Statement of Purposes
1. To help all people discern reality from illusion, spirit from matter, the eternal from the temporary.
Russia: Back to Religious Oppression
THIS PAST SUMMER on a visit to Russia, I stopped in at several churches and was touched by the piety of the simple Russian people, till lately deprived of religious freedom, who come to church to pray, to humble themselves before the holy icons, and to partake in the venerable rites of the Russian Orthodox tradition.
I was less favorably impressed—that is, I was disgusted—by the political machinations of the holy leaders of that tradition, craftily at work to push through a bill, now signed into law by President Yeltsin, designed to secure power and privilege for Russian Orthodoxy, cut a deal with a handful of "traditional" Russian religions, and curtail the newly restored religious freedoms of everyone else.
The law "on freedom of conscience and on religious associations"—indeed!—neatly divides religious groups in Russia into two categories: first-class "religious organizations" and second-class "religious groups."
For a "religious organization," full privileges and protections are guaranteed; for a "religious group," nearly every right is denied.
What makes the difference between a crippled "group" and a privileged "organization"? To be an organization, you have to come up with legal documents proving you've been functioning in Russia for at least fifteen years—that is, that you knuckled under and did whatever required to win State approval under the Brezhnev-era Soviet regime.
Here are some of the rights the new law guarantees only to "religious organizations"—and not to religious "groups."
• the right to create educational institutions. (Article 5, Section 3)
A "religious group" has rights too. It can worship privately and teach religion to its own followers. (7.2) And this it can do on premises to be provided by its own members—like their own flats. (7.1) And that's about it.
If space allowed, I could tell you of the opportunities the new law provides for the State to subject "groups" to arbitrary bureaucratic burdens and harassments. And how easy it has become, on flimsy grounds, for a religious "group" to be banned or liquidated (in Russian contexts, a familiar word).
The new law specifically recognizes "the special contribution of Orthodoxy" to Russia's spirituality and culture. And provides the means for the Hare Krsna movement in Russia to be suppressed and persecuted.
The constitutionality of the new law is sure to be challenged (we hope successfully). Meanwhile, now that the Orthodox Church has pushed through this egregiously repressive law—Orthodoxy's latest "special contribution to Russia's spirituality and culture"?—any standing this Church might once have had as an exponent of freedom of religion and conscience need not be challenged; it no longer exists.
The opinions expressed in this editorial are those of the author—one non-Russian individual. They are not the official views of Back to Godhead, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, or any other body.
Thank you very much for the small article about Allen Ginsberg's passing away. Ultimately he helped Srila Prabhupada establish the Hare Krsna movement in America.
Jvala Nrsimha Dasa adhikari
Hare Krsna. My name is Dvijapatni and I am fifteen years old. I was born in a devotee family on Gita Nagari farm in Pennsylvania. My family and I now live in Maryland. Our family also includes a dog named Jordon. I mention Jordon because in the July/August issue of BTG there was an article that attacked and condemned having pets as part of a child's growing up, especially dogs and cats. The article referred to these souls as lower beings that would only lower our spiritual vision. My dog Jordon is not something that teaches me to "value bodily instead of spiritual pleasures." He has the place of a loved child in my heart, a dependent subordinate.
Owning a dog is not only about satisfying our own bodily pleasure. It's also about loving a fellow soul that is in the same material boat that we are.
The author [Urmila Devi Dasi] mentioned that animals do not teach a child universal love, because the same child who has a dog as a pet will still eat meat. I know from my own experience and observations that this theory applies only to children who have been told time and time again that eating flesh is acceptable. Any child who has the contents of a hamburger explained to him at an early age will instinctively recoil from eating it.
A neighbor child was eating a hamburger at a cookout when my younger brother went up to her and told her it was a cow. She did not believe him and went to her sister and asked if what my brother had said was true. Her sister uncomfortably confirmed that it was: she was eating a cow. The little girl refused to eat the rest of the burger.
We also have a friend who is ten years old. She chose to become a vegetarian at three and has been one ever since. She has a pet dog who saved her life. With equal vision, she loves all animals, and would not think of hurting a fellow being. She is not a devotee in the sense of being a Vaisnava, but simply a child who loves her pets.
I never thought this magazine could hold something that would make me feel so embarrassed. Although the author mentions in the last paragraph, "Let us teach our children to show spiritually equal vision," I found the article full of contradiction, narrow-mindedness, and a lack of spiritual vision.
I believe having pets can encourage spiritual vision. Children can relate soul to soul even when one soul is trapped in an animal body. I think it is something some adults have more difficulty with due to the pride they have in being humans.
The author said, "From Bharata Maharaja's story we can teach that we should not take an animal into our lives in the place of the Lord." Of course, this is true, but perhaps there is room for both in the heart of a child. Why would this author assume that an animal would "take the place" of the Lord? In childhood it is possible that both could be there. In fact, I have found that caring for Jordon has helped me develop compassion, responsibility, and a deeper sense of truth that spirit souls live in all creatures and that one can learn to relate to them as souls even when they are covered in a dog's body. "The humble sage, by virtue of true knowledge, sees with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog, and a dog-eater." (Bg. 5.18)
I mentioned I was embarrassed by this article. I feel that it will insult many people, and it makes me reluctant to show BTG to friends who might be interested in Krsna consciousness. This publication is a representation of ISKCON and the people in it. Please consider carefully what is being printed, because I want to be able to uphold and support every word.
Dvijapatni Devi Dasi
URMILA DEVI DASI REPLIES: Thank you for your letter. I'm sorry you found my article embarrassing. It's true that Prabhupada sometimes says things that are difficult to hear and accept, and which seem odd to those of us living in Western society. It is he who condemns keeping animals simply as pets, while he teaches us how to give all entities spiritual love.
You take issue with my statement that caring for pets doesn't teach universal love, but in your examples, the children gained in spiritual understanding from instructions they received from Vaisnavas such as you and your brother, not simply from their experience with pets. American society, famous for meat-eating, abortion, and general violence, is also a society of pet lovers.
Srila Prabhupada certainly encourages us to see animals, and even plants and insects, as fellow souls traveling in this material world. If we see this way, we will give such souls whatever chance they can have for spiritual advancement. Yet we also have to keep in mind that souls in bodies lower than those of human beings are grossly in the mode of ignorance. And if we intimately associate with someone in the mode of ignorance, whether that soul is in a human or animal body, we will also develop qualities of ignorance.
There is a simple way to see if our attachment is on the platform of sharing Krsna consciousness with the animal, or trying to satisfy our minds and senses with something warm, furry, and dependent. Would we give the same care and affection to a soul whose body is distasteful to us? For example, would I hug and pet a cockroach, convinced that my motives were for his or her spiritual life?
In an agricultural society, householders are expected to have animals for practical purposes and give prasadam to all animals around their home. But they don't bring such animals into the home or love them as animals—just as souls.
* * *
I was around pets my whole childhood, caring for them, loving them and observing them. It was obvious to me they had a soul, as I did, because they had the same basic needs and feelings I did. When I finally (about six years ago) learned from your books that all living entities are spiritual, it made perfect sense to me, and I readily took to Krsna consciousness—became vegetarian and started chanting and reading regularly. My many pets over the years helped me come to this point. Recently I've been explaining the philosophy of Krsna consciousness to my younger brother and sisters, who also love their pets, and they are also receptive.
We can learn from the example of Bharata Maharaja not to forget Krsna in favor of an animal, but in my case I came to Krsna because of animals. Bharata Maharaja was in the renounced stage, and a pet was clearly inappropriate for him. That's not true for children.
I have read almost all of Srila Prabhupada's books, and although I have seen him criticize people for loving their cats and dogs instead of loving God, I have never seen a place where he discourages children from having pets. After all, we should not love anything—wife, husband, children, country—instead of loving Krsna, but that does not mean that we should not have these.
My understanding is that children are naturally attracted to having pets because children are part and parcel of Krsna and have His qualities and propensities to a minute degree. Since Krsna has pets, children are spontaneously attracted to having pets also. The pets benefit by getting prasadam and being around spiritual vibrations, and the child benefits by giving these. And the child's heart becomes softened. At least that is my personal experience.
Bhakta Daniel Sho
URMILA DEVI DASI REPLIES: Observing animal behavior will certainly confirm the scriptural truth that animals are also souls, as much as human beings are. But though our experiences in the material world may help us take up Krsna consciousness, that doesn't mean that the experiences in and of themselves are to be continued once we take up spiritual life. For example, when someone involved with intoxication hears from Prabhupada that intoxication is in the mode of ignorance, he or she may at once agree, from direct experience. That doesn't make intoxication helpful for spiritual life.
When Prabhupada condemned the keeping of pets such as dogs and cats, especially in the house, he never distinguished that such instructions were only for renunciants or didn't apply to children.
Srila Prabhupada did, however, encourage all devotees of Krsna to treat all living entities with respect and give them a chance for whatever spiritual advancement they are capable of making. So when a devotee child sees a bug in the house, he or she will chant to it and carefully take that bug outside. Where I live, when we see deer or rabbits on our property (a rather frequent occurrence) we always chant to them. Not long ago an opossum was investigating our garbage. Our grown daughter quickly got some prasadam to feed it, which it happily ate. Such real spiritual love for all living entities—animal, plant, insect—does indeed soften the heart. But keeping an animal so as to have something warm and furry to hug and love is a definite spiritual distraction.
We are naturally attracted to so many things in this world as perversions of our original spiritual life or in imitation of the Lord. That everything is a perverted imitation of what goes on in the spiritual world does not, however, mean that whatever we have an inclination to do will bring us closer to the Lord.
* * *
You said, "Indeed it is offensive to offer food to the Lord that a lower animal such as a dog or cat has seen first." I was of the opinion that God exists in each and every life/creature, even in the cats and dogs. In case such pets are kept in the house of an ISKCON believer, even those lives can be raised by getting such an atmosphere: the maha-mantra, the bells of the arati, the smell of food prepared and offer to God, etc.
URMILA DEVI DASI REPLIES: When the soul in the body of a lower animal sees food meant for the Lord, naturally the animal wants to eat that food. And nothing should be offered to Krsna if someone has desired to eat it before the offering.
It is possible for an animal to become so purified by association with a Vaisnava that the animal's seeing food before it is offered wouldn't be offensive. But such examples are rare indeed.
Animals are souls, as much as you or I, but they are grossly covered by the mode of ignorance. While in an animal body, it is almost impossible for a soul to come to spiritual awareness. Is there even a primitive system of religion in any species lower than human? Yet even the most simple human society has some concept of a higher, supernatural power.
There are many ways to give animals spiritual benefit without compromising our own Krsna consciousness. At the temple where we worship, for example, some cats have decided to live on the temple property. They sometimes sit outside the temple window to hear the chanting or classes. Devotees regularly give them prasadam. And the cats do service by eating mice and other pests.
The Western Kapila
I was saddened by the letter "Descartes and the Soul" [July/August], which made it seem as if the whole of Western thinking about the soul rests upon the conclusions of rationalism and atheism.
Actually, the philosopher G. W. Leibniz, who was opposed to both Descartes's rationalism and Spinoza's atheism, more truly represents Western philosophy's ancient religious roots in Orphism, Pythagoreanism, and Platonism. His theory of monadology (from the Greek monad, "number" or "unit") mirrors the teachings of Sankhya yoga and the Bhagavad-gita. Leibniz, who called himself the last Pythagorean, taught that God, the "Great Monad" (viz. Purusottama), exists in an eternal relationship with all other "minimal monads" (viz. jivatmas), both human and animal. He called this teaching the "perennial philosophy." Leibniz took his lead from the late Academic Platonists Proclus and Damascius, who taught that man consists of five bodies, or eidolon:
(1) Monedes (monad=pure spirit)
Much as Bhagavad-gita summarizes all previous Vedic wisdom, so Leibniz united the three souls found in Plato's Timaeus (the plant, animal, and human souls, located respectively in the liver, heart, and head), with the tripar-tite division of man found in the New Testament epistles (body, soul, and spirit), and the Orphic-Pythagorean teaching of the ultimate individual monad, thus genuinely reflecting the ancient religious roots of Western philosophy and, just as true, uniting Western and Eastern theistic thought.
Leibniz was truly our Western Kapila.
DRUTAKARMA DASA REPLIES: My response to the letter by Bhakta Jan, which appeared in the BTG Letters section under the title "Descartes and the Soul" in the July/August 1997 issue, was not intended as a critique of all of Western philosophy and theology. It was a very particular response to Bhakta Jan's implicit assertion that Descartes believed animals had eternal souls like those of human beings. I simply offered evidence that Descartes did in fact deny that animals had eternal souls like those of humans. I do, however, thank you for your informative remarks about the philosophy of Leibniz.
As reported in BTG, Srimati Vilasini Dasi left her body [expired] on July 8 in London. Vilasini was an old Prabhupada disciple. She joined in Washington in 1970 and moved to Detroit soon after. After some years she went to Europe and served in France and Belgium and finally spent many years as the head pujari for Sri Sri Radha-Londonisvara. She spent most of her devotional career doing Deity worship and also worked for the BBT in the beginning years.
Vilasini was a completely dedicated disciple of Srila Prabhupada and never wavered in her determination to serve the Deities. Yet she could be difficult to deal with. She had a sharp, incisive intelligence, which she sometimes used to manipulate others. She wasn't malicious, but she wasn't easy to get on with either. Vilasini was aware enough to know her own defects even if she couldn't quite get on top of her critical side.
About four or five years ago she got a heavy dose of cancer and was given a few months to live. She retired from active service to fight the disease and went on a course of chemotherapy. After some time, the doctors told her that it was useless and that she had only a matter of weeks to live.
Then she met a natural healer who put her on a strict regime of diet and behavior. One of the things the doctor told her, without knowing her nature, was that if she was to survive she must change her attitude. Vilasini knew it to be true. She started chanting many more rounds every day, read Prabhupada's books for hours, and chanted the Nrsimha kavaca [a prayer to Krsna's form as Lord Nrsimha] every day. Over the next few years she actively sought out devotees with whom she had experienced difficulties and resolved their differences amicably.
For a while the cancer went into remission. The doctors were amazed at her improvement. She even tried to take up some regular service again. But each time she did so she had a relapse.
Finally last year she had to undergo chemotherapy again. Her physical condition deteriorated, and she entered a hospice in late June. Then early in the morning on July 8, she suddenly fell into a coma. The devotees were all informed and went immediately to be with her. Jayadvaita Swami [the editor of BTG] was also there and everyone chanted by her bedside.
After some twenty-five minutes she came out of the coma. Vilasini was a devotee who was always able to rise to the occasion no matter how she felt—"do the needful," as Srila Prabhupada used to request. When she saw all the devotees, she asked for her beads and asked to be propped up in bed so that she could chant with them.
After about ten hours of Vilasini's obliging her friends with her association, the nurses asked the devotees to leave her room for a few minutes so they could do their duties. When they had left, Vilasini Prabhu took the opportunity to gracefully depart.
It was as good a passing as any sincere servant of Srila Prabhupada could hope for, and it appeared that she certainly got all the blessings of Sri Sri Radha-Londonisvara.
Hari Sauri Dasa adhikari
Postscript: A month after Vilasini's departure, my wife, Sitala Dasi, who was close friends with Vilasini since she joined in Detroit in 1970 and traveled with her to Europe, received a letter from Vilasini. She had written it in late June, a couple of weeks before she died, and had sent it to our address in Alachua, Florida. It arrived there on the day she passed away. It was sent on to us here in India.
It's a short note, only three sentences long, handwritten in hardly legible script. But the contents are some of the most wonderful I have ever read:
All the evil went out of me on Lord Nrsimha's appearance day at sunset. Sounds corny but it's true. I am getting well now.
How Many Souls Per Body?
Why do you refer to God realization as a science? I have always thought that the term "science" is applied to something material, and God realization is spiritual.
I have yet another question, which bugs me constantly. Biologists say that cells are living things. If that is the case, we should have trillions of souls in our body, one in every cell. How do you explain this?
Charu Lata Pandey
SADAPUTA DASA REPLIES: Science consists of knowledge that can be reliably verified by systematic procedures of observation. It is not necessarily limited to material subject matters. There are procedures of spiritual realization that yield results reliably, and these can be referred to as a science of self-realization.
Yes, there are trillions of souls in our body. These are souls of individual cells, but there is only one soul of the body as a whole.
That soul is linked in consciousness to the bodily senses (eyes, ears, etc.), and the souls of individual cells are linked to the senses of those cells (chemical receptors, etc.).
The editorial in our September/October issue included several typographical errors. The text was typeset last minute in Mumbai and skipped a proofreading cycle. We apologize.
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
Irrefutable knowledge that the Absolute Truth is possible through the method of pure bhakti-yoga.
A lecture given in Los Angeles, on August 25, 1972
by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
ato vai kavayo nityam
Certainly, therefore, since time immemorial, all transcendentalists have been rendering devotional service to Lord Krsna, the Personality of Godhead, with great delight, because such devotional service is enlivening to the self.
ATAH MEANS "therefore." When we argue and then come to a conclusion, we say "therefore." Here "therefore" means that one is firmly convinced. As described in the previous verse, chidyante sarva-samsayah: "All doubts are destroyed." Samsaya means "doubt."
This morning we were talking with a scientist friend about the ultimate source of everything. First of all, the conclusion is that here everything is relatively situated. For example, one man is the son of another man, who is the son of another man. This world is a relative world: everything depends on something else. No one is independent.
Is the original source sentient or insentient? The original source must be sentient. In our experience we see matter and living things. Here I see a small ant and a big stone. The big stone is insentient; it cannot move. You can wait for millions of years, and the stone will not move, because it is insentient. But the small ant is moving. If you try to check its movement, it will struggle—this way, that way, this way. That shows that the ant is sentient.
Sentient beings are superior to matter. There are two things within our experience: one is sentient, the other not. I am the seer, and sometimes I control both these things. But I am not the supreme controller. I can observe both the sentient and the insentient. So, for the time being, I am superior to both. The ultimate source of everything—the ultimate knower, the ultimate analyzer—must also be sentient. He cannot be insentient.
We can analyze in this way—by experimental knowledge. Our Krsna consciousness movement is not sentiment. We can explain how God created. The Bible says, "God said, 'Let there be creation,' and there was creation." But readers of the Bible cannot explain how God created. Therefore in this modern, scientifically advanced age, people do not accept the Bible. But we can explain how God created everything. We can explain how God creates simply by desiring.
Chidyante sarva-samsayah. By following bhagavata-dharma or studying the Srimad-Bhagavatam, which presents the ultimate knowledge of everything, one can become completely doubtless. One can be sure that God is a person, that He is sentient, that He is the supreme director, the supreme knower, the supreme physicist, the supreme chemist—everything supreme.
Because Krsna is supreme He can do anything. In Vrndavana He lifted a mountain—Govardhana. There were torrents of rain, and Vrndavana was being flooded. All the inhabitants became greatly disturbed, and they looked to Krsna for shelter, because they did not know anything beyond Krsna.
Krsna said, "Yes, I am lifting this mountain. Let it become a big umbrella for the whole village."
The atheist will say that these are all stories. No. They're not stories. Because God is supreme, because He is the supreme physicist, He knows how to make a mountain weightless. He knows the art. So many gigantic planets are floating in the sky. Who is floating them? You cannot float even a small thing in the air, but millions and trillions of planets are floating. Who has made that possible? God. Therefore He is called the all-powerful, the great.
So if Krsna is God, is it difficult for Him to make a mountain weightless? No. He also enters the ocean. So He must know the physical laws that pertain to entering the ocean. One must only understand the technique. Modern scientists also enter the ocean. They're floating in the ocean by machine. If you know the physical science more perfectly, you can enter the water without a machine, you can float in the air without a machine, you can lift a mountain without a machine. It is a question of perfect knowledge.
When you are advanced in spiritual knowledge, in devotional service, then chidyante sarva-samsayah—all your doubts are destroyed. Generally people think, "Oh, Krsna lifted a mountain? These are all stories." Because atheists speak this way, we may think, "Yes, maybe they are stories." But no. If you are Krsna conscious, you must be firmly convinced: "Yes, Krsna did it." It is possible because He knows the physical science perfectly. He knows and He can do it.
One who knows the proper science can turn one thing into another. An electrician can turn a cooler into a heater or a heater into a cooler—because he knows the science. You cannot do that.
Don't study Krsna thinking, "I am also Krsna." No. That is defective thinking. Everyone thinks such "frog philosophy." When a frog with experience of a three-foot-wide well hears of the size of the Atlantic Ocean, he thinks, "How it is possible?" He thinks the ocean may be a little bigger than his well—four feet, five feet, six feet, ten feet. At ten feet he bursts, because he has no more knowledge. He does not know that the three-foot-wide well can never compare to the Atlantic Ocean.
Because our senses are limited, we have limited creative energy—so-called scientific knowledge, so-called other knowledge. We think that God may be a little bigger than we are. But as soon as we hear that He can lift a mountain—and the whole world—we doubt. But if you are advanced in Krsna consciousness, you must be free from all doubts. You must know Krsna perfectly, and that is possible by devotional service. In the Bhagavad-gita Krsna says, bhaktya mam abhijanati: "If one wants to understand Me perfectly, one must engage in devotional service." Krsna cannot actually be understood perfectly, but our doubts can be dissipated by bhakti, devotional service.
Why not by knowledge? There are three paths: karma (fruitive work), jnana (speculative knowledge), and bhakti. Krsna cannot be known by scientific knowledge. The so-called scientists are always in doubt, unsure. It is not possible to understand God through speculation, because God is unlimited and your knowledge is limited. How can you know God?
Then how can the bhaktas, the devotees, know God? They are not highly educated or scientists. How they can understand God is stated in the Bhagavad-gita:
"To those who are constantly devoted to serving Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me." Tam means "unto him." Unto whom? Bhajatam priti-purvakam: Unto one engaged in devotional service with love and faith.
God is within you. You don't have to search for God. Hrdy antah-sthah: God is within your heart, and He can give you intelligence to understand Him.
It is stated earlier in this chapter, srnvatam sva-kathah krsnah punya-sravana-kirtanah: "Hearing and chanting about Krsna are pious activities." Krsna says that for anyone engaged in devotional service and in hearing about Him, "I give intelligence." If one is sincere—if one is actually a devotee—Krsna will help. Guru-krsna-krpa. The guru is a mercy of Krsna. Krsna helps us from within and from the outside. The help from the outside is the guru, Krsna's representative.
Krsna is always ready to help us, and when Krsna helps us it is very easy to understand Him. Therefore a devotee is beyond all doubts. Not that blindly we are accepting Krsna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. No. We have all our scientific and philosophical arguments. Then we accept Krsna.
Stages of Devotees
One who accepts Krsna by science and philosophy is called an uttama-adhikari, a first-class devotee. There are three stages of devotees: kanistha-adhikari (lower class), madhyama-adhikari (middle class), and uttama-adhikari (first class). The third-class devotee accepts, "Here is God." That's all. But he has many doubts. The second-class devotee has doubts, but he accepts God on the authority of Vedas. The first-class devotee knows perfectly well, "Here is God." Chidyante sarva-samsayah: He is beyond all doubts. "Yes, Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Here is Krsna. My Lord is standing here in this temple. He has come very kindly, mercifully, to accept my service." These are the thoughts of the first-class devotee. As soon as Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu saw Krsna in His form as Jagannatha in the temple, Lord Caitanya fainted. "Here is My Lord, for whom I was searching."
Here it is stated, ato vai kavayo nityam bhaktim paramaya muda. Kavayah means the first-class devotees. Nityam: "perpetually, eternally." Bhaktim: "devotional service." Paramaya: "transcendental."
These distinctions—first class, second class, third class—are not ordinary material classes. Even in the spiritual world there are such divisions, just as in the sunlight there are divisions: the sunshine, the sun globe, and the sun-god. It is not that because you are in the sunshine you know the sun globe or the sun-god. That requires another stage of knowledge. Similarly, there are stages of devotional service: kanistha-adhikari, madhyama-adhikari, and uttama-adhikari.
The uttama-adhikari is firmly convinced that Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. No one can dissuade him. He can convince others that Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, but no one can convince him that Krsna is not God. Therefore those who are actually in knowledge of Krsna consciousness, the science of God, are firmly fixed in the devotional service of Krsna, Vasudeva.
Hope for the Third Class
What about the third-class devotee? If he sticks to devotional service according to the rules and regulations, he will gradually acquire knowledge of Krsna and become detached from material attraction. Everything will come.
The Srimad-Bhagavatam states:
"By rendering devotional service unto the Personality of Godhead, Sri Krsna, one immediately acquires causeless knowledge and detachment from the world." Prayojita means "just begun." The kanistha-adhikari must stick to the principles of devotional service, and gradually everything will be revealed.
Sevonmukhe hi jihvadau svayam eva sphuraty adah. In the beginning, because we have blunt material senses, we cannot understand Krsna and Krsna's service. We think the chanting of Krsna's name is just like the chanting of so many vibrations. We cannot understand that Krsna's name is transcendental, that it is Krsna Himself. But if we take up devotional service in the right earnestness to serve the Lord, everything will gradually be revealed. And if we become slack in following the rules and regulations, we will stay third class: we will not be able to raise ourselves to the second-class and first-class position, and all our doubts will remain.
Thank you very much.
Srila Locana Dasa Thakura
Srila Locana Dasa Thakura appeared in this world in 1520 A.D., thirty-four years after the appearance of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Locana Dasa wrote a biography on Lord Caitanya, entitled Sri Caitanya Mangala, and he wrote many devotional songs. The following is one of those songs, translated from the original Bengali:
The Mercy of Sri Gaura and Nityananda
The two Lords—Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityananda—are very merciful. They are the essence and the crest jewel of all incarnations. To execute Their process of self-realization [chanting Hare Krsna and dancing] is simply joyful.
Loving the Guru
Walking behind Srila Prabhupada as he leaves an airplane and enters a terminal building to be met by his disciples is always one of the most amazing experiences. As he left the plane today and entered the corridor, we could hear devotees chanting, the sound growing louder and louder. And Prabhupada's smile grew larger as he approached his loving disciples.
Today there were several hundred devotees in the airport. They were oblivious to everyone and everything going on around them, except for their glorious spiritual master. I have no qualification to describe the feelings of my Godbrothers and Godsisters, as I have never been fortunate enough to have such strong loving emotion for Prabhupada.
The loving reciprocation between Srila Prabhupada and his disciples is easiest to see in these airport receptions. Fortunate observers in the airport today could see that devotees were feeling transcendental bliss. For several minutes it seemed that no one's feet touched the ground. Torrents of ecstatic tears flowed freely from everyone, except for one fallen soul—me.
We arrived in Srila Prabhupada's quarters at about noon, and I at once prepared for his massage. During the massage my mind was disturbed. I could not free myself from the pain of thinking that everyone had such love for their guru except for me. I was a cheater, an impostor. I finally got the courage to speak while massaging Prabhupada's back. That way I didn't have to speak face to face.
"Srila Prabhupada," I said, "all your disciples have so much love for you. I feel so bad because I lack this intense love. When I'm with you at the airport, I can see everyone dancing, chanting, and crying. I have so much association with you, yet I don't feel this overwhelming love like they do."
I hoped he would say something to relieve my mind. He stayed silent. Tormented, I finished the massage and went back to my room to finish preparing his lunch.
After he'd chanted the Gayatri mantra, he called me into his room. As I entered, I offered obeisances and looked up with much concern because he had a serious look on his face.
"So, do you like serving me?" he asked.
"Oh, yes Srila Prabhupada," I replied, "I like serving you very much."
"Then that is love," he said. "Everyone can do so many things—singing, dancing, jumping up and down. But you are actually doing something. Isn't that love?"
"I guess so, Srila Prabhupada," I said.
"So you just do your service," he said.
"That is all that is necessary. This is what love means—to do service."
—Excerpt from a work in progress by Srutakirti Dasa
Work Done As Sacrifice
By Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami
WHEN SRILA PRABHUPADA defined pure Krsna consciousness, he followed Srila Rupa Gosvami's definition. Rupa Gosvami said that for devotional service to be pure, it has to be performed only for Krsna's pleasure. And in order for us to become pure devotees, we have to perform it without interruption.
That sounds good for those who live in temples, but what about those who have to go to work in the world? Can they turn their work into pure devotion?
Srila Prabhupada was unequivocal in his assertions that material activity will always become a source of trouble. To him the facts were obvious: drink poison and you'll die, stick your hand in fire and you'll get burned, work with an aim to enjoy the results and you'll get stuck with the karmic reactions. To some, that may sound like a small thing, but doing anything in this world is like throwing a pebble into a pond: The splash spreads into ripples. One act in this world spreads out into ripples, and who can know all the big and small effects caused by our one little attempt to enjoy ourselves? Therefore, the Srimad-Bhagavatam states, "What, then, is the use of fruitive activities, which are naturally painful from the very beginning and transient by nature, if they are not utilized for the devotional service of Lord?"
Although there are thousands of occupations one can take up in this world, there are actually only two categories of work: work done to gain a material result, and work done as sacrifice. Work done for a material result is entangling. We all have to work to live, and all work, we hope, brings a material result—a paycheck or some tangible benefit by which we can maintain ourselves. The problem comes when we claim proprietorship over the result and then try to enjoy it. If the material result is our only goal, we will naturally find ourselves tightly bound to the unlucky and unfulfilling prospect of moving quickly through a life with only death, disease, and old age as landmarks.
Therefore, Krsna has some other advice. He asserts that He is the actual proprietor of everything in this world, and as such, He is the rightful enjoyer. By taking the fruits of our work and offering them to Him, not only will we feel the natural happiness that comes from serving Krsna, but we will be able to avoid the pain that comes from attachment to material things, especially when we are to be separated from them by death.
Krsna states in the Bhagavad-gita that work should be performed as a sacrifice to Him, the original Visnu. That is, that the results of all work should be offered to Him for His pleasure. If we claim the results to satisfy our own senses, those results will "become an acute source of trouble."
Okay, but how exactly do we go about offering the fruit of our work to Krsna? It's not so hard. We can give money. That's obvious. We can also engage our talents in His service. We should do something tangible to purify the work of selfish attachment. Work becomes purified when the fruits go to the supreme enjoyer (bhoktaram yajna-tapasam). Giving the fruits is the act of sacrifice we perform to attain purification.
Sacrifice means more, however, than giving money, and pure devotion means more than tithing. The word "sacrifice" implies that we are giving up something dear. Although money and time are certainly dear to us, the more dear item we possess is our affection. If we want our sacrifice to enter into the realm of devotion, our sacrifice must be performed with love. Ultimately, Krsna doesn't need our fruits; He wants our devotion. Tagging part of your paycheck "For Krsna" is certainly nice, but without the affection to sweeten the offering, it is like a flower without scent.
The essence of an offering is devotion. A devotee will sacrifice everything to Krsna. Krsna asks us to offer our food to Him, even though He is not hungry. He asks for our money even though He is not poor. He asks us to use our talents in His service even though He is the source of those talents. What He is looking for is not the fruits but the love we express through the offering.
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 33
By Yamuna Devi
IN INDIA, AND PARTICULARLY in Bengal, people enjoy special occasions with sweets such as raskadam, khirkadam, khirmohan, rajbhog, nawabhog, and rasamund. All of these sweets, virtually unknown outside India, belong to the rasgulla family, roughly translated as "juicy sweets." Bengalis prize a box of artful rasgulla sweets as people elsewhere prize a box of fine Swiss chocolates.
Both sandesa and rasgulla are made from essentially the same ingredients—chenna cheese (milk curd) and sugar—but the taste change with rasgulla is sensational. When you bite into a plain rasgulla, sugar syrup bursts into the recesses of your mouth, and porous, juicy chenna cheese squeaks between your teeth. Rasgulla varieties range in consistency from creamy to crumbly, in textures from soft to firm, and in shapes from bite-sized ovals to gigantic rounds as large as a Valencia orange. Some rasgullas are served in syrup, while others are drained and dredged in sugar or rolled in powdered dates or shredded coconut. One type is stuffed with khoa (condensed milk), dried fruits, and four types of nuts.
The bad news is that these sweets are a challenge to master. The good news is the results—especially for temple chefs and those who want to learn classic dishes. Here are a few notes on technique:
• When making the chenna cheese, add strained lemon juice only until the solid cheese curds form; you may need more or less than the amount suggested in the recipe.
• Use an accurate scale to weigh the cheese; it should weigh 9 ½ to 10 ounces (270-285 g).
• Use the pan size recommended and a burner with strong heat.
• Keep a clock nearby and use it when adding thinning water to the syrup to maintain a uniform consistency throughout the cooking.
• If you are a newcomer to making the plain sponge rasgulla in the recipe here (next page), add 2 teaspoons of fine semolina to the cheese during the braying process. This will help the balls hold their shape, and will prevent deflating or crumbling while they cook.
• If you don't succeed the first time, read the class textbook, Lord Krishna's Cuisine, and try, try again.
• If you are following the class series, prepare 3 or 4 varieties from this chapter.
Patience and Rasgullas
Patience is required to make first-class rasgullas. Stay positive and enthusiastic; patience will follow. Be happy with small successes—making good cheese or obtaining quality ingredients—and commit yourself to overall improvement. Above all, relish glorification of Krsna by speaking about Him and chanting His holy names.
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 16 pieces)
8 cups (2 liters) whole milk
Bring the milk to a boil in a large pan. Reduce the heat to low and while gently stirring add the lemon juice. When the milk separates into cheese curds and yellowish whey, remove the pan from the heat.
Line a strainer with a triple thickness of cheesecloth about 24 inches (60 cm) square. Using a slotted spoon, gently transfer the large pieces of chenna curds to the strainer, then slowly pour the smaller bits and whey through it. Gather the corners of the cheesecloth and tie the cheese into a tight bundle. Rinse the curds with a slow stream of water to remove the lemon taste. Gently squeeze out the excess liquid.
Place the cheese on a slightly inclined surface draining into the sink. Neatly fold each end of the cheesecloth over the cheese to make a flat, square parcel, and balance a heavy, flat weight on top of it. (Use any other method that will press the cheese and exert pressure on it.) Press the chenna for 15 to 30 minutes, until it weighs 9 ½ to 10 ounces (270-285 g).
While the cheese is draining, combine the water and sugar in a heavy 5-quart pan and bring it to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Boil on high about 5 minutes or until the temperature reaches 220 degrees F (105 degrees C). Reduce the heat to the lowest setting.
Unwrap the warm cheese and place it on a clean work surface. Break it apart and press it with white paper towels to extract excess moisture. Transfer the cheese to a food processor. Process, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary, until the chenna cheese is smooth and fluffy, without a trace of graininess.
Scrape the cheese onto a lightly oiled smooth surface. Wash and dry your hands; then rub them with a film of oil. Divide the cheese into 16 portions, and then roll each portion into a uniform crack-free ball.
Again bring the syrup to a boil over moderate heat. Add the balls one by one and gently cook them for 1 minute. Raise the heat to high and boil the syrup vigorously, covered, for 20 minutes. After the first 4 minutes, add the cornstarch-water mixture along with ¼ cup (60 ml) of water. To keep the syrup at the same consistency throughout cooking, every four minutes pour ¼ cup (60 ml) of hot water down the sides of the pan (not on the balls). The syrup should be a mass of frothing bubbles. Toward the end of cooking, the balls will swell and double, triple, even quadruple in size. During the last 3 minutes, sprinkle the surface of the syrup with water every minute.
Turn off the heat. Cool the rasgullas in the syrup for 10 minutes; then sprinkle in some rose water. Leave the rasgullas to cool in the syrup for at least 4 hours. While sitting, the rasgullas will firm up and the flavors will intensify. Stored refrigerated for up to 36 hours. Offer to Krsna slightly chilled or at room temperature.
Expressions of Gratitude
Compiled by Navina Nirada Dasa
IN TODAY'S MATERIALISTIC world, to interest people in Krsna consciousness is difficult. Devotees who perform the spiritual service of offering others books about Krsna often meet with rejection and indifference. When a guest once asked Srila Prabhupada how his disciples dealt with such negativity, he replied that they were not fickle; they could persevere because they understood the ultimate value of their work.
Fortunately, devotees often see the results of their work, such as when they receive letters of thanks or meet someone whose life has changed by receiving a book on Krsna consciousness. Here are some examples of grateful recipients of Srila Prabhupada's books.
Solace for Mother
I was distributing books in Portsmouth, England, when a woman came up to me and asked, "Do you remember me? I got a copy of the Bhagavad-gita from you in December."
She told me that two days after she had received the book, a doctor had diagnosed her mother with cancer. Two weeks later her mother died.
The woman told me, "It's amazing that before all that happened I got that book about reincarnation."
She thanked me for making it possible for her to speak to her mother about the soul and reincarnation just before her mother's death. The woman said that now her family is turning to a more spiritual outlook.
I told her that reading Bhagavad-gita purifies the mind.
She replied, "Yes, I can feel that! Reading Bhagavad-gita is like a meditation. After reading I see things more clearly."
After some discussion, we exchanged addresses, because she wants to stay in touch and learn more.
Avadhuta-priya Devi Dasi
The following letter arrived at the offices of the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust in Moscow:
I am not a member of the Society of Krishna consciousness, but I strive to understand the Reality, to arrive at spiritual perfection, to begin devotional service to God. That is why I bought a copy of Bhagavad-gita. Some mysterious force attracted me to this book, and I began to study it. Now for the last two years I have not touched any material literature, and for the last year I have been a vegetarian.
Wearing Krsna's Lotus Feet
The book distribution office of the Auckland, New Zealand, temple received the following letter:
Yesterday during my lunch break I decided to go to Newmarket to buy some clothes. I often do this without a thought, only feeling satisfied when I've spent money. It's awful. I have to spend money on something, anything.
Anyway, I was fortunate enough to run into a really friendly person. I say "really friendly" not in the sense of someone invading my personal space, but that he was sincere. He seemed so happy and not condescending in his approach to explain the reason for our meeting. Now I know he should have been condescending, because the knowledge he holds over me is quite incredible.
At the time, I thought he was just "one of those hippies." The new type with the close haircuts. We spoke for only a short time, as I was in a hurry on a most insignificant mission. I wanted to buy shoes, of all things!
After reading the Krsna material, I guess that the meaning of the encounter is that the person I met wears the lotus feet of Krsna. I now regret leaving in such haste.
I just wish to thank him for such a valuable guide to happiness. We exchanged greetings, but I was not really listening. Unfortunately I have forgotten his name. But I'm sure he is aware of how grateful I am for our meeting.
Would it be possible for you to forward recommendations of follow-up readings? Unfortunately at the time I was not so pleased to have met the monk, and politely took only a small reading, On the Way to Krsna. But I would like to know more.
Navina Nirada Dasa, a disciple of Harikesa Swami, has been one of ISKCON's leading book distributors for many years. He heads ISKCON's book distribution ministry and is based at the ISKCON temple in Zurich.
Why We Worship a Plant
By Ravi Gupta
WHEN WE DECIDED to start a Sunday school for children at our ISKCON center in Boise, Idaho, an Indian guest told us, "I'd like to send my child for all your planned activities, except for the plant worship at the end."
He was referring to the worship of Srimati Tulasi Devi, who, unbeknown to him, the Vedic scriptures tell us is a great devotee of Lord Krsna. Though present in this world in the form of a sacred plant, Tulasi Devi's original spiritual form is that of a gopi, or cowherd girl, named Vrnda Devi, an eternally liberated associate of Lord Krsna. In fact, Vrndavana, Lord Krsna's abode in the spiritual world, is named after Vrnda Devi. She helps arrange the pastimes of Radha and Krsna.
Tulasi worship is an ancient part of the Vedic tradition, dating back thousands of years and continuing to the present day. Every morning, families throughout India offer water and flowers to Srimati Tulasi Devi before going about their daily duties.
Vaisnavas, devotees of Lord Visnu or Lord Krsna, chant on beads made from the wood of the Tulasi plant and wear Tulasi beads around their necks. During the holy month of Karttika (October-November), devotees in some Vaisnava lines daily offer one thousand Tulasi leaves—one by one—to the lotus feet of Lord Krsna. And in November one can still find people celebrating with great pomp the marriage of their Tulasi with a neighbor's Saligrama-sila—Visnu in the form of a stone. (The Padma Purana relates how Vrnda Devi once came to this world and performed great penance to obtain Lord Visnu as her husband.)
We can find glorification of Srimati Tulasi Devi throughout the Vedic literature. While describing the transcendental Vaikuntha planets, the Srimad-Bhagavatam (3.15.19) explains the special position of the Tulasi plant: "Although flowering plants like the mandara, kunda, kurabaka, utpala, campaka, arna, punnaga, nagakesara, bakula, lily, and parijata are full of transcendental fragrance, they are still conscious of the austerities performed by Tulasi, for Tulasi is given special preference by the Lord, who garlands Himself with Tulasi leaves."
In her form as a plant, Tulasi always stays at the Lord's lotus feet and around the neck of the Lord. The Vedic scriptures say that Krsna accepts only food adorned with a Tulasi leaf. The Gautamiya Tantra says, "Sri Krsna sells Himself to a devotee who offers Him merely a Tulasi leaf and a palmful of water."
Many Indians are unaware of the exalted position of Tulasi and the benefits of worshiping her. She is meant only for the pleasure of Lord Visnu, so using her for one's own sense gratification is offensive to her and the Lord. Unfortunately, today people use Tulasi for tea, perfume, medicine, flavoring, hedges, and topiary.
But for one who worships Tulasi with faith, the benefits are unending. The Skanda Purana describes a few:
Let me offer my respectful obeisances unto the Tulasi tree, which can immediately vanquish volumes of sinful activities. Simply by seeing or touching this tree, one can become relieved from all distresses and diseases. Simply by offering obeisances to and pouring water on the Tulasi tree, one can become freed from the fear of being sent to the court of Yamaraja [the king of death, who punishes the sinful]. If someone sows a Tulasi tree somewhere, certainly he becomes devoted to Lord Krsna. And when the Tulasi leaves are offered in devotion at the lotus feet of Krsna, there is the full development of love of Godhead.
The four sages known as the Kumaras became pure devotees by smelling the aroma of the Tulasi leaves offered at the lotus feet of the Lord. The great devotee Haridasa Thakura, an associate of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, changed the life of a prostitute by having her chant the holy name and offer obeisances to the Tulasi plant. And Lord Krsna descended to earth five hundred years ago as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu because His devotee Advaita Acarya invited Him by offering Him Tulasi leaves mixed with Ganges water.
The worship of Srimati Tulasi Devi is an opportunity we must not miss and a heritage we must not lose.
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.
A Diet for Spiritual Health
By Urmila Devi Dasi
WHEN OUR OLDEST SON was less than three, he and I were once in a supermarket when a woman passing out samples handed him a cookie that looked like ones made at our temple. He was several yards away from me, and I was apprehensive he'd automatically put the cookie into his mouth. Instead, he ran over to me and asked, "Prasadam? Prasadam?" I said no, it hadn't been offered to Krsna and couldn't be. He smiled and gave up the idea of eating the cookie.
Training our children to be strict vegetarians can be difficult. Giving them enthusiasm for further restricting themselves to prasadam, food prepared for and offered to Krsna, can be even more challenging.
Devotees of Krsna strictly avoid meat, fish, and eggs, and though a growing number of food products don't contain any of these, many products have onions or garlic, which devotees also consider unfit to offer the Lord. Devotees try to avoid commercially prepared food altogether. Krsna is hungry for our devotion, not the food we offer Him, so we need to take time to prepare Krsna's meals ourselves, with love for Him.
Not only the cooking, but also the offering of food to Krsna should be done with love. An ideal offering involves setting up at least a simple altar, putting the food on a plate reserved for Krsna's use, and reciting prayers asking Krsna to accept what we've prepared.
While following the rules for a prasadam diet seems troublesome to nondevotees, taking trouble for a loved one is a great source of pleasure. And serving Krsna, the supreme lovable person, gives the greatest pleasure. Children easily feel the happiness of love for Krsna even when very young. As they watch us in the store, we can show them how we read the labels. By age ten, a child can learn to spot listings of meat products such as rennet and choose only suitable food. We can explain to our children how we try to pick the best and freshest items for our Lord.
Most children love to help in the kitchen. While cooking we can create an atmosphere of devotion by singing the Lord's holy names or listening to a recording of devotional singing. As our children help, they learn that Krsna is the first to eat—no tasting while cooking! They can become excited about pleasing Lord Krsna.
As our children mature and gradually learn to prepare varieties of full meals on their own, they are equipping themselves for a life of cooking for Krsna. If, on the other hand, they don't learn cooking skills, they may grow up to think that buying foods that nondevotees have prepared is a necessity.
In the temple, devotees follow a strict schedule for offering meals to the Deities. At home there can be some leniency, but a schedule of offerings reminds us we are cooking for the pleasure of Krsna, rather than simply for our own hunger and desire. Can children wait to eat until after an offering? Yes, if we feed them at reasonably regulated times, from when they first start to eat solid food, and make sure meals are both sufficient and frequent enough for their needs. "Wait until Krsna eats!" should be exciting, a spiritual game, rather than an austerity.
As we bow before Krsna's picture or Deity and ask Him to accept our offering, even our toddlers can bow next to us. By age ten or so, a child can learn the standard prayers and offer food without adult help.
We should also show our children how to offer food when away from home. Many devotees carry small pictures of Krsna and their spiritual master and can set up a simple "altar" almost anywhere.
Being away from home or a temple is one of the most difficult times for sticking to a prasadam diet. We adults may be willing to wait until we get home and cook. But children on an unexpectedly long shopping trip may feel that avoiding all but properly cooked and offered food is impossible. Sometimes we can bring prasadam with us, but other times we are caught unprepared. At such times, we may be able to buy fruit and make a simple offering. If we absolutely must buy prepared foods, we should strictly avoid grains that nondevotees have cooked. Lord Krsna in His form as Lord Caitanya has told us that such foods make the mind wicked. A devotee must strive to keep the mind pure, so that it will be a suitable place for thoughts about Krsna.
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.
"Jesus and Christ Are Perfect—But You Follow Darwin"
Here we conclude 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.
Srila Prabhupada: We live for seventy or eighty years, but the followers of Darwin's theory are calculating a span of millions or even billions of years. They are calculating a span of millions, even billions, of years—and yet they will live for just seventy or eighty years. So how are they making such an incredibly vast calculation? Simply mental speculation. Simply misleading the people. An honest man should not mislead others. He should understand that his knowledge is limited. How can I put forward something that is merely my theorizing? That is not very good business.
These scientists, these so-called cultural leaders—they are misleading the people. Just imagine. "I have no perfect knowledge. I am merely theorizing. Actually, I have nothing to offer but my unsubstantiated theories. But that's all right. I'll mislead the people." A big bluff—that is going on. An honest man should abstain from big bluffs. "But not a great scientist like me. I am theorizing and misleading the people with my big bluffs."
First of all, you must have accurate knowledge; then you bring knowledge to others. That is our proposition. First of all, make your life perfect; then you try to give knowledge. If you have no knowledge—or simply vague, indefinite knowledge—then why should you try to give knowledge to others?
Carol: Your Divine Grace, can you have perfect knowledge? Can knowledge be truly perfect?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Carol: I mean, as far as I understand, ultimately I might be able to have perfect knowledge, but somehow it all seems a bit doubtful. How could you ever be sure your knowledge is perfect?
Srila Prabhupada: Perfect knowledge you can have immediately—provided you take knowledge from the perfect. If you receive knowledge from a bogus person, then how can you have perfect knowledge?
Knowledge has to be received from some person. When I go to a school or college or to a yoga society, actually I am going to a teacher or guru. So if your teacher or guru is perfect, then you get perfect knowledge. But if your teacher is a bogus person, then you get bogus knowledge.
Carol: So, again, if your teacher is perfect, the knowledge you receive is perfect?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Carol: And do you receive this perfect knowledge immediately?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. For instance, we are giving knowledge from Bhagavad-gita. This is perfect knowledge. You take it; you become perfect.
Carol: And your actions become perfect actions?
Srila Prabhupada: Oh, yes. Have you read Bhagavad-gita?
Carol: Not as yet.
Srila Prabhupada: In Bhagavad-gita you'll find that the Lord instructs us, man-mana bhava mad-bhakto. "Always think of Me." So we are doing this. "Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna"—we are thinking of Krsna. The direction is there, and we are doing that. Therefore, our actions are perfect. If my physician says, "You take this medicine in such-and-such doses, and don't do this, but do do that," then, if I follow, I'm cured. Perfect.
Carol: Does a man, then, still have to judge and agonize over his actions?
Srila Prabhupada: No. If you know that the knowledge you are receiving is perfect—because the person giving you the knowledge is perfect—then there is no question of judging. You simply follow.
Carol: So it's a matter of complete faith.
Srila Prabhupada: Just like a child. A child assumes, "My father is perfect." And actually, a father should be perfect, at least for the child. In that way, whatever the father or mother presents to him as knowledge, that is perfect. For instance, the father says, "My dear child, this is called a table."
Now, the child does not know what a table is, but he understands from his father. The child says, "This is a table."
So when the child says, "This is a table," it is a fact. His knowledge is perfect. On the whole, the child may be imperfect, but because he is repeating the perfect knowledge of his father, whatever he is speaking is perfect.
Actually, the child makes all sorts of inquiries from the father. "Father, what is this?"
The father smiles. "This is called a bell. To make the bell ring, you press your finger on the button in this way."
This is how the child gets perfect knowledge. Submissively, he tries what his father has told him, and he sees, "Oh, the bell is ringing."
So perfect knowledge is available. The child may be imperfect, but the knowledge he has received—that is perfect. This is ordinary knowledge. And in the same way, if you get higher knowledge from a person who is perfect, then your higher knowledge is perfect.
But if you receive your knowledge—just like this anthropology business—from an imperfect person like Darwin, then the whole thing is imperfect. So why should we waste our time on imperfect knowledge?
Carol: Perhaps because we seem to have low standards for what we consider a perfect person, we find scarcely anyone we could call a perfect person.
Srila Prabhupada: So then, if people want to be cheated, then I shall be a perfect cheater. [Laughter.] That is another thing. I'll take my doctorate title and be a perfect cheater.
Carol: But it is true that even if you look very sincerely for someone who is perfect, you don't find anyone.
Srila Prabhupada: Therefore, we are giving this information: "Here is Krsna. Here is the perfect person. You take this." But you don't follow Him. Or, as I said to begin with, Jesus Christ is perfect. But you don't follow him.
Srila Prabhupada: You don't like to follow him. You follow Darwin. Whose fault is it? The perfect person's fault? Or your fault? You don't like to hear from the perfect person. You want to hear from a humbug, bogus person. That is the defect.
Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day
By Ranchor Dasa
I WAS SURPRISED was surprised by how much the recent death of Princess Diana affected me. I never took much interest in royal affairs, except to mildly disapprove of them. But her untimely death seemed tragic. She was special to many, yet death took her cruelly. It was as if Kali, the spirit of the modern age, was saying, "Don't forget that at any moment I can pluck even your most exalted heroine and destroy her utterly!" It was an omen, a warning to our materialistic society. A warning to change, but one which few will seriously heed.
To understand the misery of birth, death, old age and disease, says Krsna, is part of knowledge. Diana, the most admired woman in the world, could not find happiness and suffered a cruel and unexpected death. If even she could not escape, what hope is there for ordinary people? In the days following her death, ordinary people in Britain poured out their grief on an unprecedented scale. Despite my own belief in reincarnation and in the grace of God, I too felt part of this. I mingled with the crowds massing in the park around her home in Kensington Palace on the eve of her funeral. The mood was not of hysteria or depression, but of caring about her and what she seemed to stand for. Although Diana in many ways paid the price of her own ambition, she was said by her confessor, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to have had a personal faith in God, and she spent much of her time in helping others. She had been regularly seen lighting candles at a Catholic shrine near her home. Now, in the gathering twilight, candles flickered everywhere under the trees outside her house in her own memory.
It was as if, during those extraordinary days of early September, the ordinary people of Britain discovered how much they really cared about something transcending their own lives. Most of the messages of condolence I saw piled up in their thousands among the acres of flower bouquets around Kensington Palace expressed a belief in an afterlife, in heaven, or in God. They assumed that Diana lived on in some other dimension. This expression of faith did not belong to any single religion; it was something common to all. It showed that in times of trouble or dismay, the universal instincts of the soul rise to the surface.
But how are those who have chosen a religious path to view such mass sentiment? After all, Jesus once said, "Let the dead bury their own dead," and Krsna said that the wise do not lament for either the living or the dead. On one level, Krsna consciousness has nothing to do with the illusion of material life. But on another level, as long as we are living in the world of birth and death we cannot remain completely untouched by bereavement.
People gathered in churches across Britain to mourn Diana, their attention focused via television screens on Westminster Abbey, besieged by a million mourners on the day of her funeral. The Prime Minister, reading in the abbey, addressed to the nation St. Paul's famous words to the Corinthians: "If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but I have not love, I am nothing." These uncompromising words were a stark reminder of the fragility of materialism. They reminded me of the words of Srimad-Bhagavatam: "One may be adept at mystic yoga or at working to maintain his family, but if he has not love for God he has no good qualities."
May those of us who felt touched by the life of Diana strive toward that love for God in whatever time may still be ours.
Cure for The London Blues
by Vilasini Devi Dasi
AS I WAS RETURNING home from the temple on my usual 38 bus, I stared forlornly through the grimy window at the gray sky. I hadn't seen the sun for days, and then only briefly, through breaks in the clouds.
"How is it possible to be healthy and happy in a place where the weather is constantly dreary and cold?" I thought.
I remembered Srila Prabhupada's statement in a purport to the Srimad-Bhagavatam (4.24.36): "When there is sufficient sunshine, the mind remains clear and transparent—in other words, the sun-god helps the mind of the living entity to become situated on the platform of paramahamsa ['topmost swan,' or transcendentalist]." Does it not follow, then, that with insufficient sunshine the mind becomes hazy and opaque and stays on the platform of a crow? After all, Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita that He is the light of the sun and moon, and Prabhupada affirms in the purport to that verse that "the light of the sun and the moon originally emanate from the brahmajyoti, which is the bodily effulgence of Krsna." For one's spiritual life, wouldn't it be better to live in a place where one could bask in the rays of the brahmajyoti and be elevated effortlessly to the paramahamsa platform? Isn't it described in the Gita that unnecessary austerities that torture the body or mind are in the mode of ignorance? If Krsna is all-pervading, isn't He also in sunny California? Aren't there thousands of conditioned souls there that I could help find Krsna consciousness?
Just as I was about to get off the bus, step into a travel agency, and buy a ticket to San Diego, my intelligence somehow grabbed hold of my runaway mind and shook it into silence. My intelligence brought up a verse from Sri Caitanya-caritamrta:
krsna—surya sama; maya haya andhakara
"Krsna is just like the sun, and maya is just like darkness. Where there is sunshine there can be no darkness." Krsna, as the source of the sun, must be brighter and more powerful than the sun. So one in direct contact with Krsna must derive all the benefits of the sun and more. The sun provides light and heat, makes water sparkle, adds vibrancy to colors, illuminates the material landscape, and so on. But Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita that He is the shining lamp of knowledge that destroys the darkness born of ignorance. Darker than any gray day in London is ignorance, which cannot be brightened by a thousand material suns. So real illumination is to see everything in relation to Krsna—as His creation and property—and to be in His service.
One can contact Krsna directly by chanting His holy name. So no matter how miserable the weather may be, a person chanting Hare Krsna with attention will see the world bathed in light and knowledge, and his mind will be clear and transparent. As for heat, when one's heart is filled with love and happiness, one feels warm and contented in any weather. When chanting Hare Krsna, one is suffused with the steady warmth of love of Krsna.
Dependence on the unpredictable sun for happiness is a precarious position, for even tropical climes have cloudy days and sometimes hurricanes to disturb one's tranquillity.
With this, the intelligence rested its case.
I conceded that it was certainly worth trying to be absorbed in chanting Hare Krsna before running off to California. I settled down in my dusty seat, closed my eyes, and fixed my mind on chanting the maha-mantra, which I articulated carefully, with as much devotion as I could muster. Within minutes my anxious mind and heart were peaceful, and I resigned myself to staying in London for as long as I have service here for Lord Krsna.
[This article was written some months before Vilasini Devi Dasi passed away last July.—The Editors]
A discourse given on January 20, 1996, in Accra, Ghana, Africa
By His Holiness Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja
"O most munificent incarnation! You are Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu. You have assumed the golden color of Srimati Radharani, and You are widely distributing pure love of Krsna. We offer our respectful obeisances unto You." (Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila 19.53)
THIS IS THE pranama-mantra [mantra of obeisances] offered by Srila Rupa Gosvami. When we pay obeisances to Caitanya Mahaprabhu we must offer this pranama-mantra. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is maha-vadanyavatara, "the most munificent incarnation," because He gives Krsna-prema, pure love for Krsna. No other incarnation gives Krsna-prema. Caitanya Mahaprabhu is nondifferent from Krsna, and He gives Krsna-prema without discrimination. Patita pamara nahi bache: He never considers whether one is elevated or degraded.
Krsna-prema is difficult to attain even for Lord Brahma, the highest created being in the universe. So how can we get it? Only by the causeless mercy of Mahaprabhu. He never considers whether one deserves it or not. Generally, you get what you deserve. But Sriman Mahaprabhu is so wonderfully merciful that he offers Krsna-prema to one and all without discrimination. But does everyone get it? That is another question.
*Following the practice of Srila Prabhupada and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, Srila Prabhupada's spiritual master, Gour Govinda Maharaja is using the word "mellow" for the Sanskrit word rasa, which refers to a concept for which no exact English word exists. The first meaning of rasa in a leading Sanskrit dictionary is given as "the sap or juice of plants, juice of fruit, any liquid or fluid, the best or finest or prime part of anything, essence, marrow." In the Vaisnava concept, rasa refers to a nectarean taste or relationship in love for God.
Have you gotten prema? No? Mahaprabhu is the giver, and we are the receivers. We should receive Krsna-prema, so why can't we receive it? When He gives, how can you receive? If I give you something—"All right, take this"—how will you take it? You will stretch out your hand and take it. So Mahaprabhu gives prema-rasa, the loving mellow.
"O Lord Caitanyacandra, whose form is full of blissful pastimes, whose complexion is as splendid as gold, and who gives in charity the most glorious mellow of pure love for Lord Krsna, I offer my respectful obeisances unto You." (Caitanya Candramrta 11)
Maha-prema-rasa. Rasa means "mellow." It is a liquid thing. When we speak of mellow, rasa, it is not a solid thing; it is liquid. Prema-rasa is to be tasted, relished. So Mahaprabhu is the giver, and we are the receivers. But how can we receive it? You may stretch out your hand and say, "Yes. Give me, give me, give me." But this is mellow. If someone gives you some mellow, you should approach with a container, a receptacle in which to receive it. And if there are holes in your container, how can you receive it? Everything will pour out. So with what type of container will we approach Mahaprabhu to receive the prema-rasa He is giving?
If you go to the Ganges with a pot filled to the brim with filthy, nasty things, how can you get Ganges water? You must examine the pot to see whether it is suitable or not. If it is filled with filthy things, first remove them and wash it out. Empty it, and then you can get Ganges water. Similarly, Mahaprabhu is giving prema-rasa, the loving mellow. So how can we approach Him, and with what kind of container? Do you know?
Caitanya the Lion
Another question arises. You can put cow's milk in an earthen pot, but can you put a lioness's milk in an earthen pot? No, because a lioness's milk is very strong. If you put it in an earthen pot, which is porous, it will crack and everything will pour out. To get a lioness's milk you need a golden pot. Similarly, Mahaprabhu gives prema-rasa, the loving mellow, and you must approach Him with a proper nonporous container.
It is said that Caitanya is like a lion, Caitanya-simha. He roars like a lion. He has the shoulders and waist of a lion. And He was born on the full moon evening of the month of Phalguna, during the zodiac constellation of Leo, the lion. Therefore He is simha, Caitanya-simha. So when He gives prema-rasa, what type of container is required to receive it? The proper container is the heart. You cannot receive it with your hands or any other container. The container is your heart. With that container you can get the prema-rasa given by Mahaprabhu.
But you should examine your heart to check that there are no holes in it. Is it a pure heart? If there are holes or nasty things in it, how can you get prema-rasa? Lust, anger, greed, pride, arrogance, and envy—these are the nasty things. These are the holes in the container. Though Mahaprabhu gives Krsna-prema indiscriminately to one and all, why is it that one and all are not getting it? How will our hearts be free from all these things? How can we take care of the container of the heart so that we may receive Mahaprabhu's mercy and make a success of our human birth?
Mahaprabhu gives prema through the chanting of the holy name of the Lord. If your chanting is pure, offenseless, then you will definitely get Krsna-prema. Do not commit any offenses, namaparadha. Chant the pure name. Mahaprabhu gives prema through chanting, but He gives a condition.
trnad api sunicena
The pot of the heart should be made of these four constituents: Trnad api sunicena—we should think of ourselves as humbler than a blade of grass lying in the street; taror iva sahisnuna—we should be as tolerant as a tree; amanina—we should not demand respect for ourselves; and manadena—rather, we should give respect to one and all. Mahaprabhu is the giver, and you are the receiver. If your pot is not made of these constituents, how can you receive? To explain this verse, Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami has written:
These are the symptoms of one who chants the Hare Krsna maha-mantra. Although he is very exalted, he thinks himself lower than the grass on the ground, and like a tree, he tolerates everything in two ways. When a tree is cut down, it does not protest, and even when drying up it does not ask anyone for water. The tree delivers its fruits, flowers, and whatever it possesses to anyone and everyone. It tolerates scorching heat and torrents of rain, yet it still gives shelter to others. Although a Vaisnava is the most exalted person, he is prideless and gives all respect to everyone, knowing everyone to be the resting place of Krsna. (Caitanya-caritamrta, Antya-lila 20.22-25)
A Vaisnava is a very elevated person, but his mood is, "I am the lowest of the low. Everyone is superior to me. No one is below me." That is trnad api sunicena—no pride at all. In Bhagavad-gita (16.4) Lord Krsna says,
dambho darpo 'bhimanas ca
"Pride, arrogance, conceit, anger, harshness, and ignorance—these qualities belong to those of demoniac nature, O son of Prtha." Pride is a demoniac quality. A Vaisnava is prideless, and he gives respect to one and all be-cause he sees Krsna in the heart of everyone. He does not disrespect even a tiny ant, because he sees the relationship with Krsna: "This is Krsna's jiva."*
* The infinitesmal individual soul, which is an eternal part of Krsna.
ei-mata hana yei krsna-nama laya
"If one chants the holy name of Krsna in this manner, one will certainly awaken one's dormant love for Krsna's lotus feet." (Caitanya-caritamrta, Antya-lila 20.26)
Examine Your Pot
This is the condition given by Mahaprabhu. Though He gives Krsna-prema and though we may chant for many years, still we cannot get it if we do not follow His teachings. We have so much pride, arrogance, conceit, ignorance—all demoniac qualities. We are not taking care of the pot. Our heart is the container in which we can receive the prema-rasa given by Mahaprabhu. We have not examined the pot. Our pot has so many holes that although He gives, everything just pours out. We must understand this. Krsna says that pride, arrogance, conceit, harshness, and ignorance are demoniac characteristics. Demons are generally proud, puffed-up persons. But one who has come to the path of devotional service should not be proud at all. One should be very humble, much humbler than a blade of grass. A Vaisnava is a very elevated person, but he always thinks, "I am the lowest of the low."
Sometimes it happens that devotees develop pride. The demigods are also devotees, because they carry out the orders of the Supreme Lord, but they are proud.
There is always fighting between demigods and demons. Sometimes one side wins, and sometimes the other. Once upon a time when the demons were defeated, the demigods became proud. "Now we are victorious!" When the demigods think in this way, the Supreme Lord understands and crushes their pride. That is Krsna's mercy. In Srimad-Bhagavatam the gopis, Krsna's cowherd girlfriends, say, nija-jana-smaya-dhvamsana-smita: "O Lord, You crush the pride of Your own men. That is Your mercy." So when the demigods became puffed up, Krsna wanted to crush their pride. Therefore He appeared before them in the wonderful form of a yaksa, a celestial being.
When the Supreme Lord appeared in the sky in this wonderful form, the demigods were unable to recognize Him. Out of curiosity, Indra (the king of heaven) told Agni (the fire-god) and Vayu (the wind-god), "Go and test Him. Ask who He is and report it to me."
"Where is Your Sakti?"
Agnideva went there and asked, "Who are You?"
The Lord in His wonderful yaksa form replied, "Who are you?"
Agnideva, being very proud, said, "Don't You know who I am? I am Agni, the fire-god!"
"Oh, you are the fire-god? Are you very great?"
"What can you do?"
"I can burn anything to ashes."
The Lord took a blade of grass and placed it before Agni.
"All right, burn this tiny piece of grass."
Agni applied all his power and energy but could not burn it.
"Where is your sakti [power]?" the Lord asked.
His pride crushed, Agni hung his head and left.
Then the wind-god went to see the yaksa and asked, "Who are You?"
The yaksa said, "Who are you?"
"I am the wind-god!" Vayu said proudly.
"Are you very great, wind-god?"
"What can you do?"
"I can blow away anything."
The yaksa pointed to the tiny blade of grass. "All right, blow it away."
Vayu applied all his force, uprooting huge trees, but the tiny blade of grass was not shaken at all.
Vayudeva's pride was crushed. Hanging his head, he left.
At last, Indradeva came to investigate, but the wonderful yaksa had disappeared. There Indra saw Umadevi, the wife of Lord Siva.
"Who was He?" Indra asked.
Umadevi said, "Don't you know? He is the Supreme Brahman, Parabrahman. You are devoid of brahma-jnana, knowledge of the Absolute Truth. So how can you recognize Brahman? You should get brahma-jnana."
This is a story from the Upanisads.*
* This story comes from the Kena Upanisad, Part III. It is also told by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura in Jaiva Dharma, Chapter 14, "Discussion on Sakti."
"I Am Great!"
So sometimes pride crops up even among devotees. It is so subtle. Especially in Kali-yuga, the present age, it is said, "Pride is the measuring rod." Everyone thinks himself to be very great. "Yes. I am great!" Then others say, "What? You are great? No. I am great!" Then they quarrel and fight. Therefore this is Kali-yuga, the age of quarreling and fighting. Two persons fight and quarrel, two groups fight and quarrel, two villages, two towns, two nations. Such quarreling is going on because everyone thinks, "I am great!" In such a horrible age, where pride is the measuring rod, Mahaprabhu's teaching is required.
trnad api sunicena
"One should chant the holy name of the Lord in a humble state of mind, thinking oneself lower than the straw in the street; one should be more tolerant than a tree, devoid of all sense of false prestige, and ready to offer all respect to others. In such a state of mind one can chant the holy name of the Lord constantly."
Sri Srimad Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja, ISKCON leader and spiritual master, was vastly learned in the scriptures, and he presented the philosophy of Krsna consciousness with great enthusiasm. On Srila Prabhupada's order, he worked to spread Krsna consciousness in the Indian state of Orissa, preaching, translating books into the local Oriya language, and building and developing ISKCON's center in Bhubaneswar, the capital. In his later years, he traveled extensively, both within India and outside. He passed away from this world in February 1996.
by Dravida Dasa
amhah samharad akhilam sakrd
"As the rising sun immediately dissipates all the world's darkness, which is deep like an ocean, so the holy name of the Lord, if chanted once without offenses, can dissipate all the reactions of a living being's sinful life. All glories to that holy name of the Lord, which is auspicious for the entire world."—Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Antya-lila 3.181
When the moon is invisible, withered to nil,
But that pall of thick gloom is at once swept away
In a similar way, when illusion holds sway
But as soon as he chants Krsna's Name, even once,
So there's nothing to fear, for the Sun of the Name
The worldwide activities of the International Society for Krishna consciousness (ISKCON)
The government of India has released a five-rupee commemorative postage stamp in recognition of Srila Prabhupada's contribution to society as a writer, an educator, and a philosopher. Along with the stamp, the postal service is selling booklets that tell about Srila Prabhupada, and an envelope with his picture (known as a "first-day cover"). The portrait of Prabhupada on the stamp was painted by his American disciple Puskara Dasa, whose art regularly appears in BTG.
Nearly one million people visited Hare Krishna Land, the ISKCON temple in Juhu, Mumbai, for the week-long celebration of Sri Krsna Janmasami, Lord Krsna's birthday (August 25). Among the many well-known artists who performed for Lord Krsna's pleasure were Jagjit Singh, Sonu Nigam, Anup Jalota, and Hema Malini. Kodak India Ltd. organized a photo contest, inviting professional photographers to submit their best pictures of the event.
Kuruksetra, where Lord Krsna spoke Bhagavad-gita, will be the site for a new ISKCON temple. ISKCON has acquired six acres of land there from the Haryana state government. The land is in Jyotisar, the very place where the Gita was spoken.
The Bangalore chapter of Rotary International presented their 1997 "Man of the Year" award to Madhu Pandita Dasa, the president of ISKCON Bangalore. State Cabinet Minister Sri Byre Gowda presented the award. Several other state ministers attended. Under Madhu Pandita's direction, ISKCON Bangalore opened a stunning new hilltop temple last June.
A contingent of forty bike riders from the UK, Kenya, and America pedaled from the source of the River Yamuna, 12,000 feet up in the Himalayas, down the Yamuna's course to the sacred forests of Lord Krsna. The three-week cycle journey—"Yamuna '97"—was undertaken in October to raise funds for the environmental charity Friends of Vrindavan.
ISKCON Mumbai celebrated a Jagannatha Rathayatra festival in mid-October, with a procession beginning in the Thane area and ending in Powai. The procession was followed by a week of Srimad-Bhagavatam discourses and other programs.
Vraja Mandala Parikrama, ISKCON's annual circumambulation of Vraja Mandala, the sacred area of Vrndavana, took place from October 15 through November 17. Devotees from around the world took part.
ISKCON devotees from all over the world will converge on Sridham Mayapur, the birthplace of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, seventy miles north of Calcutta, for the annual Gaura Purnima festival in March. After Mayapur, the festival continues in Vrndavana.
The staff at BTG join in offering our respect to Srila Bhakti Pramoda Puri Maharaja, whose 100th advent anniversary was celebrated on October 2. Srila Puri Maharaja, a devoted disciple of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, is the eldest among the still physically present Godbrothers of BTG's founder, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
The chief administrative officer for the city of New Orleans, Louisiana, attended the Janmastami celebrations at the New Orleans Hare Krsna temple. After viewing the temple's Deities and hearing something about them, the officer, Mr. Marlin N. Gusman, stood before the deity of Srila Prabhupada and read a certificate from the mayor proclaiming August 25, 1997, "Lord Krishna's Birthday in New Orleans."
Nearly five thousand people attended the Festival of India at the Hare Krsna center in Spanish Fork, Utah, last September. The annual event includes the burning of a twenty-foot-high effigy of the demon Ravana.
The Purnima Puppet Theater won an award in the Theater Arts category at the Fifth Annual Berkeley Video Festival. The entry, by the puppeteer couple Lokanatha Dasa and Maharani Devi Dasi, was entitled "The Story of the Tulasi Plant." The festival accepts entries from independent video producers throughout the United States.
Four hundred people from diverse cultures and religions gathered for eight hours of dance, music, and poetry glorifying the holy name of God, at a festival hosted by Hare Krsna devotees in Cleveland, Ohio. The festival, called the "Lord Have Mercy Festival," began with prayers offered by ministers from the Muslim, Christian, and Hare Krsna traditions.
Four new books are out from Torchlight Publishing, a devotee-run company whose books help readers bridge the gap between materialistic thinking and Krsna consciousness. One of the new books deals with reincarnation, the other three with vegetarianism and spirituality. Torchlight sells to the public through bookstore chains.
The BBC World Service televised half an hour's coverage of the Janmastami festival at Bhaktivedanta Manor, the Hare Krsna center outside London. The Service has an estimated global audience of thirty-five million.
Ramayana: A Journey has been released by book publisher Collins & Brown. The author is Ranchor Prime (known in ISKCON as Ranchor Dasa). While relating the story of Lord Ramacandra, an incarnation of Lord Krsna, the book introduces Western readers to Vedic culture and philosophy.
About six hundred local guests attended last summer's Hare Krsna festival at the ISKCON farm in Germany's Bavarian Forest.
The government of Denmark has formally recognized ISKCON as an official religion.
Commonwealth of Independent States
Devotees in Kiev installed new Deities of Gaura-Nitai (Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityananda) last August on the appearance day of Lord Krsna's form known as Lord Balarama.
Devotees in Dnepropetrovsk, in east central Ukraine, installed deities of Lord Jagannatha, Lord Balarama, and Subhadra Devi in August. Three hundred people attended the festival.
Ukrainian national TV produced a half-hour documentary on ISKCON Mayapur (West Bengal) and ISKCON's roots in Vedic culture, and aired it four times. Planned next: a documentary on Vrndavana, the site of Lord Krsna's appearance and pastimes.
The Russian government has passed a bill severely restricting religious freedom for groups considered new to Russia. President Boris Yeltsin had previously rejected a similar bill and had asked a committee to work on a new one that would satisfy the interests of both the state and new religious groups. But the so-called compromise bill is no better than the original one.
An audience of 2,500 in Moscow turned out for an ISKCON-sponsored cultural evening in honor of Sri Krsna Janmastami, India's 50th year of independence, and the 850th anniversary of Moscow. Featured performers: singer/musician Pandit Jasaraj and actress/dancer Hema Malini. The audience filled the State Central Concert Hall Rossiya ("Russia") for the event.
Devotees held a Rathayatra on the main streets of St. Petersburg in August. Five thousand people attended.
About a thousand people took part in the second annual Rathayatra in Sudak last August. Sudak is in the Crimea, on the Black Sea.
Devotees in Johannesburg, South Africa, held that city's first-ever Rathayatra at the end of October.
Devotees in Nairobi, Kenya, held their annual Ratha-yatra last August. A half-page article on the festival appeared in the Kenya Times.
ISKCON's Padayatra ("walking pilgrimage") toured the South Indian state of Andhra Pradesh late last summer and visited many of its holy places. Devotees distributed 12,000 Bhagavad-gitas and 10,000 smaller books during the walk.
After spending the holy month of Karttika in Vrndavana, they returned to Tirupati to begin walking to Chennai (Madras), which they plan to reach in time for ISKCON Chennai's Rathayatra at the beginning of 1998. From Chennai they will tour Tamil Nadu. Padayatra India has been on the road since 1985.
Fifteen devotees and two bullock carts are traveling from village to village in India's westernmost state. In each village, they chant Hare Krsna and distribute Srila Prabhupada's books during the day and hold a festival in the evening.
Padayatra North America
Traveling by truck between cities, last summer the North American Padayatra devotees walked with their ox-cart in nine U.S. cities and several Hare Krsna and civil parades.
The Padayatra oxen have become an attraction in England, regularly receiving invitations to attend city carnivals. During one weekend last July, devotees brought the oxen—and chanting and prasadam—to three city carnivals. At each carnival, devotees presented the city's Lord Mayor a garland from the temple and a copy of Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita As It Is.
Princess Subhadra's Dowry
Krsna and Balarama shower immense wealth
Translated from Sanskrit by Hridayananda Dasa Goswami
The sage Vaisampayana is telling the history of the Pandavas to their great-grandson, King Janamejaya. The Pandava Arjuna has just kidnapped Subhadra, the sister of Krsna and Balarama, intending to marry her in the warrior tradition. As the narration continues, Lord Krsna responds to points raised by Lord Balarama in criticizing Arjuna's act.
WHEN ALL THE Vrsnis repeatedly spoke in the same spirit as Balarama, Lord Krsna then spoke with words that revealed the practical and moral reality of the situation.
"Arjuna did not commit an offense to our family, for he holds us in the highest regard, without a doubt. And he realizes that you Satvatas are not greedy for his money. Furthermore, he did not want to create havoc at Subhadra's svayamvara.
"Who will approve of giving away an innocent maiden as if she were a head of cattle? What man on earth would make a sale of his offspring? In my opinion Arjuna saw all these discrepancies, and therefore in accord with religious law he has taken the initiative and carried away the girl. The relationship appears to be a proper one. Subhadra is a most respected lady, and Arjuna is of the same nobility. Therefore he simply took the initiative and carried her away. Who could possibly seek revenge against Arjuna, who took birth as the son of King Kuntibhoja's daughter in the dynasty of the exalted Bharata and Santanu?
"I do not see anyone in all the worlds with the courage and prowess to defeat Arjuna, and that includes Indra and Rudra, O worthy colleagues. What a chariot he has! And it is yoked with My own horses. Arjuna is a fighter, and his release of weapons is extremely rapid. Who could be equal to him in battle? My conclusion is that with supreme kindness we should run after Arjuna and in a mood of joyful celebration persuade him to return. For if Arjuna defeats all of you in a violent encounter and by his own strength returns to his city, your reputations will be ruined instantly. But there is no defeat in reconciliation."
After hearing from Sri Krsna, the Vrsnis acted accordingly, and Arjuna came back and celebrated his wedding in Dvaraka city. Arjuna stayed there the last nights of the year, and then he passed the rest of his exile in Puskara. When the twelve-month exile was finished, he returned to Khandava Prastha.
Greeting King Yudhisthira with great humility and offering reverence to the brahmanas, Arjuna at last went to greet Draupadi [his first wife]. But because of her love for him, Draupadi said to the Kuru prince, "You should go and stay with Subhadra. After all, even when a load is well tied, the knot first tied is the first one that comes loose."
Draupadi thus lamented in many ways, and Arjuna pacified her again and again, pleading for her understanding and tolerance. Arjuna then hastened to send for Subhadra, having her change from her red silk garments to the dress of a cowherd girl. That glorious lady, a hero's wife, looked even more beautiful in that style, with her excellent figure and large copper eyes. Upon reaching the main palace, the well-admired girl honored her mother-in-law, Kunti. Then Subhadra, whose face was lustrous like the full moon, quickly approached Draupadi and honored her. Subhadra said, "I am Subhadra, your servant."
Draupadi rose to greet Subhadra, Krsna's sister. Draupadi embraced her and said happily, "May your husband have no rival."
Subhadra too was joyful and replied, "May it be so!"
The mighty Pandavas were delighted, and Kunti too was extremely pleased, O Janamejaya.
Krsna Comes to Indraprastha
Lord Krsna, whose eyes are as lovely as the lotus, received the news that Arjuna, the foremost Pandava, had reached his own city of Indraprastha. Sri Krsna Kesava, who is always beyond the influence of material nature, then came there with Sri Balarama and the very aristocratic heroes of the Vrsni and Andhaka dynasties, all of whom were maharatha warriors. As they traveled, Lord Krsna was surrounded by His cousin-brothers and other young princes and warriors, and He was well guarded by a large army.
Hearing that Lord Krsna, the husband of the goddess of fortune, had arrived, King Yudhisthira sent out Nakula and Sahadeva to receive Him. They greeted Him and also welcomed the most aristocratic circle of Vrsnis who had come with Him, and together they then entered Khandava Prastha, which was adorned with banners and flags in their honor.
The roads had been thoroughly cleansed and sprinkled with water, and flowers were profusely strewn about. The city was further enhanced with cooling essence of sandalwood and varieties of pure, bracing scents. Here and there fragrant aloe burned. The city was bustling with freshly bathed citizens in spotless garments, and the wealthy merchants in the crowd lent sparkling color to the scene.
Surrounded by Vrsnis, Andhakas, and Mahabhojas, the mighty-armed Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality, reached the city with His brother Balarama. As Krsna was being worshiped by the citizens and by thousands of brahmanas, He entered the palace of King Yudhisthira, which resembled the abode of Indra, king of heaven.
Yudhisthira properly greeted Balarama and embraced Krsna and kissed His head. Krsna greeted the joyful king with submission and respectfully greeted tigerlike Bhima, following the rules of etiquette for older brothers. Yudhisthira then most respectfully received the foremost Vrsnis and Andhakas as they began arriving in the palace. Those who were older he honored as superiors, those of his age he honored as beloved friends, greeting them with affection, and those who were younger honored him in turn.
Presenting the Dowry
Then the greatly renowned Krsna gave extraordinary treasure to the bridegroom's party as a dowry on Subhadra's behalf. Lord Krsna gave one thousand chariots wrought in gold, yoked with four horses, bedecked with garlands of bells, and driven by charioteers of widely recognized skill. He gave ten thousand cows from the land of Mathura, all fine milkers of the purest breed. With pleasure the opulent Krsna also gave one thousand pure-bred mares, as bright as moonbeams and decorated with golden ornaments, as well as five hundred black and five hundred white mules, fully trained and as fast as the wind.
The lotus-eyed Lord presented a thousand youthful ladies of light complexion, beautifully dressed, bright and pure, and expert in bathing and massaging. All the girls were well groomed, enjoyed the best of health, wore one hundred gold pieces around their necks, and possessed fine ability in all types of personal service.
Lord Krsna, chief of the Dasarha dynasty, also gave worked and unworked gold of the finest quality, as bright as fire and as much as ten strong men could carry.
Lord Balarama was fond of bold heroism, and being ultimately pleased with Arjuna's behavior, He desired to strengthen the loving relationship with the Pandavas and show His submission to King Yudhisthira. Thus He who wields the plow weapon awarded to Arjuna a thousand fine elephants who stood like shining hilltops, their temples cleft in three places and oozing maddening juice. Equipped with drivers and adorned with loud bells and golden garlands, these elephants would never turn back in battle.
Lord Krsna and Lord Balarama gave so many priceless jewels to the Pandavas that the gems became like the waves of a river, in which gifts of fine garments and blankets were the foam on the waves and the colorful flags and banners were the bright green river moss. This mighty river went swirling into the ocean of the Pandavas, filling it up and bringing grief to those who envied them. Dharmaraja Yudhisthira accepted all these gifts, and he duly honored the maharatha warriors of the Vrsni and Andhaka dynasties.
All those great souls, the leaders of the Kurus, Vrsnis, and Andhakas, sported together like pious men who have gone to the dwelling of the gods. Drinking together and loudly clapping their hands, the Kurus and Vrsnis enjoyed to their full satisfaction and within the bonds of decency.
Thus those superlative heroes celebrated for many days, and finally, with full honors from the Kurus, the Vrsnis returned to their city of Dvaraka. Taking with them gleaming jewels presented to them by the Kuru nobles, the champion warriors of the Vrsnis and Andhakas placed Lord Balarama in the lead and departed. The very wise Sri Krsna stayed with Arjuna in the enchanting city of Indraprastha, O Bharata, and the two friends would stroll along the banks of the Yamuna River.
Thereafter Lord Krsna's beloved sister Subhadra gave birth to a brilliant and beautiful child, just as Paulomi had given birth to Jayanta. Subhadra's son had long arms, exceptional strength, and large eyes like a bull. He was destined to subdue his enemies. This future hero and leader of men was named Abhimanyu because he was fearless (abhi) and capable of powerful anger (manyu). He arose from Dhananjaya Arjuna in the womb of the Satvata princess, just as sacred fire springs from the sami firewood in the course of sacrifice. When Abhimanyu was born, Kunti's mighty-armed son Yudhisthira awarded to the brahmanas ten thousand cows and as many coins.
From birth the child became a favorite of Lord Krsna, and indeed of all his uncles, just as the cool moon-rays are dear to hard-working people. Sri Krsna Himself performed the religious rites, beginning with the birth ceremony, that invoke blessings on children, and the boy grew steadily like the waxing moon.
Arjuna knew the military Veda, and he taught his child, a tamer of enemies, the entire tenfold military science, Dhanur Veda, in its four divisions, including knowledge of both human and divine weapons. The mighty father taught his son the finest techniques in the use of weapons—skills that can be acquired only by long experience. In all the duties of royalty, Arjuna gave him extraordinary training. When Arjuna saw that his son by Subhadra was equal to the father in theory and practice, Arjuna was satisfied.
Like the lord of heaven admiring his son, Arjuna, of frightening prowess, gazed upon his child, admiring his invincible fortitude; the hard muscle throughout his limbs; the signs of nobility on his body; his neck and shoulders like those of a bull; and his wide jaws as forbidding as the jaws of a cobra. A grand wielder of the bow, Abhimanyu was as proud as a lion, with the courage of a maddened elephant, a deep voice like thunder or rumbling kettledrums, and a face as bright and handsome as the full moon. He was just like Krsna Himself in courage, power, beauty, and physique.
The Sons of Draupadi
Draupadi too, whose body was a treasure of blessings, begot five heroic and brilliant sons, as steady and unmovable as mountains. By Yudhisthira she gave birth to Prativindhya; by Bhima, Sutasoma; by Arjuna, Srutakarma; by Nakula, Satanika; and by Sahadeva, Srutasena. Just as Aditi gave birth to the Aditya gods, so Draupadi begot five heroic sons, all of whom became maharatha warriors.
Consulting the holy books, the brahmanas said to Yudhisthira about his son by Draupadi, "He shall be called Prativindhya, for he will acquire knowledge of his enemies' weapons." Bhimasena's son was called Sutasoma because he shone like the sun and the moon together after a thousand sacrifices of Soma. The brahmanas declared that the son whom Arjuna begot after performing mighty deeds would be called Srutakarma, "one whose deeds are heard." Nakula, the Kaurava prince, named his son after the saintly king Satanika, "one who commands a hundred armies," and his son would indeed bring glory to the clan. Draupadi gave birth to a son by Sahadeva during the asterism of fire, and the child became known as Srutasena, "one who leads a famous army."
The five illustrious sons of Draupadi were born in that order, at one-year intervals, O best of kings, and they were dedicated to serving one another. Dhaumya, the royal priest of the Pandavas, performed successively the birth ceremonies and the hair-cutting and initiation rites for the boys, strictly following the Vedic path, O noble Bharata. The five of them were well behaved and faithful to their vows, and they studied the Vedas. They learned from Arjuna the complete military science, both human and divine.
O tiger of kings, the Pandavas achieved a life of joy, for they were faithfully followed by their mighty, broad-chested sons, who shone like sons of the gods.
Hridayananda Dasa Goswami, who holds a Ph.D. in Indology from Harvard University, is Professor of Vaisnava Theology at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. He is translating the Mahabharata and other Sanskrit works.
Are they the same thing?
By Giriraja Swami
BEFORE I MET Srila Prabhupada, I had wanted to serve humanity. Then I heard from Srila Prabhupada about the importance of serving Lord Krsna. Still the question remained: How does God's service relate to man's?
After a week of hearing from Srila Prabhupada, I got the chance to ask after Srila Prabhupada concluded a lecture:
sa vai pumsam paro dharmo
"Without spiritual realization you can-not have peace of mind. If you want to have peace of mind, peace in the world, peace in your society, peace in your family, simply by amassing money, by material advancement, it will never be possible. But if you improve a little in spiritual life, you will immediately become happy. ...
"So now, if you have any questions, you can ask."
"You talk about service to Lord Krsna," I began. "How does service to our fellow man come in?"
"Why are you and others coming here?" Srila Prabhupada replied. "Are we not rendering service? To deliver one from the illusory material existence and bring him to Krsna consciousness is the best service.
"What is the meaning of service? To give relief from suffering. And Krsna consciousness gives the best relief, as confirmed in the Srimad-Bhagavatam [1.2.6]: The best service, the best religion, the best philosophy is that which teaches one how to serve God. And as soon as a person comes to serve God without any motive, he becomes satisfied—yayatma suprasidati.
"As a five-year-old boy, Dhruva Maharaja was insulted by his stepmother. Still, he wanted his father's kingdom. His mother advised him, 'Only God can help you.' So Dhruva went to the forest to find God. But when he actually saw God, he said, 'My Lord, I do not want anything. I am fully satisfied. I came looking for some pieces of broken glass, but now I have found the most valuable jewel.' When a person discovers his eternal relationship with God, he feels, 'I have nothing more to ask.' And to bring a man to feel 'I have no more demand, I am fully satisfied' is the best service.
"What is this so-called material service? Suppose I am hungry and you give me some food. Will I not be hungry again? Of course, the Krsna conscious movement also gives food. But we are giving food which will make one satisfied forever. No more hunger, no more demand. 'I am fully satisfied' (svamin krtartho 'smi). 'I have no more demand' (varam na yace).
"To think you can satisfy your hunger materially is simply illusion. America is materially advanced. But are you satisfied? So many frustrated young people, hippies, are there. Still the rascals think, 'If we become rich like America, we shall become happy.' One will never be satisfied by material adjustment.
"Actual happiness comes when you learn to love God, and that can be achieved without any material advancement. Anywhere you are, in any condition of life, you can simply chant Hare Krsna and develop such love. Then you will say, 'Now I am fully satisfied. I do not want anything else. No more stealing, no more pickpocketing, no more cheating.'"
Srila Prabhupada's words entered deep into my heart. Although I prided myself on my honesty, I had a weakness: shoplifting, pocketing little things here and there. But Srila Prabhupada's statement "no more pickpocketing" made me realize how fallen I actually was—and how I could be saved by Krsna consciousness.
Srila Prabhupada continued: " 'Because I have no want, why shall I cheat?'
"Perhaps you know the story. A saintly person was sitting in a solitary place, almost naked. Alexander the Great asked him, 'Can I do something for you?' He replied, 'Please stand aside. You are making a shadow. That's all.' Because he was fully satisfied, what could Alexander the Great do for him?
yam labdhva caparam labham
"You will find in Bhagavad-gita [6.22] that if you are situated in the transcendental position you have no more demand and are not disturbed even in the greatest difficulty. This is life—to be satisfied in any condition. And this peace can be achieved only by Krsna consciousness."
I was satisfied. There was no need to look any further. Srila Prabhupada could answer every question.
The only way to be peaceful and happy in life is to follow Srila Prabhupada and become Krsna conscious. And the best way to serve others is to give them Krsna consciousness.
Srila Prabhupada had shown the way perfectly. Now I simply had to follow.
Giriraja Swami serves as an ISKCON governing body commissioner for Mumbai, Mauritius, Spain, Portugal, South Africa, and several other places.
Srila Jagannatha Dasa Babaji Maharaja
Srila Jagannatha Dasa Babaji Maharaja, a prominent spiritual master coming in the line from Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, was the great-granddisciple of Srila Baladeva Vidyabhusana, who established the scriptural legitimacy of Lord Caitanya's movement. Srila Jagannatha Dasa Babaji was the siksa-guru, or instructing spiritual master, of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, the pioneer in spreading Krsna consciousness outside India.
Srila Jagannatha Dasa Babaji Maharaja, or Babaji Maharaja, as he was known, was born in West Bengal but later moved to Vrndavana, where Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura met him in 1880. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura could understand that Babaji Maharaja was perfect in devotional service to Lord Krsna.
From Vrndavana, Babaji Maharaja moved to Navadvipa, West Bengal, the holy land of Lord Caitanya. He lived for some time in the area known as Koladvipa, and then in 1893 moved to Surabhi-kunja in Godrumadvipa. Because of his pure spiritual vision, Babaji Maharaja was able to reveal many holy sites of Navadvipa, including Lord Caitanya's birthplace. It is said that although Babaji Maharaja was old and invalid, on finding Lord Caitanya's birthsite he danced joyfully.
When Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura's son Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati was twelve years old, Babaji Maharaja, aware of the boy's expertise in astrology, ask him to prepare a calendar for Vaisnavas, devotees of Lord Krsna. The boy pleased Babaji Maharaja by producing the Navadvipa Panjika, a calendar of festivals and appearance and disappearance days of devotees that is still used today.
Srila Jagannatha Dasa Babaji Maharaja stayed in this world for about 140 years and then returned to Lord Krsna's abode.
Becoming One Of "Them"
By Nataka Candrika Devi Dasi
I FIRST MET Hare Krsna devotees in the winter of 1971. I was a sophomore (second-year student) at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado, about sixty-five miles north of Denver. I saw four or five devotees with shaven heads and saffron robes chanting in front of the Student Union building.
"Wow!" I thought. "What next?"
I started walking the other way, when suddenly I was face to face with one of "them."
Smiling, he held out a magazine.
"No, thank you," I said quickly.
"At least take one of these," he said, as he handed me a small card.
I looked at it and back at him, noticing the white vertical marking on his forehead. I took the card and walked away.
I couldn't pronounce the strange words on the card: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Then I noticed that the card was an invitation to visit their center in Denver. Uninterested, I tucked the card away and forgot about it.
My next contact with Krsna consciousness came two years later. I had dropped out of school to travel, and having run out of money, I got a job at a newspaper in Boulder, Colorado. A friend of mine had a son my age who had been reading Bhagavad-gita and wanted to join the Krsna consciousness movement. As a concerned mother, my friend kept asking me to try talking sense into her son so that he would give up "this nonsense" about becoming a devotee.
One day I was at my friend's home and her son was there, explaining the philosophy of Krsna consciousness. I had no idea what he was talking about, but he sounded sincere, so I listened. Then he asked me to listen to an album he'd just bought, called The Radha Krsna Temple.
I'll never forget the feeling that overtook me as I sat there. I got goose bumps, and tears welled up in my eyes. It was the most beautiful music I'd ever heard. I thought, "This is not of this world!"
I soon visited the temple in Denver, where I saw the film The Hare Krsna People. The devotees' kindness impressed me, and when a devotee sat down with me and answered all my philosophical questions with references from the Bhagavad-gita, I was convinced. Although I had been reading the Gita, I couldn't explain what it said. When the devotee explained everything to me, it made perfect sense.
Feeling confused, elated, and exhausted, I returned to my little apartment and began to face what I knew I had to do—quit my job, move into the temple, and take up Krsna consciousness. The next two weeks were difficult for me, as I told my friends and family about my desire to be a devotee. My parents thought I'd been drugged; my boyfriend thought this was a passing fad I'd get over. But I didn't.
I arrived at the temple door about three weeks from the day I'd heard The Radha Krishna Temple album. I had only my car, my sewing machine, and one box of personal belongings. That was more than twenty years ago, and never for a moment have I regretted the decision to move in and become one of "them."
Nataka Candrika Devi Dasi has been teaching in ISKCON pre-schools and elementary schools for the last twenty-one years. She lives in Alachua, Florida, USA, with her husband, Radha-Damodara Dasa, and their three children.
Puskara—The Place of Lord Brahma
Chosen by the chief created being
By Nagaraja Dasa with reporting by Bhaktivikasa Swami
ONCE LORD BRAHMA, the empowered creator of the universe, desired to have a place on earth dedicated to him, so he threw three lotus petals toward the earth. When the petals landed, three holy lakes sprung up. Because the lakes had been created from the flower (puspa) thrown from Brahma's hand (kara), the area became known as Puskara. The three lakes became known as Jyestha Puskara ("senior Puskara"), Madhya Puskara ("middle Puskara"), and Kanistha Puskara ("junior Puskara"), or Budha ("old") Puskara, as it is more commonly known today.
The Blessings of Puskara
The glories of Puskara are mentioned in the Mahabharata, the Ramayana, the Padma Purana, and other scriptures. Srimad-Bhagavatam (12.12.61) states, "One who controls his mind, fasts at the holy places Puskara, Mathura, or Dvaraka, and studies this scripture will be freed from all fear."
In the Mahabharata, while describing to Bhisma, the grandfather of the Pandavas, the glories of many tirthas, or holy places of pilgrimage, the sage Pulastya mentions Puskara Tirtha first. He says that Puskara is famous throughout the universe and that anyone who goes there becomes as exalted as Lord Brahma. Pulastya says, "One's sins are cleansed by just thinking of Puskara." Among various blessings obtained by bathing at Puskara: one may be elevated to the heavenly planets, even the planet of Lord Brahma.
Some time after Brahma had empowered Puskara to grant these extraordinary blessings, some of the devas, or demigods, complained to him that he had made it too easy for people to attain the heavenly planets. They feared that people would neglect their religious duties and the earth would be plagued with irreligion and its consequences. Lord Brahma conceded and proclaimed that from that time on, the boon of elevation to heaven by bathing at Puskara would be granted only during the last five days of the month of Karttika (October-November). Today tens of thousands of people visit Puskara during that period, and a great festival takes place.
The Position of Lord Brahma
The Vedic scriptures tell us that Lord Brahma was born from a lotus flower sprouted from the navel of Lord Garbodakasayi Visnu, an expansion of Lord Krsna. Because Brahma was not born in the ordinary way, he is known as Atma-bhu, "the self-born."
Though Brahma is called the creator of the universe, he creates by the power invested in him by Lord Visnu. In fact, the position of creator, which Brahma occupies, is a post to which Visnu assigns a highly qualified living entity. Unlike Lord Visnu, the unlimited Supreme Person, Brahma is a jiva like us—one of the unlimited number of infinitesimal living entities who emanate from the Supreme Person.
Though Brahma is posted above all the other devas except Siva and Visnu, his main qualification is that he understands himself to be an eternal servant of the Supreme Lord. Pilgrims to Puskara, aware of Lord Brahma's exaltedness, generally petition Brahma for material rewards, such as elevation to the heavenly planets. But people with a higher understanding know that such rewards cannot match the gift of pure devotion to the Supreme Lord, which Lord Brahma can also give.
The first verse of the Bhagavatam says that the Supreme Lord awakened transcendental knowledge within the heart of Brahma. After much penance, Brahma realized that the Absolute Truth is Lord Sri Krsna, of whom all living entities—including Brahma—are eternal servants. Lord Brahma is the head of one of the four Vaisnava Sampradayas, or disciplic lines of devotees of Visnu or Lord Krsna. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who is Krsna Himself, aligned Himself with the Brahma Sampradaya. Therefore the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, which descends from Lord Caitanya, is also part of the Brahma Sampradaya, and its members may pray to Brahma for pure devotion to Lord Krsna.
Lord Brahma's Sacrifice
This history is found in the Padma Purana, Srstikhanda, Chapter 17:
Accompanied by brahmanas and other devas, or demigods, Lord Brahma once went to Puskara to perform a sacrifice. Such sacrifices are to be performed along with one's wife, so when the arrangements for the sacrifice were complete, Lord Brahma sent Narada Rsi, the sage among the devas, to bring Sarasvati, Lord Brahma's consort. But Sarasvati was not ready to leave, so Narada returned to Puskara alone.
According to astrological calculations, the sacrifice had to begin at once, so Brahma asked Indra, the king of the heavenly planets, to provide him a suitable wife to assist in the sacrifice. Lord Indra chose a cowherd girl, but the sacrifice required that the girl be of the brahmana caste. So the devas purified the girl, or elevated her caste, by passing her through a cow (into the cow's mouth and out the other end), because in Vedic culture cows are considered pure and of the same caste as the brahmanas. The girl then became known as Gayatri, "one who was pulled through a cow."
When Sarasvati arrived to find seated next to her husband another woman—Gayatri—she became angry and cursed him and some of the other devas present. But Gayatri adjusted the curses so that they would turn out favorably. For example, although Sarasvati had cursed Brahma that he would be worshiped only on the full-moon day of the month of Karttika, Gayatri declared that whoever worshiped Brahma would be blessed with wealth and a good family and would be reunited with Brahma.
Sarasvati Devi left the sacrifice in anger and went off to a nearby hill to perform penance.
Today pilgrims to Puskara can visit temples of both Sarasvati Devi and Gayatri Devi.
Sarasvati Devi is also present in this world in the form of a river. Five branches of that river—Sarasvati, Supapra, Candra, Kanaka, and Nanda—flow in the Puskara area, but at present they are invisible to ordinary eyes.
The Place of Sages
Puskara has been know as a holy place for millennia, and today various sites around Puskara honor well-known Vedic sages who performed penance there, including Agastya, Pulastya, and Markendeya. It was at Puskara that the heavenly maiden Menaka distracted Visvamitra, a warrior performing meditation to become a brahma-rsi, a brahmana sage. Later Visvamitra attained his goal at Puskara.
Today, thousands of years after the time of Visvamitra, pilgrims still come to Puskara to fulfill their desires. Those with the highest understanding pray to the holy place—and its presiding deity, Lord Brahma—to fulfill only one desire: that they may someday develop pure love for Krsna.
The Camel Fair
A camel fair is held in Puskara each year for five days up to and including the Karttika Purnima, the full-moon night of the month of Karttika (October-November). Since this had long been the time when the most people visited the holy place for a sacred bath, it was natural that pilgrims would use the occasion as a chance to trade. What began with a few small, impromptu exchanges has grown into the largest camel fair in the world.
A tent city spreads out on the plains west of Puskara, and a grand festival takes place, complete with camel traders, horse traders, snake charmers, camel races, ferris wheels, merry-go-rounds, handicrafts shops, ash-covered holy men, brightly clad Rajasthanis—practically all the color and excitement of the culture of Rajasthan. The fair attracts about 200,000 people, along with their 50,000 cows, camels, horses, and water buffaloes.
Pilgrimage to Puskara
Puskara, in the Indian state of Rajasthan, is 130 kilometers southwest of Jaipur. The population of Puskara is about 15,000. The city of Ajmer (400,000) is 13 kilometers to the south. A scenic road from Ajmer to Puskara winds up and over Snake Mountain. The elevation of Puskara—1,500 feet above sea level—helps create a moderate climate during Rajasthan's stiffling hot season.
Puskara has about 400 temples, many of them dedicated to various demigods, but the main temple is that of Lord Brahma.
It is not known when the original deity of Brahma was installed in the temple. That deity was destroyed by the Mogul emperor Aurangzeb in the seventeenth century. The present temple was built in 1809.
Servant of Puskara Tirtha
During an initiation ceremony in New York City, 1971, Srila Prabhupada gave a new disciple the name Puskara Dasa* ("servant of Puskara"). Prabhupada said, "Puskara Dasa. There is a sacred lake in India, Puskara Tirtha. Anyone who takes bath in that lake becomes a devotee. So you try to bring all people of the world to take bath in Puskara."
*Puskara Dasa's paintings and drawings appear regularly in Back to Godhead.
When Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu toured South India about five hundred years ago, He discovered the Brahma-samhita, a spiritual treatise by Lord Brahma. Lord Caitanya was greatly pleased to find this work, because it clearly sets forth Lord Brahma's realization of the supreme position of Lord Krsna. Here are some verses from the fifth chapter of the Brahma-samhita:
ramadi-murtisu kala-niyamena tisthan
I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, who by His various plenary portions appeared in the world in different forms and incarnations such as Lord Rama, but who personally appears in His supreme original form as Lord Krsna.
The mighty Durga, who creates, maintains, and annihilates the material worlds, is the potency of the Supreme Lord, and she moves like His shadow, according to His desire.
ksiram yatha dadhi vikara-visesa-yogat
Milk changes into yogurt when mixed with a yogurt culture, but actually yogurt is constitutionally nothing but milk. Similarly, Govinda, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, assumes the form of Lord Siva for the special purpose of material transactions. I offer my obeisances at Lord Govinda's lotus feet.
The Brahmas and other lords of the mundane worlds appear from the pores of Maha-Visnu and remain alive for the duration of His one exhalation. I adore the primeval Lord, Govinda, of whom Maha-Visnu is a portion of a plenary portion.
bhasvan yathasma-sakalesu nijesu tejah
The sun manifests his brilliance in a gem, although it is stone. Similarly, the original Personality of Godhead, Govinda, manifests His special power in a pious living entity. Thus the living entity becomes Brahma and manages the affairs of the universe. Let me worship Govinda, the original Personality of Godhead.
yat-pada-pallava-yugam vinidhaya kumbha-
I worship the primeval Lord, Govinda. Ganesa always holds His lotus feet upon the pair of tumuli protruding from his elephant head in order to obtain power for his function of destroying all obstacles on the path of progress in the three worlds.
Bhakti-yoga at Home
Chanting and Seeing God
By Rohininandana Dasa
WE MAY WANT to see God, but there are many impediments. We cannot even see our own self, what to speak of the Supreme Self. The Lord is far, far away from the range of our present perception.
Still, by His mercy we can perceive Him in sound. As we can perceive a distant person through the medium of radio waves, so can we get in touch with Lord Krsna through transcendental sound. Like parts of a radio receiver, the human ear and mind are especially designed to receive the spiritual sound waves that flow from the spiritual world. All we need to do is tune in to the Krsna station, and we can be with Krsna, wherever we may be.
Tuning in to Krsna by hearing and chanting His holy names is a powerful method by which to purify our consciousness and develop our spiritual vision. The Lord says that when He notices us taking our chanting seriously, He reveals Himself to us.
We can't force Krsna to do anything. In His own sweet time He may choose to reveal Himself. But we can rest assured that as Krsna gave His devotee Arjuna the eyes to see Him, He also wants to do the same for us.
Chanting in a Country Lane
Shortly after I began chanting Hare Krsna, I was walking home one night along a dark lane. I got it into my mind that someone was following me. I became more and more afraid. Although I had no real proof and knew it was probably all in my mind, my fear got the better of me, and my head began to spin in alarm.
Suddenly I remembered reading in the Srimad-Bhagavatam that the holy name is "feared by fear personified." I decided to give it a go. Very quietly, so as not to be heard by my pursuer, I began chanting the maha-mantra: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
It felt so good that I closed my eyes as I walked. My chanting became louder: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Pretty soon I didn't care about any imagined or real midnight rambler, and I chanted louder and louder: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
I danced and leapt the rest of the way home.
Chanting in the Rain
The congregational chanting of the holy names in public has the power to eject us out of our inhibitions and any other type of bodily consciousness. Whatever attachments we may have to this world are driven away, like birds flying from a tree at the clap of our hands.
In a sudden downpour in Detroit a group of us carried on chanting and dancing as other people ran for shelter. We laughed and chanted as our dancing feet landed in the big puddles of dirty Detroit drain water that sloshed into our shoes.
From under awnings and bus shelters, and from inside office windows, people smiled and tapped their feet.
Some, of course, thought us crazy, or perhaps hated us for our freedom.
An old, half-blind beggar came by. When he looked at us, his smile began from his eyes, spread all over his face, and radiated out to us. The world seemed to stand still, and I felt like chanting in the rain forever.
Rohininandana Dasa lives in southern England with his wife and their three children. Write to him in care of Back to Godhead.
Names and Personal Relationship
By Hare Krsna Devi Dasi
IN A HOW-TO BOOK on raising a beef calf at home, a rancher presents her tips on how to make the process psychologically easier:
"I don't see how you'll ever be able to eat that little brown-eyed baby after you raise him." You'll hear this—maybe from some members of your family—or you may have said it yourself ... [But] remember that the little brown-eyed baby will no longer be a pet by the time he is 18 months old and weighs 1,000 pounds. By then—especially if he is a bull calf—he probably will no longer trust humans and, except at feeding time, will come nowhere near you. ... And many people refuse to give a name to any animal they intend later to butcher on the theory that the name gives it a personality. (Raising a Calf for Beef, by Phyllis Hobson)
The author's relationship with her calf contrasts dramatically with Krsna's relationships with His animals. In the book Krsna, Srila Prabhupada writes:
The cows taken care of by Krsna had different names, and Krsna would call them with love. After hearing Krsna calling, the cows would immediately respond by mooing, and the boys would enjoy this exchange to their hearts' content. (Krsna, Chapter Fifteen)
In Radha-Krsna-ganoddesa-dipika (109-110), Srila Rupa Gosvami mentions the names of some of Krsna's cows: Mangala, Pingala, Pisangi, Manikastani, Hamsi, and Vamsipriya. And also His oxen: Padmagandha and Pisangaksa. Just by hearing these names, we feel pleased to know more about Krsna and His cows.
The beef rancher is correct in her assertion that calling an animal by name gets us thinking that the animal has a personality. But besides that, we should instinctively sense that if the animal has a personality, it also has a soul and should not be killed. Srila Prabhupada confirms this intuition when he writes that consciousness attests to the presence of a soul.
The rancher, unfortunately, has missed this point. And by killing an animal, especially a cow, she blocks her chances for understanding the message of God. Srila Prabhupada writes, "Only the animal-killer cannot relish the transcendental message of the Supreme Lord. Therefore if people are to be educated to the path of Godhead, they must be taught first and foremost to stop the process of animal-killing." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.3.24, purport)
On a commercial farm or ranch, cows or steers have numbers (often pinned to their ears) instead of names. A cow without a name is easier to kill. But devotees don't want to kill cows, so we follow Krsna's example and give them names.
Cows and oxen like to respond to their names. A cowherd can go to the pasture and call out a milking cow from a herd. The cowherd might say, "Hari Lila, come and get your grain!" and Hari Lila will be happy to trot right over to get her grain and be milked, while the rest of the cows stay where they are.
Naturally, we all work more enthusiastically when praised for our service. That goes for cows, bulls, and oxen, too. So when we compliment them and pat them under the neck, we use their names.
Using the animals' names is part of developing a personal relationship with them and seeing them more and more as Krsna's servants. A similar principle applies in our devotion to God: when we call Him by name, we advance in our personal relationship with Him. (Of course, this is even more true for God than for animals, because His name is eternal and nondifferent from Him.) When we call God by His name, we understand that He is a person, with feelings, qualities, and activities. If I just say "God," I'm talking about the supreme entity, but according to some concepts, that entity could be just a mass of energy or even a void. But when I say "Krsna" or "Govinda," I'm speaking about a personal form of the Lord—His eternal, original form, with a specific personality and specific pastimes. I instantly increase my spiritual consciousness by calling the Lord by name.
So along with a name comes a personal relationship. And a personal relationship with Krsna's cows can help us advance in realizing our personal relationship with the Lord Himself.
Hare Krsna Devi Dasi, an ISKCON devotee since 1978, is co-editor of the newsletter Hare Krsna Rural Life.
If a devotee follows the instructions of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, he lives in the company of the Lord. Wherever he lives, he converts that place into Vrndavana and Navadvipa. This means that materialism cannot touch him. This is the secret of success for one advancing in Krsna consciousness.
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Only an empowered personality can distribute the holy name of the Lord and enjoin all fallen souls to worship Krsna. By distributing the holy name of the Lord, he cleanses the hearts of the most fallen people; therefore he extinguishes the blazing fire of the material world. Not only that, he broadcasts the shining brightness of Krsna's effulgence throughout the world. Such an acarya, or spiritual master, should be considered nondifferent from Krsna—that is, he should be considered the incarnation of Lord Krsna's potency.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura
Essential truth spoken concisely is true eloquence.
Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami
After many births and deaths, he who is actually in knowledge surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare.
Lord Sri Krsna
Under no circumstances can the words of persons bewildered by the illusory energy of the Lord deviate the intelligence of those who are completely surrendered souls.
One who has no compassion for humanity in its suffering and does not sacrifice his impermanent body for the higher causes of religious principles or eternal glory is certainly pitied even by the immovable beings.
Sri Dadhici Rsi
Men who are like dogs, hogs, camels, and asses praise those men who never listen to the transcendental pastimes of Lord Sri Krsna. the deliverer from evils.
Sri Saunaka Rsi