This issue of Back to Godhead coincides with the annual Gaura Purnima festival, honoring the appearance five hundred years ago of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the incarnation of Lord Krsna for this age. The Vedic scriptures tell us that God regularly descends to reveal the most effective means to attain spiritual perfection in each age. As predicted in the Vedas, Lord Caitanya appeared in Bengal and promoted the congregational chanting of God's names, especially as found in the great mantra: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Two articles in this issue deal specifically with Lord Caitanya and His followers. In "A Meeting in Varanasi," veteran BTG author Mathuresa Dasa presents a short biography of Lord Caitanya in the context of the Lord's historic meeting with Prakasananda Sarasvati, a prominent follower of the philosophy of impersonalism. And in "Ganga Safari," Mahamaya Devi Dasi, an American-born devotee living in India, tells of a pilgrimage down the Ganges to out-of-the-way holy places associated with Lord Caitanya and His followers.
We hope these articles will increase your appreciation for Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, known as the most merciful incarnation of the Lord.
• To help all people discern reality from illusion, spirit from matter, the eternal from the temporary.
I have really appreciated the last few issues of BTG. After sort of taking it for granted, I have recently started reading it carefully again. Thank you.
I have come across Back to Godhead through a friend in Mauritius, and most especially the correspondence column. I like it. Now, I agree that this movement is a very scientific movement, and also I appreciate the philosophical aspect of God-realization. However, I have also studied the main scriptures, and I have some doubts that come as strumbling blocks to fully surrender to Krsna. I am not trying to find fault, but trying to clear my misunderstandings.
My doubts have to do with your contention that Lord Krsna is the Supreme Godhead, above even Lord Visnu, Lord Siva, and others. Here is some evidence to the contrary.
(1) The Visnu-sahasra-nama, a genuine book appearing in the Padma Purana, mentions that Lord Visnu is the original Supreme Lord and He has sahasra-nama ["a thousand names"], of which "Rama" and "Krsna" are prominent.
(2) In the Mahabharata, Udyoga Parva, and in the Visnu Purana, it is said that Lord Visnu is Vasudeva, which means "the all-pervading One."
(3) In the Bhavisyat Purana, Lord Siva declares, "They who consider me or Brahma to be different from Visnu are endowed with crooked minds. They are tortured in the hells below."
(4) In the Harivamsa (Kailasa-yatra chapter) Lord Siva addresses Sri Krsna: "I am you, O all pervading Lord. You are verily myself, O Janardana. Between us, there is no difference, either in words or in their import."
Mr. S. Ramsahye
Kalakantha Dasa Replies:
Srila Prabhupada has proven a consistent and logical understanding of the scriptures based on bhakti, surrender to Krsna. So drawing solely from what I have received from Srila Prabhupada, here are some answers to your questions:
(1) To indicate the superiority of Lord Krsna, Srila Prabhupada quotes a verse in the Brahmanada Purana which states that chanting the name of Krsna once is equal to chanting the thousand names of Visnu three times. (See Srila Prabhupada's Purports to Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila 9.32-33.)
(2) Lord Krsna has many incarnations and expansions, and Lord Visnu is in the category of full expansions, those that display the omnipotence of God. So, like Lord Krsna, Lord Visnu can be called Vasudeva, or all-pervading, but that doesn't mean He is the origin of Lord Krsna.
In the Brahma-samhita (5.39 and 5.33), Lord Brahma says:
ramadi-murtisu kala-niyamena tisthan
"I worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Govinda [Krsna], who is always situated in various incarnations such as Rama, Nrsimha, and many sub-incarnations as well, but who is the original Personality of Godhead known as Krsna, and who incarnates personally also."
advaitam acyutam anadim ananta-rupam
"I worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Govinda [Krsna], who is the original person—absolute, infallible, without beginning. Although expanded into unlimited forms, He is still the same original, oldest person, always appearing as a fresh youth. Such eternal, blissful, all-knowing forms of the Lord are usually understood by the best Vedic scholars, but they are always manifest to pure, unalloyed devotees."
To further clarify Krsna's relationship with His incarnations, Srila Prabhupada says, "There is no difference, however, among Them. This is very nicely explained in the Brahma-samhita (5.46): diparcir eva hi dasantaram abhyupetya. With one candle one may light a second candle, with the second a third and then a fourth, and in this way one can light thousands of candles, and no candle is inferior to another in distributing light. Every candle has the full potential candlepower, but there is still the distinction that one candle is the first, another the second, another the third, and another the fourth. Similarly, there is no difference between the immediate expansion of the Lord and His secondary expansion."
Krsna appears in countless incarnations, including Lord Visnu. They are all equally worshipable, and yet Lord Krsna holds a few special distinctions. An important verse in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.3.28) states, ete camsa-kalah pumsah krsnas tu bhagavan svayam: "All the above-mentioned incarnations are either plenary portions or portions of the plenary portions of the Lord, but Lord Sri Krsna is the original Personality of Godhead."
(3) Srila Prabhupada explains that Lord Brahma and Lord Siva are known as "qualitative incarnations" of Lord Visnu, an expansion of Lord Krsna. Lord Brahma is in charge of the mode of passion, and Lord Siva the mode of ignorance. Brahma and Siva are in fact devotees of Lord Krsna and Lord Visnu. Lord Brahma is the head of the sampradaya (disciplic succession) to which ISKCON belongs, and Lord Siva is known as the greatest devotee of Lord Visnu (vaisnavanam yatha sambhuh).
As great devotees and partial incarnations, Lord Brahma and Lord Siva should not be considered different from Lord Krsna. They are one with His purpose and desire. At the same time, they are not Krsna. They are endowed with many of Lord Krsna's qualities, but they are not fully empowered (visnu-tattva) expansions of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Therefore they are not God, but exalted demigods, empowered by the Supreme Lord to fulfill essential purposes.
(4) Lord Caitanya taught the doctrine of acintya-bhedabheda-tattva, which means the inconceivable simultaneous oneness and difference of the Supreme Lord and all other living beings. We are one with God because we are also spiritual by nature, but we are different from Him because He is infinite and we are small.
We can also be said to be one with God when we are one with Him in purpose, as is the case with Lord Siva and other exalted beings. In the verse you quote, Lord Siva says that Lord Krsna's words are his words. We can easily understand this statement in the context of acintya-bhedabheda-tattva. If you say something and I repeat it, your words are my words, but I have not become you.
The statements of the Vedic scriptures may sometimes seem contradictory. So we have to hear from self-realized souls like Srila Prabhupada. I feel fortunate to have his guidance in understanding the Vedic conclusions. If we try to track down Krsna through intellectual prowess, we'll be unsuccessful. We need Krsna's mercy, delivered by His pure devotees, to understand Him.
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When Arjuna accepts his Friend Krsna as his guru, Krsna begins His teachings with a reprimand.
A lecture given in Los Angeles, on August 17, 1973
by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
sri bhagavan uvaca
"The Blessed Lord said: While speaking learned words, you are mourning for what is not worthy of grief. Those who are wise lament neither for the living nor the dead."—Bhagavad-gita 2.11
WHAT CAN BE LIVING or dead? The body. Krsna chided Arjuna: "The behavior you are showing is not that of a learned man." Nanusocanti panditah. Indirectly Krsna said, "You do not know things as they are. Your are not learned; you are a fool." Even though Arjuna had spoken many things in support of his being nonviolent and not wanting to kill his kinsmen, Krsna chided him for being in the bodily concept of life.
Those in the bodily concept of life can speak many learned things, but after all they are fools.
"A human being who identifies this body made of three elements with his self, who considers the by-products of the body to be his kinsmen, who considers the land of birth worshipable, and who goes to the place of pilgrimage simply to take a bath rather than meet men of transcendental knowledge there, is to be considered like an ass or a cow."
What is the body? Kunape tri-dhatuke. It is a bag of three elements: kapha, pitta, and vayu, or mucus, bile, and air, or a combination of flesh, bone, blood, mucus, stool, urine, and so on. But foolish persons take this lump of bones and flesh to be the self: "I am this body."
No learned man will think like that, but the whole world is misled under this conception. This is animal mentality. Animals thinks like that, not learned men. The learned man will say aham brahmasmi: "I am a spirit soul. I am a servant of God." This is learned speaking. "I am not this body."
Arjuna has accepted Krsna as his spiritual master. The spiritual master has the right to rebuke the disciple to give proper direction, just as the teacher or father has that right. Although Krsna and Arjuna are friends, Arjuna has accepted Krsna as his spiritual master. The spiritual master should not speak any compromising words, as is done between friends. He must say the right things: "You are wrong. Don't talk nonsense. You are talking like a very learned man, but you do not know anything."
Conditions of the Body
The body exists in two conditions: when the living force is there, and when the living force is gone. The body moves because the living force is there. As soon as the living force is gone, this nice body will no longer move. And it will decompose. "Dust thou art; dust thou shall be."
Earth, water, fire, air, sky—these five gross elements are the ingredients of the body. As soon as the soul leaves the body, the earth energy goes to the earth, the water energy goes to the water, and so on. That is a scientific law, called conservation of energy. The energy is never lost. It goes back to the original stock.
Without the living force, the body is called dead; with the living force, the body is called living. A learned man does not lament for the body in either case. A learned man knows Brahman, or spirit. He has realized Brahman. Brahma-bhutah prasannatma. One on the brahma-bhutah stage can understand, "I am not the body; I am separate from the body."
In former ages this was common knowledge. We can see it displayed five thousand years ago, when the Battle of Kuruksetra was fought. The ksatriyas, or warriors, were fighting one another severely, but still they were not in the bodily concept of life. But Arjuna, a ksatriya, was so overcome with the bodily concept of life that Krsna chided him: "You are talking like a learned man, but you are not a learned man."
We conclude from Krsna's words that anyone in the bodily concept of life is not learned; he's a fool. So this world, now at least, is a fool's paradise. No one is learned, because everyone is working under the bodily concept of life.
In reproaching Arjuna, Lord Krsna took the first step in educating him, just as a teacher, before giving a lesson, may first tell the student, "You are writing incorrectly."
With this verse the Bhagavad-gita is now actually being spoken. Krsna states the first principle to Arjuna: "You do not know anything. Don't talk as if you are a learned man."
The Three Qualities
Each of us in the same position as Arjuna, talking as if learned. Yesterday two young men came to see me. They spoke no philosophy, only nonsense. One of them was talking about stopping starvation, as if he had taken a contract to stop starvation. But starvation is due to the laws of nature. You cannot stop it.
There are three qualities of nature—goodness, passion, and ignorance—and the natural laws go on under these three qualities. Therefore we shall always find three classes or statuses of living conditions. That will be explained in the Bhagavad-gita. Different species of life are everywhere, because the three qualities act everywhere. For example, there are some good trees, which produce nice fruits and flowers, and there are trees with no fruit and no flowers. They may live for a very long time, but they serve no useful purpose. Any tree that does not give us nice fruit or nice flowers is sinful.
There are also pious animals and sinful animals. The cow is a pious animal, and the dog is a sinful animal. Among the birds, the crow is sinful, and ducks, swans, and peacocks are pious.
Similarly, in human society there are pious men and sinful men. If one has wealth, beauty, high birth, or good education, these are signs that one was pious in the previous life. The opposite of these indicates impiety in one's previous life.
So the three qualities—goodness, passion, and ignorance—are working everywhere. Therefore, there must always be three classes: high class, middle class, and low class. You cannot make anyone classless. That is not possible. As long as the bodily concept of life is present, there must be these three classes. And those who are condemned must suffer. Everyone is condemned in the material world. But there are first-class condemned, second-class condemned, and third-class condemned.
You cannot stop the natural occurrence of first class, second class, and third class. For example, fifty years ago when I was in Bombay, I would see a class of men living on the footpath. Now the same class of men is still there. Today everyone is getting more money, but still the condition is the same. Even if you get more money, the other circumstances will force you to stay in the same condition you were in fifty years ago. That is called destiny. You cannot change your destiny. That is not possible.
Therefore the Srimad-Bhagavatam tells us not to try to change our destiny. Everyone is trying to change his destiny. "I am poor man; I must become a very rich man." But you cannot change your destiny.
In this world every one of us is bound by the laws of karma, destiny. By destiny we must get a certain amount of happiness and distress. There is always a mixture of happiness and distress. You cannot have unadulterated happiness here. Unadulterated happiness, real happiness, can be achieved in the spiritual world, not in the material world. Here we have to enjoy and suffer a certain amount of happiness and certain amount of distress. We cannot change that. That is the law of nature in the material world.
Therefore the Srimad-Bhagavatam says, tasyaiva hetoh prayeteta kovido na labhyate yad bhramatam upary adhah. People are wandering within the material world in different forms of life under different conditions. But they are not getting information of Krsna. That is their misfortune. So during this period of continuous wandering in different species of life on different planets, one who is fortunate—who is actually anxious to unite with the Supreme Lord—contacts a guru. How does one gets this consciousness, this desire to unite with the Lord? By associating with devotees. We are holding this class, and even outsiders who come can understand something, and they can then become serious to understand God and how to go back home, back to Godhead. Then Krsna helps at once. That is the process.
Krsna is there within your heart. As soon as you become a little serious, Krsna is ready. He is sitting with you as a friend, simply looking for the opportunity to help when you choose to come back to Him. That is Krsna. He's always sitting with you. But we are not willing to go back home, back to Godhead. We want to become God in the material world. That is our position. Instead of going back home, back to Godhead, to live with God, we want to become God here. That is our position. Therefore we are suffering.
Servants of God
Nowhere can you be God. God is one. Nobody can be equal to Him or above Him. Everyone is subordinate to God. But those who are not learned—foolish people—try to be happy in the material world by adjustment and by trying to become God. That is atheism and the demoniac tendency. But those advanced in knowledge know, "We are eternally servants of God; we cannot become God. Better to remain servants of God. That is our happiness."
Those in the bodily concept of life cannot advance in this real knowledge—that we are eternally servants of God. That is our constitutional position. But if I deny that—"No, I am not a servant"—then I become a servant of maya, the illusory energy of God. I have to remain a servant. That is my constitutional position.
One must first understand one's identity. That is the first lesson given by Krsna: "You are lamenting for the body, but the body is not your identity. You are thinking incorrectly."
If your coat is destroyed, that does not mean you are destroyed. If your car is destroyed, that does not mean you are finished. Real knowledge is to know, "I am not the car; I am not the coat; I am not the body." Although sometimes we become a little sorry in relation to the car, coat, or body, our identity is different from these. So Krsna says, "You are talking like a learned man, but you do not know your identity. You are not the body."
Anyone not in perfect knowledge should not take the position of talking like a learned man. That is cheating, and that is foolishness. First of all know things as they are; then talk. Otherwise, it is better not to talk than to talk foolishly. Therefore, sometimes in spiritual advancement there is a process called maunam, which means not speaking. If a disciple is too foolish, the spiritual master may order him, "Don't talk. Please remain silent." Because if he talks, he'll simply talk nonsense. Why should he spoil his energy by such nonsense talking? Better to stop talking. Meditation is also like that. If instead of talking or doing nonsense one stays silent for some time, that is good for him.
Meditation and maunam, silence, are not meant for devotees, but for the less intelligent. The devotees' business is to talk always about Krsna. Why should they stop talking? Maunam? No. Kirtaniyah sada harih. Caitanya Mahaprabhu says that one has to chant and talk of Krsna twenty-four hours a day. Where is the question of silence? Silence is for those who are nonsense. But for those who are actually advanced, there is no such restriction. Vacamsi vaikuntha-gunanuvarnane. We should use our talking power to describe the glories of the Lord. That is kirtana.
When Pariksit Maharaja learned he would die in seven days, he went on hearing the Srimad-Bhagavatam from Sukadeva Gosvami twenty-four hours a day, without even eating or drinking. And they both got salvation; they went back home, back to Godhead. How? One was hearing, and one was chanting. And what was the subject matter? Krsna, that's all.
So subjects about Krsna are so nice that you do not have to do anything but simply hear. You have your God-given ears. You can simply sit down and hear. Satam prasangan mama virya-samvido bhavanti hrt-karna-rasayanah-kathah. Sat-sanga means talking about Krsna, hearing about Krsna—not from a paid reciter, but from the self-realized devotee, who is working for the Lord. Satam means "devotees," and sat-sanga means "the association of devotees." Sat means "devotee" or "God" or "spiritual." So sat-sanga means "spiritual association." The more you associate with sat, with devotees, the more you become liberated.
In the material world we are simply in bad association, duh-sanga. So if we want to get rid of this bad association, we must associate with the devotees. Sat-sangat mukta duh-sanga.
Arjuna has the best opportunity. He's hearing from the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He's so fortunate. He's talking with the Supreme Personality of Godhead face to face, directly. Our business should be to follow the footsteps of Arjuna. How? As Arjuna understood Bhagavad-gita, try to understand in that way. Arjuna accepted Krsna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Param brahma param dhama pavitram paramam bhavan: "Krsna, You are the Supreme Person, the most pure." Even if we do not understand Bhagavad-gita, if we follow Arjuna we can understand: "Arjuna has understood like this—that Krsna is the Supreme Brahman, Supreme Personality of Godhead." That is called receiving knowledge in parampara, or disciplic succession. We don't have to tax our brain trying to understand Krsna. We have poor intelligence, so we cannot understand in that way. But if we simply accept what Arjuna says, then we are perfect.
If you follow the authorities, then you understand. Dharmasya tattvam nihitam guhayam. It is very difficult to understand what is actually religion. People are puzzled. But we can understand if we follow the mahajanas, the great spiritual authorities. The Vedic scriptures mention twelve mahajanas, including Brahma, Siva, Manu, Kapila, the Kumaras. If we follow their footsteps, we can understand what is actually religion.
Or we can follow Arjuna: "Arjuna has understood like this, so let me understand in the same way." That's all. Then we understand Bhagavadgita. But if we want to speak in a very scholarly way without understanding Krsna, that is simply a waste of time.
Many so-called scholars and philosophers are doing that. They do not understand Krsna, but they talk only nonsense, and such talks are very much appreciated by others. That is described in the Srimad-Bhagavatam: sva-vid-varaha-ustra-kharaih samstutah purusah pasuh. These rascals—so-called scholars, so-called incarnations—are accepted by a similar class of animals. The Vedic method is to follow the footsteps of the predecessor spiritual masters, who understand things fully. Then we'll also understand, and our life will be successful.
Thank you very much.
By Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami
AT A BACK TO GODHEAD editorial meeting in the mid 1980s, we discussed a letter from a reader criticizing us for not being relevant. Why, if we claimed that Krsna consciousness could solve real problems—crime, war, famine—were we keeping those solutions to ourselves? Why weren't we making our magazine the cutting edge of spiritual journalism?
As we discussed the criticism, we began to feel we needed to revolutionize Back to Godhead.
Suddenly, one of our staff members said, "Wait, it doesn't sound Krsna conscious to place so much emphasis on this world. Our philosophy is otherworldly."
Otherworldly? That sounded unattractive. But he was right. Srila Prabhupada did not teach us to make ourselves at home in this world, or even to worry too much about fixing it. He taught us to focus on the spiritual world. The material world cannot be fixed; it's supposed to be miserable.
"Otherworldly" has several meanings. My dictionary defines it first in a neutral way: "relating to the spiritual or imaginary world." We live in the material world but fix our minds on another world, spiritual or imaginary. The second definition is less neutral: "impractical, unworldly." An otherworldly person has no concern for material values or pursuits; he or she lacks sophistication, is perhaps naive.
In the Krsna conscious sense, "otherworldly" means we aspire to transfer to the spiritual world when we leave the body and we learn to live in that aspiration while in the material world. Our editorial staff decided BTG would be relevant by focusing on this unique attempt to become otherworldly.
Three basic ways to become otherworldly in the Krsna conscious sense are to hear about the spiritual world, to practice detachment from this world, and to gradually learn to live heart and soul in the spiritual world even while residing in this one.
Hearing about the spiritual world is important because it develops our desire to go there. Srila Prabhupada makes a similar statement in his Bhagavad-gita commentary. After Krsna presents a few details about the spiritual world, Srila Prabhupada writes, "One should be captivated by this information. He should desire to transfer himself to that eternal world and extricate himself from this false reflection of reality." (Bg. 15.6) If not captivated by information of the spiritual world, we will remain captivated by what we hope to achieve in this one.
The Vedic literature is unique in that it gives so much information about the spiritual world. The more we hear from the Vedas about the spiritual world, the more attracted to it we can become, and the more otherworldly. Then we have to cultivate detachment from this world. The scriptures point out, and our experience confirms, that this world is a place of suffering. We should want to leave it. Human life is short. The attachments we have spent our life cultivating will determine what happens at the end of this life, whether we will return to the miserable world or transfer to the spiritual one.
This is what Srila Prabhupada taught. He himself was a perfect blend of down-to-earth and otherworldly. People to whom Prabhupada spoke often tried to bring him down to what they considered a more relevant position. He seemed to speak only the ideal. But Prabhupada wouldn't budge. He argued for the ultimate reality of the spiritual world and crashed through worldly arguments. Did they think they could help the poor? How? Did they think their peace talks would amount to anything practical? They were fools to think so. The real solution—and he asserted it again and again—was to chant Hare Krsna.
Yet he was no dreamer. He lived in a spiritual reality as tangible to him as our world is to us. He spoke from experience. He never taught us to hate this world, but to create love for the next. He taught us to live in the here and now, but in Krsna consciousness. That requires seeing Krsna in this world and doing everything to attain our otherworldly goal. Prabhupada didn't teach cold detachment, but a life of love of God.
Yes, this world is temporary, but it comes from Krsna. Yes, we should renounce it, but we should do so by using it completely in His service. Don't form attachments here. Let worldliness grow into otherworldliness; don't live a secular, spiritually forgetful life. Live with ultimate reality.
Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami is the author of many books, including a six-volume biography of Srila Prabhupada.
By Ravi Gupta
AN INDIAN GUEST at our Hare Krsna center in Boise once told us, "My father was very strict in his daily habits and spiritual practices. He would eat only food cooked by his own hands." My father, Anantarupa Dasa, has similar remembrances of his grandmother. She would eat only food prepared at home. Many Indians can relate similar experiences with parents, grandparents, or friends.
What is the rationale behind a practice so difficult to maintain? Why were members of previous generations so strict in what they ate?
The Bhagavad-gita (3.13) gives us a hint: "The devotees of the Lord are released from all kinds of sins because they eat food which is offered first for sacrifice. Others, who prepare food for personal sense enjoyment, verily eat only sin." At home, "offering food for sacrifice" usually means offering food to whatever deities one worships on one's home altar. But "offering food for sacrifice" especially means offering food to Lord Krsna, since He is called Yajna ("sacrifice"). And Lord Krsna tells us when He will accept our offering: "If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit, or water, I will accept it." (Bg. 9.26).
So what guarantee is there that the food one eats at the house of an acquaintance or in a restaurant was cooked with love and devotion for Sri Krsna? In fact, in many cases we cannot know, and so we often "eat only sin."
The food we eat is important in determining who we are; it influences our consciousness. For example, if we eat bread cooked at a restaurant or factory, the consciousness of those who cooked the bread enters into it and affects us. Slowly, by repeatedly eating the bread, our mentality and desires will become like those of the people who prepared the grains.
This principle is not as esoteric as it may seem. When an artist creates a painting, he expresses his thoughts, desires, and emotions through the medium of the art, and the viewer of the painting takes in the artist's mental state. Similarly, when a computer receives information from outside sources, it may also receive a virus, which—unseen and unheard—slowly destroys the computer's software.
Srila Prabhupada instructed his disciples to follow the Vedic tradition of not eating food cooked outside the home or temple. He writes, "Indeed, a devotee should be very strict in not accepting food from a nondevotee, especially food prepared in restaurants or hotels or on airplanes. An avaisnava [nondevotee] may be a vegetarian and a very clean cook, but because he cannot offer the food he cooks to Visnu, it cannot be accepted as maha-prasada. It is better that a Vaisnava abandon such food as untouchable."
But how can we maintain this ancient Vedic principle today? The modern world is one of global travel, a hectic pace of life, and large networks of friends and acquaintances. Eating outside—in restaurants, hotels, and airplanes—is a widespread social phenomenon, if not an obligation and necessity. How can we maintain our Krsna conscious principles in the face of this?
Indeed, it would have been very difficult in ordinary circumstances. But by Srila Prabhupada's mercy, it's not impossible. Let me give you an example.
My father travels frequently on business trips around the world. His company provides him with airfare, hotel rooms, and money for food. But while his colleagues may go to the nearest restaurant to have lunch, my father has to make his own arrangements. Sometimes finding a good meal is difficult, especially when prasadam from home runs out, so he eats only raw foods—fruits, salad, nuts. But when the need is greatest, Krsna always helps, and somehow or other he will find the local ISKCON temple, a Govinda's Restaurant, or the home of a devotee. So he can eat prasadam almost anywhere he goes, and he can rest assured the food was cooked with devotion and offered to Lord Krsna.
Ravi Gupta, who turns seventeen in April, lives at the Hare Krsna center in Boise, Idaho, USA. The center is run by his parents. In May, Ravi will graduate from Boise State University with a B.A. in mathematics and philosophy.
Terminator Seeds and Social Order
By Hare Krsna Devi Dasi
LORD KRSNA SAYS THAT godless materialists produce "unbeneficial, horrible works meant to destroy the world." If you think this just means nuclear bombs, check out the latest from Monsanto, the folks who brought us Bovine Growth Hormones. On March 3, 1998, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Delta & Pine Land Co. (acquired in May by Monsanto) announced they had obtained a U.S. patent for a technique that genetically alters a seed in such a way that the crop grown from that seed will produce seeds that won't germinate.
That could be a big problem for traditional farmers, who use seeds from their own crops. So why invent such a seed—coined "the Terminator seed"? Monsanto says the seed will benefit the hungry of the world, because if everyone has to buy new seeds every year, that will encourage seed companies to invest more money in developing improved seeds with high protein, extra vitamins, more insecticides, herbicide-resistant traits, and so on.
But Chilean agronomist Camila Montecinos expressed alarm: "It's likely that pollen from crops carrying the Terminator trait will infect the fields of farmers who either reject or can't afford the technology. ... When farmers reach into their bins to sow seed the following season they would discover—too late—that some of their seed is sterile. This could lead to very high yield losses. ... We could see ... a general—even dramatic—decline in food security for the poorest farm communities."
Others worry that insects and winds could bring sterilization to the fields of farmers who cannot afford to buy seeds. "It's terribly dangerous," says Hope Shand, research director for RAFI (Rural Advancement Foundation International). "Half the world's farmers are poor and can't afford to buy seed every growing season. Yet poor farmers grow 15 to 20 percent of the world's food, and they directly feed at least 1.4 billion people. ... These farmers depend upon saved seed ..."
The Terminator seed could drive hundreds of millions of farmers out of agriculture. Some countries are banning the import of the seed.
Noting that science has come up with a potentially devastating product, M. S. Swaminathan, one of India's foremost agricultural experts, observed, "Science gives you a lot of power, and you must have an ethical code to exercise that power."
To have a potent ethical code, society's primary goal must be spiritual advancement, rather than material. People drunk with their quest for power and willing to create devastating products can co-opt a spiritually lame society. Krsna says in Bhagavad-gita that those who believe that material advancement is the goal of civilization are demoniac.
In a varnasrama society each person serves the Lord according to his or her ability and thereby gains satisfaction. But a society not organized for spiritual goals is driven by lust, greed, and competition. Those who have the greatest intellect do not devote their intellect to understanding spiritual science, as brahmanas would in a varnasrama society. Instead they become salaried scientific workers. And rather than providing spiritual guidance to the heads of state, they become servants of greedy merchants and businessmen.
Unlike ksatriyas in a varnasrama society, the heads of state in a materialistic society do not take guidance from brahmanas to organize society for the spiritual satisfaction of the citizens. Rather, leaders disempower themselves, bowing down to the interests of businessmen who run large corporations—at the expense of the welfare of the common citizen.
In a spiritually lame society, farmers and businessmen do not protect cows, provide food, or support saintly persons and spiritual activities. Rather, in large agribusinesses, farm workers become dependent serfs.
Finally, neither the brahmanas with their humility, austerity, and spiritualized intellect nor the ksatriyas with their analytical skills, power, and fatherly love of their citizens control society. Rather, control goes to the merchants, the wealthy corporations, whose criteria for success is profit.
A spiritually lame society will always create products like the Terminator seed. Only a spiritual society can produce things that benefit the world, because beneficial acts are possible only when society is devoted to pleasing and understanding God. The first step in creating a harmonious spiritual society? Sincerely chanting Hare Krsna to purify our hearts and minds, so that we may gain the humility to understand the desires of the Lord. Then there will be no more Terminator seeds.
Formerly the editor of Hare Krsna Rural Life, Hare Krsna Devi Dasi is currently compiling a five-volume series of Srila Prabhupada's teachings on varnasrama and farm community development.
The key is to acknowledge the origin of all life.
by Giriraja Swami
I RECEIVED A PHONE CALL from Sri Bhari B. R. Malhotra, a prominent industrialist based in Pune, India, inviting me to speak at a conference on "Reverence for All Life." Considering the Malhotras' relationship with Srila Prabhupada—he had called them "our good friends"—and wanting to present the message of Krsna, I accepted.
The list of the conference organizers was impressive. Prominent representatives from various fields and cultures had joined together to promote vegetarianism.
The conference was held on the grounds of the most prestigious hotel in Pune. Gathered on stage were distinguished leaders from the fields of religion, politics, science, business, social work, and even the military. Thousands of delegates from around the world sat in the audience.
The program began with a representative from each religion reciting a short prayer of invocation. Then all the participants on stage joined to light a sacred lamp. One after another the distinguished speakers appealed for compassion, nonviolence, and reverence for all life. Finally my turn came:
The Origin of Life
"I am very pleased to be with you today and wish to express my gratitude to the organizers, especially my dear friend Sri Bhari Malhotra, his older brother, Sri S. P. Malhotra, and all the other great souls who have helped organize and make this function so successful.
"We are here to appreciate and develop reverence for all life. The Bhagavad-gita, which is a scientific explanation of the supreme soul and His relationship with the individual soul, explains that all life emanates from the supreme life, or God, known in Sanskrit as Krsna. When we have reverence for God, naturally we have reverence for all life. If we love God, naturally we will love all living entities, who come from Him. Lord Krsna states in Bhagavad-gita, mamaivamso jiva-loke jiva-bhutah sanatanah: 'All living entities are My fragmental parts and parcels, and they are eternal.'
"The Bhagavad-gita also explains that a learned person sees all living entities equally—panditah sama-darsinah—because he sees the same soul within the different varieties of bodies. My spiritual master, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, used to say, 'We want brotherhood, but what does it mean to be brothers? It means we have the same father.' Only when we recognize God as the supreme father can we have real brotherhood. Knowing God to be the supreme father, we can understand that if we deal with God's other children nicely, God will be pleased. But if we try to exploit and commit violence upon one another, how will the supreme father be pleased? And if God is not pleased, how can we expect peace and prosperity in the world?
"Animals are also children of God, although they have less developed intelligence. They resemble human children, who also do not have developed intelligence, or developed speech. Nor can they defend themselves. But in a family the strong are meant to protect the weak. For a stronger older brother to torture or massacre a baby is a terrible crime. How upset and angry the father would be! So animals should be treated like our younger brothers or sisters, to be protected, not exploited or slaughtered so we can eat their flesh.
"By Krsna consciousness, by realizing that God is the supreme father of all living entities, we can actually achieve brotherhood and unity among all living beings.
"Now, we have heard many wonderful talks today. I felt enlightened by hearing the noble thoughts expressed by the esteemed participants. We have heard about the need for love, for compassion, for reverence for all life. We have heard of the horrors of cruelty and violence inflicted on less fortunate living beings. But we are faced with the practical fact that so many human beings do not love as much as they should. Nor do they have compassion or reverence as they should. So how to create the love and other finer sentiments we value? There must be some process.
"The Gita and other scriptures of the world advise us that to develop love for God, which naturally includes love for all living entities, we must adopt a spiritual process. And the best process recommended for the modern age is the chanting of the holy names of God. The Vedic scriptures advise:
harer nama harer nama
'One should chant the holy names, chant the holy names, chant the holy names. There is no other means of success in the Age of Kali [the present age].' (Brhan-naradiya Purana 3.8.126)
"Similarly the Koran advises that one should chant the names of God. For many years I had the opportunity to go to Pakistan and teach Krsna consciousness. I was pleased to meet some very learned Muslim friends. Just as the Hindus have Visnu-sahasra-nama ['The Thousand Names of Visnu'], the Muslims have 'Ninety-Nine Names of God.' The Koran (7.180) states, "The most beautiful names belong to God, so call on Him by them." And learned Muslims understand that they can achieve the perfection of life by chanting the holy name of God at death. I even learned from my Muslim friends how vegetarianism is part of the teachings of the Koran, and I saw a book by a Muslim physician entitled Vegetarianism and the Koran.
"Similarly, the Bible enjoins that one should praise the name of the Lord with cymbals and drums. And in the teachings of Buddha, one is advised to chant the holy names of God: "All who sincerely call upon My name will come to Me after death, and I will take them to paradise." (Buddhist Sutras, Vow of Amida Buddha, 18)
"So the chanting of the holy names of the Lord is a universal process recommended in all scriptures for the modern age, and unless we adopt a practical means for purifying the heart of hatred and anger and violence, our pontification or platitudes will not really bring the desired results. So I appeal to you all. Many of you are important leaders in society. Even if you are not very big leaders, you are leaders in your society, in your community, in your family. Please consider the need to chant the holy names of God to purify the heart of the sinful desire to commit violence on other living entities.
"All over the world we have practical experience of the effects of chanting the names of God. The Vedic literature explains that in the modern age, the Age of Kali, the Lord Himself, Sri Krsna, appears as Sri Krsna Caitanya. Five hundred years ago Caitanya Mahaprabhu predicted:
prthivite ache yata nagaradi grama
'In every town and village of the world, My name [the name of God] will be sung.'
"ISKCON's founder and spiritual master, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, was instrumental in fulfilling the desire and prediction of Lord Caitanya. And what has been the consequence of chanting throughout the world? People addicted to all sorts of bad habits have given up their vicious activities and are following regulative principles: no eating meat, fish, or eggs, no intoxication, no gambling, and no illicit sex. Those who from babyhood were fed meat, without any consideration that meat-eating is wrong, have become vegetarians, or 'Krsnatarians,' who eat only sanctified food offered to the Lord. The potency of chanting of the names of God is so great. And I believe that our aspirations for reverence for all life, for an end to unnecessary violence, can be successful only if people are engaged on a large scale in chanting the holy names of God. Thank you very much. Hare Krsna."
Sri Bhari Malhotra interjected, "Why don't we all chant!"
I continued: "Actually, these names of God are not sectarian. There is no question of a Hindu God or a Muslim God or a Christian God. There is only one God, who is the supreme father of all of us. And He is not Hindu, Christian or Muslim, but He is the supreme spirit soul.
"So now we'll chant Hare Krsna, and later, if any of you want to lead the chanting of any other name of God, we will also be happy to join in."
I led the audience in chanting the Hare Krsna mantra responsively, first two words at a time, then four, then eight, and finally all sixteen words. Eventually almost everyone in the audience—respectable ladies and gentlemen of various faiths—were standing and clapping and singing: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
I thought, "Now the conference is successful. The participants have chanted the holy names of Krsna (God), the origin of all life."
Giriraja Swami serves as an ISKCON Governing Body Comissioner for Mumbai, Mauritius, Spain, Portugal, South Africa, and several other places.
One of the greatest scholars of his day is
By Mathuresa Dasa
THE CITY OF Varanasi lies four hundred miles northwest of Calcutta on the northern bank of the Ganges River. Terraced stone landings, or ghats, leading down to water's edge extend for four miles along the riverbank. Throngs of pilgrims descend to bathe in the sacred water or climb to explore narrow, winding streets and visit the city's more than 1,500 temples. While there are historical records of pilgrimages to Varanasi dating back to the seventh century, to the faithful this most sacred of destinations has existed as a bustling holy city for much longer. Many of Varanasi's temples were destroyed in the seventeenth century during the reign of Emperor Aurangzeb, yet today the view from across the Ganges at Ramnagar suggests timeless splendor.
The preeminent scholar in Varanasi at the beginning of the sixteenth century was Prakasananda Sarasvati, a renounced priest, or sannyasi, in the line of Sripada Sankaracarya. Prakasananda and his colleagues were masters of the Vedas, the Sanskrit literature that includes extensive writings in every basic field of knowledge. There are Vedic texts on law, art, medicine, mathematics, and other worldly sciences, as well as on yoga, religion, philosophy, and mysticism. Veda means "knowledge," and in the broadest sense all knowledge is part of the Vedas.
Prakasananda Sarasvati was particularly adept at analyzing the codes of the highly philosophical Vedanta-sutra. The Vedic texts, divided by Srila Vyasadeva, the literary incarnation of God, culminate in the Vedanta-sutra, in which Vyasadeva expounds upon the eternal nature, origin, and purpose of existence. Anta means "end," so the Vedanta-sutra establishes that all fields of knowledge are meant to reach the end, or goal, of knowledge by understanding the meaning of life.
During a lecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1968 Srila Prabhupada challenged his audience to explain why, with all the fields of knowledge at their university, they didn't have a department to study the difference between a living body and a dead body. We study medicine to keep our bodies healthy, politics and sociology to keep them organized, psychology to manage our minds. All these departments benefit living bodies and minds, but what is that life, that living energy we so attentively serve? Where is that knowledge? Or in other words, where is Vedanta? Lacking a Vedanta department, the other departments are incomplete.
There was no such lack at Varanasi. As a peerless commentator on the Vedanta-sutra, Prakasananda Sarasvati was dean of the Varanasi scholars, who as professors of the Vedas were not mere dogmatists spouting creeds but genuine researchers, writers, and teachers drawn to essential truth. The city of Varanasi had long been a great center of learning and culture. With students arriving from all over India to obtain a comprehensive education in the Vedic wisdom, Varanasi was a hotbed of enlightenment. Prakasananda and his associates presided, enjoying their intellectual pursuits, their followings, and their tenure as leaders of an academic and cultural mecca.
The only disturbance to the peaceful academic atmosphere—a disturbance that has also surfaced today in modern college towns and other centers of enlightenment—was a noisy, enthusiastic band of Hare Krsnas chanting and dancing through the streets. With no apparent respect for even minimal academic decorum, these apparent fanatics, beating on drums and clashing hand cymbals, were gathering a following, Prakasananda noticed, among some of the simpler students and townspeople. Their twenty-eight-year-old leader, Sri Krsna Caitanya, who lived in Bengal, had a golden complexion and a thundering voice. Like Prakasananda and his colleagues, He was a sannyasi in the disciplic line of Sripada Sankaracarya. But Sankaracarya had taught his followers to give up worldly pleasures like singing and dancing and to instead always study the Vedanta-sutra. So who did this Krsna Caitanya think He was, and what did He think He was doing?
Prakasananda began to openly criticize: "Krsna Caitanya, although a sannyasi, does not take interest in the study of Vedanta but instead always engages in congregational chanting and dancing. He is illiterate and therefore does not know his real function. Guided only by his sentiments, he wanders about in the company of other sentimentalists." (Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila 7.41-42)
It may have disturbed Prakasananda more to know that Krsna Caitanya was far from illiterate. Before accepting the sannyasa order at the age of twenty-four, He had been known as Nimai Pandita and had run a popular Sanskrit academy of His own at Navadvipa, in what is now West Bengal. Navadvipa was an even more important center of learning than Varanasi. At this time in India, as in previous ages, scholarship had some of the flavor of modern sports events, with learned panditas challenging each other to compete in displays of erudition. While still a schoolboy, Nimai Pandita defeated many champion scholars, including Kesava Kasmiri, a brahmana from Kashmir who had won titles all over India. When Kesava Kasmiri came to Navadvipa looking for some action, the local scholars hid in fear, leaving the contest to Nimai.
After several years of showing His intellectual prowess, Nimai Pandita focused His energies on promoting sankirtana, public congregational chanting and dancing in glorification of God. In Navadvipa the loud chanting of Krsna's names had provoked the local Muslims to complain to Navadvipa's magistrate, or Kazi. The Kazi descended upon a chanting party one evening, broke a sankirtana drum, and forbid further chanting on the streets of the city. In response Nimai Pandita organized a nonviolent protest, surrounding the Kazi's house with thousands of chanting, dancing demonstrators. The Kazi was intimidated by the crowd, but Nimai's demeanor was peaceful. In a friendly exchange He convinced the Kazi of the importance of chanting the Lord's names.
Like Prakasananda Sarasvati, Nimai Pandita was highly learned in the Vedanta-sutra, but not for scholarship's sake. He knew well the many statements in the Vedas declaring that in the Kali-yuga, this age of quarrel and hypocrisy, the means of self-realization (the goal of Vedanta) is to chant the names of God. A verse in the Brhan-naradiya Purana emphasizes this point by repetition: "Chant the holy names, chant the holy names, chant the holy names. In this age of quarrel there is no other way, no other way, no other way to achieve the goal of human life."
Although Nimai chanted the Hare Krsna mantra in particular, He taught that this "no other way" applies to any place and time, and to any recognized name of the Lord. A verse in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, Srila Vyasadeva's own commentary on his Vedanta-sutra, states that in previous ages meditation, religious rituals, or worshiping in the temple may have sufficed, but in this age these methods are effective only in conjunction with regular chanting. And again in the Bhagavatam, Vyasadeva writes that Kali-yuga is an ocean of faults with one saving quality: simply by chanting the glories of the Lord we can free ourselves of the material miseries and attain the highest perfection of spiritual life.
The Kali-santarana Upanisad is even more specific, citing the full Hare Krsna mantra—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—and then asserting, "These sixteen words destroy the faults of the Age of Kali. After searching through all the Vedas, you will not find a better means of self-realization for this age."
With these and other verses on His lips and with the assistance of His many associates, Nimai spread his sankirtana movement throughout Navadvipa and into East Bengal. He married at an early age, but as a householder traveled frequently, leaving His young wife and elderly mother at home. Sankirtana so absorbed him that He introduced a system of Sanskrit grammar based on Krsna's names. Every word from His mouth was either chanting or glorification of the chanting.
On a pilgrimage to Gaya, Nimai became a disciple of Isvara Puri, a great devotee of Krsna in the line of Srila Vyasadeva, and when Nimai returned to Navadvipa, his enthusiasm for the holy names grew ecstatic. It appears that Nimai had a familiar youthful bent for loudness and all-nighters, so much so that this time it was the Hindus who complained to the Kazi:
Nimai Pandita was previously a very good boy, but since He has returned from Gaya He conducts Himself differently. Now He loudly sings all kinds of Krsna songs, clapping, playing drums and hand bells, and making a tumultuous sound that deafens our ears. We do not know what He eats that makes him so crazy. He has made all the people practically mad by always performing congregational chanting. At night we cannot get any sleep; we are always kept awake. (Adi 17.206-9)
Even Nimai Pandita's students began to criticize what they considered His excessive absorption in the holy names. Although not personally bothered by the criticism, Nimai took seriously His sankirtana movement. He ambitiously desired to spread sankirtana to every town and village of the world, giving everyone, whether educated or illiterate, access to Vedanta and to the perfection of life through the chanting of the holy names. If even His own students took Him lightly, how could He expand His mission?
So in the year 1510, at the age of twenty-four, leaving home for good, Nimai traveled to the village of Katwa and accepted the sannyasa order from Kesava Bharati, a sannyasi of the Sankarite school. It is still the custom in India to offer respect to a sannyasi, and this was even more the case five hundred years ago. Nimai wanted that public respect and attention for the benefit of the sankirtana movement, which was, in turn, for the public's highest benefit. Although Nimai abhorred Sankaracarya's quasi-Buddhist philosophy, Sankaracarya's influence was so strong that people thought one could accept sannyasa only in the Sankarite disciplic succession. So in pursuance of His mission, Nimai took sannyasa from Kesava Bharati, receiving the name Sri Krsna Caitanya.
Prakasananda Sarasvati might have collected some of these details about the tall, golden sannyasi now dancing and chanting through Varanasi's narrow streets had he asked around town. As dean of Varanasi's scholars he might have thus avoided his criticism of Krsna Caitanya.
The Identity of Sri Krsna Caitanya
The fuller answer to "Who is Krsna Caitanya, and what is He doing here in this center of quiet scholarship?" lay right under Prakasananda's nose in his rightly esteemed Vedic literature. In the Mahabharata, the Visnu-sahasra-nama-stotra ("The Thousand Names of Visnu") describes the Supreme Lord appearing as a householder with a golden complexion and an attitude of peaceful devotion and later accepting the sannyasa order. The Bhagavatam confirms that the Lord appears in different ages in different colors—white, red, black, and yellow. White, red, and black having been accounted for in previous ages, the incarnation for the Age of Kali is yellow, or golden. The Bhagavatam also states that in Kali-yuga the incarnation of God inaugurates the sankirtana movement, always chants the name of Krsna, and is in fact Krsna Himself with a golden complexion:
"In the Age of Kali, intelligent persons perform congregational chanting to worship the incarnation of Godhead who constantly sings the name of Krsna. Although His complexion is not blackish, He is Krsna Himself. He is accompanied by His associates, servants, and confidential companions."
Lord Sri Krsna Caitanya is known as the channa avatara, or "hidden incarnation," because He never presented Himself as God or allowed anyone to call Him God. He always acted as God's servant and as the servant of the Lord's devotees. This age is so full of incarnation wannabes, so ridden with philosophies asserting that in the end we are all God, that God Himself demonstrates and relishes devotional service to Himself through the chanting of His names. As a grade-school teacher, to teach her students how to learn, sometimes pretends to be learning her ABC's, so in the form of Sri Krsna Caitanya the Lord takes the role of His own devotee and demonstrates the art of His own devotional service.
Hearing of Prakasananda's criticism, Lord Caitanya demonstrated how members of the sankirtana movement should be unconcerned with their own prestige. To further sankirtana the Lord had planned a trip to the holy city of Vrndavana, just south of present-day Delhi, and didn't see any reason to alter His itinerary to defend His reputation by crossing swords with Varanasi's elite. Intellectual tournaments were a thing of His past, of His heady school days. There was no need to interrupt His preaching for a debate. Better to push on the chanting of the holy names. There were plenty of receptive ears and many followers who needed His personal attention and instructions.
But Lord Caitanya's followers in Varanasi were upset by Prakasananda's remarks. It broke their hearts to hear their beloved Lord labeled an illiterate fool. At the same time they weren't confident enough to confront Prakasananda themselves. What were they in comparison to this celebrated leader of Varanasi's many faculties and academic departments? How could they present their case for the divinity of Sri Krsna Caitanya and for the transcendental stature of sankirtana to a critic who could so expertly quote the Vedic scriptures, brandishing his learning and credentials?
When Lord Caitanya returned to Varanasi from Vrndavana, He stayed at the house of Candrasekhara, took His meals at the home of Tapana Misra, and spent two months instructing Sanatana Gosvami, the former prime minister of Bengal's ruler, Nawab Hussein Shah, on the science of devotional service.
While Lord Caitanya in this way remained peacefully absorbed in building His sankirtana movement, His two hosts grew increasingly unhappy, until one day both Candrasekhara and Tapana Misra appealed to Him: "How long can we tolerate the blasphemy of Your critics against Your conduct? We should give up our lives rather than hear such blasphemy. The local sannyasis are all criticizing Your Holiness. We cannot tolerate hearing such criticism, for this blasphemy breaks our hearts."
Hearing this plea, Lord Caitanya remained indifferent to the criticism of Himself, but felt compassion for His hosts and other followers, understanding their distress. At that moment a brahmana came to the Lord with another appeal, this one an invitation.
"My dear Lord," the brahmana said, "I have invited all the sannyasis of Varanasi to my home for lunch. My desires will be fulfilled if You also accept my invitation. My dear Lord, I know that You never mix with other sannyasis, but please be merciful unto me and accept my invitation."
It was a long-standing custom for the brahmanas of Varanasi to take turns inviting the local sannyasis to their homes. In this way there was a daily gathering of sannyasis, a moveable faculty lunch. Lord Caitanya had always been absent, declining all invitations until this one, which He gracefully accepted to please Candrasekhara, Tapana Misra, and the brahmana. Here was a timely opportunity, made possible by His own omnipotent arrangement, to meet Prakasananda Sarasvati in a congenial setting as fellow guests at a brahmana's home.
Tapana Misra and Candrasekhara were overjoyed. They didn't know how to answer Prakasananda themselves. They didn't yet have confidence in their own learning or debating skills. But they had firm faith that their spiritual master, Lord Sri Krsna Caitanya, was the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He was Krsna Himself, the author and final authority on Vedanta-sutra, acting as His own devotee. In Bhagavad-gita (15.15) Krsna declares, "I am seated in everyone's heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge, and forgetfulness. By all the Vedas, I am to be known. Indeed, I am the compiler of Vedanta, and I am the knower of the Vedas."
As faithful servants of Lord Caitanya, Candrasekhara and Tapana Misra aspired to become expert preachers of His mission who knew perfectly and could teach that Vedanta, the end of knowledge, is loving service to Krsna, the supreme person, through the chanting of His names. For now, however, what they knew, giving them joy and relief in anticipation, was that Lord Caitanya, their own teacher, had agreed to meet Prakasananda Sarasvati, head of Varanasi's intellectual elite, for lunch.
(continued in the next issue)
A Follow-Up Report
By Dhira Govinda Dasa
THE MAY/JUNE 1998 issue of Back to Godhead included an article of mine on the Vedic Personality Index (VPI). Based primarily on Srila Prabhupada's translations and purports in the Bhagavad-gita As It Is, the VPI is a new tool for social and mental health scientists to measure personality traits. It uses the Vedic psychological model of the three modes of nature.
So far, social scientists have appreciated the VPI. Back to Godhead readers also responded well, with more than 125 readers of the U.S. edition taking the time to complete and return the VPI survey. Respondents received a personality analysis based on the modes of goodness (sattva), passion (rajas), and ignorance (tamas).
How did Back to Godhead readers score compared with others who took the survey? BTG readers recorded an average sattva score of 47.18. The other participants, including some 500 students, medical professionals, and others, registered a sattva score of 37.7. (The higher the score, the stronger the inclination to the particular mode of nature.) In the rajas category, BTG readers averaged 26.72; others averaged 33.15. In the tamas category, it was 26.1 for BTG readers, and 29.19 for others.
I'd like to thank the BTG readers who took the survey. Their results allowed me to find a significant difference between Back to Godhead readers and others. Such distinctions are good; we would expect that the lives of Krsna conscious persons would reflect a stronger presence of goodness and diminished effects of passion and ignorance. Therefore, the data provided by the BTG readership strengthened the validity of the VPI.
In a broader sense a social scientist might consider that this research gives some scientific basis for promoting activities in the mode of goodness, which nourish traits such as honesty, nonviolence, satisfaction, sensual restraint, mental and emotional equilibrium, non-aggressive speech, and a spiritual inclination. Sattvic people tend to be more content, and they benefit society because they're dependable and conscientious. Rajasic people tend to be more self-centered and less capable of controlling their senses and emotions, leading to mood swings, greed, and envy. Tamasic people tend toward laziness, depression, and violence.
A New Study
The VPI, which I developed and used in my Ph.D. research, has proven to be a strong and consistent measure of personality traits. For example, a person predominantly influenced by rajas tends to consistently choose the rajasic trait across a wide variety of questions. Consequently my professors have approved my proposal to use the VPI and several other widely recognized personality measures in my Ph.D. project, which involves the chanting of Hare Krsna. In this study the subjects, fewer than 10% of whom have ever chanted Hare Krsna, will be divided into three groups. Each subject will take the VPI and other personality tests at the beginning and end of the study. During the period of the study, one group will chant a concocted combination of Sanskrit syllables for a prescribed time each day. The second group will chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra on beads each day (three "rounds," or 324 mantras). The third group will not chant anything. The VPI and other tests will measure the changes, if any, undergone by subjects in each of the three groups.
As with the VPI, I hope to prepare a version of this study for future publication in Back to Godhead.
The VPI study comes from Srila Prabhupada's verse translations and purports in chapters 14, 17, and 18 of the Bhagavad-gita As It Is. Dovetailing my research and academic endeavors with the Bhagavad-gita has been enlivening and gratifying. The VPI project has increased my faith in the Vedic literature.
The Vedic wisdom has been so refreshing and stimulating to my professors that they have asked me to give talks about it in their classes.
By Maharani Devi Dasi
My faith is in Your feet and the nails of Your toes, Lord Nrsimhadeva;
My faith is in Your pillar-like legs and lotus petal-like chest, Lord Nrsimhadeva;
My faith is in Your arms and Your razor-sharp claws, Lord Nrsimhadeva;
My faith is in Your mane and roaring red mouth, Lord Nrsimhadeva;
My faith is in Your gnashing teeth and Your burning golden eyes, Lord Nrsimhadeva;
I am confused, Lord Nrsimhadeva;
I am sad, Lord Nrsimhadeva;
I am frightened, Lord Nrsimhadeva;
I am in illusion, Lord Nrsimhadeva;
My dear Lord Nrsimhadeva, I am afraid;
Let me take shelter under Your feet,
Only You can help me.
Lord Nrsimhadeva is Lord Krsna's ferocious half-man, half-lion incarnation. He appeared to protect the saint Prahlada from Hiranyakasipu, Prahlada's evil father. Although Nrsimhadeva is feared by the demoniac, He is worshiped with love by the faithful devotees. This year, devotees will celebrate the anniversary of Lord Nrsimhadeva's appearance on April 29.
Maharani Dasi is the nineteen-year-old daughter of BTG columnist Hare Krsna Dasi. She attended the Gita Nagari gurukula (school) and is currently a student at The School of Visual Arts in New York City.
How may Krsna conscious women serve the Lord?
By Visakha Devi Dasi
"These women are not ordinary women. They are preachers. They are Vaisnavas. By their association one becomes a Vaisnava." (Srila Prabhupada, morning walk, March 27, 1974)
SRILA PRABHUPADA, India's greatest emissary to the Western world, set up in the West not only asramas and temples, but an entire spiritual society. To do this he inspired women as well as men to become devotees of Lord Krsna. He authorized women to live in asramas and serve the Lord in a wide variety of ways, some of them unconventional, although exactly in line with Lord Krsna's teachings.
What is the position of women in the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), the society Srila Prabhupada founded? To answer, let's first look at the purposes of ISKCON. In its founder's vision, the members of ISKCON dedicate themselves to practicing spiritual life and distributing spiritual knowledge and techniques to others. Srila Prabhupada taught that real spiritual life means to render transcendental devotional service to the Supreme Lord, Sri Krsna. Devotional service entails engaging all our senses in the service of the Lord, the master of the senses. That service purifies our senses and frees us from all material designations. So by teaching devotional service, Srila Prabhupada showed that he wanted all his followers—men, women, and children—to become free from all material designations and regain their original pure identity.
Another way to understand Srila Prabhupada's message and mission is to reflect on the Sanskrit word dharma. Dharma is the essential function or nature of a thing. One can say that the "dharma" of fire is heat, the "dharma" of water, liquidity, and the "dharma" of sugar, sweetness.
What is the dharma of the living being? To render service. Srila Prabhupada writes,
We can easily see that every living being is constantly engaged in rendering service to another living being. A living being serves other living beings in various capacities. By doing so, the living entity enjoys life. The lower animals serve human beings as servants serve their master. ... One friend serves another friend, the mother serves the son, the wife serves the husband, the husband serves the wife, and so on. If we go on searching in this spirit, it will be seen that there is no exception in the society of living beings to the activity of service ... and therefore we can safely conclude that service is the constant companion of the living being and that the rendering of service is the eternal religion [dharma] of the living being."
(Bhagavad-gita As It Is, Introduction)
In the material world every living being dwells within a body made of material elements. Each of us is a living being (soul), now covered with a gross and subtle material body. Because of our original nature, which is spiritual, and our covering, which is material, each of us has two types of dharma: eternal (sanatana) dharma, our spiritual service to the Supreme spirit, Lord Sri Krsna; and our own (sva) dharma, the appropriate service for our particular mind, intelligence, and senses.
Lord Krsna says (Bhagavad-gita 4.13) that one's qualities and activities, not one's birth, determine one's sva-dharma. According to the qualities and activities of human beings, the Lord created four general types of occupation for the smooth functioning of human society: brahmanas (learned priests, teachers, and advisors), ksatriyas (government leaders and military men), vaisyas (farmers, businessmen, and cow-protectors), and sudras (laborers and artisans). (In our present confused age, many people don't fit neatly into any one occupation but express their talents in several areas.)
The Husband-Wife Team
Whatever one's position in this societal system, those who fill the various roles generally do not do so alone, but together, as a husband-wife team. Men and women of compatible natures and propensities marry, and the wife assists her husband and takes primary charge of the home and children. Srila Prabhupada writes, "A wife should not only be equal to her husband in age, character, and qualities, but must be helpful to him in his household duties." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.22.11, Purport) And the Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.60.15) declares, "Marriage and friendship are proper between two people who are equal in terms of their wealth, birth, influence, physical appearance, and capacity for good progeny, but never between a superior and an inferior." So a brahmana's wife is like a mother for her husband's students, the queen is considered a mother by the citizens, the agricultural women are expert in using milk and other products of the cows and land, and so forth. In this way husband and wife are fully engaged, and in a society composed of such families, peace, happiness, fulfillment, and a cooperative spirit prevail.
Yet our sva-dharma is not complete unless also bonded with sanatana-dharma. "The occupational activities a man performs according to his own position are only so much useless labor if they do not provoke attraction for the message of the Personality of Godhead." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.2.8) In explaining this verse, Srila Prabhupada writes,
The self [soul] is beyond the gross body and subtle mind. He is the potent active principle of the body and mind. Without knowing the need of the dormant soul, one cannot be happy simply with emolument of the body and mind. The body and the mind are but superfluous outer coverings of the spirit soul. The spirit soul's needs must be fulfilled. Simply by cleansing the cage of the bird, one does not satisfy the bird. One must actually know the needs of the bird himself.
Srila Prabhupada founded ISKCON to this end: to enable people to get out of the limited sphere of material bondage and meet the Supreme Lord. Although in the renounced order of life (sannyasa), Srila Prabhupada arranged and sometimes conducted the marriages of his disciples. And he engaged these young people in myriad services according to both their propensities (sva-dharma) and their service to the Lord (sanatana-dharma). Under Srila Prabhupada's direction, devotee men and women served as artists, writers, typists, speakers, singers, managers, Deity caretakers, book distributors, and so on. For example, my husband, Yaduvara Dasa, and I, both trained photographers, served in ISKCON together, my husband as a cinematographer, and I as the photographer and sound technician. We sometimes filmed and photographed Srila Prabhupada, who more than once commented, "Husband and wife working together in Krsna consciousness—this is very nice."
Another example: When three married couples successfully started a Krsna conscious center in London, Srila Prabhupada praised their efforts. He noted that his spiritual master had wanted a center in London many years before, but his spiritual master's sannyasi disciples had been unsuccessful in starting one. Srila Prabhupada's young, Western Krsna conscious householders had succeeded where mature Indian renunciants had not.
Srila Prabhupada's vision was for his disciples to marry and serve the Lord together in harmony. He writes, "A wife is necessary to assist in spiritual and material advancement. It is said that a wife yields the fulfillment of all desires in religion, economic development, and sense gratification. If one has a nice wife, he is to be considered a most fortunate man." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.21.15, Purport) Srila Prabhupada wanted to see happy Krsna conscious couples of like dispositions and proclivities offering their services to the Lord, making their home conducive for spiritual life, raising their children to be godly, and making gradual, solid spiritual advancement.
Service with Protection
While this ideal is quite attractive for most people, it also raises questions. What, if anything, can a woman do beyond assisting her husband, beyond her housework, and beyond her sacred duties as a mother? And what of women who are unmarried, widowed, married but childless, or married with grown children? Their services to their children are nonexistent or minimal, and their services in the home also minimal.
In answer, the first point is that women must always be protected. Srila Prabhupada criticized the so-called woman's liberation movement, which encourages women to become unprotected and thus available to be exploited by unscrupulous men. Srila Prabhupada noted how the unwanted progeny from such unfortunate combinations are an embarrassment for the government, which is obliged to provide for many husbandless mothers and fatherless children. In the culture Srila Prabhupada introduced, a young man is trained to be a responsible, first-class person. He then marries a compatible, faithful young woman. In such a culture women are protected and children grow up in a peaceful, stable, two-parent home.
Yet it is certainly possible for a woman to be protected and at the same time to serve the Lord according to her unique ability. Srila Prabhupada encouraged and occasionally insisted that his women disciples lead kirtanas, speak in public, and distribute his books. And while Srila Prabhupada disapproved of women leading a country, he found no fault with women being leaders within his spiritual society. For example, in the late 1960s, when his movement was still quite young, he put one of his first women disciples, Yadurani Devi Dasi, in charge of all the men and women artists creating paintings to illustrate his books.
A little later, in the spring of 1970, when Srila Prabhupada was forming the Governing Body Commission (GBC) as the management arm of ISKCON, he included women on the list of disciples he was considering for the position.
When asked if a woman could become a temple president (Chicago, July 5, 1975), Srila Prabhupada replied, "Yes, why not?" and then explained that a woman should remain dependent on either her first-class father, first-class husband, or first-class son. (In the final analysis, only the Supreme Lord, Sri Krsna, is independent, but Vedic culture specifically enjoins that women should remain dependent on their intimate male relation.)
Here Srila Prabhupada states that a woman may be a temple president, but he also says that she also must be dependent. Is this contradictory? To gain some insight, we can turn to a conversation between Vallabha Bhatta, Advaita Acarya, and Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu:
One day Vallabha Bhatta said to Advaita Acarya, "Every living entity is female [prakrti] and considers Krsna her husband [pati]. It is the duty of a chaste wife, devoted to her husband, not to utter her husband's name, but all of you chant the name of Krsna. How can this be called a religious principle?"
Advaita Acarya responded, "In front of you is Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the personification of religious principles. You should ask Him, for He will give you the proper answer."
Hearing this, Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu said, "My dear Vallabha Bhatta, you do not know religious principles. Actually, the first duty of a chaste woman is to carry out the order of her husband. The order of Krsna is to chant His name incessantly. Therefore one who is chaste and adherent to the husband Krsna must chant the Lord's name, for she cannot deny the husband's order." (Caitanya-caritamrta, Antya-lila 7.103-7)
Similarly, under the guidance of her spiritual master, a chaste, Krsna conscious woman encouraged by her Krsna conscious father, husband, or son may render whatever service she's qualified to do, whether as a mother, a cook, a temple president, a GBC, or a spiritual master.
In a letter to Silavati Devi (June 14, 1969), Srila Prabhupada wrote, "Now if you can induce all the women of Los Angeles to place an altar in their homes and help their husbands have peaceful, happy home life in Krsna consciousness, that will be very great service for you. The actual system is that the husband is the spiritual master to his wife, but if the wife can bring her husband into practicing this process, then it is all right that the husband accepts the wife as the spiritual master. Caitanya Mahaprabhu has said that anyone who knows the science of Krsna should be accepted as spiritual master, regardless of any material so-called qualifications, such as rich or poor, man or woman, or brahmana or sudra."
This same point was confirmed again, years later (June 18, 1976), when Professor O'Connell of the University of Toronto asked Prabhupada, "Is it possible, Swamiji, for a woman to be a guru in the line of disciplic succession?"
Srila Prabhupada replied, "Yes. Jahnava Devi was Nityananda's wife. She became. [Jahnava Devi was an initiating spiritual master who had male disciples.] If she is able to go to the highest perfection of life, why it is not possible to become a guru? But not so many. Actually one who has attained the perfection, she can become a guru. But man or woman, unless one has attained the perfection ... Yei krsna-tattva-vetta sei guru haya. The qualification of the guru is that he must be fully cognizant of the science of Krsna. Then he or she can become a guru. Yei krsna-tattva-vetta, sei guru haya. In the material world, is there any prohibition that a woman cannot become a professor? If she is qualified, she can become a professor. What is the wrong there? She must be qualified. That is the position. So similarly, if the woman understands Krsna consciousness perfectly, she can become a guru."
In spiritual circles one's sex is not a disqualification.
As being dependent and being a leader are not necessarily contradictory, so being protected and being a leader are also not contradictory. A woman can be protected (as all women must be throughout their lives) and yet be a leader also. In Srila Prabhupada words, "The child must be taken care of. That is good. Similarly, woman also. And an old man like myself—I am always taken care of ... That is civilization." Although a topmost Vaisnava, Srila Prabhupada here humbly identifies himself as an "old man." And since old men are one of the five groups society must protect (the other four being cows, women, children, and brahmanas), Srila Prabhupada sees himself as protected. Yet at the same time he was an unparalleled leader.
In the Hare Krsna movement, Srila Prabhupada trained men to see all women except their own wife respectfully as "mother," and women to see all men except their husbands respectfully as their "sons." As the son's duty is to protect his mother, so one of the duties of Srila Prabhupada's men is to protect Srila Prabhupada's women. A devotee-woman leader is protected by her husband and her "sons."
The Platform of Equality
Therefore in the Lord's spiritual society and for His pleasure, a woman may do whatever service is suited to her. While this principle may seem straightforward and clear, to some it is a point of great controversy. They believe that a woman's birth precludes her from doing certain services for the Lord, even though she may be qualified for them. Sometimes such thinking is culturally based. For example, traditionally in India women don't perform certain Deity services in the temple—a standard Srila Prabhupada respected there. But often the thinking comes from the male ego, which Srila Prabhupada identified as "the temperament of always wanting to be in a superior position." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 9.3.10, Purport).
To function successfully in such a difficult milieu, a woman spiritual leader must be astute, guileless, sensitive, soft-hearted, clear-headed, and fixed in Krsna consciousness, seeing herself as a servant of all. Her saving grace is her natural, humble service attitude, as well as her gracious and urgently needed contribution to Srila Prabhupada's society.
Srila Prabhupada founded ISKCON so that devotees could please the Supreme Lord, Sri Krsna, by serving Him with devotion. The Lord is pleased by all service sincerely rendered to Him; in one sense there are no superior and inferior services. And from the perspective of the Lord and His pure devotees, all the Lord's servants are equal. Srila Prabhupada explains, "Therefore in the bhakti platform, Krsna consciousness, there is no such distinction: 'Here is an American, here is an Indian, here is an African, here is this and that.' No. Everyone is Krsna conscious. So actually if we want equality, fraternity, then we must come to Krsna consciousness. This is the purpose of the Krsna consciousness movement. And actually it is becoming a fact. These boys and girls are no longer thinking they are American or European or Canadian or Australian or Indian. They are equal. So if you want equality, fraternity, friendship, love and perfection, the solution to all problems—economic, political, social, religious—then come to Krsna consciousness. Come to this platform. Then all your ambitions will be fulfilled, and you will be perfect." (Lecture on Bhagavad-gita 13.4)
Let us be enlightened by the perspective Srila Prabhupada reveals in this conversation:
Srila Prabhupada: In the spiritual platform there is no such distinction—man, woman, or black, white, or big or small. No. Everyone is spirit soul. Panditah sama-darsinah. Vidya-vinaya-sampanne brahmane gavi hastini suni caiva sva-pake ca panditah. One who is actually learned is sama-darsinah. He does not make any distinction. But as far as our material body is concerned, there must be some distinction for keeping the society in order.
To help them stay fixed on the goal of life—rendering pure, uninterrupted devotional service to Krsna—men and women should not mix (except if they are married), but they have the same rights. What is the most important right? The right—the privilege—to serve the Lord according to their propensity, according to their heart's desire. Ultimately the real occupational duty, dharma, of women is the dharma of all living beings: to eternally serve Krsna. A woman sincerely and seriously serving the Lord in whatever capacity she chooses should be honored and encouraged. In his Purport to Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.5.12, Prabhupada writes, "Everyone should be allowed to render service to the Lord to the best of his ability, and everyone should appreciate the service of others. Such are the activities of Vaikuntha [the spiritual world]. Since everyone is a servant, everyone is on the same platform and is allowed to serve the Lord according to his ability."
Visakha Devi Dasi has been contributing articles and photographs to BTG for more than twenty years. She and her family live in New Dvaraka, the Hare Krsna community in Los Angeles.
The Most Honorable Person on Earth
King Yudhisthira must decide who will be honored first at his great sacrifice.
Translated from the 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, Vaisampayana describes the great Rajasuya sacrifice of King Yudhisthira, now emperor of the world.
YUDHISTIRA ROSE to receive his grandfather Bhisma and his teacher Drona, and having respectfully greeted them, he spoke these words to Bhisma, Drona, Krpa, Asvatthama, Duryodhana, and Vivimsati:
"In this sacrifice you must all give me your mercy, for whatever wealth is mine in this world is yours, as am I myself. So all of you, as you desire, please encourage me in this affair without constraint."
After saying this, the first-born son of Pandu was initiated for the rite, and then he engaged all his guests in fitting responsibilities. He gave Duhsasana responsibility for all the food, and he assigned Asvatthama to the reception of brahmanas. He completely entrusted to Sanjaya the task of welcoming kings, and to the great thinkers Bhisma and Drona he gave the job of discerning what was to be done and what was not to be done. King Yudhisthira had Krpa inspect the gold coins, bullion, and jewels and distribute priestly rewards and general charity. And in the same way he assigned the other tigerlike men various duties.
Under Nakula's guidance, Bahlika, Dhrtarastra, Somadatta, and Jayadratha enjoyed themselves like lords in their own estates. Vidura, knower of all righteous principles, took charge of paying all the employees the state had hired for the occasion, and Duryodhana meticulously received the precious gifts brought by guests.
All the world had come there, wishing to enjoy the ultimate reward and desiring to see the assembly hall and King Yudhisthira, the Pandava who was the king of virtue. No one brought less than a thousand presents, and with many jewels the respectable guests enriched Dharmaraja Yudhisthira. "It is especially by my gifts of jewels that Yudhisthira will accomplish the sacrifice!" In this way, rivaling one another, the kings gave riches to Yudhisthira.
The sacrificial area of the great soul Yudhisthira shone with splendor. For the world's rulers there were mansions guarded by armies and rising high with the most excellent palatial domes and turrets; the brahmanas' dwellings resembled heavenly shrines, for they were endowed with assorted jewels and supreme opulence. Monarchs covered with exceeding wealth and opulence further beautified the sacrificial grounds.
Yudhisthira rivaled the god Varuna in opulence. With abundant gifts for the priests, he offered sacrifice with the six-flamed rite. And he fully satisfied all the people with opulent gifts that fulfilled all desires. Provided with ample food in many varieties, that vast gathering was filled with people who had dined to their satisfaction and received appropriate gifts of gems. As the great sages performed the holy rite, the demigods too were satisfied as the priests invoked them by casting refreshing streams of clear butter into the sacred fire to the accompaniment of the learned and skillful intonation of mantras. And as did the demigods, so did the wise brahmanas find satisfaction in the priestly gifts of food and great riches. Indeed, all the social classes found satisfaction in that sacrifice, and they were filled with delight.
Lord Krsna Receives First Worship
Then on a fitting commencement day, the brahmanas, all great sages, entered the sacrificial grounds with the kings to inaugurate the main rite. With Narada at the head, the sages and saintly kings sat together within the holy arena of the exalted Yudhisthira. They all looked handsome and splendid. Assembled like the hosts of demigods in the mansion of the creator Brahma, those godly sages of unmeasured might devotedly sat there, and during the intervals between proceedings they conversed.
"This is the way it is!"
"No, it's not like that!"
"So it is, and not otherwise!"
Thus the many sages passed the time debating. With reasons based solidly on scripture, some turned weak arguments into strong ones, and vibrant arguments into thin ones. In that gathering, brilliant sages demolished arguments well established by other sages, like eagles tearing up their sky-borne prey. There were sages of grand vows, the best of those who know all the Vedas, who took pleasure in narrating topics richly endowed with both religious principles and practical profit.
Filled with demigods, brahmanas, and noble sages, the sacrificial ground appeared like the clear sky filled with stars. Indeed, in those sacrificial precincts, in that dwelling of Yudhisthira, there was not a single uncultured man, nor one who had broken a religious vow.
Learned Yudhisthira was a king of virtue, and the fortune of that lucky man was born of the performance of sacrifice. Seeing this, the sage Narada was satisfied. O monarch of men, as Narada looked upon all the royal warriors who had assembled there, he went deep into thought. He remembered the discussion that had taken place in the abode of Brahma, the very discussion that concerned the incarnation of empowered expansions of the demigods and of the Supreme Lord Himself. Understanding that he was seeing an assembly of the demigods, he recalled the lotus-eyed Lord Krsna, the almighty Lord Narayana Himself. The omniscient conqueror of the cities of His enemies, and the slayer of the enemies of His appointed agents the demigods, now keeping His promise, had taken birth as a prince of the earth. He was the maker of all creatures, the Lord Himself who in the past had instructed the demigods, "Having defeated one another, you will regain your worlds."
Lord Krsna took birth on the earth in the House of Yadu, as the best of aristocrats, in the dynasty of the Andhakas and Vrsnis. He shone with supreme opulence, as the moon, sovereign of the stars, shines in their midst. Indra and all the other demigods worship the strength of His arms, and now He Himself is staying on the earth as if a human being, and He is smashing the enemies of the world.
"What an extraordinary fact this is! The self-existing Lord Himself will reclaim the royal order with all its armed might."
Thus Narada, knower of right, thought in this way, realizing that it is the Lord, Narayana, who is to be worshiped by all sacrifices. There in the magnificent sacrificial arena of Yudhisthira, the wise king of justice, the greatly intelligent Narada remained. Narada is the recipient of much honor, for he is the very best of those who know justice.
Then Bhisma said to Dharmaraja Yudhisthira, "O Bharata, let the worthy kings be glorified properly. Authorities say, O Yudhisthira, that the king, the teacher, the priest, the relative, the dear friend, and a brahmana who has completed his studies—these six are worthy of being honored with the gift of arghya. * (A beverage made of auspicious ingredients that is offered to highly respected persons.) When these persons have come to visit and have dwelled with their guest for one year, they then deserve such worship. These people came to us a considerable time ago. O king, let the arghya be brought and presented to them one by one; indeed, let it be brought at first to the very best of them."
Yudhisthira said, "O grandfather, son of the Kurus, please tell me whom you consider best suited to receive this honorable gift, now being brought."
At that time Bhisma, son of Santanu, reaching his conclusion with keen intelligence, concluded that Krsna of the Vrsni dynasty was the most honorable person on the earth.
"By His splendor, strength, and heroic deeds He blazes forth among all those assembled here, like the luminous sun amidst the stars. It is certainly Krsna who has illumined and engladdened this assembly, like the sun appearing in a sunless region or a breeze blowing in a windless place."
And so, with direct permission of Bhisma, the fierce Sahadeva rightfully offered the supreme honors to Lord Krsna, who accepted them, following the procedure directed in scripture.
Hridayananda Dasa Goswami, who holds a Ph.D. in Indology from Harvard University, occasionally teaches at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, and has been a visiting lecturer at the University of California at Los Angeles.
Characters in This Episode
Asvatthama—the son of Drona
Bahlika—the brother of King Santanu (Bhisma's father)
Bhisma—the grand-uncle of the Pandavas (though usually referred to as their grandfather)
Dhrtarastra—the uncle of the Pandavas whose blindness disqualified him from ascending the throne
Drona—the military teacher of the Pandavas and the Kurus
Duhsasana—the second eldest Kuru (the sons of Dhrtarastra)
Duryodhana—the eldest Kuru
Jayadratha—an ally of the Kuru's married to their sister, Duhsala
Krpa—a great brahmana who became a general in the Kuru army
Nakula—one of the five Pandava brothers (a twin)
Narada—a liberated sage and great devotee of Krsna who freely travels the universe
Sahadeva—one of the five Pandavas (a twin)
Somadatta—the son of Bahlika
Vidura—Dhrtarastra's brother and a saintly well-wisher of the Pandavas
Vivimsati—one of Dhrtarastra's one hundred sons
Yudhisthira—the eldest of the Pandava brothers
How to Love Children
By Urmila Devi Dasi
CHILDREN NEED LOTS of love. Love your children, and then love them some more. It's said that every great man had a mother who gave him much love.
We often hear such glorification of love. But what does love really mean? The stereotype of a smiling parent holding a child with great care is not the complete picture of parental love. Judith Viorst, writing in Newsweek, says, "It didn't take me long to learn that patient, tender, loving, serene, and empathic weren't always options for the mother of three intensely physical boys."
Some adults spoil or ruin children through what appears to be lots of love. And some adults are harsh, even cruel, in the name of love.
Perhaps the dictionary will help us understand real love. Webster's first definition for love is "a strong affection for another arising out of kinship." In other words, we tend to love our family and relatives. While such love is natural for embodied, materially conditioned souls, it's imperfect for two reasons. First, it's based solely on the body, and second, it's based solely on bodies related to our own, so it's simply extended selfishness. When our love for children rests only on a selfish, material platform, we'll inevitably act in ways we feel are best for us, not necessarily for our children. Surely this love is inadequate for those aspiring for spiritual elevation.
Webster also defines love as "warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion." While devotion here could imply a sense of serving another person unselfishly, it also conjures up a picture of the doting mother who smothers her child with so much enthusiastic care that the child never really grows up.
Webster's most applicable definition is "unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another." The dictionary's example is that of God's love for man. If we accept this as a good definition of genuine love, we can then ask, "How does Krsna love His children, all living beings? And from Krsna's example, what can we learn about the best way to love our own children?"
Krsna stays with and cares for all His children, the obedient and the offensive. He perfectly reciprocates with the desires and inclinations of each soul. If we are fully devoted to Him, He will appear in the form and relationship we desire. If we wish to be an independent lord, He will give us an opportunity to be Lord Brahma, the head of a material universe.
Krsna knows each of us completely, and He directs our wanderings from lifetime to lifetime, letting us experience enough suffering and frustration to eventually turn to Him. He also arranges for all human beings to have access to scripture and saintly persons. He even comes Himself to teach the most beneficial path.
To follow the Lord's example when dealing with children, we can show love by guiding them in the best course of action and the best mentality. We can also set the best example. To some extent we can teach our children by letting them experience the natural consequences of their actions and desires. Or, better, we can help them learn without direct experience. Whenever a child shows a desire to act to please Krsna and follow the scriptures, we can encourage and assist.
What is truly good for a child is the same as what is truly good for all beings—to realize that one is a spiritual being, not a material body, and to serve Krsna rather than the temporary world. When we train a child in such a life, we represent Krsna's love.
What about the small, sweet tokens of affection that materially illusioned adults show their children? Do the spiritually-minded abandon these as mere attachment and bondage? Not at all. Looking at Krsna's example again, we can see that when He shows His love for us in small ways, we naturally feel gratitude, understanding that He cares for us fully. Similarly, the hugs, smiles, little gifts, words of endearment, and time spent playing together show our children a depth of personal concern, a complete love.
Urmila Devi Dasi and her family run a school in North Carolina. She is the major author and compiler of Vaikuntha Children, a guide to Krsna conscious education for children.
Help from the Lord
Compiled by Navina Nirada Dasa
HERE ARE SOME experiences and realizations of devotees who give people Krsna consciousness through books by Srila Prabhupada and his followers.
Two Forms of the Lord
One day in Prague in 1996 I was supposed to be distributing books, but I couldn't get up the nerve to approach anyone. After a while I became upset with myself.
"How can you just sit here while these people walking by are searching for the very books you're holding in your hands? Do something!"
At last I pulled myself together and showed a book to a young man hurrying back to work. He was interested in the books, so he invited me to his shop, an alternative gift shop, full of oriental and Indian gifts. His two colleagues also liked the books, but no one was willing to buy them.
I showed them a painting from Srimad-Bhagavatam of Lord Visnu on the back of Garuda, and I began to narrate a story about Lord Visnu.
Suddenly one of the shop assistants exclaimed, "Hey, He looks like ours!"
They took me upstairs to a statue covered with cloth. One of them uncovered the statue, and there He was—Lord Visnu standing on the back of Garuda, ready to release His Sudarsana disc.
I cried out, "Visnu!" and bowed down.
Someone entered the shop, and the shop assistants went down to look after him. I stayed alone with the Lord and prayed to Him for His mercy to allow me to distribute some books to these people. They returned and told me it was my last chance to see Him, because a twelve-year-old girl had already bought Him and was picking Him up that night.
With renewed enthusiasm I showed them all the books again. This time they were really inspired. The Lord was very merciful, and they took seventeen books between them. So the young girl wasn't the only one to take the Lord home that night. The shopkeepers took Him home in His form as Srimad-Bhagavatam, the form by which He resides in millions of homes around the world.
Padmamali Dasa (Prague, CZ)
Never too Late
We were going from house to house in a small town, Turnov, Czech Republic. When I rang the bell of a old villa, no one answered the door, so I turned to the next house.
Then I heard, "Is someone there?"
I saw an old woman peering out the window.
She said, "I'll go to the door."
It took her five minutes to walk from the window to the door. She apologized.
"I'm almost eighty years old, and I've got Parkinson's disease."
I showed her the First Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam, and she exclaimed, "Oh, that's Bhagavad-gita and mighty Arjuna with wise Krsna."
She told me she had read the Bhagavad-gita as a young student.
"I was always interested in these subjects but never got the opportunity to go deep into them. So now I'll take your books."
She thanked me and said, "Finally, before I die, I'll understand the Absolute Truth."
In the afternoon I brought her some prasadam and incense and wished her luck in her pursuit of the Absolute Truth.
Another day, I knocked on the door of a sauna/acupuncture studio.
The door opened, and an older man asked, "So, have you brought it?"
"Of course," I answered, bewildered by his welcome.
"OK. Show me what you have."
I opened the box of books, and he at once agreed to take the whole set.
"I know it's not by chance you've knocked on my door," he said. "That's why I responded the way I did. I'm very fond of spiritual literature."
He gave a generous donation and wanted more books in the future.
Satya-karana Dasa (Prague, CZ)
A Letter of Gratitude
For about four years now I've been curious about my existence in this world. I began asking myself numerous questions about life, such as What is the meaning of life? Why am I here? Do I have a mission to accomplish? What is God? And how are living beings related to Him? Just recently I read Bhagavad-gita As It Is, by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, and many of my questions were answered. As a result, my life changed completely. I would like to take this opportunity to give my most humble thanks to the Krsna consciousness movement and to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna, for revealing to me the true path of man: bhakti-yoga and spirituality. Thank you!
Samuel, via e-mail
Navina Nirada Dasa heads ISKCON's book-distribution ministry and travels worldwide to train and inspire book distributors.
The Vedic Definition of "Demon"
Here we continue an exchange between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and some of his disciples. It took place in Los Angeles, on the morning of December 13, 1973, during a walk along the Pacific shore.
Srila Prabhupada: Human life is meant for realizing the inner self, the soul—and for realizing the Supreme Self, Krsna. But thanks to your scientists and politicians, this great prerogative of human life is being denied to human society. So these hindrances should be stopped, because human society is being ruined.
That is why I was inquiring, "Why has America gone to Vietnam?" You replied, "To stop communism." But that sort of stopping will not make any solution. We have to stop this demoniac civilization. Then human society will be happy and in its normal condition.
Disciple: But, Srila Prabhupada, as soon as we define what demoniac civilization is, then people will be offended. They'll see that by the Vedic definition, people who gamble, have illicit sex, take intoxicants, and eat flesh—people like themselves—are demons. So they'll be offended.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Because people have themselves become demons, they cannot understand what a demon is.
For instance, a Christian priest went to preach to some mine workers, and he was explaining, "If you do not worship Lord Jesus Christ, you will go to hell."
So the mine workers asked, "What is hell?"
But when the priest explained—"Hell is wet and dark, with no sufficient air," and so on—the mine workers could not understand how horrible hell is. Why? Because by working in the mine, they were already agreeing to be in hell. So they no longer had the discretion to realize, "Oh, always wet and dark, without enough air—that is a very horrible thing."
Similarly, in today's world these demons no longer have the discretion to realize what demonism is. Asuram bhavam asritah: they have already agreed to live in the mood of demonism. What is this asura-bhava, this mood of demonism? Not to accept God. This is asura-bhava.
This is the basic principle of demonism. Ignore the soul and God and God's laws; gamble, take intoxicants, have illicit sex, and slaughter God's other creatures and eat their flesh. So in this way, nearly all people have agreed to deny God. Therefore, they have become demons.
Disciple: These days, Srila Prabhupada, people don't want to hear a bona fide spiritual authority. They don't care much about what you're offering: the science of the soul and the Supreme Soul. Most prefer to hear some mundane, so-called scientist and make him their authority.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. But the so-called scientist does not understand, "What is that special thing which, when missing, makes this body dead?" Still, he is holding himself up as a big authority, and foolish people are accepting him as such. This is demonism.
When somebody is dying, this great scientist cannot actually explain why. He may advocate various scientific countermeasures, whether oxygen or heart massage or injections or this or that. But despite all these things, he finds that suddenly the man is dead.
When you ask the great scientist, "In spite of all your scientific countermeasures, why is the man dead?" he can say nothing. And still, he has become a great authority—even though he is so foolish that he cannot explain why, despite all his countermeasures, the man is dead. Now, what will he answer? He has seen all his scientific countermeasures applied—but the man is dead. So let him explain why the man is dead. Can he explain?
Disciple: Not to our satisfaction.
Srila Prabhupada: Satisfaction or no satisfaction. What will the great scientific authority answer? What he will say?
Disciple: He will say, "Counteracting death is beyond my means."
Srila Prabhupada (as if to the great scientist): Therefore, you are a fool. How can you dare to hold yourself up as an authority?
Disciple (in the role of the scientist): I have tried my best to counteract death, but I cannot.
Srila Prabhupada: All right. That means you do not know. A child also tries his best to do things but cannot. This does not mean he becomes a big authority.
Disciple: Well, Srila Prabhupada, the great scientist will say that for the sustenance of life, there are certain conditions.
Srila Prabhupada: That is not an answer. What are those "certain conditions"? That answer is vague. You must tell us, Mr. Scientist: What, precisely, are those "certain conditions" that sustain life? Only then are you an authority.
Disciple (again playing the scientist): Well, for one thing, there has to be an electrical charge in the heart.
Srila Prabhupada (to the scientist): Then provide the electrical charge. Do it. Electricity is available.
Disciple: Well, for some persons whose hearts have stopped, medical personnel apply electrical nodes to the heart and seemingly bring the persons back to life.
Srila Prabhupada: "Back to life." For how long?
Disciple: Life can continue.
Srila Prabhupada: Continue forever?
Disciple: Well, no.
Srila Prabhupada: So? The person will still die. This brief continuing of life—that is another thing. The person will still die.
Now, why will he die? What is that condition which produces death? If you say, as a chemist, "Well, death comes about because the chemical condition has changed," then we shall reply, "Essentially, the chemical condition has remained unchanged. After all, immediately after someone's body has died, life will still come out. So many germs and worms—they will come out."
So how can you say, "The chemical condition that produces life has changed"? How can you say that? The thing is, the specific life we called "Mr. John" has gone away and is not coming back. That "Mr. John"—that specific living entity—is not coming back. Therefore, that specific living entity is totally different from matter; he is a totally distinct, totally spiritual entity, a soul.
Disciple: So, Srila Prabhupada, we can distinguish that the soul who goes away from the material body has nothing to do with the worms and germs that go on living in the body after death. But before the soul goes away from the material body, does he have something to do with the innumerable souls who live within the body's cells? I think that in the past you've said each cell contains a distinct and individual soul.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, I said that.
Disciple: So, during the time before the "main soul" goes away from the body, could we say that these other souls living in the cell structures are supporting that one particular soul?
Srila Prabhupada: No. They are living their own individual lives, irrespective of that particular soul. For instance, there are many germs living in some person's, say Mr. John's, stool. Why are those germs living there? Simply because stool is their ideal place for living; that's all. But those germs have nothing to do with that particular soul, Mr. John.
Disciple: But it looks as if I am the proprietor of these other souls living in my body's cells.
Srila Prabhupada: No, no. You are not the proprietor. No one here is a proprietor. Even if your current condition may seem like that of a proprietor, you have been placed into that condition by God. So the real proprietor is God. You are simply placed into that somewhat privileged condition; that's all. You are not the proprietor—you are dependent on the condition offered by God.
Disciple: But for example, Srila Prabhupada, in an office the boss is working and there are various secretaries and clerks helping him.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. But in your example, the real boss is the chief man who is assigning the work: "You work like that. You work like this. You work in this other way."
Disciple: So I am the boss.
Srila Prabhupada: No. You are not the boss. You are also one of the workers.
Pilgrims sail the Ganges to visit holy places
By Mahamaya Devi Dasi
I WAS LIVING IN Mayapur in 1976 when Srila Prabhupada inaugurated a boat—the Nitai Pada Kamala—on which devotees would travel the Ganges (Ganga) to bring Krsna consciousness to Bengal villages. Though I yearned to join the tour, the boat had no quarters for women.
Now, twenty-two years later, I'm again living in Mayapur. One day Jayapataka Swami, one of the leaders here, announces that he and a group of devotees are about to depart on a "Ganga Safari," stopping at many holy places, * (The holy places mentioned in this article are all connected with eternally liberated associates of Lord Caitanya. Readers interested in learning more about these devotees should consult the Sri Caitanya-caritamrta) some inaccessible by road but easily reached on the Ganga. The same Deities of Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityananda who traveled on the Nitai Pada Kamala will be onboard one of the three boats. Women and children are invited.
My thirteen-year-old son, two of his friends, and I depart by bus for Calcutta with about sixty other devotees from around the world. At Calcutta's Howrah Station we catch an overnight train north to the state of Bihar.
In the middle of the night the train stops at Burdwan station, where Jayapataka Swami and ten devotees jump on. At 7:00 A.M. we reach a tiny railroad station, Tala Jhari. We pile into waiting vans and small buses and drive a short distance to our first designation, Kanai Natshala.
We chant and dance our way into the strikingly clean village, nestled in a forest of mango trees. High on a hill overlooking the Ganga is an ancient temple recently donated to ISKCON. The former pujari (priest), Narasimha Baba, was a Vaisnava in the Ramanuja sampradaya (disciplic succession) who had dedicated his life to serving the Radha-Krsna Deities in the temple. More than three hundred years ago, the former owners of the temple had handed it over to the Ramanuja sampradaya with the stipulation that if the Ramanujas were ever unable to protect the Deities, the worship should be turned over to the preeminent branch of Lord Caitanya's sampradaya. Unfortunately, a few years ago the Deities were stolen. To uphold the original agreement and assure the protection of the new Deities, Narasimha Baba turned the temple over to ISKCON, which he considered the foremost movement in carrying on Lord Caitanya's mission.
Jayapataka Swami tells us the story from the Sri Caitanya-caritamrta of Nrsimha Brahmacari, who meditated on making a beautiful jeweled road for Lord Caitanya to walk to Vrndavana. When in his meditation Nrsimha Brahmacari came to Kanai Natshala, he couldn't go any farther and concluded that Lord Caitanya wouldn't go to Vrndavana. Later Lord Caitanya was walking to Vrndavana when he arrived at Kanai Natshala, followed by a large crowd of people. He announced that Kanai Natshala was a hidden (gupta) Vrndavana and decided it was the wrong time to go to Vrndavana after all. He didn't go any farther than Kanai Natshala, just as Nrsimha Brahmacari had predicted.
Jayapataka Swami also explained that in the Caitanya Bhagavata, Kanai Natshala is described as the place where Lord Caitanya first realized Krsna and experienced pure love of Krsna in separation (viraha).
During the morning class, Jayapataka Swami explains that for Lord Krsna the cows are special and for Lord Caitanya the Ganga is special. Lord Caitanya said that the Ganga is liquid krsna-prema—love for Krsna. Lord Caitanya bathed daily in the Ganga, and when He left this world, Ganga Devi, the deity of the river, felt great separation. Therefore we should remember Lord Caitanya when we bathe in the Ganga. And we should chant Hare Krsna while we bathe, because Lord Caitanya promised Ganga that devotees would come and chant while bathing in her water.
This morning we all travel in one boat in the rain and then take a bus to Ramakeli. We go to a peaceful temple, the home of Rupa Gosvami and Sanatana Gosvami. We tour several holy places connected with Rupa and Sanatana, including the prison where the Shah had Sanatana Gosvami locked up. My favorite place is a huge cylindrical tower that Sanatana Gosvami designed. We ascend it by an interior circular staircase. Because of the brilliance of the design, the Shah made Sanatana Gosvami his prime minister. The Shah didn't want to risk having such a genius working against him. The tower was completed in 1486, the year of Lord Caitanya's birth.
In the evening we take a bus to Ziya Ganj, arriving about midnight. There are supposed to be three boats to take us across the river to our guest house, but there's only one. Carrying our luggage, we all pack in. After four hours of sitting on the boat waiting for our accommodations to be worked out, we check into our rooms.
This morning we walk to Narottama Dasa Thakura's temple, where we offer respects to Narottama's Radha-Krsna Deities and his self-manifested Deity of Lord Caitanya and the Radha-Krsna Deities of Ganga Narayana Cakravarti, Narottama's disciple.
I am amazed to hear the story of Narottama Dasa Thakura's passing. He was bathing in the Ganga nearby when, by his own will, his body melted and became milk. His disciples quickly caught up some of the milk in pots, which are enshrined in his samadhi, or sacred tomb.
After Narottama's passing, the Deities were worshiped by his disciple Ganga Narayana Cakravarti, who later brought the king of Manipur to Krsna consciousness. Since then Manipur has been a predominantly Vaisnava state.
In the late afternoon we made our maiden voyage in the three boats, chanting Hare Krsna as we passed by waving villagers. We saw the one-thousand-door palace of Sriraj Dulah, the last Moghul emperor before the British Raj. That night we docked at Berhampore Town and we're received by hundreds of local devotees.
We travel by boat to Uddharampur to visit the shrine of Uddharana Datta Thakura, a great disciple of Lord Nityananda. It's evening when we arrive, and there are no lights in the compound, but we chant and dance jubilantly, surrounded by hundreds of villagers.
Uddharana Datta Thakura established a temple here. When he passed away, a king took the Deities to his palace to worship Them. Once a year the Deities return here for a festival.
Lord Nityananda Prabhu came here often. His daughter, Ganga Gosvamini, lived nearby with her husband. Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami, the author of Sri Caitaya-caritamrta, also lived nearby.
In the compound are two large trees. Lord Nityananda held a kirtana under one of them. As for the other tree, one day Lord Nityananda brushed his teeth here with a neem twig. When He stuck the twig into the ground, a neem tree sprouted.
We travel a short distance to the city of Katwa, where Lord Caitanya accepted sannyasa, the renounced order of life. We chant as we walk to the asrama of Kesava Bharati, Lord Caitanya's sannyasa-guru. The asrama is now a temple with a large Deity of Lord Caitanya.
Lord Caitanya came here and sat under the tree with a few devotees. Caitanya Dasa, Srinivasa Acarya's father, was on his way to see Lord Caitanya when he came to Katwa and heard that the Lord was there. Later he wrote a first-hand account of this pastime. He describes that Lord Nityananda, Gadadhara, Mukunda, and others were present. Caitanya Dasa maneuvered to get in the front row to see Lord Caitanya dancing and chanting in intense kirtana. Tears were pouring from the Lord's eyes as if from a syringe, and people were getting wet from the tears.
Then Lord Caitanya stopped the kirtana and said, "It's time to cut My hair."
Fearing their impending separation from the Lord, everyone protested, and the barber refused to cut the Lord's hair.
Lord Caitanya told him, "This is your duty; you must do it."
Finally the barber did it, and Lord Caitanya danced in great ecstasy and embraced Kesava Bharati. The barber became so full of bliss that he could only chant the names of the Lord. He never cut hair again.
We all touch the tree under which Lord Caitanya sat. Next to the tree we admire a painting of the hair-cutting scene, depicting Lord Caitanya with a newly shaved head, surrounded by extremely distressed devotees. The barber is at the Lord's feet, crying in bliss while lying on the cut hair. Near the entrance we view the Kesha Samadhi, which holds Lord Caitanya's hair, as well as the samadhi of Gadadhara Dasa, who established the Deity worship here.
We walk to a courtyard beside the temple to honor Kesava Bharati's samadhi, the barber's samadhi, and a small temple holding the footprints of Lord Caitanya and Kesava Bharati.
A bus takes us out of the city to a village named Srikhanda, the birthplace of Narahari Sarakara. In a song by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Narahari is depicted as standing to Lord Caitanya's right, fanning Him with a camara fan.
Narahari's brother Mukunda had a son named Raghunandana who was an associate of Lord Caitanya. As a young boy Raghunandana became famous for insisting that his family's household Deity eat the food He was offered. When the boy's father watched to see what was happening, he saw the stone Krsna Deity eating a laddu (a round sweet) from his son's hand.
Hearing the glories of Raghunandana, a devotee named Abhirama Ramadasa wanted to meet him. Abhirama traveled some distance to meet the boy. They were so happy to meet each other that they embraced and danced. Raghunandana danced so intensely that his ankle bells fell off and flew two kilometers away.
We visit a few other holy places in Srikhanda. In one temple we touch the seat where Narahari Sarakara, a year after he'd passed away, reappeared during a festival. Everyone present could see him.
After driving a distance away, we dance and roll in the dust where Raghunandana and Abhirama Ramadasa danced together.
On our return to Katwa, we stop at the village of Chakundi Jajigram to visit Srinivasa Acarya's home, where his Deities of Radha-Madana-Mohana are located.
Jahnava Devi, Lord Nityananda's wife, came here and wanted to prepare a feast for all the devotees. But there was no place big enough for keeping the dal (split beans). So the devotees dug a pond, and filled it with dal. Now the pond is filled with water. We offer our respects to this sacred pond.
We visit the birthplace of Srinivasa Acarya at Chakundi and offer our respects to his Deities.
Further down the Ganga we stop at Agradvipa and visit the Radha-Krsna temple of Govinda Ghosa, another associate of Lord Caitanya.
After a brief halt at ISKCON Mayapur, we stop at Samudragarh, where the Ocean came and touched Navadvipa Dhama—the sacred abode of Lord Caitanya—and where the great devotee king Samudra Sena met Lord Krsna 5,000 years ago.
We float down the Ganga to Pyari Ganga. Here Lord Caitanya entered the heart of Nakula Brahmacari, who in spiritual ecstasy seemed like a man haunted by a ghost. He laughed, danced, trembled, and made rumbling noises. He even displayed the same bodily luster as Lord Caitanya's.
We reach Ambika Kalna late in the day. Because of rain, we can't get to the site of a festival organized by local devotees.
The rain has subsided. Early in the morning we tour Ambika Kalna.
First we visit the temple of Gauridasa Pandita and hear the story of how his large, beautiful Deities of Gaura-Nitai (Caitanya-Nityananda) once left the altar and joined a group of devotees chanting Hare Krsna. Gauridasa Pandita wanted Lord Caitanya and Nityananda Prabhu to stay in Kalna permanently. When the Lords told him that wasn't possible, he asked if They would allow him to make Deities of Them and thus always be present there in Their Deity forms. After the wooden Deities were completed, Gauridasa requested Lord Caitanya and Nityananda Prabhu to stay and let the Deities go instead. To prove that They and their Deity forms are identical, the Lords placed themselves on the altar, raised Their arms, and became wooden Deities. And the Deities walked away out the door of the temple. Gauridasa requested the mobile forms to remain, but They raised Their arms and became motionless Deities, and the Deities on the altar walked away. They repeated this a few times, until Gauridasa could no longer distinguish between his Lords and Their Deity forms.
Nearby we visit a temple of Radha-Syamasundara. Suryadasa Sarakela, the father-in-law of Lord Nityananda and elder brother of Gauridasa Pandita, worshiped these Deities. Next stop is the samadhi of Bhagavan Dasa Babaji, a friend of Jagannatha Dasa Babaji. When Bhagavan Dasa was too old to go to the Ganga, the Ganga came to him. Near his place of worship is a small stairway down to Patal Ganga, where he would bathe.
Buses take us to Adisaptagram to see the asrama and temple of Uddharana Datta Thakura, whose samadhi we visited a few days ago. According to the Caitanya-caritamrta, Uddharana Datta Thakura was born with the right to worship Lord Nityananda. Srila Prabhupada is in the family line of Uddharana Datta Thakura.
Lord Nityananda spent much time here. Once He stuck a wooden spoon into the ground here, and up popped a flowering tree, still flowering today.
Raghunatha Dasa Gosvami's birthplace, our next stop, is in a secluded spot next to the Sarasvati River, here just a stream. In the temple, we offer respects to his murti (carved form) and touch his shoes. His house is about a mile through the jungle from here.
Next we go to Sivananda Sena's temple, established by his son's disciple.
Our last stop is Caitanya-doba, at Halisahar. When the Lord visited this holy place and was told it was the birthplace of His spiritual master, Isvara Puri, the Lord declared, "This spot is worshipable for Me." He picked up a clod of dirt and wrapped it in His cloth. So many devotees followed the Lord's example and removed so much dirt that they dug out a hole approximately 60 feet by 150 feet, which then filled with water. Later a brick retaining wall was built around the lake.
This morning we go to the Annapurna temple, where one asks permission to enter the dhama, the holy land of Lord Caitanya's pastimes. Down the street is a Radha-Syamasundara temple established by Biracandra Prabhu, Lord Nityananda's son. Lord Nityananda lived here with his two wives: Jahnava and Vasudha, Biracandra's mother.
Jayapataka Swami tells us the story of the appearance of this very beautiful Deity. One night Biracandra had a dream in which Krsna came to him and said He would manifest Himself in stone. Biracandra should get that stone and make a Deity.
Later, Emperor Hussein Shah's son, who had heard of the power of Biracandra, sent for him.
"My daughter is very sick," the prince told Biracandra. "If you cure her, I'll give you whatever you want. If you don't, you're an impostor, and I'll kill you."
Biracandra cured the daughter. Then he asked the Shah's son for a stone from the palace wall.
The Shah's son protested, "But that stone is supporting everything. If you take it, the wall will collapse."
But finally he agreed. "Do whatever you want."
When Biracandra started a kirtana, the stone slid out and fell down, but nothing else moved. He wanted to take the stone to the Ganga, but no one could move it, even by using elephants. The devotees started chanting again, and then they were able to move the stone easily. Some people objected to bathing the stone in the Ganga, afraid it would sink, but when it was placed in the Ganga, it floated.
Biracandra gave the stone to a man to carve a Deity. The first Deity he carved was too big, the second one too small, and finally the third one fit the proportions of the Deity in Biracandra's dream. It is this third Deity we are now seeing as Radha-Syamasundara. The first Deity carved is Radha-Nanda-dulala, ten miles from here. The second Deity, Radha-Radhavallabha, is worshiped in a temple across the river.
From Radha-Syamasundara's temple we walk to Biracandra's birthplace (Lord Nityananda's residence) to offer respects to his murti and his Radha-Krsna Deities. The pujari there tells us Biracandra Prabhu took initiation from Jahnava, his stepmother. One day Jahnava was cooking, and her sari fell from her head. Biracandra saw that she manifested two more arms to catch her sari.
After crossing the Ganga, we take a riksha to a temple of Lord Jagannatha. This is the place of the associate of Lord Caitanya named Kamalakara Pippalai. Approaching the temple, we first notice the huge festival cart (ratha) sitting in the street. No one is worried it will be stolen, because it's made of solid iron and steel. It takes five hundred people to pull the cart on Rathayatra day.
We are all allowed inside the Deity room of Jagannatha, Baladeva, and Subhadra. The Deities are six hundred years old. Paintings on the walls of the kirtana hall depict the long story of Their appearance.
After our last stretch down the Ganga, we arrive at Panihati, where we disembark for the last time.
Jayapataka Swami tells us that Lord Caitanya resides wherever Lord Nityananda dances. Once while Lord Caitanya was in South India, Lord Nityananda danced here at Raghava Pandita's house. Lord Caitanya came to see, but only Lord Nityananda could see Him.
"He's here, and He's wearing a garland of flowers from South India," Nityananda Prabhu informed to his followers. "If you breathe deeply, you can smell it."
They did so and became ecstatic.
Lord Nityananda came here to Raghava Pandita's house regularly, as He lived nearby. The devotees had such ecstatic kirtanas they'd pull up palm trees and dance with them, they'd pick up bamboo rods and play them like flutes, and they'd perform other superhuman feats. Lord Nityananda pumped everyone full of transcendental ecstasy, and Bengal was flooded with kirtana.
We arrive back in Mayapur at 9:30 P.M., blissfully singing, "Ganga! Ganga!"
Mahamaya Devi Dasi was initiated by Srila Prabhupada in New York in 1971. She is a proofreader and the compiler of a database of Srila Prabhupada's disciples. She and her husband and 14-year-old son live most of the year in Mayapur and Vrndavana.
Ganga Safari Route
11—Ambika Kalna (Kalna)
Life on the Boat
OUR SAFARI has three boats, each with a crew of three or four and a guard. The women's boat holds twenty-eight, the family boat (ours) holds eighteen, and the men's boat holds the Deities, the kitchen, Jayapataka Swami, and countless brahmacaris. The boats have two levels: the deck (about ten feet above the water) and the downstairs cabin, where we sleep on thin mattresses on the floor or on the continuous benches along the sides of the boat. The motor is also downstairs, making conversation nearly impossible.
At the back of the cabin are two WCs and a metal bucket on a long rope, used for scooping up Ganga water. To avoid offending the Ganga, we replace the boats' toilets (holes over the water) with special toilets.
Up on deck we enjoy a beautiful view of the lush tropical scenery, especially from the roof of the captain's cabin. All along the route, villagers wave at us, and we wave back, yelling or chanting Hare Krsna.
Twice boats get stuck on sandbars hidden under the Ganga. One boat has to be towed, the other gets a hole in its side.
During a sudden rainstorm we go downstairs, only to learn that our boat is not waterproof. Water drips from the deck throughout the cabin. We move our luggage and blankets around in a vain attempt to keep them dry. The only dry area is under the captain's cabin, where, by Krsna's mercy, I've pitched my small tent, which doubles as mosquito netting. Two young children curl up in dry bedding next to my tent.
After the rain we find the gangplank one-third in the water and covered with slippery mud.
As I return from a pilgrimage the next day, I am amazed to realize that, despite the inconveniences, nothing daunts my enthusiasm for living on the boat.
You Can Do It!
Here it is, New Year's Day (my deadline comes a couple of months before publication), and like so many others, I'm sitting here thinking about New Year's resolutions. Our resolutions usually involve giving up bad habits or picking up good ones. We may not stick to our resolutions, but that we make them at all tells us at least one thing: we have an innate belief that we can change, that we have at least some ability to improve ourselves.
One problem with trying to change is the reaction of our family and friends. They may discourage us by saying we'll never do it. Or they might just make us uncomfortable when we try to present our new and improved self.
Sometimes people can't understand our changes or don't want us to change. When you visit your mother after you've grown up, she might be surprised that you don't like the same food you liked as a child. "But you used to love carrots!"
Srila Prabhupada sometimes quoted the Bengali phrase nagna-matrika-nyaya: "the logic of the naked mother." The point is that it's illogical to think that a grown woman will have to run around naked just because she did so as a child. In other words, people can change.
Srila Prabhupada applied this expression to his disciples. Their families and friends were often shocked to see they'd given up meat-eating, illicit sex, intoxication, and gambling, so much a part of their youth. They thought the kids must be brainwashed, or that Krsna consciousness, like bell bottoms, would be just another passing fad.
People are sometimes surprised to find that Hare Krsna devotees are still around after all these years. I was chanting downtown with some devotees recently when a man passed by and offered this comment: "Get over it."
But chanting Hare Krsna has the power to effect real, lasting change in anyone. Self-improvement requires at least some inner strength. We fail to honor our resolutions because we lack that strength. But chanting Hare Krsna draws out the innermost strength—the strength of the soul. It gets us in touch with our real identity.
Another reason we fail to honor our resolutions is that we aren't sure they're worthwhile. What will I ultimately gain if I quit smoking or gambling? I may solve some temporary problems, but if everything ends at death, what's the ultimate significance of denying myself immediate pleasure?
By chanting Hare Krsna, we realize more and more that we're not these temporary bodies but eternal spirit souls. The soul—the "I" within the body—in its pure state has no bad habits. And it has immense power. That power comes from love—love for Krsna, the Supreme Lord. If we tap that love, we can do anything. In the material world we can see how powerful even a person's imperfect love can be. The soul's pure spiritual love of God is inestimably more powerful. A pure devotee of the Lord can accomplish extraordinary things. Because his motive is the pleasure of his beloved Lord, he is fortified with boundless resolve.
So here's one resolution that will help you follow all your other ones: resolve to regularly chant Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare / Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
In the Gita, in plain and simple language, it is stated that Sri Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. There is none equal to or greater than Him. ... He is the root of the impersonal Brahman and Paramatma; the Supersoul in every entity is His plenary portion. He is the fountainhead of everything, and everyone is advised to surrender unto His lotus feet.
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
The unalloyed devotional service rendered to Me by My devotees brings Me under their control. I cannot be thus controlled by those engaged in mystic yoga, Sankhya philosophy, pious work, Vedic study, austerity, or renunciation.
Lord Sri Krsna
What is painful for saintly persons who strictly adhere to the truth? How could there not be independence for pure devotees who know the Supreme Lord as the substance? What deeds are forbidden for persons of the lowest character? And what cannot be given up for the sake of Lord Krsna by those who have fully surrendered at His lotus feet.
Sri Sukadeva Gosvami
One who constantly sings the glories of the Lord is surely elevated to the same planet as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Lord Krsna appreciates this singing even more than the prayers offered by Lord Siva.
Through the association of devotees, one can engage in the service of the Lord by hearing and chanting. Thus one can revive his dormant Krsna consciousness and, sticking to the cultivation of Krsna consciousness, return home, back to Godhead, even in this life.
Childish fools pursue external desires and enter the wide chords of death. The sages, having comprehended the liberated condition, never pray for the temporary things of this world.
Katha Upanisad 4.2
For one who has given up material sense enjoyment and accepted the principles of devotional service, the opulence of Visnuloka [the kingdom of God] is awaiting.