Living with Love
I wish to thank you and the special person who faithfully sends me your magazine. There are many books and journals in the marketplace. Yours is the one I save, the one I pick up first if I have a few minutes, and the one that nourishes my mind and heart.
I met some devotees several years ago when they came to see me as clients. I am a naturopathic doctor. I was impressed by their gentle manner and humble outlook on life. They reminded me of how my grandmother taught me as a child. I soon found that many of our beliefs are similar.
I believe you have greatly assisted in the spiritual healing of the earth and its people. We are learning how to live at peace and with love as the world becomes more violent every day. The devotees are seen everywhere giving a friendly sharing love and message to all passersby. They always have a welcoming smile.
Lois I. Weeks, N.D.
Tylertown, Mississippi, USA
Shining with Krsna's Light
Thank you for sending me your beautiful magazine. Between BTG and the books I receive from ISKCON Prison Ministry, even the darkness of a prison is able to shine with Krsna's light. If it wasn't for this I would be trapped in the endless cycle of violence and anger my life had seemed to run. Through the mercy I receive from Krsna—through your magazine and ISKCON Prison Ministry—Krsna has truly saved my life.
Bhakta Tainoel Araraya
Somerset, Pennsylvania, USA
Mihir Upadhyaya [Letters, July/August] complains that ISKCON priests are out of touch with reality, but he seems to be the one out of touch. A good number of temple priests do not "have nothing else to do in life but to live at the temple and pray to God." In the Houston ISKCON temple, for instance, all priests are financially independent working people. The temple supports no one. Yet these priests have families, raise children, and pay taxes, while following standard spiritual practices, doing puja, teaching sastra, distributing free prasadam, preaching, and building a new temple. In addition, they are counselors for many congregation members and colleagues in the work place. They are very much in touch with reality.
Perhaps as a student Mr. Upadhyaya has not yet encountered the harsh reality of material life: death, AIDS, diseases, teen pregnancies, domestic violence, mental disorders, drug and alcohol addiction, divorce or parental separation, job insecurities or losses, single mothers working two jobs and raising kids. These are what temple priests face regularly, because the public comes to them with their problems. Lest he think that these problems are uncommon among the Hindus, let me say that our congregation is primarily Hindu.
If we let things be, instead of preaching and living the ideals the sastras recommend, the substandard will become the standard. Perhaps it's a sign of Kali-yuga that students, who are supposed to be idealistic, recommend substandards. Do they have to come face to face with real calamities, like the older generation, before they realize that they're indeed illusioned? If Mr. Upadhyaya still doubts that it is possible to live in the real world the way we recommend and live, we invite him to come live with us and give it a try.
Guru-bhakti Devi Dasi
(Hansa B. Medley, MD)
Personal Articles Best
I just wanted to compliment your staff for one of the nicest BTGs I have read lately (Sept./Oct.). All the articles are very well written and easy to understand. I remember over the past years since I became a devotee many ups and downs of BTG. Although BTG has been the best spiritual magazine ever for all time, I have my own preferences. I like the personal articles about everyday Krsna conscious experiences. People can relate to the simple realizations and how a devotee overcame the difficulties of living in the world of matter by becoming Krsna conscious.
San Diego, California, USA
Useful for Newcomers
We received the latest BTG (Sept./Oct.) with great delight. We wanted to express our appreciation for the new direction of the magazine. It is full of philosophy and information useful for newcomers. The book distributors in our temple were so inspired with the spirit pervading the latest issue that we will now include BTG with the books we distribute daily.
Jaya Sacinandana Dasa
No Better Gift
I have been reading BTG magazine for over four years, and one of the many good things that I have noticed is that so consistently you have maintained the standard of this wonderful magazine. All my respects go to Srila Prabhupada for starting this magazine and to all those devotees who have been and will be involved in maintaining it.
When time comes to give someone a gift, I can't think of a better gift than a subscription of BTG.
Parsippany, New Jersey, USA
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
On the banks of the Ganges in Mayapur, West Bengal, a region of tree-shaded villages and fertile farmland, the Hare Krsna movement is planning to build a spiritual city, centered on a temple that will last a thousand years.
Mayapur is where Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the incarnation of Lord Krsna for this age, appeared five hundred years ago. Lord Caitanya's chief associate, Nityananda Prabhu, predicted that a wonderful temple would rise in Mayapur to inspire the whole world to serve Lord Caitanya.
In 1977, His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder-acarya of the Hare Krsna movement, laid the cornerstone for the Mayapur temple, which he named "The Temple of the Vedic Planetarium." Besides Deities, the temple will include a planetarium showing the universe as described in the Vedic literature. The Mayapur Project will also include a city for up to fifty thousand residents and pilgrims, as well as many programs to benefit the people of the region.
Srila Prabhupada showed great enthusiasm for the Mayapur Project, and now a group of his followers is making steady progress in fulfilling his vision. With this issue of Back to Godhead, we invite you to take part in building a temple for the next millennium.
—Nagaraja Dasa, Editor
• To help all people discern reality from illusion, spirit from matter, the eternal from the temporary.
A lecture in Mayapur, India, on March 25, 1975
by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
vande gurun isa-bhaktan
"I offer my respectful obeisances unto the spiritual masters, the devotees of the Lord, the Lord's incarnations, His plenary portions, His energies, and the primeval Lord Himself, Sri Krsna Caitanya." (Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi 1.1)
LORD CAITANYA IS Krsna Himself. That was observed by Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya, who com posed one hundred verses praising the glories of Lord Caitanya. But because Caitanya Mahaprabhu was playing the part of a devotee, He threw away the verses. "Oh, this is not for Me." That was Caitanya Mahaprabhu's humbleness.
But the devotees know that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is Krsna Himself: mahaprabhu sri-caitanya, radha-krsna nahe anya." Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is none other than Radha and Krsna combined." In the beginning there was Krsna; then Krsna divided into two—Radha and Krsna. And then They again combined. That combination is Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
The conclusion of the Gosvamis, Lord Caitanya's leading disciples, is that Krsna is one. There is no rival for Krsna. God is one: ekam brahma dvitiyam nasti. There cannot be many Gods.
When God, or Krsna, wants to enjoy, He expands His pleasure potency, and that potency is Radharani. As the sastra [scripture] states, sakti-saktimatayor abhedah: "There is no difference between the energy and the energetic." Sakti means "potency," and saktimat means "one who possesses potency." So Radha and Krsna are equal. There is no difference between Them.
The sun is a good example. The sun is the powerful, and the sunshine is the power. So there is heat in the sun, and there is also heat in the sunshine. There is light in the sun, and there is light in the sunshine also. Therefore, as far as heat and light are concerned, the sun and the sunshine are qualitatively one. But the temperature of the sun and the temperature of the sunshine are different. So there is a quantitative difference.
That is the basic principle of Lord Caitanya's philosophy: acintya-bhedabheda. Acintya means "inconceivable," bheda means "difference," and abheda means "nondifference." This describes the whole situation: there is one God, but He has expanded Himself in many ways (eko bahu syam). And these expansions are all one with Him and at the same time different from Him.
The acintya-bhedabheda philosophy is described here in the first verse of Caitanya-caritamrta. Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu expands Himself as gurun, the spiritual masters. The spiritual master is directly Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Saksad-dharitvena samasta-sastrair uktah: "In all the sastras the guru is accepted as Krsna." So when you offer your devotion and respects to the guru, you offer them to Krsna. The guru does not think he is Krsna, but he collects the devotional services of his disciples and offers them to Krsna. That is the process.
We cannot approach Krsna directly; we must approach Him through the guru. Tasmad gurum prapadyeta jijnasuh sreya uttamam. The injunction of the sastra is that one should approach a guru who can accept the disciple's service and transfer it to the Supreme Person. Therefore one's first offering is to the guru—vande gurun.
The Business of the guru
The guru's business is to canvass on behalf of the Supreme Lord. In the Bhagavad-gita [18.66] Krsna says, sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja: "Give up all material engagements and just surrender unto Me." In the material world we have created so many so-called duties. This is our disease. Sociology, communism, nationalism, internationalism, this "ism," that "ism"—many, many duties we have created. But they are all material. Therefore, out of His causeless mercy Krsna descends to teach us our real duty.
Human life is meant for one thing: athato brahma-jijnasa—to inquire about the Supreme Absolute Truth. But instead of doing that, people have created so many "isms." That is their misfortune. In this human life, nature gives us the opportunity to inquire about the Absolute Truth. We have the intelligence to inquire in this way, whereas the cats and dogs do not. The trees, the plants, the aquatics, the animals, the beasts, the uncivilized men—out of 8,400,000 species of life, only the civilized men can inquire into the Supreme Absolute Truth. It is such a rare opportunity.
Because we are part of God, naturally we have the qualities of God in minute quantity. But on account of our material association, those qualities are now covered by various designations. This is our material disease.
When a piece of gold is covered by dirt, it does not exhibit the qualities of gold. Similarly, because we are covered by our material designations, we are not exhibiting our godlike qualities. Actually, we are small Krsnas—very small. Because we are part of Krsna, we are of the same quality. But that quality is now covered, and the covering is given various names—socialism, communism, and so on. "I am Indian." "I am American." "I am Hindu." "I am Muslim." "I am white." "I am black." All these designations cover our real nature as servants of Krsna. It is the business of the guru to clear up these designations, these dirty things.
Therefore we first offer our respects to the guru, because he is the agent of Krsna. Krsna says, "Give up all designative dharmas and surrender to Me. That is your real dharma." But Krsna does not force us. And even upon the request of Krsna we do not give up our designations. Krsna said, "Surrender to Me," but except for the Pandavas and a few other devotees, practically no one took His order seriously.
That was five thousand years ago, so what to speak of today? Now so many scholars speak on the Bhagavad-gita, but without stressing Krsna. That is their business. These demons are teaching Bhagavad-gita without Krsna! Nobody says what Krsna wants: sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja. Krsna wants that everyone simply surrender to Him, but these so-called scholars misinterpret His words in various ways and divert people's attention most foolishly.
Many of you have come from Western countries. So for at least the last two hundred years Bhagavad-gita has been popular in Europe and America, at least among scholars and theosophists and theologians. But nobody has understood Krsna. That is the problem. But for the last, say, five or ten years, because we have presented Krsna as He is, it has become very easy for you to understand Him. Unadulterated Krsna. Before this, everything presented about Krsna was adulterated. Therefore, there was no effect.
So if you push on this movement by presenting unadulterated Krsna, it will go on. And as soon as you adulterate Krsna, it will not go on. It will not be effective.
You may be a very good scholar or politician, this or that, but you'll never understand what Krsna is. As Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita [7.25], naham prakasah sarvasya yoga-maya-samavrtah: "I do not reveal Myself to everyone, being covered by My illusory energy." In other words, if you pollute Krsna, He will never be revealed to you. By the grace of Krsna you have taken shelter of His lotus feet. It is a great fortune for you. So do not adulterate Krsna. That is my request. Try to understand Krsna as He is.
And to help us understand and approach Krsna, Krsna Himself appeared as Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu. His life and teachings are described in the Caitanya-caritamrta. Caitanya means "spiritual, living." Since Caitanya Mahaprabhu is Krsna, that means Krsna is the supreme living force.
We reject the so-called scientific theory that life has come from chemicals. We have engaged our scientist students in proving that life does not come from matter but rather from the Supreme Spirit, Krsna. Already one student has written a small book, The Scientific Basis of Krsna Consciousness, and we are soon going to publish another book. What is the title?
Devotee: Life Comes From Life.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Life comes from life. That is a fact. These so-called scientific theories that life comes from matter are all foolish.
We have all experienced what is living force and what is dead mater. Krsna explains the living force in Bhagavad-gita [2.20], na hanyate hanyamane sarire: "The living force is not finished after the annihilation of the body." When we are alive, our body is moving, and we can feel the presence of the living force. And when we see a dead body, one that is not moving, we should ask, "Why was the body moving before and why is it not moving now?" If we simply study this difference of condition, we can understand what the living force is. It is not difficult. Simply understand, "Now the living force has gone out of this body; therefore the body is no longer moving and is simply dead matter." Caitanya-caritamrta talks of the living force, not dead matter. We should always remember this.
Now, the guru is part of that living force, and so are the Lord Himself, His incarnations, His expansions, His devotees, and His internal energies. All of them are on the spiritual platform, part of the living force (caitanya-samjnakam).
Therefore the personification of all living forces is Krsna Caitanya, or Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Unfortunately, people mistake Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu for an ordinary devotee or sadhu or yogi. That is a mistake. Caitanya Mahaprabhu is the original living force, Krsna.
Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya understood Lord Caitanya as He is. So did Srila Rupa Gosvami. Similarly, the fol-lowers of Rupa Gosvami and Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya all understand Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu. And for one who understands or follows the path enunciated by Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Krsna is very easily obtained. This is all described in the Caitanya-caritamrta.
Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu's Mission
Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya described Caitanya Mahaprabhu's mission as follows:
Here Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya says that Sri Krsna Caitanya is purusah puranah—Krsna, the original Personality of Godhead. Why did Krsna Caitanya appear? Sarvabhauma says, vairagya-vidya . . . siksartham: to teach detachment and knowledge of devotional service.
Because we are suffering here on account of so many designations, out of His great mercy Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu came to purify us of all these nonsense designations. And the way is through vairagya-vidya. Raga means "material attachment," and vairagya is "freedom from material attachments." These false attachments we have to give up. How to do this in our practical life—how to love Krsna, how to approach Him—is taught by Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
Lord Caitanya is described in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, eleventh canto, as krsna-varnam tvisakrsnam. Krsna-varnam means either "one who belongs to the same category as Krsna" or "one who is always describing Krsna," and tvisakrsnam means "with a nonblackish complexion." Lord Caitanya's only business is to describe Krsna, and His complexion is not blackish. Krsna has many colors. One of His colors is pita, golden. So Lord Caitanya is known as the golden avatara. Then, sangopangastra-parsadam: "Lord Caitanya is always accompanied by His close associates." These associates are described here in this first verse of the Caitanya-caritamrta—the gurus, the Lord's devotees, His incarnations, expansions, and energies.
Study this Caitanya-caritamrta. Now, following in the footsteps of our Guru Maharaja, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada, we have published this very elaborately explained English edition. There is no other edition of Caitanya-caritamrta like this, so elaborately explained. It can be understood by the advanced student.
Anyone can become advanced. "Advanced" means that at least you should understand that Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. If you simply understand this—that Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead—then you are advanced. It is not very difficult. All Vedic literature is meant for understanding Krsna. What is that understanding? That Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. If you become convinced of this, your study of the Vedas is complete.
In the Bhagavad-gita [7.7] Krsna says, mattah parataram nanyat kincid asti dhananjaya: "My dear Arjuna, there is no authority or person or truth superior to Me." If you simply have faith in these words of Krsna's, you become advanced in Krsna consciousness. You may believe blindly or after careful study. It doesn't matter. Whether you touch fire blindly or purposely, it will act. Similarly, even if you blindly accept Krsna as the Supreme Person, you become advanced. Take it from me: if you simply have this conviction—"Yes, Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead"—you are an advanced student in spiritual life.
All the persons associated with Sri Krsna Caitanya—Sri Nityananda, Sri Advaita, Gadadhara, and Srivasa—are one, in the sense that they are all interested in pushing on Krsna consciousness. Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is personally trying, and Sri Nityananda Prabhu, Sri Advaita Prabhu, Srivasa, and Gadadhara are helping Him.
Qualification of Guru
To approach these five supreme persons, you require the help of a guru. Therefore the guru is offered respectful prayers first: vande gurun. The word gurun is in the plural, because there are many gurus. Still, the gurus are one. For example, Krsna has many forms, but that does not mean He is many. No. Krsna is one. Similarly, there are many gurus, but their philosophy must be one: to teach everyone that Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. That is the test of a genuine guru. If someone is teaching something else, some nonsense, then he is not a guru. As stated in the sastra,
A brahmana is usually very expert in chanting Vedic mantras, understanding the tantras [rituals], and so on. That is the test of the brahmana—that he is very learned. But if he does not know what Krsna is, or if he's not a devotee of Krsna, he cannot become a guru. On the other hand, one who is coming from the family of dog-eaters, the lowest of human beings, can become a guru if he's a Vaisnava, a devotee of Krsna.
So the guru is very important because he has accepted Krsna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, he has seen the truth, and he is teaching pure Krsna consciousness. This is the test of a genuine guru. The bona fide guru does not claim to be Krsna Himself, but rather he canvasses door to door: "Please become a devotee of Krsna." This is the sign of a genuine guru. Thank you very much.
Srila Prabhupada's Cherished Dream
A disciple welcomes the challenge of fullling a difcult order from his spiritual master.
Ambarisa Dasa (Alfred Ford) is the great-grandson of Henry Ford.
Back to Godhead: What is your connection with the Mayapur Project?
Ambarisa Dasa: I've been asked to be the honorary chair of the fundraising campaign, and I'm happy to bring to it whatever I can.
BTG: How does the Mayapur Project fit into your life?
AD: Mayapur is one of the main tasks for the rest of my life. Srila Prabhupada asked me to do just a few projects, and among them I see the Mayapur Project as the most challenging. It will challenge both me and ISKCON to keep growing. I look forward to it.
BTG: What did Srila Prabhupada say to you about Mayapur?
AD: Srila Prabhupada talked to me about Mayapur many times. In Detroit in 1976 he asked me to help finance the project—not only to donate but to go out and help raise funds and get other people involved.
BTG: Raising funds can be tough. What makes you look forward to raising funds for Mayapur?
AD: I'm hoping we'll raise much money in the West from an entirely new group of people. I think people—wealthy, influential people—are waiting for a project like this. Spiritually, people in the West are very hungry. After many years of prosperity, they realize that their level of happiness has not really improved. People are looking for something new, different. They're materially exhausted.
Throughout my life it's been my experience that having a lot of material facilities does not give one happiness. Sensible people are realizing that. Of course, there's a trend to minimize spiritual values, but segments of the population remain spiritually hungry.
BTG: What do you mean by minimizing spiritual values?
AD: There's a general trend toward more relaxed spiritual and ethical values. The media calls it "defining deviance down." What's gone on in the White House recently is an example. Kali-yuga goes on, yet this very valuable knowledge of Krsna consciousness is readily accessible. ISKCON has been limited to a very small number of people, but now the world has become so much more interconnected. So we can make a big impression on the world, even from Mayapur. There will always be materialists, but for those in spiritual and emotional pain, we should be able to offer comfort.
BTG: Won't wealthy, influential Westerners view the Mayapur Project as a sectarian cause?
AD: We have to teach that Krsna consciousness is a spiritual science that appeals to everyone. With our diverse international membership, we're in a good position to show that. We've been inclusive. Devotees have been willing to talk to other religious organizations. Srila Prabhupada trained us in that way. Even though we feel we have the absolute truth, we don't negate everyone else. We see that other religious seekers are on a constructive path. We encourage them.
BTG: How will the Mayapur Project demonstrate this broad spiritual view?
AD: With science, grandeur, and manpower. In the West people have sometimes been disappointed with ISKCON temples because they lack manpower and do not show a very organized
presentation of Krsna consciousness. But in Mayapur we have many young and energetic devotees. It makes a great difference.
BTG: What else makes Mayapur different?
AD: It's the birthplace of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who showed that Vaisnavism is for everyone. Also, Srila Prabhupada was the great world ambassador of Vaisnavism, and he spent much time and energy there. He had many hopes and visions for Mayapur.
BTG: In your 25-plus years in Krsna consciousness, you've seen ISKCON have many ups and downs. What makes you confident about the Mayapur Project?
AD: I tend to be forward-looking, to see what we can do now to make the future better. We may have failed in some ways, but we should not give up. If we can make Mayapur a center that will attract people from around the world to come and learn about Krsna consciousness, it will become one of the most important places on the planet. Mayapur can attract people from all over the world. It can be a window to the spiritual world or an exit from the material world—like an Internet portal to the kingdom of God.
Krsna doesn't make things so easy that they become cheap. Anything worth having is worth a fight. Real spiritual life doesn't come easily.
BTG: You seem to have a sense of urgency about this project. Why?
AD: I see that Kali-yuga is making great strides, with gambling, abortion, and all kinds of immorality going on at a feverish pitch. Mayapur is a dike against this flood of sinful activity. If we fulfill Srila Prabhupada's goals, Mayapur will be a center for spiritual education unlike any on earth. Coming to Mayapur will be a life-changing experience. A visitor can realize that he or she is not the body. Devotees can come and be strengthened.
BTG: Are you concerned that Mayapur might become commercialized and lose its spiritual value?
AD: It will never be like Disneyland. The temple will be a tourist destination, because whenever you do something big it attracts attention. Srila Prabhupada wanted this temple to attract people, and it will be a work in progress for many generations. But aside from the temple, the Mayapur Project can become renowned for all Vaisnava arts—education, farming, vegetarianism, cultural activities—all the things that Hare Krsnas are famous for. I think the town planners are doing a good job in making room for all aspects of a balanced community, including education, commerce, and culture.
BTG: The Mayapur temple—the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium—places one of the most controversial parts of the Srimad-Bhagavatam right in the middle of everything. Why?
AD: Srila Prabhupada was always interested in smashing scientists. He saw reductionist, materialistic science as an evil force, brainwashing people about impersonalism and atheism. So he saw materialistic scientists as a force to be defeated, and he boldly challenged their conventional wisdom. Srila Prabhupada saw the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium as a challenge to the godless "big bang" theory, evolution, and all the other materialistic scientific premises that many accept without question. In other words, Srila Prabhupada saw Mayapur not in a sectarian way but as a theistic educational project for people at large.
BTG: What would you like to see Mayapur become?
AD: I would like to see Mayapur be similar to what the Vatican is to the Catholics. It will be a place where people come for a spiritual experience, not only by seeing great buildings but by hearing philosophy in good association. I want to see Mayapur become an easier place to get to, with facilities for Westerners to stay comfortably. Perhaps there will be an airport and a port for boats from Calcutta.
In general I'd like to see Mayapur become a world-renowned holy place. People will go there for spiritual knowledge and become refreshed by the Ganges. They will grow spiritually and tell others.
BTG: Building such a project is a real challenge.
AD: I'm so happy Srila Prabhupada gave us this challenge. What would our life be without it? It's very easy to become self-absorbed and concerned only with my realization and my family. The Mayapur Project challenges us to do something for the world, to be compassionate. It draws us out of our homes and our own temples to broadcast Srila Prabhupada's message to the world. To me, Mayapur is not just bricks and mortar. It is my preaching—and a preaching project that will last thousands of years.
Building Mayapur is not going to be a cakewalk, even if we have the money. It's not a material endeavor. It will happen only by the mercy of guru and Krsna.
BTG: How does one get that mercy?
AD: You've got me! It has to be thrust upon you. If you have the desire to help, somehow Srila Prabhupada will engage you. I often remember that Srila Prabhupada said we'd please him by cooperating. Unless we, his followers, cooperate as a society, building Mayapur will take a very long time. If we learn to cooperate, we can see it in our lifetime.
BTG: Is it the scale of the building that makes it difficult?
AD: No. It's the scale on an organizational level. It's the biggest thing Srila Prabhupada's followers have ever attempted. And because it's a spiritual endeavor, maya will try to thwart it at every turn. Here we are, more than twenty years after Prabhupada's departure, and we've had many detours. I think Srila Prabhupada's followers have been sincere in their endeavors, but there has been a lot of inevitable trial and error, and that has fostered questions of ability and credibility.
BTG: At this point, how do you feel about the project?
AD: I would like to have more information readily available. There's such a distance between here and India. I plan to spend more time there in the future. But in general I have confidence in Abhirama [the project director]. He has done large-scale projects before, so he's qualified to carry out a lot of this work. And I think that as a society, ISKCON is ready. We need a project like this to unite us. But we may encounter more challenges.
BTG: What kinds of challenges?
AD: We can be our own worst enemies. Splintering is an example, which is common after the disappearance of a religious founder. It may get worse.
BTG: Can Mayapur unite us?
AD: It has to. We're not getting any younger, and none of us want to end our lives without at least a good beginning in fulfilling Srila Prabhupada's order to build Mayapur. We have to compartmentalize our differences, and if we do, we will realize that our differences are not that great.
BTG: Have you seen examples of that unity?
AD: Only in kirtana, at festivals. But the same could happen with Mayapur.
BTG: What gives Mayapur such universality?
AD: Mayapur is Srila Prabhupada's cherished dream. The acaryas envisioned the Mayapur project. Lord Nityananda predicted it. Mayapur is the center of our heritage, like Rome or Mecca. Mayapur should be important to everyone who chants Hare Krsna.
BTG: Is money for Mayapur well spent?
AD: Certainly it's well spent. In America the same amount of money wouldn't go nearly as far.
BTG: Do you see the temple taking a long time to build?
AD: Well, this is a long-term project. You have to see it like that. At the same time, once you get started with construction you can't stop; you have to keep the momentum going. We can't do this in fits and starts. Otherwise we'll struggle to build the temple over decades and centuries, like the Washington Cathedral or the Washington Monument. We're constrained by our short lifetimes. If we realize that, things will change drastically. We'll build this temple in short order, as Prabhupada desired.
BTG: In addition to the temple, the Mayapur Project leaders are working on social projects for the surrounding region. How do you feel about that?
AD: I like the fact that the ecological and other non-religious aspects are being pursued. It gives people an opportunity to put money to benefit very poor people. One of the trends of the new millennium will be the continued divergence between the rich and the poor. The gulf grows every year, so people want to put their money where the poorest people are.
BTG: Isn't that akin to mundane welfare work, which Srila Prabhupada criticized?
AD: There is nothing mundane about it. Mayapur is not just any part of the world. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu appeared there, and Srila Prabhupada preached there. So by helping people in Mayapur, the Lord is at the center. The center is different, and so the consciousness is different. That's our message: carry on with your activities, but put Krsna in the center.
by Abhirama Dasa,
Managing Director of the Sri Mayapur
THE VISION of the Sri Mayapur Project was born from a seed (bija) mantra spoken to Srila Jiva Gosvami by Lord Nityananda, whom we know as an incarnation of Lord Balarama Himself. The mantra, spoken five hundred years ago, foretells the appearance of a marvelous temple dedicated to the service of Lord Caitanya—a temple destined to have a powerful influence on the world.
eka adbhuta mandira ei haibe prakasa
"An astounding temple will appear and will engage the entire world in the eternal service of Lord Caitanya."
As ripples spread out when a stone is dropped in a pool of water, the Sri Mayapur Project embodies the multiple emanations from the original divine vibration spoken by Lord Nityananda.
Srila Prabhupada, the founder-acarya of ISKCON, brought us the philosophy of Srimad-Bhagavatam, which states that the Lord's thinking, glancing, and speaking are the mysterious cause of creation. The Lord's words, which set in motion the process of creation, are a seed mantra that expresses His desire. Then the work of organizing matter into the shapes He desires is performed by His servants, such as Lord Brahma.
Similarly, Lord Nityananda's seed mantra revealed the vision for the great temple, and a succession of our saintly gurus has worked diligently to bring forth that vision. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura (1838-1914) expanded the vision to include a temple town with residents from all countries. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati (1874-1937) built a major temple at Lord Caitanya's birthplace. Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (1896-1977) defined the size and design details of the temple and town. He also bought the land, laid the cornerstone, and left the royalties from his numerous books to help fund the construction.
Srila Prabhupada gave his disciples the task of completing the Mayapur Project. He described a glowing vision of "The Temple of the Vedic Planetarium," a sacred structure that will not only be a great place of worship, but will also challenge the predominant atheistic doctrines of these times. The temple will house detailed exhibits showing a God-centered universe that provides opportunities for a personal relationship with the Supreme.
When an honest and intelligent person understands that he is a speck in the universe created by God, he naturally wants to connect with that God and understand his role in God's plan. If you're convinced that the universe functions without the hand of God or is created by a big bang, you have no sense of purpose. Modern science aims to convince you that the universe is functioning accidentally and without purpose. This concept divorces you from a sense of meaning in your life.
The Vedic Planetarium will describe all the physical details of the universe and their relationship to God. It will encourage a sense of wonder in the creation—and in the hand behind it.
Srila Prabhupada's mission was to establish the best method of God realization for this confused age, namely the glorification of the holy names of God. Constructing this temple helps strengthen the foundation of his spiritual movement and leaves a legacy of his work. Prabhupada required his fol-lowers to build temples. He said, "I do not want people to say that they came, they chanted, they danced, and they went away." He wanted temples so that people would have many opportunities to serve the Lord.
The religion of the holy name has its sacred place: the birthplace of Lord Caitanya. Building a great temple here at this focal point has enormous potential to inspire faith and enthusiasm in people everywhere. Indeed, our acaryas have insisted that this temple be built.
What would Islam would be without Mecca? What does St. Peter's mean to the Catholics? These are not piles of bricks. They embody the very spirit of these religions and speak for centuries to each new generation of the values and faith of their founders. The Temple of the Vedic Planetarium will be a wonderful and inspiring building that will capture the imagination of the world.
Nothing could be more important than for the teachings of Lord Caitanya to enter the global consciousness. Srila Prabhupada never lost his sense of urgency. Daily we hear of the "global village" and the emerging one-world culture. This temple will put the message of Lord Caitanya on the world map and bring pilgrims flocking to Mayapur to offer thanks and to draw on the age-old wisdom and strength of Vaisnavism.
Speaking in Mayapur at Gaura Purnima time in March 1975, Srila Prabhupada compared the Personality of Godhead to the moon. He spoke of the great task of spreading the moonshine all over the world.
"Of course we shall try to construct a very nice temple for Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu," he said, "and from this place, this moon—Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu—will distribute [His message]."
We sincerely believe it is time to take this vision of Srila Prabhupada and our acaryas to heart. We do not want to waste this opportunity. This glorious temple can be built in our lifetimes. We have completed much of the design, planning, and preparation. We are ready to start building in the first few years of the new millennium. Now our most important task is ahead of us—to communicate with the world and enlist the support and contributions of devotees and pious souls.
We must first build this temple in our own hearts and minds. I feel great joy to have this opportunity to share in this shining vision of our saints and gurus. To work for the completion of the Lord's plan is the greatest adventure and satisfaction. Please, come onboard with us. We need your prayers and support.
We now have a team of nearly one hundred professionals and devotee volunteers. We are determined to bring this vision from the subtle plane of desire to the gross plane of existence. Our acaryas saw the temple through their divine vision. Now we can all play our part to manifest it on the earthly plane. The beautiful Temple of the Vedic Planetarium has the power to attract even the most cynical to the message of Lord Caitanya. I know that future generations will look to Mayapur and see a beacon of hope, even in the darkness of this age of Kali.
It is time for each of us to step forward and contribute something to this divine endeavor. With your support, we will see this through. It is within our reach!
Abhirama Dasa was initiated by Srila Prabhupada in 1970. He managed ISKCON temples in America and India, and in 1977 he served as one of Srila Prabhupada's personal assistants. He has been a successful resort developer and operator, as well as a senior executive in leading hotel companies, such as Hyatt and Oberoi. He is now fully engaged as the director of the Sri Mayapur Project, overseeing and coordinating all department heads.
Mayapur Project History
1973: As construction of the guest house and first temple progres-ses, Srila Prabhupada instructs Jayapataka Swami in Mayapur to purchase land "for developing a spiritual city."
1974-75: Srila Prabhupada stresses the international flavor he wants for Mayapur. He tells devotees that the mercy of Lord Caitanya will radiate from Mayapur, and that he will construct "a very nice temple" for the Lord.
1976: Srila Prabhupada explains his vision in more detail and with a greater sense of urgency. He articulates his ideas for the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium and speaks of attracting people from all over the world. He returns to the theme of a "magnificent international city based on this Vedic culture," and speaks of the need for unlimited funds for its development.
1977: Just before his passing, Srila Prabhupada approves the setting up of the first committee for design and research in Mayapur. He also directs his leading disciples in installing the Ananta-Sesa Deity along with the cornerstone of the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium.
1978-1995: Development of the Mayapur project is postponed after Srila Prabhupada's passing, to allow all resources to go to the establishment of his two samadhi temples, in Vrndavana and Mayapur. The latter opens to the public in 1995. Research and design work go on in the intervening years, with input from some of the top architects in India.
1994: The GBC, ISKCON's governing body commission, enthusiastically approves a temple design done by a young Australian devotee, Pada Sevanam Dasa. A design office is set up in London.
After four years of work, with input from design and engineering experts in England, the design moved back to India last year, and work is now gathering pace in a small office in south Delhi. Pada Sevanam Dasa is the chief designer. He is working with a team of six architects to complete the overall design by the end of this year. Work will then begin on the detailed drawings needed for construction.
At the same time, the Delhi office is designing the spiritual city envisioned by Srila Prabhupada and his predecessors, while devotees in Mayapur are making preparations. ISKCON Mayapur is discussing with local government authorities the benefits the project can bring. ISKCON is also showing responsibility for local people, through sponsorship of the Sri Mayapur Vikasa Sanga, which is helping to improve health care, education, and economic development.
An overview of the three main
The chief architect for the Sri Mayapur Project is Pada Sevanam Dasa, a Ph.D. candidate at the Prince of Wales's Foundation of Architecture in England. Recently, he presented plans for the Mayapur Project to Prince Charles, who founded and oversees the Foundation and is well known as an aficionado of sacred architecture. The following overview of the Sri Mayapur Project was adapted from Pada Sevanam's presentation to Prince Charles.
SEVERAL OF Prabhupada's disciples, working as the Sri Mayapur Project Development Committee (SMPDC), have accepted as their life's mission the development of Sri Mayapur and the building of the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium.
Says SMPDC director Abhirama Dasa, "A truly wondrous temple can neither stand in a vacuum nor rely on society's uncertainties to create an appropriate setting." Thus the Committee's mission defines a united vision for the Mayapur Project in three parts: the temple, the city, and the region.
THE TEMPLE: "To design and construct the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium with proportions, geometry, exhibits, and decor that express the Vedic cosmology while sheltering the Deities and the congregation."
Though built from the mud and terra cotta of Bengal, the 360-foot-tall temple is designed to stand for millennia. It will be the mother temple to a worldwide congregation of Krsna devotees. Its architecture will reflect grander aspirations and the sacred design principles of India.
THE TEMPLE CITY: "To design the infrastructure to support pilgrims and residents while framing and complementing the temple architecture."
To preserve the peace of two distinct communities (pilgrims and residents), town designers will knit to-gether around the temple two towns within one. Using principles of simplicity, sustainability, and traditional Bengali design, they will put in place a standard architecture for residential, commercial, and institutional buildings that frames and reflects the original temple structure.
REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT: "To develop sustainable livelihoods and living practices for the enduring benefit of all people in the region."
As the Mayapur project unfolds, everyone in the region should enjoy an enriched quality of life. Besides providing educational and cultural opportunities, project leaders will seek to revive and enhance traditional trades such as weaving, agriculture, and handicrafts, bringing local products to national and international markets.
Abhirama Dasa explains: "Developing a world-class pilgrimage and tourism center in Mayapur will unleash dynamic economic growth throughout the immediate region. The SMPDC will aid that growth in this impoverished and flood-prone region while continuing to provide residents with generous emergency food and health care."
Here are more details of the temple, city, and regional development.
The central sacred space of traditional Hindu temples is relatively small, low, and dark, often requiring worshipers to stand in long lines for brief glimpses of the Deity. This design deliberately represents a journey within. The sankirtana movement, however, originated in Mayapur by Caitanya Mahaprabhu, emphasizes ecstatic congregational singing of God's holy names. Such worship is by nature open, lively, and expressive. The large, well-lit, soaring spaces of the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium reflect Lord Caitanya's attitude of open congregational worship. Many thousands of devotees will be able to simultaneously enjoy the audience of the Deities.
Through exhibits based on rigorous scholarship, the temple will educate visitors in the Vedic world view while expressing the enthusiastic devotional spirit of the worldwide Hare Krsna movement. This combination of knowledge and devotion invokes the memory of Srila Prabhupada, who received from his Godbrothers the title "Bhaktivedanta." (Bhakti means "devotion," and vedanta means "the end of all knowledge.")
Vedic Cosmology In The Temple
With the publishing of Srila Prabhupada's translation of the Fifth Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, many people were startled by its seemingly fantastic detailed description of the universe. Yet Prabhupada chose to include a planetarium as a centerpiece of the Mayapur temple to express the Vedic cosmology for the common man.
In preparing for the planetarium, head researcher Sadaputa Dasa (Dr. Richard L. Thompson) has uncovered remarkable parallels between the Vedic model and modern science. For example, Vedic cosmology centers on Bhu-mandala, a vast universal disc. A series of seven concentric ring-shaped oceans and islands mark the surface of Bhu-mandala, surrounding a central island called Jambudvipa. The colossal Mt. Meru stands in the middle of Jambudvipa.
Sadaputa Dasa has discovered that when Jambudvipa is centered on earth, the distances between the seven islands are strikingly close to the distances between the major planets [see BTG, Nov/Dec '97]. Modern reason dictates that the ancient Vedic sages had no means of calculating such distances so accurately. Yet the Vedic model of Bhu-mandala provides a remarkably accurate map of our solar system.
Sadaputa has also discovered that the general description of Bhumandala closely resembles descriptions of the universe found in many other ancient cultures in Asia, Europe, and South America.
The design of the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium reflects the form of Bhumandala. The tall central structure represents Mt. Meru, and the four surrounding buildings represent the four mountain ranges surrounding Mt. Meru. Circling these central structures are seven rings in the form of pathways and gardens, drawing a parallel with the seven islands of Bhumandala. The temple itself will also be a huge astrological instrument, carefully designed to harmonize with solar solstices and equinoxes.
The Temple City
Sri Mayapur lies 140 km north of Calcutta on the plains of the Ganges in West Bengal. Followers of Caitanya Mahaprabhu revere Sri Mayapur, His birthplace, as a sacred place of pilgrimage. The Ganges and Jalangi rivers converge at Sri Mayapur, creating an idyllic setting and natural boundaries surrounding the new temple. The temple's construction will naturally increase the number of Lord Caitanya's devotees who wish to visit or reside in this holy land.
Using traditional Vedic guidelines (see sidebar at right), project planners are designing a city of fifty thousand surrounding the temple. Pilgrims will find all necessary facilities, including many varieties of guest houses, dining rooms, educational opportunities, and places of worship. Residents will live and work in sections of the city dedicated for intellectual, administrative, business, and artistic pursuits. Both the residential and commercial buildings, including shops, offices, libraries, and other institutional structures, will borrow design elements from the temple itself.
To set the location for the center of the temple,which is the centerpiece of the roughly four-mile-square Mayapur City, planners drew an east/west axis due west from Srila Prabhupada's samadhi (on the west side of the Maya-pur Project land), and a north/south axis from Caitanya Mahaprabhu's birthplace to Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura's house. The point where the two axes intersect will be the center of the temple.
The master plan for the city will unfold in phases. As in the famous Italian city of Venice, canals will be used to divert flood waters. To heighten the experience of entering Mayapur, plans call for a grand canal from the Jalangi to deliver pilgrims to the doorstep of the temple.
The city's master plan also emphasizes cottage industries involving a variety of skills and crafts. For instance, the handloom weaving industry, long diminished in the region, can be invigorated through training, use of organic dyes and colors, and enhanced international marketing efforts. Similarly, a research institute for sustainable dairy and agriculture will support these important local industries.
The international effort to build the Mayapur temple and city will bring in fresh resources to one of the most impoverished regions on earth. Thus plans for the Mayapur Project include the people of the surrounding region. In this regard, the SMPDC takes its lead from Srila Prabhupada, who showed his compassionate spirit by starting regular massive distribution of prasadam (food offered to Krsna) in Mayapur, a program that has continued uninterrupted for over twenty years.
To give practical shape to the vision of regional development, in 1997 members of the Mayapur community set up the Sri Mayapur Vikasa Sanga ("Sri Mayapur Development Association"). International supporters include ISKCON, the United Nations Development Fund, and the Department for International Development, UK (DFID).
A growing network of village workers is helping the Sri Mayapur Vikasa Sanga (SMVS) address the health, educational, and vocational needs of some sixty thousand people in thirty villages. These devoted workers, trained by SMVS and its partners, promote better health practices among the villagers. They have assisted villagers in starting their own savings banks and credit unions and in developing cottage industries. SMVS also provides village clinics, a community-supported ambulance service, and several formal and informal educational programs.
New SMVS programs include a project sponsored by the United Na-tions Development Programme (UNDP) for setting up com-munity financing of local health needs. SMVS is also work-ing with the India-Canada Environment Facility in a crucial effort to purify arsenic-tainted drinking water that has sickened many in the region. The DFID has partnered with SMVS to increase the capacity of urban communities by helping them draw up their own indicators of sustainable development.
The leadership of the devotees involved in developing the Mayapur Project has attracted diverse international investment in the Mayapur region. By the Lord's arrangement the devotees are thus able to bring both material and spiritual enrichment to the lives of hundreds of thousands of people who live in and near Mayapur.
By combining traditional building materials and modern engineering, the Sri Mayapur Project Development Committee will create one of the largest religious structures on earth. Already they are the first people in centuries to design a building meant to last more than one thousand years.
The SMPDC intends to join the divine with the practical and fulfill Srila Prabhupada's vision of a functional, harmonious, and sustainable spiritual city, centered on the precepts of Lord Caitanya, to benefit the region and the world.
The following is an extract from Pada Sevanam Dasa's report to Prince Charles.
VEDIC TRADITION describes the vastu purusa mandala as the magical diagram and form that defines the functions, proportions, and shapes of the built form along sacred principles. Vastu means "primary substance"—the ultimate particle of the macrocosmic universe and the subtlest particle of the microcosm. Purusa denotes personhood. Thus vastu purusa literally means "Cosmic Man," the personified cosmos. Vastu Purusa himself controls all construction, for he is the proprietor of any vacant land.
As explained in Sri Èsopanisad, all emanations from Lord Krsna are perfect and complete. The Vedas describe even the atom as a complete, whole unit. Modern science confirms the beautiful integral harmonic relationships of energy in the atom through refraction photography of atomic substance.
The basic design of harmonic, symmetrical expression found in the universe or in the atom is known in Sanskrit as a mandala. Mandala means "form" as a reduced image of the universe, or "shape" extended as any centered or bound space, usually drawn as a square. In construction, the mandala precisely describes the building that is to follow. It is the structure's cosmogenesis, figured geometrically.
Thus the vastu purusa mandala is the form or diagram that describes existence. In it one beholds the vastu purusa, contained by its geometric configuration, arrested by the gods in sixty-four subdivisions.
The Mayapur town mandala, a square with a perimeter of 5.2 km, is oriented due north/south and east/west.
The town takes the form of an 8 x 8 mandala comprising 64 padas (sections) of 165 x 165 meters. According to Vedic texts, the grid for a town or village should consist of 64 padas.
The Temple of the Vedic Planetarium will be a great feat
The following general description of the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium is based on interviews with two members of the prestigious London engineering firm of Alan Baxter and Associates: Alan Baxter (founder) and Ian Stephenson (partner). Ian is the engineer for the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium. The temple fits in with the firm's diverse portfolio. They have engineered contemporary construction, restored ancient stupas, and preserved and renovated such English landmarks as St. Paul's, the Tower of London, and the Houses of Parliament.
THE TEMPLE OF the Vedic Planetarium will be built five meters above the highest recorded flood level of the Ganges. The entire structure rests atop a poured concrete slab 2.5 meters thick covering roughly four acres. This slab will act as a raft to literally float the building on the muddy Gangetic delta which makes up Mayapur. (Srila Prabhupada first conceived of a large concrete raft as a foundation for the temple in August 1971.)
The temple consists of three connected domed structures. The first, the Exhibition Hall, will include many exhibits, a large planetarium, and a Garuda stambha (a column supporting the carved image of Garuda, the bird-carrier of Lord Visnu). The smallest of the three structures, the Exhibition Hall will be about nine stories high.
The second building, the Kirtana Hall, will be approximately eighteen stories tall—two stories taller than Srila Prabhupada's Samadhi—and features an enormous vyasasana (seat of honor) for Srila Prabhupada at its center. The third structure, the Shikar, or main temple, will stand about thirty-five stories tall. This building will house a magnificent Deity chamber, with altars for Radha-Madhava, life-size Panca-Tattva deities (Lord Caitanya and His four main associates), and the guru-parampara (succession of past gurus). The spires and inner dome of this building will be on a scale with the largest religious structures on earth, including St. Paul's in London and St. Peter's in Rome. Simply entering the temple complex will overwhelm and inspire the visitor.
Construction of the Exhibition Hall will begin in 2001 and will be completed within three to four years. After this building goes up, it will be available for use while the rest of the construction continues. It will also give a chance for the engineers to test their building techniques.
Bricks, Concrete—No Steel
The entire structure will be built with bricks fired from Ganges silt. Near Mayapur an ancient Bengali palace built essentially the same way still stands after nine hundred years.
"One of the most unusual aspects of this project is that we must plan so carefully where we will acquire the building materials," Ian says. "The temple will require a concrete mixing factory built on site for the foundation, and we have yet to finalize exactly how we will acquire the bricks."
Traditional construction, both in Bengal and in the West, often relied solely on bricks. Some ancient brick and lime structures, such as Roman aqueducts, are used even today. With the advent of steel and reinforced concrete, bricks were reduced to serving as non-load-bearing infill between steel or concrete columns. Much to the chagrin of their owners, such metal-skeletoned structures often deteriorate within a hundred years. The Temple of the Vedic Planetarium, built solely of bricks and concrete, will last a thousand years. If cared for, it will stand indefinitely.
To protect the temple from the possibility that the meandering Ganga herself could someday erode the foundation of the temple, the engineers have utilized the ingenious "rip-rap" system. Should water ever begin to undermine the ground near the temple, huge blocks of granite, pre-set around the foundation, will stop the erosion. Securing the building's foundation, these granite blocks, in effect, create a barrier wall and would make the temple an island. Many long-standing bridges employ this system.
Constructing the temple complex will require workers to revive traditional building skills.
"We've encountered the same situation in England," says Alan Baxter. "Buildings constructed by our fathers from steel and reinforced concrete fifty years ago are already coming down. British masons are now reviving the techniques used to build structures that have stood for centuries. Modern construction techniques engender less pride in construction and lead to less contact between the builder and the building."
"In caring for ancient buildings as our firm does, we can see clearly what has gone wrong," Alan continues. "Sometimes our predecessors used metal to repair old structures and ended up causing more harm than the original damage. Understanding this, we have omitted metal in the construction plans for the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium."
From his preservation work for the Sri Lankan government on 1,600-year-old Buddhist stupas, Alan concludes, "Vegetation poses the greatest threat to buildings of this type. For that reason we'll cover the temple with a skin of lime mortar, just as the Romans used."
Rooted In Tradition
Even from an engineering viewpoint, Alan expects that the Temple will be a highly significant building.
"There are other buildings under construction using traditional techniques, but nothing on this scale. It should have a catalytic effect on the building industry and architecture worldwide."
"Much of twenty-first century architecture reflects excessive ambition and is simply overblown," Alan continues. "This temple, built from local materials, is rooted deep in tradition. It is a building of world importance, not only in scale but in architectural techniques. I can foresee this temple becoming the center of a large town, just as twelfth- or thirteenth-century monasteries became the centers of towns still thriving today throughout Europe."
When asked if the lengthy design phase is unusual, Ian says strongly, "Not at all. There is always a long gestation period for religious buildings of this magnitude. The Washington Cathedral, for example, in the capital of the most prosperous nation on earth, took nearly a century to build and was finished only a few years ago.
"As the project engineers, we are naturally very eager to see the temple go up in our lifetimes."
A Timeless History
By the will of the Lord and His pure devotees,
by Manjari Devi Dasi
IT IS JUST AFTER SIX o'clock in the evening, and the sun is setting on the horizon in Mayapur. The beautiful red-orange hue of the evening sky reflects on the flowing waters of the Ganga and dominates the horizon. This is my favorite time of the day, and my favorite place—Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Marg, the main Mayapur road—to walk while chanting Hare Krsna on my beads. The road is lined with the Ganga on one side and temples on the other. As the temples begin their evening worship, I am drawn into a deep sense of peace and timelessness.
The air fills with the sounds of voices, bells, and hand cymbals as the devotees sing the Lord's glories. The eternal activity of worshiping the Lord saturates the atmosphere, and past, present, and future merge. Such a sense of eternal time is possible only here, in the holy dhama (abode) of the Lord, which continues to exist even after this world is annihilated. And such an atmosphere naturally evokes contemplation on the amazing sequence of events, taking place over centuries, that have brought me here today, far from my native land.
While historians view the Mayapur area in terms of the Muslim and Hindu kings who conquered and ruled here, devotees see it as a timeless spiritual realm of the Lord, Sri Navadvipa Dhama. For devotees, history is the eternal pastimes of the Lord recorded by His associates in various scriptures.
The creation of Sri Navadvipa Dhama is recorded in the Ananta-samhita. Lord Siva, speaking to his wife, Parvati, explains how Srimati Radharani had heard on two occasions that Krsna was enjoying with the gopi Viraja but that She had been unable to catch them together. Thinking of a way to entice Krsna away from this girlfriend, Srimati Radharani gathered Her friends between the Ganges and Yamuna rivers. There She created a beautiful place decorated with creepers and trees filled with bumblebees. Bucks and does happily wandered about, and the fragrance of jasmine, mallika, and malati flowers filled the air. Forests adorned that transcendental land, and Tulasi plants decorated its various groves.
On Radha's order, the Ganges and Yamuna, with their pleasant water and banks, acted as a moat to protect the garden. Cupid, along with springtime itself, decided to reside there eternally, and birds constantly sang the auspicious name of Krsna.
To attract Krsna, Radharani played a beautiful melody on a flute. On arriving, Krsna understood Radharani's mood and spoke with a love-choked voice: "O lovely Radha, You are My very life. No one is more dear to Me than You. I will never leave You. Just for Me, You have created this wonderful place. Staying with You, I will transform this place, filling it with new cowherd girls and groves. The devotees will glorify this place as New Vrndavana [Nava Vrndavana]. As this place is like an island [dvipa], the wise will call it Navadvipa. By My order, all the holy places will reside here. Because You have created this place for My pleasure, I will live here eternally."
Krsna then merged with the body of Srimati Radharani. Seeing this, the cowherd girlfriends of Srimati Radharani excitedly shouted "Gaurahari!" (a name for Lord Caitanya meaning "golden Lord") and changed their forms to male forms to continue their service to the divine couple, now appearing in Their most beautiful golden form of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
Lord Caitanya in Navadvipa
Although the appearance of Navadvipa dates to an unknown time in the distant past, Lord Caitanya lived there fairly recently, from 1486 to 1510, until He was twenty-four. He then lived in Jagannatha Puri, where He ended His manifest pastimes at the age of forty-eight. In the book Sri Navadvipa Dhama Mahatmya, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura writes that soon after the disappearance of Lord Caitanya, Navadvipa also became hidden.
Lord Nityananda, speaking more than four hundred years ago, told Sri-la Jiva Gosvami: "When our Lord [Caitanya] disappears, by His desire the Ganges will swell. The water will almost cover Mayapur for a hundred years and then recede. For some time, only the land will remain, devoid of houses. Then, by the Lord's desire, Mayapur will again become prominent, and people will live here as before. All the ghats (bathing places) on the bank of the Ganges will again be visible, and the devotees will build temples. An exceedingly wonderful temple will appear, from which Lord Cai-tanya's eternal service will be preached everywhere. . . . In this way, the devotees will reveal the lost places. Know this for certain. At the end of four hundred years, the task of recovering the lost holy places will begin."
In the late 1800s, through extensive research of scriptures, old maps, and government records, Bhaktivinoda Thakura discovered many lost holy places in Navadvipa Dhama, including the site of Lord Caitanya's birth. He also wrote extensively on the teachings of Lord Caitanya. Then shortly before leaving this world, he instructed his son and spiritual successor, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, to "develop Sri Navadvipa Dhama parikrama [circumambulation], for by its performance all people of the world can be liberated."
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta fulfilled his father's desire. Upon setting up his headquarters in Navadvipa in 1918, he initiated an annual parikrama of Sri Navadvipa Dhama. The parikrama was done in grand style, with elephants leading a huge parade of thousands of devotees carrying flags and dancing in kirtana. Each day they walked to different holy places and gathered to hear Srila Bhaktisiddhanta speak on the pastimes of Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
Following in the footsteps of his spiritual master, His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada established the headquarters of his ISKCON in Navadvipa Dhama. Each year thousands of devotees from all over the world perform Navadvipa parikrama as part of ISKCON's annual Gaura Purnima festival, honoring the appearance day of Lord Caitanya.
The Mission of Navadvipa
In Caitanya Mangala, Locana Dasa Thakura explains that Lord Caitanya appeared and preached in Navadvipa just to establish the chanting of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra as the religious process for the age of Kali. Lord Caitanya said, "I want to flood the whole world with the chanting of the holy names. I will personally preach and flood India with the holy name. Later, my commander-in-chief devotee [senapati bhakta] will come, preach in distant countries, and flood the world with the chanting of Hare Krsna."
Lord Caitanya left the mission of spreading the chanting of Hare Krsna worldwide to future acaryas, or prominent spiritual masters in His line. First, Bhaktivinoda Thakura reestablished the teachings of Lord Caitanya and wrote on them extensively. In 1896, he sent to the West the first English book on Lord Caitanya—Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu: His Life and Precepts. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta continued the mission by strongly preaching Lord Caitanya's message all over India and sending his leading sannyasi preachers to England. After some time, these sannyasis returned to India without any tangible success. They said it was not possible for Westerners to follow the practices of Krsna consciousness.
Then, just two weeks before he left this world, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta instructed a young householder disciple to deliver the teachings of Lord Caitanya to the West. By taking this instruction to heart, that disciple inherited the spiritual legacy handed down by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and the previous spiritual masters. He later became His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder-acarya of ISKCON, and spread the chanting of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra to virtually every country. He thus made great strides in fulfilling Lord Caitanya's prophesy: "In every town and village in the world, My name will be heard."
By Srila Prabhupada's grace, one of the towns the holy name and the mission of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu reached was my hometown. As a result, I am here today in the birthplace and holy abode of that sankirtana mission, Sri Navadvipa Dhama.
Manjari Devi Dasi is originally from New Zealand. She joined ISKCON in France in 1985. For the last nine years she has lived in Mayapur, where she serves as the secretary for ISKCON's governing body commission.
BY THE 1800s, the site of Sri Caitanya's birth—Mayapur, also known as Navadvipa—had become obscured, and few people were aware of the importance of the Lord's life and mission. There were, however, those who were very aware.
One such person was Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, the father of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, the spiritual master of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Through preceptorial descent, Bhaktivinoda Thakura had inherited Lord Caitanya's teachings from his spiritual master, Srila Jagannatha Dasa Babaji. An avid follower of Lord Caitanya, Bhaktivinoda set out to find the Lord's birthplace.
To Bhaktivinoda's surprise, the village that his contemporaries in the late 1800s knew to be Navadvipa was only one hundred years old, and so could not possibly be the same Navadvipa in which Sri Caitanya had appeared. There were diverse opinions, and some people even said that the Lord's birthplace was now under the Ganges, which had changed her course since the fifteenth century.
But Bhaktivinoda was relentless in his search, and he soon heard of a place northeast of the town then considered Navadvipa. This mysterious ancient village was governed by Muslims, and yet it was engulfed in seven large mounds covered by Tulasi, sacred plants dear to Lord Krsna. Bhaktivinoda felt sure this was the actual Mayapur, and he sought to confirm his theory with all available evidence. His search led him to two maps that identified the spot as Mayapur. British helmsmen had made the maps while navigating the Ganges just prior to Bhaktivinoda's research.
He also found important leads in regional scriptures. For example, he read in Narahari Cakravarti's Bhakti-ratnakara that the courtyard of Srivasa Pandita, where Sri Caitanya had inaugurated the congregational chanting of the maha-mantra, was one hundred dhanus (two hundred yards) to the north of the "house of God." The courtyard of Srivasa still existed, as it does today, so it was relatively easy to determine Sri Caitanya's birth site.
Besides that, according to the Caitanya-Bhagavata, the Muslim governor of Navadvipa, disturbed to hear the chanting from Srivasa's house while sitting at home, ordered his men to break the drums and instruments of the "Hindu heathens." This information, too, helped Bhaktivinoda discover Sri Caitanya's birth site. The evidence tallied, and Bhaktivinoda added to it with his own geographical and archeological studies.
To get spiritual confirmation of the site's authenticity, Bhaktivinoda brought to the area his crippled guru, Jagannatha Dasa Babaji, who began to jump in ecstasy and cry profusely in love of God. Perhaps more than the hard, external evidence, this outpouring of divine love convinced Bhaktivinoda of the site's authenticity. The birth site was thus confirmed, both materially and spiritually.
Mayapur residents speak about life in the holiest of holy places.
Adapted from interviews by Mahamaya Devi Dasi
Originally from England, Krsna Madhuri Devi Dasi joined the Hare Krsna movement in Australia. She had lived in Vrndavana for a few years before moving to Mayapur three years ago.
IN THE MORNINGS I assist the pujaris, the devotees directly attending the Deities. I take care of the Deities' paraphernalia, set up the jewelry trays, make new jewelry, iron Lord Nrsimhadeva's clothes, clean the Deity paraphernalia rooms, grind sandalwood to make paste, and so on. In the afternoons I do secretarial service in the office of my spiritual master, His Holiness Jayapataka Maharaja.
Srila Prabhupada's mood of compassion is very much predominant in Mayapur. The dynamic energy of devotees engaged in spreading Krsna consciousness enlivens the atmosphere. Traveling groups are always going out to distribute Srila Prabhupada's books, and when they return there's a nice mood of appreciation from the other devotees.
Efforts to deliver Krsna consciousness to others are always expanding. Bhakti Purusottama Maharaja regularly organizes Bhagavad-gita conferences, where people who have bought Gitas from the traveling book-distribution parties are invited for a three-day intensive course in bhakti-yoga. There are similar programs for students. Of course, guests are always coming here just to visit, and devotees engage them in either chanting in the temple or writing the holy name in the park.
Because Mayapur is near the Ganga, the breeze from the Ganga is always blowing over us. Ganga-devi [the goddess of the river] is always chanting the holy names of the Lord. Therefore anyone who comes in contact with the Ganga or is touched by the breeze becomes enthusiastic to chant Hare Krsna.
The emphasis on teaching Krsna consciousness, while cultivating our own hearing and chanting, creates a healthy, balanced mood. We cultivate our attachment to the holy name and at the same time try our best to distribute the holy name to others.
It feels like we're in a spiritual oasis, insulated from the material world. Lord Caitanya is holding us up by His causeless mercy; therefore everything is so much easier here. As soon as we enter Mayapur, we feel lightness and relief, having come under the cooling shade of the lotus feet of Lord Caitanya. Mayapur is the spiritual world. When Lord Caitanya is pleased that we are sincerely taking shelter of and following the instructions of His pure devotees, then everything will be revealed to us.
Living in Mayapur has helped me so much spiritually. I came here during an extremely stressful time in my life. I wanted to take shelter of the lotus feet of Lord Caitanya, who is so very merciful. And His dhama, His sacred abode, is similarly merciful. When I came to Mayapur I felt protected and sheltered. Wherever we are in Mayapur, we can hear the holy name. Devotees chant round the clock in Srila Prabhupada's original house, tapes of his chanting are played over loudspeakers in Srila Prabhupada's Samadhi and in the park, and devotees are almost always singing for the Deities in the temple.
I have been able to appreciate more and more the great value of the association and friendship of the Vaisnavas. It's the most treasured thing. This society of devotees that Srila Prabhupada has given us is a precious gift. In times of need, especially, we depend on the mercy of the Vaisnavas. It's through the Vaisnavas that Krsna extends His mercy and kindness. We're so much indebted to Srila Prabhupada and also to all the devotees by whose mercy we're able to live here in Mayapur and attempt to render some service.
Before I came to Mayapur, Krsna took everything away from me, even the persons most dear to me. Within the space of two weeks my husband died and I lost my previous spiritual master. So when I arrived in Mayapur I was in a very wretched condition. Somehow I became the object of the compassion of the devotees and received their mercy. By hearing from the Vaisnavas I was able to accept everything that happened to me as Krsna's mercy. By taking shelter of the Deities, who are so very merciful, and experiencing so much reciprocation from Them, I've been feeling increasing hope, faith, and conviction in my Krsna consciousness. Although by Krsna's arrangement my life is much simpler now, I'm experiencing greater happiness and satisfaction than ever before.
Uttama-sloka Dasa is in charge of Srila Prabhupada's Samadhi in Mayapur. Originally from Italy, he has been living in Mayapur for ten years
SINCE I FIRST CAME to Mayapur, it's become much busier—more activities, many more devotees, many more pilgrims. Mayapur is attracting the attention and interest of not only the people of West Bengal but of all of India. It's satisfying the spiritual quest of all the people who visit.
Srila Prabhupada's Samadhi receives an average of 125,000 pilgrims a month in the high season (winter), and 45,000 in the low season (rainy season). In the peak month of January, we have up to 350,000 pilgrims. On holy days such as Gaura Purnima, 50,000 people come in one day. We distribute 700,000 pieces of prasadam a year.
Forty devotees serve full-time at the Samadhi, and another forty are staff members.
Donations from prasadam distribution and museum tours provide enough money to maintain the Samadhi and the grounds.
I'd like to encourage everyone to come to Mayapur. It's a wonderful spiritual experience that's not to be missed.
I tried many times to stay in other temples, but I never could stay long. I don't think I'm very spiritual. But although I've often thought of leaving Mayapur, I'm still here. So Mayapur must be very good for spiritual life.
I can't compare living in Mayapur with living in any other place. I feel cared for in Mayapur. Despite my inability to dive deep into the essence of the dhama, I do feel that Mayapur offers a unique gift.
I have personal experience in Vrndavana and other holy places that it's so difficult to stay unless you're very Krsna conscious. If you commit offenses in the other dhamas, the reactions come to you like a ton of bricks. But in Mayapur it seems that no matter what mistakes you make, the Lord doesn't kick you out. There's always a second chance. That mercy is very tangible. That is my experience in Mayapur, and that's why I'm still here.
Sivananda Dasa, originally from Poland, received spiritual initiation at the age of thirteen. An accountant for the construction department, he has lived in Mayapur since October 1996.
Mayapur is the most Krsna conscious place I've ever lived. Everyone who comes here knows about Krsna. I joined ISKCON in 1982, when Krsna consciousness was underground in Poland. There was no question of giving Krsna consciousness to others. We could not even leave the house wearing a dhoti.
Living in Mayapur has made me more Krsna conscious. You can't forget Krsna here. And I've become more conscious of how Krsna fulfills our desires, whether spiritual or material.
For example, one day my wife was telling me stories about our Deities, which she has worshiped since before we were married. She said that every time she ran out of incense, someone would give her some incense, even though she hadn't asked for it. This happened many times, not just with incense, but also with oils and other paraphernalia.
I was thinking, "I've taken care of these Deities for two years, but nothing like that has ever happened to me."
Then the very next day, I ran out of incense, and a brahmacari gave me a gift of some incense. Krsna fulfilled my desire so quickly, making His own arrangements for my service to Him.
I was a devotee for ten years before my first visit to Mayapur. Once I came, I liked it so much I started coming every year. My desire now is to stay in Mayapur and be an accountant for the new temple for the rest of my life. Let everyone come and get their desires fulfilled.
Yamanuja Devi Dasi, the wife of Sivananda Dasa, is also from Poland. She is twenty-seven years old, has an infant son, and loves to distribute Srila Prabhupada's books, a service she has done since the first day she joined ISKCON, nine years ago.
Mayapur is an easy place for those who want to distribute books for life. Just step out the door and people are there, always new people. The Indian people are eager to hear from us Westerners. They want to know why we took up Krsna consciousness. In the West I often had to struggle just to get myself out of the house, and people weren't always nice. In Mayapur you don't have to make a special endeavor to tell others about Krsna consciousness; there are so many opportunities.
Even with a baby I've been able to continue distributing books. Madhava is helpful. He takes time from me, but he also gets the attention of the people. They come to see the baby and end up with books.
One time I was speaking with a friend near the temple, and a group of villagers surrounded us.
The eldest man, the group leader, said in Bengali, "Look at the little Vaisnava, and he has little tilaka [the clay mark on the forehead]."
Someone else noticed, "And he has little neck beads."
I took out a book, The Life and Precepts of Lord Caitanya, from between Madhava and his front pack and said, "And he also has a little sastra [scripture]—for a little price."
They liked the joke and bought the books I had with me. I had to go back to the box and get more so that they could each get one.
My desire to do this devotional service has been fulfilled in Mayapur. I don't know if I'd be able to do this in the West with a baby. Here I have to make an endeavor not to do it.
In Mayapur if you make even a little endeavor, you feel very much rewarded. In the West I felt like I had to struggle more. In Mayapur, Krsna consciousness seems so natural.
One day I was thinking about how I had been neglectful in my chanting, and I decided to do something about it.
I prayed to Lord Nrsimhadeva, "Please help me with my chanting," and then I went to Srimad-Bhagavatam class.
After class, a Bengali brahmacari [male celibate student] I didn't know said, "Did you lose your beads?"
I checked, and I didn't have them. "Strange," I thought.
He said, "They're hanging on the gate in front of Lord Nrsimhadeva."
As I retrieved them I thought, "The Lord must have heard my prayer."
Since then I have really tried my best when chanting.
Any devotees with no particular mission in the West should come here. So many guests come that we can't
possibly speak to all of them. We need hundreds of devotees to answer questions, take the guests around, and make them feel welcome.
Originally from a village in West Bengal, Kamalapati Dasa joined ISKCON in Mayapur in 1992. He is the community's leading distributor of Srila Prabhupada's books.
THE DIFFERENCE between my life in Mayapur and my former life is like the difference between heaven and hell. When I was at home, I didn't have the association of devotees. I had no idea about the four regulative principles—no meat-eating, no illicit sex, no intoxication, and no gambling. I didn't know that Krsna is God. I didn't recognize that the material world is full of misery.
When I was living at home, I had no idea that there is so much pleasure in living in an ashram. I knew only the stereotyped life—getting a job, getting married, and so on. After coming here, I could understand that there is a much better life, the life of devotional service.
I find a clear distinction between material life and spiritual life. In material life people are envious of one another, always quarreling, fighting. In spiritual life those things are not there—or at least they are rare.
When I received my brahmana initiation, my spiritual master told me to live in Mayapur and preach wholeheartedly. For the last six years I have been distributing Srila Prabhupada's books. My main preaching areas are the states of Assam, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, and Nagaland. These places are in the Himalayan foothills northeast of Bengal, and they are all disturbed by terrorists. Though my service is sometimes dangerous, Krsna always protects me.
Living in Mayapur and distributing books help me understand the instructions and teachings of my guru, Srila Prabhupada, Lord Caitanya, and the Srimad-Bhagavatam.
Mahamaya Devi Dasi, who conducted the interviews, is a disciple of Srila Prabhupada. Originally from the USA, she spends most of the year in Mayapur. When she's in the States, she proofreads for BTG. She is compiling a database of Srila Prabhupada's disciples.
A Western Pilgrim In Mayapur
"After a refreshing afternoon swim,
by Nitya-trpta Devi Dasi
CAITANYA Mahaprabhu appeared to deliver divine love of Krsna to people all over the world, and Srila Prabhupada made Lord Caitanya's mission a reality for fortunate people like me. Although I am a neophyte still steeped in mundane vision, by the kindness of Srila Prabhupada and Lord Caitanya I have been able to spend much time in Sridham Mayapur, the birthplace of Lord Caitanya Himself. Here are some impressions from a recent pilgrimage.
Although I always love going back to Sridham Mayapur, I'm not looking forward to checking onto the airplane. My husband, Krsna Prema Dasa, and I are overloaded with equipment this year and expect to have to pay a hefty overweight charge. The limit is 23 kilos per person, giving us a total of 46 kilos. Our baggage weighed in at 75 kilos, and we don't expect the airline to look the other way.
As we walk to the check-in at the Copenhagen airport, an airline official waves us from the crowded queue at the coach counter to the vacant first-class counter. The woman at the counter doesn't bat an eye at our being so much overweight. We save about $500. I've heard that you can't buy a ticket to the holy dhama, that you can go there only by Krsna's mercy. I take the incident as a sign of Krsna's mercy and an auspicious start to our pilgrimage.
We arrive in Calcutta just twenty minutes behind schedule. Although we had arranged for a jeep, it never shows up. So we take one of the ubiquitous bright yellow Ambassador taxis, a '50s-style British sedan. After a half-hour ride through the grit and bustle of suburban Calcutta, we enter the lush, perfectly flat Bengali countryside. Meticulously attended rice paddies stretch to the horizon on both sides of the road. Aside from the screeching horns of the extravagantly painted lorries (trucks), it is a peaceful, if bumpy, three-hour ride north to Mayapur.
Driving the final—and roughest—stretch of road, we pass the house of Srinivasa Acarya, where Lord Caitanya began His sankirtana movement. We then pass the samadhis (memorial tombs) of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati and Gaura Kisora Dasa Babaji, great gurus in our line, and the birthplace of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu Himself. Its beautiful temple, built by the great Bhaktivisiddhanta Sarasvati (Srila Prabhupada's guru), stands tall above the flat countryside.
Finally we reach our destination: the ISKCON temple in Sridham Mayapur, the Mayapur Chandrodaya Mandir, founded by our beloved guru, Srila Prabhupada. After climbing from the cramped cab, we reverentially bow our heads to the ground, in the dust of the holy dhama.
A Peaceful Life
Several hundred devotees representing all the continents live in the ISKCON Mayapur complex, which covers many acres. A palpable, benevolent spiritual atmosphere and a simple way of life attract them to visit and stay. We make our way to our second-story flat in the grhastha (householder) colony, where some fifty families live in a variety of private homes and apartment buildings.
I love ISKCON Mayapur. From our flat you can take a short and healthy walk or bike ride to the beautiful temple of Sri Sri Radha-Madhava. Every day Their Lordships and Their eight attendant gopis (cowherd girls) sport beautiful outfits in endless varieties of colors and patterns. Before separate altars in the huge temple one can pray to Lord Nrsimhadeva (Lord Krsna's half-man, half-lion incarnation) and Sri Panca-tattva (Lord Caitanya in five forms). A murti (carved form) of Srila Prabhupada surveys the entire temple room from a marble vyasasana (the seat of the guru). On the way back to my flat I often visit Srila Prabhupada's Samadhi, its graceful 180-foot dome surrounded by elevated walkways, parks, and a lake.
Elsewhere on the Mayapur property one finds schools for young and older children as well as a research institute for Vaisnava studies. A huge kitchen area feeds thousands of guests. Shops and stalls selling beads, Deities, and other devotional necessities line the inner and outer walls of the compound. Doctors run both allopathic and Ayurvedic clinics, and the devotees operate a free ambulance service, the only one available to the people of the surrounding villages. Parks, snack bars, guest houses, and other facilities await the thousands of pilgrims who enter daily—up to fifteen thousand on weekends. Behind the temple stand two four-story ashrams accommodating the hundreds of young men training as Vaisnava monks (brahmacaris). Beyond the guest houses lies the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust complex, where devotees publish hundreds of thousands of Prabhupada's books, sold by the brahmacaris throughout Bengal.
Since Krsna Prema and I have portable occupations (and no children), we often travel back and forth between Mayapur and the West. This time we'd been gone for six months. Over the next week I went through all the cabinets, cleaning and washing and discarding old things no longer needed.
After a stint in the hectic West, the simple Mayapur life refreshes the spirit. Uttam brings fresh milk to our door every morning, as he has for the past few years. He rides a bike with metal cans—filled with milk and straw—on either side of the back wheel. The straw keeps the milk from splashing out. Milk costs eleven rupees a liter—about twenty-five U.S. cents. Each day I boil one liter, make it into fresh curd, press it into a flat round patty, salt it, and put it into our small refrigerator for use in salads and vegetable dishes.
Tomatoes and greens come from our neighbors' gardens, along with lots of basil. We either buy other vegetables at the local market or pay Arun from the neighboring village to go across the river and get our supplies. Our maid, Gauri, appears most days to wash the laundry and the floor. During this dry part of the year, the dusty air makes her services essential. She has many other houses on her list as well.
The wide and powerful Ganga (Ganges) takes a long, sweeping turn to come within a few hundred feet of ISKCON Mayapur. This most sacred river originates from the lotus feet of Lord Visnu, then flows from the Himalayas across northern India, past Mayapur, and through Calcutta to the Bay of Bengal. To bathe in her cool, sacred waters cleanses the soul of past sins.
Almost every afternoon we bathe in the Ganga. The weather is hot, ranging from 75F at night to 100 or more during the day, with high humidity. A refreshing afternoon swim is perfect. For the past few years we've gone to a nearby sandy shoal. This year it's gone, washed away in last year's rainy-season floods. So we go upriver to a set of steps built by ISKCON, leading to a calm inlet. To keep our towels dry we take a one-rupee boatride across the inlet and walk across another shoal to the river. Here the Ganga flows swiftly and eats away at the earth. All across this 200-yard sandbar it's at least a four-foot drop to the water. Once you're in, the water becomes deep very quickly, and you have to be careful.
Clay lines the banks of the Ganga, with a creamy consistency that makes a great mudpack. We relax on the shore and discuss pastimes of Lord Caitanya. The gentle breeze and cooling waters of the mighty river offer welcome relief from the heat.
Spring brings strong and sudden showers from dark, thundering clouds. In this part of West Bengal high, cool winds accompany the storms. The rainy season has now arrived. It cools us down and wets the land. This year everyone welcomes the rain, as there has been none since October. The high winds knock down trees and sometimes blow away huts. Just before the rain, winds blow in sand from the Ganga's banks.
Usually the storms roll in during the afternoon, though they come at other times as well. We keep a watchful eye on the sky, especially the northwest. Monsoon rains usually come from the southeast and bring no wind. A very dark cloud mass lets us know that a storm is on its way. The storms move fast, so when we see one we hurry home and close all the windows. If we are going out on a pilgrimage, we carefully secure our flat so the dust doesn't blow in everywhere.
Sometimes a storm springs up while we're in the Ganga. When that happens, we stay in the water near the edge instead of getting pelted by flying sand. The cool and sometimes icy-cold blasts of wind can be really refreshing in the heat. Our neighbors, a couple from Russia, often go out and sit on a bench to take the refreshing rains.
When the storms come at night, we wake up suddenly and have to scramble to close all the windows. If it's too late and the winds are upon us, we're better off leaving the windows open, because closing them in the wind is really tough. With all the windows closed we wait and listen to the wind and thunder, sometimes venturing to the roof to catch the cool wind and water. Then when the storm tails off, we open the southerly doors and windows and let the cool breeze refresh the house.
Spiritual life should be as simple as possible. Yet Lord Caitanya's great disciple Rupa Gosvami also taught the principle of yukta-vairagya—using everything in the service of the Lord. Krsna Prema and I find ourselves needing computer equipment for our devotional service. So we ride back to Calcutta to buy a computer monitor and a power backup—for continuous operation when storms knock out the current. (This happens fairly often, although ISKCON Mayapur does have its own backup generators.) We've done our research and lined up two stores that stock these items. We encounter no problems, although when it takes half an hour to get a receipt, I feel like a harried, rushed Westerner.
Once the capital of British India, Calcutta retains a Victorian stateliness, under a thick veneer of smog, dirt, and urban chaos. While riding through the crowded streets, I remember that Srila Prabhupada was born here and began his journey West from here. But for his journey, I would have never come to the land of Lord Caitanya.
On the way back to Mayapur we notice the simple Indian way of doing modern work with human labor. Some road workers are extending the subway system and reinforcing the sides of a deep pit with long wooden piles. After rigging a tripod with bamboo poles, they sling a rope and a pulley over the top. Three men hoist and drop a huge steel flat-ended weight, driving the 25-foot piles into the ground. It seems to work without a hitch.
On the way back we pull in to New Market, an old but air-conditioned indoor market offering endless shops with everything from clothing to calculators. We stop for fruits and vegetables. Bengal has some interesting varieties. One fruit looks like a white pear, but is crunchy and full of fresh water. It has little taste but quenches the thirst. The rose-apple is a small round green fruit with a big ball of a seed. It's crunchy with a delicate sweet rose flavor. We offer some fruits to Lord Krsna and then enjoy them as prasadam.
Residents Of The Dhama
Although I'm from the West and materially privileged by comparison, I feel humbled by the natural devotion and spirituality of the residents of Mayapur. At the temple's 4:30 A.M. mangala-arati ceremony, one often sees dozens or even hundreds of local residents who have risen hours earlier and walked a great distance to attend. On the weekends tens of thousands of pilgrims flock to ISKCON Mayapur to take the blessings of Sri Sri Radha-Madhava and Srila Prabhupada.
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu Himself spoke Bengali, and many important scriptures appear in the classical version of this pleasing and lilting tongue. Through tapes or live chanting, throughout Sridham Mayapur one constantly hears the divinely beautiful sound of Bengali bhajanas (devotional songs). Chanting Lord Krsna's holy names seems to come so naturally to these fortunate souls. I feel purified in their association.
It is said that one should see all residents of the holy dhama as associates of the Lord, even the animals. Many diverse creatures reside in Mayapur. Large silvery monkeys, with black faces, hands, feet, and tails, appear here and there, although they are much less numerous here than in other parts of India. They look part human, part Siamese cat, as they gracefully jump from tree to tree, scramble up the sides of buildings, or run along the ground. A large family of these monkeys visits every morning. Some of the devotees feed them, although sometimes they become mischievous, making a mess out of a garden or a load of laundry on a clothesline.
Last year in Vrndavana a small monkey jumped on my shoulder and snatched the glasses off my face. He darted up a wall and began chewing on them. A local boatman bribed the monkey with sweets to get back the glasses, badly chewed but usable. Fortunately, the monkeys in Mayapur are neither so mercenary nor small enough to jump on your shoulder.
Many types of birds reside in Mayapur. Beautiful white cranes wade in the river or in the flooded rice fields. Parrots fly by in chattering groups, and throughout the day one hears doves coo. I cannot identify the many other colorful birds, including the one who perches in a tree near our window every morning singing his song. This little fellow serves as our alarm clock. His tune is a three-note-up-and-down doo dah doo. With each set of the notes he ups the pitch until it's extremely high. In the evening he cannot go so high. I suppose he is hot and tired from the day's activities.
ISKCON Mayapur keeps a deer park with about ten deer. The bucks have remarkably long horns. Walking past them through the central park one reaches the elephant shed. ISKCON Mayapur's elephant is named Gulab, meaning "rose." She's an Indian elephant, much smaller and gentler than the African variety. She loves bananas and sweets. She also loves chest rubs.
Every Saturday night Gulab's keeper adorns her with paint, ornaments, and a fancy cloth. She then loads several priests and the processional Deities from the temple on her back for a one-hour walk around the Mayapur compound. During frequent stops devotees bring offerings to the Deities. Gulab then takes the prasadam with her trunk and majestically strides on.
The deer and the elephant provide beauty and entertainment for the pilgrims in Mayapur. On a more practical side are the cows and bulls. ISKCON Mayapur maintains a goshalla, a bovine sanctuary, with numerous milking cows and working bulls as well as young and retired animals. Local farmers use either bulls or water buffaloes to till the fields for wheat and vegetables and to prepare the watery patches for planting rice. On hot afternoons at the Ganga you often see farmers herd their buffaloes or bulls for a refreshing bath.
Many types of Indian cows differ sharply from those in the West. Unfortunately many of these indigenous species have been crossed with Western breeds to increase milk, usually unsuccessfully. Thus many types are becoming rare or even extinct. Brahma bulls have a large hump behind their head and long, floppy ears. Sometimes I see a white pair of tall Brahma bulls looking majestic as they pull a gurney along the road.
In the western Indian state of Gujarat, bulls have massive, gradually tapering horns that curve out, then in, then out again at the top. Their shape resembles a vase. For several years two such Gujarati bulls pulled Deities of Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityananda on a walking kirtana procession, or padayatra, for tens of thousands of kilometers throughout India. They concluded their extraordinary journey in Mayapur in 1986. A stone memorial marks the event, and it has become a favorite chanting site for pilgrims.
Other animals abound in Mayapur, such as dolphins in the Ganga, unique and colorful lizards, and, yes, even some cobras and vipers. Though I have never seen one, such serpents are said to come out in the evenings. The other day Krsna Prema saw two cobras dancing. For some time they sat facing each other in the grass, rising up, intertwining, then separating and slinking back into the grass. He recalled Lord Caitanya's childhood pastime of horrifying His parents by playing with a cobra in His courtyard. The cobra turned out to be Ananta Sesa, the Lord's divine serpentine associate. The pastime reminded us that no creature in the holy dhama is ordinary.
According to a neighbor who claims to have seen it first hand, our gardener knows the art of extracting poison from a snakebite. As far as I know, such bites have never occurred on ISKCON Mayapur's land, but I shudder to think of myself in need of the gardener's skill. I calm my jitters by recalling the Bhagavad-gita's instructions about the temporary nature of the material body and the auspicious benefit of leaving this world in the holy dhama.
Lord Caitanya's appearance day, known as Gaura Purnima, comes on the full-moon day of the month of Phalguna, in late winter or early spring. The government erects a tent city to accommodate the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims who flock to Mayapur for this auspicious day, most of them visiting ISKCON Mayapur. After the early-morning service, attending the temple on this day is virtually impossible. Never have I seen such an enormous crowd. Krsna Prema and I spend the day peacefully chanting in our flat and watching the rising full moon from the rooftop.
Packed with our equipment and with gifts, and with incense for the Deities, we prepare to return to the West, perhaps even heavier than when we arrived. On our last evening I look at Srila Prabhupada's towering samadhi dome, encircled by a ring of ten-foot metal sculptures of devotees in kirtana. This calls to mind Srila Prabhupada's determined effort to establish ISKCON Mayapur as a place of pilgrimage for devotees of Krsna from all over the world. We come here to gain spiritual strength, and we return to our native lands to give Krsna consciousness to others.
To strengthen us, and to make a place large enough for ten thousand devotees to gather at once in congregational chanting, in 1977 Srila Prabhupada laid the cornerstone for the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium. Over the next few years, this magnificent temple, one of the largest religious structures on earth, will rise from the Ganga plain as brilliantly as the red morning sun rises from the smooth Mayapur horizon.
As we drive out, I recall that once you come to the holy dhama, you never leave. You simply carry it elsewhere in your heart.
Nitya-trpta Devi Dasi, a photographer, and Krsna Prema Dasa, a musician, created Krsna Vision, a multi-slideprojector presentation. Now they're moving more into the digital realm, developing CD-ROMs and computer presentations.
by Jananivasa Dasa
At the heart of any Krsna conscious community are the Deities. On the main altar of the Mayapur Chandro-daya Mandir (ISKCON's temple in Mayapur) stand Sri Sri Radha-Madhava (Radha-Krsna) along with Radha's eight intimate gopi (cowherd girl) friends. Overseeing the worship is Jananivasa Dasa, who has been serving the Deities in Mayapur for twenty-seven years. The following history of Radha-Madhava was adapted from an interview with Jananivasa conducted by Mahamaya Devi Dasi.
IN 1970-71, Srila Prabhupada toured India with a group of Western disciples, holding Krsna conscious programs wherever they went. During the tour a gentleman named Mr. Dalmia gave Srila Prabhupada three sets of brass Radha-Krsna Deities made from the same mold. Prabhupada sent one set to the ISKCON center in Boston (Radha-Gopivallabha), one to the center in Berkeley (Radha-Gokulananda), and one set (Radha-Madhava) he kept with him.
While the party was in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, one morning Srila Prabhupada taught the devotees the song "Jaya Radha-Madhava." Prabhupada then began regularly singing that song whenever he would speak on the Srimad-Bhagavatam.
After the tour, Prabhupada brought Sri Radha-Madhava to the Calcutta temple. When we had our first Gaura Purnima (Lord Caitanya's appearance day) celebration in Mayapur in March 1972, Prabhupada said that Radha-Madhava should come to the program. We put up a tent (pandal), and They stayed there, presiding over the festival.
When the program ended and the devotees were ready to take the Deities back to Calcutta, Srila Prabhupada said that the Deities should stay in Mayapur.
A Humble Residence
The only building on the ISKCON property at that time was a temporary structure of thatched split-bamboo walls, where Srila Prabhupada and his disciples lived. Radha-Madhava took up residence in the same building.
I had just received my second initiation, entitling me to worship the Deities. Because we were living so close to Radha-Madhava in the thatched building, I could see everything the pujari was doing.
I thought, "I'd like to spend my whole life serving the Deities. It's such a wonderful way to become Krsna conscious."
A few days later the pujari decided to leave, and I was chosen to replace him.
Radha-Madhava are small Deities, but Srila Prabhupada wanted big Deities for the permanent temple: Madhava should be 5' 10" and black marble; Radharani should be 5' 8 1/2" and white marble. He said their pose could be like that of the small Deities.
Prabhupada Orders Help
In 1978, while in Calcutta, Jayapataka Swami paid a visit to Radhapada Dasa, a wealthy industrialist and ISKCON devotee, who told him that in a dream he had seen a young sadhu who asked him, "Do you recognize me?"
Radhapada replied, "No."
"Sometime ago you gave me some money," the sadhu said, "and I've come to repay it."
Radhapada said, "If I give money to a sadhu, I don't expect it back. No, I cannot accept it."
"Are you sure you don't recognize me?" the sadhu asked.
"No," replied Radhapada.
Suddenly the sadhu assumed the form of an elderly man.
"Now I recognize you," Radhapada said. "You're Srila Prabhupada."
"Now my disciples are having problems," Srila Prabhupada said. "After a while everything will be all right, but you should help them now."
As a result of this dream, Radhapada said he wanted to buy Deities for ISKCON. When asked if he would pay for the large Deities of Radha-Madhava for Mayapur, he agreed.
The Deities were carved in Jaipur by the Pandays, a renowned family of sculptors. One day a member of the Brila family (India's wealthiest family) came and fell in love with the Deities. He offered to pay 100,000 rupees for Them, which at that time was about $12,000—much more than ISKCON was to pay. The Pandays refused to sell the Deities, however, explaining that they had carved Them for ISKCON and would never be able to duplicate Them.
One of the sculptors told the devotees that the marble was different from any he had worked with before.
"When we carve," he said, "a beautiful ringing sound comes out of the Deities."
When the sculptors were doing the final polishing, a white line appeared around Madhava's body, like the sacred thread worn by brahmanas. Then two lines appeared on His forehead, like tilaka.
The Deities were installed in 1980 during the Gaura Purnima festival. Radhapada then sponsored the carving of the eight gopis. Four were installed in 1986, and four in 1992.
Serve Sri Sri Radha-Madhava
THE VEDIC SCRIPTURES tell us that whenever we visit a temple we should offer something to the Deities. Anyone who presents a gift to the Lord in a holy place like Mayapur is sure to get special mercy. So if you're planning a pilgrimage to Mayapur, or know of someone who is, here are some gifts suggested by the devotees serving the Deities there: ghee, nuts, honey, saffron, dried fruits, and beads. The beads can be glass or crystal, any color, 4-7 mm (for small Deities), 10-15 mm (for the gopis) and 15-40 mm (for big Radha-Madhava), as well as pearls in gold, silver, and white in those sizes.
The servants of Sri Sri Radha-Madhava have set up a service fund to ensure the perpetual care of the Deities. The fund's principal will grow while the interest pays for food offerings and aratis. Donors who give Rs. 2,000 to the fund will have an offering and an arati performed in their name (or in another name of their choice) once a year for twenty years. Donors will also be sent prasadam from the offerings. Contact Pankajanghri Dasa, c/o ISKCON Mayapur, P. O. Box 10279, Ballyganj, Calcutta 700 019, India; e-mail: email@example.com.
Srila Prabhupada and Radha-Madhava
ONCE I WAS STANDING in the Deity room near Srila Prabhupada while he was viewing the Deities, and he said, "They're dancing."
Another time he said, "You see how Radharani is standing like this—" (imitating Her outstretched hand) "holding something out to Krsna? Sometimes Radharani is holding her hand up like this [in blessing pose]. When She's like that, Krsna can leave Her. But when She's offering something to Him, He can never leave."
Once a devotee asked, "Srila Prabhupada, we're sitting in these rice fields, and you've asked us to build a city. Where is all the money going to come from?"
Srila Prabhupada laughed. "You are always worried about where the money will come from. Here we have Radha-Madhava. 'Madhava' means the husband of the goddess of fortune. You just worship Radha-Madhava nicely, and everything will come by Their mercy. You don't have to worry about money."
Understanding the significance of
by Bhanu Swami
LORD CAITANYA WAS BORN on February 27, 1486, at a time when India was suffering from rampant hedonism, spiritual stagnation, strict caste stratification, the prominence of logic over mystic experience, and domination by Islamic rulers. Socially, morally, spiritually, politically, and intellectually there was need for change.
Lord Caitanya was born in Navadvipa, a large city straddling both sides of the Ganga. Praised in the scriptures as a holy place, Navadvipa was famous during Lord Caitanya's time as a center of learning and culture.
At Lord Caitanya's birth, which fell on the full- moon night of the Bengali month of Phalguna, there was a lunar eclipse. As was the custom on such occasions, the people of Navadvipa gathered at the Ganga to purify themselves by bathing and chanting the names of God. Thus Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was born amid the loud chanting of the Lord's names.
Because astrologers predicted that He would manifest superhuman qualities and deliver the world, His parents, Jagannatha Misra and Sacidevi, gave Him the name Visvambhara, or "support of the universe." And because He was born under a nima tree, He was given the nickname Nimai.
During His childhood He displayed mysterious powers by outwitting thieves, playing with a poisonous snake, and speaking philosophically with His mother. As He grew, His beauty and intelligence began to show more fully. He was a brilliant student who quickly mastered poetics, Sanskrit grammar, and the current fad, navya nyaya, a form of logic. He would often play at defeating His fellow students using logic. While still young, He opened His own school and began teaching grammar and logic.
On the pretext of performing sacred rites on the anniversary of His father's death, Visvambhara journeyed to Gaya, in Bihar, with a group of students. There, after receiving Vaisnava initiation from Èsvara Puri, He became transformed. He lost all interest in logic and argument and absorbed Himself in chanting Krsna's names in devotional ecstasy.
Back in Navadvipa, Visvambhara gathered a following of other Vaisnavas, including Advaita Acarya, Srivasa Pandita, and Haridasa Thakura, and started the sankirtana movement. First, the movement was confined to the faithful. Doors were locked before the devotees began chanting and relishing the pastimes of Lord Krsna. After a year, however, Visvambhara ordered His followers to distribute the name of Krsna and the ecstasy of love of God to all the people of Navadvipa.
Visvambhara's movement did not recognize the privileges of caste, and had no regard for ascetics involved in yoga, for impersonalists attempting to obtain liberation from the material world, or for the worship of demigods for material benefits. Thus Visvambhara met with opposition from some sections of the local brahminical community and from Muslim rulers. But when He mobilized thousands of citizens in a sankirtana procession to the Muslim magistrate's house, He succeeded in convincing the magistrate to sanction the movement.
Seeing the need to spread Krsna consciousness more widely, Visvambhara decided to take sannyasa, the renounced order of life. At the age of twenty-four He shaved His head and took the name Krsna Caitanya from Kesava Bharati in nearby Katwa. He also became known as Caitanya Mahaprabhu. To console His mother He promised to stay in Puri, a moderate distance from Navadvipa.
Apart from traveling to South India for four years, and to Prayag, Vrndavana, and Varanasi via Bengal for one year, He spent the rest of His life in Puri, absorbed in ecstatic vision of Krsna, in the mood of Radha. He disappeared from mortal vision at the age of forty-eight in Puri.
Deliverer Of The Religion For The Age
According to the Vedic scriptures, time moves in continuous cycles of four ages, or yugas. In each yuga a specific method of spiritual practice (dharma) is effective. In Kali-yuga, the current age, the dharma is nama-sankirtana, the chanting of the holy names of the Lord. To distribute the yuga-dharma, the Lord descends in each yuga. In Kali-yuga, Caitanya Mahaprabhu appeared to spread nama-sankirtana. Apart from the function of spreading the yuga-dharma, Caitanya Mahaprabhu came to expose the world to the highest aspects of spiritual love (prema), which manifest in relation (rasa) to Krsna in His original form in Vrndavana.
The highest expression of rasa is the conjugal rasa in parakiya (outside of marriage). The ideal person in this relationship is Radha. While other Vaisnava lineages worship Krsna, the unique contribution of Lord Caitanya is His detailed exposition of the higher modes of rasa, which He personified by acting as a devotee of the Lord, experiencing pure love in the mood of Radha. Caitanya Mahaprabhu gave a complete revelation of God's love for the souls, and the souls' love for God. This is unparalleled in any movement or any religion.
How are we to attain this high stage of love? Caitanya Mahaprabhu wanted that greatest treasure to be given out to as many people as possible. Therefore He has also taught a process—the simplest and most direct process: nama-sankirtana. Chanting the names of Krsna does not require any qualification except faith. Birth, caste, race, country, profession, and education are not considerations in chanting God's names. The only requirement is a sincere acceptance of one's own position as the servant, offering service out of selfless love to the most attractive, deserving object: Krsna. Adherence to chanting in a pure manner leads directly to the highest goal, pure love of Krsna.
Caitanya Mahaprabhu encouraged His followers to distribute the name of Krsna freely to all. He Himself desired that not only all of India, but the whole world, take up the chanting of Krsna's names and attain love of God. He ordered His followers to distribute the name and teach about Krsna. His movement can be summarized as "Taste the name and distribute the name."
Philosophically, Caitanya Mahaprabhu explained the relation of God to the world and souls in terms of bheda and abheda, simultaneous difference and non-difference, or oneness. "Difference" refers to the acceptance of (1) a real material world, (2) innumerable real souls, and (3) a God with perfect qualities, form, and action. "Oneness" refers to the acceptance of the existence of one supreme entity, with no differentiation of form, qualities, souls, or spiritual and material world.
Bheda-abheda philosophies are usually rejected because oneness and difference are mutually contradictory: the proposition seems nonsensical. But Caitanya Mahaprabhu has explained that mutual contradictions can coexist through the inconceivable power of God. Thus His world view is called acintya-bheda-abheda, or oneness and difference joined by the inconceivable (acintya) power of God. By accepting difference we can believe in our own individual existence, with the right to act and choose. By accepting oneness we can acknowledge the perfection that lies behind all the imperfection we perceive.
Only with difference can there be a relationship (rasa) between two objects—the soul and God. Only with difference can we relish the form, qualities, and activities of God. Difference, however, can put a great distance between God and the souls. But through oneness the distance becomes meaningless: the relationship of God to the soul becomes very close.
The philosophy of acintya-bheda-abheda allows acceptance of seemingly contradictory statements in the Upanisads: statements of abheda, or impersonalism, and statements of bheda, or difference. Both types can be accepted, without resorting to indirect interpretation of either type of statement.
Caitanya Mahaprabhu's movement therefore presents a complete picture of intimate loving relationships with God, a philosophy consistent with direct statements of scripture to support those relationships, and a simple, practical process to realize them.
His Holiness Bhanu Swami is regional secretary for parts of ISKCON in South India.
Insight at St. Paul's
PERHAPS IT'S BECAUSE my maternal English bloodline has become Americanized, but the idea of a church representing a particular nationality sits poorly with me. And yet, while in London researching for this issue of BTG, I saw an emblem of such a union—St. Paul's Cathedral—and I was impressed.
In St. Paul's one sees the history of a people. It stands on a prominent spot in London, overlooking the Thames, a spot on which four previous cathedrals have stood, dating back some 1,400 years. Vikings ransacked one of the earlier cathedrals; fires devastated the others. Architect Christopher Wren saw the present cathedral, his masterpiece, completed in 1710. It survived repeated bombing attacks by Nazi warplanes in World War II, when it remained a powerful symbol of English freedom.
Entering St. Paul's, I suddenly understand the scale of Mayapur's Temple of the Vedic Planetarium. The two buildings are of similar size, each with huge thirty-plus-story domes. Construction plans for both call for masonry. It occurs to me that this massive cathedral was hand-built, without cranes, engines, or computers.
I pay a few pounds and climb hundreds of hand-hewn wooden steps up to the Whispering Gallery, the inner ring of the huge dome. Here one can clearly hear words spoken against the circular wall hundreds of feet away. Peering over the rail to the marble floor 150 feet below, I imagine legions of devotees dancing back and forth in ecstatic kirtana.
It's reassuring to look up and see scaffolding hanging from the pinnacle of the inner dome and know that Alan Baxter & Associates—the same firm engineering the Mayapur temple—is renovating St. Paul's. The firm's experienced engineers are quite certain the Mayapur temple can be built as planned.
There will be challenges. Mayapur is something less of a commercial and industrial hub than London. Every brick, nail, and marble block must reach Mayapur by barge or rugged road. Core samples hundreds of feet down reveal no bedrock under Mayapur, only sand—calling for a huge concrete raft as a foundation. The requisite masonry arts stand on the edge of extinction. Yet the temple can be built. Now, after years of research, we know how to build it. Naturally, the bigger question comes next: Why build it?
Climbing another 180 feet to St. Paul's outer tower partially answers this question. From here I see bustling London spread in all directions. Most of the charmingly crooked London streets seem to lead to St. Paul's. In a pounds-shillings-pence city, St. Paul's makes a powerful statement about the importance of the divine.
ISKCON has struggled to fulfill Srila Prabhupada's desire to introduce varnasrama-dharma, the Vedic social system. The Temple of the Vedic Planetarium will help by providing a spiritual focal point for a new city, creating natural civic, social, economic, and agricultural development with a Krsna conscious center—the essence of varnasrama. With proper Krsna conscious planning for families, schools, and jobs, Mayapur city can become the long-missing model for varnasrama-dharma. Mayapur will be for everyone, not just one race or nation.
As I join the many other visitors on the long spiraling walk back down, I hear voices and see clothing representing the styles and religions of a dozen distant countries. I envision the incongruous sight of a building this size on the rural plains of Mayapur. Would these people not come to Mayapur as well?
When asked by an English TV reporter about the concept of hell in Krsna consciousness, Prabhupada startled the poor man—and made the papers—by re-plying, "London is hell." Mayapur he described as "the kingdom of God," and he spent his days there "in great delight." Most pilgrims to Mayapur would agree. What an impression Sridham Mayapur, and the Mayapur temple, will make on future visitors!
Many around me are Anglicans on pilgrimage from the U.K. and elsewhere. The Catholics have the Vatican, and the Islamic faithful have Mecca. The Mayapur temple—sure to fire the spirit of kings and commoners alike—will anchor a world-class pilgrimage site. More than ever, Mayapur will stir faith and pride in the hearts of devotees throughout the far-flung ISKCON realm. Just as the English, over the centuries, have filled the naves and crypts of this marvelous "national church" with their art, sculpture, and history, future devotees of Caitanya Mahaprabhu will express their devotion in the halls of the Mayapur temple.
Only in Mayapur does a cornerstone Srila Prabhupada laid remain uncovered by a temple. I leave St. Paul's thinking that if I do little more with the rest of my life than help build the Mayapur temple, I will have at least begun to address my enormous debt to Srila Prabhupada and the previous acaryas.
Kalakantha Dasa, Associate Editor, BTG
The appearance of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu fulfilled each of the prophecies given here.
In the age of Kali, intelligent persons perform congregational chanting to worship the incarnation of Godhead who constantly sings the names of Krsna. Although His complexion is not blackish, He is Krsna Himself.—Srimad-Bhagavatam 11.5.32
In His early pastimes He appears as a householder with a golden complexion. His limbs are beautiful, and His body, smeared with the pulp of sandalwood, seems like molten gold. In His later pastimes He accepts the sannyasa order, and He is equipoised and peaceful. He is the highest abode of peace and devotion, for He silences the impersonalist nondevotees.—Mahabharata, Dana-dharma-parva, Chapter 189 (Visnu-sahasra-nama)
I shall appear in the holy land of Navadvipa as the son of Sacidevi.—Krsna-yamala-tantra
In the Age of Kali, when the sankirtana movement is inaugurated, I shall descend as the son of Sacidevi.—Vayu Purana
Sometimes I personally appear on the surface of the world in the garb of a devotee. Specifically, I appear as the son of Saci in Kali-yuga to start the sankirtana movement.—Brahma-yamala-tantra
The Supreme Person, Sri Krsna Himself, who is the life of Sri Radharani and is the Lord of the universe in creation, maintenance, and annihilation, appears as Gaura, O Mahesvari.—Ananta-samhita
The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Govinda, the supreme enjoyer, whose form is transcendental, who is beyond the touch of the three modes of material nature, and who is the all-pervading Supersoul residing in the hearts of all living entities, will appear again in the Kali age. Appearing as the greatest devotee, the Supreme Personality of Godhead will assume a two-armed form of golden complexion in His abode of Goloka Vrndavana manifested on the bank of the Ganges at Navadvipa. He will disseminate pure devotional service in the world.—Caitanya Upanisad 5
In the first sandhya [period] of Kali-yuga, the Supreme Personality of Godhead will assume a golden form. First He will be the husband of Laksmi, and then He will be a sannyasi who stays near Lord Jagannatha at Puri.—Garuda Purana
In the middle of that lotus-city is a place called Mayapur, and in the middle of Mayapur is a place called Antardvipa. That place is the home of Lord Caitanya, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.—Chandogya Upanisad
In My original spiritual form, perfect and complete, I will become the son of Sacidevi in Navadvipa-Mayapur at the beginning of Kali-yuga.—Garuda Purana
The Supreme Personality of Godhead will again appear in this world. His name will be Sri Krsna Caitanya, and He will spread the chanting of the Lord's holy names.—Devi Purana
The Supreme Personality of Godhead . . . will appear again in the Kali-yuga. His form will be golden, He will delight in chanting the Lord's holy names, and His name will be Caitanya.—Nrsimha Purana
In the first sandhya of Kali-yuga I will appear on the earth in a beautiful place by the Ganges' shore. I will be the son of Sacidevi, and My complexion will be golden.—Padma Purana
In the age of Kali I will appear disguised as a devotee of the Lord, and I will deliver all the worlds.—Narada Purana
In the first sandhya of the Kali-yuga I will reveal My eternal golden form by the shore of the Ganges on the earth.—Brahma Purana
At this time My names will be Krsna Caitanya, Gaur-anga, Gauracandra, Sacisuta, Mahaprabhu, Gaura, and Gaurahari. Chanting these names will bring devotion to Me.—Ananta-samhita