In this issue of Back to Godhead, two articles deal with the history of the Hare Krsna movement. Because we are all spiritual beings with an eternal relationship with Krsna, or God, the essence of the Hare Krsna movement—Krsna consciousness—is eternal. Still, at certain points in history great spiritual leaders spread Krsna consciousness with such success that movements take shape.
We can trace the modern Hare Krsna movement back to Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the incarnation of Krsna who appeared in Bengal some five hundred years ago. Lord Caitanya introduced the chanting of Hare Krsna as the religion for the age, and He engaged His leading disciples in writing dozens of books detailing the philosophy of Krsna consciousness. Two of the most important authors were Rupa Gosvami and Sanatana Gosvami, whose stories appear in this issue.
Beginning in the late 1960s, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada carried the teachings of Lord Caitanya and the Gosvamis around the world. Srila Prabhupada's life story is told in the Indian television series Abhay Charan, now on video. In this issue, we introduce you to Abhay Charan.
—Nagaraja Dasa, Editor
• To help all people discern reality from illusion, spirit from matter, the eternal from the temporary.
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The special Mayapur issue [Nov./Dec. 1999] was fantastic! I'm ready to subscribe now.
Top of the Line
I want you to know you're top of the line with me and my husband of forty-eight years. Every word I hear and read is Godsent, and we really appreciate Prabhupada's words. Two of his books go with us everywhere we go. May God bless all of you associated with this great person's writings. You are helping me greatly by keeping in touch. I am sixty-eight-years young and getting younger every day with people like you.
Worship of Devas
In Chapter 7, verse 20-23, of the Bhagavad-gita, Krsna describes the worshipers of devas (demigods) as less intelligent. But in Chapter 10 He describes Himself as many devas, such as Indra, Siva, and Brahma. So is Chapter 10 saying that worship of the devas is all right?
OUR REPLY: In Chapter 10 Lord Krsna reveals that the best of everything in this world represents Him. In that sense these things are Krsna, but Krsna doesn't suggest we worship Him by worshiping examples of His opulence. He says that among fish He is the shark, but we don't worship sharks. Similarly, because Indra, Siva, and Brahma are chief among the devas, they represent some aspect of Krsna's unlimited power, but Krsna says in the ninth chapter that worshiping them is avidhi purvakam, or against the rules. Because everything in the material world is Krsna's energy, it is in a sense Krsna. But Krsna tells us to worship Him—the person—and not His energy.
Room for Everyone?
I have subscribed to your magazine because I seek more devotion toward the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna. I am a homosexual, and I do not follow the beliefs of the ISKCON movement but the traditional Hindu practices. Throughout my readings in the Vedas, the Gita, and other literary sources, I haven't found any information regarding homosexuality. I would like to know ISKCON's teachings on homosexuality and what you offer young people like me?
OUR REPLY: ISKCON encourages everyone to perfect his life by following the practices of Krsna consciousness. In replying to your question, we feel it's important for you to first understand what ISKCON is all about. The basic points of our philosophy, as taught by Lord Krsna in the Bhagavad-gita, are that we are all spirit souls, eternally related with Krsna, the Supreme Lord. The purpose of human life is to awaken our original loving relationship with Krsna. Krsna consciousness is not a question of believing or not believing something; Krsna consciousness is part of our true nature. Somehow or other we have to reawaken that consciousness and become purified of material desires, rooted in the false idea that we are these bodies.
The practices of ISKCON are all meant to purify our consciousness and free us from bodily identification. Spiritual life must be more than choosing which religion agrees with me. The question should be, "How will I become purified?"
In this age, the scriptures recommend the chanting of God's names as the only means to awaken our original consciousness. To chant effectively, we must give up sinful acts. The scriptures stress that we must give up gambling, meat-eating, intoxication, and illicit sex, defined as any sex not performed for procreation. Since homosexual acts cannot produce a child, they must ultimately be given up to get the benefits of chanting the Lord's holy names.
Still, one unable to give up sex at once should chant, go to the temple, read Srila Prabhupada's books, and so on. Everyone can do these things. They will help, but progress will be slow unless one gives up sinful activities.
Our bodies and our particular conditioning result from our individual karma. Krsna loves you and is happy that you are seeking guidance in your spiritual life. He knows your personal struggles and limitations. What He rewards, ultimately, is your sincerity and your effort to come closer to Him.
Concern for the Environment
I love reading your magazine. It is one of the only ways I can be in contact with other devotees. Still, I'm concerned that with so much emphasis on leaving the material world and our bodies to get to the spiritual world with Krsna, this philosophy is creating an ethic that disregards the earth we live on. Why isn't nature revered and loved just as much as Krsna? Is not the world, our environment, Krsna too? How can ISKCON join forces with the environmental movement to heal the relationship between people and land?
OUR REPLY: You're right in saying that as devotees of Krsna we should respect His creation, and Srila Prabhupada always taught that. (See Divine Nature, by Mukunda Goswami and Drutakarma Dasa, available from our Hare Krsna Bazaar http://www.krishna.com) Prabhupada himself showed respect for everything, because he knew that everything is connected to Krsna.
Still, we don't equate Krsna and His nature. We accept the philosophy of "simultaneous oneness and difference"—Krsna is one with His creation and different from it at the same time. So although we respect nature as Krsna's energy, we don't elevate it to the status of God.
You shouldn't get any argument from devotees about the sanctity of nature. What you might find is debate about how much of our energy should go into conservation. Prabhupada taught us to try to live simply, and most of us could improve in that area. But Prabhupada never told us, for example, to go out and raise money for environmental causes.
Still, Prabhupada did encourage us to spend money to set up Krsna conscious rural communities based on farming and cow protection, activities that improve the environment. He also liked nice gardens at his temples, and he argued against needless killing of animals, needless cutting of forests, and so on. He set goals that require us to collect and spend money in ways beneficial to creating a cleaner environment, one more hospitable to the practice of Krsna consciousness.
Ultimately, Prabhupada taught that Krsna consciousness solves all problems. So our mission is to give people Krsna. Environmental problems are only one of hundreds of problems that concern people. There are so many causes we could take up. But Prabhupada taught that trying to solve problems one by one is like trying to water a tree by watering its leaves and branches rather than its root.
Again, we agree that devotees could improve in their respect for the environment. And they will—as they advance in Krsna consciousness and learn more and more how to use the energy of Krsna in His service.
Please write us at: BTG, P.O. Box 430, Alachua, FL 32616, USA. Or: BTG, 33 Janki Kutir, Next to State Bank of Hyderabad, Juhu, Mumbai 400 049, India. Phone: (022) 618-1718. E-mail: email@example.com
If we pursue only bodily happiness
Adapted from a lecture given in Buffalo, New York on April 23, 1969
By His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
"Lord Rsabhadeva told His sons: My dear boys, of all the living entities who have accepted material bodies in this world, one who has been awarded this human form should not work hard day and night simply for sense gratification, which is available even for dogs and hogs that eat stool. One should engage in penance and austerity to attain the divine position of devotional service. By such activity, one's heart is purified, and when one attains this position, he attains eternal, blissful life, which is transcendental to material happiness and which continues forever." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.5.1)
ASABHADEVA IS ACCEPTED AS AN incarnation of Godhead. He appeared on earth long, long ago and was the father of King Bharata, from whose name this planet is called Bharata-varsa in the Vedic literature. Rsabhadeva had one hundred sons, of whom Bharata was the eldest. Bharata was very intelligent, so his father entrusted the kingdom to him. Before retirement, Rsabhadeva gave His sons spiritual instructions, which are recorded in the Srimad-Bhagavatam.
Rsabhadeva advises, "My dear sons, the human form of life is not meant for sense gratification."
Rsabhadeva uses the word deha-bhajam: "of those who have accepted a material body." This is very significant. According to Vedic literature, the material world is only one fourth of the complete creation of God. Three fourths of God's creation is the spiritual world. That information you will find in Bhagavad-gita. The material world is a fraction of the whole creation. As far as you can see in the sky, you see this universe. But this is only one universe. There are unlimited universes clustered together, and that cluster is called the material world.
Beyond that cluster is the spiritual sky. That fact is also mentioned in the Bhagavad-gita: paras tasmat tu bhavo 'nyo 'vyakto 'vyaktat sanatanah. The Lord says, "Beyond this material world is another nature, which is eternal." There is no history of its beginning or end. That is eternal: no beginning, no end.
Vedic religion is called sanatana-dharma, "eternal religion," because no one can trace out when the Vedic religion began. Every religion in our present experience has a history. The Christian religion has a history—two thousand years old. The Buddhist religion has a history—2,600 years. The Muslim religion has a history—one thousand years. But if you trace the Vedic religion, you cannot find a starting date. There is no date. No historian can give one. Therefore it is called sanatana-dharma.
In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna says, "There is another nature, which is eternal." The material creation is not eternal. We say, "God created." That means that before creation God existed. Therefore God is not under the creation. If God were under the creation, how could He create? He existed before the creation; therefore He is eternal.
Besides an eternal, spiritual God, there is also a spiritual nature, or sky, where there are innumerable spiritual planets. And there are innumerable spiritual living entities. Some of them, who are not fit to live in the spiritual world, are sent to the material world. The same idea is expressed in Milton's Paradise Lost. We conditioned souls are practically living in a place after "paradise lost." We should understand this point.
Here the specific instruction is deha-bhajam, which means that we have willingly accepted the material body. Actually, we are spirit souls; we should not have accepted the material body. But we have, and we cannot trace the history of when and why we did so.
There are 8,400,000 forms of living entities: 900,000 species in the water, 2,000,000 species of plants and vegetables, and so on. Unfortunately, this Vedic knowledge is not taught in any university, but these are facts. If people are interested in research, let them research why the Vedic knowledge says there are 8,400,000 species of life. Darwin's theory of the evolution of organic matter is very prominent in educational institutions. But the Padma Purana and other authoritative Vedic scriptures explain how the living entities have different forms of body, how they are evolving one after another—everything is there. Evolution is not a new idea. People are stressing only Darwin's theory. But in the Vedic literature we have immense information of the living condition in the material world.
Apart from that, here it is said, deha-bhajam: "those who have accepted this material body." That means there are many who have not accepted the material body. But in the material world people have no experience of living entities who have not accepted a material body. People don't know that there is a spiritual world. The innumerable living entities in so many universes in the material world are only a fraction of all living entities.
Those in the material world, with the material body, are condemned. For example, people in prison are condemned by the government. But their number is only a fraction of the whole population, not that the whole population of the state goes to prison. Some criminals, who disobey the laws of the state, are put into the prison. Similarly, the conditioned souls within the material world are only a fraction of the living entities in the creation of God. Because they have declined to obey or abide by the orders of Krsna, or God, they have been put into the material world.
One who is sensible, who is inquisitive and serious, should try to understand, "Why have I been put into material conditional life?" That should be the inquiry. That is called brahma-jijnasa. In the Vedanta-sutra this is the first inquiry. People should be educated to the standard of life where they will be inquisitive to know, "Why have I been put into conditional life? I do not wish to suffer."
Animals are always suffering, but they do not mind it. Recently I was in Hawaii, and in front of my house was a man who kept animals and birds for slaughter. I was telling my students that we could say to the animals, "Oh, my dear animals, why are you standing here? Go away. You are going to be slaughtered." But the animals don't have the intelligence to go. Even in the slaughterhouse they don't go away.
Suffering without knowledge, without remedy, means animal life. One who cannot understand his suffering, who thinks, "Oh, I am very well off. I am very well situated," is in animal consciousness. One should be cognizant of the miseries of his life. One should know that there is suffering in birth, there is suffering in death, there is suffering in old age, and there is suffering in disease.
And one should be inquisitive. That is the real research: how to avoid death, how to avoid birth. We have suffered during our birth. We have suffered as a child, as a baby. We remained within the abdomen of our mother, tightly placed in an airtight bag for nine months, bitten by worms, unable to move, unable to protest. But we have forgotten.
Our sufferings are there. The mother is taking so much care undoubtedly; still, the child is crying. Why does the child cry? Because it is suffering but cannot express itself. There are bugs biting or pains somewhere within, and the child is crying, crying, but the mother does not know how to pacify the child.
In this way our suffering begins from the womb of our mother. And then we do not wish to go to school, but we are forced to go to a school. We do not wish to study, but the teachers give us tasks. If you just analyze your life, you will see that it is full of suffering. But we make no inquiry into how to stop that suffering. That lack of inquiry is not education. Therefore the Brahma-sutra says, athato brahma-jijnasa: "Now you should inquire about why you are suffering. Is there any remedy for suffering? If there is, then you must take it. You must take advantage of the remedy." But we are callous. We do not care for the remedy, and that is not good.
Therefore Rsabhadeva says to His sons, "My dear sons, now you have this opportunity. Out of 8,400,000 lives, take ..."
Forget Rsabhadeva's sons. I will speak to the American boys and girls gathered here. Now you have a very nice body, a very beautiful body, a very nice country. You have no poverty. In so many ways you have an advantage over other nations. So accept this instruction of Rsabhadeva to His sons. Rsabhadeva instructions were not meant only for His sons; they are meant for the whole human race.
The Pleasure of Hogs and Dogs
Rsabhadeva said, "My dear sons, the body is not meant for sense gratification like that of the cats and dogs and hogs. To spoil our life by hard work for sense gratification is not very good."
Take that instruction into your life also. You are very nicely placed, but according to Rsabhadeva's instruction, you should not spoil this beautiful life simply for sense gratification. Why? Rsabhadeva answered: "That sense gratification is available to the stool-eater, the hog. You should not imitate the hogs." You see? I was surprised to hear from one of my principal disciples that some hippies have begun to worship hogs. Your beautiful life, beautiful education, beautiful situation should be used for a beautiful end, not for degrading yourself to the platform of hog worship.
Rsabhadeva says, "My dear boys, sense gratification after hard work day and night is available in the hog's life. That arrangement is not very important. The human form of life is meant for a different purpose." And Rsabhadeva explains that purpose: "The human form of life is meant for austerity and penance."
You will find in the Vedic histories many, many exalted emperors and kings. They also practiced austerity and penance. Dhruva Maharaja, Prahlada Maharaja, Ambarisa Maharaja, Yudhisthira Maharaja—they were all kings. They were called rajarsi, which means that although they were most opulent kings, still they were great sages. Rsabhadeva advises that persons who have the opportunity of the human form of life—with facility for economic welfare and for giving everything very nicely—should use that opportunity for a better life. They should perform austerity to attain pure existence.
The austerity we perform in the Krsna consciousness movement is not at all troublesome. It is pleasant. You can ask our students who are practicing it. They are very pleased to practice this austerity. And if you practice it, your existence will be purified. The difference between animal life and human life is that human life is more purified. The human being has better consciousness than the animal. And if you purify your existence more, you are gradually elevated to the spiritual existence, which is completely pure life.
Rsabhadeva advises, "My dear boys, don't spoil your life simply for sense gratification, but voluntarily accept some austerity and penance so that your existence will be purified. You are seeking happiness. Whatever happiness you are inclined to in the material world is only limited. But if you purify your existence and some way or other become promoted to your spiritual existence, then you get the greatest pleasure." Brahma-saukhyam tv anantam.
Brahman means "the greatest" and refers to spiritual existence. There is Brahman life, and there is Brahman pleasure. In Brahman pleasure there is also dancing, there are young girls, young boys—everything. Whatever we find in the material world is a perverted reflection of the spiritual world. So if you want unlimited happiness, unlimited knowledge, and eternal life, you should not spoil this very nice opportunity simply for sense gratification, but adjust it to accept the life of austerity to promote yourself to the spiritual life. Then you will get unlimited happiness, unlimited life, unlimited pleasure. That is the sum and substance of this Krsna consciousness movement.
We have literature and magazines to explain all these points. We have our Bhagavad-gita As It Is, Teachings of Lord Caitanya, Srimad-Bhagavatam, The Nectar of Devotion, Easy Journey to Other Planets. The Krsna consciousness movement is meant for giving a finishing touch to your present position. Don't take it otherwise. You are all educated. I request you, try to understand this Krsna consciousness movement and take it very seriously. You will be happy. And because people of other countries are following your progress, if you take the Krsna consciousness movement seriously and rightly, the whole face of the world will change. It will be turned into the spiritual world.
Of course, we do not expect that everyone will accept this philosophy, but even if one percent of the population of the world accepts it, the world will change. The Bhagavad-gita explains that if some principal man accepts some theory or philosophy, others follow.
We have our center here. I request you all to try to understand the Krsna consciousness movement and purify yourself. The process of purification is very simple. We are simply chanting Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. My fervent request to you all is this: You are very nicely placed. Please try to understand this philosophy. Make your life happy so that the people of the world will be happy by following your example.
Thank you very much.
Mutual respect between man and
Text by Lavangalatika Devi Dasi
JAYA RADHE, a young cow with her first calf, Nandini, walks proudly. It seems she knows she's a descendant of Kamadhenu, the wish-fulfilling cow said in the Puranas to be the original cow. At first Jaya Radhe wouldn't allow us to milk her, but we gained her trust with much petting and coaxing and rubbing under her neck. We didn't like to tie her legs, the common practice; that would have been a battle, and we didn't want to force her. She gives milk now, but when she feels she has reached her limit, she'll kick hard, and further persuasion is useless.
Nandini has become fat and beautiful with plentiful milk from her mother. We don't treat our cows as milk machines, as is done in commercial dairies. There, calves are separated from their mothers and made to suffer the indignity of drinking milk from a bucket or a bottle, or worse—starved to death or sent to the slaughterhouse so that the master can have all the milk.
It's the time of the first monsoon rain, and three young oxen—Bhima, Nakula, and Sahadeva—gallop across the field. Their heads are smeared with soft red earth they've dug up with their horns. They've seen an intruder, a strange bull on their land, so they chase him out, tails and heads held high, snorting, eyes shining brightly, hooves thudding, followed by little black Nandini, who is ready for anything.
Soon they'll be working hard under the yoke of the plow, in the water and deep, soft mud of the rice fields, and they will become quiet and sober. But when all the plowing is over, the farmer will bow down to their feet in respect to thank them and tell them they are free to go. Such reciprocation between man and animal, and the idea of go-seva, or service to the cow, is new to us in the West who have been brought up to believe we are the lords of all we survey and nature is ours to exploit.
My urbanite stepson, a doctor, came to visit and saw the few milking cows in their barn, and then the bull, oxen, and older calves in another cow shed. He was surprised.
"These don't give any milk? What's wrong with them?"
"Oh. Why do you keep them then?"
"Are your sons not just as good as your daughters?" I asked.
And I told him that all our cows, bulls, and calves have lifetime protection. I told him that to give milk, a cow must have a calf, who must be engaged and cared for his or her whole life; that bulls are even more important than milking cows because they plow the field, carry loads on the bullock cart, and turn the oil press to extract oil from seeds; and that both cows and bulls produce dung, which is more valuable than gold or even the famous Kohinoor diamond, according to eminent Indian economist Venishakar M. Vasu, because it fertilizes the soil.
The farmland of India had remained fertile for hundreds of thousands of years by the application of cow dung. But now, because of cow slaughter, India has a shortage of cow dung for fertilizer, and chemical fertilizer has ruined the land, killing the soil.
Venishakar M. Vasu says, "If we destroy our cattle wealth, not even God can save this country."
Srila Prabhupada writes in a purport to Srimad-Bhagavatam (3.2.29):
As he [Lord Krsna] grew to be six or seven years old, the Lord was given charge of looking after the cows and bulls in the grazing grounds. He was the son of a well-to-do landholder who owned hundreds of thousands of cows, and according to Vedic economics, one is considered to be a rich man by the strength of his store of grains and cows. Human society needs only sufficient grain and sufficient cows to solve its economic problems. With these two things humanity can solve its eating problem. All other things but these two are artificial necessities created by man to kill his valuable life at the human level and waste his time in things which are not needed.
We can fix our minds on the Lord as He is described in the verse on which Srila Prabhupada is commenting: "While herding the very beautiful bulls, the Lord, who was the reservoir of all opulence and fortune, used to blow His flute, and thus He enlivened His faithful followers, the cowherd boys." And we can do as Srila Prabhupada has instructed us: protect the beautiful cows and bulls and benefit human society.
Lavangalatika Devi Dasi is an American disciple of Srila Prabhupada. She and her Indian husband care for cows on their land in Maharashtra, India.
Srila Bhakti Pramod Puri Maharaja passed away in Jagannatha Puri last November 22. Puri Maharaja had been the oldest living disciple of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, the spiritual master of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
Born in 1898 in East Bengal (now Bangladesh), in his youth he encountered the teachings of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura (Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati's father) and took up Krsna consciousness in the line of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. He met Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati in 1915 and received initiation from him in 1923, receiving the name Pranavananda Brahmacari.
A college graduate, Pranavananda Brahmacari worked at the Port Commission in Calcutta while living in the ashram of his spiritual master's temple on Ultadanga Junction Road. In 1925 he gave up his job to dedicate himself to his spiritual master's mission. A year later, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati made him co-editor of the Krsna conscious daily paper Nadiya Prakash. After four years he became an editor of Gaudiya magazine. Recognizing his literary talent and knowledge of scriptures, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati awarded him the title Pratna Vidyalankara ("decorated with traditional knowledge"). Pranavananda Brahmacari edited many books published by his spiritual master, including Srimad-Bhagavatam, Sri Caitanya Bhaga-vata, Sri Brahma-samhita, and Sri Caitanya-caritamrta. His service allowed him close and regular association with Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati for a number of years. Pranavananda Brahmacari was known for his diligent note-taking, and in later years wrote many articles from the notes he had taken during his spiritual master's lectures.
From 1941 to 1947, Pranavananda Brahmacari spread Krsna consciousness throughout Bengal and other parts of India. In 1947 he accepted sannyasa, the renounced order of life, and received the name Bhakti Pramod Puri Goswami.
In 1954 the royal family of Burdwan (Bengal) gave the temple of Ananta Vasudeva (a form of Krsna) in Kalna to Puri Maharaja, who installed his own Deities, Radha-Gopinatha, alongside Ananta Vasudeva. Puri Maharaja was well known among his godbrothers for his dedication and expertise in Deity worship and would often be called upon to install Deities in his godbrothers' temples.
Puri Maharaja took seriously Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati's instruction that he never "give up the service of the pen." For most of his life he wrote, edited, and published Krsna conscious literature. His disciples have published more than a dozen of his books (written in Bengali), two of which have been translated into English.
Puri Maharaja opened temples in Mayapur, Calcutta, Medinipur (Bengal), and Puri. He was given an old temple of Dauji (Lord Balarama) in Vrndavana. His institution is known as Sri Gopinath Gaudiya Math. In recent years, branches have opened in Holland, Panama, Costa Rica, and the United States.
Puri Maharaja visited His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada shortly before Srila Prabhupada's passing in 1977. When Prabhupada asked Puri Maharaja to sing, he sang Jaya Radhe, Jaya Krsna, Jaya Vrndavana for Prabhupada's pleasure. Puri Maharaja greatly appreciated Srila Prabhupada service. "His preaching in the West is simply amazing," he once said. When he saw a photo of the Deities at ISKCON's Los Angeles temple, in great emotion he said, "How happy Srila Prabhupada [Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati] must be!"
In 1998 the king of Orissa attended Srila Puri Maharaja's Vyasa Puja (appearance-day celebrations), commemorating Maharaja's one-hundredth birthday. India's prime minister, Sri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, sent a letter of praise and congratulations.
Srila Puri Maharaja dedicated his life to Lord Krsna's service. He passed away in the holy land of Jagannatha Puri, surrounded by devotees chanting the holy names of the Lord. His purified body was placed in samadhi (entombed) in Sridham Mayapur.
A summary of the Bhagavad-gita—Part 1
BHAGAVAD-GITA means "the song [gita] of God [Bhagavan]." Readers the world over revere the Bhagavad-gita as the most important book of the Vedic literature—the vast body of Sanskrit texts including and referring to the Vedas. The Bhagavad-gita is itself but one short chapter of the Maha-bharata, a book so lengthy that Guiness calls it the world's longest. Yet in its short seven hundred verses, Bhagavad-gita distills the wisdom of all the Vedas.
To understand Bhagavad-gita in context, consider these prior incidents from the Mahabharata. Dhrtarastra and Pandu were brothers, princes who were heirs to the throne. Dhrtarastra was born blind, and so the kingdom went to the younger Pandu. Pandu sired five sons (known as the Pandavas), including the incomparable warrior Arjuna. Dhrtarastra had one hundred sons, headed by the ambitious and evil Duryodhana. Pandu died, and Dhrtarastra accepted the throne as a caretaker for the young Pandavas. But Dhrtarastra's affection for his sons clouded his judgement, leading him to acquiesce to Duryodhana's sinister attempts to kill or vanquish the Pandavas. These attempts failed but ultimately led to a vast war involving virtually all the major kingdoms of the earth. The battle between cousins took place on the plain of Kuruksetra, north of present-day Delhi.
Kalakantha Dasa writes, runs a small business, and directs the Mayapur Foundation U.S.A. He and his wife, both disciples of Srila Prabhupada, live with their two daughters in Gainesville, Florida.
This summary, along with Kalakantha Dasa's 700-verse poetic rendering of the Gita, will be published this fall by Torchlight Publishing. Phone: 1-888-TORCHLT (1-888-867-2458); www.torchlight.com.
Chapter 1: Arjuna Gives Up
THE BHAGAVAD-GITA picks up the story with Dhrtarastra's inquiring about the battle from his secretary, Sanjaya. Through a special boon from the sage Vyasadeva, Sanjaya could see within himself all details of the battle. His vision includes Arjuna's hour-long conversation with Lord Krsna, Arjuna's charioteer, just before the war was to begin.
How has Lord Krsna, Himself a mighty king, assumed the menial duties of a charioteer? Before the battle, when both sides sought alliances, Krsna offered to send His vast armies to fight for one side while serving personally in a non-combat role on the other. Duryodhana was delighted to have Krsna's armies, and Arjuna was equally pleased to have his dear friend Krsna with him on his chariot.
Sanjaya begins his narration of the battlefield scene by revealing Duryodhana's characteristic diplomacy and pride. After offering nominal praise to his opponents, Duryodhana loudly proclaims the superiority of his forces, the Kurus. The highly respected Bhisma—the grand-uncle of both the Kurus and the Pandavas—leads Duryodhana's army. But when the two sides raise threatening crashes of drums and conchshell blasts, it is Duryodhana's side that feels intimidated.
Arjuna is full of confidence, with the emblem of the heroic monkey warrior Hanuman on his chariot flag. Arjuna asks Lord Krsna to drive him between the two armies so he can study his opponents. When Arjuna fully realizes that the battle will result in the deaths of so many dear relatives, he suddenly loses his resolve to fight. In shock, he presents Lord Krsna with many good reasons for why he has decided to walk away from the battle.
Chapter 2: Reincarnation, Duty, and Yoga
Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be. (Bg 2.12)
What is night for all beings is the time of awakening for the self-controlled; and the time of awakening for all beings is night for the introspective sage. (Bg 2.69)
KRSNA QUICKLY REJECTS Arjuna's decision to refrain from battle. Arjuna admits he is confused and asks for instruction. In the remaining verses of this chapter, some of the most well known in the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna presents three reasons for Arjuna to change his mind:
1. The eternal soul, distinct from the temporary body, reincarnates through various lifetimes. (verses Bg 2.11-30)
After Arjuna asks for clarification in verse Bg 2.54, Lord Krsna concludes the chapter with a further explanation of yoga and transcendence.
The concept of yoga, introduced in this chapter, reappears throughout the rest of the Bhagavad-gita. Yoga is much more than the hatha-yoga exercises familiar in the West. Yoga, the root of the word yoke, means "to link" with God. In this chapter Lord Krsna presents the basics of yoga: control of the mind, control of the senses, and pursuit of happiness higher than what can be found through the mind and senses. In later chapters Krsna details various yoga paths.
We are also introduced in this chapter (verse Bg 2.45) to the three modes of nature. These divisions or qualities of matter—goodness, passion, and ignorance—constitute one of Lord Krsna's most vivid teachings. As a painter mixes blue, red, and yellow to create the endless spectrum of colors, so nature combines goodness, passion, and ignorance to influence and create distinct qualities in everyone and everything. Later chapters describe the effects of the modes on aspects of life including food, work, education and worship. Through yoga one clears away the influences of the modes.
In both Chapters One and Two we find references to "heaven," which refers not to the spiritual kingdom of God but to higher material planets, occupied by powerful devas, or demigods. Since the devas enjoy long life and extensive pleasures, the Vedas offer interested humans various means to attain their heavenly worlds. Here in Chapter Two, for the first of many times in the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna rejects such motivated and polytheistic worship as inferior and mundane.
Chapter 3: Karma-Yoga—The Yoga of Action
Work done as a sacrifice for Visnu has to be performed, otherwise work causes bondage in this material world. Therefore, O son of Kunti, perform your prescribed duties for His satisfaction, and in that way you will always remain free from bondage. (Bg 3.9)
The spirit soul bewildered by the influence of false ego thinks himself the doer of activities that are in actuality carried out by the three modes of material nature. (Bg 3.27)
KARMA REFERS TO moral action and reaction. According to the law of karma, whatever actions one performs bring reactions. Good karma manifests as, for example, wealth, power, and prestige, while bad karma may appear as debt, disease, and vulnerability. Since the soul is eternal, as explained in Chapter Two, it carries karmic reactions from one life to the next. Karma entangles the soul in material activities and ignorance of its true identity.
Arjuna begins this chapter by asking how he could possibly fight for his own selfish purposes yet link with God and free himself from karma. Lord Krsna directs Arjuna to fight, but without attachment. If Arjuna simply sits down and renounces the fight, he will still be subject to his karma. But if he does his duty, not for his own sake but for God's pleasure, he will be practicing karma-yoga.
Work in karma-yoga is free from any sinful reaction, even if such work means fighting in the upcoming war. To further explain karma-yoga, Lord Krsna points out that God has created both man and the devas. Man relates to the devas through duty and sacrifice. Although unencumbered by any duty, to set a good example Lord Krsna Himself performs prescribed duties. To encourage Arjuna to do his duty, Krsna cites the example of the ancient king Janaka, an emblem of duty and sacrifice.
Neglect of duty, Lord Krsna warns, leads to chaos. Those who understand the soul and karma generally work to educate others. Krsna directs the enlightened to teach where possible but not to disturb those who have no interest. At the same time, Krsna emphasizes that everyone's duty is unique. Regardless of what one's duty may be, one must perform it without attachment.
At the chapter's end, Arjuna asks what drives one to sinful, karma-producing actions, even against one's will. In reply, Lord Krsna elaborates on the yogic principles of sense control introduced in Chapter Two.
In this chapter, as in other places in the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna refers to God in the third person. This in no way compromises Lord Krsna's many conclusive statements about His own divinity. For instance, if the prime minister discusses the powers of the prime minister, he is talking about himself, but indirectly. Similarly, Lord Krsna speaks general theology to Arjuna. When Arjuna is ready for full enlightenment, he will know that the Supreme is Lord Krsna, as we shall see in later chapters.
Chapter 4: Finding a Guru
Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized souls can impart knowledge unto you because they have seen the truth. (Bg 4.34)
HAVING URGED Arjuna to conquer lust, the foe of learning, Lord Krsna now reveals how to acquire spiritual knowledge: one must receive it through disciplic succession, a chain of gurus and disciples. Lord Krsna inaugurated the disciplic succession at the inception of the universe. Although time has broken the chain, Lord Krsna pledges to revive it with fresh, though unchanged, instructions.
Here for the first time in the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna clearly distinguishes Himself from ordinary souls by saying that while He remembers past appearances, Arjuna has forgotten them. And unlike ordinary souls, karma does not impose birth and death on Lord Krsna; He appears for His own reasons.
Lord Krsna then says that materialists disregard Him and worship demigods. He says that He reciprocates with everyone according to their surrender, and that to accommodate all types of people, He creates four social divisions. Our qualities and actions reveal to which division we each belong. Lord Krsna says that knowing these truths about Him will lead Arjuna to knowledge, as it has for past saints.
Lord Krsna next differentiates between actions for sense gratification, which produce karma, and transcendental actions, which don't. Transcendentalists act to please God, not for sense gratification, and the Lord accepts such offerings of work. The transcendentalist thus enjoys a fully spiritualized life on earth and then returns to the kingdom of God.
In verses 25 through 33 Lord Krsna describes the ways various yogis approach the Absolute Truth. In verse 34 He advises Arjuna to find an expert guru who understands these paths and has himself realized their conclusion. Completing the chapter, Lord Krsna describes the beauty and power of transcendental knowledge and exhorts Arjuna to fight on and slay his ignorance.
Chapter 5: Acting in Consciousness of Lord Krsna
"A person in full consciousness of Me, knowing Me to be the ultimate beneficiary of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods, and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities, attains peace from the pangs of material miseries." (Bg 5.29)
KRSNA'S STATEMENTS have again confused Arjuna. At the end of Chapter 4 Lord Krsna advocates knowledge and renunciation, then again urges Arjuna to fight. Arjuna requests clear direction: Should he renounce everything, or should he fight on behalf of God?
Krsna replies that both methods are acceptable, but acting for Him is better. He explains karma-yoga in even more detail. By contrasting the self-serving work of a materialist and the work of a devotee, Lord Krsna demonstrates how sacrificing one's work for God leads to sense control and freedom from karma.
Action in consciousness of Lord Krsna leads to enlightenment and happiness within the "city of nine gates"—the physical body, with its nine openings. Situated in realization, the master of the city sees the modes of nature at work within himself and others around him.
An enlightened soul sees all others equally, regardless of their position. Such a person avoids all kinds of problems by subduing the senses, and thus relishes a higher happiness coming from within. This realization, the perfection of mysticism, leads to compassion for others still controlled by their senses.
In summary, Lord Krsna declares Himself to be the supreme proprietor, the supreme beneficiary of all work, and the supreme friend of every living being. He promises peace for anyone who knows Him in this way.
Chapter 6: Meditation and Mystic Yoga
"And of all yogis, the one with great faith who always abides in Me, thinks of Me within himself, and renders transcendental loving service to Me—he is the most intimately united with Me in yoga and is the highest of all. That is My opinion." (Bg 6.47)
THROUGHOUT THE Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna presents a variety of options to address Arjuna's perplexity. In this chapter Lord Krsna elaborates on the processes of meditation and mystic yoga He introduced briefly at the end of Chapter 5. The successful yogi enjoys a profound equilibrium of mind and utter detachment from any external circumstance. To achieve this end, the mystic yogi must live in the forest, be celibate, reduce eating and sleeping to the bare minimum, and meditate constantly. In such meditation the yogi repeatedly drags the wandering mind back to the task at hand.
After hearing this description, Arjuna objects that the mind is too difficult to control. Even after Lord Krsna reassures him, Arjuna still doubts his ability to succeed. Krsna then explains that a yogi benefits by simply trying. Lord Krsna concludes His account of this difficult yoga system by declaring that one who worships Him faithfully is, in fact, the best of all yogis.
Chapter 7: Absolute Knowledge
"O conqueror of wealth, there is no truth superior to Me. Everything rests upon Me, as pearls are strung on a thread." (Bg 7.7)
HAVING IDENTIFIED the best yogi as one who serves and thinks of Him, Lord Krsna now explains how to attain such constant remembrance. During this explanation, Lord Krsna contrasts matter and spirit, evil and piety, and folly and wisdom. Matter, Lord Krsna's inferior energy, consists of eight basic elements: earth, water, air, fire, ether, mind, intelligence, and false ego. Ether refers to space. False ego describes more than pride; it is the spiritual soul's misidentification with the material body. Matter influences the conditioned soul as the three modes of nature (goodness, passion, and ignorance). Spirit, Lord Krsna's superior energy, consists of living beings, struggling hard with the elements and modes of material nature.
Having introduced Himself as the origin of both matter and spirit, Lord Krsna describes metaphorically how one can see Him in matter. He then explains how one can directly perceive Him through voluntary, loving submission.
Lord Krsna next describes four kinds of pious people who surrender to Him and four kinds of evil persons who do not. Among those who surrender, He expresses special appreciation for those who do so out of wisdom. Intelligent persons, fortified with past pious deeds, take shelter of Lord Krsna and transcend birth and death. On the other hand, Lord Krsna says, fools worship devas for material gain—a popular custom among those who nominally follow the Vedas. Fools also consider that Lord Krsna has come from Brahman, a formless, impersonal energy. Such persons never know Lord Krsna, because for them He remains covered.
Chapter 8: Attaining the Supreme
"Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits this body, O son of Kuntthat state he will attain without fail." (Bg 8.6)
THIS CHAPTER OPENS with several questions and answers that comprise most of the basic subjects of the Bhagavad-gita.
(1) What is Brahman?
Lord Krsna defines Brahman as the deathless soul. In the philosophy of Vaisnavism, or devotion to Lord Krsna, the individual soul is pure spirit, in quality one with Krsna. In quantity, however, the individual is vastly inferior to Krsna. A drop of ocean water may possess the qualities of water present throughout the entire the ocean, but a drop cannot sustain a boat. In the same way, individual souls are both one with and different from Lord Krsna, the Parabrahman, or Supreme Brahman.
(2) What is the material world?
Lord Krsna defines material creation as the ever-changing physical nature. By contrast, the spiritual nature, or Brahman, never changes.
(3) What is the self?
Lord Krsna refers to the self as the eternal nature of the soul. By nature, the soul serves; either he serves the physical creation and remains entangled, or he serves the spiritual creation and goes there. The entity who executes this free will is the self.
(4) What is karma?
Karma is the interaction of the changeless soul with the ever-mutating physical creation. The soul creates that interaction by choosing to serve matter, resulting in various physical bodies encapsulating the spiritual soul.
(5) Who are the devas?
Devas, highly elevated living beings, assist in the management of the physical creation. Under Lord Krsna's direction, they manipulate the weather, the planets, and everything else, including the mechanics of karma. They are components of Lord Krsna's vast universal form, as He reveals to Arjuna in Chapter Eleven.
Lord Krsna describes the life of Brahma, a chief deva and the first created being in the universe. At the dawn of Brahma's vast daytime, the hosts of individual souls enter material bodies according to their karma. In his nighttime, the souls return to an unmanifest condition. Eventually even Brahma dies. Lord Krsna then declares His own abode to be above such painful cycles of birth and death, creation and devastation.
(6) Who is the Lord of sacrifice?
The Lord or beneficiary of sacrifice is Lord Krsna, who dwells in the heart of every embodied being as the Supersoul.
(7) How can a devotee know Lord Krsna at the time of death?
Among all of Arjuna's questions, Krsna speaks most about this, the destination of the soul. The state of mind one has at death, Krsna says, determines what kind of body one will attain in the next lifetime. Krsna then tells Arjuna how to think of Him and thus go to Him at death. Krsna goes on to discuss the mechanical methods of yoga, which help improve the soul's destination. But Krsna assures Arjuna that a devotee who thinks of Him doesn't have to worry about such mechanical considerations. In conclusion, Lord Krsna declares that simply by being a bhakta, or devotee, one obtains the results of every kind of meritorious action.
Chapter 9: God's Personality
AS THE BHAGAVAD-GITA progresses, Lord Krsna reveals His mind more intimately to Arjuna. In this chapter, after a formal description of His relationship with the material creation, Lord Krsna discloses His loving relationship with His devotees. Further explaining His divinity, Krsna states that He creates and pervades everything yet remains a distinct and detached individual. Because conditioned souls stay engrossed in material energy, they cannot understand Krsna, even if they see Him. As a result, their plans fail. On the other hand, by knowing Krsna, the liberated souls become enlightened.
Lord Krsna then lists several ways to see Him, as He did in Chapter Seven. He again brings up the theme of misdirected worship. Pursuing extreme material happiness, some Vedic followers worship devas. Although after much effort such worshipers may attain heavenly bliss, they soon return to ordinary birth and death.
Lord Krsna closes the chapter with details of how a tiny individual soul enters a loving exchange with Him. Being a person, Lord Krsna enjoys a simple, affectionate offering of water, fruit, or flowers. He declares Himself impartial to everyone, yet He admits reciprocating in friendship with His devotee by relieving all the devotee's karma at death.
What Exactly is Vedic?
by Satyaraja dasa
Tradition supports a broader definition of the word than is generally used in the academic world.
WALK INTO ANY Hare Krsna temple and you're bound to hear the words Veda and Vedic repeatedly. Devotees refer to "Vedic art," "Vedic scriptures," "Vedic culture," "Vedic dress"—Vedic this and Vedic that. They use words related to Veda as often as materialists use the words sex and money.
Just what does Vedic mean? And where does "the Veda" come from?
The word Veda can be traced to the Sanskrit root vid, which means "to know" or "knowledge." It is related to the words "wit" and "wis-dom" from the German; "idea" (originally widea) from the Greek; and "video" from the Latin. (One who knows, sees the truth; hence: video.)
So Veda refers to any abiding knowledge. In that sense, all sacred texts are Vedic. Srila Prabhupada writes, "The word Veda means 'book of knowledge.' There are many books of knowledge, which vary according to the country, population, environment, etc. In India, the books of knowledge are referred to as the Vedas. In the West, they are called the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Muslims accept the Koran. What is the purpose for all of these books of knowledge? They are to train us to understand our position as pure soul." (Beyond Birth and Death, p. 7)
These are among the broadest definitions of Veda. In a more narrow sense—and the one with which most scholars are familiar—Veda refers to the four samhitas (holy books) compiled in India by Vyasadeva, an incarnation of Krsna, some five thousand years ago. These books have an oral tradition that dates much further back. In fact, the texts themselves say that the knowledge contained in them emanated directly from the body of the Lord. As Bhagavad-gita (3.15) puts it, "The Vedas are directly manifested from the infallible Supreme Personality of Godhead."
The four Samhitas started out as one lengthy work, but then Vyasadeva divided them into the Rg Veda (the Veda of sacred sounds), the Sama Veda (the Veda of melodies), the Yajur Veda (the Veda of rituals), and the Atharva Veda (the Veda of incantations). These four books have their own corollary works, called Brahmanas (treatises dealing with the technicalities of sacrifices) and Aranyakas (forest treatises for renunciants who go off into the wilderness to fulfill vows).
Also generally included in the Vedic canon are the 108 Upanisads, elaborate philosophical explanations of the four Vedas. The Upanisads, say the ancient texts themselves, were revealed to self-realized sages and are thus called sruti, or "that which is heard." This puts them in the same category as the four Vedas and their corollaries.
Yet throughout the Vedic literature are indications—affirmed by great sages—that other works, while not Vedic in the narrowest sense, can also be included within the vast gamut of traditional Vedic knowledge. The Chandogya Upanisad (7.1.4), for example, describes the Puranas and Itihasas, which I'll define later, as "the fifth Veda." And the Brhad-aranyaka Upanisad (2.4.10) informs us, "The ‰g Veda, the Yajur Veda, the Sama Veda, the Atharva Veda, and histories such as the Mahabharata and the Puranas are all breathed out by the Absolute Truth. Just as one's breath comes easily, these arise from the Supreme Brahman without any effort on His part."
The great thirteenth-century Vaisnava teacher Madhvacarya affirms that much of the traditional literature of India can be considered part of the Veda. In his Vedanta-sutra (2.1.6) commentary, he writes: "The Rg Veda, the Yajur Veda, the Sama Veda, the Atharva Veda, the Mahabharata, the Pancaratra, and the original Ramayana are all considered Vedic literature.... The Vaisnava supplements—the Puranas—are also Vedic literature."
The writings coming after the Upanisads and the four Vedas are known as smrti ("that which is remembered," as opposed to the Vedic sruti). They include the Itihasas (epics) and the Puranas (histories). The Itihasas are the Mahabharata (110,000 verses) and the Ramayana (50,000+). There are eighteen main Puranas (including the Srimad-Bhagavatam), many Upapuranas (lesser Puranas), and numerous regional Puranas, some more authoritative than others.
Also included within the Vedic literature are the Sutras (books of concise philosophical statements), the Vedangas (auxiliary sciences connected with Vedic study), and the Upavedas (sciences not directly related to Vedic study). The Sutras include the Srauta-sutra, the Grha-sutra, the Kalpa-sutra, the Dharma-sutra, the Sulva-sutra, and most important, the Vedanta-sutra. The six Vedangas are Siksa (phonetics), Chandas (meter), Vyakarana (grammar), Nirukta (etymology), Jyotisa (astronomy), and Kalpa (ritual). Among the Upavedas are Ayur-veda (holistic medicine), Gandharva-veda (music and dance), Dhanur-veda (warfare), and Sthapatya-veda (architecture).
Tradition holds that any literature in pursuance of the Vedic version is just as important as the Vedas themselves. These include such books as Hari-bhakti-sudhodaya, Hari-vamsa, Brahma-yamala, and hundreds of others. Finally we can add the many writings of self-realized acaryas (teachers in disciplic succession), such as Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami's Sri Caitanya-caritamrta and the many books of the six Gosvamis, Lord Caitanya's chief disciples.
The King of Books
Because these other writings bring out the essence of the original Veda, they are, in a sense, more important than the original Veda. Take Srimad-Bhagavatam, for example. According to tradition, this profound revelation was originally given by God to Brahma, the first created being, at the dawn of creation. Brahma conveyed the essence of the knowledge to Narada, and Narada passed it on to Vyasa, who, as previously mentioned, took the eternal wisdom of the Veda and divided it into four distinct sections.
What I did not mention, however, is that after this, Vyasa summarized the Vedic knowledge into a huge volume of terse codes known as Vedanta-sutra. But after doing so, He became despondent. He felt that in compiling the Vedic literature, he had neglected to truly focus on the Absolute Truth. His suspicion was confirmed by his spiritual master, Narada, who told him that he had indeed overlooked the central point of reality and would be satisfied only if he were to directly describe the name, fame, form, and pastimes of Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Heeding the advice of his guru, Vyasa compiled Srimad-Bhagavatam, whose verses describe it as "the king of books," "the spotless Purana," and "the mature fruit of the Vedic tree of knowledge." It is also considered the natural commentary on the Vedanta-sutra.
For most followers of the Vedic tradition, the "later" or "non-Vedic" texts are more "Vedic" than the Vedas themselves. Jiva Gosvami, whom the followers of Lord Caitanya consider the foremost of all Vedic philosophers, emphasizes this point in his Tattva-sandarbha (17.4), where he quotes the Skanda Purana (Prabhasakhanda 2.93): "O brahmanas, one who is fully conversant with the four Vedas, the six Vedangas, and the Upanisads, but who has not also studied the Itihasas or the Puranas, is not actually learned in Vedic knowledge." Why? Because, according to Jiva, the Puranas and Itihasas are superior to the Vedas: "The superiority of the Puranas and Itihasas is described in the following passage from the Narada Purana, where Lord Siva is quoted as saying, 'O beautiful Parvati, I consider the Puranas and Itihasas superior to the Vedas, for whatever truths are present in the Vedas are also explained in these ancient works. Of this there is no doubt.'" (16.11) Clearly, the Vaisnava tradition considers all supplementary Vedic literature indispensable when studying the Vedas.
The Vedic literature is the most comprehensive scriptural tradition known to man. It contains information on everything from medicine and farming to the time sequences on upper and lower planets; from techniques of yoga and meditation to household hints and recipes for tasty vegetarian dishes; from detailed explanations of governmental organization to masterful directions on building and decorating a temple or a residence. The verses in each of the thousands of Vedic texts conform to strict rules of poetry and meter. The Vedas contain drama, history, and complex philosophy, as well as simple lessons of etiquette. Military protocol, the use of musical instruments, biographies of great saints and sages of the past—these are but a few of the subjects one finds in the Vedas.
It is no wonder, then, that Hare Krsna devotees use the terms Veda and Vedic as if the words were going out of style. By drawing on the vast Vedic heritage, today associated mainly with India, devotees conjure up a culture so advanced, so sophisticated, that it is still respected by scholars, politicians, religionists, swamis, yogis, and anyone privy to its elaborate teachings. We still find people in India today supporting their points in a debate—religious or political—by citing Vedic evidence. ISKCON devotees cite Vedic evidence in that way too, and in many other ways as well. And why not? They are drawing on a tradition that for thousands of years has formed the foundation for billions of materially and spiritually progressive lives.
Satyaraja Dasa is a disciple of Srila Prabhupada and a regular contributor to Back to Godhead. He has written several books on Krsna consciousness. He and his wife live in New York City.
Sruti (revealed writings, or "that which is heard")
I. The four Veda Samhitas: Rg, Sama, Yajur, and Atharva
Smrti (tradition, or "that which is remembered")
a. Eighteen Maha-puranas ("Great Puranas")
III. Sutras (codes)
Rama Navami (April 12) marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of Srila Prabhupada's inauguration of the beautiful temple of Krsna-Balarama in Vrndavana. A grand festival will feature a procession through the streets of Vrndavana, a maha-abhiseka (bathing) of the Deities, and an extraordinary feast.
The Sri Caitanya Upanisad,
Translated by Kusakratha Dasa
In honor of Gaura Purnima (March 20), the anniversary of the appearance five hundred years ago of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, we present the following excerpt from the Atharva Veda, one of the four original books of the Vedic literature. These texts reveal that in the present age Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is the incarnation of God and the Hare Krsna maha-mantra is the recommended mantra for progress in spiritual life.
atha pippaladah samit-panir bhagavantam brahmanam upasanno bhagavan me subham kim atra caksasveti.
Carrying firewood in his hands, Pippalada humbly approached his father, Lord Brahma, and asked: "O my Lord, please tell me how I may attain an auspicious life."
sa hovaca, bhuya eva tapasa brahmacaryena sasvad ramasva mano vaseti.
Lord Brahma replied: "Be satisfied by remaining always celibate, and perform austerities. Carefully control the activities of the mind. In this way you will attain an auspicious condition of life."
sa tatha bhutva bhuya enam upasadyaha—bhagavan kalau papac channah prajah katham mucyerann iti
Pippalada followed these instructions, and after having become pure in his own heart and mind, he again approached his father and asked: "O my Lord, please tell me how the sinful living entities in the Kali-yuga may be delivered."
ko va devata ko va mantro bhuhiti.
"Who should be the object of their worship, and what mantra should they chant in order to become delivered? Kindly inform me."
sa hovaca. rahasyam te vadisyami—jahnavi-tire navadvipe golokakhye dhamni govindo dvi-bhujo gaurah sarvatma maha-puruso mahatma maha-yogi tri-gunatitah sattva-rupo bhaktim loke kasyatiti. tad ete sloka bhavanti.
Lord Brahma replied: "Listen carefully, for I shall give you a confidential description of what will happen in the Kali-yuga. 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. This incarnation of the Lord is described in the following verses."
eko devah sarva-rupi mahatma
The one Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is the master of all transcendental potencies, and who may be known only by devotional service, appears in innumerable transcendental forms. He has appeared with red, black, and white complexions, and He shall also appear in the golden form of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. He shall assume the role of the perfect devotee, and He shall teach the conditioned souls the path of pure devotional service.
I offer my respectful obeisances unto Lord Sri Krsna, the all-pervading Personality of Godhead, who is understood by the study of Vedanta philosophy. He is the master of all transcendental potencies, and He appears as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
vedanta-vedyam purusam puranam
One who understands that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is known by the study of Vedanta philosophy, who is the original cause of the universe, and who is the oldest, the original person, crosses beyond this world of birth and death. This is the proper understanding of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and aside from this there is no other way for one to achieve liberation.
sva-nama-mula-mantrena sarvam hladayati vibhuh.
Appearing in this golden form, the all-powerful Supreme Lord will fill the entire universe with transcendental bliss by the chanting of His own holy names.
dve sakti parame tasya hladini samvid eva ca iti.
In this way the Supreme Lord manifests two of His transcendental potencies: His hladini sakti (the potency of transcendental bliss) and samvit sakti (the potency of transcendental knowledge).
sa eva mula-mantram japati harir iti krsna iti rama iti.
The Supreme Lord will chant a mantra consisting of the names of Hari, Krsna, and Rama (the maha-mantra: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare).
harati hrdaya-granthim vasana-rupam iti harih. krsih smarane tac ca nas tad-ubhaya-melanam iti krsnah. ramayati sarvam iti rama ananda-rupah atra sloko bhavati.
These three names of the Supreme Lord (Hari, Krsna, and Rama) may be explained in the following way: (1) "Hari" means "He who unties [harati] the knot of material desire in the hearts of the living entities"; (2) "Krsna" is divided into the two syllables "Krs" and "na." "Krs" means "He who attracts the minds of all living entities," and "na" means "the supreme transcendental pleasure." These two syllables combine to become the name "Krsna"; and (3) "Rama" means "He who delights [ramayati] all living entities," and it also means "He who is full of transcendental bliss." The maha-mantra consists of the repetition of these names of the Supreme Lord.
mantro guhyah paramo bhakti-vedyah.
The maha-mantra (Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare) is the best of all mantras. Although it is very difficult to understand the maha-mantra, it may be understood when one engages in pure devotional service of the Supreme Lord.
namany astav asta ca sobhanani, tani nityam ye japanti dhiras te vai mayam atitaranti nanyah paramam mantram parama-rahasyam nityam avartayati.
Those who seriously desire to make progress in spiritual life continually chant these sixteen splendid names of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and in this way they cross beyond the bondage of continued material existence. The chanting of these holy names of the Lord is the greatest of all mantras, and it is the most confidential of all secrets.
caitanya eva sankarsano vasudevah paramesthi rudrah sakro brhaspatih sarve devah sarvani bhutani sthavarani carani ca yat kincit sad-asat-karanam sarvam. tad atra slokah.
Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu is the Supreme Personality of Godhead who appears as Lord Sankarsana and Lord Vasudeva. He is the original father of Brahma, Siva, Indra, Brhaspati, all the demigods, and all moving and nonmoving living entities. He is the original cause of all that is temporary and all that is eternal. Nothing exists separately from Him, and therefore He is everything. He is described in the following verses.
yat kincid asad bhunkte
sat karanam param jivas
This material world is temporary, whereas the individual living entities who try to enjoy matter are eternal and superior to it. The Supreme Personality of Godhead is superior to both the temporary material energy and the eternal living entities. Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu is this Supreme Person, the Absolute Truth, the original cause of all causes.
ya enam rasayati bhajati dhyayati sa papmanam tarati sa puto bhavati, sa tattvam janati, sa tarati sokam, gatis tasyate nanyasyeti.
One who worships the Supreme Lord, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, with devotion and always remembers Him becomes free from all sins and completely pure. Easily understanding the truth about the Personality of Godhead and becoming free from all material lamentation, such a devotee attains the supreme goal of life, which is unattainable by those averse to the Supreme Lord, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, a great acarya, or spiritual teacher, was the father of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, the spiritual master of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
Kusakratha Dasa, a disciple of Srila Prabhupada, has translated more than 120 sacred books from Sanskrit and Bengali into English.
A therapist draws on Lord Krsna's
By Arcana-siddhi Devi Dasi
THE HOSPITAL ROOM SMELLS strongly of antiseptic as I walk in. Chris sits on his bed, immersed in rapidly pushing buttons with his thumbs.
"Nintendo?" I ask nonchalantly, breaking his concentration.
"Play Station," he replies, continuing to madly push buttons.
I sit in a chair next to his bed, observing his strategy for blowing things up.
After a couple of minutes, Chris slams the game paddle to the floor.
"I hate this game," he snarls, with a few expletives thrown in.
Instinctively I reply, "Hmm, sounds like you're really angry."
My statement of the obvious sounds ludicrous to both of us. Chris ignores me. He covers his head with the bed sheet and mumbles to himself.
I feel uncomfortable and don't know what to say to draw him out. Chris is an eleven-year-old boy I've been working with in mental-health therapy for the past year. He has a history of explosive, raging outbursts. Recently he kicked a brick wall so hard he broke the femur in his right leg. Now he's confined to a hospital bed with pins in his leg.
I make another feeble attempt to connect to him.
"Anger is a powerful feeling. Looks like we need to explore new ways for you to control it, rather than it control you."
After enduring a few more minutes of silence, I decide to try a different approach.
" I brought you some cookies," I say with as much enthusiasm as I can muster.
At this, he peers out from under the sheet and asks, "What kind?"
Relieved to hear some response, I reply "Peanut butter."
He puts his hand out, and I place the cookies in it. Both he and the cookies disappear under the sheet. The muted sound of his munching fills the sterile room.
Since Chris and I began working on his anger, he has learned to identify things that trigger it. Getting teased at school makes him furious and inspired him to kick the brick wall. He has also learned to recognize that when he loses control, his fists and teeth clench and he feels flushed. He has developed a repertoire of positive ways to deal with his anger: walking away, positive self-talk, running around the block, visualizing a peaceful place. Despite this arsenal of anger-management skills, he still fails to control his anger in real-life situations.
Because I'm a long-time student of Bhagavad-gita, Chris's problem reminds me of the verse in which Lord Krsna tells His friend and disciple Arjuna that anger comes from lust. People generally think of lust as sexual longing. But Lord Krsna's definition of lust extends to any ungodly desire to gratify the senses.
Lord Krsna further explains that although the senses require a certain amount of satisfaction, unless regulated they become like wild horses, forcing one to obey their whims. Craving the objects of their satisfaction, the senses take control of the mind and intelligence, leading to frustration and anger when their impossible demands go unmet. From this anger, Krsna continues, delusion arises, and from delusion, bewilderment of memory. When memory is bewildered, human intelligence is lost, leaving one in a hell of irrational behavior.
Anger in Littleton
Modern society is full of people plagued with sensual addictions. When such people can't satisfy their urges, they become frustrated and anger takes control. As a result, we are currently witnessing unprecedented acts of violence throughout society. Even our middle-class suburban schools have been victimized by a rash of killings perpetrated by children from their own communities.
On April 20,1999, two students of Columbine High School in affluent Littleton, Colorado, opened fire on their fellow students, killing eleven and injuring many more. For the climax of their orchestrated massacre, the boys shot and killed themselves.
Like my client Chris, the Littleton boys had experienced peer rejection. One of them had graduated from an anger-management class. Still, rather than seek out ways to be accepted, they chose to retaliate with vengeance. They identified with hate groups and then planned a diabolical scheme to persecute those they imagined had smitten them.
This is a modern illustration of the Gita's timeless words: a thwarted desire for adoration and distinction emotionally evolves from lust to anger, then to delusion, and finally to insanity.
Graduates of the study of the Bhagavad-gita go on to the Srimad-Bhagavatam. The Bhagavatam narrates several accounts of how anger bewildered the intelligence of even great personalities. Once Durvasa Muni, a powerful yogi, approached the palace of Ambarisa Maharaja, a saintly king and exalted devotee of the Lord. Ambarisa prepared a reception with sumptuous food for Durvasa. As was the custom, before accepting his meal Durvasa went to bathe in the river. While bathing, the mystic Durvasa entered a yogic trance and stayed in the water for some time.
King Ambarisa had been observing a religious fast, and the proper time to break his fast was approaching. Not wanting to offend Durvasa by accepting his own meal before feeding his guest, Ambarisa Maharaja drank a little water—an action that simultaneously breaks and does not break one's fast.
By his yogic abilities, Durvasa came to know of this perceived transgression. Thinking the king's action disrespectful, Durvasa became insulted, and to retaliate he went before Ambarisa with angry words. He then invoked a fiery demon meant to destroy the king. But Lord Krsna protected His devotee Ambarisa and released His razor-sharp disc weapon towards Durvasa. After fleeing for his life, Durvasa came to his senses and realized how his pride and lust for adoration and distinction had provoked his needless wrath. Understanding the ramifications of his anger, Durvasa Muni fell at the feet of Maharaja Ambarisa and received forgiveness.
Anger as a Symptom
There are rare instances where anger is spiritually appropriate, provoked by injustices against the Lord and His devotees. Most anger, however, is a negative emotion manifested from frustrated attempts to enjoy sensually in the material world. Such anger must be checked and controlled. Teaching people anger-management skills can help. Chris sometimes successfully avoided confrontation by remembering to use them.
But as fever is a symptom of some disease in the body, anger is a symptom of ongoing material hankerings. Just as treating fever alone will not cure the disease, treating anger without understanding it to be a symptom of lust will not extinguish the unwanted behavior. To conquer anger, we must first ask how we shall conquer lust.
The Srimad-Bhagavatam describes many persons who conquered lust and were unaffected by anger. Foremost among them is Prahlada Maharaja. At the age of five, Prahlada, a selfrealized devotee, had no interest in worldly gain—just the opposite of his lusty, atheistic father, Hiranyakasipu. In time, the godless Hiranyakasipu began to look upon his saintly son as an enemy and plotted to kill him.
Although harassed in various ways by his father, Prahlada never became angry with him. The Lord, however, appeared as Nrsimhadeva and killed Hiranyakasipu. Afterwards, He offered a benediction to Prahlada, who, being self-satisfied in love of God, asked only that his evil father be liberated from his sins.
To be free of any negative emotions towards a person who tries to kill you may seem impossible. Yet a pure soul sees things differently. Pure devotees of God know they are spiritual beings, separate from the material body, and they see others in the same way. They understand how karma forces everyone to act according to a particular conditioned nature. They have full faith that the Lord is orchestrating everything and that He will protect them. Self-realized souls such as Prahlada are satisfied, so they don't need to exploit anything or anyone.
While this portrait of a pure soul may seem foreign, it is nevertheless our actual nature. Layers of dirt may cover gold, but when thoroughly cleansed the gold resumes its brilliance. Similarly, those who become cleansed of material desire again exhibit their original purity. Such purification is possible by engaging the demanding senses in serving the Lord. Without using the senses in God's service, trying to control them will end in frustration and failure.
I realize that Chris's success hinges on his turning to God, Krsna. Chris can now go in a direction that will elevate or degrade his consciousness. He can allow his anger to consume him and follow the teenage murderers of Columbine. Or he can follow in the footsteps of Prahlada and Ambarisa.
Right now I can't imagine Chris sitting down to chant the Hare Krsna mantra on beads. But I can introduce prayer to get him started.
When Chris finally emerges from under the sheets, I suggest a new tactic: praying to God for help with his anger. Together we formulate the prayer: "My dear Lord, please help me to stay in control of my anger. Help me to be calm and peaceful even when I'm being teased."
Chris repeats the prayer several times out loud and gives me an approving nod.
"Maybe this will help." he says with a new confidence.
"I'm sure it will," I respond, getting up to leave.
He waves enthusiastically.
"Come again," he says, "and bring more cookies!"
I make a mental note to bring cookies offered to Krsna so Chris can be purified. I'd hate for him to be angry with me.
Arcana-siddhi Devi Dasi was initiated by Srila Prabhupada in 1976. She lives with her husband and son in Baltimore, Maryland, where she works as a family therapist.
On reading Srila Prabhupada's books,
By Ravindra Svarupa Dasa
The following is an abridged lecture given last year at ISKCON's first center—26 Second Avenue in New York City. (Abridged by Nandi Mukhi Devi Dasi.)
I WANT TO SPEAK tonight on a few sentences from Srila Prabhupada's Introduction to the Srimad-Bhagavatam. But first I want to explain why these sentences are important to me. When I first ran across devotees, I was in my third year of graduate school in religious studies at Temple University. I was not in comparative religion or anything as down-to-earth as that. My field was theology and philosophy of religion. I was a snob.
On campus, I ran into devotees who were jumping up and down rather vigorously, chanting with mrdanga and karatalas. The first thing I thought was You'll never catch me doing that.
A friend ended up dragging me to the temple. I didn't expect much on an intellectual level. Then I read the Isopanisad, and this crudely printed book written in simple English caused an intellectual revolution. I realized I was in the presence of first-class theology. The more I read, the more Krsna consciousness and its theology seemed to me to be professional, while everything else I had come across was amateur.
One of the first things I read was Srila Prabhupada's Introduction to the Srimad-Bhagavatam. In the first sentence Prabhupada makes a distinction, and I have never found so clear a distinction on this point in anything I have ever read:
The conception of God and the conception of Absolute Truth are not on the same level. Srimad-Bhagavatam hits on the target of the Absolute Truth. The conception of God indicates the controller, whereas the conception of the Absolute Truth indicates the summum bonum, or the ultimate source of all energies. There is no difference of opinion about the personal feature of God as the controller because a controller cannot be impersonal.... According to the Bhagavad-gita any controller who has some specific extraordinary power is called vibhutimat sattva, or controller empowered by the Lord. There are many vibhutimat sattvas, controllers or gods, with various specific functions, but the Absolute Truth is one without a second. This Srimad-Bhagavatam designates the Absolute Truth, or the summum bonum, as the param satyam.
What is Srila Prabhupada talking about when he says that the conception of God and the conception of the Absolute Truth are not on the same level? I quickly understood that he's talking not about the beings designated by these ideas but about the ideas themselves. In philosophy we make a distinction between a term's connotation and its denotation. Take the terms "the morning star" and "the evening star"; they both denote the same thing, the planet Venus, but the connotation, the meaning, is different.
Srila Prabhupada is saying that God and the Absolute Truth have different connotations. He makes this clear when he says that there are many different controllers or gods. In other words, Srila Prabhupada is thinking of the Sanskrit word isvara, which means "controller." In principle there can be many isvaras, or gods. The conception of God doesn't have the same meaning as the conception of the Absolute Truth. There can be many controllers or gods, but the ultimate source of all energies is the Absolute Truth.
Here Srila Prabhupada is thinking of the definition of Brahman (Absolute Truth) given in the Vedanta-sutra. The Vedanta-sutra says that Brahman is that from which everything emanates. It is that which maintains everything then re-absorbs it all, the ultimate source of all energies. There are many controllers or gods of very specific powers, but the Absolute Truth is one without a second.
Persons from a Person
In the second paragraph Srila Prabhupada says that the Absolute Truth is the Supreme Person. Srila Prabhupada presents the argument in this way: The Absolute Truth is the ultimate source of all energies, and the vibhutimat sattvas, or persons empowered by the Lord, are the Absolute Truth's energies; consequently, the Absolute Truth, who created persons, must also be a person. If controller means person, then the controller of controllers must also be a person.
I liked it when Srila Prabhupada described Krsna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, because I had many prejudicial ideas associated with the word God. But I quickly realized that "Supreme Personality of Godhead" is a very precise term. "Godhead" traditionally is a term for the Absolute Truth, and Srila Prabhupada says "Personality of Godhead" to denote that the Absolute Truth has a personal feature.
Although the idea of God and the idea of the Absolute Truth are different, it turns out the Absolute Truth includes this personal aspect we associate with isvara. So what Srila Prabhupada also does in these first two paragraphs is reject impersonalism. He says that the many controllers are isvaras but that there is one paramesvara; the Absolute Truth is the Supreme Person.
Srila Prabhupada packed all this information into two paragraphs. When I began to understand how much information was here, it amazed me that someone could cover so much ground in so few sentences.
In a Class by Himself
What does it mean to say that Krsna is the Absolute Truth, the ultimate source of all energies? This idea is presented in the Upanisads, and Srila Prabhupada often cited one verse in particular. Nityo nityanam cetanas cetananam eko bahunam yo vidadhati kaman: There is one eternal (nityah), conscious (cetana) being among many eternal, conscious beings. And the one is the supplier to the many of all their needs. In other words, the one is independent, and the many are dependent.
Let's think about what this means. We are nityanam, the many conscious souls, but among the many nityanam there is one nityah who is singular. This refers to the Absolute Truth, who is in a class by Himself. If we put it together with what we read in the Introduction, the singular nityah is the ultimate source of all energies, and the many nityanam are in the category of energy and are dependent.
To sustain ourselves we require supplies—so many pounds of food, so many cubic feet of air, so many gallons of water. So where do these supplies come from? The Vedas say that there are cosmic controllers, devas, who are specialists in the supply department. Srila Prabhupada says that just as a city has a water department, a gas department, an electric department, so the universe runs on the same principle.
Even on the mundane level, when you need groceries you go to the grocery store. When grocery store shelves go empty, what do the store managers do? They go to the food warehouse. Everybody has to go for replenishment and restocking. Same with the devas. They run out.
So let's follow the chain back. According to the Vedas ultimately you come to a unique being, Krsna, the Absolute Truth, who supplies and supplies and supplies. Where does He go for replenishment? He doesn't. He doesn't run out, because He's the Absolute Truth, and His nature is described as om purnam adah purnam idam. The Invocation of the Isopanisad describes a being who is purnam, perfect and complete. He's so perfectly complete that if you take purnam away from Him He's still purnam. As Srila Prabhupada says, the mathematics of the Absolute Truth is 1—1 = 1. Krsna can give everything, and He's still got it; He's not diminished.
All There Is
Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He's the Absolute Truth, and the Absolute Truth is one without a second. But there is another sense of being one without a second, namely being all there is.
The theologian Paul Tillich said that God cannot be the Supreme Being among all beings because that would limit Him to being one among many. Therefore, he said, God is Being Itself. His argument is this: I'm a person. "Person" means I'm limited, I have definition. Here I end and the world begins. Therefore, if God is one thing among many things, how is He infinite? To resolve this dilemma, theologians say that God is Being Itself. But this is a false dilemma.
Let's look at this argument a minute. Because God is great, God can only be a cloud of gas? By the time you finish making God infinite and unlimited, He has no name, no form, no qualities, and no activities. In fact, He's a big zero. He's nothing, but with a capital N. Something is wrong with this process.
What Srila Prabhupada teaches us is that God is actually unlimited—simultaneously form and formless, simultaneously the Supreme Being among all beings and Being Itself.
Now there's the Absolute Truth and not some crippled idea of luminescent gas! And all this is what we talk about when we talk about the Absolute Truth.
Ravindra Svarupa Dasa, ISKCON's governing body commissioner for several states in the U.S., lives at the Philadelphia temple, where he joined ISKCON in 1971. He holds a Ph.D. in religion from Temple University.
"You Can Pronounce Krsna In Any Way"
Here we continue an exchange between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and the poet Allen Ginsberg. It took place on May 12, 1969, in Columbus, Ohio.
Allen Ginsberg: Your Divine Grace, my original question was, Is the complicated ritual and the Sanskrit language—are they going to keep people from accepting what you're giving.
Srila Prabhupada: No, no. We are translating, presenting everything in the English language. All our books are being published in English. Our magazine is in English.
Allen Ginsberg: But the question is, Is the mode of life that you are proposing adaptable to many, many, many people?
Srila Prabhupada: To that I say that this Krsna culture is not something that many, many people can immediately accept.
Allen Ginsberg: Yeah. But there is a thirst felt by many, many people for an alternative answer, for a better alternative system.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. So if people are actually thirsty—if they are actually thirsty—then they can adopt this system given by the Supreme Lord. What is the difficulty there? There is no difficulty. So many American boys and girls have already adopted it, and they are not feeling any difficulty. They are feeling relief. In what respect is chanting Hare Krsna difficult? You are chanting.
Allen Ginsberg: Yes.
Srila Prabhupada: It is all in Sanskrit. What difficulty are you feeling?
Allen Ginsberg: I don't feel too much difficulty, except aesthetically I do feel a difficulty. Yes, there is. The difficulty I feel is that there should be some flower of the American language to communicate in.
Srila Prabhupada: Therefore, we are seeking your help.
Allen Ginsberg: Hm. Well, I haven't found another way. I still just stay chanting Hare Krsna.
Srila Prabhupada: That is also my view. I have come to America with this view: that America is at the summit of material civilization—they are not poverty-stricken, you see?—and yet they are seeking after something. Therefore, I have come to offer, "You take this. You'll be happy." That is my mission.
And if the Americans take this Krsna consciousness seriously, then all other countries will take it, because America is leading at the present moment. So exalted persons like you should try to understand. What is the difficulty? There is no difficulty. Chanting Hare Krsna—anyone can chant. Even the little child is chanting. So, you were asking, How can this mode of living attract many people?
Allen Ginsberg: Well, mere chanting without the practice of a philosophy ...
Srila Prabhupada: Philosophy is here. We are teaching Bhagavad-gita. We are talking on Bhagavata philosophy. We are talking on Lord Sri Krsna Caitanya's philosophy.
Allen Ginsberg: And you have a daily ritual. So my question is this: Is the Caitanya-Krsna ritual, as you have it here in this house and in the other ashrams—is this something that a large mass of people can enter into?
Srila Prabhupada: In time, yes. Why not?
Allen Ginsberg: In America?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. This we have already seen. Virtually all my students are Americans. And Krsna consciousness is spreading.
Allen Ginsberg: Yes, but what it requires is an adaptation to Indian dress and . . .
Srila Prabhupada: That is not very important.
Allen Ginsberg: And an adaptation to Indian food.
Srila Prabhupada: No, no. Indian food—it is not Indian food. Are you not eating fruits?
Allen Ginsberg: Yes, yes.
Srila Prabhupada: Then that is Indian food? Do you mean to say it is Indian food?
Allen Ginsberg: Well, the curried vegetable dishes.
Srila Prabhupada: Vegetables you may simply steam, if you like. That doesn't matter. It doesn't matter whether you take our specific taste. No. That is not the program, that to become Krsna conscious you have to change your taste. No. We say what Krsna says in Bhagavad-gita. Patram puspam phalam toyam yo me bhaktya prayacchati: "Anyone who offers Me with devotion these vegetables, fruits, flowers, milk—I accept that." So we are determined to satisfy Krsna, and therefore we are selecting foodstuffs from these groups.
And these foodstuffs you are already accepting. Don't you take vegetables? Don't you take fruits? Don't you take grains? So where is the new item? Now, insofar as cooking is concerned, you can cook according to your own taste. But the food groups must be these. Not flesh. Because Krsna does not say, "Offer Me flesh."
This, very simply, is our program. And you are already eating grains, vegetables, and fruits, and you are drinking milk. So where is the difference? I don't find any difference.
Allen Ginsberg: Well, I suppose not. You could say there is no difference, because the food is basically the same materially. It's just a question of the style.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. My style and your style may be different. That's all right. In any event, to maintain health and keep body and soul together, you require eating, you require sleeping, you require mating, you require defending. We don't say that you don't do this.
Arjuna wanted to be nonviolent and not engage in defending: "Oh, what is the use of fighting?"
Krsna said, "No. It is required. You should." Defending is part of this Krsna culture. So where is the difference? There is no difference. Simply we are adjusting things so that you may become truly happy. Any intelligent man will accept this cultural idea. We are not prohibiting things, but rather, we are adjusting things. So there is no difficulty. Intelligent persons like you should try to understand and take this idea and distribute it, because your country is in want of this.
Allen Ginsberg: But there is a limit to how much the pronunciation of Krsna will spread, I think. There's a limit.
Srila Prabhupada: Hmm. No limit. You can pronounce Krsna in any way. For instance, K-r-i-s-h-n-a. You can pronounce Krsna in any way. Niyamitah smarane na kalah. No hard and fast rules, no limits.
Allen Ginsberg: The limit is people's prejudice.
Srila Prabhupada: We don't say, "Why are you chanting Krsna like this?" We never say that. We simply say, "Please try to chant Krsna."
Allen Ginsberg: Or let us say there would be a limit until the word Krsna became as common in English as any other English word.
Srila Prabhupada: It is already in the dictionary. In all dictionaries you will find Krsna. What more do you want?
Allen Ginsberg: Something that will not disturb truck drivers.
Disciple: They can say Christ. They can say Krsna. It is the same.
Allen Ginsberg: True. But they don't say Christ. [Laughs.]
Srila Prabhupada: I have read one book, the Aquarian Gospel, wherein it is explained that Krist means love. Christ means love. And Krsna also means love. So from Krsna this word Krist has come. And in India sometimes people say Kristha. Instead of Krsna, they say Kristha. And in various regions has come the word Kestha. Generally, instead of pronouncing very precisely Krsna, if somebody's name is Krsnacandra, they say, "Hey, Kesthara."
Allen Ginsberg: Where is this?
Srila Prabhupada: In India everywhere. Kestha. So Kestha, Christ, Krist, Kristha, or Krsna—they're in the same group. Pronouncing Krsna is not difficult.
by Syamananda Krsna Dasa
IN 1996, MEMBERS OF the International Society for Krishna Consciousness celebrated the centennial of the movement's founder, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. The celebrations inspired Hare Krsna devotees everywhere to do whatever they could to spread knowledge of Srila Prabhupada and his teachings.
Like many others, His Holiness Bhakti Caru Swami felt a strong desire to offer something special to his spiritual master on the occasion.
"I remember looking at a book on the greatest personalities of this century," says Bhakti Caru Swami. "To my great disappointment, I found that Srila Prabhupada's name was not mentioned. Although he is the greatest person of this age, very few people give him the recognition he deserves. His International Society for Krishna Consciousness is widely known, but hardly anyone knows the person behind it. I felt I should do something to make Srila Prabhupada known worldwide.
"Since audio-visual media are the most prominent today, I wanted to make a film about Srila Prabhupada's life and achievements. Then Hema Malini, a movie star from Bombay, gave me the idea of a TV serial. She felt it would be impossible to show Srila Prabhupada's life and achievements in a two-hour movie; we would be able to show much more in a serial."
Bhakti Caru Swami wanted to do more than just glorify Srila Prabhupada. He wanted to present Srila Prabhupada's life and achievements through a screenplay that would bring out his struggles, triumphs, and disappointments, and tell his story in detail.
The serial, based on the biography Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta, by His Holiness Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami, is entitled Abhay Charan (Srila Prabhupada's birth name). It was originally shot and edited for Indian television in episodes of twenty-five minutes. The first episode aired on September 7, 1996, the day after Srila Prabhupada's Centennial Appearance Day. The shows were then broadcast every Saturday, reaching millions of people all over India.
Prabhupada in British India
The serial brings to life the India dominated by the British Victorian imperialism in which Srila Prabhupada grew up. It also gives a lucid impression of the people and events that contributed to the pastimes of Lord Krsna's pure devotee.
The opening minutes of the first episode sharply contrast the British and Indian cultures in 1896. The governor of Bengal plays bridge, while Gour Mohan De, Abhay's father, celebrates Janmastami (Lord Krsna's appearance day). On the next day we share the joy of Abhay's parents at the birth of their son. In a delightful scene, an astrologer predicts that Abhay will spread Krsna consciousness all over the world.
Amid scenes of Abhay's devout Vaisnava upbringing are vivid portrayals of the loving care of his father, Gour Mohan, and mother, Rajani, and of the traditional Indian family life Abhay enjoyed in his early years.
The story also carries tension and drama. When two-year-old Abhay contracts typhoid, the family physician prescribes chicken broth, there being no cure for the disease at the time. The suggestion dismays the family of strict vegetarians. We feel Gour Mohan's agony as he wrestles with the decision: Should he allow Abhay to be given chicken soup?
In another dramatic childhood incident, Abhay comes face to face with brutality and death. Rioting erupts between Hindus and Muslims when the British deliberately cause friction between the two communities. The young Abhay narrowly escapes being attacked and manages to run to his house amid the horror of killing and burning.
Revival of Vaisnava Culture
During Abhay's childhood and youth, an important theme is the revival of Vaisnava culture through the efforts of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and his son Bimala Prasad, who later becomes Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, Srila Prabhupada's spiritual master.
In India at that time many so-called sadhus claimed to be God. One such yogi, Phalgu Baba, adds a fascinating dimension to the story. The ruling British, fearful of the yogi's following, deputize Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura to deal with him. The Thakura confronts the yogi, promising to expose him as a mere mortal. Sitting beneath a tree near the yogi's cave, Bhaktivinoda reads from the Srimad-Bhagavatam. The tension reaches its height when the yogi threatens to kill Bhaktivinoda and pits all his yogic powers against him.
Many important events from the life of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati are woven into the story of Abhay's life. In one emotional scene, Bhaktivinoda sends the young Bimala Prasad to Gaura Kisora Dasa Babaji for initiation. Determined to follow his father's instructions, Bimala approaches the Babaji with deep humility. But the great saint feels unqualified and is determined not to accept disciples. Even so, the Babaji eventually accepts Bimala Prasad as his only disciple.
As the story of Abhay's life unfolds, his studies take him to the prestigious Scottish Churches' College in Calcutta. While there, he is attracted by the message of the charismatic Subhash Chandra Bose, a spirited nationalist, who is rallying students to oppose British domination. Abhay and his friends attend Bose's secret meetings. But when Bose and his followers advocate violence, Abhay refuses to join them and insists he will fight the British in his own way when the time is right. Abhay feels that Gandhi's call to boycott everything British is a better way to protest. Therefore, even though he passes his examinations, he refuses to accept his diploma.
Abhay's life as a householder becomes a central theme after Gour Mohan arranges for his betrothal and marriage. We see wonderful scenes of their traditional Indian wedding.
Meeting His Guru
As a husband supporting his family, Abhay becomes the manager of Dr. Bose's laboratory in Calcutta. The doctor's pharmaceutical business flourishes under Abhay's capable management. One day Abhay's friend Naren comes to the office to induce him to meet a sadhu. At first Abhay is reluctant, but eventually he gives in to his friend's persuasion. Together they go to meet Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, the saint who will become Abhay's spiritual master.
Abhay gives up his secure position in Dr. Bose's company and moves to Allahabad. We see how Abhay struggles to balance his pharmacy business, his family responsibilities, and his spiritual life. Many scenes show the development of his relationship with his spiritual master, including assisting his mission, the Gaudiya Math. In one moving sequence we see Srila Prabhupada's initiation in 1933, when he received the name Abhay Caranaravinda Dasa.
In portraying the rest of Prabhupada's life in India, the screen-play focuses on his writing and printing. We see his determination to overcome obstacles to write, print, and distribute Back to Godhead magazine. We also see how he was able to translate and print the early volumes of Srimad-Bhagavatam, despite having to work alone. The story tells of Srila Prabhupada's relationship with Sumati Morar-jee and how with her help he was able to go to America aboard the Jaladuta.
Preaching in the West
The series moves on to Prabhupada's early years in America, including his stay in Butler, Pennsylvania, with Sally and Gopal Agarwal, and his move to New York, staying at first with Dr. Mishra and then starting out on his own. As the story develops, there are scenes of his stay in the Bowery loft and later at 26 Second Avenue. Gradually his early disciples gather around him and become initiated. There are also scenes of the early chanting in Tompkins Square Park, evening lectures at 26 Second Avenue, and the beginning of the Sunday feast program.
The serial also shows how Srila Prabhupada went to San Francisco and how the temple there was started. There are also scenes of the appearance of Lord Jagannatha, the first Rathayatra, and the Prabhupada's appearance at the Mantra Rock Dance.
The Filming Continues
Recently Bhakti Caru Swami took his team to Europe to shoot scenes of the development of Srila Prabhupada's mission there. He will return to America to shoot material showing the spread of Krsna consciousness throughout America.
Syamananda Krsna Dasa joined ISKCON in England in 1987. In 1992 he moved to Mayapur, India, where he served in the boys school until 1996. He was a member of Bhakti Caru Swami's Abhay Charan production team from its early days until late 1998.
The Story on Video Cassette
THE SERIAL HAS BEEN edited for distribution as video cassettes. Each contains the equivalent of four television episodes, about ninety minutes. The serial was originally broadcast in Hindi, but the video cassettes are now available in English, Hindi, and Tamil. Subtitled versions are available in German, French, and Italian.
Nine video cassettes have been re-leased, covering Prabhupada's life in India. The complete serial will comprise more than twenty cassettes.
To order the English or Hindi version, see The Hare Krsna Bazaar, http://www.krishna.com.
In the sixteenth century, the Muslim governor of Bengal
by Mathuresa Dasa
NAWAB HUSSAIN SHAH, * (Full name: Alauddina Saiyada Hussain Shah Seripha Makka.) who ruled Bengal from A.D. 1509 to 1532, had two expert and trusted ministers in the brothers Dabhir Kas and Sakara Mallik. The Nawab had recruited the brothers from the aristocratic Karnatic brahmana community, given them Muslim names, and taken satisfaction in seeing them shed Hindu ways and adopt Muslim dress and customs. In taking charge of the government secretariat and freeing the Nawab from the more cumbersome duties of his administration, Dabhir Kas and Sakara Mallik became his confidantes and two of the wealthiest and most influential men in Bengal.
Bengal's Hindu community took a dim view of the brothers' achievements. Muslims were not merely low-caste or outcaste, Hindu leaders proclaimed; they were meat-eaters and cow-killers. Rubbing shoulders with them in the slightest, even accidentally, clearly called for censure and ostracism. Because Dabhir Kas and Sakara Mallik, as they now called themselves, had accepted employment from the Nawab, they practically demanded their own excommunication. No other punishment fit their crime.
Finding no way to placate their critics and regain their status as respectable Hindus, the brothers in great humility and distress wrote several confidential letters to Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu at Jagannatha Puri, requesting His guidance. Lord Caitanya promised to come resolve their spiritual difficulties, and in 1513, on His way to visit the holy land of Vrndavana, He arrived at Ramakeli, the brothers' exquisite home village on the bank of the Ganges at the border of Bengal.
Great crowds of people joined Lord Caitanya chanting Hare Krsna and dancing through the streets of Ramakeli, alarming Muslim and Hindu leaders alike and prompting them to wonder what had occasioned the Lord's visit. Nawab Hussain Shah, while appreciating Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu as a Hindu prophet and ordering local officials to leave Him alone, appeared to be on a short fuse. And to many Hindu leaders, Lord Caitanya was a prophet only in the loosest sense, one fomenting a revolution against the brahminical caste system. There were Muslims and other untouchables chanting and dancing in those noisy crowds, and even the inner circle of the Lord's Hare Krsna movement included at least one member, Haridasa Thakura, born in a family of cow-killing Muslims.
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's devotees and friends in Ramakeli, sensing tension in the air, feared for His safety. Honoring their loving pleas, and appearing inconvenienced by the crowds that followed His every step, the Lord postponed His Vrndavana pilgrimage and returned to Puri, leaving both Nawab Hussain Shah and Hindu leaders to their sighs of relief as life returned to normal.
The Brothers Resign
Or apparently normal. For only a matter of months later news shook Bengal that Dabhir Kas and Sakara Mallik, the Nawab's right-hand men, had more or less vanished. Dabhir Kas had abruptly resigned his post, filled two large boats with his accumulated earnings in gold coins, and given away nearly all of it to relatives and religious charities at a place called Bakla Candradvipa.
Sakara Mallik too had requested permission to resign, and when the Nawab refused, had instead submitted sick reports and stayed home. Because Hussain Shah was planning an invasion of the neighboring state of Orissa, he was in no mood to allow Sakara Mallik to neglect the home front. Suspicious of the sick reports, the Nawab showed up at Sakara's house and found him in good health and happily studying the scripture Srimad-Bhagavatam, no doubt under the influence of the Hindu prophet Caitanya.
The temperamental ruler first tried coaxing Sakara back to work with friendly words. When that failed, he slapped him in jail and marched off to conquer the feudal princes of Orissa. In the Shah's absence Sakara escaped and, according to the jailkeeper, drowned in the Ganges, dragged under by his prison chains.
But the drowning was a ruse. Sakara had bribed the jailkeeper with ten thousand gold coins Dabhir Kas had set aside for emergencies. The two brothers had slipped away to join Lord Caitanya, who sent them to Vrndavana. Reliable sources confirmed too that during Lord Caitanya's recent visit to Ramakeli, the brothers, disguising themselves and crossing town in the dead of night to avoid the Nawab's detection, had met with the Lord.
"Everyone is asking why I have come to this village of Ramakeli," the Lord had told them. "I have come just to see you two brothers."
Lord Caitanya had initiated them into His Hare Krsna movement, changing their names to Rupa and Sanatana. So now Dabhir Kas and Sakara Mallik were known as Rupa Gosvami and Sanatana Gosvami. They had left wealth, family, friends, and practically unlimited spheres of influence in their homeland, and they had permanently set aside any thought of returning to regular Hindu society, all to serve Lord Caitanya in a remote holy place.
Reports filtered back from Vrndavana that the brothers had shaved their heads, marked their foreheads with tilaka clay, and discarded the silken, bejeweled finery of their government days to wear torn cloth. With no fixed residence, they were living beneath trees, one night under one tree and the next night under another. They were begging a little food, eating only some dry bread and chickpeas, and sleeping hardly at all. Through these willing hardships they happily chanted the holy names of Krsna, dancing in great jubilation throughout Vrndavana. Finding the opportunity to employ their considerable erudition to scrutinize the world's revealed scriptures (they were fluent in Persian, Arabic, and Sanskrit), they were writing books to establish eternal, universal religious principles.
Back home, Muslim and Hindu alike wondered how the brothers could even talk of religion. Dabhir Kas and Sakara Mallik had first lost their status as Hindus, then offended Hussain Shah as well. Weren't they aware that no religious person would take them seriously? And how long could these wealthy, aristocratic gentlemen survive as humble mendicants after their lives of luxury and prestige? Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's cult might temporarily attract those shaken by the crises of youth or middle age, and certainly the brothers had been traumatized by losing their Hindu birthright, but nothing could ultimately replace the identity everyone centers on the traditions of home, family, country, and career. As time wore on, Dabhir and Sakara would inevitably return to lives as stable, upwardly mobile professionals.
Yet as the years passed, Dabhir Kas and Sakara Mallik stayed in Vrndavana, joyfully writing and preaching for Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's mission. Competition for position at the Nawab's secretariat had begun at the first hint of the brothers' resignations, with Sakara Mallik's former post as head of the secretariat finally going to an undersecretary named Purandhara Khan. As further reminders of the brothers' absence, hundreds and thousands of followers of Lord Caitanya were appearing in every town and village in Bengal and throughout India. Wherever Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu had traveled, His devotees filled bustling marketplaces with their loud singing, greeted travelers at busy intersections and begged them to chant the holy names of Krsna, and in many ways reminiscent of Dabhir and Sakara, or Rupa and Sanatana, gave their lives to the Hare Krsna movement.
Ask these Hare Krsna devotees how Rupa and Sanatana were doing, and they would have the latest word on the brothers' activities in Vrndavana. "Rupa and Sanatana Gosvamis have received the causeless mercy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu," these nonenvious followers might typically say with pride. "Deeply attracted by the transcendental qualities of the Lord, the brothers are exact replicas of Lord Caitanya and are very, very dear to Him. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu has empowered them to spread the transcendental news of Krsna's pastimes. Rupa and Sanatana very carefully follow the principles enunciated by the Lord, constantly thinking of Lord Caitanya and His mission. Srila Rupa Gosvami, Sanatana Gosvami, and their nephew Jiva Gosvami, as well as practically all of their family members, live in Vrndavana and publish important books on devotional service to Krsna. What is impossible for persons who have been granted the Lord's mercy?"
Rupa and Sanatana, once the pride of the Nawab's cabinet, the envy of their Muslim under-workers, and the objects of scorn from caste-conscious Hindus, were now leaders in the Hare Krsna movement. Because true spiritual life is without envy, their leadership made them the objects of love and honor for all the great stalwart devotees of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
The Nawab's Realization
Nawab Hussain Shah had to resign himself at last to the loss of his two talented ministers. Watching with wonder and apprehension as the Hare Krsna movement spread to every corner of his realm, he had occasion to remember his days with Rupa and Sana-tana. In Ramakeli during Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's visit, the Nawab had privately questioned Dabhir Kas, the future Rupa Gosvami, about the Lord. Dabhir Kas had replied, "The Supreme Personality of Godhead, who gave you this kingdom and whom you accept as a prophet, has taken birth in your country. By His blessings, you will attain victory everywhere."
"But why are you questioning me?" he had continued. "As king, you are the representative of God. What does your heart tell you about Lord Caitanya?"
"I consider Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu to be the Supreme Lord, the Personality of Godhead," the Nawab had answered. "There is no doubt about it."
But Hussain Shah had mixed feelings. He had acknowledged Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu both as the Supreme Lord and as a troublesome holy man. Hussain Shah was after all a ruler and a politician, and Lord Caitanya, Personality of Godhead or not, had created a significant upheaval in his kingdom. What had the Lord said to cause two talented ministers to leave their lucrative posts and join the Hare Krsna movement? What had caused so many others to follow the brothers' example, chanting the holy names of Krsna and dancing in the streets?
What, in short, had been the teachings of Lord Caitanya to Rupa and Sanatana?
(Next issue: "Lord Caitanya's Teachings to Rupa Gosvami.")
Mathuresa Dasa, a disciple of Srila Prabhupada, has written many articles for Back to Godhead and other publications. He and his wife and their four children live in Alachua, Florida.
Srila Rupa Gosvami
Srila Sanatana Gosvami
Remarks by the former editor of
by Jayadvaita Swami
I CONGRATULATE YOU, Liam, on this rite of passage. And I invite you, Liam, just for a moment—I invite all of us, just for a moment—to think about who it is that's passing.
We pass into this world at birth, we pass from childhood through school and into adulthood, we marry, we pass further, into old age, and then, as the language has it, we pass on, we pass away.
But who is this "we"? Who is this person? Or, in our present ceremony, who is this Liam?
Some would tell us, Liam, that you are an extraordinarily complex biological machine, formed of intricate networks of cells and tissue, of blood and bones and organs and neurons, a splendid unit of chemicals working in unison, bubbling away—but nothing more.
Oh, you have a mind, too. You have thoughts and desires and feelings. You have consciousness. But they are nothing more than output from the machinery. What you finally come down to, Liam, is not so much a who as an "it." You are a body with a name on it—"Liam"—today passing from newness to full development on your way to decrepitude and finally to extinction. Congratulations.
But I would like to suggest to you, Liam, that those who think of you in this way have got you wrong, that they are seeing only what's outside and missing what's deeper within, that they are awed by the machine but missing the living person within the machine. They are seeing the car but somehow failing to recognize the driver.
I would offer to you that the real Liam is not the machine, not the body, not an agglomeration of matter on a journey from nowhere to nowhere, but the spark of life, the spark of consciousness, within the body.
That spark of life can't be cut, can't be dried, can't be broken or withered or blown away. It can't be created and can never be destroyed. And it is that eternally existing person—that eternal spirit, that spark of consciousness—that passes from one stage of life to another, from one body to another, from the body of a child, to the body of a youth, to a body of old age—and then onward to another body—or to liberation from this cycle of repeated birth and death—in a continuing spiritual journey.
This is not something, Liam, I would ask you simply to believe because your uncle believes it, or accept because your uncle accepts it, but—as you enter manhood—to think about, to scrutinize, to wonder about, to consider. I invite you to ponder whether there's a difference between Liam the organism and Liam the person, Liam the body and Liam the soul, Liam the machine and Liam the spirit.
The animals can't think about these things—they don't have the brain for it. But a human being can—and this, then, is the real business, the real opportunity, the real purpose, of human life.
And now, as you enter manhood, I encourage you to take that business seriously, take up that purpose, and pass not only from one biological stage to the next, from one social role to another, but—as a verse in Sanskrit has it—from darkness to light, from matter to spirit, from the temporary to the eternal.
I wish you all peace and all spiritual success in your life. Hare Krsna.
How God is Great
SRILA PRABHUPADA WOULD often say that from the Vedic literature we learn not only that God is great but in what ways He is great. Before coming to Krsna consciousness, I had only a vague idea of God. Now, like millions of others, I've gained a wealth of knowledge about God from Srila Prabhupada through his presentation of revealed Vedic wisdom. The following short list includes just some of the many things Srila Prabhupada taught us about God:
God is the supreme person, whose form is eternal and full of bliss and knowledge.
God has innumerable forms, of which the original is Krsna, a beautiful dark-blue cowherd boy who plays the flute and sports a peacock feather on His head.
God is unlimited in all respects.
God is the source of everything.
God can be seen by devotees whose vision is purified by unalloyed love.
God attracts everyone, either directly or through His material energy.
God knows everything—past, present, and future.
God has His eternal home, Goloka Vrndavana, in the spiritual world.
God's all-powerful Narayana expansions rule innumerable spiritual planets, called Vaikunthas.
Although God expands forms equal to Himself in power, He is never diminished in the least.
God breathed the Vedas, which contain all knowledge required for human existence.
God spoke the Bhagavad-gita five thousand years ago.
God is all-loving, and He created each of us to enjoy eternally with Him in one of His innumerable forms.
In His original form as Krsna, God enjoys the most intimate exchanges with His confidential devotees.
God especially enjoys with His pleasure potency, Srimati Radharani.
God's agents manage the universe while He enjoys with His devotees.
Though eternally residing in Goloka Vrndavana, God is simultaneously present everywhere, even within the atom.
As the original male, God impregnates nature with rebellious souls, who then take on material bodies.
As the Supersoul, God accompanies us throughout our sojourn in the material world.
We living beings are infinitesimal parts of God, and our qualities—consciousness, the will to live, and so on—are samples of His unlimited qualities.
God is fully present in the sound of His names, which are identical with Him.
God appears in the form of the Deity to accept our worship.
God is called Bhagavan ("possessor of opulence") because He possesses in full the six primary opulences: beauty, wealth, strength, fame, knowledge, and renunciation.
God comes to this world repeatedly in various forms to subdue the demonic, please His devotees, and reestablish religion.
God descended five hundred years ago as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and introduced the chanting of His names as the religion for the age.
God controls the sun, the rain, nature—everything—and unlike us is never subject to anyone's control.
The powerful forces of nature are only a hint of God's omnipotence.
God directs the creation, maintenance, and destruction of the universe.
In His form as Maha-Visnu, God creates millions of universes when He exhales and destroys them when He inhales—one breath taking hundreds of trillions of years.
God's expansion Ananta Sesa, who has innumerable mouths, has never been able to adequately describe God's glories, although trying to do so eternally.—Nagaraja Dasa
The need of the spirit soul is that he wants to get out of the limited sphere of material bondage and fulfill his desire for complete freedom. He wants to get out of the covered walls of the greater universe. He wants to see the free light and the spirit. That complete freedom is achieved when he meets the complete spirit, the Personality of Godhead.
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
The holy name of the Lord is never revealed to one who is situated in the bodily concept of life and thinks in terms of "I" and "mine." If one doesn't reject the enjoying mentality, the transcendental platform will never be attained.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura
If you become conscious of Me, you will pass over all the obstacles of conditioned life by My grace. If, however, you do not work in such consciousness but act through false ego, not hearing Me, you will be lost.
Lord Sri Krsna
One who daily sings the glories of Yasoda's son [Krsna], which are as cooling as sandalwood and camphor, is not troubled by the days of the Kali-yuga, for at every step he experiences a torrential flood of the sweetest nectar.
The Supreme Personality of Godhead is the only shelter of everyone. Anyone desiring to be protected by others is certainly a great fool who desires to cross the sea by holding the tail of a dog.
This body, which is eatable by jackals and dogs after death, does not actually do any good for me, the spirit soul. It is usable only for a short time and may perish at any moment. The body and its possessions, its riches and relatives, must all be engaged for the benefit of others, or else they will be sources of tribulation and misery.
The Supreme Soul dwells within the core of all living beings, but He does not manifest Himself to everyone. Only persons of superior intelligence and purified vision may perceive Him.
Upon achieving the stage of transcendental devotional service in pure love of God, a person becomes perfect, immortal, and peaceful.
Sri Narada Muni