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Volume 31, Number 05, 1997


From the Editor
The Taste of Krsna
Remembering Srila Prabhupada
Lessons from the Road
Lord Krsna's Cuisine
India's Heritage
Schooling Krsna's Children
The Vedic Observer
Euthanasia: Ending the Pain?
The Art of Puskara Dasa
Coming to Krsna
Calendar Close-up
The Land, the Cows, and Krsna
Mahabharata—The History of Greater India
Every Town & Village
Srila Prabhupada Speaks Out
Bhakti-yoga at Home
A Glorious Day For Gujarat
Vedic Thoughts

© 2005 The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International

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.

From the Editor

Mars Bars: Why Mars? Why indeed?

SO NOW WE'RE HEADED for Mars. Forget the moon. Mars is the place to go.

But why?

Hey, we're exploring, we're questing for knowledge, we're searching for signs of life out there. It's science—get it?

So every twenty-six months between now and the year 2005 we're going to send machines up there. And 2012 is the target date for landing the first man on Mars.

But I have a question: What happened to the moon?

When I was a kid, back in the sixties, the place to go was the moon. It was the same story: We were exploring, we were questing, we were on our way to answering age-old questions about life and the universe.

So we spent billions of dollars, we brought back some rocks, and then we sent some guys up there.

Great. But why aren't we going back? The way America's space wizards used to tell it, by the year 2000 the moon was going to be a regular tourist stop. We'd have our colonies there. Russians and Americans would be finding peace and friendship on the moon.

The moon! They promised us the moon!

But now, nearly three decades later, the moon is passe. No colonies, no busy little camps of scientists up there, no prospecting for minerals, no military installations, no moon shots, no nothing.

Instead: "Hi ho! Hi ho! It's off to Mars we go." (Price tag: half a trillion dollars.)

There's one person who wouldn't be surprised, and that's Srila Prabhupada, the spiritual master who brought us the Hare Krsna movement. In the days when the whole earth was watching man's first steps on the moon, Srila Prabhupada said it was bunk.

According to the Vedas, Srila Prabhupada said, the moon isn't such an easy place to land. The moon, say the Vedas, is Candraloka, a heavenly planet. And it's not cold and desolate—it's full of life. It's an abode of pious souls, born there as a reward for the noble deeds of former lives.

And those pious souls on the moon aren't keen on receiving tourists, especially not low-minded beer-drinking meat-eating Americans on a mission to "conquer space." Even to get into America, Srila Prabhupada noted, you need a visa. Try to bust your way in, and you're up against the American government. No documents, no permission, and you're blocked out. Then why should the moon be so easy?

Srila Prabhupada's conclusion: We didn't go. Either it was a hoax, or the space conquerors could have veered off course—or been purposely diverted—and had landed, bewildered, on the dark Vedic planet Rahu. Or who knows what. But one thing was sure: they didn't go.

That was a hard message to swallow. Hadn't we seen them on the moon with our very eyes? But Srila Prabhupada considered our eyes undependable. On television you can see a gorilla climb the Empire State Building, he argued. And do we have to believe it's real?

The scientists may trust their eyes, he said. We trust the Vedas.

And for the next several years he kept challenging us with a question: If we really went to the moon, why aren't we going back?

Even now, a quarter century later, when we've got our eyes set on Mars, it's a question he could still be asking.

—Jayadvaita Swami

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The President of India,
Dr. Shanker Dayal Sharma,
Opens New Cultural Center

On May 31, the President of India gave this address at the Inauguration of the Centre for Advancement of Culture of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. (A pictorial article on the new center will appear in our next issue.)

IT GIVES ME IMMENSE pleasure to associate myself with the inauguration of the Centre for Advancement of Culture of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) here in Bangalore. This magnificent complex, a blend of tradition and modernity, is a symbol of the dedication and devotion of ISKCON to the cause of bhakti and service. It is an architectural landmark. I congratulate all those who have worked tirelessly to set up this splendid edifice.

ISKCON has spread the message of bhakti throughout the world. Over the years, the Society has provided relief and succor and has brought peace and harmony into the lives of millions of people. It has grown and flourished in many countries and continents. On the occasion of the birth centenary of the founder of ISKCON, Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, I pay my tributes to this enlightened soul. Following in the footsteps of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Srila Prabhupada, with determination and devotion, has propagated the message of our ethos of peace and harmony.

In today's world, there appears to be a relentless and single-minded pursuit of material wealth and prosperity. Though this has resulted in an improvement in the standards of living of people, particularly in the so-called developed Western countries, the spiritual needs, requirements, and aspirations are yet to be met. Material wealth has not necessarily brought happiness and peace of mind. Instead, it has been accompanied by considerable mental stress and tensions and has led to a spiral of insatiable greed and desires which remain unfulfilled. The pursuit of hedonistic pleasures with no regard to the needs of other people, especially those that are less privileged, has brought in its wake discord, discontent, and disharmony.

It is in such a context that our tradition with its philosophy of love, compassion, nonviolence, and service has acquired new meaning, relevance, and significance. The approach of bhakti or devotion not merely to God but to all beings who belong to God, and of selfless service, has been preached by our seers and saint-singers from remote antiquity.

The bhakti movement has flourished in every part of India. The songs of the Alvars and the teachings of Sri Ramanujacarya and Madhvacarya in the south, the bhajanas and dohas of Surdas, Sant Kabir and Mira Bai in the north, the abhangas of Sant Tukaram and Sant Jnanesvar in the west, and the kirtanas of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Sankaradeva, and Madhavadeva in the east are still sung and recited in millions of homes.

In eastern India, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu propagated the idea of the oneness of man before God. Bhakti to God manifested itself in love, compassion, and service. It did not recognize any barriers of caste or creed. The repeated chanting of the divine name, individually and collectively, was one of the paths to salvation. In his Siksastaka, Caitanya Mahaprabhu sings:

namnam akari bahudha nija-sarva-saktis
tatrarpita niyamitah smarane na kalah

(God has expressed His own name in various ways; also He has bestowed all His powers in that name.)

na dhanam na janam na sundarim
kavitam va jagad-isa kamaye
mama janmani janmanisvare
bhavatad bhaktir ahaituki tvayi

(O Lord of the earth, I do not pray for earthly desires. My only prayer is, God, let my unqualified devotion be to You in all my births.) Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's kirtanas are sung by thousands of devotees not merely in India but, due to the efforts of ISKCON, throughout the world. The bhakti-marga propagated by Srila Prabhupada has struck a sympathetic chord among the people which has resonated across the ocean and continents. Swamiji's approach is remarkable for its simplicity. It is not a rigid ritualistic or merely intellectual approach. It is personal, intuitive, emotional faith based on a passionate love and adoration of the Lord. This is reflected in the singing of kirtanas and in living a good and decent life in harmony with oneself, with society, and with nature.

Srila Prabhupada's work has given new meaning and direction to the lives of thousands of people. In India, the activities of ISKCON are rekindling the latent knowledge and awareness among our own people of our great spiritual and cultural heritage. I believe deeply that, in our efforts for modernization and growth, we must never forget the philosophy of humanism of our civilization. There can be no real progress and prosperity, there can be no balanced material and spiritual development unless and until the poorest of the poor and weakest of the weak in our country prosper and progress. This can happen only by re-instilling among our people the moral and ethical values of our ethos, of love and devotion, compassion and selfless service. Only by helping others can we achieve true happiness and balance in our lives.

With these words, I have great pleasure in inaugurating the Centre for Advancement of Culture of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. I wish the Centre many years of fruitful endeavor in the service of society.

Jai Hind!

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Keep Up the Standard

Around June 1, 1974, I received a letter from Srila Prabhupada in which he wrote, "I have just received a copy of BTG 62, and I wish to express to you how pleased I am with the layout and design of the magazine. I have been especially admiring the pictures in the story of our Los Angeles center, and the way the pictures are placed and the use of the color throughout the magazine is very pleasing to me. ... Try to keep up this present standard and think of new ways to make it always fresh and attractive."

As I went through BTG May/June '97, I couldn't help but reread that letter and think that seeing this issue Prabhupada would have also offered this praise to you.

Indra Pramada Dasa adhikari
San Diego, California, USA

Indra Pramada Dasa was the designer of Back to Godhead in the early and mid-seventies.—Editor.

India First

Now that BTG is being printed in India, I think it is appopriate to recognize the actual center of the Krsna consciousness movement. The center is not North America. In the listing of centers around the world and in Every Town & Village, North America is listed first, then Europe, then Russia, and somewhere down there, India.

I think the order should be changed to indicate that India, the birthplace of Lord Caitanya, is the actual center of the Krsna consciousness movement. As the order stands now, it has—unconsciously, I assume—a taint of American national spirit.

Lalitanatha Dasa adhikari

OUR REPLY: We agree. The revised order—India first—starts with this issue.

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:

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The Taste of Krsna

The Supreme Lord reveals Himself to us
through His countless energies.

A lecture given in Mumbai, India, on February 23, 1974

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

raso 'ham apsu kaunteya
prabhasmi sasi-suryayoh
pranavah sarva-vedesu
sabdah khe paurusam nrsu

"O son of Kunti, Arjuna, I am the taste of water, the light of the sun and moon, the syllable om in the Vedic mantras. I am the sound in ether and ability in man."—Bhagavad-gita 7.8

THIS VERSE DESCRIBES the all-pervasive nature of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. We should mark the important word in this verse: aham. Aham ("I am") means that Krsna is a person. Krsna never says, "I am impersonal." The impersonal aspect is a feature of Krsna, which He refers to in the Ninth Chapter. Krsna says, maya tatam idam sarvam jagad avyakta-murtina: "I am all-pervasive by My energy."

We have already explained that Krsna has multi-energies. Parasya saktir vividhaiva sruyate. The Vedic version is that the Absolute Truth, the Supreme Person, has multi-energies. The Visnu Purana states that whatever we experience is simply Krsna's energy. We can experience Krsna by His energy, just as we can experience the sun by its heat and light. Although we are ninety-three million miles away from the sun, by the sun's energy—heat and light—we can understand the constitution of the sun globe.

The Upanisads state:

na tasya karyam karanam ca vidyate
na tat-samas cabhyadhikas ca drsyate
parasya saktir vividhaiva sruyate
svabhaviki jnana-bala-kriya ca

The Supreme Lord has nothing to do, and no one is equal to Him or greater than Him. He hasn't got to do anything, because He has so many energies. Svabhaviki jnana-bala-kriya ca. Everything is being done by His energy perfectly.

The Supreme Lord's energy is working even in the water, so you can perceive His energy within the water. We are daily using water. We are tasting water. So you can perceive Krsna's presence, Krsna's all-pervasiveness, even while you drink water. In the taste of water, Krsna says, "Here I am."

That taste is Krsna's impersonal feature, but behind the impersonal feature is the person. Krsna says mayadhyaksena prakrtih: "Material nature is under My supervision." Water is one of the products of material nature, but behind the existence of water is Krsna.

You can understand Krsna by studying His energy. Therefore Krsna says, "Although you cannot see Me just now, you can see Me in these energies."

In the preliminary stage no one can see Krsna, although Krsna is present everywhere. Andantara-stha-paramanu-cayantara-stham. He is present even within the atom. But it requires qualified eyes to see Him, or purified senses to perceive Him.

That is stated in the sastra, or scripture: atah sri-krsna-namadi na bhaved grahyam indriyaih. "With our present senses we cannot understand the holy transcendental name of Krsna." Sometimes people misunderstand us—"Why are these people chanting Hare Krsna?" An ordinary man, or ordinary senses, cannot understand the value or the nature of the Lord's name.

Namadi means "beginning from the name." We can realize God by chanting His name. Nama cintamanih krsnas caitanya-rasa-vigrahah. These are the descriptions of the sastras. Nama, the holy name of the Lord, is completely spiritual. Nama cintamanih krsnas caitanya-rasa-vigrahah: Krsna's name is as good as Krsna, and those who chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra without offense taste spiritual nectar. Srila Rupa Gosvami has written, "If I could possess millions of ears and millions of tongues, then I could enjoy the transcendental taste in chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra."

But tasting the holy name is not possible for an ordinary human being in the beginning. Therefore sastra says, atah sri-krsna-namadi na bhaved grahyam indriyaih. Our unpurified senses cannot appreciate the value of the holy name of Krsna. Nama-adi means that our realization of so many things begins with the Hare Krsna maha-mantra: Krsna's qualities, His pastimes, His form, His activities. The more we chant Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, the more we become purified.

To chant the holy names of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra involves no loss or expenditure. Anyone can chant. The holy name has been freely distributed by Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Anyone can take the opportunity to chant Hare Krsna.

Sometimes we find friends on the street who, simply by seeing us, chant "Hare Krsna." That is a good sign. They are learning the value of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra.

In this age the chanting of the holy name is very, very important for God realization. The sastra says, kalau nasty eva nasty eva nasty eva gatir anyatha: "In Kali-yuga [the present age] there is no way to attain the goal of life except by chanting the holy names of the Lord."

If you are not inclined to chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, then try to understand Krsna as He describes Himself in today's verse. This is the process given by Sri Krsna Himself. Raso 'ham apsu kaunteya. You have to drink water; you cannot avoid it. Apsu means any liquid. Whether you drink milk or even wine, you get some taste in any liquid. So Krsna says, raso 'ham apsu kaunteya. "My dear Kaunteya, Arjuna, I am the taste in that liquid."

Just see how easily it can be done. No one goes without drinking some liquid. Coca-cola or water or this or that—you must drink something. So Krsna says, "I am that taste."

"Here Is Krsna"

So where is the difficulty in understanding Krsna?

People say, "Can you show me Krsna?"

"All right. Here is Krsna. See."

We all use the word "see" to mean direct perception in some way. When I say, "Let me see what this mango is like," I mean that I want to taste it—because I am seeing it already. In this case "seeing" means tasting. We have so many senses, and we "taste" through different senses. By the senses we get experience. So try to experience Krsna by this process: Whenever you drink something liquid and taste it very nicely, consider, "This taste is Krsna." Is that a very difficult way to get Krsna realization?

That taste actually is Krsna, because water is Krsna in the sense that it is the energy of Krsna, just as heat is the energy of fire. Heat and fire are not distinct; they are the same. Still, heat is not fire. This philosophy is called acintya-bhedabheda: simultaneous oneness and difference. Idam hi visvam bhagavan ivetarah. The whole universe is Krsna, but it appears different from Krsna, Bhagavan.

You have to understand this point by purified senses. That is required. But this is the beginning: raso 'ham apsu kaunteya—"I am the taste of water."

Krsna says this. We have not manufactured this idea. If I were to say, "The taste of water is Krsna," that may be different. But Krsna says, raso 'ham apsu kaunteya.

So why not think of Krsna? Thinking of Krsna is one of the nine processes of devotional service. If you remember Krsna, you advance in your spiritual life and you become a perfect yogi. How?

yoginam api sarvesam
sraddhavan bhajate yo mam
sa me yuktatamo matah

"Of all yogis, the one with great faith who always abides in Me, thinks of Me within himself, and renders transcendental loving service to Me—he is the most intimately united with Me in yoga and is the highest of all. That is My opinion."

As soon as you drink anything, simply think, "Now here is Krsna." You must drink so many times each day. If you remember Krsna each time, you gradually become Krsna conscious. Krsna is prescribing such a simple way to remember Him.

Krsna then gives another method: prabhasmi sasi-suryayoh—"I am the light of the sun and the moon." As soon as you see sunshine in the morning, you can remember, "Here is Krsna." Or at night, when there is no sun, there is moonlight: "Here is Krsna."

Then, pranavah sarva-vedesu. If you are a serious student of Vedic mantras, you will chant om, because Vedic mantras begin with om, as in om tad visnoh paramam padam sada pasyanti surayah, or om bhur bhuvah svah tat savitur varenyam. Om, or the omkara, is Krsna. Many people are fond of chanting omkara. That is also nice, because omkara is Krsna. If we simply remember, "This omkara is Krsna," then we become perfect, because the goal is to become Krsna conscious.

So you can become Krsna conscious while drinking, while seeing the sunshine, while seeing the moonlight, while chanting om. And—sabda khe—even if you hear any sound and remember that Krsna is that sound, you can become Krsna conscious.

Also, paurusam nrsu—"I am the ability in man." You meet so many men in your dealings with the material world. There are many very big, big men. Big, big industrialists, big, big scholars, big, big manufacturers, big, big bankers. A man in such a position is called paurusam—one who has attained perfection in the material world. Instead of envying him you can simply think, "He has attained material success because he has received a little power from Krsna." Yad yad vibhutimat sattvam ... mama tejo 'msa-sambhavam. Anything wonderful done by any person is done by Krsna's energy.

It is not at all difficult to become Krsna conscious. There is no expenditure, there is no loss. Simply by your daily dealings you can become Krsna conscious.

That is the program here. We are advising everyone, "Chant the Hare Krsna mantra." Kirtaniyah sada harih: the Hare Krsna mantra should be chanted twenty-four hours a day. But if the chanting becomes difficult or hackneyed, then you can remember Krsna in other ways: while drinking water, while seeing the sunshine, while seeing the moonlight, while chanting Vedic mantras, or even while hearing some sound in the ether.

We are hearing so many sounds, so we can remember Krsna by hearing any sound if we remember this verse of the Bhagavad-gita. The sound "Hare Krsna" is transcendental, but if you don't like the sound "Hare Krsna," take any sound and remember Krsna. Any sound is also coming from the original sound and is simply covered by maya, illusion.

Material or Spiritual?

What is the difference between spiritual and material? Everything is spiritual. Sarvam khalv idam brahma. But when something is covered by maya, it is material. That's all. And what is maya? Forgetfulness of Krsna.

Water is spiritual, because it is Krsna's energy. So how can it be different from Krsna? And since we have to deal with water in so many ways, how we can forget Krsna?

The Krsna consciousness movement is spreading the knowledge of Bhagavad-gita as it is. How can one become Krsna conscious very easily without any loss but with great gain? By taking advantage of the Krsna consciousness movement. If you become Krsna conscious in this way, the profit is very, very great, because the more you become Krsna conscious, the more Krsna becomes revealed to you.

Sevonmukhe hi jihvadau svayam eva sphuraty adah. With the blunt senses you cannot understand Krsna, you cannot realize Krsna. Our present senses are blunt because they are covered by forgetfulness of Krsna, or maya. Therefore they have to be purified. Our forgetfulness of Krsna has to be removed. This is the process: raso 'ham apsu kaunteya.

When you follow this process—remembering, "The taste of this water is Krsna"—some percentage of your forgetfulness of Krsna is removed. Similarly, you can remember Krsna when you see the sunshine or the moonshine, when you chant omkara, or in so many ways prescribed in later verses. Try to understand Krsna in these ways. That doesn't require any advancement of education or Vedic knowledge.

Devotional service means purifying the senses. At the present moment our senses are covered by maya, and maya can be removed simply by remembering Krsna at every step. Sevonmukhe hi jihvadau. Simply engage your jihva. Jihva means "tongue." Sevonmukhe hi jihvadau: "The beginning of purification is to use your tongue in devotional service."

We prescribe therefore that you use your tongue for chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra and tasting Krsna's prasadam, food offered to Krsna. That is not at all difficult. There is no need to study higher Vedic knowledge. That knowledge will automatically be revealed.

You can also become Krsna conscious by applying your ears. As stated in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, srnvatam sva-kathah krsnah punya-sravana-kirtanah: "Hearing and chanting about Krsna are pious activities." Now you are hearing the words of Bhagavad-gita. These are Krsna's own words.

There are nine methods of devotional service, beginning with hearing. We are opening so many centers just to give people the chance to hear about Krsna. If you simply hear about Krsna, then Krsna becomes pleased: "Oh, now he's hearing about Me." Then what does He do? Srnvatam sva-kathah krsnah punya-sravana-kirtanah. Whether you understand what you hear or not, Krsna takes that hearing as a pious activity on your part. And the more you become pious, the more you can understand Krsna.

Impious persons cannot understand Krsna. But one free from impious activities can understand Him. Hearing about Krsna is pious activity. If you understand, it is very good. But even if you do not understand the vibration of the Hare Krsna mantra or the reading of Bhagavad-gita, if you simply chant you'll be purified.

We cannot understand what we are, what God is, what our relationship with God is, because we are enwrapped in sinful activities. In the material world, every one of us, more or less, is duskrtinah, more or less sinful. So it is very difficult for us to understand Krsna. Therefore we have to take advantage of the Krsna consciousness movement. And wherever there is a chance to hear about Krsna, we should take the opportunity.

See Krsna at Every Step

Learn how to become Krsna conscious. Simply try to understand Krsna in every step of life. Many ways of perceiving Krsna will be explained in this chapter. The beginning is tasting. Everyone drinks water or something else. So try to taste the liquid while thinking, "This taste is Krsna." In the morning you see the light of the sunshine: "Here is Krsna." In the evening you see the moonlight: "Here is Krsna." There is always sound, especially in a city like Bombay. It is full of sound. So whenever you hear any kind of sound you remember: "This sound is Krsna." Sabdah khe. And whenever you meet any very exalted, very extraordinarily able person, understand, "This ability is Krsna's mercy."

In this way, if you practice, if you chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, and if you hear from realized souls about Krsna, then you gradually become advanced in Krsna consciousness. And when you come to perfection, Krsna's activities will be revealed to you. Svayam eva sphuraty adah. When Krsna becomes manifest, then you understand what Krsna is, what His name is, what His activities are, what His pastimes are. Everything becomes revealed. Then you can understand perfectly. We cannot understand Krsna perfectly, but at least as far as our ability allows we can know Him.

And if we understand Krsna a little bit, then our life is successful. Tyaktva deham punar janma naiti mam eti. After giving up the body, we go to Krsna.

Ordinarily, we give up the body and accept another. Tatha dehantara-praptih. That we have to stop. We are trying our best to solve all the problems of life. The real problems are janma-mrtyu-jara-vyadhi: birth, death, old age, and disease. But you can conquer them. No more birth. "Then I am finished?" No, you are not finished. Tyaktva deham punar janma naiti mam eti. "You come to Me." You go back home, back to Godhead. This is the process of Krsna consciousness. It is very easy. Everyone can adopt it. Why should you give it up? Take it very seriously and be happy.

Thank you very much.

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Remembering Srila Prabhupada

A Beautiful Quality
May 1975—Perth, Australia

Srila Prabhupada was meeting with a professor, speaking very strongly about different classes of human beings. Paramahamsa Maharaja and I were sitting in the room relishing our spiritual master's words as he explained to the fairly receptive gentleman how almost everyone is a fourth-class man.

Srila Prabhupada looked at the professor and said, "You are also a fourth-class man."

The gentleman replied, "Well, what can I do?"

Srila Prabhupada energetically responded, "You must become a pure devotee—like them!" He pointed to Paramahamsa and me.

My godbrother and I looked at each other and broke out in huge smiles. We knew we weren't pure, but we loved being used as illustrations for our dearmost spiritual master.

We knew that Srila Prabhupada would never say, "Become a pure devotee like me." That is one of the beautiful qualities of my spiritual master, the pure devotee of the Lord.

—Excerpt from a work in progress by Srutakirti Dasa

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Lessons from the Road

Simplify, Simplify, Simplify

By Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami

IN THE SECOND CANTO of Srimad-Bhagavatam, Sukadeva Gosvami criticizes those who pursue material life and have no desire to inquire into self-realization, and although he spoke thousands of years ago, his words are still relevant today. Those who are not interested in self-realization hover in a world of illusory pleasure and suffering.

Material life tends to become increasingly complicated. The more we try to enjoy it, the more we suffer; and the more we try to alleviate our suffering, the more entangled we become. Sukadeva Gosvami therefore prescribes that the enlightened person endeavor only for the minimum necessities of life and not for anything else. His words are spirited:

When there are ample earthly flats to lie on, what is the necessity of cots and beds? When one can use his own arms, what is the necessity of a pillow? When one can use the palms of his hands, what is the necessity of varieties of utensils? When there is ample covering or the skins of trees, what is the necessity of clothing? Are there no torn clothes lying on the common road? Do the trees, which exist for maintaining others, no longer give alms in charity? Do the rivers, being dried up, no longer supply water to the thirsty? Are the caves of the mountains now closed, or, above all, does the Almighty Lord not protect the fully surrendered souls? Why then do the learned sages go to flatter those who are intoxicated by hard-earned wealth? (Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.2.4-5)

We could challenge Sukadeva Gosvami's statements in the modern context: "Do the trees not give alms?" No, they don't. If we pick fruit from a tree, we're likely to get shot at. "Do the rivers no longer supply water?" No, they are all polluted. And who can find an "earthly flat" that is safe to lie on these days?

His one irrefutable claim, however, is that the Almighty Lord still protects the surrendered souls. That is an eternal truth and cannot be touched by the onward march of time or progress. Under Krsna's protection, we do not have to sell our souls to those who are "intoxicated by hard-earned wealth." Even if we choose to work under someone else, we do not have to relinquish our Krsna conscious objectives, and we can still live with respect and dignity in spiritual life.

Srila Prabhupada writes, "The idea given by Srila Sukadeva Gosvami is that the reserve energy of human life ... should simply be utilized for self-realization. Advancement of human civilization must be towards the goal of establishing our lost relationship with God. ..."

The standard of living in the West is so inflated, and the crunch of economic necessity so pressing, that even devotees can become preoccupied with fulfilling their economic needs. When that happens, they feel they don't have time for the simple activities of hearing and chanting about Krsna. This is a shame, because it means that those persons who most want to develop love of God are somehow hampered in their spiritual development.

But we don't have to be hampered. Our interest in spiritual development gives us the right to make another choice. We can choose to escape the straitjacket of material pressure and make spiritual life our priority. We can make a stand: Simplify! Simplify! Simplify!

Srila Prabhupada points out that simplifying our lives doesn't require that we "revert to running naked through the jungles without culture, education, or morality." It implies, however, that we should not live lives dedicated to the pursuit of materialism.

In the 1840s, Henry David Thoreau expressed similar sentiments. "Still we live meanly, like ants. ... Our life is frittered away by detail. An honest man has hardly need to count more than his ten fingers, or in extreme cases he may add his ten toes, and lump the rest. ... I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumbnail."

We may not be able to rid ourselves of everything that keeps us from the all-important practice of spiritual life, but we can reduce the things that distract us from our spiritual goal. Do we need so many things? Can we stop at ten, or in extreme cases, at twenty distractions instead of thousands or millions? Simplifying our lives is an art that every spiritual aspirant must learn. We all have to work. Then we should spiritualize our work by consciously offering it to Krsna and by being simple in our acceptance of and desire for the fruits.

Few people can live off the land in the sense that Sukadeva Gosvami means it, but we can follow Sukadeva's spirit of radical simplicity, and as Prabhupada assures us in his purports to these verses, we can count on Krsna's help.

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.

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Lord Krsna's Cuisine

Yamuna's Table on Fox Creek

By Yamuna Devi

I'M WRITING MY COLUMN from the same desk and computer, but in a new place. After ten years in Washington, D.C., I have moved to Washington state's Skagit Valley, worlds away from noisy Massachusetts Avenue traffic and the Embassy Row neighborhood. Now it's privacy on forty-eight acres bordering the Skagit River, with three waterfalls, two ponds, night stars, a small lake, the sounds of nature, acres of lawns and gardens, the rising and setting of the sun and moon.

I have lived many places in Srila Prabhupada's service. Now my Deities, Sri Sri Radha-Banabihari, have brought me to this place to open a cooking school.

Setting the Scene

The lunch that inspired me to take up this service took place a quarter century ago in Calcutta. I was with a group of devotees traveling around India with Srila Prabhupada. En route from Visakhapatnam to ISKCON's new center in Mayapur, West Bengal, we stopped for some days at our temple on Albert Road in Calcutta. Shortly after arriving, Srila Prabhupada informed me that his sister would be coming for lunch. He requested a Bengali meal for the occasion.

It was my first meeting with Bhavatarini, or Pisima, Srila Prabhupada's only living sister. She bore a striking resemblance to him. Their exchanges in Bengali were warm and friendly.

While two other disciples and I served them rounds of off-the-fire dal, rice, sukta, capatis, kachoris, and chachari, Prabhupada spoke something about his sister in English. She too was a devotee of Krsna from birth, he said, and in their youth they had both prayed to Krsna to win at games—from races to kite flying. Chuckling, he noted that like most older brothers, he usually won.

Although Pisima did not understand English, tilting her head from side to side she seemed to catch the gist of what he said. At one point, speaking of her girth, he teased that it was made of fat. She insisted it was water. Brother and sister laughed at this—of aging and the nature of changing bodies.

Of all meals served to Srila Prabhupada, none ever finished quite like this one. Attending to his plate at the end of the meal, I noticed that the oversized plate and all of the bowls were empty, the bowls now playfully stacked into a leaning tower on the corner of his table. He then did three things in quick sequence. With his right forefinger he flicked over the tower of bowls so they clattered to the floor, then he waved a flattened palm over the top of his head (one of three signals he would make to comment on the meal—this one meant "first class"), and then he said three times, "Yamuna Mayi ki jaya!" ("All glories to Yamuna!")

We three disciples spontaneously replied, "Srila Prabhupada ki jaya!"

Pisima was all smiles, reciting something on her own in Bengali. The atmosphere was amazing, surcharged with transcendental reciprocation on many levels.

Then, before I left, Srila Prabhupada asked me, "Are you teaching others?"

The Jahnava Institute For Vaisnava Arts (JIVA)

In my continuing effort to teach others, I've started the cooking school "Yamuna's Table on Fox Creek," part of JIVA,* a non-profit educational institute named in honor of Jahnava Devi, the consort of Sri Nityananda Prabhu and a great Vaisnava spiritual leader of the sixteenth century. In this first year, most classes will focus on cooking and gardening. We'll gradually branch to others of the sixty-four Vaisnava arts.

If you would like to contribute money, offer expert service, attend classes or seminars, or qualify as a guest teacher, please write to Yamuna's Table on Fox Creek, 3373 Fox Creek Lane, Sedro Woolley, WA 98284; e-mail: Keep an eye out for our upcoming home page on the Internet.

See you back in cooking class in the next issue.

*An institute in Vrndavana, India, uses the same acronym. Yamuna Devi's JIVA has nothing to do with that organization.

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.

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India's Heritage

Nowhere to Hide

By Ravi Gupta

ONE DAY A COLLEGE student came up to me and said, "You know, what I like about India and Indian culture is that they face the miseries of life head-on. While we in the West try to hide from death, in India people prepare for it."

Of the four basic miseries of life—birth, death, disease, and old age—death is the most fearful. A person can recover from a disease or remain fit and healthy even in old age, but there's no stopping death.

Nothing is as sure and as frightening as death, but how we face it makes the difference. In a materialistic culture, we try to forget about the reality of death. Emergency teams quickly cover up victims. Hospitals bear hardly a sign of death.

For a culture based on the body, death is not a pleasant thought. People stay absorbed in their bodies, hoping death will never arrive.

In the Vedic culture of India, people see life as a preparation for death. The Vedic scriptures are full of stories of great saintly kings who renounced their kingdoms and opulence to prepare for the final test.

Cursed to die in seven days, King Pariksit left his global empire and went to the bank of the Ganges. There, in an assembly of great saintly persons, he inquired from Srila Sukadeva Gosvami, "You are the spiritual master of great saints and devotees. I am therefore begging you to show the way of perfection for all persons, and especially one who is about to die."

The great scripture Srimad-Bhagavatam is Sukadeva's response to Pariksit's request.

The Vedic social system prepares a person for death by dividing life into four periods. The first twenty-five years are spent studying under the spiritual master, the next twenty-five in family life. At age fifty, husband and wife gradually detach themselves from the family and spend more time away from home in spiritual pursuits. Finally, for the last part of their lives they separate and become absorbed in serving the Lord.

Lord Krsna says that as death He takes everything away. But by detaching ourselves voluntarily we reduce the pain and shock. People in India still try to develop detachment before dying. Many travel to places of pilgrimage, settle in a holy place to die, or fast several weeks before death.

The Vedic teachings of karma and reincarnation put crucial importance on the moment of death. As Lord Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita (8.6), "Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, O son of Kunti, that state he will attain without fail." Our consciousness at the end of this life determines our next. By preparing for death, we prepare for our next birth.

When I go to India, modernized Indians sometimes ask my parents why they trouble their children with such issues as death, miseries, renunciation, spiritual regimen, and so on. "Theirs is a time to be optimistic and carefree. Deep spiritual questions and practices can come later."

But as the great devotee Prahlada Maharaja told his five-year-old classmates, the preparation must start now. Otherwise, the early years of life are lost in play, youth in education and marriage, middle age in raising children and maintaining a household, and old age in keeping up with the body. To be ready for death, we must find the time to prepare now. Accepting and preparing for death are the best way to put an end to the painful cycle of birth, death, disease, and old age.

Death can serve as a catalyst for escaping reincarnation. Lord Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita (8.5, 13), "Whoever at the end of his life quits his body remembering Me alone at once attains my nature. Of this there is not doubt. ... After attaining Me, the great souls, who are yogis in devotion, never return to this temporary world, which is full of miseries, because they have attained the highest perfection."

Because devotees of the Lord spend their entire life serving and remembering Krsna, they are sure of their destination and so have nothing to fear from death. When a cat catches a mouse, the cat's jaws terrify the mouse. But when the cat picks up her kittens, those same jaws are the most secure place. Similarly, for the materialist death is most fearful. But for the devotee of the Lord it is simply a call back home, back to Godhead.

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.

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Schooling Krsna's Children

The Parent-Teacher Partnership

By Urmila Devi Dasi

FOR MILLENNIA, parents sending their sons to school were also turning them over to a guru, not just to be a student but to be a disciple. The boy was expected not only to complete academic assignments but to serve the guru and live as he ordered for spiritual realization. In the last few hundred years, a boy has often continued to live with his parents after becoming a disciple, but in the ancient tradition the student lived with his teacher, often not seeing his family for months or even years.

When a child's teacher is a bona fide guru, the parents have full and firm faith that their child is properly cared for in all respects. The guru, in turn, teaches the student to obey and highly respect the parents. Lord Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita that respecting one's parents is an austerity favorable to spiritual advancement. When initiating one of his first disciples, Srila Prabhupada told him to offer obeisances to his mother, who was attending the ceremony.

A bona fide guru teaches detachment from material family affection, but not abandonment of Vedic etiquette that aids spiritual life. So a great bond of love and faith forms between a child's parents and teacher. The child is surrounded with an identical spiritual focus from home and school.

Few of the elements of Vedic education are present in modern education. For example, in secular schools at least, school lessons come not from scripture but from the imperfect and changing conclusions of ordinary people; most modern teachers don't consider that students need to develop spiritually to understand and apply what's learned in school. Views held at home and those taught at "philosophically neutral" government schools often clash, putting parents at odds with teachers, with the students in between.

Look for the Views

Though a school might appear neutral, it inevitably has a philosophy about the ultimate purpose of learning and of life. So parents must always carefully monitor what points of view their children are learning from the textbooks, teachers, and other students.

Teachers and parents today are often wary of one another, and in some cases even antagonistic. Teachers assume that many parents will contradict their instruction. If a religious family sends their child to a secular school, the conflict can become intense, as the basic world views are so different. Indeed, devotees of Krsna who send their children to an ordinary school must frequently remind their children to filter the words and actions of the teacher, in effect begging their children to reject their teachers as gurus.

An Ideal Relationship for Today

In the Hare Krsna movement today, few children become the literal disciples of their teachers. Our teachers, therefore, cannot claim the ideal guru-student relationship with the children they teach. Nor can they expect the same trust a guru would receive from the students' parents.

Yet we can call our ISKCON schools gurukula—"the place of the guru"—because all the teachers are supposed to represent a bona fide guru, both in their instructions and in their lives. These teachers put great effort into bringing a Krsna conscious perspective to all subjects.

Because our students haven't dedicated body, mind, and words to their teachers, the teachers understand that the children's parents stay the primary authority. Teachers see themselves as servants of the parents and of their own guru. And parents see the teachers as godbrothers and godsisters who work with them to guide the children.

Neither teacher nor parent expects absolute trust, but both work toward a harmony of philosophy and goals. Each gives the other the benefit of the doubt and encourages the children to respect both.

A close bond then forms between child, home, and school that extends far beyond the school hours and graduation date. When the child matures and accepts a guru, parents and teachers will have worked to form the foundation for that all-important decision.

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.

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The Vedic Observer

Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day

Frantic Antics

by Dvarakadhisa Devi Dasi

THEIR CIVILIZATION seemed to develop out of nothing; one could easily remember a time when the land was undistinguished by their presence. But soon their magnificent fortress rose above the surrounding terrain, and their influence spread as thousands joined their ranks. Oh, to be a part of the excitement! This masterful civilization seemed destined to become a vortex of cultural development.

But then the lawn mower came.

Millions of ants were rendered homeless as the monstrous blades slashed through their fortress walls. Roads crumbled under heavy black tires. Countless ants were killed in but an instant. But despite the devastation, millions survived in tunnels beneath the ground, and as the lawn mower roared off into the distance, they began at once the task of rebuilding their kingdom.

Scientists estimate that there are at least one quadrillion ants on this planet. On every continent ants build their kingdoms and busy themselves with the drama of their lives. And nearly all of it escapes human attention.

Yet from the ant's viewpoint this life of an ant, a life we barely notice, a life that can be ended by a chance encounter with the bottom of our shoe, holds the full experience of living. Ants have their ant childhoods, their responsible ant jobs, and their relationships within a bustling community. Yet the impact of any one of these lives upon our own is minimal. For us, an individual ant is insignificant.

The world is full of such incidental lives. Birds swoop by, blades of grass bend in the wind, squirrels dash up and down trees, all on the periphery of our awareness.

And think of all the human lives that escape our notice. People rushing about us in their cars, people waiting in line behind us at the post office, people flying over our homes in airplanes—more people than even the most gregarious soul could know. People whose names we will never hear spoken. People whose triumphs and tragedies will never move our hearts. All the people who to us mean nothing.

And even the human lives that rise above the others, seeming to affect millions, are crushed into insignificance by the passing of time. How many people now fear Attila the Hun? How many Americans know the names of all past American presidents? "The great kings, leaders, and soldiers fight with one another in order to perpetuate their names in history," Srila Prabhupada observes. "They are forgotten in due course of time, and they make a place for another era in history."

Even the demigods—the powerful beings who control the workings of the universe—come and go. And from their vantage point, human beings are just as important as—well, ants.

Ant societies are wasted by lawn mowers, human societies by wars and disease. Ants and people die and are forgotten. Is there anything that makes our human life more significant than that of the lowly ant?


Ants are forced to race around building elaborate civilizations that will ultimately be ruined, and when such ruination comes, they simply begin again. No lessons learned, no philosophical perspective gained. But a human being can look around and realize, "All of this will be gone in time. Even my body will be finished. Why should I focus all my energy on something that won't last?"

Human intelligence releases us from the mindless behavior of the hapless ants. We are blessed with the power to understand the significance of the eternal soul that animates every material body. So a life that focuses on the body and ignores the cravings of the soul is fine for an ant, but it never fully satisfies the introspective human being. Srila Prabhupada compares humans who ignore the philosophical urgings of the intelligence to misers who have great wealth but never use it. The wealth is simply for show but brings nothing of value.

No one knows when his human life will end. And the greatest tragedy is to lose the chance to free oneself, through higher knowledge, from the frantic struggles of the lower species. For if such an opportunity is wasted, the gracious laws of nature allow us to return to a form of life where we won't have a human intelligence to waste.

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Euthanasia: Ending the Pain?

by Mukunda Goswami

TODAY, traditional concepts of suicide and homicide have become blurred by phrases like "mercy killing" and "doctor-assisted suicide."

In 1996 Australia's Northern Territory legalized voluntary euthanasia. In January of 1997, contending forces in the U.S. pushed the issue of euthanasia all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Advocates of doctor-assisted suicide say its purpose is to end the unremitting and excruciating pain that often comes with diseases like terminal cancer. But does suicide really stop pain?

According to Vedic wisdom, the answer is no. Rather, suicide prolongs pain and even increases it. From the Vedas we learn that the eternal soul, or atma, lives on after death. For the soul, the Bhagavad-gita says, "there is neither birth nor death." At the time of death the soul reincarnates, or transmigrates from one body to another.

According to the law of karma, the soul who has attained a human body has been put there to reform his life and finally attain liberation, in a spiritual body free from birth and death. The soul's term in the human form is a type of captivity. How long he stays captive and how much he enjoys or suffers depend on his previous acts. To kill oneself or someone else interrupts the soul's prescribed term of embodiment. This goes against natural law, or God's law, and generates further reactions or penalties.

By karmic law, one who commits suicide becomes a ghost. A ghostly or astral "body" consists of mind, intelligence, and false ego. The soul living in such a subtle body keeps his personality, his desires for human relationships, and his physical desires such as thirst, hunger, and the sex drive. But because of the soul's disembodied state, he cannot satisfy these desires.

Ghosts routinely wander for years, their natural desires raging unfulfilled. In an effort to fulfill such desires, ghosts sometimes haunt or possess another person's body.

So while suicide may apparently give relief from days, months, or years of physical or mental suffering, a lifetime of unabated misery is destined to follow.

Physicians who take part in euthanasia and doctor-aided suicide are unnaturally ending the soul's prescribed bodily lifetime. In the Netherlands, such acts are formally illegal, yet the courts have been allowing many exceptions to the law. Every year about one thousand documented cases come to light in which doctors cause or hasten death even without the patient's request. Almost routinely, such violations go unpunished. Unlike civil law, however, karma is infallible and inescapable. According to karma, the lives of such doctors will be cut short in their next birth, often by acts of violence.

Karmic considerations aside, what may be even more surprising is that euthanasia is most often performed for reasons other than to relieve physical pain.

The most comprehensive study of the Dutch experience with euthanasia is the 1991 Remelink Report, which showed that "pain was a factor motivating requests for euthanasia in less than half of all cases. More importantly, pain was the sole motivating factor in just 5% of euthanasia cases." A study of physicians who care for nursing-home patients in the Netherlands found that pain was the main rationale in only eleven percent of euthanasia requests. In the U.S., a Washington state study of doctors who performed euthanasia or assisted suicide found that pain figured in only thirty-five percent of the requests.

According to Dr. Ezekiel J. Emanuel, a professor at Harvard Medical School, euthanasia is "a way of avoiding the complex and arduous efforts required of doctors and other health-care providers to ensure that dying patients receive humane, dignified care."

The main reasons for which people want euthanasia—depression, isolation, psychological maladjustment, and lack of care—reveal a pervasive spiritual vacuum. In an increasingly secular society, God has been consigned to a minor role. And godlessness has bred callousness. As the world becomes more materialistic and divorced from spiritual principles, so godly qualities like gratitude, tolerance, self-control, peacefulness, family unity, and human kindness retreat further and further into the background.

The science of Krsna consciousness, which gives knowledge of the soul and karma, needs to be pervasively and systematically taught throughout the world. Only such education can rejuvenate a desacralized society and return us to our normal, natural position of love, with an understanding of who we really are and where we are going.

Whatever the U.S. Supreme Court, the Australian Parliament, or other government bodies decide, involuntary euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicide are likely to proliferate. Without understanding the nature of the self and its movements through time and space, more people will blindly try to reduce suffering by acting in ways that will only serve to prolong and increase it.

One Big Difference

Ravi Gupta

ON MAY 11, Deep Blue defeated chess champion Garry Kasparov. The IBM-programmed computer played against the person who was once the world's greatest chess player. Not anymore. Now the computer has outrun the human mind. The media have abounded with headlines on the battle between man and machine.

Newsweek asked, "The Brain's Last Stand: Can Kasparov Save the Human Race?"

But how much of a battle is it really? Are we truly in danger of being out-smarted by machines? Is the defeat (or Kasparov's previous victory) really that momentous?

Not according to the Vedic scriptures of India. The Vedas teach that there is a fundamental difference between matter and spirit, between life and machine. There is something very basic that the most sophisticated computer lacks, and that is consciousness. Consciousness is what makes the difference between us and the matter we manipulate.

And consciousness is the symptom of the soul. Just as the sun pervades the entire solar system with its heat and light, so the spirit soul, within the body of every living creature, imbues the body with consciousness.

In the Bhagavad-gita, the jewel of India's spiritual wisdom, Lord Krsna gives a very convincing argument for the existence of the spirit soul. He says that throughout the course of our lives, we change bodies—from childhood to youth to adulthood and finally to old age. Yet we know that we are the same person we were ten years ago.

What is the continuing element that stays through these changes of bodies?

It is the spirit soul.

When the body cannot change any more and the spiritual spark leaves, the body shows itself for what it really is—a dead, though very sophisticated, machine.

That the spirit soul can design another machine that's better at doing certain functions than the machine the soul presently inhabits is not at all surprising. After all, we have created machines that run faster, see clearer, hear better, aim sharper, and lift more than the human machine. What is so amazing if we come up with one that calculates future moves on a chessboard faster than the human?

Both matter and spirit are energies and creations of God, and they are emanating from Him. Krsna describes these two energies in the Gita: "Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence, and false ego—these eight comprise My separated material energies. Besides these there is another, superior energy of Mine, which comprises the living entities who are exploiting the resources of this material, inferior nature."

It is only when we start thinking that the machine can replace life that the confusion begins. The more sophisticated our machines become, the closer we think we are to creating life. But there is a chasm between life and matter. Without the spiritual touch, the material energy cannot do anything on its own. Without the IBM programmers, Deep Blue would have refused to play.

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The Art of Puskara Dasa

A painter discovers that
art finds its perfection in the
glorification of the Supreme Lord.

PUBLISHING and distributing Vedic literature was the foundation of Srila Prabhupada's plan to spread Krsna consciousness all over the world. And to make the books more attractive and accessible, Srila Prabhupada wanted them to include beautiful paintings depicting Krsna, Krsna's pastimes, and points of Krsna conscious philosophy.

Srila Prabhupada always encouraged and inspired his artists. He told them that painting Krsna was their worship and that the paintings were "windows to the spiritual world."

One of the most prolific artists in the Hare Krsna movement is Puskara Dasa. Born fifty years ago in Brooklyn, New York, he has been painting most of his life. He remembers painting on a mural alongside his father before he was two. By age seven he was attending special art classes at the Brooklyn Museum and at Pratt Institute. Later he attended the High School of Music and Art in upper Manhattan. On graduating from high school, he received two scholarships from the city of New York—one to the Art Students League and one to the Brooklyn Museum Art School.

In 1968 the lure of the sixties counterculture drew Puskara to San Francisco, where he attended the San Francisco Art Institute. While in San Francisco he met Hare Krsna devotees, who had a storefront temple on Frederick Street, just down the hill from where he lived.

Invited by an acquaintance, he moved into a small commune of hippies northeast of San Francisco. His friends there often played a recording of Hare Krsna devotees singing, and the commune had a copy of Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita As It Is, which Puskara sometimes read.

He gradually became frustrated with his hippie life and flew to Hawaii, hoping to somehow improve his spirituality. After some time on his own, he joined the asrama of an American spiritual teacher known as Sai, who had a following on the Hawaiian Islands. When Sai became a disciple of Srila Prabhupada's, Sai brought his followers with him.

Puskara ended up at the Hare Krsna center in Los Angeles, where devotees soon engaged him in painting for Srila Prabhupada's books—a service he's been doing ever since. In July 1971 he received spiritual initiation from Srila Prabhupada. Puskara Dasa's paintings regularly appear in Back to Godhead, and he is the illustrator for the Mahabharata excerpts that run in each issue.

A book on his life and art has just been published (Windows to the Spiritual World: Spiritrealism and the Art of Puskar. See page 31).

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Coming to Krsna

Memories and Reflections on
The Power Of The Holy Name

Though seemingly chance encounters, the holy name of the Lord gradually brings light to a struggling soul.

By Visakha-priya Devi Dasi


Walking along a commercial street in a blizzard, we spot a group of orange-clad people singing across the street.

"Maybe some Buddhists protesting against the Vietnam war," I tell Marc, my husband. Blowing cigarette smoke I walk on, and so does Marc.

"By sound vibration one becomes liberated," says the Vedanta-sutra.

Unknown to me, my spiritual life had begun. The people on the Cambridge sidewalk were not Buddhists but representatives of Lord Caitanya, performing harinama-sankirtana, the congregational chanting of God's holy names.

Lord Caitanya, who is nondifferent from Lord Krsna, started the sankirtana movement five hundred years ago to uplift the degraded human beings of this age. I was eligible. Born and bred in France, I embodied the mood of a generation led by Sartre and Camus—proud, confused, and miserable.

Marc, however, believed in God and the so-called good things in life. Our odd combination lasted less than five years. By the time it ended we had settled in South Africa and I was teaching French at the Alliance Francaise in Johannesburg. A man of Indian descent attended my classes. Everybody called him Krsna, and so did I.

"Living beings who are entangled in the complicated meshes of birth and death can be freed immediately by even unconsciously chanting the holy name of Krsna, which is feared by fear personified," says the Srimad-Bhagavatam.

By putting that man into my classroom, the merciful Lord had tricked me into chanting His holy name.

A year later I met a girl who said that God was a blue boy who played the flute. Her statement made no difference to me. But as fate would have it, the girl, Denise, entered my circle of friends, along with a tape recorder that played the same song over and over again: "Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare." The rhythm was lively, with shell horns blowing in the background. And the sound was nice, except that I had to hear the same thing over and over again every day. Strangely enough, that didn't bother me as much as I thought it would. But when another girl—my best friend—became a vegetarian and started singing the song as a daily meditation, I decided to move on.

"The treasure of love of God has descended from the spiritual world of Goloka Vrndavana, appearing in this world as the sankirtana movement of the chanting of the names of Lord Hari, Krsna. Why am I not attracted to it? Day and night I burn from the poison of material existence, but still I refuse to take the antidote."

This song by Narottama Dasa Thakura, a sixteenth-century saint of the tradition of Gaudiya Vaisnavas (followers of Lord Caitanya), pretty well summed up my situation.

I roamed around for a year or so before again settling down to a "permanent" job and residence in Johannesburg. Ten months later I gave them up and moved to the countryside to write, sing, play the guitar, and forget about the world. To be more in harmony with nature, I became a vegetarian.

One day I ran into Denise in downtown Johannesburg. She was carrying a copy of Bhagavad-gita As It Is, which she tried to sell me. I was dead set against reading anything religious, but it looked like the best book I'd seen since a bilingual edition of The Divine Comedy I'd picked up in Paris years before. I couldn't resist buying the Gita.

Back in my cabin I looked at the Sanskrit text with pleasure. But the English translation didn't make sense to me. What did "spirit soul" and "modes of material nature" mean?

A passage I read at random collided with my atheistic bend: "Men who are ignorant cannot appreciate activities in Krsna consciousness, and therefore Lord Krsna advises us not to disturb them and simply waste valuable time. But the devotees of the Lord are more kind than the Lord because they understand the purpose of the Lord. Consequently they undertake all kinds of risks, even to the point of approaching ignorant men to try to engage them in the acts of Krsna consciousness, which are absolutely necessary for the human being."

"Just see," I thought, "these people can't even stick to their Lord's command. He is telling them to do one thing, but they think they know better. This book is useless."

"These books I have recorded and chanted, and they are transcribed," Srila Prabhupada said. "It is spoken kirtanas. ... Anyone who reads, he is hearing."

On June 17, 1978, Denise brought me a birthday present—a strand of 108 round wooden beads in a white cloth bag—and told me how to use it. I had no intention of using the beads. But then, just a few days later, I picked up the bag on my way out for a walk. Fingering the beads I recited timidly: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. After a minute or two I gave up.

"Simply by chanting the holy name of Hari, a sinful person can counteract the reactions of more sins than he is able to commit," says the Brhad Visnu Purana.

Over the past few months I had been thinking a lot about "entering eternity." Although I had no idea how to do it, I had concluded that I would have to renounce everything, including my beloved typewriter. One night, just a week after my birthday, two drunken farmers paid me a visit, and their behavior led me to flee the place in disgust. Somehow, the typewriter and guitar went off with me, but everything else stayed behind for the neighbors to enjoy.

"When I feel especially mercifully disposed towards someone, I gradually take away all his material possessions. His friends and relatives then reject this poverty-stricken and most wretched fellow," Lord Krsna tells King Yudhisthira.

I didn't realize I was the recipient of the Lord's mercy, yet the feeling that I had been taught a lesson lingered in my consciousness.

Drifting from one friend's place to another's, I again met Denise. She said she wanted to visit the Hare Krsna devotees on their new farm in the hills of Natal, six hundred kilometers east of Johannesburg. She had money but no transport, I had a car but no money, so we drove off together.

I agreed to hold off on smoking and scrupulously followed the regulations during our ten-day visit. On the way back to Johannesburg I was happy with the experience but never thought of even trying any of the spiritual practices I'd learned.

I got a room in a rundown area of town and sat there for the next six weeks, surviving on oranges and sunflower seeds. My mind was made up: I was through with jobs, love, friendship, society, and philosophical research. I gave my car to a friend and resolutely waited for something to happen.

One day while bathing, a thought struck me: "What is the significance of this body?"

The Bhagavad-gita As It Is lay on the table, impenetrable. The round wooden beads hung on the wall in their white cotton bag. I picked them up. "Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare."

"I want to do the right thing," I thought, "—whatever it is."

A week later Denise got hold of me.

"Hey," she said. "There's a car going to Durban tomorrow. Why don't you catch a ride to the farm and spend a couple of weeks there?"

I packed the few clothes I'd received from well-wishers, stored the guitar and typewriter, and caught the ride.

From the highway I walked a few kilometers down the footpath and found the Hare Krsna farm I'd visited less than three months before. The place was bustling. Standing by the kitchen, I heard pots clanging and saw devotees with utensils in their hands rushing around.

Ranajit Dasa spotted me.

"Hare Krsna," he said. "You've come on a very auspicious day. Today is our spiritual master's disappearance day."

I didn't understand what that meant, nor did I really care to know. Some Indian girls took me to the women's asrama and wrapped me in a sari.

It is said that the spiritual master is especially merciful on the anniversaries of his appearance (birth) and disappearance (passing). His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada surely bestowed special mercy upon me on the first anniversary of his disappearance. How else could I have stayed in the association of devotees until now?

Today, rereading the Bhagavad-gita purport that upset me so much eighteen years ago, I wonder at Srila Prabhupada's boundless compassion. Had Srila Prabhupada followed Lord Krsna's recommendation and stayed in Vrndavana to relish his own Krsna consciousness, the transcendental seed of love of God would not have sprouted in the hearts of those great souls who braved the Massachusetts blizzard just to purify the unwilling ears of fools and rascals like me.

"Oh, how glorious are they whose tongues are chanting Your holy name!" says Devahuti to Lord Kapila. "Even if born in the families of dog-eaters, such persons are worshipable. Persons who chant the holy name of Your Lordship must have executed all kinds of austerities and fire sacrifices and achieved all the good manners of the Aryans. To be chanting the holy name of Your Lordship, they must have bathed at holy places of pilgrimage, studied the Vedas, and fulfilled everything required."

Lord Krsna says, "A self-realized soul sees with equal vision a gentle and learned brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog, and a dog-eater." Srila Prabhupada had such vision. Knowing every living entity to be the eternal servant of Krsna, he didn't consider whether a person was qualified to hear the holy name or not but gave equal opportunity to everyone. He proved that devotees of the Lord are more kind than the Lord because they understand the purpose of the Lord—to take everyone back home, back to Godhead.

Visakha-priya Devi Dasi lives at ISKCON's Krsna-Balarama Mandir in Vrndavana, India. She works with the Vaisnava Institute of Higher Education (VIHE).

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Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura
Appearance Day: September 15

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, a great spiritual teacher and devotee in the disciplic line of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, was the father of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura (the spiritual master of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada). Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura wrote many devotional songs that reveal the mood in which one should approach the Supreme Lord. The following song, translated from the original Bengali, is entitled "Humility."

(1) O Lord, I forgot You and came to this material world, where I have experienced a host of pains and sorrows. Now I approach Your lotus feet and submit my tale of woe.

(2) While I was still bound up tightly in the unbearable confines of my mother's womb, O Lord, You once revealed Yourself before me. Appearing only briefly, You then abandoned this poor servant of Yours.

(3) At that moment I thought, "After my birth, I will worship You." But alas, after taking birth I fell into the entangling network of worldly illusion; thus I possessed not even a drop of true knowledge.

(4) As a dear son fondled in the laps of relatives, I passed my time smiling and laughing. The affection of my father and mother helped me forget You still more, and I began to think that the material world was a very nice place.

(5) Day by day I gradually grew into a young boy and began playing with other boys. Soon my powers of understanding emerged, so I diligently read and studied my school lessons every day.

(6) Proud of my accomplished education, later I traveled from place to place and earned much wealth. Thereby maintaining my family with undivided attention, I forgot You, O Lord Hari [Krsna]!

(7) Now in old age, this Bhaktivinoda very sadly weeps. I failed to worship You, O Lord, and instead passed my days in vain. What will be my fate now?

Translation by Dasaratha-suta Dasa

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The Land, the Cows, and Krsna

Comfort for the Cows

By Hare Krsna Devi Dasi

SRILA PRABHUPADA writes in a purport to the Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.8.16), "[Krsna's] first business is to give all comfort to the cows and the brahmanas. In fact, comfort for the brahmanas is secondary, and comfort for the cows is His first concern."

Because Krsna loves the cows, His devotees not only protect them but also see to their comfort, a practice that has spiritual, psychological, and practical material benefits.

For thousands of years people have understood that for a cow to do her best job of providing milk she must be peaceful and happy. In this century, scientists discovered that the cow produces a hormone called oxytocin that helps her "let down" her milk. If the cow is frightened or annoyed, the oxytocin is shut off and the milk flow stops. This means that human beings must be well behaved around cows to get the most milk.

Bulls and oxen must also be given comfort, and we gain by treating them kindly.

In earlier times, when people relied on the ox for economic survival, scriptures of various countries taught people how to be kind to their animals. Writing in The Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge in the nineteenth century, Reverend B. B. Edwards comments on biblical injunctions for the treatment of working oxen:

The ox was best fed when employed in treading out the corn; for the divine law, in many of whose precepts the benevolence of the Deity conspicuously shines, forbade to muzzle him, and, by consequence, to prevent him from eating what he would of the grain he was employed to separate from the husks

In the Mahabharata (Anusasana Parva, Section 23), Bhismadeva censures "those who set bullocks to work before the animals attain to sufficient age, those who bore the noses of bullocks and other animals for controlling them better while employed in work, and those who keep animals always tethered."

Modern workers have discovered the wisdom of these scriptural principles while trying to bring improved animal-traction technology to third world countries. For one thing, an animal forced to do heavy work before his body develops will be stunted in growth. He'll never become the powerful assistant he could have been.

Furthermore, proper exercise for bulls, oxen, and cows is essential to keep them in good shape for working, breeding, or milking. Not only will it keep their muscles in tone; it also improves their disposition and makes them easier to work with.

Finally, perhaps some of the most practical gains from animal comfort have come from improved animal-traction equipment for oxen. For centuries, inventors have ignored ox equipment while concentrating on making better equipment for horses. But led by the inventions of the late Jean Nolle, workers in recent decades have discovered that putting greater comfort into the yoke, the harness, and other equipment helps the ox do significantly more work.

Common sense tells us that when an animal is comfortable doing his work, he can pull more weight longer without tiring—just as you can carry a heavy backpack longer if it's designed so the straps are kind to your shoulders. Only recently have modern designers taken advantage of this while designing ox equipment.

Sometimes certain types of equipment gain popularity because of tradition and aesthetic appeal, but testing shows that an uncomfortable ox works with less power. The head yoke was formerly popular in parts of Europe because it provides easy control for animals, requiring a minimum of training. Unfortunately, what is gained in ease of training appears lost in working efficiency. Comparing the head yoke with a three-padded German ox collar designed for ox comfort, researcher Rolf Minhorst found that when the oxen used the ox collar their efficiency went up 21% for plowing, 58% for pulling a double-hitch wagon, and 71% for pulling a single-hitch cart.

So modern researchers are beginning to discover the same principle Krsna showed long ago: both human beings and animals benefit when we pay careful attention to the comfort of the cow and the bull. Srila Prabhupada notes, "When the bull and the cow are in a joyful mood, it is to be understood that the people of the world are also in a joyful mood."

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

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Mahabharata—The History of Greater India

Arjuna's Exile

Having overstepped an agreement among
the Pandava brothers, Arjuna leaves for the forest.

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, the great sage Narada visits the Pandavas after they have married Princess Draupadi and moved to their kingdom, Indraprastha.

Janamejaya Said:

O ascetic, what did the noble Pandavas do after attaining a kingdom at Indraprastha? They were all my great-grandfathers, those great souls, but how could Draupadi, as a religious wife, follow five husbands? And how could those five exalted princes live with Draupadi as their only wife and not fight among themselves? Dear sage, I want to hear everything in detail—how they dealt with one another and managed their relationship with Draupadi.

Sri Vaisampayana said:

The Pandavas were truly tigers of men, warriors who burned their enemies, yet they were noble and submissive to their elders. So with the permission of Dhrtarastra they and Draupadi enjoyed their new kingdom.

On obtaining the realm, powerful Yudhisthira, fixed in truthfulness, ruled over the country with his brothers according to the pious law. Conquering their enemies and devoted to truth and justice, the very learned sons of Pandu dwelled there with the greatest of joy. Taking their seats on priceless royal thrones, they who were the best of men administered to all the needs of the citizens.

Once when all those great souls were sitting on their thrones, the godly sage Narada happened to come there. Yudhisthira at once gave him his own lovely seat. When the Devarsi—the sage among the demigods—was seated, wise Yudhisthira honored him with the customary gift of arghya [water with auspicious substances] and then offered his kingdom to the sage.

Narada happily accepted the honorable welcome, and after blessing the king to prosper, he told him, "Please be seated."

With Narada's permission, King Yudhisthira sat down and at once sent word to Draupadi: "The holy one has come."

Hearing this, Draupadi quickly bathed and with great attention went to where Narada was sitting with the Pandavas. After worshiping the Devarsi's feet, that very religious woman, the daughter of Drupada, stood before him, her body chastely covered and her hands folded in reverence.

Godly Narada, ever truthful and immersed in spiritual life, pronounced various blessings upon the princess, and then that greatest of sages told that faultless woman, "You may go now."

Narada's Request

When Draupadi had left, Narada spoke to the Pandavas, headed by Yudhisthira, as they sat together in private.

"The glorious princess of Pancala is the lawful wife of all of you, and a rule must be instituted so that there will be no conflict among you. The loving friendship you share with one another must be protected. Yudhisthira, you must act so that there will be no division among you. Now, if you want to please me, arrange things so that you brothers don't fight over Draupadi."

Thus addressed by the great sage Narada, the exalted Pandavas sat down together, O king, and in the presence of Devarsi Narada, of immeasurable might, they reached an agreement as follows: "Whenever one of us is sitting alone with Draupadi, if another of us intrudes upon him the intruder must live for twelve months in the forest and practice celibacy."

The Pandavas were strict followers of the religious path. When they made this agreement, Narada was pleased, and that great sage departed to whatever land he desired.

Having thus established these rules at the urging of Narada, the Pandavas took care in their mutual dealings not to violate their agreement.

Having made this pact, the Pandavas dwelled in their city and by the fiery strength of weapons brought other regional rulers under the control of a central government.

So skillful was Draupadi that she remained submissive to all five Pandavas, lionlike men of unmeasured prowess. The men were completely satisfied with her; and she was completely pleased with her five husbands, just as the sacred river Sarasvati is pleased with the mighty elephants who splash in her waters. The Pandavas were great souls—they lived by the rules of virtue—and thus all the Kurus prospered, for they were now sinless and happy.

Arjuna's Intrusion

Then after a long time had passed, O king, some thieves stole the cows of a brahmana. When his only property was being stolen away, the brahmana, almost senseless with rage, came to Khandava Prastha and cried out to the Pandavas, "Pandavas! Cruel, wretched, and ignorant men are stealing my wealth of cows, right here in your kingdom. Pursue them! Crows are plundering the religious property of a distracted brahmana. A lowly jackal is attempting to enjoy a tiger's cave. When thieves plunder a brahmana's property and I am crying out for help, you must take up arms!"

Arjuna, son of Pandu and Kunti, was standing nearby, and he heard the brahmana sage. The great-armed one called to the sage, "Do not fear!"

Yudhisthira, king of virtue, was sitting alone with Draupadi in the place where the glorious Pandavas had stored their weapons. Therefore Arjuna could not go in to gather his weapons and pursue the thieves. But the suffering brahmana continued to cry out, and he urged the rulers again and again to help him.

Arjuna was pained by these piteous cries, and he anxiously wondered what to do. Finally, he decided he must act to dry up the tears of the ascetic sage whose wealth in cows was being plundered.

"If I do not give protection at once to that sage crying at the gate, my neglect will be a terrible offense for one who claims to be a ruler of the land. Everyone will lose faith in our ability or willingness to give protection, lawlessness will prevail, and irreligion will corrupt us. But if I enter without permission from King Yudhisthira, he will be displeased with me, without a doubt. In fact, as soon as I intrude upon the king I must be banished to the forest. Either I commit a most impious act by neglecting a helpless and saintly citizen, or I shall die in the forest. Well, virtue is more important, even at the cost of one's body."

Having thus decided, Arjuna intruded on the king, grabbed a bow, and took leave.

He approached the brahmana and with a jubilant heart said, "Brahmana, come with me quickly before those wretched men who covet another's property get far away. I shall at once take back your wealth from the hands of those thieves."

The mighty-armed prince, with bow, armor, chariot, and flag, pursued and killed the thieves with arrows, recovering the brahmana's wealth. Pandava Arjuna thus returned the cows, and after hearing the brahmana praise him, the ambidextrous hero returned to the city, having once again burned his foes to ashes.

Bowing to all his elders and receiving their welcome, Arjuna said to his older brother, Yudhisthira, Dharmaraja, the king of virtue, "I have violated our agreement by intruding upon you. I shall go to live in the forest, for that is the agreement we made."

At these dreaded words spoken all of a sudden, Yudhisthira's heart sank.

"But how can you go?" said Yudhisthira to his vigilant, unfailing brother. "If I am the judge, then listen to my words, innocent one. If you have displeased me by coming into the room, O hero, I forgive everything, and there is no pain or hidden motive in my heart. There is no transgression when a younger brother enters his older brother's place; rather, the rule is broken when the elder intrudes upon the younger. Turn back from your decision, O mighty-armed one, and obey my words. You have broken no religious rule nor done me any harm."

Arjuna said, "I have heard you say, 'One cannot practice virtue by deception or pretense.' I shall not deviate from the truth, for by truth I gain the right to use weapons."

Arjuna then persuaded the king to grant him leave. When the priests had duly initiated him for a life of celibacy, he left for the forest to live there for twelve months.

Arjuna meets Lord Krsna

Arjuna, of unlimited valor, visited in order all the pilgrimage sites and purifying sanctuaries. In the course of visiting all the holy places and shrines on the western coast, he reached Prabhasa.

Lord Krsna, slayer of the demon Madhu, heard that Arjuna had reached Prabhasa and was visiting the holy places. Krsna then traveled to meet Arjuna. They embraced and asked each other about their health and well-being.

As the two dear friends, who had formerly incarnated together as the sages Nara and Narayana, sat together, Sri Krsna asked how Arjuna was faring in his forest exile. Lord Krsna also inquired from Arjuna about his itinerary. "My dear Pandava, why are you visiting all the holy places?"

Arjuna then explained everything he had done in the forest, and Lord Krsna, chief of the Vrsni clan, listened and approved.

Krsna and Arjuna freely enjoyed themselves in Prabhasa and then went to spend some time at the Raivataka Mountain. By the order of Krsna some men had decorated an area on the mountain and brought food. Accepting all these pleasing arrangements, Arjuna ate with Lord Krsna and watched a program of theater and dance.

After thanking all the entertainers and then dismissing them, the Pandava, of great splendor, then went to the divine bed prepared for him. He told Lord Krsna, leader of the Satvatas, about the holy lands, rivers, and forests he had seen, and as he told his tales, sleep carried him off as he lay in his bed, which was as comfortable as those of the gods.

Arjuna awoke to the sounds of sweet songs, the soft strumming of vinas, and the chanting of joyful hymns, all designed to gently arouse him from slumber. After performing all the essential duties for the body and soul, and then being warmly invited by Lord Krsna, chief of the Vrsnis, Arjuna went with Him in a golden chariot to the Lord's city of Dvaraka.

The entire city of Dvaraka, down to the smallest estates, was decorated in honor of Arjuna, the son of Kunti. O Janamejaya, the inhabitants of Dvaraka, eager to see Arjuna, rushed out to the king's highway by the hundreds and thousands. A large crowd of men gathered from the Bhoja, Vrsni, and Andhaka dynasties, and hundreds and thousands of their fine ladies looked on.

All the sons of the Bhoja, Vrsni, and Andhaka clans honored Arjuna, and he saluted them, even as they were saluting him, and everyone welcomed him to the city. Every one of the young boys of those great dynasties saluted him with reverence, and the men of his same age embraced him again and again.

For many nights Arjuna stayed in the city, living with Krsna in His charming palace, which was built of gems and full of all pleasurable things.

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.

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Every Town & Village

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

World News


Thousands of devotees from India, Russia, Europe, America, Australia, and South Africa took part, at the end of March, in ISKCON's seventeenth annual Mumbai Rathayatra, the chariot festival of Jagannatha (the Lord of the universe), Lord Krsna. Member of Parliament Sanjay Nirupam inaugurated the festival, and Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra Gopinath Munde visited the festival site on the second day.

The Sarasvata Gaudiya Vaisnava Association held its second annual meeting in March at ISKCON's center in Sridham Mayapur. The association promotes friendship and cooperation among the followers of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada, the spiritual master of ISKCON's founder-acarya, Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Parama Pujya B. V. Puri Maharaja gave the opening address. Among the organizations that sent representatives: Sri Chaitanya Math, Sri Chaitanya Sarasvata Math, Sri Gaura Gadadhara Asrama, Sri Gopinatha Gaudiya Math, Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mission, Sri Paramahamsa Gaudiya Math, Sri Rupanuga Bhajanasrama, Sri Sarasvata Gaudiya Math, and ISKCON.

ISKCON sponsored large-scale distribution of yogurt and chipped rice at the annual June festival in Panihati, West Bengal. Followers of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu began the festival in this village about five hundred years ago.

Calcutta celebrated ISKCON's huge Rathayatra festival in July.

United States

Veteran ventriloquist Paul Winchell took part in the reopening ceremony of the renovated First American Transcendental Exhibition last summer at the Los Angeles Hare Krsna temple. Mr. Winchell, an ISKCON life member, wears a necklace with a pendant of Radha-Krsna around his neck. Of Krsna consciousness he has said, "I've done a lot of study of religions, and I've found this one to be the most spiritual."

Devotees gathered in June to celebrate ISKCON Atlanta's combined yearly festival—Rathayatra and the Chipped-Rice-and-Yogurt Festival. The Atlanta temple is named New Panihati, after the village in West Bengal, India.

The king of Puri, Orissa (India), visited the Chicago Hare Krsna temple last March during a visit to the U.S. to install Deities of Lord Jagannatha in several Hindu temples. At the ISKCON center, the king and his wife were pleased to have the darsana (audience) of Lord Jagannatha, and the king spoke on the history of the famous Jagannatha temple in Puri, site of the centuries-old Jagannatha Rathayatra.


South Africa's President Nelson Mandela was the guest of honor at the ISKCON-sponsored "Festival for the Children of the Rainbow Nation," held last May in one of Durban's largest soccer stadiums. During his talk, President Mandela praised the work of Hare Krishna Food for Life, which put on this picnic for children. Each of the 40,000 children in attendance, from all of South Africa's ethnic groups, received a lunch of Krsna-prasadam. On stage, children sang and performed traditional African and Indian dances.

United Kingdom

Four hundred devotees walked and chanted through London in April alongside an ox-drawn float. The float—a swan with moveable wings—bore Deities of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Nityananda Prabhu. The parade honored the appearance of Lord Krsna's incarnation as Lord Ramacandra. During the parade, devotees distributed leaflets and five thousand pieces of prasadam, food offered to Krsna.

ISKCON London celebrated the Jagannatha chariot festival in July.

A prestigious London department store is using a photo of Hare Krsna devotees in its latest advertising campaign. The store, Selfridges, wanted to show London sights that, like Selfridges, make London attractive. To determine which sights to use, Selfridges surveyed its customers, and many mentioned the Hare Krsnas chanting on Oxford Street.

Sri Lanka

Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike received a copy of the first Sinhalese edition of Bhagavad-gita As It Is. Mahakarta Dasa, president of ISKCON Colombo, and Dr. Subash Chawla, a member of the board of governors for the Srila Prabhupada Centennial Celebrations in Sri Lanka, made the presentation last March at the prime minister's office.


Devotees walked, chanted, and distributed prasadam on a three-day Padayatra, or walking festival, in February near the town of Labasa. The Padayatra went from village to village on routes covering twenty-three kilometers. The Honorable Cr. Charan Jeath Singh (MP, JP) inaugurated the festival.

Southeast Asia

ISKCON now has a center in Phnom Penh, the capital of Kampuchea (formerly Cambodia), and devotees there are distributing Srila Prabhupada's books in the Kampuchean language. Devotees interested in serving in Kampuchea may contact Dunica Artur Jerzy (Anuttareya Dasa), 49ZE Preah Sothearos St., Sankat Tunle Bassac, Khan Chamcar Mon, Phnom Penh, Kampuchea; fax: 855-23-721-742.

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Srila Prabhupada Speaks Out

"Blind Surrender to God Will Not Last"

Here we continue an exchange that took place in Perth, Australia, on May 9, 1975, between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and Carol Cameron, then a doctoral candidate in anthropology.

Carol: Your Divine Grace, how would you go about teaching this idea of love [of God]?

Srila Prabhupada: Love means that just as I want to eat something, so if I love somebody then I will see that my beloved also eats. Also, naturally the lovers present things. For instance, when a boy loves a girl, he presents something, and she should also give him something. And if I have got some confidential thing in mind, I should disclose it to the lover, and the lover is also expected not to keep anything secret. She should disclose it. If I love you just because you are beautiful—for my sense gratification—but I keep everything secret, that is not love. That is sense gratification. Lust.

So these are the six kinds of reciprocation or exchange between the lover and the beloved. These are the signs of love.

dadati pratigrhnati
guhyam akhyati prcchati
bhunkte bhojayate caiva
sad-vidham priti-laksanam

Priti means "love," and these are love's symptoms: give and take, eat and give to eat, disclose your mind and know the other party's mind. This is love. The more you increase these six kinds of loving exchange, the more you increase the love.

Carol: If a man wants to perfect his love, should he withdraw from the world?

Srila Prabhupada: First of all, we have to understand that love exists not just within one person—love must be between two. Then you can expand the love. But first we should know, love requires two—the lover and the beloved. So the transaction begins between the two; then it expands.

Carol: Do you look at the "two" as, say, the creator and the person? Would that be the two that you have in mind?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. The creator and the created. Do you believe in the creator?

Carol: An impersonal creator, yes.

Srila Prabhupada: Impersonal?

Carol: Yes.

Srila Prabhupada: Oh. What kind of philosophy is that—"impersonal creator"?

Carol: Without any attributes.

Srila Prabhupada: Creator is an attribute. Being the creator—that is an attribute. If I create this bell, I know the art of how to create a bell. Knowing this creative art is my attribute. So how can you say the creator is without attributes? This is false philosophy. I know how to create this bell. That is my artistic sense. That is my attribute. So how can you say I am without attributes? As soon as you say "creator," then that creator has got many attributes.

Carol: How can ignorance be removed?

Srila Prabhupada: The ignorant people can learn from the learned. If you have got this idea that the creator is impersonal, that means you are not learned; you have no knowledge. And this is the simple answer. As soon as you say "creator," you can understand He has so many attributes or qualities.

Suppose I am ringing this bell. Now, if the bell's spring is loose, the bell will not sound. So others may not know what to do, but the person who has created the bell knows—"Oh, the spring is loose. Now I'll tighten it again." That means the creator knows the ins and outs of whatever he has created. That is the nature of one who creates something.

So just imagine: The one who has created everything that exists—He is cognizant of everything that exists. How can He be impersonal? What is this philosophy? Hmm? Answer. You are a philosopher.

Carol: Well, He would incorporate personal attributes, not be governed by them.

Srila Prabhupada: Hmm? She says "He." But "He" has to remain impersonal. [Laughter.]

Carol: Yes. [Laughs.] It's true that creation does imply intellect and perhaps emotion.

Srila Prabhupada: Such vague ideas. And yet in this nonsensical culture, these vague ideas are passing as philosophy. "He" contradicts your impersonal idea. You say "He." And still, you insist that "He" is impersonal.

Carol: At the emotional level, it's a very personal ...

Srila Prabhupada: Why should you be emotional? You are a philosopher. You should talk very rationally.

Carol: Oh. I ... don't philosophize. My sense is that God is impersonal but He incorporates personal features. If God is in everything, then the personal attributes must be part of "Him," "it," or whatever. But God is not just limited to being a person.

Srila Prabhupada: You have no idea of God. He must be a person. As soon as you say, "He knows everything," "He creates," and so many other things, then these all mean He is personal. Repeatedly you say "He." These are all personal.

Carol: This is only our idea of God.

Srila Prabhupada: That means you have no clear idea of God, only a vague idea. So you have to learn what God is.

Carol: You think you can know the nature of God?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. You can know, also.

Carol: In an intellectual way?

Srila Prabhupada: You can know, also.

Carol: You might know something in your heart but not be able to express it.

Srila Prabhupada: Why not be able to express it? You can express it. Whatever is within your heart—if you cannot express it, then you are not perfect. You must express what is within your heart very clearly. Not that I have got something within my heart but I cannot express it. That means my knowledge is imperfect.

Carol: So often, our understanding moves sort of separately—through the heart, through feelings and emotion.

Srila Prabhupada: Emotion is not required for scientific knowledge of God. Emotion is not required. Useless. Knowledge of God must be factual. Emotion is of no use. Emotion is useful in highly developed stages of ecstatic love. But it is not that for preliminary scientific study of God you require emotion. No.

Carol: And yet in the bhakti way of doing things, this emotion and love actually are very closely intertwined, aren't they?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, but that is a higher stage. Not in the beginning. In the beginning, devotion means I should be devoted to God very rationally. To start with, why should I be devoted to God unless He is worthy? For instance, Krsna says, "You surrender unto Me." So unless I understand that Krsna is worthy of my surrendering to Him, why shall I surrender to Krsna? If I had demanded of you, as soon as you arrived here, that you surrender, would you have liked to do that? Unless you are fully aware of my abilities, qualities, why should you surrender?

So before surrendering, one has to study the person to whom he is going to surrender. Then he surrenders. That is real surrender. But blind surrender will not last.

Similarly, blind surrender to God will not last. So since our first business in this human life is to surrender to God, we must know who and what God is. Then you must surrender. And then, when it is based on solid knowledge, your emotion is good. That means you are advanced. If you understand that God is giving us everything, emotion based on that understanding is very good. If, even from the very beginning, one understands and becomes emotional—"Oh, God is so kind, God is so great. He is giving us all our necessities, so I must serve Him"—then this emotion is very good.

But for the ordinary man, this emotion does not come. He needs to study who God is, what God is. And later, when he fully understands, "Oh, God is so great," then that emotion is very nice. That is genuine emotion. Otherwise, his surrender to God is merely sentimentality. It will not stay. It will not last. It is temporary.

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Bhakti-yoga at Home

Caring for Guests

By Rohininandana Dasa

SOMETIMES WHEN my family and I prepare for the arrival of guests, our home becomes a flurry of activity. We all like to take part in some way. As we clean, cook, decorate, put flowers in vases, do extra shopping, and discuss where our guests will stay, the atmosphere in our cottage is surcharged with giving, excitement, and cooperation. The day soon becomes a festival.

Any stresses and strains between me and my wife, Radha Priya, or between the children become eased (or at least postponed). My heart becomes enlarged and relaxed in a mood of abundance, and I feel happy.

The children are happy too—because they know there will be something special cooking in the kitchen. Food is about the nub of it. There is something special, anywhere in the world, when people invite you into their home and share their food with you.

I once saw two Chinese illustrations of heaven and hell. In heaven many people were sitting around, each with a bowl of rice and long chopsticks, happily feeding each other. In hell they just tried to feed themselves.

In the Vedic tradition it is customary to invite guests for the main meal of the day. If by chance a man has no guest, Vedic custom prescribes that he should go into the street and call out, "If anyone is hungry, please come and dine with us!" In Vedic society every guest, even an enemy, is seen as Krsna's representative. An unexpected guest (atithi) especially provides the host the opportunity to think, "Maybe this guest has been sent by the Lord Himself."

Sharing prasadam, food prepared for and offered to Krsna, helps expand our consciousness—from seeing only the needs of the immediate circle of our own family to seeing that every living being belongs to the wide, wide circle of Krsna's family. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura sings, krsnera samsara kari cadi anacara: If you want to enter the spiritual world, practice being in Krsna's family in this world.

Grhasthas, married people—who are advised by the Bhagavad-gita to give charity—especially have a great opportunity to taste the ecstasy of being in Krsna's family by taking care of Krsna's guests. The guests are Krsna's guests because our homes belong to Krsna and we are His servants. When we openheartedly welcome and take care of the needs and comforts of our guests, we certainly draw their good wishes and blessings. And if our guests are pleased by our Krsna conscious reception, we can assume that Krsna is pleased. Apart from chanting Hare Krsna, what is a more enjoyable way to make spiritual progress?

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

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A Glorious Day For Gujarat

ISKCON opens a grand new
temple in Ahmedabad.

By Yasomatinandana Dasa

BY THE PURE desire and blessings of Srila Prabhupada, the Ahmedabad ISKCON center, which started in a humble rented space, now has one of the largest and most ornate temples in India.

Srila Prabhupada's venerable godbrother B. V. Puri Maharaja, religious speaker Murari Bapu, and the Honorable Chief Minister of Gujarat led the celebrations this past April to inaugurate the temple. More than ten thousand Gujarati devotees joined in.

During the first month after the inauguration, the temple was visited by more than three hundred thousand people.

The ISKCON project is named "Sri Radha Govinda Dham" after the presiding Deities, Sri Sri Radha-Govindaji. Along with Sri Radha-Govindaji, Lord Krsna also graces the temple altars in the transcendental forms of Sri Gaura-Nitai, Sri Nathaji, and Sita-Rama-Laksmana-Hanuman.

Ten days of festivals (April 15-24) marked the completion of the first phase of the temple project.

The installation of Sita-Rama, Laksmana, and Hanuman took place on April 16, Rama-navami (the appearance day of Lord Ramacandra). His Holiness B. V. Puri Maharaja offered arati (worship) to the Deities, and more than two thousand people joined him in ceremonially bathing the Lord with waters collected from one thousand holy places.

Sri Radha-Govindaji and the other Deities were installed the next day. On this occasion, Gujarat Chief Minister Sri Shankersinh Waghela and religious speaker Sri Murari Bapu formally opened the temple and praised the achievements of Srila Prabhupada and his movement.

The chief minister said, "By coming to an auspicious place such as this I find great peace, and it reminds me of the great ancient heritage of India, when the powerful rulers were instructed by saintly religious authorities. The power of dharma is always above the material power. Only through dharma can a real welfare state be developed. Srila Prabhupada was such a religious authority, and it is my great pleasure to be present to inaugurate this wonderful offering to Srila Prabhupada on his centennial."

Sri Murari Bapu spoke of Lord Caitanya's instruction that worshiping the Deity is one of the five most important devotional practices. "So today, by installing the Deities, we are certainly engaging in one of the most important functions of life," he said.

On the inauguration day more than ten thousand people received prasadam, food offered to Krsna. In the evening the well-known Bhupendra Singh and Mitali sang devotional songs. During the next seven days, artists such as Pandit Jasaraj, Anup Jalota, and Meenakshi Sheshadri offered cultural performances. On the last day, Srimati Hema Malini performed devotional music and dance.

During the festival, Srila B. V. Puri Maharaja, with tears of love in his eyes, put his hand on my head and said, "I have never seen such a beautiful temple and such beautiful vigrahas [Deities]. Krsna is very kind. The whole festival was very transcendental. This is a sure indication that He has agreed to appear here and bless the people of Gujarat."

Yasomatinandana Dasa is the temple president of ISKCON Ahmedabad.

Special Thanks

These two gentlemen played prominent roles in making the dream of a new temple a reality. The devotees of ISKCON Ahmedabad wish to offer them their heartfelt thanks. May Lord Krsna bless them for their generosity.

Sri Bibin V. Mehta contributed for the Darsana Mandapa

Sri Karsanbhai K. Patel contributed generously and rendered invaluable assistance

The Radha-Govindaji Temple

THE 25,000-SQUARE-FOOT temple, which sits on four acres of land, blends the architectural styles of Sompura (Gujarat) and Rajasthan. The temple features ornate stone-clad pillars, intricately carved windows, a marble floor engraved with colored granite designs, and a Khamira (similar to bas-relief) and Araish (a marblelike finish) ceiling decorated in Jaipur style.

Rising from the floor stand 68 large cylindrical columns, tapering from 4 feet at the base to 2 at the top. Inside the ceiling dome, which is 50 feet in diameter, Krsna and the gopis (cowherd girls) dance in beautiful fiberglass bas-reliefs. Elsewhere on the ceiling, Krsna's pastimes continue on 40 eight-foot circular panels. And on the walls, too, we find Krsna in His pastimes, each with an explanatory verse from scripture.

The area in front of the Deities, called the Darsana Mandapa, is about 12,000 square feet—the largest Darsana Mandapa in India. Almost four thousand people at once can see the Deities.


Next in the plans:

• 200-seat multimedia theater depicting scenes from Vedic scriptures

• 200-seat amphitheater with rooms for lectures, conferences, and seminars

• theistic exhibition with 40 dioramas

• ponds, fountains, and flower beds

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Divine Nature

Practical application of Vedic ethical principles can solve the environmental crisis.

By Drutakarma Dasa

Presented at Synthesis of Science and Religion, a conference sponsored by the Bhaktivedanta Institute, in Calcutta, India, January 9-12, 1997.

IF THERE IS TO BE a synthesis of science and religion, there must be a real desire and need for cooperation. And one area in which the need for cooperation between science and religion is most deeply felt is that of concern for the environment.

In 1995 I attended a conference on population, consumption, and the environment, sponsored by the Boston Theological Institute and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Coming together at the conference were scientists, politicians, religionists, and environmental activists. I was invited as an author of the book Divine Nature: A Spiritual Perspective on the Environmental Crisis, which looks at the environmental crisis from the standpoint of the Vedic teachings of India.

A keynote speaker at the conference was Bruce Babbitt, Secretary of the Interior for the United States. For a politician, Babbitt gave a remarkable speech. He told of growing up in Flagstaff, Arizona, from which can be seen a large mountain. The mountain inspired in Babbitt a sense of something wonderful in nature, something godlike. Raised in the Catholic faith, Babbitt asked a priest about the mountain, hoping to gain some clue as to its spiritual significance. But he received no satisfactory answer, perhaps because his priest was used to thinking of God as remote from nature.

Later, Babbitt approached a friend his own age. This friend, who happened to be a Native American of the Hopi tribe, took Babbitt up to the mountain and explained to him its sacred nature. And from this Babbitt said he developed a sense of God's presence in nature—to a degree not possible for him previously.

When I heard this I was reminded of the Bhagavad-gita, wherein Lord Krsna says, "Of immovable things I am the Himalayas, of flowing rivers I am the Ganges, of seasons I am the flower-bearing spring." Such expressions of God's immanence in nature are found throughout the Gita and other Indian spiritual texts.

Babbitt went on to say he understood that overconsumption was the underlying cause of most environmental problems. A general consensus at the conference held that the real issue was not overpopulation in the developing world but overconsumption, in the developed countries and increasingly in the developing ones as well. Babbitt said that as a politician he could not present to the people a program that would really solve the environmental problem. It would require too much sacrifice from the voters, so much that they would vote against anyone or any party that told them what would really be needed.

Secretary Babbitt then turned to the religionists present and said that only they could bring about the large-scale changes of values needed to reverse the process of environmental degradation.

Also speaking at the conference was Dr. Henry Kendall, professor of physics at MIT and president of the Union of Concerned Scientists. Dr. Kendall said that science can point out the dimensions of the environmental problem but cannot solve the problem. Science, he said, has no silver bullet, no technological fix for the environmental crisis. Like Secretary Babbitt, he recognized overconsumption as the cause of environmental degradation, and he too appealed to religion as the only force in the world capable of generating the changes in values needed to restrain humanity's destructive urge to overproduce and overconsume.

This was not the first time such suggestions had been made. In 1990, at the Global Forum of Spiritual and Parliamentary Leaders, held in Moscow, thirty-two scientists signed a joint declaration appealing to the world's religions to use their immense influence to preserve the environment. The scientists declared that humanity was committing "crimes against Creation." They also said, "Efforts to safeguard and cherish the environment need to be infused with a vision of the sacred."

These statements are somewhat ironic, for it is science itself, or, should I say, a particular brand of science, that is largely responsible for eliminating the sacred from our vision of the universe. Among the signers of the declaration were Carl Sagan and Stephen J. Gould. And I must say it was intriguing to see them endorsing such language as "crimes against Creation." In their writings both of them are generally quite hostile to the word creation, as is most orthodox science. It is interesting, however, how science and religion God's immanence in nature are found throughout the Gita and other Indian spiritual texts.

Babbitt went on to say he understood that overconsumption was the underlying cause of most environmental problems. A general consensus at the conference held that the real issue was not overpopulation in the developing world but overconsumption, in the developed countries and increasingly in the developing ones as well. Babbitt said that as a politician he could not present to the people a program that would really solve the environmental problem. It would require too much sacrifice from the voters, so much that they would vote against anyone or any party that told them what would really be needed.

Secretary Babbitt then turned to the religionists present and said that only they could bring about the large-scale changes of values needed to reverse the process of environmental degradation.

Also speaking at the conference was Dr. Henry Kendall, professor of physics at MIT and president of the Union of Concerned Scientists. Dr. Kendall said that science can point out the dimensions of the environmental problem but cannot solve the problem. Science, he said, has no silver bullet, no technological fix for the environmental crisis. Like Secretary Babbitt, he recognized overconsumption as the cause of environmental degradation, and he too appealed to religion as the only force in the world capable of generating the changes in values needed to restrain humanity's destructive urge to overproduce and overconsume.

This was not the first time such suggestions had been made. In 1990, at the Global Forum of Spiritual and Parliamentary Leaders, held in Moscow, thirty-two scientists signed a joint declaration appealing to the world's religions to use their immense influence to preserve the environment. The scientists declared that humanity was committing "crimes against Creation." They also said, "Efforts to safeguard and cherish the environment need to be infused with a vision of the sacred."

These statements are somewhat ironic, for it is science itself, or, should I say, a particular brand of science, that is largely responsible for eliminating the sacred from our vision of the universe. Among the signers of the declaration were Carl Sagan and Stephen J. Gould. And I must say it was intriguing to see them endorsing such language as "crimes against Creation." In their writings both of them are generally quite hostile to the word creation, as is most orthodox science. It is interesting, however, how science and religion tend to adopt each other's terminology when it suits them, often redefining the terms in the process. One of the tasks before us is to find a common language for science and religion, and use it with integrity for constructive dialogue.

Metaphysical Assumptions

When I use the word science, I mean science as governed by a certain set of metaphysical assumptions. Today's science is governed by metaphysical assumptions that eliminate the sacred from our vision of the universe, if by sacred we mean things connected with a personal God and distinct individual souls. It is quite possible, however, to have a science governed by metaphysical assumptions that would incorporate a genuine vision of the sacred.

But for today's science, governed by its present materialistic assumptions, nature is an object to be not only understood but dominated, controlled, and exploited. And it is science itself that has provided us with the instruments for such domination, control, and exploitation. Of course, I am speaking of technology.

Let's consider the automobile. It is certainly a convenience, but it has its downside—pollution, for example. And in the United States alone about fifty thousand people a year are killed in automobile accidents. (For comparison: fifty thousand American soldiers were killed in the entire eight years of the American military involvement in Vietnam.)

The connection between a materialistic conception of the universe and a materialistic way of life was noted thousands of years ago in the Bhagavad-gita. The Gita (16.8) describes materialist philosophers thus: "They say that this world is unreal, with no foundation, no God in control." And what is the practical outcome for people who live in societies dominated by this world view, which denies the fundamental reality of God and the soul? The Gita (16.11) says, "They believe that to gratify the senses is the prime necessity of human civilization. Thus until the end of life their anxiety is immeasurable." Such people, says the Gita (16.12), are "bound by a network of hundreds of thousands of desires."

Is this not our situation today? Are we not bombarded daily with messages from films, radio, newspapers, magazines, computers, and television, all attempting to entangle us further in hundreds and thousands of desires that can only be satisfied by consuming products manufactured by our thriving industries? The Gita (16.19) warns us that people like ourselves will "engage in unbeneficial, horrible acts, meant to destroy the world." And are we not gradually destroying our world, polluting its air and land and water and driving hundreds of species into extinction?

This situation presents humanity with an ethical dilemma. Put simply, ethics is a process for determining what is good and how to make choices that will establish and preserve what is good. Given the assumptions of modern materialistic science, it is difficult to construct an ethic for preserving the environment or saving endangered species.

According to today's dominant views, our planet, indeed our very universe, is the result of a cosmic accident, a chance fluctuation of the quantum mechanical vacuum. Given this assumption it is difficult to say that any particular state of our planet's environment is inherently good.

Ultimately, there is no reason to say that our earth, with its teeming life forms, is any better than Jupiter or Uranus, which according to modern astronomy are frozen lifeless planets with atmospheres composed of elements poisonous to us. Or looking at the history of our own planet, we have no reason to say that the present state of the environment is any better than that of the early earth, which according to modern geoscience was a lifeless rock with a thin reducing atmosphere hostile to today's life forms.

Alternative Viewpoints

So if we cannot say, on the basis of modern scientific assumptions, that any particular state of the environment is intrinsically good, and thus worthy of preservation, then perhaps we can approach the matter in another way. We can look at nature, at the environment, as an instrumental good. In other words, nature is something that yields things of value to living beings.

Generally speaking, we adopt an anthropocentric view and consider nature instrumental to the happiness of our own human species. But according to the assumptions of modern evolutionary science, our human species is an accidental product of millions of random genetic mutations. So there is nothing special about the human species and its needs.

Of course, we might take a larger view and appeal to nature as an instrumental good for an entire ecosystem, made up of many species. But again, we have the same problem. Why is today's ecosystem any better than the ecosystem of the Precambrian era, when, scientists tell us, there was no life at all on land, and in the oceans only jellyfish and crustaceans?

Another way to proceed is to regard the environment as a constitutive good. An acquaintance of mine, Jack Weir, professor of philosophy at Morehead State University in Kentucky, has presented such an argument. Put briefly, given the evolutionary assumptions of modern science we are what we are largely because of our environment. According to this view, we are in a sense constituted by our environmental surroundings. If our environmental surroundings were different, we would not be able to stay as we are.

But here again: Given the evolutionary assumptions of modern science, what is so special about our current status as humans? Why should it, and the environment that constitutes it, be considered worthy of preservation? Why shouldn't we continue on our present course of overconsumption and environmental destruction? Let natural selection continue to operate, as it supposedly has in the past. Let old species perish and new ones come into existence. Or let them all perish. Given that life itself is an accident of chemical combination in the earth's early oceans, it is difficult to say why there is any particular preference for a planet with life or without life.

Jack Weir backed up his claim that nature was a constitutive good with appeals to "scientific holism and epistemic coherency." But he admitted, "Other appeals could be made," such as to "stories and myths, religious traditions, and metaphysical beliefs."

Of course, one could also appeal to a different science, founded upon a different set of metaphysical assumptions and perhaps arriving at different conclusions about the origin of life and the universe.

If we look at the history of science, from the time of Newton until the present, we find that scientists have accumulated a large body of evidence suggesting a vital force operating in living things, a force operating beyond the laws of physics and chemistry as currently understood. All around the world we find great interest in alternative systems of medicine, such as the Ayur Veda, which are based on understanding this vital force, or forces. At the UCLA medical school there is an institute devoted to integrating the insights of traditional Eastern medical systems with Western medicine.

There is also quite an accumulation of evidence pointing to a conscious self that can exist apart from the physical organism. This evidence comes from studies of phenomena ranging from out-of-body experiences to past-life memories. Much of this evidence does not easily fit the materialistic assumptions of modern science and is therefore regarded with suspicion. But this evidence is increasing daily, and it could be incorporated into the framework of a new science operating with an expanded set of metaphysical assumptions.

Aside from the Bhaktivedanta Institute, a number of scientific societies are attempting this, among them the Society for Scientific Exploration, the Scientific and Medical Network in England, the Institute for Noetic Sciences in the United States, and the International Society for the Study of Subtle Energy and Energy Medicine. Furthermore, as scientists carry their research into the biomolecular machinery within the cell, they encounter structures and systems of irreducible complexity, leading some of them once more to seriously entertain the idea of intelligent design rather than chance evolution. In this regard, I can recommend biochemist Michael Behe's various papers or his recent book Darwin's Black Box.

Studies of the Paranormal

Last November I spoke to a gathering of physicists at the department of nuclear physics at the ELTE science university in Budapest, Hungary. I shared the podium with Maurice Wilkins, a British Nobel laureate in physics, whose discoveries helped in the construction of the first atomic bomb. The topic was, as here, science and religion. I chose as my topic physics and the paranormal. I proposed that if there was to be any synthesis of science and religion it would have to be on the mysterious ground of reality that lies between them, and undoubtedly the views about this ground would have to be renegotiated.

In physics, that might involve a return to an understanding of reality that had a nonmaterial, nonmechanistic component. I pointed out that Newton wrote just as much about alchemy and spiritual topics as he did about physics, optics, and mathematics, and that for Newton these were all part of one system, from which modern science has abstracted only the part that suits it.

The idea of serious investigation into nonmaterial or paranormal components of physical reality is today taboo, but it has not always been so. In the last century, Sir William Crookes, Nobel laureate in physics, discoverer of thallium, inventor of the cathode ray tube, and president of the Royal Society, conducted extensive research into the paranormal. The French physiologist Charles Richet, another Nobel laureate, who himself conducted extensive research into paranormal phenomena, tells us in his book Thirty Years of Psychical Research that he was sometimes assisted by Pierre and Marie Curie, who shared the Nobel prize in physics for their discoveries of radioactive elements. For example, we find Marie Curie observing a famous medium, while Pierre Curie measured the movements of objects under apparent psychokinetic influence.

I bring up these incidents not to prove the reality of the phenomena but to illustrate the open-mindedness of these famous experimental physicists, their willingness to investigate difficult and troubling phenomena. Isn't that what science, at its best, is supposed to be about?

After I finished my talk in Budapest, I wondered, of course, how it had been received. I was surprised when the head of the physics department of a major European university approached me and disclosed that in his home he had been privately conducting telepathic experiments. To his extreme surprise, he had achieved some interesting results, and he asked me if I could put him in touch with Americans conducting similar investigations.

Forming an Environmental Ethic

Now, what does all this have to do with the environment, with nature? Everything, because if we are going to formulate an environmental ethic, we first should understand what our environment really is. And from the Vedic, and in particular Vaisnava, standpoint, we would have to say that it is a divine energy, an energy emanating from a transcendent God who is nevertheless immanent in nature. Nature is itself populated with conscious entities and structured in a definite way for a definite purpose, namely providing an opportunity for these conscious entities to return to their original pure state.

There is a body of scientific evidence consistent with several elements of this view. In other words, religion may be something more than a socially useful set of beliefs that can be harnessed by science to help solve certain problems, such as the environmental crisis. It just may be so that religion has crucial insights into the nature of reality that can be foundational for a true synthesis of science and religion for the benefit of mankind.

With these foundational assumptions, formulating an environmental ethic becomes easier. Given that according to Vaisnava teaching this world is a reflection of a variegated, and essentially gardenlike, spiritual reality, we could say that there is some intrinsic value in attempting to maintain a state of the environment that most closely matches the original. When children learn, they generally copy letters. If their attempt resembles the original it is said to be good; if it does not, it is said to be bad. In the same way, we can propose that there is some intrinsic goodness to a particular state of environmental affairs.

Furthermore, certain Vedic principles contribute to a viable environmental ethic. The first of these is athato brahma-jijnasa. This is the opening mantra of the Vedanta-sutra. It means that the purpose of human life is cultivation of consciousness, including cultivation of the loving relationship between the individual consciousness and the supreme consciousness.

I want to interject here that not every religious teaching leads to a viable environmental ethic. Many manifestations of religion, like modern materialistic science, encourage destructive domination, exploitation, and unending consumption. But the Vedic system emphasizes the study and development of consciousness over the study and development of matter. Matter is not ignored, but it is seen in its connection with the supreme consciousness. In any case the principle of brahma-jijnasa encourages an ethic of moderation, which contributes to reasonable levels of economic development and consumption that would help unburden the ecosystem.

The Vedanta-sutra also says anandamayo 'bhyasat. We are meant for happiness, and by cultivating consciousness by proper means we can attain nonmaterial satisfaction. And this also sustains an ethic of moderation. The Gita says, param drstva nivartate: When you get the higher taste of developed spiritual consciousness, you automatically refrain from excessive material gratification. A proper balance is achieved.

The Role of Nonviolence

The Vedic principle of ahimsa, or nonviolence, also has its application. Nonviolence can be understood in many ways. For example, to encourage people to devote their lives to unrestrained material production and consumption can be considered a kind of violence against the human spirit. We just have to look around us to see the effects of this violence. If we look at Americans at Christmastime crowding into their shiny malls, and instead of heeding the Vedic teaching athato brahma-jijnasa devoting themselves to the teaching of "athato shop until you drop," we see a kind of violence. When we see young Chinese workers crowded into dormitories around the factories that provide most of the Christmas goods found in the American malls, we might also sense violence to the human spirit.

The principle of ahimsa can also be applied to the earth itself. We have recently heard of the Gaia principle, the idea that the earth is in some sense an organism. This principle has long been recognized in Vedic philosophy, and we should try not to commit violence to our planet by unnecessarily poisoning her air, land, and water.

And nonviolence also applies to other living things. Accepting the Vedic teaching of ahimsa, we will not hunt species to extinction. I will also point out that the killing of animals for food, especially animals raised in factory farms and killed in huge mechanized slaughterhouses, is one of the most environmentally destructive practices in the world today. It is wasteful of precious natural resources. It poisons the land and water.

Voluntary Simplicity

So the Vedic philosophy provides numerous supports for an ethic of environmental preservation. Similar support can be derived from the teachings of other great religious traditions of the world. But putting this wisdom into practice is difficult.

In many areas of ethical concern we can adopt an objective stance. But when we speak of the environmental crisis, we find that almost all of us are directly implicated. And it is therefore difficult to speak about environmental ethics without seeming hypocritical. Nevertheless we must speak. And this engenders in us a sense of humility, and also a sense that even small steps toward the real solution, which must be a spiritual solution, are to be welcomed and appreciated.

Alan Durning, a senior researcher at the World Watch Institute, writes, "It would be hopelessly naive to believe that entire populations will suddenly experience a moral awakening, renouncing greed, envy, and avarice. The best that can be hoped for is a gradual widening of the circle of those practicing voluntary simplicity."

In this regard, I want to briefly mention that His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada started several rural communities for demonstrating a life of such voluntary simplicity. Since his departure from this world in 1977, the number of such communities has increased to forty on five continents, in locations ranging from the Atlantic rain forest of Brazil to the steppes of Russia.

After I spoke to the physicists in Budapest, I had a chance to visit one of these communities. I have to confess I was rather astonished to find such a rural community founded on Vedic principles in the plains of southwestern Hungary. The center of the community was a somewhat modernistic temple, but when I inquired I learned that it had been constructed using rammed earth walls and other traditional techniques. No electricity was used in the temple or anywhere else in the community. Along the temple walls I saw brass lamps, which burned oil pressed from locally grown rape seeds.

It was a rather cold day in November, and I saw that the building was heated with super-efficient wood-burning stoves, using wood sustainably harvested from a fifty-acre plot of forest owned by the community. I was then offered a vegetarian meal, which featured locally grown vegetables, cheese from the community's cows, and capatis made from wheat grown and ground in the community. I learned that oxen are being trained to do farm work and transport.

The people I met did not seem in any way deprived. I told some of them, "You're doing the right thing." And isn't that what environmental ethics is all about—not just talking about the right thing, but doing it?

To summarize, from the standpoint of Vedic principles I would say that the following elements are necessary for a complete solution to the environmental crisis: (1) a science that recognizes distinct conscious selves, emanating from an original conscious self, as fundamental entities, (2) a religion that goes beyond dogma and ritual to provide actual sources of nonmaterial satisfaction by practice of yoga, meditation, and so on, (3) respect for all living things, seeing them as conscious selves like us, (4) an ecofriendly vegetarian diet, and (5) an economic system founded on villages and small cities, emphasizing local production and self-sufficiency. Anything short of this will simply not give the desired result.

Drutakarma Dasa is a member of the Bhaktivedanta Institute, specializing in the history and philosophy of science. He has been an editor of Back to Godhead since 1977.

Bringing Together Science and Religion

The Bhaktivedanta Institute presents the ideas of Krsna consciousness within the world of science. In honor of the 1996 Srila Prabhupada Centennial, the Institute organized the Second World Congress for the Synthesis of Science and Religion. Here we summarize the proceedings of the Congress, held on January 9-12, 1997, in Calcutta.

CONGRESS THEME: Conceptual Foundations for a Synthesis of Science and Religion.

ATTENDANCE: Nineteen hundred registered delegates and fifty-one invited scholars, representing fields such as biology, theology, astrophysics, atomic physics, cognitive science, nuclear chemistry, ecological psychology, mind-body medicine, and philosophy of science.

Inaugural Address

Prof. C. H. Townes, co-inventor of laser technology, argued that science and religion must converge, since both involve acts of faith. Prof. Townes outlined many problems and enigmas in modern science, and he concluded that science by itself is unlikely ever to meet all of our needs for knowledge.

First Day, Afternoon Session

Title: Religion and Explanation of the Natural World.

Because science has achieved great technological successes, its larger claims about the nature of life are being increasingly accepted, even if materialistic and mechanistic. If religion is to succeed in promoting a spiritual outlook, it must present not only theology but also an understanding of matter with demonstrable empirical content.

This theme was addressed by four eminent theologians, representing Judaism (Dr. D. Matt), Christianity (Prof. D. Foster), Islam (Ayatollah Dr. M. M. Damad), and Hinduism (His Holiness Bhakti Caru Swami).

Second Day, Morning Session

Title: Conceptual Foundations in Physical Sciences.

Prof. E. C. G. Sudarshan, a theoretical physicist from the University of Texas, gave the keynote address on science and creativity. The rest of the session focused on quantum physics. Prof. Amit Gowami, a theoretical physicist from the University of Oregon, offered a consciousness-based interpretation of quantum theory from the viewpoint of monistic Vedanta. Prof. E. MacKinnon of California State University at Hayward spoke on extending the interpretive ideas of Neils Bohr. Next, Rasaraja Dasa (Ravi Gomatam) of the Bhaktivedanta Institute spoke on "The Pragmatic and Mystical Elements in Einstein's Philosophy of Science."

Second Day, Afternoon Session

Title: Conceptual Foundations in Science: Life Sciences and Mathematics.

R. B. Woodward is a Nobel Prize-winning chemist famous for having elevated to an art the synthesizing of organic compounds. He visualized compounds in complex three-dimensional models, which often remarkably mirrored art patterns from ancient cultures, such as Hindu mandalas. His daughter, Dr. Crystal Woodward, a Ph.D. in art, spoke on her father's work and the nexus between conceptual objects and reality in art, religion, and chemistry.

Prof. Joe Kamiya spoke on the biofeedback theory, which he originated. Prof. V. Krishnamurthy, an Indian mathematician, examined the status of realism in science. Dr. Bruce Mangan from the University of California at Berkeley spoke about the emerging field of consciousness studies within science. Science, he noted, is dominated by varieties of materialism, such as strong reductionism (mental processes are identical and therefore reducible to physical workings in the brain) and functionalism (mental processes are emergent properties of complex physical structures). Yet this materialism has been only a brief interlude; science prior to World War I concerned itself with consciousness in its subjective fullness.

Third Day, Morning Session

Title: Science and Consciousness.

During several parallel sessions, scholars presented more than 130 papers. The papers dealt with three themes: (1) Models of Mind and Life, (2) Ecology and Values, (3) Rationality, Science, and Religion.

One paper, by Greg Anderson (Grantharaja Dasa) of the Bhaktivedanta Institute brought up that in spite of so much knowledge about cell biochemistry, scientists are still unable to synthesize the most basic living cell.

Third Day, Afternoon Session

This special session honored Srila Prabhupada on the occasion of his Centennial.

His Holiness Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Swami (Dr. T. D. Singh), international director of the Bhaktivedanta Institute, spoke about Srila Prabhupada's contribution to contemporary scientific and religious thought.

Prof. S. P. Olivier, who had received Srila Prabhupada at the University of Natal at Durban, recalled the impact of Srila Prabhupada's visit.

Dr. Dora Bazan from South America characterized Srila Prabhupada as a savior from the East.

Dr. Gregory Benford recalled his discussions with Srila Prabhupada in the gardens of ISKCON's Los Angeles temple.

Dr. Paul Dossick, M.D. (Pusta Krsna Dasa) spoke on the role of transcendental knowledge in scientific inquiry. He presented Srila Prabhupada's teachings on the soul, consciousness, and reincarnation.

Dr. N. D. Desai (Srinathaji Dasa), a prominent businessman from Mumbai, described Srila Prabhupada's views on business ethics.

His Holiness Jayapataka Swami recalled several of Prabhupada's rational arguments that appealed to the mindset of Western youth in the '60s.

Fourth Day, Morning Session

Title: Contemporary Ethical Challenges.

Prof. Gregory Benford discussed ethical issues in molecular biology. Dr. T. K. K. Iyer, a professor of law at Singapore University, emphasized that science and religion must join hands to guide the developing field of bioethics. Prof. Jonathan Shear from England, editor of The Journal for Consciousness Studies, argued that without acknowledging the inner domain of consciousness, neither science nor religion can usefully cultivate morality in the modern age. Drutakarma Dasa's paper, reprinted here, was given at this session.

Fourth Day, Concluding Session

An open panel of the invited speakers convened to further examine issues raised in the conference.

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Vedic Thoughts

Anyone whose work is not meant to elevate him to religious life, anyone whose religious ritualistic performances do not raise him to renunciation, and anyone situated in renunciation that does not lead him to devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead must be considered dead, although breathing.

Srimati Devahuti
Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.23.56

With a single fragment of Myself, I pervade and support this entire universe.

Lord Sri Krsna
Bhagavad-gita 10.42

Anyone who has any desire or aspiration for satisfying his senses by becoming more and more important, either in the material sense or in the spiritual sense, cannot actually relish the really sweet taste of devotional service.

His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
The Nectar of Devotion, p. 33

Firm, ceaseless, and unshakable love of God which surpasses every other form of affection or attachment, and which is based on and inspired by a full knowledge of His transcendent majesty, is called bhakti; by that alone does one attain liberation—by no other means.

Sripada Madhvacarya

A person who can understand that the Absolute Truth can exist with form and variety in a pure transcendental state can properly see that Visnu, His name, and His qualities are all one and inseparable from Him. This concept of Krsna with personality is actual knowledge. With this understanding one can take to chanting the holy name, knowing that it is Krsna Himself ...

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura
The Holy Name

[O Lord,] when shall we engage as Your permanent eternal servants and always feel joyful to have such a perfect master?

Sri Yamunacarya
Stotra-ratna 43

When faults in others misguide and delude you—have patience, introspect, find faults in yourself. Know that others cannot harm you unless you harm yourself.

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura
Discourse in Dhaka, Bangladesh, 1935

One should engage in penance and austerity to attain the divine position of devotional service. By such activity, one's heart is purified, and when one attains this position, he attains eternal, blissful life, which is transcendental to material happiness and which continues forever.

Lord Rsabhadeva
Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.5.1

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