ARTICLES IN THIS ISSUE show the universal appeal and relevance of Krsna consciousness, the essence of India's great cultural tradition. "Bharata Culture on the Baltic Coast" takes us to the Festival of Indian Culture during its annual summer tour of Poland, where people get the chance to enjoy the art, dance, music, drama, cuisine, and philosophy of India. The festival stresses the spiritual aspects of the culture, giving people more than just a satisfying aesthetic experience; it helps draw out their devotion to the Lord, the innate quality of the soul in any culture.
In "What Do We Mean by Varnasrama?" Hare Krsna Devi Dasi, who has spent years researching the subject, explains what the original Indian, or Vedic, social organization is all about. She also shows adulterated forms of that system visible today, without the benefits of the original. Lord Krsna designed varnasrama for the spiritual progress of every member of human society, and Srila Prabhupada wanted his followers to revive it for everyone's benefit.
Spiritual festivals and social organization are two ways in which the Krsna consciousness movement works to raise the spiritual awareness of large numbers of people. Indian or Polish, American or Russian—all who come in touch with Krsna advance toward perfection.
—Nagaraja Dasa, Editor
• To help all people discern reality from illusion, spirit from matter, the eternal from the temporary.
It was really a pleasure reading the January/February issue of BTG. The article by Kalakantha Dasa on the research project of Dhira Govinda Dasa was mindblowing. I am a postgraduate student at the University of Mauritius. Many times I have tried to apply the teachings of Srila Prabhupada to my research studies, but I was always unsuccessful. When I read that article, I was really inspired. In my opinion BTG magazine should publish more articles related to the personal experience of Srila Prabhupada's teachings in everyday life. This will surely inspire more people to take to Krsna consciousness and to strengthen the determination of Krsna conscious devotees.
I am an ardent follower of this beautiful magazine. I come from a family with a strong religious background, all widely read in the holy scriptures. We were disciplined to follow the strict Vedic rules. I would like to give my heartfelt gratitude to all of you behind the superb BTG. Every time I receive an issue, I look forward to the next one. I'm getting spiritual upliftment from every issue.
Death and Remembering
In several places in BTG I have read that while departing the body, if the soul thinks of Lord Krsna as the last thought, then it reaches only Lord Krsna, the Supersoul, as its final destination. How does this fit with the laws of karma, where your past works determine your next life and destiny in the material world? Is it not saying that all your life you can commit sins and in old age run to the shelter of Lord Krsna and try to develop the skills to think of Him in your last thoughts and thus reach Him—in other words, attain liberation?
OUR REPLY: One of the main teachings of Bhagavad-gita is that karma, or work, done for the satisfaction of Krsna brings no reaction. Such work is called akarma. The devotee serving Krsna under the direction of Krsna's representative, the bona fide spiritual master, performs spiritual activities that not only have no material reaction; they act to purify the consciousness. Purified consciousness means Krsna consciousness.
Unless we develop Krsna consciousness during our life, to remember Krsna at the time of death will be very difficult. Srila Prabhupada cautions, "Remembrance of Krsna is not possible for the impure soul who has not practiced Krsna consciousness in devotional service."
At death, we'll naturally remember whatever we're attached to. If we spend our life developing attachments to things other than Krsna, we'll remember those things—look to them to save us—at the time of death. So while it is true that whoever remembers Krsna at death goes to Him, we should understand that doing so will be impossible unless we diligently practice and awaken our love for Him.
BTG is awesome. It reads beautifully. All the devotees who contribute are doing an incredible job. I can't wait for the next issue.
I remember the first time I ran across a devotee of Krsna. If I could see him again, would he remember me? I wonder if he knows that what we talked about (on a KrishnaFest bus) had a profound effect on the way I would think about God for the rest of my life. Now I'm swallowing up as many of Prabhupada's books as I can, chanting sixteen rounds every morning, and learning how to cook prasadam. All glories to the hardworking devotees behind the scenes of the only magazine that really needs to be at Borders bookstore.
Looking for Hope
I am a Life Member of ISKCON. I understand that a more materialistic life means a less spiritual one. But I'm not strong enough to follow all of God's rules (as mentioned in the Gita). I therefore follow a more materialistic life and less of a spiritual life, apart from praying to Lord Krsna almost daily.
I want to make money, get married, have a sex life, and eat meat. If I do all these things, does that mean I can never enter God's kingdom when I die, even though I believe in God's existence and pray to Him daily?
OUR REPLY: You are correct in saying that material life and spiritual life oppose each other. Fortunately, the power of Krsna consciousness is such that you don't have to give up your ordinary life and leave for the forest. You can spiritualize your life by connecting it with Krsna. But connecting with Krsna means following His instructions. If we disobey Krsna or his representative, how can we expect to please Him with our prayers?
The regulative principles followed by members of ISKCON are traditional rules found in the Vedic scriptures. Although any civilized person should follow them, in modern society they seem like great austerities. Our conditioning and karma make us think we can't follow them. But if we are sincere in making spiritual progress, we'll get the resolve to follow them.
Achieving the association of Krsna is no small feat. We shouldn't think we don't have to work for it. It takes effort, or what we refer to as austerity. In the Srimad-Bhagavatam, Lord Rsabhadeva tells his sons that human life is meant for austerity, because by austerity one can attain unending bliss.
Our problem is that we're not serious about attaining the goal. Materialists are so serious about such things as making millions of dollars or winning Olympic medals that they perform incredible austerities to attain their goals. We have to muster at least a minimum amount of desire if we expect to attain Krsna.
Srila Prabhupada said that performing sinful activities while trying to advance in spiritual life is like trying to ignite a fire while pouring water on it; it won't work. What you propose won't work. You can't have it both ways. Your problem is one of desire. You have to increase your desire for spiritual life. How can you do that? Regularly chant Hare Krsna, read Srila Prabhupada's books, associate with devotees, visit the temple, and so on.
You are fighting an inner conflict, being pulled in two directions. If you want to be successful, you have to increase your attraction to the pull of Krsna. Sinful life will dampen the power of even the best spiritual practices. Again, you have to have enough determination to give up sinful life. Pray to Krsna for that, not for material things. He can give you strength and determination, as He has for thousands of others.
Most ISKCON devotees came from backgrounds that included sinful acts, but they were able to give them up. It's not so hard to give up meat-eating, for example. Millions of people who aren't even spiritually inclined have given up this vicious habit. Don't think that you can sincerely offer prayers to the Lord while slaughtering his innocent creatures. We suggest you at least give up this bad habit to show Krsna you're trying.
Please write us at: BTG, P.O. Box 430, Alachua, FL 32616, USA. Or: BTG, 33 Janki Kutir, Next to State Bank of Hyderabad, Juhu, Mumbai 400 049, India. Phone: (022) 618-1718. E-mail: email@example.com
Once we know the key, we can attain perfection by the simple acts of our daily life.
By His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
atah pumbhir dvija-srestha
"O best among the twice-born, it is therefore concluded that the highest perfection one can achieve by discharging the duties prescribed for one's own occupation according to caste divisions and orders of life is to please the Personality of Godhead."
Varnasrama is very important in human society. Unless society accepts the principles of varna and asrama, it is an animal society, not a human society. The four varnas, or occupational divisions, are brahmanas [priests and teachers], ksatriyas [rulers and warriors], vaisyas [farmers and merchants], and sudras [laborers and artisans]. The four asramas, or spiritual orders, are brahmacarya [student], grhastha [householder], vanaprastha [retired], and sannyasa [renounced]. That is Vedic culture: varna and asrama. That is accepted as human society.
In the Visnu Purana it is said,
"The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Visnu, is worshiped by the proper execution of prescribed duties in the system of varna and asrama. There is no other way to satisfy the Supreme Lord." The whole aim of life is to achieve the favor of Visnu. A Rg-Veda mantra says, om tad visnoh paramam padam: "The abode of Visnu is the supreme destination." But people do not know the goal of life. Na te viduh svartha-gatim hi visnum.
Any society that does not know the aim of life is in darkness. Actually, at the present moment especially, the whole human society has missed the point. People are trying to be happy by material adjustment. Leaders are trying to make the whole human society happy by social adjustment, by political adjustment, by economic adjustment, or by religious adjustment. But the Srimad-Bhagavatam says, durasaya ye bahir-artha-maninah: Their hope will never be fulfilled, because they have accepted the external, material energy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead as the key to happiness.
Just as my shawl is external in relation to my body, my body is also external in relation to the real person, the soul. But people have no information of the soul, nor of Visnu, or Krsna, the origin of the soul. They are interested only in the external body. That is called bahir-artha. Bahih means "external," and artha means "interest." In our book Srimad-Bhagavatam we have a painting of a woman taking care of a cage while the bird within is dying. Bahir-artha-mani means that we are taking care of the body but not taking care of the soul within. The Srimad-Bhagavtam says that this is the civilization of cows and asses. Sa eva go- kharah. Go means "cows," and khara means "asses."
Today's verse was spoken in the forest of Naimisharanya thousands of years ago. The speaker, Suta Gosvami, addresses the audience as dvija-sresthah, "best of the twice-born." All those present in that meeting were the best brahmanas, ksatriyas, and vaisyas. These classes are supposed to be twice-born. One birth is by the father and mother, and the second birth is by the guru and Vedic knowledge. The guru is the father, and Vedic knowledge is the mother.
Sudras are once-born. They have no ceremony for becoming twice-born. Or, we can say, anyone who is not twice-born is a sudra. If the twice-born ceremony is not observed, then the person is a sudra. At present, even in India, these ceremonies are not accepted. People do not care for them. And what to speak of other countries. Therefore the conclusion of the sastra, scripture, is kalau sudra-sambhavah: In this age of Kali there are only sudras. Practically there are no brahmanas, no ksatriyas, no vaisyas.
Today's verse says, varnasrama-vibhagasah, "by the divisions of varnasrama." Unless society accepts the four varnas and four asramas, it is not human society. In human society there is understanding of God, not in animal society. Therefore, because the institution of varnasrama is now abolished, people are becoming godless, because varnasrama means the set-up of society where gradually one can understand Visnu and worship Visnu. Visnur aradhyate. That is the system.
Today we have so-called brahmanas and so-called ksatriyas who have no information of Visnu. They declare, "I am a brahmana"; "I am a ksatriya." But according to sastra they are called dvija-bandhu, those born of brahmana, ksatriya, or vaisya families who do not act like brahmanas, ksatriyas, or vaisyas. They are not accepted as dvija, twice-born.
The Mahabharata was compiled by Vyasadeva for women, sudras, and dvija-bandhus, because these groups generally could not understand the language of the four original Vedas. The Mahabharata is called the fifth Veda. In the Bhagavad-gita it is said,
mam hi partha vyapasritya
When one becomes Krsna conscious, it does not matter whether one is a woman, a sudra, or a dvija-bandhu; one can be elevated to the highest platform of perfection. That is Krsna's special favor.
Everyone must attain perfection, but people are not interested in understanding or pursuing the perfection of life. The perfection, as stated in today's verse, is hari-tosanam, to satisfy the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Lord Krsna's Position
The Supreme Personality of Godhead is Visnu, or Krsna. Krsna is the origin of visnu-tattva—the category of Visnu, or God. Aham sarvasya prabha-vah. Krsna says that He is the origin of Visnu. He is the origin of Brahma, Visnu, and Mahesvara, the original demigods of the creation. Brahma is the creator, Visnu is the maintainer, and Mahesvara—Mahadeva, or Lord Siva—is the destroyer. When Krsna says, aham sarvasya prabhavah, that means He's the origin of Brahma, Visnu, and Lord Siva. So if we satisfy Hari, or Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, we don't have to separately satisfy the demigods. Krsna includes everything.
An example is given: yatha taror mula-nisecanena trpyanti tat-skandha-bhujopasakhah. By pouring water on the root of a tree, you automatically water the branches, twigs, leaves, flowers—everything. Pranopaharac ca yathendriyanam: By supplying food to the stomach, automatically the energy will be distributed to other parts of the body. You do not have to supply food to the eyes, to the ears, to the nose. No. Simply supply food to the stomach, and the energy will be distributed. Similarly, samsiddhir hari-tosanam: If you simply satisfy Hari, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, then you satisfy all others.
We read an example of this point in the Mahabharata. Once Duryodhana, the enemy of the Pandavas, satisfied the sage Durvasa, so Durvasa wanted to give him a benediction. Duryodhana was very cunning. His only aim was to cheat the Pandavas.
Duryodhana told Durvasa, "My dear sir, I shall ask you for the benediction some other time, not now."
Later, when the Pandavas, with their wife Draupadi, were in exile in the forest, Duryodhana approached Durvasa Muni.
"My dear sir, you wanted to give me a benediction. I have come for it. Go to the Pandavas with your sixty thousand disciples after Draupadi has eaten."
Durvasa was known for creating havoc when displeased. Duryodhana felt that the Pandavas, living in the forest without adequate supplies, would not be able to receive Durvasa properly, and he would punish them with his great power.
Durvasa and his disciples then visited the Pandavas in the forest. As ksatriyas, the Pandavas were duty bound to receive the brahmanas. But the Pandavas had eaten and had nothing to offer their guests. Perplexed, the Pandavas asked them to bathe while they made the arrangements to feed them.
Krsna's vow is that He will always see that His devotees are protected. So when the Pandavas were perplexed, Krsna came there.
"What is the problem?" Krsna asked.
They explained, and then Krsna asked if Draupadi, the wife of the Pandavas, had eaten. Draupadi had once received the benediction that as long as she had not eaten her meal, she would be able to feed any number of guests. She told Krsna that she had already eaten.
"Just go and find any little food in the kitchen," Krsna said.
Draupadi found a little food stuck to the side of a pot and brought it to Krsna. When Krsna ate it, Durvasa Muni and company felt that their stomachs were full. Ashamed at being unable to accept a meal from the Pandavas, they fled.
That is the process. If you can satisfy Krsna—if Krsna says, "All right"—then everything is all right. That is the principle of the Krsna consciousness movement. Somehow or other, satisfy Krsna. Samsiddhir hari-tosanam. Then you will get all perfection. It is a very simple method. Try to satisfy Krsna, and you will be satisfied in every respect. Everything will be perfect.
Krsna also says that. And it is not very difficult to satisfy Krsna. Krsna is so kind. He says, patram puspam phalam toyam yo me bhaktya prayacchati: "You want to feed Me—that's all right. Just collect a flower or a leaf and offer it to Me with devotion." The real offering is bhakti—love, devotion. Krsna is not asking you to bring Him large quantities of delicious food. No. Krsna wants your love.
Krsna is not a beggar, nor is He hungry, coming to your place to eat something. That's not Krsna's position. Krsna wants only your love.
A father takes responsibility for the whole family. He works hard day and night to maintain the family. In return, he only expects love from his wife and children. That is the impetus for economic development. The father works hard to earn money, but he needs only a little for himself. He works hard so that when he comes home, he can see his wife and children very satisfied.
Similarly, Krsna has expanded His family. He has become so many living entities. What is the idea? Anandamayo 'bhyasat. Because He's anandamaya, full of pleasure, He wants to enjoy loving exchanges between Himself and the living entities. That is His purpose. Otherwise, why has He created us? He wants love. But rascals have forgotten that. They say, "There is no God. I am God. I am the enjoyer." Instead of loving God, they are becoming "God." This has killed the whole situation.
Therefore Krsna comes. He wants to reestablish the reciprocal exchange of love, which is called bhakti. You love Krsna, and Krsna loves you. Krsna loves you even without receiving your love. Otherwise, how are you eating? You cannot live even for a moment without Krsna's mercy. That's a fact. Eko bahunam yo vidadhati kaman.
The Meaning of Dharma
Krsna comes to establish dharma. Dharma means what is enjoined by the Lord. What God says, that is dharma. Not that you manufacture your dharma. God, Krsna, says, man-mana bhava mad-bhakto mad-yaji mam namaskuru: "Always think of Me, become My devotee, worship Me, and bow down to Me." Krsna says, sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja: "Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me." This is dharma. Any so-called dharma that does not involve surrender to God is not real dharma. It is called kaitava dharma, "cheating religion." Therefore the Srimad-Bhagavatam says, dharmah projjhita-kaitavo 'tra: "All cheating dharma is thrown away, kicked out."
Here the same thing is confirmed: svanusthitasya dharmasya samsiddhir hari-tosanam. You are religious; that's all right. But the purpose of religion is to satisfy the Supreme Lord. That is perfection. It doesn't matter what your occupation is. It is said, varnasrama-vibhagasah, "by the divisions of varnasrama." A brahmana can satisfy Krsna by his austerity, by his truthfulness, by his knowledge of the sastras. He can preach the knowledge of the sastras to the world. He can eat on behalf of God. According to Vedic civilization, there is brahmana-bhojana. Brahmana-bhojana means that Krsna eats through the brahmanas.
So a brahmana can remain a brahmana and satisfy the Lord by his activities. The same is true for others. Arjuna was not a brahmana; he was ksatriya. He was not a sannyasi; he was a grhastha, a householder and a king. He knew how to kill. So by killing he satisfied Krsna. Samsiddhir hari-tosanam. That was the whole purpose of the Bhagavad-gita. Arjuna was unwilling to kill, and Krsna was inducing him, "You must kill." And when Arjuna agreed to kill, then Krsna became satisfied and Arjuna became perfect.
These examples are evidence. The purpose of life is to satisfy Krsna. When Arjuna refused to fight, that was for his own satisfaction. "I shall not kill my grandfather, my nephews, my brother on the other side. If they die, I shall be unhappy. So what is the use of killing them?" These considerations were all sense gratification, so-called nonviolence. A devotee does not know what is violence and non-violence. He wants to satisfy Krsna. That's all. Devotees do not know what is morality or immorality. They want to satisfy Krsna. The gopis, the cowherd girls, went to Krsna in the dead of night. That is immoral. But they did not know what is morality or immorality. They had to go to Krsna. Samsiddhir hari-tosanam.
Everyone should try to satisfy Lord Krsna. Man-mana bhava mad-bhakto mad-yaji mam namaskuru. That is the perfection of life. Always think of Krsna (man-manah). "Always become My devotee" (mad-bhakta). "Always worship Me" (mad-yaji). "Always offer your obeisances unto Me" (mam namaskuru).
"But I have another religion, Sir. Why shall I think of You only? I have to think of Goddess Kali. Otherwise I cannot eat meat."
Therefore Lord Krsna says, sarva-dharman parityajya: "It is all nonsense. Give up all this nonsense." Mam ekam. "Simply surrender unto Me." Ekam. "Don't bother with the demigods."
So this is the real dharma: samsiddhir hari-tosanam. Somehow or other, satisfy Krsna. Arjuna satisfied Krsna by killing. Killing is not a very good art. But because by killing, Arjuna satisfied Krsna, Krsna gave him a certificate: bhakto 'si me sakha ceti, "Oh, you are My very dear friend."
Krsna's purpose was to kill the demons. Paritranaya sadhunam vinasaya ca duskrtam. Arjuna helped kill the demons and fulfill the desire of Krsna. Therefore Arjuna became perfect by killing. So if you do anything sanctioned by Krsna, or by His bona fide representative, that is real dharma. Samsiddhir hari-tosanam.
Thank you very much.
Compiled by Krishan B. Lal
The Gita, or Bhagavad-gita ("The Song of God"), was spoken five thousand years ago by Lord Krsna to the prince Arjuna. It contains the essence of Vedic knowledge.
The compiler has applied a question / answer format to the Introduction to Bhagavad-gita As It Is, by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
Can we travel to higher planets?
As we, the living entity, repeatedly transmigrate from one body to another, we also travel from one planet to another. But we cannot go to any planet we like merely by a mechanical arrangement. If we desire to go to other planets, there is a process for going there, and no mechanical arrangement is necessary. The Gita instructs yanti deva-vrata devan pitin yanti pitr-vratah. There are three planetary systems: higher, middle, and lower. The moon, the sun, and higher planets are called Svargaloka. The earth belongs to the middle planetary system. Bhagavad-gita informs us how to travel to the higher planetary systems (Devaloka) with a very simple formula: yanti deva-vrata devan. One need only worship the particular demigod of that planet.
Yet Bhagavad-gita does not advise us to go to any of the planets in the material world, because even if we go to Brahmaloka, the highest planet, through some sort of mechanical contrivance by maybe traveling for forty thousand years (and who would live that long?), we will still find the material inconveniences of birth, death, disease, and old age. But one who wants to approach the supreme planet, Krsnaloka, or any of the other planets within the spiritual sky will not meet with these material inconveniences.
Is the material world a reflection of the spiritual world?
In the Fifteenth Chapter of the Bhagavad-gita, the real picture of the material world is given. It is said there:
Here the material world is described as a tree whose roots are upwards and branches are below. We have experience of a tree whose roots are upward: A person standing on the bank of a river or any reservoir of water can see that the trees reflected in the water are upside down. The branches go downward and the roots upward.
Similarly, the material world is a reflection of the spiritual world. The material world is but a shadow of reality. In the shadow there is no reality or substantiality, but from the shadow we can understand that there are substance and reality. In the desert there is no water, but the mirage suggests that there is such a thing as water. In the material world there is no water—there is no happiness—but the real water of actual happiness is there in the spiritual world. All of this information is given in the Bhagavad-gita, and we are given information how to leave the material world and begin a truly blissful life in the spiritual sky.
How can we attain the spiritual world?
The Lord suggests that we attain the spiritual world in the following manner (Bg. 15.5):
The padam avyayam, or eternal kingdom, can be reached by one who is nirmana-moha. What does this mean? We are after designations. Someone wants to become "sir," someone wants to become "lord," someone wants to become the president or a rich man or a king or something else. As long as we are attached to these designations, we are attached to the body, because designations belong to the body. But we are not these bodies, and realizing this is the first stage in spiritual realization. We are associated with the three modes of material nature, but we must become detached through devotional service to the Lord.
If we are not attached to devotional service to the Lord, then we cannot become detached from the modes of material nature. Designations and attachments are due to our lust and desire, our wanting to lord it over the material nature. The eternal kingdom, which is never destroyed, can be approached by one who is not bewildered by the attractions of false material enjoyments, who is situated in the service of the Supreme Lord.
Why can't we see the spiritual world?
The Gita (8.21) states:
avyakto 'ksara ity uktas
Avyakta means "unmanifested." The spiritual world is unmanifested. Not even all of the material world is manifested before us. Our senses are so imperfect that we cannot even see all of the stars within the material universe, so what to speak of the spiritual planets.
What are the relative sizes of the material and spiritual worlds?
The material world has been approximated as only one quarter of the creation (ekamsena sthito jagat). In the material segment there are millions and billions of universes with trillions of planets and suns, stars, and moons. But this whole material creation is only a fragment of the total creation. Most of the creation is in the spiritual sky.
How does reincarnation take place?
The living entity decides to act in a certain way and is then entangled in the reactions of his work. If he forgets Krsna at death, after giving up the body he enters another, as we put on and take off clothes. As the soul thus migrates, he suffers the reactions of his past activities. A person dies after higher authorities have decided what form of body he will have in the next life.
According to our activities in this life, we either rise or sink.
yam yam vapi smaran bhavam
"Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, O son of Kunti, that state he will attain without fail." (Bg. 8.6). At the time of death either we remain in the inferior energy of this material world, or we transfer to the energy of the spiritual world. This life is a preparation for the next life. If we prepare, therefore, in this life to get promotion to the kingdom of God, then surely, after quitting this material body, we will attain a spiritual body just like the Lord's.
What is the result of remembering Krsna at the time of death?
In Bhagavad-gita (8.5) it is said:
anta-kale ca mam eva
"And whoever at the end of his life quits his body remembering Me alone at once attains My nature. Of this there is not doubt." One who thinks of Krsna at the time of death goes to Krsna. One must remember the form of Krsna; if he quits his body thinking of this form, he surely approaches the spiritual kingdom.
What is the difference between spiritual form and our present body?
The Supreme Being is sac-cid-ananda-vigraha—that is, His form is eternal, full of knowledge and bliss. Our present body is not sac-cid-ananda. It is asat, not sat. It is not eternal; it is perishable. It is not cit, full of knowledge, but it is full of ignorance. We have no knowledge of the spiritual kingdom, nor do we even have perfect knowledge of the material world. The body is also nirananda; instead of being full of bliss it is full of misery. All of the miseries we experience in this world arise from the body, but one who leaves the body thinking of Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, at once attains a sac-cid-ananda body.
Does thinking of Krsna require giving up our occupational duties?
In the eighth chapter of Bhagavad-gita, Krsna does not advise Arjuna to remember Him and give up his occupation.
tasmat sarvesu kalesu
"Therefore, Arjuna, you should always think of Me in the form of Krsna and at the same time continue your prescribed duty of fighting. With your activities dedicated to Me and your mind and intelligence fixed on Me, you will attain Me without doubt." (Bg. 8.7) Arjuna was always thinking of Krsna; he was the constant companion of Krsna, and at the same time he was a warrior. Krsna did not advise him to give up fighting and go to the forest to meditate.
What is required to remember Krsna at death?
If we don't practice remembering Krsna while struggling for existence, it will not be possible to remember Him at death. Lord Caitanya also advises this. He says, kirtaniyah sada harih: one should practice chanting the names of the Lord always. The names of the Lord and the Lord are identical. So Lord Krsna's instructions to Arjuna to "remember Me" and Lord Caitanya's injunction to "always chant the names of Lord Krsna" are the same instruction. There is no difference, because Krsna and Krsna's name are identical. In the absolute status there is no difference between reference and referent. Therefore we have to practice remembering the Lord always, twenty-four hours a day, by chanting His names and molding our life's activities in such a way that we can remember Him always.
How is it possible to always remember Krsna while working?
Spiritual teachers give the following example: If a married woman is attached to another man, or if a man has an attachment for a woman other than his wife, then the attachment is very strong. One with such an attachment is always thinking of the loved one. The wife who is thinking of her lover is always thinking of meeting him, even while she is carrying out her household chores. In fact, she carries out her household work even more carefully so her husband will not suspect her attachment.
Similarly, we should always remember the supreme lover, Sri Krsna, and at the same time perform our material duties very nicely. A strong sense of love is required here. If we have a strong sense of love for the Supreme Lord, then we can discharge our duty and at the same time remember Him. But we have to develop that sense of love.
Who is the best yogi?
When Lord Krsna delineates the yoga system, Arjuna says that the practice of this system is not possible for him.
"Arjuna said: O Madhusudana, the system of yoga which You have summarized appears impractical and unendurable to me, for the mind is restless and unsteady." (Bg. 6.33)
But the Lord says:
yoginam api sarvesam
"Of all yogis, the one with great faith who always abides in Me, thinks of Me within himself, and renders transcendental loving service to Me is the most intimately united with Me in yoga and is the highest of all. That is My opinion." (Bg. 6.47) So one who thinks of the Supreme Lord always is the greatest yogi, the great-est jnani, and the greatest devotee at the same time. The Lord further tells Arjuna that as a ksatriya he cannot give up his fighting, but if he fights remembering Krsna, he will be able to remember Krsna at the time of death. One must be completely surrendered in the transcendental loving service of the Lord.
What are the destinations of the different kinds of transcendentalists?
There are different kinds of transcendentalists: the brahma-vadi, who realizes the Lord's spiritual effulgence (brahmajyoti); the paramatma-vadi, who realizes the Supersoul, or the Lord in the heart; and the devotee, who realizes Bhagavan, the Personality of Godhead. One who desires to merge into the existence of the Supreme Brahman is transferred to the brahmajyoti of the Supreme Lord and thus attains the spiritual sky. The devotee, who wants to enjoy the association of the Lord, enters into the Vaikuntha planets, which are innumerable, and the Supreme Lord by His plenary expansions as Narayana with four hands associates with him there.
At the end of life the transcendentalists think either of the brahmajyoti, the Paramatma, or the Supreme Personality of Godhead Sri Krsna. In all cases they enter into the spiritual sky, but only the devotee, or he who is in personal touch with the Supreme Lord, enters into the Vaikuntha planets or the Goloka Vrndavana planet. The Lord says, "Of this there is not doubt." There is no question of disbelieving it. We should not reject what does not tally with our imagination. Our attitude should be that of Arjuna: "I believe everything that You have said."
Krishnan B. Lal, an ISKCON Life Member, is retired and lives in Huntington Beach, California.
"Krsna Consciousness Is Real Science"
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.
Srila Prabhupada: Krsna consciousness is not a bluff. It is real science, real authority. One simply has to understand it. That's all. Therefore, in Caitanya-caritamrta it is said, krsna yei bhaje sei bada catura: Unless one is very, very intelligent, he cannot come to Krsna consciousness. He must be very intelligent. So if we find one or two intelligent persons . . . Ekas candras tamo hanti na ca tarah sahas-rasah: One moon is sufficient to eradicate all darkness. There is no need of millions of stars. Krsna consciousness is so beautiful. You call any intelligent person, and we are prepared to convince him. Any intelligent person. He must be a little intelligent. That's all.
Allen Ginsberg: Yes, but I'm not even convinced. I mean, everything you say is beautiful, but . . .
Srila Prabhupada: No. You are a very intelligent boy. Why do you not think you are intelligent? You are a recognized poet; you are a popular poet. I take it that you are intelligent. You are first-class intelligent. You are chanting.
Allen Ginsberg: But for me the chanting is almost a physical body movement, rather than a . . .
Srila Prabhupada: For now that may be, but your intelligence is sufficient. If this standard of intelligent men is what I get as my followers, that will be my good fortune. You see. Now, at least, I request you that you try to understand this Krsna consciousness philosophy. It is not sentiment. It is not bluffing. It is not a money-making business.
Allen Ginsberg: No. Obviously not.
Srila Prabhupada: You see? You know my activities from the very beginning. I came here single-handed. I chanted. That's all. I never asked anybody for money.
Allen Ginsberg: That was never in question.
Srila Prabhupada: I never said, "I'll give you Krsna consciousness for this or that." No. So it is not a bluff. It is purely scientific. Transcendental science. So I want some American gentlemen to understand this.
Allen Ginsberg: Well, Howard [Prabhupada's disciple Hayagriva Dasa] teaches at the university, and he understands.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. So we want many Howards. [Chuckles.] Your country is so big.
Allen Ginsberg: Actually, what I was getting into . . . You were saying that Krsna says, "So everything stands on My personality." And then there was a twist there: "But I am . . ."—was it "empty"? Is that what you said before? Do you remember? Just about eight minutes ago, you concluded the analogy of the sun.
Srila Prabhupada: The sun-god, the sun globe, and the sunshine.
Disciple: Krsna says, "All things are depending on Me, but I am absent. I am not in them."
Allen Ginsberg: Oh, oh. I guess that's where I . . . "Everything is depending on Me, yet I am not in them."
Srila Prabhupada: "Everything is resting on Me. But I am not there." For instance, this table is Krsna. Without Krsna it would have no existence. But at the same time, the table is not Krsna. The pantheist will say, "Everything is God. Therefore, I worship this table."
Allen Ginsberg: So, then, who is Krsna?
Srila Prabhupada: Krsna is Krsna.
Allen Ginsberg: But if He's not apprehensible by our senses . . .
Srila Prabhupada: No. Why say He's not apprehensible by our senses? As we said before, in a sense even this table is Krsna. But at the same time—and this is the philosophy of Lord Caitanya: acintya-bhedabheda—this or any other thing and Krsna are simultaneously one and different. That is very easy to understand. Suppose this table is gold. But this one gold thing is not the whole gold mine. There is a difference. Similarly, everything is Krsna, but still, everything is different from Krsna.
This principle of simultaneously one and different is explained in the Visnu Purana. Eka-desa-sthitasyagner jyotsna vistarini yatha/ parasya brahmanah saktis tatedam akhilam jagat. In this verse we get the same idea that the Lord expands in the way of the sun-god, sun globe, and sunshine. The sun-god is situated in one place, and from that place blazing fire spreads its heat and light all over.
You can see this principle practically demonstrated in everyday life, also: the expansion of the sun's heat and light all over the universe. We know that whatever we see within this material existence is depending on the sunlight, the sunshine. This statement is verifiable scientifically. Your electricity, your this, your that—whatever item you take—fundamentally it is sunshine. All these planets are moving, rotating, based on the sunshine.
If the sun's heat were taken away, immediately the whole thing would be spoiled; therefore, everything is resting on the energy of the sun-god. But if you say, "Then let me search out the sun-god who is behind the sunshine," to do that you will have to go there.
Disciple: As I think the Christians also say, God is more than His creation.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Certainly. This creation is only a part of the manifestation of His energy. Insignificant. That is explained in Bhagavad-gita. Atha va bahunaitena kim jnatena tavarjuna/ vistabhyaham idam krtsnam ekamsena sthito jagat: "This whole material existence is simply a partial manifestation of My energy." Krsna says, "I have entered into this whole material creation, and it is a partial manifestation of My energy."
For instance, what is this body of yours? This body is a manifestation of your energy. The living entity is put into the mother's womb in the form of a seed, and his body expands. This body is expanding. But because you are limited, your body expands only so much. Three feet or six feet. That's all. No more. You cannot expand more than that. This is a crude example.
But the Lord—He's unlimited. So He's expanding unlimitedly. Brhattvad brnhanattvad iti brahma. Brahman means nothing is greater than Him, and nothing can expand like Him.
So the Vedic culture offers us all information—scientifically. We simply have to disseminate it. We have got totally authoritative scriptures, with full descriptions of the Lord and answers to every possible question. Everything is here. This is not blind following. It is not religious fanaticism. It is actually solid ground. One simply has to understand nicely. That's all. And there is no difficulty. It is so simple.
Our initial recommendation is, Simply chant Hare Krsna. If someone asks, "Aren't these Sanskrit words?" that is not a problem. These are God's names, and everyone is naturally attracted to chanting them. So what is the difficulty? Bring any other religious principle, and you won't find any so easy as this. We don't recommend anything ritualistic; that is not a very important thing. We are giving the main instruction for this age, saying, "Simply chant."
Of course, at our temples we have a few ritualistic performances. They give us a little help in focusing our mind on the Lord's name. That's all. They help. But they are not required. Caitanya Mahaprabhu says that all the strength and all the beauty, all the wisdom—everything is there in the name. Simply by chanting the name, we get all blessings, everything. Ritualistic performances assist us in hearing the name, but if somebody does not want our ritualistic performances, that is not an important thing. We simply recommend, "Please chant." That's all. For example, I requested you to chant. Not that I requested that you adopt our means. So this is what we are requesting. Let people chant—make an experiment. It is not a very difficult thing.
Allen Ginsberg: Well, the chanting is easy, the chanting is easy. That's true.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Let people do that and not come to the ritualistic performances. Let them chant as far as possible and see the result. This is the easiest method of transcendental realization. And if you recommend that people chant Hare Krsna, oh, that will be accepted by many.
Allen Ginsberg: No. You see, I recommend it quite a bit, but it isn't accepted by very many.
Srila Prabhupada: [Chuckles.] No, no. To that I say, You are an American, and you are a popular leader. You have got some voice. I am a foreigner, newly arrived, so who cares about me?
ISKCON's "Festival of Culture"
By Sri Prahlada Dasa
Ewa, Beata, and Ania, three girls aged nine, eleven, and thirteen, live in Mrzezyno, a quiet town of four thousand with a beach and port on Poland's northern Baltic coast. They wait excitedly all year for summer, when forty thousand vacationers descend on Mrzezyno and the town comes alive. Impromptu bars, cafes, discos, hotels, campgrounds, and billboards spring up.
The girls' excitement comes from more than just looking forward to summer tourism. Every day they go down to the beach to see, "Have they come yet?"
One Saturday morning as the trio strolls along the port, they hear cymbal chimes and drum rhythms growing louder by the second.
"It's them!" the girls yell in joy, running in the direction of the sound.
A bouquet of colors appears. Forty-five people dance down the street in two lines, women in elegant saris in front and back. Many in the group carry flags and strings of balloons. Spectators on the street and in windows smile to see the women's friendly waves as they dance in unison.
In the middle of the procession shaven-headed men in bright robes dance with joy to the accompaniment of cymbals, drums, a trumpet, and an accordion.
The lead singer's voice charms Ewa, Beata, and Ania with their favorite chant: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
In their excitement the girls recognize someone.
They run forward to hug their old friend, dressed like a traditional Indian dancer.
The train of dancing devotees gradually winds its way to beach, where the procession attracts the curious. While some people laugh or ignore the scene, others clap, and many smile and wave.
With a cue from Indradyumna Swami, Sri Radhika halts the forward march. The sea forms a beautiful backdrop for the musical party. A crowd gathers to see the entertainment. Out in front, Sri Radhika dances with Ewa, Beata, and Ania. They invite children from the ring of spectators to come and dance, and soon twenty-five dancers move in swirling chains.
The music builds to an intense climax, everyone absorbed in Krsna's holy names. Then, to the applause of bystanders, the performance comes to a close and Indradyumna Swami steps forward.
"Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your kind appreciation."
Gaurangi Dasi translates into Polish for the crowd.
"We are members of the Hare Krsna movement. Tonight and tomorrow at 5:00 PM we'll be putting on a festival of Indian culture on the pier. The stage program will include traditional Indian music, dance, and theater. We also have exhibits on the Indian philosophy and way of life.
"In one tent you'll be able to put on an Indian sari to wear for the evening. In another you can have your face painted with Indian flower designs and treat yourself to delicious Indian vegetarian food. This is a festival for the whole family, and it's free."
Indradyumna Swami asks who will be there, and most in the audience raise their hands high. The music starts again, and procession moves on.
Setting Up the Site
At the festival site, only a hundred meters from the beach, a team of devotees unloads the semitrailer. They set up fifteen tents along both sides of the pier and bolt scaffolding to the truck trailer to erect a stage. A banner adorning the stage reads "Festival of Indian Culture, 10th Anniversary Tour."
One crewman is Narottama Dasa, age twenty-two, a second-generation Krsna devotee and a graduate of a gurukula (Hare Krsna school) in Murwillumbah, Australia. After graduating three years ago, he didn't know what to do with himself.
"My friends and I got into drugs. My parents tried to advise me against it, but they didn't really have anything for me to do. Two years ago when Indradyumna Swami came to our farm, he spent a lot of time with me and encouraged me to start chanting again and to come to Poland. For six months I worked really hard for a local devotee, and finally I was able to buy my ticket. It's the best thing I ever did.
"Tomorrow when the festival finishes we'll dismantle everything and then set up again the next day. We do festivals in two or three towns a week, five months a year. It's a lot of hard work, but it's fun too. Clean fun. I have friends here, and I feel I'm doing something worthwhile for people in general, for ISKCON, and for myself. My parents are really proud of me."
After the stage goes up, it's time for Jambavan to do his work at the mixing desk. He tunes the sound system, adjusting the crossover and equalization. The twenty-two-year-old sound technician is a graduate of gurukula in India. His mother is Australian, and he was born in England.
"I was living in Vrndavana with my parents, fiddling with my computer, waiting for something to happen with my life. Then Indradyumna Swami invited me to the Polish tour as assistant sound engineer. I gladly accepted his offer.
"Last year I worked as an understudy. This year I'm running the whole system: four thousand watts of amplifiers, a twelve-channel mixing desk, and several multi-effects units.
"The festivals used to be held indoors for fewer than a thousand people. Now that they're open-air events, two thousand to ten thousand guests come—and the sound system is too small."
The Stage Show
Today people start arriving at 4:30. Tribhuvanesvara Dasa opens the festival by singing devotional songs, accompanied by traditional Indian instruments. He graduated from Poland's Poznan Music College in 1978 and spent time singing and playing keyboards in a cabaret band on a Polish luxury cruiser. In 1989, on a street in Warsaw, a Hare Krsna devotee sold him a Bhagavad-gita.
"After reading the book," he says, "I decided to dedicate my talents to glorifying Krsna."
Several thousand people wander through the festival site. The only open area is directly in front of the stage. Ewa, Beata, and Ania, their faces painted to match their saris, are dancing with Sri Radhika and other young girls similarly dressed. Sri Radhika teaches simple Bharata Natyam steps to the girls, who will present their skills to the crowd.
Tribhuvanesvara, the festival's master of ceremonies, welcomes the guests and invites applause for the dancers as they enter the stage. Croatian Sri Radhika wins hearts as she tells the public in broken Polish about Bharata Natyam.
"We have started a dance school here in Mrzezyno," Tribhuvanesvara announces.
The girls dance, carefully following their teacher's movements. The audience responds with flashing cameras and thunderous applause.
The students then join the audience to watch Sri Radhika perform "Krsna, the Lifter of Govardhana Hill."
While actors backstage prepare for the Ramayana theater, Tribhuvanesvara tells the audience that the pastimes of Lord Rama and His queen, Sita, have fascinated the people of Southeast Asia for thousands of years.
Music composed by Tribhuvanesvara ushers the actors onto the stage. Each actor has a magnificent larger-than-life mask visible from far away. Tribhuvanesvara reads the entire script (except Sita's part, read by a woman), changing his voice for each character.
Around the Site
While most of the crowd focuses on the stage, around the festival site a lot else is going on. Piotrek, a teenaged boy from Katowice, approaches Indradyumna Swami with a photo of both of them together at last year's festival. Piotrek asks him to sign the photo.
"When I was leaving home for vacation, I packed this photo, thinking that I might meet you. When I got off the train this morning and saw a post-er advertising the festival, I couldn't believe it."
Past the exhibition tents, where people read panels on reincarnation, vegetarianism, and the scientific basis of Krsna consciousness, we come to the restaurant tent, now vacant. From behind empty tables, cook Rukmini-priya Dasi apologizes.
"Sorry, there's nothing left. Everything sold out in the first two hours of the festival. A few people said that never before in their life had they tasted anything so delicious."
The questions-and-answers tent is packed. A man asks Jayatam Dasa if Krsna and the Christian's God is the same person.
"God is one," Jayatam replies, "though His names are many. Allah, Yahweh, and Krsna are names for the same person. Just as the sun is known by as many names as there are languages in the world, so is God."
An elderly woman with a dog asks if Hare Krsna is a cult.
"The International Society for Krsna Consciousness," Jayatam answers, "is a registered religion in this country. In India people have taught this philosophy and lived this culture for thousands of years. People unfamiliar with this culture sometimes say we are a cult, but not informed people like scholars or the government."
A boy interrupts.
"Then why do the priests insist that Hare Krsna is a dangerous sect?"
In reply, Jayatam asks, "Who in this tent is afraid of death?"
Almost everyone in the tent raises his or her hand.
"Why are you afraid?"
A discussion develops, and Jayatam concludes by saying that people are afraid of death because of ignorance of an afterlife.
"It is human nature to fear what we don't understand," he says.
At the gift shops, people buy imported items from India. Sangita-priya Dasi, just back from the Ramayana theater, where she plays the voice of Sita, explains that profits from the gift shop help keep the festival going.
Sangita reminisces as she serves a young girl.
"Six years ago I was just like her, an eighteen-year-old attending the festival for the first time."
Introduced on the stage as the festival's organizer, Indradyumna Swami summarizes the essential philosophy of Bhagavad-gita. He holds a copy of the book in front of him for the audience to see. His words, along with the words of the translator, resound throughout the festival site.
"In Bhagavad-gita, Krsna, as God is known in the ancient Sanskrit language of India, speaks specifically for the benefit of human society. Unlike the animals, human beings can inquire, 'Who am I?' "
He explains the basic philosophy of the soul and then says, "Some of you may be wondering why European boys and girls have accepted an Eastern culture and philosophy. I'm sure that if you speak to them they will each give you a different answer to this question. But I also think that their answers could be grouped into two categories. One, they are attracted by the philosophy. And two, they are attracted by the pure way we live.
"If you have a pure goal like attaining love of God, you should have a pure way of life. In Krsna consciousness we follow four principles: no meat-eating, no illicit sex, no intoxication, and no gambling. Although you may not be ready to follow the principles yourselves, how many of you think the world would be a better place if people lived by them? Please raise your hands."
Most in the audience raise their hands.
"Some of you may be thinking, 'Yeah, the principles are good, but what about fun? No hamburgers. No beer or vodka. No discos on Friday night. What do you guys do for fun? Hare Krsnas must be really sad people.' "
He pulls a sad face, and many in the audience laugh.
Then his face lights up with a big smile.
"In Krsna consciousness we feel happiness on the spiritual platform, on the platform of the soul. Anyone can feel it at once by chanting the names of God. I invite all of you to please repeat after me. Two words at a time: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare."
Playing the harmonium, Indradyumna Swami leads a beautiful kirtana, accompanied by Ekalavya Dasa on trumpet.
Guests and devotees dance, swaying back and forth in front of the stage. Sri Radhika and her "students" dance in circles, holding each other's hands. Indradyumna Swami suddenly changes the melody, and the kirtana's tempo builds. Bhakti-priya Dasa joins in with his bass guitar, and Syama Bhakta Dasa plays his African djambe. Devotees and guests dance with abandon.
Indradyumna Swami ends the kirtana and speaks some final words.
"If you have enjoyed the chanting, the dancing, and the talk on the philosophy, I would like to invite you to take it home with you. If you take a Bhagavad-gita from our bookshop, where I am going right now, I'll write a little dedication for you.
"I can see that many young people are waiting for our reggae band, Village of Peace. So please give a warm welcome to the lead vocalist, all the way from New Zealand, Sri Prahlada."
I enter the stage with the other band members for our first set.
At the book tent, Radha Sakhi Vrnda Dasi and Nandini Dasi are busy keeping up with the demand. Most of the Gita sales come after Indradyumna Swami's talk on the stage.
"What are your names," he asks a middle-aged man with his wife and two sons.
Nandini writes their names on a piece of paper, which Indradyumna Swami copies onto the front page of the book:
July 18, 1999
Indradyumna Swami is excited about the success of the festival.
"Each festival is a gem," he says. "It's not always easy to get permission to do them. Sometimes mayors on their own or under pressure from the local priests cancel the festivals at the last moment."
Hare Krsna Reggae
Village of Peace's Krsna reggae has a crowd of a couple hundred people dancing in front of the stage. I sing in English, Bengali, and Sanskrit. We're gaining a reputation, and fans call out requests. "Wake Up" and "Divine Love" are favorites.
Ten o'clock is close-down time. I say good-night to the audience.
"We have been together all night, and I can safely say that by now we're all friends. We don't like to say good-by to friends, but there is one good thing: we'll have the pleasure of meeting again. Thank you all for coming. Good-by till tomorrow, and remember, chant Hare Krsna and be happy!"
I sign CDs and cassettes and give my address to those who want to write to me. I have received many letters from kids who stopped smoking, drinking alcohol, or eating meat after attending one of our concerts. Some kids start to read Srila Prabhupada's books and regularly chant Hare Krsna. I know I'm not a great musician, but letters like these and memories of the kids chanting and dancing in the concerts inspire me to keep singing.
Port authority captain Jusef is pleased he attended the festival.
"My superiors in Szczechin and the local priest told me not to allow the festival this year. I didn't listen to them, and the mayor supported my decision. I'm so glad your festival has come back to Mrzezyno. People have such a good time when you come to town."
As he walks away carrying his favorite prasadam—deep-fried vegetable samosas—he turns and says to Indradyumna Swami, "May these festivals continue for the next hundred years!"
As the festival ends, Beata, Ewa, and Ania excitedly run with a festival poster and a pen, requesting autographs from Indradyumna Swami, Tribhuvanesvara, and other artists. Two buses carrying exhausted devotees pull out of the festival site. Three teary-eyed girls wave.
"Good-by," they shout. "Come again next year."
Twenty-two-year-old Sri Prahlada Dasa has been a Krsna devotee since age five. He has traveled with the Poland festival tour since it began in 1990. Last year he was married onstage to Rukmini Priya Devi Dasi during the Polish Woodstock festival.
Excerpts from letters written by mayors and cultural directors in some Polish cities that hosted the Festival of India. (Translated from Polish.)
The spectacle was held in a nice atmosphere, delivering heaps of spiritual experiences. Warmly recommended.
—Mayor of Miedzychod
The idea of the festival is splendid, and the people presenting it are full of kindness and grace. I am still hopeful that people who improperly understand the word "tolerance" will deliberately begin to change their outlook upon life and will kindly accept this kind of spectacle in future years.
—Director of the Culture House, Miedzychod
The Festival of India was a cultural and artistic undertaking on a very high organizational level. We give the organizers the highest mark. In thanking you for presenting India's culture, we are inviting you again to Glogow.
—The Chief of Glogow's Culture Department (On behalf of the President of Glogow)
Hearty thanks for marvelous and gorgeous entertainment. The friendly mood and kindness prevailing during the Festival of India may for all of us be an excellent example of a grand and professionally prepared show. The dance, theater, pantomime, and concerts executed by artists representing united cultures of both West and East caused bliss and enchantment among all the Festival's participants.
—Mayor of Wolsztyn
We would like to thank you for organizing and delivering so many unforgettable experiences from this wonderful event. We hope that it is the first step toward future cooperation.
—Director of the Culture House, Chocianow
This astonishing event will be long remembered by the inhabitants of Chocianow. The Festival delivered to the public a lot of sensations and made it possible to get in contact with Indian culture, lifestyle, and philosophy. Hoping for future visit of your Festival.
—Mayor of Chocianow
The whole affair was accepted very nicely by the inhabitants of Chojnow, which was proved by their attendance in great numbers. The Festival in a significant way helped us get to know this culture. I invite future cooperation and wish for many more successful festivals.
—Director of the Culture House, Chojnow
To see the true value of the Vedic social system,
By Hare Krsna Devi Dasi
Thinkers throughout history—from Plato to Locke to modern political theorists—have always discussed the ideal form of social organization. Vedic literature also addresses this question and presents as the ideal the social system known as varnasrama, which divides society into four varnas, or occupational groups, and four asramas, or stages of life. The four varnas are brahmanas (priests and teachers), ksatriyas (rulers and warriors), vaisyas (farmers and merchants), and sudras (laborers and artisans). The four asramas are brahmacarya (student), grhastha (householder), vanaprastha (retired), and sannyasa (renounced).
When His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada carried the wisdom of Vedic literature to the West, he was hoping for nothing short of a spiritual revolution. He knew that without Krsna consciousness, people cannot be happy. An important part of his strategy to spread Krsna consciousness around the world was the revival of varnasrama. For many years, his followers have pondered his instructions about varnasrama, but so far have made little progress in fulfilling his vision for it.
Part of the problem may be confusion caused by apparently contradictory things Srila Prabhupada said about varnasrama. For example, in the Bhagavad-gita (2.31), Prabhupada refers to varnasrama as "man's steppingstone for spiritual understanding." But in other places he implies that varnasrama can become simply a materialistic arrangement for one social group to dominate another, and by reinforcing identity based on bodily categories, it creates a stumbling block on the path to spiritual advancement. In some instances Srila Prabhupada says that because Lord Krsna created varnasrama, it exists in all societies at all times. But Prabhupada also sets forth the establishment of varnasrama as a central goal of the Krsna consciousness movement. So is varnasrama an aid for spiritual elevation, or an instrument for social oppression? Does it exist throughout human society, and has it existed throughout history, or is it yet to be established?
To clarify these issues, we must recognize that the word varnasrama conveys similar but significantly different meanings in different contexts. Here are three basic types of varnasrama:
1. The original varnasrama is the division of society into four varnas and four asramas that cooperate to satisfy the Supreme Lord. One's varna is determined by one's character, qualities, training, and work. The focus is spiritual advancement and spiritual satisfaction for each member of society.
This kind of varnasrama is a spiritual institution, just as a temple or a church becomes spiritual when used to glorify the Supreme Lord. The original varnasrama is sometimes referred to as daiva, or "divine," varnasrama.
2. Materialistic varnasrama is the formal division of society into four varnas and four asramas primarily to control society and increase the material well-being of certain groups. Typically, parentage and adherence to certain rituals determine varna, rather character and training. The hereditary caste system, a perversion of the original varnasrama, is in the category of materialistic varnasrama.
3. Spontaneous varnasrama is a "default" society that results because by nature people tend to divide into classes (the four varnas). Spontaneous varnasrama is devoid of a connection with the Supreme Lord and does nothing to promote spiritual progress.
To help us understand the kind of varnasrama Srila Prabhupada promoted, let's look at these types of varnasramas more closely, beginning with the least spiritual type.
In a June 1971 conversation with Professor Grigoriy Kotovsky in Moscow, Srila Prabhupada explained that because varnasrama is created by God, it exists in every society in every age:
In Bhagavad-gita [4.13] there is the statement catur-varnyam maya srstam: this system was created by Visnu [God]. So since varnasrama is a creation of the Supreme, it cannot be changed. It is prevalent everywhere. It is like the sun. The sun is a creation of the Supreme. The sunshine is there in America, in Russia, and in India—everywhere. Similarly, this varnasrama system is prevalent everywhere in some form or another. Take, for example, the brah-manas, the most intelligent class of men. They are the brains of the society. The ksatriyas are the administrative class; then the vaisyas are the productive class, and the sudras are the worker class. These four classes of men are prevalent everywhere under different names. Because it is created by the original creator, so it is prevalent everywhere, varnasrama-dharma. (Moscow, June 22, 1971)
Prabhupada is describing spontaneous varnasrama. People naturally tend to divide into the classes Prabhupada mentions, but there is no goal of using that social structure to serve the Lord.
In the Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.2.8) Suta Gosvami criticizes what we would call materialistic varnasrama: "The occupational activities a man performs according to his own position are only so much useless labor if they do not provoke attraction for the message of the Personality of Godhead." This verse applies to the caste system of modern India. Although the caste system has some basis in religious tradition, for most of its practitioners the primary motivation is respectable social standing and material enjoyment, either in this life or the next, rather than service to the Supreme Lord.
The great sage Parasara tells us how human society can satisfy the Supreme Lord, even though He is already full in all opulences:
"The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Visnu, is worshiped by the proper execution of prescribed duties in the system of varna and asrama. There is no other way to satisfy the Lord." (Visnu Purana 3.8.9)
Parasara Muni is referring to the original varnasrama system. Its essential feature is the deliberate organization of society so that the members of each class perform activities that help members of other classes in their spiritual advancement.
It is interesting to note that in the Visnu Purana verse, Srila Prabhupada translates the word tosa as "satisfy" rather than "please." I take this to mean that even though Krsna is pleased by the service of individual devotees, He is satisfied when everyone serves Him, because He knows that by serving Him all living entities will gain the greatest benefit. In daiva varnasrama everyone can serve the Lord, whatever his level of spiritual advancement, by following the principles Krsna sets forth in the Bhagavad-gita. In the third chapter, Krsna offers a description of work according to the principles of karma-yoga for those at the beginning level of spiritual advancement. As Krsna further explains in the twelfth chapter, those most captivated by material enjoyment and least able to follow regulations can make spiritual advancement by working for Him, offering Him the fruits of their labor, or at least renouncing the fruits of their labor for some charitable cause. Krsna emphasizes dutiful working according to one's nature, with detachment from the fruits of labor. Workers in daiva varnasrama can gain further advancement because they work in the association of devotees and serve them.
Furthermore, everyone—brah-mana, ksatriya, vaisya, or sudra—is eligible to advance to the topmost spiritual platform by offering not just the fruits of activity but the very activity itself to the Lord in full Krsna consciousness. In the eighteenth chapter (verses 45-46), Krsna tells Arjuna, "By following his qualities of work, every man can become perfect. Now please hear from Me how this can be done. By worship of the Lord, who is the source of all beings and who is allpervading, a man can attain perfection through performing his own work."
At this level, work is no longer counted as karma-yoga. Instead, it is considered bhakti-yoga, the highest stage of devotional service. Krsna informs Arjuna that if he acts on the platform of bhakti-yoga, he can "abandon all varieties of religion." He has simply to perform his occupational duty as an offering of love to Krsna. He need not worry about all the injunctions contained in the "flowery words of the Vedas," which concerned him in the opening pages of the Gita.
So only daiva varnasrama—the original system created by the Lord—can satisfy the Lord, because everyone can make spiritual progress. The more materially attached can learn to renounce the fruits of their labor. The more spiritually advanced can gain the highest spiritual ecstasy by offering their labor to the Lord in a spirit of loving devotion. The Lord is satisfied because He sees all His children advancing towards Him, each according to his highest capacity at the moment.
Those who have reached the top platform of pure devotional service, such as Arjuna [see sidebar: "Varnasrama and Karma"], are in fact transcendental to varnasrama, even though they still appear to be carrying out their varnasrama duties like anyone else. When engaged in pure devotional service by doing their work as bhakti-yoga, they are no longer on the material platform; they are in spiritual ecstasy.
Now that we have examined the three main types of varnasrama, let's look at what we might call "Prabhupada's varnasrama."
In the Ninth Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam (9.10.51), commenting on the varnasrama structure in Lord Ramacandra's ideal kingdom, Srila Prabhupada writes: "Among the four yugas [ages]—Satya, Treta, Dvapara and Kali—Kali-yuga is the worst, but if the process of varnasrama-dharma is introduced, even in this age of Kali, the situation of Satya-yuga can be invoked. The Hare Krsna movement, or Krsna consciousness movement, is meant for this purpose."
When Srila Prabhupada indicates that it is a mission of the Hare Krsna movement to establish varnasrama, he clearly does not mean the spontaneous varnasrama he told Professor Kotovsky was already existing all over the world. Nor does he mean the materialistic varnasrama of social prestige. Rather, Srila Prabhupada means the original varnasrama, the social organization that can satisfy the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krsna, because it provides for the spiritual advancement of all types of people. Nevertheless, the varnasrama Srila Prabhupada presents for his followers has certain prominent features especially meant to make it an effective tool for spreading Krsna consciousness in the present age.
Not by birth. First of all, Prabhupada emphasizes that varna designations should be determined by character, training, and work, not by birth. He cites the injunctions of such sages as Narada Muni to back up his position. Srila Prabhupada indicates that rather than society's using birth as the criteria, a devotee's teachers and guru can help determine the varna best suited for his specific nature and guide him to appropriate training for that varna.
Living off the land. In previous ages there was no need to specify this, but for our age Srila Prabhupada constantly urged devotees to "get all your necessities from the land" and to "grow your own food, produce your own cloth." A society based on simple living and high thinking would favor spiritual advancement.
The Varnasrama college. Srila Prabhupada writes in The Srimad-Bhagavatam (9.10.50), "As there are schools and colleges to train students to become chemical engineers, lawyers, or specialists in many other departments of knowledge, there must be schools and colleges to train students to become brahmanas, ksatriyas, vaisyas, sudras, brahmacaris, grhasthas, vanaprasthas, and sannyasis."
In March 1974 in Vrndavana, Prabhupada first outlined his ideas for a varnasrama college. Unlike traditional Vedic schools in which vaisyas, for example, were taught only scriptural studies (getting their vocational training at home), the varnasrama college would be for them somewhat like an agricultural university, in that there would be plenty of hands-on instruction, including practical subjects such as cow protection and food-crop cultivation. Also unlike traditional Vedic schools, even sudras would be included, although, again, their subjects would be centered on hands-on learning rather than formal classroom instruction. By training students in all the subjects necessary for the smooth functioning of a self-sufficient village, such a college would provide the foundation for setting up varnasrama.
Small-scale subsistence farming. Economic historians say that large-scale market-oriented farm production was unknown up to a couple hundred years ago. Today modern agribusinesses maintain large farms by capital-intensive techniques that rely heavily on tractors and petroleum, large pools of migrant workers, debt-intensive financing practices such as mortgages, government loans, and futures speculation in the commodity markets. In the model of varnasrama Srila Prabhupada presents, farmers don't go into debt, because their local government gives them small plots to farm. Because these plots cannot be resold, farmers do not risk the unemployment that results when all the land ends up in the hands of the slickest businessman.
Economy based on agriculture and cow protection. Again, there was no need to emphasize this approach in traditional Vedic times, but for our modern times, when factory production and the service industry drive the economy, Srila Prabhupada often stressed the importance of resting our self-sufficient economy on agriculture and cow protection, or "living as Krsna lived."
In the ideal varnasrama community, applying the principles of cow protection would mean that plowing should be done with oxen rather than tractors. The farmer effectively owns his means of production in a non-competitive system, and production is focused on home use and charitable giving, with only the excess being sold. Economic development would be highly localized, and short-distance shipping by ox-cart would re-place long-distance shipping by trucks and trains.
Mutual respect between varnas. In a 1975 conversation with an Indian governor in Vrndavana, Srila Prabhupada emphasized the deadly hazard of promoting contempt and hatred between the classes: "The sudras were hated like anything, so they became Mohammedans. . . . Now the result is that you and Pakistan go on fighting forever." In contrast, Prabhupada stresses that in varnasrama everyone's position is to be respected and appreciated because everyone is serving the Lord.
Protection for laborers. Prabhupada's varnasrama does not sanction harsh treatment of workers and the hope of placating them with the promise of rewards in the next life. The other classes should treat their dependent workers kindly and fairly. To provide the needs for any society takes hard work, but Prabhupada condemned the hellish working conditions and social exploitation of modern industry: "The productive energy of the laborer is misused when he is occupied by industrial enterprises. Industry of various types cannot produce the essential needs of man, namely rice, wheat, grains, milk, fruits, and vegetables. The production of machines and machine tools increases the artificial living of a class of vested interests and keeps thousands of men in starvation and unrest. This should not be the standard of civilization." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.9.26, Purport)
On one hand, industrial development subjects the laborer to ghastly working conditions; on the other hand, its machines threaten him with unemployment and misery. Prabhupada considered laboring-class unrest a clear symptom of poorly trained government leaders. The test of good government is whether it can make everyone happy (sarve sukhino bhavantu). In return for their labor, workers should be treated amicably and assured of food, shelter, the necessities of life, and protection for their families.
Using varnasrama as a preaching tool. Srila Prabhupada envisioned varnasrama as the only effective means of spreading Krsna consciousness to the world.
In big scale you cannot make all of them brahmanas or sannyasis. No. That is not possible. This is small scale. What percentage of people of the world are we attracting? Very insignificant. But if you want to make the whole human society perfect, then this Krsna consciousness movement should be introduced according to Krsna's instructions—if you want to do it in a large scale for the benefit of the whole human society. Now we are picking up some of them, the best. That is one thing. But Caitanya Mahaprabhu said para-upakara. Why only a certain section should be picked up? Let the whole mass of people get the benefit of it. But then it is required to be systematic. Therefore, we have to introduce this varnasrama-dharma. It must be done perfectly. It is possible, and people will become happy." (Mayapur, February 14, 1977)
The varnasrama model that Srila Prabhupada presents is specifically adapted to the present age and focused on attaining the highest level of love of Godhead for all. Even if we can't come to Srila Prabhupada's ideal standards at once, we can take steps toward varnasrama that will provide the momentum to reach the goal. Faced with the inevitable difficulties of the present age, many people will then have the chance to be attracted to self-sufficient varnasrama villages, centered on the worship of Lord Krsna.
Formerly the editor of Hare Krsna Rural Life, Hare Krsna Devi Dasi is currently compiling a five-volume series of Srila Prabhupada's teachings on varnasrama and farm community development.
Lord Caitanya and the Caste System
Materialistic varnasrama was practiced at least as far back as five hundred years ago, when Lord Krsna appeared on earth as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. The hereditary brahmanas of the day were anxious to protect their social standing and expected others to observe their social customs. Lord Caitanya, however, saw that such customs promoted social prestige and not spiritual advancement, so He defied them again and again.
The caste brahmanas believed that a person working in a sudra's occupation could not become a spiritual master. Since Ramananda Raya was a government employee, they considered him a sudra. The Lord discounted Ramananda Raya's nominal social position and took spiritual instruction from him because Ramananda Raya was a devotee on the highest level of Krsna consciousness. The caste brahmanas also considered anyone from a Muslim family unfit to enter the temple at Puri and see the Deity form of Krsna as Lord Jagannatha. But Lord Caitanya, who is actually the same as Jagannatha, visited the great devotee Haridasa Thakura every day, even though Haridasa came from a Muslim family.
The hereditary brahmanas of Lord Caitanya's day were obsessed with dozens of rules and strictures drawn from the idea that a brahmana would jeopardize his position by eating with or even touching anyone from outside the brahmana caste. Lord Caitanya dismissed such materialistic conceptions, however, accepting invitations to eat with devotees in the lowest social position. He freely touched and embraced sincere worshipers of the Lord, challenging the degraded, materialistic system of varnasrama.
The Natural System for Civilized Life
Human society all over the world is divided into four castes and four orders of life. The four castes are the intelligent caste, the martial caste, the productive caste, and the laborer caste. These castes are classified in terms of one's work and qualification and not by birth. Then again there are four orders of life, namely the student life, the householder's life, the retired life, and the devotional life. In the best interest of human society there must be such divisions of life; otherwise no social institution can grow in a healthy state. And in each and every one of the above-mentioned divisions of life, the aim must be to please the supreme authority of the Personality of Godhead. This institutional function of human society is known as the system of varnasrama-dharma, which is quite natural for the civilized life.
The varnasrama institution is constructed to enable one to realize the Absolute Truth. It is not for artificial domination of one division over another. When the aim of life, a i.e., realization of the Absolute Truth, is missed by too much attachment for indriya-priti, or sense gratification, as already discussed hereinbefore, the institution of the varnasrama is utilized by selfish men to pose an artificial predominance over the weaker section. In the Kali-yuga, or in the age of quarrel, this artificial predominance is already current, but the saner section of the people know it well that the divisions of castes and orders of life are meant for smooth social intercourse and high-thinking self-realization and not for any other purpose.
Herein the statement of Bhagavatam is that the highest aim of life or the highest perfection of the institution of the varnasrama-dharma is to cooperate jointly for the satisfaction of the Supreme Lord. This is also confirmed in the Bhagavad-gita (4.13).—Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.2.13, Purport
Karma and Varnasrama
Students of Krsna consciousness know that the ideal life is a fully spiritual one—a life of devotional service to Krsna. They know that activities such as hearing about Krsna, chanting Hare Krsna, and so on, are purely spiritual and therefore yield no material reaction, or karma. But what about the activities of varnasrama or, specifically, our varnas, or occupations? Aren't they material and therefore karmic?
Lord Krsna teaches in the Bhagavad-gita that whether a person's work is spiritual or material depends mainly on his consciousness. Krsna also describes three kinds of action: karma, vikarma, and akarma. (Bhagavad-gita 4.17) Let's examine these and related terms in light of the different kinds of varnasrama.
Karma can mean any activity—prescribed, sinful, or transcendental. But a more specific definition is work prescribed by scripture for one's varna. Such work brings material rewards. The work of persons who follow the materialistic system of varnasrama is karma.
Vikarma means work against the laws of God, and it brings punishment. Much work under a spontaneous system of varnasrama falls into the category of vikarma.
Akarma means work as an offering to Krsna. Such work produces no material reward or punishment but leads to spiritual liberation. Akarma activities are the goal of the original, or daiva, varnasrama system.
Krsna recommends akarma (Bg. 3.9): "Work done as a sacrifice for Visnu has to be performed; otherwise work causes bondage in this material world. Therefore, O son of Kunti, perform your prescribed duties for His satisfaction, and in that way you will always remain free from bondage."
Karma-kanda refers to acts performed under Vedic injunctions for promotion to higher material planets. Such acts are part of materialistic varnasrama.
Yoga is a cognate of the English word yoke. A yoke links two oxen, and yoga links the individual living being and the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Within the framework of daiva varnasrama, different forms of yoga help people on the spiritual path.
Karma-yoga means offering the fruits of one's activities to the Lord. Common in daiva varnasrama, karma-yoga marks the beginning of spiritual life.
Jnana-yoga means to offer the results of one's intellectual activities to the Lord by trying to understand Him. It is a step in spiritual development and is part of daiva varnasrama.
Bhakti-yoga means to offer one's activities to the Lord in complete love and devotion, free of desire for material benefit. Bhakti-yoga is the summit of all yogas because it is completely akarma, or without material results. The goal of daiva varnasrama is to gradually elevate all citizens to bhakti-yoga.
To understand the relationship between karma and varnasrama, we must understand that similar activities may be spiritually dissimilar. In Raja Vidya Srila Prabhupada writes, "On the Battlefield of Kuruksetra, Arjuna engaged in fighting, and those on the side of Duryodhana engaged in fighting. We must understand how it is that Arjuna is free from reaction whereas Duryodhana is not. Externally we can see that both parties are engaged in fighting, but we should understand that Arjuna is not bound by reactions because he is fighting under the order of Krsna."
Finally, we must understand that within daiva varnasrama our consciousness—not our varna or asrama—determines our spiritual standing. Srila Prabhupada wrote to a disciple, "Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita that anyone who surrenders unto Me, whether a woman, sudra, vaisya, etc., they all attain the highest perfection of bhakti-yoga—not that now I am grhastha, I am doing karma-yoga, or now I am vanaprastha, I am doing sankhya-yoga. This is all nonsense."
Varnasrama Curriculum: A Sampler of Courses
IN CONSIDERING COURSES for each varna, I asked myself, What kind of knowledge is needed to build a self-sufficient spiritual community that can encourage and protect its citizens? I also looked at the qualities and duties of the different varnas as described in scripture and thought about what kind of training would best help each varna develop. Finally, I looked at Prabhupada's descriptions of training for the different varnas.
• Scriptural studies
• Prabhupada's instructions on varnasrama
• Teacher training
• Mental health and learning disabilities
• Ayurvedic medicine
• Herbal healing
• Deity worship in the rural community
• Kings in the Bhagavatam
• Social order (Sociology)
• Military arts
• Ethics and morality
• The sciences
• Devotional service
Some subjects require further consideration. For example, Prabhupada suggests training in the sciences for ksatriyas, but science is a broad field. Should ksatriyas learn nuclear physics and synthetic chemistry? Or would agronomy, ecology, sanitation, and dairy science be more valuable to the leader of a self-sufficient community?
Srila Prabhupada said that a varnasrama community would consist of just a few brahmanas and ksatriyas. Most citizens would work as vaisyas or sudras.
• Fundamentals of ecology and permaculture
• Developing a resource inventory
• Basic farming practice
• Fundamentals of animal health and reproduction
• Krsna's example of cow protection
• Basic cow care
• Working with oxen
• The herd sire
• Pasture management
• Food grain production and processing
• Fiber plant production and processing
• Orchard skills
Since those working in the sudra varna support the other members of society, their curriculum would need to be accordingly broad. Many courses would emphasize hands-on instruction to build expertise in practical skills.
• Technical drawing
• Implement design and construction
• Woodworking and carpentry
• Cart and wagon design and construction
• Road building and excavating
• Energy-efficient house construction
• Water supply and sanitation
• Energy forms: Potentials and pitfalls
• Performance arts for preaching
• Visual arts for preaching
• Small-scale textile production
• Vegetable dyes
As in any small college, students majoring in different varnas would have ample opportunity to interact with each other, and those interactions would foster a spirit of appreciation, cooperation, and community. Students in different varnas might study some of the same courses. For example, for a successful self-sufficient community both vaisyas and ksatriyas should have a basic understanding of soil science and soil conservation, taught in an agronomy course. As the teachers of the community, brahmanas would specialize in different areas of knowledge. So besides brahminical courses, brahmanas would study subjects primarily meant for ksatriyas, vaisyas, or sudras.
All students would take some core subjects, such as an elementary course in cow protection and a course on community development. Most important, to create a common goal and vision for a varnasrama community, all students would come together to study Srila Prabhupada's instructions on varnasrama and farm community development.
Transitional Varnasrama: Steps We Can Take Now
Here are some suggestions for ways in which Srila Prabhupada's followers can work toward implementing varnasrama in line with his vision and desires.
Study and Discuss Srila Prabhupada's Instructions
The more we can get together to study and discuss Prabhupada's instructions on the pitfalls of the materialistic varnasrama systems and the benefits of the original system, the better our chances of avoiding mistakes so we can build a system that will help people in their spiritual lives. ISKCON centers can set up weekly classes to study Prabhupada's instructions on varnasrama.
Develop Training In Self-Sufficiency Skills
Even though ISKCON may not have a full-fledged varnasrama college, it can still offer training in some of the subjects needed to help self-sufficient communities develop. Prabhupada told devotees in Mauritius that others would be attracted by their "training power." Classes in gardening, carpentry, and community relations, for example, can teach valuable skills while providing opportunities to tell others about Krsna conscious philosophy.
Support Cow Protection
Cow protection is an important duty of the vaisya class, of which businessmen are a part. Although properly caring for cows in a modern industrial city is impossible, men and women in business can fulfill their responsibility by supporting cow protection in ISKCON farm communities. They can also visit the farms to see how the needs of the cows are being met and the cowherds trained and maintained.
Support Krsna Conscious Farmers
"Anything grown in the garden is a hundred times more valuable than if it is purchased from the market," Srila Prabhupada told disciples in France. What could be a more opulent offering to the Lord than fruits, vegetables, and grains grown by devotee farmers with love and devotion for Him—without the use of poisonous sprays or slaughterhouse by-products such as bloodmeal and bonemeal, popular with most other organic farmers? Devotee farmers who use a rototiller to grow tomatoes, beans, and squash for the market may not be quite up to the ideal of Prabhupada's ox-powered subsistence grain farmer, but certainly to be working on the land for Krsna is a big step in the right direction. If such farmers are supported, their children might become inspired to take care of the cows and become Krsna conscious ox-power farmers.
Show Appreciation For the Service of Others
One of the most dangerous aspects of any class system is the fostering of feelings of contempt between classes. This threatens social harmony and reinforces materialistic class identity, stunting spiritual growth. To move toward Prabhupada's varnasrama system, we must practice showing our appreciation when others serve the Lord by their occupational duty, whether by dressing the Deity, managing the temple accounts, raising Krsna conscious children, acting as temple president, growing vegetables for the Lord, or putting in a new electrical system. If we look for the connection with Krsna, we lose our materialistic vision of others and reinforce their identity as devotees. Also, we can encourage them in their service by providing opportunities for additional training in their specialty.
The small events of everyday life can
By Arcana-siddhi Devi Dasi
I walk into the kitchen, where my seventeen-year-old son and his friend are making a snack—using the pesto * (A sauce typically made with basil, pine nuts, olive oil, and grated Parmesan.) I had painstakingly made the week before with fresh basil from our garden. I had picked a large stainless steel bowl full of aromatic leaves and had even been stung by a bee collecting nectar from the flowering buds. Despite my swollen finger, I had carefully prepared a large quantity of pesto ready to offer to the Lord.
Since I had made so much, I froze some to be used during the winter. So to see the boys using the pesto I had kept as a special winter treat, I snapped at my son. I told him he should have asked me first before using things in the freezer. If he wanted pesto, he should have gone out to the garden, picked some leaves, and made his own.
After my harsh words to the dumbfounded boys, I felt very ashamed and angry with myself. "What kind of reaction was that?" I asked myself. I reacted to my son like a miser. "Is that the mentality I want to cultivate?" Since our thoughts at death transport us to our next body, I could well be on my way to the body of a squirrel, who diligently collects nuts for the winter and protects them carefully, just as I had done with my pesto. As an aspiring devotee, I recognized the folly of my mentality and prayed to Krsna to help me correct my misguided thinking.
With tears in my eyes, I remembered Prabhupada's words to a disciple who had asked about married life. Prabhupada replied that when a householder cooks prasadam, he should go outside and loudly request, "Does anyone want prasadam? Please come." He should do this three times, Prabhupada said. And if no one replies, then he can eat.
When the disciple heard Prabhupada's answer, he thought that perhaps Prabhupada had misunderstood the question, so he asked again. Srila Prabhupada gave the same answer.
Why out of all the things in the scriptures about married life did Srila Prabhupada choose this particular instruction to capsule how married couples should live? In light of the pesto incident, I'm pondering Prabhupada's words, trying to understand how important those instructions are for a householder's spiritual life.
Before getting married I lived in a women's ashram for five years. I had a sleeping bag and a footlocker filled with my possessions. I could have been packed and ready to move in about five minutes. After I got married and had a child, my family's household possessions gradually increased. Our first move out of the temple community took a couple of trips in a station wagon. For the next move we rented a small trailer, for the next one a big trailer. If we have to move again, we'll need a large moving van.
When living as a single woman in the temple, I didn't worry much about my maintenance. Our needs were simple, our wants few. We depended on Krsna to provide everything, and He clearly did. As my possessions increase, my anxieties about protecting them increase too. In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna describes the mentality of a person devoid of God consciousness: "So much wealth do I have today, and I will gain more according to my schemes. . . . I am the lord of everything. I am the enjoyer. I am perfect, powerful, and happy. I am the richest man, surrounded by aristocratic relatives. There is none so powerful and happy as I am."
My reaction in the kitchen today borders on this kind of thinking. It is a warning signal to me that something is awry in my consciousness. I want to have a deeper understanding of what created my response, the quick anger and the feelings of strong attachment for a container of pesto.
I grew up in a fairly stable and functional family. My mother was frugal. My parents worked hard to save money to send their three children to college. My mother denied herself and her children the frills of life to give us what she thought was important: a good education. She taught me how to forgo immediate pleasure for long-term gain. I'm grateful to her for that lesson. But she also taught me to be afraid of not having enough. I developed a mentality of lack and limitation, neither of which is spiritual. For the Lord and His devotees there is only unlimited abundance.
The Inexhaustible Pot
To illustrate the unlimited nature of the Lord, Srila Prabhupada told the story of a boy from an impoverished family. One day the child's brahmana teacher asked all his students to bring some food for a program. Hundreds of people were to attend. Since brahmanas received no pay for their services, to ask charity from their students was quite befitting.
When the little boy asked his mother what he could bring to his teacher, she said that they were too poor to provide anything. On seeing her child's disgruntled face, she suggested he go to the forest to find Krsna, who is known as Dina Bandhu, "the friend of the poor," and ask Him to help.
The child left for the forest in search of the Lord, repeatedly calling out, "Dina Bandhu! Dina Bandhu! Please come!"
When the Lord did not appear, the child cried piteously. Then, because of the child's intense desire, the Lord appeared before him.
When the child expressed his desire, Krsna told him to return the day of the program. He would supply yogurt. The boy happily left and told his teacher that he would bring yogurt. The teacher thanked the child for his offering.
The day of the event, the child returned to the forest to find Krsna, who appeared and gave him a quart of yogurt. The child took the yogurt and presented it to his teacher.
Seeing the small container of yogurt, the teacher snatched the yogurt and exclaimed with indignation,"What? This is all you have brought? There will be hundreds of people here!"
Angered, the teacher threw down the pot, and the yogurt spilled out. But when the teacher picked up the container, he saw that it was still full. The teacher again dropped the container, spilling the yogurt, but to his amazement it remained full. From this he could ascertain that it was spiritual. As Srila Prabhupada says, in spiritual arithmetic 1 - 1 = 1. Krsna is never diminished.
Giving What Krsna Gives
Meditating on this pastime, I reflect on how a devotee should never be afraid to give in charity. It is the duty of a householder to give in charity. Giving softens the heart and destroys the illusion that the money or thing is mine. In reality any possession we have belongs to Krsna, given by Him to be used in His service. As we use the gifts and opulence in His service, He gives us more and more.
If we squander the resources the Lord gives us, or use them to enjoy ungodly sense gratification, we can expect to see lack and limitation. We see evidence of this fact in the current state of affairs. Mother earth has the capacity, by Krsna's grace, to supply unlimited resources to the world. But because of the lack of God consciousness and the misuse of her abundant gifts, people are suffering in so many ways.
Every experience in life contains an opportunity for us to learn and grow, as long as we are open to learning. When situations in my life evoke negative emotions like anger, greed, and fear, I know I need to take time out and ask Krsna to help me understand the lesson.
Today's experience inspires me to pray to Krsna to have a giving heart and to be free from the fear of lack and limitation. And the next time I make pesto, I'll go outside and loudly shout, "Does anyone want prasadam? Does anyone want prasadam? Does anyone want prasadam?"
Arcana-siddhi Devi Dasi was initiated by Srila Prabhupada in 1976. She lives with her husband and son in Baltimore, Maryland, where she works as a family therapist.
Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day
Lord Krsna on the Battlefield of...Golf?
by Satyaraja dasa
FIVE YEARS AGO, William Morrow & Company published Steven Pressfield's novel The Legend of Baggar Vance: Golf and the Game of Life, which quickly attracted a wide audience. The book follows in a long line of fictional works on golf and mysticism. The forerunner of the genre is Michael Murphy's 1972 classic, Golf in the Kingdom, in which a godlike character, Shivas Irons, teaches the mortal world of the parallels between the secrets of golf and the secrets of life.
In Pressfield's book, instead of Shivas (read: Shiva, the demigod of destruction), we have Bagger Vance (read: Bhagavan, "the Holy One," a name for the Supreme Lord, Sri Krsna), and the story is essentially an inventive retelling of the Bhagavad-gita. Pressfield obviously knows his Gita well, and this is reflected throughout his novel.
The setting of Bagger Vance revolves around a golf tournament at Krewe Island, off Savannah, Georgia's, windy Atlantic shore. The year is 1931, and we are here to watch an engaging thirty-six-hole match in which Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen, legends of golf in their own time, are joined by a reluctant opponent, the famed but troubled war hero Rannulph Junah (read: R. Junah, or Arjuna, Krsna's devotee). The outcome of the game, as we soon see, depends more on Bagger Vance, a caddie who carries the secret of "the Authentic Swing," than on the talents of the golfers. His inscrutable wisdom and mysterious powers guide the play and leave a lasting impression, not only on R. Junah but—sixty years later—on a brilliant but discouraged young medical student. Like the Gita, then, the instructions of Bagger Vance are not just for R. Junah, but for Everyman.
Although the Gita is never mentioned directly (except one verse, which opens the book), the parallels are uncanny. Bagger Vance, tall and dark (like Krsna), turns the game field into something more, the battlefield of life. He instructs R. Junah in a good deal more than golf, and by the end of the novel it becomes clear that Bagger Vance is no ordinary mortal. "I come again in every age," says Vance, "taking on human form to perform the duty I set myself. I return to right the balance of things. . . . Forget all else Junah, but remember this: You are never alone. You have your caddie. You have me."
I spoke with Pressfield, the author of Bagger Vance, and he told me that he had always been interested in the Gita and appreciated the idea of Bhagavan, God, humbling Himself to become the charioteer of His devotee Arjuna. In the same way, Pressfield said, a caddie, as qualified as he may be, takes the humble position of assisting the golfer.
In an interview published on the Bagger Vance web site, Pressfield reveals more about the book:
The idea behind Bagger Vance was to do the Bhagavad Gita contemporarily. In the Gita the troubled warrior Arjuna receives instruction from Krishna, Supreme Lord of the Universe, who has assumed human form as Arjuna's charioteer. Instead of a troubled warrior, it's a troubled golf champion (Rannulph Junah); instead of his charioteer, it's his caddie—Bagger Vance. . . . Golf, as everyone knows who has played it and loved it, is a very mystical sport. A golf course is like a battlefield. It even looks like a battlefield, with its rolling ramparts and redoubts.
Hearing the Gita's Message
It is clear from Bagger Vance that Pressfield has high regard for the Gita, generally interpreting it according to traditional models. The Vaisnava tradition (with roots in the Gita), however, explains what might be missed in a general reading: that texts such as the Gita are meant to be understood in certain esoteric lineages. The Gita itself declares this to be true. (4.2) Moreover, the Gita says that to truly understand its internal message, one must be a devotee and friend of Lord Krsna: bhakto 'si me sakha ceti. (4.3) While Pressfield's use of the Gita may be a bit unorthodox, there is much to suggest that he is, by some measure, Krsna's devotee and friend. Nonetheless, without the disciplic succession, it is difficult to get all the Gita has to offer.
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, author of Bhagavad-gita As It Is and one of the world's leading authorities on the Vaisnava tradition, writes in his commentary on the Gita (18.75): "This is the mystery of the disciplic succession. When the spiritual master is bona fide, then one can hear the Bhagavad-gita directly, as Arjuna heard it. . . . If one does not come to the disciplic succession, he cannot hear Krsna; therefore, his knowledge is always imperfect, at least as far as understanding Bhagavad-gita is concerned."
In his commentary on Sri Isopanisad, Mantra 13, Prabhupada writes:
When Lord Sri Krsna was present on this earth, the bhakti-yoga principles defined in Bhagavad-gita had become distorted; therefore, the Lord had to reestablish the disciplic system beginning with Arjuna, who was the most confidential friend and devotee of the Lord. The Lord clearly told Arjuna (Bg. 4.3) that it was because Arjuna was His devotee and friend that he could understand the principles of the Gita. In other words, only the Lord's devotee and friend can understand the Gita. This also means that only one who follows the path of Arjuna can understand Bhagavad-gita.
The Legend of Baggar Vance is not exactly what Prabhupada is writing about here. It is not a formal commentary on the Gita, nor is it a direct statement on Krsna's teachings. Rather, it is a well-written work of fiction with many Gita-inspired themes and ideas. Naturally, it sometimes differs from the perspective of the disciplic succession. For example, while philosophizing about "the golfer" and "the golf field"—reminiscent of the Gita's "the knower" and "the field"—Baggar Vance puts forward the monistic idea of the two becoming one. He says that enlightenment is attained when "the Knower" and "the Field" become identical. You have to "become the game, get so immersed in the game that you can't tell where it begins and where you end."
Clearly, you never really become the game. You become immersed in the game, but there is always a distinction between you and the game. And there is a distinction between you and God, too. Bhagavad-gita is clear on this, even if The Legend of Bagger Vance is not. The Gita states that the knower of the field and the field are eternally separate. It explains the field of activity (the body) and the process of understanding one's relationship with the body—and with God. This relationship is understood by the soul (the self), the knower of the field. According to the Gita, understanding the distinction between the field and the knower of the field is the first step in God realization. From this point, one can progress toward realizing God.
Several other problems with the Bagger Vance text become evident when seen in the light of the Bhagavad-gita: Vance's message ultimately convinces R. Junah that he should stay in the game. But why? It seems he should continue his worthy game/profession/life simply because of its mystical existential nature—for its own sake. But an equally legitimate response would be to drop out of life altogether. Isn't renunciation an equally honorable path? Bagger Vance has no response. Love for the mystery of life, for duty, the game, the battle—in and of itself—seems to be implied. But what about love for Vance, for Krsna? Where is the message of love of God, which is intimate and personalistic? This is a main point in the Gita; it is nowhere to be found in The Legend of Bagger Vance.
Pressfield does a brilliant job of communicating the great mysteries of life but neglects the theme of devotional service. Bhagavad-gita teaches that service to the Lord is the greatest component of love. This may be considered the central teaching of the Gita. But Pressfield leaves it aside. Such subtle philosophical nuances sharply distinguish the message of the Gita from that of The Legend of Bagger Vance.
Finally, life is not a game. The real Arjuna was fond of the hunt; he was a warrior, a gamesman. But enlightenment came to him on the field of his profession. And he took it seriously. The metaphor of life as a mystical, existential game can be dangerously irresponsible. Bagger Vance may assume too much of its audience, expecting them to see the game of life, analogized with the game of golf, as something more than a passing frivolity. A game, by its nature, is to be taken lightly.
It should be remembered that Baggar Vance does not pretend to be scripture, to reveal "the truth." The book, as far as it goes, renders a great service—it ignites interest in the Gita among those who may not have had such an interest. Still, if a book is going to be that close to the Gita, a person who knows the Gita will naturally look for points of commonalty and difference.
Aside from a few rough areas, though, Bagger Vance is thought provoking, presenting the fundamental teachings of the Gita in a creative way. For example, while an existential crisis besieges R. Junah, Vance helps him understand his true identity, much as Krsna reminds Arjuna that he is the soul rather than the body:
"Tell me who you are, Junah. Who, in your deepest parts, when all that is inauthentic has been stripped away. Are you your name, Rannulph Junah? Will that hit this shot for you? Are you your illustrious forebears? Will they hit it? . . . Are you your roles, Junah? Scion, soldier, Southerner? Husband, father, lover. Slayer of the foe in battle, comforter of the friend at home? Are you your virtues, Junah, or your sins? Your deeds, your feats? Are you your dreams or your nightmares? Tell me, Junah. Can you hit the ball with any of these?" . . . Vance pressed yet harder, "Then who are you? Answer me!"
Bagger Vance elaborates on the spiritual dimension of reality and explains that all beings partake of this higher nature.
Gita parallels go further. Bagger Vance offers a brilliant analogy involving yoga (the path of discipline), jnana (the path of knowledge), and bhakti (the path of devotion), acknowledging the supremacy of bhakti over the others. While explaining how to master the Game, Vance describes three possible approaches:
The first path, I heard him say, was the path of Discipline. It had something to do with beating balls, with endless practice, an utter relentless commitment to achieving physical mastery of the game.
Vance goes on to explain that the path of love is the most effective. If you love the Game, you have the greatest chance of being a great player. The other paths are important, but bhakti is supreme.
Throughout the book, Vance describes the search for the "Authentic Swing," which, he says, is metaphysically tantamount to the search for "the Self." While the book may or may not help people find the Authentic Swing, the author seems to have found something: the recently released paperback version of his book is swinging rapidly from store shelves to home libraries.
What's next—"Bhagavad-gita, The Movie"? Well, not exactly. Filming of The Legend of Bagger Vance was completed on schedule last December. The movie, directed by Robert Redford, will be in theaters this year. Award-winning actors Will Smith and Matt Damon will portray Bagger Vance and R. Junnah, respectively. But don't expect to learn Bhagavad-gita from the movie: If the Bagger Vance book is a few golf holes short of the Gita, the movie is on another playing field altogether. The Gita-like mysticism is snuffed out of the Bagger Vance character, and he appears like a mere trickster instead—the wise one is replaced with a wise guy.
Nonetheless, people in the know are saying this will be the blockbuster movie of the year. Critics are already calling it "a major hole-in-one." But for the real deal behind the Bagger Vance story, one would do well to read Bhagavad-gita As It Is, by Krsna's devotee and friend His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. For the Gita, it might be said, is "The Holy One's Hole-In-One."
Satyaraja Dasa is a disciple of Srila Prabhupada and a regular contributor to BTG. He has written many books on Krsna consciousness. He and his wife live in New York state. This article is adapted from the introduction to his forthcoming book The Mystical Tradition Behind Bagger Vance.
One of the original leaders of the
By Mathuresa Dasa
Sanatana Gosvami resigned his ministerial post in the Muslim government of sixteenth-century Bengal, having decided to dedicate his life to Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's mission. The Nawab, or governor, imprisoned Sanatana, angered by his resignation. We now hear how Sanatana met Lord Caitanya in Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh) and told of his escape from prison and journey out of Bengal.
Sanatana Gosvami entered the city of Varanasi early in the spring of 1514. Having journeyed on back roads and jungle paths through Bengal and Bihar, he was dressed in torn and dirty clothes. His long hair, beard, and mustache were unkempt, and he carried a beggar's pot in his hand. Pleased to hear that Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu had arrived by boat from Allahabad, Sanatana went to Candrasekhara's house, where the Lord was staying, and sat down by the door.
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu could understand that Sanatana was outside.
"Candrasekhara," He said, "there's a Vaisnava, a Hare Krsna devotee, at your door. Please go call him in."
Candrasekhara went out to look and, seeing no Vaisnava, came back.
"Is there anyone at your door at all?" the Lord asked.
"Only a Muslim mendicant," Candrasekhara replied.
"Please bring him here," the Lord said.
Hurrying back to the door, Candrasekhara spoke to Sanatana.
"O Muslim mendicant," he said, "kindly come in. The Lord is calling you."
Pleased with this invitation, Sanatana entered the house, where Lord Caitanya rose with haste to embrace and welcome him and to give him a seat by His side. Lord Caitanya is the Supreme Personality of Godhead playing the part of His own devotee. In both capacities, as Lord and devotee, He was eager to welcome His Vaisnava guest. Over Sanatana's protests, He extolled Sanatana's saintly influence upon even sacred places of pilgrimage like Varanasi. The Lord quoted a verse from Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.13.10): "Saints of your caliber are themselves places of pilgrimage. Because of their purity, they are constant companions of the Lord, and therefore they can purify even the places of pilgrimage."
Only a few weeks before, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu had met Sanatana's brother, Rupa Gosvami, in Allahabad. The Lord had enlightened Rupa about the soul's evolution, first through the species of material life in this universe and then, upon reentering the spiritual sky, through the transcendental stages of life in the spiritual creation. For the next two months in Varanasi, Lord Caitanya would elaborate on these and other topics in His teachings to Sanatana Gosvami. He would describe how the Supreme Lord expands Himself to individually preside over the innumerable spiritual planets and to create and govern the material universes. He would inform Sanatana about the location and dimensions of the spiritual planets and about the identity and activities of their denizens as precisely as one might describe the continents and nations of this earth. And He would delineate the direct route through the dark and temporary material cosmos to these effulgent and deathless spiritual destinations with as much clarity and detail as the best modern road maps and travel guides.
Despite the exalted, revolutionary nature of these pending transcendental topics, however, Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was Himself curious to know about Sanatana's recent travels and adventures.
"How did you escape from prison?" the Lord eagerly asked, and Sanatana happily told his story from beginning to end.
Fortunate Jail Keeper
Sanatana recounted how, bound with iron chains at the Chika Mosjud prison near Ramakeli, Bengal, he had received a note from his younger brother Rupa.
"My dear Sanatana," Rupa Gosvami had written, "I have left a deposit of ten thousand gold coins with a local merchant. Use that money to get out of prison and come meet Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu in Mathura and Vrndavana."
To further encourage Sanatana, Rupa had included in his note a beautiful and mysterious Sanskrit verse:
yadu-pateh kva gata mathura-puri
"Where has the Mathura City of Yadupati gone? Where has the northern Kosala province of Raghupati gone? By reflection, make the mind steady, thinking, 'This universe is not eternal.' "
Yadupati is a name for Lord Krsna, and Raghupati a name for Lord Ramacandra. Long ago They had appeared on earth and played as human beings, displaying Their eternal pastimes in the city of Mathura and the province of Kosala respectively. Now They had appeared again as Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu to entice mankind from the prison of material life in this temporary universe, and Lord Caitanya was currently on His way to Mathura, followed by Rupa Gosvami.
Delighted with the note, Sanatana went to the Muslim jail keeper, an acquaintance from his government days, a simple man with little education or spiritual training. Summoning the diplomatic skills honed during his years as the Nawab's prime minister, Sanatana began to satisfy the humble warden with praise.
"Dear sir," Sanatana began, "you are a very fortunate person, a living saint, and a scholar steeped in knowledge of the Koran and similar books. So you must know that if you release a prisoner in accordance with your religious principles then you are blessed by the Supreme Lord."
Flattered by the compliments from his fellow government servant, the jail keeper could not deny he was indeed a learned scholar and saintly person. He was all ears as Sanatana continued, stressing their long-standing friendship and requesting release as a personal favor.
"Previously I have done much for you," Sanatana said. "Now I am in difficulty. Please return my goodwill by releasing me."
Sanatana sweetened their friendship with an offer of five thousand gold coins. By taking the gold and releasing an innocent prisoner, Sanatana explained, his friend the jail keeper would accumulate both piety and material wealth. He would get the best of both worlds.
"Please hear me, dear sir," the jail keeper replied nervously. "Of course I want to let you go, because you have done much for me and are a fellow public servant. I know that, but I am afraid of the Nawab when he hears you are free. I'll have to explain. What will I say?"
Sanatana had just the alibi.
"There is no danger," he assured his friend. "The Nawab has gone south to conquer Orissa. If he returns, tell him that Sanatana went to answer the call of nature near the bank of the Ganges and that as soon as he saw the Ganges, he jumped in. Tell him, 'I looked for a long time, but I could not find any trace of him. He jumped in with his shackles and drowned, washed away by the current.'
"And don't worry," Sanatana added. "No one will find me. I shall become a mendicant and go to the holy city of Mecca."
The jail keeper now had a forensic alibi for the Nawab, a religious alibi for his own conscience, and a promise of five thousand gold coins. He was still torn and wavering when Sanatana upped the offer to seven thousand coins and carefully stacked the money before him while he watched. Seeing the gleaming pile of gold growing, the jail keeper finally caved in. That night he broke Sanatana's shackles and let him escape across the Ganges.
Though he now had three thousand coins remaining and hundreds of miles to traverse from Bengal west towards Mathura and Vrndavana, Sanatana left all the gold behind and set out on foot, looking the part of a beggar. The money had bought him release for Lord Caitanya's service, but he had no interest in spending for a comfortable journey, nor was carrying gold safe for a lone traveler. As an escaped prisoner, too, and a famous man, Sanatana had to avoid notice. Using back roads and footpaths, he stayed off the highways known as "the way of the ramparts," which the Nawab had fortified against invasion.
A servant named Isana followed Sanatana, and despite all his master's evident precautions, Isana secretly carried eight gold coins. Crossing what is now Bihar province, Sanatana and Isana came to a hilly area known as Patada and stopped at a small hotel, where the gold proved nearly fatal. The hotel owner learned of the eight coins through an expert palmist and planned to rob and kill his two guests. In the meantime, he went out of his way to be respectful and attentive to their needs, providing them with food to cook and promising to personally guide them through the hills.
Sanatana went to the river to bathe, and as he had not eaten for two days, he cooked and had his meal. But he was suspicious. As a minister of the Nawab, he had faced many diplomats and sycophants. Here was a hotel owner, a stranger, giving him the royal treatment, though he and Isana looked like paupers.
"Isana," Sanatana inquired, "I think you must have something valuable with you."
"Yes, I have seven gold coins," Isana admitted, partially revealing his cache.
Sanatana became angry and berated his servant.
"Why do you carry this death knell on the road?"
Taking the seven coins, Sanatana went to the hotel owner, holding the coins before him.
"Please take these seven coins," Sanatana requested, "and help us to cross these hills. I am an escaped political prisoner and cannot go along the way of the ramparts. It will be very pious of you to take this money and get me through the hills."
The combination of gold and religious sentiments again proved effective. The hotel keeper confessed that he knew that Isana had eight coins in his pocket and that he had planned to kill both Isana and Sanatana. Now refusing the coins with embarrassment and chagrin, as an apology he offered to guide Sanatana through the hills for free.
"No," Sanatana replied. "If you don't accept these coins, someone else will kill me for them. Better you save me from the danger."
With this settlement made, the hotel keeper hired four watchmen who through that entire night escorted Sanatana and Isana across the hills on a jungle path. Sanatana then sent Isana home with the gold coin Isana had tried to conceal and traveled on alone, wearing torn clothing, carrying a beggar's pot, and losing his worries with every step he took.
Walking on and on, Sanatana came one evening to a town named Hajipura and sat down in a garden park. By coincidence a gentleman named Srikanta, the husband of Sanatana's sister, was in Hajipura on government business. The Nawab had given Srikanta 300,000 gold coins to buy horses. Sitting in an elevated place transacting this business, Srikanta caught a glimpse of Sanatana and later that evening went to see him. The two old friends talked long into the night, and Srikanta heard all about Sanatana's arrest and escape. Seeing Sanatana, formerly the prime minister, in such a ragged condition distressed Srikanta and got him thinking. With a fortune in gold at his disposal, certainly he could help his wife's brother get a new start in life.
"Why don't you stay here with me for a couple of days," Srikanta urged Sanatana. "You can get rid of these dirty clothes and dress like a gentleman again."
Sanatana had already foiled a greedy jail keeper and a murderous hotel owner, all the while avoiding the Nawab's soldiers and agents on his way to meet Lord Caitanya. Now here was a more formidable obstacle: a loving friend and close relative with money to spare. Sanatana thanked Srikanta but declined his offer.
"I cannot stay any longer," Sanatana said. "Please help me across the Ganges so that I can leave right away."
Insisting that Sanatana at least take a valuable woolen blanket, Srikanta helped him across the Ganges and with affection saw him on his way again.
Sanatana had left Srikanta in Hajipura only a few days before. Now, sitting with Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu at Candrasekhara's house in Varanasi, he was feeling boundless happiness. After hearing about Sanatana's adventures, Lord Caitanya in turn recounted His recent meeting with Sanatana's brothers in Allahabad. Then He asked Sanatana to clean up and get a shave before lunch, and He requested Candrasekhara to provide Sanatana with fresh clothing.
Sanatana's ragged, unkempt appearance was understandable considering the circumstances of his long journey, but Lord Caitanya wanted His followers looking like gentlemen. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, writing in the early 1970s, explains: "Due to his long hair, mustache, and beard, Sanatana Gosvami looked like a hippie. Since Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu did not like Sanatana Gosvami's hippie features, he asked Candrasekhara to get him shaved clean. If anyone with long hair or a beard wants to join this Krsna consciousness movement and live with us, he must similarly shave himself clean."
Though offered new garments by Candrasekhara, Sanatana requested a used dhoti cloth instead, then proceeded to rip the cloth in pieces to make two sets of clothing. As for meals, a Maharastriyan brahmana who would later host Lord Caitanya's lunch with the sannyasis of Varanasi invited Sanatana to take all his meals with him. Again Sanatana politely declined, preferring to avoid full meals and humbly beg a little food from door to door. Sanatana's renunciation was extraordinary and cannot as a rule be imitated. He was determined to give up material opulence. Even Srikanta's new woolen blanket had to go. Sanatana went to the bank of the Ganges and persuaded a surprised Bengali mendicant to take the blanket in exchange for the mendicant's torn quilt.
Observing all these changes, and at last seeing even the valuable blanket gone, Lord Caitanya became unlimitedly happy and told Sanatana Gosvami, "Lord Krsna has mercifully nullified your attachment for material things. So why would He allow you to maintain that valuable blanket, your last bit of material attachment? After vanquishing a disease, a good physician does not allow any of the disease to remain."
In the days that followed, Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, being pleased with Sanatana Gosvami, began to tell him about Lord Krsna's real identity, transcendental qualities, and eternal activities. Sanatana, freed from his last piece of material attraction, was fully prepared to listen.
(Next issue: Lord Caitanya's teachings to Sanatana Gosvami.)
Mathuresa Dasa, a disciple of Srila Prabhupada, has written many articles for BTG and other publications. He and his wife and their four children live in Alachua, Florida.
Why try to forget life's
By Urmila Devi Dasi
The glories of the Lord, God of all creation, as He appears in His original form as Krsna fill the pages of the book before me. The Srimad-Bhagavatam delivers excitement, adventure, love, bravery and battles, the inner and outer struggles of real people interacting with the Lord. Immersed in a swirling eddy of soothing nectar, I forget all worries.
Life in the material world is painful and hard. Some people will say it's full of joys, but those joys have a price, and they ebb and flow with time. The joy is never constant or certain, and it usually results from or leads to misery.
People often look for relief in imagination and entertainment—books, art, movies, theater, music, television, computer games. And they often try to enhance the entertainment with chemical intoxication, from mild to menacing. Others seek relief by absorbing themselves in their work or relationships, which often cause grief. Some people seek refuge in nature, travel, or sports.
There are as many ways to escape pain as there are people. And yet, if we are honest, we'll admit that whatever we do to find happiness and ease pain, life is not an unending, ever-increasing source of deep and broad happiness.
In resignation we might conclude that whatever joys we get are all that can be gotten. Yet the soul seeks pleasure, having as its right and natural condition an existence of expansive spiritual bliss. We can find bliss here, but it's independent of our material situation. It's available through contact with the Lord. Because He is full of bliss, connecting with Him revives the happy nature of the soul, who, though infinitesimal, is of the same nature as God.
To gain the true happiness we seek, spiritual teachers throughout the ages have recommended prayer and the hearing of scripture. The descriptions of God in Vedic scripture and the intimacy of the prayer that is the Hare Krsna mantra can bring us to a broad, deep connection with God available to very few in other traditions. Vedic scripture gives us God as He is—enjoying with perfected souls in His own domain, a realm for His own pleasure. And the Hare Krsna maha-mantra gives us the ultimate names of the Lord and His supreme energy.
Vedic scripture and the maha-mantra take us beyond God as the creator, the deliverer, the terrible and jealous God who punishes evil and rewards good, to God as Krsna, the supreme enjoyer, the ultimate lover and friend.
Reading about Krsna is beyond relief; it is a positive happiness that automatically distances me from worldly struggles as I awaken to my true nature. Fully hearing Krsna's name as I chant Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare has the same effect: I am at once beyond trouble and immersed in joy.
As I close my book or put down my chanting beads, the joy can stay with me by remembering Krsna's deeds and the sound of His name. It is so simple, yet so sublime.
Home Where We Belong
The other day I caught myself feeling sad for a moment that I wouldn't be around for a future technological breakthrough I read about: personal jet-packs. Wouldn't they be great? Strap one on, push a button, and zoom between home and office in no time.
Then I thought, "Do I really want to stay around for that?"
When I explain the philosophy of Krsna consciousness to people, I naturally tell them that the goal of life should be to return to our original home in the spiritual world. Sometimes I sense that the idea strikes people as odd. Their faces show an uneasiness at the thought of having to leave this world to go somewhere else. That other place sounds great, but how can I leave behind everything and everyone I know? That's just too big a price to pay. I have too much invested here.
Because we mistakenly identify ourselves with our bodies, we're attached to our present life. Most of us feel no emotional ties with our eternal home. To think we belong in some other world is difficult. Many of us can't even imagine living in a foreign country, what to speak of a seemingly foreign planet. Goloka Vrndavana? You might as well invite us to move to Mars.
Our reluctance to leave familiar surroundings for the spiritual world shows we're forgetting we're going to have to leave our present situations anyway. How long can I stay in this American body? I'll be kicked out of this body and into a new one, whether I like it or not.
The Vedic literature guides us toward doing the intelligent thing: preparing for the inevitable. The sage Canakya said that we'll lose everything at death, so we'd be wise to use what we now have for our permanent benefit.
Our most valuable possession is our human body, which lets us think about higher things. The Vedas tell us we've had bodies in millions of species before getting a human body. So we'd better make the best of it. Our human emotions may bind us to our temporary life here on earth, but we should rise above them and understand that everything we're searching for here—in the lives we've tried to build for ourselves—can be found only in our eternal home. No need for jet-packs there. In liberated spiritual bodies we can go anywhere in an instant.
We're travelers who have been away from home so long we've forgotten our real family and friends, especially our dearest friend, Lord Krsna. What misfortune! But Srila Prabhupada, a pure devotee in full consciousness of his relationship with Krsna, has given us spiritual practices to awaken our memory of Krsna and our eternal relationship with Him. When we wake up to the glory of that relationship, we'll be happy to leave this world of misery to return to the world of Krsna's abundant love. As the Srimad-Bhagavatam says, we'll feel like a traveler who has returned home after a troubled journey.
Constant thought of the Lord is the antiseptic method for keeping oneself free from the infectious contamination of the material qualities.
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
O best of kings, if you desire to acquire the extraordinary knowledge by which the supreme goal is realized, then chant the name of Lord Govinda [Krsna] with love and devotion.
One who worships the Supreme Lord and His holy name with undivided faith, knowing Them to be identical, is considered an elevated, first-class devotee, even if he does not understand the intricacies of his own spiritual identity.
Srila Jagadananda Pandita
Unintelligent men, who do not now Me perfectly, think that I, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna, was impersonal before and have now assumed this personality. Due to their small knowledge, they do not know My higher nature, which is imperishable and supreme.
Lord Sri Krsna
The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna, is the reservoir of all beauty. All beautiful things emanate from Him, and His personal form is so attractive that it steals the eyes away from all other objects, which then seem devoid of beauty by comparison to Him. When Lord Krsna was on the earth, He attracted the eyes of all people.
Srila Sukadeva Gosvami
That head is the loftiest which is white with dust from bowing down to Lord Krsna. Those eyes are the most beautiful which darkness has abandoned after they have seen Lord Hari. That intelligence is spotless—like the white glow of the moon or a conch shell—which concentrates on Lord Madhava. And that tongue rains down nectar which constantly glorifies Lord Narayana.
The Bhagavata [Srimad-Bhagavatam] does not allow its followers to ask anything from God except eternal love towards Him. The kingdom of the world, the beauties of the local heavens, and the sovereignty over the material world are never the subjects of Vaisnava prayer.
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura