knows what is best here. When Lord Siva, with his superior knowledge, has personally established what is right and wrong in this case, there is no offense on my part. Let these boys take her hand in sacred marriage, as they wish, for Draupadi is clearly destined for them."
Then the exalted Vyasa said to Yudhisthira, the king of righteousness, "Today is a holy day, Pandava, for the moon has reached its conjunction with the constellation Pausya. Therefore on this very day you should be the first to take the hand of Draupadi."
At this, King Drupada and his son gathered all kinds of wealth to present to the bridegroom's party, and he arranged to bring his daughter, after she had bathed and adorned herself with many jewels. Then all the ministers, advisers, and close friends of the family came in joyful spirits to see the wedding, and so did the important brahmanas and city dwellers.
The king's palace was beautified by brahmanas who came for charity, and lotus blossoms were scattered about to adorn the festival grounds. The palace shone with an abundance of most valuable gems, like the sky with its hosts of pure white stars.
Then the sons of the Kaurava king, dressed in priceless garments, bedecked with earrings and other jeweled ornaments, and cooled by costly sandalwood paste, were duly anointed in the ritual ablutions, and those brothers performed all the rites that invoke substantial blessings at the time of marriage.
In proper order, by ritual, and accompanied by the royal priest Dhaumya, who shone with the splendor of fire, the Pandavas entered the great hall like mighty, jubilant bulls entering their pleasure pastures. First Dhaumya kindled the sacred fire and offered oblations, and when it blazed with the potent Vedic mantras, that master of the Vedic science brought Yudhisthira forward and joined him in wedlock to Draupadi with all the proper mantras. Husband and wife held each other's hands, and with his masterful comprehension of Vedic rite Dhaumya led them around the sacrificial fire. Then bidding farewell to Yudhisthira, who was so brilliant in battle, the priest departed the royal palace.
In order of age, and on successive days, each royal prince took the hand of that excellent woman, who had assumed a form of supreme beauty. All the princes were maharatha warriors who spread the glory of the Kuru dynasty, and each one married Draupadi. The holy sage Vyasa spoke of the wonderful superhuman splendor of the occasion, for as each day passed, thin-waisted Draupadi, by her great spiritual influence, again became a virgin.
When the weddings were done, Drupada gave many sorts of valuable treasures to the grand warriors, including one hundred chariots that were all ornamented in gold and yoked to four golden-bridled horses. Similarly, he presented one hundred red-spotted elephants who stood like one hundred gold-peaked mountains, and one hundred exquisite young handmaids bedecked in the most costly garments, ornaments, and garlands.
As the sacred fire witnessed, King Drupada gave to each Pandava vast amounts of wealth, with extremely valuable garments and ornaments, befitting their prowess. The Pandavas graciously took the huge fortune, heavy in gems. Then those mighty warriors, equal to Indra, relaxed and enjoyed themselves in the capital city of the Pancala king.
Kunti Blesses Draupadi
Having united with the Pandavas, Drupada feared nothing, not even the gods. The women of noble Drupada then approached Kunti, the mother of the Pandavas, told her their names, and touched her feet with their heads. Dressed in linen, with the auspicious marriage thread tied about her, Draupadi too paid obeisances to her mother-in-law and stood bowed with folded hands. Draupadi was endowed with beauty and the marks of nobility, and her character and conduct were ideal. Kunti knew this, and with love she spoke words of blessing:
"As Indrani abides in Indra, Svaha in the lord of fire, Rohini in the moon, the chaste Damayanti in Nala, Bhadra in Vaisravana, Arundhati in Vasistha, and the goddess of fortune in Lord Narayana, so may you abide in your men, and they will maintain you. May you give birth to healthy, heroic sons who fill your heart with joy. May good fortune be yours, and all the comforts of life. Having married before the sacred fire, may you ever honor your vow.
"May endless years be yours, as you honor even uninvited guests as well as teachers, the young, the saintly, the elderly, and the teachers, according to propriety and the religious law. Following your virtue-loving king, may you be anointed queen of the nations, headed by Kuru and Jangala, and of their cities. When your mighty lords with their valor have conquered the earth, make of her a joyous offering to the brahmanas, with great sacrifices like the Asvamedha. Kind lady, may you obtain all the fine treasures of the earth and live happily for one hundred autumns. As I rejoice with you today, for you are a new bride dressed in linen, so shall I rejoice with you again when you bear a son filled with good qualities."
Lord Krsna's Gifts
Thereupon Lord Krsna sent the newly married Pandavas beautiful varieties of pearls, diamonds, and ornaments of pure gold. Lord Krsna, known as Madhava, also sent costly clothes from many countries, along with blankets, deerskins, and jewels. All these were pleasing to the touch and of the purest quality. He sent large beds and seats of all varieties, grand vehicles in different styles, and vessels by the hundreds, inlaid with diamonds and cat's-eye gems. Lord Krsna also sent thousands of lovely young meticulous female attendants, beautifully adorned and from many countries. He sent obedient, good-natured elephants, celestial horses with fine ornaments, and wonderfully responsive chariots, decorated with shining gold cloth. Lord Krsna, Madhusudana, the immeasurable Soul of the universe, also dispatched unworked gold bricks by the millions. Dharmaraja, Yudhisthira, accepted all these gifts with the greatest of joy. His only motive was to please his Lord, Krsna, who is known as Govinda, the supreme source of pleasure for the senses of all living beings.
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, USA. Phone: (904) 418-4644.
"Science": Dogmatic Foolishness
This exchange between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and some of his disciples took place in Mayapur, India, on January 16, 1976.
Srila Prabhupada: If a man does not read the Srimad-Bhagavatam, then he remains a rascal.
Disciple: So, Srila Prabhupada, in the ultimate sense, anything apart from the Vedas is not really knowledge.
Srila Prabhupada: No. It may be some fragmental knowledge, but if one wants full knowledge in life, then he must read Bhagavatam—the pastimes, the dealings, of the Lord and His devotees. Bhagavad-gita is the preliminary knowledge—ABCD—so that you can distinguish between matter and spirit. And then you should read Srimad-Bhagavatam.
Formerly all the great leaders of society knew all these things. Everyone was taught like that. But now, andha yathandhaih: some big bombastic blind man is leading all the small blind men directly into the ditch. Someone is passing as a great leader—great for giving people wrong direction, so that they can spoil their lives. The great leader cannot even save himself. He can spoil himself—and others—very nicely.
Disciple: These blind leaders have created such chaos, Srila Prabhupada. People's minds have become terribly disturbed.
Srila Prabhupada: But from Bhagavatam we can offer the science of transcendental peace and tranquility. First we can show everyone, scientifically, how they have left the spiritual world and how they have become covered by matter.
The materially affected mind is the first creation for material enjoyment. From the mind the material senses are created: five senses for knowledge-gathering and five senses for working, along with five airs within the body. And then panca-maha-bhuta, the five basic material elements: earth, water, fire, air, and ether. Then materially affected intelligence, and finally ahankara, or false ego, the power to misidentify one's actual, spiritual self with all these material coverings.
So in this way the atmas or jivas, spirit souls who once resided in the spiritual world in full knowledge, are now living in ignorance. Some of them are standing, as trees and plants. And some of them are moving, as insects, animals, and humans. But in your so-called civilization do you have scientific knowledge of how the soul has become bewildered by this material covering, which actually he has nothing to do with? Then what is the value of your knowledge? Hmm? If you do not know these fundamental things, then what is the value of your knowledge? You are simply observing superficially, externally.
But there is good hope. People are receiving these books. So we should take the opportunity of preaching this Bhagavatam, and classes should be held regularly. Let people study Bhagavatam and Bhagavad-gita, and they will accept it. They are not fools. Simply we have to introduce this great science. The Western people are not fools, but misguided. So you take charge of guiding them; then this Krsna consciousness movement will be successful. People will appreciate, they will take it up and reform, and their life will be successful.
But if they utilize their intelligence merely for developing better ways to kill the child within the womb and for claiming, "The child in the womb has no soul—the soul comes after birth," then what is this nonsense? Unless the child in the womb has a soul, how can he manifest life symptoms?
Disciple: Well, Srila Prabhupada, it's quite obvious that since the child in the womb is growing and reacting to stimuli, then he must have a soul.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. The same growing process that we observe later in life, outside the womb, is going on from the very beginning, within the womb. The material body is developing. That's all. Everyone knows that the baby outside the womb has a soul, so how can you say that the baby in the womb has no soul? If he has no soul, how is his body growing and developing?
Such rascals—they are passing as big scientists. What reasoning do they give for claiming that the baby in the womb has no soul?
Disciple: They don't really have an argument.
Srila Prabhupada: Just see. All dogmatic. All dogmatic foolishness that they are propagating. And this is going on in the name of vijnana, science. Real vijnana should be enunciated.
Vijnana: vi- and jnana. Actually, vijnana has two meanings. One is visista-jnana, or genuine knowledge, fully realized and articulated, or enunciated. You can take this meaning. And the other meaning of vijnana is vigata-jnana, or pseudo knowledge, knowledge lost or stolen by illusion.
So these "scientists"—their "vijnana," or "science," is vigata-jnana, knowledge stolen by illusion, so-called knowledge bereft of all real knowledge. That sense is given in Bhagavad-gita: mayayapahrta-jnanah—maya, or illusion, has utterly taken away these people's knowledge, and yet their so-called knowledge is going on as vijnana, science. Maya has made these people rascals, but they are presenting themselves as men of advanced knowledge. That is the defect of Kali-yuga, this age of hypocrisy.
Disciple: Advanced demoniac knowledge.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Advanced demons. Actually, they are advanced demons. Asuras. Asuram-bhavam asritah—they are infected with the contamination of atheism, godlessness.
Disciple: Of course, Srila Prabhupada, one thing you can say for these so-called scientists: They know the science of avoiding the real issues. In that sense, they really are expert.
Srila Prabhupada: A child can also avoid the real issues. That is not expert. A child without guidance can also advance very nicely in foolishness. And when the foolish child touches the fire and burns his hand, some other fool may say, "Oh, this is advancement of knowledge."
Similarly, in this material world all these rascals are endeavoring for the advancement of their foolish knowledge. They are following in the footsteps of that ancient demon Hiranyakasipu. He also tried to ignore the soul and the Supreme Soul and tried to immortalize his material body, which is impossible. But just like Hiranyakasipu, today's rascals have become very advanced in that foolishness.
Disappearance Day: February 11
Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura was born in 1674 in the Nadiya district of West Bengal. He had two brothers: Sri Ramabhadra Cakravarti and Sri Raghunatha Cakravarti. Visvanatha received initiation from Sri Krsnacarana Cakravarti, in whose house he lived for a long time and wrote many books.
In Nadiya, Visvanatha studied the scriptures and Sanskrit grammar, poetry, and rhetoric. Even as a boy in school, he was a formidable scholar who could defeat anyone in logic and debate.
Although indifferent to family life, Visvanatha married at a young age at his father's request. He was married only a short time, however, renouncing his wife and home to live in Vrndavana. Although his family and friends often tried to bring Visvanatha back home, he was fixed in his determination to serve Lord Krsna in the Lord's transcendental earthly abode.
In Vrndavana, Visvanatha took up residence in the former cottage (bhajana-kuir)of Srila Krsnadasa Gosvami, on the bank of the sacred lake known as Radha Kunda. Living there with a disciple of Krsnadasa's named Mukunda Dasa, Visvanatha carefully studied the books of Rupa Gosvami, Sanatana Gosvami, and other Gosvamis and later wrote commentaries on many of these books.
Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti also wrote important commentaries on Srimad-Bhagavatam and Bhagavad-gita.
Srila Prabhupada, in his own purports, often quotes the commentaries of Visvanatha. Srila Prabhupada often mentioned that he had been inspired in his own spiritual life by Visvanatha's commentary on Bhagavad-gita, Chapter 2, verse 41, where Visvanatha Cakravarti writes that the disciple must accept as his life and soul the order of the spiritual master.
Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura is the author of Sri Gurvastakam, "Eight Prayers Glorifying the Spiritual Master." Following the practice set by Srila Prabhupada, devotees in all ISKCON temples sing these prayers each morning at mangala-arati, the first worship ceremony of the day.
Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti's most famous disciple was Srila Baladeva Vidyabhusana. When brahmana scholars in Jaipur challenged the validity of Lord Caitanya's movement, Visvanatha, the leader of Lord Caitanya's followers at the time, was too old to make the journey and debate the challengers, so he sent Baladeva in his place. By the dictation of Lord Krsna, Baladeva wrote the Govinda-bhasya commentary on the Vedanta-sutra and defeated the skeptics.
The worldwide activities of the International Society for Krishna consciousness (ISKCON)
Festivals For Srila Prabhupada's Appearance Day
Devotees at ISKCON centers around the world held festivals on September 5-6 for the one-hundredth anniversary of Srila Prabhupada's appearance. We mention only a few of the festivals here.
People from Calcutta joined a thousand international devotees to honor Srila Prabhupada in his home town. Some 37,000 people in all attended programs on two evenings. Children from fifty schools attended a daytime event. The Prime Minister of India, the Honorable H. D. Deve Gowda, sent his respects. He wrote, "Swami Prabhupada spread the message of self-realization, and our nation is proud of his contribution, which enabled millions of men and women to realize their spiritual potential."
The highlight of the festival: a Vedic ceremony bathing the murti (sculptured form) of Srila Prabhupada with 1,008 sacred waters. The waters were collected from holy places throughout India, Nepal, Myanmar, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.
A flower-bedecked cart carried Prabhupada's murti down Bhaktivedanta Swami Marg from Mithibai College to the ISKCON temple in Juhu. The three ISKCON temples in Mumbai joined in the festival.
Devotees in Bangalore cooked and offered nearly two thousand dishes for Srila Prabhupada's pleasure on his appearance day.
At the festival here, devotees noted that Srila Prabhupada's appearance one hundred years ago coincided with the arrival of a book by his predecessor Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura at McGill University, Montreal. Dr. Arvind Sharma, lecturer and professor at McGill, spoke about Srila Prabhupada and the early days of ISKCON.
Devotees in Ecuador held a week-long festival in Guayaquil. The festival began with the installation of a life-size murti of Srila Prabhupada and ended with a grand parade down the main street of the city.
Ten leading Christian scholars met with ten senior members of the Hare Krsna movement in September for a conference on "The Destiny of the Soul." Reports from the three-day conference, held outside Boston, will be published in academic journals.
An ISKCON chanting party from Atlanta began touring the American south in November. The party plans to take the chanting of Hare Krsna throughout the continental USA. Interested in joining or supporting the party? Contact Sudhanidhi Dasa at 1287 S. Ponce de Leon Ave. N.E., Atlanta, GA 30306, USA; phone: (404) 378-9234.
Five thousand guests celebrated Janmastami, Lord Krsna's appearance day, at ISKCON Houston's new Gauranga Community Hall.
Devotees in Hungary installed Radha-Krsna Deities at New Vraja Dhama, their farm two hours from Budapest, on Janmastami.
Devotees in Slovenia have been holding gatherings, called Nama Hatta programs, in their homes since 1993. At first there were three such meetings, one in each of three towns. Now there are thirteen.
The state of Gujarat declared a holiday for ISKCON's Rathayatra festival in Vadodara (Baroda). Government offices, schools, and colleges closed. The education minister, the mayor, and other leading citizens of Vadodara attended the celebration. On the same day, ISKCON also held a Rathayatra festival in Surat.
Other Rathayatra festivals: Indore in October and Kanpur in November.
ISKCON's new temple in New Delhi will open on April 2.
ISKCON's new center in Ahmedabad is scheduled to open the second week of April.
ISKCON's new temple in Bangalore is scheduled to open on April 4. Meanwhile, a quarter of a million people celebrated Janmastami at the unfinished temple site.
Devotees held Rathayatra in Dhaka in July, for the first time in this predominantly Muslim country. The parade went down Motijeel, one of Dhaka's largest streets.
Devotees handed out six tons of prasadam oranges to runners in Sydney's annual City to Surf Fun Run.
Bhava Priya Dasi, who coordinated festivals for ISKCON's center in Sydney, passed away in Mayapur, India, in July. Family and friends chanted at her side. She is survived by her son, daughter, and husband, all devotees.
Deities of Sri Krsna-Balarama were installed in Gaberone, Botswana, in October. ISKCON leaders Sripada Giriraja Swami and Sripada Krsnadasa Swami presided at the ceremonies. Sri Haridasa Adhikari, president of ISKCON's center in Coventry, England, served as the priest for the installation.
ISKCON Durban, South Africa, celebrated its annual Rathayatra festival on December 25 through 31.
Trinidad's largest-ever Rathayatra festival wound its way through streets of Saturday-morning shoppers in the busy town of Sangre Grande. Member of Parliament Harry Partap addressed the audience at the end of the parade.
ISKCON'S original Padayatra party is still on the road, heading down the east coast. The party left Jagannatha Puri in July and entered Andhra Pradesh in November.
Padayatra North America
Last year the devotees of the North American walking festival, with their new ox, named Padayatra, walked through twelve cities: Dallas, Denver, Fresno, Houston, Atlanta, Tallahassee, Las Vegas, New Orleans, San Diego, Los Angeles, Oklahoma City, and Washington, D.C.
In response to the media reports on mad-cow disease, the British Padayatra promoted cow protection. The devotees and their oxen appeared on eight TV shows and in fifty-two newspapers.
Eighty devotees took part last summer in the Centennial Padayatra in Spain. The devotees and their oxen walked two and a half weeks from the ISKCON farm near Brihuega to the Rathayatra festival in Madrid. In some cities bull fights were taking place, so the devotees made a point of showing off their protected oxen and explaining the Vedic alternative to cow killing.
Devotees from Trinidad went on an eight-day Padayatra in July across the Caribbean. They walked, chanted, and passed out books and prasadam in Guyana, Grenada, Suriname, St. Vincent, and St. Lucia.
A visit to the Hare Krsna
By Indradyumna Swami
APPROACHING Sarajevo from the west through the mountains, we first drove through the suburbs of the city. As in many of the villages we'd been through in Bosnia, every building still standing bore the marks of war. As we drove into the city, the scene got worse. The entire city had been ravaged.
Most startling were the graveyards everywhere. Fifty thousand people had died, and because for years the city had been surrounded by enemy forces, the local people had been obliged to bury their dead within the city. There were graves in every available space. Most parks and gardens had become graveyards. Even little patches of land between buildings served as cemeteries for two or three bodies. On a corner tuft of grass near a traffic light, a cross or a Muslim tombstone might mark a single grave.
Eventually we arrived at the small ISKCON temple, in the Muslim sector of town. The fifteen local devotees greeted us with the chanting of Hare Krsna, which seemed especially bright and cheerful in contrast to the destruction around us. As I got out of the car, I saw that the temple had been riddled by bullets and shrapnel.
I knew some of the history of the Sarajevo temple; I had asked devotees in Croatia what the devotees in Bosnia had been through. So as we entered the temple I asked in particular about Jahnukanyaka Devi Dasi and Hamsahina Devi Dasi, two women who had lived in the temple alone through the most intense period of the war, from April 1992 to July 1994.
When Bosnia declared independence from the Yugoslavian Federation in April 1992, the Serbian army surrounded the city. Like all the citizens, Jahnukanyaka and Hamsahina were trapped and couldn't leave. Throughout the war most people stayed indoors to shield themselves from mortar attacks. But Jahnukanyaka and Hamsahina ventured outside daily to distribute books and prasadam door to door or to the few souls who braved mortar and sniper fire on the street.
The small temple became a shelter for Bosnian refugees from the hills, driven out of their homes by the advancing army. To live on the streets meant death, so all over the city people with homes or apartments gave shelter to others less fortunate. One day early in the war several families came to the temple and asked for shelter. Jahnukanyaka and Hamsahina couldn't refuse them, so fifteen guests lived in the temple throughout the war. The guests rose early so that Jahnukanyaka, Hamsahina and a few congregational devotees could have their morning devotional program. The guests also ate prasadam daily with the devotees.
Getting food and water was difficult during the war. All gas, water, and electricity were cut off by the Serbs. Each day Jahnukanyaka or Hamsahina would risk walking to different areas of the city where water might be available from a spring or an open pipe. They spent much of the day fetching water or getting food.
While others lived soiled and dirty throughout the war, Jahnukanyaka and Hamsahina always bathed daily, wore fresh clean saris, and kept the temple spotlessly clean. One man told them that in contrast to most people in wartime Sarajevo, they looked like angels living in hell.
During the war, many people in Sarajevo practically starved. But by Krsna's mercy Jahnukanyaka and Hamsahina had no shortage of food. Early in the war they had been begging door to door for foodstuffs when they heard that city officials were meeting with relief organizations to ration out food supplies from the United Nations. Jahnukanyaka and Hamsahina went to the meeting and made a plea: they were Hare Krsna devotees and wanted to distribute food. Because big organizations such as the Red Cross and the Red Crescent were at the meeting, the devotees had little chance of getting any support. City officials sent them home with nothing.
But the next day one of the organizers of the meeting came to the temple to say he had arranged one ton of food for the devotees' program—but the devotees would have to pick it up themselves and get it to the temple. Jahnukanyaka wondered how the two of them could accomplish such a task; they had no vehicle, and there was no public transportation.
The next day she visited the local Bosnian army base. Somehow she got to see the commanding general and convinced him to give a driver and a large truck to ferry the food from the UN depot to the ISKCON temple on the other side of the city. Within an hour the truck picked up the supplies and drove them to the temple, where neighbors spent the day loading the supplies into the temple attic. Mostly dry goods, the supply lasted almost the entire the war.
To help make supplies last, Jahnukanyaka and Hamsahina ate sparingly themselves. They would bake cookies or bread every day, and after offering the food to Krsna they would go out to schools, hospitals, and refugee centers to distribute the prasadam. They would even go to Bosnian army positions on the front lines of the war, some three hundred meters outside the city. Bosnian soldiers would be amazed to see two women in saris approaching them in their foxholes with cakes and cookies. The soldiers would sometimes have to pull the two women down to get them out of the way of a hail of enemy bullets.
Within the first few months of the war, all the trees of the city had been cut down for fuel, leaving only stumps. To heat the temple, Jahnukanyaka and Hamsahina would go out at night and chop away at the stumps for wood.
They also distributed Srila Prabhupada's books. Just before the war had begun, a large supply of Srila Prabhupada's books had arrived in Sarajevo. They had been meant for all the Hare Krsna temples in Yugoslavia, but because the fighting started soon after the books arrived, the books were stuck in Sarajevo.
The house in which the books were stored was taken over by people unfriendly to the devotees. So when Jahnukanyaka visited the house to see the condition of the books, she found the people in the house using them for fuel. When she pleaded with the people not to do that, they drove her away at gunpoint. That same day, she went back to the army base and begged the general's help in rescuing Srila Prabhupada's books. Once again he submitted to her purity and determination and sent soldiers and vehicles. Within hours the books were safely in the temple compound.
Jahnukanyaka and Hamsahina would go out daily to distribute books, often at great risk to their lives. Snipers had taken up key positions around the city, and women and children were targets. While moving about the city, Jahnukanyaka and Hamsahina sometimes had to step over bloodied corpses. But they went on distributing Srila Prabhupada's books throughout the entire war.
Many times, soldiers threatened their lives. One time the leader of a rebel faction of Bosnian Muslim soldiers had Jahnukanyaka kidnapped and brought to his headquarters. Because she had been seen near the Serbian part of the city (she had been distributing prasadam there), they thought she was a Serbian spy. While interrogating her, the rebel leader swore he'd kill her. Fearless, she told him that she was a devotee of Lord Krsna and that Krsna would protect her. Besides that, she said, she and Hamsahina were distributing food daily to their Muslim neighbors. The local Muslims knew this and loved them for it. If he killed her, they would be angry with him. He hesitated and then let her go, but he vowed that one day he would kill her.
Jahnukanyaka and Hamsahina passed up rare opportunities to flee the city, because they had found that the war made people more receptive to Krsna consciousness. The devotees had their service to their spiritual master, and they were there to stay.
During the entire war they kept the temple open, ministered to a growing congregation, and distributed books and prasadam. At the time they were both uninitiated devotees. Only after the war was over and they were able to travel freely to Croatia did they finally receive spiritual initiation.
So you can understand my eagerness to meet these two saintly devotees upon my arrival. But as I was being escorted to my room, the devotees told me I'd have to wait a few hours more: Jahnukanyaka and Hamsahina were out on the streets of Sarajevo, distributing Srila Prabhupada's books.
Indradyumna Swami spreads Krsna consciousness in Poland, the Commonwealth of Independent States, and other parts of the world.
Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day
News Flash: Intelligent Life Discovered On Earth
Recent Developments, 1996
The heart of the idea that "all the gods are one"
In 1995, Back to Godhead published a series of articles on the demigods. Last year, in our January/February issue, we printed an objection to those articles, along with our reply, under the title "Is Back to Godhead an Offender?" We publish here a letter received in response to that article, and our reply.
I myself am a Krsna bhakta, and believe that Krsna is the Supreme Godhead who takes on different manifestations, is called by different names, but is essentially the one, true Brahman. However, I also truly believe that those devotees who call Him Allah, Jesus, Jehovah, etc., and certainly those who call Him Siva or Brahma worship one and the same God.
Thus, in quoting Gita 9.23:
ye 'py anya-devata-bhakta
in support of your argument, I believe you are grossly misinterpreting what the Lord says here. (I hasten to stress that I myself am in my third year of a Sanskrit degree, and so am not talking without foundation.) I give here another translation of the verse:
"Kaunteya, even those devotees who, endowed with faith, worship other gods (with some interested motive), worship Me alone, though with a mistaken approach."
Now, I, upon reading this, came to an entirely different conclusion to yours. To me, when Krsna says the approach is mistaken, He means it is wrong to consider your chosen deity as the only Supreme and the others as inferior; i.e., if the devotee worships Siva and does not accept Krsna as one and the same (when they are one in reality) then they are mistaken. I disagree vehemently with, for example, those Christians who believe "Jesus is the Son of God and the only Way and worshippers of other faiths are misled, ignorant, and damned." God is one and He is not so petty, as you seem to imply, that if you called Him Siva, with full faith and devotion (while at the same time accepting that others call him Krsna, etc.) He would be displeased. Indeed, in the Ramcaritamanas, Rama says:
sivapada kamala jinihin rati nahin
"(He who) has no devotion for the lotus feet of Lord Siva, even in his dreams will not be tolerated by Lord Rama."
When Krsna talks of "ME" He is speaking of the Supreme Consciousness, not limited by name or form. Krsna even states in the Gita, not that Siva is inferior but in fact rudranam sankaras casmi—"Of all the Rudras, I am Siva."
What sets Sanatana-dharma apart from other world religions is that it truly believes that they are all equal. The Vedas, whilst referring to 300 million Gods, are inferring the infinitude of the Divine and his forms, not that they really are separate, individual devas. The same Veda states, ekam sat viprah bahuda vadanti: "Truth is One, but learned men express it in different ways."
Secondly, it is mistaken (not wrong, which is too strong a word) to worship deities such as Laksmi only in their limited forms (in the latter case as the Bestower of Wealth), thinking that that is the ultimate reality/true spirituality. That devotee, looking at God in a limited form, will only experience God in a limited way, e.g. as wealth and prosperity, and not attain oneness with Him:
yo yo yam yam tanum bhaktah
"Whatever celestial form a devotee (craving for some worldly object) chooses to worship with reverence, I stabilise the faith of that particular devotee in that very form."
But that must be the individual's choice, and I believe it is a much graver sin to proclaim him a sinner or offender.
If I may recount one of my favourite stories. Tulsi Dasji, that great bhakta of Sri Rama (who you accept, as an incarnation of Visnu, to be equal to Krsna) did not consider Kanha [Krsna] to be of equal prominence to his Rama. He refused even to enter a temple where the idol worshipped was other than Raghava [Rama]. But one day, for one reason or another, he was forced to enter a temple dedicated to Madhava [Krsna]. Lo and behold, what did he see? When he turned his eyes to the murti [Deity] he saw Rama! And thus he understood. "Lord, I perceive you in my narrow fashion as Rama, but you are beyond form, beyond such limitations. You are Rama, You are Krsna, You are Siva, You are All!"
My preferred form of Brahman is Krsna. When I buy pictures, I consistently discard representations of other deities and always choose those that are of my Kanhaiya (as some ISKCON devotee who came to Cambridge witnessed!). When I sing, I sing of Rama and Krsna; when I pray, I pray to Krsna. I believe it is very conducive for imperfect human beings to have an ista devata [chosen deity], whom they see as the Supreme Godhead. But BRAHMAN is not imperfect; Sanatana-dharma must not, cannot be anything but all-encompassing. The various Puranas are written from the point of view of the devotee, but simply because they are not all-encompassing, not universal in outlook, this does not mean that Sanatana-dharma is not. And this is why Krsna also states categorically in the Gita:
ye yatha mam prapadyante
"O Partha, howsoever men seek Me, even so do I approach them, for all men follow My path in every way."
OUR REPLY: Thank you for your kind words of respect for ISKCON. And I'm glad to know that you have chosen Krsna as the deity you most prefer.
Sanatana-dharma is indeed all-encompassing, for it offers every human being an opportunity to make further progress and at last attain perfection.
Yet among the followers of Sanatana-dharma there are two schools, with contrasting views. The contrast is not between the inflexibly rigid and the universally tolerant, but rather between the impersonalists and the personalists.
Both schools accept that the Supreme has both a personal and an impersonal aspect. The question to be settled is how best to regard these two different aspects of the Supreme.
The impersonalists agree to the worship of any god because in their view these gods are but steppingstones to a higher reality—the impersonal Absolute, or impersonal Brahman. According to this view, only the impersonal Absolute is real, and all else—even the gods themselves—must ultimately be seen as illusory and therefore given up. According to this view, one may worship Lord Krsna (or any other god), but ultimately one must understand that Krsna (as well as all the other gods) merely represents a higher, impersonal reality; ultimately, the personal identity of Krsna is but an illusion.
The personalists, on the other hand, regard realization of the impersonal Absolute as but a partial, incomplete understanding of the Personality of Godhead, Lord Sri Krsna. According to this view, one must go still further, beyond the impersonal Absolute, to recognize the eternal nature of Lord Krsna's name, form, qualities, pastimes, and other transcendental personal features.
This difference of opinion between the personalist and impersonalist schools can best be settled by reference to Bhagavad-gita.
In the Bhagavad-gita (14.27) you will find that the impersonal Absolute rests upon the Personality of Godhead. According to the Gita, brahmano hi pratisthaham: It is Lord Sri Krsna, the Personality of Godhead, who is the basis of the impersonal Absolute.
The impersonalists say that the Personality of Godhead is but the formless Absolute represented in a form of material nature (prakrti). But in the Bhagavad-gita (9.10) Lord Krsna instructs us that, on the contrary, He is the controller, the supervisor, of the material nature.
To emphasize the factual superiority of the Personality of Godhead, Lord Krsna says in the Gita (9.11), "Fools deride Me when I descend in the human form. They do not know My transcendental nature [param bhavam] as the Supreme Lord of all that be."
The impersonalists insist that the param bhavam, or supreme nature, of the Lord is higher than the Lord Himself. That supreme nature, they say, is the unmanifest, impersonal Absolute, which manifests itself as Lord Krsna.
But elsewhere in the Gita (7.24) we find:
avyaktam vyaktim apannam
According to this verse, those who subscribe to such an impersonalist view do not know the Lord's param bhavam (param bhavam ajananto). The Lord says that only those still lacking in intellectual development (abuddhayah) think that His manifest feature as the Personality of Godhead is derived from an unmanifest, impersonal feature of the Absolute.
After many, many births of progress in cultivating knowledge, when one reaches perfection, one surrenders to the Personality of Godhead (Vasudeva). Vasudevah sarvam iti: that Personality of Godhead is everything. It is He who is universal and all-encompassing, and all else—including the Vedic pantheon of gods and the impersonal Absolute—is but a partial manifestation of Him.
Now, let us look at some other points raised by your letter.
Quoting Gita 9.23, you offer your own translation and interpretation of the verse. You translate it this way:
"Kaunteya, even those devotees who, endowed with faith, worship other gods (with some interested motive), worship Me alone, though with a mistaken approach."
From this you argue that the problem with these devotees is not that they're approaching other gods but that they're doing it "with some interested motive."
As a third-year Sanskrit student, however, you've been properly scrupulous about putting that phrase "with some interested motive" in parentheses, thereby indicating, quite rightly, that it doesn't appear in the text.
So what you've done, really, is to parenthetically insert your own comment into the verse, and then argue from your comment as though it were evidence from the Gita.
Ms. Sethia, please—you simply can't do that.
Drop the parenthetical intrusion, and your rendering of the verse is fine: "Even devotees who, endowed with faith, worship other gods worship Me alone [Lord Sri Krsna], though with a mistaken approach."
Whether we prefer to say that worshiping other gods is "mistaken," "irregular," "wrong," or whatever, it boils down to pretty much the same thing: it isn't right. What's right is to abandon all other approaches and surrender to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna (sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja).
You suggest that it's wrong to regard Krsna as "the only Supreme" and others as inferior. But the very meaning of Supreme is "highest," "ultimate," "above all others."
Thus we find in Bhagavad-gita 11.43 that Arjuna says to Lord Krsna, na tvat-samo 'sty abhyadhikah kuto 'nyo: "No one is equal to You, so how could anyone be greater?" The same conclusion is confirmed in the Svetasvatara Upanisad 6.8 (na tat-samas cabhyadhikas ca drsyate).
Lord Siva and other gods are exalted servants of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and therefore it is proper that one have great respect and devotion toward them also. But still one should understand their true exaltedness as servants of the Supreme Lord, not as independent Lords themselves.
From Chapter Ten of Bhagavad-gita (10.23) you quote Lord Krsna's statement rudranam sankaras casmi: "Of all the Rudras, I am Siva." This is fine, but not as evidence that Lord Siva is equal to the Personality of Godhead.
In the same chapter, Lord Krsna says that among beasts He is the lion (10.30), among fishes He is the shark (10.31), among seasons He is spring (10.35), and among cheaters He is gambling (10.36). The point is not that the lion is God, the shark is God, spring is God, or—least of all—that gambling is God. The point is that each of these, in its category, is superlative and by thinking of what is superlative one can ultimately come to think of the Supreme Lord, Krsna, the Personality of Godhead.
The entire chapter, in fact, is meant to help us understand that all opulences flow from the ultimate source of everything, Lord Krsna. This is clear from the final verses. There Lord Krsna says (10.40), "Know that all beautiful, glorious, and mighty creations spring from but a spark of My splendor." And finally (10.41): "But what need is there, Arjuna, for all this detailed knowledge? With a single fragment of Myself I pervade and support this entire universe."
By the way, in the beginning of the chapter (10.2) Lord Krsna has explicitly stated that none of the gods or sages can know His opulence, because He is the origin of all the gods and sages.
That Krsna is not limited by name or form is also a fact, because Krsna's name and form are identical with Krsna Himself and therefore have unlimited potency. So when Krsna speaks of Himself by saying "Me," we need not impose our own interpretation by saying that Krsna is speaking of an impersonal "Supreme Consciousness." To rightly understand Bhagavad-gita, better to accept Bhagavad-gita as it is. When Krsna says "Me," He means just what He says. "Me" means the person speaking, who here is Lord Sri Krsna, mentioned throughout Bhagavad-gita as "sri bhagavan," the Personality of Godhead.
What sets Sanatana-dharma apart is not that it would have us believe that all gods are equal, but rather that it explains the Supreme Personality of Godhead in detail, with all His diverse opulences and potencies, as mentioned in the Svetasvatara Upanisad (parasya saktir vividhaiva sruyate). In this way, with broad, deep understanding, one can realize the all-encompassing presence of Lord Krsna, the Personality of Godhead, and avoid the fanaticism sometimes seen among the narrow-minded and less well informed.
That learned men express the truth in many different ways does not mean that everything is the truth. Otherwise, what would be the need of learned men or Vedic scriptures?
Rather, in various ways all the Vedic scriptures glorify the Personality of Godhead. Therefore Sripada Madhvacarya has quoted:
vede ramayane caiva
"From the very beginning [adau] to the end [ante ca], as well as within the middle [madhye ca], all the Vedic literature, including the Ramayana, Puranas, and Mahabharata, glorifies Hari [Lord Krsna], the Supreme Personality of Godhead."
You mention Bhagavad-gita 7.21 (yo yo yam yam tanum bhaktah), and again the meaning of the verse is clear:
"Whatever celestial form a devotee [craving for some worldly object] chooses to worship with reverence, I [Lord Krsna] stabilize the faith of that particular devotee in that very form."
So even if for worldly gain one chooses to devote oneself to one of the 330 million subordinate gods, one can do so only by the grace of the Supreme God, Lord Krsna. On the other hand, when one recognizes Lord Krsna to be the ultimate source of everything and therefore surrenders to Him in love and devotional service, it is Krsna Himself who gives one the power to do so and thus attain Him (dadami buddhi-yogam tam yena mam upayanti te).
That the separate, individual devas merely serve as symbols of the Divine, that they don't really exist, and that therefore all paths are equal is not supported in Bhagavad-gita.
In Bhagavad-gita (9.25) we find:
yanti deva-vrata devan
Here it is stated that those who worship various devas (Lord Siva, Ganesaji, goddess Durga, and so on) reach the abodes of the devas. Those who worship the ancestors reach the abodes where the ancestors reside. Those who worship ghosts go to live among the ghosts. And only those who worship Lord Krsna go to Krsna's supreme abode (tad dhama paramam mama).
If you buy a ticket from London to Glasgow, it will not take you to Paris. So too, it's not that whatever spiritual ticket one chooses will bring one to the same destination.
Were all paths and all choices equal, there would have been no need for Lord Krsna to speak Bhagavad-gita. He could have simply let Arjuna slink from the battlefield in disgrace and illusion. "Well," the Lord could have said, "that's your path, and all paths are one." Instead, He enlightens Arjuna so that Arjuna becomes Lord Krsna's surrendered devotee. And anyone can attain perfection by following the path of Sri Arjuna.
As you say, Brahman cannot be imperfect, because Brahman is all-encompassing, all-inclusive. But the impersonal aspect of Brahman, though transcendental, is not all-inclusive, because it excludes the eternal existence of spiritual form, name, qualities, pastimes, and individuality.
But the Personality of Godhead, Sri Krsna, includes all these—and also includes the impersonal Brahman as one aspect of His transcendental existence (brahmano hi pratisthaham).
Therefore, when one has gone even beyond the impersonal Brahman realization to realize Brahman in the highest aspect, as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krsna, one surrenders to Him in pure devotional service (mad bhaktim labhate param).
As I can understand from your letter, you are already naturally attracted to Krsna and devoted to Krsna, so much so that you have even written the holy name "Krsna" in devanagari on the top of every page.
So I hope you will forgive me if I have unintentionally said anything insolent, unmannerly, or discourteous.
As devotion to Lord Krsna is already your chosen path, I am not trying to divert you. I simply hope you will follow that path further and further. And at the end of the path, may you ultimately meet your Lord Kaniya face to face and become one of His eternally joyful companions in the spiritual world.
Srila Locana Dasa Thakura
Srila Locana Dasa Thakura was born in a brahmana family near Katwa, West Bengal, in 1520. Locana Dasa's father's name was Sri Kamalakara Dasa, and his mother's name was Sri Sadanandi. He was their only son and spent much of his youth living at the home of his grandparents, where he began his education.
As a young boy Locana Dasa met devotees of Lord Caitanya. He had great attachment for the Lord and detachment from worldly enjoyment. As a young man Locana Dasa accepted Sri Narahari Sarakara, an intimate associate of Lord Caitanya, as his spiritual master. Locana Dasa writes, "My hope of hopes is to be near the lotus feet of Sri Narahari Thakura, to serve and worship with my very life. My lord is Sri Narahari Thakura, and I am his servant. Bowing and praying before him, I beg him to allow me his service. This is my only aspiration."
Sri Narahari Thakura was an expert composer of devotional songs, and he instructed Locana Dasa in that art. Locana Dasa wrote many songs (some of which are found in ISKCON songbooks) and a book about Lord Caitanya, called Caitanya Mangala. To write Caitanya Mangala, Locana Dasa took inspiration from a Sanskrit book by Sri Murari Gupta, entitled Sri Krsna-Caitanya-Carita. Locana Dasa writes, "That very Murari Gupta who lived in Nadiya composed many Sanskrit verses about the life of Sri Gauranga, which he later arranged in the form of a book. Having heard these verses from Murari Gupta, Damodara Pandita taught them to me, and I memorized them with great delight. As these Sanskrit verses and the conception of Caitanya Mahaprabhu developed in my mind, they flowed forth from me in the form of these Pancali verses in Bengali, which I write in glorification of the life and pastimes of Sri Caitanya." (Pancali is the classic form of rhymes and meters used by Bengali poets to composed sacred songs and verses. It employs five kinds of song styles [panca means "five"]).
In Caitanya Mangala, Srila Locana Dasa elaborates some of the pastimes of Lord Caitanya mentioned only briefly by the Lord's two main biographers, Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami and Srila Vrndavana Dasa Thakura.
Srila Locana Dasa Thakura left this world in 1618 to enter the Lord's eternal pastimes.
Sometimes during war, soldiers keep their enemies in concentration camps and kill them in very cruel ways. These are reactions brought about by unrestricted animal-killing in the slaughterhouse and by hunters in the forest.
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Those who believe God to be impersonal simply identify Him with some power or attribute in nature, though in fact He is above nature, her laws and rules. His holy wish is law, and it would be sacrilege to confine His unlimited excellence by identifying Him with such attributes as omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience. ... His excellence consists in having in Him mutually contradicting powers and attributes ruled by His Supernatural Self.
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura
To transform the adverse desires of the jivas [souls] is the supreme duty of the most merciful. To rescue one person from the stronghold of Mahamaya [illusion] is an act of superb benevolence, far superior to opening innumerable hospitals.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura
One can gradually become purified by seeing, touching, and worshiping temple deities, places of pilgrimage, and holy rivers. But one can attain the same result immediately simply by receiving the glance of exalted sages.
Lord Sri Krsna
Every creature is born alone and dies alone, and alone one experiences the just rewards of his good and evil deeds.
Inexhaustible time, stronger than the strong, is the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself. Like a herdsman moving his animals along, He moves mortal creatures as His pastime.
Simply by giving aural reception to this Vedic literature [Srimad-Bhagavatam], the feeling for loving devotional service to Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, sprouts up at once to extinguish the fire of lamentation, illusion, and fearfulness.
Sri Suta Gosvami