Back to Godhead Magazine

Volume 32, Number 03, 1998


Welcome, New Readers
Escape to Krsna
Lessons from the Road
Lord Krsna's Cuisine
Schooling Krsna's Children
Book Distribution
How I Came to Krsna Consciousness
Spiritual Places
Mahabharata—The History of Greater India
Every Town & Village
Krsna Consciousness on Tape
The Vedic Personality Index
Srila Prabhupada Speaks Out
The Strategy of Atheism
Calendar Close-up
The Land, the Cows, and Krsna
India's Heritage
Vedic Thoughts
From the Editor

© 2005 The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International

Welcome, New Readers

His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada founded Back to Godhead magazine in 1944 to help bring people back to godly life and ultimately to God Himself in the spiritual world. As Srila Prabhupada explains in the opening article of this issue, when we forget that human life has a spiritual purpose we waste time in pursuits based solely on the body.

In the traditional culture of India, guided by the Vedas, most people understood the need to purify their consciousness in the quest for liberation. That's why they endured great hardships to walk on pilgrimages to holy sites, such as the ones in the Himalayas you'll read about in this issue. People in Vedic culture also understood that forces of material nature impel us to act in ways that slow our spiritual progress. In the article The Vedic Personality Index, you'll get a chance to learn just how these forces affect you, and that knowledge can help you plan your life for spiritual success.

In this issue you'll also get confidential information about Buddha and His teachings and see how God consciousness, or Krsna consciousness, fits into every sphere of life.

If you need help with unfamiliar words, please see the Glossary on page 51.

Hare Krsna.

Nagaraja Dasa adhikari
Managing Editor

Our Purposes

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

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Sun Spots

I found the article "Advanced Astronomy" [November/December] by Sadaputa Dasa (Dr. Richard Thompson) fascinating and educative. However, such articles lose creditability if they have fundamental or trivial errors. In various tables, the author lists the sun under the heading "PLANET." We all know that the sun is not a planet but a star. Similarly, the author lists the moon as a planet. I do realize that the ancient sastras [scriptures] may have listed these as planets. But I believe that Dr. Thompson is trying to demonstrate the accuracy of the numbers, concepts, and ideas found in these Puranic sastras, and their similarities to modern cosmological understanding. I feel that mathematical, statistical arguments lose credibility quickly if the author makes simple errors.

I also find very confusing the author's use of words like "higher" for lokas [planets] such as Brahma-loka and Krsnaloka. The universe has no such thing as higher and lower. All the stars and planets are on the surface of the universe. The universe is like a balloon, expanding in all directions.

I feel, however, that Dr. Thompson is pursuing a profound message, and I would encourage him to continue in this effort. To my knowledge, no other panditas or Vaisnavas have tried to present in scientific ways the complex concepts, thoughts, and ideas written in the Puranas.

Nirmal Ghosh via the Internet

SADAPUTA DASA REPLIES: You suggest that I am claiming that the sun and moon are planets in the modern sense of the term, i.e., that they are small, cold bodies orbiting a central star. But obviously I am not saying that. You understand this yourself, as shown when you say, "I do realize that the ancient sastras may have listed these as planets."

Yes, I am referring to the sun, moon, and Mercury through Saturn as the seven planets in the traditional sastric sense. Perhaps I should add that I am using "planet" to translate the Sanskrit word graha.

As for higher and lower planets, or lokas: That the planets in the solar system orbit roughly in one plane does allow one to define a sense of direction. "Higher" means away from this plane in the direction of celestial north, and "lower" means away in the direction of celestial south. This definition of higher and lower matches the usage of these terms in the sastras. One should understand that the sastras are referring to the solar system.

By the way, the stars and planets are not "on the surface of the universe." The curved space-time of general relativity is like a balloon in a metaphorical sense, but one should not take this literally. Actually, Einstein's space-time is a higher-dimensional Reimannian manifold. It does not lie within 3D space.

I should add, also, that several other members of the Krsna consciousness movement are actively presenting Puranic ideas in a scientific manner.

Moon Beams

Recently, while going through the Eighth Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, I came across a verse that confounded me, even though I tried hard to swallow what was expounded in the purport to the verse.

Chapter Five, verse thirty-four, states:

somam mano yasya samamananti
divaukasam yo balam andha ayuh
iso naganam prajanah prajanam
prasidatam nah sa maha-vibhutih

"Soma, the moon, is the source of food grains, strength, and longevity for all the demigods. He is also the master of all vegetation and the source of generation for all living entities. As stated by learned scholars, the moon is the mind of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. May that Supreme Personality of Godhead, the source of all opulences, be pleased with us."

The translation rendered is absolutely fine, but it is the purport I find hard to accept, although I know that Srila Prabhupada's purports are infallible, having been directly inspired by his meditations on Lord Krsna. The part I can't logically accept reads, "Unfortunately, modern so-called scientists, who do not fully understand the moon, describe the moon as being full of deserts. Since the moon is the source for our vegetation, how can the moon be a desert? The moonshine is the vital force for all vegetation, and therefore we cannot possibly accept that the moon is a desert."

This purport was certainly written by Srila Prabhupada after man landed on the moon and the visitors to the moon found nothing out there but desert. The live telecast cannot be ruled out as a hoax, as millions saw it with their own eyes. Somehow or other, I still believe that Srila Prabhupada was correct, but that certainly is a leap of faith. In other words, I am simply accepting it because I believe that the Vedic scriptures are apauruseya—of divine origin—but to accept it logically, I can't.

And how do I explain it to my friends? Apauruseya? They will probably laugh in my face. Nevertheless, I still believe there is a rational explanation, and it is my hope that you can offer me one.

Though these little issues may seem to go unnoticed, they actually turn people off more than other, major issues, because to the modern scientific mind the concept of axiomatic scriptural truths is fairly inconceivable.

Hare Krsna.

K. Sanjay Kumar
Penang, Malaysia

REPLY BY KRSNA KAPA DASA ADHIKARI, Bhaktivedanta Institute, Alachua, Florida: Though the moon may appear to be only a desert, there is more to the moon than we in human bodies are permitted to see. The demigods in higher planets have more developed sense perception and are able to see other dimensions of the universe, dimensions inaccessible to humans. The descriptions of cosmography in the Bhagavatam are typically from the demigods' perspective.

Sadaputa Dasa, in his Vedic Cosmography and Astronomy, compares looking at the moon knowing only its three-dimensional position to looking for an address in New York City given only the street and avenue but not the floor. Just as there is a big difference between a penthouse apartment and the basement, there is a great difference between the heavenly abode of Candraloka, full of godly opulence, and the desertlike moon we see.

No Dodging on Clones

I am a member of the Pandava Sena, the youth group affiliated to Bhaktivedanta Manor, England. On behalf of all of us here, I would just like to say we were very impressed with the article on human cloning ["From the Editor," May/June '97].

All the key questions were addressed. No dodging of important questions. The answers were straight, logical, and to the point. No beating around the bush and no answers like "It's Krsna's arrangement," which at least by our generation are perceived as dodging the issue. Well done!

Bhakta Prashant
London, England

P. S. Watch out for Pandava Sena on the Web!

Krsna Is So Great

I've been subscriber to Back to Godhead for the last year. I'm very fortunate indeed to have come across such a magazine. I know that Krsna is so great and so loving towards His devotees. Here in Russia I am very happy to see how Russians are deeply involved in Krsna consciousness. The temple in Moscow is doing its best to serve its devotees. In my life I've come across a lot of difficulties, where every problem melted away by the grace of Murari [Krsna]. I cannot pen down everything, but I can say that Vasudeva Krsna is so great, so great. May His blessings be always with you to prolong your great service in the footsteps of His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada.

N. Suren Nimalan
Moscow, Russia

Petty Concerns?

We continue to receive what for us is an astonishing number of letters about Urmila Devi Dasi's article "Children and Pets" [July/August '97]. Nearly all the mail is negative. The writers take various stands:

• Urmila's wrong. Pets are good for kids. Or at least ok.
• Urmila's right, but too heavy. Why make such a big deal of a small thing like having a pet? Lighten up, Urmila. Other things are worse.
• Urmila's right, but impractical. Strict Vedic standards like not having pets in your house are hard rules to impose on children born in the West. In the Vedic setting, a family has land and animals. But New York City isn't Vrndavana. Lighten up, Urmila!
• Urmila's right, but intolerant. Live and let live. Lighten up, Urmila!
• Urmila's right, but the strategy's wrong. We want people to be attracted to Krsna consciousness. Why turn them off? Urmila! Lighten up!

Even our staff has divided opinions on this one, some speaking for being more sensitive and gentle with our readers, others for "telling it like it is." Urmila Devi Dasi stands her ground. The editor is on her side.

Please write us at: BTG, P. O. Box 430, Alachua, FL 32616, USA. Fax: (904) 462-7893. Or BTG, 33 Janki Kutir, Next to State Bank of Hyderabad, Juhu, Mumbai 400 049, India. Phone: (022) 618-1718. Fax: (022) 618-4827. E-mail:

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Escape to Krsna

A soul liberated from material bondage can't find refuge in impersonal oneness.

A lecture given in Vrndavana, India, on March 18, 1974

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

nidraya hriyate naktam
vyavayena ca va vayah
diva carthehaya rajan
kutumba-bharanena va

"The lifetime of an envious householder is passed at night either in sleeping or in sex indulgence, and in the daytime either in making money or in maintaining family members."—Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.1.3

TO BE A HOUSEHOLDER, a married person, is not bad. That is not condemned. What is condemned? Apasyatam atma-tattvam: to not know the aim of life.

Ask anyone, "What is the aim of your life?" He will simply say, "It is my duty to earn money, to maintain my children, to give them education, to give them a good opportunity for their future. And if I have any extra money, then I can give charity to the poor." These are his programs. But no one knows the necessity of liberating the soul, which is conditioned by the material covering. No one knows—not even big, big professors. If you ask, "Why are you constructing some big, big scheme?" they will reply, "Oh, for the future generations." That's all.

No one knows about the importance of the soul. No one has any vision of atma-tattva, the science of the soul. Everyone is simply talking superfluously. That is the defect today.

The whole scheme of Vedic knowledge centers on the truth "I am not this body." Because people do not know that understanding this truth is the necessity of life, they have created so much news—big, big newspapers full of rubbish news and advertisements. But you won't find any talk about the necessity of spiritual knowledge.

To be a grhastha, a married person, is not bad. But to be unaware of the necessity of the soul—that is bad.

The Mayavadis, or impersonalists, renounce married life as maya—illusion—and become sannyasis. But they have no idea what the goal of life is. They simply think in a negative way: "This married life is very troublesome." They have realized that even in the highest material position there is no happiness. Even President Nixon—the president of the richest country—has no happiness. He is embarrassed and attacked in so many ways, and he does not know how to defend himself or keep his position.

Everyone is missing the point. No one sees, "Why am I embarrassed? I have become the president of the U.S.A., and still I am embarrassed. When I was an ordinary lawyer, no one cared about me. At that time I was also embarrassed. I tried to improve my position, and now I have come to the highest point of success in the material world. Still I am embarrassed."

One should question one's life in this way. But people cannot see things correctly. No one thinks, "I was embarrassed from the very beginning of my life. I was embarrassed even within the womb of my mother. I was packed in there. And when I came out of the womb I was also embarrassed. I could not express my pains and pleasures. Some ant was biting me, and I was crying, but my mother gave me more milk, although I was fully fed."

This is the baby's embarrassment. He wants something, but the mother gives him something else. The mother cannot understand the child's pain, because the child cannot express himself. Otherwise, why does the child cry? He's feeling some pain, but his mother does not know how to relieve it.

Then comes childhood. I do not like to go to school, but my parents force me to go. More embarrassment. Then I become married or enjoy sex life and have children. More embarrassment. Then I die and enter the womb of a mother, where I may be killed by abortion.

Our whole life is full of embarrassment. But the question "Why am I embarrassed?" does not arise.

The Zero Solution

The Mayavadis think, "Make me zero, void. Then there will be no pains and pleasures, no embarrassment." Impersonalism and voidism are the same thing: "Make it zero." The Mayavadis are like the foolish man who wants to avoid all the embarrassment by committing suicide. He thinks, "If I end this body, then my embarrassment will be finished."

People do not know how they—the soul—can get relief from all embarrassments. Apasyatam atma-tattvam. No one sees, "I am spirit soul. My needs are different from those of the body."

The body is only the temporary home for the soul. But we are always trying to keep this home very neat and clean. That is our business. We do not know that there is another business. That is our defect.

It is the duty of every human being to understand atma-tattva, the science of the soul. Sanatana Gosvami made that point when he went to Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Sanatana Gosvami said, "I was a government minister, so I was quite comfortable. People called me a learned scholar, but I did not know why I was suffering despite being a minister. And people say that I am a learned man, but I do not know how to get out of the suffering."

People are trying to get out of the suffering, but they do not know how. They should inquire about that. They do not know the nature of atma, the soul, or what the atma wants and how the atma will be comfortable.

Information about the atma is given by Lord Caitanya. Jivera svarupa haya krsnera nitya dasa: "Every living entity is the eternal servant of Krsna." Therefore unless we come to the platform of serving Krsna, there is no question of happiness. Krsna says the same thing. Duhkhalayam asasvatam: "This place is simply full of miseries."

Changing Cages

The whole world is missing the point that we are not the body. The body is our encagement. Sometimes we get a golden cage, sometimes an iron cage, sometimes a silver cage, sometimes a wooden cage. And we think that by changing the cage we will be happy. But as long as we are not free, we will not be happy. A bird kept in a cage is unhappy. The cage may be golden, but that doesn't matter. Similarly, we cannot be happy with this encagement. We must be free. That is called liberty, mukti. That is required.

The Mayavadi philosopher thinks, "Suppose I get free. Where shall I go? I shall be free in the sky." That is impersonalism. The sky is impersonal. If a bird is given freedom but he flies in the sky, will he be happy? No, because he wants more than that. So he'll think, "It was better in the cage. What is the value of this freedom? I'm not happy." He'll return to the cage.

In India people sometimes take a certain kind of bird in a cage to an open field. They open the door of the cage, and the bird walks and flies around for some time. He is given freedom. Then the person calls the bird, and the bird returns. The bird was thinking, "I have been given freedom now. But where shall I go? I have to eat." So he comes back: "Better to live within this cage."

The Mayavadi's position is like that. We devotees are sure we are going to Krsna. But the Mayavadis have no Krsna. Therefore they return to the material world. Because they have no shelter, they come back. They cannot stay very long in the impersonal feature of the Absolute.

Therefore the Mayavada philosophy of voidism or impersonalism is not very good. You cannot stay impersonal or in a void, because you are a living entity, part and parcel of the supreme living entity, Krsna. Krsna is anandamayo 'bhyasat; He is always full of jubilation. So being part and parcel of Krsna, you also want jubilation. But how can you be jubilant in the sky, in the zero? That is the difference between Mayavada philosophy and the philosophy of Krsna consciousness.

You cannot be happy even by getting free from this encagement, the material world. And if you place yourself in impersonalism and voidism, that will not help you.

Try to understand this. Impersonalism and voidism will not help you. You have to go back home, back to Krsna, where everything exists in spiritual variety. You can play with Krsna. You can dance with Krsna. You can talk with Krsna. You can fight with Krsna. Krsna's friends the cowherd boys fight with Him. They enjoy in that way. Everything in the spiritual world with Krsna is enjoyment.

The Krsna consciousness movement is trying to give information to those mentioned as apasyatam atma-tattvam, those who do not know the nature of atmawhat the soul wants and how the soul will be happy. They are trying to be happy here within the cage. That's all. But that is not possible.

Without knowing the philosophy of Krsna consciousness, people will be unhappy whether within the cage or outside the cage. Their imagined liberty outside the cage is also unhappiness, because they do not know where to go. Therefore after staying for some time in that impersonal stage, they return to the cage. That coming and going will not help them.

Atma-tattva means to know the nature of the atma. That is all explained by Krsna in the Bhagavad-gita. If we take advantage of His lessons and instructions, our life will be successful.

Thank you very much.

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Lessons from the Road

Following the Voice of Inspiration

By Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami

WE CONSTANTLY HEAR from scripture and from others about the ideal lives of great devotees in our line. We especially relish hearing about Srila Prabhupada's life, and we take inspiration from his deep devotion for guru and Krsna to spark our own. It is natural for people to want to hear about others' adventures in order to gain something for themselves—some inspiration, some strength, some knowledge, or even just some confidence. Although we usually can't directly apply the life experience of another in our own lives, and we can rarely imitate someone else's success, still, we can learn by example to follow our own spiritual aspirations.

Recently I was hearing Srila Prabhupada on tape describe the incidents leading up to his taking sannyasa, the renounced order of life. Several times in his life his spiritual master had appeared to him in dreams, beckoning him to come and take sannyasa. The first time he'd had the dream, Srila Prabhupada relates that he thought, "How horrible!" He said he had considered the austerities of mendicant life too arduous. Srila Prabhupada sometimes said that he didn't like to perform physical austerities, although the austerities he performed as founder-acarya of ISKCON were incredible. At the time of this dream, however, giving up his family seemed too difficult. Still, he took the dream seriously as something to move toward.

Years later he had the dream again, right after a business venture—an attempt to open a factory in Lucknow—had failed. Again, "Take sannyasa." Again he thought he couldn't do it immediately. Then he remembered a verse in the Bhagavatam where Krsna says that if a devotee is sincere but materially attached, His first mercy on such a soul is to crush his material life and leave him nothing but Himself for shelter.

These are Srila Prabhupada's experiences, and we can learn from them. We too may find ourselves praying to render more service. We too may feel the spiritual master pushing us to do more than we are doing at present, to do something that would require greater sacrifice and that would both increase our spiritual advancement and place demands upon it. Srila Prabhupada's example proves that even if we cannot at once respond to such a challenge, we should never dismiss the inspiration. Rather, we should be patient and humble and remain alert for opportunities to fulfill our dreams for more service. We should also try more and more to understand the essence of Krsna consciousness and purify our motivation.

When Srila Prabhupada thought about taking sannyasa, he understood that the essence of renunciation was simply service to Krsna. When Lord Caitanya had wandered about in ecstasy in Radha-desa after having Himself accepted the renounced order, he quoted this verse from the Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.23.57): "I shall cross over the insurmountable ocean of nescience by being firmly fixed in the service of the lotus feet of Krsna. This was approved by the previous acaryas, who were fixed in firm devotion the Lord, Paramatma, the Supreme Personality of Godhead." Srila Prabhupada writes in his purport that Lord Caitanya accepted sannyasa to express the essence of renunciation, which is only to serve Krsna.

As early as 1922, Srila Prabhupada had received his spiritual master's order on how he should serve; he was to preach Krsna consciousness to the English-speaking world. Therefore, his acceptance of sannyasa was only for that.

Our aspirations for increased service may not be received in a vision while we are asleep. Rather, they may be awakened by our constant hearing of the lives of great souls. It is imperative to listen to the voice of aspiration if we are going to avoid mediocrity.

Srila Prabhupada always credited his spiritual master for pulling him out of material life. "I have not lost anything," he said. "I had three children, now I have three hundred children."

We do not lose by depending on Krsna's mercy and not on so-called material security. Srila Prabhupada approved of our thinking big in Krsna consciousness, not because he was utopian but because, "Krsna can do anything."

Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami travels extensively to speak and write about Krsna consciousness. He is the author of many books, including a six-volume biography of Srila Prabhupada.

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Lord Krsna's Cuisine

Cooking Class: Lesson 35
Syrup Sweets (PART 1): Gulabjamun

By Yamuna Devi

I RECENTLY EDITED regional Indian menus for Gourmet magazine's 1998 cookbook, and gulabjamun, predictably, was the featured North Indian sweet. Gulabjamun is India's most famous sweet—made in homes, temples, and restaurants worldwide. When Srila Prabhupada first made gulabjamuns for us in 1966, they were an instant favorite. His young followers referred to them as "gulabs," "sweet balls," and "ISKCON bullets." Gulabjamuns were my first prasadam—prepared by Srila Prabhupada and dropped from his fingers into my palm the day I met him—a day that changed my life.

Syrup Sweets Defined

Almost every Indian cook has his or her repetoire of syrup sweets. In the class textbook, Lord Krishna's Cuisine, they include both milk-based and grain-based sweets—gaja, khaja, pantoa, jalebi, malpura, balushai, gulabjamun. Each of these sweets is fried and then infused with flavor in a fragrant syrup. Some varieties are served in the syrup, and others are soaked, drained, and coated with a syrupy glaze. None of them are quick and easy to make, and to different degrees they are challenging to master. If you are a newcomer to making syrup sweets, start with the malpura recipe on page 635; it's the easiest of the lot.


Making gulabjamuns is time-consuming, and the art of getting them right is difficult to master. But temple cooks and anyone who wants to learn to cook traditional Indian sweets for Krsna should become adept at making gulabjamuns.

The quantities for what goes into the dough in any gulab recipe can only be guidelines, because the texture, moisture, and other properties of the ingredients vary by brand. So you'll need to adjust the measurements accordingly.

The adage "Good gulabs means fresh ghee" is sound; other oils never make the mark. Purists will not consider making gulabjamuns without fresh ghee. If you use a medium or small bowl-shaped Indian karai or Oriental wok, you'll need only about five cups of ghee for the recipe given here; if you use a pot, you'll need closer to seven cups. Alternatively, use less ghee and a smaller karai and make two batches.

The recipe in the class textbook uses 1 ½ tablespoons of flour in the dough and requires a long frying time. The recipe below calls for 8 tablespoons of flour, greatly shortening the frying time, and the dough is enriched with a little butter and moistened with milk, yogurt, or buttermilk. Prepare a dough that is soft and slightly sticky, either in a bowl or food processor. Because the dough hardens quickly, roll it at once into crack-free balls.

Maintain the suggested frying temperatures. If the balls are fried too quickly, the inside stays uncooked and the balls will deflate when placed in syrup. The instructions here are brief but sufficient. For more detailed cooking instructions, refer to the recipe on page 637 of the class textbook.

So put on a nice Krsna conscious tape, get comfortable, and meditate on both hearing and frying. Gulabjamuns are a joy to prepare for the pleasure of the Lord. Make them with love and the finest available ingredients—milk, sugar, and fresh ghee.

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.

Beginner Gulabjamuns

(Makes about 20 balls)

2 ½ cups (600 ml) water
2 ½ cups (525 g) sugar, preferably turbinado
fresh ghee or vegetable oil for deep-frying
1 ¼ cups (125 g) nonfat dry-milk powder
½ cup (60 g) unbleached flour
1 teaspoon (4 ml) baking powder
4 tablespoons (½ stick) (60 ml) unsalted butter
1/3 to ½ cup (80 to 120 ml) buttermilk, stirred yogurt, or milk
1 tablespoon (15 ml) rose water or ½ teaspoon (2 ml) rose essence
1 tablespoon (15 g) slivered pistachios

To make the syrup, bring the water and sugar to a boil in a wide-mouthed 4-quart pan, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to medium-low and gently boil the sugar water for about 5 minutes; then set it aside on very low heat. Begin heating the ghee or oil in a frying vessel to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C).

To make the dough, combine the milk powder, flour, and baking powder in a food processor or bowl; mix well. Add the butter and mix until the texture resembles that of corn meal. Add enough liquid to make a smooth, soft, slightly sticky dough. Transfer the dough to an oiled surface. Wash and oil your hands, and immediately shape the dough into about 20 smooth and crack-free 1-inch balls. Cover the balls and set them aside.

When the ghee or oil has reached 300 degrees F (150 degrees C), slip in the balls. They will sink at first and then float to the surface. Using a slotted spoon, gently but constantly agitate the balls for even browning. Maintain a frying temperature of 280 degrees F (140 degrees C) to 310 degrees F (155 degrees C), and fry until the balls are dark brown, about 10 minutes. If the temperature becomes too hot, remove the pan from the heat.

Transfer the balls to the warm syrup and simmer them on low heat for about 15 minutes to soften the balls and allow the syrup to thicken. Add the rose water or essence, and cool to room temperature off the heat. Garnish with pistachio nuts, and offer to Krsna.

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Schooling Krsna's Children

Observing Secular Holidays

By Urmila Devi Dasi

THE YEAR IS FULL of holidays and special events unrelated to spiritual life. Even in India, where Janmastami, the anniversary of Krsna's divine birth, is a general festival, many other days are dedicated to the country or some ordinary, materialistic person. Outside of India, festival days sometimes even focus on demonic beings such as witches. National holidays, and even religious festivals such as Christmas, are often occasions for diving into intoxication, illicit sex, and materialistic life in general.

If we wish to raise our children to be absorbed only in thoughts of Lord Krsna, how should we treat these secular holidays? One approach is, as far as possible, to ignore them. We can tell our children that although the preparations they see around them—sometimes for weeks before the holiday—are certainly attractive, we are interested only in celebrating the Lord's glories. Children can be satisfied and happy without getting into mundane festivities, especially if their year is full with one exciting devotional festival after another.

Adults often think, however, that because their children will hanker for what glitters all around them, the children must have at least a little of the outside celebration in order not to feel resentful or deprived. Perhaps the adults themselves feel there is something worthwhile in mundane events, or aren't fully satisfied in spiritual life. But sometimes even when a child's parents are fully convinced that observing devotional holidays is sufficient, avoiding materialistic celebrations is difficult. Nondevotee relatives, or even other devotees of Krsna, may want to pull one into the celebrations, and that influence may be hard to avoid.

A second approach, therefore, is to find a way of relating nondevotional celebrations to Krsna. For an originally religious holiday such as Christmas, it is relatively easy to have programs about the life and teachings of Lord Jesus. On Mother's Day, we can have our children honor their mothers, grandmothers, mother cow, and mother earth. Sometimes a policy of making special days Krsna conscious can lead to creative results. For example, one year on Halloween* some of my high school girls dressed up as male devotees and went door to door selling Srila Prabhupada's books. We can take our children out to sing the Lord's names through the crowds that gather for national independence day and other such holidays. On one U.S. holiday (Thanksgiving), we used to take our students in Detroit to the local Hare Krishna Food for Life center to distribute free prasadam, food offered to Lord Krsna.

* On Halloween night in the United States, children dress in costumes and go from house to house collecting candy and other treats.

If we decide to have our children celebrate mundane occasions in the same way as the materialists, we greatly risk raising children whose idea of happiness is materialistic. Holidays are the highlights of life, especially for children, who even at a young age note the number of weeks or days until their favorite festival. When these days involve simply sense enjoyment—which for a child can mean games, presents, fireworks, and special food—we indirectly teach that we are living for material pleasure.

Observing our children's birthdays poses a special problem. In the early days of the Hare Krsna movement, when Srila Prabhupada was present with us, we rarely, if ever, noted the birthdays of our members, including children. Gradually, however, birthday parties, especially for children, have become more and more common. Once I calculated that every year in the community where I lived we had three times as many birthday parties as devotional festivals. I noted that the children often had "birthday parties" as part of their play.

Should we eliminate birthday parties? That's probably impossible. We can, however, follow Srila Prabhupada's direction that a birthday is a time for charity and austerity. Our children can give gifts on their birthday, rather than receive them. Gatherings can be small and simple so as not to appear to compete with spiritual festivals. And when we invite a few friends for cake and ice cream, we can also read from scripture and chant together.

Our children should grow up convinced that the happiness of Krsna's devotees surpasses all the happiness of the material world—even a party.

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.

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Book Distribution

Candidates for Mercy

Compiled by Navina Nirada Dasa

HERE ARE SOME experiences and realizations of devotees who give people Krsna consciousness through books by Srila Prabhupada and his followers.

Big Change for a Big Woman

Another devotee and I and were distributing books in Lithuanian villages. In Darbenai, one of the larger villages, I was going to homes that were not much more than huts. I wondered how people could survive in such places. Hardly anyone was interested in the books.

Krsna finally brought me to a big house with several good cars in the driveway. I met the son of the owner, and he liked the books but didn't have money and suggested I find his mother. So I shouted "Mistress!" as is usual in such villages. The mistress showed her face in the door. She was a huge women, and I felt very meek in her presence.

"My son was joking," she said. "None of us needs Krsna. And you look suspicious."

I convinced her to let me into the house, but she again said, "We don't need Krsna."

She finally decided to get rid of me by taking one book.

The next day I went to the high school. First I met the sports teacher. I told her what the books were about, and she enthusiastically introduced me to other teachers. We gradually made it to the library, and I put the whole set of books in front of the librarian.

"Ha!" she exclaimed. "I've been searching for these books everywhere. How much does the set cost?"

The books are expensive for Lithuania, but the librarian didn't want to lose her chance, so she took us to the director's office.

The director seemed very liberal and said, "Ah, Krsna." He told the teachers, "Decide yourself. If you like them, go to the accountant. She's responsible for finances."

When the director mentioned the accountant's name, everyone fell silent. I understood there would be problems.

The librarian, the teachers, and I anxiously made our way to the accountant's office. I knocked at the door, opened it—and there stood the same huge woman I had met the day before.

"What are these drunkards doing here?" she shouted. "I already bought a book just out of compassion."

Trying to be firm, I put the whole set on the table in front of her, with the twenty or so teachers gathered around me.

"We don't need these books! Do you understand? And how dare you come here!"

The teachers tried to pacify her.

"We need these books. Let's ..."

"No, we don't need these books! The school doesn't have the money!"

The director looked through the door, mumbled, "So, girls, decide," and quickly disappeared.

"We won't take these books!" decided the accountant.

But then one teacher said, "I'll take this one," and she took a book from the pile.

"I'll take this," said another.

After a minute there were no books left on the table.

The shocked accountant shouted, "Put them back! We don't have money." Then, after a pause, "Well, maybe it is possible. Let's try. Okay, I'll accept responsibility."

She opened the safe, counted the money, and gave it to me.

Some teachers took books for themselves, and the accountant sat looking at the set in front of her. I thought I should give her something, so I had Mukunda, our driver, bring in a postcard of Mother Yasoda holding baby Krsna.

"This is very old and divine," I said. "Please meditate on them; they will protect you from all troubles."

The teachers gathered around to see what it was.

"Oh, they'll steal it!" exclaimed the accountant. "I'll take it home. Thank you very much."

Nityananda-Rama Dasa, Russia

Choosy Beggar

I was distributing books near the subway in Vladivostok when an unkempt man came up to me and asked about the books. He said he very much wanted to get the Bhagavad-gita but had no money.

"He looks like a bum," I thought. "He's just going to bother me."

Although he asked me questions and kept saying how much he wanted the Bhagavad-gita, I had already decided not to give it to him for free.

But Krsna had His own plan. The moment I decided to get rid of the beggar, a man ran past us and lost a wad of money. The beggar saw the money, picked it up, and ran after the man to return it to him. But the man had vanished.

"Now this beggar will buy vodka and sausage," I thought.

I was wrong. He came back with the money and asked for a Gita.

Srutadeva Dasa, Russia

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.

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How I Came to Krsna Consciousness

Refreshing Encounters

An uninitiated but committed member of ISKCON tells his story.

By Brian Fleming

IN 1965, THE YEAR Srila Prabhupada landed in America, I was browsing in a used book store in Glasgow, Scotland, and came across a copy of the The Gita As A Chaitanyite Reads It, by one of Srila Prabhupada's godbrothers. I was eighteen at that time, with a very slight knowledge of the Gita and no knowledge of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, so I bought the book, took it home, and began to read.

That Gita lacked the clarity and power of Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita As It Is, but not knowing Bhagavad-gita As It Is at that time, I struggled on with Bon Maharaja's Gita until 1971, when I heard a strange sound in Glasgow's Sauchiehall Street. Later I would know that the sound was mrdangas (drums), karatalas, and chanting of the maha-mantra.

I followed the devotees at a little distance for about half a mile until they stopped chanting. During that half mile I seemed to be in some sort of ecstatic state; I didn't remember the time passing. When the chanting came to an end, I didn't speak to the devotees but went home to ponder what I had experienced.

Some weeks later I saw a devotee on the street distributing magazines. I stopped him and asked if I could have one, and was given my first Back to Godhead, the first of many.

A few months later, I met in the street a devotee named Kisora Dasa. He gave me the current BTG and started talking to me. Soon, we arrived at vegetarianism, and every argument I put forward for meat-eating he demolished.

At the end of the conversation, he asked, "Well, now you are a vegetarian?"

I replied, "Yes." And I was.

It took a few more weeks before I decided to visit the now defunct but not forgotten Edinburgh temple. When I got there I walked around the block three times, getting up courage to ring the bell and go in. Inside I experienced my first Sunday Feast and a day of lectures, bhajanas (devotional songs), and aratis (worship ceremonies). During the day, Kisora Dasa showed me the two-volume hardcover Krsna books and asked me if I liked them. I said that I did, which he followed up by asking if I would like to have them. I replied that I would but that I had very little money with me.

To my surprise, he said, "Just take the books and pay me the next time you see me."

This episode was one of several that got me thinking and very quickly began to change my life. Kisora Dasa had already converted me to vegetarianism, and in this incident he showed me a level of trust and interaction beyond my experience in the material world. Before I knew it, I was chanting sixteen rounds* a day, following the four regulative principles,** and even sometimes distributing Srila Prabhupada's books, when my work and, later, family life allowed. I never did become an initiated devotee, but who knows, maybe some day yet.

Brian Fleming, a homeopath and an antiquarian bookseller, lives in Argyll & Bute, Scotland.

*Hare Krsna devotees chant the Hare Krsna mantra on a string of 108 beads. Chanting one set of 108 is known as completing one "round."

**No meat-eating, no illicit sex, no intoxication, no gambling.

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Spiritual Places

Journey To The Land Of The Gods

ISKCON's perennial pilgrims travel to
the holiest sites in the world's greatest mountains.

By Jaya Vijaya Dasa

In 1995, small groups of Hare Krsna devotees traveled throughout India collecting sacred water with which to bathe murtis, or carved forms, of Srila Prabhupada on the one-hundredth anniversary of his birth. One group, ISKCON's India Padayatra party, which continuously travels around India on foot, went on a pilgrimage to the four holiest sites of the Himalayas: Yamunotri, the source of the Yamuna River; Gangotri, the source of the Ganges River; Kedarnath, dedicated to Lord Siva; and Badrinath, dedicated to Lord Visnu. [Note: For the names of places mentioned in this article, we haven't Sanskritized the spellings or used diacritical marks. Instead we've kept the popular spellings, just as they were sent to us.—Editors]


WE STARTED BY FOOT from Rishikesh, leaving behind the Deity cart and bulls that usually travel with us, and first went to the Yamunotri Valley via Teri and Barkuth. Then from Yamunotri we trekked to Saptarishi Kund, the actual source of the Yamuna River, where the seven rsis [see Saints, Sages, Gods, and Goddesses, page 25] performed austerity. It was a difficult trek, and would have been impossible without a guide.

Yamunotri is 3,185 meters above sea level, and Saptarishi Kund is at 4,421 meters. We had to go through snow and ice to reach the kund. When we got there we discovered that there was not only one kund but seven of them. We were so exhausted we couldn't go beyond the first one. We collected the sacred water and descended to the Yamunotri Valley.


After a few days, we started on our way to Gangotri. By road the journey would take several days, so we chose to go cross-country, only fifty kilometers.

Our first stop along the way was in Dodital, where Lord Ganesa had appeared. Dodital lake is set in a beautiful lush forest. As soon as we arrived at the bank of the lake, we all felt peaceful. Sitting inside the temple, we listened to the story of Lord Ganesa:

Once Parvati Devi wanted to bathe privately in the beautiful lake. From the dirt of her body she created a boy and told him to guard the valley and not let anyone approach. While she was bathing, Lord Siva arrived and became angry at the boy blocking his path. A fight ensued, during which Siva beheaded the boy.

When Parvati heard what had happened, she became furious. She informed Lord Siva that he had killed his own son. On hearing this, Siva sent some of his followers to the forest and told them to take the head of the first living being they saw and bring it to him. They found an elephant, cut off its head, and brought it to their lord, who fixed it to the boy's body. Thus Ganesa was "born."

We spent the night on the path that encircles the newly built temple. The original, ancient temple was destroyed in an earthquake in 1991. Someone told us that an aerial view of the lake reveals its shape as an elephant's head, whose trunk is the source of the Asi River.

We then walked through the district town of Uttarkasi and soon reached Gangotri, where we stayed for three days, enjoying the wonderful weather.

From Gangotri it is just eighteen kilometers to Gaumukh, the source of the Bhagirathi Ganga River. Vedic scriptures say that when the Ganga, or Ganges, descended from the heavenly planets to earth, to break Ganga's fall Lord Siva caught her on his head. From Lord Siva's head she diverged into many parts. The main part cascaded into the area of Gaumukh and formed the Bhagirathi.

Where the Ganga hit the earth, the altitude was so high that the river froze, so at the source it's a glacier. Sitting nearby, you can always hear the ice moving and cracking. Many years ago the source of the Ganga was in Gangotri itself. But because of climatic changes and the increase of sinful activities in Kali-yuga, the present age, it now takes two days to walk to the source of the river.

Ganga does not start out as a small, trickling stream but as a heavy rush of water flowing from under the glacier. In Gangotri you can always hear the roar of the river and the rolling of big boulders under the surface.

From Gangotri five members of our party went up to Kedartal. Gangotri is situated at 3,200 meters, and Kedartal is above 5,000 meters. The distance between the two is about 18 kilometers, so the climb is steep. On top of Kedartal is a beautiful lake. When I asked a swami who had been living in Gangotri for more than fifty years about Kedartal, his eyes lit up. "Blue mani [jewel]," he said, "just like Krsna's face!"


After Gangotri we went to Mala, where the ancient trail between Gangotri and Kedarnath begins. We hired a mule to carry Srila Prabhupada's books, our cooking equipment, and our articles of worship. On our way to Kedarnath, we stopped in Buda Kedar, which means Old Kedarnath. This is where the Dharma Ganga and the Balanga Ganga join.

From there we went to Triyuginarayana, where Lord Siva and Parvati married. Lord Narayana performed the marriage, Lord Brahma the accompanying sacrifice. The marriage fire, lit in a former age, is still burning today.

We then proceeded to Gauri Kund, in the Kedarnath Valley. There's a welcome hot kund there, where you can bathe and relax your sore muscles. Parvati Devi as Gauri performed austerities there for thousands of years and finally won the hand of Lord Siva.

On the last stretch to Kedarnath (3,584 meters high) there is no road. Many people go by mule, on a palanquin, or in a basket strapped to someone's head. It's a difficult walk.

Of the four dhamas, Kedarnath is the highest and most picturesque. We stayed there for about five days, collecting water in the surrounding areas.

We then went to Churabari Kund, the source of the Mandikini River, and on the way we saw the Brahmakamal Phul, the flower Bhima brought from Brahma's planet for Draupadi. The flower doesn't look like anything special, but the scent of it would fill a room for a week. After four days we returned to Gauri Kund, passing five temples of Kedarnath, or Lord Siva. And as we went, we learned of their history:

After the Battle of Kuruksetra, the Pandavas went to see Lord Siva in Kasi to atone for killing so many of their kinsmen in battle. When Lord Siva learned that the Pandavas were coming, he fled and playfully hid from them. The Pandavas discovered Siva in the Himalayas, in a place called Gupta Kasi ("Hidden Kasi"), where he had disguised himself as a brahmana. Having been found out, Lord Siva ran away to a valley and disguised himself as a bull, but Bhima recognized him. Bhima stretched his big legs from one end of the valley to the other and caught the bull by its tail. Lord Siva, still trying to hide, began to bury himself in the ground. But the determination of the Pandavas won him over, and before the bull's hump had disappeared, he decided to give them his audience.

Lord Siva instructed the Pandavas to worship the hump of the bull, and worship is still going on in the temple they established. Other parts of Lord Siva's body appeared in other mountains, and the Pandavas also built temples there. They are known as Panch Kedars (five Kedars): (1) Kedarnath—hump, (2) Tuganath—arm, (3) Rudranath—face, (4) Kalpeshwar—hair, and (5) Madhyamaheswar—navel.


The last stretch of our pilgrimage, Kedarnath to Badrinath, took nine days. While traveling from one valley to the next, we noticed that the people are devotees of the local presiding Deities. In the Yamuna Valley people would greet each other saying,"Jaya Yamuna Mayi!" In Gangotri Valley they would say, "Ganga Mayi ki jaya!" in Kedarnath, "Jaya Kedar!" and in Badrinath, "Badrivishal ki jaya!"

On the way to Badrinath we stopped in Joshimath, where Adi Sankaracarya performed penance and got the realization to compile the scriptures that defeated Buddhism and reintroduced Vedic principles.

From Joshimath we went to Vishnu Prayag, one of the five prayags (confluences) of different branches of the Ganga between Rishikesh and Badrinath. Pilgrims are advised to bathe in these five prayags on their way to Badrinath. Nowadays, most people go by bus or car and miss the privilege of the transcendental dips.

From Vishnu Prayag to Badrinath is only about forty kilometers. On the way we passed Pandukesvar, where King Pandu had lived and the Pandavas were born. As there are five Kedars, so there are five Badris. Pandukesvar is one of them. Up a little higher we came to Hanuman Chati, where Bhima's pride was shattered:

One day as Bhima was walking on the trail, he came across a monkey whose tail was lying on the path. Asked to move its tail, the monkey retorted that Bhima should lift it himself. In spite of repeatedly trying, Bhima couldn't move the tail. Eventually the monkey revealed himself as Hanuman, Bhima's brother.

From Hanuman Chati up to Badrinath is a steep trek. The day we walked, the Ganga had overflowed and was eating away the road. After a long struggle, we eventually crossed the water. It was a difficult and dangerous enterprise. Many rocks were hitting our legs, and the water was icy. Freezing and wet, we finally got to Badrinath Dham, having been reminded that to enter holy sites of the Lord's pastimes may be difficult.

Beyond Badrinath lies Mana, where Srila Vyasadeva, the compiler of the Vedic scriptures, is said to eternally reside in a cave, meditating on Lord Krsna. From the cave it's just a short walk to Bhima's bridge, a huge piece of rock thrown across a narrow valley. A little further the Sarasvati and Alakananda rivers meet. Another one and a half kilometers farther is the place where Draupadi passed from this world. Farther along the path, Nakula and Sahadeva left, then Arjuna, Bhima, and finally Yudhisthira. We bathed in the confluence, joyful at having completed our pilgrimage to the four dhamas.

We felt satisfied that we'd gathered water for Srila Prabhupada's sacred bath from many remote holy sites. But perhaps our greatest satisfaction came from having been able to distribute Srila Prabhupada's books in places where no ISKCON devotees had gone before. Many of the people we met could not read or write, but we gave out hundreds of small pictures of Srila Prabhupada and announced his Centennial celebrations to the residents of the land of the gods.

Jaya Vijaya Dasa has been a leader of ISKCON's India Padayatra since it began in 1984.

Saints, Sages, Gods, and Goddesses

Information about people, places, and Hindi terms mentioned in this article.

Arjuna—one of the five Pandava brothers

Bhima—the second eldest of the five Pandavas

Brahma—the first creating being in the universe

Dhama—a holy abode

Draupadi—the wife of the five Pandavas

Ganesa—the elephant-headed son of Lord Siva and Parvati Devi

Hanuman—a divine monkey who is an eternal servant of Lord Krsna's incarnation as Lord Ramacandra

Jaya (or ki jaya)—"All glories to ..."

Kund—a small lake

Nakula and Sahadeva—twin brothers among the five Pandavas

Parvati—the wife of Lord Siva and the goddess who presides over the material energy

Seven asis—seven exalted sages born directly from Lord Brahma

Siva—the partial expansion of Lord Krsna empowered to destroy the universe

Yudhisthira—the eldest of the five Pandavas

The Yamuna Cycle Expedition

In 1992 Ranchor Prime (Ranchor Dasa) founded Friends of Vrindavan, in the U.K., to publicize the ecological plight of Vrindavan's forests and to raise international funds to help conserve them. Last October he joined forty cyclists from Britain, Kenya, and America to ride from Yamunotri down to Vrindavan, following the sacred Yamuna River from its source. The expedition, organized by Friends of Vrindavan, raised £31,000 for the dying forests of Vrindavan. Here are excerpts from Ranchor's diary.

8 October—Janaki Chati

11 kms, on foot

From where I sit I can see above me through the clouds the snowy peaks of the mountains above Yamunotri. In the guest house courtyard small clusters of our group relax in conversation. We have walked and scrambled 11 kilometers from Hanuman Chati to Janaki Chati, above 2,500 meters. The road ended at Hanuman Chati, two days by bus north from Delhi, and our bikes await us there.

Along the way we have seen trains of pack ponies, a few other pilgrims, and many locals. We came across a rsi living in a cave. Steve and I sat with him for a while. A merry group of local men joined us. They said they live in Janaki Chati throughout the winter, eating strict rations of beans while cut off by ice and snow.

As we walked on, we caught occasional glimpses of the snow-covered peaks now above me. Towards the end of the walk, the valley opened out, and I stayed back alone for some time to take in the panorama. I felt moved by the majesty of the place.

This evening some of us spoke to our group. Tenzing, a young Buddhist monk, spoke fervently of the environmental threat to the Himalayas and its consequences for all of us. David spoke of how Ganga relieves sins and is associated with ascetics, while Sri Yamuna springs from the heart of Visnu and gives joy and love of Krsna.

Afterwards I went out into the darkness to see the stars that carpet the sky, twinkling and pulsating. Against them the snows glow soft and luminous on the peaks we will approach tomorrow. I am on a journey to the source, an inward journey to my inner source of energy and inspiration, as well as an outward one to the source of the Yamuna, to Vrndavana, to the world.

9 October—Janaki Chati

6 kms up, 6 kms down, on foot

Today we ascended 610 meters over a distance of 6 kilometers along a path that at times was a mere gash in vertical cliffs with thundering waters hundreds of feet below. As I climbed, I felt I was penetrating an unearthly realm. Dark crags soared up on both sides, and the waters roared in hidden depths. The path had been trod by pilgrims for thousand of years, during which little had changed. The place seemed unaffected by time. As I went further, the ravine deepened until the sky was a narrow strip far above.

After three hours I rounded a corner and came upon Yamunotri. The valley widened, and above me nestled a group of huts around two temples built into the rock face. Behind the huts, the Yamuna cascaded from the snows above to pass beneath an incongruous steel footbridge leading to the temples. A thin pall of steam hung over the place, rising from hot springs.

We soaked up to our necks in the hot springs, and Ravi and I skipped straight from there into the icy torrent of the Yamuna. Later we sat in a big circle beside the rushing waters to worship the Yamuna and ask for blessings for our expedition. We chanted mantras and poured milk into the river under a blistering sun.

Soon the sun disappeared behind clouds, and a misty chill descended. To soak in the power and peace of this place, I walked most of the way back down alone.

10 October—Sayana Chati

11 kms on foot, 8 kms cycling

Today began with a pleasant walk down from Janaki Chati to Hanuman Chati, about 11 kilometers. On the way we heard road workers blasting the rocks. Soon lorries will be able to drive up to Janaki Chati, which, as the new roadhead, will become an environmental mess, as Hanuman Chati is already.

After much tinkering with our new Indian bikes, we set off downhill from Hanuman Chati for a short, enjoyable ride to Sayana Chati, where we are now in the tourist guest house.

11 October—Barkot

35 kms

I have cycled 30 kilometers from Sayana and am sitting by the roadside 5 kilometers short of Barkot, where we will spend the night. I am sitting in the shade of a mountain ash, cooled by breezes. It is mid- afternoon, and the sky is clear blue. In the valley below I hear the sound of rushing waters. The only other sounds are those of crickets and the high-pitched call of the birds. Occasionally the wind carries the distant moan of a bus or lorry straining up the hills. Above me, terraces rise to a low ridge, while below me is a steep wooded drop. Nearby a young mother with two toddlers has just climbed onto the road carrying a waterpot on her head. During the last fifteen minutes only Michael Waugh on his bicycle has passed; otherwise, not a soul. Everywhere are butterflies—yellow, white, orange, black, and red. It's strange to be in such a remote place, so far from home with so few possessions, and yet to feel so secure and at peace.

12 October—Nainbag

51 kms

Our first 3 kilometers were a fantastic off-road stretch down 400 feet to cross the Yamuna. Then on to a stopping place where we photographed ourselves beside the Yamuna, now a sixty-foot-wide swift-flowing river, with a last view of snow-capped peaks behind.

Today I decided to push myself on my bicycle to stay near the front. As I strove ahead, I passed through awesome landscape, the broad sweep of the road visible for miles ahead and behind, cutting along the edge of vast rocky mountains plunging down to a flat valley bed far below, with the ever-present Yamuna, turquoise blue, curving round cultivated fields. One or two cyclists are strung out behind me, distant specks. Otherwise, no one in sight, and very little traffic. The only sound is the river, the wind, the birdcalls, and the friction of my tires.

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Mahabharata—The History of Greater India

The Astonishing Royal Hall

The Pandavas receive as a gift an assembly
hall that rivals even Lord Krsna's.

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, Lord Krsna and Arjuna have guarded the Khandava Forest so that Agni, the fire-god, could consume it and all the creatures within it. Agni thus devoured the forest. Only the Danava [see "Characters," page 30] named Maya survived, because he had taken shelter of Arjuna.

IN THE PRESENCE of Lord Krsna, Maya honored Arjuna again and again with folded hands and gentle words.

"My dear Arjuna," Maya said finally, "you saved me from Lord Krsna's fury and the flames of the fire-god, although he was eager to burn me. Tell me, what can I do for you in return?"

Arjuna said, "O great Asura, you have done all that is necessary. Always be a kind friend to me, as I am to you."

Maya said, "O best of men, O mighty one, your words are worthy of your stature. And yet, Bharata, I wish to do something to show my love for you. I am the Visvakarma of the Danavas, for my skill is vast, and it is my special desire to build something for you, O Pandava."

Arjuna said, "You feel I am the one who saved you when your life was in danger, but it is improper for me to ask something in return. At the same time, O Danava, I do not wish to frustrate your earnest wish. So do something for Lord Krsna, and that will be your way of thanking me."

Maya then urged Sri Krsna to make a request, and for a moment the Lord thought, "What shall I ask of him?"

Then Sri Krsna said, "O Daiteya, construct an assembly hall that you consider appropriate for King Yudhisthira's earthly reign. Erect such a congress hall that all who see it in the world of man will be amazed and no one will be able to build one like it. Build the royal edifice so that we may behold in it the most clever designs of the gods, Asuras, and human beings."

Maya accepted the instruction with deep satisfaction, and he happily decided to build for the Pandava king a parliament hall that would resemble a large celestial spacecraft.

Lord Krsna and Arjuna then precisely explained to King Yudhisthira all that had happened at the Khandava Forest and presented to him the skillful Maya. Yudhisthira properly honored Maya, who accepted the reception, respectfully honoring the king in return. O Bharata, the master craftsman of the Daityas then narrated to the sons of Pandu many ancient stories of the gods. Then, after catching his breath and thinking deeply on his project, Maya began to build the assembly hall for the exalted sons of Pandu.

According to the wish of Prtha's sons and the great soul Krsna, the mighty Maya commenced his labor with an auspicious ceremony held on a sacred day. On that occasion the powerful Daitya designer satisfied brahmanas by the thousands with offerings of sweet rice and varieties of valuable gifts. He then measured out a charming terrain approximately 12,000 feet all around and rich with the beauty of all seasons.

Lord Krsna Leaves for Dvaraka

Having lived happily in Khandavaprastha, constantly worshiped by the sons of Prtha, who adored Him so much, Lord Krsna, who is worthy of all honor, now made up His mind to depart, for He was eager to see His father Vasudeva. Lord Krsna, Janardana, enchanting with His large beautiful eyes, first took permission from Yudhisthira, the king of justice. Then Sri Krsna, who is to be adored by the entire universe, worshiped His aunt Prtha by touching His head to her feet. Kunti responded by kissing and smelling the Lord's head and embracing Him. Lord Krsna then saw His sister, Subhadra. As that supreme master of the senses approached her, whom He loved so dearly, tears filled His eyes. To His lovely sister, who spoke in clear and lovely tones, the Supreme Lord uttered words that were precise, cheerful, meaningful, beneficial, and appropriate for the occasion. Subhadra spoke to her most beloved brother about their relatives, begging Him to send her news, and then she repeatedly worshiped Him, placing her head on His feet and boldly declaring her eternal devotion to Him.

After Sri Krsna, head of the Vrsni clan, had affectionately taken leave of His devoted sister, he went to see Draupadi and the royal priest Dhaumya. The Lord, the greatest of personalities, worshiped the saintly Dhaumya and comforted Draupadi. He then gently took her permission to depart.

The learned Lord, full of strength, then went with Arjuna to see the other Pandavas. Krsna stood surrounded by the five brothers like Indra amidst the immortals. With hymns, garlands, obeisances, and a variety of fragrances, Sri Krsna, best of the Yadus, then honored the demigods and twice-born sages.

Having thus complied with all worldly duties, He who is the best of all steadfast beings prepared to depart. Continuing to play the role of a human prince, He distributed riches, along with bowls of curd, fruit, and whole grains, to the praiseworthy brahmanas and respectfully circled them. After He had mounted a swift golden chariot equipped with His club, disc, sword, and Sarnga bow and flying the flag of Garuda, the lotus-eyed Lord set out behind His faithful steeds Sainya and Sugriva when the stars, the day, and the hour were all auspicious.

Drawn by love, King Yudhisthira climbed onto the chariot, and moving aside the Lord's expert driver, Daruka, the Kuru monarch took the reins. Arjuna also mounted the chariot, and with a pure white yak-tail fan fitted with a large golden handle, he fanned clockwise around the Lord's head.

Bhimasena, the great controller, was subdued by his love for Krsna, and with his two youngest brothers he followed behind Lord Krsna, who was surrounded by the royal priests and citizens. As mighty Kesava, Krsna, slayer of hostile warriors, was thus followed by His loving cousin-brothers, He shone like a liberated spiritual master followed by his loving disciples.

The Lord bid farewell, hugging the distraught Arjuna and honoring Yudhisthira and Bhimasena and the young twins. As He did so, He was in turn repeatedly hugged by the two eldest Pandavas and saluted by the twins. Then after conversing with them and encouraging them, Sri Krsna sent the Pandavas and their loyal followers back to their city and proceeded like a second Indra toward His own transcendental city.

With their eyes the Pandavas followed Lord Krsna as far as their vision would allow, but with their minds they traveled along with Him, for they were continuously rapt in love for Him. So attractive and dear was Lord Krsna to the Pandavas that their minds were not satiated, and He seemed to disappear all too quickly from their sight. The sons of Prtha were fully devoted to Govinda, Lord Krsna, and they constantly thought about Him. Indeed, they desired nothing but to be with Krsna and serve His lotus feet. Thus when Sri Krsna departed, the Pandavas returned to their city, sadly resigned to His absence, and Krsna Himself proceeded on schedule to the city of Dvaraka.

Maya Travels to Bindu-Saras

Then Maya said to Arjuna, the best of victors, "I bid you farewell now, but I shall quickly return. North of Kailasa, near Mainaka Mountain, where all the Danavas are about to offer sacrifice by the sacred lake of Bindu-saras, I once fashioned out of jewels a charming vessel that remained in the assembly hall of the truthful King Vrsaparva. If it is still there, O Bharata, I shall get it and come here. Then I shall construct for Pandu's illustrious son Yudhisthira a wonderful assembly hall bedecked with all kinds of gems—a hall that will gladden the hearts of all who see it.

"O pillar of the Kurus, within the Bindu-saras lake lies a magnificent club, hidden there by King Yauvanasva after he had killed his enemies in battle. That amazing weapon, flecked with drops of gold, is hard, heavy, and unyielding under pressure. Experts estimate that the club has the power of hundreds of thousands of ordinary clubs, for it can crack any surface. It would be ideal for Bhima, just as the Gandiva bow is ideal for you. There is also a great conch shell of Varuna's named Devadatta, which produces a mighty sound. All this I shall bestow upon you without doubt." Having said this much to Arjuna, the son of Prtha, the Asura departed toward the northeast.

North of Kailasa, near Mount Mainaka, sits a lordly mountain of jewels named Hiranya-srnga [Gold Peak]. There one will find the charming Bindu-saras lake, on whose banks King Bhagiratha dwelled for many years watching the Ganges, which since then is known as the Bhagirathi. That exalted monarch, ruler of all earthly creatures, performed one hundred outstanding sacrifices to worship the Supreme Lord, O best of the Bharatas. At those ceremonies, the king had bejeweled sacrificial posts and golden altars erected for the sake of beauty, and not as a permant standard for subsequent religious rites. So potent was that sacrificial ground that even Lord Indra, the thousand-eyed husband of Saci, achieved perfection there by worshiping the Supreme Lord. And there Lord Siva, the perennial lord of ghostly beings, having created many planets with his fierce prowess, was surrounded and adored by thousands of his creatures.

The twin incarnations, Nara and Narayana, along with Brahma, Yama, and Sthanu, perform sacrifice at Bindu-saras lake when the cycle of one thousand eons has elapsed. There Lord Vasudeva faithfully performs thousand-year sacrifices to constantly demonstrate to the learned and gentle souls the proper path of piety. At this same place, Lord Krsna gave away thousands and millions of gold-wreathed stakes and highly luminous altars.

After arriving there Maya took the club and conch, O Bharata, and from King Vrsaparva he obtained crystal building material for the Pandavas' assembly hall. Helped by Raksasa servants, Maya took all that he desired for his service and brought it back to Indraprastha.

Maya's Construction

At Indraprastha, the Asura built an incomparable assembly hall blazing with jewels and divine glory. Its fame spread throughout the three worlds.

Maya then presented the excellent club to Bhimasena, and he gave the superlative conch shell named Devadatta to Arjuna.

The assembly hall extended to a circumference of 10,000 kiskus* and had treelike columns of solid gold. The brilliant body of the capitol hall was as supremely radiant as the body of fire, or of the sun or moon. Shining with divine luster, the celestial edifice glowed and blazed, its effulgence defeating the sparkling radiance of the sun.

* 10,000 cubits, or approximately 5,000 yards or meters.

Long and wide, standing erect and covering the sky like a vast cloud shrouding a mountain, the sinless mansion, flawless and gleaming, dispelled the fatigue of all who entered its chambers. Fashioned of the best materials, garlanded with surrounding walls studded with jewels, and stocked with gems and many riches, it appeared to be handsomely crafted by the cosmic builder, Visvakarma, for not even the Sudharma hall of Dvaraka or the mansion of Brahma could match the beauty of the unique structure Asura Maya had created.

Maya instructed eight thousand Raksasas, known as the Kinkaras, to carefully guard the building and provide transportation for its construction. Those terrifying servants had powerful, gigantic bodies and could fly in outer space. Their eyes were blood-red and tawny, their ears were shaped like seashells, and they bore weapons.

Within the royal hall, Maya fashioned a unique lotus pond, in which the spreading lotus petals were made of cat's-eye gems and the lotus stalks of other jewels. The pond was perfumed by sweet-scented lotuses and lilies; it was busy with flocks of birds, lush with blossoming flowers, and brightly painted with turtles and fish. Wide, comfortable stairways led bathers into its waters, which were crystal clear and plentiful in all seasons, and heavenly breezes stirred the delicate pearl-drop blossoms that gathered on the surface. Some kings who approached that lake filled with heaps of gems could not understand that it was a lake—although they saw it right before their eyes—and they fell into its waters.

Nearby the assembly hall were giant, ever-flowering trees with bluish bark, refreshing shade, and enchanting shape. All about were very fragrant forests adorned with lotuses, swans, ducks, and cakra birds.

The wind picked up the fragrance from the flowers growing profusely on the land and water and carried the sweet scents to the Pandavas for their pleasure. It took Maya about fourteen months to make the assembly hall, and then he presented his exquisite creation to Yudhisthira, who was celebrated as Dharmaraja, the king of virtue.

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.


A guide to people and places mentioned in this episode.


Bharata—the dynasty descended from King Bharata; a member of that dynasty

Brahma—first created being in the universe

Daiteya—"son of Diti"

Daityas—the demon sons of the progenitor Kasyapa and his wife Diti

Danavas—the demon sons of Kasyapa and his wife Danu

Draupadi—the wife of the five Pandava brothers

Garuda—the divine eagle who carries Lord Visnu

Indra—the king of the heavenly planets

Janardana—Lord Krsna (other names of Krsna used here are Kesava, Govinda, and Vasudeva)

Kailasa—the abode of Lord Siva

Kunti—the mother of the Pandavas

Pandavas—the five brothers Yudhisthira, Bhima (or Bhimasena), Arjuna, and the twins Nakula and Sahadeva


Raksasa—a class of demons

Sthanu—Lord Siva

Siva—Lord Krsna's partial expansion who ultimately destroys the universe

Visvakarma—the architect of the demigods

Yama—the lord of death

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Every Town & Village

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

World News


The ISKCON-Hinduja Glory of India Vedic Cultural Centre, ISKCON's splendid new cultural complex in New Delhi—with its temple, guest house, multimedia museum, majestic artwork, and other features—opened on April 5, Rama Navami, the appearance day of Lord Ramacandra. Details in our next issue.

ISKCON Calcutta will celebrate its huge Jagannatha Rathayatra festival on June 26.

Rathayatra was celebrated at Kurukshetra in March and at Dwaraka and Chennai (Madras) last January.

ISKCON's large tent camp at the Kumbha Mela broadcast the chanting of Hare Krsna and the message of Krsna consciousness to millions during March and April at Haridwar, in the foothills of the Himalayas. The Kumbha Mela, held in four holy places every twelve years, is the largest spiritual gathering on earth.

In Bangalore, 8,000 people daily visit the ISKCON temple, opened last May. On Sundays, the temple draws 20,000.

In Ahmedabad, work has begun on a multimedia museum to be installed at the ISKCON temple complex, which opened in April of last year. The work will take two years to complete. The thirty-five dioramas in the museum will illustrate themes from Bhagavad-gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam, and Caitanya-caritamrta.

Two hundred thousand people are expected to visit the Ahmedabad ISKCON temple on Janmastami. One to two thousand people now visit the temple daily, ten thousand on Sundays. Last November, 100,000 people came to celebrate Govardhana Puja, the day Lord Krsna lifted the Govardhana Hill.

Back to Godhead has launched an edition in Marathi, the language of the state of Maharashtra. More than six thousand subscribers signed up in advance. The magazine—called Jau Devachiya Gawa—is bimonthly, thirty-two pages. It is published by BTG's office in Mumbai.

A Krsna conscious hospital opened in January in the Mira Road area of Mumbai. The hospital—Bhaktivedanta Hospital—aims to provide holistic health care in a Krsna conscious atmosphere. Though the modern, fully equipped 130-bed hospital is not an ISKCON project, it has been built by the efforts of ISKCON devotees, and devotees make up most of the hospital's staff, medical and nonmedical.

At the hospital, ISKCON devotees in the medical profession work together in Krsna consciousness, joined by other devotees with a wide range of vocations and skills. The hospital also aims to provide free or low-cost medical treatment for ISKCON devotees.

The hospital is independently run by the Sri Chaitanya Seva Trust, of which the chairman is Indian industrialist Hrishikesh A. Mafatlal (Krsnacandra Dasa). The hospital was built with funds contributed by philanthropic Indian industrialists and financiers.

A thousand devotees gathered in Mayapur, West Bengal, at the end of February for ISKCON's annual Gaura-Purnima Festival, commemorating the appearance of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu in Mayapur 512 years ago. The festival included seminars on various Krsna conscious topics and a week-long pilgrimage to holy sites of Lord Caitanya's pastimes.

United States

County police and federal agents have failed to apprehend the arsonists who set fire to a barn last July at ISKCON's New Talavan Farm in Mississippi. The fire destroyed equipment and a Rathayatra cart, causing $150,000 in damage. Donors have contributed $17,000, but much more is needed to feed and care for the farm's cows.

The mayor of Ann Arbor, Michigan, attended ISKCON's Rathayatra last September on the campus of the University of Michigan. The festival drew devotees from three states and Canada.

A 21-year-old civil lawsuit against ISKCON Boston was settled out of court last November. In 1977 a disgruntled ex-devotee and her mother sued the temple and won a six-figure judgment. That decision was overturned on appeal, but until the recent settlement, two items from the original complaint (essentially about "brainwashing") were still pending.

Great Britain

Celebration: On Janmastami, the Deities at Bhaktivedanta Manor will have presided there for twenty-five years. The Deities, Sri Sri Radha-Gokulananda, were installed in 1973 by ISKCON's founder-acarya, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

Prince Charles presented an award for architecture to ISKCON's Pada Sevanam Dasa last December at St. James Palace, the prince's official residence. Pada Sevanam is the chief designer of the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium, to be built at ISKCON's center in Mayapur, West Bengal. After a discussion about the importance of tradition based on theistic principles, the prince said he would like to visit Mayapur.

North London Lord Mayor Keith Toms awarded first prize to the Hare Krsna float at the city's Stanmere Carnival, held last September. He then climbed aboard the float for a lap of honor around the fairground. He also asked devotees to arrange for him to visit Bhaktivedanta Manor, ISKCON's temple outside London.

South America

The government of Ecuador has given a thousand fruit and nut trees to ISKCON's Giridhari Desh Farm near Cuenca. Government-funded agricultural engineers planted the trees as part of the government's attempts to promote agriculture and reforestation. The farm is nestled in a mountain valley near the equator, 2,300 meters (7,544 feet) above sea level.


Back to Godhead associate editor Drutakarma Dasa toured Hungary last November, speaking on his book Forbidden Archeology: The Hidden History of the Human Race, co-authored with BTG contributor Sadaputa Dasa. The book, recently translated into Hungarian in an abridged version, challenges Darwinian evolution by presenting numerous archeological finds that contradict the theory. Drutakarma spoke to standing-room-only audiences in civic and university auditoriums all over the country. In each city visited, he was interviewed by newspapers, TV and radio.


ISKCON Johannesburg held nine days of spiritual programs from March 28 through April 5. About 1,000 people attended nightly.

ISKCON Durban will hold its grand annual Rathayatra festival this year on May 1-3.

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Krsna Consciousness on Tape

Here are some sources for audio-cassette recordings of classes on Krsna consciousness. These are the ones we know of. There may be more, and we apologize if we've left any out. Please call or write for catalogs.

Srila Prabhupada Tape Ministry

c/o The Hare Krsna Catalog

P. O. Box 255

Sandy Ridge, NC 27046, USA

Phone: 1-800-800-3284

Atmatattva Dasa Tape Ministry

3056 Castro Valley Blvd. #60

Castro Valley, CA 94546, USA

Phone: +1 (510) 581-7687

Bhakti Caru Swami Tape Ministry

P. O. Box 116

8030 Zurich, Switzerland

Fax: +41 (01) 262-3114

Gour Govinda Swami Tape Ministry

4342 Elenda St.

Culver City, CA 90230, USA

Phone & fax: (310) 204-4807

Hridayananda Dasa Goswami Tape Ministry

P. O. Box 1156

Alachua, FL 32616, USA

Phone: (904) 418-4644

Indradyumna Swami Tape Ministry

1 Addison Road, Walthamstow

London E17 9LS

United Kingdom

Phone: +44 (0171) 923-4198

ISKCON Education

915 Dimmocks Mill Rd.

Hillsborough, NC 27278, USA

Phone: (919) 644-2272; Fax: (919) 644-2092

(Classes by Urmila Devi Dasi)

Jayapataka Swami Tape Ministry

Hare Krishna Hill

1 "R" Block, Chord Road

Rajaji Nagar, Karnataka 560 010, India

Lokanath Swami Tape Ministry

618 Dena Drive

Newbury Park, CA 91320, USA

Nava Yogendra Swami Tape Ministry

c/o Bhakta Prem

35 Poppy Place, Malabar

Port Elizabeth 6020, South Africa

Phone: +27 (041) 472590

Fax: +27 (041) 475701

Prabhavisnu Swami Tape Ministry

P. O. Box 327

North Hobart 7002

Tasmania, Australia

Radhadesh Tape Ministry

Chateau de Petite Somme

6940 Septon-Durbuy, Belgium

(VIHE seminar tapes)

Radhanatha Swami Tape Ministry


7 K.M. Munshi Marg

Chowpatty, Mumbai 400 007, India

Ravindra Svarupa Dasa Tape Ministry

41 West Allens Lane

Philadelphia, PA 19119, USA

Fax: (215) 247-8702

Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami Tape Ministry

P. O. Box 73

Port Royal, PA 17082, USA

Sydney Tape Ministry

GPO 2329

Sydney 2001, Australia

Tamal Krsna Goswami Tape Ministry

P. O. Box 772

1000-AT Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Fax: +31 (020) 675-1405

Books on Tape

Dravida Dasa

1380 Garnet Avenue, Suite E-270

San Diego, CA 92109, USA

Krishna Productions

Amala Bhakta Dasa

P. O. Box 34241

Los Angeles, CA 90034, USA

Phone: (310) 838-4474

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The Vedic Personality Index

How do the three modes of material nature influence you?

By Dhira Govinda Dasa adhikari

A technical version of this article was published in the January 1998 edition of The Indian Journal of Psychology.

IF YOU'VE READ the Bhagavad-gita, you know that nature influences you in three ways—through goodness, passion, and darkness. Just as red, blue, and yellow combine to form myriad colors, these three "modes of material nature," as Lord Krishna calls them, create the full spectrum of human instinct and behavior.

As a doctoral student of social sciences, I decided to use modern scientific methods to apply the Gita's assertions about the three modes, or gunas. My main purpose was to develop a personality-assessment tool derived from the Vedic conception of the gunas. I also sought to validate the psychological paradigm offered by the Vedas and show its usefulness.

Vedic epistemology emphasizes sabda, or hearing from Vedic authority, as the preferred method for acquiring knowledge. Other methods, such as inference and direct perception, yield faulty results because of our imperfect mind and senses. One who accepts Vedic conclusions finds no need to empirically validate Vedic statements. But since much of the modern world strongly believes in empirical methodology, scientific verification of Vedic teachings can help engender respect for this ancient source of knowledge.

Research Method

A psychometrist, who measures personality traits, seeks two components: reliability (consistent answers) and validity (accurate questions). I titled my project the Vedic Personality Index (VPI). I sought to develop validity with a team of experienced Vaisnava scholars. They selected ninety statements to portray the domain of attributes that make up the influence of the three modes. For example, a person predominantly influenced by sattva-guna (the mode of goodness) would agree with the following statements: "I maintain my equilibrium in happiness and distress," "I am satisfied with my life," and "I prefer to live in the country rather than the city." The statement "I often feel fearful" would fit a person influenced by tamas (darkness), and a person influenced by the mode of rajas (passion) would agree with the statement "For me, sex is a major source of happiness."

To determine "construct validity," or consistency with standardized measures, I added previously tested surveys to the VPI. For instance, I included a short survey on verbal aggressiveness, which, according to Vedic theory, would correlate with the mode of passion. Then I worked in a survey on life satisfaction, which in theory should correlate positively with goodness and negatively with darkness. Some single-item measures, such as a question about how many hours per day one sleeps, concluded this portion of the survey. (The portions of the survey used for testing construct validity are not included in the VPI survey accompanying this article.)

To help verify reliability, we looked for patterns in the responses. Respondents would answer each question on a scale of 1 (Very Strongly Disagree) to 7 (Very Strongly Agree). Reliability would be demonstrated, for example, if a person had consistently high scores on the 30 questions concerning passion and low scores for the 30 questions related to darkness. Naturally the questions appear in random order in the survey.

Test and Results

To test the survey, 247 participants (nondevotees) completed it. The responses to the three sets of questions (those for goodness, passion, and ignorance) were from eighty-seven to ninety-three percent consistent. This strongly indicated the reliability and usefulness of the survey. After statistical analysis, I removed 10 relatively weak items, leaving 80.

Dr. Walter Hudson, a prominent philosopher and psychometrician in social work, reviewed the data and methodology of the study. He commented that the development of the VPI met rigorous standards. The results, he said, suggest a practical scale for assessing individuals, using the three modes as a basis for analysis.

What Do the Results Mean?

The investigation produced data indicating that the three gunas are real, an important finding for persons investigating and using Vedic science. For example, for Ayurvedic practitioners, empirical evidence supporting the existence of the three modes can help promote and add credibility to this ancient body of knowledge. In ISKCON, we increasingly hear about the importance of setting up a social system based on varnas, or occupations. Varna social science assigns work according to people's propensities, which are formed by the three gunas. So an instrument such as the VPI can serve as a tool to help determine the appropriate varna for each member of a Vedic community.

In a broader sense, validation of the VPI encourages cultivation of the mode of goodness. Everyone aspires for contentment, life satisfaction, and staunch determination for achieving difficult goals. These attributes are characteristic of goodness. Behaviors associated with developing these qualities include Vaisnava standards of proper conduct, such as rising early in the morning, eating only vegetarian food, refraining from intoxicants and loose sexual relations, and keeping a spiritual focus in all facets of one's life. In short, authentication of the VPI helps provide an empirical basis for virtuous behavior, which students of the Gita know to be the platform from which one can most easily adopt a purely spiritual life, beyond the influence of the three modes of nature.

In counseling and other mental health fields, an inventory of the gunas can be used as an assessment tool. For instance, depression is symptomatic of ignorance, and excessive anxiety of passion. If the treatment of such disorders is effective, one's goodness score will increase, and the corresponding lower mode will decrease. In this way, Vedic concepts can be introduced into the helping professions.

Of course, an inventory of the gunas would be ideal for treatments based in the Vedas themselves. For instance, chanting Hare Krsna on beads a fixed number of times per day could be considered therapy for several psychic disorders. After the client chants for a month, the spiritual therapist could assess progress with an instrument such as the VPI.

Testing Yourself

If you'd like to determine your personal profile according to the three modes of nature, complete the eighty-question survey accompanying this article and return it with a stamped, self-addressed envelope to BTG, P. O. Box 430, Alachua, FL 32616, USA. After you return the survey, it will be scored and returned to you in four to six weeks.

For those who know the Bhagavad-gita well, the "correct" answers (those that reflect goodness) may be obvious. But the purpose of the test is to see how the modes influence you, and to accomplish that you must be honest. And honesty, after all, is itself a characteristic of the mode of goodness.

Dhira Govinda Dasa is the author of Krsna, Israel and the Druze. He lives with his family in Alachua, Florida, where in addition to his Ph.D. studies in social work he is employed as a social worker and serves as chairman of the board of directors for the ISKCON community and the Vaisnava Day School.

The Survey

The survey that follows is the Vedic Personality Index. The additional items and scales used to test the VPI are not included herein.

Circle the number that best represents your response.

1—Very Strongly Disagree

2—Strongly Disagree

3—Somewhat Disagree


5—Somewhat Agree

6—Strongly Agree

7—Very Strongly Agree

1. I prefer to live in the country rather than the city.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

2. I often feel like a victim.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

3. I am willing to break the rules to achieve my goals.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

4. I have very little interest in spiritual understanding.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

5. I am satisfied with my life.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

6. Fruits and vegetables are among my favorite foods.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

7. All living entities are essentially spiritual.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

8. In conducting my activities, I do not consider traditional wisdom.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

9. I often act without considering the consequences of my actions.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

10. I usually feel discontented with life.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

11. I become happy when I think about the material assets I possess.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

12. I am not very much affected by the joys and sorrows of life.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

13. I often criticize and insult other people.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

14. I am against violence.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

15. I am good at using willpower to achieve goals.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

16. I enjoy spending time in bars.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

17. Cleanliness is very important to me.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

18. Spiritual advancement is very important for me.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

19. Others say that my intelligence is very sharp.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

20. I am a very active person.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

21. I often feel depressed.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

22. I often put off or delay my responsibilities.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

23. Respecting one's elders is very important.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

24. I greatly admire materially successful people.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

25. When I speak, I really try not to irritate others.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

26. I believe life is over when the body dies.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

27. I often feel helpless.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

28. I become elated when things work out well for me.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

29. I enjoy foods with strong tastes.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

30. I am constantly dissatisfied with my position in life.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

31. Having possessions is very important to me.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

32. When things are tough, I often bail out.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

33. I am straightforward in my dealings with other people.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

34. I have more energy than most people.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

35. I feel that my knowledge is always increasing.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

36. People should not have sex unless they are married and want children.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

37. I prefer city night life to a walk in the forest.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

38. For me, sex life is a major source of happiness.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

39. I take guidance from higher ethical and moral laws before I act.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

40. I enjoy intoxicating substances (including coffee, cigarettes and alcohol).

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

41. Being truthful is extremely important.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

42. I feel proud when I give charity.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

43. I often feel greedy.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

44. I become greatly distressed when things don't work out for me.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

45. I am often angry.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

46. I do not have strong determination.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

47. I often feel fearful.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

48. I greatly enjoy sleeping.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

49. I do not have doubts about my responsibilities in life.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

50. I often sacrifice my pleasure to please God.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

51. I often feel emotionally unbalanced.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

52. I enjoy eating meat.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

53. I often study books of traditional wisdom.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

54. I am self-controlled.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

55. I am very dutiful.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

56. When I give charity, I often do it grudgingly.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

57. I am generally even-tempered.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

58. In my life I usually experience deep happiness that is not dependent on anything external.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

59. Spiritually, all living entities are equal.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

60. I often get exploited in my relationships.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

61. Self-realization is not important for me.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

62. I often feel dejected.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

63. I carry out my responsibilities regardless of whether there is success or failure.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

64. I often neglect my responsibilities to my family.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

65. I am easily affected by the joys and sorrows of life.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

66. I often whine.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

67. Regardless of what I acquire or achieve, I have an uncontrollable desire to obtain more.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

68. I am currently struggling with an addiction, physical or psychological, to some type of intoxicant (including caffeine, cigarettes and alcohol).

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

69. My determination is unbreakable.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

70. I often envy others.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

71. My job is a source of anxiety.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

72. I never think about giving up my wealth and position for a simpler life.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

73. It often happens that those things that brought me happiness later become the source of my suffering.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

74. I sometimes cheat people.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

75. The most important thing to know is how to increase one's enjoyment of physical pleasures, like sex and eating.

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76. I often feel mentally unbalanced.

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77. I don't have much will power.

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78. I often neglect my responsibilities to my friends.

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79. I often act violently towards others.

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80. I am good at controlling my senses and emotions.

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Srila Prabhupada Speaks Out

"So Easily Cheated and Befooled."

This exchange between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and some of his disciples took place during a morning walk in Denver, Colorado, on June 28, 1975.

Srila Prabhupada: Wherever my books are distributed profusely, our work is successful. People are in gross ignorance, taking this temporary material body and temporary life as everything. A very horrible situation. But these books give scientific self-knowledge from the Vedas, knowledge of our actual, spiritual self and our eternal life.

Disciple: But sometimes, Srila Prabhupada, troublemakers come along. In Denver we have to deal with several bogus groups that have made their world headquarters here. One group is led by a chubby self-styled guru who claims he's God. You've seen their magazine, I think, with this fat man dressing like Krsna and even sporting a peacock feather and a flute.

Anyway, these groups put out tons of propaganda. All impersonalism, atheism. "God isn't really a separate person—God is simply everything and everyone. You are God. We are God. And mainly, our leader is God."

Srila Prabhupada: So make propaganda against them very vigorously. These Vedic texts and this disciplic succession both come from Lord Krsna Himself. We have got sound footing. What do these nonsensical rogues have? Show that they are all nonsense, bogus. This fat rogue is God, and his rascal followers are worshiping him as God? This rascaldom is going on in such a cultured, sophisticated city? This rogue is being worshiped as God?

Disciple: Well, to be fair, the local people are disgusted with him. They don't like him at all.

Srila Prabhupada: I'll issue a challenge: "I shall kick this rascal in the face, and if he is God, let him punish me." I am prepared. Let this rascal come out and meet me in public. I shall kick him squarely in the face. Let him do whatever he likes—I am prepared. If he is God, let him kill me by his mantra or by his will. Only then shall I accept him as God. This is my challenge. "I shall kick him in the face in public, and if he is God, let him punish me."

And as for his followers, "You are such fools that you are accepting this scoundrel as God? You belong to America, a nation advanced and sophisticated in so many ways. And yet you have become such utter fools and rascals?" We shall challenge like that. "This rogue has come to cheat you. How have you allowed yourselves to become so easily cheated and befooled?"

Disciple: This supreme being was recently indicted for smuggling, and now there's a warrant out for his arrest.

Srila Prabhupada: All right, so this is my challenge: "Now there is a warrant out for the arrest of the all-powerful one. So? Does he have the power to nullify it? Everyone knows that God is great. Is he great? And yet we have to believe he is God? God is such a cheap commodity that you have accepted this pathetic person as God? What is this nonsense—blindly accepting some rascal as God?

"At the same time, we give you people some credit, since at least you are inquiring about God. But inquire about God through His authorized channels of education, this Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya disciplic succession and this Vedic literature."

[On seeing a museum of natural history in the park:] This is a nice park, but what is this natural history exhibition? "Natural history" means Darwin's bogus theory of evolution. People have become captured by this evolution propaganda. That's all. The whole modern civilization is based on Darwin's bogus theory of evolution.

But common sense dictates, How far back can we trace history with any accuracy? Can we trace the history of the sun—when it was created, when it came into existence? Can Darwin give us the history of the sun, of the moon, of the sky?

Where is the history? There is such a history, in the Vedic literature. But where is your history? You simply imagine, "There was a chunk, and it exploded and somehow became manifested as the sun and moon and so on and so forth. And gradually these dull material ingredients developed consciousness and ultimately produced living, conscious beings like us. No need for the soul or the Supreme Soul, the creator." What is this nonsense? How, actually, did this cosmic manifestation come into existence? "There was a chunk." What other nonsense do you want us to believe?

[Chuckling.] You will find a nice example in one of the texts I have translated today from Srimad-Bhagavatam: Just as a prostitute tries to befool people by changing her appearance, so the material nature changes her appearance to befool us. Bogus gurus, pseudo scientists. And we are so foolish that we are trying to establish a long-term relationship with this prostitute. We are trying to become her husband. Has anyone ever become happy by becoming the husband of a prostitute?

Therefore, Canakya Pandita says, dusta bharya satham mitram bhrtyas cottara-dayakah/ sa-sarpe ca grhe vaso mrtyur eva na samsayah: "If one has a wife who is a prostitute, a friend who is a hypocrite, a servant who is an upstart, or a home with a snake in it, he will die." He will die; there is no doubt about it. His life will be spoiled. This is Canakya Pandita's verdict.

Canakya also says, mata yasya grhe nasti bharya capriya-vadini/ aranyam tena gantavyam yatharanyam tatha grham: "If at home a man does not have an affectionate mother or a wife who speaks sweetly—if, rather, his wife speaks very hotly—then he should give up that home at once and go to the forest. Actually, for him, home is no different than the forest." [Chuckles.] How intelligent.

Formerly, at least one expected love from one's mother. That is also being finished. This is the advancement of civilization. Even one's mother is not reliable—what to speak of others. A small child sleeps soundly on the lap of his mother, because he thinks, "Now I am safe." But today the mother may kill the child, often with the help of her rascal doctor. This is our modern civilization's so-called advancement.

Disciple: Srila Prabhupada, in the neighborhood of our temple, doctors and other supposedly high-class men live.

Srila Prabhupada: The real doctor is he who can cure this material disease of repeated birth and death. What do you think? But you modern people want to be cheated by some pseudo doctor or some pseudo yogi or meditator who is inimical to your real well-being. Therefore, these rascals have gained prominence, by popular support. Only a select group of people have come to me. Otherwise, the mass of people do not understand this Krsna consciousness movement as yet.

Disciple: Well, lots of people just won't listen to any philosophy.

Srila Prabhupada: That is why they are being cheated so easily by these various scoundrels.

And now people have become so foolish that they cannot understand even the simplest philosophical idea. Not even Krsna's basic instruction in Bhagavad-gita—that just as the baby has his future and the child has his future and the young man his future, so why not the old man? Within this one lifetime, the soul has many little lifetimes, many bodies—as a baby, a child, and so on and so forth—and yet the soul keeps his sense that "After all these changes of body and all these little lifetimes, I am the same person." So after this life, when the old-man body becomes finished, why not a next life?

Such a dull head these modern people have! If a child says, "No, no, in the future I shall have no new body—I shall remain a child," is that sensible? And similarly, is it sensible for you to say, "No, no, in the future, after my elderly body is finished, everything will be finished—I shall have no new body"?

So people have become very dull-headed. The simple truth they cannot understand. Dehino 'smin yatha dehe kaumaram yauvanam jara/ tatha dehantara praptir: "As the embodied soul passes, within this lifetime, from one body into another and yet another, so after this lifetime, the soul passes into still another body." That is the actual situation. The example Krsna gives is so nice and so simple, and yet people cannot understand. What kind of brain do they have? Animal brain.

The only hope is that you continue distributing my books as much as possible, throughout Europe and America and the rest of the world. Some day, people will realize their value. Some day, people will realize what valuable books I have left for the study of the whole world. That day will come.

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The Strategy of Atheism

A Vedic perspective on the popular allure of Buddhism.

By Mathuresa Dasa

BUDDHISM HAS AT times attracted a measure of interest from a small number of Americans. In the last century Henry David Thoreau wrote, "Some will have bad thoughts of me, when they hear their Christ named beside my Buddha." And in the middle of this century, writers like Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and Alan Watts showed a regard for Buddhism that made it part of the sixties counterculture.

But scroll to the 1990s and forget the counterculture. Buddhism is riding a wave in the American mainstream. Two recent Hollywood movies recount the story of the Dalai Lama; Buddhist motifs and Buddhist-inspired rock lyrics appear in television sitcoms; Buddhist musings grace the labels of bottled fruit-teas. Nor is this merely a pop culture craze. There are nearly 100,000 American-born Buddhists, and the number of English-language Buddhist teaching centers has doubled in the past ten years to over a thousand. On the Internet you can browse thousands of pages of Tibetan Buddhist writings.

Some attribute this expanded interest to Buddhism's emphasis on qualities like nonviolence, humility, and simplicity in a world growing daily more violent and complex. Others say the nontheistic approach to religion is also key, as the Buddha said there was no Creator, no Jehovah or Allah or Visnu. The Vedic literature confirms that both these features of Buddhism are important aspects of its allure, and they say more as well, providing a confidential account of the Buddha's identity and of the rationale behind Buddhism's singular teachings.

The Vedas explain that Buddha is an incarnation of God who appears in the Age of Kali, or Kali-yuga, the most materialistic of the four earthly ages that rotate like the four seasons. We are now five thousand years into the current Kali-yuga, which lasts another 427,000 years, and Lord Buddha appeared about 2,500 years ago. He has appeared in other Kali-yugas also, His mission always the enlightenment of especially materialistic and atheistic people.

In one Kali-yuga, in an appearance, or incarnation, recorded in the second canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam (2.7.37), Lord Buddha countered atheistic scientists who had taken advantage of technical portions of the vast Vedic scriptures to construct weapons of mass destruction, a situation with striking parallels to our own Kali-yuga arms race. Lord Buddha captured the attention of that atheistic culture by speaking extensively on upadharma, or subreligious principles.

In fact, the teachings of Lord Buddha, commonly known as the Buddhist Dharma, are more exactly the Buddhist Upadharma. Lord Buddha avoids speaking of dharma in the sense of primary religious principles, since those principles are meant for directly understanding and surrendering to the Supreme Lord. Atheists or materialists cannot by their nature understand or surrender to God directly, but they can sometimes appreciate godly qualities like humility, pridelessness, nonviolence, tolerance, and simplicity, important qualities for religious persons. Lord Buddha, concealing His identity as God, focuses on these godly qualities, or principles of upadharma, to bring people gradually closer to qualifying for direct knowledge of the Supreme Person.

God's Freedom

Although appearing within the material universes as Lord Buddha and innumerable other incarnations, the Supreme Person is not bound by material laws. Just as a governor visits the state prison, coming and going as he likes, God comes and goes within the material world, where we, His eternal individual parts, suffer in the prison of samsara, the cycle of repeated birth and death. Prisoners who take advantage of the Lord's appearance to reawaken their relationship with Him in loving service become free of samsara, like state prisoners who by proper behavior are released by the governor.

In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna says that He appears in the samsara prison to deliver His devotees and annihilate nonbelievers who harass the world with their mischief. In the Kali-yuga, however, when mischief-makers are in the majority, Lord Buddha devises a way to deliver them too.

When Lord Buddha appeared 2,500 years ago, atheists were again causing trouble, again by misusing the Vedic literature, this time to legitimize indiscriminate slaughter of animals. Animal slaughter is the way of subhumans and is almost completely forbidden in Vedic culture. The Vedic scriptures make very limited exceptions for those materialists who absolutely cannot resist eating flesh. But in Lord Buddha's time those narrow exceptions were taken as the rule, as authorization for widespread animal killing. The poet Jayadeva Gosvami explains in his Dasa Avatara verses describing ten principal incarnations of God that Lord Buddha, feeling compassion for the poor animals, rejected the Vedic literature. By defying all the Vedic texts and advocating ahimsa, or nonviolence, He pulled the rug on scripture-thumping meat-eaters.

We might glimpse how Buddhist ahimsa appealed to people 2,500 years ago by weighing its appeal in our own violent times. Helen Tworkov, editor of the Buddhist quarterly Tricycle, points out that people coming of age during the Vietnam war explored Buddhism in response to the war's savagery and to the calm protests of Vietnamese Buddhist priests. Nonviolence also plays a role in the popularity of the two recent films about the Dalai Lama. In one, Seven Years in Tibet, workers refuse to dig a foundation because they don't want to kill any worms. Martin Scorsese, director of Kundun, the second film, says, "Anything infused in our world today about nonviolence can only help."

Amid the violent animal slaughter of Lord Buddha's time ahimsa must have attracted many people in a similar way, since animal slaughter has never been the norm on the Indian subcontinent. The current interest in Buddhist ahimsa would be true to Lord Buddha's desire if it spurred refusal to take part in the culture of meat-eating. That might require our own rejection of scriptural license, or at least a radical sacrifice of almost sacred personal habits.

In rejecting the Vedas, Lord Buddha Himself adopted an apparently radical strategy for an incarnation of God, since God is the author of the Vedic literature, and either the author or the immediate inspiration for all world scriptures. The Upanisads say that the Vedas come from the breathing of the Personality of Godhead, and here was Lord Buddha using His breath to negate them. Of course, even an ordinary author can do as he likes with his own books, and the tactic served to remove the Vedas from the arsenal of destructive, materialistic people. As Lord Krsna says in the fifteenth chapter of the Bhagavad-gita, the purpose of the Vedas is to know Him.

The Vedas, in other words, are the source of the highest dharma, and yet in both the Buddha incarnations of which we have information, the Vedas were in the hands of people completely ignorant not only of dharma but of upadharma as well. Both times the Lord preached to people who did not understand the value even of nonviolence, what to speak of service to the Supreme Person, but who nevertheless used the Lord's books to promote subhuman behavior.

Lord Buddha's strategy is like that of a parent coaxing a toddler to give up a hundred-dollar bill the child has found. "That's just a dirty old scrap of paper," the parent tells the child. "Here, this candy bar is more valuable." It's a boldfaced lie, but any parent might tell it, because it's for the benefit of the child, who can later learn to use money intelligently.

Denying God

In addition to defying the Vedas, Lord Buddha denied the existence of God, another radical move calculated to secure Him the devotion of His atheistic audiences. With their minds emptied of scriptural misconceptions and fear of a supreme authority, Lord Buddha's followers were ready to give their full attention to His teachings, summed up in the Four Noble Truths: existence is full of suffering; suffering is traceable to desire; desire can be transcended, leading to nirvana, or cessation of material existence; and the means to transcendence is the Eightfold Path of proper views, action, resolve, speech, livelihood, effort, mindfulness, and concentration. These truths, though spoken by the Supreme Himself as Lord Buddha and though clearly derived from His Vedic literature, were expertly presented without citing scripture or mentioning God.

Absence of a supreme authority figure is another current selling point for Buddhism. Writer Alan Watts once stated rather harshly that Buddhism helped him "get out from under the monstrously oppressive God the Father." Other believers also maintain that Buddhism enables them to follow a spiritual path without the hellfire and brimstone or the guilt for alleged sins judged by an Almighty. Lord Buddha's expertise, however, was that while denying God, the lawmaker, He inculcated within his followers a respect for His laws of karma and reincarnation. In the book Buddhism Without Beliefs, former Buddhist monk Stephen Batchelor recommends that Buddhism throw out karma and reincarnation to produce a "liberating agnosticism." This may seem like a logical progression: throw out scripture, throw out God, then throw out karma and reincarnation. But that isn't what Lord Buddha taught, nor is it liberating.

Lord Buddha gave his followers knowledge of samsara, the cycle of birth and death, and of karma, the universal law of action and reaction, because those ignorant of these features of material nature have no context in which to grasp the Four Truths and no impetus to follow the Eightfold Path. The First Noble Truth is that our suffering occurs within the painful cycle of repeated birth, death, old age, and disease; the Second Noble Truth is that as long as we have desires to gratify our material bodies we do things that get us a reaction in this cycle. If we kill or eat innocent animals, then by our individual karma we take birth as animals and are killed, and by our collective karma we are forced to herd our innocent children off to war every few years. If we employ weapons of mass destruction on civilians, we suffer massively, life after life. When Lord Buddha stops animal killing or an arms race, He therefore liberates from slaughter not only the victims of those crimes but their perpetrators as well.

With an enlightened perspective on his current and impending suffering, the atheist has impetus to advance to the third and fourth Noble Truths, transcending the desires at the root of his entanglement in samsara by attention to the Eightfold Path of proper views, speech, action, livelihood, and so on. This is commendable for atheists, who are not normally concerned with proper anything. The Gita explains: "Neither cleanliness nor proper behavior nor truth is found in them. They say that this world is unreal, with no foundation, no God in control. They say it is produced of sex desire and has no cause other than lust." People without God and scripture are prone to see life solely as an opportunity for sex enjoyment without reference to religious or moral codes. If everything is a phantasmagoria of matter, why restrict the targets of my lust? This is your standard liberating agnosticism.

"Following such conclusions," the Gita continues, "the atheists, who are lost to themselves and who have no intelligence, engage in unbeneficial, horrible works meant to destroy the world." Unbeneficial works like butchering animals and nuking civilians.

It is a testimony to Lord Buddha's supreme intelligence and mercy that He created in such persons a mindfulness of propriety. When people behave properly by following principles of the Buddhist Upadharma, they produce a peaceful atmosphere in human society and earn for themselves happy and prosperous future births in the cycle of samsara. The Gita states that good, moral behavior elevates one to positions of heavenly opulence (urdhvam gacchanti sattva-stha) or to birth in wealthy and pious families (prapya punya-krtam lokan), quite a step up from births as animals bound for the slaughterhouse or births in other, even less appealing locales.

While proper behavior does not alone lead to freedom from desire or to nirvana, the end of material existence, it does place the individual soul imprisoned in samsara on a platform with opportunities for further advancement in spiritual life. In an ordinary prison good behavior might win us parole. In the prison of samsara it earns the individual soul a very nice cell.

The Soul's Desire

The Vedas say that the individual soul is eternal and cannot be desireless in either the imprisoned or liberated condition. As individual parts of God, we either desire power, up to the level of nuclear power, for our own sense gratification, or we desire to serve the transcendental senses of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. As the governor of the material prison, God appears in unending incarnations to accept our service and take us back to the deathless spiritual world, back to Godhead. Persons who desire only to please the Supreme Person are actually desireless because they have given up the material desires and the concomitant behavior, either "proper" or "unbeneficial," which keeps them in the prison of repeated birth and death. Nirvana, the cessation of material existence, is a by-product of the desire to please the Supreme.

Lord Buddha said none of this to His atheistic followers. He had already indulged them by denying the existence of God, so He taught them that the object of meditation was not service to the Lord but sunyata, emptiness. Sunya means "zero" or "void." Like atheism, voidism is a predisposition of grossly materialistic people, people like the scientists in the Kali-yugas of our two Buddha incarnations. Science in the current Kali-yuga teaches that life comes from a combination of material elements within the body and that when the body falls apart we cease to exist; we are void. With the Buddhist knowledge of karma and samsara, the concept goes a step further: we continue to exist as individuals within the cycle of birth and death until we overcome material desire. Then void.

It is true that everything material comes to nothing and that meditation on the impermanence of the material world may help us quell our desires for the fleeting manifestations of home, family, country, fame, and fortune. In the Kundun movie a character muses: "My enemies will be nothing. My friends will be nothing. All will be nothing." In the material world what we hate and what we love will disappear in due course. But since we are eternal, the question that remains is what to do with our meditation once we have withdrawn it from the objects of our material desire and loathing. For those who have followed the Eightfold Path of proper action Krsna answers: "Persons who have acted piously in previous lives and in this life and whose unbeneficial works are completely eradicated are freed from the duality of desire and hate, and they engage themselves in My service with determination." (Bg. 7.28) "For those whose minds are fixed upon Me, O son of Prtha, I am the swift deliverer from the ocean of birth and death." (Bg. 12.7)

Void meditation may suffice while we practice the Eightfold Path of proper behavior and rid ourselves of the horrible works that drown us in the darker regions of samsara. After that, from a position of detachment and relative freedom from suffering we are set to make further advancement. "At the ultimate stage," Srila Prabhupada says of the Buddhist path, "one has to accept the Lord and become His devotee; otherwise there is no religion. In religious principles there must be God in the center; otherwise simple moral instructions are merely subreligious principles, generally known as upadharma, or nearness to religious principles." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.7.37, purport)

Proper behavior short of loving devotion to God keeps us in the cycle of birth and death. But faithful practitioners of the Eightfold Path are in a fortunate position. For deliverance from the ocean of birth and death they have only to turn their meditation from the void to the astounding humility, nonviolence, and mercy of their teacher, Lord Buddha, the Supreme Person and well-wisher of the atheists.

Mathuresa Dasa, a disciple of Srila Prabhupada, has written many articles for Back to Godhead and other publications. He and his wife and their four children live in Alachua, Florida.

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Lord Nrsimhadeva
Appearance Day: May 10

The Seventh Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam relates the history of Lord Nrsimhadeva. He appeared many millions of years ago to protect His devotee Prahlada by killing Hiranyakasipu, Prahlada's demoniac, atheistic father, who was trying to kill Prahlada. After Hiranyakisapu's death, Prahlada offered Lord Nrsimhadeva many prayers filled with important instructions for everyone. Here is one of those prayers:

"O great one, O Supreme Lord, because of combination with pleasing and displeasing circumstances and because of separation from them, one is placed in the most regrettable position, with heavenly or hellish planets, as if burning in a fire of lamentation. Although there are many remedies by which to get out of miserable life, any such remedies in the material world are more miserable than the miseries themselves. Therefore I think that the only remedy is to engage in Your service. Kindly instruct me in such service." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.9.17)

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The Land, the Cows, and Krsna

Krsna's Occupational Therapy

By Hare Krsna Devi Dasi

AN OLD FILM, The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean, recounts the life of a Texas folk hero who brought law and order to the Wild West. Armed with a hefty law book, Bean appoints himself judge of a rugged frontier town and sets up court in a bar. He reforms fighters and gamblers into law-abiding sheriffs and deputies who protect the citizens from marauders. The town prostitutes, properly married to the deputies, become pillars of propriety. The town is transformed.

The story appeals to our innate faith that all people have some special value, if only it can be cultivated. Our belief is correct. At the innermost core each of us is a pure spirit soul, a transcendental being with a unique contribution to make. Too often a person's lower nature obscures the higher nature. But with proper guidance, anyone's better nature can be evoked. For this reason Lord Krsna created an occupational therapy to cure us. It's called varnasrama-dharma.

According to the Bhagavad-gita, everyone acts under the influence of the three modes of nature: goodness, passion, and ignorance. The modes direct one to act as a brahmana (intellectual, teacher), a ksatriya (soldier, government administrator), a vaisya (farmer, merchant), or a sudra (laborer, craftsperson).

Everyone has a certain natural occupation. How can it be used to bring out his best character? Judge Bean's "ksatriyas" first used their martial power destructively as gang leaders but later transformed it as law enforcers. In a more recent example, several years ago the San Francisco sheriff's department set up a program that trained former drug dealers to grow crops for local restaurants. Their twelve-acre garden yielded 120 tons of produce per year.

In a TV interview, sheriff's assistant Catherine Sneed described the changes as inmates transformed from drug dealers to farmers: "I've had so many hardened crack dealers turn into someone who cares whether or not the roses have gotten just enough fish emulsion, or whether or not we're going to make sure they're pruned at the same time. I really feel like gardening teaches you to care."

Setting criminals into a new occupation uncovered the good within their character.

"Because of their criminal history," Ms. Sneed explained, "many of them have lost the sense that they can do something good. When they first come out to the jail program, most of them can't look you in the eye ..., but gradually, as they're in the program for some time, they start walking up straight, and they're very excited about the spinach and potatoes. ... I show them that just as we gave life to these vegetables, you can give a new life to yourself."

Few graduates return to crime. Most stay in gardening-related jobs.

The program transfers people from a contaminated vaisya occupation (merchant of illegal drugs) to a purer vaisya occupation (gardener). The sheriff has intuitively applied a varnasrama principle: purification of character by appropriate work. Reform by gardening would have failed with Judge Bean's gang leaders. But by targeting nonviolent drug dealers, authorities naturally selected people of vaisya character, who were most likely to enjoy gardening.

Will the sheriff's success last? Unfortunately, he misses one important principle: the worker should dedicate his work to the pleasure of God. By working for God, the worker gains the highest perfection. Otherwise, the success of any job program can't endure.

Lord Krsna explains: "By following his qualities of work, every man can become perfect. ... By worship of the Lord, who is the source of all beings and who is all-pervading, a man can attain perfection through performing his own work." (Bhagavad-gita 18.45-46)

Where can people of different character types be trained in the appropriate skill and learn to do that work as an offering to Krsna? At present, no such training institution exists. Srila Prabhupada greatly wished to establish varnasrama colleges all over the world, and the Krsna consciousness movement now plans to make Srila Prabhupada's desire a reality.

It will be challenging to assemble curricula, set up funding, and find qualified teachers in many disciplines. Still, varnasrama colleges hold the promise of spiritual progress for the whole world because varnasrama means to bring out everyone's best character by following the laws in Krsna's book, the Bhagavad-gita. Varnasrama is Krsna's occupational therapy to bring every type of person to the spiritual platform.

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

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India's Heritage

The Land of Gurus

By Ravi Gupta

MORE THAN ANY PLACE in the world, India is the land of gurus. Nearly every Hindu, in India or abroad, has a guru to turn to for advice. The Vedic scriptures present the teachings of great gurus like Maitreya, Kapila, and Vyasa. From the teachings of gurus such as Sankara, Ramanuja, and Madhva have come powerful spiritual movements. And in modern times, India has sent a glut of gurus to the West, each espousing a different philosophy.

In the Caitanya-caritamrta, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu describes the function of the genuine spiritual master:

yare dekha, tare kaha 'krsna'-upadesa
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." The prime function of the spiritual master is to transmit knowledge about Krsna. By that knowledge the guru lifts the disciple out of the darkness of ignorance and engages him in devotional service to the Lord.

Knowledge of Krsna is not of the guru's own making, something he has discovered by research. The genuine spiritual master receives knowledge from his own guru, who received it from his spiritual master. In this way the chain should reach all the way to the source of knowledge, Krsna Himself. If the guru has no connection to a disciplic succession, his teachings will be baseless, no better than anyone else's words, for they will be separated from Krsna. The Padma Purana says, "Unless one is initiated by a bona fide spiritual master in the disciplic succession, the mantra one might have received is without any effect."

Srila Rupa Gosvami describes the qualities of a bona fide spiritual master: "A sober person who can tolerate the urge to speak, the mind's demands, the actions of anger, and the urges of the tongue, belly, and genitals is qualified to make disciples all over the world." A guru is judged not just by what he preaches, but by what he practices. The Sanskrit word guru means "heavy." A spiritual master is heavy with transcendental knowledge.

Every year, hundreds of new gurus arise in India and around the world. Most of them, however, hardly meet the qualifications of a genuine guru. Few are connected in disciplic succession. To gain followers, many water down the Vedic teachings or make up their own. It's easy to find a guru who will tailor his philosophy to suit a disciple's beliefs. I once met a guru in India who told me, "My son, whomever you like to worship, tell me; I will give you a mantra for him."

Other gurus give their teachings in exchange for money, and then lower their standards for disciples who can pay but can't follow rules. Srila Prabhupada once remarked, "The sisya [disciple] says, 'My dear guru, if I do not eat meat and fish, my health will fail.' ... The guru thinks, 'If I say, 'Don't eat meat,' then this disciple will go away, and there is no chance of getting money from him.' That kind of compromise is not required. And nobody requires to have a guru if he has got such an attitude."

Almost every Indian can name a family guru to whom he goes once in a while for advice. But approaching a spiritual master is not just a leisure activity; it is a process of full surrender. Srila Prabhupada admonishes, "Don't make guru a fashion, just like you keep a pet dog. People generally do that. 'Everyone has a guru. Let me collect one.' That kind of guru will not help you. You must be convinced: 'Here is a guru to whom I can surrender.' "

In modern times, one person who was truly worthy of our surrender was His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. He was a true acarya, or one who teaches by example. His every word and every action was something we can emulate. Unlike so many gurus who come from India, Srila Prabhupada did not lower his standards or change his habits to suit Western materialistic ways. Rather, he was the true representative of his own spiritual master and the entire disciplic succession coming from Lord Krsna Himself. Such should be the gurus we want in our heritage for years to come.

Ravi Gupta, age sixteen, 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 fourth-year student at Boise State University.

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Vedic Thoughts

Compassion for the eternal soul is self-realization.

His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Bhagavad-gita As It Is 2.1, purport

Living beings entangled in the complicated meshes of birth and death can be freed at once by even unconsciously chanting the holy name of Krsna, which is feared by fear personified.

Sages at Naimisaranya
Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.1.14

Those who fix their minds on My personal form and are always engaged in worshiping Me with great and transcendental faith are considered by Me to be most perfect.

Lord Sri Krsna
Bhagavad-gita 12.2

One achieves bhakti [love of God] by hearing and chanting about the Supreme Lord's special qualities, even while engaged in the ordinary activities of life in this world.

Sri Narada Muni
Narada-bhakti-sutra 37

Regardless of time or place, one who chants the holy name, even while eating or sleeping, attains all perfection.

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu
Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Antya-lila 20.18

Inexhaustible time, stronger than the strong, is the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself. Like a herdsman moving his animals along, He moves mortal creatures as His pastime.

Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.51.19

Anyone, even a person in an impure state, who absorbs his mind in Lord Krsna for just a moment at the time of death burns up all traces of sinful reactions and immediately attains the supreme transcendental destination in a pure, spiritual form as effulgent as the sun.

Sri Uddhava
Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.46.33

If brahmananda, the bliss of merging into the Lord's Brahman effulgence were multiplied one hundred trillion times, it would still not equal even an atomic fragment of the ocean of transcendental bliss felt in devotional service to the Lord.

Srila Rupa Gosvami
Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu 1.1.38

Do not stay in illusion; go to the eternal reality. Do not stay in darkness; go to the light. Do not keep taking material bodies; become immortal.

Brhad-aranyaka Upanisad 1.3.28

Contributors of Vedic Thoughts for this issue: Kadrudhanayu Devi Dasi (Wroclaw, Poland), Susila Wati (Bali, Indonesia), Sriman Pandita Dasa (Soquel, California, USA), Bharath R. Chennu (Vijaywada, Andhra Pradesh, India)

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From the Editor

Enlightened Introspection

INTROSPECTION. You need it. Take a break and think about what your life is about.

Put your routine aside, put your plans aside, put your everything aside, and take the time to think: What is my life for? Where am I going, and where do I want to go? If I stay on my present track, what will my life come to—and is that all right, or is it drab, disappointing, crummy, empty? "Russell Jones keeled over in front of his television set. He is survived by ... "

From Srimad-Bhagavatam we learn that when Brahma, the first created being, first awoke after having been created, he found himself seated on a great lotus, surrounded by cosmic darkness, the lotus swaying in the wind. And he began to ask himself: Who am I? Why am I here? What is this lotus? And where has it come from?

He looked in all directions and could find only darkness. But finally, amidst that darkness, he heard a transcendent sound, a cue from the Personality of Godhead, a mantra, a liberating instruction. And acting on that instruction, he steadied his mind in meditation and at last saw before him a vision of the spiritual realm and the Personality of Godhead, Krsna. Brahma had attained perfection in Krsna consciousness.

By the grace of Krsna he could now understand everything about his own self, his purpose in life, the lotus, the darkness—everything. Such is the wonderful power of introspection, guided by transcendental sound.

Introspection alone—however honest, however intense, however deep—isn't enough. It falls short, collapsing along the way. But when our power of introspection is uplifted and reliably guided, when it takes help from transcendental sound—from Krsna—then success is sure.

By deep introspection, by a sincere inner search, and with help from the Personality of Godhead, our eternal Krsna consciousness can be revived. Then every question is answered, every problem solved, every perplexity unraveled, every obstacle overcome. The mental clouds that have covered us, the routines that have dulled us, the smiling falsities that have bewitched and bound us—with the help of Krsna, we can then see them for what they are and go free.

That help from Krsna is available to us in the Krsna sound. There is no difference between Krsna the Personality of Godhead and Krsna the transcendental sound. So our introspection can best be guided by Krsna's words of enlightenment, as found in Bhagavad-gita, or by the sound of the Krsna mantra—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. By that Krsna sound, Krsna is present. And when Krsna is present, illusion can no longer prevail.

So take a deep break, look within, take guidance from Krsna's words, chant Hare Krsna. Krsna will help you, and your life will again be sublime.

—Jayadvaita Swami

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