Statement of Purposes
1. To help all people discern reality from illusion, spirit from matter, the eternal from the temporary.
Who Is This Magazine For?
WHO IS BACK TO GODHEAD meant for? Is it a magazine just for Krsna devotees? Or for a broader Krsna conscious congregation? Or is it for everbody? Or what?
As the editor, here's how I think of it.
First, yes, at the core of our audience we find Krsna's devotees. Since this is a magazine about Krsna, naturally it should inform and enliven Krsna's devotees, those who have fully dedicated their lives to following the path of Krsna consciousness.
And then, surrounding that core, I envision an audience that extends much further, in wider and wider circles.
In our next circle outward comes our broader Krsna conscious community. Here again I mean people who devote themselves to Krsna, perhaps almost fully, perhaps just starting, everyone at his or her own level of spiritual advancement. For this broader congregation, BTG should serve as spiritual food, to keep Krsna consciousness alive and growing, as well as tasty.
In yet another circle, often overlapping the first two, I think of an audience "born into" the Vedic heritage: those raised in the Hindu community, the Hindu religion, or the Hindu way of life.
If you're born Hindu, the spiritual knowledge and culture of the Vedic sages are your natural inheritance. And BTG will give you a deeper understanding of what you've inherited, and how to take advantage of that inheritance to attain the perfection of life.
Add here, too, the Hare Krsna "second generation": those born and brought up in the Hare Krsna movement. For the sons and daughters of Hare Krsna devotees, BTG helps clear the way to the lotus feet of Krsna.
Extending outward one more circle, we find a world of spiritual seekers, people sincerely looking for understanding, for enlightenment, for truth. Some may not even have decided that the truth is spiritual; but whatever the truth may be, they're looking for it.
"Who am I?" they ask. "Why am I here? What is my purpose in life?" For such inquiring souls, thirsty for truth, BTG offers the fresh, pure water of the Vedic knowledge, flowing strong and broad like the timeless river Ganges, and says, "Here, drink deep."
Even people already following a spiritual path will find gifts of eternal value in the pages of BACK TO GODHEAD.
And at last, extending as far as we can go, we come to people who are spiritually asleep. Bewitched by illusion, oblivious of their eternal nature, they have their backs to what's real and are busy chasing shadows. For them, BACK TO GODHEAD issues a call: "Wake up ! Wake up! Don't stay in illusion; come to reality. Don't stay in the darkness; come to the light. Don't stay in the world of birth and death; taste the nectar of eternal existence."
This is what we hope to achieve through BACK TO GODHEAD.
The article by Samba Dasa [May/June] about his near-death experience is remarkable for its description of how he was able to remember Krsna and how Krsna responded by protecting him completely. It reminds us of the potency of Krsna's name and in what a helpless situation we living entities are.
I found it especially important for me because I tend to lose precious time in meaningless activities unconnected with Krsna and His all-powerful and all-attractive name.
Please permit me to point out that your magazine is well received and your Letters page commands a lot of interest. As a journalist of thirty-two years experience, I know for a fact that the letters page of a periodical is an indicator of how popular the periodical is.
Allow me to take this opportunity to congratulate you on the splendid article on Nrsimhadeva, an incarnation of Lord Visnu. That article appeared in your issue of May/June 1996 and was titled "Lord Nrsimhadeva Comes to Mayapur."
Forgive me for such a belated response. But as the saying goes, better late than never. I was considerably enlightened by that article and actually read it several times before drafting a response.
I have always wondered about the complexities of the construction of murtis [carved forms of the Lord], particularly those depicting Lord Narayana and His incarnations. I knew that correct proportions have a lot to do with the actual depiction, but to what extent I was only able to discover after digesting your beautiful article. It was a delicious experience, like tasting honey.
I have seen many murtis of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and I realize that the murti or the picture is the actual person. Srila Prabhupada makes this point in his lectures over and over, stressing the absolute nature of the Supreme Being. As such, murtis are to be respected and treated with love and devotion. What I learned from the narrative of the construction of the Nrsimhadeva murti has served to strengthen my belief.
I also know that there have to be professional sculptors of murtis of divine beings, and I hold the view that such persons have to be dedicated, committed, and knowledgeable of the subject. The implications are awesome if an offense is committed in the process, even in error.
In the narrative, it is stated that the guru advised the sthapati [sculptor] not to make the statue. "Don't do it," he cautioned. "Your family will be destroyed!" How the sthapati was finally made to sculpt the statue is told in a style full of suspense. And how the sthapati had to hurriedly send away the finished statue from his studio to its present location in the temple at Mayapur makes dramatic reading.
I was so impressed with the article that I bought a second copy of the magazine and made a present of it to a dear friend of mine, who is a Hindu priest and president of the Guyana Hindu Dharmic Sabha. I told him to pay special attention to that article.
Please allow me therefore to take the opportunity once again to offer my congratulations to the International Society for Krishna Consciousness for doing a great job worldwide. May I humbly suggest that Back to Godhead magazine would do well should it find and publish more stories like the one aforementioned. In this turbulent Age of Kali, such stories of the Supreme Personality of Godhead help to strengthen the faith of devotees. It did in my case.
Clinton Collymore, M.P. Minister in the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development
Please write us at: 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: firstname.lastname@example.org
The following verses from the Bhagavad-gita (10.8-11) are known as the "nutshell" verses of the Gita, because they contain the essence of Lord Krsna's teachings in that great transcendental work.
aham sarvasya prabhavo
I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me. The wise who perfectly know this engage in My devotional service and worship Me with all their hearts.
The thoughts of my pure devotees dwell in Me, their lives are fully devoted to My service, and they derive great satisfaction and bliss from always enlightening one another and conversing about Me.
To those who are constantly devoted to serving Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me.
To show them special mercy, I, dwelling in their hearts, destroy with the shining lamp of knowledge the darkness born of ignorance.
Action takes on its true purpose for a person with realized knowledge.
A lecture given in London on August 24, 1971
by His Divine Grace
yah svanubhavam akhila-sruti-saram ekam
"Let me offer my respectful obeisances unto him [Suka], the spiritual master of all sages, the son of Vyasadeva, who, out of his great compassion for those gross materialists who struggle to cross over the darkest regions of material existence, spoke this Purana, supplement to the Vedas, the cream of Vedic knowledge, after having personally assimilated it by experience."—Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.2.3
THESE ARE THE qualifications of the spiritual master: svanubhavam, "must have assimilated personally," and sruti, "must have heard."
The Vedas are called sruti because absolute knowledge has to be learned by hearing, not by speculation. Here Suta Gosvami is offering respect to Sukadeva Gosvami because Sukadeva Gosvami has assimilated the whole Vedic knowledge, or sruti-sara. Sara means "essence." What is the ultimate goal of knowledge, the essence of knowledge? That is explained in Bhagavad-gita: vedais ca sarvair aham eva vedyah. The real purpose of Vedic knowledge is to search for Krsna.
Sukadeva Gosvami assimilated the Vedic knowledge, and he was searching after Krsna. Although a liberated soul, still he was after Krsna.
To become liberated is not the final stage. Liberation means to understand that one is not the material body. But that much knowledge is not sufficient; one must also act according to that knowledge. When one is cured of a fever, that is nice. But that is called the convalescent stage. In the convalescent stage, if we do not take care nicely the fever may relapse. Convalescence is a marginal stage. We must come either to the healthy state or to the feverish state.
So even if we are liberated, if we are not engaged in the activities of liberation then we are considered to be in the marginal stage. And the marginal stage means that we may fall into the material condition. Aruhya krcchrena param padam tatah patanty adho 'nadrta-yusmad-anghrayah. Krcchrena means "with great difficulty." Philosophers try with great difficulty to understand the Absolute Truth by mental speculation. But simply by mental speculation you cannot stay in that understanding. Or, in other words, by theoretical knowledge you cannot escape. Knowledge must be practiced.
In our Krsna consciousness movement we put the candidate into practice. Without practice, knowledge alone is no good. Simply to become foolishly puffed up—thinking, "I am now liberated"—is not liberation.
That point is explained elsewhere in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Ye 'nye 'ravindaksa vimukta-maninah. Vimukta-maninah refers to those who think they have become liberated, such as the Mayavada, or impersonalist, sannyasis. They address one another as "Narayana," implying that everyone has become Narayana, God.
The modern increase of incarnations of God means that the Mayavada philosophy is prevalent, because in the Mayavada philosophy everyone thinks that he is God, Narayana. "I have become Narayana." No. You cannot become Narayana. You can become Narayana's dasa, the servant of Narayana. That is your healthy state.
Activity After Liberation
Liberation means sufficient knowledge to understand that one is not the body. That is called liberation. After liberation there is activity. That the Mayavadis do not know. They think that after liberation there is no activity. Some of them use the example that when a water pot is full it makes no more sound. But our philosophy is that when one is liberated one's actual life begins.
What is that actual life? To be engaged in the transcendental loving service of the Lord. Therefore in the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna says,
"One who is thus transcendentally situated at once realizes the Supreme Brahman and becomes fully joyful. He never laments or desires to have anything. He is equally disposed toward every living entity. In that state he attains pure devotional service unto Me."
One must realize, assimilate, how he is Brahman, or spirit. Brahman means the Absolute Truth. We living entities, being part and parcel of the Supreme Brahman, Krsna, are certainly Brahman, absolute. There is no doubt about it. But if one stops the activities of Brahman realization, then he falls down.
The Brahman activities are those of devotional service. People may think, "These Krsna conscious people are also working, they are also eating, they are also sleeping, they are also earning money. We are earning money in this way; they are earning money in another way." So they may see the similarity of action. To fools, karma (fruitive work) and bhakti (devotional service) appear the same. But they are not the same. In bhakti is the realization that everything belongs to Krsna, whereas on the karma platform, the realization is "Everything belongs to me. It is my house, my money, my child, my country, my society, my property."
"My" and "I."
"I am the monarch of all I survey, and I am the proprietor of everything." This misconception is not there in bhakti. In the bhakti school everything belongs to Krsna. We don't take anything as our own. That is called Vaisnava philosophy.
It is stated here yah svanubhavam. Svanubhavam means "personally convinced." Anubhavam. God can be realized at the present stage by anubhava, appreciation. We cannot see God now, but there is no difference between seeing God and appreciating or understanding the nature of God, because God is Absolute. So our business at present is to feel the presence of the Lord in every action.
The presence of the Lord—that is wanted. If you continue in Krsna consciousness, seeing the presence of the Lord in everything, then some day it will be possible for you to see Krsna face to face.
Now we are seeing the Deity of Krsna, so we are seeing Krsna. Here is Krsna. But because we are conditioned souls, sometimes we think, "This is not actually Krsna; this is a statue of Krsna." But that is not the fact. The fact is that Krsna is one. Krsna is absolute, advaya-jnana. He is identical to everything, because everything is a manifestation of His energy.
Energy is not different from the energetic. Sakti-saktimatayor abhedam. The heat and light of the sun appear different from the sun, but actually they are not, because they exist simultaneously with the sun. Wherever there is sun there is heat and light. Or wherever there is heat and light there is sun. In the morning when you see that there is no more darkness you understand that the sun has risen.
Svanubhava means to have no darkness in your heart. When you understand Krsna fully within your heart, your actual liberation is attained.
After assimilating the whole Vedic literature, Sukadeva Gosvami distributed it. That is another instinct of one who has knowledge. If you really have learned the essence of Vedic knowledge, automatically you'll be inclined to preach it. Sravanam kirtanam. Sravanam means to hear, to receive the knowledge. And kirtanam means to distribute, to describe the knowledge.
Yah svanubhavam akhila-sruti-saram ekam adhyatma-dipam. Dipam means "lamp." Srimad-Bhagavatam is just like a lamp in the darkness to see Krsna, or God. And for whom is it meant? Srimad-Bhagavatam is not meant for those accustomed to reading nonsense literature. They want to waste their time. They have no engagement. They purchase some book of fiction and read it. But this book—Srimad-Bhagavatam—is different from those books. It is meant for persons desiring to get out of this world of ignorance (tamo 'naham).
Grham andha-kupam. Andha means "blind" or "darkness." Our materialistic way of life is described as grham andha-kupam. Family life is just like a dark well. We are already in darkness, and another darkness is to fall into a dark well. If one falls into a dark well, it is very difficult to get out, because one may cry very loudly and people may not hear.
We are in darkness in the universe. The universe is dark because it is covered. The covering is like a coconut shell. Within a coconut shell it is dark, and outside it is light. Similarly, the universe is just like a coconut, and we are within.
And as a coconut is half full of water, the universe is also half full of water. On that water Lord Garbhodakasayi Visnu is lying. And from His navel a lotus stem sprouts. Just imagine that within a coconut there is water and someone is lying there and a stem is coming from his navel. The universe is exactly like that.
Outside the universe there is light. Here, within the universe, because it is covered, light is required. Sunlight is required. Moonlight is required. Electricity is required. But in the spiritual world there is no necessity of light—everything there is self-effulgent.
Tamasi ma jyotir gama: "Don't stay in the darkness. Come to the light." For those who are actually serious to go out of the darkness and go to the light, Srimad-Bhagavatam is the lamp.
Samsarinam karunaya. Saintly persons are very compassionate to materialistic men, samsarinam. Samsar" means that people are perpetually wandering within this darkness in different forms of life. Caitanya Mahaprabhu says, brahmanda bhramite: we are wandering throughout the universe. The modern educational system has no knowledge of this. Modern so-called education teaches, "Our one life is everything. Waste this life by sense gratification, because after death everything is void. Now you have this body, so enjoy your senses."
That is the materialistic way of life. People have no knowledge that there is life after death. But we should prepare ourselves. We should know what kind of body we shall have in the next life. But instead of understanding these things, people are being carried away by the waves of material nature.
Bhaktivinoda Thakura therefore sings,
(miche) mayar bose, jaccho bhese',
Everyone is suffering. Under the influence of maya, the illusory energy, everyone is being carried away by the "waves"—the three modes of material nature—and everyone is suffering. Sometimes we are drowned, sometimes we come up; sometimes relief, sometimes distress. The only way to get out of this anxiety—to stop perpetually being carried away—is to take shelter of Krsna. Krsna says, sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja: "You are suffering; simply surrender unto Me."
The Srimad-Bhagavatam says the same thing: surrender to Krsna. Srimad-Bhagavatam begins, satyam param dhimahi: "I offer my respect to the Supreme." Om namo bhagavate vasudevaya: "I offer my respectful obeisances to Lord Vasudeva." Vasudeva means Krsna.
The Confidential Purana
Samsarinam karunayaha purana-guhyam. The Srimad-Bhagavatam is also known as the Bhagavata Purana. The Mayavadis say that the Puranas are stories. No. They are not stories. Purana means "to fill, to supplement, to complete." The Puranas are not outside the Vedic literature. Ramayana, Mahabharata, Purana—they all belong to the Vedic literature. The Srimad-Bhagavatam is called Maha-purana, "the great Purana." Why? Purana-guhyam: because it is very confidential.
There are three kinds of puranas: sattvika-purana, for people in the mode of goodness; rajasika-purana, for people in the mode of passion; and tamasika-purana, for people in the mode of ignorance. The aim of each is to take the reader, according to his quality, to the platform of liberation.
In the tamasika-puranas are recommendations to worship goddess Kali. In the rajasika-puranas are recommendations to worship demigods in the heavenly planets, such as Indra and Candra. But in the sattvika-puranas only the worship of Lord Visnu is recommended.
The Srimad-Bhagavatam is called purana-guhyam because in this purana you won't find any recommendation for worshiping any demigod. Simply satyam param dhimahi—only the ultimate Absolute Truth, Krsna. Om namo bhagavate vasudevaya.
Sukadeva Gosvami first of all spoke Srimad-Bhagavatam out of compassion for people suffering material pangs. Tam vyasa-sunum upayami gurum muninam. Suta Gosvami says, gurum muninam: "Sukadeva Gosvami is not only my guru but the guru of great sages and saintly persons."
Even Vyasadeva, the compiler of the Vedas, considered Sukadeva, his son, greater than himself. When Sukadeva Gosvami appeared in the assembly where many saintly persons were present at the time of Maharaja Pariksit, all the munis, saintly persons, stood up to receive him. Even Vyasadeva stood up. Therefore Sukadeva is gurum muninam, the spiritual master of all saintly persons.
[To disciple:] Read the purport.
Disciple [reading]: "In this prayer Srila Suta Gosvami practically summarizes the complete introduction of the Srimad-Bhagavatam. The Srimad-Bhagavatam is the natural supplementary commentary on the Vedanta-sutras. The Vedanta-sutras, or the Brahma-sutras, were compiled by Vyasadeva with a view to presenting just the cream of Vedic knowledge."
Prabhupada: Yes. First of all there was only one Veda, the Atharva-veda. Then Vyasadeva divided it by subject into four Vedas: Sama, Yajur, Atharva, and Rg. Then he explained the Vedas through the Puranas.
Vyasadeva compiled the Mahabharata for the same purpose—to help people understand the Vedic literature. The Srimad-Bhagavatam says,
"Out of compassion, the great sage [Vyasadeva] ... compiled the great historical narration called the Mahabharata for women, laborers, and friends of the twice-born."
Vyasadeva summarized the Vedic literature by writing the Vedanta-sutra. Still he was not happy, and under the direction of his spiritual master, Narada, he wrote the commentary on the Vedanta-sutra: Srimad-Bhagavatam.
Disciple: "Srimad-Bhagavatam is the natural commentary on this cream. Srila Sukadeva Gosvami was a thoroughly realized master of the Vedanta-sutra, and consequently he also personally realized the commentary, the Srimad-Bhagavatam. And just to show his boundless mercy upon bewildered materialistic men who want to cross completely over nescience, he recited for the first time this confidential knowledge.
"There is no point in arguing that a materialistic man can be happy. No materialistic creature, be he the great Brahma or an insignificant ant, can be happy. Everyone tries to make a permanent plan for happiness, but everyone is baffled by the laws of material nature. Therefore the materialistic world is called the darkest region of God's creation. Yet the unhappy materialists can get out of it simply by desiring to get out. Unfortunately they are so foolish that they do not want to escape."
Prabhupada: People do not know that escape is possible. They think this life is all. That is their education. They have no knowledge. Although they are suffering at every step, they are making plans in their own way within the material world. Big organizations like UNESCO and others are trying to stop the suffering. Their attempts are described in the Srimad-Bhagavatam as carvita-carvananam: "chewing the chewed." Our present leaders can see that our previous leaders tried to stop suffering but were unsuccessful, but still they want to try in a different way. If you are really anxious to become free from conditional life, you have to take knowledge from spiritual sources.
Disciple: "Therefore they are compared to the camel who relishes thorny twigs because he likes the taste of the twigs mixed with blood. He does not realize that it is his own blood and that his tongue is being cut by the thorns.
"Similarly, to the materialist his own blood is as sweet as honey. And although he is always harassed by his own material creations, he does not wish to escape. Such materialists are called karmis. Only a few may feel tired of material engagement and desire to get out of the labyrinth."
Prabhupada: Bahunam janmanam ante jnanavan mam prapadyate. After many, many births, those who are intelligent will come to realize, "This material engagement is not the solution. I must take shelter of the Supreme Personality of Godhead."
Thank you very much. Chant Hare Krsna.
Two Energies, Two Choices
By Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami
LORD KRSNA HAS two energies, material and spiritual, but they can be used interchangeably if one knows how. Just as the same electricity can be used to heat or cool a building, so Krsna's energies can be used for different purposes according to the living entity's desire.
That doesn't mean that the living entity can control Krsna's energies, only that he can use them. When a conditioned soul wishes to exploit the material nature, he contacts the material energy. When he no longer wishes to dominate or enjoy the material energy and instead uses it in Krsna's service, he contacts the spiritual energy. The living entity is called the "marginal potency" of God—he can go either way. The Bhagavad-gita (9.13) states: "Being marginal potency, as soon as the living entity is freed from the control of material nature he is put under the guidance of the spiritual nature." There are only two choices.
In the Bhagavatam, Srila Prabhupada speaks of penance and repentance as our means to begin the switch from material to spiritual. If we regret our association with the material energy, we will no longer feel dependent upon its dualities and we will turn to Krsna. Repentance burns away our sins and pushes us toward surrender. Lord Krsna states, "The material energy is difficult to overcome. But those who have surrendered unto Me can easily cross beyond it." (Bg. 7.14) Srila Prabhupada adds, "Krsna, being the Lord of the illusory energy, can order His insurmountable energy to release the conditioned soul."
Repentance is followed by penance or austerity. We begin our austerity by trying to stop exploiting material resources as if we own them. That means we have to learn tolerance, because the material energy rarely acts for our comfort. Numberless little things in life irritate us. The more attached we are to physical ease, the more troublesome these things become. Therefore, we have to tolerate.
Those who tolerate are neither culprits who cause pain to other living entities to ensure their own comfort nor helpless victims living only for relief nor fools trying to enjoy. Our senses become subdued and our hearts purified.
Repentance and penance are nothing more than attitude. An episode in the Bhagavatam shows how our attitude determines whether we live in the spiritual or the material energy. When Vidura tried to convince Dhrtarastra to return the throne to the Pandavas, its rightful heirs, Dhrtarastra threw Vidura out of the palace, which had been his home. So Vidura decided to go on pilgrimage. Because of his love for Krsna, he accepted his new situation as the Lord's will. Srila Prabhupada states that in this instance the Lord's material energy acted as the internal, spiritual energy. Although Vidura could see that he had been mistreated, he also saw Krsna's blessing. Suddenly he was free of political entanglement and could seek out pure Krsna consciousness in a life of renunciation and devotion.
When we stop blaming others for the pain they seem to cause us, and understand our role in causing our own karma, and when we see our powerlessness against the material energy, we will become more dependent on Krsna. Then the material energy will become spiritual in our hands. Instead of dragging us further into material life, our happiness and distress will elevate us in Krsna consciousness. Rather than causing us pain, our predicaments and perplexities will provide us another chance to meditate on Krsna. And that will make us happy.
Of course, the atheists consider this mad, irresponsible. You should not tolerate your suffering but strive to overcome it. But is it possible? No matter how hard we work to get ahead in life, we never seem to become happy. That's because everything we do must be done at the expense of others, who are seeking gratification at our expense. If we manage to climb to the top of the pile, then Providence slaps us—a family member dies, the fortune dwindles, the spouse is unfaithful, we contract a debilitating disease, and in the end we die. To pursue such a blind path is the ultimate in irresponsibility.
The Bhagavatam (1.3.34) states: "If the illusory energy subsides and the living entity becomes fully enriched with knowledge by the grace of the Lord, then he becomes at once enlightened with self-realization and thus becomes situated in his own glory." We are the marginal potency of God. We can go either way. We can respond to whatever life deals us by glorifying God, or we can make that other choice.
Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami travels extensively to speak and write about Krsna consciousness. He is the author of many books, including a six-volume biography of Srila Prabhupada.
Cooking Class: Lesson 32
By Yamuna Devi
IN 1971, MY SECOND YEAR living in India, I chanced upon a small tan paperback entitled Bengal Sweets. The author, Mrs. J. Haldar, dedicates her work to "the womanhood of Bengal, whose sweet beauty, sweet charm, sweet devotion, sweet grace, sweet manners, sweet temper, and sweet voice, often secreted behind the veil, are prominently revealed in the delicate aroma, the exquisite flavor, and the fascinating appearance of BENGAL SWEETS." Though written in old Indian English and a flowery 1940s kitchen style, the book is still one of the best references on techniques for making Bengali sweets. If you love sweets and you visit India, this book is worth ferreting out.
Sandesa, often called "the king of Bengali sweets," is the next topic in this cooking series. In an effort to describe sandesa, some writers call it India's counterpart to cheesecake. But it is not. It stands on its own as an elegant and simple-to-make cheese fudge.
The Elements of Sandesa
Plain sandesa is made from only two ingredients: sugar and soft unripe chenna cheese (milk curd). The texture of sandesa depends on several factors: the amount of whey left in the fresh cheese, the cheese consistency when brayed, the type of sugar used and whether in dry granular form or made into a syrup, the cooking time, the type of pan, and the type of heat. Sandesa broadly falls into two categories: fudgelike kara-pak, and soft, melt-in-your-mouth naram-pak.
The variety and quality of the two raw elements—chenna cheese and sugar—determine the finished attributes of plain sandesa. While good cheese does not ensure good sandesa, it greatly affects the outcome. Tasteless refined white sugar is widely used in India today, but people in earlier times made sandesa with unrefined cane or date-palm sugar, sweeteners that lend both flavor and color.
Besides plain sandesa, many other varieties are widely popular, including those flavored with saffron, powdered coconut, crushed cardamom seeds, or silky-smooth wet pastes of dates, mangoes, almonds, cashews, or pistachios. Like fine Swiss chocolates, some varieties are shaped in intricate molds that imprint designs on their surface, or they may be layered, or combined with a milk fudge called khoa.
Srila Prabhupada and Sandesa
Though gulabjamuns (also called Sweet Balls or ISKCON Bullets) were ISKCON's most popular sweet in the late 1960s, Srila Prabhupada also taught us how to make sandesa. My first lesson took place one October morning in 1969 in the kitchen of Prabhupada's small apartment at John Lennon's Tittenhurst estate. Without giving much instruction, Prabhupada made plain, soft sandesa. When he finished his batch, he asked me to do the same in front of him. I had trouble braying the cheese to the right consistency, and I cooked it over a flame that was too high, but the effort seemed to please him.
For as long as the sandesa batches stayed fresh, he asked that two small pieces—one of his and one of mine—be served with his breakfast daily. He often remarked how tasty they were.
Years later, while residing near Delhi's Bengali Market, Srila Prabhupada recalled how in his childhood first-class sandesa was available in the marketplace for five annas a kilo (sixteen annas made one rupee). In 1973, marketplace sandesa was thirty-five rupees a kilo, and Srila Prabhupada considered it barely edible. Fortunately, Prabhupada's cooks learned the art of making fine sandesa, so he was able to have sandesa cooked by devotees.
If you are following these classes, prepare at least three or four types of sandesa from the class textbook, Lord Krishna's Cuisine. While working, keep your senses focused on pleasing the Lord, and enjoy what you are doing. Newcomers can try the recipe at left.
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.
(Makes about 12 ounces)
fresh chenna cheese (milk curd) made from ½ gallon of milk
1. Place the dates in a food processor, cover, and pulse briefly; then process until semi-smooth. Unwrap the drained cheese, break it into pieces, and add it to the processor. Process until the cheese and dates are without graininess.
2. Transfer the mixture to a heavy-bottomed pan and cook it over the lowest possible heat. Stirring constantly, cook for 10-15 minutes or until the surface of the cheese becomes slightly glossy and the texture slightly thick. (The sandesa will continue to firm up as it cools.)
3. Scrape the sandesa onto a buttered tray, and with clean oiled hands roll the sandesa into 1-inch balls. Store them in single layers, separated by parchment or waxed paper. Refrigerate the sandesa in a well-sealed container until ready to offer to the Lord. (Keeps up to 3 days.)
A Wonderful Service
Compiled by Navina Nirada Dasa
HERE ARE SOME experiences and realizations of devotees who give people Krsna consciousness by giving them books by Srila Prabhupada and his followers.
Distributing Krsna conscious books is a wonderful service because it puts you in situations where you allow Krsna to purify you.
One day I went to a busy shopping area to distribute books. When I showed the books to a girl, she looked at me and started to cry.
"I already have two books from you people," she said. "I read the books, and because they're so wonderful, I can understand that you are a wonderful person. You are actually a saint. You are sacrificing everything just to give us the chance to become purified."
Enjoying her praise, I thought, "Yes, Krsna is the well-wisher of everyone, and since I'm His representative, I'm also everyone's well-wisher."
In this frame of mind, I continued trying to distribute books. When the next five or six people showed no interest, I thought, "They're in ignorance. They can't see me as the messiah of this place."
Then I met a man who took the books in his hands and said, "These books are from Swami Prabhupada, aren't they?"
I said, "Yes, you know them?"
"Yes," he said. "I like these books because they describe the good qualities of saintly persons."
I thought, "Here we go again—all my good qualities."
But then he gave me back the books and angrily said, "These books are wonderful, but I don't think you have the good qualities they describe." And he walked away.
I thought, "Anyway, he's not as intelligent as that girl. She really understood."
I couldn't interest anyone in the books for a while after that, but I still thought, "It's their ignorance. It's not because of me."
Then I approached a man who screamed, "You're my worst nightmare!"
Shaking, I went to the van to read about the good qualities I was supposed to have.
Ekacakra-grama Dasa, Belgium
The Proof Is in the Taste
In Gorway, in western Ireland, I presented a book to a girl who seemed interested. But after I talked for a couple of minutes she said, "I'm not really convinced. Why should I take this book?"
I said, "Well, this book is just like a cake. I may say, 'This is a nice cake,' and you may say, "No, I don't think so." But how will you know unless you taste it. So unless you take the book and read it, you'll never know how good it is."
She replied, "You don't know how relevant that is. I work in a bakery. Every day people come in and ask, "Is this one nice? Is this one nice?' And it drives me crazy." Then she asked, "How much is the book? I'll take it."
Bhakta Mick, Ireland
A Cool Day in Finland
It was winter in Scandinavia, the temperature around minus ten degrees Celsius. I was walking on an outside shopping street when I saw an old woman. She walked with crutches and was shaking. I showed her the books, and she was getting quite interested, when behind me I heard a loud crash. The sound was so loud and it startled the old woman so much I thought she might die.
I turned around to see that a huge mass of snow and ice had fallen from the eighth floor of a building onto the sidewalk and the cars parked there, crushing them. Anyone who would have been under that ice would have died.
Just before I had stopped her, the old woman had been about to walk there. Realizing she could have died, she eagerly bought some books.
Tattva-vada Dasa, Finland
Srila Prabhupada's Books Save Lives
Viditri Dasa, from Belgrade, was distributing books door to door. He rang at one door repeatedly, and no one answered. But because he heard sounds inside, he kept trying.
Finally, a woman opened the door, but she was not happy to see him.
"Who are you?" she asked. "What do you want from me?"
Viditri replied, "Good afternoon, I have some nice magazines for you. What are you doing, by the way?"
She said, "Why are you disturbing me? I was going to commit suicide."
He looked inside and saw a chair in the middle of the room and a rope with a noose hanging from the ceiling.
"Life is not as bad as you think," Viditri said. "You just need some spiritual guidance."
They talked for some time, and at the end she bought a magazine and said, "Ok, I promise you, I won't commit suicide."
Bhakti Grantha Dasa, Yugoslavia
Navina Nirada Dasa, a disciple of Harikesa Swami, has been one of ISKCON's leading book distributors for many years. He is based at the ISKCON temple in Zurich.
By Ravi Gupta
WHEN MY FATHER showed me my genealogy table and I read over the names of my great-grandfathers and -grandmothers, I noticed a trend: they were all names of Lord Krsna, His expansions, and His associates. On my father's side, my grandparents were Giridhari Lal (Krsna, lifter of Govardhana Hill) and Ramavathi (Sita Devi, consort of Lord Rama). My great-grandparents were Chayil Bihari (Krsna, the topmost trickster) and Rama Katori (Lord Rama's bowl). On my mother's side, they were Rama Prasad (the mercy of Lord Rama) and Prema Kumari (love of God), and Narayana Das (servant of Krsna's expansion Narayana) and Yashoda Kumari (Yasoda, Krsna's mother).
But as the list progressed, the names became those of qualities: Sudhir (sober), Vivek (knowledge), Sulekha (good writing), Praveen (capable), Asha (hope), Rekha (a line, limit), and so on. Finally, when it came to my generation many of the names reflected a clear Western influence: Dolly, Sweetie, Pinky, Jhilmil (glitter), and so on.
The Vedic tradition of giving one's children names of Krsna is ancient, and in a great many cases it continues to the present, despite the materialistic influence. Perhaps the most famous example of naming one's child after Lord Krsna is found in the story of Ajamila, related in the Srimad-Bhagavatam.
Ajamila was at first a gentle and pious brahmana. But because of bad association he fell from his spiritual practices and began living with a prostitute. He spent his days gambling, drinking, and cheating. He had many children, the youngest of whom he named Narayana. Ajamila loved Narayana dearly.
When the inevitable arrived and Ajamila lay on his death bed, he was overcome with fear. Because of his sinful deeds, the ghastly-looking Yamadutas (servants of Yama, the Lord of death) came to take Ajamila to hell. In great anxiety and desperation, Ajamila called out the name of his dearest son, Narayana.
As soon as Ajamila called the name of Narayana, the Visnudutas (servants of Visnu) appeared. They ordered the Yamadutas to stop.
"At the time of death," they said, "this Ajamila helplessly and very loudly chanted the holy name of the Lord, Narayana. One who chants the holy name of the Lord is immediately freed from the reactions of unlimited sins even if he chants indirectly [to indicate something else], jokingly, for musical entertainment, or even neglectfully. ... Previously, while eating and at other times, Ajamila would call his son, saying, 'My dear Narayana, please come here.' Simply by chanting the name of Narayana in this way, he sufficiently atoned for the sinful reactions of millions of lives."
So if our family members are named after Lord Krsna, we will receive great spiritual benefit just by calling those names throughout the day. Furthermore, such names may help us remember the Lord at death, when it is most difficult to remember Him.
Spiritual names also make it easier for us to remember that we are all related in the service of Krsna, and that our true position is not as enjoyers but as His servants. For this reason, when the spiritual master gives a disciple a new name upon initiation, he adds the suffix dasa or das", meaning "servant." This signifies a new birth for the disciple as a servant of Krsna.
What is in a name? Not much for names like Dolly, Sweetie, and Pinky. At the end of our lives, material names will be snatched away like everything else. But in the holy name of Krsna lies an unlimited wealth of eternal spiritual benefit. Such should be the names we want in our heritage.
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.
Nourishment for Parents and Teachers
By Urmila Devi Dasi
ONCE, SOME WEEKS went by when Srila Prabhupada was not writing as much as usual. When a disciple asked him if something was wrong, Prabhupada replied that every endeavor has periods of activity and relaxation.
We parents and teachers who guide and care for children in Krsna consciousness must consider our need to relax, recharge, and get spiritual nourishment. Otherwise, we'll become exhausted.
All who work regularly with children need various types of recharging. Our body and mind need regular rest, meals, and quiet. Parents often say they can't get proper rest and rejuvenation, especially when caring for very young children. Vedic society solves this problem with the extended family; aunts, uncles, cousins, grandmothers, and a network of relatives help one another. In modern society we may have to get help from a network of friends.
Another need is our spiritual nourishment. Children learn more through experience than concepts. So they'll know more about spirituality from what we are than from what we say. To show saintly qualities, we must regularly immerse ourselves in a concentrated bath of serving Krsna through hearing about Him, chanting His names, and so on. Srila Prabhupada gave us a morning schedule of such worship. During that time, we parents and teachers should daily examine whether we are begging Krsna for mercy and guidance or simply mechanically going through the motions.
Involving our children in our morning spiritual practice will help us gain the sustenance we need. When children are very young, of course, they need some simple diversions so that we may focus on our worship. But within a short time, children included in daily morning devotions respect parents' or teachers' personal time with Krsna. On the other hand, when we leave children sleeping so that we can have our own devotions, not only do the children lose out on the benefit of attending, but gradually we will be tempted to stay sleeping as well.
Besides our basic morning program, we need to faithfully set aside time for study, prayer, and service. Our family once had a designated time to read about Krsna for half an hour each evening. Over a few months, I found myself finishing many books I'd only been able to gaze at with longing. Even a young child can look at pictures of Krsna during such a time.
Finally, we need the association of other devotees of Krsna. We have the general society and companionship of other devotees, of course, but certain types of association particularly help those committed to caring for children. One type of association we need are "fans"—devotees who cheer us on and enliven us. They may not know the details of toilet training or helping children memorize the Bhagavad-gita verses, but they care enough to value our service. They're enthusiastic, they give unconditional support, and they'll step in and cheer us on in difficult times.
We also need friends close enough to be honest with us about our faults. They too may not be familiar with our work, but they can see if we're disturbed rather than peaceful. Receiving correction is difficult, but without having devotees who care about us enough to give needed advice, we may suffer by going far down the wrong path.
We also need devotees with whom we can "talk shop," those who do what we do. For example, in many places ISKCON has formal seminars where principals, gurukula teachers, home-schooling parents, and Sunday school teachers can come together for support, encouragement, and problem solving. Some devotee communities have parent support groups with scheduled meetings.
Having parents or co-workers we can talk to regularly is best. We need to know how others in our position handle the pressures that come with guiding children. Those of us who serve the Lord by caring for devotees in young bodies must live in a way that helps us do our best job.
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.
"No one—Not Even Darwin—Can Be Independent"
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, is the intellect helpful in knowing God?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Unless you have got the necessary intellect, then you are no better than the animals. The animals have no intellect for understanding God, but the human being has got that intellect. That is the distinction between animals and human beings.
Otherwise, as for material necessities such as eating, sleeping, mating, and defending, both the human beings and the animals sleep, enjoy sex, become fearful, and arrange for defense. So, as for access to the material necessities of life, that is equal in the animal and the human being.
But the human being has a special intellect, more developed than the animal's. He can understand what he is, what God is, what this cosmic manifestation is, and what the aim of life is—how we should conduct our lives. This is the prerogative for the human being. The animals have no such prerogative.
Now, if we do not utilize these special intellectual facilities, then we remain animals; we do not make any spiritual advancement. At the present moment. we are simply trying to improve our access to the material necessities of life—eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. We are thinking, "The dog is eating on the floor. If we can eat on a table, using chairs and nice dishes, that is advancement of civilization."
We are thinking like that. The dog is sleeping outdoors, but if we sleep in a very nice apartment, lavishly decorated, that is advancement of civilization. The dog is having sexual intercourse on the street, with-out shame—and we are also coming to that point—but for the time being, if we have sexual intercourse in an apartment, in the name of love and so on, that is advancement. The dog is defending with his jaws and nails, and we are defending with nuclear bombs; therefore, we are advanced.
But we have forgotten that the human being has got this special intellect to understand God. That understanding we are not pursuing. For example, you are going to be a doctor in anthropology. Is it not?
Srila Prabhupada: Where is the sense of God there?
Carol: I do it only for a living. The other side of me is something else.
Srila Prabhupada: No, I mean to say that anthropology is a big scientific department. Where is the understanding of God there?
Carol: Right. I find it difficult to reconcile the love of God with actually doing something like this study of anthropology.
Srila Prabhupada: Then why are you wasting your time speculating on anthropology?
Srila Prabhupada: If you cannot adjust yourself to this anthropology business, why are you wasting your time? Anthropology is a false science. There is no meaning.
Carol: I'm waiting to be led into something which is good.
Srila Prabhupada: The whole Darwinian theory is false. It has no sound basis. Darwin himself admits that it is just a theory. Theory is not science.
I can propose some theory—"It is like that." But that is not science. Science means observation plus experimental proof. That is science.
You observe how the rules are working, and when you practically bring them to bear in your experiment, then it is science. If you simply theorize, that is not science. It is mental speculation. There is no benefit.
You can speculate, constructing a castle in the air. That is not a very good thing. You should present something which will benefit the people, something practical. That is science.
Carol: Do you think it is possible for people to live in, say, an educational framework?
Srila Prabhupada: Education—if it is not for the benefit of the people, then what is the use of such education? That is not a good education. Education means something which will benefit the mass of people. That is education. To enlighten them to do something better—that is education.
Now, this whole Darwinian theory is false. But people are giving it so much stress. First of all, no one—not even Darwin—can be independent. For instance, Darwin died. So he was under the control of something higher. No man wants to die, but he is forced to die. Is it not? Then where is his independence?
Carol: That is the illusion.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. So if you simply live in illusion, then where is your education? If you remain in darkness, then where is your education? Illusion means darkness. So if you are in darkness, now, where is your education? And where is your philosophy?
Carol: The only way to remove this darkness is through love. Is this what you are saying?
Srila Prabhupada: Love is far away. First of all, you become educated.
Carol: How? In what way?
Srila Prabhupada: Education means right knowledge. Right knowledge. For instance, everyone wants to live. Nobody wants to die. So the inquiry should be, "I do not wish to die. Why is death forced upon me? What is that force—what is the nature of that force?"
On the other hand, if I simply resign myself—"Yes, some kind of force is there"—then where is my knowledge?
Again, I do not wish to die. So education means finding out, "Why is death forced upon me?" Nobody wants miserable conditions of life, but miserable conditions are forced upon me. So first of all, I should inquire, "I do not want these things. Who is forcing these things upon me?" This is life's first philosophical inquiry.
Carol: I tend to approach from the other side and ask, "Who am I?" and "What is this thing that I call myself?"
Srila Prabhupada: But first, everyone has this basic problem: "I don't want these miserable conditions, but they are forced upon me." For instance, you are now a young girl. You do not like the idea of becoming an old woman. But you will have to become an old woman.
Carol: Oh, yes. Hmm.
Srila Prabhupada: Nature will force you. After forty years of age, you must become old, and you cannot remain so beautiful. This is forced. No one wants this. No woman wants, "I shall not look so beautiful, and my flesh shall be flabby, with no more luster." I don't want all these things. Why are they forced?
Carol: Suffering and pain lead people to God, don't they?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. That is the law. But we are so dull-headed that we do not inquire. That is my statement—that you should inquire, "Who has made this law? Who is forcing these things upon me?" After you make this inquiry, then you can inquire about God's actual identity and your actual identity. But first of all you must be aware of your situation—that these miserable conditions are being forced upon you.
For instance, a dog cannot understand that he's on a chain. He's leading a life most dependent, most miserable. And yet he is jolly. He is jumping here and there. That is a dog's life. If the master wants to kill him, the dog cannot do anything. But he is very jolly. Sometimes he even jumps.
That is a dog's life, not human life. Human life means realizing, "I am dependent at every step, and still I am declaring myself independent. What is this nonsense?" This inquiry should be there. "I am dependent at every step, exactly like the cats and dogs, but still I am claiming, 'I am independent.' Why?"
Carol: Your Divine Grace, is it possible to carry out this inquiry while engaged in ordinary daily activities?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, certainly. You can become spiritually realized in any walk of life, regardless of your daily activities.
The thing is, this is the real inquiry: "Why am I put into these conditions which I do not like? Who is forcing them upon me? Wherefrom has my life begun? What is the ultimate goal of my life?" These things should be asked. That is the proper inquiry of the human being.
Without getting answers to these questions, we cannot solve the very real problems of birth, death, old age, and disease. Instead, like Darwin, we are forced to theorize something utopian. What is the use of such so-called knowledge?
ISKCON's new temple in South India blends modern and traditional architecture, hinting at ISKCON's aim of teaching eternal Vedic truths in the modern age.
On May 31 this year, the Hare Krsna movement opened a magnificent new temple in the South Indian city of Bangalore. The guest speaker for the opening ceremonies was Dr. Shanker Dayal Sharma, then President of India. Here is an interview with Madhu Pandita Dasa, president and project director for ISKCON Bangalore.
BTG: What inspired the Bangalore project?
Madhu Pandita Dasa: We wanted to build a center from which to teach Vedic knowledge in a practical and rational way for the benefit of as many people as possible.
The Krsna consciousness movement has wonderful things to offer everyone. Srila Prabhupada, ISKCON's founder-acarya, has taught how Lord Krsna's instructions can be applied to any situation in life. If we follow Krsna's instructions, we'll find the best within ourselves and achieve happiness. The new temple is meant to promote understanding of those instructions.
To help society attain happiness, today's world promotes knowledge in various fields. But all that knowledge pertains to the temporary material sphere only. It cannot provide the real, eternal happiness we are seeking. No amount of material progress will provide eternal happiness.
Because we are primarily spiritual, we must pay attention to developing our spiritual identity. The Krsna consciousness movement—and, in particular, this temple—is performing the service of developing the spiritual aspect of the society.
BTG: What makes this temple different from other temples?
MPD: This temple—and all ISKCON temples—provides much more for the soul than rituals. Spirituality today has come to the level of blind rituals and sentiment, and most temples aren't doing much to go beyond that. But ISKCON temples are centers of spiritual learning through godly association, centers where a visitor can learn the science of spiritual life.
BTG: India is full of people struggling for the basic necessities. How will the people of India benefit from this complex?
MPD: Socially, greed in one section of society causes poverty in another. The mood of exploitation forces human beings to forget one another's spiritual equality before God. But through spiritual knowledge we can find our common father, the Supreme Lord, and realize our brotherhood. Only in this way can there be peace, harmony, and social equality in our nation and among all nations. And that spiritual knowledge is what the temple is meant to teach.
Whether materially rich or poor, man is essentially spiritual. Wealth and poverty come by our past acts. Bound by the laws of karma, today's rich man may be a pauper in his next life. And the poverty or wealth of a society comes from the collective karma of its individuals.
As long as we are ignorant of the purpose of human life and serve only the body, we will stay bound by the laws of karma, which toss us about like the waves of the ocean. Rich or poor, everyone needs the knowledge that can prevent that bondage. So our temple is open to everyone, irrespective of class, caste, sex, nationality, or even religion.
The temple is needed to balance the material and spiritual needs of man. India's real asset is spiritual knowledge, but today many Indians have forgotten that. What remains of Vedic knowledge in society is hardly more than some cultural residue. Many Indians do not know the progressive values of human life, the basis of Vedic culture. People have not learned Vedic knowledge in a rational way.
But Srila Prabhupada taught Vedic philosophy rationally through his writings, which anyone can easily understand. The neglect of India's spiritual heritage is driving Indian society to chaos and confusion. The Krsna consciousness movement strives to teach the importance of that heritage.
So that is our task: spiritual education. And this temple project is an important instrument to fulfill it.
BTG: Don't most people in India already have some knowledge of Bhagavad-gita and spiritual life?
MPD: Culturally, Indians are better situated to understand this knowledge, if willing. To be born in Bharatavarsa [India] is considered most auspicious. It provides the greatest opportunity for spiritual advancement.
But in today's spiritually degraded world even Indians have opted to neglect their spiritual culture and follow the materialistic Western civilization. Instead of giving spiritual inspiration to the world, Indians have given up the responsibility to learn, practice, and promote the transcendental message of the Vedic scriptures.
Unfortunately even the leaders of the country know little of India's unlimited spiritual heritage and make no attempt to follow or promote it. When Srila Prabhupada was asked why it was easier to spread Vedic culture in the West than in India, he said that to wake someone who is sleeping is easy, but not someone pretending to be asleep. Westerners accepted their ignorance about spiritual matters and were eager students. Generally an Indian prefers to appear familiar with the Bhagavad-gita and other Vedic scriptures, although he knows them only by name and is disinclined to study them.
ISKCON is trying to inspire Indians to see their spiritual aspect as an important part of life and eventually become the guiding force of the world. We hope that eventually a new generation will become knowledgeable leaders and will rejuvenate and inculcate these values in the Indian society and all over the world.
If we who are born in India learn to appreciate and practice the values of Vedic science and culture, the whole world will follow. Srila Prabhupada taught the Vedic knowledge to people all around the world; he is truly India's cultural ambassador to the world.
Indians should take up the spiritual leadership of the world. We are not interested in cheap religious conversion. We are interested in making the world spiritually aware.
BTG: Turning to the architectural side of the project, as an architect and the project director could you tell us how the design emerged?
MPD: For the first two years after we got the land, we could not find a professional architect who understood what we really needed. That forced us to venture into it ourselves. Gradually over the past six years, through study, trial, and higher inspiration we developed the design. We never conceived it right at the start in its details as it stands today. It evolved by the grace of the Lord.
I am fully convinced that Lord Krsna, in the heart of all those involved in the project, was the guiding force in developing the design. Truly He is the architect.
I experienced this more directly when wonderful design solutions arose at various critical turning points. In the beginning, once we had decided to deal with the design ourselves, there was a time when concepts were rather unclear. Then Jagat Candra Dasa proposed the glass tower, and that set the design rolling in the direction of synthesizing traditional and modern elements. Gradually, I was able to develop the design, using aspects of traditional South Indian architecture. Srimati Bhaktilata, my good wife, helped with conceptualizing the overall aesthetics and the interiors. It was a great experience for me to develop the functional design of the complex. I hadn't imagined that my civil engineering education could be such an asset to me in my service to the Lord.
BTG: Apart from the five temple shrines themselves, what are some of the features the temple building includes?
MPD: The complex also houses shops, offices, a library, a lecture hall, a 350-seat multimedia theater, a 1,000-seat multi-purpose hall with equal dining capacity, ten smaller computer-aided theaters, a prasadam hall for pilgrims, and a lobby where visitors can learn from devotees about Krsna and Sanatana-dharma.
There are also eight seminar rooms for about forty people each. We plan to hold special seminars for groups such as executives, politicians, the elderly, school children, and congregation members from outside Bangalore.
A 70-room guesthouse under construction which will be available for visitors and life members.
A separate building will house 150 brahmacaris, celibate young men.
BTG: Did you received foreign funds to build the temple?
MPD: No. The people of Karnataka, especially from Bangalore, paid for the temple. We did not receive foreign funds. Srila Prabhupada organized ISKCON in such a way that each center is financially autonomous. We have enrolled people as members of our Life Patronship program. Today we have 22,000 life patrons registered in ISKCON Bangalore. Apart from that, many people sponsored specific items in the building.
ISKCON Bangalore houses about sixty serious full-time life-dedicated devotees. Many of these devotees are highly educated and have joined the movement inspired by the lofty instructions of the Vedic scriptures. They feel a sense of mission to do something constructive and spiritually uplifting for society. By their efforts, thousands of people were inspired to contribute for this great cause.
BTG: How has taking part in the project benefited the donors and life members who contributed toward it?
MPD: All our donors and life members are very fortunate to have helped the project, because they have done direct service to the Lord's mission. The opportunity to engage in the service of the Supreme Lord is rare and valuable. Service rendered to the Lord is the highest pious activity. Even the smallest service becomes an eternal asset and can save one from unlimited misfortune.
The greatest welfare activity is to provide society with spiritual knowledge. Our donors and life patrons have contributed for this cause and can take pride in being involved in it. It will surely be a matter of great satisfaction for them to see the fruits of their charity being distributed to everyone, irrespective of caste, creed, or color.
By serving Srila Prabhupada they must have greatly pleased him. And when a pure devotee of the Lord is pleased, the soul is immensely benefited. We are grateful to all who helped in this endeavor to serve humanity.
BTG: How will you run such a big complex?
MPD: The sixty full-time devotees will run and maintain it. Also, many people who practice Krsna consciousness at home offer practical service to the temple after work and during holidays. Some even take one day leave a month for a full day of service in the temple. So I don't see any problem in serving the thousands of pilgrims who will be visiting every day.
Archiving ISKCON Films
Here's a Krsna conscious project you might like to support or get involved in.
From the time Srila Prabhupada came to America, professional and amateur photographers began shooting photos and films of his activities. Yaduvara Dasa is gathering, organizing, cleaning, editing, and transferring to state-of-the-art digital video all of the films of Srila Prabhupada.
An early film, if not the first, came from Richard Witty. It was his first professional film. In the fall of 1966, Richard and his wife loaded up their gear and headed for Tompkins Square Park in New York City, where they shot their first roll of film of Srila Prabhupada, seated on the lawn playing his small drum and chanting Hare Krsna.
Richard and his wife went on to visit and cover the activities of the temple at 26 Second Avenue. They developed their film, edited it, added sound tracks, made a print at their lab, and released it under the title Matchless Gifts. They carefully stored the film and kept it for years.
One day in 1981, Richard, now a successful commercial filmmaker, saw a devotee distributing books in New York City and offered the film as a gift to ISKCON. The timing was perfect. Yaduvara was nearing completion of Your Ever Well-Wisher, a film on Srila Prabhupada's life, and he was missing footage of the very beginnings of the Hare Krsna movement in New York. Matchless Gifts fit perfectly into the film biography.
Yaduvara Dasa carefully stored Richard's film along with others he himself had shot. William Kerr, another filmmaker, added to the stock by contributing films of Srila Prabhupada shot in Australia. And others added their films.
In the early '80s, the Bhaktivedanta Archives, in Los Angeles, took over the responsibility of storing the films. When the Archives moved to North Carolina, Yaduvara moved the films to an underground vault near Butler, Pennsylvania. Age had taken its toll, especially on the color films. In the twenty-seven years since the first color films had been shot, many of them had turned a light purple.
In 1994 the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International gave a grant to transfer the film to digital video. In May 1996, Yaduvara gathered all the films from the vault, the Archives, and ITV (ISKCON Television) and started the project.
Over the years, the footage had been cut up and used in seven films produced by ISKCON Cinema. Yaduvara wanted to fit the films back together and try to recreate the original scenes as they were shot.
First he had to clean the films, which were gummy from splicing tape. Then he had to synchronize the sound with the picture—a daunting task, since many of the films and sound tracks had no audio and visual clapsticks or startmarks.
Sometimes Yaduvara had a film of Srila Prabhupada speaking but no sound. So he would try to read Prabhupada's lips. When he picked up a few words, he would call Ranajit Dasa at the Archives and have him look up the phrase in VedaBase, the CD-Rom containing all of Prabhupada's recorded words. If Ranajit found what Yaduvara was looking for, he would him send a transcript along with a matching audio cassette of Srila Prabhupada speaking. Then Yaduvara would match the audio with the film, cutting out spaces between the words in the audio track so it would match the picture, frame by frame.
Yaduvara transferred the last frame of 16mm film to digital video this past June. A lab in Hollywood with digital technology brought back the color-faded film so it looked nearly new.
Phase One of the project was complete. Copies are now stored safely at the Bhaktivedanta Archives, ITV in Los Angeles, and the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust in Sweden.
Phases II and III: All the Super 8mm and Regular 8mm film of Srila Prabhupada needs to be transferred to digital video, and finally all the films of ISKCON at the time Srila Prabhupada was present. ITV plans to release these never-before-seen films in the near future.
How you can help
Be aware that there are more films to be found—films recorded by TV stations, films still being kept in private homes, and so on. If you find any, contact either the Bhaktivedanta Archives or ITV.
More funds are needed to complete Phases II and III.
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The Kidnapping of Princess Subhadra
Encouraged by Lord Krsna,
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 Pandava Arjuna, during a one-year exile, is visiting Lord Krsna in the great city of Dvaraka.
After Some Days had passed, O king, the Vrsni, Bhoja, and Andhaka dynasties staged a huge festival on Raivataka Mountain. The heroes of these dynasties gave charity to thousands of brahmanas. With elegant cottages and colorful jewels spread all around the mountain, the whole region looked gorgeous, O king. On all sides the trees were beautifully lit up with lamps. Dancers danced, singers sang their songs, and skilled musicians sounded their instruments.
The powerful Vrsni boys, nicely dressed and ornamented, dashed about in golden chariots. By the hundreds and thousands the men of the city came on foot with their wives and followers in varieties of simple and elaborate vehicles.
Almighty Lord Balarama, intoxicated from drinking Varuni honey and followed by the Gandharvas, came strolling about with His wife Revati. Similarly, the mighty Ugrasena, king of the Vrsnis, being praised in song by the Gandharvas, walked about with a thousand female companions. Two of Lord Krsna's sons, Pradyumna and Samba, who could fight with frenzied might, were also affected by drinking heavenly beverages. Sporting divine garlands, they enjoyed themselves like immortal gods.
Gada, Bhanu, Prthu, Viprthu, Akrura, Sarana, Nisatha, Satyaka, Satyaki, Hardikya, Viduratha, Carudesna, Bhangakara, Krtavarma, and all those not mentioned were individually praised in song by the Gandharvas. Surrounded by ladies, the Vrsnis made the festival at Raivataka Mountain a striking affair.
In the midst of the thrill, splendor, and excitement, Lord Krsna, son of Vasudeva, and Arjuna, son of Kunti, walked around together. As the two transcendental friends strolled about the festival ground, they saw Vasudeva's lovely daughter, Subhadra, Sri Krsna's younger sister, in the midst of her friends. She was gorgeously decorated and radiant with pure goodness. As soon as Arjuna saw her, Cupid rose up in his heart.
Krsna noted at once that Arjuna's mind was fixed on His sister. As if to tease Arjuna, the lotus-eyed Krsna said, "O Bharata, what is this? The mind of a saintly forest-dweller is agitated by romantic desire! Arjuna, she is my sister, and the sister of my brother Sarana, born of the same mother. If you are seriously thinking about her, I myself shall speak to our father."
Arjuna said, "Whom would she not bewilder with her perfect beauty, the daughter of Vasudeva and sister of Sri Krsna? If your sister, the Vrsni princess, could become my queen, then I surely must have done all that is good and noble. But what means should I use to win her? Please tell me, Janardana [Krsna], and I shall do it precisely, if it can be done."
Lord Krsna said, "Among warriors, marriages are normally decided by the bride's own choice at a svayamvara ceremony. But it is doubtful that your sentiments would influence Subhadra to choose you. Those who know the sacred law have stated, 'Among warriors who have proven to be heroes, forcibly taking a princess for marriage is approved.' Therefore you should take My noble sister by force."
Arjuna's Bold Act
[After some days had passed,] Arjuna and Krsna made up their minds: "Let us do it!" They dispatched speedy men to go at once to deliver their proposal to Dharmaraja Yudhisthira, who was staying at Indraprastha. As soon as Yudhisthira, the mighty-armed Pandava king, heard the plan, he gave his approval.
When Arjuna learned that Subhadra had gone to Raivataka Mountain, he met with Krsna, and the Lord said, "Let it be done."
Abiding by Krsna's decision, Arjuna departed in a golden chariot built to scriptural code, yoked with the horses Sainya and Sugriva, delicately adorned with a garland of bells, and equipped with a full assortment of weapons. The chariot rumbled like a rain cloud, shone like blazing fire, and struck dead the hopes of the hostile. Arjuna, tightly fitted with armor and wielding a sword, set out at once on the pretext of a hunting expedition, his finger- and wrist-guards fastened.
Subhadra offered reverence to Raivata, the great stone mountain, to all the deities who resided there, and to the brahmanas, having them invoke good fortune with their chants.
After respectfully walking around the mountain, Subhadra was about to depart for Dvaraka when Arjuna, son of Kunti, rushed up to her and forcibly placed her in his chariot. Taking the girl, who was smiling innocently, the tigerlike Arjuna departed for his city in the chariot, which could travel in the sky.
When Subhadra's military escort saw that she was being stolen away, they cried out and then hurried back to Dvaraka to sound the alarm. They went at once to Sudharma, the royal assembly hall, and fully explained Arjuna's bold act to the assembly leader. Hearing this, the leader repeatedly struck the gold-encircled battle drum, and it reverberated throughout the city.
Stirred by the sound, the Bhojas, Vrsnis, and Andhakas put aside their eating and drinking and rushed to the assembly hall. Then, as fires blaze on the sacred altars, so those tigerlike men of the Vrsnis and Andhakas—maharatha warriors who shone like swirling fire—took their seats by the hundreds on royal thrones wrought in gold, upholstered with costly cushions, and colorfully studded with gems and coral. When all were seated like the gods in session, the assembly chief and his assistants told what Arjuna had done.
When the Vrsni heroes heard this, their eyes turned red with rage, for they could not tolerate Arjuna's deed, and they proudly rose up together and sent forth a war cry: "Yoke the chariots at once! Bring the lances, the full armor, and the most prized bows!"
Some warriors cried out to their chariot drivers, "Yoke the chariots!" while other warriors brought their own swift horses, adorned in gold. As the chariots, armor, and flags were being brought forward, and as the heroic men roared instructions, a great crowd and commotion arose about them.
Lord Balarama Speaks
But Lord Balarama spoke. Standing garbed in blue, sporting a garland of forest flowers, acting as if drunk and emboldened by Varuni beverage, Lord Balarama, as big and strong as the peak of Mount Kailasa, said, "What is this you are all doing without knowledge when you see that Lord Krsna remains silent? Without knowing His feelings you are all enraged and roaring in vain. Let Him, with His great mind, explain to you His own plan and what He would like to do, and then do that with full attention."
Hearing these authoritative words from Balarama, all became silent, and then they began to say, "Yes, He is right. That is best." Thus, having heard these balanced, objective words from the intelligent Balarama, all the men again took their seats in the assembly.
Then Lord Balarama asked victorious Lord Krsna, "My dear Krsna, why do You remain seated, watching all this in silence? O infallible one, for Your sake all of us honored Arjuna, but it seems that he did not deserve the honor, for he has a wicked mind and has disgraced his family. Indeed, what man anywhere, having eaten our food, should then break our dish and still consider himself born in a noble family? Who would behave so rashly and inconsiderately, having come here seeking our friendship, beseeching our help, and knowing all that we have done for him? Insulting us and disregarding You, he has stolen Subhadra, and thus he has taken death upon himself.
"How can I tolerate it, Govinda, when he puts his foot right on My head, for he is treading on the head of a cobra? Today I alone shall rid the earth of the Kauravas, for I will not tolerate such an offense from Arjuna."
All the Bhojas, Vrsnis, and Andhakas agreed, and they supported Lord Balarama, whose deep and grave voice vibrated like kettledrums or rumbling clouds.
(continued in the next issue)
The worldwide activities of the International Society for Krishna consciousness (ISKCON)
November 4 marks the twentieth anniversary of the departure of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, founder-acarya of ISKCON, who left the world in November of 1977.
Hare Krsna devotees have chosen December 13 as a day to make a special effort to distribute large numbers of books on Krsna consciousness. This year's goal: one million books worldwide. To take part, get in touch with your local ISKCON center.
Vandals set fire to the main equipment and hay storage barn at ISKCON's New Talavan Farm in Carriere, Mississippi, last July, causing at least $100,000 in damage. Destroyed were two tractors, a hay bailer, $5,000 worth of hay, and the New Orleans Rathayatra cart. The loss is a severe financial burden for the farm. Donations can be sent to Yogindra Dasa, President, ISKCON New Talavan, 31492 Anner Road, Carriere, MS 39426 USA.
Druze leader Sheik Moafaq met with ISKCON's Danavir Swami last February during Danavir's Swami's visit to eleven Druze villages in northern Israel. The meeting took place in an auditorium at the site of the tomb of the late Druze leader Sheik Amin Tarif, who had spoken with devotees several times. For the meeting with Danavir Swami, the auditorium was filled with sheiks eager to learn more about Krsna consciousness. The Druze are an Arab sect whose teachings are in some ways similar to those of the Vedas.
ISKCON leader Bhakti Tirtha Swami lectured last spring at the University of Guyana. He met with Guyanese President Samuel Hines. And while in Guyana he was interviewed on four national TV shows and by several radio stations, as well as all the major Guyanese newspapers.
Devotees in Holland held Rathayatra festivals in Amsterdam and The Hague.
ISKCON Ghana has acquired 210 acres of farmland. A master plan for a Hare Krsna community on the land calls for 160 acres for farming and cottage industries, and 50 acres for schools, a temple, a restaurant, a guest house, a medical clinic, a tourist village, an art museum, and a barn with surrounding pastures.
Commonwealth of Independent States
More than a thousand devotees took part in July in a Hare Krsna festival in Moscow.
VILASINI DEVI DASI, a disciple of Srila Prabhupada's, passed away last July in London, of cancer. Vilasini joined ISKCON in 1970. She served as an indexer for the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust in New York in the early seventies. She went on to serve Radha-Krsna Deities in Detroit, France, and finally London.
Vilasini had been in an apparent coma shortly before her passing, but when devotees arrived to chant Hare Krsna in her room, she awoke to chant and hear the holy name of Krsna till the end.
One of the chief saints of the Sri Vaisnava tradition of South India
By Syamasundara Dasa
THE NAME OF King Kulasekhara is well known to followers of Srila Prabhupada. Prabhupada used to relish the Mukunda-mala-stotra, written by this great saintly king. This stotra (prayer) is commonly known in ISKCON as "The Prayers of King Kulasekhara."
Who Are The Alvars?
Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.5.39-40) states, "In the Age of Kali those persons who drink the waters of the holy rivers of Dravida-desa [South India], such as the Tamraparni, Krtamala, Payasvini, the extremely pious Kaveri, and the Pratici Mahanadi, will almost all be pure-hearted devotees of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vasudeva." The Alvars are twelve especially great devotees who appeared in South India. According to the traditions of the Sri Vaisnavas (one of the four disciplic successions of Vaisnavas, devotees of Krsna or Visnu), the Alvars are not ordinary jivas (living entities) but are incarnations of the parsadas (paraphernalia) of Lord Sri Krsna. The Tamil word alvar means "drowned in love of God."
Although modern scholars say the Alvars appeared in the seventh to ninth century A.D., according to the tradition of the Sri Sampradaya they appeared between 4,700 and 6,200 years ago. Dates aside, the Alvars all composed devotional songs, mostly in the Tamil language, in praise of Lord Krsna and His incarnations. The songs embody elevated knowledge of the science of God, and the followers of the Sri Sampradaya consider them as good as the Vedas. The acaryas, or great spiritual teachers, of the Sri Sampradaya, such as Nathamuni, Yamunacarya, Ramanujacarya, Vedantadesika, and Viraraghavacarya, learned not only the four Sanskrit Vedas but also the Tamil Veda, or the Divya-prabandha, consisting of the four thousand songs of the Alvars.
A Hidden Saint
Maharaja Kulasekhara was born into the Sera dynasty of the royal family of Travancore, the southern half of the modern state of Kerala, in southwest India. The rulers of the land did not claim to own the kingdom but considered themselves vassals and ministers to Ananta Padmanabha Swami, the Deity of Visnu, whom they regarded as the actual owner of the land. Ananta Padmanabha, situated at Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum), was, and still is, the worshipable Deity of the people of that area. The kings of Travancore would come before the Lord at least twice a day to offer obeisances and report on the administration of the country. (The tradition of the Maharaja of Travancore's visiting Lord Ananta Padmanabha Swami goes on to the present day, even though the king has no real political power.) Such was the pious and saintly quality of the ancient line of Vedic kings among whom Maharaja Kulasekhara appeared.
Before the birth of Kulasekhara (around 3,000 BC), his parents were childless, a worrisome situation for a monarch. Kulasekhara's father, Drdhavrata Maharaja, prayed intensely and worshiped Lord Narayana, an expansion of Lord Krsna. The Lord was pleased and blessed Drdhavrata to have as his son a plenary portion of the Kaustubha gem, which Lord Sri Krsna wears as a pendant on His neck. That son was Kulasekhara.
To prepare for the throne of the Sera dynasty, Prince Kulasekhara learned warfare and government, as well as the Vedic scriptures. When Kulasekhara came of age, Drdhavrata installed him as the king and retired to the forest to pursue undisturbed spiritual life, as recommended in the scriptures for saintly kings.
Kulasekhara was a ksatriya (ruler and military man) of great prowess and became king not only of the Sera lands but also of the neighboring lands of the Pandya and Chola dynasties. Kulasekhara's flawless administration stood for peace, virtue, justice, and happiness. He nourished the people, and he personified magnanimity.
But despite his good qualities, the king was spiritually blind. Playing the part of a worldly king given over to his senses, he considered himself independent of God. But Lord Krsna had a plan for His servant Kulasekhara. By the causeless mercy of Lord Krsna, King Kulasekhara's consciousness gradually transformed. Spiritual perceptions dawned, and he saw the world and its concerns at their real value. He was also blessed with visions of the true nature of the Lord. According to the Sri Vaisnava tradition, Lord Narayana sent Visvaksena, His commander-in-chief, to Kulasekhara Alvar to initiate him into Vaisnavism.
Blessed by the mercy of the Lord, Kulasekhara would often go into ecstasy. He recorded his spiritual visions and deep realizations in devotional songs, which became part of the Divya-prabandha. He now saw everything with purified spiritual eyes and developed a strong sense of detachment. He would daily condemn his responsible worldly position as king, ever hankering to go to Sri Rangam, to the temple of the Deity Ranganatha Swami, to stay there at the feet of the Lord forever. Sometimes he would sigh, hankering to visit the holy shrine of Tirumalai (Tirupati) and have the audience of the Deity Sri Venkatesvara Swami. He would sometimes yearn to go to another holy place—and another, and yet another—and at each place reside for life. A divine love-sickness had set in.
Kulasekhara felt shackled to the throne and could find no happiness in royal wealth and splendor. To alleviate his spiritual thirst, he invited sages to his capital. With them he carefully studied all the Vedic scriptures. He plucked out the best pearls of wisdom and strung them into a garland (mala) of poems called the Mukunda-mala. Srila Prabhupada was especially fond of this work and would often sing one verse in particular:
"O Lord Krsna, let the royal swan of my mind now enter the tangled stems of the lotus of Your feet. How will it be possible for me to remember You at the time of death, when my throat will be choked with mucus, bile, and air?"
Lover of Rama
Kulasekhara Alvar chose to hear daily from the Valmiki Ramayana, the history of Lord Ramacandra, Lord Krsna's incarnation as the ideal king. Kulasekhara was so entranced in spiritual consciousness that he lived and breathed the pastimes of Sri Rama and felt them to be ever fresh and present.
One day, during the recitation of the Ramayana by his guru, Kulasekhara heard the following passage:
There twice seven thousand giants stand
On hearing the line "How can the hero fight alone?" Kulasekhara rose in a frenzy of devotion for his Rama and commanded his army to march with him to where Rama was fighting alone and helpless. To relieve Kulasekhara's distress, the ministers arranged for a party of soldiers to meet him as he was going out and tell him that Rama had been victorious. In spiritual delirium, Kulasekhara believed their tale and returned home.
The king celebrated with great care every important event mentioned during the daily recital of the Ramayana. Kulasekhara would have the Deity of Sri Rama carried through the streets of the city in procession, and then he would serve everyone a feast of prasadam, food offered to Sri Rama.
To prevent Kulasekhara from slipping into spiritual madness, his guru sometimes skipped parts of the Ramayana that might disturb the king. One day, however, the guru was absent and his son performed the reading without discrimination. On hearing of the demon Ravana's kidnapping of Sita, Lord Rama's wife, King Kulasekhara, greatly angry in spiritual ecstasy, shouted, "I must march across the sea, reduce Lanka to ashes, slay its ruler Ravana with all his friends and kinsmen, rescue my weeping mother Sita, and join Her with my father Sri Rama!"
Kulasekhara rose, armed himself, gathered his army, marched to the sea, and plunged in. It is said that the king's Deity of Lord Rama then appeared to Kulasekhara and consoled him.
In the company of Sita, Lord Rama said to Kulasekhara, "O my faithful servant, listen. We are returning victorious from the battlefield. Our enemies have all perished, and we have rescued Sita Devi. Your wish has been fulfilled. Let us all return to the city. Let me carry you to the shore, just as I carry souls from the ocean of birth and death to the shores of the spiritual world."
Then Sri Rama caught hold of Kulasekhara, brought him safely to the shore, and after accompanying him to the city, disappeared.
The king's ministers were deeply troubled. How could they help the king manage the kingdom when he was in such a state? They concluded that his association with devotees was the cause of his divine infatuation, and they decided to wean him from that association. Meanwhile, the king had decided to retire to Sri Rangam.
The ministers thought, "Once the king is there, he will never return."
So the ministers schemed to keep the king at home. Whenever the king said he was about to leave for Sri Rangam, the ministers had a group of Sri Vaisnavas come to the city, and the king would postpone his journey on their account.
Soon, however, the king's court, his palace, his private apartments, and all the public places were filled with Sri Vaisnavas. The king allowed the devotees free access and familiarity; he venerated and adored them.
The ministers saw the saintly devotees as a nuisance and were in a quandary about what to do. If they tried to dissuade the king from going to Sri Rangam, they would have to suffer bringing the godly devotees to the kingdom; and if they tried to cut the root of the king's divine ailment—the association of devotees—the king would simply renounce his kingdom and depart.
The ministers then tried to discredit the devotees by blaming them for the theft, which they arranged, of a valuable necklace belonging to the king's personal Deity of Sri Rama. But when Kulasekhara heard the accusations, he exclaimed, "O ministers, lovers of God are incapable of stealing. There is no vice in their thoughts or actions. To prove the truth of my conviction and the falsity of your accusations against these innocent devotees, let a vessel be brought to me with a venomous cobra in it, and I shall thrust into that vessel my hand."
A servant carried out the command. The king thrust his hand into the vessel of death, but withdrew it unharmed.
Ashamed, the ministers hung their heads. To trifle with the king, they realized, was useless. They fell at his feet, confessed their trick, brought the necklace, and placed it before him in fear and respect. Maharaja Kulasekhara pardoned them and asked them to become servants of the Sri Vaisnavas.
"No more will I dwell with these vile and scheming ministers," the king thought. "I am disgusted with them. Indeed, I am weary of the whole world. I would prefer to leap into fire than keep company with brutes turned away from God."
The King Retires
The saintly King Kulasekhara decided to give up his kingdom. He installed on the throne his son Drdhavrata (named after the young man's grandfather) and, accompanied by his daughter, left for Sri Rangam.
On arriving at Sri Rangam, Kulasekhara gave his daughter in marriage to the Deity, Lord Ranganatha Himself. (Kulasekhara's daughter is considered a portion of Nila-devi, one of the Lord's energies.) Kulasekhara stayed at Sri Rangam for many years, engaged in the service of the Lord and His devotees. He would sometimes go on pilgrimage to other holy places, such as Tirupati, Ayodhya, and Chitrakuta. In Sri Rangam, Kulasekhara composed the Perumal-tirumoli, a work containing 103 devotional songs.
In his last days Kulasekara went to the shrine of Nammalvar at Tirunagari,* near present-day Tinevelli. From Tirunagari, he went to the holy place called Brahmadesa Mannar-Koil, where he stayed for some time serving the presiding Deity, Raja-gopala Swami. There, at age 67, Kulasekhara returned to the spiritual world.
*Tirunagari is the Tamil name for the Adi Kesava temple, where Lord Caitanya found the important scripture Brahma-samhita. Sri Vaisnava scholars believe that the Brahma-samhita was revealed to Nammalvar in trance and that he wrote it down.
Govindacharya, Alkondavilli, 1982 (reprint), The Holy Lives of the Azhvars or Dravida Saints, Bombay: Anantacharya Indological Research Institute.
Selections from Mukunda-mala-stotra
By Kulasekhara Alvar
I always think of Lord Hari [Krsna], whose joyful lotus face bears a gentle smile. Although He is the son of the cowherd Nanda, He is also the Supreme Absolute Truth worshiped by great sages like Narada.
The desert of material existence has exhausted me. But today I will cast aside all troubles by diving into the lake of Lord Hari and drinking freely of the abundant waters of His splendor. The lotuses in that lake are His hands and feet, and the fish are His brilliant shining eyes. That lake's water relieves all fatigue and is agitated by the waves His arms create. Its current flows deep beyond fathoming.
O mind, please never stop taking pleasure in thinking of the Mura demon's destroyer [Krsna], who has lotus eyes and bears the conch and disc weapon. Indeed, I know of nothing else that gives such extreme pleasure as meditating on Lord Hari's divine feet.
The people in this vast ocean of birth and death are being blown about by the winds of material dualities. As they flounder in the perilous waters of sense indulgence, with no boat to help them, they are sorely distressed by the need to protect their sons, daughters, and wives. Only the boat that is Lord Visnu can save them.
Dear mind, do not bewilder yourself by anxiously thinking, How can I cross this fathomless and impassable ocean of material existence? There is one who can save you—Devotion. If you offer her to the lotus-eyed Lord [Krsna], the killer of Narakasura, she will carry you across this ocean without fail.
My dear tongue, I stand before you with joined palms and beg you to recite the names of Lord Narayana. These names describing the Supreme Absolute Truth bring great pleasure, as if exuding honey.
Advanced Astronomy In the Srimad-Bhagavatam
This ancient Vedic text gives an accurate map of the planetary orbits known to modern astronomy.
By Sadaputa Dasa
TODAY WE TAKE for granted that the earth is a sphere, but the early Greeks tended to think it was flat. For example, in the fifth century B.C. the philosopher Thales thought of the earth as a disk floating on water like a log. ** () (1) About a century later, Anaxagoras taught that it is flat like a lid and stays suspended in air. ** () (2) A few decades later, the famous atomist Democritus argued that the earth is shaped like a tambourine and is tilted downwards toward the south. ** () (3) Although some say that Pythagoras, in the sixth century B.C., was the first to view the earth as a sphere, this idea did not catch on quickly among the Greeks, and the first attempt to measure the earth's diameter is generally attributed to Eratosthenes in the second century B.C.
Scholars widely believe that prior to the philosophical and scientific achievements of the Greeks, people in ancient civilized societies regarded the earth as a flat disk. So to find that the Bhagavata Purana of India appears to describe a flat earth comes as no surprise. The Bhagavata Purana, or Srimad-Bhagavatam, is dated by scholars to A.D. 500-1000, although it is acknowledged to contain much older material and its traditional date is the beginning of the third millennium B.C.
In the Bhagavatam, Bhumandala—the "earth mandala"—is a disk 500 million yojanas in diameter. The yojana is a unit of distance about 8 miles long, and so the diameter of Bhumandala is about 4 billion miles. ** () Bhumandala is marked by circular features designated as islands and oceans. These features are listed in Table 1, along with their dimensions, as given in the Bhagavatam.
There are also three circular mountains we should note. The first is Mount Meru, situated in the center of Bhumandala and shaped like an inverted cone, with a radius ranging from 8,000 yojanas at the bottom to 16,000 yojanas at the top. The other two mountains can be thought of as very thin rings or circles. The first, called Manasottara, has a radius of 15,750 thousand yojanas and divides the island of Puskaradvipa into two rings of equal thickness. (In Table 1 these are referred to as inner and outer Puskaradvipa.) The second mountain, called Lokaloka, has a radius of 125,000 thousand yojanas and separates the inner, illuminated region of Bhumandala (ending with the Mirrorlike Land) from the outer region of darkness, Aloka-varsa.
At first glance, Bhumandala appears to be a highly artificial portrayal of the earth as an enormous flat disk, with continents and oceans that do not tally with geographical experience. But careful consideration shows that Bhumandala does not really represent the earth at all. To see why, we have to consider the motion of the sun.
In the Bhagavatam the sun is said to travel on a chariot (Figure 2). The wheel of this chariot is made of parts of the year, such as months and seasons. So it might be argued that the chariot is meant to be taken metaphorically, rather than literally. But here we are concerned more with the chariot's dimensions than with its composition. The chariot has an axle that rests at one end on Mount Meru, in the center of Jambudvipa. On the other end, the axle connects to a wheel that "continuously rotates on Manasottara Mountain like the wheel of an oil-pressing machine." ** () (6) The wheel rolls on top of Mount Manasottara, which is like a circular race track.
The sun rides on a platform joined to the axle at an elevation of 100,000 thousand yojanas from the surface of Bhumandala. Since the axle extends from Mount Meru to Mount Manasottara, its length must be 15,750 thousand yojanas, or 157.5 times as long as the height of the sun above Bhumandala. Since the sun's platform is somewhere on the axle between Meru (in the center) and the wheel (running on the circular track of Manasottara), it follows that to an observer at the center the sun always seems very close to the surface of Bhumandala.
To see this, imagine building a scale model of the sun's chariot on a level field, with 1 foot representing 100,000 thousand yojanas. In this model, the sun is a ball riding 1 foot above the field on an axle 157.5 feet long. One end of the axle pivots around Mount Meru, which is about 1 foot high (or a little less), and the other end goes through a wheel about 1 foot in diameter which follows a circular track. If the sun is a good part of the way out from the center (say, 50 feet or more), it will seem close to the field from the point of view of an observer lying down with his eye close to the base of Mount Meru. The same is true if the model is scaled up to actual size.
Suppose that Bhumandala represents our local horizon extended out into a huge flat disk—the so-called flat earth. Then an observer standing in Jambudvipa, near the center, must see the sun continuously skim around the horizon in a big circle, without either rising into the sky or setting. This is actually what one can see at the north or south pole at certain times in the year, but it is not what one sees in India. The conclusion, therefore, is that Bhumandala does not represent an extension of our local horizon. Since the sun is always close to Bhumandala, and since the sun rises, goes high into the sky, and then sets, it follows that the disk of Bhumandala is tilted at a steep angle to an observer standing in India.
In brief, Bhumandala is where the sun goes. It extends high into the sky overhead and also far beneath the observer's feet. Furthermore, it must be regarded as invisible, for if it were opaque it would block our view of a good part of the sky.
Bhumandala is not the "flat earth," but what is it? One possibility is the solar system. In modern astronomy, each planet orbits the sun in a plane. The planes of these orbits lie at small angles to one another, and thus all the orbits are close to one plane. Astronomers call the plane of the earth's orbit the ecliptic, and this is also the plane of the sun's orbit, from the point of view of an observer stationed on the earth. To an observer on the earth, the solar system is a more-or-less flat arrangement of planetary orbits that stay close to the path of the sun.
Bhumandala is far too big to be the earth, but in size it turns out quite a reasonable match for the solar system. Bhumandala has a radius of 250 million yojanas, and at the traditional figure of 8 miles per yojana this comes to 2 billion miles. For comparison, the orbit of Uranus has a radius of about 1.8 billion miles.
If we move in from the outer edge of Bhumandala we meet the Lokaloka mountain, with a radius of 125 million yojanas, or about 1 billion miles. From Uranus the next planet inward is Saturn, with an orbital radius of about 0.9 billion miles. Thus we find a rough agreement between certain planetary orbits and some circular features of Bhumandala.
Of course, Bhumandala is earth centered. Its innermost island, Jambudvipa, contains Bharata-varsa, which Srila Prabhupada has repeatedly identified as the planet earth. (7) In contrast, the orbits of the planets are centered on the sun. How, then, can they be compared to earth-centered features of Bhumandala?
The solution is to express the orbits of the planets in geocentric (earth-centered) form. Although the calculations of modern astronomy treat these orbits as heliocentric (sun-centered), the orbits can be expressed in relation to any desired center of observation, including the earth. In fact, since we live on the earth, it is reasonable for us to look at planetary orbits from a geocentric point of view.
The geocentric orbit of a planet is a product of two heliocentric motions, the motion of the earth around the sun and the motion of the planet around the sun. To draw it, we shift to the earth as center, and show the planet orbiting the sun, which in turn orbits the earth. This is shown in Figure 1 for the planet Mercury. The looping curve of the planet's geocentric orbit lies between two boundary curves, in the figure marked A and B. If we continue plotting the orbit for a long enough time, the orbital paths completely fill the donut-shaped area between these two curves.
If we superimpose the orbits of Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn on a map of Bhumandala, we find that the boundary curves of each planet's orbit tend to line up with circular features of Bhumandala. Thus the inner boundary of Mercury's orbit swings in and nearly grazes feature 10 in Table 1, and its outer boundary swings out and nearly grazes feature 13. We can sum this up by saying that Mercury's boundary curves are tangent to features 10 and 13. The boundary curves of the orbit of Venus are likewise tangent to features 8 and 14 as shown in Figure 4, and those of the orbit of Mars are tangent to features 9 and 15. Figure 5 shows the alignments between features of Bhumandala and the boundary curves of Mercury, Venus, and Mars. The inner boundary of Jupiter's orbit is tangent to feature 16, and the outer boundary of Saturn's orbit is tangent to feature 17. These alignments are shown graphically in Figure 6. If we include Uranus, we find that its outer boundary lines up with feature 18, the outer edge of Bhumandala. The orbital alignments make use of over half the circular features of Bhumandala. Each of the features from 8 to 18, with the exception of 11 and 12, aligns with one orbital boundary curve. But it turns out that features 11 and 12 also fit into the orbital picture. Unlike the planetary orbits, the geocentric orbit of the sun is nearly circular, since it is simply the earth's heliocentric orbit as seen from the earth. The sun's orbit lies almost exactly halfway between the circular features 11 and 12, and this is shown in Figure 5.
To compare geocentric orbits measured in miles with Bhumandala features measured in yojanas, we have to know how many miles there are in a yojana. I began by using 8 miles per yojana, in accordance with Prabhupada's statement "One yojana equals approximately eight miles." ** () (8) But there is a simple way to refine this estimate. We have seen that the boundary curves of the planets tend to line up with the circular features of Bhumandala. The trick, then, is to find the number of miles per yojana at which the curves and features line up the best.
A boundary curve can touch a circular feature at either its apogee (point furthest from the earth) or its perigee (point closest to the earth). This gives us 4 points (apogee and perigee of curves A and B) that I call turning points. This is illustrated in Figure 7.
In note 9 I use turning points to define a measure of "goodness of fit" that tells us how good an alignment of features and orbits is. Figure 3 is a plot of goodness of fit against the length of the yojana, for lengths ranging from 5 to 10 miles. The curve has a pronounced peak at 8.575 miles per yojana. This value—reasonably close to the traditional figure of 8 miles—gives the best fit between features of Bhumandala and planetary orbits.
To compute the geocentric orbits of the planets, I used a modern ephemeris program. ** () (10) Such calculations must be done for a particular date. I used the traditional date for the beginning of Kali-yuga: February 18, 3102 B.C. But it turns out that the results are nearly the same for a wide range of dates. So the orbital calculations do not tell us when the Bhagavatam was written, but they are consistent with the traditional date of about 3100 B.C.
Table 2 lists the correlations between planetary boundary curves and features of Bhumandala, using 8.575 miles per yojana. The error percentages tell how far the radius of each feature differs from the radius of its corresponding turning point, and they show that there is a close agreement between planetary orbits and various features of Bhumandala. ** () (11) Besides the planets Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, I have included the sun, the planet Uranus, and Ceres, the principal asteroid, since these are also part of the total pattern.
Although Uranus is not mentioned in the Bhagavatam, its orbit lies near the outer boundary of Bhumandala, in the region of darkness called Aloka-varsa. It is noteworthy that the inner boundary of Aloka-varsa is the circular Lokaloka Mountain, said to serve as the outer boundary for all luminaries. (12) This is consistent with the fact that the five planets visible to the naked eye are Mercury through Saturn (Saturn's orbit lies just within the boundary of Lokaloka Mountain).
Asteroids orbit mainly in the region between Mars and Jupiter where astronomers, on the basis of orbital regularities (the so-called Bode-Titius law), predicted the existence of a planet. Asteroids are generally thought to be raw materials for a planet that never formed, though some astronomers have speculated that asteroids may be debris from a planet that disintegrated. Ceres is the largest body in the asteroid belt, and its geocentric orbit lines up well with the outer boundary of Kancanibhumi (feature 16). The hundreds of orbits of smaller main-belt asteroids are scattered fairly evenly around the orbit of Ceres.
As already mentioned, and as shown in Figure 3, the correlation between Bhumandala and the planetary orbits is best at 8.575 miles per yojana. This length for the yojana was calculated entirely on the basis of the Bhagavatam and the planetary orbits. Yet it is confirmed by a completely different line of investigation. As I explained in the previous issue of BTG, the yojana has close ties to the dimensions of the earth globe and to units of measurement used in ancient Western civilizations. My investigations about this led independently to a length of 8.59 miles for one standard of the yojana, a figure that agrees well with the length of 8.575 miles obtained from the orbital study. This agreement underscores the point that Bhumandala does not represent the planet earth, since the 8.59 mile figure reflects accurate knowledge of the size and shape of the earth globe (including the slight polar flattening).
We should note that the Bhagavatam lists heights of the planets above Bhumandala. These heights are sometimes interpreted as the distances in a straight line from the planets to the earth globe, but they are far too small for this. Table 3 compares the heights listed in the Bhagavatam with the mean distances of the planets from the earth, which are many times larger.
I suggest that the heights listed in the Bhagavatam give a simple estimate of the maximum movement of the planets away from the ecliptic plane. This supports the interpretation of Bhumandala as a simple but realistic map of the planetary orbits in the solar system. The flatness of the solar system is also indicated by the small magnitude of the Bhagavatam heights in comparison with the large radial distances listed in Tables 1, 2, and 3.
In conclusion, the circular features of Bhumandala from 8 through 18 correlate strikingly with the orbits of the planets from Mercury through Uranus (with the sun standing in for the earth because of the geocentric perspective). It would seem that Bhumandala can be interpreted as a realistic map of the solar system, showing how the planets move relative to the earth. Statistical studies (not documented here) support this conclusion by bearing out that when you choose sets of concentric circles at random, they do not tend to match planetary orbits closely and systematically like the features of Bhumandala.
The small percentages of error in Table 2 imply that the author of the Bhagavatam was able to take advantage of advanced astronomy. Since he made use of a unit of distance (the yojana) defined accurately in terms of the dimensions of the earth, he must also have had access to advanced geographical knowledge. Such knowledge of astronomy and geography was not developed in recent times until the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. It was not available to the most advanced of the ancient Greek astronomers, Claudius Ptolemy, in the second century A.D., and it was certainly unknown to the pre-Socratic Greek philosophers of the fifth century B.C.
It would appear that advanced astronomical knowledge was developed by some earlier civilization and then lost until recent times. The so-called flat earth of classical antiquity may represent a later misunderstanding of a realistic astronomical concept that dates back to an earlier time and is still preserved within the text of the Srimad-Bhagavatam.
1. Kirk, G. S. and Raven, J. E., 1963, The Presocratic Philosophers, Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press., p. 87.
2. Kirk and Raven, 1963, p. 391.
3. Kirk and Raven, 1963, p. 412.
4. British readers, please note: The billions in this article are American; the British billion has three zeros more.
5. The translation of Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.20.35 says that beyond the ocean of sweet water is a tract of land as wide as the distance from Mount Meru to Manasottara Mountain (15,750 thousand yojanas), and beyond it is a land of gold with a mirrorlike surface. But examination of the Sanskrit text shows that the first tract of land is made of gold, and beyond it is a land with a mirrorlike surface. We have listed this as Adarsatalopama, based on the text.
6. Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.21.13.
7. In several places Srila Prabhupada has written that the planet earth was named Bharata-varsa after Maharaja Bharata, the son of Rsabhadeva.
8. Srimad-Bhagavatam Fifth Canto, Chapter 16, Chapter Summary.
9. "Goodness of fit" can be defined as follows: For each planetary orbit, we can find the shortest distance from a turning point to a circular feature of Bhumandala. The reciprocal of the root mean square of these distances for Mercury through Saturn is the measure of goodness of fit. This measure becomes large when the average distance from turning points to Bhumandala features becomes small.
10. All orbital calculations were performed using the ephemeris programs of Duffett-Smith, Peter, 1985, Astronomy with Your Personal Computer, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
11. The 11.2% error of Mars stands out as larger than the others, since Mars partially crosses over feature 9, the outer boundary of Krauncadvipa. The Bhagavatam may refer to this indirectly, since it states in verse 5.20.19 that Mount Kraunca in Krauncadvipa was attacked by Kartikeya, who is the regent of Mars.
12. Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.20.37.
13. The mean distances of the sun, Venus, and Mercury are the same because Venus and Mercury are inner planets that orbit the sun as the sun orbits the earth (when seen from a geocentric point of view).
Bhakti-yoga at Home
Why and How to Pray
By Rohininandana Dasa
I REMEMBER PEEPING as a small boy around the edge of the door to my father's room. I would see him kneeling in front of a chair, his elbows resting on the seat, his hands clasped, his thumbs touching his bowed forehead, his eyes closed. I felt awed. He seemed to be in another world, a private world.
For a while I used to kneel beside my bed to pray at night. My prayers mostly consisted of thanking God or asking Him for something. I also went with my father to church on Sundays, while my mother stayed home to cook lunch. When we returned home, we said grace before we ate the Sunday roast.
You can imagine how I felt the day I first saw Hare Krsna devotees in London, chanting and dancing their way down Oxford Street, and read that the Hare Krsna mantra is the "great prayer for deliverance." Amidst the noise and bustle of the street, the devotees loudly sang Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, while they danced, ran, spun around, and leapt into the air. How could such exuberance and extroversion be prayer?
Yet somehow it seemed a natural and fitting way to hallow the name of God. The devotees were not shy about honoring and glorifying God's name or sharing their joy.
As I became more familiar with Krsna consciousness, I understood that prayer is a way to associate directly with the Lord. By making heartfelt requests, by thanking Krsna for His blessings, or by glorifying His wonderful personality and activities, devotees forever rejoice in the Lord's company. Ultimately, prayer is an unceasing expression of love of God, an inseparable aspect of a devotee's existence.
Srila Prabhupada tells us to try to mold our lives in such a way that we constantly remember Krsna. He gives us the example of a woman whose hair is freshly and elaborately styled: She may be doing housework, but she always remembers her hair. Similarly, although a devotee may act in many ways, he never forgets Krsna.
A devotee prays according to his spiritual advancement. Srimad-Bhagavatam recommends we worship the Supreme Lord whether we have no desires or are full of them, in which case we can learn to depend on Krsna for their fulfillment. As we learn the art of prayer, we will gradually become pure devotees, without hankering any more for material things.
Krsna enjoys taking care of us, as parents enjoy caring for their children. When we gain confidence that Krsna is totally reliable in His promise that He will supply all life's necessities, we will naturally stop praying for material things and instead want to reciprocate Krsna's kindness.
Although a pure devotee does not want anything from Krsna, he has no other shelter or support than the Lord, so he naturally calls out to Him. When Lord Caitanya (Krsna Himself in the role of His own pure devotee) traveled alone as a sannyasi, He used to sing, "O Lord Krsna, please protect and maintain me. O Lord Rama, descendent of King Raghu, please protect me. O Krsna, killer of the Kesi demon, please maintain me."
The Srimad-Bhagavatam is a storehouse of prayers offered to the Lord by the most elevated devotees in universal history. Srila Prabhupada recommends we select prayers relevant to us and recite them, both for our purification and to learn how to pray to Krsna. Among others, Srila Prabhupada recommended Prahlada Maharaja's prayers to Lord Nrsimhadeva (Canto Seven) and Queen Kunti's prayers to Lord Krsna (Canto One).
Besides repeating the prayers of advanced devotees, we can offer our own. In a letter, Srila Prabhupada gives an idea of how to offer our own prayers: "Simply our prayer should be, 'My dear Lord Krsna, please remind me to always chant Your holy name. Please do not put me into forgetfulness. You are sitting within me as the Supersoul, so You can either put me into forgetfulness or cause me to remember You. So please do not put me into forgetfulness. Please always remind me to chant. Even if You send me to hell, it does not matter, just so long as I am always chanting Hare Krsna.'"
The Hare Krsna maha-mantra is a request to be engaged in the Lord's service. It is a devotee's main prayer, and all other forms of prayer flow from it.
Rohininandana Dasa lives in southern England with his wife and their three children. Write to him in care of Back to Godhead.
Offerings from Mother Earth
By Hare Krsna Devi Dasi
IN THE Srimad-Bhagavatam (4.19.8) Srila Prabhupada notes, "Although the earth's ground is the same, different tastes arise due to different kinds of seeds." What a miracle it is that although two plants grow next to each other in the same dirt, one produces sweet melons, the other hot peppers! Although they use the same resources from Mother Earth, it is as if they give different interpretations of those resources—like two artists with a box of oils, one painting a stately portrait, the other a rich landscape.
Different living entities have different ways of serving Krsna. The portrait artist might paint a picture of the spiritual master; the landscape artist a landscape of Vrndavana, Krsna's home. Both artists can gain spiritual advancement, because Krsna reciprocates with everyone's service. Similarly, when the fruits of both the melon and the pepper plant are offered to Krsna in tasty preparations, He blesses the living entities in those plant bodies with spiritual advancement in their next life.
But, whereas artists can arrange for their paintings to be used in Krsna's service, plants cannot make an offering to Krsna. They need humans to harvest their produce and offer it to Krsna. Only then can plants gain spiritual advantage.
Not only do the plants benefit, but as the Bhagavatam indicates, even Mother Earth feels spiritual satisfaction when the fruits, grains, and vegetables she produces are offered to the Lord. The reverse is also true. The Fourth Canto of the Bhagavatam gives the example that under evil King Vena none of Mother Earth's products were offered to Krsna and she became so offended that she stopped producing food.
This is like a mother who gives her child money or flowers to offer in a temple or church. When the child takes these things and offers them, both the child and the mother feel spiritual satisfaction. But if the mother finds that the child is ruining the flowers or spending the money on candy, she stops giving the child things to offer. Then neither mother nor child is happy.
Srila Prabhupada once said that every plant has a use. So weeds can serve Krsna, too. Even pesky stinging nettles can be used as a coagulant to replace animal rennet in cheese-making. Devotees fortunate enough to live in the countryside don't have to import foods from abroad to make an enjoyable offering for Krsna. The finest foods to offer are the ones grown with love and devotion right in our own gardens. As Prabhupada told devotees in France, "Anything grown in the garden is a hundred times more valuable than if it is purchased from the market."
Devotees in Krsna conscious farm communities around the world have taken up the spirit demonstrated by Srila Prabhupada, and they rejoice in offering Krsna things they have grown themselves. I once asked Lalita Sakhi Dasi, the head cook at Gita Nagari Farm in Pennsylvania, to describe her favorite offering to the Deities. She replied, "Pizza—because everything is produced right here at Gita Nagari. Our oxen grow the grains for the flour. Our cows produce the milk for the cheese. The tomatoes for the sauce are extra flavorful because they're grown with cow manure from our barn. Even the basil and oregano come from our herb garden."
Mother Earth wants to help her children, but if they're uninterested in serving Krsna she becomes discouraged. Srila Prabhupada writes, "Just as a cow cannot deliver sufficient milk without being affectionate to her calf, the earth cannot produce sufficient necessities without feeling affection for those who are Krsna conscious." In the ideal Krsna conscious village, the process is perfect. Devotees express their love for Krsna by singing and dancing in kirtana, and that stimulates the affection of Mother Earth, who produces crops and pastures abundantly. Cows and oxen graze on the lush pastures, and in turn produce milk and grains. Plants in the gardens and fields become healthy and productive.
Devotees then collect all the foodstuffs and prepare tasty offerings for the Deities. In this way the offerings of Mother Earth are used perfectly, and all the living entities—Mother Earth, the plants, the devotees, the cows and oxen, and even the neighbors who receive the food after it's offered to Krsna—get spiritual happiness.
Hare Krsna Devi Dasi, an ISKCON devotee since 1978, is co-editor of the newsletter Hare Krsna Rural Life.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, the spiritual master of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, spread Krsna consciousness throughout India during the early part of this century. He opened sixty-four temples, wrote several books and many essays, and published many books written by his predecessor spiritual masters. He was the leader of the spiritual institution known as the Gaudiya Math and oversaw the distribution of large numbers of books on Krsna consciousness. Here we present a translation of selected verses from his Bengali poem Vaisnava Ke? ("Who Is a Vaisnava?")
ONE IS TRULY a Vaisnava who has given up the habit of falling victim to the ferocious tigress of wealth, beauty, and fame. Such a soul is factually detached from material life, and is known as a pure devotee. Someone with this consciousness of detachment has thereby become victorious over the mundane world of birth and death.
ONE IS INDEED detached who moderately partakes of worldly things deemed necessary for living in devotional service; a devotee acting in that manner does not fall prey to the disease of material infatuation. Thus devoid of selfish attachment and endowed with the ability to see things in relation to the Lord, the devotee perceives all sense objects as being Lord Madhava [Krsna] Himself.
THIS IS THE STANDARD of befitting renunciation, and one who realizes this is most fortunate indeed. Everything involved in such a devotee's life represents Lord Hari's personal spiritual opulence as manifest in the world of matter. On the other hand, one who engages in chanting the Lord's name with hopes of enhancing his own material reputation finds that all his activities and paraphernalia represent only the riches of hypocrisy.
O MIND, please reject the company of two types of persons: those desiring impersonal liberation from the material world, and those who desire to enjoy the pleasure of material sense objects. Both of them are equally nondevotees. Things used in relation to Lord Krsna are objects belonging directly to the transcendental realm, and thus having nothing to do with matter they cannot be either owned or forsaken by persons interested in mundane enjoyment or renunciation.
Translation by Dasaratha-suta Dasa
Krsna is all-attractive, but pure devotional service attracts even Him. This means that pure devotional service is even transcendentally stronger than Krsna Himself, because it is Krsna's internal potency.
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Those who fix their minds on My personal form and are always engaged in worshiping Me with great and transcendental faith are considered by Me to be most perfect.
Lord Sri Krsna
The wise inhabitants of the heavenly regions know that the perfection of the head is to offer obeisances to the Supreme Lord, the perfection of the life-breath is to worship the Lord, the perfection of the mind is to ponder the details of His transcendental qualities, and the perfection of speech is to chant the glories of His qualities.
King Kulasekhara Alvar
What is difficult to achieve for determined men who have taken refuge of the Supreme Personality of Godhead's lotus feet? His feet are the source of sacred rivers like the Ganges, which put an end to the dangers of mundane life.
Sri Maitreya Rsi
Of all types of worship, worship of Lord Visnu is best, and better than the worship of Lord Visnu is the worship of His devotee, the Vaisnava.
Lord Siva, Padma Purana
It has been conclusively decided in the scriptures, after due consideration, that the ultimate goal for the welfare of human society is detachment from the bodily concept of life and increased and steadfast attachment for the Supreme Lord, who is transcendental, beyond the modes of material nature.
The service of Truth is the function of the soul.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura