Whether you've studied yoga in depth, or simply felt some interest, this issue of Back to Godhead has something for you.
Five hundred years ago, Lord Caitanya revitalized the practice of bhakti (devotional) yoga, as taught by Lord Krsna in the ancient Bhagavad-gita and other Vedic scriptures. In 1966, Srila Prabhupada brought the Hare Krsna movement from India to the West, and soon, by his efforts, bhakti-yoga began spreading all over the world.
In this issue you'll learn how bhakti-yoga begins with chanting God's names. You'll discover what the Vedas say about this easy but powerful process of meditation. And you'll see how bhakti-yoga blossoms to encompass a rich, transcendent culture of spirituality.
Enjoy these pages of art, cuisine, philosophy, literature, and personal experiences, all connected to Lord Krsna through bhakti, the yoga of spiritual love.
We're happy to have you with us. To help you get oriented, we've included a Glossary on page 29. Hare Krsna.
• To help all people discern reality from illusion, spirit from matter, the eternal from the temporary.
The ISKCON Laity
I would just like to say how much I enjoy BTG. Each issue seems to have so much in it when it arrives. But it is never enough; I am always left wishing there was more. But I guess only one issue can come at a time!
It struck me recently that we never see any articles in BTG from the ISKCON laity and there must be many more of us than there are devotees. It may well be that none of the lay members are qualified to say anything that could be printed in BTG, but perhaps our experiences within ISKCON and our meetings with Srila Prabhupada would be of interest to some readers. It is just a thought, and I have enclosed a short piece that might be of some use. If not, please consign it to the waste paper bin!
We plan to run the article in an upcoming issue.—The Editors
I was amazed to read your editorial in the Sept./Oct. 1997 issue of BTG. Swami Prabhupada claims that Neil Armstrong never landed on the moon. It was a grand illusion played out by the U.S. administration. Please bear in mind that your magazine is printed thanks to technology; Swami Prabhupada flew to the U.S. to spread the message of Krsna consciousness thanks to technology; I am sending this e-mail thanks to technology. You are entitled to your beliefs, but this sort of balderdash erodes the credibility of the movement and pushes you to the edges of the lunatic fringe.
REPLY FROM JAYADVAITA SWAMI: You are bashing us for more than we said. On the basis of Vedic literature, Srila Prabhupada indeed affirmed that the moon landing didn't happen; Mr. Armstrong couldn't have strong-armed his way onto the moon. But whether the landing was a U.S. hoax or the lunar explorers mistakenly thought they had gone there is a matter we left open.
As for technology: Thanks to technology, King Kong climbed the Empire State Building, and Steven Spielberg's aliens and dinosaurs walk the earth. Thanks to technology, people see heaven on LSD, born men become lovely women, and political propaganda bewilders entire nations. Thanks to technology... Shall we go on?
By the way, speaking of the lunatic fringe, why do you suppose that the great conquerors of space, having spent billions to land on the moon, are now bypassing the moon and sending rockets off to Mars?
More on the Moon
I truly believe we did go to the moon and have gathered scientific data about the moon. I could say it confidently because of my education (M.S. in physics and M.S. in electrical engineering).
What Srila Prabhupada does not like is a heart, whether of a scientist or not, who does not know or love Krsna.
There is no need to go to moon or Mars, Srila Prabhupada says. There is a need to become Krsna conscious first. As Krsna consciousness spreads, particularly among the leaders of a society, the society will have fewer problems.
Questions from a Life Member
In July 1978, just sitting in my house, I picked up a book bought for me by my son. The book was about Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. I read it and I was determined to read more. I went to the Hare Krsna temple (Bhaktivedanta Manor), Letchmore Heath, for worship. I met some devotees there and they gave me some more books to read. These were Teachings of Lord Caitanya and The Science of Self-Realization. I read them both, which gave me a lot of strength to continue.
By my determination I became a life member of ISKCON in May 1982. The devotees of this society render commendable services to mankind. His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada has enlightened the whole world by writing his books. He is still present. We can always associate with him through his instructions. These books and instructions give me that association and salvation. I appreciate Srila Prabhupada's writings and instructions from the core of my heart, as well as his high position in the spiritual world.
I am a retired person and strictly vegetarian, living with my wife. I have unshakable belief both in Sanatana-dharma and in vegetarianism. Some time ago I read about the Gaudiya Math, personalists and impersonalists and Mayavadis, what they are and their religious philosophy. I shall be very grateful if you could please put some light on this subject according to the Vedic scriptures.
OUR REPLY: The Gaudiya Math was the spiritual society set up by Srila Prabhupada's spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, to spread the teachings of Krsna consciousness. After Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati left this world, the Gaudiya Math broke up into many smaller institutions, some of them still existing. Srila Prabhupada later established the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, which is now spreading Krsna consciousness all over the world.
Impersonalists, or Mayavadis, are philosophers who believe that the Absolute Truth is ultimately impersonal or void. All variety, they say, is but illusion (although they cannot clearly say where that illusion has its source). The personalist philosophers, in contrast, are those who recognize that everything—material variety, illusion itself, spiritual oneness, and spiritual variety—has its source in the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
I can fill up several e-mail letters praising BTG magazine. It always was a first-class publication, and the new format is superb. Everyone I know is impressed by it. In particular I have enjoyed the articles on holy places in India, and the ongoing series of translations of the Mahabharata is absolutely delightful.
[In response to BTG's announcement that henceforward we're putting India first in our address list:]
Back to Godhead is a magazine with a spiritual purpose. Once that purpose is achieved correctly by the reader or contributor, where BTG is printed or which center is listed first among many others around the world does not matter. Because the actual center of Krsna consciousness is in our own individual hearts. It is a spiritual awareness. To think in terms of physical places is allowing our minds to be confined in a sense gratification, which is not the purpose why BTG was started.
Alfa B. Saam
OUR REPLY: Yes, the place for Krsna consciousness is in our hearts. But when we're conscious of Krsna, we also become conscious of the sacred places where Krsna appeared and performed His pastimes. As Krsna is spiritual, so too are the places connected with Krsna, such as Vrndavana, Dvaraka, Kuruksetra, and Mayapur. Krsna's places are dear to the hearts of Krsna's devotees. And it is because of the presence of such places in India that we're listing India first.
Muslims the Real Followers of Bhagavad-gita?
I have gone thoroughly through all the issues of BTG this year, and I could to some extent know the essence of life. Sir, based on the knowledge gained, I have the following comment to make:
In Dyaneshwari, Dyaneshwar Maharaj says that in spite of knowing the supremacy of Lord Krsna, people worship demigods (the sun, moon, etc.) for exploiting the required sakti [power] from God. Krsna says you need not go anywhere, just remember Me, but. ...
In this connection I would like to say: The Muslims are the real followers of Bhagavad-gita, who only concentrate on their Allah (here, say Krsna).
Kindly offer your comments.
Dr. Suresh S. Mahalle, M.Sc., Ph.D., IARI
OUR REPLY: According to the Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.2.6):
sa vai pumsam paro dharmo
"The best method of religion is that by which one develops loving devotional service to the transcendent Supreme Lord. Such devotional service must be unmotivated and uninterrupted to completely satisfy the self."
Whether one is Hindu, Muslim, Christian, or whatever is of little consequence. The real purpose of religion. is to develop pure, unalloyed love for God. In the present age, the most recommended way to develop such love is to chant the holy name of the Supreme Lord. One should also give up four kinds of contaminating materialistic activities—gambling, intoxication, meat-eating, and illicit sex.
There is no need to worship demigods. The Vedic scriptures recommend that we single-mindedly render devotional service to the Supreme Lord, especially by chanting the maha-mantra: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Dating Human Existence
In the article by Ravi Gupta in the March/April '97 issue, he writes, "Lord Rama ruled during Treta-yuga, some two million years ago."
According to all paleontologists, man evolved as Homosapiens with the current brain size only about 100,000 years ago. The evolutionary experts like Dr. Richard Leaky and all others estimate that mankind originated from Africa some 2.5 million years ago. Your writer only loses credibility when he uses numbers like two million years ago for Rama's existence. There is no scientific proof that Sri Rama existed in Ayodhya that long ago. The question really is: Are the Ramayana and the Mahabharata historical facts, or are they fiction written to spread the word of God?
DRUTAKARMA DASA ADHIKARI REPLIES: There are two ways of getting knowledge about events in the distant past. One is the descending path of knowledge, by which we accept the statements of the Vedic literature as true because they come from a perfect source. The Vedic literature, especially the Puranas, tells us that human beings have existed on earth for tens of millions of years.
These days, many people do not have much faith in the Vedic descending path of knowledge. Instead, they place their faith in the ascending path of knowledge, which relies on proposing various theories from material evidence. This path of knowledge, according to the Vedic epistemological principles, is unreliable because it depends on human beings, who are all subject to four defects: they have imperfect senses, they can be in illusion, they make mistakes, and they have the tendency to cheat.
Archeology, the study of human antiquity, is one branch of modern science's ascending path of knowledge. And generally we are led to believe that all the archeological evidence ever discovered supports the idea that humans like ourselves evolved from more apelike ancestors within the past 100,000 or 200,000 years.
Archeology is certainly subject to the four defects just mentioned. Nevertheless, if we look into the entire history of archeology, and evaluate all the discoveries as fairly and objectively as we can, we find that over the past 150 years, archeologists and other earth scientists have uncovered a vast body of evidence consistent with Vedic accounts of extreme human antiquity. This evidence, reports of which can be found in scientific journals, takes the form of anatomically modern human skeletal remains and artifacts of human manufacture. This evidence has been eliminated from scientific discussion largely because it contradicts Darwinian evolutionary ideas. A detailed review of this astonishing evidence can be found in my book Forbidden Archeology, co-authored by Richard Thompson (Sadaputa Dasa). Those who read this book might develop a new respect for the historical accuracy of the Puranic histories, the Ramayana, and the Mahabharata.
Drutakarma Dasa (Michael A. Cremo) is a research associate with the Bhaktivedanta Institute and an associate editor for Back to Godhead.
Founded in 1966 by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) carries on in the modern world a great ancient tradition rooted in the Bhagavad-gita, the teachings Lord Krsna spoke five milleniums ago. The Gita and the other Vedic scriptures declare Krsna to be the original person, God Himself, who appears periodically in this world to liberate all living beings.
Only five hundred years ago, Krsna descended as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu to teach the most sublime and effective means of meditation for the present day: the chanting of the names of God, especially as found in the Hare Krsna mantra.
Today members of ISKCON continue Lord Caitanya's movement by distributing the teachings of Lord Krsna and the Hare Krsna mantra all over the world.
We spell Sanskrit words and names by a phonetic system that lets you know how to say each word. Pronounce short a like the u in but, long a like the a in far (and held twice as long as the short a). Pronounce e like the a in evade, long i like the i in pique. Pronounce the vowel r like the ri in rim, and c like the ch in chair. Pronounce consonants like ch, jh, and dh as in staunch-heart, hedge-hog, and red-hot. Pronounce s and s like sh. So for Krsna say KRISHNA, for Caitanya say CHAITANYA.
Members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness receive names of Lord Krsna or His great devotees, combined with Dasa (Dasi for women), meaning "servant." For instance, the name Krsna Dasa means "servant of Krsna."
Understanding His position in the light of scripture
A lecture given in Mayapur, West Bengal, on March 2, 1974
by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
jaya jaya mahaprabhu sri-krsna-caitanya
"Let me offer glorification to the Supreme Lord, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. One who has taken shelter of His lotus feet is the most glorified person."
—Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila 7.2
Sri Krsna Caitanya is Sri Krsna. Srila Rupa Gosvami spoke this verse:
"O most munificent incarnation! You are Krsna Himself appearing as Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu. You have assumed the golden color of Srimati Radharani [Lord Krsna's internal energy], and You are widely distributing pure love of Krsna. We offer our respectful obeisances unto You."
Lord Caitanya is Krsna Himself. In this age, known as Kali-yuga, Krsna's direct incarnation is Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. This is also confirmed throughout the Vedic literature—Mahabharata, Puranas, Upanisads. The essence of all Vedic literature is the Srimad-Bhagavatam, and there also Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is accepted as the Supreme Lord:
The Srimad-Bhagavatam says that in the Kali-yuga the incarnation of Krsna has a bodily complexion that is akrsna, "not krsna." The Sanskrit word krsna means "black." In the sastra, the scriptures, it is said that Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, appears in the four yugas, or ages, in four different colors:
asan varnas trayo hy asya
"Your son Krsna appears as an incarnation in every millennium. In the past He assumed three colors—white, red, and yellow—and now He has appeared in a blackish color." This verse was spoken by the learned brahmana Gargamuni during Krsna's name-giving ceremony. In the Vedic culture, as soon as a child is born his horoscope is made and his past and future are calculated. Today, because of poverty and other reasons, practically no one does this. But this is one of the samskaras, or purifying rituals for human life. At conception there is the garbhadhana samskara, while the child is within the womb there is a samskara, and so on. In this way a human body is purified by ten kinds of samskaras, or purificatory methods.
It is said, janmana jayate sudrah samskarad bhaved dvija: "Everyone is born a sudra, a member of the unpurified caste, but by samskara one becomes twice-born, or a brahmana."
Everyone is born from a father and a mother. Even cats and dogs have a father and a mother. Any life you get, there is a father and a mother. Therefore the Prema-vivarta says:
janame janame sabe pita-mata paya
"In every birth you'll get a father and a mother. But in every birth you cannot get Krsna or a bona fide spiritual master." The perfection of human life is possible by the mercy of guru and Krsna. And that mercy can be achieved in the human form of life, not in the life of cats and dogs.
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is acting as both guru and Krsna, or as the combination of the two. Kaviraja Gosvami, the author of Caitanya-caritamrta, first offered his obeisances to Lord Caitanya in the first verse of this chapter (agaty-eka-gatim natva ...). After offering obeisances to the Supreme Lord, "the only hope for the hopeless," now the author is again offering obeisances with the second verse: jaya jaya mahaprabhu sri-krsna-caitanya.
Prabhu and Mahaprabhu
Nityananda Prabhu, Advaita Prabhu—any Vaisnava, or devotee of the Lord, is addressed as prabhu ("Lord" or "master"). But Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is Mahaprabhu, the "topmost prabhu, the master prabhu." All others are servant prabhus. For example, if you work in an office, you may consider your immediate boss your master, but he's not the master. The managing director or the proprietor is master of the office. But, still, those who work under him—"sub-prabhus"—are also called prabhu.
All Vaisnavas should be addressed as "Prabhu." That is the etiquette. But Caitanya Mahaprabhu is Mahaprabhu because He's the greatest master.
ekale isvara krsna ara saba bhrtya
"Lord Krsna alone is the supreme controller, and all others are His servants. They dance as He makes them do so." We are simply dancing in the material world, trying to be the master. Everyone is trying. Everyone wants to exploit the resources of the material nature, to become the master. That is the struggle for existence. I am trying to become the master, and you are trying to become the master, so there is a clash. I challenge you, "Why should you be the master?" And you challenge why I should be the master. That is going on. That is the nature of the material world. But if we accept that we are eternal servants and not the master, and that the master is Krsna or Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu, then our problems are solved.
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura has sung, jiv krsna dasa ei visvas korle to ar duhkha nai: "If you just understand that the spirit soul is the eternal servant of Krsna, you will never have any more sorrows." That is the solution.
Everyone wants to become the master, the prabhu. You can become prabhu. That is not extraordinary. Some way or other we are prabhus. Suppose I am a family man. I am managing my family, my wife, my children, my servants, my subordinates, so I may be prabhu. In that sense I am a small prabhu. Similarly, everyone is prabhu. But there is the supreme prabhu, the prabhu of all prabhus. That Mahaprabhu is Sri Krsna Caitanya. He's Krsna.
As it is stated in the Brahma-samhita: isvarah paramah krsnah. isvara means "ruler" or "controller." All of us are more or less little controllers or rulers, but not the absolute ruler. The absolute ruler is Krsna. Similarly, the absolute prabhu, master, is Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
Taking Shelter of Mahaprabhu
Tanhara caranasrita: Everyone is prabhu, but when the prabhu takes shelter of the lotus feet of the Mahaprabhu, sei bada dhanya—the prabhu becomes glorified. Don't remain satisfied being a prabhu of your wife, children, family, country, or this or that, but try to become the servant of Mahaprabhu. Tanhara caranasrita. When you take shelter of the supreme prabhu, Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu, then your life is successful. Sei bada dhanya: you are glorified.
To become the servant of God, or Mahaprabhu, is very prestigious. It is not very easy to become the servant of Krsna or Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu. So if one agrees to become the servant of the supreme prabhu, one's life is successful. Sei bada dhanya: he is glorified.
The Vaisnava's principle is to come to the platform of eternal servitude—not to become the master, but to become servant of the master. That is perfect philosophy. Gopi-bhartuh pada-kamalayor dasa-dasanudasah. The brahmana is thinking himself the master of the ksatriya [warrior] or the vaisya [merchant] or the sudra [laborer]. The sannyasi [renunciant] is thinking himself the master of the vanaprastha [retired person], the grhastha [householder], or the brahmacari [celibate student]. Similarly, the head of the household is thinking himself the master, and the ksatriya king is thinking he's the master. You are a master to some extent, but if you accept Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu or Sri Krsna as your master, your life is successful. That is the secret of success, as confirmed in the Srimad-Bhagavatam:
atah pumbhir dvija-srestha
"The highest perfection one can achieve by discharging the duties prescribed for one's own occupation according to caste divisions and orders of life is to please the Personality of Godhead."
Arjuna was a ksatriya; his business was to fight. Why was he fighting the Battle of Kuruksetra? To become the master of the kingdom. But he stayed eternally the servant of Krsna. That is success. Don't be satisfied simply to be the master of your material position. Try to become the servant of the supreme; then you are successful.
Our mastership is relative; under certain conditions we become the master. But Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is the master without any conditions. Namo maha-vadanyaya krsna-prema-pradaya te. Because He's the master, He can distribute Krsna-prema, love of Krsna, very easily. Otherwise, Krsna-prema is very difficult to attain. Even understanding Krsna is very difficult.
Out of many millions of persons, one may try to make his life successful, and out of many such persons who have become successful in understanding their constitutional position, one may understand Krsna. One may understand; there is no surety. To understand Krsna is a very, very difficult job.
To understand Krsna and to understand the service of Krsna is very exalted. One has to become brahma-bhutah, completely liberated. Then one can understand how to render service to Krsna, mad-bhaktim labhate param. But this difficult subject matter is given very easily by Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Therefore Rupa Gosvami offered his first prayer to Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu:
"You are not only giving Krsna, but You are giving Krsna-prema, love of Krsna." You may meet an exalted per-son, but to have an intimate, loving relationship with an exalted person is not very easy. But Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu distributed love of Krsna to anyone. That is Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu's contribution to human society. If you simply come under the lotus feet of Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu, then love of Krsna is very easily achieved. To come under the lotus feet of Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu means you have Krsna. That is the verdict of the scripture and Caitanya-caritamrta. Krsna, Caitanya Maha- prabhu, does not give anything else. He directly gives you Krsna and love of Krsna.
To award this greatest benediction to human society, Caitanya Mahaprabhu took sannyasa, the renounced order of life, at the age of twenty-four in this land of Mayapur, Navadvipa. It is a very glorified place. It is not an ordinary place. The Vaisnava devotee and poet Narottama Dasa Thakura says, gauda mandala bhumi, yeba jane cintamani tara hoy vrajabhume vasa. "Anyone who understands the spiritual value of Navadvipa lives in Vrajabhumi, Vrndavana—Lord Krsna's land." There is no difference between Vrndavana and Navadvipa, or Gauda-mandala-bhumi. That is the verdict of the sastra.
Read Narottama Dasa Thakura's Prarthana and Bhaktivinoda Thakura's Prarthana. They are very, very valuable for advancement in spiritual understanding—especially Narottama Dasa Thakura's Prarthana. By reading them, by understanding them, we can understand Krsna very easily. Otherwise, it -is very, very difficult to understand Krsna. Big, big scholars, big, big sannyasis—they cannot understand Krsna. They think Krsna is like us—a very great man, a politician, a historical person. Or they think of Krsna as a debauchee because He associated with the gopis, the cowherd girls, or because He married sixteen thousand wives.
We shall be misled in understanding Krsna if we try to do so by our own knowledge. We have to accept Krsna through Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. And Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu advises everyone:
amara ajnaya guru hana tara' ei desa
"Instruct everyone to follow the orders of Lord Sri Krsna as they are given in the Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam. In this way become a spiritual master and try to liberate everyone in this land." Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is Krsna Himself. Because Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu came as a human being, people have misunderstood Him to be a human being. But He's not human being; He's the master of the human beings.
Because we are part and parcel of Krsna, Krsna very kindly comes when we are distressed because of violating the laws of religion. Yada yada hi dharmasya glanir bhavati. Dharmasya glani means "deviation from the path of religion." And what is religion? Dharmam tu saksad bhagavat-pranitam. Religion means the laws of God. That is the simple definition of religion. The rules and regulations given by the Lord are called religion, just as the rules and regulations given by the state are called law. You cannot manufacture law. Similarly, you cannot manufacture dharma. Nowadays, in this Kali-yuga, rascals manufacture religion. But who cares for that religion? Or what will be the benefit of such religion? There will be no benefit.
Today, so-called religious leaders even claim to be God. But Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu never manufactured religion, and to set the example He never said, "I am Krsna." Rather, when He was in Vrndavana some of the devotees praised Him: "You are Krsna." He blocked His ears: "No, no. Don't say that," indicating that to claim to become God or Krsna is the highest type of rascaldom.
Some Mayavadis, or impersonalists, claim, "Everyone is God. I am God, you are God." They are all rascals. We do not accept such cheap "Gods." No. We accept Krsna. And we accept Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu as God on the authority of sastra and the acaryas, our predecessor spiritual masters. We follow in the footsteps of the acaryas. Rupa Gosvami says, krsnaya krsna-caitanya-namne: "Sir, You are Krsna. You have come under the name of Krsna Caitanya. You are so magnanimous that You are distributing love of Krsna."
Without being Krsna, how can one distribute Krsna? Without being a millionaire, how can one distribute millions of dollars? Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu is so magnanimous that He is distributing Krsna. So take shelter of Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
You have come from distant places. You have spent much money to come here. Take advantage of this journey and chant sri-krsna-caitanya prabhu-nityananda sri-advaita gadadhara srivasadi-gaura-bhakta-vrnda. Then you'll get Krsna, surely. This land is Caitanya Mahaprabhu's birthplace. Anyone who takes shelter of Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu is glorified.
Thank you very much.
Sri Abhirama Thakura
Sri Abhirama Thakura was a great devotee and associate of Lord Nityananda Prabhu. He was so learned in the scriptures and such a powerful preacher that atheists would flee from him.
Sri Abhirama Thakura lived in the village of Khanakula Krishnanagar, in what is now the Hooghly district of West Bengal. Lord Krsna once told Abhirama Thakura in a dream that in a Deity form He was buried in Khanakula Krishnanagar. The next day Abhirama and other villagers excavated the Deity of Gopinatha and established His worship.
According to the authoritative book Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika, which reveals the eternal identity of the associates of Lord Caitanya, Sri Abhirama Thakura is the cowherd boy Sridhama in Lord Krsna's pastimes. One day while absorbed in the mood of a cowherd boy, Abhirama lifted a huge log, turned it into a flute, and played it.
Abhirama Thakura had a whip named Jaya Mangala, and anyone he would touch with the whip would be filled with love for Krsna. One notable beneficiary of the mercy of Abhirama and his whip was the great devotee Srinivasa Acarya.
When Lord Caitanya was residing at Jagannatha Puri, in Orissa, He ordered Lord Nityananda to spread Krsna consciousness in Bengal, and He sent Abhirama Thakura and Gadadhara Dasa with Him.
A great festival is held in Khanakula Krishnanagar each year on the disappearance day of Sri Abhirama Thakura.
Japa as Meditation
By Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami
Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya had been a famous logician and teacher of the impersonal path, and his conversion to Vaisnavism is chronicled in several chapters of the Caitanya-caritamrta. It is said of Sarvabhauma after his conversion, "He did not know anything but the service of the Lord, and he always chanted the holy name of Sri Krsna Caitanya ... . Indeed, chanting the holy names became his meditation."
Meditation is the seventh stage in the eightfold mystic yoga system by which one gradually learns to sit still, control the breath, withdraw the senses from the world, fix the mind on one point, and eventually attain full concentration on the object of meditation. Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya attained that stage by concentrating on the Lord's holy names.
In Western countries, "meditation" has become a buzzword. In the 1960s the only meditation that people discussed was "Transcendental Meditation," by which one could purchase a mantra and meditate on it twice a day. Now many other forms of meditation and "mindfulness" are popular both in Christian and non-Christian traditions. People meditate for a short time each day to relieve stress and augment health. Srila Prabhupada said that serious yoga practice aimed at a spiritual goal is far too difficult in this age of distraction. Real meditation is full time.
For those who chant the holy names, hearing japa (private chanting on beads) described as "meditation" may sound distasteful when considered alongside the other processes practiced these days, but japa is meditation, and to achieve the result we must do it with attention.
Meditation involves controlling the mind, and that's difficult, as anyone who has tried to chant realizes quickly. Therefore, we sometimes wonder whether it is necessary or helpful to study meditation techniques and bring them into our own practice.
Srila Prabhupada didn't think so. Whenever devotees asked him how to concentrate on the holy name, he responded simply: "Just hear."
"But what about my mind?"
Prabhupada knew that by chanting we would learn how to chant; the holy name itself would teach us. The Bhagavad-gita assigns the path: "From wherever the mind wanders due to its flickering and unsteady nature, one must certainly withdraw it and bring it back under the control of the self."
Therefore, in the name of disinterest in other forms of meditation, we shouldn't abandon the practices common to all forms. We should begin our daily japa by calming the mind. We should chant our rounds (of beads) in a sacred space and control the breath by the chanting. We should fix the mind on the syllables of the holy name. We should maintain good posture. In the early days at 26 Second Avenue in New York City, we would sit slouched over as Srila Prabhupada gave his morning class. Once he stopped his lecture and asked us to sit straight. Although bhakti-yoga does not involve sitting postures and breathing exercises, he said, it is still yoga.
With the aid of these basic components of meditation, we can learn to become prayerful in our approach to the holy name. Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya was able to chant with no other thought than the name and Lord Caitanya's mercy.
Our biggest obstacles to chanting are indifference to the holy name and distraction. Bhaktivinoda Thakura addresses these points in his Harinama Cintamani, suggesting that we chant in the company of devotees focused on the holy name. By learning to emulate their mood, we will learn to concentrate. He also suggests we chant in a secluded place. By accepting the discipline of a vow to chant, we will be forced to fix our attention. Gradually we will move from an hour spent chanting to two hours to four hours, and eventually we will chant constantly.
And enthusiasm is vital. Bhaktivinoda Thakura states: "Those who chant distractedly are always eager to somehow complete the fixed number of holy names and be done with it. It is important to concentrate on the quality of the chanting and not on trying to artificially increase the number of holy names."
He adds that we should utter and hear the name distinctly. It is only by the Lord's mercy that distraction can be overcome. "Therefore it is essential to fervently beg for the Lord's grace with great humility. This is the living entity's only means of salvation."
Ultimately, our success in chanting will come from Krsna's mercy, but while awaiting that mercy, we can continue to chant with enthusiasm and concentration and, as far as we are able, make the holy name the central focus of our lives.
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 34
By Yamuna Devi
WHILE BENGALI MILK sweets such as sandesa and rasgulla are made with chenna cheese (milk curds), milk sweets of northern India are made with khoa, milk boiled down to a fudgelike consistency. Add sugar to khoa, and you have classic plain burfi. Other enduring varieties of burfi are almond, cashew, pistachio, coconut, squash, and carrot.
Today, most burfi found in Indian sweet shops is not made with true khoa, but with quick or instant mock khoa made by blending powdered milk with water, milk, or cream. Burfi made like this may look like the real thing, but its taste and texture fall far short.
In home kitchens, the ratio of sugar to khoa in burfi varies from region to region. The recipes in the class textbook, Lord Krishna's Cuisine, call for a small amount of sugar, showcasing the caramelized lactose sugars that intensify in flavor as the milk is reduced to a fudge. Add more as you please.
In the late 1960s, pera was one of the first sweets in the burfi family Srila Prabhupada taught his disciples to make. In 1969 he taught a few of us how to make a Vrndavana sweet called Vrndavana Pera—melt-in-your-mouth milk-fudge balls rolled in sugar crystals. The recipe for it is on page 628 in the class textbook.
If you are following this cooking-class series, make a few batches of peras using different types of sugar, such as fructose, Sucanat, brown sugar, date sugar, turbinado sugar, Florida Crystals, maple sugar crystals, or a local sugar used in your part of the world. Find the types you most want to use in the service of Lord Krsna.
To cook down milk to make khoa, the basis of burfi, takes time. So while making khoa, concentrate on the holy name. Listen to a tape of Krsna conscious music or discourse. Watch the milk as it boils, and listen to the whisper of sound it makes in different stages of reduction. Relish the cooking, and think of pleasing the senses of the Lord. Think purity, quality, and cleanliness.
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 1 dozen pieces)
1-inch piece fresh ginger, scraped
Finely grate the ginger, taking care to collect all of the liquid and fibers in a bowl. Transfer both the liquid and the fibers to a piece of cotton and wring out into a bowl as much ginger juice as possible.
Pour the milk and cream into a large nonstick pan and place over high heat. Stirring constantly, bring to a boil and cook until the milk and cream are reduced to a thick cream sauce. Add the ginger juice, the stem or candied ginger, and the sugar. Reduce the heat to moderate.
Stirring constantly, cook until the mass pulls away from the sides of the pan and holds its shape. Transfer to another pan or a tray and cool to room temperature. Divide into 12 pieces, roll into balls, and offer to Lord Krishna.
Solace for All
HERE ARE SOME experiences and realizations of devotees who give people Krsna consciousness by giving them books by Srila Prabhupada and his followers.
Death Wish Stopped
Once I was distributing Srila Prabhupada's books in a small city in Belgium, and I met a woman who listened very emotionally as I showed her a book. She told me she didn't need the book, because she had just bought some pills in the pharmacy (she showed them to me) and was on her way home to take them all at once and end her life.
Shocked, I asked her why. She said her husband had died and she couldn't live without him. I told her about reincarnation, and I explained that committing suicide would not solve her problems. I said that this knowledge was in Srila Prabhupada's books and they would be a great help and shelter for her.
She decided to read the book before taking the pills and asked me to come to her house so that she could pay for the book. After she had invited me to sit down, we started a conversation. She showed me photographs of her husband, and to my amazement I came across some pictures of she and her husband visiting Radhadesh [the main Hare Krsna center in Belgium] during a marriage ceremony.
I said, "Hey! That's where I live! And the girl getting married there is my friend, and she's also here in town right now."
I went to get my devotee friend. As we spoke with the woman, she gradually became more and more enthusiastic and bought all five books we had with us. She promised us she was going to throw the pills away, read the books thoroughly, and keep contact with the devotees.
She kept her promise. Now she often visits the temple, and she opens her house for any devotee who wants to stay overnight or distribute books from there.
Haraprana Devi Dasi
I met a woman in Dingolfing, Germany, who at first wasn't interested in the books but then revealed she was very disturbed because her husband had recently died. I showed her a copy of Srila Prabhupada's Second Chance. After looking at the cover, she became thoughtful and looked at me, pondering whether or not she should tell me her problem.
She told me that her husband had been very cruel but she was such a faithful wife that even when he became terminally ill she nursed him until death. After his death she started having terrible dreams and then visions. She was regularly terrorized by his ghost. She had never believed in ghosts, but now she knew they exist.
I gave her three big books, and since we were right next to my van, I also gave her a copy of Reincarnation, a German book by Raja-vidya Dasa.
About a year later I met her at the same shopping center. She told me she had become convinced by the books and when she started reading them in her room, her husband stopped visiting.
She was very grateful, only lamenting that since reading the books, she could no longer relate to her mundane friends and their trivial talks in the workplace.
Bhaktavatsala Dasa adhikari
A few years ago in Norway I approached a woman in a parked car. She rolled down the window, and I handed her a book. On seeing the book, her face lit up and tears came to her eyes. She was so emotional she couldn't speak for a few moments but just swayed back and forth.
She then told me that twenty years ago she and her son had seen a group of devotees chanting in San Francisco. She was captured by the rhythms and the atmosphere of the chanting party, and without wanting to, she started to dance to the beat and couldn't stop.
Her son tried to stop her. "Ma, what are you doing?"
After a while a devotee went over to her and gave her a book. Now, on meeting me and seeing the same type of book she'd received twenty years ago, she felt the same ecstasy again. As she was relating the story, she demonstrated the dancing. She bought two more books, and I went away thinking, "When will the day come when I will appreciate Srila Prabhupada's books as she has—with joyful tears coming to my eyes upon receiving such a treasure."
Tapasa Dasa adhikari
Navina Nirada Dasa, a disciple of Harikesa Swami, has been a leading book distributor for many years. He heads ISKCON's book distribution ministry and travels worldwide to train and inspire book distributors.
By Urmila Devi Dasi
HOLIDAYS! A break from routine, a special mark on the calendar, a day that can absorb a child's mind for weeks or more beforehand. Holidays connected with Lord Krsna help children become absorbed in pleasing Him. The calendar of the Hare Krsna movement overflows with days to celebrate. Major festivals commemorate the divine birth, or appearance, of Krsna and His incarnations. Other festivals celebrate Krsna's pastimes and the anniversaries of the appearance and passing of pure devotees of the Lord.
Unfortunately, we might neglect to take full advantage of the intense spiritual effect Krsna conscious holidays can have on a child's life. On minor festival days, the occasion may pass by unnoticed, or there may be only a scriptural reading geared to an adult audience. Adults may even plan events mostly for adults. Children come to the adult gathering, but they simply learn that a holiday means being bored, or running and playing wildly.
How can our children find the spiritual highlights of their lives in festivals?
PLAYS: Putting on a play about the holiday is exciting for children. They love rehearsing, dressing up, and getting on stage. And they love pleasing the adults, who enjoy the plays in spite of (and to some extent because of) the imperfections. Older children can spend many weeks striving for professional results. They can also write or adapt a script, buy costumes and make-up, create the soundtrack, and so on.
Children can also prepare a dramatic reading related to the holiday. Such readings require far less work for the adults directing the show, and absorb the children's minds almost as much as a full production.
In the next issue, we'll look at celebrating secular holidays.
Urmila Devi Dasi and her family run a school in North Carolina. She is the major author and compiler of Vaikuntha Children, a guide to Krsna conscious education for children.
Maya Writes the Script
By Hare Krsna Devi Dasi
MAINE YANKEE, our state's nuclear power plant, is going to shut down. Unsafe, they say.
Thirty or forty years ago harnessing "the peaceful power of the atom" was the promise of the future. Promoters claimed, "Nuclear power's going to be so cheap they won't even have to bill you for it." But thirty years later the dream is over. We're not independent; we've been dependent on Maine Yankee. Cheap electricity? You call a $200-a-month electricity bill—for an apartment—cheap? And clean? Luckily, they're shutting down the plant before we have a Chernobyl-style meltdown. Now all we have to worry about is thousands of years of radioactive waste.
It wasn't supposed to be like this. Somehow our great breakthroughs in energy technology always end up causing unexpected trouble. Take petroleum. It was supposed to provide cheap, reliable energy. But then we discovered that supplies were limited and those who controlled the supplies raised prices.
Our solution: develop other sources of petroleum. Experts have determined that Azerbaijan has enough oil to meet the entire energy needs of the United States for thirty years or more. So now we have no more problems with our petroleum supply—or do we?
For starters, what about shipping it? The New York Times (September 21, 1997) says, "Depending on where the lines are laid, power over the West's energy supply may fall to Chechen rebels, irredentist Armenians, government-connected cliques of Russian or Turkish gangsters, Iranian mullahs, Kurdish guerrillas or mercurial chieftains of the Avars, Lezgins, Swanetians and other Caucasian ethnic groups that nurse ancient grievances of which the outside world knows almost nothing." It's a front-page article subtitled "Pipe Dreams."
In fact our plans to live luxuriously on cheap energy are pipe dreams, fantasies. They are like movies—only you could never sell a movie with a plot like that to any Hollywood director. "Too complicated. No one would believe it. The script is too complex." But there it is, too complicated or not.
The scriptwriter is Maya Devi, the embodiment of the Lord's external energy. She controls all material activities, and she's a great artist. Some artists use many themes in their work. Others present the same theme again and again in an endless variety of ways. That's what Maya does. Her theme: You can try to enjoy in this world, but you can't win. There will always be a snare. Better to give up trying and surrender to Krsna.
Our technical solutions come and go, but Maya always writes her script on the same basic plot line: First comes great hope for material progress. That develops for some time at the cost of immense energy and struggle. Finally the "progress" breaks down, causing great distress. If you know the basic script, seeing what's going to happen next is easy.
Maya's plots are always the same. Take the latest energy solution: fuel cells. Clean energy, no problem. Hydrogen and oxygen unite creating energy. Byproduct: water. So, no problem, right? But where do we get the ingredients? We can get oxygen from the air, but hydrogen must be "reformed" from another substance.
It turns out the most practical substance for the base fuel is gasoline. "We already have gasoline everywhere," said scientist Matthew L. Wald. "If you can actually reform gasoline, to give you hydrogen, that would be ideal. The infrastructure is already there." And where will the petroleum for gasoline come from? Try Azerbaijan. You can chalk out the rest of the plot.
Srila Prabhupada explains it in a nutshell: "We are trying to exploit the resources of material nature, but actually we are becoming more and more entangled in her complexities. Therefore, although we are engaged in a hard struggle to conquer nature, we are ever more dependent on her."
Isn't there any way out of this?
Srila Prabhupada explains that, too, "This illusory struggle against material nature can be stopped at once by revival of our eternal Krsna consciousness." Krsna consciousness means acting in harmony with Krsna's plan. Krsna's arrangement for human beings is simple living and high thinking. He has given us the bull to provide transportation and to help us produce our food so that our spiritual life does not have to be distracted by worrying about international trade relations or high-level politics.
So it's really our choice. Should society start taking steps towards simple living and high thinking, or should we keep on the path of complicated living and low thinking? Should we try to mold our lives to Krsna's plan, or should we keep letting Maya write the script?
Hare Krsna Devi Dasi, an ISKCON devotee since 1978, is co-editor of the newsletter Hare Krsna Rural Life.
Devotees are ready to take risks to assist the Lord in His mission
By Locanananda Dasa
ALL GLORIES TO Sri Krsna sankirtana, the chanting of the holy names of the Lord," Yajna Pu-rusa Dasa and I recite as the D train makes its way toward midtown Manhattan. "Sankirtana cleanses the heart of all the dust accumulated for years ..."
We're leading a party of twenty-five enthusiastic devotees to Fifth Avenue, where Lord Jagannatha's Rathayatra parade will take place in just a few days. More and more devotees have been arriving daily from all over the country to attend the festival, and our kirtana party is becoming more powerful and impressive. Jaded New Yorkers who have "seen it all" cannot help but notice our ecstatic chanting and dancing. The holy name is entering their hearts.
I joined the Krsna consciousness movement in Paris, France, in 1970, and from the beginning I loved street sankirtana—going out with devotees to chant in public. Being in our early twenties, we could go out all day long to chant, dance, and tell others about Krsna, without feeling the least bit tired. Our enthusiasm for sankirtana was irrepressible, and when we tasted the sweetness of the holy name, we knew we'd been favored by Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Most important, by performing this yajna, or sacrifice, despite adversity, we were assisting our spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, in his mission to spread Krsna consciousness throughout the world.
Now, twenty-seven years later, we're out for street sankirtana in America. As our chanting party rises out of the subway into the midday sun, we form two lines before heading to the front of the public library at 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue. Despite the ninety-degree heat, we dance with abandon and loudly chant the Hare Krsna mantra for all to hear.
After about an hour, a policeman tells us we've been chanting in a "quiet zone" (in midtown Manhattan?) and should move up the street. So we head north across 42nd Street. It's my turn to pass out books, and I decide to first get a drink at the water fountain in Bryant Park, next to the library.
My thirst quenched, I start to rejoin the devotees, but a businessman seated in the park on a green folding chair calls me over. He asks some philosophical questions, and I'm happy to answer from what I've learned from Srila Prabhupada's books.
Suddenly, I'm feeling sick, light-headed. Fearing I might have heat stroke, I excuse myself from our conversation. The businessman offers me his chair, accepts a booklet on the teachings of Prahlada Maharaja and an invitation to Rathayatra, and then leaves the park.
I sit down, but there's no relief. Soon I'm kneeling on the pavement trying to get comfortable. I don't have the strength or balance to rise to my feet.
Now I'm lying on the stone, and a policeman orders me to lie on the grass like everyone else. I stumble over to the wide lawn, but the sun makes me feel worse, so I move over to a shaded area and lie down on some matted vines. It's cool, and I start to feel a little better, but within a moment a gardener rushes over to me holding a sign he has pulled from the ground. It reads, "Do Not Lie on the Vines."
Another policeman comes over to order me off the vines and onto a bench. I comply, and a sympathetic woman offers me something to drink, assuming I might be diabetic. I thank her with a Prahlada pamphlet.
Now I'm feeling so alarmingly bad, I ask someone to have the policeman call an ambulance. Disgusted as I lie on the stone path amid cigarette butts and other filth, I begin to think of the sankirtana party, wondering if they will soon return this way. I hope to hear the sound of cymbals at any moment.
Several policemen are standing around me now. I'm clutching my beads, chanting Hare Krsna to myself, and wishing that by Krsna's grace some devotee might come by and help me out.
I overhear a conversation between a policemen and a passerby:
"Do you know this person?"
"Yes. He's from our temple."
"Where's your temple?"
"At 305 Schermerhorn Street in Brooklyn."
I look up and see a devotee standing over me. I've never seen him before. He just happened to be passing through the park.
"Are you leaving your body or something?" he asks. "The best thing to do is just chant Hare Krsna."
Introducing himself as Indranuja Dasa, he sits next to me, and we chant together, waiting for the ambulance to arrive.
I think, "Krsna is so kind that He has sent this nice devotee to help me prepare to go back to Godhead."
But then my material attachments start to hit me. "If I'm leaving my body," I think, "I'll be losing the association of my friends and family."
Anxiously, I begin to consider the pastime of Bharata Maharaja, whose path back to Godhead was blocked by his attachment to a deer, which he remembered affectionately at the time of death.
"If death is taking me now," I think, "I have to fix my mind on Radha and Krsna."
I picture the temple's Radha-Krsna Deities wearing a beautiful red and black outfit with jewels and gold trim. As I remember Krsna in this way, tears fill my eyes. My life is now completely in Krsna's hands, and if Krsna desires, I can leave my body at any moment.
The ambulance finally arrives, and Indranuja comes with me to the hospital. The doctors and nurses all want to know why a man my age is chanting and dancing on Fifth Avenue. I tell them Lord Caitanya wants us to spread love of God in this way.
"You're having a heart attack," one of the doctors says. "It runs in your family, but if you agree we can perform a procedure right now to save your life."
As they describe the details of catheterization and angioplasty, Indranuja Prabhu passes out. With no time to waste, I sign the release. I'm quickly wheeled into the operating room, where the procedure is to be performed.
In angioplasty, a probe enters the coronary arteries and chambers of the heart, releasing dyes that can be monitored on a TV screen. As expert as the doctors at Bellevue Hospital are, they have no information about the invisible soul residing in the region of the heart. Their knowledge is limited to auricles and ventricles.
Forced to lie motionless on my back for more than two hours, I softly chant the maha-mantra on my beads. At one point the pain in my chest is so excruciating that a nurse has to give me a massive dose of morphine just so I can breathe. I feel like I'm having a second heart attack right on the operating table.
By the time I'm on a bed in the intensive care unit, I realize that not only did I not go back to Godhead, but instead I'm forced to endure a severe karmic reaction for some sinful activity. Or perhaps it's Krsna's mercy to make me more serious about spiritual life. Either way, I'm determined to get back to spreading Krsna consciousness as soon as I'm well enough. I want to continue to fulfill the order of my spiritual master to chant, dance, become purified, and engage others in the sankirtana movement, which is meant to uplift all of human society.
Lord Caitanya predicted that the Hare Krsna mantra would be chanted in every town and village in the world. Echoing that prediction, Srila Prabhupada has written, "In all the cities, towns, and villages on the earth, from all the oceans, seas, rivers, and streams, everyone will chant the holy name of Krsna." In a mood of pure devotion Srila Prabhupada prayed to the lotus feet of the Lord: "As the vast mercy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu conquers all directions, a flood of transcendental ecstasy will certainly cover the land. When all the sinful, miserable living entities become happy, the Vaisnavas' desire is then fulfilled."
The more one is dedicated to the sankirtana movement, the more one may be called upon to take risks for the mission of the spiritual master. One may even have to put one's very life on the line. Being prepared to sacrifice everything to spread Krsna consciousness guarantees that at the moment of death we will go back home, back to Godhead. We don't have to worry about our next destination. By Krsna's arrangement we'll give up our useless material bodies under the most auspicious conditions and return to the spiritual world. Not forgetting the service we have rendered to Him in this lifetime, the Lord will enter our minds to steady our meditation on His lotus feet and draw us into the eternally blissful association of pure devotees engaged in His loving service. When we take every opportunity to spread Krsna consciousness and discuss topics of Krsna, we will never have to fear coming back to this temporary world of flickering happiness.
Locanananda Dasa regularly leads out chanting parties in New York City, where he has been living since 1982.
"We Are Offering, 'Here is God'"
During a morning walk in Los Angeles on June 25, 1975, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami speaks on the value of Krsna consciousness with Dr. J. Stillson Judah, then of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California.
Srila Prabhupada: Neither the theosophist nor the theologian has a clear idea of God. Do you agree?
Dr. Judah: I would make a distinction between knowing God and knowing about God. There is knowledge about God in various books, but one does not know God unless one somehow experiences God. I feel that this is the one thing the bhakti movement of Sri Caitanya has done: it has allowed its devotees to experience God, to know Him personally in a way that changes their lives.
Srila Prabhupada: That is the Vedic civilization.
Dr. Judah: Yes.
Srila Prabhupada: Na te viduh svartha-gatim hi visnum. Materialistic persons do not know Visnu, or God, nor do they know that the ultimate goal of life is to know Visnu. That knowledge is essential to human life. But it is missing. People do not care to know the ultimate goal of human life. That is their defect. Nobody cares to know, especially in this age.
So that is the defeat of human civilization. They have come to the human form of life. Now they must know what God is. Otherwise, it is defeat.
Dr. Judah: That's true.
Srila Prabhupada: The opportunity is given by nature, which grants the human being good consciousness to know God, Visnu. Now, practically, especially in the Western world, no one can say what is God.
Dr. Judah: That is quite true.
Srila Prabhupada: So, if we are offering, "Here is God," why do they not accept? What is the objection?
Dr. Judah: I think the great problem in the Western world is that it has always been involved in materialism.
Srila Prabhupada: That means the people don't want to know God. That is a very horrible condition.
Dr. Judah: That's true.
Srila Prabhupada: Not only horrible—it is the animals' condition. People who do not want to know God are just like the animals. Animals are uninterested in God. They have no church or temple. But in the human society, whether one is Hindu or Muslim or Christian, there is some arrangement for understanding God. Now people are also neglecting that, all over the world. The Communists hate to say anything about God. So ultimately people are coming to such a condition—no word about God. So that is the condition of ordinary persons today.
Now, apart from them, the theologians and theosophists are at least trying to understand God. But they cannot know God definitely. So why don't they accept knowledge from us? We are offering, "Here is God." Why should they object? If you do not know something and if I give you the information, why should you not take it?
Dr. Judah: That's a good question.
Srila Prabhupada: For example, to gain higher technological knowledge, people from India go to foreign countries. One can take knowledge from anywhere. There should not be sectarianism: "Oh, why shall I take knowledge from here and there?" Wherever knowledge is available, we should take it. That is the real position of the seeker of knowledge.
Canakya Pandita says, "If in a pot of poison there is a little nectar, take the nectar." And amedhyad api kancanam: "If there is gold in a filthy place, take the gold." Not that the gold has been polluted because it is in a filthy place. If there is some gold in the filthy place, don't hesitate. Take it.
And nicad apy uttamam vidyam. Generally, people used to take education from brahmanas. So Canakya Pandita advises, "If actual education is available from a lower-class man—a sudra [laborer] or candala [outcaste]—take it. Accept him as your master."
And stri-ratnam duskulad api. In India, according to Vedic civilization a young man marries a girl only after scrutinizing her family tradition. But Canakya advises, "If a nice, educated, beautiful girl comes even from an abominable family, accept her." Ratnam means "jewel." If the girl is like a jewel although born of a low family, accept her.
One should accept anything very good, even if it is available from an undesirable place. So if you are actually seeking God and God is available from the Vedic literature, why don't you accept it? Why you should refuse that knowledge? That is not a very good sign.
Dr. Judah: No, that is true.
Srila Prabhupada: So we are offering God. Why should people not take seriously what we are offering?
Now, people may object, "Krsna is Indian, Krsna is Hindu, so we shall not accept Him as God." But in the Bhagavad-gita it is written sri bhagavan uvaca: "God said." So the verses are the words of God. And Krsna says, mattah parataram nanyat kincid asti dhananjaya: "There is no element superior to Me." Only God can say that. You may not like the word Krsna, but take the words of God. Who can be superior to God?
Dr. Judah: That's true.
Srila Prabhupada: So in this way you can read the Bhagavad-gita and remove the word Krsna, and it is still God's word. It is all factual knowledge. So why should people not take the science of God from Bhagavad-gita?
Dr. Judah: Yes.
Srila Prabhupada: God can say, "There is no principle superior to Me." And that is stated in Bhagavad-gita:
mattah parataram nanyat
"O conquerer of wealth, there is no truth superior to Me. Everything rests upon Me, as pearls are strung on a thread." Every word here is God's word. You may accept Krsna as God or not, but the words are God's words. That is Bhagavad-gita.
It's available to everyone,
By Prabhupadacarya Dasa
THE VEDIC scriptures prescribe for each age a particular religious practice by which people can attain the goal of life—love of God, or pure Krsna consciousness. The religious process for each age suits the resources and capabilities of the people of that age. Each age, or yuga, lasts hundreds of thousands of years, and we are now in the last of the cycle of four ages. The prescribed religion for the first age (Satya-yuga) was meditation, for the second (Treta-yuga) performance of sacrifice, and for the third (Dvapara-yuga) elaborate worship of the Deity in the temple. The prescribed religion for the present age, known as Kali-yuga ("the Age of Quarrel"), is the chanting of the holy names of the Lord. The Brhan-naradiya Purana (3.28.126) states:
harer nama hare nama
"In the age of Kali the only means of deliverance is to chant the holy name of the Lord, chant the holy name of the Lord, chant the holy name of the Lord. There is no other way. There is no other way. There is no other way."
For Everyone in all Ages
Although all the religious processes mentioned in the Vedas are authorized, having been given by the Lord Himself, only one—harinama-sankirtana,* the chanting of the holy names of the Lord—is effective for everyone at all times and places. People have become self-realized by harinama-sankirtana throughout the ages. It has been and still is the most effective means for achieving spiritual perfection and seeing the Supreme Lord, Sri Krsna, face to face.
*Hari is a name for God, nama means "name," and sankirtana means "congregational chanting" or "glorification of the Complete Whole [Krsna]."
People today would do well to learn about the harinama-sankirtana religious process, which is both practical and pleasurable. Chanting the names of the Lord doesn't cost anything, and one can do it anytime and anywhere.
Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu introduced the religious process for this age five hundred years ago. His followers in disciplic succession have continued to spread His teachings to this day. As recorded in the Caitanya Mangala, a sixteenth-century biography on Lord Caitanya, the Lord Himself predicted, "My commander-in-chief devotee [mora senapati bhakta] will spread the chanting of the holy names around the world." His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder-acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, fulfilled that prediction.
The Principle of Sacrifice
To understand the importance of accepting the religious process prescribed for the age, we need to understand the principle of yajna, or religious sacrifice. The Vedic scriptures teach us to show our appreciation and gratitude to the Lord, who alone provides us the necessities of life. We do this by performing yajna, or sacrifice. Pious souls naturally feel gratitude and devotion for the Lord, and they willingly perform yajna. Impious nondevotees, on the other hand, claim that material nature is all in all and that thanking God is useless. Spiritual life begins when one appreciates Lord Krsna and worships Him by the methods of sacrifice He has prescribed.
Lord Krsna says in Bhagavad-gita that by performing yajna one receives all material and spiritual necessities of life. And by neglecting yajna, He says, one becomes liable for punishment and wastes the valuable human form of life: "My dear Arjuna, one who does not follow in human life the cycle of sacrifice thus established by the Vedas certainly leads a life full of sin. Living only for the satisfaction of the senses, such a person lives in vain."
The Benefits of Chanting
The main benefit of chanting is that one gradually develops pure love of God, the ultimate goal of life. Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu explains that chanting cleanses the mind and "extinguishes the blazing fire of material existence," in the form of the miseries of birth, old age, disease, and death, all caused by our false identification with the material body. By reawakening our dormant Krsna consciousness, we come to understand our real identity as eternal servants of Krsna and naturally develop progressive spiritual qualities such as patience, humility, tolerance, fearlessness, and freedom from anxiety.
Having cleansed the mind of the dirt of materialistic thoughts, feelings, and desires, the chanter begins to taste the transcendental sweetness of the holy names. Pure devotees of the Lord have compared the spiritual happiness derived from chanting Hare Krsna to "an ever-expanding ocean of spiritual bliss." That happiness—the real happiness we all seek—is available to anyone who takes up the practice of chanting the holy names.
Lord Caitanya taught the essence of sincere chanting:
trnad api sunicena
In this verse Lord Caitanya reveals the proper mood for performing harinama-sankirtana: "One should consider oneself lower than the straw in the street, one should be more tolerant than a tree, and one should be prepared to offer all respects to others, without desiring respect for oneself. In this mood, one can chant the holy names of the Lord constantly."
The Hare Krsna Maha-mantra
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu taught that God has hundreds and millions of names, such as Krsna and Govinda, and one can chant any of them and receive immeasurable spiritual benefit. He Himself specifically taught the chanting of the Hare Krsna mahamantra ("the great chant"): Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Krsna means "the all-attractive person," Rama means "the highest pleasure," and Hare refers to Lord Krsna's spiritual energy (or, more precisely, His internal pleasure potency), known as Srimati Radharani. By chanting the maha-mantra one can eventually achieve the highest perfection even in this lifetime.
To benefit from chanting other Vedic mantras, one must chant with perfect meter and pronunciation and fulfill many other conditions not possible in the present age. One can reap the rewards of chanting Hare Krsna, however, simply by chanting the mantra and hearing attentively. Anyone can chant at any time, in any condition of life. Lord Caitanya, in his treatise on chanting, known as Siksastaka, has written, "There are no hard and fast rules for chanting Hare Krsna."
One can chant Hare Krsna loudly in a group, softly to oneself, or even within the mind. Loud chanting has the added benefit of allowing other living beings to hear the holy names. This fits well with one of the characteristics of real religion: everyone should benefit from its performance. The Vedas proclaim, sarve sukhino bhavantu: "Let everyone be happy." More than any other religious process, harinama-sankirtana fulfills that need in human society. Lord Caitanya proclaims, "All glories to the congregational chanting of the holy names. It is the prime benediction for humanity at large because it spreads the rays of the benediction moon." (Siksastaka 1)
Devotees in the Hare Krsna movement perform the traditional methods of congregational chanting called kirtana and bhajana. Though the word kirtana in its broadest sense means simply "glorification," it often refers to group singing of Hare Krsna accompanied by percussion instruments, such as gongs, drums (mrdangas), and cymbals (karatalas). During kirtana, whether in the temple or outside, devotees usually stand or dance. One person leads the singing, and everyone else responds.
Devotees hold kirtanas in public places so that others may benefit by hearing the Lord's holy names. Krsna considers such unintentional hearing devotional service, and it entitles one to render more service in the future.
Bhajana refers to the singing of devotional songs and prayers written by great devotees of the Lord. Devotees usually sit during bhajanas, which are often accompanied by melodious instruments such as the tamboura (a stringed instrument) or harmonium (a small hand-pumped organ), in addition to mrdangas and karatalas.
Chanting softly for one's own spiritual benefit is called japa. Srila Prabhupada taught the traditional practice of chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra on a string of 108 beads, often made from the wood of the sacred Tulasi plant. Initiated disciples in the Krsna consciousness movement vow to chant every day at least sixteen "rounds" (sets of 108). Beginners are encouraged to chant as many rounds as they can. It is helpful to chant a fixed number of rounds daily without fail (four rounds is a good starting point) and gradually increase to at least sixteen rounds daily. Srila Prabhupada writes in The Nectar of Devotion, "It is better if one fixes up a regulative principle according to his own ability and then follows that vow without fail. That will make him advanced in spiritual life."
Chanting is easier in the association of devotees, and everyone is welcome to chant japa with devotees in any ISKCON center during the daily japa period (generally 5:30-7:00 A.M.).
Japa can be thought of as "spiritual weightlifting"—the more you chant, the more you can chant. As we build our spiritual strength by chanting japa, we will gradually develop a desire for chanting and become joyful. Be patient, and don't expect overnight results (though they've been known to happen). Be enthusiastic to chant every day and be confident that your faithful performance of the prescribed religious sacrifice for this age will please Lord Krsna.
Chanting to Please the Lord
Most important is to chant with a sincere desire to serve and please Krsna. Because the Lord has instructed us to chant His names, we can be sure He is pleased when we do so. And when He is pleased, we automatically become happy. Krsna is the root of everything, so we benefit ourselves by pleasing Him, just as we nourish the leaves and branches of a tree by watering the root.
We don't even need to try for our own happiness in any other way. Everything is in the holy name, because the name is nondifferent from the Lord Himself. Harinama-sankirtana is Lord Krsna's greatest kindness upon the fallen souls of this age. He has given us an easy, effective means by which to please Him.
Prabhupadacarya Dasa, a disciple of Sriman Virabahu Dasa, joined the Hare Krsna movement in 1986. A small-business marketing consultant, he assists BTG in marketing and other areas.
Chanting aids—musical instruments, meditation beads, and so on—are available through the Hare Krsna Catalog (see page 36).
The following, by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, a predecessor spiritual master of the Hare Krsna movement, is taken from an essay that first appeared in the Thakura's monthly journal Sajjana-tosani, published in the 1880s.
THE RELIGION preached by [Caitanya] Mahaprabhu is universal and not exclusive. ... The principle of kirtana as the future church of the world invites all classes of men, without distinction of caste or clan, to the highest cultivation of the spirit. This church, it appears, will extend all over the world and take the place of all sectarian churches, which exclude outsiders from the precincts of the mosque, church, or temple.
Lord Caitanya did not advent Himself to liberate only a few men of India. Rather, His main objective was to emancipate all living entities of all countries throughout the entire universe and preach the Eternal Religion. Lord Caitanya says in the Caitanya-bhagavata: "In every town, country, and village, My name will be sung." There is no doubt that this unquestionable order will come to pass. ...
Oh, for that day when the fortunate English, French, Russian, German, and American people will take up banners, mrdangas [drums], and karatalas [cymbals], and raise kirtana throughout their streets and towns. When will that day come?
The Great Chant for Deliverance
An excerpt from Srila Prabhupada's essay "Chanting the Hare Krsna Mantra"
THE TRANSCENDENTAL vibration established by the chanting of Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare is the sublime method for reviving our transcendental consciousness. As living spiritual souls, we are all originally Krsna conscious entities, but due to our association with matter from time immemorial, our consciousness is now polluted by the material atmosphere. ...
The chanting of Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare is the transcendental process for reviving this original pure consciousness. By chanting this transcendental vibration, we can cleanse away all misgivings within our hearts. The basic principle of all such misgivings is the false consciousness that I am the lord of all I survey.
Krsna consciousness is not an artificial imposition on the mind. This consciousness is the original natural energy of the living entity. When we hear the transcendental vibration, this consciousness is revived. This simplest method of meditation is recommended for this age. By practical experience also, one can perceive that by chanting this maha-mantra, or the Great Chanting for Deliverance, one can at once feel a transcendental ecstasy coming through from the spiritual stratum. ...
When one is factually on the plane of spiritual understanding, surpassing the stages of sense, mind, and intelligence, he is then on the transcendental plane. This chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra is enacted from the spiritual platform, and thus this sound vibration surpasses all lower strata of consciousness—namely sensual, mental, and intellectual. There is no need, therefore, to understand the language of the mantra, nor is there any need for mental speculation nor any intellectual adjustment for chanting this maha-mantra. It springs automatically from the spiritual platform, and as such, anyone can take part in vibrating this transcendental sound without any previous qualification. ...
Invincible Weapons For Krsna and Arjuna
Lord Krsna receives the Sudarsana discus,
Translated from Sanskrit by Hridayananda Dasa Goswami
The sage Vaisampayana is telling the history of the Pandavas to their great-grandson, King Janamejaya. As the narration continues, Arjuna and Lord Krsna, while on a pleasure outing to the Yamuna River, receive divine weapons from Varuna, the lord of the waters.
WHILE LIVING in Indraprastha, the Pandavas subdued other regional rulers by the order of King Dhrtarastra and Bhisma, son of Santanu, [and brought those regions within a peaceful and unified Pandava administration]. Taking shelter of Dharmaraja Yudhisthira, the king of virtue, the whole world lived happily, for people depended on the righteous deeds of the king, just as they depended on their own bodies.
Yudhisthira, the noble Bharata king, attended to his religious duties, economic policies, and personal desires in a balanced way, just as a man with acquaintances respects them as he does himself and yet sees them as different from himself. So ideal and balanced was the king in his worldly and religious affairs that religion, prosperity, and personal satisfaction seemed to incarnate on the earth in his person, although he was always apart from these three, as a fourth and transcendental being.
The Vedas found in the king the supreme student, the grand rituals gained in him the best performer and patron, and the social classes found in him a pure-hearted protector. In his realm, wisdom gained a shelter, the laws of God found a true friend, and the goddess of fortune found a proper place to live. The king appeared nobler and finer in the company of his four brothers, as a grand ritual becomes lovelier when united with the four Vedas.
Equal in splendor to Brhaspati, the leading priests headed by Dhaumya surrounded and assisted Yudhisthira. The eyes and hearts of the citizens rejoiced exceedingly in that king of virtue, as much as in the spotless full moon. The citizens delighted in their destined good fortune, and whatever they desired in their hearts the king endeavored to give them. The king was wise, his speech elegant, and never did he utter a word that was untrue, unkind, deceitful, or unbefitting. He wielded unusual power, but he found his pleasure in working for the good of all people and of his own soul. So did all the Pandavas rejoice in the goodness of their works, for the fever of personal ambition did not burn in their hearts. Yet by their personal prowess they instilled a fear of God in all the rulers of the earth.
After Lord Krsna had been staying for some days in Indraprastha, Arjuna said to Him, "Krsna, the hot days are here; let us go to the Yamuna River. We will enjoy there, Madhusudana, with our close friends, and we'll come back in the evening—that is, Janardana, if you like the idea."
Sri Krsna said, "Yes, son of Kunti, I also like the idea. Let us go with our close friends and enjoy in the water as we like."
After informing King Yudhisthira and receiving his permission, Arjuna and Govinda departed, surrounded by intimate friends. The area on the bank of the Yamuna featured large stocks of wealth, variegated garlands and necklaces, a large variety of excellent trees, both simple cottages and palatial estates like that of Indra, and a wide range of tasty food, drink, and other comforts. Indeed, that spot had everything needed for the enjoyment of Arjuna and Krsna. Arriving there, the two friends and their companions entered the area, which was filled with all types of shining jewels, and they all began to play and enjoy as they wished.
Some of the women sported in the forest, some in the water, and some in the nice cottages. They enjoyed especially wherever Krsna and Arjuna went and always tried to please them. At the height of the excitement, Draupadi and Subhadra offered gifts of priceless clothes and jewelry to all the ladies present. Some of the ladies danced joyfully, while others cried out in the joy of celebration. Some ladies laughed, and others drank fine beverages. Some ladies wept joyfully, some wrestled one another, and others had serious discussions in secluded spots. All around, the opulent forest was filled with the exquisitely rich sounds of flute, vina, and mrdanga drum.
As the festival was thus progressing, Krsna and Arjuna, the darlings of the Kurus and Dasarhas, went nearby to see a particularly charming area. Those two mighty souls who conquer hostile cities then sat down on most valuable seats. They enjoyed reminiscing about their many adventures and romances.
The Fire-god's Request
As they sat together very happily, like the two Asvin gods seated in heaven, a brahmana arrived and approached them. Standing tall like a big sala tree, with tawny skin, a reddish mustache, an evenly proportioned body, and an effulgence like molten gold, he shone like the newly risen sun. He was dressed in black, with matted locks and a face as delicate as a lotus petal. Blazing with prowess, the tawny man came near Krsna and Arjuna, and the two quickly stood up to receive the radiant brahmana.
The brahmana said to Arjuna and Lord Krsna, leader of the Satvatas, "You are the two great heroes of the world, standing here by the Khandava Forest. I am a brahmana who consumes immeasurable amounts, and I now beg you two, Krsna and Arjuna, that for once you offer me my full satisfaction of food."
Thus addressed, Krsna and Arjuna said to him, "Tell us what food will satisfy you, and we will try to bring it."
The brahmana replied, "I do not eat ordinary grains, for you may know me to be the god of fire. Thus you should offer food appropriate for me.
"Lord Indra always carefully guards this Khandava Forest, and because such a mighty person guards it, I cannot burn it. His friend Taksaka the serpent always resides here with his associates, and for his sake thunderbolt-wielding Indra carefully guards this forest. Many other beasts are equally protected by this arrangement. I desire to burn the forest, but Indra's might does not allow me to do so. As soon as he sees me blazing, he rains down water from the clouds, and I am unable to burn this desirable forest. But now that I have met you two, who can help me by your unique skill with weapons, I can burn the Khandava Forest, [which I have selected as my food]. With your supreme knowledge of weapons, you shall ward off the torrents of water and all the beasts on all sides."
Addressed thus, fearsome Arjuna replied to the sacred Fire, "I have many ultimate weapons of divine power, so I can battle many thunderbolt-wielding Indras. But, my lord, I do not have a bow that fits the strength of my arms and withstands my speed and power in battle. And when I am firing rapidly, I need an inexhaustible supply of arrows. Moreover, my chariot will not hold all the arrows I need. I would also request divine horses, white and as swift as the wind, and a chariot that rumbles like the clouds and shines as bright as the sun.
"Similarly, Sri Krsna does not have a weapon equal to His strength, a weapon by which He will slay the serpents and ghosts in battle. My lord, you must declare the means by which to accomplish this task, so that I may ward off Indra when he sends showers into the great forest. Whatever is to be done by manly prowess, we two shall do, O Fire, but you, my lord, should provide the proper instruments."
The Mighty Weapons
Thus addressed, the smoke-crested lord of fire fixed his mind on Varuna, desiring to see that lord of worlds.
Varuna is the son of Aditi, and he is the god of the seas. Within his watery abode he understood that he was being thought of. He appeared to Fire, who welcomed him and spoke to the lord of the waters, who is the fourth among the leaders of the universe, being a protector and controller:
"King Soma once gave you a bow and quiver. Please give me both of them at once, and also the chariot marked with Hanuman, for Arjuna will perform a great task with that Gandiva bow. And also, for my sake, please give the great disc to Sri Krsna."
"Yes, I shall give," Varuna replied.
Varuna then presented to Arjuna the amazingly potent bow, a weapon that always increased the glory and fame of its owner, for it could not be conquered by any other weapon, being the harasser of all arms, the great one among weapons, devastating to enemy armies. That one weapon was equal to a hundred thousand weapons, and it made its owner's kingdom flourish. Multicolored with all the hues, smooth and shining, without a scratch or scar, it had been worshiped by the gods and Gandharvas since time immemorial.
Varuna gave Arjuna that jewel of bows, two great quivers of inexhaustible shafts, and a chariot yoked to divine horses, its banner marked with Hanuman, the foremost of monkeys. The silver Gandharva horses were garlanded in gold. They moved at the speed of the mind or the wind and flashed like swift white clouds. The chariot had all necessary equipment. It could not be conquered by gods or demons, and it radiated light and reverberated with a deep rumbling sound. Its beauty captivated the mind of all who beheld it. Visvakarma, the lord of design and construction, had created it by the power of his austerities, and its form, like that of the sun, could not be precisely discerned. By mounting this chariot, as big as an elephant or a cloud and blazing with splendor, the Moon had overcome the wicked Danavas.
Atop this finest chariot rested a flagstaff that shone like Indra's thunderbolt. It was made of gold and uniquely attractive. On the staff was the divine Hanuman, a transcendental monkey with the marks of the lion and tiger. Situated atop the chariot, he seemed to roar out and shine with power. On the flag were all kinds of powerful creatures, whose fierce roars destroyed the consciousness of enemy armies.
Arjuna walked reverently around the unique chariot, which shone with variegated flags, and he offered his obeisances to the Supreme Lord and to the secondary deities who had delivered the marvelous car.
Tightly fitted with armor, his sword and wrist- and finger-guards in place, Arjuna mounted the chariot as a pious man mounts the celestial craft that takes him to heaven. Firmly grasping the divine and glorious Gandiva bow, which had been constructed long ago by Brahma, Arjuna rejoiced. Bowing to the sacred fire, the hero then gripped the bow and, exerting his power, strung it with a proper cord. When mighty Arjuna strung his bow, the twanging sound was so piercing that the minds of those who heard it shuddered.
Having obtained a suitable chariot and bow, along with two inexhaustible quivers of arrows, the son of Kunti was now ready and enthusiastic to assist the god of fire, who then gave Lord Krsna a discus whose hub was a thunderbolt. Holding again His eternal fiery weapon, which is ever devoted to Him, the Lord was ready to perform His pastimes.
Fire then said to the Lord, "My dear Krsna, slayer of Madhu, with this weapon You will undoubtedly conquer in battle, even against superhuman opponents. With this weapon You will be superior in battle to the human beings and even to the gods, and certainly the Nagas, the Raksasas, the Pisacas, and the wicked Daityas—no matter how excellent your enemy may be. Whenever You throw this weapon, my dear Madhava, it will strike down the enemy in battle, without ever being struck, and it will always return to Your hand."
Varuna then gave Lord Krsna a terrifying club named Kaumodaki, which roared like a thunderbolt and brought death to the wicked. Krsna and Arjuna were enlivened by the gifts.
Prepared with weapons, missiles, chariots, and banners, they said to Fire, "We are ready to fight, lord, even with all the gods and demons, what to speak of Indra, who desires to fight for the sake of a serpent."
Arjuna said, "When Sri Krsna, chief of the Vrsnis, hurls His disc weapon, no one in the universe will stand unconquered. Taking the Gandiva bow and these two inexhaustible quivers of arrows, I too, O Fire, shall boldly conquer all the worlds in battle. My lord, we are ready to help you, and as soon as you like, you may surround the forest with a great fire. This very moment, blaze away as you desire!"
Hridayananda Dasa Goswami, who holds a Ph.D. in Indology from Harvard University, is Professor of Vaisnava Theology at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. He frequently speaks at universities and is translating the Mahabharata and other Sanskrit works.
The worldwide activities of the International Society for Krishna consciousness (ISKCON)
ISKCON Nagpur has moved to a new, larger place, in the heart of the city. Construction of the temple in the 27-room building is scheduled for completion in March.
ISKCON devotees took part in Kerala's Onam float parade last September with a Rathayatra cart bearing Lord Jagannatha, Lord Balarama, and Subhadra Devi. Popularly known as Kerala's "harvest festival," Onam marks the appearance day of Lord Vamanadeva, Lord Krsna's incarnation as a dwarf brahmana. Among the more than half a million people attending the parade were Kerala's chief minister and his cabinet.
Recent ISKCON Rathayatras: Kurukshetra (September), Chandigarh (November), and Dwaraka (January).
ISKCON's new temple in New Delhi is scheduled to open on the appearance day of Lord Ramacandra (Rama Navami), April 5.
The Bhaktivedanta Swami Gurukula in Vrndavana is accepting applications for boys ages 5-14 for the 1998-99 school year (starts in July). Contact: Bhaktivedanta Swami International Gurukula, Bhaktivedanta Swami Marg, Vrindavana, Mathura UP, India; tel: +91-565-442-676; fax: +91-565-442-952; e-mail: email@example.com
An eminent Muslim scholar visited ISKCON's center in Juhu, Mumbai, last September for an interfaith dialogue. The scholar, Dr. Shuaib Sayed, from the Islamic Research Foundation, met with Airavata Dasa, head of the department of interfaith communications at ISKCON's center in Mayapur, West Bengal.
ISKCON Honolulu won an award for its float in the Aloha Parade for the ninth straight year. Judges for the nationally televised parade presented devotees with the Board of Directors Award for their Rathayatra cart, elaborately decorated with a wide assortment of tropical plants and flowers.
Readers of The Tucson Weekly voted Govinda's Restaurant in Tucson, Arizona, the winner in three categories in the "Best of Tucson" contest: Best Fine Dining, Best Vegan Selections, and Best Lunch Under $5. Devotee-run Govinda's has been open since 1992. It is situated in the Chaitanya Cultural Center, a beautifully landscaped acre of oasis in the middle of the desert.
Devotees at ISKCON's Murari-sevaka farm celebrated, last November, the twentieth anniversary of the installation of their presiding Deities, Sri Nitai-Gauracandra.
Bhaktivedanta Manor, the Hare Krsna temple outside London, hosted an Open Day late last year, with guided tours of the building and its estate. Visitors viewed Vedic sculptures, cooking demonstrations, and traditional and contemporary dance, music, and theater.
The BBC World Service broadcasted a radio play last September about Lord Krsna's advent. The play was performed by devotees from Bhaktivedanta Manor. Potential audience: 35 million listeners.
Rathayatras held in Spain last fall: Madrid, Barcelona, and Torremolinos (Malaga).
A September issue of Time magazine's European edition ran the following letter from Bhakti Vikasa Swami, a frequent contributor to Back to Godhead:
MacDonalds and Coca-cola symbolize a grossly materialistic civilization centered on profit making and mindless enjoyment. That America is foisting this type of anti-culture on other countries is nothing to be proud of. Traditional religious, family and social values are being crushed by the relentless steamroller of Western culture. Aestheticism and finer sentiments are subjugated to lust, violence and endless passion for material things. America, take another look at yourself, lest you go down in history as the most exploitive and intellectually decrepit civilization ever.
Bhakti Vikasa Swami
Devotees held a Rathayatra festival in Sofia, Bulgaria, last September.
ISKCON's Hong Kong center celebrated its tenth anniversary this past November. ISKCON has been present in Hong Kong since the early seventies and at the present location for the past ten years.
Former prime minister David Lange visited ISKCON's New Varshan Farm last summer to see the progress on the new temple devotees are building there. The farm is near Auckland. While prime minister, Mr. Lange had been chief guest at the ground-consecrating ceremony for the temple. In an address following his tour, Mr. Lange told the devotees, "You are part of an international organization which has won great respect from people and has changed people's lives through their devotion in extraordinary ways. I want to thank you for that and for the contribution you make to New Zealand."
The island of Kalimantan (Borneo) is seeing a spreading of Krsna consciousness, with devotees in the cities of Palangkaraya, Pontianak, and Botang. Ratna Puspita Devi Dasi, the first devotee from a Dayak family, has donated land for a temple. The Dayaks are the original inhabitants of Kalimantan.
Bhakti Raghava Swami, from Canada, spent a week last fall teaching Krsna consciousness to the island's eager new devotees. While in Indonesia he also met with the twenty-five or so devotees on the island of Lombok, in Western Lesser Sunda Islands, just east of Bali.
A radio program in Kaduna, Nigeria, aired a message of Krsna consciousness last fall, through a reading from a book by ISKCON leader Bhakti Tirtha Swami, followed by an interview with an ISKCON devotee. The program was broadcast by the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, said to beam the most powerful signal in Africa.
Lohitaksa Dasa, a disciple of Srila Prabhupada's, left this world on November 29, in Sri Vrndavana Dhama, India. Lohitaksa was well known in ISKCON for his talent as a Krsna conscious actor. Since the early seventies, he took part in many dramatic presentations of Krsna's pastimes, on some occasions with Srila Prabhupada in the audience. Lohitaksa rendered devotional service not only in New York but also in Europe. And in 1975 he served the Deities in Vrndavana. In his last days, he came from New York City to Vrndavana. He left this world a week later.
BTG has learned of the passing away, some months ago, of Sri Damodar Prasad Shastri. Shastriji was the Ayurvedic doctor who expertly and devotedly attended Srila Prabhupada during Prabhupada's last days on earth.
The Mercy of Caitanya Mahaprabhu
A godbrother of Srila Prabhupada's remembers their early friendship and their meeting again after many years.
Dr. O.B.L. Kapoor, a scholar and devotee, and a friend of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, gave this interview at his home in Vrndavana, India, in October 1996. The interviewer, Hari Sauri Dasa, served as Srila Prabhupada's personal servant from November 1975 to March 1977. During that time, he kept a detailed diary that has become the basis of his multi-volume book A Transcendental Diary. (If you'd like a copy, please see page 33).
HARI SAURI DASA: I understand that you first met Srila Prabhupada when he was a householder in Allahabad.
Dr. Kapoor: I was with Prabhupada for about eight years in Allahabad, from 1931 to 1939. We used to meet almost every day. I first met him in 1931 at the Rupa Gaudiya Math [temple and asrama]. The first time I saw him he was playing the mrdanga [drum] at the matha. There was a discourse that evening, and then sankirtana. After the sankirtana the leader of the matha introduced me to him as a research scholar at Allahabad University and a disciple of Prabhupada [Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura]. I had just taken diksa [initiation] from Prabhupada. After that meeting our acquaintance developed into friendship, and friendship developed into intimacy, and so on. We were very good friends. I used to call him Dada, "elder brother."
After 1939 we didn't meet for almost twenty-nine years, because I went out of Allahabad. I joined the government service, and he remained there. After some time he took sannyasa [the renounced order of life], and he was going about here and there, so we never met.
We finally met in 1967, here in Vrndavana. In 1967 I retired and came to Vrndavana to settle down. One day I had gone to the Radha Damodara temple. [Bhaktivedanta Swami] Prabhupada had come from the West, and he was staying in a room at the Radha-Damodara temple. I was sitting, waiting for someone, on the verandah just outside his room. And Prabhupada came out.
He was dressed in saffron. I had never seen him like that before. I had only known him as Abhay Babu, as a householder and a businessman. He was now in saffron with a tridandi [renunciant's staff] in his hand, and two disciples in saffron were following him, like sadhus.
I couldn't recognize him; thirty years had made a difference in his appearance, and he was dressed in saffron. But he seemed to be looking, trying to recognize me. Then he hazarded a guess. He said, "Dr. Kapoor?"
Oh, I recognized him from his voice! I said, "Abhay Babu?" And he embraced me.
HSD: A very happy meeting.
DK: Yes. He was going somewhere, but he canceled his plans. He took me inside the room and told me all about his preaching work in the West. He showed me the newspaper cuttings and so on. Very interesting meeting, very interesting.
In Allahabad we used to meet almost every day. Sometimes he used to come to my place, but mostly we met in the Rupa Gaudiya Math, in the evening during the discourse and kirtana.
HSD: Can you say something about how Srila Prabhupada conducted his household affairs while he was also developing his spiritual life.
DK: I didn't know much about his household affairs, because we met mostly at the matha in the evening. He had a shop. He sold medicines, and he also manufactured them. Once he manufactured a tonic, and he gave it to me.
I said, "That's nice, this gift of yours. I must accept it. But I wish you would give me the tonic which you yourself take—the tonic of Krsna-prema [love of Krsna]."
He said, "I don't have that tonic. But I have the formula."
I said, "Oh, wonderful! If it is not a secret, tell me what the formula is."
He said, "No, it is not a secret at all:
trnad api sunicena
This is the formula, and I am going to preach it all over the world."
*"One should chant the holy name of the Lord in a humble state of mind. One should be more tolerant than a tree, devoid of all sense of false prestige, and ready to offer all respects to others. In that way one can chant the holy name of the Lord constantly." (Siksastaka 3)
At that time I couldn't recognize the significance of his words, but he was going to preach it all over the world. I thought it was just a casual statement. But now I look back, and I can see that he was even then thinking and planning to preach all over the world, which he did.
HSD: Yes, very wonderfully.
DK: Wonderfully. Ten years, I think, only. All the world over he preached. Almost a miracle. Almost a miracle.
DK: Hmm. Unrepeatable. Even Emperor Ashok—he preached Buddhism, he was the owner of such a big empire—and even he couldn't do as much as Prabhupada did in ten years.
HSD: You once told me that you saw a great change in Prabhupada from when you knew him in Allahabad.
DK: Of course, in one sense there was a world of difference between the Abhay Babu I had known and the Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada I met in Vrndavana after thirty years. He was now the president of a huge organization, an international organization. He was preaching all over the world. All the same, he was as humble as ever. I could never have imagined that he could one day become Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada. I could never have imagined. He was so simple. But, you see, he had the blessings of [Caitanya] Mahaprabhu. It is the blessings of Mahaprabhu that made him Prabhupada.
Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day
by Mathuresa Dasa
AT A PARK IN San Francisco a group of former Haight-Ashbury hippies serves free meals to the homeless. In a small town in northern Florida a young lady brings her playful poodle to the local retirement home to cheer elderly patients. In a Calcutta slum, saffron-robed missionaries open hospitals for the poor. The finest part of the human spirit takes satisfaction in doing good to others.
Despite all good intentions, however, there are serious shortcomings to these noble efforts.
Srila Prabhupada explains, "Such an outlook of doing good to others in the form of society, community, family, country, or humanity is a partial manifestation of the original feeling in which a pure living entity feels happiness by the happiness of the Supreme Lord." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.3.10, purport) Intuition of our original love for the Supreme "is expressed in the manner of altruism, philanthropy, socialism, communism, etc., by the undeveloped minds of less intelligent persons."
Because most people strongly identify with their own bodies, they selfishly seek bodily pleasure, much like animals. Philanthropy is a step or two above this animal platform. Instead of loving only his own body, the philanthropist expands his love to his community, his nation, to humanity, or to all living beings. He wants to feed, clothe, shelter, educate, and protect other bodies. His mind is still undeveloped, thinking, "I am this body, they are those bodies, and we'll all be happy by serving the body well." But he has raised himself from the animal platform to the platform of doing good. In Vedic terms, he has raised himself towards the mode of goodness from the modes of ignorance and passion.
Despite his elevated position, however, the philanthropist is hardly better off than more selfish humans. Serving the body of society or the body of humanity doesn't bring much more happiness than serving his own body. Nor is society or humanity satisfied. As pure spiritual entities, we are originally accustomed to the unlimited eternal happiness of serving the Supreme Person, Krsna, of "feeling happiness by the happiness of the Supreme Lord." No amount of bodily service can satisfy our eternal selves within the body, either individually or collectively.
Nor do philanthropists have much success in serving the body. In America in the sixties there was a war on poverty, in the seventies a war on crime, in the eighties a war on drugs, yet poverty, crime, and drugs persist. They either won the wars or are still in excellent fighting condition, as they have been throughout history. In the Bhagavad-gita (7.14) Lord Krsna warns that without His assistance we cannot surmount the forces of His material nature:
daivi hy esa guna-mayi
"This divine energy of Mine, consisting of the three modes of material nature, is very difficult to overcome. But those who have surrendered unto Me can easily cross beyond it."
The fundamental forces of material nature are its three modes: goodness, passion, and ignorance. The animals are directed, or forced, predominantly by passion and ignorance, while human beings are forced by increased amounts of goodness, up to the level of the philanthropist, who is admittedly very good. But here Krsna indicates that material goodness is, as much as passion and ignorance, a force to contend with in surmounting the miseries of nature, rather than a force liberating us from those miseries.
Goodness not only fails to cure afflictions like poverty, but it diverts our attention from more serious ailments: The clothed, well-fed, and well-educated body grows old, gets diseased, and dies like any other body; the wealthiest philanthropist stays as much a target for suffering in the cycle of repeated birth and death as those he tries to help. The miseries of material life stay to remind us that by our very constitution we cannot live happily while forgetting the Supreme.
Deluded and exhausted by the three modes of material nature, everyone is rendered incapable of understanding the inexhaustible Supreme Lord, Krsna, who is above the modes. "The best among the fools who are thus deluded," Srila Prabhupada says, "are those who engage in altruistic activities ... Anyone who misunderstands the perishable body to be the self and who works for it in the name of sociology, politics, philanthropy, altruism, nationalism, or internationalism ... is certainly a fool." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.5.11, purport) For all his effort, the philanthropist becomes only the best of fools.
The philanthropist has the praiseworthy ambition to free others from suffering. He just doesn't know how. Krsna says that alone we cannot surmount His material nature and its miseries but "those who have surrendered to Me can easily cross beyond it." Those who surrender to God as His servants are quickly reintroduced to His spiritual nature, which is deathless and otherwise misery-free. In the spiritual nature, everyone feels happiness by serving Krsna's senses with devotion. Forgetfulness of this original happiness throws us into the miserable material nature, forcing us to serve our own senses.
Of course, many philanthropists and philanthropic organizations have religious affiliations and formally acknowledge the importance of worshiping God. But their activities most often stay on the platform of material goodness because of their vague or impersonal understandings of the soul and of God, the supreme soul. Even if, through great austerities, they raise themselves to a transcendental position, they return to the material nature for lack of shelter in service to the Personality of Godhead.
While sometimes appreciating God's position as the supreme creator and controller, these worshipers have little idea what He looks like, where He lives, how He dresses, what He likes to eat, or what He does in His spiritual kingdom beyond this material one. They therefore gravitate, in the name of serving God, towards serving in their goodness persons they do somewhat understand—the poor, the sick, the hungry and distressed—thus helping no one. They occasionally go so far as to say that the poor are God. "Those in goodness cannot understand the soul as a person," Srila Prabhupada warns. "This keeps them in goodness, and unless they are attracted by Krsna-katha they cannot be liberated." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.5.11, purport)
Krsna-katha means hearing, discussing, and glorifying the Supreme Lord in His personal forms. Such glorification purifies one's heart of all vague and impersonal conceptions of the Supreme. It powerfully impels one to render service to Him and to all living entities, whom Krsna claims in the Gita as His eternal individual parts. Devotional service to Krsna reduces, then eliminates altogether, the material miseries.
The best form of philanthropy, therefore—the only effective form—is to introduce oneself and others to the practice of Krsna-katha and devotional service. All other forms of welfare must continue, but always accompanied by Krsna-katha in order to develop and maintain the true perspective that doing good to others means helping them render devotional service with full knowledge and enthusiasm. Philanthropy without Krsna-katha is futile.
"Devotees are not unconcerned with the people's welfare," Srila Prabhupada assures us. "They are always anxious to see how the people can be made happy both materially and spiritually." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.14.7, purport) But they know that the root of all suffering is forgetfulness of our relationship with Krsna, that the miseries of material life are designed to propel us towards remembering Him, and that those miseries stay insurmountable until we do so.
By Hridayananda Dasa Goswami
A lecture given in Phoenix, Arizona, USA, on April 16, 1997, during the festival honoring the appearance day of Lord Ramacandra.
WE ARE CELEBRATING this evening Rama Navami, the appearance day of Lord Ramacandra. Many of you know quite well the history of Rama. Very briefly, for those who may not be so familiar, we are celebrating the appearance in this universe of a very important incarnation of God, the Supreme Lord who came to the world as Rama, or Ramacandra, in the celebrated Raghu dynasty a long, long time ago, before recorded history in the Western sense of the term.
Just as nowadays there are many bad leaders in the world, so also long, long ago there was a demon, or asura, named Ravana. The very name Ravana means that he made the whole world cry in anguish. Ravana had received a blessing from Brahma, the engineer or secondary creator of the universe, that he could not be killed by any god. Ravana did not ask for immunity from death at the hands of human beings, because he had contempt for human beings.
To understand this story, which traditionally has been understood as history, not as mythology, we have to also understand the picture of life that we receive in the ancient Vedic literature, which has come down to us from India. We find a much more cosmopolitan, sophisticated picture of the universe, not the provincial view we find in modern materialistic society—that we human beings are all in all. Modern scientists often ridicule former ways of thinking by saying that people believed the earth was the center of the universe and that all the planets went around the earth. Scientists laugh at this geocentric model. But they themselves have not improved upon this, because they are very much geocentric and anthropocentric, in the sense that, as far as they know, in the universe there is nothing but them; there is no life in other places. Sometimes they speculate that they may be discovering other planets, but as far as they know there is nothing else. They tend to ridicule the information we receive in ancient literature that the universe is filled with intelligent living beings.
It should not be taken as mythology when we hear that long, long ago Ravana received a benediction from Brahma that he would not meet death at the hands of the superior living beings who manage the universe. For example, an intelligent human being can understand that in this city, Phoenix, there are trained people managing. It's not automatically that the lights go on, that the traffic lights work, that there's electricity, that when you turn the switch on your tap, water comes out, that food is being delivered to the wholesale and retail markets in an orderly fashion, and so on.
These things are not going on automatically. But from the point of view of a child or an animal these things are automatic. Similarly, this modern notion that all these forces within the universe—the cosmic lighting, the cosmic water supply, the wind, and so on—are working automatically is not an advanced or scientific notion; rather, it's the view of a child or an animal.
So we can see practically that people have now become like animals. That is stated in Vedic literature:
The first premise here is that there is no difference between human beings and animals in the basic functions of eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. We eat, the animals eat; we sleep, they sleep; and so on. But dharmo hi tesam adhiko visesah: the particular superiority of human life lies in dharma. A human being has the capacity to ascertain and to willfully, consciously obey the laws of God. That capacity is normally absent in lower forms of life. And so a human being who is bereft of dharma—who in no way understands that there are laws of God and higher spiritual principles—is equal to an animal.
This is very simple logic. If you say in abstract terms that a is distinguished from b by a certain quality you can call y, then if you remove y there's no further distinction. Then a equals b. So because people nowadays have no sense of dharma, they are equal to animals.
The only dharma nowadays is that I have my rights. There's no further talk of dharma. The discourse is in terms of rights. I have a right to do anything, whatever I want to do to enjoy my body. My body belongs to me. I can kill my baby if I like. I can kill animals if I like. I can do anything. Because people have become like animals, because they have no dharma, they cannot understand the intelligence behind the natural arrangements.
Universal Managers Seek Help
So there are devatas, or gods, intelligent living beings who manage the universe, and long, long ago Brahma gave the benediction to Ravana that he could not be killed by the devatas. Ravana, being contemptuous of human beings, didn't ask for protection from humans. The devatas prayed to the Supreme Lord, "Please come to this world playing the role of a human being, because that is a loophole in Ravana's contract. Ravana can be killed by a human being."
The devatas wanted to maintain law and order without breaking Brahma's contract with Ravana. If you own a company and sign a contract with someone, even though the contract may not be favorable or may cause some harm, you want some solution that does not explicitly violate the terms of the contract, because law and order has to be maintained. So the request of the devatas is significant in that way.
It is also significant that God—the Supreme Lord, Purusottama, Bhagavan—can come down to this world. After all, if you are the owner, if you create some enterprise and it is under your administration then no one can stop you if you want to go to your warehouse, your factory, your office, your clinic, or whatever. Who can stop you? So if Krsna, or God, wants to come to this world, Krsna can come.
Now, as many of you know, God came and appeared as the perfect king, Rama, and there are so many stories told in the history known as the Ramayana. Somehow Ravana, this evil person, kidnapped the wife of Rama, the famous Sita, the ideal woman. She is called jagad mata, "the mother of the universe." On the pretext of rescuing Sita, Rama killed Ravana and saved the world.
If you study the character of Ravana, you find that in many ways he was a very advanced, educated person. And his kingdom, Sri Lanka, was very sophisticated. Even Hanuman, the great devotee of Rama, was impressed by the cultural level of Lanka. There were all kinds of performing arts and culture and poetry, and very beautiful people. Everything was organized very nicely. The economy was flourishing. There was exquisite architecture. Practically in every sense it would have to be considered an ideal place to live.
There was only one flaw in Ravana's program, as Srila Prabhupada repeatedly points out. The one mistake, the one fatal flaw in Ravana's program of social development, was that he wanted to enjoy Laksmi (Sita) without Narayana (Rama). Laksmi is the goddess of fortune, and her husband is Narayana, the Supreme Lord.
When Krsna was here five thousand years ago, He lived in Dvaraka, in Gujarat. So that place was also flourishing. The difference between Sri Lanka and Dvaraka, or between Sri Lanka and Ayodhya, the kingdom of Rama, was that in Dvaraka and Ayodhya people were accepting Laksmi with Narayana, whereas Ravana thought, "I will take Narayana's place. I will take Laksmi without Narayana." And therefore despite all his qualifications, he was destroyed.
It is plain to see that modern society tends more to the Ravana side, to take Laksmi without Narayana. That is called secularism, and it is causing modern problems. Everyone knows how the world is becoming poisoned. From the environmental perspective, the world is being poisoned because people's minds are poisoned by this evil thought that "I can take Laksmi."
The notion that "I can take Laksmi without Narayana" is wrong. If we understand anything from the Ramayana, from the glorious story of Rama, we should understand this point. We should not try to take Laksmi in any way, shape, or form, without Narayana.
We should rather be like the Ayodhya-vasis, the residents of Ayodhya. They had not become like Ravana. They knew Lord Rama as the proprietor of everything. From the Vedic point of view, the very first principle you find is that God is the supreme proprietor. The isopanisad, among all the Upanisads, has a special place historically because it is the only Upanisad directly taken from the text of a Vedic samhita, or treatise—the Sama Veda. In the isopanisad the very first statement is isavasyam idam sarvam: "Whatever exists in the universe is the property of God."
And Lord Krsna says in Bhagavad-gita, sarva-loka mahesvaram: "I am the proprietor, the great Lord of all the worlds." He also says, aham sarvasya prabhavo mattah sarvam pravartate: "I am the source of everything; everything emanates from Me."
Every word in the Gita is significant. Krsna says, iti matva bhajante mam: "Intelligent persons worship Me." This is the real point of the Ramayana. We should clearly understand the fault of Ravana. He did not recognize the position of Rama or Narayana.
Let us take advantage of this occasion to remember Rama and to rededicate ourselves to the real work of human life. If you study Ayodhya, you find that the residents were not impoverished. It was the most opulent city. It is not that by considering oneself a humble servant of Rama one becomes a loser. We can identify in some way with the residents of Ayodhya. We can see what their attitude was, how they were living. People talk about Rama-rajya, the reign of Rama. Of course, this is a controversial topic in India nowadays. But at least if we want Rama-rajya, we should begin with ourselves. We should ask ourselves, "How am I prepared to become an Ayodhya-vasi?" It's not simply a question of getting other people to do things; am I prepared to become like the residents of Ayodhya? Am I prepared to act as a loving servant of Rama the way those people did?
The real way to have Rama-rajya is to convince others to love Rama and to act in this mood, as loving servants of God. The residents of Ayodhya were prepared to do anything for Rama. When He was exiled to the forest, they were all prepared to go with Him. He had to convince them to stay behind, to keep His city going. It's not that they were prepared to worship Rama only if they would get some opulence. They were prepared to give up everything in a moment to be with Rama or to satisfy Rama. They could do anything for the satisfaction of Sita and Rama. So when a significant portion of the people have this understanding, then automatically, naturally, there will be Rama-rajya.
We place our trust in healers of the body,
By Devamrta Swami
In his book Perfect Escape, Devamrta Swami comments on the teachings of the saint Jada Bharata to King Rahugana, found in the Fifth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam. Having heard from Jada Bharata, King Rahugana is now speaking.
BECAUSE OF the material conceptions that have shackled my mind, I declare myself diseased. My body, made of matter, is full of dirty things, and my vision is polluted by pride. Your words of nectar are the right medicine for me, like vaccine for one bitten by a snake. Like cooling water, your instructions relieve one from the scorching fever of material attachment."
Have you ever known anyone afflicted with a terminal disease like cancer? Of course, in one sense everyone is a terminal case, as the death of the body is common to all. Nevertheless, we all want to live a full life span. Longevity is our expected privilege as members of the developed world. Just think what happens when an educated person of sufficient financial means receives a medical diagnosis that the end is near. Once the initial shock wears off, the person at once begins a desperate search for a brilliant doctor. We are all trained to believe that the frontiers of science will continuously offer new prospects for miraculous cures.
A wealthy patient eagerly researches even the most remote leads. Consider, for example, the famous American basketball player Magic Johnson. When he learned he was HIV positive, he at once deployed his millions to seek out the premier AIDS specialists in America. No possibilities were left unexplored.
Suppose you have bone cancer. Fortunately, friends in the alternative medical scene tell you of a doctor who has astonishing success reversing deterioration in patients who surrender to his or her radical prescriptions. Just visualize what your attitude would be upon arriving at the treatment center: "Doctor, I've heard all about your special therapy and its extraordinary possibilities. Conventional doctors have given me no chance to live, but I'll do anything you say to save my life. Your reputation is famous throughout all the journals of alternative healing. Please treat me. At least put me on the waiting list. I promise I'll follow your every instruction completely—no matter how much I have to change my living habits."
Bernie S. Siegal, alternative doctor and author, has sold millions of books recommending attitudinal healing. "Hope is therapeutic," he says. Although statistics show that a person with x number of terminal symptoms will die in y number of months, he tells of special possibilities. You could be among the exceptional cases—if you change your mentality. He advocates love, laughter, and doing what you like to do. Especially you should "live life to the max." Then you may qualify yourself for a complete remission, or at least a partial mitigation. People naturally flock to him for personal care.
Siegal says he wouldn't describe himself as a consummate optimist. Early in his medical career, he saw that although he was trained to help people live, everyone in fact dies. So he feels that if he can spread some happiness amidst the anguish of life, he has made a significant contribution. "I'm a realist," he said in a radio interview. "I know there's pain and trouble ahead, but I choose joy. As Joseph Campbell said: 'I'm here to participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world.' Life is tough, but since I'm here for a limited time, I choose joy. That's a choice we all have to make or we're not going to be grateful for life or be happy."
Judging by sales of Siegal's book, people appreciate his efforts. Like other alternative-medicine authors—Deepak Chopra, Larry Dossey, Andrew Weil—Siegal firmly insists on a reciprocal relationship of love and trust between the doctor and patient. The doctor must resonate with the patient's inner nature, so that the patient can arouse the dormant inner strengths crucial for the healing process.
The Western world easily accepts devotion to Siegal and his methodology. We cherish a doctor reputed for postponing disease and death. For a transcendentalist, however, the public's attitude differs. Society has hardly any idea how to encourage a genuine spiritual teacher. We don't understand the dynamics of the relationship between a bona fide spiritual guide and a student. Nor do we understand the goal of that relationship.
Take for example Joseph Campbell, the famous popularizer of mythology. Commenting on Westerners' seeking spiritual guides, the late scholar said: "I think that is bad news. I really do think you can take clues from teachers; I know you can. But, you see, the traditional Oriental idea is that the student should submit absolutely to the teacher. The guru actually assumes responsibility for the student's moral life, and that is total giving. I don't think that's quite proper for a Western person. One of the big spiritual truths for the West is that each of us is a unique creature, and consequently has a unique path."
Yes, each of us is an individual. Krsna, in the Bhagavad-gita, confirms the eternal individuality of both the minute living entity and Himself, the Complete Whole: "Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be." (2.12) Yet when living entities forget their relationship with the supreme source, they all suffer a common disease. Everywhere you'll find the same plague: misidentification with the body and mind, concurrent with an intense struggle to live an illusory life separate from Krsna, the Complete Whole.
The Srimad-Bhagavatam (5.5.18) warns that no one should become a spiritual teacher who cannot rescue a student from the cycle of repeated birth, disease, old age, and death. In fact, the text cautions that one should not even become a parent or a spouse if one cannot accomplish this most important task. Therefore, all Krsna conscious literature advises that one not accept the tutelage of a spiritual guide without investigating whether he can indeed supply all the spiritual necessities. But when you find a doctor who can actually heal the tumor of material existence, why not humble yourself in love and trust?
Doctors like Bernie Siegal aspire only to ease the pain in an admittedly tough and trouble-filled world. Certainly we do need to keep our bodies in the best possible health, and for talented medical help we should be grateful. But we should remember that even the most acclaimed doctors can offer only stop-gap measures in a temporary, precarious existence. For their critical aid in pursuing the ignorance that feels like bliss, we adore them. We desperately seek their guidance like drowning men battling for air. No arguments, just, "Doc, I know you can help me where all others have failed. Whatever you advise, I'll do without argument."
Actually, everyone is a terminal case—the death rate is 100 percent. Yet fed by scholarly and popular misunderstandings, we fail to value real therapy, real medicine, and to take advantage of Krsna consciousness.
"Physician, heal thyself." Why merely take part in so-called joy in the sorrows of the world? Why not learn to rise above illusion and teach others to do the same? The Srimad-Bhagavatam (5.5.4) says: "When a person considers sense gratification the aim of life, he certainly becomes mad after materialistic living and engages in all kinds of sinful activity. He does not know that due to his past misdeeds he has already received a body which, although temporary, is the cause of his misery. Actually the living entity should not have taken on a material body, but he has been awarded the material body for sense gratification. Therefore I think it not befitting an intelligent person to involve himself again in the activities of sense gratification by which he perpetually gets material bodies one after another."
Here we find a clear invitation to real welfare work: teaching others to avoid material existence altogether. That is the greatest gift. Rather than offering only temporary help, why not get to the root of the entire problem? Cure the bodily conception of life and alienation from the all-attractive reservoir of pleasure.
King Rahugana next tells Jada Bharata: "Whatever doubts I have regarding spiritual life I will ask you about. Although you have imparted to me mystic knowledge for my enlightenment, your meaning appears too difficult for my grasp. Please repeat your instructions in a simplified way so that I can digest them. I do have a very inquisitive mind, and I certainly desire a clear understanding."
The sage has adequately explained to the king a basic lesson in spiritual knowledge. A sincere student, however, does have the right to humbly petition the spiritual director for clarification. Krsna consciousness is the most profound art and science, and as such it requires continuous guidance through a heartfelt intimate bond between teacher and student. Contrary to foolish fears, the relationship does not resemble a dictatorship. For instance, Krsna is the Complete Whole and therefore the original guru. Yet after speaking eighteen chapters of the most wonderful knowledge to Arjuna, Krsna clearly indicated that Arjuna still had his options:
"Thus I have explained to you knowledge still more confidential. Deliberate on this fully and do what you wish to do." (Bhagavad-gita 18.63)
Krsna lucidly delineates the results of all possible choices. Yet even the Supreme Infinite, the original teacher, does not interfere with the tiny independence of the minute, finite living entity. Those giving knowledge and guidance on behalf of Krsna also do not wring submission and agreement out of potential students. Krsna consciousness is a voluntary affair of devotional love and service. The best way for a newcomer to approach it is through careful deliberation.
Devamrta Swami, a disciple of Srila Prabhupada's, joined the Krsna consciousness movement in 1973. He accepted sannyasa, the renounced order of life, in 1982. He now teaches Krsna consciousness in Australia, New Zealand, and the Orient.
A Blessed Departure
By Ravi Gupta
3:30 A.M. on Saturday the phone rang here in Boise. When my father, Ananta-rupa Dasa, picked up the phone, my aunt was on the line, calling from Delhi.
"Get here as soon as possible," she said. "Father is very sick. He's in the hospital. He's on a ventilator and in critical condition."
My father prepared for the worst. He packed several spiritual items to help my grandfather meet an auspicious death: tapes of Srila Prabhupada chanting, dust from Lord Krsna's holy land of Vrndavana, sacred water from 1,008 holy places that had been collected by devotees for Srila Prabhupada's Centennial, and a picture of our Radha-Krsna Deities, Sri Sri Radha-Bankebihari, who were so dear to my grandfather, Dr. Giridhari Lal Gupta.
My father left alone on the next flight to New Delhi. By the time he reached Jaipur, Rajasthan, on Monday afternoon, my grandfather's condition was slightly improved, and he was communicating through writing. My father spent half the night chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra by his side, while my grandfather fingered his own beads.
Beginning early Tuesday morning, my grandfather's condition quickly worsened. A sudden detachment overcame him. He stopped responding to questions.
Realizing the end was near, my grandmother, Revati Devi Dasi (formerly Ramavati Gupta), put on a tape of Srila Prabhupada chanting. My father sprinkled Vrndavana dust on Grandfather's body. My uncle, Dr. Sharad Gupta, placed a leaf from the holy Tulasi tree on Grandfather's forehead and sacred water in his mouth. Everyone gathered around the bed and chanted loudly with Srila Prabhupada's tape, while my grandfather gripped his beads.
The doctor came in and asked, "Why are you creating this noise?" The nurses also came in to make a few last checks and laughed among themselves about the "primitive" practices.
After the doctors and nurses had left, the chanting intensified and went on for a long time. My father held the picture of Sri Sri Radha-Bankebihari before his father's face. Grandfather opened his eyes for the last time and gazed at their Lordships' forms.
At 12:20 P.M., my grandfather mouthed the Hare Krsna maha-mantra and left his mortal coil.
That evening my father spoke on the Bhagavad-gita to all the relatives and friends who had assembled. He selected verse five of Chapter Eight: "And whoever at the end of life quits the body remembering Me alone at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt." My father explained the special significance of Lord Krsna's abode, as distinguished from the heavenly planets or the planets of the forefathers.
Two weeks before his death, my grandfather had stopped eating. He had also distributed chanting beads to close friends and implored them to chant the holy name. And he had written in his diary, "I have said good-bye to all my friends and relatives. Now I say good-bye to my life."
By the mercy of the pure devotee Srila Prabhupada and the instructions of the scriptures, he departed from his body in a most auspicious way. That is the power of Krsna consciousness.
That night, my grandmother, searching for some solace and meaning, found it in a copy of Back to Godhead magazine she'd picked up from her shelf. It was the May/June issue of 1995. The page she opened to had a short description of the life of Jayananda Prabhu, a disciple of Srila Prabhupada's who had passed away a few months before Srila Prabhupada's own passing. The description included part of a letter Srila Prabhupada had written to Jayananda Prabhu on hearing of his passing: "As you were hearing Krsna kirtana [chanting], I am sure that you were directly promoted to Krsna-loka [Krsna's abode]. Krsna has done a great favor to you not to continue your diseased body and has given you a suitable place for your service."
My grandfather's passing was distressful for those who knew him, but it showed the efficacy and value of Vedic culture and Srila Prabhupada's teachings. It also showed how much that heritage, in modern India, is being lost.
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.
Bhakti-yoga at Home
Austerity—Door to the Highest Pleasure
By Rohininandana Dasa
HAIR SHIRTS. Little sleep. Cold showers. Dry crusts. Contrition. Severity. No affection. No sex. No fun.
These were some of the images the word austerity conjured up for me before I met Srila Prabhupada, who attracted me to a life of austerity by teaching the secret of divine austerity (tapo-divyam), or austerity for the pleasure of Lord Krsna.
Srila Prabhupada pointed out that any reasonable person, whether materialist or spiritualist, will agree that the purpose of life is pleasure. Everyone wants to be happy; the only question is how to find pleasure that truly satisfies. He argued that all of us in the material world are more or less selfish but we don't know our actual self-interest.
Srila Prabhupada explained that we are part of Krsna, like leaves on a tree or fingers on a body. As the self-interest of a thirsty leaf lies in letting water find the tree's root, and the self-interest of a hungry finger lies in putting food in the mouth, so our self-interest lies in pleasing Krsna.
Krsna's interest is our interest because we're never separate from Him. The Srimad-Bhagavatam describes Lord Krsna as atmanam akhilatmanam, "the original soul of all living entities." So to love Krsna is natural. When we realize this truth, what may now seem an austerity will be a blissful act of love. The devotee sage Narada says, aradhito yadi haris tapasa tatah kim/ naradhito yadi haris tapasa tatah kim: "If I am worshiping Krsna, what is the use of extraneous austerity? And if I'm not worshiping Krsna, what is the use of my austerity?"
Yet until I attain my natural, healthy state of pure love, I need to act in ways conducive to that end, to create an external and internal environment where love can grow. Srila Prabhupada therefore taught that austerity means to voluntary accept some physical inconveniences for spiritual advancement. Whatever we wish to achieve involves some effort. But effort does not necessarily imply drudgery. As we learn the transcendental art of dedicating our lives to Lord Krsna's service, an apparent hardship or problem can become a joy, a labor of love.
We don't need to go looking for difficulty. We'll get it naturally, by our karma, just as we get ease. But austerity means performing our service to Krsna despite any inconvenience that might come along.
Srila Prabhupada said there's no need to undergo the austerities of bygone ages, such as meditating alone in the jungle, eating only roots and leaves, sitting surrounded by fire and the blazing sun in summer, or standing in freezing water up to the neck in winter. Rather, he taught the austerities outlined by Lord Krsna in the Bhagavad-gita (17.14-17):
"Austerity of the body consists in worship of the Supreme Lord, the brahmanas, the spiritual master, and superiors like the father and mother, and in cleanliness, simplicity, celibacy, and nonviolence.
"Austerity of speech consists in speaking words that are truthful, pleasing, beneficial, and not agitating to others, and also in regularly reciting Vedic literature.
"And satisfaction, simplicity, gravity, self-control, and purification of one's existence are the austerities of the mind.
"This threefold austerity, performed with transcendental faith by persons not expecting material benefits but engaged only for the sake of the Supreme, is called austerity in goodness."
Within the context of devotional service, this list of dos and don'ts—although in some ways resembling my original idea of austerity—becomes an exciting challenge. I've noticed that when I take up the austerities given in the list, I feel good, bright, and enlivened. I want to push forward along the spiritual path.
I also feel cleansed. Divine austerity acts like an invigorating shower, refreshing and cleansing us, no matter how dirty we may be.
The Sanskrit word for austerity—tapasya—includes the concept of heat. As heat purifies gold and increases its luster, so austerity burns away the dirty coverings of the soul and brightens one's spiritual luster.
Furthermore, Srila Prabhupada brought us a very special gift: the austerity called harinama-yajna, the sacrifice of chanting the holy name of the Lord. This transcendental austerity snaps material bonds, stimulates full life, opens wide the door to the highest bliss, and showers its practitioners with love. Our main austerity is to bathe in the brilliant waters of the holy name.
Rohininandana Dasa lives in southern England with his wife and their three children. Write to him in care of Back to Godhead.
The Lord is the bestower of all benediction. If someone gives something to the Lord, he is not the loser; he is the gainer by a million times.
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Pure devotional service in Krsna consciousness cannot be had even by pious activity in hundreds and thousands of lives. It can be obtained only by paying one price—that is intense greed to obtain it. If it is available somewhere, one must purchase it without delay.
Srila Rupa Gosvami
Even if one distributes ten million cows in charity during an eclipse of the sun, lives at the confluence of the Ganges and Yamuna for millions of years, or gives a mountain of gold in sacrifice to the brahmanas, he does not earn even one hundredth part of the merit derived from chanting Hare Krsna.
Srila Sanatana Gosvami
If one can understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the controller of all controllers, one can understand everything else.
Every man should act like this: when he meets a person more qualified than himself, he should be very pleased, when he meets someone less qualified than himself, he should be compassionate toward him; and when he meets someone equal to himself, he should make friendship with him. In this way one is never affected by the threefold miseries of the material world.
Sri Narada Muni
The highest worship is to worship Lord Visnu [Krsna], but even higher than that is to worship His devotees, the Vaisnavas.
Devotional service, beginning with the chanting of the holy name of the Lord, is the ultimate religious principle for the living entity in human society.
One who does not accept the transcendental form of the Lord is certainly an agnostic. Such a person should be neither seen nor touched. Indeed, he is subject to be punished by Yamaraja [the lord of death].
Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu
Nothing that a Goat Won't Eat
ACCORDING TO an Indian proverb, there's nothing that a goat won't eat and nothing that a madman won't say. Madmen? Sometimes it seems like we're living in a world of them, or at least a world of fools. The human impulse is to say something—anything. Something stupid, something contentious, something sweet, deceitful, smart, ridiculous, or empty. Big strings of words, amounting to nothing. It's astonishing.
Nearly as surprising: You can speak the most outrageous foolishness, and someone out there—most likely many someones—will for sure take it as sensible, even as urgently important.
People babble on like sea waves, other people babble back. And soon you've got a tumultuous roar, of no significance at all. Babble on, Babylon.
Behind those babbling tongues churn babbling minds, full of everything, empty of substance.
For which the Vedic remedy is the chanting of the maha-mantra: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
The purpose of the chanting is to pull the mind out of the din and fix it on one point: Krsna.
That point—Krsna—is not merely a point, but the ultimate substance. The word Krsna indicates the supreme reality, the Absolute, the original source of everything.
More precisely, the word Krsna is Krsna. On the material platform, a word and what it stands for are different. On the spiritual platform, Krsna and Krsna's name are the same.
So by chanting Hare Krsna, we leave behind the clatter of illusion and come in touch with Krsna, the Absolute Truth.
In the early stages of spiritual understanding, one realizes that Absolute Truth as an impersonal, all-pervading oneness. Further along, one perceives that Absolute Truth as the Supersoul, the source of all intelligence, the unseen guide within the heart. And when that unseen guide fully reveals Himself, one can see the Absolute Truth as the transcendent Personality of Godhead, free from all the grossness of matter yet tangibly real and specific in His unlimited names, forms, qualities, and pastimes.
It is when we come to Krsna that real talking begins. That talking is done by the greatest self-realized souls. And by those who accept, repeat, and relish the words of those realized souls and thus become realized themselves.
Of course, those who babble on about nothing will think that whatever they're buzzing about is of great consequence and that Hare Krsna is for fools.
Following in the footsteps of the Vedic sages, we'll go on talking about Krsna and chanting the maha-mantra: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.