Back to Godhead Magazine

Volume 31, Number 04, 1997


Art Showcase—Windows to the Spiritual World
From the Editor
Purify Your Existence
Lessons from the Road
Lord Krsna's Cuisine
India's Heritage
Schooling Krsna's Children
Bhakti-yoga at Home
The Land, the Cows, and Krsna
Srila Prabhupada Speaks Out
The Sound of One Monk Walking
Mahabharata—The History of Greater India
Every Town & Village
The Sense of Kindness
Science Exact Science In the Srimad-Bhagavatam
Coming to Krsna
Calendar Close-up
Vedic Thoughts

© 2005 The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International

Art Showcase—Windows to the Spiritual World

Adi Sankaracarya Meditates on the Spiritual World

The Siva Purana and the Padma Purana explain that Lord Siva appeared as Adi Sankaracarya (A.D. 788-820) on the order of Lord Visnu. Sankaracarya's mission was to bring people back to Vedic culture by using the Vedas to teach an impersonalistic philosophy similar to that of Buddhism, which prevailed at that time and which rejects the authority of the Vedas. So although Sankaracarya played the role of an impersonalist, he was actually a great devotee of the Lord. In his Abhilasastaka, Sankaracarya writes, "I desire to be in Vrndavana so that I may sit on the bank of the Yamuna and pass each long day of my life in the twinkling of an eye, meditating on Lord Krsna."

Statement of Purposes

1. To help all people discern reality from illusion, spirit from matter, the eternal from the temporary.
2. To expose the faults of materialism.
3. To offer guidance in the Vedic techniques of spiritual life.
4. To preserve and spread the Vedic culture.
5. To celebrate the chanting of the holy names of God as taught by Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
6. To help every living being remember and serve Sri Krsna, the Personality of Godhead.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

From the Editor

Predictions of the Next World War

ASTROLOGERS, WE'VE HEARD, are predicting a forthcoming war. If we believe accounts passed on from a well-reputed star-reader in Jaipur, the next world war is on its way. Expect conflicts to start mounting within the next year or so, he says. And by the year 2000 expect 35% of the world's people to be dead.

Several other astrologers paint similar pictures of doom. Do we believe them?

Maybe. Astrologers can be wrong (a leading pundit predicted that Mr. Clinton would lose the '96 elections), and they can also be terribly right.

So what to do?

Either way, chant Hare Krsna. And do it seriously.

The material world is not a picnic. Some calamity is sure to come upon us, whether it engulfs us globally, strikes us nationally, smashes us in families or groups, or skewers us one by one.

Disaster may come now or may wait till later, but it can't be avoided. Misfortune is built into the world. Birth, death, old age, disease—all of them miserable, all inevitable.

And our only protection is to chant Hare Krsna—one by one, in families or groups, nationally, or all over the world.

To chant Hare Krsna—or any genuine name of God—means to purify our consciousness, purify our life, revive our lost relationship with God. It means to get serious about getting out of material ignorance and entanglement. It means getting a clear understanding of ourselves as spiritual beings. It means becoming peaceful and happy in this life. And at the end it means going back to Godhead, back to the spiritual world, back to our eternal spiritual home.

No other method of spiritual realization is as effective, and as easy, in the present age as chanting Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

But people are on a joyride. There's money to be made, sex to be celebrated, we've got movies and parties and corporate conquests. Surf the sea, surf the internet, surf your own cerebral dendrites and synapses.

It's idiocy. And it's the kind of idiocy that can well lead to war. While we're out surfing and enjoying the party, we're missing the real point of life—spiritual realization. And we're building up a stockpile of karma that could explode into war at any time.

That stockpile of karma can be dismantled, that explosion defused, by chanting of the holy names of God. By chanting Hare Krsna we can pacify all conflicts—within ourselves, within our families and groups, within our nations, within our world.

Otherwise, on with the party, and on with the wars.

—Jayadvaita Swami

Use back button to return.

Return to top


How I Came to Krsna Consciousness

In 1978 my family attended a tent campaign conducted by the Hare Krsna devotees. Our village was in a rural area. I was four years old. That night was very wonderful. The atmosphere was filled with a nice aroma coming from the incense. My father purchased some of the books and incense, and also a few japa beads.

When I was about ten years, I would read these books. I began to follow the instructions from them. I soon began to chant. One day as I was reading, I suddenly remembered the tent campaign. I remembered my mum taking me into a bus the devotees stayed in.

Now I felt more determined. I would sometimes cook my own food whenever my mum would cook meat. But I never saw devotees after 1978.

Then in 1985 we attended the opening of the temple in Durban. And during that year my cousin took me to the temple for an evening program. I began to read and chant more.

In 1989 I attended a congregational meeting of devotees. That gave me strength to continue. And in 1993 I attended a tent campaign again after fifteen years.

A devotee there (later I learned that his name is Partha Sarathi Maharaja) asked how I had come to Krsna consciousness. I told him it all started when I remembered the 1978 tent campaign. He was amazed that I could remember such a thing, having been only four years old that year. He then smiled and said that he also remembered it and that he had been in the bus. I was very happy when he told me to join the temple. He gave me a lot of guidance.

Now I'm married, and I have a daughter, Radhika, who is ten months old. I'm fortunate to be a follower of ISKCON. Although I did not have any association of the devotees in my early stages, Prabhupada's books always gave me that association.

Your servant,
Durban, South Africa

The "Original" Among Eternals?
What Does It Mean?

Since Lords Baladeva, Ramacandra, Narasimha, etc., are all eternal personalities, what do you mean when you say that Lord Krsna is the original Personality of Godhead?

Arun Persad
Hounslow West, England

OUR REPLY: Krsna is the original Personality of Godhead because all the other Personalities of Godhead expand from Him. We accept this from Vedic scripture (krsnas tu bhagavan svayam; aham sarvasya prabhavah). If you want to, you can say that They are eternally expanding from Krsna. In other words, there is no time when They were not expanding from Krsna.

It is difficult, however, to comprehend the inconceivable Absolute by our tiny mental powers. It is best to simply accept what the Vedic scriptures say on this point.

The Vedic scriptures give the analogy of the sun and sunshine. The sun is the source of the sunshine, yet they both exist simultaneously. In fact, neither has meaning without the other, nor could there possibly be a chronological order: first the sun, then the sunshine. Yet it is completely true to say that the sun is the origin of the sunshine.

Praises for Prabhupada Nectar

Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami must be commended for the description of Prabhupada's pastimes in Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta. It has certainly made me realize and appreciate Prabhupada's dedication towards the Krsna consciousness movement. I also began to appreciate and worship Prabhupada's highly exalted spiritual position.

Subadra Ramraj
Durban, South Africa

How About Pages for Kids?

Hare Krsna!

I have subscribed to Back to Godhead and have enjoyed reading it.

Just one suggestion. Could you have a page or two in every issue for children in a lower age group? Possibly a story (nonviolent), a quiz, or a puzzle. By this the children in families who receive Back to Godhead would be exposed to Krsna consciousness and would eagerly await the arrival of the magazine.

I would also like to thank the devotees concerned for bringing out Back to Godhead in India.


Hiren N. Kara

OUR REPLY: We have sometimes thought about pages for children. But we keep coming to the same decision: Following the standard set by Srila Prabhupada, we'll keep editing BTG for adults and leave aside features aimed at children. Time, Scientific American, India Today—they don't have pages for children. And neither will we.

Children deserve Krsna conscious magazines of their own, and we know of two in the works. One is called Back to Krishna, the other Bhakti-Lata Bija. For information on subscribing—or on getting involved in helping on the staff—here's where to get in touch:

Back to Krishna,

The Magazine of Hare Krishna Children

P. O. Box 987

Alachua, FL 32616, USA

Phone: +1 (904) 462-7868

Bhakti-Lata Bija, The Magazine for Children

Cranageen, Kiltegan,

Co. Wicklow Ireland

Phone: +353 (0508) 73229

Hostages Reach Home

On August 2, 1990, my wife, Sudha, and I were on our way to visit India. Our plane stopped to refuel at Kuwait Airport and we were caught by the Iraqi invasion. We were offered Indian passports because of Sudha's birth.

I thought, "Because I have been through all this before in Viet Nam ('65), I had better stay and try to help those who haven't."

My wife refused to leave without me. We were taken to N.E. Iraq and used as "human shields" on a big dam. Its destruction would have meant the flooding of the whole of Iraq.

President Bush had told Saddam Hussein, "If you use chemical weapons we will bomb your dam." We would have been the first to know. But on December 9, 1990, Saddam Hussein let all the hostages go.

At the end of last year we were looking for somewhere to give our service when I retire from the factory where I work (Glaxo Wellcome). We visited Bhaktivedanta Manor and knew that our country's roads have taken us home.

Don Fisher
Greenford, Middlesex

Why Criticize Mayavada So Strongly?

I am working in BARC Tarapur as a scientific officer. I am an engineer. I have been associated with Krsna's devotees for the last one year. I myself chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra daily. I have read three to four books published by ISKCON, including Bhagavad-gita. I have deep reverence for ISKCON and its activities to spread Krsna consciousness. I have attended ISKCON programs in the temple like sankirtana [chanting], pravachan [lectures], arati [worship of the Deity], etc.

I might not be able to understand all the books, but whatever I have perceived has raised some doubts in my mind. I think it is better to clear doubts as early as possible, so I have one question or complaint. Please take note that by asking this question I do not intend to offend anybody.

In all the books published by ISKCON which I have read, I find severe criticism for Mayavada and Advaitavada philosophy. According to my knowledge or whatever I have gained from the above sources, these theories are paths of self-realization, or grossly, I can say, liberation.

My question is whether it is fair to criticize such theories or people who are following these theories. Mayavada and Advaitavada might be difficult, timetaking or laborious, but does it mean they are wrong? In addition, these theories were propounded by Sri Gautam Buddha and Sri Adi Sankaracarya respectively. Scriptures say that these great personalities were respectively incarnations of Lord Krsna and Lord Siva. Then is it not an offence to criticize the theories suggested by the Lord Himself?

Please elaborate on this and clear my mind of this doubt as early as possible.

Darshan Sathe
Tarapur, Maharashtra

OUR REPLY: Thank you for your appreciation of ISKCON and its books and activities. Yes, it is true that our books strongly criticize Mayavada (the theory that all variety and individuality are illusion) and Advaitavada (the theory that the only truth is impersonal undifferentiated oneness).

Is it fair to criticize these theories? Why not? Theories ought to be open to reasonable criticism. And if they collapse beneath the weight of superior arguments, they may justifiably be looked upon as wrong, and their adherents as mistaken.

As stated in Bhagavad-gita (12.5), Mayavada and Advaitavada are indeed difficult, timetaking, and laborious. Apart from that, scriptural and logical evidence also demonstrate them wrong. The books of the Hare Krsna movement present this evidence strongly.

In the case against Mayavada and Advaitavada, numerous points can be made. But here, let just one suffice.

According to these monistic theories, the Ultimate Reality is ultimately pure undifferentiated oneness. And all variety and individuality are but products of illusion. Accepting this view, one logically has to ask: Where does this illusion come from? This is a question that Mayavada and Advaitavada can't answer. If only oneness exists, illusion cannot also exist, because then we would have twoness—duality—not oneness. And if we say that twoness only seems to exist—that its existence is but an illusion—then we're back where we started, and going around in a circle.

Lord Caitanya therefore taught the doctrine that everything is one with the Absolute Truth yet simultaneously, inconceivably different from the Absolute Truth as well, just as sunshine is both one with and different from the sun. Within the Personality of Godhead, everything irreconcilable is reconciled. The Personality of Godhead, the Supreme Reality, has countless energies, and these are all real—including the energy that places us under illusion when illusion is what we desire. In Bhagavad-gita (7.14) Lord Krsna says that although this illusory energy is nearly insurmountable, one who surrenders to Him can at once cross beyond it. The Hare Krsna movement therefore strongly teaches surrender to Krsna, the Personality of Godhead, in preference to all speculative impersonal theories.

In the incarnation as Lord Buddha, Lord Krsna rejects the Vedas and teaches what is in essence an atheistic philosophy. He does this to stop needless animal slaughter being indulged in under the excuse of Vedic rituals.

Later, by the order of Lord Visnu, Lord Siva appears as Sri Adi Sankaracarya, defeats Buddhism, and reasserts the authority of the Vedas, but to do so he teaches a compromised philosophy that is in essence a covered form of Buddhism.

So even though taught by great personalities, these doctrines of voidism and impersonalism are temporary contrivances, not the conclusive truth. For the true Vedic conclusion, we should turn to Srimad-Bhagavatam, as taught by Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His followers, now represented by the Hare Krsna movement.

A detailed discussion of these points may be found in Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila, Chapter Seven.

Descartes and the Soul

Thank you all very much for your great service. BTG is really excellent. I especially liked the article of Drutakarma Prabhu, "The City of Nine Gates," in the April/May issue. I would like to offer a brief comment on the following paragraph (page 36):

Here we note that each species of life consists of a soul inhabiting a particular kind of body. In this respect, the Bhagavata Purana account differs from that of Descartes, who held that only humans have souls. For Descartes, animals were simply automatons. If one concedes that animals, with all their signs of life and consciousness, are simply automatons, then why not human beings as well? The Bhagavata Purana model avoids this weakness of Descartes's system.

Descartes, being a Christian, had used Christian terminology which later became incorporated in the Western philosophy and science systems and is generally accepted until now. The problem is that the Christian word definitions differ from those in Srila Prabhupada's books. When devotees use these terms without considering their "Western" definitions, it creates a potential misunderstanding between them and the people in the West.

The spirit and the soul are considered two different subjects in the Christian doctrine (see Bible quotes below). By the word "soul" Christians indicate the subtle material body (linga sarira) and the "spirit" is the soul (jivatma) for them. Therefore when they say the animals have no soul it means the animals haven't the same mind and intelligence capacity as humans (or at least they are unable to use it as fully as humans).

And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and [I pray God] your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:23)

For the word of God [is] quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and [is] a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

Thank you for your attention.

Bhakta Jan
Grodinge, Sweden

DRUTAKARMA DASA REPLIES: You imply that according to Descartes animals do have an immortal conscious self (which you want to call spirit). You base this on your identification of the word soul with the subtle material body and the word spirit with the eternal conscious self. So if it is said that animals have no soul, this does not, according to your interpretation, mean that Descartes thought the animals had no spirit (immortal conscious self).

The Bhagavad-gita and other Vedic books give very clear definitions of the soul (the eternal conscious self), the subtle body (composed of the subtle material elements mind, intelligence, and false ego), and the gross material body (composed mainly of visible material elements). Unfortunately, the Bible gives no exact definitions for soul, spirit, etc. And this has led to a very confusing situation, allowing for many contradictory definitions of these terms.

Let us take the Catholic Church as an example. The New Catholic Encyclopedia (1967), Volume XIII, p. 571, says:

Spirit ... and soul ... [in the New Testament] are often used interchangeably, although the tripartite division of man in 1 Thes 5:23 may indicate that the spirit is of a higher order than the soul and more amenable to God's influence, whereas soul would pertain more to man's rational nature. However, this division is unique in Paul and NT [New Testament] and is certainly not evidence of an elaborated psychology.

Indeed, The New Catholic Encyclopedia (Vol. XIII, p. 462) says, "There is no unanimous Christian teaching on every point concerning the human soul." Furthermore (p. 467), "The notion of the soul surviving after death is not readily discernible in the Bible. ... Hence, save for a few important examples (Wisdom; Mk 8:35; Mt 10:39; 16:25-26; Lk 9:24-25; Jn 12:25) where life is seen as a necessary condition for eternal blessings, the Bible does not speak of the survival of an immaterial soul." Here the word soul is being used by Christians in a way that goes against the definition you offered.

In any case, as for Descartes, it is clear that he did not believe animals had immortal conscious selves (call them spirit, or soul, or whatever). In his Discourse on Method, Descartes said:

After the error of those who deny the existence of God ... there is none more powerful in leading feeble minds astray from the straight path of virtue than the supposition that the soul of the brutes is of the same nature with our own; and consequently that after this life we have nothing to hope for or fear, more than flies and ants; in place of which, when we know how far they differ we much better comprehend the reasons which establish that the [human] soul is of a nature wholly independent of the body, and that consequently it is not liable to die with the latter and, finally, because no other causes are observed capable of destroying it, we are naturally led thence to judge it immortal.

Here, it is clear that Descartes believed the flies and ants, unlike humans, had no immortal soul, and thus nothing to hope for or fear after this life.

Descartes got it wrong. Animals do have immortal souls, just as humans have immortal souls.

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. Fax: (022) 618-4827. E-mail:

Use back button to return.

Return to top

Purify Your Existence

Lord Krsna provides everything
we need to bring the spiritual
world into our lives.

A lecture given in Mumbai, India, on September 25, 1973

by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness

This lecture was given on the anniversary of the appearance of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, whose disappearance, or passing, we honor this July.

FIVE HUNDRED YEARS AGO Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu started the sankirtana movement, or the movement for spreading the congregational chanting of the holy names of God. Bhaktivinoda Thakura was the father of the sankirtana movement within the last two hundred years. He was a householder and responsible government officer—a magistrate. And he was a great devotee and a great acarya, or prominent spiritual master, in the disciplic succession of Caitanya Mahaprabhu.

Bhaktivinoda Thakura has written many devotional songs. In one song he has written, ye-dina grhe, bhajana dekhi, grhete goloka bhaya: "One day while performing devotional practices, I saw my house transformed into Goloka Vrndavana, the spiritual world."

As Krsna is not material, so His home, Goloka Vrndavana, is not material. And although Krsna stays in His abode, Goloka Vrndavana, He can be everywhere. That is Krsna. The Brahma-samhita states,

eko 'py asau racayitum jagad-anda-kotim
yac-chaktir asti jagad-anda-caya yad-antah
govindam adi-purusam tam aham bhajami

Krsna, Govinda, is everywhere by one of His plenary portions, known as Paramatma, or Supersoul. He is situated in every universe and within everyone's heart. Isvarah sarva-bhutanam hrd-dese 'rjuna tisthati. Not only is He within the heart of everyone, but He is within the atom. That is Krsna.

Similarly, Krsna's place, Goloka Vrndavana, is also spread everywhere. How? By the presence of Krsna's devotee. Krsna says,

naham tisthami vaikunthe
yoginam hrdayesu va
tatra tisthami narada
yatra gayanti mad-bhaktah

"I do not stay in Vaikuntha-loka, the spiritual world, or within the hearts of the yogis. I stay where My devotees chant about My glories."

That is Krsna's omnipotence. We pray to God the omnipotent, the omniscient, the omnipresent. God can be present everywhere simultaneously.

There is no difference between God and His place. Caitanya Mahaprabhu recommends, aradhyo bhagavan vrajesa-tanayas tad-dhama vrndavanam. As Krsna is worshipable, His place is also worshipable. Similarly, as He is all-pervading, His place is also all-pervading.

How can a place be changed into Vaikuntha? By chanting of the holy name of the Lord. Devotees are so powerful that by chanting the holy name of God they make the all-powerful Supreme Lord descend. Therefore Bhaktivinoda Thakura sings, "One day while performing devotional practices I saw my house transformed into Goloka Vrndavana."

We also can change our homes into Vaikuntha. That is not difficult, because as Krsna is all-pervading, Vaikuntha is all-pervading. That we simply have to realize by the authorized process.

Bhaktivinoda Thakura also says, krsnera samsara kara chadi anacara: "Giving up all sinful activities, carry on your worldly duties only in relation to Lord Krsna." To turn your home into Vaikuntha is not difficult. You simply have to adopt the right method. Anacara means "sinful activities." You cannot associate with God if you are sinful. In the Bhagavad-gita Krsna says, yesam tv anta-gatam papam ... te dvandva-moha-nirmukta bhajante mam drdha-vratah: "One completely free from sinful life can worship Me."

In our Krsna consciousness movement we do not recommend that you give up your occupation, give up your wife and children, and become a sannyasi, a renunciant. No, that is not our movement. Among us are sannyasis, brahmacaris [celibate students], grhasthas [married people], vanaprasthas [retired people]. Everyone is there. Everyone can worship Krsna. There is no rule that only a certain class—brahmanas or sannyasis or brahmacaris or Hindus—can take part. No. Krsna is open to everyone. Mam hi partha vyapasritya ye 'pi syuh papa-yonayah. Krsna is open even for a person born in a lower-grade family. One simply has to adopt the means to approach Him.

Many devotional songs give this same instruction. Narottama Dasa Thakura has sung, visaya chadiya kabe suddha ha 'be mana, kabe hama herabo sri vrndavana: "When I am free from sense enjoyment and my mind is clear, then I will be able to understand Vrndavana." Visaya means "sense enjoyment." One has to give up sense enjoyment to become purified.

To give up sense enjoyment does not mean, for example, that we cannot eat. There is no prohibition against eating, but you cannot eat anything not first accepted by Krsna. Our life in Krsna consciousness means to be always the servant of Krsna. As the servant eats remnants of food left by the master, we servants of Krsna eat remnants of food left by Krsna. That food is called prasadam, or maha-prasadam.

We have to mend our life in such a way that we give up anacara, forbidden things, sinful things. Dyutam panam striyah suna yatradharmas catur-vidhah. There are four kinds of sinful activities. The basic principles of sinful life are stri-sanga (illicit sex), suna (unnecessary animal killing), pana (intoxication), and dyutam (gambling). We have to give up these four principles. Then our life becomes pure.

If we give up these four principles and chant the Hare Krsna mantra, we become perfect. You can see the examples. The Europeans and Americans who have accepted Krsna consciousness were accustomed to all the sinful practices. That was their daily affair. But they have given these things up. Now you can see how saintly they are. One has to accept the principles. Then one's life becomes perfect.

Real Perfection

People do not know what the perfection of life is. They think that material advancement is perfection. No, that is not the perfection of life, because even if you make a nice material arrangement you cannot enjoy it. At any time you shall be kicked out. So where is your perfection?

Suppose you have a nice apartment, a good bank balance, nice wife and children. Everything is all right. But is there any guarantee that you can enjoy them? At any moment you shall be kicked out. That is not perfection. First of all make the guarantee that "Whatever happy life I am preparing for in the material world will be permanent. I will not be kicked out." Then it is perfection.

But there is no such guarantee. Therefore that is not the perfection of life. The perfection of life comes when there is the guarantee of no more birth, no more death, no more old age, and no more disease. That is perfection.

That can be achieved by Krsna consciousness, not by any material way. Harim vina na mrtim taranti. If we want to be eternally blissful and full of knowledge—sac-cid-ananda-vigraha—then we have to take to Krsna consciousness. There is no other way.

There is only one way. If you are serious about the perfection of life, then you have to take to Krsna consciousness.

Lord Krsna says,

man-mana bhava mad-bhakto
mad-yaji mam namaskuru
mam evaisyasi yuktvaivam
atmanam mat-parayanah

"Always think of Me, become My devotee, offer obeisances unto Me, and worship Me. Without any doubt you shall come to Me." Simply four things. Is it very difficult to think of Krsna, worship Him, become His devotee, and offer obeisances to Him?

Just as we are doing this evening—this is the process. We are thinking of Krsna by chanting the Hare Krsna mantra. We are offering obeisances to the Deity and at least trying to become bhaktas, devotees.

And we are worshiping. What is the process for worshiping Krsna? Patram puspam phalam toyam yo me bhaktya prayacchati. It is not difficult. Anyone can collect a flower, a fruit, or a little water and offer it to Krsna.

But because of dog obstinacy, people say, "I shall not do it."

Otherwise, Krsna consciousness is very easy. And if we adopt it our life becomes successful. That is the perfection of life. That we are teaching.

Simple Process

The process is very simple; everyone can adopt it, in every country. There is no distinction saying that one class can adopt Krsna consciousness and another cannot.

The Hare Krsna mantra is now being chanted all over the world, and those chanting are becoming Vaisnavas, devotees of Krsna. Then where is the difficulty?

The difficulty is our obstinacy. If one is obstinate, then becoming Krsna conscious is very difficult. Therefore Krsna says, na mam duskrtino mudhah prapadyante naradhamah. Only these classes of men don't worship Krsna: duskrtinah ("those always engaged in sinful activities"), mudhah ("rascals"), and naradhamah ("the lowest of mankind").

Human life is meant for worshiping Krsna. Narottama Dasa Thakura sings, hari hari viphale, janama gonainu: "My life is spoiled." Why? Manusya-janama paiya, radha-krsna na bhajiya, janiya suniya visa khainu: "Having attained a human birth, I failed to worship Radha-Krsna and so have knowingly drunk poison."

We are trying to stop people from drinking poison. The Krsna consciousness movement is for everyone's benefit. It is the topmost humanitarian movement to make everyone happy, to make everyone immortal, to make everyone peaceful, to make everyone wise. Without being wise, nobody can surrender to Krsna. Mudhas—rascals—cannot.

Krsna says that one who does not surrender to Him is naradhama, "the lowest of mankind."

"Oh, how is he naradhama? He is an M.A., a Ph.D., a Dh.C., a Th.C. How is he naradhama?"

Mayayapahrta-jnana. His knowledge has no value because he does not know Krsna.

These M.A.'s and Ph.D.'s will not help me. Sankaracarya says, nahi nahi raksati dukrn-karane: "By your grammatical jugglery of words you cannot be saved." Bhaja govindam bhaja govindam bhaja govindam mudha-mate: "You rascal, just engage yourself in the loving service of Govinda." Although Sankaracarya is an impersonalist, this is his advice.

Krsna says, "One who does not worship Me has no knowledge." Because if one remains a rascal, what is the value of his knowledge? There is no knowledge.

Therefore Krsna says, bahunam janmanam ante jnanavan mam prapadyate: After many, many births of struggling for existence, if one becomes actually wise he surrenders to Krsna. That is intelligence.

This is intelligence: "Krsna, today I surrender. For so long I had forgotten. I did not know that my only business is to surrender to You."

Lord Krsna's Protection

Any moment you surrender you are protected. Lord Krsna says,

sarva-dharman parityajya
mam ekam saranam vraja
aham tvam sarva-papebhyo
moksayisyami ma sucah

"Don't bother. Everything is there." Kaunteya pratijanihi na me bhaktah pranasyati: "My devotee never perishes."

The Krsna consciousness movement is trying to make fools and rascals and sinful men wise. And actually it is happening. Papi tapi yata chila, hariname uddharila, tara saksi jagai madhai. You want evidence? Jagai and Madhai.

Caitanya Mahaprabhu delivered two sinful brothers named Jagai and Madhai. Now you can see how strong is Caitanya Mahaprabhu's movement. Many thousands of Jagais and Madhais are being delivered.

Caitanya Mahaprabhu's movement is greater than Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Caitanya Mahaprabhu personally delivered Jagai and Madhai. Now, by His movement, thousands of Jagais and Madhais are being delivered. This is the practical evidence.

And Lord Caitanya's process is very easy. It is not very difficult. Anyone can take to it. But if we knowingly take poison, who can protect us?

We appeal to everyone to take to the Krsna consciousness movement and chant the Hare Krsna mantra. Even if you cannot give up your bad habits and sinful activities, still take to the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra, and your life will be glorified.

Thank you very much.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

Lessons from the Road

"Even at the Risk of Death"

by Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami

We Are Pleasure-Seeking beings. When a member of a Mexican metaphysical society asked Srila Prabhupada, "Why is there anything?" Prabhupada said, simply, that everything exists because of the drive for ananda, pleasure. "Our basic principle is pleasure, so whatever gives pleasure we accept. That is natural."

There are two kinds of pleasure available to us in this world: material and spiritual. Material pleasure is temporary; spiritual pleasure lasts forever.

Why, then, don't we rush forward to taste spiritual pleasure? One reason may be that to do so we have to give up our attachment to material pleasure. Who has the courage to give up that which seems tangible for something unproven? What if we don't achieve it?

In the Bhagavad-gita, Arjuna asks the same question: if he gives up his material pleasure for spiritual life but fails to attain his spiritual goal, won't he lose both spiritually and materially and "perish like a riven cloud, with no position in any sphere"? Krsna says no, he will not.

Arjuna gave up his fear and surrendered to Krsna, but if we hold onto ours the Bhagavatam says we are misers. Misers have no true estimation of the body; they think they can hold on to life "forever" and enjoy unlimited sense gratification. They also have little or no awareness of how their present activities will affect their future.

A miser is someone who hoards his wealth and fails to enjoy its true purpose. The human form of life is an asset. A human being can solve life's biggest problems—birth, death, disease, and old age—but if he refuses to use his human form for this purpose, he is refusing to properly spend his wealth.

Srila Prabhupada explains it like this: We have a hundred years at most to live. In that time, most people expend vast amounts of energy trying to make themselves comfortable. Often, however, they do it through exploitation, enjoying at some other living being's expense. For example, they may find the taste of meat pleasurable, and to satisfy the drive for pleasure they willingly kill animals. They gain some momentary pleasure, but they also accrue karmic reactions that will lead them into suffering in the future. In this way, their happiness is ultimately defeated. The drive toward constant material pleasure thus becomes their greatest enemy.

It is foolish to skimp on using our energy for self-realization, as much as it would be to live with wealth but fear to spend it and instead live as if poor. The human form of life is meant for self-realization, and Srila Prabhupada writes that it is better to pursue self-realization than material gratification "even at the risk of death."

"Even at the risk of death." Deciding not to remain miserly may feel risky; we will have to depend on Krsna for protection. But remaining a miser is riskier. We might leave this world in the consciousness of a cat or a dog, without understanding the point of human life. And that would bring us misery, not pleasure.

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.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

Lord Krsna's Cuisine

Cooking Class: Lesson 31
Halava Prasadam

By Yamuna Devi

INDIAN-STYLE halava bears little resemblance to the Middle Eastern halavah confection made from honey and crushed sesame seeds. Indian halava is sweet, succulent, and buttery and is served fresh just off the stove, still hot or warm. Halava is surely India's most famous sweet dish.

I've heard halava described as "mouth-watering," "ambrosial," "delectable," and even "sublime." Words elude me for describing halava well. Elegant in its simplicity, it can be made in numerous varieties and cooked to different consistencies. Well prepared from first-class ingredients and offered to the Lord for His pleasure, halava prasadam is greatly relished.

Ingredients and Varieties of Halava

The most popular and easy-to-make halava is made from sooji, Indian semolina. You slowly toast the alabaster-hued semolina in ghee until it turns golden brown, then simmer it in fragrant sugar syrup until the grains grow plump and expand many times to yield a fluffy pudding. Sooji is sold in Indian grocery stores and offers the most traditional results. Outside India, locally processed semolina or farina is likely fresher and more convenient and makes very good halava.

Denser, richer, and far more labor-intensive halavas are made from wet-ground mung or urad dal. They're popular choices for wedding or holiday menus.

Another kind of halava is made from vegetables boiled in sweetened rich milk and reduced to an almost fudgelike consistency. Some commonly used vegetables are shredded orange carrots (gajar), whitish-green winter melon (petha), or fine-fleshed bottle gourd (louki).

On holy days observed by fasting from grains, halava can be made from buckwheat flour or dried banana flour.

You can make a naturally sweet variety of halava with ghee, a sweetener, mashed tropical fruits, and perhaps light cream, legume flour, or fresh chenna cheese. You cook the ingredients together until thick to produce a rich halava to serve in small amounts.

If you're following the cooking class series, refer to the class textbook, Lord Krishna's Cuisine, and make three or four kinds of semolina halava, and one or two vegetable or fruit halavas.

India has produced sugar for thousands of years, and its shops stock refined sugars, an unrefined cane sugar called gur, an unrefined sweetener from the tal tree called jaggery, and a few other regional sweeteners. You can use almost any kind of sweetener in halava. What I recommend, if you can find them, are golden-blond organic raw cane sugar, darker turbinado crystals, still darker date and maple sugar crystals, and pure white fructose. Note: I have a light hand with sugar in halava recipes (about half of what might be used in an Indian kitchen), so add more if you prefer. Also, according to the Ayur Veda, honey should not be boiled, so do not use it in a halava syrup to replace sugar.

Srila Prabhupada on Halava

Srila Prabhupada often said that good halava means good ghee. That means fresh, pure homemade ghee, either plain or flavor-infused with something like cloves, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, or black pepper. On several occasions he praised devotee cooks when their halava was made well, and he taught many cooks and managers to make and distribute halava prasadam.

Srila Prabhupada often called prasadam distribution the secret weapon for spreading Krsna consciousness. When devotees give out prasadam, especially in India, the servings almost always include halava, often with puris (deep-fried flat-breads) and a subji (vegetable dish). In a 1977 letter to ISKCON temple presidents, Srila Prabhupada requested puris, subji, and halava or pakoras (deep-fried breaded vegetables) for every temple visitor. On one occasion, Srila Prabhupada was pleased to hear that during a two-day ISKCON festival Indian women from Durban had cooked ¼ ton of halava and 8,000 puris for the crowd.

As devotees celebrated Srila Prabhupada's Centennial last year, tons of halava must have been distributed in honor of Srila Prabhupada's instructions. Let us, generation after generation, keep giving out halava prasadam. Jaya Srila Prabhupada! Jaya Sri Krsna-prasadam!

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.

Simple Halava

2 ½ cups (590 ml) water or milk
1 cup (240 ml) sugar
¼ teaspoon (1.25 ml) saffron threads
¼ cup (60 ml) dried currants
½ cup (120 ml) ghee or unsalted butter
¾ to 1 cup (180-240 ml) semolina or farina
¼ cup (60 ml) toasted almonds

Combine the water or milk and sugar in a saucepan and, stirring, bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, add the saffron and currants, and cover.

Place the ghee or butter in a pan over moderate heat. When the ghee or butter is hot, add the semolina or farina and stir and toast until it's golden brown.

Remove the pan from the heat and, stirring, slowly pour in the liquid. (The grains may sputter at first.) Place the pan over the heat and stir until all the liquid is absorbed and the grains swell. Garnish with toasted almonds and offer to Krsna.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

India's Heritage

Knowledge and Devotion

By Ravi Gupta

A NEW INDIAN GUEST at a recent Sunday feast at our center here in Boise, Idaho, remarked, "Oh yes, I know about the Hare Krsna philosophy. It's a simplified, sentimental process of chanting and dancing." Many Indians have the misconception that Krsna consciousness is a sentimental process meant for the less intelligent, or for those not inclined toward philosophical study. These Indians think that for foreigners, who might have a problem performing austerity or understanding philosophy, Srila Prabhupada simplified traditional Vedic practices.

This misconception is not new. Five hundred years ago, Prakasananda Sarasvati, a renowned Mayavadi scholar of Benares, similarly criticized Lord Caitanya, calling him a bhavuka, or "sentimentalist": "Although a sannyasi, He does not take interest in the study of Vedanta but instead always engages in chanting and dancing and sankirtana. This Caitanya Mahaprabhu is an illiterate sannyasi and does not know His real function. Guided only by His sentiments, He wanders about in the company of other sentimentalists." (Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila 7.41-42)

True, the process for attaining the Lord in this age, Kali-yuga, is simplified. Previous ages required great fire sacrifices, elaborate Deity worship, or meditation for thousands of years. In Kali-yuga we don't have the life span, the pure atmosphere, or the power of concentration needed for meditation, nor do we have the qualified brahmanas and great amounts of ghee and gold required for fire sacrifices and elaborate Deity worship. The present age is rampant with materialism and ridden with faults. Therefore the relatively simple process to achieve Krsna consciousness is the chanting of Krsna's holy names.

Although simple to perform, chanting the Lord's names is not sentimental fanaticism meant for unintelligent people. It is, in fact, the highest of all spiritual processes. As Lord Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita (15.15), vedais ca sarvair aham eva vedyah: "By all the Vedas I am to be known." And how can we know Krsna? "By practicing yoga in full consciousness of Me [Krsna consciousness], with mind attached to Me, you can know Me in full, free from doubt." (Bg. 7.1) There's no better way to be conscious of Krsna than to chant His holy names.

satatam kirtayanto mam
yatantas ca drdha-vratah
namasyantas ca mam bhaktya
nitya-yukta upasate

"Always chanting My glories, endeavoring with great determination, bowing down before Me, these great souls [mahatmas] perpetually worship Me with devotion." (Bg. 9.14) For the great souls, Lord Krsna destroys "with the shining lamp of knowledge the darkness born of ignorance." (Bg. 10.11)

So it is the devotee who actually knows the import of all the Vedic scriptures. He is the topmost spiritualist, because he has understood Krsna Himself as the goal of all knowledge, penance, sacrifice, and renunciation.

The devotee's chanting is based on sastra, scripture, and is firmly grounded in knowledge of the Absolute Truth. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu easily defeated Prakasananda Sarasvati in philosophical debate and explained the true meaning of Vedanta to him. The six Gosvamis of Vrndavana wrote a library full of philosophical treatises in Sanskrit. Srila Baladeva Vidyabhusana, a later follower of Lord Caitanya's, wrote Govinda-bhasya, an erudite commentary on the Vedanta-sutra. And in our own times, Srila Prabhupada translated many Vedic books into English. He based his entire movement on these books and wanted his followers to read them daily.

In fact, Srila Prabhupada criticized those who simply make a sentimental show of love of God, without any knowledge of scriptural rules and regulations. Such people are called sahajiyas, or imitators. Their chanting and dancing have no value.

Srila Prabhupada writes, "Religion without philosophy is sentiment, or sometimes fanaticism, while philosophy without religion is mental speculation." A Krsna conscious person has both knowledge and devotion.

Ravi Gupta, age fifteen, lives at the Hare Krsna center in Boise, Idaho, USA. The center is run by his parents. Ravi, who was schooled at home, is a third-year student at Boise State University.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

Schooling Krsna's Children

Children and Pets

By Urmila Devi Dasi

A BOY AND HIS DOG, at least in America, is a symbol of friendship and of healthy psychological development. Srila Prabhupada, however, said that keeping pet dogs is a symptom of how the world has lost Vedic culture.

People sometimes say that giving children pets to love helps children develop universal love. But we can easily see that it doesn't work. Children love their dogs, cats, hamsters, and lizards, yes, but they eat cows, fish, sheep, and chickens. Some children on farms even learn to arrange for the slaughter of animals they pampered as pets.

Both pampering and slaughtering stem from a desire to please oneself, or, more accurately, from a desire to please the senses and mind with which one falsely identifies. So teaching a child to love a pet because the pet is cute or loyal or cuddly simply binds the child to valuing bodily pleasure instead of spiritual pleasure.

Couldn't a child being trained in Krsna consciousness keep a pet without becoming materially entangled?

In a few instances in the scriptures, pure devotees of Krsna have shown affection to an animal in such a way that the devotee wasn't degraded and the animal spiritually benefited. One story concerns Sivananda Sena's kindness to a dog. While Sivananda was leading a group of devotees to Puri to see Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, a stray dog joined them. Sivananda arranged for the dog's food and even paid its passage on a ferry. Sivananda's association so spiritually purified the dog that it got Lord Caitanya's audience and attained Vaikuntha, the kingdom of God.

But not all elevated souls have the same effect on an animal. Bharata Maharaja, an emperor of the world who had retired to the forest for spiritual practices, took pity on an orphaned deer and raised it. But he became so attached to the deer that he neglected his spiritual life, died thinking of the deer, and had to spend one life as a deer before returning to the human form to perfect his realization. We don't read that the deer received spiritual benefit from Bharata Maharaja's care.

We need to teach our children lessons from both these examples. From Sivananda Sena's story we can teach them to give animals prasadam, food offered to Krsna, and to chant the Hare Krsna mantra to the soul in the animal's body. From Bharata Maharaja's story we can teach that we should not take an animal into our lives and hearts in place of the Lord.

In neither story did the devotee buy an animal with the idea of loving it. The animals came for shelter, and the devotees simply wanted to benefit them. If even under such circumstances Bharata thought of his own material pleasure in the animal's company, then how much more difficult it would be for our children to maintain the proper attitude with an animal we have bought to please them. Children don't need pets. If an animal comes, we can guide our children in giving it material and spiritual care.

Devotees of Krsna may use animals in practical ways in the Lord's service. A dog can guard the temple or catch animals that disturb crops. A cow can give us milk to offer to Krsna and dung to fertilize the land. If we are fortunate enough to have working animals under our care, our children will certainly benefit from having chores related to the animals and seeing how to engage them in Krsna's service.

To keep a cow, especially, is considered a religious activity. The cow is a symbol of religious life, and Lord Krsna is known as the protector and well-wisher of the cow. So helping care for a cow, though not much of an option for city dwellers, is a Vedic way for a child to advance in Krsna consciousness.

Finally we need to train our children in specific guidelines about animals. Carnivorous animal such as dogs and cats should never be allowed in a house. Prabhupada calls such animals untouchable, because touching them invites disease and make one's clothes and body unclean for worshiping Krsna. Indeed, it is offensive to offer food to the Lord that a lower animal such as a dog or cat has seen first. And while a carnivorous animal freely living outside can catch and eat other animals without sin, if we buy pet food made from meat, fish, or eggs we contribute to the slaughter of innocent creatures.

Let us teach our children to show spiritually equal vision by giving all creatures the opportunity to engage in Krsna's service. Let us not allow our children to develop material attachments for an animal body.

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.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

Bhakti-yoga at Home

The Importance of Association

By Rohininandana Dasa

TO ILLUSTRATE the supreme value of spiritual association, Srila Prabhupada writes, "As fire is kindled from wood by another fire, the divine consciousness of man can similarly be kindled by another divine grace. His Divine Grace the spiritual master can kindle the spiritual fire from the woodlike living entity by imparting proper spiritual messages injected through the receptive ear." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.2.32, purport)

Although wood includes fire in the sense that it has the potential to burn, a piece of wood will ever remain dull wood, no matter how dry or inflammable it might be, unless it contacts fire. Similarly, each one of us needs to make contact with someone who is, so to speak, on fire with divine consciousness, or Krsna consciousness, so that our spiritual potential may be realized.

Another Vedic analogy says that just as a fertile woman must receive help from a man to conceive a child, any person, no matter how qualified, must receive the seed of spiritual life from Lord Krsna's pure devotee. From that seed grows the plant of devotion to Krsna.

After the initial wonderful event of receiving into our heart the divinely potent words of the guru, our devotional plant requires regular watering so that it may grow strong and healthy. Srila Prabhupada formed the International Society for Krishna Consciousness so that its members could regularly meet together and fulfill the purpose of such verses as "The thoughts of My pure devotees dwell in Me, their lives are fully devoted to My service, and they derive great satisfaction and bliss from always enlightening one another and conversing about Me." (Bhagavad-gita 10.9)

The Srimad-Bhagavatam (3.25.25) summarizes the results of meetings of devotees: "In the association of pure devotees, discussion of the pastimes and activities of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is very pleasing and satisfying to the ear and heart. By cultivating such knowledge one gradually becomes advanced on the path of liberation, and thereafter he is freed and his attraction becomes fixed. Then real devotion and devotional service begin."

You might wonder where to find "pure devotees" and if you could ever be an ordinary devotee, what to speak of a pure one. Of course, it is highly desirable to associate with advanced devotees. But, like me, you might live away from devotees in the Krsna consciousness movement. So what can we do to get regular Krsna conscious association?

The two verses cited above can still apply to us, when we consider that the term pure devotee can refer either to the most elevated devotee or to a neophyte sincerely trying to become a devotee. Srila Prabhupada once said that all his disciples were pure devotees.

We can find other people in our area who are interested in practicing Krsna consciousness and associate with them. We can meet together and apply the principles Srila Rupa Gosvami outlines as the six symptoms of love shared by one devotee and another: giving and receiving gifts, revealing one's mind in confidence and inquiring confidentially, and offering and receiving prasadam, food offered to Krsna.

We can hold meetings in one another's homes, chant Hare Krsna, worship the Lord, share prasadam, read and discuss the Vedic scriptures, share with one another our efforts to practice spiritual life, and perhaps plan how we can help spread Krsna consciousness.

Because regulation is essential to the practice of Krsna consciousness, we should try to meet regularly with other aspiring devotees of Krsna. Out of vaidhi bhakti, or regulated devotional practice, grows raganuga bhakti, spontaneous devotional practice, which can mature into pure love for Krsna.

Rohininandana Dasa lives in southern England with his wife and their three children. Write to him in care of Back to Godhead.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

The Land, the Cows, and Krsna

An Ox? What's That?

By Hare Krsna Devi Dasi

WE CAN LEARN A LOT about history and the people writing it by keeping tuned to what is not being said. Applying this principle, we can see why Westerners have such trouble understanding the significance of cow protection—especially protection of the bull or ox. Because of what is routinely suppressed or overlooked in history books, it's hard for people to understand when Prabhupada says,

According to smrti [scriptural] regulation, the cow is the mother and the bull the father of the human being. The cow is the mother because just as one sucks the breast of one's mother, human society takes cow's milk. Similarly, the bull is the father of human society because the father earns for the children just as the bull tills the ground to produce food grains. Human society will kill its spirit of life by killing the father and the mother.

Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.2.29, purport

Because of a silence in contemporary history books, we cannot understand that the bull is our father. To us it seems a sentimental concept. Yet most major civilizations around the world owe a great debt to the bull or ox (neutered bull). We read about land being cleared, fields being planted, roads, castles, temples, cathedrals, and aqueducts being built. But somehow our history books (and films) are silent about the "engine" that was indispensable for all this growth of civilization.

It was Father Bull. He cleared the land, planted the fields, ground the grain, hauled the stone and timber, and moved the dirt.

Throughout the ages, there has been a worldwide appreciation for the working ox. The Chinese named a year after him and declared it a sin to eat his flesh—as did the ancient Egyptians (for certain breeds). The people of India revered both the bull and the cow and set rules to protect their well-being. Europeans also respected the work of the ox.

Americans in the days of the pioneers esteemed the work of the ox, and cited Biblical references to his value. An 1853 Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge states under its entry for "Ox":

The rural economy of the Israelites led them to value the ox as by far the most important of domestic animals, from the consideration of his great use in all the operations of farming. In the patriarchal ages, the ox constituted no inconsiderable portion of their wealth. ... Men of every age and country have been much indebted to the labors of this animal. For many ages the hopes of oriental husbandmen depended entirely on their labors. This was so much the case in the time of Solomon that he observed, in one of his proverbs, "Where no oxen are, the crib is clean," or rather empty; "but much increase is by the strength of the ox."

Though such people were usually meat-eaters, that they could see the ox maintaining their daily life would have made it easier to convince them of the sin of killing their father the ox—which is precisely what Lord Caitanya was able to do in speaking with the Muslim Kazi of Navadvipa in sixteenth-century India.

On the contrary, how difficult it is to explain to modern Westerners the sin of cow-killing, when the ox has been—intentionally or unintentionally—eliminated from the history books. You may read a whole article about Colonial America, for example, and never see one mention of the ox—without whom the whole economy would have collapsed. I've noticed many times that when a modern artist needs to include an ox in an illustration, the commonest solution is just to draw him from the back—wagon, big ear, big horn—that's all. Father Bull is so far removed from people's experience that they don't even know what he looks like.

But Prabhupada's followers are changing that. We farm with oxen, and we take oxen on international walking tours in our Padayatra festivals. Devotee ox-drivers on Padayatra often report, "People come up and ask us what kind of animals they are." Because of curiosity to come up and pet Father Bull, people get a chance to take some prasadam (sanctified food) and hear the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra. Just as ignorance of Father Bull's importance condemned them to sinful meat-eating, becoming attracted by him sets them on the road to spiritual life.

Hare Krsna Devi Dasi, an ISKCON devotee since 1978, is co-editor of the newsletter Hare Krsna Rural Life.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

Srila Prabhupada Speaks Out

"Since When Have You Westerners
Accepted the Teachings of Christ?"

This exchange between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and Carol Cameron, then a master's candidate in anthropology, took place in Perth, Australia, on May 9, 1975.

Disciple: Srila Prabhupada, this is Carol Cameron, from the University of West Australia. For her master's degree in anthropology, she's writing a paper about the influence of the Vedic culture on the West. So she would like to ask you some questions.

Carol: Your Divine Grace, I would like to know why you initially came to the West. I know a bit about your background, but not very much. So I'd like to know why you saw the need to come to the West.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Not long ago I was speaking about that. Of course, I spoke in very strong words. What I said was, "Western people are claiming to be very civilized—but I have got an objection. That is why I have come to the West."

For example, the animal killing. The Western people mostly call themselves Christians. Now, Lord Jesus Christ said, "Thou shall not kill." But the result, after the passage of two thousand years, is that the people of the Western countries are still killing. So during all these years, when have they actually accepted Christianity? What is your answer?

Carol: Right. It's true that the actual, original teachings of the scriptures aren't enacted in Western life.

Srila Prabhupada: Just consider. The Ten Commandments and then Lord Jesus Christ and his disciples had to tell these people, "Thou shall not kill." So, first of all, what kind of men were they—that Lord Christ had to request them not to kill? That means they were killers.

Suppose somebody's a thief and I give him some good instruction. I say, "You should not commit theft." Of course, that instruction means, "As of now, you are a thief." Otherwise, why should I say, "Thou shalt not commit theft"?

A naughty child is disturbing everyone. So I am forced to say, "My dear child, please don't disturb everyone." Similarly, when Christ said, "Thou shall not kill," that means he was speaking amongst people who were in the habit of killing. Is it not?

Carol: Hmm.

Srila Prabhupada: Now, after taking instruction from Christ, first of all they killed Christ. They let him be put to death. That means they could not understand the instruction. Therefore, their first business was to kill the instructor. And following that, two thousand years have passed—and still they are killing. So, since when have they accepted the teachings of Lord Christ? Can you answer this?

Carol: So you think the Christian faith hasn't been reflected in the behavior of Western people?

Srila Prabhupada: This is obvious. You are maintaining huge slaughterhouses—regular killing. So although you took instruction from Christ—"Thou shalt not kill"—you first of all killed him, and still you are maintaining this killing business. You are killing the animals, and every now and then you are declaring wars amongst yourselves.

So the killing business is going on regularly. Not just in big wars but also in your regular daily life. You are maintaining big, big slaughterhouses. So, again, since when have you Westerners actually accepted the instructions of Christ? That I want to know. What is that date?

Carol: Your Divine Grace, do you see any hope for the world? We seem to be moving towards destruction.

Srila Prabhupada: First, you just explain.

Disciple: Srila Prabhupada is asking you, When did this civilization actually accept the teachings of Christ?

Carol: When have they? Overall, never at all. Only in small pockets. Overall, never.

Srila Prabhupada: Then why are you claiming that you are Christian? For instance, you are wearing a crucifix. You Westerners often keep or wear a crucifix, yet that sign actually means that you killed Christ. The crucifix is the symbol that you so-called followers of Christ killed Christ. Many, many people in the priestly order carry the crucifix. The crucifix is the sign that Lord Jesus Christ was killed. Is it not?

Carol: It is, but that symbol is also used to signify his triumph, or resurrection.

Srila Prabhupada: [Warily:] Maybe. [Laughter.] But mainly, that symbol shows how you killed Lord Jesus Christ. That is the sign. That reminds you that you killed your spiritual master. You accuse the Jewish people—"They killed him"—but you also killed him, and you are still killing. Although, of course, you like to call yourselves Christian. Therefore, I want to know—you are a learned scholar—since when did you start abiding by the order of Lord Jesus Christ? That is my question. Since when?

Carol: When did I?

Srila Prabhupada: Every one of you—throughout the Western countries. And if you claim you have actually abided by the order of Jesus Christ, then why are you systematically killing? The order is, "Thou shalt not kill."

Carol: This matter reminds me of the Gita, you know?—where Arjuna is on the battlefield, about to commit an organized sort of killing against his relatives.

Srila Prabhupada: No. Arjuna's relatives were on the battlefield, attacking. The cows, pigs, and chickens are not on the battlefield, attacking. You cannot compare Arjuna's killing to your killing.

Two thousand years have passed, but to date you have not been able to accept the instruction of Lord Jesus Christ. And you are all claiming that you are Christian. But since when did you accept Christianity? That is my question. Because as far as I can see, you have disobeyed the order of Christ. So now that two thousand years have passed, when did you accept? Hmm? Who will answer this question?

Disciple: Never.

Srila Prabhupada: Hmm?

Disciple: They never accepted.

Carol: Hmm. Your Divine Grace, what is the main part of your philosophy? Is it based on the Vedanta?

Srila Prabhupada: This is no question of philosophy. You Westerners could not accept Jesus' simple instruction. Where is the question of philosophy?

Carol: I think it is a question of love.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. You Westerners have no love. You cannot understand the basic principle of life and morality, Jesus Christ's instruction that "Thou shalt not kill." So how can you become a philosopher?

Carol: How is the question of love to be understood? Between people, or through some sort of inner communication with a higher self?

Disciple: Srila Prabhupada is saying that until we Westerners accept Christ's simplest, most basic instruction about showing love to all God's creatures, we cannot talk about philosophy. Nor can we talk about love.

Srila Prabhupada: You Westerners have no love, because you are accustomed to kill. Philosophy begins when you know that everyone is part and parcel of God and everyone should be given full facility to live, without danger of being injured or killed for anyone else's personal benefit. Panditah sama-darsinah: A pandita, a true philosopher or learned scholar, sees every living being equally—as a spirit soul, part and parcel of God. So fools and rascals cannot become philosophers. Those who are learned scholars—thoughtful—they can become philosophers. But if one has no knowledge how to behave toward other living entities, what is the meaning of his becoming a "philosopher"?

Use back button to return.

Return to top

The Sound of One Monk Walking

"Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare,
Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare ..."

by Bhaktimarga Swami

ON APRIL 12, 1996, I touched the Pacific Ocean in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, turned around to face east, and started walking. I didn't know what pain or pleasure would lie ahead. I knew only that walking across Canada, the world's second largest country, was going to be a challenge. I had wanted to do something special in 1996 in honor of Srila Prabhupada's Centennial. As I started walking, I thought of how I was heading toward Calcutta, the city of Prabhupada's birth.

I also thought of the words of the great devotee king Yudhisthira: mahajano yena gatah sa panthah—"Follow in the footsteps of the great ones." Though Yudhisthira Maharaja was speaking figuratively, I decided to take his words literally. Great saints of India have traditionally walked to visit holy places and enlighten people in Krsna consciousness. And Srila Prabhupada would walk with disciples every morning and teach them with his unerring wit, wisdom, and boldness.

I thought that as a sannyasi, a person in the renounced order of life, I would expose myself to the road. I'd live simply and meet with adverse and pleasant conditions. And I wanted the chance to meet people, to walk and to talk.

My walking path was the gravel shoulder of the Trans-Canada Highway. Semi-trucks (lorries) were an annoyance in the beginning. I resigned myself to the idea that for the next eight months I'd be with the trucks, whether or not I liked their engine noise and the gusts of wind and water they create. But my attitude quickly changed. I started to see the truckers as my friends, fellow travelers on the lonely highway. On occasion a truck driver would pull over his whole operation just to talk or offer a ride. Truckers from coast to coast were chanting the names of God—"Hare Krsna"—as they talked to one another on their radios about the shaven-headed, robe-clad monk trekking along.

Meeting the People

Because a lone monk walking across Canada is a curiosity, the walk was a way to reach people through their community TV, radio, or newspaper.

One day an elderly woman driving through rural Ontario noticed the unusual pedestrian. She pulled over to the side, and from her car window she said, "I read about you in the paper. What are you walking for again?"

"I'm walking for Canada and its spiritual healing."

"I could do with some spiritual healing in my life!" she said.

She said that she had known me when I was knee-high and that she used to employ my mother.

Didn't Want to Stop

I wanted to take more time in each community, but Canada's climate had set a deadline. I was keen to get to the finish line before temperatures would hit minus 30¡C below zero. And I wanted to finish before the end of the Prabhupada Centennial year.

The last days in Newfoundland were particularly difficult. It was not the weather, loneliness, or home-temple sickness. I just didn't want the whole thing to end. I was enjoying the walk immensely. Chanting on my beads throughout the day helped strengthen my conviction in Krsna consciousness. The walk had been good for me.

But the Atlantic Ocean created a natural barrier to my walk. As I peered over the threatening waves pounding the rugged coastline, I felt consoled when I thought, "These waters carried Srila Prabhupada to New York and made it possible for him to change the world and give some meaning to my life."

I ended the journey on December 6, 1996, after 8,568 kilometers of rain, sun, wind, snow, pain, thoughts, and greetings from many people. I'm grateful to Lord Krsna for allowing me this opportunity to do some power walking on His pure devotee's behalf. I'm looking forward to doing some more of the same.

The following are excerpts from the diary I kept during the walk:

Tuesday, April 16, 1996

Vancouver, British Columbia

7:00 A.M., moderate rainfall. Dressed for the weather, with a companion I set out on foot from Horseshoe Bay through West Vancouver, a posh neighborhood, then through Stanley Park, and finally to downtown Vancouver, where towering executive edifices try to rival the nearby mountains. A hydro worker busy repairing lines takes notice of the two trekking monks. I take the liberty to speak.

"I'm walking to St. John's, Newfoundland. It will take some time."

He chuckles. "By the time you get there, there'll be nothing left of you!"

Further on, at East Hastings, a more challenged part of the city, a tall male Native Canadian stands near a bustling intersection.

"What is Hare Krsna?" He asks without introduction.

I explain first that my adopted Vedic culture and his inherited native culture have something in common: they share a spiritual base.

Friday, April 19

Mission, British Columbia

We come upon a Gurudwar and decide to take a brief break and pay respects to the Gurugrantha-sahib, the scripture of the Sikhs.

Then we learn of the location of a nearby monastery run by Benedictine monks. We venture there and meet Brother Maurice, who is keen to know something about us. Kind and heavily accented, he declares himself "made in Holland."

While departing, we wish him well in his efforts to spread the word of God, and I asked him for a blessing that the journey will go well. With outstretched arms, he delivers a Latin chant, and we are on our way.

Thursday, May 9

Trans-Canada Highway

In the serenity of the Rocky Mountains, there is a silent burst of the spring thaw. Streams flow profusely. Clumps of snow held up in the arms of trees suddenly collapse to the ground with a resounding thump. The repetitious foot contact to the ground creates a persistent percussion that joins the rhythm of bird songs to produce a northern raga for a walker. I utter the maha-mantra over the beautiful symphony of nature.

Thursday, May 16

Calgary, Alberta

As I enter the city of Calgary, I'm not sure what type of reception will come from a place nicknamed (because of the slaughterhouses) "Cowtown." It turns out the people I meet are nice.

A cab driver with roots in India pulls over. He enthusiastically introduces himself as Bala.

"From the road I saw your clothes. They are God's clothes. Now I'll take you wherever you want to go, free of charge."

I disappoint him by declining the ride, but when he learns I'm conducting a padayatra, a pilgrimage walk to promote dharma, he is elated.

Today I walked forty kilometers and chanted on my beads fifty rounds of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra.

Friday, May 17

Calgary, Alberta

Clear skies. Motorists along 16th Avenue (part of the Trans-Canada Highway) are in good spirits. Many of them have caught a glimpse of the newspaper. The front page of the City/Life section of the Herald carries a color photo of what you might call the male version of the flying nun. The shot shows me harnessing a small backpack and, with robes partially open (as if winged), sharing the sky with paragliders. The caption reads, "High hopes: Trekking swami sees sleeping souls."

Now some motorists see the flying monk and honk their horns to show their approval of the monk's flight through the wind-swept prairies.

With little sleep the night before, I grow tired after the jaunt through Calgary. I need to nap.

I spot a small group of stubby trees on an upgrade next to the highway. I lie down for a forty-minute nap with a cadar [shawl] as a shade.

The sound of the whizzing traffic is abruptly interrupted by the crackle of wheels gripping against gravel. I awaken to the sound of an ambulance. The driver, wondering if I'm a corpse or a possible patient, comes to my aid. He sees a head bob up from under the cadar and asks, "Are you okay?"

"Yes, I'm okay. Hare Krsna!"

My head collapses for more dozing, and he goes on his way. False alarm.

Saturday, May 25

Medicine Hat, Alberta

I set out on a clear day, with the prospect of developing a clear mind. Walking and chanting is the method.

I make the world's largest teepee my rest spot for the morning. I zip open my backpack and reach inside for a Bhagavad-gita, immersing myself in pages of Absolute mystery and words of wisdom.

Now rejuvenated, I tackle the road again and approach an overpass under construction. A worker spots me, breaks into a jig, and sings, "Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna!"

I give him a thumbs up. Good show!

Wednesday, May 29


I rise early, eager to walk on this somewhat lonely length of the Trans-Canada Highway. I come upon a stationary semi-trailer carrying barley. The driver emerges from the cab and comes out to greet me.

"From the CB radio they told me you were coming," says Mr. Dixon.

I hand him a brochure telling of the mission of the cross-nation trek.

After a grave scan of it, he says, "Your Lord is different than mine," and is silent, awaiting my response.

I look to the prairie sky to reveal the answer, and then point to the most prominent object that punctuates it.

"The sun—which you might call sun, I might call Surya, or in Quebec they call soleil—shines on all of us, regardless of the name you give it or what part of the world you are in. God is the same Lord for all."

Friday, June 21

Winnipeg, Manitoba

After this morning's walking session, my friend Dave Steady comes to pick me up to transport me to the library headquarters for the province of Manitoba. I make a formal presentation of Bhagavad-gita As It Is to Mr. Weismueller of the city library department. He accepts the first of many copies to be distributed to all libraries of prisons, hospitals, and public schools. Dr. Dakshinamurti arranged for the brief presentation, which drew two dozen professionals from the Hindu community, who all took time off work for the occasion.

My evening walking shift takes me along Portage Avenue with Dave. It's Friday night, and this main thoroughfare is teeming with energy.

Tyler, a university student who read about my walk in the paper, approaches me. His attraction to the project is the simplicity of its purpose and execution. While we chat, two straight-edge kids stop and join in. Then a group of partygoers pull over with a "Hey man, what's happening?" They join the discussion of spiritual topics.

It's time for me to cross the street to my arranged place to be picked up. Before I cross, a woman shouts from her car window, 'Excuse me! Excuse me! I have to talk to you!' She has never met a Hare Krsna, but she recognizes one and wants to know more.

Another car pulls up with two Friday-nighters who also want to know about heaven, destiny, transmigration, life after death.

I must say I'm feeling ecstatic to be able to share the little I know. I'm enjoying Friday night as much as anyone, if not more. I'm grateful to Srila Prabhupada for this great opportunity.

Headlines from Newspapers Across Canada

Monk uses nation-wide walk to promote spiritual healing

Nor'wester—Springdale, Newfoundland

Swami conducts spiritual trek

Cape Breton Post—Sydney, Nova Scotia

"Heeling" spirit

The Trentonian—Trenton, Ontario

Swami keeps on walking

The Leader-Post—Regina, Saskatchewan

Trekking swami sees sleeping souls

Calgary Herald—Calgary, Alberta

Monk hopes his "humble way" will help solve Canada's woes

The Sault Star—Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario

Monk takes meditative stroll across country

The Sudbury Star—Sudbury, Ontario

Monk's on the move to budge our spirits

The Standard—St. Catherines, Ontario

Use back button to return.

Return to top

Mahabharata—The History of Greater India

The Pandavas Get a Kingdom

By the power of their virtue,
the sons of Kunti build a heavenly kingdom on earth.

Translated from Sanskrit by Hridayananda Dasa Goswami

The sage Vaisampayana is telling the history of the Pandavas to their great-grandson, King Janamejaya. As the narration continues, Dhrtarastra, the blind uncle of the Pandavas, has just been advised by his brother Vidura and the respected elders Bhisma and Drona that he should treat the Pandavas fairly and give them their rightful kingdom.

DHATARASTRA SAID: "Bhisma, son of Santanu, is a learned man, my dear Vidura, and Drona is an exalted sage. Both of them have explained the highest good, and you too are telling me the truth. As much as the Pandavas, those heroic warriors, are sons of Pandu and Kunti, so they are my sons, undoubtedly and by religious law. And as much as this kingdom is to be enjoyed by my begotten sons, so without a doubt it is to be enjoyed equally by the sons of Pandu.

"Vidura, go and bring them and their mother with all honors, and also bring Draupadi, who is as lovely as a goddess. Thank heaven the sons of Kunti are alive. Thank heaven our Kunti lives. Thank heaven those great warriors have won the daughter of Drupada. By the grace of providence all of us shall flourish, and by heaven's grace the arsonist Purocana has been put to rest. O brilliant brother, thank God my greatest sorrow has been removed."

At Dhrtarastra's command, Vidura went to see King Drupada and the Pandavas. Vidura was expert in all the scriptures and knew his duty and how to perform it. Upon reaching Drupada's palace, he waited properly on the king, who received him according to the religious law for hosts. Drupada and Vidura rightly inquired about the health and well-being [of their respective friends, families, and kingdoms].

Vidura then saw the Pandavas and Sri Krsna, and he affectionately embraced them and asked if they were all well. They in turn welcomed and honored Vidura, whose intelligence was vast. Following Dhrtarastra's order, Vidura asked Pandu's children about their health and happiness, with much affection and again and again. He presented to the Pandavas and Kunti and Draupadi, and to Drupada and his sons, jewels and varieties of wealth sent by the Kauravas.

Then with grace and deference the vastly learned Vidura spoke most humbly to Drupada in the presence of the Pandavas and Lord Kesava (Krsna).

Vidura's Message

Vidura said: "O king, may you kindly listen with your ministers and sons to my words. Dhrtarastra, along with his sons, ministers, and close associates, has the great satisfaction to offer you repeated wishes for your health and happiness, for he has real affection for you and your family. Similarly, the most learned Bhisma, son of Santanu, and all of the Kauravas are anxious to hear that you are well and prospering in all your affairs. They send their sincere inquiries.

"The great archer Drona, son of Bharadvaja, considers himself your dear friend, and he sends his embrace and sincere wishes for your well-being. Dhrtarastra has now become related to you through marriage, and he and all the Kauravas feel they are now successful by such a family tie. Even by acquiring a new kingdom, they would not feel the same pleasure as by achieving a family tie with you, O Yajnasena [Drupada].

"Knowing this to be true, kindly let the Pandavas depart, for the Kurus are extremely anxious to see Pandu's legitimate heirs. These mighty Pandavas have been away for a long time, and surely both they and Kunti will be jubilant to see their city. And all the fine Kuru ladies are waiting anxiously to see Draupadi, the princess of Pancala. Indeed, our whole city and country are waiting.

"Please, sir, order without delay that the sons of Pandu depart with their wife, for that is my purpose in coming. Your Majesty, as soon as you release the exalted Pandavas, I shall dispatch the speediest messengers to Dhrtarastra, and the sons of Kunti with their wife Draupadi will then come home."

Drupada said: "Very wise Vidura, just as you expressed it to me now, so do I feel the greatest joy that a family tie has been established between us, my lord. And it is befitting that those great souls return now to their home. But it is not right that I tell them they can leave. Rather, when Kunti's heroic son Yudhisthira decides, with Bhimasena, Arjuna, and the two mighty twins, and especially when Krsna and Balarama agree, then the Pandavas must go. Krsna and Balarama are tigerlike personalities who know the religious principles and are devoted to the happiness and welfare of the Pandavas."

Yudhisthira said, "We and our followers are all dependent on you, O king. We shall gladly do whatever you tell us, for we know of your love for us."

Then Lord Krsna said, "I think it is right to go, or whatever King Drupada decides, for he understands all the religious principles."

King Drupada said, "Lord Krsna, the great-armed hero of the Dasarhas, is the Supreme Personality, and I fully agree with Him that the time has come for the Pandavas to return, for as much as the sons of Kunti are now dear to me, they are just as dear to Lord Krsna, without doubt. When the tigerlike Lord Krsna recommends what is best for them, Yudhisthira, son of Dharma, does not even consider the matter, so great is his faith in Krsna."

Then, granted permission by the great soul Drupada, the Pandavas, Sri Krsna, and great-minded Vidura, taking Draupadi and the illustrious Kunti with them, began an easy journey to the city of Hastinapura, stopping along the way for recreation.

Arrival in Hastinapura

When Dhrtarastra heard that the Pandava heroes had arrived, he sent the Kauravas out to welcome and receive them. Citrasena, Krpa Gautama, the great archer Vikarna, and the supreme archer Drona all went out to meet the Pandavas. The arriving heroes, surrounded by such exalted men, shone beautifully as they slowly entered the city of Hastinapura.

Wherever the heroes passed, the great city burst into festivity, for the Pandava princes vanquished the sorrow of the people, who had mourned them as dead. The people loved their princes and, eager to show their love, called out in all kinds of voices. The Pandavas heard those words, which went to the core of their hearts.

"He has returned—the knower of virtue, the tiger of a man, who protects us with justice like his own begotten children! Today Pandu Maharaja [in the form of his sons] has come from the forest he loves to show his love for us, and there's no doubt here! All has been accomplished now, for those whom we love most, the heroic sons of Kunti, our real protectors, have returned to us. If ever we have given charity, offered sacrifice, or endured austerity, then by all our merit may the Pandavas stay in our city for one hundred autumns."

The Pandavas then bowed at the feet of Dhrtarastra, the great soul Bhisma, and the other venerable elders. After asking about the well-being of all the city's residents, they went to their quarters at Dhrtarastra's invitation.

After those great souls and Sri Krsna had rested for a short time together, they were called by Dhrtarastra and Bhisma.

Dhrtarastra said, "Yudhisthira, may you and your younger brothers please listen carefully to my words. There must not be any more fighting between my sons and you princes. Go and settle in the land of Khandava Prastha. Once you are living there, protected by Bhima, no one will be able to bother you, just as no one can harass the gods when they are guarded by the thunderbolt of Indra. Half the kingdom will be yours, so go and settle there in Khandava Prastha."

The Pandavas Build Indraprastha

Accepting the order, the Pandavas bowed to the king and departed. Taking half the kingdom, those best of men settled in the land of Khandava Prastha. With Krsna in the lead, they reached their new land, and at once the unfailing Pandavas built a beautiful town that resembled the cities of heaven.

They chose a pure and holy stretch of earth, and led by Dvaipayana Vyasa those heroes performed religious rites to bring peace and security to their new land. Then they measured, mapped out, and constructed the city.

The new town was surrounded by moats that resembled the wide sea. The town was enhanced with sparkling white walls that stood so high they seemed to cover the sky like masses of white clouds or snowy peaks. That most opulent city shone like Bhogavati, the wondrous land of the Nagas.

The city was protected by great double-hung doors as frightening to see as the wings of Garuda, and also by towering archways that resembled masses of clouds or a range of Mandara mountains. The city was filled with varieties of deadly lances and missiles that rose up, perfectly guarded, like the bifurcated tongues of snakes. The city shone with rows of turrets guarded by battle-ready soldiers.

The city was splendidly defended with sharp hook weapons that could slay a hundred men each, and it was adorned with trellises crafted with mystic designs. The skyline of that fabulous city glittered with giant metal discs.

A well-designed system of wide roads virtually did away with collisions, and the city sparkled with various styles of elegant white mansions. This city, known as Indraprastha, shone with all the beauty of a celestial abode and seemed to float on the earth like a community of broad clouds filled with streaks of lightning.

There in that charming, innocent land, the dwelling of the rightful Kuru leaders was so brilliant with wealth and treasure that it resembled the city of Kuvera, the lord of the cosmic treasury.

Brahmanas who were the greatest Vedic scholars and who spoke all languages began to notice and enjoy that city, and they began to establish their homes there. Enterprising merchants began to move there, coming from all directions, and workers expert in all the fine arts and crafts came there to settle.

All around were parks and gardens lush with fruit- and flower-bearing trees such as palm, mango, jasmine, nipa, sala, asoka, punnaga, lakuca, kadamba, bakula, naga-puspa, and tropical plum. The trees bore enchanting arrays of flowers and bent down under the weight of luscious fruits. There were many full-grown trees, including lodhras, amalakas, patalas, kubjakas, karaviras, rose apples, heavenly parijatas, luxuriant atimuktakas, and magnificent flowering ankolas. The trees were ever in season and always filled with fruits and flowers, and all manner of birds adorned them. Maddened peacocks cried out all around them, the peacocks' songs mixing with the melodies of the cuckoos, who seemed to be ever enchanted.

The houses were so clean they shone like mirrors. There were varieties of garden houses covered with flowering creepers. There was a charming variety of styles in the residential areas, with recreation areas atop the neighborhood hills.

There were varieties of ponds filled with the purest water. There were fabulous lakes perfumed with the scents of blossoming lotuses and moving with the elegant strokes of swans, cakravakas, and fine ducks. There were also variegated lotus-filled ponds, shaded by surrounding woods, and large, wide pools of great charm.

As they dwelled in that great country with their good and honest neighbors, the Pandavas felt ever-increasing pleasure. When Bhisma and King Dhrtarastra brought forth the principles of justice, the Pandavas became residents there in the land of Khandava Prastha. And boasting five great archers equal to Indra in prowess, the most glorious city shone like Bhogavati, the wondrous abode of the Nagas.

Mighty Krsna lived there for some time. Then He took permission from the Pandavas and returned with Balarama to the city of Dvaraka.

Hridayananda Dasa Goswami, who holds a Ph.D. in Indology from Harvard University, is Professor of Vaisnava Theology at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. He frequently speaks at universities and is translating the Mahabharata and other Sanskrit works.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

Every Town & Village

The worldwide activities of the International Society for Krishna consciousness (ISKCON)

United States

BTG columnist Ravi Gupta received an honorable mention by the newspaper USA Today in its "All-USA '97" college academic team search, which recognizes the country's best students. Ravi, age 15, is a third-year student at Boise State University in Idaho.

The Florida Journal of Anthropology has published a scholarly article on the Hare Krsna movement's daily prasadam distribution program on campus at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Conclusion: "The devotees are being generous without being wealthy, but for them it is a spiritual investment for themselves and for humanity." The program has been running continuously for the last twenty-five years.

The Vaisnava Institute for Higher Education (VIHE) held an eighteen-week course in the basics of Krsna conscious philosophy last summer in Towaco, New Jersey. The course is still offered at ISKCON's center in Vrndavana, India, where it began it 1986. It prepares students for the Bhakti-sastri degree, the first of three levels of scriptural attainment designated by Srila Prabhupada.

Devotees in Spanish Fork, Utah, have begun constructing a 10,000-square-foot temple complex atop a hill on a fifteen-acre site. The project is expected to take two years.

The rock band Aerosmith has apologized for an album cover that offended the sensibilities of devotees of Lord Krsna. The cover used computer graphics to turn a painting of Lord Krsna into a caricature. Thousands of Hindus protested to the Sony Corporation, the company that put out the album.

The use of the painting infringed upon the copyrights of the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International, the publishing arm of the Hare Krsna movement. Facing a lawsuit, Sony settled with the Book Trust out of court. The album cover will not be reprinted.

India and Nepal

ISKCON's Sridhara Swami gave the concluding speech at the Hope '97 World Conference on AIDS and Drugs, held in Mumbai last March. In attendance: more than two thousand scientists, doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, researchers, and social scientists, representing fifteen countries.

ISKCON Ahmedabad opened its grand new temple on April 16 and 17. Parama Pujya B. V. Puri Maharaja, Srila Prabhupada's respected godbrother, presided at the installation ceremonies for the Deities of Sri Gaura-Nitai, Sri Radha-Govinda, Sri Sita-Rama-Laksmana-Hanuman, and Sri Srinathaji. Chief Minister of Gujarat Shankersinha Waghela and the Ramayana storyteller Murari Bapu were present to grace the occasion.

The celebrations included a week of evening cultural performances by renowned artists. Meenakshi Sheshadri and Hema Malini presented devotional ballets. Bhupendra Singh, Manhar Udhas, Manju Batia, Pandit Jasraj, Purushottam Upadhyaya, Hansa Dave, and Anup Jalota were among the other prominent artists performing in honor of the new temple.

Look for pictures and more details in a coming issue.

ISKCON Vadodara plans to open its new temple in August, on Janmastami.

The devotees in Bangalore installed the Deities in ISKCON's majestic new Bangalore temple on April 30. South Indian brahmanas joined His Holiness Jayapataka Swami and ISKCON devotees from all over India to perform the sacred rituals.

In the main temple stand Sri Gaura-Nitai, Sri Radha-Krsnacandra, and Sri Krsna-Balarama. Separate shrines provide for the worship of Lord Nrsimhadeva and Lord Srinivasa (Venkatesvara Balaji). Week-long festivities celebrated the event.

The opening ceremonies for the entire temple complex are scheduled to take place on Janmastami. The temple is a massive structure entirely in the South Indian tradition yet bearing distinctive modern features. It is sure to become a Bangalore landmark.

Pictures and more details will appear soon in BTG.

ISKCON New Delhi has postponed the opening of its new temple complex till October.

ISKCON Jaipur has acquired a new site for its temple, near the present temple location.

ISKCON Allahabad has signed a fifty-year renewable lease for 2 ½ acres centrally located near the bank of the Yamuna. ISKCON plans to use the site for a temple.

The devotees at ISKCON's center in Bhubaneswar have installed a murti (carved form) of the late ISKCON spiritual leader Sripada Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja at his samadhi (the holy place of his burial). The installation, in April, marked the first anniversary of his disappearance.

ISKCON Patna dedicated the land for its "Glory of Bihar" cultural project, nearly two acres in a fast-developing area on the outskirts of the city. The dedication took place on Rama Navami, the appearance day of Lord Ramacandra.

The day before, ISKCON Patna held a Rathayatra festival, and in the evening Hema Malini staged a benefit performance for the new Patna project.

New Radha-Krsna Deities in Nepal were installed in April at ISKCON's Kathmandu center. The center overlooks the city from four acres of land on the holy Vishnumati River. The Deities are called Radha-Govinda Hari.

The TV serial showing Srila Prabhupada's life is moving up to a prime-time slot. The serial, Abhay Charan, will air on Sundays at 10:30 A.M. on Doordarshan 1. The serial will be shown from its beginning, starting on August 24, the day before Janmastami.

The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust has published Bhagavad-gita As It Is in Singhalese and five new books in Assamese.

ISKCON Calcutta's annual Jagannatha Rathayatra festival takes place on July 6.


Nearly six million newspapers throughout Scotland carried a pamphlet last year about Srila Prabhupada inserted by devotees in honor of the Srila Prabhupada Centennial.

ISKCON London will hold its annual Rathayatra festival on July 6.


Government leaders in northern Nigeria heard from ISKCON leader Bhakti Tirtha Swami last November. Bhakti Tirtha Swami met with the leaders of the Kaduna state at the State House and spoke on the inner development of man as the path to peace. The area has a history of ethnic violence.

The Caribbean

The prime minister of Guyana, Cheddy Jagan, met with Bhakti Tirtha Swami last spring shortly before Mr. Cheddy passed away. He received some of Srila Prabhupada's books and a copy of Bhakti Tirtha Swami's book Leadership for an Age of Higher Consciousness.

Padayatra Worldwide

Last year, with Padayatra walking festivals in more than thirty countries, devotees reached their goal of one hundred Padayatras by the end of the Srila Prabhupada Centennial year. On Srila Prabhupada's order, his followers had begun conducting Padayatras in 1975.

Use back button to return.

Return to top


The American poet Allen Ginsberg passed away last April in New York City at the age of seventy. By taking part in Srila Prabhupada's early kirtanas in New York, Mr. Ginsberg had helped draw attention to the fledgling Hare Krsna movement. He wrote a foreword to the first edition of Bhagavad-gita As It Is and helped spread the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra. Srila Prabhupada wrote in 1968, "He is very kind to chant Hare Krishna wherever he goes, as I have requested him to do."

Use back button to return.

Return to top

The Sense of Kindness

The Vedic king Rantideva showed what
realization is required for true compassion.

By Dvarakadhisa Devi Dasi

WHAT WOULD modern-day social services make of a man who gives away the food meant for his own children to satisfy the hunger of strangers? How would they judge this man, whose family "shivered for want of food," while he persisted in his unusual dedication to charitable impulses?

The story of this man, King Rantideva, who lived thousands of years ago, is told in the Ninth Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam.

King Rantideva would not endeavor for anything. He simply took whatever came to him through the guiding hand of providence. Sound like a handy excuse to avoid gainful employment?

In fact, Rantideva's apparent irresponsibility did not stem from a lack of concern for his family's welfare. He himself had no material needs, owing to a firm understanding that all things come by the inscrutable mercy of the Lord. If the Lord wanted to maintain him, then so be it. If not, then the king would accept whatever fate might come.

King Rantideva also understood that because the Supreme Lord is present in the heart of every living entity, all beings deserved the king's respect and compassion. So when he saw someone in need, he felt no regrets about giving away the food from his own family's table.

Honorable Guests

One time, Rantideva was ready to eat after having fasted for forty-eight days. Just as he and his family sat down for an opulent meal, a brahmana arrived. Rantideva was honored to receive the exalted guest and gave the brahmana some of his meal. The brahmana ate the food and left.

Rantideva divided among his family what was left and again prepared to eat. But just as he was to begin, a sudra (laborer) visitor arrived. Now, one might expect that in Vedic society a brahmana would be honored with a meal but a sudra would receive little prestige. But Rantideva did not see the sudra as lesser simply because of the sudra's social position. Rantideva gave the visitor a share of his food.

After the sudra had left, yet another guest arrived—a man surrounded by dogs.

The man called out, "O king, I and my company of dogs are very hungry. Please give us something to eat."

King Rantideva did indeed give them something to eat—all that was left of his meal. He then offered his obeisances to the man and his animals.

By now, all that was left for Rantideva was the drinking water. Just as he moved to drink, a candala (outcaste) appeared, tired and thirsty, and begged the king for some water.

The king did not hesitate. He not only gave the water but said, "I do not pray to the Supreme Personality of Godhead for the eight perfections of mystic yoga, nor for salvation from repeated birth and death. I want only to stay among all the living entities and suffer all distresses on their behalf, so that they may be free from suffering."

Rare Compassion

Picturing King Rantideva transplanted in modern society, we can imagine that his family would surely be labeled "dysfunctional," and that the king himself would be seen as seriously co-dependent. What sort of pleasure can one derive from suffering on behalf of others? After all, Rantideva didn't create the suffering in their lives. And he was a king—why not enjoy the opulence of that position? Obviously, the man lacked a sense of personal boundaries.

The activities of King Rantideva are especially perplexing because in this age to hear such genuine declarations of compassion is rare. We are accustomed to politicians who wrap themselves in compassionate statements until re-elected. We are suspicious of charitable organizations, since so many have been found corrupt. To be as selfless as King Rantideva means to set yourself up as bait for conartists and thieves. Charity is one thing, but if you don't look out for number one, who's going to do it for you?

Rantideva knew, however, that the Supreme Lord would look after him. "By offering my water to maintain the life of this poor candala, who is struggling to live, I have been freed from all hunger, thirst, fatigue, trembling of the body, moroseness, distress, lamentation, and illusion."

King Rantideva, as it turns out, was being tested by demigods like Lord Brahma and Lord Siva, who had come disguised as guests to interrupt the king's meal. But even when this was revealed to Rantideva, he did not take advantage of the situation by requesting boons from these exalted demigods. He didn't really care for anything they could offer. Srimad-Bhagavatam goes on to explain that everyone who followed the principles of King Rantideva became a pure devotee of the Lord, equally freed from the effects of material suffering.

Just as a runner trains for a marathon, we can train ourselves toward this enormous generosity of spirit by practicing compassion in our daily lives. True compassion comes by understanding the intimate spiritual connection all living beings share with the Supreme Lord. No one, no matter how fallen he or she might appear externally, is without such a relationship. When one performs kindness with this understanding, the act becomes more than pious duty—it becomes a source of the deepest pleasure.

Dvarakadhisa Devi Dasi is a frequent contributor to BTG. She and her family are part of the Hare Krsna community in Alachua, Florida, where she teaches in the elementary school.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

Exact Science In the Srimad-Bhagavatam

A unit of measure known as the yojana hints at advanced
astronomical knowledge in the ancient Vedic civilization.

By Sadaputa Dasa

AN ENCYCLOPEDIA article states that in early times length was defined by the breadth of the palm or hand, and the length from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger (the cubit). The article goes on to say, "Such standards were both changeable and perishable, and only within modern times have definite unchanging standards of measurement been adopted." (Microsoft Encarta)

The Middle Ages certainly saw many conflicting and poorly defined standards of weights and measures. But exact standards of measurement are not solely a modern invention.

Consider this example. In tenth-century England, King Athelstan decreed that the king's girth, in which the king's peace is in force, should extend from the royal residence for a distance of 3 miles, 3 furlongs, 9 acres, 9 feet, 9 palms, and 9 barleycorns. This sounds quaint. But it defines a circle with a diameter of 36,500 feet—almost exactly 1/10 of a degree of latitude in southern England.

Measuring with Latitude

To define a unit of length exactly, it is natural to use latitude as a standard, because latitude derives from the size of the earth, a constant that can be measured astronomically. So if a fire or invasion destroys the standard measuring rod stored in some government building, astronomical readings can be used to restore the lost standard. Of course, it seems unlikely that accurate astronomical measurements were being made in England in the days of King Athelstan. But if we look into the history of weights and measures, we find that distances were gauged in terms of latitude in ancient times, and medieval societies inherited many exact standards of measurement. These included volumes defined as length cubed and weights defined by filling such a volume with water.

The Greek astronomer Eratosthenes is usually credited with being the first to measure the size of the earth by observing latitudes (see Figure 1). He is said to have noted that the sun, when directly overhead at Syene at the Tropic of Cancer, casts a shadow of 7.2 degrees at Alexandria. Knowing the distance between Syene and Alexandria, he could compute the length of a degree of latitude and estimate the circumference of the earth.

But there is reason to believe that the size of the earth was known long before Eratosthenes. The Italian scholar Livio Stecchini has given extensive evidence that the ancient Egyptians laid out their country using latitude and longitude. He argues that they had accurate knowledge of the dimensions of the earth and that such knowledge was inherent in the design of the great pyramid at Giza. Since the great pyramid dates to about 2500 B.C., this implies that the earth was measured scientifically at least that long ago.

Defining the Yojana

Turning to India, we find a unit of distance—called the yojana—that at first glance seems as ill defined as the medieval English furlong or foot. The yojana is defined to be either 16,000 or 32,000 hastas, where a hasta, or cubit, is 24 angulas, or fingers. That there were at least two sizes for the yojana is upheld by the writings of classical Indian astronomers. The fifth-century astronomer Aryabhata used a yojana of about 8 miles, and the astronomy text Surya-siddhanta a yojana of roughly 5 miles.

The first hint of the ancient history of the yojana comes from Strabo, who describes the experiences of Megasthenes, a Greek ambassador to India in the period following Alexander the Great. Strabo cites Megasthenes as saying that along the royal road to the Indian capital of Palibothra (thought to be modern Patna), pillars were set up every 10 stadia (see Figure 2). The British scholar Alexander Cunningham argues that the pillars marked an interval of one krosa. Since there are traditionally 4 krosas per yojana, this implies 40 stadia per yojana. Stecchini gives 400 cubits per stadium, and this implies 16,000 cubits per yojana.

Since the smaller of the two definitions for the yojana assigns it 16,000 hastas, we can tentatively identify the hasta, or Indian cubit, with the Greek cubit. This unit is well known, and it enables us to compute the length of the yojana. The Greek cubit is 462.42 millimeters. This gives us a small yojana of about 4.6 miles, in rough agreement with texts such as the Surya-siddhanta.

Stecchini points out that the stadium was defined as 1/600 of a degree of latitude. This would mean that there are 15 small yojanas per degree. Likewise, there are 60 krosas per degree, or 1 krosa per minute.

Here we must make a technical observation about latitudes. Consider the earth to be a sphere, rotating on a line through the north and south poles called the polar axis. The latitude of a person facing north at some point in the northern hemisphere is the angle from his horizon up to the polar axis (see Figure 3). That angle is 0 degrees at the equator and grows to 90 degrees at the North Pole. The length of a degree of latitude is the distance a person would have to travel north for his latitude to increase by 1 degree. On a perfect sphere, this distance would be the same at all latitudes. But the earth is slightly flat at the poles and bulges at the equator. This makes for a degree of latitude slightly smaller at the equator than further north (see Figure 4).

Stecchini noted that the Greek stadium is 1/600 of a degree of latitude at Mycenae in Greece, and he argued that it was deliberately defined this way in ancient times. I propose that to define the yojana in India the degree of latitude at the equator was used. This means that the hasta should be 460.7 millimeters instead of 462.4 millimeters (and the yojana would still be about 4.6 miles). I shall point out below why this fine distinction is important.

At first glance, the yojana of 32,000 hastas should be twice as long as this, or about 9.2 miles. But there is reason to think that these two yojanas use different standards for the hasta (see Figures 5 and 6).

Hiuen Thsang, a Buddhist pilgrim who visited India in the seventh century, wrote of yojanas in terms of a Chinese unit of measure called the li. He reported that a yojana consisted of 40 li according to Indian tradition but the measure in customary use equaled 30 li and the measure given in sacred texts was only 16. The li has taken on many values during China's history. But using values for the Thang dynasty, when Hiuen Thsang lived, we can compute that the yojana of 16 li matches the small yojana of 4.6 miles.

Could the yojana of 30 li match the larger yojana of 32,000 hastas? If it does, then the larger yojana has to use a slightly smaller hasta, 30/32 as long as the hasta in the shorter yojana. Multiplying our hasta of 460.7 millimeters by 30/32, we get a smaller hasta of 431.9 millimeters. The larger yojana of 32,000 hastas then comes to 8.59 miles. At the equator, that is 1/8 of a degree of latitude.

In an investigation to be reported in a later article, I found that the geocentric orbits of the planets Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn align closely with the dimensions of dvipas in Bhumandala. Bhumandala and dvipas are features of cosmic geography defined in the Fifth Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam. To align planetary orbits with dvipas we need to be able to convert the yojanas used in the Bhagavatam into the miles or kilometers of modern astronomy. I found that the alignment of orbits and dvipas works well if we assume about 8-1/8 miles per yojana.

To compare orbits with the structure of Bhumandala, I used modern ephemeris programs for orbital calculations. I was most interested in the epoch of about 3000 B.C., the traditional time of Krsna's manifest pastimes on earth, as described in the Bhagavatam. It turns out that at this epoch the planetary orbits align closely with dvipas in Bhumandala at a sharply defined value of 8.575 miles per yojana. This is very close to the figure of 8.59 miles based on the hasta of 432 millimeters. So the value of the yojana we get by historical research is confirmed by completely independent calculations having to do with planetary orbits and the astronomy of the Bhagavatam.

Familiar Numbers

As explained above, we get the larger yojana of 32,000 hastas (and 1/8 of a degree of latitude) by using a hasta of 431.9 millimeters. This can be rounded off to 432, a familiar number in Vedic literature. (For example, 432,000 is the number of years in Kali-yuga, the current age.) It turns out that this familiar number may not be simply coincidental.

First of all, the meter itself derives from a measurement of latitude. The meter (one thousand millimeters) was originally defined in 1791 as 1 ten-millionth of the distance from the equator to the north pole through the meridian of Paris. That distance has been remeasured since then, but the change amounts to a tiny fraction of a percent.

So accepting for the larger yojana a hasta of 432 millimeters, we find that this hasta comes very close to 108 ten-billionths of the circumference of the earth through the poles (see Figure 7). (This is because 432 = 4 ´ 108 and there are 4 quadrants from equator to pole in the circumference.)

Another 108 comes up if we consider the mean diameter of the earth, 7917.5 miles, or 1,728.5 "small yojanas." This is close to 1728, or 16 ´ 108. (Recall the 1,728,000 years of Satya-yuga, the first in the cycle of the four ages.)

These observations suggest a simple experiment. Try setting the mean diameter of the earth to exactly 1,728 small yojanas of 16,000 hastas. Suppose that 30/32 of a hasta gives a smaller hasta exactly 108 ten-billionths of the circumference of the earth through the poles. If we multiply it all out, we find that the ratio between circumference and mean diameter comes to 3.13967.

This ratio expresses the degree of polar flattening of the earth (see Figure 8). (If the earth were a perfect sphere, the number would be p—the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter.) As it turns out, 3.13967 is within 0.006% of the actual ratio, as calculated using modern data. That this calculation works out so well indicates strongly that we are dealing with design rather than coincidence.

In summary, simple arguments from the testimony of Megasthenes and Hiuen Thsang enable us to reconstruct two closely related yojana values. Both are precisely defined as fractions of a degree of latitude at the equator. Both relate to the earth by multiples of 108 (namely 432 and 1728), and this relationship gives us a very accurate estimate of the polar flattening of the earth. Also, the length of the larger yojana is confirmed independently by an investigation comparing modern astronomy with the cosmology of the Bhagavatam.

The Great Pyramid

Let us return briefly to our replacement of the Greek cubit with a slightly smaller unit linked to a degree of latitude at the equator. All the calculations above would go through if we used the Greek cubit directly and did not make this substitution. But the errors would be larger. So I prefer to match the two yojana lengths to the equator rather than to Greece.

Curiously, we can find support for this in the design of the great pyramid of Egypt (see Figure 9). In 1925 an engineer named J. H. Cole made an accurate survey of the great pyramid using up-to-date instruments. He found that twice the perimeter is 1,842.91 meters. For comparison, a minute of latitude at the equator—or 1 krosa of the small yojana—is 1,842.93 meters. In other words, the perimeter of the great pyramid is almost exactly ½ krosa. Likewise, we find that the hasta of the small yojana goes almost exactly 500 times into each of the sides of the pyramid.

The Greek cubit and stadium, however, fit the pyramid less closely. (There is a 0.4% error.) So it would seem that the great pyramid was designed using units linked to the degree of latitude at the equator.

There is a further astronomical support for the length of the larger yojana. If we divide an up-to-date value for the distance from the earth to the sun by this length, the result is 10,821.6 thousand yojanas. This figure is close to 10,800, another multiple of the familiar 108. In a later article, I will show that this distance also fits naturally into the system of dvipas in Bhumandala, and I will also give many examples of 108 in astronomy.

Wise Ancients

If the yojana was exactly defined as a fraction of the equatorial degree of latitude, then the people who defined it must have known that the earth is a globe. Indeed, they appear to have understood the dimensions of the earth's equatorial bulge.

Who were these people, and when did they live? The evidence considered here puts them at least as far back as the time of the great pyramid—a time when people supposedly believed that the earth is flat. Yet the correlation between planetary orbits and features of Bhumandala shows that the "earth mandala" of the Bhagavatam was far from being a naive flat earth. Its connection with planetary orbits shows that Bhumandala represents the plane of the solar system, which (if we discount the slight inclinations of the planetary orbits) is actually flat.

The Bhagavatam speaks of an ancient Vedic world civilization. Although the evidence we have looked at here does not prove that such a civilization existed, it does show that some people in the distant past attained an unexpectedly high level of scientific knowledge. Whether they lived in the East, the West, or both is hard to say. We do know that some evidence for this civilization is preserved in texts from India such as the Srimad-Bhagavatam, and other evidence may be found in ancient ruins of the West. Perhaps there was an advanced civilization that was worldwide in its influence. It is worth our while to be on the alert for other evidence that may shed light on this hidden chapter in human history.

Sadaputa Dasa (Richard L. Thompson) earned his Ph.D. in mathematics from Cornell University. He is the author of several books, of which the most recent is Alien Identities: Ancient Insights into Modern UFO Phenomena.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

Coming to Krsna

The Search for the Saintly Pilgrims

"I felt as if those monks were kindred spirits, as if I had been there myself at some distant forgotten time."

By Phalini Devi Dasi

ON A CRISP, sunny October morning in 1958 I sat in my third-grade classroom at St. Philomena Elementary School in Denver, Colorado. Our regular teacher was absent that day, and a substitute had come to take her place. As soon as we'd recited the Pledge of Allegiance and were quietly seated at our desks, she began to speak about something I'd never heard mentioned in our Catholic parochial school: she revealed to us that there were cultures in the world where people worshiped God differently from our Roman Catholic parents. She boldly told us about the different religions and spiritual paths of the world. I was fascinated.

I long remembered one religious path she spoke about. She told us of a place called India, where there are monks who wear robes, shave their heads, and travel barefoot from temple to temple, repeatedly prostrating themselves on the ground, in full submission to God. They lie flat out and place a small stone where their outstretched arms reach. Then they get up, place their heels where the stone lies, and again prostrate themselves, offering obeisances to God and placing the stone at arm's length. In this way, slowly, slowly, with great devotion, reverence, and humility, they walk from temple to temple, chanting God's names all the time.

Although I had never heard anything like this before, a strange sensation of familiarity came over me, the most powerful deja vu I had ever experienced in my young life. I felt as if momentarily transported to that place called India, to that dusty road where those saintly monks chant the name of God and walk from temple to temple. And I felt completely at home there, as if those monks were kindred spirits, as if I had been there myself at some distant forgotten time. I felt I had known these holy men. But how could that be?

I told no one about how our substitute teacher's words had affected me that morning, but instead kept the image of those saintly pilgrims in my heart, hoping to someday meet them again.

During my grade-school years I found few friends to share my enthusiasm in spiritual pursuits. Most of my peers had no interest in rising early to attend Mass on weekdays, or going to the church after school to pray and meditate. So I was somewhat of a loner; my fellow students considered me a fanatic about spiritual things.

Always longing to know more about God and seeking more answers than the Bible or theologians could give me, I began in my youth to search elsewhere, beyond the religion of my birth, beyond the creed of my mother, who was impatient with my wanting to understand anything outside Roman Catholic doctrine.

As a senior in high school I would steal off to the local bookstore and pick up books like At the Feet of the Master and Be Here Now. These encouraged me, but still were not completely satisfying. I felt there was more to spiritual knowledge than these books offered.

On My Own

After graduating from high school I was glad to be away from home and free to explore life on my own. I dove into Nietzsche and Camus, hoping to find answers at the University of Wyoming library to my philosophical and spiritual questions, to find my niche among the world views of the greatest philosophers of our time. Though I was thirsty for truth, I found no spiritual identity for myself in those volumes of nebulous words. Instead, I became an atheist from reading Nietzsche's arguments, which I could find no one to refute. Having abandoned all religious affiliations, I then had a fleeting affair with drugs, alcohol, and the boy next door.

Spring of 1971 found me bored, pregnant, and disgusted with my hedonistic life at the University of Wyoming. I decided to quit college and go have my baby in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Plenty of progressive thinkers lived there, the weather was tolerable, and I was full of questions about religion, philosophy, and the meaning and purpose of life.

After giving birth to my son Benjamin, I decided to move back to Cheyenne, Wyoming, to live with my parents. Although the prospect of living with my religiously intolerant mother was distasteful, that seemed easier than trying to make it on my own somewhere. My parents would help me raise my son, and I could pursue my spiritual search in the quiet solitude of their home. So my baby and I settled into a routine there, while I continued in the privacy of my room to explore different philosophies and religious ideas.

I gradually came around to believing in God again, but this time with a much broader perspective after all the reading and soul-searching I had done over the last couple of years. I began praying fervently to Jesus to guide me to the Absolute Truth. More than ever, I had a burning desire to understand who I was, what the purpose of human life was, who God was, and how I could serve Him in this world. I was ready for something that would radically change my life.

The Hare Krsnas on TV

While living at my parents' home I would sometimes flip on the television to watch talk shows. One program I liked aired from Denver, just a hundred miles away, and was hosted by a young woman named Beverly Martinez. She was thoughtful and tried to find guests who would be of interest to a wide range of viewers.

One morning she was interviewing two young people wearing robes and looking like angels without wings. I had never seen such effulgent people in my life. They actually glowed. They didn't appear to be hippies or flower children but seemed to possess an unearthly wisdom and peacefulness for which I had long been searching. Miss Martinez said they were from a religious group called the Hare Krsnas.

The interview was short, and in a moment they were gone. I had been so enamoured by their radiant appearance I hadn't thought to write down the group's name. The screen left no address, phone number, or even a clue as to how to spell Hare Krsna. How could I find these people?

I scanned a Denver phone book at the local library and phoned alternative religious organizations. When I talked to a young Buddhist monk, I tried my best to describe to him what I was looking for. After I had made an awkward attempt at pronouncing the group's name, he thought for a moment and then suggested I might be looking for the Hare Krsnas.

Yes! That was the name I'd heard on the talk show. He said I'd probably find them at the airport. I thanked him, scratched the name "Hare Krishna" on a piece of paper, and tucked it into my pocket.

I had no car of my own, so I asked my brother Don to take me down to Denver's Stapleton Airfield. As soon as we had parked in the huge lot and entered the main building, there they were. I recognized the robes, the mark on the forehead, and the bright faces of the Hare Krsnas. There were two of them—a man with a shaved head wearing orange cloth and a woman in a peach-colored sari. They carried books and incense.

I was pleased to see that the woman was one of the two guests from the Beverly Martinez show. She was busy speaking with a traveler so I stopped to talk with the other devotee, a short man who introduced himself as Dattatreya Dasa and spoke very quickly with a curious enthusiasm.

He apologized for being unable to sit and talk with me and answer my many questions. Instead, he placed a book in my hands. He said that by reading the book I would understand the answers to questions like Who am I? Why am I here? Who is God? How can I serve Him?

I had never seen anything like this book in my life. On its golden cover was a most amazingly colorful picture of five effulgent persons with large, beautiful eyes. Dattatreya asked if I might be able to offer a little donation for the book, but I hadn't come prepared. He ended up giving me the copy of Teachings of Lord Caitanya and a stick of strawberry incense for all the money my brother and I had in our pockets—$2.38.

I thanked him, returned his gesture of folded palms, and floated out of the airport in a blissful bubble. I read all the way back home to Cheyenne, retired at once to my bedroom, shut the door, and read for hours, drinking in the mystery of Lord Caitanya's teachings.

Here was the philosophy I had been searching for. Here were the answers to all the questions I had been pondering for so long. Here was the religious path I had heard about way back in third grade. Here were the monks in robes who chanted the names of God and prostrated themselves on the earth in absolute surrender as they journeyed from temple to temple. Here were the holy names of God that no one in the Catholic faith or anyone else could ever teach me.

After my first reading of Teachings of Lord Caitanya, I felt such gratitude for this treasure trove of spiritual knowledge that I bowed my head to the floor and wept tears of relief at having at last found my spiritual path.

My mother thought I had gone crazy. I was spending so many hours reading the book over and over again and praying and chanting and meditating. She would criticize me and try to force me to give up my interest in this weird new infatuation. She even tried to sneak the book away and burn it. Those were bittersweet times—discovering the Hare Krsnas, beginning to learn their philosophy, and trying to chant the holy names in an atmosphere of opposition.

At Krsna's Temple

After reading Teachings of Lord Caitanya and chanting the holy names, I felt I just had to be with Krsna's devotees. I bought an Amtrak train ticket and told my parents that Benjy and I were going to visit my cousin Dave and his wife, Betsy, in Denver.

From Dave's house we took a bus to the temple. I was so excited my heart was pounding. My little boy had no idea where we were going.

As soon as we got to the temple a kind devotee greeted us warmly and gave us a little tour. The temple was small and bare-looking, not at all what I had expected. But our host made us feel quite welcome. He introduced us to other devotees, took the time to patiently and expertly answer whatever philosophical questions I had, and then smilingly handed me a broom. He said that if one performs a simple service like sweeping but does it with love for Krsna, or God, one becomes purified and eligible to return home to our original place in the spiritual world.

After a few blissful hours of service at the temple, we got back on the bus with a promise to return as soon as possible. The devotees told us we could come back anytime. We were back the next day.

There to greet us this time was Pranavallabha Dasa, who gave me my first japa beads. (I discovered much later that I had gone to school with him several years before.) He kindly taught me how to chant on the beads, and I went back to my cousin's place that evening excited to begin chanting rounds.

The next day, my son and I again rode the bus to the temple. This time we met Puja Dasi, who had me help her clean the bathroom. She taught me how to sing the holy names while I worked, and we sang together, cleaning the bathroom in great happiness.

Puja Dasi called us Bhaktin Francie and Bhakta Benjy and invited us to come back the following Sunday. Kurusrestha Dasa, the temple president, and his fiancee, Devi Dasi, were getting married, and there was to be a special wedding ceremony as well as a Sunday Feast.

We returned on Sunday. By the end of the fire sacrifice, the arati (Deity worship ceremony), the booming kirtana, the lecture, and the feast, I was thoroughly convinced that here was the life I wanted to live. I was ready to move into the temple right then and there. I knew now that I wanted more than anything to live with Krsna's devotees. I was advised to approach the temple president with my request.

Puja led me to a small out-of-the-way room off a dimly-lit hallway. She knocked softly on the half-open door, and a deep voice greeted us from inside. She opened the door wide enough for me to see Kurusrestha seated behind his presidential desk with his new bride. My throat tightened. I felt awkward and guessed that perhaps this wasn't the most appropriate time to discuss moving into the temple.

After briefly introducing me as Bhaktin Francie, Puja respectfully left.

Standing in the doorway with my child in my arms, I swallowed hard, took a deep breath, and spoke from my heart. I told them I loved the philosophy of Krsna consciousness and wanted very much to live with Krsna's devotees here at the Denver temple.

Kurusrestha's response was a source of both pleasure and pain for me. He commended my fervent desire to live with Krsna's devotees. But he said that my son might be at a disadvantage since there were no other children living at the Denver temple. He advised that I consider moving to the Los Angeles temple, where my son would have many little devotee friends. I was sad to think of leaving, but I felt that Krsna was speaking through Kurusrestha. He was right. My little boy needed other children to grow up with.

I thanked all my new friends and at once started making preparations to move to Los Angeles.

After returning to Cheyenne, I sold everything I could, and my baby and I hitched a midnight ride out to Los Angeles with my brother Jim in his old dilapidated truck. Everything I hadn't sold was piled in the back of the truck as we headed for the West Coast.

I started chanting sixteen rounds the night we began our journey. When we pulled up to the temple two days later, we met Gopavrndapala Dasa, who had given me directions to the temple by phone before we left Cheyenne. Soon after, a sweet devotee named Karunamayi Dasi agreed to take in Benjy and me and let us live with her and her twin boys, who were the same age as my son.

Now we were among kindred spirits. At the Los Angeles temple, called New Dvaraka, we found ourselves living right in the midst of those bright-faced devotees of Krsna, those saintly monks I had heard about so long ago, who daily bow down in full surrender to the Lord and who constantly chant His holy names. Yes, we were home.

On the morning of November 3, 1974, at the lotus feet of Sri Sri Rukmini-Dvarakadhisa, I was formally initiated as a disciple of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. That was the most momentous day of my life. But when I look back on the events leading up to that wonderful day, I see how Lord Krsna had been working in my life from the very beginning.

Phalini Devi Dasi writes devotional songs and performs them with guitar and piano. She has produced an album titled "Prabhupada and Other Songs" (see page 31). She lives in Sacramento, California, with her husband, Haripada Dasa, and their two children, Kamalini and Nitai Prana.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

Calendar Close-up

Lokanatha Gosvami
Disappearance Day: July 27

Lokanatha Gosvami was a direct associate and pure devotee of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. From early childhood he had no interest in family life.

One day, while still an adolescent, Lokanatha left his home and parents to take shelter of Lord Caitanya. When Lord Caitanya saw Lokanatha, the Lord embraced him with great affection. The Lord then ordered him to go to Vrndavana to uncover the lost sites of Lord Krsna's pastimes.

Lokanatha, along with his dear friend Bhugarbha Gosvami, went to Vrndavana to carry out the order of Lord Caitanya. Lokanatha Gosvami never returned to family life.

Once, while staying in one of the forests of Vrndavana, Lokanatha desired to worship a Deity. Understanding the mind of His exalted devotee, Lord Krsna appeared and gave Lokanatha a Deity of Himself. Lord Krsna named the Deity Radhavinoda, and Lokanatha Gosvami carried Him at all times in a bag hung from his neck. The Deity is still worshiped in Jaipur, Rajasthan.

Lokanatha Gosvami had no desire for name and fame. When Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami was going to write the Caitanya-caritamrta, a major biography on Lord Caitanya, he approached Lokanatha Gosvami for blessings. Lokanatha gave them, but he wouldn't allow his name to be mentioned in the book.

Lokanatha Gosvami initiated only one disciple—the great devotee-poet Narottama Dasa Thakura, who conquered Lokanatha with his humility and attitude of service.

Research by Syamasundari Dasi

Girls Vaisnava Academy, Alachua, Florida

Use back button to return.

Return to top

Vedic Thoughts

According to our time scale, 4,320,000,000 years constitute only twelve hours of Brahma, and Brahma lives one hundred of his years. Yet the whole life of Brahma is contained within one breath of Maha-Visnu. That Maha-Visnu is but a partial manifestation of Krsna.

His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Teachings of Lord Caitanya, Introduction

Out of fear of the Supreme Lord, the wind blows, the sun distributes its heat, and death chases everyone.

Taittiriya Upanisad 2.8

Krsna is the supreme will in Himself, and He exercises His supreme power at His pleasure, which submits to no law, because all law has proceeded from His will and power.

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu: His Life and Precepts

What is the value of a prolonged life which is wasted, inexperienced by years in this world? Better a moment of full consciousness, because that gives one a start in searching after his supreme interest.

Srila Sukadeva Gosvami
Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.1.12

A learned man sees all women other than his wife as his mother, others' possessions as lumps of clay, and all living beings as himself.

Canakya Pandita

Although fixed in His abode, the Personality of Godhead is swifter than the mind and can overcome all others running. The powerful demigods cannot approach Him. Although in one place, He controls those who supply the air and rain. He surpasses all in excellence.

Sri Isopanisad, Mantra 4

Life's desires should never be directed towards sense gratification. One should desire only a healthy life, or self-preservation, since a human being is meant for inquiry about the Absolute Truth. Nothing else should be the goal of one's works.

Sri Suta Gosvami
Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.2.10

Krsna will be merciful to us and we shall be blessed with the gift of devotion to His divine feet the very day that we are delivered from the evil desire of seeking advantages and honors from others.

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura

Use back button to return.

Return to top