We human beings have the ability to search for truth. But since our limited, imperfect senses can deceive us, we can't always be sure what's true and what's not. For example, what looks like a table is really atoms and space. How do we know that? Because we've heard from scientists, accepted authorities on the subject.
But scientific investigation can go only so far. To get at the truth of things beyond matter, we have to hear from spiritual authorities. The Krsna consciousness movement relies on the authority of the Vedic scriptures and self-realized teachers of the Vedic tradition, who accept the Vedas as perfect knowledge coming from God.
Two articles in this issue raise the topic of mistaken perception and present the truth in the light of Vedic authority. The first, "Even God's Killing Is Good," points out the mistake in thinking that God sometimes does bad things. The other, "Channeling: Extrasensory Deception?" shows how we can be fooled by believing everything we hear from entities "on the other side."
The books and temples of the Hare Krsna movement are all meant to help people see reality. In this issue you can read about the new temple just opened in New Delhi.
If you're a new reader, you might want to start by browsing the Glossary (page 15).
• To help all people discern reality from illusion, spirit from matter, the eternal from the temporary.
Vedic Personality Index
Many readers responded to our offer to analyze their responses to The Vedic Personality Index (May/June 1998). The results are quite varied. Some replies indicated a balance between goodness, passion and ignorance, while others emphasized one nature or another.
The goal of the survey is to help one understand the natural qualities one has picked up by association with material nature. But as Lord Krsna says in Bhagavad-gita, by devotional service in Krsna consciousness one can rise above all three modes of nature and perfectly stand on the spiritual platform.—The editors
"Land of the Gods"?
Some time ago I followed a heated debate between BTG and a Hindu organization over the position of the demigods and monotheism in the Vedas. It seemed to me that BTG's position on this issue was that there is only one Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna, and that all other deities, including Lord Brahma and Lord Siva, are His expansions, potencies, incarnations, etc. I was surprised, therefore, when I noticed that on the front cover of the May/June issue you have included a title that reads "Journey to the Land of the Gods." Who are the other Gods?
Vatsalya Rasa Dasa adhikari
OUR REPLY: Srila Prabhupada uses the term "gods" variously—sometimes as an equivalent to "demigods" (thus Narada is "the sage among the gods") and sometimes to refer to both the Supreme Lord and the demigods (as in Krsna book: "My dear Lord, as for the three gods—Brahma, Visnu and Siva—they are also not independent of You").
Among the deities prominently worshiped in the Himalayas are Lord Visnu, Siva, and Vaisno Devi.
Though on other occasions we have focused on the distinction between the Supreme Lord and the demigods, our cover story this time didn't dwell on it. So we used the word "Gods" neutrally. (The capital "G" occurs because we capitalize most words in our cover lines.)
Krsna's Violent Pastimes
In Krsna's Dvaraka pastimes, Krsna is troubled by and has to kill so many demons and deal with opposing forces, so many wars, so many violent situations. In the material world there is violence, and bad things happen. But how is it that in the spiritual sphere of Krsna's Dvaraka pastimes there is violence and all that? One would expect peace.
OUR REPLY: First of all, as you know, the Lord enacts His pastimes in both the material and spiritual worlds. The demons are present only in the material world. Srila Prabhupada once said that in the spiritual world there are only "rumors of demons."
Everything about Krsna's pastimes is eternal, full of bliss and knowledge. And everything is purified in the presence of Krsna. So the apparent violence in Krsna's pastimes does not have the same effect as ordinary, mundane violence. For example, demons sometimes threaten Krsna's devotees, but in such situations the devotees take shelter of Krsna and increase their attachment for Him. And of course Krsna always protects them, so they can never be harmed by the demons.
We shouldn't think that Krsna is somehow disturbed by the demons. They are tiny, insignificant creatures whom Krsna can easily kill with His material energy if He so desires. But in fact He wants to fight with them, so He allows them to become relatively powerful in the material world. His fighting with them is for His pleasure and the pleasure of His devotees.
Actually, Krsna kills everyone sooner or later. As the Gita states, He is all-devouring death. But no one is really killed. We are all eternal souls, and we continue to exist after the annihilation of the material body. To think there is something wrong in Krsna's pastimes of killing demons is simply an illusion. There is really no violence, because rather than the demons being harmed, they are liberated when killed by Krsna.
In the material world, we can't have happiness without peace, but in Krsna's pastimes, every situation is one of uninterrupted happiness. The apparent violence and other such things simply add to the variety of Krsna's enjoyment.
The Right Pronunciation
How do we correctly pronounce the Lord's name? Is it "Krishna" or "Krishn." An Indian swami has written that it is "Krishn." Has this difference arisen due to regional or linguistic variation in India? Shall we not follow the correct Sanskrit pronunciation of the Lord's name?
Hari Pada Dhar
OUR REPLY: In Sanskrit, consonants are assumed to include the vowel "a" when no other vowel is given. So the Lord's name is pronounced "Krishna." "Krishn" is the Hindi pronunciation, as the practice in Hindi is to often drop the "a" after consonants. In different parts of India, people will pronounce the Lord's name differently. Srila Prabhupada downplayed concern over the exact pronunciation of the Lord's name. Krsna is attracted by devotion and not by pronunciation. So, above all, we should strive to chant His name with devotion.
Give Us More!
The theory that Bhumandala is an accurate model of our solar system is staggering. Dr. Thompson must be a genius. More! More!
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: email@example.com
The Back to Godhead staff would like to thank columnists Rohininandana Dasa and Yamuna Devi for their contributions to BTG since 1991. Rohininandana has been the main writer for Bhakti-yoga at Home and Yamuna Devi has written Lord Krsna's Cuisine for every issue. They're both moving on to other services, but we hope they'll still find time to write occasionally for BTG. (Yamuna Devi's last colu
A true devotee of the Lord
A lecture given in London on July 10, 1973
by His Divine Grace
atra sura mahesvasa
"Here in this army are many heroic bowmen equal in fighting to Bhima and Arjuna: great fighters like Yuyudhana, Virata, and Drupada."—Bhagavad-gita 1.4
PEOPLE MAY ASK, "What spiritual progress can we make by reciting the names of these great fighters? We understand that we can make spiritual advancement by chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, but what do we gain by chanting these names ?"
The answer is nirbandhah krsna-sambandhe: whatever is connected with Krsna becomes Krsna. That is the subtle philosophical understanding. One class of so-called devotees, known as sahajiyas, do not read Bhagavad-gita but jump at once to reading about Krsna's rasa-lila—His dancing with His cowherd girlfriends—in the Tenth Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Such sahajiyas distinguish between Krsna's fighting pastimes and His rasa-lila. But the two pastimes are in fact the same, because Krsna is the center of both. And whatever is connected with Krsna becomes Krsna. That is the idea.
Srila Rupa Gosvami has taught, prapancikataya buddhya ... Everything has a connection with Krsna because ultimately everything is Krsna's energy. Prapancikata means "material." The material world is a manifestation of Krsna's energy, made up of five gross elements (earth, water, air, fire, and sky) and three subtle elements (mind, intelligence, and ego). Krsna says, bhinna me prakrtir astadha: "These material elements are separated from Me, but they are My energy."
For example, a cloud is created by the sun's energy. Sea water evaporates and forms clouds. So the cloud is created by the energy of the sun, but when there is a cloud you cannot see the sun. The sun is covered. Similarly, the material energy is Krsna's energy, but when we become covered by the material energy, we do not see Krsna. That is our position.
Srila Rupa Gosvami writes,
"One who rejects anything without knowledge of its relationship to Krsna is incomplete in his renunciation." Mumuksu means those who are after the liberation of merging into the Supreme, such as the Mayavadis. The Mayavadis say, brahma satyam jagan mithya: "This world is false; only Brahman, spirit, is reality." But we ask why the world should be false if it is coming from the reality. We do not agree with the Mayavadis. We do not accept that this world is false. We can say that it is a temporary manifestation. But it is not false.
We are living in this house. If someone says, "It is false," we say, "Why is it false?" We are using the house. We are using the microphone. We are using the dictaphone. Why would they be false?
They are not false, because they have a relationship with Krsna—sambandha. Anything material is made of earth, water, fire, and air, and these are Krsna's energies. Therefore everything has a direct relationship with Krsna. And if Krsna is reality, why should His energy be false? It is not false. We must know how to use it.
Krsna is on the Battlefield of Kuruksetra, and everything there—soldiers, commanders-in-chief, chariots, ground—is Krsna's energy.
If we remember that everything is a manifestation of Krsna's energy, there is no question of materialism. Everything is spiritual energy, so we have to use everything for Krsna.
Krsna Wanted the Battle
Many soldiers had gathered on the battlefield at Kuruksetra, and Krsna would display one of His energies. Paritranaya sadhunam vinasaya ca duskrtam: He wanted to kill all the demons. That is a side of His business. As one of His sides is to give protection to the devotees (paritranaya sadhunam), the other side is to vanquish all the demons (vinasaya ca duskrtam). If you want to grow paddy in a field, first you have to destroy all the unwanted weeds. Then you sow the seeds, and the paddy will come out nicely.
These two are required: destruction and construction. Both are Krsna's activities or energies. We have to understand that both are working as different manifestations of Krsna's energy. Parasya saktir vividhaiva sruyate. In the Vedas it is said that the Absolute has multi-energies. One energy works in one way; another energy works in another way. When we do something, we require varieties of energy to make that activity perfect. Everything—Krsna, Krsna's material world and spiritual world—is working in order under His different energies.
So we should not neglect hearing the names of these warriors. Krsna wanted to bring together on the Battlefield of Kuruksetra all the demoniac powers and kill them. That was His plan.
Krsna has His plan. We should not be attached to things as they are but should try to understand everything in its relationship with Krsna. As soon as we recognize anything's relationship with Krsna, we can use it properly. That is Krsna consciousness.
Everything for Krsna
Everything can be used for Krsna. Krsna is not a stereotyped, stagnant block. Krsna is a dynamic force. Therefore everything can be dovetailed in Krsna's service. One should simply learn the art of dovetailing, under proper guidance. That art will be the perfect form of Krsna consciousness.
Read the next verse.
[A disciple reads:]
Translation: "There are also great heroic, powerful fighters like Dhrstaketu, Cekitana, Kasiraja, Purujit, Kuntibhoja, and Saibya."
[Srila Prabhupada continues:] In the Battle of Kuruksetra, great warriors from all parts of the world came and joined. Some of them joined one side, and others joined the other side. We have not given all the information on these great warriors in our Bhagavad-gita As It Is, because that would have increased the number of pages. But information about them is available in a book called The Personalities of Mahabharata.
Bhagavad-gita is part of the Mahabharata. Mahabharata means "greater India." Maha means "greater," and bharata refers to India. The whole planet was originally known as Bharata-varsa. There was only one flag. The whole planet was ruled by one king, from Hastinapura [modern-day Delhi]. The Battle of Kuruksetra would determine who would be the king—Maharaja Yudhisthira or Duryodhana.
Krsna had decided, "Duryodhana is unfit. Maharaja Yudhisthira is fit." Krsna wanted Yudhisthira to be king. Therefore the Battle of Kuruksetra took place. Krsna wanted to wipe out all unwanted demons from the face of the world and enthrone Maharaja Yudhisthira because Yudhisthira was the exact representative of Krsna.
Krsna Conscious Monarchy
Monarchy or dictatorship is welcome. Now the Communists want dictatorship. That is welcome, provided the dictator is trained like Maharaja Yudhisthira. Not that simply by the votes of the rascal population one becomes a dictator, then another rascal comes, and another big rascal comes. The Communist dictator Stalin is said to have been the greatest criminal in the history of the world. He would not tolerate anyone going against him. As soon as he found that someone was against him, he would call that person before him and say, "Take poison, or I shall kill you." That was his policy. In that way he killed so many enemies, not only the Czar family. His business was killing.
That kind of dictatorship is not wanted. A dictator is wanted by whose direction the citizens will be so happy that they will not have any anxiety.
We read the other day in Srimad-Bhagavatam of the three miserable conditions of life: adhyatmika (miseries caused by one's own body and mind), adhibhautika (miseries caused by others), and adhidaivika. The adhidaivika miseries, such as famines and earthquakes, are caused by the higher beings, the demigods. These things are not under your control. At any time there may be earthquakes, famine, pestilence, floods. These are called daiva, "controlled by demigods." For example, Indra wanted to flood Vrndavana, being angry at the residents. But Krsna saved them as Giridhari—the lifter of Govardhana Hill.
These disturbances are there—adhyatmika, adhibhautika, adhidaivika—the king or dictator should be so perfect and should guide the citizens in such a way that they will not feel these disturbances. That kind of dictatorship is wanted.
Adhibhautika means "You are envious of me; I am envious of you." There is always cold war, struggle. Under the dictator's rule this should be stopped. There should not even be excessive heat or cold. People should feel happy in all respects.
Such a condition existed under Maharaja Yudhisthira, his forefathers, and his grandson. The sons of the Pandavas all died in the Battlefield of Kuruksetra. Maharaja Pariksit, the grandson of the Pandavas, was within the womb of his mother, and he was saved. During his reign and the reigns of his ancestors the whole planet was very nicely governed by dictatorship.
We can bring in such dictatorship, provided the dictator is perfectly Krsna conscious. Then he will know how to conduct the kingdom, how to make everyone happy.
So here is another list of fighters. The real purpose of this battle is to bring all the big fighters of the world together, and under Krsna's guidance they would all be killed. Nimitta-matram bhava savya-sacin. When Arjuna declined to fight, Krsna ultimately said, "My dear Arjuna, whether you fight or not it doesn't matter. These people are not going back home. It is already settled. You can simply take credit that you have fought and killed. They are already killed, because that is My plan."
Krsna wanted to kill them, and the result was—you will find in Bhagavad-gita—they all attained svarupa, their eternal form. All who died on the Battlefield of Kuruksetra, in the presence of Krsna, attained their original, constitutional position, their spiritual form. They all went back home, back to Godhead.
Krsna is absolute, so His killing and His protecting are the same. Don't think that Krsna is killing. No. Anyone killed by Krsna gets liberation at once. The liberation for which great, great saintly persons, sages, undergo severe austerities life after life—one gets that simply by being killed by Krsna.
So if by becoming Krsna's enemy one gets that benefit, just think of the benefit of becoming Krsna's friend. That is the Krsna consciousness. The Mayavadis, impersonalists, are after liberation. But that liberation is granted even to the enemies of Krsna.
The Mayavadis are also Krsna's enemies. Krsne aparadhi. They are offenders to Krsna because they do not accept the form of Krsna.
Everything studied in relationship with Krsna is perfect knowledge, and that is described in the Bhagavad-gita. We are not like sahajiyas, the sentimental pseudo devotees, who are interested in Krsna's rasa dance but not in His fighting on the Battlefield of Kuruksetra. That attitude is not wanted.
Thank you very much.
What is Real?
By Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami
OUR IDEAS OF THE REAL and the unreal are formed early in life. Life is filled with sensual and subtle impressions that condition us to accept certain things and reject others. Those impressions also lead us to form habits, good and bad, and to learn to feel happy or unhappy according to our perception of pleasure. We also learn fear and, usually, learn that most of our fears are imaginary—they aren't real. I remember being frightened by the action in a movie when I was a child. My mother consoled me, "Don't be afraid. It's not real."
Not real? If it wasn't real, then why was she so absorbed in it? Why did it seem so real? If it wasn't real, what was?
To know what is real, we have to question what we are. Am I real? If so, which part is the real me? My body? It feels real, especially when put through pain. And beyond the self, what about the house I live in or the road outside or any of the other myriad objects I perceive with my senses? Why is it that when I interact with all these real things, I feel unsettled, as if something's not quite what I expect it to be?
As we grow up, we learn to escape that unsettled feeling by going to the movies or diving into fictional accounts of people living out more perfect lives—heroes and antiheroes who experience events bigger than anything we have known as possible. That doesn't seem to satisfy either, but at least it's a distraction. Where is that real form to satisfy us? Where is the story with real meaning?
Real life is the life of the soul, and Sri Krsna is the highest substance of reality. The very reality of Krsna's nature is almost too awesome to contemplate. He is omnipotent, all-pervading, the source of everything we are and know, and He is the eternal form of love. He exceeds time and space, so He can lift us above the confusion of misidentifying illusion as truth. Finding Krsna is the work we have before us in this world if we are to actually come to know reality and the story of the soul in its relationship with the Supreme.
The best way to find Krsna is to hear about Him from those who know Him and from the scriptures. Srila Prabhupada writes (in Krsna, "The Salvation of Trnavarta":
If someone takes advantage of hearing the pastimes of the Lord, the material contamination of dust, accumulated in the heart due to long association with the material nature, can be immediately cleansed. Lord Caitanya also instructed that simply by hearing the transcendental name of Lord Krsna one can cleanse the heart of all material contamination. There are different processes for self-realization, but this process of devotional service—of which hearing is the most important function—when adopted by any conditioned soul, will automatically cleanse him of the material contamination and enable him to realize his real constitutional position. Conditional life is due to this contamination only, and as soon as it is cleared off, then naturally the dormant function of the living entity—rendering service to the Lord—awakens. ...
Note the phrase "The dormant function of rendering service to the Lord ... awakens." The reality of life and the soul's nature is uncovered not by escaping into other forms of illusion but by hearing from a higher source. That higher source (scriptures, the guru) appears to be something outside our self, but actually it touches the inherent nature of the soul.
The constitutional relationship between God and the soul is objective reality, but covered. By studying reality we can come to see that only God's mercy keeps us alive and arranges all our adventures and misadventures in this world. I say mercy because it descends from the spiritual world to cleanse us of false concepts and awaken us to our inherent spiritual nature, and ultimately to grant us love of God.
This is not merely dogma; it is reality. As an aspiring devotee, I can't claim that I'm awake in the eternal reality of Krsna consciousness, but my goal is to live in that reality and not to remain in the temporary world, which comes and goes like a dream.
Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami travels extensively to speak and write about Krsna consciousness. He is the author of many books, including a six-volume biography of Srila Prabhupada.
Cooking Class: Lesson 37
By Yamuna Devi
"Aah, yes. More sweet rice please."
Or, "Mmm, some ambrosial sweet rice please."
Two typical requests for seconds on what devotees in ISKCON call "sweet rice." In India the dish is more aptly known as chaval kheer. Kheer is a common term for several varieties of condensed-milk pudding, and chaval means "rice." (The Sanskrit word for kheer is ksira.)
Depending on the region of India, kheer might also be called payasa, basundi, or payesh. Readers of Vaisnava literature are likely familiar with the beautiful Deity Ksira-cora Gopinatha, or "Krishna, the ksira thief." This Deity of Lord Krsna in Remuna, Orissa, is famous for having stolen a pot of kheer as a gift for His devotee Madhavendra Puri. Visitors to the temple today can sample some of Gopinatha's delicious kheer prasadam.
Varieties of Kheer
In its simplest form, kheer is nothing more than sweetened milk that has been reduced by boiling it down to one-half or one-third its original volume. To that condensed milk one can add numerous other ingredients for body and flavor, yielding such varieties as rice kheer, nut kheer, yam kheer, pumpkin kheer, zucchini kheer, semolina kheer, cracked-wheat kheer, shredded-carrot kheer, fresh- or dried-fruit kheer, angel-hair-thin-vermicelli kheer, and more. In preparing the original manuscripts for the cookbook Lord Krishna's Cuisine, I came up with more than twenty-five varieties. (After editing, we left seven.)
When kheer is cooked down further, to one quarter or less of its original volume, it is known as rabri. Though little except some crushed cardamom pods is usually added, Srila Prabhupada sometimes requested rabri with added sliced mango, banana, papaya, or orange segments. He enjoyed it served chilled, although that's not traditional.
If you've been faithfully following this cooking class series, you know that you have homework over and above preparing the recipe here. Make at least three kinds of kheer from the class textbook, using different ingredients and cookware. Study the effects that heat, cookware, and cooking time have on the result. If possible, try to ferret out farm-fresh or unhomogenized milk, and compare it with store-bought. Instead of refined white sugar, use some of the unrefined sweeteners available where you live. In the United States I've tried date sugar, maple sugar, maple syrup, turbinado sugar, organic sucanat, and Florida Crystals (unrefined cane sugar), to name a few. Besides sweetening, these sweeteners will add unique flavors. If you opt for honey, add it after the kheer has finished cooking. Swirl in the honey—off the stove—until melted. According to the Ayurveda, honey when boiled becomes toxic.
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.
Cracked Wheat Kheer (Dalia Kheer)
A traditional favorite in cool weather, this kheer is warming, substantial, and fairly quick to make.
(depending on appetites)
2 teaspoons ghee or unsalted butter
Melt the ghee or butter in a 1-gallon or larger heavy-bottomed pot over moderate heat. Add the cracked wheat, and, while stirring, toast the wheat until the grains darken a shade or two. Add the milk, sweetener, cardamom, and perhaps raisins.
Increase the heat to high. While stirring, bring the mixture to a rolling boil. Stirring frequently, boil until the grains are swollen and the thickened milk puts a thick coating on the stirring spoon (up to 25 minutes). As the kheer cools, it will continue to thicken.
Offer to Krsna and serve warm.
Preparing Your Child for Gurukula
By Nataka Candrika Devi Dasi
PARENTS OFTEN ASK what they can do to help prepare their child for entering gurukula, a Krsna conscious school. Some parents first ask this question when the child is about four years old, but many parents begin preparing their child from the earliest years.
Fortunate is that child who has been exposed to a Krsna conscious way of life from birth, and even more fortunate is one who has also attended a Krsna conscious nursery or preschool. A natural, gradual training over an extended period of time works best. The parent and teacher should work together to lay the best possible foundation for the child's entrance into school.
Some years ago the teachers at a New York gurukula prepared a list of prerequisites for children entering gurukula. The list included items that would also apply to children entering a secular school, such as being respectful and knowing how to dress themselves. But here's the list boiled down to suggestions for preparing children specifically for a Krsna conscious school:
1. Bring children regularly to the temple for morning services, or perform the same services in your own home.
Nataka Candrika Devi Dasi has been teaching in ISKCON preschools and elementary schools for the last twenty-two years. She lives in Alachua, Florida, USA, with her husband, Radha-Damodara Dasa, and their three children.
Compiled by Navina Nirada Dasa
HERE ARE SOME letters of appreciation from recipients of Srila Prabhupada's books:
Ignited with the Fire Of Krsna Consciousness
I want to thank you for being a critical part in my life. Without the distribution of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada's books, I would never have been ignited with the fire of Krsna consciousness. My first contact with Krsna was at my friend's house. I saw the book The Science of Self Realization lying on the floor, and at that moment I felt an overwhelming, irresistible attraction to borrow the book. I read a few pages and knew I had finally found the truth. I've now read about half of your books but had little association with devotees. My goal right now is to join an ISKCON farm community. Hare Krsna.
I am writing to express my deepest and profound gratitude for your kindness in sending me the book Your Ever Well-Wisher. I am in turn humbled, brought to tears, dipped in melancholy, and then finally I find myself saying, "Krsna! Krsna!" This book is one of the dearest and most valuable gifts I have ever received. I am chanting every morning and reading Srila Prabhupada's books every day. Thank you again for this wonderful kindness.
Standing Her Ground
Recently, I had the pleasure to meet some of your nice people while I was vacationing in the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee. I was so pleased to come in contact with them, because I have always been interested in the Hare Krsna movement. I was so grateful when your people handed me a book—The Path of Yoga—and your address was in it. At the time I was intimidated because the people with me did not approve of the Hare Krsnas, but I stood my ground and bought the book. And I'm glad I did. The others poked fun at me and said I'd been taken. I simply told them I wanted the book because I like the Hare Krsnas and enjoy reading their books. My friends became quiet after that. The book is great, and it has helped me a lot. Thanks!
A Dusty Gem
It has to be the most fortunate thing that could happen to anyone—a person's whole life changed. It happened one afternoon while I was going to the shop. I saw a book lying on the side of the road. I walked past it, spoke to some friends, bought whatever I needed, and was on my way back when I again noticed the book. I stopped and picked it up, although I normally wouldn't pick up something from the road as bad-looking as this. It was dirty, torn, and old.
I was a sinful person at that time, and a great meat-eater.
I went out in the evening with friends. When I returned home, I sat and read a few magazines and then picked up the book I had found. I dusted it off and read the title: Coming Back. I began to read—and I read and read and read.
I had never read anything as clear, pure, easy, and truthful as this book. I was amazed and shocked. I began to think how sinful I was. I completed the book the next day and decided to change my life by becoming spiritually conscious.
The next month I gave up eating meat, went to the temple, and started learning more about Srila Prabhupada and the all-glorious Lord Krsna. I have now been a devotee for three years, and I enjoy every minute of it. All this happened because I decided to take a walk to the shop one day. That is the power of the Lord, Sri Krsna.
Freedom from the Misery of Materialism
I had just arrived at Denver International Airport when a young man handed me a book called Bhagavad-gita. I gave him a donation and took the book. I read from its pages and couldn't stop reading. I agree with all I have read, and I see the need and the joy in becoming free from material addiction. I have thought about this a lot and know that I'm ready to embrace this truth. I would give all I have to be free from the misery of materialism. What you teach is true, and I genuinely would like to thank you.
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.
Delhi's new Hare Krsna complex
By Yudhisthira Dasa
On April 5, the auspicious day of Sri Rama Navami (the appearance anniversary of Lord Ramacandra), New Delhi saw the opening of a magnificent new temple, inaugurated by the Prime Minister of India, Sri Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Here is a report about the temple and the day's proceedings.
A COOL MORNING breeze swept across my face as I hurriedly climbed a small flight of stairs to reach the temple in time for the mangala-arati, the first worship ceremony of the day, at 4:30 A.M. I crossed the red sandstone arched gateway, quickly asking permission to enter from Jaya and Vijaya—gatekeepers of Vaikuntha (the spiritual world), guarding here in their carved forms. Just yesterday their life-size black stone forms had been installed at the temple entrance and outside the doorways of the main temple complex. A huge fire sacrifice had been performed to invoke their presence, along with that of Garuda, the bird-carrier of Lord Visnu. Vedic mantras had been recited amid great pomp, the gurukula boys and devotees singing the Hare Krsna mantra throughout.
I quickly entered the old temple, which seemed dwarfed by the new structure in which the Lord would reside from this day onwards. The old temple, soon to be converted into the Govinda Restaurant, was for now filled with devotees from around the globe, many of whom had come just for the temple opening. As the curtains drew to reveal the beautiful form of Sri Sri Radha-Parthasarathi, soft prayers gave way to an ecstatic kirtana. Their Lordships would now be taking up residence in the gorgeous new temple on Hare Krishna Hill.
Up the flight of nearly one hundred steps, the procession began, led by ISKCON gurus and sannyasis, their faces full of care and affection for the Deities. Sounds of conch shells, cymbals, mrdangas, and an uproarious kirtana filled the morning sky.
As I followed the Deities, the first rays of the sun shone upon the three sikharas (domes) standing majestically above the temple, and on the red sandstone auditorium and guest house. From either side of the temple doorway, the stairways on both sides extended downwards like outstretched arms, wrapping around the groves, pools, fountains, waterfalls, and landscaped gardens. A perfect tranquil setting for spiritual endeavors.
Thirty years ago, Srila Prabhupada had expressed to Gopal Krishna Goswami his desire to build a big project in Delhi. In the capital of India, the temple should be appropriately large. National leaders, the people of Delhi, visitors from India and abroad—all could come to learn of Krsna's message and have the audience of the Lord.
While reflecting upon this, I was looking at the carved form of Srila Prabhupada sitting on his new vyasasana (the seat of the guru) while the priests chanted mantras. The first worship of Srila Prabhupada in the new temple was being performed by Gopal Krishna Goswami, who had made Srila Prabhupada's dream come true.
The kirtana became intense as the traditional installation of the Deity began. Two hours slipped by rapidly while devotees relished the kirtana and the sight of the beautiful ceremony.
Soon we all made our way into a pandal (open-sided tent) near the temple. Life members * (A life member is a patron enrolled in ISKCON's Life Membership Program, which encourages those who support ISKCON's activities and provides them certain benefits.) and donors had come to grace the occasion and hear the spiritual discourses and the kirtanas. Said Mahendra K. Jajodia, a prominent life member and donor, "ISKCON's new temple in Delhi is another jewel by which people can enrich their lives. Indebted to ISKCON, I feel I have no better way than to submit my resources for use in the temple. This temple will surely provide peace and solace for the disturbed minds of this jet age."
After a sweeping security check, the Prime Minister, Sri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, arrived to inaugurate the temple. And with him: Tejendra Khanna, the lieutenant governor of New Delhi; Sahib Singh Verma, the New Delhi chief minister; Ms. Sushma Swaraj, union minister for information and broadcasting; T. R. Kakkar, the Delhi police commissioner; and K. Padmanabhiah, the former home secretary.
After visiting the temple and offering respects to the Deities, and after a preview of the museum, with its multi-media and animatronics shows, the guests assembled in the auditorium. In attendance were leading industrialists and donors from India and abroad. Among the foreign dignitaries and diplomats was the youngest minister of parliament from the U.K., Ms. Claire Ward; former U.S. congressman Steven Solarz; and the ambassador of Russia. Adding a dash of glitter were movie stars Hema Malini and Sunil Dutt. The Prime Minister then addressed the gathering, glorifying Srila Prabhupada, ISKCON, and the devotees, in his bilingual speech.
Throughout the day, thousands of people thronged to see Sri Sri Radha Partha-sarathi. All were served sumptuous prasadam in the halls above the gardens.
In the evening: devotional dramas and songs, a procession by gurukula boys riding on three elephants, dances performed by devotees from Manipur, and a display of fireworks above the colored fountains in the gardens.
I walked back toward the guest rooms reflecting on the glorious day, my spirits enlivened by one of the finest moments for ISKCON, with the leaders of the nation glorifying the Bhagavad-gita and recognizing the contribution of Srila Prabhupada, who had spread the message of the Bhagavad-gita throughout the world. Spiritual seekers from throughout the world can now come to find authentic knowledge at the Sri Sri Radha Parthasarathi Temple and ISKCON Hinduja Glory of India Vedic Cultural Center.
The inaugural address of
RESPECTED Prime Minister, respected Lieutenant Governor, Ms. Claire Ward, and all devotees present:
We are very happy that our Prime Minister has come on this auspicious occasion. On behalf of all the devotees of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, I express my gratitude to the Prime Minister. All of you, please accept the good wishes of Lord Sri Ramacandra.
This center is named "The Glory of India Vedic Cultural Center." The glory of India can spread light throughout the world. As a pure devotee of the Supreme Lord, Srila Prabhupada desired that the glory of India reach every corner of the world. Wherever Srila Prabhupada would go, he would preach to the Indians and foreigners, "You may take advantage of the benefits of technology, but do not forget your real culture."
Srila Prabhupada's spiritual master had ordered him to take the culture of India to the world. For nearly twenty-five years, Srila Prabhupada tried a lot in India, but could not get much success. So he went to America, with forty rupees, in those days about seven or eight dollars. At the age of seventy, without a single contact, he reached America, and there he had to struggle a lot. But because he had faith in the words of his spiritual master, faith in the teachings of the Lord, he went on preaching. And now you can see an ISKCON center in virtually every corner of the world.
What are the activities of these centers? They are centers that enhance the glory of India. Today people in various parts of the world are learning the Sanskrit language. They are speaking Hindi and Bengali. They are dressing in dhoti, kurta, and sari. You can see that a member of parliament from Britain, Ms. Claire Ward, sitting on the dais, is dressed in a sari. In every corner of the world people are coming in contact with Indian culture because of the preaching of Srila Prabhupada. He has translated nearly one hundred books into English, and these in turn have been translated into all the popular languages of the world. Thousands of universities are using these books as reference. Whether you go to Cambridge, Oxford, or Harvard, you will find these books making a deep impact.
Srila Prabhupada spent a lot of time in the city of Delhi. He often mentioned that Delhi, earlier known as Indraprastha, used to be the capital of the world. It was Prabhupada's desire that in this most ancient city of Delhi a center should be made where people can learn about Vedic culture and its glory. And Prabhupada had desired that the culture of India be presented through the medium of technology.
I am very much obliged to all the devotees, because it is due to their cooperation that this work was possible. Without your support it would not have been possible to fulfill Prabhupada's desire. I am grateful to all of you.
I am happy that in our country there is a leader who respects the culture of our country and who understands the importance of our culture. I pray to the Supreme Lord for His good wishes and pray that Atal Bihari Vajpayeeji can guide this country so as to increase its glory. The impact of our culture should increase, and the people of the entire world should look towards us, towards this culture, to find solutions to their problems.
Eternal Philosophy in a Modern Package
An interview with His Holiness Gopal Krishna Goswami, governing body commissioner for the International Society for Krishna Consciousness in Delhi. He provided leadership, guidance, and inspiration to people from all walks of life to take part in the marathon effort of building the new temple and cultural center.
BTG: When you first asked the Delhi civic authorities for land, what did you plan to do with it?
Gopal Krishna Goswami: From the beginning, we had a broad vision of the ISKCON Delhi project. We wanted to create a place that would inspire people to dedicate their lives to the teachings of Lord Sri Krsna. But we knew that if we just constructed another temple in Delhi, it would not be significant. Hence we developed the concept of having a cultural center. Over the years many devotees came forth to contribute, and Jnanagamya Dasa put together all the ideas for developing the themes for the cultural center, using multimedia and animatronics. We have a great heritage, and an important spiritual message to give, so we decided to present this eternal philosophy in a very modern package.
BTG: Who was your source of inspiration?
GKG: Back in 1969 when I was working in Montreal, Srila Prabhupada wrote me a letter in which he said, "In the capital city of Delhi, so many big buildings have been constructed since Independence, but not one major temple. So when you return to India, you should construct temples throughout the country."
BTG: How much did this temple cost?
GKG: So far we've spent over 20 crore rupees [$5 million] on this project. When we first started, in 1982, we had a 1.25-crore [$312,000] budget. In 1992 the project was expected to cost 6 to 8 crores [$1.5 million to $2 million]. And at that time we were in anxiety: How would this be raised? But Prabhupada had always told us, "Depend on Krsna and make an effort." So with that in mind we started to execute this project. At one time we didn't have enough money to pay for the land. It was with great difficulty that we managed to pay for the land. The cost continued to increase because the vision for the project expanded. Somehow or other Krsna provided sufficient funds so that construction never stopped.
The Hinduja family was very helpful and gave us encouragement and financial support. Ashok Hinduja, a gifted architect, helped actively and was involved in the planning and construction effort. Most of the funds came from friends and devotees from Delhi and abroad. Our temple devotees preached nicely, and donors and life members came forward to help.
BTG: What are some of the features of the museum?
GKG: The animatronics show features computerized, full-movement, lifelike robots of Krsna, Arjuna, and Srila Prabhupada speaking Bhagavad-gita. This is the only show of its kind in India. Thousands of people will enjoy this show and increase their appreciation for Bhagavad-gita.
We also have a 380-seat theater in which we're going to present the Krsna conscious philosophy with videos and multimedia shows.
The museum will also present the philosophy of the Vedic scriptures through the medium of dioramas. The sculptures and paintings in the museum will bring to life the ancient teachings of the Mahabharata and Ramayana.
We have twelve back-lit color panels telling about the Hare Krsna movement. At the inaugural program, the chief minister, after seeing those panels, mentioned a statement from Srila Prabhupada included there: "Purity is the force." This shows the impact of these exhibits.
BTG: Besides teaching Vedic culture and philosophy, will the project do anything more?
GKG: The ISKCON Glory of India temple will help Indians and Western visitors appreciate the ancient culture of India and understand the important teachings of the Vedas. We hope the high-tech exhibits and shows will impress and inspire people to follow spiritual principles and thereby experience peace, harmony, and perfection in their lives. People will appreciate ISKCON's contribution to improve the world. They will especially develop a deep sense of gratitude for the selfless and magnanimous work done by ISKCON's founder-acarya, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who will be honored as one of the greatest spiritual leaders to grace the earth in the last century.
Art, Architecture, and Ambiance
JUST ABOVE THE doorway of the main temple rests a beautiful high-relief sculpture of Lord Visnu's face. About twenty such huge sculptures, cast in fiberglass by an American devotee, Bhaktisiddhanta Dasa, grace the temple complex.
"It took me about two years to do these castings, using local material and innovative methods," Bhaktisiddhanta says. "Normally this work would have taken about five to six years, but Krsna really blessed me."
Employing more than twenty skilled people throughout, his studio created a stunning array of sculptures depicting stories from the Mahabharata. Some of the stories, like that of Ghatotkaca, are not so commonly known.
On the octagonal temple ceiling, huge triangular paintings, again from Bhaktisiddhanta's studio, depict prominent episodes from the life of Sri Krsna and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
"These eight paintings are the work of devotee artists from Russia," says Jnanagamya Dasa, a professional designer who has been with ISKCON since 1972.
Just three years ago Jnanagamya took the position of director for the Glory of India Experience, the museum side of the project. Next he intends to use his skills for a still more ambitious ISKCON project, at Mayapur, West Bengal.
Veda Tech: Robots Preach Reality
"My eyes are blinded by this fearful form. O Krsna, please show me Your original and most pleasing form as Govinda." The display of the fearful universal form stops, Arjuna bows down, and Krsna raises His hands to bless the relieved Arjuna. These are not drama artists, but robots performing in a specially housed animatronics theater.
At the press of a remote button, the robots start moving—their arms, their necks, and even their eyes and lips. Sophisticated robots have been programmed to impart the most valuable teachings of the Bhagavad-gita.
The technical director for this animatronics experience is a Croatian brahmacari, Dina Natha Dasa. His is the human hand behind the subtle mechanical movements of the robots.
"Every day we have priests reciting verses from the holy books," Dina Natha says. "Now, this is a new way to reach out to modern minds."
The Heavenly Environment
Rolling hills, misty fog, the sound of water cascading down a mountain face, temple bells clanging at a distance, birds chirping back to their homes upon the fall of dusk. Such is the atmosphere created in the temple precincts. Terraces and sunken courtyards arrayed between the buildings create dynamic spatial relationships, with a focal point in a spectacular waterfall—brilliantly lit up at night, flowing over prismatic red granite blocks. As the shimmering water cascades into pools, it disappears into a rising fog, creating an ethereal effect. The fog, sprayed up from the pools by microfine sapphire nozzles, spreads gently throughout the gardens, cooling the air.
This is the artistry of Ravindra Bhan, architect and landscape designer. By working with, not against, a challenging rocky and hilly site, he has brought forth a landscape that is a source of delight and wonder.
On the ISKCON Team
Lokanath Swami has been one of the spiritual leaders for the Krsna consciousness movement in Delhi for about 20 years; originally from Maharashtra, he joined ISKCON in 1971. Lokanath Maharaja particularly played a large part in helping find and acquire the land for the project. He says, "Having spent the prime of my youth in Delhi, I have certainly developed some attachment for preaching in this city. I also have great attachment to the people of Delhi. But most of all I have the greatest attachment for the Deities, Their Divine Lordhips Sri Sri Radha Parthasarathi."
A devotee with a civil engineering degree, Trikalajna Dasa moved back home to Delhi from London in 1991 to serve as the president of the temple while it was under construction, up until November 1997.
Trikalajna Dasa says, "The inspiration behind this project was simply to please Srila Prabhupada. This project is no doubt unique. Being instrumental in helping to build it was a transcendental experience that doesn't come easily."
Temple president since November 1997, Kratu Dasa is a disciple of Srila Prabhupada and a mature administrator and preacher. He says, "Our biggest challenge lies ahead, to use the facilities for making people Krsna conscious." Another of his interests is to invite students from schools and colleges.
A former lawyer and member of ISKCON since the early eighties, Maha-mantra Dasa became ISKCON Delhi's vice president and communications director in 1993. He contributed considerably by raising funds and gaining governmental support. His request to the Prime Minister: "Rename the area surrounding the temple as Sant Prabhupada Nagar instead of Sant Nagar."
Life Membership Team
A team of qualified and dedicated devotees worked hard to enlist support from many ISKCON life members and donors to help in the project. Radha Damodar Dasa, an Ayur-vedic doctor, with ISKCON since 1982, is the ISKCON Delhi's vice president and life membership director. Ram Nam Dasa, a mechanical engineer, also doubles as the computer expert. Samba Dasa is an excellent cook and preacher. Krsna Priya Dasa is a medical doctor and ardent supporter of the project. Vrajendra-nandana Dasa is an erstwhile media person and president of the Punjabi Bagh temple in New Delhi. Braja Bhakti Vilasa Dasa, a professional designer, says, "I wish to maintain the Deity altar and design clothes for Them." Rocana Dasa is a former student of psychology and a leading preacher. Balabhadra Dasa is the director of Delhi's Hare Krishna Food for Life program. Varaha Dasa is a classical Bengali bhajana singer. Mohana Rupa Dasa is the director of the Youth Forum. Yadukulesvara Dasa is a preacher. These are just a few among the many other members of the ISKCON team.
A Word of Thanks
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness would like to sincerely thank Sri Srichand Hinduja and Sri Ashok Hinduja, who through the Hinduja Foundation generously supported the New Delhi temple project. The Foundation gave a large financial contribution, and Sri Ashok Hinduja played a significant role in planning the architecture of the project. We pray that Sri Sri Radha-Parthasarathi will shower blessings upon them and their families.
Designed with Devotion
A TEAM OF TOP Indian professionals worked together to give the Glory of India Vedic Cultural Center its architecture and design. Mr. A. P. Kanvinde served as the chief architect. One of India's foremost architects and recipient of the prestigious Padma Sri award, Mr. Kanvinde had never before designed a temple. But impressed by the devotional spirit of project director Mr. C. J. Dave (Caturmasya Dasa), and after having met Gopal Krishna Goswami, he took up the project, offering his services without charge. Caturmasya Dasa was ably assisted by Mr. G. L. Nagar, a retired aircraft maintenance engineer, and Mr. A. S. Rana. Mr. Ravindra Bhan, a professor of architecture at an American university, designed the landscape. Mr. Sumit Ghosh, a professional architect, designed the interiors. Mr. S. V. Damle was the structural engineer. Mr. Kanvinde took advantage of the hilly site in the design. "The whole setting—which climbs up on top of the rocks—is unique," he says. "It contributes to the spiritual experience." He adds, "In the old city survey maps, this hill is known as Govardhana Hill." Surely the most striking aspect of the design is the sikharas (domes). "The hollow sikhara is an important symbolic element of openness," Mr. Kanvinde explains. "Historically there was stone over stone, completely solid. So I opened it as a source of space. We have also created lighting effects from inside the sikhara at night. It will be seen from many miles." In summary, he says, "I feel that the Glory of India Project is a fusion of the past and the present: India's ancient culture of the past, presented for the people of the present."
Krsna, Bhima, and Arjuna, disguised as brahmanas,
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 has been discussing with King Yudhisthira the need to defeat King Jarasandha, who is holding many kings hostage. Jarasandha's defeat will entitle Yudhisthira to perform the Rajasuya sacrifice and become world emperor. Now Krsna reveals His plan to kill Jarasandha. [Abridged from the original translation.]
LORD KRSNA SAID, "The precise moment for Jarasandha's destruction has now come. He cannot be conquered in battle, even by all the gods and demons, but We perceive that he can be conquered in a personal duel. Strategy lies with Me, strength with Bhima, and Arjuna will guard both of us. Like three fires, we shall take care of him, O king.
"When the three of us privately challenge that monarch, he will surely step forward to fight one of us. He has so belittled the world, and he is so emboldened by his vast power, that he will surely come forward to fight Bhimasena. With great arms and great power, Bhimasena can destroy him, just as death is able to destroy the agitated world. If your heart knows Me, and if you are convinced about Me, assign Bhimasena and Arjuna to this task at once. Entrust them to Me."
Thus addressed by the Lord, Yudhisthira replied, while gazing upon Bhima and Arjuna, who stood with jubilant faces.
"Acyuta! O infallible one! Never, never speak like that [as if I did not fully trust You], O punisher of the hostile. We exist under Your shelter, for You are the Lord and protector of the Pandavas. However You speak, it is most proper. Certainly You do not lead those upon whom the goddess of fortune has turned her back. Jarasandha is already slain, and the kings are freed, and I have achieved the Rajasuya, for I abide by Your command. O swift doer, who are beyond all men, act in such a way that this task, which is my duty and a duty for the sake of the entire world, will be rightly accomplished.
"Without you three I have no strength to live, just as a man suffering ill health and thereby bereft of his wealth, pleasure, and religion cannot bear to live. Arjuna will not be without Krsna, nor Krsna without Arjuna. In this world there is no one these two cannot conquer. That is my opinion. And this handsome Bhima is the best of the strong. What can this illustrious hero not do when he stands with you two!
"Massive strength, well guided, accomplishes the greatest task. The wise with their clear vision must guide power, which is blind and dumb. Those rich in intelligence lead water to the low ground, where there is least resistance, and to assure victory, they lead power to a weak and open point. Therefore, we shall strive for success in this task by taking shelter of You, Lord Krsna, who are celebrated throughout the world as the Supreme Person, for You know how to plan and execute policy in the most logical way. Thus, dear Krsna, to accomplish one's aim in all objectives, one must place strength, wisdom, and leadership at the forefront, joined by the means of action.
"To achieve our aim, certainly Arjuna, son of Prtha, must follow Krsna, the best of the Yadus, and Bhima must follow Arjuna. In them are strength, leadership, and victory, and there will be success in this endeavor."
Entering Jarasandha's Kingdom
Thus addressed, those brothers of vast might—Krsna, Bhima, and Arjuna—encouraged by the moving statements of their loving friends, departed forthwith toward the King of Magadha, concealing themselves in the garments of brilliant brahmana students just graduated from their studies. Burning with rage over the injuries and insults to their relatives in the royal line, those three seemed like the sun, the moon, and fire. Their appearance was at once handsome and terrible.
Yudhisthira Maharaja watched as Krsna and Arjuna—inspired and fixed on a single task, invincible in battle—departed, with awesome Bhima leading the way. Seeing them, Yudhisthira knew Jarasandha to be a dead man. Krsna and Arjuna had the power to control, to execute all duties, to accomplish all the tasks of religion, business, and pleasure, and to overthrow and destroy the wicked.
The three infallible heroes, heading east, crossed over the Ganges and the Sona and arrived at the kingdom of Magadha, whose sesame trees covered the land like a verdant breastplate. Reaching Mount Goratha, which was always filled with a wealth of cows, abundant water, and beautiful woods, they gazed upon the capital city of Magadha.
Lord Krsna said to Arjuna, "This is the beautiful capital of Magadha—a great and charming land always free from troubles, filled with herds and abundant water, and rich with fine mansions. My friend, these five shining mountains with magnificent peaks are the wide Vaihara, Vrsabha, Varaha, Rsi-giri, and Caityaka. These mountains, with their refreshing forests, join together as if to protect the capital, which is thus known as Girivraja, 'the city enclosed by mountains.'
"Jarasandha is confident that he will inevitably achieve his goals, but we shall now approach him and cut down his pride."
When Lord Krsna had spoken thus, the brothers with their vast power—Krsna of the Vrsnis and the two sons of Pandu—advanced toward the city of the Magadhas. They approached the impregnable Girivraja, a prosperous city of lavish festivals that was filled with satisfied, healthy people living by the fourfold division of society.
Instead of approaching the main gate, the three, eager to kill Jarasandha, ran along attractive Caityaka Mountain, at the end of the mountain range protecting the city. Then, as if to smash the head of their enemy, they struck with their wide arms the fixed wide summit of the mountain, so very great and ancient. Simply with their arms the heroes threw down that immovable peak, which was well established and worshiped with garlands.
Then they caught sight of the city of the Magadhas and made their entrance. At that very moment the priests were carrying a fire around Jarasandha as he sat on an elephant, in this way fully worshiping the king.
O Bharata, dressed like devout religious students whose only weapons are their bare arms, and hankering to do battle with Jarasandha, the three warriors made their entrance. They observed the extraordinary opulence of the prosperous food and flower markets, richly stocked with all the finest products and all desirable luxuries.
Krsna, Bhima, and Arjuna, those best of men, went along the king's highway. Seeing the wealth of the shopping district, they forcibly took flower garlands from a florist with their mighty arms. Thus dressed with detachment yet adorned with garlands and polished earrings, they proceeded to the abode of the clever Jarasandha, gazing upon it as Himalayan lions gaze upon a cow pen.
Those three were known for the strength of their arms, and now those arms, adorned with sandalwood and aloe, were as handsome and splendid as magnificent pillars of stone. The people of Magadha were filled with wonder as they looked upon those three, who had deep, wide chests. The three heroes moved like lordly elephants and stood tall like hard sala trees.
Receiving the "Brahmanas"
Passing through three chambers crowded with people, those very powerful bulls among men proudly approached the king. Jarasandha rose to meet them and attended them with proper rites and reception, for they were worthy of a foot bath, the respectful offering of milk and honey, and all the honor due the saintly.
That commanding king then said to them, "Welcome!"
The king was well known for his vow: Whenever he heard of the arrival of religious students—brahmanas—that conquering king would rise to receive them, O Bharata, even if it were midnight. But when he saw the unique raiment of those three heroes, Jarasandha was amazed, O best of kings, even as he attended on them.
And those three leaders of men, each a slayer of his foes, said upon seeing King Jarasandha, "Our best wishes, O king. May you be well!"
Each of the three heroes was determined to carry out the mission, O tiger of a king, as they studied the monarch and looked at one another.
To Krsna and the two Pandavas, who were all disguised as brahmanas, Jarasandha then said, "Be seated."
Thereupon the three mighty personalities took their seats and blazed forth with charisma like the three fires that blaze at a great sacrifice. Jarasandha, a monarch fixed in honesty, then condemned his guests for having come in disguise, O Kauravya.
"People do not become genuine snataka students just by wearing garlands and sandal paste on their bodies. In this world of men, everything is known to me. You people wear flowery wreaths, but your arms bear the scars of the bowstring. You claim to be of the brahmana community, but you wield the power of warriors. Thus outwardly you dress with detachment, yet you wear garlands and sandal paste. Speak the truth! Who are you? Honesty is appealing among those of the royal order. Why in the world did you tear down the peak of Caityaka Mountain? Why didn't you just enter our city through the gate? Why do you have no fear of offending a king? These are the actions of inscrutable men. What is your plan now? Speak, men, for prowess in speech is the mark of a brahmana.
"Now that you have come to me, why not accept the honor we have properly arranged? Take it! What do you want from us in coming here?"
Thus addressed, the very wise and eloquent Krsna replied with words that were both profound and polished.
"Brahmanas, warriors, and merchants may all take the vow of a snataka, O king. Some of them follow special rules, and others do not. A warrior who always observes his special religious rule attains success. Success is sure for those who wear flowers, and hence we wear them.
"A warrior's speech is known to be innocent of arrogance, O son of Brhadratha, for his power lies in his arms, not his speech. The creator has invested His own power in the arms of the ksatriya warriors. If you wish to see that, O king, then without doubt you will see it today."
"Cultured people do not enter an enemy's house through the front gate, but they always enter the house of a sincere friend through the front. Thus we have shunned your city's gate. We do not accept honor from an enemy, having come to his house on a mission. Know that to be our eternal vow!"
Jarasandha said, "I don't remember that we ever had a feud with you people, and on reflection I fail to see any hostile act I may have committed against you. When there is no hostility between us, how can you think of me as your enemy, when I have committed no offense? Explain it, learned ones, for that is the custom of the saintly. It pains the mind, actually, to see such a violation of justice. Though a warrior be of royal blood, his mind will burn with pain if he starts a fight with an innocent person, thus violating the sacred law.
"One who knows the principles of justice and takes great vows, but who acts otherwise, comes to a disastrous end and ruins all the good in his life. In all the three worlds, I am the best of those who follow the warrior code of honor, for I am sinless. Yet even knowing this, you three prattle on, as if you were all mad."
Lord Krsna said, "There is one particular man, Maharaja, who bears a responsibility toward his dynasty, and by his order we three have set forth on our mission. You, king, have invented the wicked practice of abducting and corralling ruling warriors, men who were living with their people and protecting the innocent, and now you seek to kill them in a sacrificial rite. Having invented this cruel atrocity, how can you consider yourself sinless? O exalted monarch, how can a king so injure saintly rulers? Having arrested those kings, you wish to offer them to Lord Siva.
"O son of Brhadratha, your evil deed would be on our hands, for we have the power to enforce the religious principles and we practice those principles. Indeed, seizing human beings for sacrifice is never seen in this world. How can you seek to worship Lord Sankara, the benefactor of all, with human offerings? Who else but you, Jarasandha, could have such a perverted mind that he would offer his fellow kings as animals in sacrifice?
"We shall always come to save the oppressed, and since you would destroy our own kin, we have come here to stop you so that our brother kings may flourish. You think there is no other real man among the warriors, O king, but this is at once the great confusion and the utter ruin of your reason.
"What ruler, O king, understanding his noble lineage, would not strive for heaven at the end of his earthly battles, when that celestial abode is undying and beyond compare? O monarch of the Magadhas, know for a fact that warriors who worship the higher worlds are initiated into the rite of war, and thus they undertake their march to heaven. Victory takes one to heaven, O king; great and true fame takes one to heaven; heaven is for those who make sacrifice in battle. That is the unswerving sinless path.
"Even for Indra, it is ever established that such character brings victory, and it was thus that Indra of the hundred rites overcame the demons and now rules the universe. Those who stand on the path to heaven—whom could they fight with who is equal to you, with your vast Magadha armies, so proud of their numbers and prowess?
"Do not belittle your foes, O king, as if courage were in no other man and fiery might rests exclusively in you. O lord of men, there is certainly a power equal to yours, and you will be considered unique only as long as that power is not aroused and clearly perceived. We are a match for your prowess, O king, and therefore I say to you, Magadha, give up your arrogance and conceit, for you are among your equals. Do not go with your sons, army, and ministers to the abode of Death. Dambhodbhava, Kartavirya, and a former Brhadratha all belittled better men in this world, and so all those kings perished with their armies.
"We who desire to free the kings from your grasp do not claim to be brahmanas. I am Krsna, son of Vasudeva. These two are the Pandavas, heroes of mankind. We call you out, O king! Be firm and fight, Magadha, or release all the kings. We urge you: don't go to the abode of Death!"
Jarasandha said, "I certainly didn't seize any undefeated kings. What defeated king will stand to oppose me? And who in this world has not been defeated by me? They say, Krsna, that this is the fair way for a warrior to maintain his life: showing his valor and gaining control, he may then do what he desires. Having prepared the kings for sacrifice to the deity, and remembering well, Krsna, the warrior vow, how shall I now release them out of fear?
"With army assembled against army, I shall fight—or one against one, or with two or three of you, or with all of you at once."
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.
The Main Characters
The Pandavas—Though the name Pandava means "son of Pandu," the five Pandavas were sired by demigods—the three eldest Pandavas (Yudhisthira, Bhima, and Arjuna) in the womb of King Pandu's wife Kunti, and the youngest (the twins, Nakula and Sahadeva) in the womb of Pandu's wife Madri. The Pandavas are sometimes called "Bharata" or "best of the Bharatas," because they come in the dynasty of King Bharata.
The Kurus—The sons of both Pandu and Dhrtarastra (the uncle of the Pandavas who because of blindness could not become the king) descended from King Kuru, but the name Kurus usually refers to Dhrtarastra's sons, the eldest of whom is Duryodhana.
Bhisma—A respected elder of the Kuru dynasty, he is the uncle of Dhrtarastra, Pandu, and Vidura.
Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day
Ted's Big Gift
by Panca Tattva Dasa
TED TURNER, founder of the Cable News Network (CNN) and vice chairman of Time Warner, pledged a donation of $1 billion last year to the United Nations. At the time, his net worth had risen in nine months by over $1 billion. (To earn $1 billion, an average American family with a $40,000 annual income would need to work for 27,000 years.) Mr. Turner has long been critical of wealthy people who give little or nothing to charity. He says America's super-rich are too preoccupied with their competitive rankings in Forbes magazine to be concerned with the plight of others.
A billion dollars is an enormous sum, the equivalent of the annual operating budget of the United Nations. Ted Turner is going to give it in $100 million portions over a ten-year period. The money is not to be used for administrative costs. Instead, it will be going directly to projects such as inoculations for children and removal of land mines.
When asked why he would give away so much money, Ted replied that it makes him feel good. He takes inspiration from the Charles Dickens classic novel A Christmas Carol and from the happiness Ebenezer Scrooge felt when he became kindhearted toward Bob Cratchit and his family.
Sacrificing one's hard-earned money for a worthwhile cause is no doubt commendable. But we should determine which cause is most truly worthwhile. So many questions arise when considering how to benefit others. Should I give indiscriminately to the poor? Should I give to a hospital to fund cancer research? What about the International Red Cross or the United Nations—they do humanitarian work all over the world, don't they?
The real need of humanity, whether rich or poor, young or old, healthy or diseased, is for advancement in the spiritual realization of Krsna consciousness. If a person acts for someone else's welfare without addressing the needs of the soul, the result will be limited and temporary. Srila Prabhupada gives the eloquent example of saving a drowning man's coat instead of the man himself. If we lessen someone's distress with money but the person goes on in ignorance, piling up sinful reactions and falling further into the ruin of repeated birth and death, how have we really helped him?
Seeing to the material needs of the human society has its place, but it must take secondary consideration to the spiritual needs. The International Society for Krishna Consciousness has a variety of programs to meet spiritual needs: daily worship of Krsna in the temple, education in the science of Krsna consciousness, distribution of books of transcendental knowledge, worldwide distribution of prasadam (food offered to Krsna) to nurture body and soul, and congregational chanting of the holy names of God. These efforts will save the drowning man.
In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna tells Arjuna that one should be fully absorbed in loving thought of Him, the Supreme Lord. If unable to do this, one should carefully take to the rules and regulations of devotional yoga to gradually come to the platform of spontaneous love for God. If this proves too difficult, one should simply try to work for God, and in this way come to the next platform. If one is unable to work for God, Krsna explains, then one should try to give up all the results of one's work and try to be self-situated. Srila Prabhupada explains that one can sacrifice some wealth or energy for a good cause. He writes, "In that respect, social service, community service, national service, sacrifice for one's country, etc., may be accepted so that some day one may come to the stage of pure devotional service to the Supreme Lord."
So Lord Krsna recommends mundane philanthropy, but only if the giver can do no better, owing to lack of knowledge or other circumstances. A person fortunate enough to receive the mercy of the Lord and His devotees may get a chance to help spread Krsna consciousness. That will do great and lasting good for him and all mankind.
by Giriraja Swami
AS I WAIT AT the dentist's office, my eyes fall on the cover of an issue of Life magazine. A huge ship, half submerged, heads down into a vast, dark ocean. People gather frantically around the railings of her upward-poised stern. In the foreground, other people sit stunned in a lifeboat, watching. Lights from the ship reflect dimly on the water and the small lifeboat as its passengers row away from the destiny awaiting those left on board. Superimposed on the night sky, an eye stares, captivated by the ghastly spectacle.
A haunting picture with a title to match: "Titanic Fever—Why we can't look away from disasters."
The article describes various disasters in history: the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79, which buried Pompeii and its 20,000 citizens under 20 feet of volcanic ash; the Great Chicago Fire of 1906, which ravaged 2,000 acres of the city and killed 250 people; the Lisbon earthquake of 1755, in which 60,000 died; the great Boston Molasses Flood, in which a fountain of molasses burst out of a distillery's cast-iron tank and oozed through the streets, suffocating 21 people; the 1986 explosion of the space shuttle Challenger, telecast live before millions; and almost 50 years before that, the crash of the zeppelin Hindenberg, broadcast live over the radio to millions of listeners. No dearth of disasters in world history.
The article focuses on people's fascination with the Titanic. "Titanimania" has given rise to dozens of books, a CD-ROM, a television movie, a Broadway musical, a blockbuster Hollywood film, a multimillion-dollar exhibition of Titanic artifacts, and even a cookbook: Last Dinner on the Titanic.
Although advertised as a ship that could never sink, the Titanic sank on her maiden voyage after just four days at sea. Built as the largest, most luxurious ocean liner of that time, her construction cost $7.5 million and engaged thousands of workers. She boasted a crew of 892—two for every three passengers—and, remarkable for 1912, amenities such as a gymnasium, a swimming pool, and Turkish baths. The passengers would have everything they needed and would dine on delicacies.
Everything seemed set for a comfortable and pleasurable voyage. Among the elite on board were millionaire realtor John Jacob Astor, millionaire retailer Isidor Straus, millionaire industrialist George Widener, and English artist Francis Millet. Passengers' spirits were high as the Titanic left Southampton port. One thing was sure in their minds: the journey would be safe.
After two days at sea, the captain began to receive warnings of ice and bad weather ahead. Two days later, on Sunday, April 13, 1912, there was not much sign of weather change, so the captain retired early, leaving the ship in the hands of other crew members. He told them to rouse him if the situation became "at all doubtful."
Crewmen posted in the crow's nest had no binoculars, and the ship's wireless operator, overburdened by demands from passengers, failed to respond to repeated bad-weather warnings. While life on the great luxury liner carried on with abandon, she was moving into treacherous waters. The crew of the 46,329 tons of Titanic, plowing through the Atlantic waves at 21 knots, spotted the iceberg too late to divert the ship from inevitable disaster.
At first none of the passengers took the collision seriously. But as water gushed into five of her front compartments, and her nose started to dip, reality took hold: the Titanic was sinking.
More than 1,500 people would go down with the Titanic that night. Those who got away in lifeboats lived to tell the tale. The rest held on till the last minute, before plunging into the icy North Atlantic waters as the ocean swallowed the great ship.
Reading the article, I recalled Prahlada Maharaja's prayer to Nrsimhadeva (Lord Krsna's half-man, half-lion incarnation) in Srimad-Bhagavatam (7.9.19):
balasya neha saranam pitarau nrsimha
Lord Nrsimhadeva, O Supreme, because of a bodily conception of life, embodied souls neglected and not cared for by You cannot do anything for their betterment. Whatever remedies they accept, although perhaps temporarily beneficial, are certainly impermanent. For example, a father and mother cannot protect their child, a physician and medicine cannot relieve a suffering patient, and a boat on the ocean cannot protect a drowning man."
In the purport Srila Prabhupada writes, "Through parental care, through remedies for different kinds of disease, and through means of protection on the water, in the air, and on land, there is always an endeavor for relief from various kinds of suffering in the material world, but none of them are guaranteed measures for protection. ... Ultimately the shelter is the Lord, and one who takes shelter of the Lord is protected. This is guaranteed. ...
"In the history of the world, no one has been successful in conquering the miseries imposed by material nature. ... Our humble attempt to propagate the Krsna consciousness movement all over the world is the only remedy that can bring about a peaceful and happy way of life."
Although everyone in the material world is trying to deflect the attacks of material nature, the efforts have never succeeded. In Bhagavad-gita the creator Himself certifies the material world as a place of misery (duhkhalayam asasvatam). Only surrender to the Lord can save us.
Srila Prabhupada says, "The material world is full of dangers (padam padam yad vipadam). For example, if one is on the ocean one may have a very strong ship, but that ship can never be safe; because one is at sea there may be dangers at any time. The Titanic was safe, but on its first voyage it sank, and many important men lost their lives. So danger must be there, because we are in a dangerous position. The material world itself is dangerous. Therefore our business now should be to cross over this sea of danger as soon as possible." (Teachings of Queen Kunti)
Instead of being disturbed by the waves in the material ocean, which perpetually come and go, we should tolerate the waves and try to cross the ocean to safety, to the shore of the spiritual world. How? By the boat of Lord Krsna's lotus feet:
samasrita ye pada-pallava-plavam
"For those who have accepted the boat of the lotus feet of the Lord, who is the shelter of the cosmic manifestation and is famous as Murari, the enemy of the Mura demon, the ocean of the material world is like the water contained in a calf's hoofprint. Their goal is param padam, Vaikuntha, the place where there are no material miseries, not the place where there is danger at every step." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.14.58)
Shall we make no practical effort to protect ourselves? We should take normal precautions. Yet, as Srila Prabhupada writes, "although as a matter of routine duty one must of course accept other remedial measures, no one can protect one who is neglected by the Supreme Personality of Godhead."
If Krsna wants to save someone, no one can kill him, and if Krsna wants to kill someone, no one can save him (rakhe krsna mare ke mare krsna rakhe ke). "Unless one is protected by the mercy of the Lord," Srila Prabhupada writes, "no remedial measure can act effectively. One should consequently depend fully on the causeless mercy of the Lord."
A person completely surrendered to Lord Krsna is confident of Krsna's protection in all circumstances. Knowing that Krsna is ultimately the well-wishing protector of His devoted servant, the devotee accepts any situation as the Lord's mercy. Srila Prabhupada explains that we should not think, "Because I have become a devotee, there will be no danger or suffering." Devotees like Prahlada Maharaja, the Pandavas, Vasudeva and Devaki, and Haridasa Thakura apparently suffered greatly. But they never gave up faith in Krsna. Rather, when a devotee faces difficulty, he humbly thinks he deserves worse but Krsna is just giving him a token reaction so he can learn from his past mistakes and come closer to Krsna:
tat te 'nukampam su-samiksamano
"My dear Lord, any person who is constantly awaiting Your causeless mercy to be bestowed upon him, and who goes on suffering the resultant actions of his past misdeeds, offering You respectful obeisances from the core of his heart, is surely eligible to become liberated, for it has become his rightful claim." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.14.8)
The Lord explains in the Bhagavatam (10.88.8) that sometimes to show special mercy to His devotee He takes away material things to which the devotee is attached. Krsna thereby induces the devotee to take full shelter of Him and thus achieve the highest happiness and perfection.
The material world is fraught with danger; the only shelter is Krsna and Krsna consciousness.
The Life article points out that man has always been fascinated by disasters. Why? I'd say it's because we know that a disaster may strike any of us at any moment. Although in recent years a whole field of risk management has developed to counteract risks and dangers, still the only shelter is the Lord's lotus feet. And to take shelter of the lotus feet of Krsna in the present age, one need only chant His holy names—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—and follow His instructions in Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam.
The alternative is disaster—titanic disaster.
The worldwide activities of the International Society for Krishna consciousness (ISKCON)
The ISKCON centers in Calcutta and Sridham Mayapur, West Bengal, hosted interreligious conferences, one each, in March and April. Representatives of Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, and Christianity attended.
The Sheriff of Mumbai inaugurated ISKCON's annual Rathayatra last March by sweeping the road in front of the festival chariot of Lord Jagannatha (Krsna). The Rathayatra procession ended at Lokandwala Grounds, where devotees held a four-day festival. The ceremonial sweeping is the traditional way in which the chief guest for the occasion shows his subservience to the Lord.
The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust has completed transferring all available film footage of Srila Prabhupada into a digital video format. The footage, along with other historical film from the early days of ISKCON, comes to forty-six hours. Much of the film, faded by the years, has been restored to its original color. In the digital format, the film is safe from color deterioration, and copies can be made without loss of quality.
The work was done by Srila Prabhupada's disciple, Yaduvara Dasa. Copies of the digital video footage have been stored in several places, including the vaults of National Underground Storage, relied upon by many large corporations. Coincidentally, the vaults are located near Butler, Pennsylvania, where Srila Prabhupada stayed, virtually unknown, when he first came to America.
The devotees of ISKCON Montreal recently finished paying the mortgage on their temple, a 75-year-old church purchased in 1974. They have also rebuilt the roof, restored the altar, restored the original brickwork on the temple exterior, repainted the temple's high, majestic ceiling, and renovated the heating and air conditioning system. ISKCON Montreal was the second temple started by Srila Prabhupada, in 1967.
Devotees in Miami installed a Deity of Lord Nrsimhadeva on the Lord's appearance day in May. The bronze Deity was sculptured by ISKCON artist and sculptor Bhaktisiddhanta Dasa in Vrndavana, India.
ISKCON devotees chanted Hare Krsna, distributed books, and gave out two thousand plates of prasadam last April at the twice-annual Westheimer Street Festival in Houston.
ISKCON Detroit held its annual Rathayatra on August 12.
A parijat tree is now growing in the courtyard of the ISKCON Miami temple. The tree was donated by Dr. David Lee, professor of botany at Florida International University, who got the seed from India and grew the rare tree in a greenhouse at F.I.U. The parijat tree has beautiful and highly fragrant flowers. According to Srimad-Bhagavatam, Lord Krsna originally brought the parijat to earth from the heavenly planets to satisfy His wife Satyabhama.
The wife of the president of Slovenia visited the ISKCON book booth at last April's "Week of the Book" festival in Ljubljana, the capital. Devotees at the festival distributed thousands of books, magazines, and pamphlets. On the last day, hundreds of people enjoyed hearing devotional songs performed by devotees on the main stage.
Devotees recently opened a Govinda's restaurant in Dublin.
350,000 people saw ISKCON's Rathayatra in Dublin last March, as part of the city's St. Patrick's Day Parade. The Hare Krsna procession included devotees costumed as a forty-foot snake, representing the demon Aghasura from Lord Krsna's pastimes. At each stadium along the four-mile route, the snake would swallow twenty children dressed as cowherd boys. The snake's body would then break apart, and Lord Krsna would jump out, followed by His cowherd friends.
Devotees from the Christchurch temple chanted onstage before a crowd of hundreds in Christchurch's city square as part of the tenth anniversary of Plains FM Community Radio. Hanuman Dasa, ISKCON Christchurch temple president, has hosted a weekly Hare Krsna show on the station for the past seven years.
Devotees in Kampala, Uganda, are building a temple on their eight-acre farm four miles outside the city. The farm, started two years ago, recently opened a school for orphans. The Sunday feast program attracts about four hundred people, and eight of the local people have fully taken up the practices of Krsna consciousness.
Devotees in Mauritius held a ten-day Padayatra in the south of the island last April. Their venerable bull Sri Gopal Das pulled an oxcart carrying Deities of Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityananda. Eighteen devotees walked every day, and two hundred more joined on the weekends. In the evenings, the devotees put on festivals in village reception centers, invariably drawing large crowds.
Kunti Devi Dasi, a disciple of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, passed away last June. Kunti Dasi had joined ISKCON in 1971 and had spent most of her life since then at the Hare Krsna community in New Vrindavan, West Virginia. She was loved and respected by devotees there and at other temples in the U.S. where she had lived. She had great attachment to serving the Deities and reading and distributing Srila Prabhupada's books. She passed away in New Vrindavan in the presence of devotees chanting Hare Krsna.
Prabhavati Devi Dasi, a disciple of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, passed away last April in Mumbai. She had constantly chanted Hare Krsna and had influenced her family toward Krsna consciousness. She is survived by her husband, Pandit Pratap Narayan (elder brother of the musician Pandit Jasraj), and seven children.
Guru Gauranga Dasa, a disciple of His Holiness Giriraja Swami, passed away last February in Mauritius, at the age of ninety. Guru Gauranga Dasa was loved by all the devotees in Mauritius, and he always respected and appreciated them. Though elderly, Guru Gauranga Dasa had daily followed a strict schedule, beginning at 2:30 A.M., of chanting, worship, and reading Srila Prabhupada's books. Up to the last moment, he had been chanting the Lord's names in the association of devotees.
Nitai Karuna Dasa, a disciple of His Holiness Atadhvaja Swami, passed away last May at ISKCON's New Raman Reti Farm in Alachua, Florida. Nitai Karuna had been associated with ISKCON since the 1970s. Suffering from brain cancer, he had moved onto the ISKCON farm to leave this world in the presence of devotees. Lord Krsna fulfilled his desire.
"You Are Beyond This Body"
This exchange between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and some of his disciples took place in Fiji on May 1, 1976.
Srila Prabhupada: The Lord says, mamaivamso jiva-loke jiva-bhutah sanatanah. Find this verse.
Disciple: All right, Srila Prabhupada. That's in Bhagavad-gita. Fifteenth Chapter, text seven. "The living entities in this conditional world," Krsna says, "are My eternal, fragmental parts." And then He adds, manah-sasthanindriyani prakrti-sthani karsati: "Due to conditioned life, they are struggling very hard with the six senses, which include the mind."
Srila Prabhupada: So the soul uses his mind and intelligence—his subtle senses, his subtle instruments—to manipulate his gross machine, his material body. In this way, he is just like an airplane pilot who uses his subtle electronic instruments to manipulate his gross machine, causing it to fly this way or that. Where is the difficulty in understanding this? This material body in which we are now living is simply a machine.
And bhramayan sarva-bhutani: "All living beings in this material world are simply wandering." Bhramayan—"wandering." Just as the pilot uses his airplane to wander here or there, so the soul uses his material body to wander here or there. This is going on. Urdhvam gacchanti sattva-stha ... adho gacchanti tamasah: Sometimes the soul goes up; sometimes, down. Just as the pilot uses his airplane's wings and other features for going up or down, so the soul uses his body's arms and other features for going up or down. Find this verse.
Disciple: That's in the fourteenth chapter of the Gita, Srila Prabhupada. Text eighteen.
urdhvam gacchanti sattva-stha
"Those situated in the mode of goodness gradually go upward to the higher planets; those in the mode of passion live on the earthly planets; and those in the abominable mode of ignorance go down to the hellish worlds."
Srila Prabhupada: So whether we look at the soul in the body or the pilot in the plane, we see the same thing. If the pilot is not expert, then at an untimely moment he goes down to the lowest place. Finished. Adho gacchanti tamasah. If the pilot is third class, then instead of flying high, he plummets from the sky, and everything is spoiled.
Therefore, everything depends on the pilot. The machine is not so important. The machine can go up if the pilot knows how to do it. And the machine can go down. Actually, this is happening. If the pilot cannot handle his machine very nicely, immediately it will be smashed. That is due to the mismanagement of the pilot. At times I have seen that as soon as the flight is over, the other passengers and the crew applaud. [Laughter as Srila Prabhupada claps.] "The danger is over."
Anyway, urdhvam and adhah: Depending on how you use this bodily machine, you can go up, and likewise, you can go down. And madhye tisthanti rajasah: If you become passionately attached to these middle planets, then for still another lifetime you can stay here.
So in this way, we must present this subject matter of self-realization. The living entity, the soul, is the important thing within this body. And just see how he's struggling. Due to ignorance of his real identity apart from the body, he's struggling. Manah sashanindriyani prakrti-sthani karsati: "On account of being entangled in this material world, the soul is struggling very hard with the six senses of the material body, which include the mind." This is his position.
Disciple: Srila Prabhupada, often you say that transmission of this knowledge of self-realization requires both the proper speaker—Lord Krsna or His pure devotee—and also the proper hearer.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Only if somebody is interested in knowing the truly important thing in life can he understand this knowledge, this science of self-realization. But if he's an animal—simply eating, sleeping, and mating—what will he understand? An animal is not interested in knowing how the world is working. He gets his food and sex; that's all. These are the animal's propensities.
But when the soul receives a human body, he must come to the human platform—inquisitive. Like Sanatana Gosvami, he must ask, 'ke ami,' 'kene amaya jare tapa-traya': "Who am I? Why must I endure all these miseries, culminating in death?" Of course, the modern animalistic human is not interested in these essential questions. Instead he inquires, "How shall I develop my economic position?" But Sanatana Gosvami already had a very high-grade economic position and left it behind. He was not interested in such temporary affairs. He was interested in knowing, 'ke ami,' 'kene amaya jare tapa-traya': "Who, actually, am I? And what is my position? Why I am suffering in this material atmosphere?" That is human life.
Disciple: Returning to Bhagavad-gita, Srila Prabhupada, isn't it also true that Arjuna asks these questions?
Srila Prabhupada: Oh, yes. Karpanya-dosopahata. Karpanya-dosa. "Due to miserly weakness, my dear Krsna, I have neglected my real duty, which is to understand my actual, spiritual self and then serve You. Rather, I have been thinking about the bodily welfare of my nonsensical relatives and teachers, even though they are waging a war to usurp my kingdom. What is this foolishness? I know that.
"After all, no matter how tender my sentiments, what benefit will these rascals get? It may be that they are going to die in this war. But sooner or later, this way or that, they are going to die. What can I do? So therefore, why am I perplexed about their bodily fate? I know that this is my defect. I cannot cause these living entities' deaths or births, nor can I prolong their lives. All this is beyond my tiny jurisdiction. Still, I am anxious: If I kill them, then what will happen? What will happen?"
"You may kill them or not kill them, Arjuna," says Krsna. "But rest assured, they'll be killed, today or tomorrow. Gatasun agatasums ca nanusocanti panditah: A learned man knows that this material body will be finished, today or tomorrow—so why be concerned about this body?"
Concern should be for the person within the body—whether he's going to heaven or hell, up or down, urdhvam gacchanti or tamo gacchanti. This is the issue of real concern. The material body will be finished, today or tomorrow or after a hundred years. Who can protect it? But one should be concerned about the body's owner: where he is going—what will be his next position. And in Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna clearly delineates this issue. Urdhvam gacchanti sattva-stha, madhye tisthanti rajasah, ... adho gacchanti tamasah: According to the modes of nature in which you are living your present life, you are deciding whether, in your next life, you will go up or down or remain in the same status. Three outcomes are possible: up, down, or the same status.
Disciple: Today, though, Srila Prabhupada, people may say, "I have a soul," but they live pretty degradedly, as if "Really, I am this material body—that's all there is." They live as if they'll have no next life. Or they think in the next life they're automatically going upward, because, they say, they've accepted God or Jesus or Muhammad into their heart. Meanwhile, they go on breaking God's laws all over the place and just generally catering to their bodily whims. Just living a low-grade life.
Srila Prabhupada: Therefore, they're rascals. And for the rascals, Bhagavad-gita's teaching is there. Learn. People are giving far too much emphasis on the material body: "When this current body is finished, everything is finished." They do not know anything beyond the body. But real knowledge begins when we learn, "No—you are beyond this body." This is real knowledge. This is the beginning of knowledge. Any other knowledge except this—that is ignorance. People are accepting ignorance as knowledge.
The pioneering work of WWF-India * (The World Wide Fund for Nature)
Text by Ranchor Dasa
EACH DAY, KRSNA and the other cowherd boys used to go to the forest with the cows. Once, His friends became trapped by a forest fire, and they called in fear for Krsna to save them. Krsna's response was simple: He swallowed the flames and extinguished the fire, saving the trees, the cows, and the boys.
The enduring image of Krsna swallowing the flames of the forest fire symbolizes His promise to protect His devotees and the creatures of the Vrndavana forest. Krsna lived as a simple cowherd boy in the land of Vraja, the region along the banks of the Yamuna River between Delhi and Agra. Here, amidst lush forests, Krsna herded cows, played with His friends, and danced with the cowherd girls. In Vraja are Govardhana Hill, which Krsna once lifted, and the perfumed groves of Vrndavana, where He would meet Radha at night.
It is surely no coincidence that this unique vision of God as a cowherd boy who loves and protects nature is so beloved by Hindus. Indian culture has always seen nature as divine, for nature stands in relation to God. There is something magic about the vision of God surrounded by nature. It has charmed generations of pilgrims to come to Vrndavana in search of the divine flute player.
Yet today the sacred forests of Krsna in Vraja are fast disappearing. Starting in the early sixteenth century, to answer the needs of pilgrims, devotees built temples and, around the temples, guest houses and asramas. Eventually the town of Vrndavana came into being. Today it is home to seventy thousand people and the annual destination of two million pilgrims.
The town of Vrndavana is one of India's hidden gems—a monument to thousands of years of intense spiritual experience and the arts and culture thus created. The sad truth, though, is that the growing influx of pilgrims has virtually destroyed Krsna's sacred groves. The town of Vrndavana itself is built exactly where Krsna once performed his famous rasa-lila amid thick groves of kadam, tamal, and champak. In place of the old stands of trees are now acres of brick, concrete, and tarmac. In place of the cry of peacocks, the air is rent by the harsh sound of autos.
Nevertheless, the region of Vraja still abounds with sacred groves, the diminished remnants of the dense woodlands where Krsna roamed. Most of the woodland has been lost to a combination of commercial developments, reduced rainfall, falling water tables, and land clearance for farming. Worst of all is the loss of the age-old traditions of forest conservation that had been practiced for so long in India's villages. Along with the woodland have disappeared the stocks of groundwater that the trees kept beneath their roots. The woods have shrunk to a hundredth of their original extent. Now only small scattered groves, most an acre or two, dot the parched landscape of Vraja. These remaining islands of vegetation are now oases of shade, sustenance, and water for birds, animals, and humans.
These groves have survived because of local religious traditions. For example, a few miles from Varsana, the birthplace of Radharani, is a grove of ancient kadam trees called Kadambkandi. Next to this grove is the small village of Navena. Local tradition has it that when the tyrant Kamsa sent demons to Varsana to persecute the villagers, Radha, the childhood sweetheart of Krsna, sought shelter in this grove. As a result it has remained a sacred spot, and here the kadam trees have stood, protected by the people of Navena, for thousands of years. The trees shelter a magnificent lake, broad and deep, which provides water for the villagers, shelter for many species of waterfowl, and a cooling dip for cattle and buffalo. This grove has survived—where many others have vanished—because of its link with Radha. That link has been a powerful charm of protection.
Many such groves are scattered across Vraja. Not far away, near the village of Nandagram, or Nandgaon, where Krsna lived as a boy, is a grove called Kadamter. The grove shelters two ponds and a small temple dedicated to Krsna, who came here as a small child to herd cows. When Krsna was very young He wanted to go out with the calves and His friends, but His mother, Yasoda, feared for His safety. So she let Him go only as far as she was still able to hear His flute. As long as she could hear His sweet flute-song, she knew He was safe. Kadamter is as far as He went. What a wonderful place to be! And no wonder this grove has survived for thousands of years, because it has been loved by the locals just as Krsna has.
Nearby is another grove, called Vrndakunda. Here two small ponds sit within a grove whose old trees have vanished, save one magnificent imli tree, under which nestles a small shrine to Vrnda, the goddess of Vrndavana. Vrnda has special significance to Vraja, because she presides over the forest pastimes of Krsna, communicating with the animals and plants through her parrot messengers. Vrnda is the choreographer of Krsna's Vraja pastimes. Vrndakunda was for years looked after by Madhav Baba, a local renunciant who lived there as caretaker. But sadly, in the last years of his life when he was suffering from ill health, Madhav Baba was unable to prevent many of the trees being lost. Before he died he asked devotees of ISKCON to continue to protect the grove. This they have done, forming the Vrinda Trust for that purpose.
Although these and many other groves have survived thus far, their continued survival is under constant threat. With diminishing annual rainfall and falling water tables, the trees are not replenishing themselves as they used to. Farmers are becoming more bold, and the groves are no longer protected from encroachment and the ravages of grazing animals—especially the numerous flocks of goats that annually pass through the region on their way to markets in Delhi. Property developers and land disputes are a major threat. Every year groves are being lost forever. Once a grove with its ancient trees is gone, it is impossible to bring back.
These surviving groves must be protected, and with them the wildlife and culture they nourish. Each year large numbers of pilgrims traverse Vraja, visiting many of the groves. Each year they find fewer trees. One day people will wake up to this disaster and wonder how it could have been allowed to happen. To re-create such sanctuaries would be almost impossible, but to save the ones already there, and to ensure their regeneration, requires only water and enclosures, and encouragement and support to the local communities.
A series of simple projects to protect the groves is starting. The essence of the projects is to form alliances with the village people and support them in preserving their own long-term interests. The villagers need no convincing, only support and encouragement.
Some of the projects are under the banner of the WWF Vrindavan Conservation Project, and others are supported by Friends of Vrindavan (FoV). Devotees of Krsna started FoV in 1992 to raise support for the groves of Vraja and campaign for their protection. At present FoV receives most of its funds from volunteers in England and the U.S.A., through its annual sponsored cycle ride, the Yamuna Cycle Expedition. Riders pay to come to India and cycle from the Himalayas down to Vrndavana, following the course of the sacred Yamuna River. They raise sponsorship from friends and workmates, and this sponsorship is donated to FoV. In the longer term, FoV also plans to raise support in India.
FoV has started a pioneer project at Manasarovar, in partnership with WWF-India. Manasarovar is a beautiful wetland grove and bird sanctuary a few miles from the town of Vrndavana, on the opposite bank of the Yamuna River. Here the lake was drying up and overrun by water hyacinth and pollution, and the trees were disappearing. Now a team of volunteers, backed by trained helpers and local village councils, are reversing the trend and ensuring the survival of Manasarovar. According to local tradition this sarovar, or lake, was formed of the tears of Sri Radha, while in an intensely emotional state of "wounded love" (man). Pilgrims come here to worship the image of Radha, who stands alone in the small temple.
WWF and Friends of Vrindavan have sacred grove projects underway in places in Vraja such as Ral, Baelvan, Basanti, Naradkund, and Manasarovar. Many more are planned. In addition, the WWF Vrndavana Conservation Project runs a Trees For Life program in Vraja. The program helps local farmers set up nurseries specializing in fruit trees, for the benefit of their village and local farms. The nurseries include many indigenous species. For a very modest outlay, about 10,000 rupees ($250) per site, plus backup assistance from trained staff, the nurseries not only provide meaningful employment and boost local economy, but also make available trees that could not otherwise be obtained.
In the town of Vrndavana, WWF-India runs the Vrindavan Conservation Project, which includes several nurseries, numerous community projects, and a comprehensive education program in the town's thirty-five schools. Friends of Vrindavan runs a rapidly expanding street-cleaning program, which employs thirty cleaners who patrol several quarters of the town, and is developing recycling programs. Lately the Vrndavana ISKCON temple has joined with Friends of Vrindavan in cleaning up the neighborhood around the temple and helping solve the serious sanitation problems ISKCON's success has helped generate.
Apart from helping run Friends of Vrindavan, ISKCON devotees have set up the Vrinda Trust for the protection of Vrinda Kunj, a sacred grove, and now run a well-stocked nursery of indigenous trees and plants in Vrndavana. But the real work to save Vrndavana's environment has hardly begun.
Pilgrims to Vraja do not need to encounter a land ravaged by drought and deforestation; their pilgrimage can be an opportunity to witness nature protected as an integral part of Krsna devotion. Krsna cared for the forest—He swallowed fire to protect it. We also must be prepared to swallow pollution and abuse of nature to save from destruction His groves and the whole ecology of Vraja.
Ranchor Dasa (Ranchor Prime) studied architecture and art before becoming a student and then a teacher of Krsna consciousness, in 1970. He now works as a freelance writer and broadcaster, and as adviser on religion and conservation to WWF and to the Alliance on Religions and Conservation, in Britain and India. He has contributed to several books on religion and the environment, most recently Sacred Britain (Piatkus 1997), and is the author of Hinduism and Ecology (Cassell 1992), Wealth of Faiths (WWF 1994), and Ramayana (Collins & Brown 1997). He is co-founder and director of Friends of Vrindavan. He was born in England in 1950 and lives in London with his wife and two children.
The Vrindavan Conservation Project is described in depth in Hinduism and Ecology, by Ranchor Prime, published in the U.K. by Cassell and in India by Motilal Banarsidas in association with WWF.
Join the Yamuna Cycle Expediition
IN THE MAY/JUNE issue of BTG Ranchor Dasa wrote about his experiences on the Yamuna Cycle Expedition. The 1998 expedition will take place October 9-25, to help raise funds for Friends of Vrindavan projects. It is a superb opportunity for an adventure holiday among the Himalayas and in sacred Vrndavana in the company of devotees and like-minded souls, while at the same time benefiting the environment of Vrndavana. Anyone interested in taking part is invited to contact Ranchor Prime, Trustee, Friends of Vrndavana, 10 Grafton Mews, London W1P 5LF, UK. Phone: +44 (0171) 380 749; fax: +44 (0171) 380 0749. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or write to Friends of Vrindavan (India), Jaya Singh Ghera, Vrindavan 281 121, U.P., India.
"If the guides were not guides after all, who were they?"
—Hungry Ghosts, by Joe Fisher, p. 202
SETH, RAMTHA, Lazaris, Mashiyach, Ashtar,—the vaguely biblical-sounding names have the ring of "prophet" to them. Indeed, for millions the world over, these and other garrulous "channeled entities" are prophets who enjoy a command of mass-media access that would have left the sandal-shod Old Testament visionaries tongue-tied with astonishment. Alexander Blair-Ewart, publisher and editor of the Toronto esoteric magazine Dimensions, notes a bit ruefully that "in sensationalist fashion, journalists and cameramen zoomed in on crystals, channeling, and a confused and over-excited Hollywood actress" as the burgeoning New Age movement's instant celebrities.
Channeling is defined by Arthur Hastings of the California Institute of Transpersonal Psychology as "the process in which a person transmits messages from a presumed discarnate source external to his or her consciousness." The most widely researched kind of channeling phenomena is communication with the dead, which, as eerie as it may sound, seems to be on the increase. The University of Chicago's National Opinion Research Council recently found that forty-two percent of American adults believe they have made contact with the spirit of a departed person. Of these, seventy-eight percent said they saw, fifty percent heard, and eighteen percent talked with the deceased. Thirty percent of Americans who say they don't even believe in life after death still claim to have had contact with someone who has died. It is the surfeit, not the rarity, of channeling that puzzles investigators.
Acolytes of the New Age hail channeled entities to be "highly evolved beings," "spirit guides for all mankind," "angels," "devas," or even "God." There are precious few suggestions that they might be demonic. Since cameras and microphones won't penetrate the veil of oblivion that separates us from them, all we get to see are the subjects through whom the entities speak: housewives, schoolteachers, insurance salesmen, and similarly quite ordinary people.
Channeling is somewhat different from mediumship. Mediums are experienced clairvoyants who "fish" for discarnate entities. Channelers are initially psychic greenhorns who, unwittingly or even unwillingly, are taken over by the entities. The first contact can be most disconcerting. In 1963, thirty-four-year-old Jane Roberts of Elmira, New York, was suddenly overwhelmed by what she called a "fantastic avalanche of radical new ideas burnt into my head with tremendous force, as if my skull were some sort of receiving station turned up to unbearable volume." The entity in this case was Seth, who turned out to be a prime catalyst of the emerging New Age. From the early 1970s until her death in 1984, Mrs. Roberts channeled a series of bestselling "Seth Books" that blazed the way to public acceptance of what in an earlier period would have been condemned as necromancy.
Even more shivery-quivery is the Australian channeler Shirley Bray's description of how a group of entities called "the Nine" contacted her: "I felt as if thin wires, like acupuncture needles, were being inserted into the base of my skull. It was uncomfortable so I stirred, moving my head from side to side. A voice firmly but gently said, 'be still, it will not be long.' "
But once the channeler overcomes the shock of such close encounters of the first kind, the relationship may prove to be profitable beyond his or her wildest dreams. Jach Pursel, who admits that he was frightened to tears the first time he channeled Lazaris, now runs a highly successful corporation called Concept: Synergy that markets Lazaris audio- and videotapes to five hundred metaphysical bookstores worldwide. The erstwhile ordinary housewife J. Z. Knight takes in more than $200,000 per weekend for a channeling seminar featuring her guide Ramtha; she says he's earned her millions of dollars.
A glance at the teachings of the discarnate entities reveals an intriguing pattern. Here's a sample from Mashiyach (pronounced Moor-shark), channeled by Shirley Bray: "He who would find power must know that he extends from balance in Me, that I am he. He and thee and Me are ONE in light. ... Create ye a world within the knowing of Me within you. Look upon your creation and know it is the sum total of your thinking. Thinking is creating. Man has created his world." From a Krsna conscious standpoint, this is called Mayavada philosophy. Mayavada means "doctrine of illusion"—indeed, there's a chapter in Ms. Bray's book (A Guide for the Spiritual Traveller) that's entitled, "Life Is Just an Illusion."
When psychology professor Jon Klimo recounts the themes commonly expounded by channeled entities, he's giving us nothing more than a breakdown of the main tenets of Mayavada philosophy, to wit: we all have a higher self, which is ultimately One Self (called "All-That-Is" or "The Universal Mind"); this One Self is an impersonal, absolute God, perceivable only as light and achieved only through silent contemplation; the material world is an illusion, merely the dream of this God, and until we realize we are God, we are subject to that dream of our separate individual existences in the cycle of birth and death.
We'll return to these philosophical issues a little later on. Its clear that the entities have an agenda and, uncorporeal though they may be, the means to fulfill it. But who are they? That's what a British-born investigative journalist named Joe Fisher wanted to find out—because, while gathering material in Toronto for a book on channeling, he fell in love with a channeled entity named Filipa.
Fisher, who's written two bestselling books (The Case for Reincarnation and Life Between Life), met Filipa in Toronto in the summer of 1984 through a channeler he calls Aviva in his book Hungry Ghosts. Aviva, an avowed Marxist, was forced to suspend her unbelief in the supernatural after she was taken over by an entity calling himself Russell Parnick, while being treated by hypnotherapy for myelocytic leukemia. The more she allowed Russell to use her body as a channel, the more her disease gradually subsided. As word got around Toronto's esoteric scene, Aviva's regular seances attracted followers, among them Joe Fisher.
There was no doubt in the minds of those in attendance that something very extraordinary happened to Aviva each time she was put into trance by her hypnotist. As Fisher describes it, "Her voice was barely recognizable. Gone was the high-pitched jocularity. ... Her enunciation was now unequivocally masculine; the English accent was unmistakable. This was an entirely different Aviva, strangely assertive and uncompromising. This was a voice which claimed to belong to Aviva's guide [Russell] , a discarnate individual who had lived as a sheep farmer in Yorkshire during the last century." Russell in turn introduced other entities: Hanni, Willian, Mi-Lao, Sebotwan, Ernest, Sonji, Tuktu, Kinggalaa—and Filipa Gavrilos. They became the guides for the regulars attending the seances.
Through Aviva, Filipa spoke to Fisher with "Greek inflection lending charm to broken English. Her delivery was subdued, pensive and poignantly tender. ... Whatever the quality of her speech, Filipa always spoke to me like a lover for whom the fire still smouldered."
Filipa told Joe that they'd indeed been lovers in the 1700s, when they lived in Theros, a Greek village "five day's walk from the Black Sea." He had been Andreas Cherniak, a militiaman born of a Greek mother and a Slavic father. She was a small, fair-skinned, black-haired Mediterranean beauty. But their affair ended tragically when the village elders disapproved. Andreas/Joe was judged by the priest and banished from Theros. After her death at age fifty-three, Filipa's astral self withdrew into the nonphysical plane of existence (called bardo by the Tibetans: bar—"in between lives"; do—"island"). Joe was now in his fourth life cycle since Andreas.
Joe found Filipa's chronicle appealingly plausible. "Sitting on the floor of Aviva's living room, I found myself breathing the air of a bygone era, roaming parched valleys and ancient crypts. I imagined Filipa's dark eyes and long black tresses." Ten years before, he'd written his first novel on the Greek island of Siphnos and had been quickly captivated by the land and its culture. He had a natural fondness for small, dark-haired women. As a boy, he'd felt a strange fascination for the name Philippa. Now he knew why.
Joe longed to establish "guide contact" (direct mind-to-mind communication) with Filipa. To this end he took up daily meditation, never completely linking up to Filipa, but coming tantalizingly close. Once he had the insight of a dusty pathway winding to a stand of tall, spindly trees in the distance. Through Aviva, Filipa excitedly proclaimed that this was where they used to meet as lovers. Sometimes he'd get a loud buzzing in his ears. He'd then feel Filipa's presence strongly, and "a strange sense of contentment and reconciliation and a suspension of worldly anxiety" would settle around him for as long as the buzzing lasted. In March 1985, he had the fleeting vision of a young woman walking towards him wearing a long white garment. He knew this to be Filipa and wept out of joy and sadness, loss, and anguish. "My terrestrial love life was doomed," Fisher writes. "No woman of flesh and blood could hope to emulate Filipa's love and concern."
Joe became obsessed by his impossible love. "If Filipa could have assumed a physical body, I'm sure I would have married her. But she was only a voice, a voice that resonated with more love, compassion, and perspicacity than I had ever known. Within the space of a few months, she had demonstrated an acute awareness of my feelings and foibles, she know the people in my life and their effect upon me, and she was even able to relate specific circumstances in which I had found myself, situations unknown to Aviva or anyone who attended [the seances]. 'I can see energies,' is how she explained her ability to know me inside out. 'I can see in your mind. If you make in your mind, I can see.' "
The more Joe Fisher loved Filipa, the more he hungered for tangible proof of her existence. Proof that Filipa was really who she said she was would further lend force to the book he was preparing to write. And proof would require a journey to Theros, the mountain village in the parched mountains of northeastern Greece, to find evidence of her earthly sojourn.
Not only did Fisher set out to unearth Filipa's past life, he wanted to verify the last incarnations of Englishmen Russell Parnick, William "Harry" Maddox, and William Alfred "Ernest" Scott. Two, Harry and Ernest, said that they'd died in this century, Harry in WW I and Ernest in WW II. These claims could be easily crosschecked by a look at British military records. Russell, Aviva's guide, had given ample dates and place names from his life in the Yorkshire dales for Joe to trace.
But as Joe Fisher would find out after two trips to Europe, from the start the four entities had been clearly and deliberately lying, though they'd managed to string him along by clever use of half-truths, ambiguity, and obfuscation. Filipa's lies turned out to be the most blatant and most crushing for Joe personally. She'd repeatedly claimed to have journeyed by foot from Theros to Alexandroupoli. But Alexandroupoli, which Fisher presumed to be an ancient site of Alexander the Great, turned out to have been founded only in 1920. It got its name from King Alexandros, who visited it in 1919. For a seventy-year period before that, it had been known as Dedeagats and been a settlement of Turkish merchants; prior to 1850, the place had no history at all. Thus Filipa, deceased in 1771, remembered a city that was not then built. She called it by a name she could not have known and told of ships in a harbor she could not have seen. A professor of Greek language found many other discrepancies in her memories of life in eighteenth-century Greece. There was no trace of a town called Theros. And no Greek could understand Filipa's tape-recorded utterances of her putative native tongue.
"Their knowledge is impressive, their insight remarkable, their charismatic hold on their followers undeniable," writes Fisher of these four and other channeled entities he investigated. Moreover, the voices' ostensible link to a higher and greater state of being seems to place them above suspicion in the minds of those who prize their counsel. Yet surely it is important—essential, even—to establish, if possible, the nature of the beast that is shuffling through the pipeline created by the trance state. Who are these entities really?
"The answer to that question is as unwelcome as it is unavoidable ... the evidence left me in little doubt that earthbound spirits or 'hungry ghosts' have wormed their way into that juicy apple of spiritual regeneration known as The New Age."
But is it logical to suspect all channeled entities because of the mischief of a few? Can't we hope that there are some genuine guides out in the ether somewhere?
Joe Fisher tried to keep this hope alive even after being cheated by Filipa. He visited renowned channeler George Chapman at his home in the Welsh village of Tre'ddol. Chapman's special distinction is that his guide, Dr. William Lang, has been authenticated beyond reasonable doubt as the spirit of a distinguished Middlesex ophthalmologist who died in 1937. Despite their initial disbelief, surviving members of the good doctor's family have testified that the entity speaking through the entranced George Chapman can be none other than Dr. Lang himself. Medical professionals have confirmed the entity's thorough familiarity with the diagnosis and treatment of eye diseases—even as they watched, Lang through Chapman has healed hundreds of patients.
But Fisher came away unsatisfied from his session with Dr. Lang. "I felt much the same in the company of the charming and deferential Dr. Lang as I did while conversing with the spirits whose claims remained unsubstantiated. I couldn't put my finger on it, but something was wrong. While seeming to cooperate fully, Dr. Lang was fudging. He told me nothing new, nothing incisive. And when I raised the question of charlatan spirits who crave physical sensation, the discarnate surgeon avoided the topic completely. ... Comparing him with other, blatantly suspect entities, I was haunted by one of Lt. Col. Arthur Powell's observations in The Astral Body. He wrote that it was impossible to distinguish truth from falsehood in communications from the next world 'since the resources of the astral plane can be used to delude persons on the physical plane to such an extent that no reliance can be placed even on what seems the most convincing proof.' "
"Hungry ghost," the term Fisher uses for the entities who speak through channelers, is a translation of the Sanskrit word preta. According to the Preta Khanda section of the Garuda Purana, an ancient book of Vedic wisdom, a preta is a human being deprived of a gross physical body because of sinfulness. His soul is trapped, earthbound, within the subtle body (composed of mind, intelligence and ahankara, or false sense of identity). As with any ordinary human, the preta's mind is agitated by the urges of lust, but he lacks physical senses with which to satisfy his desires.
Milton, in Comus, captures the pathos of "shadows" (ghosts) clinging to this world even past the point of death.
Such are those thick and gloomy shadows damp
Having no bodies of their own, pretas hunger for vicarious pleasures through the bodies of humans, much like decrepit lechers who seek gratification through pornographic movies. Hungry ghosts seem benign because they are genuinely attentive to the physical health of their subjects—witness Aviva's remarkable turnaround in her fight with cancer when Russell arrived. But as Joe Fisher states, "Their eagerness to communicate, their concern for the medium's health and strength, their preoccupation with life after death and reincarnation and the occasional admission that they missed the pleasures of incarnate life, all suggested humans who no longer had physical bodies yet longed to live and breathe once more." Seth, who called himself an "energy essence personality," sometimes requested his host Jane Roberts to drink beer or wine for his gratification. Joe Fisher tells of two entities who seemed to want sex through their subjects. He recalls the mental exhaustion, emotional turmoil, and muddled thinking that plagued him during his time with Filipa—symptoms hinting of psychic vampirism.
The Garuda Purana states that in cases of preta-possession (preta-dosa), "mysterious events do often occur ... many are the signs of ghosts." Dr. John Nevius, who studied possession extensively in China during the last century, wrote, "The most striking characteristic ... is that the subject evidences another personality, and the normal personality for the time being is partially or wholly dormant. The new personality presents traits of character utterly different from those which really belong to the subject in his normal state. ... Many persons while 'demon-possessed' give evidence of knowledge which cannot be accounted for in ordinary ways. ... They sometimes converse in foreign languages of which in their normal states they are entirely ignorant." And Emanuel Swedenborg, the famous eighteenth-century clairvoyant, warned, "When spirits begin to speak with man, he must beware lest he believe in anything; for they say almost anything; things are fabricated of them, and they lie. ..."
Pretas hover in homes where Vedic principles are not observed and haunt people who are unclean and unregulated. By these standards, practically the whole population of the Western world is open to preta-dosa, New Agers included. And what better way is there for a hungry ghost to seduce starry-eyed New Agers than with pap "we're all one" philosophy? Joe Fisher takes point-blank aim at the whole fraud. "When all is said and done, there is no shortcut to Nirvana. But in this narcissistic age of instant gratification and swift solution, the great deception of channeling is that we may glide effortlessly back to the Godhead. All we have to do is pay our money, take our seats and dream on as loving discarnates lead us to enlightenment. Why, the Big E. is just around the corner and anyway—didn't you know?—we are God."
Many bogus gurus have succeeded in the West the same way. In fact, in the late 1970s a world-famous Mayavada yoga society was almost shaken apart when a Sanksrit-quoting preta who claimed to be the group's deceased founder began speaking through a senior staff member. Though at last exposed, the spook held sway over fifty people who deserted the organization rather than give up their belief that the great yogi had returned to them.
Cheaters and Cheated
The way back to Godhead is not the way of preta-dosa. Krsna declares in Bhagavad-gita, bhutani yanti bhutejya: "Those who worship ghosts and spirits will take birth among such beings." By the chanting of the holy name of Krsna, the evil influence of ghosts and sinful life is destroyed at once (bhutebhyo' mhobhya eva ca sarvany etani bhagavan-nama-rupanukirtanat prayantu sanksayam sadyo, from the Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.8.27-28). But as Srila Prabhupada used to say, "This world is a place of cheaters and cheated." People's spiritual aspirations are channeled by their stubborn resistance to the holy name of Krsna into the most inauspicious realms of consciousness. Their welcoming of hungry ghosts as spiritual guides is indicative of their desperate devotion to lowly habits and fallacious ideas.
The desire to understand the real self beyond the body and to link our consciousness with the Supreme is an exalted aspiration, indeed the only goal of human existence. But successful completion of this goal requires that we be purified of lust, which impels us to the sinful activities of meat-eating, illicit sex, intoxication, and gambling—activities that according to the Garuda Purana are very attractive to ghosts. Purification need not be troublesome, however. Krsna is the Supreme Pure, our dearmost friend and indwelling guide, and He has made Himself available to the fallen souls of this dark age, Kali-yuga, by the simple process of chanting hari-nama, His holy name. We should obtain the holy name only from those devotees whose attentive hearing and chanting of transcendental sound has carried them beyond the grip of material desire.
For all their seductive cant, the hungry ghosts and bogus gurus are dead wrong. We are not God, and our individual existence is not a figment of cosmic imagination. Life is not an illusion. There is a purpose to everything, and it is realized when we recover our eternal link to the Supreme Person and His pure devotees.
Suhotra Swami is ISKCON's governing body commissioner for several European countries.
Srila Raghunatha Bhatta Gosvami
Srila Raghunatha Bhatta Gosvami, a great devotee of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, was born in A.D. 1505. He was the son of Sri Tapana Misra, with whom Lord Caitanya stayed during a visit to Benares. Raghunatha Bhatta, then a child, served Lord Caitanya and became extremely attached to Him. When the Lord was about to leave for Jagannatha Puri, Raghunatha cried in ecstasy.
To console Raghunatha, Lord Caitanya told him, "You must serve your father and mother for now. Later you can come to see Me in Puri."
Raghunatha became expert in Sanskrit grammar, rhetoric, and poetry and highly learned in the Vedic scriptures. When his parents became elderly, they sent him to Puri to see Lord Caitanya. Raghunatha spent eight months serving the Lord at Puri. Before Raghunatha left, the Lord gave him a tulasi garland from His own neck and prasadam from Lord Jagannatha. Lord Caitanya told Raghunatha to never marry and to carefully study the revealed scriptures.
Raghunatha returned to Benares and served his parents until their passing. He then went to Puri, where he stayed for eight months before Lord Caitanya ordered him to go to Vrndavana.
In Vrndavana, Raghunatha took shelter of Srila Rupa Gosvami and Srila Sanatana Gosvami. He was always absorbed in the ecstasy of love for Radha-Krsna, and was famous for his beautiful recitation of the Srimad-Bhagavatam. He would never hear or speak of anything material, and refused to hear criticism of any devotee of the Lord.
Raghunatha Bhatta is one of the six Gosvamis of Vrndavana, leaders in Lord Caitanya's movement. In Lord Krsna's pastimes, Raghunatha Bhatta is the gopi, or cowherd girl, Sri Raga Manjari. In A.D. 1579, he departed for the spiritual world.
A Lesson from Prema
By Hare Krsna Devi Dasi
THERE'S NOTHING worse than a new convert," admonished my grandmother. "They know just enough about their religion that they're completely gung-ho about it, and not enough to have a balanced perspective on its teachings. They're fanatics. That's what you're going to be—a fanatic."
Oh no, I'm not, I thought. I know what I'm doing.
Too bad I didn't remember Grandma's warning a few years later when I sent my daughter to gurukula (a Krsna conscious boarding school). "Fanatic," unfortunately, was the right word for me. There was too much "sense gratification" in the gurukula to suit me. Why so much emphasis on pretty dresses, special hairdos, and prizes—pretty barrettes and bangles—for chanting? Why so much hugging, so many treats? Wouldn't all these things just reinforce the girls' material identity?
Since the gurukula was on the Hare Krsna farm where I lived, the girls came home every weekend. At least then I could encourage my daughter to be sober. Maybe some formal hugs, but none of the silliness the asrama teacher let the kids indulge in. After all, I didn't want to develop a material attachment to my daughter or reinforce her bodily identity. I knew these were dangerous problems on the path of spiritual development. I knew everything, or so I thought. But, luckily, a cow named Prema came along.
After my daughter had been in gurukula for a year or so, I started working in the barn, taking care of the cows. Working with the cows gradually changed me. First of all there was discipline. I had to be punctual with the milkings so the cows wouldn't get sick. And I had to keep them and the milk house very clean. More discipline. I could understand that. But there was another part: love. I had to talk to the cows, brush them, pet them, and hug them. The most affectionate cow was Prema Vivhala. She was everyone's favorite. For Prema to give you milk, explained my cowherd mentor, she has to have affection for you, just as she would for her calf.
Every day when I picked up the bucket, heavy with frothy white milk, I realized with humility the great service Prema was doing: offering her milk to Krsna. When I heard that a witch named Putana had attained liberation by offering baby Krsna her breast milk, even though she was trying to poison Him, I knew that Krsna would give Prema Vivhala an even greater benediction. She was performing an elevated devotional service. Her spiritual progress was certainly assured.
After a while I realized that to enable Prema to perform devotional service I too had to do my duty. I had to make her love me. And to do that I had to love her in terms she could understand. She couldn't understand philosophy, but she understood a reassuring tone of voice telling her what a good girl she was for giving so much milk. She understood being brushed and stroked under the neck. She had to feel that I loved her. And it couldn't be a trick—I had to actually love her. That was my devotional service to Krsna. And it was pleasurable. And even though it was love, it wasn't material, because it was for our service to Krsna.
In time it dawned on me that I needed to take a similar approach to help my daughter progress in Krsna consciousness. I had to love her in terms she could understand. I had to let her know I loved her. If she could feel my affection, that would be an important motivation for her advancement in Krsna consciousness.
Thanks to Prema Vivhala I was finally figuring out what the asrama teacher already knew: Love inspires people to become Krsna conscious, especially children. When our affections are used in the wrong way, they lead us away from spiritual life. But that doesn't mean they should be suppressed, as I had mistakenly guessed. Rather, they must be used in a constructive way.
My daughter, now in college, still has great affection for her gurukula asrama teacher and visits her fairly often. Recently I saw a note by the teacher, saying how important it is for children to feel unconditional love from their parents so the children can develop as healthy Krsna conscious adults.
I relayed the information to my daughter and asked, "Did you feel we gave you unconditional love?"
"Oh, yes!" she replied.
I should have told her that she owed a lot of her happiness in Krsna consciousness to Prema Vivhala. Grandma would have been right about me if it hadn't been for the lesson I learned from Prema.
Hare Krsna Devi Dasi, an ISKCON devotee since 1978, is co-editor of the newsletter Hare Krsna Rural Life.
India at Fifty-one
By Tattvavit Dasa
THE COVER STORY, "India Turning Fifty," in National Geographic (May 1997) quoted Nehru, India's first prime minister, as having said that, after independence from Britain, India would rediscover herself. To Nehru, this rediscovery meant that India needed to manage—virtually without industry in 1947—a poor, growing population living in the grip of a caste system. Now, the article showed, middle managers of industries in Bangalore live in new classy housing developments while a homeless woman in Calcutta cooks on a sidewalk, cows are still "revered enough by Hindus to roam the streets," and Indians still perform rituals in the holy Ganges. Naturally, to some observers, India's problems and divisions seem to leave her devotions unfulfilled. Thus people doubt that India's spiritual heritage—as old as time—can cure human woes.
Yet a week after I saw the article last spring, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, India's prime minister, commended ISKCON for globalizing the appeal of Bhagavad-gita. ISKCON's message, he said, is founded on the philosophy of Bhagavad-gita, which "answers all the moral concerns and needs of the world." How could he make that claim for the Gita? To find out, let's relate the teachings of Bhagavad-gita to some of the moral issues raised in the National Geographic article.
National Geographic reported, "An ancient Hindu verse says that one who kills, eats, or permits the slaughter of a cow will 'rot in hell for as many years as there are hairs on the body of the cow so slain.'" Although not specifically from the Gita, this is a Vedic answer to one moral concern: the treatment of animals. People can eat lower animals or cows that die naturally. People should never kill cows, which are revered as the mothers of humanity because they supply milk. Cows and bulls are the most useful animals, and the Bhagavad-gita says that farmers should fully protect them.
Horribly, people twist the idea of protecting animals. Recently, when an investigator claimed that unlawful, inhumane practices are routine in the six thousand slaughterhouses in America, a spokeswoman for the American Meat Institute responded, "Animals are our raw materials. We have no incentive to hurt them."
From the state of Punjab, National Geographic reported that "the Golden Temple in Amritsar serves as the spiritual center for the world's twenty million Sikhs. 'From Hindus and Muslims have I broken free,' said Arjan Deva Ji, the fifth Sikh guru, in the 1590s. The faith holds all people equal in the eyes of God."
Bhagavad-gita teaches that designations like Hindu, Muslim or Sikh, Indian or American, and even human being are false, or temporary, like the bodies they designate. You are not your body but a spirit soul, Bhagavad-gita says; so forget designations—and purify your consciousness by using your senses and mind in the service of Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. ISKCON devotees are Hindus, Christians, Americans, Indians—everything—but they give up the bodily conception. Srila Prabhupada mentioned about his first followers, "If they had thought, 'I am an American,' then why would they have sought out me, a poor Indian man?"
Indians are known outside India as poor, and it's a fact, Srila Prabhupada said in 1977. National Geographic put today's poverty rate in India at thirty-six percent. Poverty is another moral concern addressed in Bhagavad-gita: The Supreme Being lines up your suffering and enjoyment according to karma, the reactions to what you did in a past life. Srila Prabhupada, therefore, uplifted the poor to Krsna consciousness by giving them the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra and Krsna-prasadam, food that relieves karmic reactions.
In 1977, however, Srila Prabhupada told the editor of a Bombay newspaper that Indians are actually not poor: "If we cultivate our own standard of knowledge, Bhagavad-gita, then we are the richest, and we can give the whole world the gift. That is India's prerogative. The whole world is in the darkness of ignorance, so India was expected after independence to give the real knowledge. Instead, she became victimized by the glimmer of material civilization. So I wanted that such a magnificent gift from the side of India be contributed to the world."
It's five decades after independence, but as Srila Prabhupada had wished, India may still give the world real knowledge. After lauding Prabhupada's contribution of globalizing Bhagavad-gita's message, the prime minister advocated applying on a national scale the ethic of the Gita (2.50), yogah karmasu kausalam: yoga is the art of all work. "This will create a new work culture," Mr. Vajpayee said, "and a new work culture will create a new India."
Tattvavit Dasa recently edited "Surrender Unto Me"—An Overview of the Bhagavad-gita, by Bhurijana Dasa.
The liberated soul who merges into the existence of the Lord is no better than the trees. Trees also stand in the Lord's existence, because material energy and the Lord's energy are the same. Similarly, the Brahman effulgence is also the energy of the Supreme Lord. It is the same whether one remains in the Brahman effulgence or in the material energy, because in either there is no spiritual activity.
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
For one who constantly meditates upon My presence within all persons, the bad tendencies of rivalry, envy, and abusiveness, along with false ego, are very quickly destroyed.
Lord Sri Krsna
Who can be worthy of the name of the Supreme Lord but the Personality of Godhead Sri Krsna? Brahmaji collected the water emanating from the nails of His feet in order to award it to Lord Siva as a worshipful welcome. This very water [the Ganges] is purifying the whole universe, including Lord Siva.
Sri Suta Gosvami
Marriage with a view to peaceful and virtuous life and with a view to procreate servants of the Lord is a good institution for a Vaisnava. Spiritual cultivation is the main object of life. Do everything that helps it and abstain from everything that thwarts the cultivation of the spirit.
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura
Logic and arguments are insufficient to understand the Absolute Truth.
Birth and other transformations are undergone by the body but never by the self, just as change occurs for the moon's phases but never for the moon, though the new-moon day may be called the moon's "death."
When the Vedic literature describes the Personality of Godhead as being without any qualities (nirguna), this means that the Lord does not possess any material qualities. It does not mean that He has no spiritual qualities.
Padma Purana (Uttara-khanda 255.39.40)
Contributors of Vedic Thoughts for this issue: Ramesvara Dasa (Nava Jiyada Nrsimha Ksetra, Germany), Sudarsana Ramanuja Dasa (Mumbai), Gour Govinda Dasa (Honolulu), Bhakti Vikasa Swami (Baroda, India), Kadrudhanayu Devi Dasi (Wroclaw, Poland)
by Dravida Dasa
kamadinam kati na katidha palita durnidesas
In how many ways have I sought to obey
(A poetic translation of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila 22.16)
Have a Blast, O Tiger Among Men!
ONE OF OUR BTG staff members suggested that I comment here on the nuclear blasts detonated, amidst considerable publicity, by India and her arch-rival Pakistan. I'm not much inclined to do it.
For me it's boring. I'm getting tired of the material world. OK—India and Pakistan are now better equipped to blow each other up, and maybe they will. That means death, and lots of it.
But what do you expect? That's the material world: everyone has to die.
Taking a materialistic point of view: Life is nothing but chemicals racing around. So even if the entire human race gets ended early, so what? It means nothing.
And taking a spiritual point of view: The real self, the soul, is eternal. It is never born and never dies. It can never be killed, even by the most powerful weapon. The body may be destroyed, but the spark of consciousness within it, never. That spiritual spark moves onward from one body to the next, cycling and recycling from one lifetime to another, untouched by death.
Well, almost untouched. As long as we identify with the material body, confounding the body with the self, we are shafted by the miseries that come upon the body, like birth, death, disease, old age. But as soon as we distance ourselves from the body, knowing that we are not the bodily machine but a spiritual spark of Krsna, the Personality of Godhead, we become free from all material burdens.
Why then should we waste our time getting worked up about the nukes of India and Pakistan? We've got better things to do. Human life is meant for spiritual realization. So better to get on with it, and on with it seriously.
By chanting Hare Krsna, keeping company with devotees of Krsna, living in a Krsna conscious atmosphere, serving Krsna, and reading books like Srimad-Bhagavatam that bring us in touch with Krsna, we can easily and joyfully progress.
But will people do that? A few. The rest prefer to live like cats and dogs, busy busy busy in eating, sleeping, fighting, and sex.
Hence the wild popularity of the new drug Viagra, every old man's dream, designed to give power to the impotent, renewed vitality to old male organs, new hope for super sex well into your decrepitude.
In Bhagavad-gita we find the word purusa-vyaghra (yes, pronounced nearly the same way)—"O tiger among men!" Indeed. Take this pill, old man, and become a tiger, a chemically recharged tiger, senses roaring. Become a fool, stalking once again the jungle of material existence, pouncing upon illusory happiness, slavering over tired meat, sinking your fangs into stupidity. Indeed, show your stripes.
And forget about spiritual realization. Just live live live for nothing, till death nukes you. Again and again and again.