With this issue of Back to Godhead we start a series of articles on the nine processes of bhakti-yoga, the yoga of connecting to God through service in devotion. Our first article in the series discusses hearing spiritual sound.
As with any endeavor, spiritual life begins with hearing. To make sure we head in the right direction, we need to hear from authoritative spiritual sources. Back to Godhead presents the philosophy and practices taught by Lord Krsna and the self-realized souls of the Vedic tradition. Our immediate authority is His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, founder of the Hare Krsna movement and this magazine.
Each issue of Back to Godhead opens with one of Srila Prabhupada's lectures. In this issue, Prabhupada encourages us to take seriously Lord Krsna's instructions on immortality. In "Srila Prabhupada Speaks Out" he shows the folly of thinking we are beyond the control of the laws of nature. And in "Qualified by Simplicity," a disciple recalls how Prabhupada cleared up a troubling doubt.
May the bhakti-yoga process of hearing from Srila Prabhupada enlighten and enliven you in your spiritual life.
• To help all people discern reality from illusion, spirit from matter, the eternal from the temporary.
Women and Service
Regarding the article "What's a Woman to Do?" by Visakha Devi Dasi [March/April], gender is never a disqualification for engaging in devotional service. All men and all women have the spiritual right to serve the Lord. But do we all have the right to serve in whichever way we desire?
Srila Prabhupada taught that Krsna consciousness means acting according to our constitutional position. In Bhagavad-gita (18.47), Lord Krsna tells Arjuna, "It is better to engage in one's own occupation, even though one may perform it imperfectly, than to accept another's occupation and perform it perfectly. Duties prescribed according to one's nature are never affected by sinful reactions."
Arjuna, by constitution, was a ksatriya [warrior]. Krsna did not encourage him to act as a brahmana even though he desired to. Similarly, Srila Prabhupada taught that the occupational service for men and women is different because our psychophysical conditions are different. He never appointed any women as temple president, vice president, GBC [governing body commissioner], or diksa-guru [initiating guru], nor did he ever suggest they be appointed in the future of ISKCON.
Sita Devi Dasi
VISAKHA DEVI DASI REPLIES: To help us understand the scriptures, Srila Prabhupada gave us his transcendental purports. In his purport to the above verse (Bg. 18.47), Srila Prabhupada writes, "A man who is by nature attracted to the kind of work done by sudras [laborers] should not artificially claim to be a brahmana, although he may have been born into a brahmana family." In other words, one's work is determined by one's qualities and activities, not by one's birth.
When directly asked if a woman could be temple president, Srila Prabhupada responded, "Yes, why not?" Are we to think that Srila Prabhupada actually meant "No"? When Srila Prabhupada first made lists of prospective GBC members, he included women on the list. Are we to think that was an accident?
When directly asked if a woman could be a spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada replied, "Yes." Should we think otherwise? While elaborating on his answer to this question, which was asked by a college professor, Srila Prabhupada said, "In our 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 guru." (Interview, Toronto, June 18, 1976)
Here Prabhupada reiterates the same point he made in his purport to Bhagavad-gita 18.47, namely that one's occupation is based not on one's body but on one's qualities and activities. Srila Prabhupada encouraged everyone, including women, to serve the Lord according to their propensities.
I just read the March/April issue, and I feel like I did when I first got in contact with BTG and Krsna consciousness, in 1982. It is a wonderful magazine. So fresh, up-to-date, and enlivening. The design is fantastic.
I liked the editorial "You Can Do It!" very, very much. I think you should have more articles like that one.
However, I have a friendly suggestion. Let's take, for example, Visakha Devi Dasi's article on women in Krsna consciousness. It is a very nice and Krsna conscious article, inspiring as well. But it is somewhat out of touch with reality. So many of us—men and women—struggle with our bad qualities, such as envy, lust, and greed. Maybe BTG can print articles about struggles and how to overcome them. In my view, BTG should be a bridge between Srila Prabhupada's books and ISKCON today, showing people how we strive for the ideal.
Akrura Dasa adhikari
I am writing in reference to the article "Ashram Reflections," by Krsna-priya Devi Dasi, in the May/June issue. As a mother and a young grandmother, all I can say is that my heart was so filled with joy. In this age of Kali-yuga, where boys go to school and kill everyone they can, where womanhood has become so degraded, this Vaisnava Academy for Girls is a blessing for the state of Florida and the world. These young ladies are more enlightened than women three times their age. What a gift you are giving to the world: first-class Vaisnava women!
Devotion and Maturity
I am a subscriber to BTG and an aspiring devotee of Krsna. As the father of three teenage girls, I was truly touched to read of the devotion and maturity of the Vaisnava Academy ashram girls.
Get a Life
"Ashram Reflections" shows a nice life, but I myself like a whole life. Everything isn't one-sided. It's wonderful to live a charmed life—private schools and your own tutor—but wouldn't it be nice to have a full life and be exposed to it all?
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada puts down all other yoga systems and says that bhakti-yoga is the best. Other systems are a waste of time. I disagree. I started the yoga of exercises, breathing, and meditation at the tender age of fourteen. And now I enjoy it; it is part of me, and I will never give it up. Bhakti-yoga sounds good too. Doing them together would be enlightening.
Edith M. Gamble
OUR REPLY: As "Ashram Reflections" showed, the girls of the Vaisnava Academy have a well-rounded life. But because they're training for a life of Krsna consciousness, they're being protected from potentially harmful influences. They'll face the "real world" soon enough, and the effectiveness of their education will be tested. In the meantime, they're living in an environment that helps them grow up spiritually strong. Today, children growing up with every imaginable experience don't seem to be faring so well.
As for Srila Prabhupada's emphasis on bhakti-yoga, the main point is that ultimately any yoga practice must lead to bhakti-yoga. That's because bhakti-yoga means to connect with God in devotion. So it is simultaneously the process and the goal. In other words, bhakti-yoga is really about loving God, and our yoga practice, or any other practice, has value when it helps us love God.
Please write us at: BTG, P.O. Box 430, Alachua, FL 32616, USA. Or: BTG, 33 Janki Kutir, Next to State Bank of Hyderabad, Juhu, Mumbai 400 049, India. Phone: (022) 618-1718. E-mail: email@example.com
In the July/August issue, we mistakenly listed Dr. Ravi Singh as the author of "Carrying on His Father's Tradition," which was about Dr. Singh. The article also incorrectly identified Dr. Singh as a psychologist. He is a psychiatrist. The article was written by BTG associate editor Kalakantha Dasa.
Is immortality a real possibility, or simply utopian nonsense?
Adapted from a lecture given in London on August 22, 1973
by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
nasato vidyate bhavo
"Those who are seers of the truth have concluded that of the nonexistent [the material body] there is no endurance and of the eternal [the soul] there is no change. This they have concluded by studying the nature of both."—Bhagavad-gita 2.16
THERE ARE TWO things: sat and asat. Sat means that which exists eternally, and asat means that which is temporary, which appears and disappears. A Vedic injunction says, "Don't be entangled in the temporary; try to come to the platform of eternity."
In the previous verse, Lord Krsna says:
yam hi na vyathayanty ete
"Those who are not disturbed by the material changes are eligible for liberation." Our mission, the human mission, is to come to the platform of immortality. In modern civilization, the so-called scientists and philosophers cannot even imagine the possibility of becoming immortal. Then why is Krsna speaking about immortality? Is He speaking something utopian? No, He is speaking fact. Otherwise, if Krsna is speaking something nonsense or utopian, then no one would be interested to read Bhagavad-gita.
You may argue that we are foolish persons who indulge in reading Bhagavad-gita even though Krsna is speaking utopian nonsense. But why were the great spiritual masters of the past like Ramanujacarya and Madhvacarya—India's greatest spiritual teachers—giving attention to the reading of Bhagavad-gita? Because Krsna does not speak anything nonsense. That is a fact.
Our business should be to engage on the eternal platform not on the temporary platform. Real human civilization should be based on becoming immortal. That is the distinction between India and other countries. Now, I'm not speaking of India today, but formerly India was guided by great spiritual teachers like Vyasadeva, the original spiritual master. Vyasadeva was a great learned scholar. He recorded so many books: four Vedas, eighteen Puranas, Vedanta-sutra, Upanisads. He guided the whole society, but he lived very humbly. Even Canakya Pandita, a prime minister, lived in a cottage. That is the distinction between Vedic or Indian civilization and modern civilization. Indian civilization means interest in the eternal, whereas others are interested in the temporary.
Formerly, of course, India was also very materially opulent. Four hundred years ago India was so opulent that Europeans were attracted to go there. Even during the time of the Mogul Empire, India was very opulent. In Delhi you can visit the Red Fort. You'll see on the walls pictures of birds and trees that were once covered with jewels. There are holes now where the jewels were. Material opulence means jewels, gold, silk, butter—not plastic pots, plastic buckets, plastic cloth. These things have no real value.
The Aim of Spiritual Civilization
So the people of India traditionally stressed permanent, spiritual civilization. Their aim was to make this life perfect and become immortal. The whole effort was to conquer birth and death. Modern people do not understand that birth and death can be conquered. They only imagine, "By scientific advancement, someday we shall become immortal." But here is information from Bhagavad-gita. Krsna says we can become immortal; He's not speaking something nonsense or utopian.
We should be interested in permanent life, not temporary life. This life, this material life, is temporary. We may live for ten years or ten hours. There are living entities who live for ten minutes, and there are living entities who live for ten million or ten billion years. According to Bhagavad-gita, residents of Brahmaloka, the highest planet, live billions of years. All these durations of life are within this material world, but no life here is permanent. Whether you live for ten billion years, ten minutes, or ten seconds, your life is temporary.
That is being explained here. Nasato vidyate bhavah. The material body has no endurance; it will not permanently exist. Nabhavo vidyate satah: The soul is permanent. The soul has no change; it will never be nonexistent.
Krsna says, "My dear Arjuna, you, I, and all the kings and soldiers assembled here—it is not that we did not exist in the past." That means we are not the body. This body was not existing in my past life. But because I am soul, I am existing now, I existed in the past, and I will exist in the future. That is sat. Therefore, spirit has no change.
Sometimes we experience that a thread becomes tangled and to find the beginning is very difficult. Similarly, because of our attachment to the material body, we become entangled in material life. In this meeting we don't talk of material things. Here we talk only about the spirit soul, Krsna, our relationship with Krsna, how to satisfy Krsna.
Formerly, this place was known as Piggot's Manor. Now we have named it Bhaktivedanta Manor. What is the difference? Formerly, it was for sense gratification. Now it is for elevating one to the spiritual standard of life. Anything can be changed like that for sat-sanga—spiritual association. If you associate with the eternal, you advance in spiritual life. And if you associate with the temporary, you become degraded. Don't be entangled. Try to become liberated from the entanglement. That is the mission of life.
These things cannot be understood as long as we are in darkness. Darkness means sinful life. The more we engage in sinful life, the more we fail to understand what is eternal and what is temporary. So we should be purified. The whole human life is meant for purification, just as a diseased person must be purified from the contamination. In material existence we are impure, contaminated by the three modes of material nature: goodness, passion, and ignorance.
Even the quality of goodness is contaminating. For example, a brahmana, or learned, cultured person, is considered in the mode of goodness. But he is entangled if does not try to become immortal and simply thinks, "Now I have brahminical qualifications. I'm educated, I'm very clean, I'm very controlled, I know what is what." If he does not try to go further ahead—to become immortal—he is still entangled.
Those in the mode of passion think, "I'm so rich, so powerful. I have my nice wife and family and so many nice businesses." That is the conception of life of one controlled by the mode of passion. Such a person is certainly bound.
And those under the mode of ignorance do not know the value of life. Lazy, unclean, and ignorant, they are very firmly bound.
The more you are enlightened about the value of life, the more you become liberated. The more you become liberated, the more you advance in spiritual knowledge. Therefore, these meetings we hold every day are meant for advancing in spiritual life. Here there is no program on how to become rich, how to possess more cars, how to have a bigger bank balance, how to have a nice dress. These are material things.
And we are not interested in increasing the influence of the mode of ignorance—how to sleep thirty-four hours a day when there are only twenty-four. We see how some people sleep until two o'clock in the afternoon. If you rise at two o'clock in the morning, that is nice. But they are accustomed to get up at two o'clock in the afternoon, because they think, "The more we sleep, the more we enjoy life."
Therefore, they are like the Sunyavadis, philosophers who believe that the ultimate truth is void. Some people want to become zero by always sleeping. But that is not life. Sunyavada philosophy is not life. Activity is life. Caitanya Mahaprabhu says, "Don't become zero. Be engaged always in chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra." That is Caitanya Maha prabhu's movement. We are not going to be zero. We want to be very active, not for sense gratification but for Krsna's service.
Elevation or Degradation?
Now what is Krsna's service? That we are teaching, how to worship Krsna.
sravanam kirtanam visnoh
These are the nine kinds of service to Krsna: hearing about Him, chanting His glories, remembering Him, serving His lotus feet, worshiping Him, offering Him prayers, becoming His servant, and surrendering everything to Him. These services are all eternal, spiritual. The more we engage in them, the more we are elevated, and the more we engage in activities of material sense gratification, the more we are degraded.
If you perform your occupation, your duty, very nicely but have no Krsna consciousness, the scripture says you are simply wasting time and laboring hard. That's all. Therefore Krsna explains the distinction between the temporary and the eternal. We should not be much interested in the temporary, because then our life is spoiled. We should be interested in the eternal. That will make our life successful.
Unfortunately, people today do not know, cannot imagine even, that there is a possibility of becoming immortal. It is more than a possibility; it is a fact. And chanting Krsna's name is so important in this regard. In the scripture it is said, kirtanad eva krsnasya mukta sangah param vrajet: "By chanting the name of Krsna one attains the supreme."
Param means "spiritual." There are two kinds of energy: para and apara. The material world is apara, inferior energy. Besides this there is another nature, which is para, spiritual. We should be interested in the spiritual, not the material. Why? Because that is real life.
In today's verse it is said that the difference between the spiritual and the material is studied by the those who have realized the truth, the tattva-darsibhih. The word tattva is very important. Tattva means "truth." In the Srimad-Bhagavatam we find:
vadanti tat tattva-vidas
"Learned transcendentalists who know the Absolute Truth call this nondual substance Brahman, Paramatma, or Bhagavan." Bhagavan is the last word in tattva, the Supreme Truth. Therefore, when Lord Krsna speaks in Bhagavad-gita, Vyasadeva writes, sri bhagavan uvaca: "The Supreme Personality of Godhead said." Vyasadeva is saying, "Although I am writing this, I am not the speaker. The speaker is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The authority is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, not I."
Modern so-called philosophers, scientists, and scholars say, "I think. I think." But what is the value of their opinion? Great personalities do not speak like that. Even Krsna says, tattva-darsibhih: "It has been concluded by higher authorities." That is the way of understanding. In the modern age we also sometimes give reference by saying that such-and-such professor says such-and-such. But these "authorities" are not tattva-darsibhih, seers of the truth. They are all speculators.
We have to go to the seers of the truth. Lord Krsna says,
tad viddhi pranipatena
"Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized souls can impart knowledge unto you because they have seen the truth." You should understand this word: tattva-darsinah, seers of the truth. They are authoritative; others are not. Others simply speculate.
Speculation takes place on the mental platform; it has no value. Just as this body is nonpermanent, the mind is also flickering—accepting something and rejecting something. That is the mind's business. So the mind cannot be tattva-darsi. Of course, we have to think with the mind, but under the direction of authority. Then we can reach real tattva, truth. And Bhagavan, Lord Krsna, is the last word in tattva.
Thank you very much.
Compiled by Krishan B. Lal
The Gita, or Bhagavad-gita ("The Song of God"), was spoken five thousand years ago by Lord Krsna to the prince Arjuna. It contains the essence of Vedic knowledge.
The compiler has applied a question / answer format to the Introduction to Bhagavad-gita As It Is, by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
What are the jivas?
The jivas are we living entities, or living beings, and we are minute parts of the Supreme Lord. We are of the same quality as the supreme controller, just as a particle of gold is also gold, or a drop of water from the ocean is salty.
We living entities, being part of the supreme controller, Lord Krsna, have all the qualities of the Supreme Lord in minute quantity. We are minute, subordinate controllers, trying to control nature, as presently we are trying to control space or planets, and this tendency to control is there because it is in Krsna. But although we have a tendency to lord it over material nature, we should know that we are not the supreme controller.
The jivas, the living entities, are controlled. If a living entity says that he is not controlled but that he is free, then he is insane. The living being is controlled in every respect, at least in his conditioned life.
What is prakrti?
Prakrti is the energy of the Supreme Lord. Material nature is the inferior prakrti, and the living entity is the superior prakrti. Prakrti is always subordinate, predominated by the Lord, who is the predominator. The living entities and material nature are both predominated, controlled by the Supreme Lord. Material nature itself comprises three modes: goodness, passion, and ignorance.
What is the role of time in the material manifestation?
Eternal time is above the three modes of material nature. Time is the duration of the whole universe or the manifestation of material nature. Time is the ultimate destroyer and remains in effect during both the manifest and the unmanifest phases of material nature.
What is karma?
By a combination of the three modes of nature and under the control and purview of eternal time, there are activities, which are called karma. The cosmic manifestation is full of different activities. All living entities are engaged in different activities. The activities are being carried out from time immemorial, and we are suffering or enjoying the fruits of our activities. For instance, suppose I am a businessman and have worked very hard with intelligence and have amassed a great bank balance. Then I am an enjoyer. But then say I have lost all my money in business; then I am a sufferer. Similarly, in every field of life we enjoy the results of our work, or we suffer the results. This is called karma.
The effects of karma may be very old indeed. We are suffering or enjoying the results of our activities from time immemorial, but we can change the results of our karma, or our activity, and this change depends on the perfection of our knowledge. We are engaged in various activities. Undoubtedly, we do not know what sort of activities we should adopt to gain relief from the actions and reactions of all these activities, but this is also explained in the Bhagavad-gita.
Are isvara, jiva, prakrti, kala, and karma eternal?
Isvara (the Supreme Lord), jiva (the living entity, prakrti (nature), kala (eternal time), and karma (activity) are all explained in the Bhagavad-gita. Out of these five, the Lord, the living entities, material nature, and time are eternal. The material nature is the separated energy of the Supreme Lord, and similarly the living entities are also the energy of the Supreme Lord, although they are not separated but eternally related. So the Lord, the living entity, material nature, and time are all interrelated and are all eternal. The other item, karma, is not eternal.
Is material nature "false," as claimed by some Vedantists?
The material nature, or prakrti, may be temporary, but according to the philosophy of Bhagavad-gita it is not false. It is accepted as real but temporary. It is likened unto a cloud that moves across the sky, or the rainy season, which nourishes grains. As soon as the rainy season is over and the clouds go away, all the crops nourished by the rain dry up. Similarly, the material manifestation takes place at a certain interval, stays for a while, and then disappears. Such are the workings of prakrti. But this cycle is working eternally. Therefore prakrti is eternal; it is not false. The Lord refers to it as "My prakrti."
What is the difference between the superior prakrti (the living entities) and the inferior prakrti (the material manifestation)?
Both the living entity and material nature are prakrti, the energy of the Supreme Lord, but one of the two, the living entity (jiva) is conscious. The other prakrti is not conscious. Therefore the jiva-prakrti is called superior because the jiva has consciousness similar to the Lord's. Another distinction is that the material energy is known as the separated energy of the Lord, whereas the living entities are eternally related to the Lord as His parts.
What are the three main energies of the Supreme Lord?
The Supreme Lord has diverse and innumerable energies beyond our conception; however, great learned sages or liberated souls have studied these energies and have analyzed them into three parts. The first energy is para, transcendental. The second is the living entities, which also belong to the superior energy. And the third is the material energies, which are in the mode of ignorance.
What is consciousness?
Consciousness, or the sense of "I am," is the primary symptom of the presence of the soul in the living entity. Both the consciousness of the Supreme Lord and that of the living entities are transcendental.
Any claim that consciousness is generated by the association of matter is a mistaken idea. The theory that consciousness develops under certain circumstances of material combination is not accepted in the Bhagavad-gita.
The living entity's consciousness may be pervertedly reflected by the covering of material circumstances, just as light reflected through colored glass may appear to be of a certain color, but the consciousness of the Lord is not materially affected.
What is false ego?
False consciousness is exhibited under the impression that I am a product of material nature. This is called false ego. One absorbed in bodily conceptions cannot understand his situation. In contaminated consciousness "I am" means "I am the lord of all I survey. I am the enjoyer." The world revolves because every living being thinks that he is the lord and creator of the material world.
How can the living entity find everlasting satisfaction?
The living entity can find everlasting satisfaction by cooperating with the Supreme Lord.
Material consciousness has two psychic divisions. One is that I am the creator, and the other is that I am the enjoyer. But actually the Supreme Lord is both the creator and the enjoyer, and the living entity, being part of the Supreme Lord, is neither the creator nor the enjoyer, but a cooperator. He is the created and the enjoyed.
For instance, one nourishes a tree by watering its root, and one nourishes the body by feeding the stomach, for if the body is to be kept in a healthy state, then the parts of the body must cooperate to feed the stomach. Similarly, the Supreme Lord is the enjoyer and the creator, and we, as subordinate living beings, are meant to cooperate to satisfy Him. This cooperation will actually help us, just as food taken by the stomach will help all other parts of the body. If the fingers of the hand think they should take the food themselves instead of giving it to the stomach, then they will be frustrated.
The central figure of creation and of enjoyment is the Supreme Lord, and the living entities are cooperators. By cooperation they enjoy. The relation is also like that of the master and the servant. If the master is fully satisfied, then the servant is satisfied.
What is the difference between the supreme consciousness of the supreme controller and the individual consciousness of living entities?
The position of the Supreme Lord is that of supreme consciousness. The living entities, being parts of the Supreme Lord, are also conscious; however, one should not claim that the living entity is also supremely conscious. The living being cannot be supremely conscious at any stage of his perfection, and the theory that he can be so is a misleading theory.
Conscious he may be, but he cannot become perfectly or supremely conscious by any process of so-called merging of the individual consciousness with the supreme consciousness.
A drop of water does not disintegrate or dissolve when it merges with the ocean.
The distinction between the living entities and the supreme controller is further explained in the thirteenth chapter of Bhagavad-gita. The Lord is ksetra-jna, conscious, as is the living being, but the living being is conscious of his particular body, whereas the Lord is conscious of all bodies. Because the Lord lives in the heart of every living being, He is conscious of the psychic movements of the particular jivas.
It is also explained that the Paramatma, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is living in everyone's heart as the controller and giving directions for the living entity to act as he desires.
Lord Krsna also says that when He descends into the material universe, His consciousness is not materially affected. If He were so affected, He would be unfit to speak on transcendental matters as He does in the Bhagavad-gita. One cannot say anything about the transcendental world without being free from materially contaminated consciousness.
So the Lord is not materially contaminated. Our consciousness, at the present moment, however, is materially contaminated. Consciousness is already there because we are part of the Lord, but for us there is the affinity of being affected by the inferior modes of material nature. The Lord, however, being the Supreme, is never affected. That is the difference between the Supreme Lord and the small individual souls.
Krishnan B. Lal, an ISKCON Life Member, is retired and lives in Huntington Beach, California.
For serving Lord Krsna,
By Giriraja Swami
AFTER SUCCESSFULLY launching the Hare Krsna movement in the West, Srila Prabhupada returned to India with plans to build at least three large centers, including one in Mumbai. I worked on the Mumbai project, and because Prabhupada was intimately involved with it, I was fortunate to learn many valuable lessons from him during that time.
In late 1971 a prominent businessman, Mr. A. B. Nair, offered Prabhupada some land in Juhu, on the outskirts of Mumbai. Later we discovered that Mr. Nair was very tricky and cunning. Before taking money for the land from Prabhupada, he had already taken—and kept—money from two other parties.
After Prabhupada signed the purchase agreement and left Mumbai, Yaduvara Dasa and I had to deal with Mr. Nair. We would meet him at his home in Juhu and talk, but we couldn't understand: Was he our friend, or was he our enemy?
Ultimately, from thousands of miles away in Los Angeles, Prabhupada concluded that Mr. Nair was trying to cheat us.
Eventually Prabhupada came to Mumbai to deal with the matter. Tamal Krsna Goswami told him how Mr. Nair had bluffed me. Perhaps he expected Prabhupada to reprove me. But Prabhupada replied, "Giriraja is simple. What can be done?"
Prabhupada's words stayed in my mind: "Giriraja is simple." I considered my simplicity a fault or a disqualification.
Some months later, while reading the book Krsna to Prabhupada during his morning walks on Juhu Beach, I came to the chapter "The Salvation of Trnavarta," in which Lord Krsna defeats a demon who had assumed the form of a whirlwind. There I read: "After observing such wonderful happenings, Nanda Maharaja [Krsna's foster father] began to think of the words of Vasudeva [Krsna's father] again and again."
Previously we had read how Nanda Maharaja considered Vasudeva a great sage and mystic yogi because Vasudeva had foretold an incident that happened in Vrndavana, where Krsna was living.
Prabhupada remarked, "Vasudeva is a ksatriya [a member of the ruling or martial class]. With political eyesight, Vasudeva predicted, 'This may happen,' but Nanda Maharaja, as a vaisya, a simple agriculturalist, thought, 'Oh, Vasudeva is a foreseer.' "
I noticed that Prabhupada was applying the word simple to a pure devotee—Nanda Maharaja—and I was surprised. I wondered how a pure devotee like Nanda Maharaja could have a disqualification such as being simple.
So I asked Prabhupada, "Simplicity is not considered a bad quality?"
Prabhupada replied, "No, no. For him it is all right. He is a vaisya, so he should believe like that. And a politician should act like Vasudeva. One should not imitate. For example, a physician does operations, but I should not imitate and take the knife and operate. That is not my business."
Then Prabhupada explained, "But Vasudeva was thinking of Krsna, and Nanda Maharaja was also thinking of Krsna. As a simple agriculturalist, Nanda Maharaja was thinking of Krsna. And Vasudeva, when he was asking Nanda Maharaja, ÔGo take care of your children there,' he was also thinking of Krsna. If thinking of Krsna is there, then whether ksatriya or vaisya or brahmana—it doesn't matter. Everyone gets the same benefit.
"Everyone should understand, whatever I may be, I am an eternal servant of Krsna.' So if this consciousness is maintained and everyone is engaged in the service of Krsna by his work and by his occupational duty, then he is perfect."
Prabhupada's answer was deep. He said that for a person in a certain position simplicity may be a good qualification, and for another it may not be. For a vaisya or a brahmana to be simple may be good, but not for a ksatriya, who has to deal with politics and diplomacy. Yet ultimately it doesn't matter whether one is a brahmana, a ksatriya, a vaisya, or whatever. What matters is that one works in Krsna's service and thinks of Him in love—in Krsna consciousness.
Giriraja Swami serves as an ISKCON Governing Body Commissioner for Mumbai, Mauritius, Spain, Portugal, South Africa, and several other places.
The Hub of the Spiritual World
Many great devotees reside eternally at the
By Vrndavani Devi Dasi
Vrndavana is a charmingly beautiful place, and situated there in the grove known as Seva Kunja is the sacred temple of Radha-Damodara. I take the lotus feet of these Deities as my only shelter, and I petition Them to be kind upon me and guide me to life's ultimate goal."—Srila Prabhupada
TODAY I HAVE THE GREAT fortune of being in Vrndavana, India, home to some five thousand temples of Lord Krsna. For a few weeks during the holy month of Damodara (October-November), I have left aside all my worldly commitments in search of spiritual rejuvenation. Here, in this sacred place at this auspicious time, any service performed for Lord Krsna is said to be magnified one thousand times.
Lord Krsna sported in Vrndavana five thousand years ago. About four hundred years ago Lord Caitanya's principal disciples, the six Gosvamis, established several temples in Vrndavana that today remain the central places of worship. I'm on my way to visit one of those famous original temples—the Radha-Damodara temple—just off busy Loi Bazaar. "Damodara" is a name for Krsna that means "bound at the waist." Krsna's mother once bound His belly with ropes when He was a playful young boy. Alongside Krsna at the Radha-Damodara temple, as with most temples in Vrndavana, stands Radha, His eternal consort.
My ricksha driver takes me through the narrow, twisting, crowded streets of Vrndavana. It has been ten years since I last came here, but everything looks familiar. We pass by chanting pilgrims, busy shopkeepers, women carrying goods on their heads, and laughing children calling "Haribol!" ["Chant God's name!"] Then there are the animals—cows, pigs, dogs, camels, horses, and the mischievous monkeys.
After paying the ricksha driver ten rupees, I proceed barefoot, the reverential way to tread on holy soil. After a short walk I come to the gateway of the Radha-Damodara temple. The temple is not visible from the arched gateway, which looks like it might be the entrance to a private house. During the infamous attacks on Vrndavana's temples in 1670, the Moguls went straight past Radha-Damodara, mistaking it for a private residence and sparing the temple from attack. Out of fear of the Moguls, the temple priests had already moved the original Radha-Damodara Deities to Jaipur, a stronghold of Krsna devotees, where the Deities remain today.
To the left of the gateway the main entrance comes into view. Before entering the temple, I wash my feet at the tap near the door. As I pass through the stone archway, everything appears just as I remember it. An old festival cart lies next to the doorway. Sacred Tulasi plants grace each corner of the open-air central courtyard. At the right-hand corner near the altar, a checkered marble floor leads to the rooms where my spiritual grandfather, Srila Prabhupada, lived and wrote for several years before bringing Krsna consciousness to the West. I climb the marble steps toward the central altar and pay my respects to the Deities.
Thousands of visitors come here every year. Today about a dozen local worshipers have come to see the Deities' arati (worship) ceremony. Soon, a pujari (priest) appears in the Deities' chamber and offers the Deities incense, a flaming lamp, water, a silk handkerchief, and a yak-tail fan. The pujaris perform this ceremony several times a day. As the pujari makes the offerings, a devotee rhythmically rings a large bell suspended overhead. With enthusiastic calls of "Jaya Damodara!" [All glory to Damodara!] and "Radhe Radhe!" [O Radha! O Radha!"], the devotees begin congregational chanting of the holy names. Radha-Damodara—Their beautiful eyes resembling lotus petals—share their altar with Radha's assistant Lalita and three other sets of Radha-Krsna Deities.
Before building any temples in Vrndavana, the Gosvamis worshiped their Deities in the hollows of trees. The original Damodara Deity, now in Jaipur, is only eight inches high. Sri Rupa Gosvami carved the Deity in 1542 for his disciple Sri Jiva Gosvami. Finding a hollow big enough for the new Damodara Deity would be difficult—He's nearly five feet tall.
Today Damodara's dark form and Radha's golden form are dressed in white with golden jewelry. Sandalwood-paste designs adorn Their faces. Krsna wears a garland of sacred Tulasi leaves and flowers, while Radha's is made of lotus buds. The divine couple smile sweetly. The other Deities are similarly decorated.
At the end of the arati the pujari blows a conch shell and then distributes Tulasi leaves from the Deities to eager outstretched hands. It is said that anyone who tastes Tulasi leaves that have touched Krsna's body will achieve the Lord's abode. A small donation enables me to see the Govardhana-sila (a stone from sacred Govardhana Hill) of Sri Sanatana Gosvami, kept here on the altar. The pujari lifts the large sila and shows me the marks of Krsna's footprint and a calf's hoofprint. Krsna gave the stone to Sri Sanatana Gosvami to worship, as explained in the following story.
Sri Sanatana Gosvami had taken a vow to walk around Govardhana Hill every day. (Such circumambulation, as devotees usually call it, is the traditional way to offer respect to a sacred place or object.) When Sri Sanatana Gosvami became old, he struggled to complete the twentyfour-mile walk. Lord Krsna appeared to him and said that now that he was old there was no need to go around Govardhana every day. Sanatana Gosvami replied that he had taken a vow and did not want to stop. Krsna then instructed him to bring a stone from Govardhana. Krsna stood on the stone and played His flute, which attracted a nearby calf. The stone began to melt in ecstasy, and Krsna's footprint and the calf's hoofprint left impressions on the stone. Krsna then told Sanatana Gosvami that four times round this stone would equal going around Govardhana Hill.
Nirmal Chandra Goswami and his five sons take care of the Deity worship here. His family has been serving Radha-Damodara for generations, being the disciplic descendants of Sri Jiva Gosvami. The pujari services here and in the rest of Vrndavana are strictly for men only. The women cook and do other services.
The curtains close, and I pay obeisances and descend the steps. I'm on my way to Srila Prabhupada's rooms.
Srila Prabhupada, the founder-acarya of ISKCON, stayed at the Radha-Damodara temple from 1959 to 1965. It was the last place he lived before going to the West. His memory is very much alive here.
Srila Prabhupada used two rooms: his living quarters and a kitchen. I lightly tap on the brown wire-meshed door to the main room. On entering I see the life-sized murti (carved form) of Srila Prabhupada at his desk, pen poised in hand. Here he translated the first volumes of Srimad-Bhagavatam into English. The room has the Hare Krsna mantra painted in Sanskrit around the top of the walls. Although the room is small, Srila Prabhupada was fond of it. "I live eternally in my rooms at Radha-Damodara temple," he said.
Facing the main room is the kitchen. At one end of the kitchen a small window looks out at Sri Rupa Gosvami's samadhi.* Srila Prabhupada would sit and take his meals here, and he took Sri Rupa Gosvami's full blessings to start the worldwide Hare Krsna movement. I imagine how this took place here in Srila Prabhupada's rooms, which possess a magical atmosphere.
The Samadhi Area
After paying respects to my spiritual grandfather, I make my way to the samadhi area outside, where a compact courtyard enshrines the remains of some of the greatest spiritual masters in the line of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
Chanting softly on my beads, I come face to face with several Vrajavasis, residents of holy Vrndavana. We hardly know a word of each other's language, but "Hare Krsna" says it all. They smile with approval that I have taken up Krsna consciousness.
The step leading to the samadhis has worn smooth, bearing witness to the countless souls who have passed through here.
The Radha-Damodara temple has many samadhis. The first on the right belong to Sri Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami [see sidebar, page 24] and Sri Jiva Gosvami.
One of the six Gosvamis, Sri Jiva Gosvami organized the construction of the Radha-Damodara temple. Born in 1513, he was the youngest of the six Gosvamis and assisted the others. After the departure of the other Gosvamis, Sri Jiva Gosvami was left in charge of the temples they had established. A great scholar and philosopher, he wrote more books than any of the other Gosvamis. At one time the Radha-Damodara temple held an impressive library. The temple was also famed for discourses given by Sri Rupa Gosvami and Sri Jiva Gosvamis, which attracted devotees from all over India.
I pay respects and then look up to see a couple of monkeys watching me. They seem to detect I don't come very often and are hoping I'll leave my possessions unattended. People regularly lose their glasses to monkeys, who take them to the bazaar to trade for food.
Nearby stands the samadhi of King Birhambhir of Vana Vishnupura, who stole the Gosvamis' writings when they were being transported to Bengal. He later became a great devotee of Lord Krsna.
Further down stands the white square puspa (flower) samadhi of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, the spiritual master of Srila Prabhupada. Looking along the rows of samadhis I see flower garlands offered anonymously here and there. Two old women pass by in white saris, the dress of widows. One carries a plastic bag of milk. A hole in the bottom produces a trail—her way of honoring the sacred ground she treads. A small squirrel scurries about. How fortunate for him to be living at the Radha-Damodara temple, which Srila Prabhupada called the hub of the spiritual world.
Continuing around the pathway, I notice an enclosed area with the most healthy looking Tulasi plants I have ever seen, along with roses and jasmine.
Sri Rupa Gosvami's Courtyard
Through an archway Sri Rupa Gosvami's saffron-colored bhajana-kutira ("worship hut") and graceful samadhi come into view. This area contrasts sharply with the other side of the temple courtyard, which is packed with dozens of samadhis. Except for these two memorials to Sri Rupa Gosvami, and two small samadhis, only shining ground tiles fill the open courtyard. Every evening after the seven o'clock arati, chanting and singing devotees form a procession and go around the temple four times, ending here at Sri Rupa Gosvami's samadhi.
In 1516 Sri Rupa Gosvami and his elder brother, Sri Sanatana Gosvami, came to Vrndavana under the direction of Lord Caitanya, who gave them the tasks of building temples, installing Deities, writing books, spreading Krsna consciousness, and finding the lost sites of Radha-Krsna's pastimes. The brothers wandered like mendicants all over Vrndavana, sleeping under a different tree every night. When they came to Seva Kunja, the site of this temple, Sri Rupa Gosvami selected it for his headquarters.
No temples or buildings stood here then, just some trees. Every day the Gosvamis would meet here to discuss Krsna's pastimes and give discourses. Sri Rupa Gosvami would write books here, sometimes on palm leaves and sometimes on handmade paper. His beautiful handwriting was said to resemble rows of pearls. Considered the leader of the six Gosvamis, Sri Rupa Gosvami treated his elder brother, Sri Sanatana Gosvami, as his guru and the others as his assistants. I bow before Sri Rupa Gosvami's samadhi.
Kanika Prasada Goswami, a member of the resident Goswami family, tells me that Sri Jiva Gosvami would wash his feet in the pit beside the samadhi before serving his guru. Praying for his blessings, I happily place some of the dust from this holy spot to my head. One white and two dark trees produce some shade in this courtyard. Kanika Prasada tells me the white tree represents Western devotees who have taken to Krsna consciousness.
Out of all the wonderful places in Vrndavana, I especially like visiting the Vaisnava samadhis. Being at the samadhis enables me to feel closer to all these great personalities, who are actually present. They are able to give their blessings to those who seek their shelter. A poem by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, a pioneer in spreading Krsna consciousness to the West, explains the influence of a devotee before and after his departure:
He reasons ill who tells that
A nearby doorway brings me back into the temple courtyard. As I leave I silently pray to Radha-Damodara and all the devotees eternally residing there that I may come back to their wonderful temple well before another ten years goes by.
Vrndavani Devi Dasi joined ISKCON in 1980. She and her husband and their three children live near Bhaktivedanta Manor in England. She assists the temple's Life Membership department.
The Other Deities of the Radha-Damodara Temple
RADHA VANDAVANA Candra, the tallest Deities on the altar here, were worshiped by Sri Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami. A great scholar, he wrote SriCaitanya-caritamrta and Govinda-lilamrta. Sri Jiva Gosvami awarded him the title Kaviraja, "king of poets."
Radha-Madhava are the Deities of Jayadeva Gosvami. A pandita in the royal court of Bengal, he left the opulence of palace life to write devotional songs. His works include Gita-Govinda, a poem about Krsna's pastimes that is recited daily in the Jagannatha temple in Puri.
Radha-Chalachikan are the Deities of Bhugarbha Gosvami, a close friend of Lokanatha Gosvami. They were contemporaries of the six Gosvamis and worked to uncover the lost pastime places of Radha and Krsna. To avoid material distractions, Bhugarbha Gosvami performed his devotions underground. His samadhi is here at Radha-Damodara.
1: Hearing—Cleansing Our Consciousness Through Sound
Spiritual sound enters the ears to purify the heart.
By Dvarakadhisa Devi Dasi
In Srimad-Bhagavatam (7.5.23-24), the devotee Prahlada Maharaja, a great spiritual authority, says, "Hearing and chanting about the transcendental holy name, form, qualities, paraphernalia, and pastimes of Lord Visnu, remembering them, serving the lotus feet of the Lord, offering the Lord respectful worship, offering prayers to the Lord, becoming His servant, considering the Lord one's best friend, and surrendering everything unto Him (in other words, serving Him with the body, mind, and words)—these nine processes are accepted as pure devotional service. One who has dedicated his life to the service of Krsna through these nine methods should be understood to be the most learned person, for he has acquired complete knowledge." Here we begin a series of articles on the nine processes of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service.
Eavesdropping On My Mother's phone conversations was a favorite pastime of mine as a child. Especially on long, draggy summer afternoons, overhearing her suspicions of my next-door neighbor's nocturnal adventures really added some much appreciated drama. I would sit silently crouched in the hall, barely breathing, counting on Mom's absorption in the conversation to keep my presence hidden. From my hiding place I learned about all sorts of diseases, about really hideous home decoration, and about the evil combination of alcohol and office parties. I heard extensive analysis of soap opera plots. I heard a side of Roman Catholic doctrine the nuns had completely neglected. In short, I entered the world of adulthood through my ears.
So many things in life begin this way, through sound. Before we learn and speak a language, we hear it. Before we build a skyscraper, we discuss the plans. Through sound, we understand and share feelings. We sell diet sodas with thirty-second sound bites.
The sounds we hear shape our awareness and understanding of the world and the people around us. We tend to be preoccupied with thinking about the things we hear about most. The sounds we allow to penetrate our consciousness play an enormous role in our experience of life.
Sound also plays a major role in shaping our spiritual consciousness. Consider the beautiful hymns that have enhanced church services for centuries; the sermons, bringing the words of scripture into relevant and personal focus; the murmur of prayers counted on beads in various traditions.
The Sound of Mantras
Hearing spiritual sounds is a powerful way to purify our consciousness and awaken our love for God. One type of spiritual sound we can hear is mantras. The Vedic scriptures recommend the chanting of mantras to elevate the consciousness. A mantra can be a single word or phrase, or it can be longer. Sanctioned by a spiritual authority, it is repeated and heard with reverential attention. Mantra literally means "to free the mind," and the purpose of mantras is to clear the mind by focusing on spiritual sound.
Five hundred years ago, Lord Krsna descended to earth as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu to promote the chanting of the maha-mantra ("great mantra"): Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Srila Prabhupada explains that the maha-mantra is a calling out to God: "Dear Lord, please engage me in Your service."
Spiritual sound is so powerful that one doesn't even have to comprehend its meaning to benefit from hearing it. "When one links his ears to give aural reception to the transcendental vibrations," Srila Prabhupada writes, "he can quickly become purified and cleansed in the heart." Hearing in bhakti-yoga is so simple that anyone can take part. "Even a child can take part," Prabhupada observes. "Even a dog can take part."
Yet hearing is a challenge for someone like me, with a racing mind and limited attention span. I strain for some added divine revelations. I expect the presence of God in some awe-inspiring way. I wait for a spiritual payoff.
I know, though, that I have to be patient. The ancient Sanskrit texts explain that our material desires hinder the benefits of hearing spiritual sounds, so we may not perceive profound results right away. But when we're free of material desires, the sound of God's name invokes deep transcendental joy in the heart. If I'm not experiencing that joy, I can understand that my heart is congested with material contaminants.
The heart's contaminants are things we love more than the service of the Lord. Fortunately, hearing spiritual sound starts the cleansing of the heart. In the beginning, spiritual hearing might feel like a chore. We're like a jaundiced person who tastes sugar as bitter. As the disease regresses, however, the natural sweet taste returns. Similarly, as one continues hearing, all the accumulated contaminants in the heart gradually dissolve.
In my case, cleansing the heart is quite a formidable task. But I know that spiritual hearing gradually loosens the knot of material attachment and simultaneously encourages the flow of love for the Supreme Lord.
We can hear spiritual sound in various forms. For example, we can hear the maha-mantra when we sit in solitude and chant on beads. Or we can hear it with others, such as when singing together (kirtana). The words of the maha-mantra are simple. We should try to hear them attentively and with respect, since they are the names of the Lord.
Transcendental hearing can also take the form of reading or listening to the recitation of scriptures, such as Bhagavad-gita As It Is, which contains Krsna's own words and Srila Prabhupada's enlightened commentary.
I'd like to relate an example from my own life of the benefit of hearing the Bhagavad-gita. Many years ago I was once delighted to receive as a gift a lovely pale green and lavender sari. It was the nicest sari I had ever owned. I washed it with care and hung it outside on the clothesline to dry. Meanwhile, I went inside and studied a verse from the Bhagavad-gita (18.54):
"One who is thus transcendentally situated at once realizes the Supreme Brahman and becomes fully joyful. He never laments or desires to have anything. He is equally disposed toward every living entity. In that state he attains pure devotional service unto Me."
I had heard the verse many times, and that day I was merely trying to memorize it. Nevertheless, I was pondering the phrase "never laments or desires to have anything" when it was time to fetch my new sari from the clothesline. As I walked outside, I wondered if I could ever be free from lamentation and desire.
Just then, I spotted my sari. The wind had blown it up against a fence that enclosed a dog. The dog had seized the edge of the sari and dragged it through the fence, playfully ripping it to shreds. My eyes filled with tears. My new sari! But just as quickly I thought of that verse—no lamentation! no desire!—and had to laugh a bit at the way Krsna had revealed my attachment to a piece of cloth.
When we regularly hear the scriptures, we get many opportunities to apply the teachings and increase our realization. (My story of the sari, trivial as it might seem, doesn't end there. Several years later, a friend returned from India and brought me a sari. Against all odds, it was the same color and pattern as the destroyed sari.)
Perfection through Hearing
Ultimately, spiritual hearing—like all the nine processes of bhakti-yoga—can lead to perfection. In the Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, Srila Rupa Gosvami, a direct disciple of Lord Caitanya, mentions nine persons, each of whom became perfect through one of the nine processes of bhakti-yoga. For the process of hearing, that person was Maharaja Pariksit. A powerful king in ancient times, Maharaja Pariksit was cursed to die within seven days. Although enormously wealthy and powerful, he chose to live his last days hearing about transcendental knowledge from the sage Sukadeva Gosvami.
Maharaja Pariksit retired to the bank of the Ganges River. Sensing the importance of the exchange, many sages also came to hear. As Sukadeva Gosvami spoke, the great king Pariksit listened submissively and became completely purified.
While hearing spiritual sound even without comprehension is beneficial, hearing transforms into realization when we comprehend and act accordingly. As we saturate our consciousness with spiritual sound, we restore our understanding of ourselves in relation to the world, to other people around us, and to God. This understanding protects us from the pain of natural calamity, be it ripped saris or broken hearts, and helps us be of real value in the lives of others.
A friend related a story to me about how her daughters used the wisdom of the Bhagavad-gita to soften the blow of a pet's death. As they buried the animal, the youngest girl stood quietly weeping. Her older sister turned to her with dismay and quoted Bhagavad-gita (2.30): "He who dwells in the body can never be slain. Therefore you need not grieve for any living being." Everyone, even a child, can hear, comprehend, and explain to others.
Dvarakadhisa Devi Dasi is a frequent contributor to Back to Godhead. She and her family are part of the Hare Krsna community in Alachua, Florida.
Do we need old stones and bones to
By Urmila Devi Dasi
WERE OUR ANCESTORS ape-like beings, hunters by nature who gradually learned to plow the field? Or were they highly civilized, advanced both technologically and spiritually? What is the real story of human history?
The Vedas and their supplements assert that human beings today descended from far superior human beings and that people have lived in materially and spiritually refined societies for millions of years. If we are indeed heirs to a greater culture of the past, scientifically objective evidence of that culture should be available. But is it?
Some evidence is available, but scholars tend to disagree on what it proves. Their debates have been going on for some time, usually fueled by biases.
For example, when Europeans were trying to conquer India economically and politically, they also often sought religious and social conquest. Many if not most of the early scholars who studied the available scientific evidence—language, histories, ancient ruins—did so to discredit the Vedic view of history.
Today, linguists, astronomers, archeologists, and other scientists disagree about the validity of Vedic history. Some use the same evidence as the earlier European scholars, as well as new finds, to confirm the Vedic view. They point to ancient ruins of sophisticated planned cities such as Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro, both with advanced sanitary systems. Some authorities claim to have found sacrificial al-tars like those described in the Vedas. Dissenters say that the ruins are very different from any described in ancient India's sacred writings. The writings must have come from elsewhere and become part of or replaced the culture of India's indigenous people.
With modern geological instruments, some scientists are certain they have found the course of a mighty river that corresponds to the Sarasvati, described in the Rg Veda and the Mahabharata. Others say the Sarasvati would have been much smaller. Still others say it never existed.
Scholars recognize Sanskrit, the language of the Vedas, as one of the oldest languages in the world. Linguists debate whether Sanskrit originated in India, was imported, or developed from some unknown, older language.
Others debate whether the sages and scriptures of India originated complex astronomy and mathematics or borrowed them from other cultures, such as Greece and Egypt.
Scholars agree that ruins, artifacts, and so on, show that some type of advanced civilization existed in India at least five thousand years ago. But they disagree on whether the evidence confirms descriptions in scriptures such as Srimad-Bhagavatam.
Unfortunately, relying on empirical evidence can never yield a definite conclusion about the events of the distant past. We can rely on empirical evidence to make many decisions in our present lives, but it may not be helpful—and can be harmful—when reaching conclusions about the past. Why? Because the empirical method of gaining knowledge relies on the human being's senses, mind, and reasoning ability, which are limited and therefore limit our access to knowledge.
Let's consider some of these limitations. The apparatus of the human body can't detect all stimuli. For example, dogs can hear and smell things we can't. And to avoid mental overload, our mind filters perception; we delete much of our incoming sensory experience. We also generalize about what we perceive, allowing us to recognize an unusual chair as a chair. Yet such generalizing, which usually entails putting things into preconceived categories, greatly limits our ability to discover truth. Finally, we distort our perceptions according to our deep biases and beliefs. Often our beliefs are so deep-rooted we don't know on what premises we are forming conclusions.
Researchers Postman and Bruner performed a psychological experiment that serves as an excellent illustration of the difficulty we face when confronting evidence that contradicts our beliefs and experience. The researchers flashed regular playing cards at experimental subjects, but mixed with the cards were strange cards, such as red spades and black hearts. The testers gradually increased the time the subjects could see each card. In the beginning, after a short exposure to each card no one noticed the strange cards. They just saw it as something else—a normal card. For example, when shown a black four of hearts (no such thing), they would, without hesitation, call it a four of spades or hearts.
As the time to see the cards increased, most of the subjects gradually realized that there were other categories of cards. At first they would hesitate in their identification and then finally recognize the new type. Once they identified the new type, they could continue to spot similar cards. But more than ten percent of the subjects were never able to identify the strange cards—even at forty times the average exposure time needed to recognize normal cards for what they were. They would sometimes feel acute distress upon seeing those strange cards, but didn't make the mental leap to understand that there was another category beyond their original bias and expectation.
So we perceive what we want or expect to perceive. Unfortunately, many scholars or scientists think that accepting the Vedic literature as true is an unacceptable bias. And they think that those without such a predetermined world view are as close as possible to pure objectivity. But in fact, all human beings are subjective and biased, filtering experience through their desires and expectations. Although scholars and scientists may understand their own biases and strive for objectivity, they'll never be fully successful.
Another drawback of empiricism is that we can never know for sure whether our conclusions are correct. In a child's game, one child hides an object while another searches. The searching child is told, "You're closer. No, now you're farther." But who will tell us whether we have reached the target?
As for Vedic civilization, only the written records, the Vedas, can give us an accurate account of its history. The Vedas themselves claim to be history rather than mythology, and through several lineages of teachers and disciples, we can know the character and motives of the writers and compilers.
In any case, concrete evidence (such as the ruins at Harappa) of some kind of materially advanced civilization in India thousands of years ago is irrefutable. One can interpret such evidence to support the version of the Vedic literature, but the current followers of the eternal religion (sanatana-dharma) described in the Vedic literature don't depend on empirical proof—except in the sense that they feel the benefits of following the Vedic dharma. Their personal experience with the text is enough to convince them of its validity. They also accept them as accurate historical documents because they respect the integrity of previous adherents of Vedic culture, especially the teachers and students who have passed them down through many generations.
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 concious education for children.
SCHOLARS OFTEN restrict the meaning of the term "Vedic" to that which relates only to four original Vedas—Rg, Sama, Yajur, and Atharva—and the period in which they assume they appeared. Authorities within the tradition itself, however, usually expand the meaning to include not only the Vedas but their corollaries as well. They give the corollaries at least equal status to the Vedas and refer to them as Vedic literature. Following are some references to support that view:
"One should expand and accept the meaning of the Vedas with the help of the Itihasas and Puranas. The Vedas are afraid of being mistreated by one who is ignorant of the Itihasas and Puranas." (Mahabharata, Adi 1.267)
"I consider the message of the Puranas to be more important than that of the Vedas. All that is in the Vedas is in the Puranas without a doubt." (Naradiya Purana)
"I consider the Puranas equal to the Vedas. ... The Vedas feared that their purport would be distorted by inattentive listening, but their purport was established long ago by the Itihasas and Puranas. What is not found in the Vedas is found in the smrtis. And what is not found in either is described in the Puranas. A person who knows the four Vedas along with the Upanisads but who does not know the Puranas is not very learned." (Skanda Purana, Prabhasa-khanda)
Finally, the Brhad-aranyaka Upanisad (4.5.11) states: "The Rg Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda, Atharva Veda, Itihasas, Puranas, Upanisads, verses and mantras chanted by brahmanas, sutras [compilations of Vedic statements], as well as transcendental knowledge and the explanations of the sutras and mantras—all emanate from the breathing of the great Personality of Godhead."
"As I look at the lifeless body in the casket, I think of her good fortune for having unknowingly served Lord Krsna in the last months of her life."
By Arcana-siddhi Devi Dasi
AS I ENTER THE CHURCH, I survey the large crowd while looking for a vacant seat towards the back. Just as I spy an inconspicuous seat, Mrs. Williams sees me from the front of the church. I wave to her as I try to jostle my way to the seat I have found. But she emphatically motions for me to come to the front.
Mrs. Williams, a strong matriarchal figure, is not a person to easily challenge. I obediently approach her and give her a hug, hoping she will allow me to return to the back pews. Instead she makes room in the front row for me to sit next to her grandson Thomas. She looks up at me.
I sit and quietly squirm a little. It's not just that I have white skin in the midst of a mostly black-skinned congregation. And who will know that I am a Jewish-born Vaisnava, a Hare Krsna practitioner sitting down for a Baptist service? The problem is that I knew the deceased only in my capacity as a psychotherapist for a large urban health clinic. Do I really belong with her immediate family in the front pew?
Now as people file by to offer their condolences, I am included as part of the family. I feel uncomfortable as people shake my hand and offer words of sympathy. The awkward moment ends as the organ begins to resonate throughout the church and people take their seats.
Just a few feet away in the open casket is the body of Thomas's mother, Regina Scott. Her motionless body lies on silken pillows, dressed in white lace. Stuffed animals nestle close to her body, creating an illusion of serenity and everlasting peace.
I had met Regina on a few occasions when she came to family therapy. She had recently been released from prison and had come to live with Thomas and his grandmother. Thomas hardly knew his mother, since she had been in jail for a good portion of his life. During her short interludes of freedom over the years, she would go back to using heroin. To support her habit, she would turn to drug-selling and prostitution, which led to repeated arrests and incarcerations. Either from dirty needles or prostitution, Regina had contracted the HIV virus several years ago. For the past two years, she had suffered from a series of AIDS-related illnesses and had resigned herself to dying.
Regina left behind three children. Leon, her oldest, is an angry fifteen-year-old who already has several charges for drug sales and car theft. He sits incognito in a pew several rows back.
Thomas, her second child, a small, sensitive twelve-year-old, suffers from anxiety and depression. He had been referred for mental health therapy two years ago after placing a rope around his neck and saying he wanted to die. I had become Thomas's therapist then and had worked closely with the family ever since.
Troy, the youngest child, was born HIV positive two years ago, while Regina was still in jail. He has already surpassed the doctor's predictions for his life span. Today he is dressed in a little tuxedo and flops about in his baby chair, having no muscle control left in his body. He is a lovable, good-natured child and almost seems to have transcended his suffering.
I hold Thomas's warm and moist hand. Tears roll incessantly down his cheeks, forming little rivulets and puddles on his black dress pants. I pass some tissues to him, but they remain immobile in his hand. He stares off in a hypnotic state, his body frozen in time.
Several ministers ascend to the pulpit, dressed in long, flowing black gowns. This is my first time at a Baptist funeral service, and I'm eager to hear their message.
Only One Life?
In a deep commanding voice, the first reverend asks everyone who accepts Jesus to stand. I have no problem sincerely standing up. Through the teachings of Vaisnava philosophy, I accept Jesus as a pure devotee of God who descended to teach love of God to the fallen. Many times I have heard or read of my guru, Srila Prabhupada, glorifying Jesus Christ. Sometimes, though, he found fault in the way Jesus's followers misconstrued his teachings.
The reverend expounds on many truths consistent with my Vaisnava philosophy. The soul and the body are different. Life is a journey meant for loving God and helping others do the same. Most of what I hear could well have been spoken in a Bhagavad-gita class in a Vaisnava temple.
Our agreement on scripture diverges when the reverend states that this one life determines our eternal existence in either heaven or hell. This is one of the tenets of modern Christianity that never sat well with me. If indeed this is our only chance, why does God allow so much inequity at birth? Why is one child born to a loving, nurturing, comfortable home while another child's home is an abusive, impoverished hell? Why would one have the opportunity to learn about God from childhood and another have no religious training? And if the child is sinless, as the Christians believe, then would it not be in the child's best interest to be killed at birth so he could go straight to heaven?
Why would God give us only one chance and eternally damn us? As a parent I watch my own child make mistake after mistake, yet I continue to stand by him and encourage him. God is infinitely more loving. Surely He would continue to help us beyond this one brief lifetime.
I soon sense that the good reverend is struggling with how to present the concept of one lifetime, heaven or hell, in this particular situation. He wants to comfort the family and loved ones. That usually comes from hearing that the dear departed has gone to heaven. Plainly, Regina's life up until the end was less than saintly. To say she had accepted Christ and purified her heart would have been quite a stretch.
Surely the reverend wonders what kind of a message he would impart by blessing Regina as heaven-bound. The young people in attendance would simply take this as an endorsement that you can sin all you want, then just accept Jesus in the end.
So if Regina didn't make it to heaven, that means, according to the modern Christian doctrine taught in this church, that she has now descended into an abysmal hell to suffer eternally. Not a very comforting thought for Thomas, whose tears continue to stream down his cheeks.
How much I wish I could share with Thomas the teachings of the Bhagavad-gita. While his mother most likely didn't go to heaven, she is not eternally damned. She will take a new body and make progress toward her original home in the spiritual world. How do I know?
The Lord's Mercy
During one of our family sessions, she accepted some prasadam, food offered to the Lord in love and devotion. As I watched Regina bite into the soft oatmeal raisin cookie, I reflected on how fortunate she was. Food accepted by the Lord becomes spiritualized and has the power to transform the heart of the person eating it. The Vedic literature explains that a person who eats prasadam will receive Krsna's mercy and have a greater chance of taking a human birth in the next life. This is significant, since there are millions of types of lesser bodies available, many of them more suitable for humans habituated to animalistic life. One who fails to use the human form of life for self realization risks gliding down into lower species of life and temporarily losing the chance to make spiritual advancement. But simply by taking a little prasadam, Regina may well again have the opportunity to start as a human being in her next life. She can continue the spiritual journey she had unknowingly begun.
I wish I could console Thomas with these Vedic truths. But in my role as his therapist, I have to be careful not to transgress his belief system. I can only use the tenets of what he believes to help him get through this difficult time. I can say that his mother is different from the body she left behind, that she is a soul and the soul is eternal. Beyond that I risk doing what would be professionally deemed proselytizing.
In my earlier years, when I distributed Bhagavad-gitas to the public, I would preach the Absolute Truth boldly and challenge many lame ideas. These days, while I still have opportunities to share Krsna consciousness directly, I often must use a more subtle approach. At my job, I always have prasadam cookies. On my office wall my clients see a large colorful picture of smiling Lord Jagannatha. People benefit from seeing Krsna's form, taking prasadam, and hearing Krsna's holy names, even if they don't know the significance of such activities. In Sanskrit this is called ajnata-sukrti, unknowing devotional service to the Lord. It is a powerful way to engage people in the Lord's service who might otherwise resist or be inimical.
Regina had seen Lord Jagannatha and commented on liking the picture as she accepted prasadam. As I look at her lifeless body in the casket, I think of her good fortune for having unknowingly done these small services in the last months of her life. I remember the story of Ajamila, a priest who became obsessed with a prostitute and abandoned all spirituality. As he lay dying, a spent old man, Ajamila called for his small son whose name was Narayana, a name for the Supreme Lord. Although Ajamila was calling his son, the Lord accepted that call as service. He nullified Ajamila's sins and purified his heart. As a result Ajamila soon returned to the spiritual kingdom.
Thinking in this way, I squeeze Thomas's hand. He looks at me for the first time that evening. With full conviction I tell Thomas, "Your Mom is going to be fine. The Lord is with her, and He'll always be with her." His eyes brighten as if he believes in the words, and he acknowledges them with a slight nod of his head.
At the end of the service Thomas hugs me and says, "Thanks for being the life of the funeral."
His words seem out of character for him, for they cleverly suggest a profound truth: in reality there is no death for the soul. Perhaps the Lord in his heart was able to communicate these thoughts to Thomas.
Thomas continues to come to therapy and address his feelings of loss and grief. And he continues to eat prasadam cookies and see the smiling face of Lord Jagannatha on my wall.
Arcana-siddhi Devi Dasi was initiated by Srila Prabhupada in 1976. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland, with her husband and son.
Since we're not these bodies,
By Dhyana-kunda Devi Dasi
I EDIT AND TRANSLATE for the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust in Sweden, where we often receive letters from people with questions about what they've read in Srila Prabhupada's books. I've found that many readers have similar questions, especially when it comes to applying the philosophy of Krsna consciousness in their lives. I compiled the following letter and reply with the hope of assisting BTG readers who may have the same questions.
I have doubts about the way the self is described in the Bhagavad-gita. Theologically, it makes good sense: we are eternal, we live many times to burn away our karma and advance toward God, and so on. But when I try to apply this understanding to personal relationships, it strikes me as dry and opposed to individuality and love.
I have a husband and two daughters, aged three years and eight months. These three "living entities," as you would call them, are so different from one another. It's hard for me to believe that our bodies and minds don't count, that we are ultimately all the same. It's even harder to accept that spiritually we are strangers to each other and that our human feelings and relationships have a negative value—since the goal of life is to give up this "false material affection." I'd appreciate some guidance on all this.
You are probably referring to the second chapter of the Gita, where Krsna imparts to Arjuna His very first lesson: the difference between body and soul, matter and spirit. First lessons tend to present things as simply as possible, and since they reveal a new aspect of reality, they may seem to oppose our current understanding. But by deeply studying the new lessons, reflecting on them, and resolving doubts—just as you are doing—we can find a synthesis between our old thinking and the new knowledge.
Krsna's first point is that the soul, or the self, is different from the body. So He draws the contrast: the self is undying, unchanging, immovable, invisible, inconceivable. To integrate this picture with the richness of personal traits we value in ourselves and others is difficult indeed. But there is more to the self than these negatives.
As you watch your baby encounter her reflection in the mirror, become fascinated by it, smile to it, and try to crawl behind the mirror to find "the other child," you can observe such attributes of the soul as consciousness, individuality, the tendency to seek pleasure, and need for interaction with other persons. These are all fundamental qualities of the spirit. In yourself, watching your child, you may experience another spiritual quality: the desire to love and serve.
No two souls are the same. But all have the same basic nature, no matter what kind of body they occupy. Therefore, "The humble sages, by virtue of true knowledge, see with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog, and a dog-eater." (Bhagavad-gita 5.18)
Our bodies and minds do count; nothing in the creation is devoid of purpose. The body is the expression of the self, or of where one is on the long journey of self-realization. The Supersoul in the heart, accompanying us—the soul—from one life to another, grants us new bodies that help fulfill our desires and offer opportunities to advance spiritually.
Not by Chance
It is not by chance that one receives a human body and mind, capable of introspection and free choice of action. Our karma puts us into the body of a man or a woman, but there are lessons to be learned there, as there are in being born poor or rich, or in having happy relationships or unhappy ones. All living beings, whether or not they profess interest in God, are treading the path of God realization, each in his or her own unique way. "Everyone follows My path in all respects," says Krsna. (Bhagavad-gita 4.11)
For some people God is a stranger. Their affection rests solely in those with whom they have a bodily relationship—parents, spouse, children—even though all bodily connections are temporary. What connects us all and makes us all lovable is that we are all integral parts of the spirit Whole. On the deepest level of our nature, we are servants and lovers of God.
Then is love for the family wrong? No. If we have come together in this life as a family, it is not just so that we can mechanically "burn away our karma." Our paths of self-realization have crossed; we have something to give to or learn from one another.
Rediscovering our personal relationship with God does not mean we become strangers to one another. We won't run out of love by loving God. Krsna Himself condemns the mentality of those who worship His Deity in temples but fail to see everyone as part of Him.
Genuine love—a selfless desire to assist another person in his or her spiritual development—can be expressed through the body. As a mother, you know that young children need love expressed through bodily contact in order to grow into emotionally balanced adults. Without emotional balance, children will find any spiritual practice difficult. But when they discover their individuality and begin to search for their own meaning in life, to trample upon this need in the name of bodily relationship ("You're my child; I know what's best for you!") would be unloving. And it would be even more unloving to shrug one's shoulders and say, "I don't care what you do. You're not my child, after all; we're strangers. Just chant Hare Krsna!"
We don't develop spiritually by either indiscriminately following our needs and feelings (or those of others) or stifling them if we decide they're material. Needs and feelings are a driving force, and we can use their energy to move closer to God. Exactly how to use that energy we have to learn by introspection, guidance, and the examples of spiritually elevated persons.
The first day of nursery school
By Visakha Devi Dasi
SINCE NURSERY SCHOOL was to be a new experience for our two-year-old, on the first morning I stayed in the school to help her adjust. For a while she clung to me, apprehensive, until she became intrigued by some toys. Finding one she particularly liked, she held it tightly and declared to the other children, "Mine." As it was clear she was feeling comfortable in the new place, I soon walked home, reflecting on her declaration.
Nothing in that house was hers, yet when she found something that attracted her she decided it was "mine."
And that's exactly what I've done. I came into this world empty-handed, I'll leave empty-handed, and in the interim I declare so many things "mine:" "my comfortable three-bedroom home," "my bright-eyed, curly-haired two-year-old," "my sleek Power Macintosh." As possessing that toy gave my daughter a sense of belonging and importance, so thinking that I possess this or that gives me a similar sense.
One may argue, "But that toy wasn't your daughter's—she had no right to claim it. Your case is different. You bought your house and computer; you created your family."
And in one sense, that's true. But in a higher sense, it's not. Take our home. I can't create any of the raw materials—the wood, sand, water, metal—that went into making it. As for the money I contributed toward buying it, whatever talent I used to earn that money also isn't mine because it can be taken away at any moment. If talent or intelligence were actually mine, they couldn't be taken from me. But they can because they are coming from elsewhere—from God, from Lord Krsna. And earth, water, and wood are His energies; no person, however powerful, can create these.
Many books of wisdom discourage the tendency to grow attached to what we cannot keep. For example, the Bhagavad-gita says that the Supreme Lord Krsna is the original, supreme creator, proprietor, and enjoyer of all that be. So in fact nothing is mine. Everything is His, and He has kindly allotted me a tiny portion of His possessions.
Even though I take care of "my" house, family, and money, I can't claim them as my own. I'm like a bank teller, who handles the bank's money but can't claim it. A bank teller who decides, "Oh, I have thousands of dollars at my disposal. Let me use some however I please," is liable to lose everything—job, wages, freedom, and respectability.
Similarly, because I think something is "mine," I'm disturbed by anxiety. I worry that what I have is not enough, or that I may lose it. The very pleasure I sought by acquiring these things eludes me, and on top of that, I stay entrapped in material consciousness.
Srila Prabhupada has explained that for personal (as well as national and international) peace we should accept that everything belongs to God, that it is all His to enjoy, and that our function and duty is to use whatever He has allotted us in His service. That realization will free us from hankering and lamenting, and by freeing us of the encumbrance of anxiety, allow us to become happy.
The toy horse my daughter had defiantly claimed that morning was a practically worthless plastic imitation of a real horse. From a spiritual view, the material assets I claim are also valueless. Why? Because, for one, they're temporary. I'll have to leave them behind when I die. But beyond that, when compared to my natural life—an eternal life of bliss and knowledge in the spiritual world—my prize material possessions are inconsequential, unless I use them in the service of Krsna and His devotees.
In the afternoon, when I went back to pick up my daughter I was a little worried. That tiny horse she'd claimed could have led to tantrums, a big fight, and a frazzled teacher. With relief I learned that shortly after I'd left, my daughter forgot about "her" toy when the teacher had encouraged her to sing with the other children. May I be similarly guided away from "my" things and drawn to Krsna and His service.
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.
Here we conclude 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: In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna says flatly, bhoktaram yajna-tapasam sarva-loka-mahesvaram/suhrdam sarva-bhutanam jnatva mam santim rcchati: "If all you people want to stop this chaotic condition, then accept that I am the enjoyer and proprietor of this whole world and I am your real friend. Let all this business be done on My account. Take your right salaries and be happy, and there will be no chaotic condition."
But instead, the situation is that everyone is thinking, "I am the proprietor," and as far as possible, everyone is hoarding money and other commodities, while leaving other persons to starve. Some are not even getting their right salary, their quota of the basic necessities the Lord has provided. Those who are weak cannot steal. The stronger are stealing.
Now even in everyday affairs there is a fight. For instance, this chaotic condition regarding petrol. The Arabs are thinking, "We are the proprietors of this petrol. Why shall we give a reasonable price to the Americans?" Everything we need for living is already there, but the situation is chaotic, simply because people do not accept that the proprietor is God. This is the defect.
How can your leaders give freedom for this kind of stealing mentality? Tell them, "If you allow freedom for this stealing mentality, that means punishment is awaiting you."
For example, if you give someone the freedom to steal—"Yes, do whatever you like; you can go on stealing"—that means the next stage is punishment. You'll be apprehended, tried, and put into prison. That is going on.
Disciple: But, Srila Prabhupada, people will argue, "Actually, we are proprietors of this world. Of course, our propietorship is relative."
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, it is relative. "Relative" means you are not the proprietors. You are servants. By your service you must satisfy the real proprietor and get your nice salary and be happy. This is stated in Isopanisad. Tena tyaktena bhunjitha: Whatever God gives, you should accept and be happy. Do not try to encroach upon others. Receive from the proprietor your emolument or your reward, and be happy. This is stated in Isopanisad. isavasyam idam sarvam: Everything is God's property; simply take your share. You have that right.
It is like a father and his sons. Say there are ten sons. Every one of them has the right to share the property of the father—but as the father gives. Not that I take away the entire property and let my brothers starve. That is not allowed. That is criminal.
Every soul who has come here to the material world intends to get the greatest profit, without considering profit for others. Others may go to hell. "Others—let them go to the slaughter- house. I must satisfy my tongue." This is the material world.
"No," we advise these fallen souls. "Why are you slaughtering other living entities?"
"I don't care. I want to eat them. That's all."
So we warn, "You will have to pay for that. You cannot put others into difficulty, because God is equally merciful to everyone. Of course, you don't care about God. That is why you whimsically do whatever you like. But by putting others into difficulty, you are putting yourself into difficulty." This is the situation.
Harav abhaktasya kuto mahad-gunah: Without God consciousness, no one has truly good qualities. Everyone is damned, condemned. Manorathenasati dhavato bahih: By mere mental speculation one will simply prolong his material existence. That's all.
And this prolonging of our material existence is troublesome. Material existence means just this. For instance, taking a dog body means plunging deeply into the ocean of material existence. It is a standard of suffering. But the dog does not know. Under illusion he is thinking, "I am very happy." Similarly, everyone is thinking, "I am very happy," but everyone is in a condemned condition.
Take the pig. He is eating stool, living in a filthy place. But he is getting fat, because he is thinking he is very happy. This is called illusion. You are thinking, "Oh, what a nasty condition. This animal is eating stool and living in a filthy place." But he is thinking he is very happy. Unless he thinks like that, he cannot live in that condition. Again, this is called illusion. He does not know what is the actual, high standard of happiness.
Disciple: The highest standard of happiness, Srila Prabhupada, is simply to be in your association.
Srila Prabhupada: Back to home, back to Godhead. That's all. This is the highest standard of happiness. We are trying to take everyone to that place. Yad gatva na nivartante tad dhama paramam mama: Once having returned to Krsna's supreme abode, we never return to this miserable material world.
[Now continuing the discussion in a car en route to ISKCON's Los Angeles center:] The so-called scientists are taking the effect, the material body, as the cause. And they are taking the cause, the living spirit, as the effect of the material body. That is illusion. Actually, the soul has nothing at all to do with the material world, but according to his mentality, he is creating certain material conditions. For instance, I don't require liquor, but if I want to be intoxicated, then liquor will be present.
Disciple: So I am accustomed to think the material body is the cause of my existence. Really, though, I am conditioning myself to accept material bodies, which I don't at all need.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Yes. As soon as I condition myself to leave Krsna's spiritual abode, I create an environment that is material. So these so-called scientists have no eyes to see the spirit. They take the material condition as the cause of the spirit. And when they find that in spite of the presence of these material chemicals, the living person has passed away, they are bewildered. They say, "Yes, we are trying to improve our understanding." But they will never find a way to put the living person back into the dead body.
The body was dependent on the life. The life was not dependent on the body. For instance, let us say that some master is living with many servants. When he passes away, the servants also go away. But you cannot say, "He was living because the servants were there." That you cannot say.
Disciple: Because the soul is not depending on any material situation. Rather, the material situation depends on the soul.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. The master has gone away. Therefore, since his servants can no longer serve him, they have dispersed. But if you are a rascal scientist, you say, "Because the servants were there, the master was existing. Now that the servants have left him, he has passed away." By simple logic, you cannot speak like that.
On the other hand, no matter how lavish our material situation, we are not independent. For instance, no matter how opulent our car, we are not independent. We are dependent on the government's traffic laws. Why the red light? The red light reminds us that we are not independent. We are under control.
Disciple: Actually, we are controlled at every step.
Srila Prabhupada: Every step.
Disciple: Also, Srila Prabhupada, aside from the traffic laws bearing down on us, in an instant any one of these other cars could crash into us.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. As soon as you transgress the controlling law of nature, you'll be smashed. There is nature's control, and as soon as you go against nature, you are finished.
Disciple: Srila Prabhupada, is it true that your spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, called all these so-called scientific authorities boka?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. He spoke of all these materialistically minded persons as boka, or fools. So I simply repeat his word. Boka. Another meaning of boka is "insane." These so-called scientific authorities are all insane. Anyone who has no clear knowledge about "What is the aim of life?" "What is God?" "What is my relationship with God?"—whatever he is doing is defeat. That we see in practical, everyday life. So many scientists, so many philosophers, so many politicians are attemping to bring about a better condition in the world, but they are all failures. They are working in the dark. They do not know anything. One insane fool is trying to surpass another insane fool.
If things get bad, you will need more than
By Kalakantha Dasa
MATERIALLY, I DON'T know what to make of the Y2K computer bug. People are spending billions of dollars to stop it, so it's no joke. A homesteader acquaintance says there are too many faulty chips and not enough time. He declares our society to be so computer-dependent that Y2K will be the end of CAWKI—civilization as we know it. A friend who works for IBM laughs and says the Y2K scare is a hoax dreamed up by clever businessmen.
Meanwhile, my local power company sends a reassuring circular saying that they are going to be completely ready for Y2K. They've already fixed their customer information computers, assuring me of accurate billing into the next millennium.
As a family man with two kids, I decide it's prudent to be prepared. Fortunately we live in the country with our own well, garden, and septic system. (What would city folks do without water in the taps and power in the sockets?) My wife and I store a little food and make a list of this and that. Somehow we'll get water. My neighbor is cutting trees, so I stash a year's supply of firewood. Materially, I'm preparing for Y2K as I would for any emergency.
All the while I know this is just an illusion. Materially, neither my family nor I will ever be safe. Even if Y2K turns out to be a hoax, something else will come along and break up our happy routine.
I don't like the idea of a Y2K computer meltdown. I'm used to inexpensive hot water for bathing and washing dishes and a thermostat in my house. A word processor makes typing incomparably easier. My ten-year-old needs an electric respirator from time to time.
Losing all this on January 1, 2000, would be a disaster for my family and me—and we're better prepared than most. If power, water, food, and gas are unavailable, what will become of our life? Will ravaging, starving gangs of inner-city refugees assault us? Will we be cut off from friends and family who aren't in walking distance? No one can tell me with certainty what will or won't happen.
Although the Y2K scare has put us on alert, the plain, unpalatable fact is that disaster hangs over all of our heads every day. Hurricane? Earthquake? Car crash? Assault? Cancer? Old age? It's only a matter of time until we all confront the loss of this fragile physical frame that has come to mean our very life.
When it comes to the point where my comfortable daily life becomes a harrowing struggle for survival, how will I handle it? My family may be counting on me, not only for material protection, but also for emotional stability and spiritual strength. In this department, platitudes, generators, or solar panels just don't help. What will?
As with any disaster, I must be prepared—spiritually prepared—to handle Y2K.
In his books, Srila Prabhupada explains in many ways how to be spiritually prepared. Here are some of his points.
Among other things, spiritual preparedness means to assimilate and apply enough spiritual knowledge to be comfortably detached from external situations. If massive computer crashes or something else beyond my control suddenly and drastically changed my external life, lamenting or ranting would waste precious energy. Nor in an emergency would I be able to cater to the delicate whims of my physical senses.
I can see the value of detachment, of not expecting too much out of my physical life. On one hand, I'm not ready to detach myself like great yogis who leave society and meditate in the heat or cold of the woods. On the other hand, even now I can begin to understand myself as a spiritual being, distinct from the physical body. I, the soul, am the one who has survived my body's changes from infancy to middle age. And I, the soul, will move on when this body no longer works. This spiritual knowledge is the key to detachment, to keeping a cool head and being content with little.
Spiritual knowledge comes from authentic scriptures. No church or organization can claim exclusive domain on spiritual knowledge, for such wisdom is scientific. Just as gravity works the same way for everyone, spiritual science is the same whether I consider myself a Hindu, a Catholic, or a Jew. Though they may differ in style and detail, almost all scriptures agree on essential points of spiritual knowledge. But these days, with so much else to read, scriptures aren't always our first choice. In preparing for Y2K, for instance, my first instinct is to reach for a homesteader catalog.
Although scriptures are the one reliable source of information that can prepare us for disaster, many of us ignore or consider them irrelevant. An otherwise reasonable person may close his eyes, pull some notion out of his mind, and consider it absolute spiritual truth. Genuine scriptures are God's instruction manuals for man. Would you make up your own computer manual and expect to get somewhere?
Rather than getting bogged down with the relative value of various scriptures, let us consider what are the essential, common points of all scriptural knowledge:
• You are not this temporary flesh and blood. You are the eternal soul within.
If I could fully assimilate and apply these facts in my life—if I could realize them—I would be ready for a Y2K meltdown, or any other disaster this world could throw my way. Disaster would neither shock nor intimidate me. If I could then convey the same realization to my friends and family members, I could help them be prepared as well. In fact, I can't think of anyone who wouldn't benefit by this information.
Now is the time for spiritual realization—while the hot water's running and the lights are on and I have the time and the ability.
Kalakantha Dasa writes, runs a small business, and oversees circulation for Back to Godhead. He and his wife, both disciples of Srila Prabhupada, live with their two children in Gainesville, Florida.
SOME PEOPLE confuse repeating God's name with "vain repetition" of materialistic prayers. But God's names differ from other sounds and are spiritually potent and effective for spiritual realization.
Chanting is non-sectarian. One can connect with the Supreme Lord by chanting any of His names. Followers of Islam repeat Allah Akbar, "God is great." Catholics repeat prayers on rosary beads. In the '60s story Franny and Zooey, one character wants to emulate a monk who always chanted the Jesus prayer. Jesus himself prayed to God, "Hallowed by Thy name."
The Vedas also mention many names of God. Repeating such sacred sounds is called mantra meditation. The Sanskrit word man means "mind," and tra means "to release." Mantras release the mind from anxiety and illusion. They are not the mindlessly repeated dogmatic statements of politicians.
Some popular mantras include govinda jaya jaya, gopala jaya jaya; om namo bhagavate vasudevaya; and the maha, or great, mantra: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
The Hare Krsna mantra addresses God in His most personal aspects as Krsna, the all-attractive person, and Rama, the reservoir of all pleasure. "Hare" (pronounced ha-ray) addresses God's devotional energy. Taken together these names mean, "My dear Lord, please let me serve You."
Although there are no fixed rules for chanting God's names, some guidelines may help. You may prefer to start in a secluded, private place. Early morning is by far the best time for an extended chanting session. (That means early to bed—a good practice in a power failure.) Beads are useful to employ your sense of touch. A beautiful sacred picture or altar will help occupy your sight. Get all this together if you can, but if not, don't worry. Just chant. Ready?
Chant loudly enough to surpass the clatter of your mind. Set your problems completely aside—let them wait—and focus on the sound. At the same time, let your emotions and inner feelings go where they will. Express them in your chanting. If you are in difficulty, let that be an impetus for your chanting. Of course, we are all in difficulty in this world. So let your chanting be, as Srila Prabhupada used to say, "like the genuine cry of a child for its mother."
You'll no doubt undergo some objections from your busy, demanding mind. Keep going. Chant as long as you comfortably can. Though it takes some practice, it is quite common for devotees of Krsna to chant for an hour or two daily. Such serious yogis also gradually give up certain activities that pollute the heart and impair chanting. These activities include gambling, intoxication, meat-eating, and recreational sex. Although it may seem rather harsh and difficult to give up such habits, imagine for a moment how unimportant they would seem to you in a Y2K-type emergency where your very survival was at stake.
Natural and Blissful
For me, chanting is practical. I find that a good morning chanting session always leaves me feeling more prepared in every respect to meet the day's challenges. While chanting I often experience flashes of creativity or insight. But these are by-products of something more important. By chanting God's names, I am aligning myself properly, according to all scriptures, as God's servant. I am glorifying Him, making a joyful noise, and singing His praises. It is blissful, natural, and deeply satisfying to the soul.
Vyasadeva, The Literary Incarnation of God
by Satyaraja dasa
Thousands of years ago he worked to make the most important knowledge accessible to us today.
THE ANCIENT SAGE Vyasadeva, or Krsna Dvaipayana Vyasa, was the divine son of Parasara Muni and Satyavati. According to Vaisnava tradition, his main mission was to divide the one original Veda into parts (vyasa means "divide") and write supplementary texts to elucidate its main message: devotion to Krsna. The Vedic tradition tells us that prior to Vyasa's appearance, some five thousand years ago, people could remember the Veda on hearing it once and could understand its implications as well. In our current age, known as Kali-yuga, people have become less spiritually astute and their memories and lifespans have decreased. Therefore, Vyasa descended into this world to put the Veda into written form and edit it to make it accessible to modern man. He accomplished this mighty feat by reciting hundreds of thousands of intricate Sanskrit verses without stopping, while they were being written down by Ganesa, his scribe.
Vyasadeva is credited not only with arranging the Veda proper into four distinct works (the Rg, Sama, Yajur, and Atharva), but also with composing many of the Vedic corallaries, including the Mahabharata and the Srimad-Bhagavatam, the cream of all Vaisnava texts.
Srimad-Bhagavatam relates that Vyasa felt despondent after compiling the Vedic canon and approached his spiritual preceptor, Narada, to find out why. Narada told him that in working through the vast complexity of the Vedas, Vyasa had neglected their very essence: the glorification of the name, fame, form, qualities, and pastimes of Krsna, the Supreme Lord. Vyasa set out at once to fill this gap by writing Srimad-Bhagavatam, which may rightly be considered the pinnacle of the Vedic literary tradition.
Vyasa, having performed the mammoth task of rendering the Vedas into written form and writing the explanatory literature as well, was concerned about the ongoing transmission of these books in an age that shuns spiritual knowledge. Consequently, he taught the four Vedas to four disciples: Paila, the Rg Veda; Vaisampayana, the Yajur Veda; Jaimini, the Sama Veda; and Sumantu, the Atharva Veda. He also taught the Itihasa-Purana literature (histories) to Romaharsana Suta and Sukadeva Gosvami, Vyasa's son and the first person to publicly recite the Bhagavatam. All these stalwart devotees of the Lord became expert in their respective Vedas and transmitted the knowledge to their many disciples. In this way, the message was passed down from master to disciple in disciplic succession.
From the Vedic literature we learn of Vyasadeva's extraordinary qualifications. He is identified throughout the Mahabharata and the Puranas as Bhagavan, or the Supreme Person, and sometimes He is called an incarnation of Narayana. In Bhagavad-gita Krsna says that of sages He is Vyasa (10.37), and Arjuna cites Vyasa as an authority on the identity of Krsna (10.13).
Srila Prabhupada resolves the possible confusion regarding Vyasa's identity: Vyasa is God only in the sense of being a saktyavesa-avatara, an eternally liberated jiva (a soul like you or I, not the Supreme Lord) particularly empowered with an opulence of God.
In both the Mahabharata and the Puranas, Vyasa is depicted as (1) a rsi, or "seer," (2) a rtvij, or "priest," (3) a tapasvin, or "ascetic," (4) a yogin, or "mystic," and finally as (5) a guru.
The Puranas and the Mahabharata relate examples of Vyasa's ability to see the future. The Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.4.16-33) asserts that he foresaw the oncoming Kali-yuga, with its attendant degradation.
Throughout the Itihasa-Purana literature Vyasa is repeatedly referred to as a rtvij, or "priest." In the Mahabharata, Vyasa performed major Vedic rituals for the Pandavas; at both the Rajasuya sacrifice and the Asvamedha sacrifice, Vyasa was the priest in charge.
The Mahabharata depicts Vyasa as the paragon of asceticism. He displays many mystic powers—including his supernatural knowledge of past, present, and future—said to be the result of his penances and austerities. He is able to appear and disappear at will, and to award boons and dispense curses.
The Original Guru
As a preeminent teacher of Vedic knowledge, Vyasadeva is considered the original guru. According to the Mahabharata, he was known as the guru for those with whom he shared Vedic knowledge—Paila, Jaimini, Vaisampayana, Sumantu, Romaharsana Suta, Sukadeva, among others, all of whom refer to him as "the guru." Vyasa had an informal guru relationship with the five Pandava princes, who knew him as their "well-wishing advisor" (mantri priyahitah). Throughout the Vedic corollaries, Vyasa acts as the perfect guru, giving spiritual instructions to many great personalities who appear in those texts. It was he who impregnated the message of the Bhagavatam into the heart of Sukadeva Gosvami.
Srila Prabhupada refers to Vyasadeva as "the original spiritual preceptor for all mankind." In Vyasa's honor, the annual festival celebrated by Vaisnavas on the day of their spiritual master's birth anniversary is known as Vyasa-puja Day. The bona fide guru is the representative of Vyasa, the perfect guru.
In addition, Vyasa is considered by tradition to be one of the seven ciranjivas, or deathless persons. (The others are Asvathama, Bali, Hanuman, Vibhisana, Krpa, and Parasurama). And it is said that even today spiritual seekers of extremely good merit can find him in his cave in the Himalayas.
Satyaraja Dasa is a disciple of Srila Prabhupada and a regular contributor to Back to Godhead. He has written several books on Krsna consciousness. He and his wife live in New York City.
He discovered he'd never find security in a world
By Praghosa Dasa
FOR MY FIRST twelve years, my mother's love and protection were freely available to me. Then she became ill and within a few months passed away. Dealing with her death was the most traumatic experience of my life. After my mother died I endured repeated nightmares, psychic disturbances, and a general feeling of emotional chaos.
During the first three weeks of this turmoil, I slept downstairs because I was afraid to go upstairs after dark. Then one day I suddenly felt it was safe to return to my bedroom to sleep. A few hours later, in the dead of night I woke to see a figure sitting at the end of my bed. It was my mother.
"Everything is okay now, Paul," she said. "I've sorted it all out for you."
While this event solved my immediate emotional crisis, before long I again felt the need for love and protection. During my teenage years I tried to satisfy that need with sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll. As I entered my early twenties, that approach to life grew dry. I could see that real happiness, love, and protection can't be achieved by such a fly-by-night approach. I would have to seek out a less shallow method.
My first instinct was to find a girl I could settle down with, raise a family, and see if that would bring me the satisfaction and stability I craved. That proved a more difficult task than I'd thought. I found myself in a steady relationship, but after three years or so I discovered I wasn't the only one in my partner's life. My avenue to wedded bliss quickly turned into a cul-de-sac.
During this period of my life I worked as a reporter on a local newspaper. I began to take an interest in what could be loosely termed alternative living. I gave up eating meat. I figured that my quest for happiness had a better chance of success if I were to show more consideration to others, including animals. I visited many vegetarian restaurants, one of which was run by devotees of Krsna. It became a regular haunt of mine, primarily because the food there was far and away better than any other vegetarian restaurant I had come across.
Gradually I got to know some of the people at the restaurant and read a few books about Krsna philosophy. I was struck to learn that no matter how hard we try, or how successful we are, we can find only limited happiness and security in this world. The reason for this is logical: eventually we have to leave it all behind. Unlimited and continuous happiness cannot be found here. As spiritual beings in the material world, we are like fish out of water. As long as we stay here, we'll continue to suffer the pain and ignominy of having to leave our bodies.
This was all quite a revelation for me. All my life I had been searching for happiness and security, and now I was reading how my search was futile as long as it was taking place in the material world. But Krsna consciousness was showing me where I could achieve my lifelong goal. While the break-up of my relationship was painful, it gave me the impetus to try to reach for the goal of developing myself spiritually and securing lasting happiness.
I read in the Bhagavad-gita about the different categories of people who seek out a more spiritual way of life. One such category is the distressed. I identified at once with this description and thought of all the times in my life when distress or anxiety had become prominent. These difficult times would inevitably evoke a real soul-searching mood. During these times I would beg for relief, without knowing from whom I was begging or how to practically achieve that relief. Like most people, the only solution I could rely on was time. But that meant a prolonged period of suffering.
And so it was that I started on my spiritual sojourn. My first step was to find some guidance. I decided to ask the Krsna people who had introduced me to the Bhagavad-gita and given me the taste for spiritual subjects. I was impressed that the Krsna conscious literature has a storied history and has guided sages for thousands of years.
What the Hare Krsna devotees told me was consistent with what I had read in Bhagavad-gita. First, one in search of spiritual enlightenment should, as far as possible, desist from activities that reinforce material concepts. Chief among these is our erroneous understanding that we are the body, the outward material covering, as opposed to the spirit soul dwelling within. Second, besides getting rid of that negative concept—and its attendant activities—we should add positive spiritual activities to our daily lives, such as calling on the names of the Absolute Truth. This process is, of course, not a new phenomenon. Many spiritual traditions recommend calling on God's names. According to Bhagavad-gita and the Vedic understanding, sincerely calling on the names of God allows one to transcend the material atmosphere and enter the spiritual realm. God, the Supreme Person, being absolute is present in His name. Through any of His unlimited names we directly associate with Him.
I decided I'd be foolish not to give this process a go, and so I began chanting the names of Krsna. Krsna is the all-attractive, most beautiful person, the topmost form of the Supreme. The next two years or so was the most blissful period of my life. Peace, happiness, fulfillment, and security were present in abundance. With this sunshine inside and its warmth flowing through me, I knew I had found something priceless. Without a doubt that initial experience will always live with me, continually reinforcing my belief that this process is genuine and a guaranteed path to eternal happiness.
The Quest Goes On
Sixteen years later, my lifelong search is over, but I have to be honest and say that I still haven't achieved my goal. I found Krsna consciousness priceless, but you don't get priceless items on the cheap. My reluctance to pay means I still have a long way to go. My initial burst of two-year bliss was akin to a special free offer that has long since run out. Now I find that I must be even more sincere in my spiritual practices to avoid diversions to short-term material attractions.
When I first got the intense sweet taste of Krsna consciousness, I expected it to carry me all the way back to Godhead. My life, I thought, would be a single, uninterrupted flow of devotion to Krsna. Now, after more pauses than I care to remember, things are different.
One change from my early days is that I'm married now. But marriage isn't the distraction I once expected it to be. Goloka, my wife, is a constant source of inspiration to me as she quietly goes about developing her own spiritual life. Her dedication and determination make me feel like an obstacle in her spiritual life, as opposed to the other way around.
We also have two sons, Sankarsana (12) and Pancajanya (9). Now, they are a distraction! Boys will be boys, and our two can compete with the best of them. Yet when I remember my life at their age, and I see how much they know and how comfortable they are with Krsna consciousness, I feel so happy to see them benefit from spiritual life. I realize that they are indeed special souls.
I was just a little older than my boys when I lost my mother and felt so much insecurity. Now in my wife and children I have found a new security. While I understand that ultimate security lies in my relationship with Lord Krsna, my present family provide me with more stability than I have ever experienced, because they all share my devotion to Krsna. At the same time I don't expect them to carry me; I must do my part, both spiritually and materially.
Today Goloka and I run a restaurant in Dublin serving Krsna-prasadam—tasty vegetarian dishes offered first to Krsna. I love running the restaurant, perhaps because I first encountered Krsna consciousness through such a restaurant. I feel blessed in my spiritual life. Yet I still find myself attracted to such completely non-spiritual things as sport, especially cricket. One can employ some attractions in Lord Krsna's service, but so far I haven't figured out how to play cricket for Krsna. Yet because sport is still an attraction for me, it helps me remember that I'm still a novice devotee.
My deep-rooted conviction that I have found a route to eternal happiness can potentially be a disadvantage. While one is still on the chase, still seeking, there is a certain hunger. Once you know you've found what you're looking for, it's easy to grow complacent and falsely secure. Do I now need some pain of another kind to ensure I keep seeking the Lord? Great devotees of Krsna sometimes pray that way.
A relationship with the Supreme cannot be stagnant. Shall I one day declare, "I'm saved," and that's that? No, I will always need to progress. At least now I'm operating from a platform of knowledge. Yet knowing the right path is just the beginning. To think myself saved and hope someone else will arrange for my salvation is yet another illusion. I know what I must do, and I must do it! I must learn to love Krsna. Security comes from actively applying absolute knowledge, not burying one's head in the sand of blind faith and hoping for the best.
Perfect Krsna consciousness may take a few years or even a few lifetimes. But, I hope, nothing will cause me to lose sight of the spiritual process I have been so fortunate to find. As long as I continue to call on the name of Krsna, I am secure and confident of Krsna's helping hand.
THIS FAMOUS childlike form of Lord Krsna always holds a laddu, a buttery sweetball. Gopala means "protector of cows."
Krsna is the son of a cowherd, and His sweet childhood is adored and revered in India, where devotional shops sell palm-sized statues of Laddu-Gopala for home altars. Nowadays, however, Indian artisans rarely cast Laddu-Gopala in as fine a form as this curly, curvy bronze, done in Orissa around 1775. It rests in the Rietberg Museum in Zurich, Switzerland, where I obtained this postcard.
This work of art was inspired by Laddu-Gopala's babyhood, but when Krsna is a few years older, He eats with His friends and enacts more pastimes with laddus. Krsna's friend Madhumangala, a humorous son of a priest (brahmana), jokes with his friends by acting greedy. Sometimes he eats with the cowherd boys, and he eats more than anyone else, especially laddus, his favorite candy.
Once, after eating more laddus than anyone else, Madhumangala told Krsna, "If You give me one more laddu, I will give You my blessings so that Your girlfriend Radharani will be very much pleased with You."
The brahmanas are supposed to give blessings to the farmers and merchants, so the brahmana boy was right in giving blessings to Krsna. Pleased by His friend's blessings, Krsna supplied him with more and more laddus. Madhumangala's joking with Krsna in pure friendship is an example of fraternal devotion, whereas Laddu-Gopala's babyhood inspires parental love.
Laddu-Gopala is not a mythic figure or merely a cultural icon, but the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Knowing this in truth awakens our spiritual consciousness. Scriptures recommend we chant and hear Krsna's transcendental names and pastimes to awaken our love for Him. Then, when our bodies are finished, our spiritual enjoyment will continue. Our spiritual selves are like Lord Krsna's: eternal forms of bliss and knowledge. And if we reach Krsna's way, one day we may receive a laddu from His hand.
A Brief Case for Detachment
THE SAGE CANAKYA wrote, "There is no misery like attachment. There is no happiness like detachment."
I lost my briefcase recently, and although it was a relatively insignificant loss, I felt disappointed and thought about how painful it can be to lose things we value greatly. Attachment often leads to disappointment. Either the object of our attachment doesn't continue to satisfy us, or it doesn't last forever. The things we work so hard to acquire quickly lose their thrill. Our loved ones may let us down, even hurt us deeply—as only those close to us can. Or circumstances separate us from those we love.
The final separator is death. Our own death drags us from everything we're attached to. And the death of a loved one is surely one of life's most painful experiences.
In the material world this kind of suffering, like many others, is inevitable. But we can do something to ease the pain. Lord Krsna tells Arjuna that we must tolerate distress because it's part of life. But Krsna doesn't leave Arjuna without support. He tells him that a true understanding of the self and its situation in this world will give him the strength to carry on even when things go against him. Lord Krsna teaches Arjuna that he is not the body but the soul within. The soul has no lasting connection with either the body or anything related to it. Knowing just that can inspire detachment.
Beyond that, Lord Krsna teaches Arjuna the art of transferring attachment from the temporary to the eternal—specifically to Lord Krsna, the Supreme Lord Himself. All the attachments we develop in this world are misplaced attachment for Krsna. Or, seen another way, everything we're attached to is, in a sense, Krsna. Because He creates and pervades everything, all our attachments are to some aspect of His energy.
Yet while Krsna and His energy are identical, they're different too. So although attachment to Krsna leads to liberation from all suffering, attachment to His material energy binds us to the material world, where we must suffer repeated birth, disease, old age, and death.
Every transcendentalist knows that attachment to the temporary is the root of all suffering. Various philosophers prescribe different ways to stop all attachment, but because it's part of our original love for Krsna, it can never be stopped. The solution to the problem of attachment and the misery it brings is to love Krsna. That will fulfill all the desires we're trying to satisfy in other ways.
Loving Krsna includes loving things related to Him, especially His devotees. One thing I miss from my briefcase is my collection of hundreds of index cards with scriptural verses on them. One of those verses says, "Attachment for the material is the greatest entanglement of the spirit soul. But that same attachment, when applied to the self-realized devotees, opens the door of liberation." With or without my briefcase, I can benefit from remembering that.
When one's mind is attached to Krsna, one can fulfill the mission of life in one human birth. If one misses this opportunity, one does not know where he is going, how long he will remain in the cycle of birth and death, and when he will achieve the human form of life and the chance to return home, back to Godhead. The most intelligent person, therefore, uses every moment of his life to render loving service to the Lord.
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Men who do not know the principles of devotional service to the Supreme Lord should be known as cows and asses, even if they are expert in technically analyzing Vedic mantras and are adored by world leaders.
The soul's nature is spiritual. In the soul's heart is pure love, love for Krsna alone. Now the soul is covered with lust. Now that original love for Krsna sleeps. Chase the lust far away. Awaken the spiritual love.
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura
We have now plunged into the great nectar-ocean of the transcendental youthful pastimes of Maharaja Nanda's son, Krsna. Of what use to us is the saltwater of impersonal liberation.
Sri Yadavendra Puri
Strive, strive only for the association of pure devotees of Lord Krsna.
Sri Narada Muni
I regard as great even the smallest gift offered by My devotees in pure love, but even great offerings presented by nondevotees do not please Me.
Lord Sri Krsna
The Supreme Lord manifested the material intelligence, senses, mind, and vital air of the living entities so that they could indulge their desires for sense gratification, take repeated births to engage in fruitive activities, become elevated in future lives, and ultimately attain liberation.
Sri Sukadeva Gosvami