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Volume 34, Number 03, 2000


Founder's Lecture: Montreal, Canada—June...
Spiritual Bongos And Neighborhood Beats
Srila Prabhupada Speaks Out
Spiritual Places
Lord Alarnath: Four Arms or Two?
Lord Caitanya's Teachings to Rupa Gosvami
Holding Fast In Times Of Stress
Elements of Sadhana
The Mayapur Project
The Mayapur Project
The Light of the Gita
From the Editor
Vedic Thoughts

© 2005 The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International


IN THIS ISSUE, Damodara Dasa, one of the first disciples of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, remembers with fondness Prabhupada's pioneer days in New York City. As one of only a handful of followers, Damodara witnessed Srila Prabhupada up close and gained a devotion to him that brought meaning to his life and sustains him today.

As a great spiritual teacher, Srila Prabhupada transformed lives by inspiring people to pursue spiritual goals. He lived what he taught, and he made the timeless wisdom of the Vedic literature accessible to the modern world. In his lecture in this issue, "The Power of Krsna's Name," we see how he homes in on the essential problem of our existence and offers the simplest yet most profound solution.

On the basis of Vedic authority, Srila Prabhupada promoted the chanting of Hare Krsna as the solution to all problems, material and spiritual. Chanting forms the essence of the daily spiritual program Prabhupada prescribed, and in Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami's "Holding Fast in Times of Stress," we hear how sticking to that program can get us through the most trying of times.

Hare Krsna

—Nagaraja Dasa, Editor

Our Purposes

• To help all people discern reality from illusion, spirit from matter, the eternal from the temporary.
• To expose the faults of materialism.
• To offer guidance in the Vedic techniques of spiritual life.
• To preserve and spread the Vedic culture.
• To celebrate the chanting of the holy names of God as taught by Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
• To help every living being remember and serve Sri Krsna, the Personality of Godhead.

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Encouraged Student

I would like to express my gratitude to all the devotees who contribute to BTG magazine. Each time I receive a new issue in the mail, I am always greatly inspired to do as much devotional service as I can.

As a first-year student pursuing a career in sociology, I found the Jan./Feb. issue particularly interesting. I had been wondering for a while how I could practically apply such a degree to a Krsna conscious way of life, when, lo and behold, the article by Kalakantha Dasa ("Putting Krsna to the Test") came before my eyes! It was very encouraging to see a devotee able to integrate the philosophy into his university studies, with incredible results. Prabhupada wanted highly educated people to become devotees, and we should all strive to fulfill his wish in any way possible.

Rina Daya
Toronto, Canada

Satisfying Krsna

I would first like to congratulate and thank you for the wonderful issue of Jan./Feb. 2000. I read the magazine cover to cover, which I normally do not do. I really enjoyed reading articles such as "Why We Must Know Who God Is" and "Putting Krsna to the Test." To put it simply, I enjoyed everything.

Just one question regarding the article "Why We Must Know Who God Is." It relates to how you determine if Krsna is satisfied. The test is performed by way of your spiritual master: If your spiritual master is satisfied, then Krsna is. What if I am not initiated yet and don't have a spiritual master? Who do I look to, to see if I'm satisfying Krsna?

Fort Kent, Maine

OUR REPLY: To accept initiation from a spiritual master is required for steady progress in spiritual life. But if you accept Srila Prabhupada's teachings even before initiation (as well as after), then he is also your spiritual master—technically called siksa-guru, or instructing guru. By following his instructions, as received through his books, disciples, and grand-disciples, you undoubtedly satisfy him, and Krsna is satisfied.

Organized Knowledge

I very much appreciated Kalakantha Dasa's chapter-by-chapter synopsis of the first half of the Bhagavad-gita in the March/April issue. I have been reading and worshiping Srila Prabhupada's gift of the Bhagavad-gita for twenty-five years. I am enlivened by your presentation. My knowledge of Bhagavad-gita is now becoming organized.

Bibhatsu Dasa
Austin, Texas

Bhagavatam Questions

Thank you for adding questions to the Srimad-Bhagavatam section. I have to admit that I tended to skip that section before, but now the questions draw me in. They help me focus on the important philosophical points that Prabhupada always makes in his purports. I hope other readers are taking advantage of this valuable addition to the magazine.

Richard Wells
Via the Internet

Questions About Offenses

I was reading the Jan./Feb. issue of BTG, and I have two questions about the offenses in chanting God's name, listed on page 28.

Offense 7: Teaching the glories of the Lord's names to the faithless.

I thought that was something that we should do: By teaching and preaching about the Lord, we can try to bring faith to those who don't have it.

Offense 9: Being inattentive while chanting the holy name.

When I tell devotees that I'm struggling while chanting my rounds because I can't concentrate, some devotees say, "Don't think! Just chant and be happy. Chant any place, anytime."

These two offenses confuse me. Can you clarify them?

Patricia Medici
Via the Internet

OUR REPLY: Our predecessor guru Srila Rupa Gosvami teaches that devotees should teach the innocent and avoid the demoniac. So we take "faithless" here to mean those who are clearly antagonistic toward Krsna consciousness. We avoid trying to teach such persons, because they will offend Krsna. Innocent persons, on the other hand, can hear without offense, even if their faith has not yet been awakened.

We should try to concentrate when we chant Hare Krsna. It seems devotees are just trying to encourage you by saying, "Don't worry about it too much. We all have a hard time concentrating. Just do your best."

Good Passion

I'm writing in reference to Dhira Govinda Dasa's maha-mantra experiment, where chanters showed increased qualities in the mode of goodness. As children of Krsna, it is natural to live every moment in goodness. Yet to live with passion and to be passionate should not be misunderstood. Passion is actually a driving force for our existence. Our desires and goals are driven by our inner passion to succeed—whether spiritually, emotionally, mentally, physically, socially, politically, academically, or financially. We should be passionate and eager about developing and perfecting the above spheres of our life to the highest degree possible.

Unesh Kallideen
Ladysmith, South Africa

OUR REPLY: The philosophy of Krsna consciousness promotes simple living and high thinking. The Srimad-Bhagavatam tells us to earn only enough to live comfortably and considers a person who takes more than he needs a thief.

"Passion," as it refers to one of the modes of nature, generally includes the strong desire for sense gratification. You may intend the word to mean simply ardent endeavor. But Lord Krsna tells us in the Gita that focusing our energy on spiritual perfection is best. Other things will come of their own accord. We should, of course, perform all our duties the best we can, but we should avoid the feverish pursuit of material goals.

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:


• On the "Letters" page in the January/February issue, under the heading "Paying for Mayapur," there are some errors in the reply.

Srila Prabhupada's will says nothing about funding the Mayapur temple and nothing about royalties from books. The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust funds the building and renovating of temples because that is one of its functions, as stated in the documents by which Srila Prabhupada founded the Trust. Funds for temple renovation and construction have little to do with royalties; the BBT allots a percentage of its income for this purpose.

• The photos in the Dvaraka article (March/April) credited to Maha-Visnu Dasa were taken by Ramanuja Dasa of ISKCON Jaipur.

• The cover painting for the March/April issue was done by Ramanatha Dasa, not Ramadasa Abhirama Dasa.

• In the article "What Exactly is 'Vedic'?" (March/April), the chart listing the divisions of the Vedic literature mistakenly puts the tamasic Puranas in the rajasic category, and vice versa.

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Founder's Lecture: Montreal, Canada—June 15, 1968:
The Power Of Krsna's Name

Chanting the Lord's name purifies our polluted consciousness, the source of all our problems.

By His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness

Ladies And Gentlemen, this Krsna consciousness movement is meant for reviving our original consciousness. At present, owing to our long association with matter, our consciousness has become contaminated, just as rain water becomes contaminated when it falls from a cloud. Originally the water is pure, distilled, but as soon as it falls onto the earth, it becomes mixed with many dirty things. Similarly, originally, as spirit soul, our consciousness is uncontaminated, but because of our present association with matter, our consciousness is contaminated. Therefore we have so many varieties of consciousness.

Disagreements between one person and another are due to contaminated consciousness. I think some way; you think otherwise. Therefore we do not agree. But originally, your consciousness and my consciousness were one. And what is that "one"? That pure consciousness is to think, "God is great, and I am His eternal servant." That is pure consciousness.

As soon as we want to imitate God or artificially become one with God, the contamination begins. A Bengali verse states,

krsna-bahirmukha hana bhoga-vancha kare
nikata-stha maya tare japatiya dhare

"When an individual soul forgets his eternal relationship with God and tries to lord it over the material nature, that forgetful condition is called maya, or illusion." So at present, especially in this age, forgetfulness of our eternal relationship with God is very strong. But by chanting the transcendental sound Hare Krsna, the first result is that our heart or mind becomes cleansed of all dirty things. This is not a theoretical proposition; it is a fact.

Chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra is not difficult. Although it is in the Sanskrit language, everyone can chant it. In this meeting we began to chant, and you joined with us. All my students are Americans. None of them are Indians, but still they have learned the mantra very nicely. That is not difficult. And there is no cost.

So what is Hare Krsna? Hare means the energy of the Lord, and Krsna means the Supreme Personality of Godhead. So it is a prayer. There are only three words—Hare, Krsna, and Rama—arranged as sixteen words: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. We request you to take up these three words: Hare, Krsna, Rama. Anyone can learn the mantra by heart and chant it. It is universal.

If you think, "Oh, Krsna is the name of a Hindu god"—if you have any objection—then you need not chant Krsna, but you must have a name for God. The Muslims call God Allah, the Jews call Him Jehovah. That does not matter. Lord Caitanya says that there are millions and billions of names of God. If you think that the name Krsna is not very suitable, you can accept any name. That doesn't matter. Our proposal is that you chant God's name.

Is it very difficult? It is not at all difficult. Lord Caitanya said that there are innumerable names of God according to different languages, different countries, different societies. And each of the names has the potency of God Himself. God is Absolute; therefore there is no difference between His name and He Himself. In the material world, the world of duality, there is a difference between the name water and the substance water. The name water is different from the substance water. If you are thirsty and you simply chant, "Water, water, water, water," your thirst will not be quenched. You require the substance water. That is the nature of matter. But spiritually, the name Krsna or the name Allah or the name Jehovah is as good as the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

You may ask why we specifically chant Hare Krsna. This name was chanted by Lord Caitanya, who introduced this movement five hundred years ago in India. We are following the footprints of Lord Caitanya. Because He chanted Hare Krsna, we chant Hare Krsna. But Lord Caitanya recommended that any one of God's innumerable names can be chanted.

There are no hard and fast rules for chanting. It is not that for chanting you have to prepare yourself or educate yourself or adjust yourself. No. We began to chant, and you were not prepared, but you joined us—you clapped with us, you danced with us. There are no rules or regulations. You simply chant. It is very easy. While walking you can chant whatever name you like. We like Krsna. We chant always Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. While walking on the street, while going on the bus, even while working with your hands, you can chant. There is no loss on your part, there is no expense on your part, but the gain is very great. Why don't you try it? That is our request.

The Benefit of Chanting

The benefit will be that gradually you will understand what you are. The whole modern civilization is going on under the wrong impression that "I am this body." In Srimad-Bhagavatam it is said, "One who goes on in the concept of the body as the self is no better than an ass or a cow." Actually we are not the body. If we chant the Hare Krsna mantra, we can understand what we are.

As soon as I understand that I am not the body, my activities become different. At present I am acting on the concept that I am the body. Because this body was born in a particular place in a particular country, I say, "I am American," or Indian, or Chinese, or German. And because this body has a relationship with some woman, I accept that woman as my wife. There are hundreds of thousands of women, but the woman who has a relationship with this body is my wife. There are thousands and millions of children, but one child who has an intimate relation with this body, I call my son. So if we are falsely identifying with the body, our identification with this world is also false.

Our real identity is, as stated in the Vedic literature, aham brahmasmi: "I am Brahman." That means "I am spirit soul; I am not matter."

The misconception that I am the body has to be removed. Of course, it is not possible for everyone to understand this, but if even a percentage of human society can understand, so many problems will be solved. The solution to so many problems is to understand aham brahmasmi: "I am spirit soul."

The Bhagavad-gita explains how the solutions take place. As soon as this realization is there—aham brahmasmi—then other things follow. Brahma-bhutah prasannatma: one at once becomes cheerful. As long as we are in the bodily concept of life, we cannot be cheerful. We are full of anxiety. And as soon as we understand "I am not this body; I am spirit soul," we become cheerful. There will be no anxiety.

We are full of anxiety because of the bodily concept of life. Consider a man with a very costly car. When driving on the street, he is careful to avoid an accident that would damage the car. He is in so much anxiety. But a man walking on the street has no such anxiety. Why is the man in the car so anxious? Because he has identified himself with the car. If the car is damaged in an accident, he thinks, "Oh, my car is gone; I am gone."

Although he is different from the car, he thinks like that because of false identification. Similarly, because we falsely identify with the body, we have so many problems. So if we want to solve the problems of life, we have to understand what we are. And unless this question arises in our mind, then we must consider that whatever we are doing brings defeat, because we are doing everything in false consciousness.

In the Srimad-Bhagavatam it is said, parabhavas tavad abodha-jatah. Abodha-jatah refers to one born a fool. Every one of us is born a fool. Why? Because from the beginning of life we think, "I am this body," although we are not the body. Therefore, according to Vedic civilization one has to take a second birth. One birth is made possible by the father and mother. That birth is considered an animal birth. Janmana jayate sudrah. Everyone by birth is a sudra, or the lowest class of person. But samskarad bhaved dvijah: "By reformation, one becomes twice-born." And what is that reformation? One understands what one is. Then, veda-pathad bhaved viprah: "After the second birth, one who tries to understand the spiritual science, the science of God, is called a vipra." Vipra means "quite cognizant." Finally, brahma janatiti brahmanah: "When one understands that he is Brahman, spirit soul, he becomes a brahmana."

Perhaps you have heard that in India the brahmanas are called the topmost men of the society. Why? Because they know, "I am Brahman; I am not matter."

By understanding Brahman, your position will be prasannatma, "joyful." Na socati na kanksati: you will never lament any loss, nor will you hanker after any so-called gain. Samah sarvesu bhutesu: you will see every living entity on the same level. Mad-bhaktim labhate param: in that stage of realization, you can understand God and your relationship with God.

Understanding Our Identity

This Krsna consciousness movement is meant for understanding who we are. The answer, of course, is very simple. The other day I lectured at a Sunday school. I called a small boy forward and, pointing to the different parts of his body, I asked him, "What is this?" He said, "It is my hand, it is my head, it is my leg, it is my body, it is my shirt, it is my ..." Then I asked him, "Where are you? You are saying 'my, my, my,' but where are you?"

Everyone can understand what he is. If you ask yourself, "Am I this hand?" you will say, "No, it is my hand." "Am I this leg?" "No, it is my leg." "Am I this head?" "No, it is my head." Then where are you? You are the person thinking within, "It is my hand, it is my head, it is my leg, it is my shirt, it is my coat." But have you seen that person? You think you have seen your father, your mother, your son. But have you seen the real father within the body of the father? Have you seen the real son within the body of the son? No.

Then your whole conception of life and of the problems of this world is false. Therefore this movement is required at the present moment. Ceto-darpana-marjanam: the chanting of Hare Krsna will cleanse your mental condition. Bhava-maha-davagni-nirvapanam: as soon as you understand yourself, then all problems—social, political, economic, everything—will be solved. Sreyah-kairava-candrika-vitaranam: and gradually you shall realize your transcendental life.

Your transcendental life is joyful. Ananda-mayo 'bhyasat. That is our nature. We are hankering after joyful life, but we do not know how to get it. Our joyfulness is covered by our material understanding. We have to remove the material understanding; then again we shall become joyful.

The Need for Authority

This movement is very scientific. We have authoritative statements. You cannot defy authority. From the beginning of your life, when you were a child, you asked your parents, "Mother, father, what is this?" You cannot go even a step without authority. You are governed by authority. You are driving your car by authority. "Keep to the right." Why? Why don't you defy it?

We have to obey authority. But the difficulty is, who is the authority? We must learn who is actually the authority. The authority is one who makes no mistakes, has no illusion, does not cheat, and whose senses are perfect. That is the definition of authority. A conditioned soul is sure to commit mistakes. However learned he may be, however advanced he may be, he must commit mistakes. Therefore it is said, "To err is human." And everyone must be illusioned and have the propensity to cheat.

Even a child wants to cheat. The mother asks, "Oh, what is in your hand?" The child says, "No, mother, nothing," although the mother can see he has something. So the cheating propensity is there.

And above all, your senses are imperfect. You are proud of your eyes: "I want to see." What can you see? If the light is off, your seeing power is immediately gone. If there is no sun, your seeing power is gone. We can see only under certain conditions; therefore our power to see is imperfect.

You cannot get perfect knowledge by imperfect senses, by speculative endeavor. You have to accept authority. When you want to know who your father is, the authority is your mother. The mother says, "Here is your father." You have to accept. You cannot do research. You mother is the final authority on who your father is.

Similarly, we have to accept an authority to get real knowledge. And if the authority is not a conditioned soul, if he is a liberated soul, if he is not a cheater, if his senses are not imperfect, if he does not make any mistakes, if he is not in illusion—if you receive knowledge from that authority, then your knowledge is perfect. That is the process.

We have authoritative literature: the Vedic literature. You can test it by your reasoning, by your arguments, by your philosophical talks—everything. Religion without a philosophical basis, without a scientific basis, is sentiment. Religion based on philosophy and science is right.

Bhagavad-gita is an authoritative book. It nicely answers any question, any inquiry, any doubt. For example, in one place in the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna says,

sarva-yonisu kaunteya
murtayah sambhavanti yah
tasam brahma mahad yonir
aham bija-pradah pita

The Vedic literature says that there are 8,400,000 species of life: aquatics, plants, trees, worms, germs, birds, beasts, and at last, the human species. So Krsna says, "I am the seed-giving father of all living entities." If you can understand this one verse, then you can have some idea of universal brotherhood. If you want to have universal brotherhood, you must find the center—the universal father.

Such questions and answers are there in Bhagavad-gita. And we have the education of the science of God: Srimad-Bhagavatam. These books are meant for human society. If you take advantage of the knowledge imparted in them and chant the Hare Krsna mantra, you will see how your life improves, how you become full of knowledge, full of bliss, and how you advance in your eternal life.

Thank you very much.

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Spiritual Bongos And Neighborhood Beats

"If I had not been there with
Srila Prabhupada for days and
weeks and months, my life would
be nothing but dry, tattered scraps."

By Damodara Dasa

Adapted by Nandimukhi Devi Dasi from Remembering Srila Prabhupada (copyright 1998 Daniel Clark)

HIS DIVINE GRACE A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, my spiritual master, enacted his life's activities from his birth in 1896 to his passing in 1977. I knew him for the last eleven years of his exemplary pastimes. But to say I knew him is going too far. I watched him. I listened to him. I talked with him and corresponded with him. I followed him and obeyed him—and disobeyed him. I learned from him. I bowed down before him and prayed to him. I loved him, and still do. Through those eleven years, that person I first knew as the Swami, then as Swamiji, and then as Srila Prabhupada guided my life.

My first contact with Srila Prabhupada was in April of 1966. 1 saw a New York Times photograph with a long caption. The Swami, pictured sitting, was giving classes on Bhagavad-gita in a loft on the Bowery. For the Swami, first and foremost, God is a person, the caption stated. The best way to attain God realization, he said, is through devotion—and specifically by chanting names of God in a congregational setting. The name of God preferred by the Swami: Krsna.

In July, Swami Bhaktivedanta and his students moved into a small storefront on Second Avenue. It was seven blocks south of my apartment. I often rode the bus south to a friend's place, and it took me by 26 Second Avenue, where a sign above the window bore the name "Matchless Gifts." Early one evening the lights were on. Through the window I could see a half dozen people sitting on straw mats with their backs to the street. Facing them and me, at the far end of the room, was a golden glow—that's all I saw at first. It was the Swami, in yellow cloth.

I was scared. Scared because I was attracted, and I knew what that attraction meant. I would have to stop having sex! I would have to give up all kinds of things. These impressions came to me in the three or four seconds allowed me by the fast-moving bus.

During the late summer, the Krsna conscious people were the subject of many conversations on the Lower East Side. Most of the neighborhood "beats" kept their distance. I too hesitated to walk through the storefront door into that other world. Then a neighborhood avant-garde newspaper, The East Village Other, published a long article on Swami Bhaktivedanta and his disciples. Included was an announcement that the Krsna people would hold outdoor gatherings every Sunday at the park. My wife and I decided to go the next Sunday.

The day was sunny and mild, and the park, as usual, was busy with colorful bohemians celebrating the weekend.

The Swami was dressed in a traditional wrapped cloth. He was sitting down, batting on a little wooden bongo drum. The inner circle of adepts included several enraptured disciples dancing at a stately pace around and around in a circle perhaps ten feet in diameter. Their arms were raised in supplication. Around the dancers sat two dozen or so cross-legged meditators buried deep in the sound of the mantra they sang. Around them stood a crowd of a hundred people. They were a cross-section of the Lower East Side population: students, Ukrainians, Puerto Ricans, bohemians, blue-collar workers, and kids. Many of the onlookers, helped by leaflets passed out by a disciple, sang along with the exotic spiritualists at the center. My life changed at that moment. I was catapulted into a new world.

The Swami modestly kept himself out of the spotlight. He allowed the words and the music of the mantra to work its sacred effect. After a while he stood to speak. I was too far away to hear much of what he said. He spoke with intensity—that was clear. I wanted to hear more.

I attended the next evening meeting at 26 Second Avenue. Once again, the chanting, which I learned was called kirtana, was deeply fulfilling to me.

After a kirtana of twenty minutes or so, the Swami spoke. I had expected a smiling, light-hearted wizardly fellow. Instead, the Swami was dead serious. His lecture concentrated on the evils of sex, which he railed against with vigor. During the question-and-answer period, he employed a quickness of wit and startling perceptiveness in his responses. It was plain he dwelled in a world of mystics and saints who were completely real to him. No matter how much grief it caused me, I was determined to proceed further along this path. I became a regular at the storefront.

The experience of being with the Swami was unsettling. It forced us to question our assumptions about every move we made. Yet to be with him was also the most comforting and reassuring event of our lives. We used to chant on our beads, speaking the mantra aloud, in the courtyard right under his apartment window. Sometimes he would look out and smile. To be so close to him was like being at the center of the universe. We felt no fear or anxiety. He was our eternal protector.

Perfect Teacher

Do you wonder about his authenticity? One young man attending a lecture in New York did. He asked Prabhupada, in a rude, sarcastic tone of voice, "Can you see God?" The answer came swiftly: "Yes, but you're in the way!"

The movements of his hands were decisive yet supple. In 1966, before the Society had a treasurer, Prabhupada kept the meager fund of petty cash in his little snap-clasped purse. His disciple Brahmananda asked him for fifty cents. Prabhupada picked up the purse with a slow-motion sweep and elevated it to his eye level with his arms outstretched. He deftly unsnapped the clasp with one hand as his other hand descended into the purse, thumb and forefinger together like a bird's beak, the other fingers straight out like wings. Somehow the beak immediately found a fifty-cent piece. The graceful bird flew out of the purse holding it as if it were a golden coin from a king's treasure chest and released it into Brahmananda's hand.

"This typewriter is not different from Krsna," he taught us in his apartment at 26 Second Avenue. He patted the gray metal machine he was using to type out his purports to Bhagavad-gita. Thus we learned one of the central principles of Krsna consciousness: matter engaged in the service of God becomes spiritualized. "When you place an iron poker in the fire, it becomes just like fire."

Among his perfections was his gentlemanly behavior. In preparation for his return to New York in 1969, the devotees worked hard to fix up his apartment. As Prabhupada climbed the stairs and saw the rooms through the open door, he said, "This is my old home" and melted our hearts. He knew we wanted him to stay there and never leave. He couldn't give us that, but he gave us his love. At every moment he won us over again and again.

If I had not been there with Srila Prabhupada for days and weeks and months, my life would be nothing but dry, tattered scraps. The sound of the words from his mouth was like a ripe delicious mango, and it drove you mad for more and more. His hands danced, and the sight of him blessed our eyes with spiritual vision, for on seeing him we gazed into the kingdom of God.

That is why I bow down before him and offer him songs of praise.

Damodara Dasa lives with his wife, Vajresvari Devi Dasi, in Sebastian, Florida. He works as an electronic media specialist at the local public library.

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Srila Prabhupada Speaks Out

"Krsna Is the Unifying Agent"

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: How far beyond special study centers can a Krsna consciousness movement or any religious movement grow? Because the need is for a large single, unifying religious movement in America.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. So here is Krsna—all-attractive. You now have to find out as much as possible about Him. Of course, you can say, "Why shall I accept Krsna?" You can talk like that. But your first question is about finding the right unifying agent. So I say, "Here is Krsna."

Now we can analyze. You may ask, "Why shall we accept Krsna?"

Then I shall reply, "Why shall you not?"

First, what do you expect from the Supreme Being or the perfect unifying agent? Everything is there in Krsna. Wealth—Krsna. Beauty—Krsna. Wisdom—Krsna. Fame—Krsna. Renunciation—Krsna. Strength—Krsna. You'll find everything in Krsna. Whatever you want you'll find in Krsna. He is the unifying agent, the center. And of that I will convince you.

Krsna is the unifying center, actually. And in the Bhagavad-gita He says, mama vartmanuvartante manusyah partha sarvasah: "Everyone is trying to come to Me." Everyone is trying to come to Krsna. Then He adds, ye yatha mam prapadyante: "But some are realizing Me not directly but indirectly, through My various energies. Still, everyone is trying to come to Me."

We are talking about Krsna as the perfect unifying agent. Insofar as His unifying power is concerned, He appeals, in His various manifestations, to all varieties of truth seekers. Essentially, there are three varieties of truth seekers: mental speculators, meditators or yogis, and devotees. The mental speculators are trying to understand the Absolute Truth in an impersonal way, without a personal form. And the meditators or yogis are trying to find Krsna within their heart, through meditation. Finally, the devotees are trying to find the Absolute Truth through personal activity, through reciprocation of loving service. Now, all three of these manifestations—impersonal all-pervasiveness, personal presence in the heart, and active personal reciprocation—are in Krsna. And Srimad-Bhagavatam says that it is the only business of the human being to search out this Absolute Truth.

Now, in the Bhagavatam's second chapter, the Absolute Truth is explained, analyzed. Vadanti tat tattva-vidas tattvam yaj jnanam advayam. First, the Absolute Truth must be one entity. The Absolute Truth cannot be two different entities. Two different entities would mean relative truths. No, the Absolute Truth must be one. Therefore the knowledge of the Absolute Truth is one. Vadanti tat tattva-vidas. Tattva-vidas means "those in knowledge of the Absolute Truth," and the verse goes on to say that such persons confirm that the Absolute Truth is one.

But He's realized in three phases. Brahmeti paramatmeti bhagavan iti sabdyate. Brahman means His impersonal all-pervasiveness, through His effulgent energies; Paramatma or Supersoul means His personal presence within the heart; and Bhagavan means His overt personal presence as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. So, these are different stages of realization.

For instance, you go through different stages in realizing the sun. In the first stage, you experience the sun's impersonal effulgence all over the sky. But that effulgence is not more important than the sun globe—because it is from the sun globe that the effulgence is coming. So anyone will understand, "This sunshine is not as important as the sun globe." And if you approach the sun globe and penetrate into the sun—if you have really got the scientific power to go within the sun globe—then you'll find there is a sun-god. That information we get from Bhagavad-gita. Imam vivasvate yogam proktavan aham avyayam. Krsna says, "I first taught this science of God realization to Vivasvan, the sun-god." So, therefore, behind the sunshine and the sun globe there is a person. And why not a person? Our imagination is not the ultimate truth. We have to get information from Krsna, and He explains that behind these other manifestations there is a person, the sun-god.

So, as far as sun realization is concerned, there is a person—he's sitting there. Now, if we consider these different stages one passes through in realizing the sun—sunshine, sun globe, and sun-god—which is the most important? Which is the most important?

Allen Ginsberg: The person, the globe, or the sunshine?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes.

Allen Ginsberg (laughing): I don't know.

Srila Prabhupada: Why don't you know? You cannot say which of these three manifestations is the most important? The sunshine, the sun globe, and within the sun globe, the sun-god. Now, which is the most important?

Allen Ginsberg: If we could apprehend it in terms of person, the person.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes.

Allen Ginsberg: But if we could apprehend it only in terms of the globe, then the globe.

Srila Prabhupada: So that means your own realization may extend only up to the globe, but that realization is not complete.

Allen Ginsberg: Yes.

Srila Prabhupada: That realization is not complete. You have to go further. As we learn in the Upanisads, we should pray, "O Lord, please withdraw Your effulgence, so that I can see Your true face." Sri Isopanisad says this. You will see it in Sri Isopanisad. The author, Srila Vyasadeva, is praying, "Please wind up this glaring effulgence of Yours, so that I can see Your real face."

So the Lord's real face is there. And in Bhagavad-gita Krsna says, brahmano hi pratisthaham: "This impersonal Brahman effulgence is resting on My personal existence." And Brahma- samhita says,

yasya prabha prabhavato jagad-anda-koti-
kotisv asesa-vasudhadi vibhuti-bhinnam
tad brahma niskalam anantam asesa-bhutam
govindam adi-purusam tam aham bhajami

"I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, who has great power. The impersonal Brahman is simply the glowing effulgence of His transcendental form." And so forth.

So this Brahman effulgence is nothing but the effulgence emanating from Krsna's body. You see, Krsna has a very powerful bodily effulgence. And within that bodily effulgence, all creation has manifested. Just as within the sun's effulgence all these planets are moving and all this vegetation is growing—everything is existing within the sunshine—so, similarly, sarvam khalv idam brahma: Everything is existing within the brahmajyoti, Krsna's effulgence. And in the Bhagavad-gita Krsna says, maya tatam idam sarvam jagadavyakta-murtina: "This impersonal exhibition of this whole manifestation—it is I." Mat-sthani sarva-bhutani: "Everything existing is within Me." But na caham tesv avasthitah: "And yet I am not directly there."

So we have to study everything intelligently. I want some intelligent persons from America to study this great science and share it with the whole world. Then it will be nicely done.

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Spiritual Places

Alarnath—Abode of Spiritual Longing

This small, remote temple can inspire
appreciation for the highest devotional sentiments.

By Bhakti Vikasa Swami

ALTHOUGH ALARNATH is a little known holy place, I had always been fascinated with the idea of going there. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu would stay at Alarnath during anavasara, the two-week period when Lord Jagannatha rests in seclusion before the annual Rathayatra (chariot festival) in Jagannatha Puri. Lord Caitanya couldn't bear staying in Puri without seeing His beloved Lord, and at Alarnath He would reveal the highest spiritual emotions, pining in ecstatic separation.

I'm traveling with a group of five others to Bentpur, the village near the Alarnath temple, seventeen kilometers west of Puri and about five kilometers inland. To reach Alarnath, Lord Caitanya would walk along the beach, but today most pilgrims take a bus.

We're traveling by jeep, and the ride along the flat, winding road gives us beautiful views of agricultural fields and large coconut-palm forests. The rich land of the coastal plain supports many people, and we pass quite a few villages during the one-hour ride. It's seven in the morning, and people are rising to bathe in ponds and rivers, as they have for thousands of years.

Along the way we see many palanquins that house deities from area villages. The deities are on their way to Bentpur for an annual festival that brings together deities of each of the five Pandava brothers, the pure devotees of Lord Krsna whose lives are central to the epic Mahabharata. According to local tradition, anyone who sees all five deities in one day attains liberation. Because the deities' temples sit some distance from one another, visiting them all in one day is impossible. In former times a king once tried on horseback but failed. Now once a year the five deities gather at Bentpur and pilgrims come from all over the area with deities from their villages. More than a hundred deities—Radha-Krsna, Siva, other devas—will be arriving for this year's festival, to be held tomorrow.

We arrive in Bentpur in a typical Indian bazaar with blaring cinema music. It's a small village with a few hundred houses. Although it's still early, merchants are opening their small shops and kiosks to sell their produce, grain, spices, cloth, hardware, stainless-steel pots and pans—just about anything you'd need.

The Alarnath Temple

We walk a hundred yards or so to the Alarnath temple and find ourselves in a peaceful, serene setting amid palm trees moving gently in the breeze. We imagine what the place must have been like when Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu stayed here five hundred years ago (a blessed time without loud-speakers).

As with the Jagannatha temple in Puri, Westerners are not allowed inside for an audience with Lord Alarnath. Because it's a fairly small temple, we can see the deity from outside, al-though not clearly. Lord Alarnath is a four-armed Visnu deity. At His feet kneels Garuda, His eagle-carrier, hands folded in prayer. The Lord's consorts Sri and Bhu also accompany Him. The temple also contains small Deities of Lord Krsna's queens Rukmini and Satyabhama. Bas reliefs of Lord Brahma and Lord Siva grace the ceiling of one of the halls leading up to the main chamber.

The temple also holds a deity of Lord Caitanya known as Sad-bhuja, or "Six-armed," signifying Lord Caitanya's identity with both Lord Krsna and Lord Rama. A stone slab in front of the deity bears impressions from Lord Caitanya's body. When Lord Caitanya first lay in full obeisance before Lord Alarnath, the stone beneath Lord Caitanya melted from His ecstatic touch.

The government of Orissa manages the temple, and brahmanas from about fifty families take turns serving the deities. Each family specializes in one aspect of the deity service, the tradition passing from generation to generation. Some families cook for the deities, while others offer the deities their meals, worship them, decorate them, and so on. The temple owns about sixty acres of land, some used for the deities and some for their servants.

Near the Alarnath temple is the Brahma Gaudiya Math, established by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura in 1926. The temple houses deities of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Radha-Krsna (Gopi-Gopinatha), and a small Lord Alarnath. A priest of the Alarnath temple had found the small deity during excavation and had installed Him in the temple. One night the deity appeared to the head priest in a dream and told him that He wanted to be worshiped by Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati. The next day the priest presented the deity to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, who happened to be staying at the Gaudiya Math temple.

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, who was born in Puri, loved Alarnath. He said that the place is the same as Vrndavana and that the small lake there—on whose banks Lord Caitanya would rest—is the same as Radha-kunda, the most sacred of lakes. In 1929 Srila Bhaktisiddhanta arranged renovation of the Alarnath temple and construction of a boundary wall. It is said that he was so eager to see the work completed that he would roll cigarettes for the workers to keep them on the job. He also placed sculptures of Vamana, Nrsimha, and Varaha (three incarnations of Lord Krsna) in alcoves in the temple's outer walls.

Ramananda Raya's Home

After visiting the Alarnath temple and the Brahma Gaudiya Math, we go to the other end of Bentpur village to the birthplace of Ramananda Raya, one of Lord Caitanya's chief associates. We meet Mr. P. K. Pattnaik, a descendant of Gopinatha Pattnaik, a brother of Ramananda Raya. Mr. Pattnaik and his family show us a ceremonial sword that belonged to Ramananda (a governor) and old government documents written on palm leaves.

Across a dirt path from the Pattnaik's home is a temple of Ramananda Raya and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, depicting their meeting on the bank of the Godavari River.

An Important Site

Alarnath is not a big or famous holy place and probably never will be. Yet Gaudiya Vaisnavas, the followers of Lord Caitanya, revere it as an important site of Lord Caitanya's pastimes. The great Gaudiya Vaisnavas spiritual master Bhaktivinoda Thakura has sung, gaur amara, je saba sthane, karalo bhramana range, se-saba sthana heribo ami, pranayi-bhakata-sange: "I aspire to see, in the company of loving devotees, all the places visited by Lord Caitanya." And Srila Prabhupada writes, "A devotee should make a point of visiting all the places where Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu performed His pastimes. Indeed, pure devotees of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu even want to see the places He simply visited for only hours or minutes." How important, then, is a place where Lord Caitanya stayed every year, exhibiting the most intense mood of separation from His beloved Krsna!

Bhakti Vikasa Swami hails from England but has lived in India for many years. He teaches Krsna consciousness at the ISKCON center in Baroda, Gujarat.

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Lord Alarnath: Four Arms or Two?

WHEN LORD CAITANYA would come before Lord Alarnath, He would see Him not as Visnu, or Narayana, but as Krsna, playing a flute. Therefore devotees in the line of Lord Caitanya consider Lord Alarnath to be two-armed Krsna.

Sri Caitanya's ecstasy of seeing Lord Alarnath in this way has its parallel in a pastime of Radha-Krsna. Once, when Lord Krsna was enjoying with Radha and the other gopis (cowherd girls) in Vrndavana, He playfully hid from them. When the gopis, without Radha, found Him, He disguised Himself by displaying His four-armed form. The gopis didn't recognize Him and kept searching. But when Radha found Him, He couldn't hide from Her intense love and resumed His all-attractive two-armed form as flute-playing Krsna, the only object of Radha's pure devotion.

The Lord Eats to Please a Child

ONCE, A BRAHMANA named Sri Ketana, whose service was to offer food to Lord Alarnath, had to go out to beg provisions for the Lord. He gave his young son Madhu. the responsibility for making offerings in his absence, instructing Madhu to place the Lord's meals before Him and pray to the Lord to accept them.

When the time came to make the first offering, Madhu brought the food to the Lord and prayed, "O my dear Lord, please accept this offering. I'm just a boy and don't know how to offer it properly."

Madhu then went out to play with his friends. When he returned, he saw that all the food was still on the plate.

"O my Lord," he said, "why haven't you eaten? If my father hears of this, he'll be angry with me. Please eat."

Madhu left, only to return and find the food still on the plate. With tears in his eyes, he again begged the Lord to eat.

When Madhu returned the third time, the Lord's plate was empty.

Madhu happily carried the empty plate to his mother.

"Where is the prasadam?" she asked.

"Lord Alarnath ate everything!" Madhu replied.

For three days Madhu and his family fasted because whenever Madhu offered the Lord His meal, He ate everything.

When Sri Ketana returned and heard of the situation, he scolded his son.

"What have you done with Lord Alarnath's prasadam?"

"He ate it, father. I offered it just like you taught me."

"He can't eat," Sri Ketana replied. "He's just a stone deity."

Sri Ketana decided to see what was going on, so he hid behind a pillar while his son made an offering to the Lord. After Madhu had left, Sri Ketana saw the Lord reach down and pick up a bowl of sweetrice. Sri Ketana jumped from behind the pillar and caught hold of the Lord's arm, spilling hot sweetrice on the Lord's body.

"Stop!" Sri Ketana yelled. "What are You doing? Who ever heard of a deity eating? If You eat everything, how will we live?"

Lord Alarnath replied, "O materialist in the guise of a brahmana, I never accept offerings from a faithless person like you, devoid of devotion. I accepted the offerings of Madhu because he offered them with simplicity and love."

Today, the priests of Lord Alarnath point out several scars on the Lord's body where He was scalded by the sweetrice.

Lord of the Alvars

ACCORDING TO LOCAL tradition, the history of Alarnath goes back millions of years. Here in Satya-yuga, the first of the four great ages, Lord Narayana spoke to Lord Brahma from the sky, describing in detail the form of a deity Brahma should carve and worship.

"Because you have worshiped Me here," Lord Narayana said, "This place will be known as Brahmagiri ['Brahma's Hill']."

Much later, Brahmagiri became known as Alar-nath. The presenta temple was built about eleven hundred years ago, and some brahmanas from South India performed the worship. Because they were in the disciplic line of the great spiritual teachers known as the Alvars, the deity became known as Alvarnatha ("Lord of the Alvars"), which in time became Alarnath. Today, the place is also commonly known as Brahmagiri.

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Lord Caitanya's Teachings to Rupa Gosvami

Lord Caitanya clarifies, among other things,
the origin and evolution of the species.

By Mathuresa Dasa

As related in the last issue, Rupa Gosvami and his brother Sanatana Gosvami have resigned their ministerial posts in the Muslim government of sixteenth-century Bengal, having decided to dedicate their lives to Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's mission. Now we follow Rupa Gosvami as he travels to meet Lord Caitanya in Allahabad and then learns from Him the science of Krsna consciousness.

AFTER GIVING AWAY HIS FORTUNE at Bakla Chandradvipa in the district of Yashohara, Bengal, where he and his brothers had grown up, Rupa Gosvami sent two messengers to Jagannatha Puri to find out when Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu planned to leave for Vrndavana. By the time the messengers returned to inform Rupa that the Lord had already started for Vrndavana through the forest of Madhya Pradesh, Rupa's older brother Sanatana had been imprisoned by the Nawab (governor). Rupa sent Sanatana a letter, informing him of Lord Caitanya's whereabouts and encouraging him to buy his release with ten thousand gold coins on deposit with a local business. Rupa wrote that he was leaving with their younger brother, Anupama, to join Lord Caitanya.

"You must also somehow or other get released and come meet us in Vrndavana," he urged Sanatana.

Vrndavana is in north central India, about one hundred miles south of modern Delhi. Both Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Rupa Gosvami were traveling on foot from the eastern side of the Indian subcontinent, Lord Caitanya from Puri on the Bay of Bengal, Rupa Gosvami from an area of Bengal that today is about a day's drive northeast of Puri. Lord Caitanya, setting out with one assistant in early autumn of the year 1513, had a head start. Leaving late at night to escape notice, the Lord avoided the better-known public roads, passed just to the south of present-day Cuttack, and entered on a forest path. After much traveling, He stopped briefly at Varanasi on the bank of the Ganges, then moved on to Prayaga, near Allahabad, and finally reached Vrndavana.

After Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's Vrndavana sojourn, when He returned to Prayaga in February of 1514, Rupa and Anupama, having followed the path of the Ganges from Bengal, caught up with the Lord. When Rupa and Anupama arrived, Lord Caitanya was on His way to visit Prayaga's temple of Bindu Madhava, followed by many hundreds and thousands of people eager to meet Him. As the Lord proceeded, loudly chanting Hare Krsna and dancing, the people following Him joyously laughed, danced, and chanted along with Him, creating an ecstatic uproar.

The brothers watched the wonderful scene from an uncrowded place and later went to meet the Lord at the home of a brahmana. Seeing Rupa and Anupama bowing down to Him at a distance, Lord Caitanya welcomed and embraced them. The brothers offered many prayers to the Lord, culminating with, "O most munificent incarnation! You are Krsna Himself appearing as Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu. You have assumed the golden color of Srimati Radharani, and You are widely distributing pure love of Krsna. We offer our respectful obeisances unto You."

As Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Krsna adopts the mood of His greatest devotee, Srimati Radharani, to understand and relish Her feelings towards Him and to teach by His own example the exalted position of devotional service.

Eager to learn from the Lord, Rupa Gosvami followed Him and stayed with Him wherever He moved around Prayaga. To avoid crowds, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu went to Dashashvame-dha Ghat on the bank of the Ganges and there for ten days instructed Rupa Gosvami on the science of devotional service.

Life is Everywhere

"My dear Rupa, the science of devotional service to Krsna is like a great ocean of nectar," Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu began. "It is impossible to show you this entire ocean, but to give you an idea of its length and breadth, I will try to describe just one drop."

The universe, Lord Caitanya informed Rupa Gosvami, is filled with countless living beings in 8,400,000 species of life. The Visnu Purana confirms the Lord's statement, elaborating that there are 900,000 species of aquatics, 2,000,000 species of plants and trees, 1,100,000 species of insects and reptiles, 1,000,000 species of birds, 3,000,000 species of four-legged animals, and 400,000 species of human beings. These 8,400,000 species are not all present on the earth but are spread throughout the universe, as every planet is inhabited. As on this planet living creatures have bodies adapted to living on land or in the water, in tropical heat or in arctic cold, so all over the universe the bodies of the living entities are suitable for the planets on which they reside.

According to the Bhagavad-gita, five categories of material elements make up the universe: earth, water, fire, air, and ether (or space). Since we find living entities all over this planet, in all kinds of elements, there is no logic to denying the statement of the Vedic literature that living entities live on all planets in the universe, whatever the arrangements of the elements on a particular planet. We human beings on earth are like a colony of ants occupying one tiny point on a vast continent. We possess little capacity to understand on our own the extent of life in the universe. We have to take assistance from the Lord and the Vedic texts to learn that what may look to us like barren space is in truth a universe teeming with varieties of life, both human and nonhuman.

Our bodies may not survive elsewhere in the universe, but other bodies do, and in any case the living entity is only the proprietor of a particular body, not the body itself. The living entity is an indestructible individual particle of spirit seated in the body as driver of the bodily machine.

"The size of the living entity is one ten-thousandth the size of the tip of a hair," Lord Caitanya continued. The Lord quoted a commentary on Srimad-Bhagavatam: "If we divide the tip of a hair into a hundred parts and then take one of these parts and divide it again into a hundred parts, that very fine particle is the size of but one of the numberless living entities. They are particles of spirit, not matter."

As the sun spreads its light throughout the sky, so the minute living entity spreads its consciousness throughout a particular body. In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna states that the numberless living entities within the universe are eternally fragments of Him. He is the supreme, all-pervading spirit, and we are all tiny particles of spirit, in quality one with Him. If we were one with God in all respects—if we were all-pervading and all-powerful—there would be no question of our being caged as we are in the material elements, forced to do battle against material nature. When we give up trying to be lord of the universe and submit ourselves as servants of the Supreme Lord, material nature begins to release us from the hard struggle for existence and we become happy.

Evolution of Consciousness

In the 8,000,000 species of life below the human species there is an evolution not of bodies or of species, as the Darwinians say, but of the consciousness of the minute particles of spirit. At the creation of the universe, Krsna creates all 8,400,000 species to accommodate 8,400,000 varieties of desires and qualifications of the minute spiritual sparks who want to imitate Him as Lord. From the species of plants and trees where consciousness is very covered and dim, up through the millions of species of birds and quadrupeds, material nature automatically promotes us as we transmigrate from one body to another, one planet to another, in the cycle of repeated birth and death. Consciousness gradually emerges from the covering of matter, until upon reaching the human form of life we have the capacity to question our existence: Who am I? Why am I suffering? What is this universe? What is life?

This inquisitive human being is only a tiny portion of the universal population. Lord Caitanya explained to Rupa Gosvami that the population can be divided in two: those that can move and those that cannot. Trees and plants are nonmoving living entities, while aquatics, birds, and animals move in the water, in the air, and on land. Among the millions and trillions of living beings moving on land, human beings are a numerically minuscule section. Then in this small human community, most members are completely ignorant of spiritual life and have no faith in the existence of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Among those few who do have faith in God and the scriptures, at least half give only lip service while engaging in all kinds of activities against religious principles, or even against basic moral standards. The activities of the faithless and the lip servers eventually degrade to the point where they fully resemble the activities of animals or worse, and these living entities, their consciousness again covered by their own will, descend again to the lower species in their next lives to start over in the evolutionary cycle.

Above the lip servers, among the sincere followers of religious principles, most people aspire to profit from the business of piety. These people are called fruitive workers, because they want to enjoy the results, or fruits, of their good work. They want something back for their devotion: wealth, fame, a comfortable life for themselves and for those they love, either here or in heaven. Out of millions of fruitive workers one is wise enough to see that no matter how rich the results of our piety, we continue suffering birth and death in the material universe without any true satisfaction of the soul.

These rare wise persons have a preliminary understanding that they are eternal spirit, not matter, and they desire liberation from material suffering by losing themselves in eternal spiritual existence. With their rudimentary knowledge, these spiritualists are inclined towards monism, or merging with the Absolute Truth. There is an eternal distinction between ourselves, our knowledge of the Absolute Truth, and the Absolute Truth itself. The monist makes futile attempts to dissolve this distinction in favor of oneness, then falls back in frustration to activities for material enjoyment.

Out of millions of wise persons, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu informed Rupa Gosvami, it is difficult to find one who has avoided the trap of monism to become a pure devotee of Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead and the origin of both material and spiritual existence. A primary quality of pure devotees is that they are peaceful. They are not agitated by desires for material enjoyment or by the desire to merge with the Supreme. Their only wish is to serve Krsna. Depending on Krsna as a small child depends on its parents, without expecting assistance but always feeling protected, the devotee is personally desireless.

The Creeper of Devotion

The platform of desireless devotion, the summit of evolution, is the gift of Krsna and His devotees. Lord Caitanya informed Rupa Gosvami that after wandering in the evolutionary cycle from planet to planet all around the universe, from animal and plant life up to the stage of human wisdom and back down over and over again, a living entity by good fortune gets the chance to meet a bona fide spiritual master by the grace of Krsna. Lord Krsna is situated in everyone's heart, and when He sees that the living entity desires to return to Him, He sends His empowered representative to offer the living entity instruction in devotional service. The Supreme can be known only by devotional service cultivated under the guidance of an expert and authorized devotee. By the mercy of Krsna one gets a bona fide spiritual master, and by the mercy of the spiritual master one gets Krsna.

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu likened devotional service to a vine, or a creeper. Training under the spiritual master in the methods and regulations of devotional service is the seed of this creeper. When one associates with devotees, hears from one's devotee spiritual master, and chants the Hare Krsna mantra, the seed of devotion sprouts in one's heart. As one waters the creeper of devotion by faithfully serving the spiritual master and hearing about Krsna from him, the creeper expands so vigorously that it grows out of the material universe into the spiritual sky, reaching the planets of the transcendental kingdom of God. On the topmost spiritual planet the creeper takes shelter of the lotus feet of Krsna and produces fruits of love of God.

Sitting with Rupa Gosvami on the bank of the Ganges at Dashashvamedha Ghat, Lord Caitanya described in detail how with watering, care, and protection the living entity's devotional creeper continues to expand in the spiritual world. Having surpassed the material sky with its evolution of consciousness in 8,400,00 species, the eternal living entity undergoes a blissful transcendental evolution through the many ecstatic stages of love of God.

An Ocean of Nectar

After these detailed instructions Lord Caitanya concluded, "My dear Rupa, I have simply given a general description of the science of devotion. You can consider how to adjust and expand upon this. When one thinks of Krsna constantly, one can reach the shore of the ocean of transcendental love by Lord Krsna's mercy."

Rupa Gosvami absorbed the elaborate descriptions of transcendental love from Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu by His mercy, and twenty-eight years later, in the year 1542, completed his definitive work on spiritual evolution entitled Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, or "The Ocean of the Nectar of Devotional Service." This great work remained little known and far less understood, in India or the West, until His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada published a summary study of the work in 1970 as The Nectar of Devotion.

The morning after completing His teachings to Rupa Gosvami, Lord Caitanya rose and prepared to leave Prayaga and return to the city of Varanasi. Rupa Gosvami begged to go with Him, but the Lord ordered him to continue on to Vrndavana.

"Later," the Lord promised, "you can travel from Vrndavana to Jagannatha Puri by way of Bengal and meet Me again."

Extremely distressed at losing the Lord's company, but eager to carry out His mission, Rupa Gosvami watched as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu boarded the boat taking Him to Varanasi.

As Rupa and Anupama resumed their journey to Vrndavana and Lord Caitanya traveled down the Ganges towards Varanasi, Sanatana Gosvami too was nearing Varanasi, having escaped from prison in Bengal.

(In an upcoming issue we'll hear about Lord Caitanya's teachings to Sanatana 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.

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Holding Fast In Times Of Stress

The practices of Krsna consciousness
do not exempt us from the turbulence
of the material world, but they
can surely help us get through it.

By Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami

THERE IS A LOT of talk these days about how to relieve stress. We often feel stress because of change, and change comes under the larger headings of fate and time, and of Krsna's will. How does a devotee of Krsna handle the stress of feeling his life suddenly subject to upheaval?

A devotee turns to the scriptures for shelter. The Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam are full of advice about how to think and act in times of difficulty, and they are also filled with descriptions of the inevitability of change in the material world.

In the second chapter of the Bhagavad-gita, Krsna speaks a series of verses to answer Arjuna's question about the nature of the transcendentalist. I remember reading in Gandhi's autobiography that he used to read daily that particular section (from verse Bg 2.55 to the end of the chapter). The instructions contained in those verses are universally applicable for those wishing to stay fixed in transcendence while living in the material world.

Verse Bg 2.57 is particularly relevant: "In the material world, one who is unaffected by whatever good or evil he may obtain, neither praising it nor despising it, is firmly fixed in perfect knowledge."

Srila Prabhupada's purport begins, "There is always some upheaval in the material world which may be good or evil." This is a classic statement by Srila Prabhupada. I have had this line reverberating in my mind ever since I first read it, and it seemed to address my life at different times when there were upheavals. Upheavals can be anything from government collapse to tidal waves and earthquakes to losing our job or our particular service to Lord Krsna. Here Srila Prabhupada calls such unfortunate occurrences "normal."

Prabhupada told us, "Don't expect smooth sailing in this world." He meant that being devotees of Krsna doesn't protect us from rough seas. Arjuna certainly didn't enjoy smooth sailing as he fought against friends and family in the Battle of Kuruksetra. Krsna's only promise was that He had already accomplished what He wanted Arjuna to do; Arjuna should act as His instrument, and Krsna would stand before him on the chariot.

Srila Prabhupada continues: "One who is not agitated by such material upheavals, who is unaffected by good and evil, is to be understood to be fixed in Krsna consciousness."

There it is, how we should respond to inevitable change: When, after years of peace, we or someone we know is suddenly afflicted with disease or loss of income or some other drastic change, we should remain unaffected.

"As long as one is in the material world there is always the possibility of good and evil because this world is full of duality. But one who is fixed in Krsna consciousness is not affected by good and evil, because he is simply concerned with Krsna, who is all-good absolute. Such consciousness situates one in a perfect transcendental position, called, technically, samadhi."

Krsna is the anchor in any storm. He will never change. Therefore, if we are fixed on Krsna, then we will remain fixed in the face of any calamity. Otherwise, if our attachment and fixity are on matter, and our faith was based on the idea that matter won't change in our particular situation, then when our small world dissolves and our plans go spinning off into meaninglessness, our complete sense of identity will also spin off. A devotee is fixed on Krsna, not on matter. And Krsna doesn't change.

Of course, saving ourselves from unnecessary stress is not the main reason to become Krsna conscious, but a rewarding dividend of practicing devotional service is to be able to hold on to the one trustworthy person, and to a realized sense of identity. Thus whatever faith we have invested in matter we should invest in Krsna so that we can develop the ability to turn to Krsna always, and to live in remembrance of Him. Krsna finishes His answer to Arjuna's question by saying, "This is the way of the spiritual and godly life, after attaining which a man is not bewildered. If one is thus situated even at the hour of death, one can enter into the kingdom of God." (2.72)

Sticking to Our Practices

It's a shame, therefore, that we see devotees undergoing change who give up their sadhana, their daily spiritual practices. Often the stress doesn't have to be so calamitous. It can simply be a new, more hectic schedule or a temporary illness. In one sense, it's not so unusual to neglect sadhana at such times because sadhana is based on regulation. When regulation is disturbed, sadhana seems more difficult to perform. Still, it's a shame. Krsna is the anchor in our lives. If during a storm we let go of our anchor, what shelter do we have? Of course, it's not that we really let go of Krsna, but we abandon our method of connecting with Him. When things change, we suddenly give up the shelter we need most.

Perhaps we each need to examine whether giving up sadhana, or even reducing sadhana, is really required. Another way to see our lives is to say, "If I do anything during this difficult time, let it be chanting Hare Krsna." Everything else can come after. Chanting is not a luxury for a devotee; neither is hearing about Krsna. Hearing and chanting are how we sustain our spiritual lives.

The Greatest Gain

Since Srila Prabhupada mentioned samadhi, let's examine another reference to that state. In the sixth chapter of the Bhagavad-gita (6.20-23), Krsna explains:

In the stage of perfection called trance, or samadhi, one's mind is completely restrained from material mental activities by practice of yoga. This perfection is characterized by one's ability to see the self by the pure mind and to relish and rejoice in the self. In that joyous state, one is situated in boundless transcendental happiness, realized through transcendental senses. Established thus, one never departs from the truth, and upon gaining this he thinks there is no greater gain. Being situated in such a position, one is never shaken, even in the midst of greatest difficulty. This indeed is actual freedom from all miseries arising from material contact.

Samadhi is the greatest gain because it rests on the real happiness of the self living in the truth of Krsna consciousness. Having attained samadhi, a person is not shaken by difficulty. In the last paragraph of his purport, Prabhupada writes, "As long as the material body exists, one has to meet the demands of the body.... But a person who is in pure bhakti-yoga . . . does not arouse the senses while meeting the demands of the body. Rather, he accepts the bare necessities of life, making the best use of a bad bargain, and enjoys transcendental happiness in Krsna consciousness. He is callous toward incidental occurrences—such as accidents, disease, scarcity, and even the death of a most dear relative—but he is always alert to execute his duties in Krsna consciousness."

Our sadhana is not a selfish act. I remember that when I was in charge of ISKCON's first temple in Boston, I sometimes had to counsel devotees who had had some calamity in their families. I often referred to this purport. A relative's death is not a signal that we should abandon our spiritual lives. Our obligation is different. Prabhupada says that a devotee is callous toward incidental occurrences, and he lists all the typical sources of misery—accidents, disease, scarcity, and the death of a relative. "He endures all such incidental occurrences because he knows that they come and go and do not affect his duties. In this way he achieves the highest perfection in yoga practice."

Callous means tough. We should be tough, not shaken by every whimsical wind passing through the material world. Our hearts should not feel tugged at by every grief and happiness. Matter changes; that is its nature. A transcendentalist does not become affected by it.

How do we come to the platform of samadhi? It takes knowledge. Prabhupada has made that knowledge accessible to us in his books. Here he states that not only do we need knowledge, we need to stay fixed in our duty. That is the key. If we are fixed in Krsna consciousness, then we will stick to our Krsna conscious duty.

Devotees may then ask, "What about when our duty changes because of some upheaval in the material world?"

Then we may have to examine what really constitutes our duty. The basis of our duty is our sadhana and the understanding that we are the eternal servant of Krsna. We tend to allow ourselves to identify with what has become the status quo for us, the work for which we are often appreciated. We think of ourselves as writers or managers or cooks or mothers. Krsna may, at any time, change that designation, however. Therefore, we must see our ultimate duty as taking shelter of the holy names and following the four regulative principles according to our vows, and we should embrace this duty no matter in what condition of life we find ourselves. We must also regularly hear about Krsna. These activities constitute a devotee's unchanging duty. If our service to Krsna is changed, we can take up a new service. After all, we are servants. Such dutifulness will provide real shelter. It is a tangible way in which to connect with Krsna.

The upheavals: scarcity (of money or food); disease (which comes in so many varieties); accidents (to the body, to our property); and death. A devotee continues to do his service.

Ultimately, Krsna is behind whatever changes take place in this world. We can remember that and quicken our philosophical perception of life by carrying through with all the items of sadhana. By associating with devotees, taking shelter of the holy name, and hearing the voice of God as He presents it in scripture, we can develop the understanding and steadiness required.

Not Emotionless

Of course, we are not stone, and we have not achieved samadhi. We will feel emotion about the things happening around us. I have felt assured that Krsna did not condemn Arjuna for crying or shaking before the battle, nor for his fears or attachments. Rather, Krsna condemned Arjuna for not acting on His order despite those obstacles. To grieve and feel afraid or insecure in the midst of upheaval is human. We don't have to pretend to be unmoved if we are quaking inwardly. Neither should we pretend we are callous if we're actually upset. What is required of us is not pretense but steadiness. We should not give up our duty under any condition.

There is real shelter in Krsna consciousness. As Gandhi said about his own turning to scripture, "When doubts haunt me, when disappointments stare me in the face, and I see not one ray of hope on the horizon, I turn to Bhagavad-gita and find a verse to comfort me. I immediately begin to smile in the midst of overwhelming sorrow. Those who meditate on the Gita will derive fresh joy and new meanings from it every day."

We have that access to Krsna and to solace. By opening the scriptures and reading something, we come in touch with something sublime, with the voice of God.

We can become Krsna conscious. That means we can see Krsna's hand in every situation. If we see Krsna's hand, we won't be bewildered into laying blame on others for our misfortune. We can achieve that freedom, but we have to practice Krsna consciousness to achieve it. All the items of sadhana will give us the strength and knowledge to function as devotees.

Seeing Krsna's hand doesn't mean that we can or even need to always understand the reasons behind His actions. We simply accept that His plans are inconceivable to us. We don't even need to inquire into them. Our faith is that Krsna is our well-wishing friend; everything is happening by His arrangement for our own good.

Of course, that requires faith, and times of difficulty must especially become times of faith. Faith means to place our trust in something sublime. It means we cannot always see the way; it's too dark ahead. It means that even though Krsna is not always showing us the goal and the solution to the obstacles we will encounter on our way to the goal at every instance, we follow Him anyway. It means following Him even when He is not revealing Himself to us. If we go before the deity and don't see Krsna, if we chant the holy name and don't hear "Krsna," and in the absence of any other form of revelation, we continue to follow, then that is faith.

Somehow, therefore, serve Krsna with body, mind, and words. Our duty is Krsna consciousness. Although practicing our sadhana and performing our service may sometimes take creativity, we should never lose sight of our real position as Krsna's eternal servants.

Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami, one of Srila Prabhupada's first disciples, is a former editor of Back to Godhead and the author of many books on Krsna consciousness, including a six-volume biography of Srila Prabhupada.

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Elements of Sadhana

BECAUSE WE HAVE turned away from Krsna, the material energy now covers our original consciousness, or Krsna consciousness. Purifying our consciousness of lifetimes of contamination takes time and practice. Therefore, Srila Prabhupada set up a program of spiritual practices for those under his guidance.

In summary, Prabhupada instructed his followers to rise early (ideally, before 4:00 A.M.); to worship the spiritual master, the deities (at home or in the temple), and Tulasi Devi (Krsna's devotee in the form of a sacred bush); to chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra on beads at least a set number of times daily (16 rounds, or 1,728 mantras, for initiated devotees); to read and attend classes daily on Srimad-Bhagavatam and Bhagavad-gita; and to eat only prasadam (food prepared for and offered to Krsna).

Each of the elements of Srila Prabhupada's program has immense spiritual power, and he repeatedly stressed the program's importance for anyone who wants to make steady spiritual progress. Therefore, serious students of Krsna consciousness try their best to stick to their sadhana in the face of any obstacles the material energy may present.

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In Pursuit Of Complete Science

Lila Purusottama Dasa earned his Ph.D. in electrical engineering (robotics and intelligent systems) from IIT Delhi. He is a former faculty member of the Birla Institute of Technology, Pilani, India (BITS Pilani), now working full time with the Mumbai branch of the Bhaktivedanta Institute (BI), the scientific arm of ISKCON.

Lila Purusottama has published in some thirty refereed journals and conference proceedings. In 1998 he received a career award for Young Teacher from the All India Council for Technical Education. His name is listed in the Marquis Who's Who, which records distinguished professionals in science and engineering. He has carried out two sponsored research projects in intelligence control.
Vrndavanesvari Devi Dasi, a reporter for the annual
Janmastami Souvenir of ISKCON Mumbai (Juhu), conducted the following interview.

Vrndavanesvari Devi Dasi: What inspired you to accept the philosophy of Krsna consciousness?

Lila Purusottama Dasa: I was always searching for the Truth. I was born in Orissa, where through the causeless mercy of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the Hare Krsna maha-mantra had been distributed. In my childhood I would hear the maha-mantra chanted in my village, especially when villagers would hold 24-hour chanting sessions. I was philosophical from childhood. Mundane glamour never attracted me.

After receiving my B.Sc. in engineering, I read the Bhagavad-gita and was inspired to pray to the Lord to use me as an instrument in His service. After joining the faculty at Regional Engineering College, Rourkela (Orissa), I felt dissatisfied professionally. I took to chanting the maha-mantra without anybody asking me to do so. I didn't chant in a regulated fashion, but I derived joy from chanting while walking or sitting leisurely.

When I shifted to IIT Delhi (Indian Institute of Technology) to pursue my doctoral degree, I led an isolated and regulated life. I would get up early in the morning, attend yoga classes, eat only pure food, and stick to my research. In 1992, during the HinduMuslim riots, I enrolled as a social worker in the Sadbhav Mission, but I still felt something was missing. I attended a lecture in the IIT Delhi hostel by Dr. P. V. Krishnan (Krsna Smarana Dasa) from ISKCON. When he explained the real purport of Bhagavad-gita, I was instantly attracted to Krsna.

Soon after, I joined a group of IIT students for a visit to Vrndavana with Krsna Smarana Dasa. While there I realized the futility of material endeavors and lost interest in pursuing my Ph.D. I wanted to join as a full-time devotee in Vrndavana. But Krsna Sma-rana Dasa inspired me to continue with my Ph.D. work. "It can be used in Krsna's service," he argued. So I completed it.

Vrndavanesvari Devi Dasi: People think that science means facts whereas religion is sentiment or fanaticism. Can there be a synthesis of the two?

Lila Purusottama Dasa: Before coming to Krsna consciousness, I looked on religionists with suspicion. I'd see Indians going to temples only for material benefits, and I'd see how priests and sadhus often exploit people's blind sentiments. But Krsna consciousness involves the study of spirit and matter and their relationship, so it is not blind sentiment but complete science. Modern science tries to unravel the laws of material nature. If pursued in its true spirit, it is a subset of the complete science, Krsna consciousness. So there need be no contradiction between science and Krsna consciousness.

Vrndavanesvari Devi Dasi: What did your colleagues think of your change of philosophy and your Krsna conscious way of life? How are you viewed in scientific circles?

Lila Purusottama Dasa: Since I'm well accomplished professionally, my colleagues give me due respect. But most of my friends didn't keep their relationship with me, because I couldn't stick to their way of life. One intimate friend, however, who is pursuing a Ph.D. from Sheffield University in England, chants sixteen rounds of the maha-mantra on beads. He regularly asks me questions about Krsna consciousness and has adopted all its principles.

Vrndavanesvari Devi Dasi: How did you balance your professional life with your devotional life?

Lila Purusottama Dasa: Krsna Smarana Dasa taught me how to balance the two. At BITS Pilani I converted my quarters on campus into a temple. I kept the standards that Srila Prabhupada gave us, namely mangala-arati at 4:30 A.M., Srimad-Bhagavatam class in the morning, and Bhagavad-gita class in the evening. And I strictly followed all the other regulative principles.

In the beginning I invited some of my project students to my house to hear about Krsna consciousness. They became convinced and started inviting their friends. We had a nice group of boys and girls who practiced Krsna consciousness seriously. I tried to inspire them by keeping to a high standard of spiritual practice and by being efficient in my profession as a teacher and researcher and in guiding projects.

Vrndavanesvari Devi Dasi: Why did you give up your BITS Pilani job and join the Bhaktivedanta Institute?

Lila Purusottama Dasa: I met Rasaraja Dasa in 1997 and was inspired by his vision for the BI. He wants to give a new thrust to scientific research that will ultimately attract scientific people to read Bhagavata philosophy. Srila Prabhupada very much emphasized BI research, not only to increase the prestige of ISKCON but also to contribute to science in such a way that scientists may look to the BI for assistance. Although I had many other professional options, I understood in my heart that the BI is more important. I felt that Prabhupada would be more pleased if I committed myself to the Bhaktivedanta Institute.

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The Mayapur Project

Spreading the Bliss In Bengal

By Bhakti Purusottama Swami

Bhakti Purusottama Swami has been active with ISKCON Mayapur's Nama Hatta program since its inception in 1981. The program helps people in towns and villages throughout Bengal practice Krsna consciousness in their homes and among themselves.

A former science student, Bhakti Purusottama became a Krsna devotee in 1978 and accepted sannyasa, the renounced order of life, in 1985. Today, as a member of the Mayapur temple's administrative council, he oversees a variety of projects, including book distribution, college programs, correspondence courses, as well as the Nama Hatta. Here Bhakti Purusottama Swami comments about the growth of Mayapur's extensive Nama Hatta network.

NAMA HATTA LITERALLY means "the market-place of the holy name." Lord Nityananda (Lord Caitanya's chief associate) initiated the Nama Hatta program, and it was later revived by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura. His son Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura started five hundred Nama Hatta centers. Srila Prabhupada's followers began the Mayapur Nama Hatta during early 1980s, with bylaws based upon Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura's book Godruma Kalpatavi.

Today eighteen hundred Nama Hatta centers are registered with our office. About forty-five brahmacaris (celibate students) serve these centers as field preachers and office staff. Fifteen to twenty thousand people are connected to ISKCON through the Mayapur Nama Hatta. Among them, about one thousand are initiated or ready for initiation and on a waiting list.

Nama Hatta members learn to do everything one does while living in a full-scale Krsna temple. We teach them how to chant Hare Krsna, perform mangala-arati, offer food, put on tilaka, and sing bhajanas. They also learn Krsna conscious philosophy in depth, because here in Bengal people are often misled by the philosophy "all paths lead to the same destination." And many bogus new "Gods" take advantage of innocent people in the name of religion. We train our Nama Hatta members carefully so they will be protected.

In the winter I enjoy three to four months traveling with sixty devotees to put on Nama Hatta festivals. In each location, we conduct a festival program arranged by local Nama Hatta members. The programs include bhajana, kirtana, arati, Bhagavad-gita class, Krsna conscious cinema and drama, prasadam distribution, and even a Rathayatra. The programs last two days, with ten to fifteen thousand people attending each day. Local Nama Hatta members cover all the costs.

Many of the countless villages of Bengal still have no Nama Hatta, but where only one family practices Krsna consciousness we establish a Sraddha Kutir, or "faith center," which can develop into a Nama Hatta. Often these people began their connection with the program during a visit to Mayapur. Guests usually attend the morning kirtana in the temple, and we invite them to chant one round of japa. Those who want more information leave their address, and we're now in touch with about seven hundred people by letter and phone.

Often young people from Nama Hatta families want to move into the temple for more intensive training. Later, if they return to their village, there is no problem, because their family also practices Krsna consciousness. It is nice protection for their devotional lives.

One year we began involving our Nama Hatta members in book distribution. Since then, with their help, our team of seventy full-time book distributors have distributed more of Srila Prabhupada's books than any other ISKCON center.

The Nama Hatta program is now spreading to cities, including Calcutta. We are building a special building to accommodate all the Nama Hatta members visiting Mayapur.

Overall, the Mayapur temple is expanding very rapidly. Since Prabhupada's Samadhi opened in 1996, thousands of tourists come every day. Over seven hundred devotees serve full time in the temple, including three hundred brahmacaris. The temple offers support programs both for those who want to remain lifetime celibates and for those who want to marry. In this way devotees are feeling more secure and can practice Krsna consciousness without anxiety.

I feel more than ever that Mayapur is manifesting as a Krsna conscious city, and I am very happy to be part of it. At first I was attracted to devotional service to protect myself from material bondage. I saw ISKCON as the best way to stay engaged in serving the Lord. Now the greatness of the philosophy Srila Prabhupada taught has encouraged me to help teach it. The taste of the philosophy is sweet, and to teach it is even sweeter. It is kevala ananda kanda—"simply filled with bliss."

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The Mayapur Project

An Ideal Education For A Practical Future

In a traditional village environment, students prepare for a Krsna conscious life in the modern world.

SRILA PRABHUPADA would often speak of ISKCON as an educational institution, and education will be an essential function of the Sri Mayapur Project. A beginning for developing education in Mayapur has been in place for some time in the form of the Bhaktivedanta Gurukula, a boys boarding school. In line with the traditional Vedic model, the Bhaktivedanta Gurukula gives boys both spiritual and occupational training. Mahamaya Devi Dasi spoke with Vedasara Dasa, the school's principal, about the school today and its plans for the future.

Mahamaya Devi Dasi: Can you say something about the history of the gurukula?

Vedasara Dasa: Srila Prabhupada started the Bhaktivedanta Gurukula here in 1974. He brought a few Nepali brahmanas to teach a dozen or so students. At that time the gurukula was located in what is now Srila Prabhupada's bhajana kutir.* Since then four schools have developed on the Mayapur property. Three are day schools. Our school, which is a boys' boarding school, is called the Bhaktivedanta Gurukula Village (BGV). It's next to the goshala [fields and barns where cows are tended].

MDD: What is your service in the gurukula?

VD: I have been the BGV principal for the last two years. Most of my life was spent in the gurukula. I was a student for twelve years, after which I became an ashram teacher and eventually the ashram coordinator.

MDD: How many boys are in the school now?

VD: We have thirty-five students, ages eight to eighteen, out of which twenty-six are teenagers. Half of the students are from India, half from abroad.

MDD: What subjects are taught?

VD: Because it's a boarding school, we teach academic subjects and, in the ashram, a give devotional training. The ashram subjects are Temple Mantras, Vedic Mantras, Deity Worship, Philosophical Debate, Vaisnava Etiquette, Bhakti Sastri [scripture study], Bhagavad-gita Verses, and Canakya Nitisastra [moral instructions of the sage Canakya]. We have four ashram teachers.

The academic subjects are English, French, Spanish, Italian, Sanskrit, Bengali, Arts, Science, Geography, Mathematics, World History, and World Religions. We have seven academic teachers.

We also teach vocational subjects: Cooking, Carpentry, Tailoring, Computer, Mrdanga [drum], Electricity, Harmonium, and Deity Dressmaking. We have eight vocational teachers.

MDD: What are the boys' days like?

VD: They get up at 3:30 in the morning to begin their spiritual program. They have academic classes during the day, and extracurricular activities from 4:00 to 5:30. We have full-size basketball and volleyball courts, a soccer field, a simple exercise room, and a swimming pond. The boys regularly go to the Ganges. I think it's important that teenage boys engage in sports to release their excess energy in a healthy way.

MDD: What are the school's plans for the future?

VD: We want to be better equipped to help the older teenage boys find an identity.

MDD: How do parents feel about enrolling their sons in the school?

VD: We have a waiting list of about thirty Western boys and fifty Indian boys. Their parents are eager to admit them into the school. Most parents who visit the school come away with a positive impression.

MDD: How do you view Srila Prabhupada's instructions on gurukula?

VD: Srila Prabhupada wanted us to produce high-quality devotees with excellent character and also basic academic qualifications. I think Srila Prabhupada's instructions will be most effective when the entire ISKCON social infrastructure is stable and healthy. To fulfill Srila Prabhupada's vision for a class of high-quality devotees, we must bring up our children in an emotionally and spiritually stable family environment.

MDD: Are you committed to this project?

VD: Yes, I would certainly like to spend a good part of my life in education, building up a nice gurukula for the upcoming generation. My special interest is in working with older teenage boys and helping them to get situated after graduation. Dedicated and mature devotees are getting involved and showing commitment to the project. One thing that keeps me going is the heartfelt appreciation of both parents and kids. I want to give the next generation a positive Krsna conscious experience.

MDD: What is the involvement of the parents of the boys? Do you have a parent/teacher association?

VD: Because we're an international school with parents scattered far and wide, a PTA per se is not practical. But we keep in close contact with the parents. We strongly encourage all parents and children to keep in regular touch. Parents are advised to write at least every two weeks and telephone once a month. Several parents are working with the school as teachers or administrators.

MDD: Tell me about the older boys and their program—taking the GCSE, their vocational training, and so on.

VD: Senior students study for their British GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education). The students take the exams in Calcutta at the British consulate, and the exams are sent to England for marking. The students receive the same diploma from the University of London as any student in Britain. This is an internationally recognized high school diploma. One of our recent graduates, Narayana Dasa, went straight into an American university.

In addition, the seniors take the Bhakti Sastri exam, a six-hour examination on four of Srila Prabhupada's books. Eight boys recently took this exam; four passed with honors, and the other four with high honors.

We try our best to equip the students for life after the gurukula by training them according to their propensities. With their learned skill, trade, or profession, they can offer service to ISKCON or support themselves and their future families.

Vocational training comes in three stages. In the first stage, the boys spend about two years experimenting with the options available. When they have settled on their chosen skill, they receive another two years of more serious training in that area. Stage three is an apprenticeship with a senior skilled devotee. For example, a recent Indian graduate, Gautama Dasa, is in a two-year apprenticeship course with Dina Caitanya Dasa, a Swiss devotee, learning all about construction management.

These three divisions are an integral part of the BGV's efforts to meet the individual needs of the boys.

Twenty-two-year-old Vedasara Dasa was born in Bhutan (near China), and raised in Assam. He joined the Bhaktivedanta Swami Gurukula at age six and has been there ever since.

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The Light of the Gita

A Summary of the Bhagavad-gita—Part 2

By Kalakantha Dasa

Chapter 10: How to See and Serve God

"I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me. The wise who perfectly know this engage in My devotional service and worship Me with all their hearts." (Bg 10.8)

LORD KRSNA HAS ADVISED Arjuna to become His devotee. Now Krsna tells him how to do so. Great commentators consider verses 8 through 11 of this chapter the essence of the Bhagavad-gita. In these four seminal verses, Lord Krsna describes how His devotees think of Him and enjoy a relationship with Him.

Arjuna then asks how he should think of Lord Krsna, and Krsna devotes the rest of the chapter to answering this question. He says that He can be perceived in the best and most powerful of every creation. Among stars He is the moon; among fish, the shark. After listing many such comparisons, Lord Krsna reminds Arjuna that whatever one can perceive with material senses reflects just the inferior, material portion of His creation.

Chapter 11: The Terrifying Form of God

"My dear Arjuna, only by undivided devotional service can I be understood as I am, standing before you, and can thus be seen directly. Only in this way can you enter into the mysteries of My understanding." (11.54)

PLEASED TO HEAR of Lord Krsna's presence in so many ways, Arjuna now asks Krsna to show His feature known as the universal form, consisting of the entire material creation. Since the material universe comes from Lord Krsna, it is yet another one of His forms.

Krsna endows Arjuna with divine eyes to view this unprecedented display. A dazzling vision suddenly overwhelms Arjuna. The brilliant, powerful radiance frightens him as it threatens to burn the whole creation. Arjuna grows terrified as the mouth of the universal form—the omnipotent crush of death—consumes the assembled warriors, and everyone else. Arjuna cries, "Who are You?" Lord Krsna's answer (verse 11.32) is the famous Bhagavad-gita verse quoted by scientist Robert Oppenheimer as he watched the explosion of the first atomic bomb in the deserts of New Mexico: "Time I am, the great destroyer of the worlds...."

Having seen Lord Krsna's limitless, deadly power, Arjuna understands his intimate friend in a new light. He begs to see again the friendly, familiar form of Lord Krsna. As Krsna reappears in His original form, He assures Arjuna that He can always be known in this more pleasing way.

Chapter 12: Perfection Through Loving God

"The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: Those who fix their minds on My personal form and are always engaged in worshiping Me with great and transcendental faith are considered by Me to be most perfect." (12.2)

LORD KRSNA'S UNIVERSAL form filled Arjuna with awe and fear, but Krsna prefers the love of His devotees. So in this chapter, the shortest in the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna elaborates on the theme begun at the end of Chapter Eleven: bhakti-yoga, or personal devotional service to Him. Lord Krsna makes this point just after showing His universal form lest Arjuna, or anyone else, mistake the fearsome universal form for His ultimate manifestation.

The chapter begins with Arjuna asking about the comparative value of bhakti-yoga and realization of Brahman, Lord Krsna's impersonal feature. Krsna calls the Brahman path valid but difficult, while promising to personally deliver the faithful bhakta.

Lord Krsna then evaluates various practices of spiritual life. He declares that to think of Him spontaneously, out of love, is best. For those who lack such love, practice of regulated bhakti-yoga ranks next. For those who decline bhakti, working for Lord Krsna is next, followed by working for some charitable cause. Krsna concludes the chapter by describing the many desirable qualities of His loving devotee.

Chapter 13: Body, Soul, and Supersoul

"O son of Bharata, as the sun alone illuminates all this universe, so does the living entity, one within the body, illuminate the entire body by consciousness." (13.34)

THIS CHAPTER, which begins the final third of the Bhagavad-gita, is dedicated to jnana-yoga, or knowledge of God that leads to devotional service to Him. Arjuna asks about the body, the soul, the Supersoul, and the meaning and object of knowledge. Lord Krsna refers Arjuna to the Vedanta-sutra, an essential Vedic text, for a full explanation of the soul and matter. He then provides His own summary. He explains that both the soul and the Supersoul occupy the body, a vehicle made of dull matter. The soul knows only his body, but the Supersoul sits in every heart and knows everyone's pains and pleasures. While pursuing his illusory hope to enjoy matter, the soul encounters endless varieties of bodies and suffers and enjoys through them all. The Supersoul accompanies the soul on this painful journey. Lord Krsna concludes that those who learn the truth of their situation attain freedom from bondage to matter.

Chapter 14: Beyond the Three Modes

"It should be understood that all species of life, O son of Kunti, are made possible by birth in this material nature, and that I am the seed-giving father." (14.4)

LORD KRSNA HAS JUST explained that matter entangles the soul and causes it to suffer. Now He elaborates. Matter exerts control over the souls through three qualities or modes: goodness, passion, and ignorance. In earlier chapters, Lord Krsna often referred to these three modes. In this chapter He explains them in detail. More discussion of the modes follows in chapters seventeen and eighteen.

Lord Krsna begins by identifying Himself as the father of all living beings. He then defines the three modes, their relationship with the soul, and their general characteristics. He next describes the results of actions in each of the modes, both immediate and in terms of future lifetimes. He then advises Arjuna to learn to transcend the modes of nature. Arjuna asks how one can transcend the modes, and how to know a person who has done so. Lord Krsna answers both questions, and concludes the chapter by declaring Himself to be the basis of all spiritual existence, beyond the modes.

Chapter 15: Supreme Personal Yoga

"That supreme abode of Mine is not illumined by the sun or moon, nor by fire or electricity. Those who reach it never return to this material world." (15.6)

LORD KRSNA BEGINS THIS chapter with an allegory, comparing the material world to a banyan tree. In India and other tropical climates, banyans sometimes grow to be huge. They drop roots from their branches, and the roots form new trunks with new branches and roots. Banyans can fill acres, and finding where they begin can be very difficult.

The allegorical tree has roots going up and branches going down. Such a tree exists only in a reflection, as on a lake, and this is the point of the allegory. One might reach for a reflected apple on a reflected tree and end up with nothing but a wet arm.

Similarly, the material world reflects the spiritual world, Lord Krsna's abode, capturing it in shape and color but not in substance. The soul's natural love for God becomes misdirected and caught up in the temporary leaves and branches of this reflected material tree. Lord Krsna advises Arjuna to cut his relationship with it. After making such a cut, Lord Krsna says, one attains His abode. Unlike the dark material universe, light prevails there, without the help of sun or electricity. A person infatuated with the material world misses the chance to return to the spiritual world and forcibly takes birth again.

As stated earlier, detachment from matter and attachment to Lord Krsna are one and the same. Thus, for Arjuna's benefit, Krsna again describes Himself. In verse 15 Lord Krsna specifically describes his intimate relationship with each soul as well as His presence in scriptures. Concluding the chapter, Lord Krsna explains that knowing Him engages one in yoga of the Supreme Person.

Chapter 16: The Divine and the Demoniac

"He who discards scriptural injunctions and acts according to his own whims attains neither perfection, nor happiness, nor the supreme destination." (16.23)

AT THE BEGINNING OF THE Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna distinguished the soul from the body. He then introduced the modes of nature and their various effects on the embodied souls. At Arjuna's request, He explained how to transcend the modes of nature. Now He describes the actions of a person under the lower modes—the lower branches of Chapter Fifteen's banyan tree—as opposed to the actions of one who has transcended the three modes.

After summarizing the divine qualities, belonging to those who have surpassed even the mode of goodness, Lord Krsna details the qualities of demons, who act only out of passion and ignorance. Filth, pride, atheism, dishonest action, and preoccupation with sexual enjoyment characterize such persons. Their wrong-headed perspective leads them to build horrible, destructive weapons. They aspire only to gratify their senses by any means, and yet they make a show of charity and piety. In the end, they revile and make a mockery of true religion. Lord Krsna describes their destination as the hell of life in subhuman species. A sane person thus gives up lust, anger, and greed—the three gates to hell. Abiding by the scriptures, such a person avoids the fate of demons.

Chapter 17: Faith, Food, and Sacrifice

"Austerity of speech consists in speaking words that are truthful, pleasing, beneficial, and not agitating to others, and also in regularly reciting Vedic literature." (17.15)

AFTER HEARING ABOUT both followers and detractors of the scriptures, Arjuna now wants to know about persons who worship God without reference to the scriptures. Such persons have faith, but lacking scriptural basis they may worship men or devas. Arjuna wants to know their destination.

Lord Krsna answers that faith not guided by scripture is another product of the three modes of nature. The modes influence how one eats, worships, and performs sacrifice, penance, and charity.

After detailing all these activities in the different modes, Lord Krsna explains the transcendental approach. By directing to the Supreme Lord any sacrifice, penance, or charity, one rises above the influence of the modes of nature. Learned souls thus begin any sacrifice by chanting om tat sat, referring to the Supreme Absolute Truth. Reciting any name of the Supreme Lord has the same effect.

Lord Krsna concludes that anything done without an effort to please the Supreme is but the floundering of a conditioned soul. It has no value.

Chapter 18: Breaking the Bonds of Matter

"Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear." (18.66)

THIS CHAPTER, the longest in the Bhagavad-gita, summarizes the teachings of the entire text. Arjuna has just heard about the effects of the three modes of nature and the importance of directing one's work toward God. Lord Krsna rejected his superficial plan to renounce by leaving the battlefield. Now Arjuna asks how to truly renounce worldly affairs and dedicate his work to the Lord's service.

Lord Krsna analyzes renunciation according to goodness, passion, and ignorance, the three modes of nature. Although Krsna applauds detachment from the fruits of work, He specifies that no one benefits by renouncing sacrifice, charity, and penance. To show Arjuna why renunciation makes sense, Lord Krsna identifies five factors—mostly beyond Arjuna's control—that determine the result of any action. He goes on to evaluate action, the actor, knowledge, determination, understanding, and happiness, all according to the three modes of nature. Lord Krsna declares in summary that no one in the universe is exempt from the influence of the modes.

To clarify the influence of the modes on human society, Lord Krsna describes the system of varnasrama, or enlightened social organization. Brahmanas (priests) are in the mode of goodness, ksatriyas (warriors) in passion, vaisyas (farmers and merchants) in mixed passion and ignorance, and sudras (workers) in ignorance. Varnasrama designations are determined by inclination, not by birth (as in the caste system of India today). Although people have different inclinations, by pursuing renunciation through service to Lord Krsna anyone can become perfect. Krsna explains exactly how this can be done and the symptoms of one who has done it.

Lord Krsna now begins to conclude the Bhagavad-gita by declaring that His servant will come to Him and be protected under all circumstances. He bluntly tells Arjuna that giving up on the battle would be the wrong kind of renunciation and that Arjuna's nature would force him to fight anyway. Advising complete surrender to His will and promising all protection, Lord Krsna at last tells Arjuna to choose his course of action.

Krsna has described numerous options for Arjuna. He has outlined the paths of piety, mystic yoga, and jnana (knowledge). Through them all, He has consistently emphasized the paramount importance of Arjuna's fighting as an expression of surrender to Him. Although Lord Krsna has also declared and displayed His omnipotent divinity, He concludes by telling Arjuna that the choices are now his. He blesses the speakers and hearers of Bhagavad-gita and asks Arjuna if his illusions are now gone.

Arjuna emphatically answers, "Yes!" and Sanjaya, the visionary narrator, concludes the Gita with expressions of personal gratitude and ecstasy. In his rapture, he also must disclose the harsh truth of the battle to his blind master, Dhrtarastra.

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. Titled Bhagavad-gita—The Song of God, it will be available from The Hare Krsna Bazaar

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Queen Kunti—The Incarnation Of Success

She was the queen of a world emperor, the mother of the mighty Pandavas, the aunt of Lord Krsna, and an exalted pure devotee of the Lord.

by Satyaraja Dasa

THE RICH VAISNAVA TRADITION from which the Krsna consciousness movement arises includes many great female devotees. But few are as illustrious and heroic as Queen Kunti, whom Srila Prabhupada glorified as "the incarnation of the success potency of the Personality of Godhead."

Queen Kuntidevi emerges as a preeminent figure in ancient India and a central player in the epic Mahabharata. Not only was she the sister of Vasudeva (Krsna's father, making her Krsna's aunt) and the mother of the brave and virtuous Pandava brothers, but she was the very emblem of courage and wisdom—qualities of hers that helped her family and friends endure a civil war that took the lives of millions.

Originally called Prtha, Kunti was the daughter of the great Maharaja Surasena, chief of the glorious Yadu dynasty. Political and family complications forced Surasena to place her in the care of his nephew, Kuntibhoja (hence her name), who raised her as his own. In King Kuntibhoja's palace she learned to host important guests—such as the denizens of heavenly planets—with a culture and style now all but lost.

Once, the great sage Durvasa attended festivities in the palace and, being pleased with young Kunti's faithful service, gave her a powerful mantra by which she could summon any deva (demigod) she chose. Curious about the power of the mantra, she tried to conjure up Surya, the deva of the sun. Suddenly, Surya appeared.

"O beautiful Prtha," he said, "your meeting with the demigods cannot be fruitless. Therefore, let me place my seed in your womb so that you may bear a son. I shall arrange to keep your virginity intact, since you are still an unmarried girl."

As a result of their union, Karna was born. Realizing that no one would understand the nature of Karna's birth, and fearing the wrath of her parents, Kunti arranged to put the child in a basket of reeds and set it afloat in the Yamuna, hoping that someone would find her child and give him a good home. A charioteer named Adhiratha rescued the child and raised him.

Marriage to Pandu

When Kunti came of age, she married Pandu, king of Hastinapura (now Delhi), who had another wife, named Madri. One day, while hunting in a forest, Pandu came upon two copulating deer. Taking bow and arrow in hand, he heartlessly aimed and fired. But as his arrows pierced their bodies, they showed their true forms as forest sages. The sages cursed Pandu: If he were to ever try to have intercourse with either of his wives, he would die.

Grief-stricken, Pandu decided to take sannyasa, the renounced order of life. But Kunti and Madri threatened to commit suicide if he did so. Still, without the ability to father children, Pandu felt he could not rule. He knew the importance of producing an heir to continue the dynasty. Perplexed, Pandu and his wives prayed for a solution to their dilemma.

Finally, Kunti told Pandu and Madri of the boon she had received from Durvasa Muni. She would call devas, she said, to sire children in her womb. Pandu would have divine children, and the kingdom would be saved.

First, Pandu asked her to call the deva Dharmaraja, and Yudhisthira was born. She then called for Vayu (air), and Bhima was born. When she called for Indra, the king of heaven, Arjuna appeared in this world. Pandu wanted Madri to have children too, and so, using Kunti's mantra, she gave birth to twins, Nakula and Sahadeva.

Pandu died at an early age, and Madri followed him, leaving Kunti to care for the five children, known as the Pandavas.

As the boys grew into manhood, they trained as ksatriyas, members of the warrior class. When their cousins—the one hundred sons of Dhrtarastra, known as the Kauravas—unlawfully contended for the throne, the Pandavas showed patience and tolerance. But when the Kauravas persisted, the Pandavas could tolerate no more, and the great Mahabharata war ensued.

On the eve of the war, Kunti realized that any real danger to her five sons would come from Karna, who was as qualified as the Pandavas and was fighting in the opposing army. She therefore spoke to him, her first child, telling him the truth of his birth, which until then had been her secret. She begged him to change affiliation and fight on the side of his halfbrothers. But Karna refused to do this on principle: he had vowed to kill Arjuna.

Still, Karna swore that he would not kill any of the other Pandavas. He tried to console his mother by explaining that if he or Arjuna died in battle, she would still have five sons, the number to which she had become accustomed. Naturally, as a mother, Karna's words hardly consoled her.

Only after the war, in which Karna was slain, did Kunti reveal to the Pandavas the truth of Karna's birth, and she made them vow to give him a fitting farewell. The shocked but victorious Pandavas did what they could to satisfy their grieving mother.

Though Queen Kunti endured poignant and heart-rending pain—the curse of her husband, his early demise, the death of her firstborn at his brother's hands, the secret of his identity, which she had kept from her children—she lived as an exemplary queen, with honor, culture, and wisdom.

Although Queen Kunti was Lord Krsna's aunt, she knew that He was in fact the Supreme Personality of Godhead, she knew of His mission to rid the earth of demoniac military powers and establish righteousness (as explained in Bhagavad-gita 4.7-8), and she knew that He would fulfill His mission through the Mahabharata war. Kunti's eloquent soliloquies in this regard are recorded in scripture.

Krsna accomplished His purpose by orchestrating the destruction of the evil Kauravas and placing Yudhisthira on the throne, allowing the Pandavas many years of righteous rule.

His work done, Krsna prepared to leave Hastinapura, adding to Queen Kunti's heartbreak. She approached Krsna on His chariot and tried to persuade Him to stay with her and her family, on the pretext of His protecting the Pandava government from vicious reprisals. In fact, though, it was out of pure love that she wanted Him to stay.

"O my Lord," she prayed, "are You leaving us today, though we are completely dependent on Your mercy and have no one else to protect us, now when all kings are at enmity with us?" (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.8.37)

Kunti proceeds to explain the philosophy of Krsna consciousness. Her prayers to the Lord have since become famous, echoed by saintly persons in the Vaisnava tradition throughout history. Rather than beseech the Lord for mercy, to obliterate her pain or assuage her suffering, Kunti begs for repeated miseries to befall her, assuring her of the Lord's company.

"My dear Krsna, Your Lordship has protected us from poisoned cake, from a great fire, from cannibals, from the vicious assembly, from sufferings during our exile in the forest, and from the battle where great generals fought.... I wish that all those calamities would happen again and again so that we could see You again and again, for seeing You means that we will no longer see repeated births and deaths." (1.8.24-25)

In Queen Kunti's simple outpouring of devotion, recorded in both the Srimad-Bhagavatam and the Maha-bharata, one can find the essence of Krsna conscious wisdom. Even in just the two verses quoted above we see dependence on the Lord, knowledge of His identity as Krsna, and knowledge of the soul and reincarnation. Her single-minded devotion has served as the ideal for devotees of Krsna throughout history: "O Lord of Madhu [Krsna], as the Ganges forever flows to the sea without hindrance, let my attraction be constantly drawn unto You without being diverted to anyone else." (1.8.42)

Satyaraja Dasa is a disciple of Srila Prabhupada and a regular contributor to Back to Godhead. He has written many books on Krsna consciousness. He and his wife live in New York state.

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From the Editor

Srila Prabhupada's Blessings

READING DAMODARA Dasa's memoir about Srila Prabhupada makes me wish I'd been there. But my time came later, in 1974. My head bowed to the floor in the San Francisco temple, I looked up briefly and saw, just inches away, Srila Prabhupada's feet in rust-colored socks gliding by. He had come for the annual Rathayatra festival. The next day, dancing onstage, arms raised high, he inspired ten thousand souls to joyfully sing out the names of Krsna.

Most of Srila Prabhupada's disciples had little opportunity for personal audience with him. We didn't expect it. He would say that to be with him didn't require physical proximity. If we followed his instructions, we would feel his presence.

The Vedas say that the company of great souls opens the door to liberation. Though Srila Prabhupada has left this world, we have unlimited access to him. He's here in dozens of books and thousands of hours of recorded lectures and conversations, in video images and photographs. From the spiritual perspective, these are identical with Srila Prabhupada himself.

I cherish the priceless moments when I was in Srila Prabhupada's presence. Still, I understand that getting his blessings is more important than being with him. When asked for his blessings, Srila Prabhupada would say that they were available in the form of his instructions, especially in his books. Whether or not we had Prabhupada's personal association, if we take his instructions to heart we'll reap their full benefit: love for Krsna.

Getting the blessings of the spiritual master is sometimes referred to as "receiving the dust of his lotus feet." The spiritual master's feet are called "lotus" because just as a lotus sits above the water, the spiritual master, untouched by the material energy, lives in the world but is not part of it.

A disciple once asked Srila Prabhupada what we mean when we say that the spiritual master is not an ordinary man. Srila Prabhupada had just been disparaging atheistic scientists and philosophers, and he replied, "He is not moved by the rascal scientist." Scriptures and self-realized spiritual teachers of the past, not the ever-changing views of popular leaders, guide the spiritual master.

Bowing to the lotus feet of the spiritual master (figuratively or literally) is a sign of humility, which is essential for spiritual life. Humility is closely tied to faith. With faith and humility we approach a spiritual master whom we accept to be greater than us in spiritual knowledge and realization.

Like many others, I had little problem accepting Srila Prabhupada in that way. He was a spiritual teacher with more to say about God—both in quantity and quality—than anyone I had ever heard. And he so clearly lived an ideal spiritual life. His devotional service to the Lord never stopped. He barely slept, so intent was he on spreading Krsna's glories.

Ultimately, the spiritual master is above the world because He sits at the lotus feet of Krsna. By following Srila Prabhupada's instructions, we can also get Krsna's shelter. From the vantage point of Srila Prabhupada's lotus feet, we can see the spiritual world.

Nagaraja Dasa

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Vedic Thoughts

In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna unequivocally declares that He is the Supreme Absolute Truth and that it is the duty of everyone to render Him loving devotional service. The Bhagavad-gita was revealed for the sole purpose of explaining these two principal points.

His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Renunciation Through Wisdom, p. 46

The highest devotion is attained by slow degrees by the method of constant endeavor for self-realization with the help of scriptural evidence, theistic conduct, and perseverance in practice.

Lord Brahma
Brahma-samhita 5.59

Devotional service to Lord Krsna is performed when the heart no longer desires any material benefit to be obtained in this life or the next. This is freedom from the bonds of karma.

Gopala-tapani Upanisad 1.14

The Personality of Godhead, Visnu, is the Absolute Truth, whose lotus feet the demigods are always eager to see. Like the sun-god, He pervades everything by the rays of His energy. He appears impersonal to imperfect eyes.

Rg Veda 1.22.20

Lord Krsna's chest is the abode of the goddess of fortune. His moonlike face is the drinking vessel for eyes which hanker after all that is beautiful. His arms are the resting places for the administrative demigods. And His lotus feet are the refuge of pure devotees who never talk or sing of any subject except His Lordship.

Suta Gosvami
Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.11.26

It is true that by practicing restraint of the senses by the yoga system one can get relief from the disturbances of desire and lust, but this is not sufficient to give satisfaction to the soul, for this satisfaction is derived from devotional service to the Personality of Godhead.

Narada Muni
Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.6.35

With the dust of My devotees' lotus feet I desire to purify the material worlds, which are situated within Me. Thus, I always follow the footsteps of My pure devotees, who are free from all personal desire, rapt in thought of My pastimes, peaceful, without any feelings of enmity, and of equal disposition everywhere.

Lord Sri Krsna
Srimad-Bhagavatam 11.14.16

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