IN THIS ISSUE we hope to satisfy you both intellectually and aesthetically. Bhaktivedanta Institute scientist Sadaputa Dasa tackles tough questions about the universe of the Vedas, and watercolor artist Annapurna Devi Dasi shows how Krsna consciousness can simply mean being moved by the beauty of Krsna. The scientist and the artist both find refuge under the shelter of Krsna.
Krsna offers His shelter to all of us. Ultimately, He wants our full surrender. Because we're eternally subordinate parts of Him, surrender is natural for us. But uncovering our original nature takes time. Fortunately, as Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami explains in "No Fear," Lord Krsna gratefully accepts all our service to Him, and even a small amount guarantees us a chance to keep working on our spiritual progress in the next life. "The Story of Jivatma" tells how we got caught up in the endless cycle of lives and how to get out of it.
Although we're tiny souls lost in a perplexing universe, we belong in the spiritual world with Lord Krsna in one of His innumerable forms. We learn about that world and those forms in "Lord Caitanya's Teachings to Sanatana Goswami."
Hare Krsna.—Nagaraja Dasa, Editor
• To help all people discern reality from illusion, spirit from matter, the eternal from the temporary.
Why Am I Suffering?
I'm a Krsna conscious person, and I regularly chant the maha-mantra and read Bhagavad-gita. For the last two years I have been suffering from certain mental and physical problems. Whatever I do, nothing goes right. It's said in the Bhagavad-gita that the suffering one gets is due to one's past sinful activities. Is it possible to know these sinful activities?
Is there any way to see the Supreme Lord Sri Krsna with my own eyes and to thus solve my problems?
Our Reply: You are doing the best thing by regularly chanting the maha-mantra and reading Bhagavad-gita. It is not necessary, or even possible, to know exactly what sins have caused our current suffering.
In the strictest sense, all activities other than devotional service to Krsna are sinful, and they result in our having to take another material body in the next life. And as long as we have a material body, we will suffer. That's certain, as Krsna tells us in the Gita. He says that the body is duhkhalayam: sure to give us misery. So we shouldn't worry about specific past sins but resolve to try to engage fully in devotional service to Lord Krsna.
As for seeing Krsna with your eyes, that is possible when your eyes are purified by unadulterated love for Krsna. In other words, you can see Krsna when you have nothing to ask from Him. So don't try to see Krsna just to solve your problems. Try to qualify yourself to see Krsna, and your problems will disappear.
Milk and Nonviolence
I'd like to share my thanks and gratitude with all of you who have provided first-class service throughout the generations at BTG. The magazine takes my breath away every time I'm blessed with an issue. The quality is insurmountable. It is by far one of the most efficient tools I use when being approached by casual inquirers. They are always overwhelmed by the quality of BTG.
I have a question about milk. As a Vaisnava, I follow the path of ahimsa, the path of nonviolence and compassion toward all of God's creatures. Srila Prabhupada taught us that milk and milk products are an acceptable food to use in the preparation of prasadam. But due to the ways of Western dairies, milk cows are bred to be slaves, kept in small restraint pens, shot full of drugs, used for many years, and finally slaughtered for pet food. That sounds extremely violent to me. Although I do partake of milk products, I feel the cow's pain. Do these feelings make me less of a Vaisnava? Should I just consider that the cow is suffering because of her karma?
K. K. Wirth
Our Reply: Your compassion for the cow is a natural Vaisnava sentiment. Even though devotees know that everyone suffers because of their karma, devotees still feel the pain of others. The devotees' solution is to do whatever possible to engage everyone in Krsna consciousness, devotional service to Krsna. That is the only sure way to end all suffering.
ISKCON doesn't have an official position on drinking milk from commercial dairies. Some devotees don't drink dairy milk for the reasons you mentioned. Others argue that, as Prabhupada taught, milk is so important in developing the brain for spiritual understanding that despite the current situation, we should drink milk anyway. Besides, by offering Krsna the milk of abused cows, they get great benefit.
On a practical level, our boycott of the dairy industry would probably have little effect, but we can help the cows by offering their milk to Krsna. And, of course, devotees should work hard to develop Krsna conscious villages where we demonstrate real cow protection through the proper use of both the cow and the bull.
Chanting with Motives
I've been a BTG subscriber for the past three years. Even though I am not a full-time Krsna devotee, I manage to chant eight rounds a day. As I am still in my college years, I always get attracted by material comforts. I want to know if material comforts are obtainable through chanting. If they are, then is such chanting an act of sin? Will we get punished by doing so?
Our Reply: We shouldn't chant Hare Krsna to fulfill material desires. The goal of chanting Hare Krsna is pure love for Krsna, which is fully satisfying. The maha-mantra means "O Lord, O energy of the Lord, please engage me in Your service." We're supposed to chant Hare Krsna with the understanding that by awakening our Krsna consciousness, we'll be completely happy. Besides, a devotee knows that Krsna will automatically take care of his material needs. We don't need to ask Krsna for such things.
One of the offenses in chanting is to cherish our material attachments. Naturally in the beginning we will have attachments, but we should chant for purification, not for other things. Krsna can give us eternal life in His association. To chant with some other motive is like a foolish person's asking a millionaire for a trinket.
Can't Be Beat
In every way, BTG continues to inspire—it is truly like a visit to a holy place. Of course, I miss the old format, especially Satsvarupa Maharaja's and Yamuna Devi's articles. Yamuna Devi's articles weren't just recipes; they were pure meditations on Srila Prabhupada. But this new format is spectacular. Yamaraja Dasa's design and layout just can't be beat.
Yasoda Dulala Dasa
Krsna as Narayana
I am a recent subscriber to BTG, and I'm really enjoying all the wonderful articles in your journal. I was really impressed by the article "Names and Forms of the Absolute Truth," by Pranada Devi Dasi [Sept./Oct.]. I completely agree with Krsna's being the source of all identities of God, including Lord Visnu (Bg. 10.8). However, I have a different explanation for the identity of Lord Narayana. Etymologically, Narayana consists of two parts: nara, "living beings," and ayana, "ultimate goal." Thus, Narayana means the ultimate goal for all living beings, namely Krsna. (Everything else we do is Prayana, "a sojourn.") Therefore, the name Narayana is congruent with Krsna Himself.
Mysore N. Prakash
Our Reply: Thank you for the analysis. We might add that all names that indicate the Supreme, including the name Narayana, naturally refer to Krsna. But Lord Krsna is generally not referred to as Narayana, except when He manifests a four-armed form. And that form is considered to be, in a sense, lower than the two-handed form of Krsna. For example, Krsna once hid from the gopis by taking on His four-handed Narayana form. The gopis respectfully offered obeisances to "Narayana" but kept looking for Krsna, who alone can satisfy them.
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The nonsectarian definition of true religion found in the
by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Respectable Fathers, ladies and gentlemen, I thank you very much for kindly giving me a chance to speak about the Krsna consciousness movement, which is going on all over the world, especially with the assistance of my American and European disciples.
About five thousand years ago a meeting was held at Naimisharanya, a place in India still existing near Lucknow, in the northern India provinces. It is a very nice, sanctified place. People still go there and find peace for spiritual meditation. From time immemorial Naimisharanya was especially recognized as a suitable place for spiritual meetings. So once there was a meeting of great saintly persons, and Suta Gosvami, one of the disciples of Sukadeva Gosvami, was selected as the president of the assembly, to speak on Krsna consciousness.
The saintly persons there asked him many questions, such as "After the departure of Krsna, who is entrusted with dharma and jnana?"
Dharma means "religion," and jnana means "knowledge." When Krsna appeared on this planet, He said,
"To deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion, I Myself appear, millennium after millennium." According to the Vedas, Krsna appears on this planet in each day of Brahma. Brahma's duration of life is described in the Bhagavad-gita. It is a very, very long period. Brahma's daytime—twelve hours, from morning to evening—is described: sahasra-yuga-paryantam ahar yad brahmano viduh. Yuga means "age." According to Vedic culture, the present age is called Kali-yuga. There are four yugas (ages): Satya-yuga, Treta-yuga, Dvapara-yuga, and Kali-yuga. So the aggregate of all these yugas is about 4.3 million years. And if you multiply that by one thousand, the total is the length of Brahma's twelve hours. He lives for one hundred years by such a calculation.
Krsna appears once in each day of Brahma. That we learn from Vedic literature. Krsna explains His mission in coming here. Krsna is God. He does not have to come here, but He comes to serve some purpose. If God wants to come, no one can check Him.
Why God Comes
Sometimes people question, "Why should God come?"
Our answer is, "Why should God not come?"
If God is all-powerful, who can check Him from coming here? If we say that God cannot come, that means God would come under our rules and regulations.
According to Vedic scripture, God comes, and He says why He comes: yada yada hi dharmasya glanir bhavati. Whenever there is a discrepancy in the prosecution of religious principles, He comes. Yada yada hi dharmasya glanir bhavati . . . abhyutthanam adharmasya. Whenever there are discrepancies in religious procedure, irreligious activities increase. That is natural. Whenever there is a lenient government, the rogues and thieves will increase. And if the government is very strict, then rogues and thieves cannot become very prominent. So when Krsna comes, He has two businesses: paritranaya sadhunam vinasaya ca duskrtam—to give protection to the devotees, the faithful, and to kill the demons.
When Krsna was present He exhibited these two things. Perhaps you have seen our picture of Narayana, or Visnu. Visnu has four hands. In two hands He has a lotus and a conch shell, and in the other two hands He has a club and a disc. The disc and club are meant for vinasaya ca duskrtam—for killing the demons and the miscreants. And the conch shell and the lotus are meant for giving benedictions and blessings to the devotees.
We understand about Krsna from the Bhagavad-gita. Bhagavad-gita is a well-read book all over the world. In any country you will find an edition of Bhagavad-gita in the language of that country. In the Bhagavad-gita we find that Krsna is giving instructions about dharma, religion. And at the end of His instruction He says, sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja: "Give up other types of so-called religious principles. Simply surrender unto Me."
In another place, in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, it is said, dharmam tu saksad bhagavat-pranitam: "Religion means the codes of God." The codes of religion are like state laws. The state gives us rules and regulations to live by, and one who follows the rules and regulations, or the laws, of the state is called a good citizen. Those who do not follow are called outlaws or rogues.
Similarly, religion is a simple thing: to accept the orders of God. That's all. It doesn't matter what religion you follow. You may be a Christian, I may be a Hindu, someone may be a Muhammadan, but the test of religion is how one has developed his God consciousness. That is the definition given in Srimad-Bhagavatam: sa vai pumsam paro dharmah. There are different types of religion. Para means "superior," "the best." Sa vai pumsam paro dharmo yato bhaktir adhoksaje. Adhoksaja is a description of God. It means "where material senses cannot reach." Direct experimental knowledge cannot know God.
In the Bhagavad-gita it is said,
"Out of many millions of persons, one is interested to make his life successful. And out of millions of successful persons, one very rare person can understand God." That is the statement in the Bhagavad-gita. Actually, we find that people are generally interested in economic development and sense gratification. That's all. I am traveling all over the world; I see that people are very busy searching for food and shelter. But according to Vedic scripture, food and shelter are already there, given by God. There are 8,400,000 species of life. Out of them, human beings are very few—400,000 human species in different planets. And out of them, the civilized men are very, very few. But God gives food to everyone.
The Vedas state, nityo nityanam cetanas cetananam eko bahunam yo vidadhati kaman: "God is the supreme living being amongst all living beings, and He's the supreme eternal amongst all the eternals." We are also eternal. Because we are part of God, we have all the qualities of God, but because we are minute parts of God, all the qualities of God are there in minute portion. The example is the ocean. All the chemical ingredients in the ocean are also found in a drop of ocean water. The difference is of quantity. In the drop of water there is salt, and in the vast mass of water in the ocean there is also salt. But the salt in the ocean water is a much, much bigger quantity than the salt in the drop of water.
Another example can be given, that of a fire and the sparks of the fire. These are Vedic examples. We have seen that when there is a fire, there is some sound—phut!—and immediately hundreds and thousands of sparks come out. Now, these sparks are also fire, but they are not as big as the original fire. Therefore our philosophy—we who follow in the footsteps of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu—is called acintya bhedabheda-tattva: we living beings are simultaneously one with God and different from God. We are one in quality. God is spirit; we are also spirit. He is the Supersoul; we are individual souls. But God is great, and we are minute fragments. That is difference.
Therefore, simultaneously we are one and different, one in quality but different in quantity. You accept also, "God is great." And we say that nobody can be greater than God, nor can anyone be equal to God. That is our philosophy.
No one can be equal to God. That is not possible. God is one. You may have some understanding that in the Vedic literature there is mention of many demigods. But the demigods are also living entities, a little more powerful than the human beings. That's all. Here on earth we also find that someone is more powerful than others. But that does not mean he is God. God is supreme, all-powerful. Here you may be a little more powerful then I am, but another person may be found who is more powerful than you, and another more powerful than him. In this way go on. There is no limit. Take anyone, and you will find someone lower than him and someone higher than him. But no one can say, "I am the supreme." No one can say that. That is not possible.
According to our Vedic literature, Brahma, the creator of this universe, is considered the highest creature within the universe, but he is not God. That is stated in Srimad-Bhagavatam: tene brahma hrda ya adi-kavaye muhyanti yat surayah. God instructed him to create. Adi-kavi: he is the original creature within the material world. Someone may question, "If he is the original creature, than how did he get his knowledge for creating?" That is explained. Tene brahma hrda ya adi-kavaye. Hrda means "heart." God instructed Brahma from within the heart.
Three Features of God
God is situated in everyone's heart. That form of God is called Paramatma. God has three features: Brahman, Paramatma, and Bhagavan. Brahman is His impersonal feature, Paramatma the localized feature, and Bhagavan the personal feature.
vadanti tat tattva-vidas
The Absolute Truth is one, advaya-jnana, without any duality, but according to our capacity, we realize the Absolute Truth from three different angles of vision. One of them is realization of God in His impersonal Brahman feature. Generally, the jnanis—philosophers, speculators—by dint of their own knowledge realize the Absolute Truth in His impersonal Brahman feature. The yogis realize God, the Supreme Lord, as Paramatma within the heart. And the devotees realize the Supreme Personality of Godhead as the Supreme Person. But Paramatma, impersonal Brahman, and the person God are all the same thing.
This example is given: the sunshine, the sun planet, and within the sun planet, the sun-god. According to the Vedic conception, every planet contains living entities. That is natural to conclude, because within the material world everything is made of five gross elements: earth, water, fire, air, and sky. And the subtle elements are mind, intelligence, and ego. So in some planets, earth is prominent, in some planets, water is prominent, and in some planets, fire is prominent.
Every planet in the material world is made of these five gross elements. Here we experience that some living entities are living in the water very peacefully. But if you are put into the water, you will not be comfortable. Perhaps you will die. Similarly, if the fish are taken from the water, they will die on the land. Here we can see that some living entities can live comfortably within water, some can live comfortably on land, some in the air. Similarly, why not some of them in fire? Because after all, fire is also one of the material elements.
According to Vedic scripture there is life in the sun planet also. The living entities there have fiery bodies. That's all. That is the difference. Just as the fish here have bodies suitable for the water, one may also have a fiery body. Logically we cannot deny that.
There is a predominating deity or president or god—whatever you call him—known as the sun-god, and his name is mentioned in the Bhagavad-gita: Vivasvan. Krsna says, imam vivasvate yogam proktavan aham avyayam: "This instruction—bhakti-yoga, the instruction of the Bhagavad-gita—was first imparted by Me to the sun-god, Vivasvan."
Now, it is a question of believing it or not believing it. We believe. We accept it. Because Krsna said it, we accept it. And we apply our reason also. We don't accept it blindly. I see that on this planet there is a president. Formerly, there was only one king, and he ruled the whole planet. Gradually, people divided their interests and became different nations. From Vedic history we can see that. Somebody was telling me that in Australia there is a Siva temple. Archaeological investigations in many places have found relics of Vedic civilization. In the Vedic literature we find mention of all seven islands: Asia, Europe, North America, South America, Africa, Australia, and Oceania. These were mentioned in the Vedic literature.
So it is not that the world was not known to Vedic culture. It was fully known. And one king, Maharaja Prthu, was the ruler for the whole world. He ruled over the seven islands, although his residential quarters were in Brahmavarta, the land between the rivers Yamuna and Ganges. That tract of land is still considered very sanctified. Practically all the Vedic culture is there still.
The king is supposed to be God's representative. God gives power to someone to look after the interest of the inhabitants of that particular planet. Similarly, there is a king in the sun planet. We may call him the sun-god or something like that, but there is a predominating personality. He has his personal effulgence. Just as fire has effulgence—heat and light—the sun-god is a fiery person, and his effulgence is spread all over the universe.
In the Brahma-samhita it is said,
yac-caksur esa savita sakalagrahanam
That is the description of the sun planet. The sun planet is described as the eyes of all other planets. Yac-caksur esa savita sakala-grahanam. That's a fact. Unless there is sunrise, we cannot see. We may be very proud of our seeing—"Oh, I want to see"—but we do not know that our seeing power is limited and conditioned. Unless there is sunrise these eyes are useless. Now it is night, so we cannot see even four yards. So what is the value of these eyes? Our seeing is conditional. If there is sunrise, then we can see. That condition is made by God. Therefore in the Upanisads it is said, "When God sees, you can see. When God walks, you can walk."
Practically, that is the fact. We are completely helpless, simply dependent upon God. The saying that "Not a single blade of grass moves without the sanction of God" is a fact. In the Bhagavad-gita also, it is said, sarvasya caham hrdi sannivistah: "I am living in everyone's heart." Sarvasya caham hrdi sannivisto mattah smrtir jnanam apohanam ca: "From Me come remembrance and forgetfulness." We sometimes forget and sometimes remember. That is by God's grace.
The Science of God
There are so many things to be understood about God. We are preaching God consciousness throughout the world just to encourage people to study the science of God. Please do not take us as sectarian. A person who wants to learn advanced science or mathematics will go wherever the knowledge is available. A teacher will also go anywhere to teach these subjects. Similarly, we are traveling around the world to enlighten people about the science of God. That is our business.
Our test for evaluating a religion is to see whether by following it people develop God consciousness, or love of God. Throughout the world people are rejecting God. You also know this very well. In England many, many churches are vacant. The Parliament passed a law saying that these redundant churches can be sold for other purposes.
It doesn't matter whether one is a Christian, a Hindu, or a Muslim. Our simple request is that whatever you may be, cultivate God consciousness. That is our program. Scientifically try to understand what God is. And if you consult Vedic literature, you'll get very accurate, scientific, authentic information.
If anyone is serious about understanding God, we do not object. For example, a person serious to understand some particular science might go to a university in another country. That does not mean he is fallen. No. He is searching after that particular scientific knowledge. Similarly, we invite everyone. There is a great necessity of God consciousness at the present moment throughout the world. Without God consciousness, all other qualifications are useless. That is a Vedic verse: apranasyaiva dehasya mandanam loka-ranjanam. The body is valuable because of the presence of the soul, the minute particle of God. One is "Sir such-and-such" or "Lord such-and-such" or a big scientist or a big philosopher. Why? Because the spark of God is there.
As soon as that particle is gone, the body is useless. It may be a body of "Sir such-and-such" or "Lord such-and-such," but it is useless. It is simply a lump of matter. But people are giving more importance to the body than the soul. They have no better information.
I have traveled to many countries and been to many universities. There is not a single institution where there is a department giving scientific knowledge of God or the soul. That is not a very good sign for human civilization. Human civilization is especially meant for understanding God. Therefore in any civilized human society there is a system of religion.
Religion means, as I have already explained, to abide by the orders of God. The details of the religion may be a little different from one country to another, just as ordinary laws may differ from country to country. But obedience to the state is everywhere. The constitution may be a little different from one country to another, but obedience to the state is an absolute necessity. Similarly, religion may be different according to time, country, position, or understanding, but there must be obedience to God. Otherwise it is not human civilization.
This is our program for the Krsna consciousness movement: We invite all learned scholars, priests, and philosophers to combine and save the world from this falldown—lack of God consciousness. That is our request. I think you respectable Fathers will kindly help me in this mission, and I shall be very much obliged to you.
Thank you very much.
Lord Krsna encourages us on
by Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami
As we read the scripture and hear from the spiritual master, we will hear both easy and difficult instructions. We'll naturally be attracted to those that seem easier to follow, but the two types of instruction have a unity of purpose.
One of the most encouraging verses I have found in Bhagavad-gita is 2.40: "In this endeavor there is no loss or diminution, and a little advancement on this path can protect one from the most dangerous type of fear." A similar verse can be found in the ninth chapter, where Krsna describes devotional service as su-sukham kartum: "joyfully performed." Bhakti is easier to perform than other processes. Srila Prabhupada repeatedly emphasizes the ease of chanting the holy name as the sacrifice for the age. Formerly, people had to practice yoga for a hundred thousand years to become self-realized. In the present age, Lord Caitanya brought the chanting of Hare Krsna. Because He freely distributed love for Krsna, He is maha-vadanyaya, the most magnanimous avatara of Krsna.
To accept the encouragement given by Bg. 2.40, we have to understand the context in which it is given. Some difficult instructions precede this liberal statement. Krsna has just told Arjuna to fight for the sake of fighting, without considering happiness or distress, loss or gain, victory or defeat, "and by so doing, you shall never incur sin." Srila Prabhupada explains that Krsna is instructing Arjuna to fight simply because He desires the battle. This is difficult for Arjuna to hear.
Earlier Krsna presented a variety of reasons and philosophies to convince Arjuna to fight, including the Sankhya analysis of body and soul. But now Krsna is presenting buddhi-yoga, or the yoga of intelligence. Intelligence is not limited to the ability to intellectualize knowledge, although knowledge is important. Intelligence includes action based on understanding. We are meant to understand that whatever we do should be done not for our sense gratification but for Krsna's pleasure, and this is a difficult thing to hear.
In the conditioned state, to always want to do things according to our own desires is natural. No one wants to serve another's wishes all of the time. Or, if we are willing to serve, it is only to fulfill some subtle or gross desire of our own. But Krsna wants us to renounce that selfish motivation. He doesn't want us to act for our sense gratification but for His sense gratification. Of course, we want to enjoy eating, sleeping, and work. Offering the results to someone else seems equivalent to slavery. Materially, we find such a state obnoxious.
In the absolute sense, however, we are constitutionally eternal servants. We are not masters, no matter how much we try to enjoy the material world. Therefore, we feel no happiness when we try to pretend that we are masters. Still, it's hard to accept this fact and surrender.
What makes Bg. 2.40 so encouraging is that Krsna recognizes our difficulty. He both prescribes a gradual path and presents us with information about the tremendous benefit that can accrue to us if we simply endeavor to practice devotion. Srila Prabhupada has stated that if someone would just read one page from his books or taste even a morsel of prasadam, he could be liberated. Similarly, even a little devotion can protect you from falling down into a lower species of life. Such devotion never suffers loss or diminution. Srila Prabhupada writes:
Any work begun on the material plane has to be completed; otherwise the whole attempt becomes a failure. But any work begun in Krsna consciousness has a permanent effect, even though not finished. . . . One percent done in Krsna consciousness bears permanent results, so that the next beginning is from the point of two percent. . . . Ajamila performed his duty in some percentage of Krsna consciousness, but the result he enjoyed at the end was a hundred percent, by the grace of the Lord.
I remember how in an early Boston temple, a man used to help us with carpentry work. He wasn't at all interested in the philosophy of Krsna consciousness, but he was friendly with the devotees and liked to help them with their projects. I wrote to Prabhupada and asked whether, since the man wasn't interested in the philosophy, we should spend much time with him. Prabhupada said yes, we should encourage him. If he turns one screw in the temple, he can be liberated. Prabhupada had faith in this principle. And Prabhupada understood the teaching, which he gave us, that Krsna is more eager for the living entity to return to Him than the living entity is himself. Krsna will work for our deliverance.
Later in the Bhagavad-gita (3.31), Krsna states that those who execute their duties according to His injunctions and follow His teachings faithfully, without envy, can become free from the bondage of fruitive actions. That means that even if we can't surrender completely to doing only what Krsna desires, if we don't resent His expectations of us but instead feel humbled by our inabilities, we will be properly situated in the beginning stages of devotional life.
Srila Prabhupada writes in his purport to this verse that big philosophers who write commentaries on the Bhagavad-gita but don't have faith will never achieve liberation, while "an ordinary man with firm faith in the eternal injunctions of the Lord, even though unable to execute such orders, becomes liberated from the bondage of the law of karma."
Then this: "In the beginning of Krsna consciousness, one may not fully discharge the injunctions of the Lord, but because one is not resentful of this principle and works sincerely without consideration of defeat and hopelessness, he will surely be promoted to the stage of pure Krsna consciousness."
Therefore, we should not feel resentful when we see the gap between our present position and final surrender. We should not mind that Krsna is asking of us more than we seem able to give. Neither should we feel hopeless or defeated. Our own endeavor weighs very little in our success, actually. We will be successful simply by Krsna's mercy. So when Krsna says, "In this endeavor," we should be clear what that endeavor is. Our endeavor is simply to put ourselves in line for mercy and accept it when it comes. We are wayward children, and Krsna is a loving father. His actions are always to rectify us to our original loving relationship with Him. Since Krsna will reciprocate with our desire, we have to learn to desire Him. We cannot lose in this, because if we want Krsna, He will give Himself to us.
A Favorable Birth
But it may take time. Prabhupada writes that even if we fail to go back to Godhead at the end of this life, we can be born in a family that will awaken our Krsna consciousness early. Krsna speaks about this elaborately at the end of the sixth chapter when Arjuna asks Krsna what happens to a man who achieves success in neither the material nor the spiritual sphere. Again Krsna assures Arjuna that one who does good is never overcome by evil. Our devotion will always be protected.
While our devotion will be protected, our mundane activities will not. Therefore, we find in the material world that more money, more enjoyment, more anything is always lost at death, and at death we will face the greatest loss—that we wasted our time on matter and did not develop our spiritual lives. We will never be able to make up that time. It will be a total loss, just as a beautiful car becomes worthless in seconds during a bad accident.
If we don't achieve full success at the end of this life, then we have to face the fear of death and the afterlife. Where will we go? Prabhupada has explained that while death is a great fear, falling into the lower species, where there is no chance to act for self-realization, is a greater fear.
Death is never fearful for those who practice Krsna consciousness. Krsna personally carries the soul forward either to the spiritual world or to the next life where the soul can again continue his activities in spiritual life. A devotee who takes shelter of this merciful Krsna has nothing to fear.
Prabhupada gave as an example of this principle the method of licensing doctors in India. Those who went to medical school had to attend for a certain number of years before they were eligible for the final exams. All those who managed to arrive at the exams were eligible to become doctors, but only those who passed the exams received full government recognition. The others could also practice, but not with the same licensing by the government. Prabhupada said, "Even a failure succeeds."
Because a devotee is humble, he never really imagines that he will ever achieve the final success. A devotee maintains an attitude of willingness to be reborn in the material world, but he prays to be allowed to remember the Lord from birth to birth. If we can only remember Krsna, and if, with the help of the encouragement Krsna gives in Bg. 2.40, we work to complete our Krsna consciousness, we at least know that we will have that much surrender to build on in the next life.
In many prayers in the Bhagavatam pure devotees contemplate their return to the material world and speak of the way they would like to live in their next life. Maharaja Pariksit prays, "Again, offering obeisances unto all you brahmanas, I pray that if I should again take my birth in the material world I will have complete attachment to the unlimited Lord Krsna, association with His devotees, and friendly relations with all living beings." Similarly, Narottama Dasa Thakura prays to always be able to associate with and serve the Vaisnavas.
Whatever liberal verses we draw on for our encouragement, we should not use them as an excuse for laziness in our practices. Rather, such verses should fill us with gratitude because despite our mistakes, Krsna is willing to allow us to continue in this powerful devotional process. If such a little bit of devotional service is powerful enough to carry us forward into our next life, then we should try to develop as much devotion as possible. And of course, we shouldn't dilute devotional service with other practices or desires. This process is easy, and it can save us. We should take as much as we can. Doing so will be our real solace when we find ourselves not as advanced in surrender as we would like to be.
The Measure of Success
If we want to take as much as we can, then we have to intensify our hearing and chanting. The real measure of our success in service is whether Krsna (or Krsna's pure devotee) is pleased. To say that we should act to satisfy Krsna's senses means Krsna should derive pleasure from our activities. Therefore, we have to invest the qualities of heart and attentiveness in our service, and the motivation for offering the service has to be pure and focused solely on Krsna's pleasure.
Bhagavad-gita explains this point in later chapters where Krsna describes how things can be done according to the different modes of nature. Performing our service with neglect is not the same as performing it with love. To help us, the acaryas have prescribed the path of regulated devotion (vaidhi-bhakti) until we find our own heartfelt Krsna conscious expression. If we follow their instructions, we will be able to please Krsna by our enthusiasm and faithfulness and thus make advancement toward Him. If we are whimsical or lazy, we may find ourselves outside the realm of devotion.
The Gaudiya Vaisnava path, the line of Lord Caitanya, teaches its followers to perform the best quality of service. Prabhupada explains how in most religious movements God is seen as the father. This usually translates as order-supplier. After all, God has everything and we have nothing. Therefore, religionists often harass God to receive the things they want for their sense pleasure. Sometimes, there is an exchange of service for the goods.
Better than that, however, is the Gaudiya Vaisnava conception that God is the dependent son. Krsna likes to be known as Nanda-suta (the son of Nanda) or Yasoda-nandana (the son of Yasoda). He likes His intimate devotees to treat Him as if His Godhood were inconsequential. He considers this more loving than the reverential approach.
This understanding gives the inner meaning to the quality of service. We are interested simply in Krsna's pleasure. If we cannot yet love fully, if we cannot yet give up all our interests for Krsna's interests, then we should be humble enough to cry over our failure. We should cry to receive prema, pure love for Krsna. We are so fallen that all we can do is beg to be engaged in Krsna's service. If with so many disqualifications we remain proud, however, then how can we hope to achieve Krsna's mercy? Proud religionists don't please Krsna.
Srila Prabhupada writes, "Activity in Krsna consciousness, or acting for the benefit of Krsna without expectation of sense gratification, is the highest transcendental quality of work. Even a small beginning of such activity finds no impediment, nor can that small beginning be lost at any stage." Krsna asks for the most difficult thing we have to give: He wants us to surrender in love. He promises to protect our attempt. We should not hold back.
Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami, one of Srila Prabhupada's first disciples, is a former editor of BTG and the author of many books on Krsna consciousness, including a six-volume biography of Srila Prabhupada.
"If You Have No Other Suitable Name, Then Chant Krsna"
Here we conclude an exchange between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and the poet Allen Ginsberg. It took place on May 12, 1969, in Columbus, Ohio.
Allen Ginsberg: If you're identifying love, however, with the sabda [sound] Krsna, what of those people who identify love with the sabda Allah?
Srila Prabhupada: Well, of course, if that sabda identifies with God, we have no objection. As Caitanya Mahaprabhu says, namnam akari bahudha nija-sarva-saktis: God has many names, in which He has invested His transcendental energies. God is attractive, and His name is also attractive, because He's not different from His name. If you have got a name with exactly the same attractiveness as Krsna, we have no objection. We simply say, "You chant God's holy name. Then you'll become purified." That is our program. We don't say that you change your Christianity. No. We don't say that. If you have got a nice name, an all-attractive name, in your scripture—don't manufacture, but authorized—then you chant that. We simply request, "You chant."
Allen Ginsberg: Well, then, how would you adapt the Krsna chanting to Christianity? By seeing Krsna as Christ or Christ as Krsna and sounding Christ's image in Krsna's name?
Srila Prabhupada: Krsna, Christ. Of course, this question has several times been put to me. I reply that Christ says, "I am the son of God," and Krsna says, "I am God"—so there is no essential difference between the son of God and God.
We respect everyone. If I respect your father, I respect you, also. Do you mean to say that if I disrespect your father, you'll be pleased with me? No. That is our philosophy. As Caitanya Mahaprabhu says, "I am the servant of the servant of the servant of the servant of the servant of Krsna." So if anyone perfectly loves Krsna, he must love Lord Jesus Christ, also. And if one perfectly loves Jesus Christ, he must love Krsna. If he says, "Why shall I love Krsna? I shall love only Jesus Christ," then he has no knowledge. And if one says, "Why shall I love Jesus Christ? I shall love only Krsna," then he also has no knowledge. If one understands Krsna, then he will understand Jesus Christ. If one understands Jesus Christ, he'll understand Krsna.
Allen Ginsberg: Well, then, do you think that the Hare Krsna chant could serve as an intermediary to link the religious tendencies of both the Christian and Muslim religions?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Any religion. That is, if the individual is serious about religion. If he takes religion as a scapegoat, an excuse for doing all sorts of nonsense, that is different. If he wants to understand religion and takes seriously to religion, then he will understand. We want such serious persons.
Now, according to the Srimad-Bhagavatam, religion means the laws created by God. Dharmam tu saksad bhagavat-pranitam. Religion means the laws of God. Who will deny it? Who will deny it? You may profess any religion—Christian, Muhammadan, or whatever—but who can deny that religion is the laws of God? Simple explanation. If you ask what is meant by religion, the answer is, "Religion is the laws of God." That's all. And if you want to know what God is, that is also simply answered: "God is the original source of everything."
So one should try to understand in this broad-minded way. But if one wants to remain in his compact, sectarian ideas and does not want to go further, then it is very difficult. One should be open-minded and appreciative. Then everything is all right. We say—Caitanya Mahaprabhu says—it is not that you are abitrarily limited to simply chanting Krsna, but if you have no other suitable name, then chant Krsna. Why do you make a differentiation between the Lord's names? Every name is the same.
Allen Ginsberg: So if you have no other suitable name, chant Krsna.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Chant Krsna.
Allen Ginsberg: That's Lord Caitanya's message?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Yes.
Allen Ginsberg: Did He feel there were other suitable names?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. He said the Lord has many thousands and millions of names. So if you are serious about God, then call upon Him by one of these names. For instance, your friends may call you by many names, but any one of those names will do.
Allen Ginsberg: O.K. So the problem I was posing before, which I leave open—I don't know—is, What is the most attractive and suitable name for God here in this material country?
Srila Prabhupada: Now, take, for example, the Muhammadan name Allah. Allah means "the greatest." Yes, God is the greatest. So that "greatest" conception is the preliminary Brahman conception that we have discussed. And as for the Christian conception, I don't think they have got any particular name. They say God.
Allen Ginsberg: Yes. Lord or God. Those are the basic ones.
Srila Prabhupada: "Controller." God means "controller." Is it not?
Allen Ginsberg [to the disciples on hand]: What is the etymology of God? Do you know?
Disciple: I don't know.
Srila Prabhupada: God is the equivalent of isvara. Isvara means "controller."
Allen Ginsberg: Well, the Jews, which were my background, had a prohibition . . .
Srila Prabhupada: They say Jehovah.
Allen Ginsberg: They say Jehovah, but they had a prohibition against pronouncing the Lord's highest names, because they felt that God was imageless and therefore should not be pronounced or painted. My background is, I guess, what would be termed impersonalist.
Woman: Yes. Impersonalist—just believing in the great Absolute and that's all.
Srila Prabhupada: That was the difference when Jesus Christ appeared. He was a personalist.
Allen Ginsberg: The ancient Hebrew teaching—you must know about that—was that the name of God should never be pronounced. J-H-V-H. Pictures should not be made. Because it would limit God to human conception.
Srila Prabhupada: That is another thing. That idea is also in the Muhammadan tradition. Their essential idea is that God is not material. That is the idea. The idea is that when I make some image or picture of God, that is material. So there is a prohibition against accepting God as material. But if you go to a higher stage of realization, you'll understand that if God is everything, then there is no such thing as material. That is Vaisnava philosophy.
If God is everything, then how can you say any of His energies is fundamentally material? God is spiritual. So in one sense, calling something material means you do not understand God. That is what calling something material means.
For instance, when part of this sky is covered by a cloud, we say, "The sky is cloudy." But the cloud is limited and temporary; it has no enduring existence; it comes only to cover some of the sky for a short while. Actually, the sky is unlimited and enduring. Similarly, God is unlimited and enduring; God is eternal. When you are covered by some cloud of maya and you cannot see properly and cannot understand God, that is material. So any philosophy which does not help us understand God—that is material. That is material.
Otherwise, there is no such thing as material. Where is "material" if God is everything? Sarvam khalv idam brahma: Everything is the Lord's spiritual energy. You see?
Disciple: All is spirit.
Srila Prabhupada: All is spirit. Everywhere is sky, but when some of it is covered, it is called cloud. Similarly, when God is "covered" by some nonsense ideas, then that is material. Otherwise, there is no such thing as material. Therefore, for those who are too much absorbed in materialistic views, there is a restriction—"Don't attempt to say God's name." Because the person will tend to think, "God's name is just like my son's name or my daughter's name." Therefore, there is that restriction.
Disciple: Srila Prabhupada, we've got to tune some harmoniums.
Allen Ginsberg: Yes, we have to start material preparations for the evening.
Srila Prabhupada: That is not material. [Laughter.]
Allen Ginsberg: A sabda preparation.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Sabda, or sound, is originally spiritual. Sabda-brahman. You simply have to understand that there is nothing material; everything is spiritual. That is required. If I am controlled by the spiritual energy, that is my great fortune. Therefore, in the Bhagavad-gita it is said, mahatmanas tu mam partha daivim prakrtim asritah: The mahatmas, or great souls, take shelter of the spiritual energy. And what is their symptom? Bhajanty ananya manaso—simply engaged in devotional service to Krsna. That is required.
Srila Prabhupada: Hare Krsna.
The Universe of the Vedas
At first glance, the cosmology of
by Sadaputa Dasa
The inquisitive human mind naturally yearns to understand the universe and man's place within it. Today scientists rely on powerful telescopes and sophisticated computers to formulate cosmological theories. In former times, people got their information from traditional books of wisdom. Followers of the Vedic culture, for example, learned about the cosmos from scriptures like the Srimad-Bhagavatam, or Bhagavata Purana. But the Bhagavatam's descriptions of the universe often baffle modern students of Vedic literature. Here Bhaktivedanta Institute scientist Sadaputa Dasa (Dr. Richard Thompson) suggests a framework for understanding the Bhagavatam's descriptions that squares with our experience and modern discoveries.
This article was adapted from Mysteries of the Sacred Universe:
The Srimad-Bhagavatam presents an earth-centered conception of the cosmos. At first glance the cosmology seems foreign, but a closer look reveals that not only does the cosmology of the Bhagavatam describe the world of our experience, but it also presents a much larger and more complete cosmological picture. I'll explain.
The Srimad-Bhagavatam's mode of presentation is very different from the familiar modern approach. Although the Bhagavatam's "Earth" (disk-shaped Bhu-mandala) may look unrealistic, careful study shows that the Bhagavatam uses Bhu-mandala to represent at least four reasonable and consistent models: (1) a polar-projection map of the Earth globe, (2) a map of the solar system, (3) a topographical map of south-central Asia, and (4) a map of the celestial realm of the demigods.
Caitanya Mahaprabhu remarked, "In every verse of Srimad-Bhagavatam and in every syllable, there are various meanings."(Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya 24.318) This appears to be true, in particular, of the cosmological section of the Bhagavatam, and it is interesting to see how we can bring out and clarify some of the meanings with reference to modern astronomy.
When one structure is used to represent several things in a composite map, there are bound to be contradictions. But these do not cause a problem if we understand the underlying intent. We can draw a parallel with medieval paintings portraying several parts of a story in one composition. For example, Masaccio's painting "The Tribute Money" (Figure 1) shows Saint Peter in three parts of a Biblical story. We see him taking a coin from a fish, speaking to Jesus, and paying a tax collector. From a literal standpoint it is contradictory to have Saint Peter doing three things at once, yet each phase of the Biblical story makes sense in its own context.
A similar painting from India (Figure 2) shows three parts of a story about Krsna. Such paintings contain apparent contradictions, such as images of one character in different places, but a person who understands the story line will not be disturbed by this. The same is true of the Bhagavatam, which uses one model to represent different features of the cosmos.
The Bhagavatam Picture at First Glance
The Fifth Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam tells of innumerable universes. Each one is contained in a spherical shell surrounded by layers of elemental matter that mark the boundary between mundane space and the unlimited spiritual world.
The region within the shell (Figure 3) is called the Brahmanda, or "Brahma egg." It contains an earth disk or plane—called Bhu-mandala—that divides it into an upper, heavenly half and a subterranean half, filled with water. Bhu-mandala is divided into a series of geographic features, traditionally called dvipas, or "islands," varsas, or "regions," and oceans.
In the center of Bhu-mandala (Figure 4) is the circular "island" of Jambudvipa, with nine varsa subdivisions. These include Bharata-varsa, which can be understood in one sense as India and in another as the total area inhabited by human beings. In the center of Jambudvipa stands the cone-shaped Sumeru Mountain, which represents the world axis and is surmounted by the city of Brahma, the universal creator.
To any modern, educated person, this sounds like science fiction. But is it? Let's consider the four ways of seeing the Bhagavatam's descriptions of the Bhu-mandala.
(1) Bhu-mandala as a Polar Projection of the Earth Globe
We begin by discussing the interpretation of Bhu-mandala as a planisphere, or a polar-projection map of the Earth globe. This is the first model given by the Bhagavatam. A stereographic projection is an ancient method of mapping points on the surface of a sphere to points on a plane. We can use this method to map a modern Earth globe onto a plane, and the resulting flat projection is called a planisphere (Figure 5). We can likewise view Bhu-mandala as a stereographic projection of a globe (Figure 6). In India such globes exist. In the example shown here (Figure 7, next page), the land area between the equator and the mountain arc is Bharata-varsa, corresponding to greater India. India is well represented, but apart from a few references to neighboring places, this globe does not give a realistic map of the Earth. Its purpose was astronomical, rather than geographical.
Although the Bhagavatam doesn't explicitly describe the Earth as a globe, it does so indirectly. For example, it points out that night prevails diametrically opposite to a point where it is day. Likewise, the sun sets at a point opposite where it rises. Therefore, the Bhagavatam does not present the naive view that the Earth is flat.
We can compare Bhu-mandala with an astronomical instrument called an astrolabe, popular in the Middle Ages. On the astrolabe, an off-centered circle represents the orbit of the sun—the ecliptic. The Earth is represented in stereographic projection on a flat plate, called the mater. The ecliptic circle and important stars are represented on another plate, called the rete. Different planetary orbits could likewise be represented by different plates, and these would be seen projected onto the Earth plate when one looks down on the instrument.
The Bhagavatam similarly presents the orbits of the sun, the moon, planets, and important stars on a series of planes parallel to Bhu-mandala. (For more details, visit sacreduniverse.com.)
Seeing Bhu-mandala as a polar projection is one example of how it doesn't represent a flat Earth.
(2) Bhu-mandala as a Map of the Solar System
Here's another way to look at Bhu-mandala that also shows that it's not a flat-Earth model.
Descriptions of Bhu-mandala have features that identify it as a model of the solar system. In the previous section I interpreted Bhu-mandala as a planisphere map. But now, we'll take it as a literal plane. When we do this, it looks at first like we're back to the naive flat Earth, with the bowl of the sky above and the underworld below.
The scholars Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend carried out an intensive study of myths and traditions and concluded that the so-called flat Earth of ancient times originally represented the plane of the ecliptic (the orbit of the sun) and not the Earth on which we stand. Later on, according to de Santillana and von Dechend, the original cosmic understanding of the earth was apparently lost, and the Earth beneath our feet was taken literally as a flat plate. In India, the earth of the Puranas has often been taken as literally flat. But the details given in the Bhagavatam show that its cosmology is much more sophisticated.
Not only does the Bhagavatam use the ecliptic model, but it turns out that the disk of Bhu-mandala corresponds in some detail to the solar system (Figure 8). The solar system is nearly flat. The sun, the moon, and the five traditionally known planets—Mercury through Saturn—all orbit nearly in the ecliptic plane. Thus Bhu-mandala does refer to something flat, but it's not the Earth.
One striking feature of the Bhagavatam's descriptions has to do with size. If we compare Bhu-mandala with the Earth, the solar system out to Saturn, and the Milky Way galaxy, Bhu-mandala matches the solar system closely, while radically differing in size from Earth and the galaxy.
Furthermore, the structures of Bhumandala correspond with the planetary orbits of the solar system (Figure 9). If we compare the rings of Bhu-mandala with the orbits of Mercury, Venus (Figure 10), Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, we find several close alignments that give weight to the hypothesis that Bhu-mandala was deliberately designed as a map of the solar system.
Until recent times, astronomers generally underestimated the distance from the earth to the sun. In particular, Claudius Ptolemy, the greatest astronomer of classical antiquity, seriously underestimated the Earth-sun distance and the size of the solar system. It is remarkable, therefore, that the dimensions of Bhu-mandala in the Bhagavatam are consistent with modern data on the size of the sun's orbit and the solar system as a whole.
[See BTG, Nov./Dec. 1997.]
(3) Jambudvipa as a Topographical Map of South-Central Asia
Jambudvipa, the central hub of Bhumandala, can be understood as a local topographical map of part of south-central Asia. This is the third of the four interpretations of Bhu-mandala. In the planisphere interpretation, Jambudvipa represents the northern hemisphere of the Earth globe. But the detailed geographic features of Jambudvipa do not match the geography of the northern hemisphere. They do, however, match part of the Earth.
Six horizontal and two vertical mountain chains divide Jambudvipa into nine regions, or varsas (Figure 11, top left). The southernmost region is called Bharata-varsa. Careful study shows that this map corresponds to India plus adjoining areas of south-central Asia. The first step in making this identification is to observe that the Bhagavatam assigns many rivers in India to Bharata-varsa. Thus Bharata-varsa represents India. The same can be said of many mountains in Bharata-varsa. In particular, the Bhagavatam places the Himalayas to the north of Bharata-varsa in Jambudvipa (Figure 11).
A detailed study of Puranic accounts allows the other mountain ranges of Jambudvipa to be identified with mountain ranges in the region north of India. Although this region includes some of the most desolate and mountainous country in the world, it was nonetheless important in ancient times. For example, the famous Silk Road passes through this region. The Pamir mountains can be identified with Mount Meru and Ilavrta-varsa, the square region in the center of Jambudvipa. (Note that Mount Meru does not represent the polar axis in this interpretation.)
Other Puranas give more geographical details that support this interpretation.
(4) Bhu-mandala as a Map of the Celestial Realm of the Devas
We can also understand Bhu-mandala as a map of the celestial realm of the demigods, or devas. One curious feature of Jambudvipa is that the Bhaga-vatam describes all of the varsas other than Bharata-varsa as heavenly realms, where the inhabitants live for ten thousand years without suffering. This has led some scholars to suppose that Indians used to imagine foreign lands as celestial paradises. But the Bhagavatam does refer to barbaric peoples outside India, such as Huns, Greeks, Turks, and Mongolians, who were hardly thought to live in paradise. One way around this is to suppose that Bharata-varsa includes the entire Earth globe, while the other eight varsas refer to celestial realms outside the Earth. This is a common understanding in India.
But the simplest explanation for the heavenly features of Jambudvipa is that Bhu-mandala was also intended to represent the realm of the devas. Like the other interpretations we have considered, this one is based on a group of mutually consistent points in the cosmology of the Bhagavatam.
First of all, consider the very large sizes of mountains and land areas in Jambudvipa. For example, India is said to be 72,000 miles (9,000 yojanas) from north to south, or nearly three times the circumference of the Earth. Likewise, the Himalayas are said to be 80,000 miles high.
People in India in ancient times used to go in pilgrimage on foot from one end of India to the other, so they knew how large India is. Why does the Bhagavatam give such unrealistic distances? The answer is that Jambudvipa doubles as a model of the heavenly realm, in which everything is on a superhuman scale. The Bhagavatam portrays the demigods and other divine beings that inhabit this realm to be correspondingly large. Figure 12 shows Lord Siva in comparison with Europe, according to one text of the Bhagavatam.
Why would the Bhagavatam describe Jambudvipa as both part of the earth and part of the celestial realm? Because there's a connection between the two. To understand, let's consider the idea of parallel worlds. By siddhis, or mystic perfections, one can take shortcuts across space. This is illustrated by a story from the Bhagavatam in which the mystic yogini Citralekha abducts Aniruddha from his bed in Dvaraka and transports him mystically to a distant city (Figure 13).
Besides moving from one place to another in ordinary space, the mystic siddhis enable one to travel in the all-pervading ether or to enter another continuum. The classical example of a parallel continuum is Krsna's transcendental realm of Vrndavana, said to be unlimitedly expansive and to exist in parallel to the finite, earthly Vrndavana in India.
The Sanskrit literature abounds with stories of parallel worlds. For example, the Mahabharata tells the story of how the Naga princess Ulupi abducted Arjuna while he was bathing in the Ganges River (Figure 14). Ulupi pulled Arjuna down not to the riverbed, as we would expect, but into the kingdom of the Nagas (celestial snakelike beings), which exists in another dimension.
Mystical travel explains how the worlds of the devas are connected with our world. In particular, it explains how Jambudvipa, as a celestial realm of devas, is connected with Jambudvipa as the Earth or part of the Earth. Thus the double model of Jambudvipa makes sense in terms of the Puranic understanding of the siddhis.
For centuries the cosmology of the Bhagavatam has seemed incomprehensible to most observers, encouraging many people either to summarily reject it or to accept it literally with unquestioning faith. If we take it literally, the cosmology of the Bhagavatam not only differs from modern astronomy, but, more important, it also suffers from internal contradictions and violations of common sense. These very contradictions, however, point the way to a different understanding of Bhagavata cosmology in which it emerges as a deep and scientifically sophisticated system of thought. The contradictions show that they are caused by overlapping self-consistent interpretations that use the same textual elements to expound different ideas.
Each of the four interpretations I've presented deserves to be taken seriously because each is supported by many points in the text that are consistent with one another while agreeing with modern astronomy. I've applied the context-sensitive or multiple aspect approach, in which the same subject has different meanings in different contexts. This approach allows for the greatest amount of information to be stored in a picture or text, reducing the work required by the artist or writer. At the same time, it means that the work cannot be taken literally as a one-to-one model of reality, and it requires the viewer or reader to understand the different relevant contexts. This can be difficult when knowledge of context is lost over long periods of time.
In the Bhagavatam, the contextsensitive approach was rendered particularly appropriate by the conviction that reality, in the ultimate issue, is avak-manasam, or beyond the reach of the mundane mind or words. This implies that a literal, one-to-one model of reality is unattainable, and so one may as well pack as much meaning as possible into a necessarily incomplete description of the universe. The cosmology of the Bhagavata Purana is a sophisticated system of thought, with multiple layers of meaning, both physical and metaphysical. It combines practical understanding of astronomy with spiritual conceptions to produce a meaningful picture of the universe and reality.
Sadaputa Dasa (Richard L. Thompson) earned his Ph.D. in mathematics from Cornell University. He is the author of several books, of which Mysteries of the Sacred Universe is the most recent.
An elaborate description of Lord Krsna,
by Mathuresa Dasa
The brothers Dabhir Kas and Sakara Mallik were trusted ministers in the government of Nawab Hussain Shah, the ruler of Bengal in the early sixteenth century. After meeting Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, they resigned their lucrative posts to join the Lord's Hare Krsna movement, shaving their heads and changing their names to Rupa Gosvami and Sanatana Gosvami. The Nawab as well as many Hindu leaders were astounded. What had caused the brothers to resign, and why were so many other Hare Krsna devotees appearing in nearly every town and village of Bengal with their chanting and dancing? What was Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu teaching?
Previous articles in this series have described the Lord's teachings to Rupa Gosvami and Sanatana Gosvami's escape from the Nawab's prison.
The Viraja river marks the border between the material and spiritual worlds. Vast and beautiful, its spiritual waters ornamented with brilliant waves churned by mighty storms of transcendental effulgence, it is also known as the Viraja Ocean or the Causal Ocean. On one shore the countless universes of the material nature, with all their planets and solar systems, arise and dissolve in the moments granted them within the jurisdiction of devastating time. On the other shore, time presides without its devastating feature, invigorating the spiritual planets and their denizens, cities, and civilizations with eternal, blissful life in the ever-expanding service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna.
Lord Krsna said little of His spiritual kingdom when He spoke the Bhagavad-gita to Arjuna at Kurukshetra. He said that His abode beyond the material creation is self-effulgent, with no need of sunlight, moonlight, or electricity. And He offered the clue that all beautiful and glorious features of this temporary world spring from only a spark of His splendor. With a single fragment of Himself, He proclaimed, He pervades and supports the entire creation. These hints help us begin to comprehend the spiritual world, where Krsna displays His full opulences, but we have few details. Nor would details necessarily help us, since to the untrained, accounts of the spiritual world sound like so much mythology.
Lord Krsna's Gita instead details our predicament in the material creation and the means for extricating ourselves from the stranglehold of material time. Krsna explains that the living beings in the material world are eternal fragments of Him. These eternal souls inhabit temporary bodies, struggling hard against material nature. Because we are minute parts of Krsna, our eternal constitution is to surrender to Him and serve Him. Surrender to Krsna frees us from the lethal grip of material time and sets us on our return journey to the spiritual world. At the end of the Gita, therefore, after describing various systems of religion and philosophy, Krsna demands surrender.
To those who are constantly surrendered and worship Krsna with love, He gives knowledge of Himself, of the spiritual world, and of how to return to Him there. To show special mercy to His devotees, He enlightens them from within their hearts, and from without also. Just as we acquire knowledge of a distant land by hearing from travelers, the devotees realize Krsna and His spiritual world by hearing with love from Him and His representatives.
In the spring of 1514, Sanatana Gosvami arrived at Varanasi to surrender to Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and join the Lord's Hare Krsna movement. Sanatana had renounced his affluent position as prime minister of Bengal, escaped from the prison of his former employer, the Nawab Hussain Shah, and completed a dangerous trek through the jungles and hills of Bihar province.
Like Arjuna at Kurukshetra, Sanatana presented himself to the Lord as a man in distress, uncertain of his duty and identity despite wealth, fame, and learning. Like Arjuna, in other words, Sanatana portrayed the plight of the materialist. The greatest leaders and intellects of the material world cannot say with any scientific certaintly what the living energy in their bodies is. So while introducing themselves as Ms. this or Mr. that, Senator this or Professor that, they in fact do not know who they are.
Illustrating this discrepancy, Sanatana confessed to the Lord, "People believe that I am a great learned man, and I am so foolish that I believe it myself. But what to speak of being learned, I don't even know who I am. Who am I? And why do I suffer in material life?"
"The living entity's constitutional position," the Lord replied, "is to be an eternal servant of Krsna, because he is the energy of Krsna, like a molecular particle of sunshine or fire."
With this concise and eloquent statement Lord Caitanya effectively summarized the Gita's final message of surrender, while forgoing the Gita's elaborate analysis of the spiritual living entity. Lord Caitanya is Krsna Himself playing the part of His own devotee. From the point where He ended His instructions to Arjuna at Kurukshetra, He began His teachings to Sanatana Gosvami at Varanasi. While Lord Caitanya's teachings and Lord Krsna's teachings in the Gita are the same, Lord Caitanya did not demand surrender. Instead He demonstrated the life of surrender to Krsna in His own activities and freely distributed knowledge of Krsna and love of Krsna.
With the Gita's message affirmed, Lord Caitanya broke new ground, describing for Sanatana Gosvami the transcendental form of Krsna, who is the origin of both material and spiritual worlds, and whose body is made not of perishable blood and bones, but of eternity, bliss, and knowledge. The ordinary living entity in the material world is different from his body, which is a covering of the real self. But Krsna's transcendental form and Krsna Himself are the same, whether He is in His eternal abode or visiting His material creation. The Brahma-samhita states:
isvarah paramah krsnah
"Krsna, who is known as Govinda, is the supreme controller. He has a spiritual body of eternity, knowledge, and bliss. He is the origin of all. He has no other origin, for He is the prime cause of all causes."
Although Krsna is the original person and therefore the oldest of all, He appears as a youth, the son of Maharaja Nanda, never more than sixteen years of age. And although Krsna is one, He expands Himself into innumerable forms. Krsna's expansion is inconceivable, but within our current experience we know that an individual person exhibits many features. When someone is especially happy or especially angry in a particular situation, we may even say, as a manner of speaking, that he or she is a "different person." In our own minds, too, we may think of ourselves in various ways according to our roles as, say, parent, child, spouse, employee, or student, and in each of these roles we further show ourselves in various aspects to different people in the course of our activities and occupations. We may also create imaginary or aspirational roles, dreaming of being a conquering hero or a celebrated actress. In all these ways, while we each remain one person, we expand and discover and enjoy ourselves.
We possess the tendency to expand and enjoy and discover because these tendencies are present in Krsna, the original person. The difference is that since Krsna is the Supreme, His expansions are unique and all-powerful. Krsna's personal expansions, though one and the same personality, are different individuals, not as a manner of speaking but in fact. They are individuals fully endowed with independent action, character, and thought.
Krsna's innumerable forms are known as plenary expansions because they all have the full power of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Though each of these expansions has activities, bodily features, and other attributes slightly different from the original form of Krsna, they are all identical with Krsna. They are one and the same supreme personality. The Brahma-samhita explains that as one candle can light many other candles, each with the same power of illumination, so Lord Krsna expands Himself into unlimited forms of Godhead.
Lord Caitanya explained to Sanatana that describing Krsna's forms is like describing the moon by saying it is in the branches of a tree. To point out the moon in the night sky, we might use the branches of a tree as a reference point, though we understand that the moon is far away. Similarly, descriptions of the Lord provide an indication of Him, although He is otherwise far beyond our experience and powers to fully comprehend.
Krsna's transcendental form is not compartmentalized like our material bodies. Our mental and physical activities are different. We can think of being a hero or an actress, but our dreams may not come true. For Krsna, however, thinking and doing are the same. When the Lord thinks of Himself as a cowherd boy or as a warrior prince, these "thoughts" of Krsna's are pastimes performed by His plenary expansions, who also have the power to expand. Thus one transcendental expansion embodies Lord Krsna's anger, another His abilities as a perfect king, another His literary abilities, and still another His omnipotent capacity for material creation.
While Krsna's plenary expansions possess His full power and opulence, Krsna's own attributes are nevertheless more pleasant, so much so that as an ultimate expression of Their individuality, the plenary expansions are attracted to and worship Krsna. When Krsna appeared as Lord Caitanya, two of His plenary expansions appeared with Him as Advaita Acarya and Nityananda Prabhu and lived as His devotees, rendering loving service.
Krsna's Home and His Kingdom
Lord Caitanya informed Sanatana Gosvami that a plenary expansion of Krsna presides over each of the innumerable planets in the spiritual sky. These expansions, which have four arms, are called Narayana expansions, and the spiritual sky is known as Narayanaloka.
"The breadth of each spiritual planet," Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu explained, "is eight miles multiplied by one hundred, by one thousand, by ten thousand, by one hundred thousand, and by ten million. In other words each spiritual planet is beyond our ability to measure."
Despite their infinite size and number, the planets of Narayanaloka surround Krsna's personal abode, Krsnaloka, as petals surround the whorl of a lotus. Devotees of the Lord in Narayanaloka worship the majestic, omnipotent Narayana forms with the ceremony and personal distance mandated by their mood of awe and reverence, while on Krsnaloka Krsna enjoys the loving devotion and familiarity of His most intimate devotees and friends. At work, a high-court judge wears the garb and receives the respect appropriate to his or her office, while at home the same judge's rank and prestige take a back seat or are completely forgotten in the atmospheres of comraderie, affection, and romance created by the presence of friends, lovers, and children. Krsnaloka is Krsna's home, while Narayanaloka is His kingdom, where in His official capacity as the Supreme Lord He promininently displays His opulences and powers.
All the expansions of Lord Krsna have their residences eternally in the spiritual sky, but when They descend into the material world they are called avataras, or incarnations. Avatara means "one who descends." The incarnations of Godhead are either expansions of Krsna or expansions of His expansions, but Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself.
"O learned scholars," the Bhagavatam declares, "just as hundreds and thousands of small ponds issue from great reservoirs of water, innumerable incarnations flow from Sri Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead and the reservoir of all power."
Lord Krsna's primary motivation for both His expansion and His descent is to please His devotees. Devotees long to see and serve Krsna in particular ways according to their individual preferences and moods, and the Lord obliges. Krsna sends His expansions to the material creation, and He comes Himself as well, bringing Krsnaloka and its residents with Him.
Although the pastimes of Krsna and His expansions in the material creation are historical events recorded in Vedic literature, with historical beginnings and ends, these pastimes are eternal. When Lord Krsna Himself appeared on earth five thousand years ago, He stayed for 125 years, performing pastimes beginning with His birth, or appearance, and proceeding through His childhood pastimes, up to the battle of Kurukshetra, and finally to His disappearance. These pastimes are no longer visible here, yet they continue eternally.
To explain, Lord Caitanya gave the example of the sun, which to our eyes appears and disappears each day, though it is always shining somewhere on earth. Using the regular movements of the sun, we divide the day and night into hours, minutes, seconds, and fractions of seconds, and each of these divisions occurs continuously. That is, it is exactly noon somewhere on earth at any given moment, exactly noon plus a nanosecond somewhere else, and so on. Like the sun, Krsna's pastimes have an orbit through the material universes, with each pastime in the sequence appearing somewhere at any given moment, and with His pastimes gradually returning to every universe just as the sun returns to noon at each point on earth. The sun of Krsna's eternal pastimes is continuously visible in Krsnaloka. In the material creation these same pastimes, as well as the pastimes of Krsna's uncountable incarnations, though still eternal, manifest and disappear in each universe at regular intervals.
Krsna and His plenary expansions display Their pastimes in the material creation to attract us back to the spiritual world, back to Godhead. Their purpose here is transcendental. It is impossible for Them to come under the control of the material nature, because the material nature is Their energy. Though we too are expansions of Krsna, we are not plenary expansions. We are eternally minute individual particles of the Lord, endowed by Him with minute powers. We do fall under the control of matter. Or we can. We are free to either live as servants of the Lord and His expansions on the eternal, blissful spiritual planets or to transfer across the Viraja River into the service of this miserable material creation, thus creating our own suffering.
Whether we reside in the material or spiritual world, however, our unalterable nature as minute souls is service. Just as sugar is unalterably sweet, water unalterably wet, we are by nature servants. To serve our current rebellious desires to expand our lives without Krsna, we use our minute powers to build temporary homes, communities, and civilizations from the elements of material nature provided by the Lord. The same intensity of service, when employed to reawaken our devotion and love for Krsna, lifts us to the spiritual nature, where the opportunities and inspiration for service to the Lord expand eternally in an exhilaration of transcendental bliss and knowledge.
Using an earlier example for emphasis, Lord Caitanya again asserted that it is not possible to adequately describe Krsna's transcendental forms and pastimes.
"Whatever I have explained is simply a little glimpse," He told Sanatana Gosvami. "It is like showing the moon through the branches of a tree."
The Lord's instructions to Sanatana in Varnasi continued for two months, covering the many categories of avataras, the spiritual planets, devotional behavior, and other spiritual topics almost too numerous to list. Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami, a contemporary of Lord Caitanya, devotes several chapters of his Sri Caitanya-caritamrta to the Lord's teachings to Sanatana. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada's remarkable multi-volume translation of Caitanya-caritamrta, along with the additional intimate insights of his earlier summary study, Teachings of Lord Caitanya, awaits readers eager to absorb themselves in the life and precepts of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
At the end of two months, Lord Caitanya sent Sanatana on to Vrndavana and returned to Jagannatha Puri on the Bay of Bengal, following His previous route through the forests of Madhya Pradesh. Before long both Sanatana and his younger brother Rupa Gosvami were themselves traveling to Puri to meet again with the Lord.
Mathuresa Dasa, a disciple of Srila Prabhupada, has written many articles for BTG. He and his wife, Ganga-gati Devi Dasi, and their four children live in Alachua, Florida.
We can learn to love the
by Urmila Devi Dasi
My student's excitement ripples through his arms, which boast the muscles of early youth.
"I can sleep late!"
School for my students means not just academic study but also rising before sunrise to worship Krsna. Why doesn't this student love the pre-dawn hours?
I look back on my life as a small child. Each morning my father would rise by 5:00 A.M. and wake me soon afterwards. Or did I wake spontaneously just to be with him? I would play in his office in our home while he showered. When I was very young we would play together, each of us with a doll. His doll told me stories of his life and taught me lessons of ethics and morality. As I got older, the play became a time to talk of the important things in our lives. My father squeezed fresh orange juice, made our breakfast, and forged our friendship. He made the early morning a time of peace, beauty, love, friendship, and understanding.
Mentally traveling forward, I remember sitting in a temple president's office so many years later.
"I'd like to live here and dedicate myself to serving Krsna."
"We wake up early in the morning," he says. "Very early. Can you do that?"
I smile. "I've done that all my life."
How easy now to spend the early mornings with my ultimate father, the Supreme Lord, Krsna! I sing His glories, dance to please Him, and study His philosophy. When chanting His names, I am personally with Him.
All day my father worked for our family, but the time we spent together, sometimes simply enjoying each other's company, was often the most significant and satisfying. Now my sweetest time is spent in the morning just being with Krsna in His name, in His deity form on the altar, in the descriptions of His activities and philosophy. On days when I miss that time, I feel incomplete, even though I chant Krsna's names and read His stories and instructions later in the day.
Rising early for prayer and study may become a chore, an obligation, as my student felt, and I wonder if I can give him the sense of wonder that my father gave me. I have read of medieval monks who woke each night at midnight for prayers and then slept a bit more until the next prayers before sunrise. They struggled sometimes, in those cold stone monasteries, to drag their sleep-heavy bodies and minds to the chapel. Some of them write of these practices as austerities or penance. We might similarly describe our Vaisnava devotions, yet are they not really rather a joy?
The ancient study of Ayurveda teaches us why the early morning so helps one's spiritual advancement toward pure love of God. The controlling forces of the creation—the three modes of nature: goodness, passion, and ignorance—affect our consciousness, activities, and even the time of day or year. In early morning we more easily achieve goodness and, beyond that, transcendence. Passion increases with the day, as we consume our time with occupations and making money. At night, ignorance prevails, inciting inclinations toward degradation and crime.
Even if we don't understand the workings of nature's modes, most of us find focusing the mind difficult when pressed with the day's demands. The early-morning hours can clear our consciousness, mellow our actions.
The challenge of focusing on spiritual practices at other times of the day is like trying to travel during a traffic jam, when arriving at our destination is a protracted business at best. When everyone else is on the road, we don't want to be there. But during the off times, the same journey is fast and easy. Similarly, while we can spend time with Lord Krsna at any time and place, the early morning is an open highway. Our devotional thoughts can move freely, unimpeded. While nothing material, including time, can hinder spiritual life, if we're sincere about spiritual progress we'll aim to build our day and life around the favorable circumstances.
Logic and knowledge alone may not be enough to sustain us through a lifetime of daily practice. We're part of the Lord, the reservoir of pleasure, so we also seek pleasure. To throw off the bedcovers each morning and embrace the day, our early-morning chanting and study must be a source of pleasure.
One can say, dogmatically, that the early-morning devotions are pleasure, and that one who practices regularly will surely come to feel the pleasure. The great spiritual teacher Rupa Gosvami tells us that even if devotion to Krsna tastes bitter, by practice it will turn to sweetness. But while waiting to feel that joy, we may become discouraged, like the shopper at the end of a long line who decides to shop elsewhere. Therefore, we cannot hope to achieve perfection simply by following a formula because it is the formula. We must feel a real connection with Krsna, which is joyful even in the stage of practice.
Is the practice hard? As I look at the young student who thinks it is, I'm not sure. I pray that Krsna will awaken him to the feeling that he is truly and completely with the Lord.
We can come to love worshiping Krsna early in the morning as naturally and easily as I loved being with my father. After all, Krsna is the most lovable person. All good qualities reside unlimitedly in Him, His love for each of us is unbounded, and we know enough about Him from the Vedas to saturate our minds and hearts with love for Him and with thoughts of His greatness. If we just look at Him fully, and hear Him fully, with focus and dedication, will we not find joy in His presence?
Urmila Devi Dasi and her family run a school in North Carolina. She is the major author and compiler of Vaikuntha Children, a guide to Krsna conscious education for children.
The Early Morning Practice of Devotion
This is the general program Srila Prabhupada gave us, in line with the traditional practices of saintly, pure devotees of Lord Krsna.
• Rise before sunrise, preferably by 4:00 A.M.
• Bathe and dress in clean clothes.
• Gather with others, if possible, and spend half an hour in responsive singing of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra and other glorification of the Lord. Generally, devotees gather in a special room in their home where there are pictures or deity forms of Krsna, Lord Caitanya, and Srila Prabhupada. (Many devotees travel daily to a temple outside their home.)
• If possible, worship the sacred Tulasi plant.
• Chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra quietly to oneself. Devotees usually count the number of mantras they chant on a string of 108 beads. Initiated devotees in ISKCON chant at least sixteen times around the beads daily.
• Read the scriptures and discuss their meaning and application according to the teachings of great devotees. Our main scripture for morning study is the Srimad-Bhagavatam.
Becoming "God" And Serving Dog
A look at some of the holes in
by Patita Pavana Dasa
In Shri Pushpanjali, Patita Pavana Dasa argues against the philosophy of impersonalism by drawing on an extensive collection of analogies used by Srila Prabhupada. The setting of the book is a discussion between Krishna Dasa and Nirvishesh, former high school friends who are meeting again after several years. Krishna Dasa has become a devotee of Lord Krsna, and Nirvishesh has been studying under a swami of the impersonalistic, or Mayavada, school. Here we present an excerpt from Chapter 2 of the book. (Following the book's style, we've omitted the diacritical marks for Sanskrit words.)
Nirvishesh said: Everyone sits in the boat of liberation because, as Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita, "Everyone follows My path in all respects." Therefore, everyone is assured liberation, never mind his activities. Tat tvam asi.
Krishna das replied: Of course that verse is there; it is number eleven of the fourth chapter. But you've added a novel twist to its import. Consider carefully the other words of that verse: "All of them—as they surrender unto Me—I reward accordingly." Everyone is looking for Krishna, but very few people realize Him, because they uselessly seek a loving exchange with lifeless material energy, i.e., the body. So they don't realize the all-spiritual Lord, and they flounder birth after birth in the innumerable species of life. Just see how Arjuna, bewildered, asked Krishna, "By what is one impelled to sinful acts?" Krishna answered in the next verse, the thirty-seventh of the third chapter, that the cause of bondage is "lust, the alldevouring sinful enemy of this world."
Later, in the twenty-first verse of the sixteenth chapter, Krishna described that there are three gates to hell: lust, anger, and greed, or kama, krodha and lobha. So it's clear that although all desires are fulfilled by Lord Krishna, still not everyone achieves Him personally, because they have not expressed a desire to serve Him. Because they reject Krishna consciousness, they remain in the hell of material life, birth after birth, serving the Lord's inferior energy.
Nirvishesh said: But how can Bhagavad Gita, the great scripture of peace and love, discuss topics like "sinful enemies" or "three gates to hell"?
Krishna das replied: Who says that the Bhagavad Gita is a text of peace and love? In the thirty-eighth verse of the second chapter Krishna specifically commanded Arjuna to fight. In fact, the Lord said, in the thirty-third verse of the eleventh chapter, that the enemies of Arjuna had already been put to death by the Lord's arrangement. Just as violence is needed to remove a cancerous tumor—that is, a doctor must use a scalpel to perform the operation—so the Lord commanded the great warrior Arjuna to slay his avaricious relatives who had become a cancer upon the face of the earth.
The Gita deals with such things because Krishna has nothing to do with the pabulum of impersonal compromise. The Lord is not a weathervane which points in any direction the wind blows. As the supreme spiritual master, the Lord spoke to Arjuna the absolute truth, regardless of whether or not it was palatable. Just as the wind causes destruction through stirring up a fire, so Krishna stirred up the fire of Arjuna's anger so that the miscreant Kauravas could be annihilated. Fighting on religious principles is far superior to the ahimsa movement of so- called non-violence.
Incidentally, I am glad to see that you are taking an interest in love and peace, but will you also refrain from eating flesh and thereby allow the innocent creatures you fill your belly with to also share in the peace you covet, as God intended?
In any case, these dangerous misconceptions of yours should be corrected through a careful study of a bona fide translation of the Gita. Never read the speculations of puffed-up non-devotees who pen their own whimsical interpretations of Krishna's words to suit either political ambitions or greed for fame and wealth.
Just as an elephant, while bathing, pulls up many lotuses, so Krishna uprooted the hosts of demons while He was on this planet. Yet all who died in the Lord's presence attained salvation by His mercy, including also the Kauravas.
Nirvishesh said: Despite your reasoning, I'm still not convinced.
Once a saintly man of true spiritual vision was cooking chapattis when a dog ran off with one of them. That enlightened fellow called out, "Hey dog! Stop! Bring that chapatti back and I'll put some ghee on it for you." This realized saint saw that because everything is God, one can serve God in any of His forms. How then can you disagree with my explanation that one can do whatever he likes and still serve God?
Krishna das replied: One may choose to be attracted to either the pastimes of God or the opposite, the pastimes of dog. But please consider for a moment the plight of a man attached to the pastimes of a dog. While the dog does his morning business in the street, the master is forced to hold the leash. So who, I ask, is the master of whom? The dog licks the "master's" nose, and the bewildered fellow reckons, "Oh how my dog loves to kiss me!" The so-called master is ignorant that the protruding fleshy nose is the part of the body the dog would eat first if the man were to die.
The unthinking "master" rubs his little "pet" this way and that in fatherly love. Consequently, he develops doglike consciousness and dooms himself to perdition. The dog longs for mating with a bitch in the street, while the master, a polished version of the former, needs sex in a swank brass bed. What's the difference? They're both after the same base pleasures. But human life is not meant for living, loving, eating, and dying like a dog. The valuable gift of a human birth is meant for getting out of the deep dark well of material ignorance and returning to our natural liberated position of Krishna consciousness.
You say that the dog is God, but how? Certainly the dog is part of God, but due to his past impiety, the jiva embodied in the body of a dog has been put into a sinful condition of life. So we must distinguish between service to God and service to dog.
Nirvishesh said: Perhaps it is true that we can distinguish; man, dog and all creatures have separate duties, but all are meant for the pleasure of God ultimately. For example, once a saint meditated peacefully while a scorpion stung him. An astonished well-wisher declared, "My dear sage, don't you realize there's a scorpion stinging you?" The sage answered, "Don't worry, good man, it's the nature of the scorpion to sting, and it's my nature to get stung." Stinger or stung—whatever—it's all one.
Krishna das replied: This example makes perfect sense—to anyone who has been stung by the poison of impersonalism! You claim to believe that all is one, but will you live with a family of scorpions?
Nirvishesh said: I can see that all of your answers possess some value, but I think I have detected a certain flaw. Now, certain masters say, "Those who know do not speak, and those who speak do not know." For example, if one knocks on the side of an empty water pot, then a loud sound can be heard. But knock on the side of a full water pot, and you'll hear nothing. This proves that words are the device of the ignorant. Those who are full in knowledge have no use for words. So what is the value of all of your arguments?
Krishna das replied: A proper analogy is supposed to compare many simi-larities between two otherwise unrelated items. The more similarities one can find between them, the better the analogy. I ask you, Nirvishesh, am I a water pot?
This empty water pot example of yours is also too full of holes to hold water from a philosophical point of view. You have stated that utter silence alone can represent the Absolute Truth. So you have employed speaking in order to tell me that truth is found in silence alone. Therefore your logic defeats itself. Your statement would crumble at a child's touch like poorly fired clay.
Of course great saintly persons may observe the vow of maunam, or silence, for long periods of time, but after their meditation they distribute their amassed wealth of clear knowledge by preaching to the receptive. They are just like great waterfalls of fresh clear water which sometimes come tumbling from the hills and sometimes cease to flow.
Nirvishesh said: These arguments sound very convincing, but I can understand why I have been unable to get past them. Although I am God and therefore all-knowing, it is because I have forgotten I am God that this failure on my part has arisen. When I succeed in my meditation and realize my supreme divinity, I'll come back and argue with you some more. But first I must borrow enough money to pay my guru for a secret mantra adapted exclusively to my vibrations.
Krishna das replied: Can you still claim to be God? I see that you have now become an unrealized God. According to the dictionary, the word "God" means "supreme controller." How is it that the supreme controller has become confounded by His own illusory energies? What kind of a god falls prey to the deluding potency that he creates to confound mortals such as our bewildered selves? If the Lord actually becomes a victim of maya, then maya—or Satan—is greater than God.
Nor can you purchase your way to immortality by bribing a cheater in the local "guru bargain basement." If this mantra is, however, such a great thing that it can make you into the Supreme Lord, then what is the use of keeping it a secret?
Those who pretend to profess the truth while actually floundering in ignorance mislead others and destroy themselves like serpents crawling over a hill of red ants.
A chain with a weak link will save no one from a deep well. Similarly, if even one flaw is found in a philosophy, the entire doctrine must be discarded as useless, because it will deliver no one from the dark well of birth and death.
A traveler stranded in the desert and thirsting for water saw a mirage. Although the mirage was unable to satisfy his thirst, still it proved a very important point. That is, the traveler would not have become mad after water upon seeing the mirage if real water did not exist somewhere else. Similarly, you have successfully proven yourself to be a "mirage god," but by the same token you have succeeded in proving the existence of a true God beyond yourself. For this service "Guru Mirage" and the innumerable other bogus incarnations presently stalking the earth for fame and wealth are to be commended!
It is clear what is actually at the root of the Mayavadi's philosophy: envy of God. Does a king appreciate an insignificant subject who appoints himself to sit upon the throne?
One who is puffed-up with borrowed plumes is as blind as the eyes that adorn the feathers of a peacock.
Nirvishesh, understand the lesson that nature has presented by showing us the tree burdened with ripe fruit, or the cloud filled with fresh water. As both of these hang low, so is a truly knowledgeable man humble. Only an arrogant upstart can pose as the all-knowing Supreme Lord.
Krishna said to Arjuna on the battlefield, "Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth." (Bg. 4.34) Bear in mind that a pretentious and challenging bluff can never win the ripe fruit of transcendental knowledge.
Once, a warrior approached a holy man to find the way to knowledge.
"Hey monk, teach me the difference between the path to hellish ignorance and the path to spiritual illumination," the proud soldier demanded.
The monk, noting the warrior's over-abundance of self-esteem remarked, "You call yourself a soldier? Why, you're nothing but a poor excuse for a water boy!"
The soldier's eyes flared like burning embers as he unsheathed and raised high his sword to behead the talkative monk.
"Now you're on the path to hellish ignorance," the monk said gently.
The soldier realized his vanity and threw down his sword. He bowed low at the feet of the holy sage.
"Now you're on the path to knowledge," the monk said.
Nirvishesh, I wish to make one request of you and one request only, because you are such a learned gentleman: Please give up your nonsense and surrender heart and soul to Shri Krishna!
Patita Pavana Dasa was initiated by Srila Prabhupada in 1968. He has written three books on Krsna conscious astrology (available from Sagar Publications in India) and a guidebook to Vrndavana (available, as is Shri Pushpanjali, from The Hare Krsna Bazaar http://www.krishna.com)
An artist tells how art
by Annapurna Devi Dasi
In Sweden most people don't go to church at all. My parents are not at all religious or philosophical. But as long as I remember, I believed in God. When I was eight or nine, just by looking at the scenery, the lake, the way the clouds move in the sky, I felt there was something divine in nature, something behind it—an intelligence, something extraordinary.
Although art was my best subject when I was small, I didn't have the idea that I would become an artist. I wanted to find the purpose of life. That was more important. I was looking for God consciousness. At that time I didn't connect my interest in art to God consciousness.
When I saw the painting of Kesava Visnu on the cover of Sri Isopanisad, I thought, "This is really something. If there's a God, He has to be something very special. He has to be an extraordinary personality." I had the feeling that God was a person. I didn't have to read the book—the picture told me so much. "This must be God."
I was at a back-to-nature festival, and devotees came and sat down to sing. It was so attractive. The vibration and the Hare Krsna mantra just went into my heart. And I just knew that this is the truth. I didn't need to go to a lecture and be philosophically convinced. I'm more intuitive. I find things more with my feelings and my intuition. It was such a wonderful experience.
My interest in art has always been there, but in the background. It has been like a thread throughout my life. I feel now that I was waiting for an opportunity when this interest would be activated. I knew I could express something through art.
I joined the Hare Krsna movement when I was 20, in 1978. There was no emphasis on my developing as an artist. I did book distribution, deity worship, temple services, got married, had a child. But I'm grateful for those years because bhakti-yoga is very purifying, and I feel that now I'm on much better ground to be more active as an artist and to develop as an artist.
I see what I'm doing now and what I did when I started in Krsna consciousness. I feel I can express myself better now, although I have not been practicing so much. I feel that as I'm progressing spiritually and as a person, it is making my art better.
I'm happy that I can express my conviction and my Krsna consciousness through art, because Krsna consciousness is such a treasure.
What is art? An artist has a certain mind and a certain way of looking at things. But I don't think I would be satisfied to paint just for the sake of making a nice picture. I feel that art is to express divinity. I think nowadays this has become somewhat lost.
I like to work with watercolors. It's such a wonderful medium, very delicate. The colors are so beautiful. You can express the lofty and dreamy and esoteric. With painting you can interpret. It comes from within yourself. How do you paint the spiritual dimension? The spiritual dimension is totally different from the material dimension, although we can get an idea of the spiritual from the material. Watercolors are nice for painting the spiritual dimension.
I'm convinced that every person has a special gift for himself and for the world and it can take a little time before you know what your gift is. When you discover that, you can live a more fulfilling, satisfying life because you understand your own uniqueness. And this uniqueness is not something like, "Oh, look at me. I'm this or that." But you understand that it's a gift from God, and you want to use it in His service.
If you're a devotee of Krsna you naturally want to share. Some people might be able to share by giving knowledge, or producing a magazine, or being a teacher, or taking care of kids. I hope to share my Krsna consciousness through art.
This is my life. My art reveals that Krsna is my life and soul. Krsna is so beautiful.
I've been living in the country for sixteen years. That environment influences me in a good way. I like to be able to see the sky and the trees. And to be in a temple is a very nice uplifting experience. I depend on my surroundings to be in balance. If I'm not in balance, I don't think I can work much with art. Through spiritual life, year after year after year, I've come to a balance with myself.
Krsna consciousness has helped me a lot as an artist. If you paint pictures of Krsna, they're spiritual pictures. Krsna is a spiritual person. To paint pictures of Krsna I feel I have to be very serious in my spiritual life. For Krsna to come alive in my pictures, I have to say, "Please Krsna, I'm your servant. Please help me to express myself and to paint You. It is very much what I would like to do as a service to You."
I find that it's hard for many people to understand that the Absolute Truth is a person. Explaining to them that God is blue and plays a flute and so on doesn't have the same effect as their seeing a painting. When they see a painting, they appreciate Krsna's beauty. Krsna can speak to them.
The purpose of Krsna consciousness is to fix one's mind on Krsna. Just imagine that you want to paint something about Krsna. You just fill your mind with Krsna's pastimes. Just take a vision of Krsna within yourself—how He's dressed and how He's wearing a garland. And you can almost smell the flowers and see His hair and His expressions and His dealings with His devotees. Painting is a meditation.
After living on a farm in Sweden for many years, Annapurna Devi Dasi currently lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with her husband, Yogindra Dasa, and their teenage daughter, Vrnda.
By tracing the journey of one soul,
by Bhayahari Dasa
We might sometimes wonder whether Krsna is really our well-wisher. If He indeed is, and if He is all-powerful, then why doesn't He simply take us back to our eternal spiritual home? Why does He force us to pray to Him, render service to Him, and surrender to Him before He lets us back in? Some people might view His actions as those of an egotistical tyrant, not those of the all-merciful benefactor He's made out to be.
To better understand Krsna's motives, let's follow a living entity we'll call Jivatma, who could be any one of us. As one of the innumerable spiritual beings living in harmony with God in the spiritual world, Jivatma, exercising his God-given free will, desires to enjoy separately from Krsna. He becomes envious of Krsna and other souls. Because envy is not permissible in the spiritual world, Krsna, the most compassionate father, has created a material world, separate from the spiritual world, where the living entity can enjoy independent of Him. So Jivatma leaves the spiritual world for the material world and begins to enjoy there, thinking himself the owner, trying to take all that is there for the taking.
Now, the problem is that everyone else in the material world is trying to own and enjoy the place. In this quest they're more than willing to deprive others. To protect Jivatma and everyone else, Krsna has created the law of karma to ensure fairness in a completely self-centered world. The law of karma dictates that one will suffer the consequences of evil deeds and enjoy the results of pious ones.
The situation is much like that of a prison. Having been incarcerated for breaking the law, prisoners are subjected to additional rules and regulations in the prison. If they break them, they get more punishment. Similarly, the living entities, having misused their free will, are now in the material world, where they are subject to the additional laws of karma. (On the other hand, just as a freed prisoner is no longer subject to the rules of the prison, a liberated soul transcends the laws of karma.)
Having descended to the material world, Jivatma tries hard to enjoy. Krsna keeps awarding him appropriate bodies according to his desires and activities. In one life, to fulfill his desire to eat flesh, Krsna gives him the body of a carnivore. In another life, Jivatma performs many pious activities, such as giving charity and helping the poor, and Krsna rewards him in the next life with material opulence and fame. In yet another life, he performs many sacrifices and, having pleased the demigods, obtains birth in heavenly planets as a demigod himself. There he enjoys a long and opulent life. But when the credit of his pious activities runs out, he again falls to the lower planetary systems.
Depending on his consciousness, Jivatma works in one of the three modes of material nature: goodness, passion, and ignorance. In all cases, he enjoys or suffers the reactions of past and present activities performed in these modes. As he continues to perform karmic activities, he stays locked to the endless cycle of repeated birth and death. Bound by the infallible rules of karma, and driven by his desires for sense gratification, Jivatma has by now transmigrated through most of the 8.4 million species of life, each specially suited for some form of sense enjoyment under the broad categories of eating, sleeping, mating, and fighting. But Jivatma never finds lasting peace and happiness. His senses burn like fire, and the more he tries to gratify them, the stronger their demands become.
Krsna, allowing Jivatma his free will, watches with much sorrow and compassion. He wants to show Jivatma a path out of material existence. He periodically descends to the material world to show amazing pastimes to inspire Jivatma and others like him. He gives instructions on how to return to the eternal abode, and He sends His trusted associates to inspire by word and example.
In one life, Jivatma has evolved to the human form, unique because it gives him the mind and intelligence to question and reason. Perplexed about the apparently random distribution of fortune and misfortune around him, he gradually begins to realize that the material world is not all that great. In fact, it's a pretty inhospitable place, where almost everyone is envious and self-serving. But having spent countless lifetimes in the material world, he has completely forgotten his original position in the spiritual world.
In his quest for answers, Jivatma meets a bona fide spiritual master, who, though in the material world, is a fully self-realized soul sent by Krsna to help fallen souls. Jivatma submissively questions his spiritual master and learns about his own original position and his current temporary situation.
But Jivatma is conditioned by many lives of identifying with his material body. So even though he hears about his true, original position, he can't develop a sincere desire to reclaim it. Understanding this, his spiritual master nurtures him gradually and gently. He first elevates Jivatma out of the mode of ignorance by instructing him to abstain from meat-eating, illicit sex, intoxication, and gambling. To further purify Jivatma's consciousness, his spiritual master requests him to chant the holy names of Krsna, which are identical with Him.
Jivatma dutifully follows the instructions of his spiritual master. Even though in the beginning he has no taste for the holy name, he chants in a regulated way. He begins to mechanically follow the daily procedures for worshiping Krsna given to him by his spiritual master. In the meantime, he patiently suffers his karmic reactions, accepting them as Krsna's mercy.
Having surrendered to the instructions of his spiritual master, Jivatma gradually begins to relish the chanting of the holy name. As promised by his spiritual master, the potency of the holy name is slowly and surely cleaning away many lifetimes of material conditioning.
Jivatma begins to realize the impermanence of the material body and the eternality of the spirit soul. He then inquires more from his spiritual master, having pleased him by rendering service to him. His spiritual master reciprocates by teaching more about Krsna and the process for returning to the spiritual world, and he lovingly relates many pastimes of Krsna and His associates.
By sincerely performing his regulated worship, Jivatma shows a sincere desire to return to Godhead. His practices purify his consciousness, and he gradually develops his latent love for God, which has become dormant under the modes of material nature. Krsna eagerly reciprocates with every step that Jivatma takes towards Him by taking ten steps towards Jivatma. Through his spiritual master and directly, Krsna gives Jivatma many realizations about Himself and the eternal loving relationship Jivatma enjoyed with Him.
Blessed in this way, Jivatma is now relishing the nectar of the holy name, understanding the name to be identical with Krsna. His ritualistic worship now becomes truly ecstatic, since he sees no difference between Krsna and His deity form. He understands that his true position is not in the material world, so he becomes detached from material trappings of wealth, power, followers, and glory. The same free will he misused to leave Krsna, Jivatma is now using to return.
Krsna is most pleased to reclaim His lost son, who has suffered much out of his own desire to enjoy separately. Seeing that Jivatma sincerely desires to return home, back to Godhead, Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, welcomes him back. Jivatma returns to the spiritual world, ecstatic about returning to a place where he can eternally serve His Lord without envy, freed from the cycle of birth, old age, disease, and death.
That is the happy ending. Like Jivatma, we were all in the spiritual world but fell to the material world by our free will. Like Jivatma, we have transmigrated through countless life forms, enjoying and suffering our karmic reactions. I hope and pray that like Jivatma we will also be fortunate to surrender to a spiritual master, and by his mercy and our sincere desire, return home, back to Godhead.
Bhayahari Dasa, a disciple of Romapada Swami, lives in Fairfax, Virginia, with his wife, Indulekha Devi Dasi, and six-year-old son, Dhruv. He works as an IT professional and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Compassion Without Limits
A mile or so from my house, beside a country road that curves gently through pine forests and hay fields, sits a haven of abject cruelty. On a concrete slab under a shiny metal roof, a few dozen calves endure what will be short lives in cages they barely fit in. Someone is—to say it euphemistically—raising veal.
I don't usually drive that road, so when I noticed the calves one day I started to tell my wife about them.
"Don't say any more," she said. "I can't even bear to hear it."
Compassion comes naturally for people pursuing real spiritual goals. Hare Krsna devotees are often dismayed to see otherwise gentle people, even religious people, so callous about the suffering of animals. Why would anyone who knows that animals are God's creatures needlessly harm them?
I often notice inconsistencies in people's compassion. A person whose heart breaks at the thought of abortion feels no sympathy for the victims of the slaughterhouse. A vegetarian champions a woman's right to kill her own child. A philanthropist for suffering humanity finds no pity for the plight of animals or the unborn.
Unless we take lessons from Krsna, our compassion will fall short. In Krsna consciousness we learn why our compassion should go out to every living being: Like us, each is a soul encased in a body; each is an eternal servant of Krsna.
Devotees of Krsna show compassion by trying to awaken everyone to their original, pure consciousness, or Krsna consciousness. We suffer because we've turned away from Krsna. When we go back to Him, our suffering dissolves. It is said that when we take full shelter of Krsna, our ocean of suffering will shrink down to the amount of water that fills a calf's hoofprint. We'll easily step over it.
Compassion requires humility, an essential quality for anyone trying for spiritual progress. I might become proud of my compassion when I see the lack of it in others. But when I remember saints who showed full compassion, I'm quickly humbled. The greatest devotees sacrifice their lives to give Krsna consciousness to others. They feel the suffering of others as their own and spontaneously work to apply the balm of Krsna consciousness.
Vasudeva Datta, a follower of Lord Caitanya, was unequaled in his display of compassion. He begged the Lord to allow him to suffer everyone else's karma so that everyone in the world could return to Krsna.
Lord Siva drank an ocean of poison to save the world. While relating that history, the Srimad-Bhagavatam declares, "It is said that great personalities almost always accept voluntary suffering because of the suffering of people in general. This is considered the highest method of worshiping the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is present in everyone's heart."
To stop the suffering of the animals, the unborn, the poor, the sick, the distressed, we all must do whatever we can to draw out—from ourselves and others—pure love for Krsna.
The entire universe is full of miseries, and therefore the inhabitants of this material universe are always shedding tears out of intense grief. There is a great ocean of water made from such tears, but for one who surrenders unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the ocean of tears is at once dried up.
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
A person who accepts the path of devotional service is not bereft of the results derived from studying the Vedas, performing austere sacrifices, giving charity, or pursuing philosophical and fruitive activities. Simply by performing devotional service, he attains all these, and at the end he reaches the supreme eternal abode.
Lord Sri Krsna
The holy name of Hari [Krsna] is the essence of the Vedas and far superior to them. One of Krsna's names is om, the seed from which the Vedas have sprouted. One who continuously chants Lord Krsna's names is considered to have mastered the four Vedas.
Srila Jagadananda Pandita
It is My vow that if one only once seriously surrenders unto Me, saying, "My dear Lord, from this day I am Yours," and prays to Me for courage, I shall immediately award courage to that person, and he will always remain safe from that time on.
Lord Sri Ramacandra
O my Lord, best of the givers of benediction, if You at all want to bestow a desirable benediction upon me, then I pray from Your Lordship that within the core of my heart there be no material desires.
Sri Prahlada Maharaja
A person fit for residence in hell can easily become a devotee of the Lord by chanting Lord Krsna's names. He can then enter the highest spiritual abode of the Lord.
It is the duty of every living being to perform welfare activities for the benefit of others with his life, wealth, intelligence, and words.
Lord Sri Krsna