IN THIS ISSUE several articles touch on the theme of the Lord's protection. At the end of Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna summarizes His teachings by saying, "Surrender unto Me." Surrender consists of six main items, the great spiritual master Rupa Gosvami has written, one of which is to have firm faith that Krsna will protect those who seek His shelter.
Krsna's instructions are one form of His protection. As Srila Prabhupada explains in his lead-off lecture, only Krsna can give us perfect knowledge, affording us the ultimate protection: liberation from material existence.
Krsna sometimes descends to protect His devotees from physical harm. His most notable incarnation for that purpose is Lord Nrsimhadeva. In this issue we hear about a unique holy site dedicated to Him. Satyaraja Dasa's biography "Draupadi: Emblem of Surrender" tells how Krsna cleverly protected the chastity of the wife of the mighty Pandavas. And we hear from Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami how "Krsna Protects Our Bhakti"—bhakti being the "It" in Urmila Devi Dasi's "You Can Take It With You."
May we all become inspired to increase our surrender to the Lord by always seeking His protection.
Hare Krsna.—Nagaraja Dasa, Editor
• To help all people discern reality from illusion, spirit from matter, the eternal from the temporary.
I was wondering what relevance the Hare Krsna movement has in today's society? Could you please spare some of your thoughts on the topic?
Our Reply: Srila Prabhupada, the founder of the movement, used to say that we're giving society a brain. Presently, society has no brain in the sense that it has no direction. The leaders of society don't know the purpose of human life. They mislead people under the misconception that this life is all there is.
But we're spiritual beings, and human life is the chance to reawaken our love for God and return to Him. If we waste our time in material pursuits and neglect our spiritual life—which should be our main business—we'll have to return to this world after death and take birth in any one of millions of species of life. The Hare Krsna movement is relevant to anyone who wants to make the proper use of human life. We're an educational institution, teaching people about God, our relationship with Him, and the process for going back to Him.
I am a regular reader of BTG, and I have the following doubt in my mind.
The Battle of Kurukshetra was a world war. At that time the progress of human civilization was at the same point everywhere around the globe. After that, Kali-yuga started. Now five thousand years have been passed, and we observe many types of civilizations and people and different levels of progress. People's physical appearance is different (Chinese, Asian, African, etc.). Their languages, language scripts, pronunciation styles, living styles, food habits, customs, traditions, etc., differ from one another very significantly. For what purpose was such variety created in human beings of Kali-yuga only? Or has it happened merely by chance?
Our Reply: Your assumption that variety in human society didn't exist at the time of the Kurukshetra war is incorrect. The Vedas say that there are 400,000 human "species," so variety has always existed. Various races were present on the Battlefield of Kurukshetra. The Srimad-Bhagavatam (2.4.18) mentions some of the races existing five thousand years ago: Kirata, Huna, Andhra, Pulinda, Pulkasa, Abhira, Sumbha, Yavana, and Khasa. (If you have a copy of Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavatam translation and commentary, you can read his interesting purport to that verse.) These races, like the other species of life, exist by the Lord's arrangement to fulfill the variegated desires and karma of the souls in this world.
Even though the Vedic kings ruled the world, some races lived outside the Vedic standard. For example, in Lord Krsna pastimes we hear about "aborigine girls."
As for the great variety of cultures today, they result from the natural progression of Kali-yuga, an age when people drift further and further away from the Vedic culture, the original human culture.
For more information on this topic, please see Proof of Vedic Culture's Global Existence, by Stephen Knapp (Sri Nandanandana Dasa).
Struggling with the Mind
I want to chant more and read more. I know I should, but my mind demands watching news, sports, etc. Because of my past habits, my mind is quiet when I am doing business or other activities other than spiritual activity. What can I do to change to more spiritual and progressive activity and less worldly affairs? I have family obligations, so I can't associate with devotees full-time. But I attend the temple every time I can and sponsor feasts and chant rounds and read BTG and Bhagavatam. I need to concentrate my mind on progress, and I can't.
At the age of five I was initiated with the mantra sri krsna saranam mama ["Lord Krsna is my shelter."] Because I like ISKCON's congregational chanting and Srila Prabhupada's scientific and transcendental approach to bhakti, I chant both mantras: ten rounds of the mantra I mentioned, and five rounds of Hare Krsna maha-mantra. Is that offensive?
Our Reply: Everyone struggles with the mind. Therefore, our acarya Srila Rupa Gosvami says that we must execute devotional service with enthusiasm, determination, and patience. We can't expect that there will be no struggle. You are already doing many good things, so just keep doing them, and gradually you'll feel less attracted to material activities.
There is no secret besides steady practice and the mercy of the devotees. In the beginning of our practices (and we're mostly all beginners) we have to perform the devotional practices even if they seem against our nature. Rupa Gosvami says that our condition is like that of the jaundiced patient who can't taste the sweetness of sugar. As he becomes cured, he tastes the sweetness. Rupa Gosvami says that if we practice every day, gradually we'll be cured of our material disease and awaken our taste for devotional service.
It is not offensive to chant both sri krsna saranam mama and the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, but we chant Hare Krsna exclusively because Lord Caitanya, the avatar for this age, instructed us to do so. We accept Lord Caitanya as Krsna Himself, and on His authority we chant the mantra He revealed. Besides that, the maha-mantra has the benefit of addressing both Radha and Krsna. Srila Prabhupada would point out that to approach Krsna we have to go through His energy, or Radha. So in that sense too we can understand why the maha-mantra is most authorized.
No Dairy Milk
Two readers objected to our reply to K. K. Wirth in the last issue, in which we mentioned why ISKCON members drink milk from commercial dairies. We ran out of space in this issue to print their letters, but here's a summary.
Tim Hitchner of Vancouver, B.C., Canada, wrote that ISKCON members should simply be vegan: "To say that as long as I offer the jug of milk I just bought at Safeway to Krsna before using it—even though the cow that gave it suffers in a very brutal way in a dairy farm—that the cow will still get the benefit is a bit of a stretch."
Ivar Verploegh from The Netherlands, who works in a health food store and has been an ISKCON member since 1993, says the obvious alternative is to use organic milk. His arguments: less violence involved, no harmful chemicals to offer to Krsna, organic cows benefited, easy availability of organic milk now (unlike when Prabhupada was present), better "vibration" in milk from suckling organic cows, and the possibility of soy milk (plus vitamins) as an alternative to cows milk.
Their letters can be found on our website: www.krsna.com.
Why Lord Krsna is the authority
by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
The Personality of Godhead, Lord Sri Krsna, said: I instructed this imperishable science of yoga to the sun-god, Vivasvan, and Vivasvan instructed it to Manu, the father of mankind, and Manu in turn instructed it to Iksvaku.—Bhagavad-gita 4.1
Bhagavad-gita is the preliminary study of the science of Godhead. The word bhagavan, from which the name Bhagavad-gita comes, means the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Generally, a fortunate or opulent man is called bhagyavan, which comes from the word bhaga. Bhaga means six kinds of opulence: wealth, strength, influence, wisdom, beauty, and renunciation. These are opulences. If a man is wealthy, he's attractive. Similarly, he's attractive if he's very strong, very influential, very learned, wise, or beautiful. He or she—it doesn't matter. Or if he's a great renouncer. Naturally we become attracted to one who has renounced everything for the benefit of the public.
In the material world we find some wealthy man, some rich man, some strong man, some beautiful man, some wise man, some renounced man, but they possess only a very small quantity of the total of these opulences. Take a rich man. He may be very rich, but he cannot claim, "I am the richest man." Nobody can claim, "I am the wisest man." Nobody can claim, "I am the strongest man." However strong one may be, he is under the rules and regulations of material nature. He cannot go beyond that.
Therefore, in this world you cannot find a Bhagavan, a supreme person possessing all these opulences. That is not possible. But here it is said, bhagavan uvaca. That means Krsna is the richest, the strongest, the most beautiful, the wisest, and the most renounced. He proved that by His actions when He was present in the material world, on this globe.
In this age, at the present moment, if a person can provide for his family nicely—nice apartment or nice house, good dress, good food—he's considered to be a very successful man. That is mentioned in the sastra [scripture]: daksyam kutumba-bharanam. Kutumba means "family." If one can provide for his family very comfortably, he is considered very expert. But family maintenance is done by cats and dogs. They also maintain their family, their wife and children, very nicely, according to their standard. But this age is so fallen that one is considered expert if he can obtain the preliminary necessities of life: eating, sleeping, sex, and protection from fear.
The age is so fallen that people have no food even. We all know how things are going on. People are hungry. No food. They have difficulty sleeping. Nobody's married timely, either boys or girls. And nobody's secure. Nobody knows what will happen at the next moment. These are symptoms of the current age, Kali-yuga.
"O learned one, in this iron age of Kali men have but short lives. They are quarrelsome, lazy, misguided, unlucky, and, above all, always disturbed." Alpa ayusah: people live a very short time. The duration of life is reducing. Anyone can see that. His forefather, his grandfather, lived for, say, a hundred years. His father lived for eighty years. And he's going to live for sixty years. In this way, the duration of life will be reduced to twenty years. That has been foretold. If a man lives for twenty to thirty years, he will be considered a very old man.
That day is coming. Because how will they live? There is no eating, there is no sleeping. These are required. Annad bhavanti bhutani. Simply by hearing dry lectures, how will people feel happy? There must be sufficient food grains so that people may live happily and the animals may live happily. Especially in India you will see. No animal is fatty, either cat, dog, or cow. They have no food.
Annad bhavanti bhutani. Everyone must be given sufficient food. Krsna does not say, "Fast and chant Hare Krsna." Krsna is not so impractical. He says, "Eat very nicely, maintain yourself very nicely, and chant Hare Krsna. Make your life successful." That is the program of the Krsna consciousness movement.
The Krsna consciousness movement is not one-sided—it is all-embracing. Sarve sukhino bhavantu. The Krsna consciousness movement wants to see everyone happy. Without being happy, how you can remain peaceful? That is not possible.
Therefore: bhagavan uvaca. Take lessons from Bhagavan, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the all-perfect. What will you gain by hearing this rascal or that rascal? Try to hear from the Supreme Personality without any fault, without any deviation. There are four kinds of defects in conditional life: we have imperfect senses, and we have the tendency to commit mistakes, to be in illusion, and to cheat. We are all infected with these four deficiencies of life, or material conditions of life.
One who is free from these defects is called mukta, liberated. Those infected with these defects cannot give you perfect knowledge. That is not possible. How can anyone gather perfect knowledge with imperfect senses? They can simply say, "Perhaps," "It may be," "Most probably." That's all. Theories. Nobody can say, "It is like this."
On the other hand, in the Vedas it is said, for example, exactly how many varieties of life there are. Jalaja nava-laksani sthavara laksa-vimsati, krmayo rudra-sankhyakah . . . Exact numbers: 900,000 species of life in the water, 2,000,000 varieties of trees and plants, 1,100,000 varieties of insects, 1,000,000 types of birds, 3,000,000 types of animals, and 400,000 types of humans. Everything is exactly calculated. That is Vedic knowledge.
How does this perfect knowledge come? Here Krsna says, imam vivasvate yogam proktavan aham avyayam. Avyayam means "that which does not deviate, that which is perfect." If you want to know perfect knowledge, you have to hear from Krsna.
Therefore: bhagavan uvaca. Bhagavan means the supreme wise, the most powerful, the most influential, the most beautiful, the most learned, the most renounced. Just see Bhagavan's renunciation. If we construct a building, how attached we become to that building! But Krsna has constructed the whole universe. We have no idea what the universe is. We have no idea what this planet is. We are trying to go to the moon, but we have no exact idea even of the moon. And there are innumerable planets. Yasya prabha prabhavato jagad-anda-koti-kotisu vasudhadi-vibhuti-bhinnam. Each planet is of a different type, a different climate, a different standard of life, different facilities. And there are innumerable planets. You cannot even count them all. This is only one universe, and there are millions of universes.
So Krsna, or the Supreme Lord, is the creator of these all universes. Still, He does not come here. Or, rather, He comes occasionally. But He does not claim this place. You utilize. He has given it to you. "You living entities, you wanted to enjoy this material world. All right, I give it to you. Enjoy."
Beginning from Brahma, down to the ant, all living entities are enjoying, and they're creating their own karma-phala, karmic reactions. And because the soul is creating his karma-phala, he's getting another body: sometimes an ant's body, sometimes Brahma's body, sometimes a cat's body, sometimes an American body, sometimes an Indian body, sometimes a monkey's body. In this way we are wandering all over the universes. This is called the material disease.
One who is wise, learned, should try to understand how to get out of the cycle of birth and death. Now you have got this American body, a body from a very nice, rich nation. And we have got an Indian body. That's all right. But what is the next life? People do not know. You prepare for the future by education, but how are you preparing for the next life? People do not know whether or not there is life after death. Such fools we are that we do not know.
Therefore we have to hear from the perfect person, Krsna. Krsna says, dehino 'smin yatha dehe. That is the first instruction. Dehino 'smin yatha dehe kaumaram yauvanam jara, tathadehantara-praptih. That is the beginning of spiritual education. Dehantara-praptih. We have to change this body, transmigrate from this body to another body. Transmigration is subtle, but no university teaches how the soul transfers from one body to another or what kind of body you are going to get next. There is no such science being taught. But the change of body is our real problem.
Therefore we have to hear from Krsna, Bhagavan, the Supreme, the person who can give us perfect knowledge. That is the process. If we really want knowledge, we have to hear from Krsna. And Krsna is so kind, He came personally.
yada yada hi dharmasya
"Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion—at that time I descend Myself." Krsna comes. He's so kind. He comes, He personally gives instruction, and He leaves the instruction recorded. Bhagavad-gita was spoken by Krsna to Arjuna, and it was recorded by Sanjaya, by the grace of Vyasadeva. And then Vyasadeva put the conversation in the Mahabharata. Mahabharata means "The History of Greater India." The whole planet is called Bharata, or Bharata-varsa. And the history of the whole planet is called Mahabharata.
Gita Is for Everyone
The Bhagavad-gita is set in the Mahabharata for the enlightenment of all human beings. It is not meant for the Hindus, for the Indians, for the brahmanas. No. It is meant for everyone, so that they can take perfect knowledge from Krsna and be happy. If you actually want to become happy, then accept Krsna's instructions. If you want to save yourself from this fallen condition, take instruction from Krsna. Do not deviate. Do not try to interpret Krsna's instructions in your own whimsical way. Simply try to understand what Krsna says. That's all. Then your life will be perfect.
Therefore Krsna says, "Try to understand Bhagavad-gita by this process." What is that process? Imam vivasvate yogam proktavan aham avyayam: "I first of all spoke to the sun-god, Vivasvan." The sun is there, but nobody knows what is in the sun. The so-called scientists and philosophers don't know. But it is possible to talk with the sun-god personally, provided you become qualified by Krsna's grace. Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He can go anywhere. The sun is a fiery planet. The bodies there are made of fire, just as here the bodies are made of earth. There are also planets where the bodies are made of water. These are the material elements. Bhumir apo 'nalo vayuh. Earth, water, fire, air—they are all material. I may have a suitable body to live on this earthly planet. The fish has a certain body to live in the water. The fish cannot live on the land. You cannot live in the water. That does not mean it is impossible to live in the water. Similarly, because you cannot live in the fire, that does not mean it is impossible for others. To think it is impossible is foolishness. The sun planet is made of fire. Those who have a suitable body can live there.
The atmosphere is different on every planet. The atmosphere in the water is different from that of the land, but we know there are living entities within the water, on the land, in the air, within the earth, within the ether. Therefore the living entity is called sarva-ga, "present everywhere." The body is differently made for different atmospheres, but the spirit soul is the same. Your spirit soul and my spirit soul are the same. But your body is called an American body, and my body is called an Indian body. That is the difference. Similarly, you and I are dressed differently. The body is just like a dress for the soul.
The first point of spiritual knowledge is this: "I am not this body." Then spiritual knowledge begins. Otherwise there is no possibility of spiritual knowledge. One who is thinking, "I am this body; this body is my self," is a rascal, an animal. That's all. This rascal animalism is going on all over the world. "I am American," "I am Indian," "I am a brahmana," "I am ksatriya." This is rascaldom. You have to go above this. Then there is spiritual knowledge. That is bhakti-yoga.
mam ca yo 'vyabhicarena
"One who engages in full devotional service, unfailing in all circumstances, at once transcends the modes of material nature and thus comes to the level of Brahman." Only by bhakti-yoga can you come to the spiritual platform. Caitanya Mahaprabhu said, "I am not a brahmana, I am not a ksatriya, I am not a sudra, I am not a brahmacari, I am not a grhastha, I am not a vanaprastha . . ." Our Vedic civilization is based on varna [occupation] and asrama [spiritual order]. So Caitanya Mahaprabhu denied all these things: "I do not belong to any one of these." Then what is Your position? Gopi-bhartuh pada-kamalayor dasa-dasanudasah: "I am eternally the servant of Krsna, the maintainer of the gopis [cowherd girls]." And Caitanya Mahaprabhu preached: jivera svarupa haya krsnera nitya-dasa. That is our identity: We are eternal servants of Krsna.
The servants who have rebelled against Krsna have come to the material world. To reclaim these servants, Krsna comes. And Krsna says,
"To deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion, I Myself appear, millennium after millennium."
Krsna comes. He's so kind.
Let us take advantage of Krsna's coming here, leaving behind the Gita. Read it perfectly, and make your life perfect. That is the purpose of the Krsna consciousness movement. It is not a bogus movement. It is a most scientific movement. Outside India, the Europeans and Americans are taking advantage of it. Why not the Indian youth? What is wrong? That is not good. Let us join together, start the Krsna consciousness movement very seriously, and deliver suffering humanity. That is our purpose.
People are suffering for want of knowledge. All necessities of life are available, but they are being mismanaged by the rogues and thieves. Become perfect in Krsna consciousness, take the management, and make your life successful.
Thank you very much.
A high school graduation
by Arcana Siddhi Devi Dasi
My husband and I take a seat on the shiny varnished bleachers in the large arena used for basketball games. The well-dressed crowd sits in anticipation as their sons and daughters, filing through the rear entrance in dark blue caps and gowns, prepare to graduate from high school.
I spot my son, Narayana, standing in the procession. His searching eyes meet mine, and we exchange grins. Unexpected tears fill my eyes. My husband squeezes my hand to comfort me.
I'm flooded with emotions and memories of the past seventeen years as a mother to my only child. Mental snapshots of his childhood appear: A plump colicky infant crying inconsolably in his wind-up swing. A mischievous toddler sneaking out of the room during nap time. A saintly looking four-year-old in saffron robes and shaved head, happily dancing in the temple to the rhythm of drums and cymbals. A child with a sleep disorder roaming our apartment at night, and me up watching him to make sure he is safe. A gurukula student standing with folded hands, reciting memorized verses from the ancient Vedic scriptures. A sensitive child lovingly holding a baby goat at the county fair. A frightened child coming to sleep with me at night. A sad child starting high school in public school after being in the gurukula since age five, sitting alone in the cafeteria, with no friends and too shy to talk to anyone. This mental picture increases the tears as I remember feeling his pain and so much wanting to protect him from the hardships of growing up in the material world.
Then there was the night he passed out in the field near our house. His concerned friends called us. When my husband and I arrived, he was conscious and lucid. He said he had fasted all day and had gotten sick on bad pizza. I wanted to believe him, but knew he was making it up. The next day he admitted to trying alcohol.
Challenges of Parenthood
Raising Krsna conscious children in our Western culture is a difficult assignment. It is said that it takes a village to raise a child. Unfortunately, most devotees don't live in insulated Krsna conscious communities, and the influences of the dominant culture insidiously seep into our ashrams, temples, and communities.
While Hare Krsna parents of my generation chose to be devotees after many years in materialistic life, our children, though raised in a spiritual atmosphere, often haven't made that internal commitment. They seem able to follow the path of Krsna consciousness in childhood, but as the influences of adolescence take hold, many turn away from the most basic practices.
Any parents who diligently raise a child in a Krsna conscious atmosphere, only to have their teenager reject, ignore, or devalue the teachings and practices, know the deep pain of perceived failure. We feel we've failed because we're aware of the warning in the Vedic scriptures that we shouldn't become a teacher, a guru, or a parent unless we can deliver our dependents from birth, death, disease, and old age, the main miseries of life in the material world. Still, if we've tried our best we can take heart from other teachings or examples in the scriptures. For instance, we find examples of atheistic parents whose child is a devotee of Krsna, and we find examples of Krsna conscious parents raising a child who becomes an atheist. Even Srila Prabhupada's own children apparently didn't take up Krsna consciousness wholeheartedly. The scriptures also teach us that if we become qualified devotees of the lord, as is Srila Prabhupada, then our family members are automatically delivered from material existence despite their own disqualification.
The Story of Citraketu
While it is the role of the parents to assist the child in making spiritual progress, children also inadvertently assist in their parents' progress as well. One of the most dramatic examples of this is the story of King Citraketu, recounted in Srimad-Bhagavatam. King Citraketu was a respected king with great riches and power, but no children. His many wives were all barren.
Seeing the king's distress, Angira, a great sage, visited the king and blessed him to have a son. Angira told the king that the child's name would be Harsa-soka, or "Happiness-Distress." The king assumed that the child would just be mischievous and naughty at times, as were all children, and so dismissed the omen of the child's name.
Soon one of the king's wives gave birth to a beautiful boy. The king, infatuated with the child and the child's mother, neglected his other wives, who became distraught. Envy clouded their intelligence, and they plotted to poison the child. Seeing his dead son, the king lamented piteously.
Had the story ended here, the king most likely would have been consumed by his loss. But Angira Muni, accompanied by the transcendental sage Narada, appeared before the king. By his mystic power, Narada Muni summoned the spirit soul who had left the child's body. Obeying the order, the soul re-entered the child's dead body. Because of the presence of the soul, the body again became animated, and Narada asked the child to speak to his parents, the king and queen.
"According to the results of my fruitive activities," the child said, "I, the living being, transmigrate from one body to another, sometimes going to the species of the demigods, sometimes to the species of lower animals, sometimes among the vegetables, and sometimes to the human species. Therefore, in which birth were these my mother and father? No one is actually my mother and father. How can I accept these two people as my parents?"
As the child spoke transcendental knowledge, the king realized the error of his perception. He had been thinking, "This child is mine, born to give me pleasure." But now the king could see differently. The spirit soul he was thinking to be his son was occupying that body only temporarily. The king, now free of material illusion and attachment, could direct his affections toward the Lord, and he gained the highest happiness.
For many of us, our children's adolescent antics serve to teach us lessons similar to those learned by King Citraketu. It is helpful to think of our children as "gurus" and be open to the many lessons they teach us, especially about attachment and detachment. In the Eleventh Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, a saintly renounced monk shows how to extract spiritual lessons from all our encounters in the material world. He describes twenty-five "gurus" who have assisted him on his spiritual journey, including a pigeon and a prostitute.
From the pigeon the saintly person learned about the suffering of material attachment. He observed a male pigeon's interactions with his family members. When the pigeon's mate and offspring were caught in a hunter's net, the pigeon became so disconsolate and disoriented that he too fell into the net.
The saintly person learned another lesson about detachment by watching a prostitute eagerly awaiting a suitor in the early evening. With each passerby she would become hopeful of getting a customer, but as the night wore on, she felt more and more discouraged. Finally, the prostitute became detached. She no longer desired degraded encounters as a way to make money. She was filled with peace, and her natural inclination to love the Lord awoke.
Emulating the example of the saintly person, we too should search for the spiritual lessons ever present in our daily lives. Our children offer us many situations in which to practice loving detachment. Adolescence is particularly rich with these opportunities.
A couple of years ago, I had the chance to speak with some Hare Krsna children who were now young adults. They kindly told me of their struggles navigating adolescence and assured me that my son would not be lost. The advice they gave me, and any parent raising teens, was to be your child's friend and as much as possible give unconditional love and acceptance. I took their advice to heart, and I added two ingredients to their formula: set limits befitting the child's age, and pray.
I take a deep breath and, coming back from my thoughts, wipe my eyes and focus the camera as I hear my son's name called. He steps up to accept his diploma and certificate of merit. Another snap shot to add to my memories of raising my son. I'll continue to pray for his spiritual awakening, so he can one day graduate from the material world and return to his eternal home.
Arcana-siddhi Devi Dasi was initiated by Srila Prabhupada in 1976. She lives with her husband and son in Baltimore, Maryland, where she works as a family therapist.
"Create Ideal Men"
This exchange between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and Australia's director of research for the Department of Social Welfare took place at the Melbourne ISKCON center, on May 21, 1975.
Srila Prabhupada: The defect of the Western countries is that practically there is no social structure. The father and mother divorce, and the children become aimless. In most cases this is the defect.
Director: That happens. Yes.
Srila Prabhupada: I have seen this pattern with many of my students. Their whole family becomes disrupted, because the father and mother—even in old age—divorce. I have seen the mother of one of my students. His father was a very good businessman. Very nice family, with a good income. All of a sudden, the father and mother disagreed about something and got a divorce. The sons were thrown into confusion; the daughters were thrown into confusion.
Director: That's the kind of cases we deal with.
Srila Prabhupada: The father married again, and the mother married again. They were not happy, and also, the business closed. So by this one instance I can understand how, in the Western countries, people have broken away from the traditional social structure. Of course, the root cause is godlessness. That is the root cause.
Director: And now divorce is getting easier, too. Isn't it?
Srila Prabhupada: That is a very dangerous law—to allow divorce. Divorce should not be allowed. Even if there is some disagreement between husband and wife, it should be ignored. The great political strategist Canakya Pandita says, dampatye kalahe caiva bahvarambhe laghu kriya: "The husband and wife's quarrel should not be taken very seriously." Further, aja yuddhe: "A marital fight is just like a fight between two goats." The goats may be fighting very spiritedly, but if you say "Hut!" they will go away. Similarly, the fight between husband and wife should not be taken very seriously. Let them fight for some time; they will stop automatically. But now when the husband and wife fight, each goes to a lawyer, and the lawyers give encouragement. "Yes, let us go to the divorce court." This is going on.
So the first defect of modern society is the law allowing divorce. Another defect: there is no method for training a man to become first-class. That method is there in the Vedic civilization. Now, of course, that method is also abolished, due to the degradation of this modern age.
Formerly, though, society was divided into four classes—brahmanas, ksatriyas, vaisyas, sudras: advisors, administrators, merchants, and workers. The brahmanas were first-class men—ideal. But in today's society there is no ideal man. Society should have some living example, so that people can see, "Oh, here is an ideal man." And the ideal man is described here in our Bhagavad-gita. Any man can be trained. And if even just one percent of the people become ideal, the remaining ninety-nine percent will see and follow. But now there are no ideal men. That is the defect.
So we are training people to become ideal men. That is the purpose of this movement. And in practical terms, you can see what our students were in their previous life and what they are now. Therefore, the government should establish an institution to create ideal men. We can help.
Director: But becoming an ideal man would be very difficult for the grown men who come to us, although it would be possible for the kids who come.
Srila Prabhupada: No, even the grown men can live according to these spiritual principles, just as my disciples are living. My disciples have not been with me since childhood; when they met me, they were already grown men. They are coming from the same group. But they are now saintly. It is simply a matter of training them.
The thing is, at present I have no facility. Whatever I have done has been by personal endeavor and their cooperation. None of your Western governments has helped me, nor did my government help me, although we are struggling to make a class of men ideal. Of course, they appreciate, but they do not give us any practical support.
For instance, we have purchased this house by our endeavor, with great difficulty, because we have no income. I write my books; then we sell and get some income. So somehow or other, we expand, but no government is helping us. Rather, they are facilitating brothels and liquor shops.
At least, formerly in India there was no drinking propaganda. Now the government is even making that. They are opening wine shops. In India, even in the British period, drinking was very, very restricted. Very, very restricted. First of all, in Indian society if anyone drank, he was rejected; he was not regarded as a gentleman. A drunkard was never respected.
Similarly, meat-eaters. A meat-eater was considered a third-class man. In our childhood we saw that when people learned to eat meat, they did it very secretly, not within their own home. Instead, they ate meat far away from home, with someone else doing the cooking. It was considered very abominable to eat meat or to drink.
As for illicit sex, that also was very rare. Young women were kept strictly under the supervision of parents. The father would see that his daughter did not mix with any boy. If a girl were to go out at night and not come back, then her life would be finished—nobody would marry her. So the father had to keep his daughter with great care. And he was very, very anxious to find a suitable boy to whom he could hand his daughter over for marriage. We saw all this in our childhood. But now these nice social customs are slackened. Jawaharlal Nehru, our late prime minister, introduced the divorce law, and now Indian society is in a chaotic condition.
Director: What can you do if society wants divorce? Society wants it that way.
Srila Prabhupada: "Society wants it." That's like your child wants to go to hell—but it is not your duty as his father to allow him to go to hell.
"Society wants it." Society does not know the proper standard of spiritual behavior, nor does the government know how to uplift people. The government does not know. For all the government knows, the animals and we human beings are the same. Simply, the animals loiter naked, and we are nicely dressed—that's all. Civilization finished. I remain an animal, but my advancement is that I am very nicely dressed. That is the standard now.
But our Vedic civilization is not like that. The two-legged animal must change his consciousness. He must be trained up as a human being.
[To a disciple:] Bhagavad-gita lists the qualities of the first-class man. You can read them.
Disciple: Samo damas tapah saucam ksantir arjavam eva ca / jnanam vijnanam astikyam brahma-karma svabhava-jam: "Peacefulness, self-control, austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, knowledge, wisdom, and religiousness—these are the natural qualities by which the brahmanas work."
Srila Prabhupada: So people should be trained according to these spiritual principles. The way to immediately solve all society's problems is to start an institution for training the four natural classes of men. Begin it. If there is no training, how can you expect nice citizens? If you allow a child to smoke from the very beginning and to commit all kinds of other sinful activities, how can you expect him to be a nice gentleman when he is grown up? It is not possible.
Creating ideal men is possible through this Krsna consciousness movement. As you have said, older men may not be so much inclined to come and join. But if we train men from their childhood, then everything is possible. It is not that all men can be trained up spiritually. But if even a small percentage of ideal men are in society, at least people will think, "Oh, here is the ideal."
But now there is no such facility. We are training our students, but sometimes people laugh: "What is this nonsense?" They criticize. These leaders of society do not encourage us. Yesterday I was talking with a priest, and about illicit sex he said, "What is the wrong there? It is a great pleasure."
We are training our students according to actual spiritual principles, and so we are proclaiming that illicit sex is sinful. In fact, our first condition is that one must give up these four things: illicit sex, meat-eating, intoxication, and gambling. This is my first condition before accepting people as my students. So they agree and they follow.
Director: But not all the people we encounter will do that.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, they will do that, if a regular institution runs on in this way—with all facility.
A young Krsna devotee sets off on a dangerous
by Dhruva Dasa
In 1980 I was born to devotee parents in the large Hare Krsna community of New Vrindavan, West Virginia. From my infancy my parents brought me to the temple each day. Gradually, as a young child I grew attached to the large, fierce-looking deity of Krsna's form as Lord Nrsimhadeva (Narasimha) and His foremost devotee, the boy-saint Prahlada. When I was six, Prahlada's age, the priest allowed me to assist him in the temple worship of Lord Nrsimhadeva. Although the Lord looked frightening, I always felt protected when I stood before Him.
When I was sixteen my family visited India. I fell in love with the spiritual atmosphere there and decided to return as soon as possible. By the time I turned eighteen I had decided to make the journey on my own. I worked hard to save for the trip and agonized over my itinerary. India is so big—where should I go?
One day I visited the Hare Krsna temple in Miami. As I glanced over a large stack of old issues of Back to Godhead, a stray breeze blew open the top one to a full-page photo of Lord Nrsimhadeva. The picture seemed to beckon me. Reading the accompanying article, I was amazed to learn about a young sannyasi, Indradyumna Swami, who had made an incredible journey to Ahovalam, a remote South Indian holy place said to be the very spot where Lord Nrsimhadeva dispatched the evil Hiranyakasipu. His article inspired me so much that I set my mind then and there on making the difficult pilgrimage to Ahovalam.
I began my India adventure in Vrndavana, where I visited a remarkable three-eyed deity of Nrsimhadeva. From there I proceeded south to several well-known holy places, including Srirangam and Tirupati, my last stop before Ahovalam.
The devotees at the ISKCON Tirupati temple asked me where I was going next. When I said Ahovalam, they looked at me as if I were crazy and urged me not to go. Seeing they could not dissuade me, they strongly cautioned me to stay only for one day and get out of there. I thought they were just joking until I realized that I was the only one laughing. An experienced devotee warned me that people there try to rob and kill you and that the surrounding jungle holds ferocious, wild animals such as bears, tigers, and cobras. With these words of encouragement I felt terrified—but even more excited! The journey would truly test my faith in Lord Nrsimhadeva.
After a grueling ten-hour bus ride, I arrived at the Allagada station, where I'd catch the Ahovalam bus. As I waited, a large group of people suddenly surrounded me, the only blonde kid in the whole station. An English-speaking man asked where I was going. When I replied, "Ahovalam," he looked at me very strangely. When he told the crowd what I had said, everyone stared at me even more.
"Why do you want to go to such a place?" he asked. "It is a very dangerous place."
"I am going to see Lord Nrsimhadeva," I replied.
"May He protect you," he uttered gravely, and walked away.
Aboard the bus and getting closer to Ahovalam, I could feel my limbs start to tremble, and my heart beat fast. I didn't know what lay ahead, but I was going to see my Lord at His home.
The Lord Sends a Guide
After an hour on the bus through the middle of nowhere, I reached the tiny village of Lower Ahovalam. There I saw Lord Nrsimhadeva at the Laksmi-Narasimha temple, the first of nine forms of the Lord to be seen in the Ahovalam area. Then I arranged for some rough accommodations—the only kind available. A shower is a bucket of water you pour over yourself.
I was in the middle of my shower when someone knocked on the door and called out, "Hello. Hare Krsna!"
Having been warned about thieves, I opened the door cautiously. There stood two Indian men. One of them, tall and saintly looking, introduced himself as Madhu, from Vijaywada. Years before, he had lived in an ISKCON ashram and was now initiated in the Ramanuja line. He said he'd heard that I wanted to see all nine forms of Lord Narasimha.
"Yes," I answered, thinking, Word sure gets around fast here.
He said, "I'm going to go tomorrow morning. Why don't we go together? I have been several times and can take you to all nine forms."
I felt convinced this must be Nrsimha's arrangement, so I readily agreed. I asked Madhu how much he would charge.
"I am glad just to serve another devotee," he humbly replied.
Madhu said that to see all nine forms in one day, we would have to spend the night in the jungle.
The Trek Begins
In the morning I rose early and met Madhu. We visited the nearby Laksmi-Narasimha temple to pray for a safe journey. Remembering a photograph in the old Back to Godhead, I recognized the same pujari who had taken Indradyumna Swami on his tour here in 1979.
Our walk to Bhargava-Narasimha, the second of the nine local forms of Nrsimhadeva, took us through a thick jungle with paths in all directions. Madhu said that no matter how many times you go there you can never remember the way.
"You have to depend on the Lord," he said.
The next thing you know, we were lost. I felt nervous. We finally found the way and arrived at the beautiful temple, where we chanted for a while. In the past many great sages worshiped the deity here. Madhu said that the deity is named for Parasurama (also known as Bhargava), the warrior incarnation of God. Parasurama had performed penance near Ahovalam at a place now known as Ramatirtha.
Next we set off to see the third form, Catravada Narasimha. Madhu mentioned that if we were lucky we would be able to see all nine forms on this holy day. Catravada was a long walk from town, but I was extremely pleased to see Him. He was effulgent and had a big smile. We were allowed to touch our heads to His lotus feet.
Near Catravada is Yogananda Narasimha, the last of the nine forms of Lord Narasimha in Lower Ahovalam. He looked magnificent and powerful. Of the nine Narasimhas, Yogananda is said to be the most merciful.
We ran back to catch the bus to Upper Ahovalam, a trip through dangerous and treacherous terrain. After a while the bus stopped, and the driver directed us to get off. I saw nothing but jungle, but as the bus drove away, the temple of Karanja Narasimha came into view. He is named after a fruit-bearing tree growing next to the temple.
Having now visited the first five Narasimha forms, we had to walk the rest of the way to the next: Ugra Narasimha, a deity tucked in a cave between two mountains. The walk was beautiful. All around was an untouched jungle, overgrown and full of wild animals, which, fortunately, we did not encounter. Soon we reached the temple of Ugra Narasimha, constructed inside His cave. The deity looked ferocious. We prayed for a safe trip to our next stop, the Ugra Stambha, said to be the actual pillar from which Lord Narasimha appeared.
Atop the Historic Pillar
After a side trip to the ancient Varaha Narasimha cave/temple, we followed an adjacent stream bed to the Ugra Stambha and the seventh form, Jvala Narasimha. The terrain proved most difficult. Madhu told me that not many people make this journey because it requires crossing a huge and dangerous waterfall. On the way up I saw a couple of wooden boxes next to the path.
"Those are for the people who died making the climb," Madhu said.
I didn't need to hear that.
Nestled on the side of a cliff, the Jvala Narasimha temple is said to be the exact spot where the Lord killed the demon Hiranyakasipu. Next to the temple is a large stream. At the spot where Narasimha washed his hands after killing the demon, the water flows blood-red and even feels like blood.
After more climbing we reached the top of the large stone pillar. The view was spectacular. I couldn't believe I'd actually made it. We'd been walking all day long, with very little to eat and just water to drink, but I hadn't thought of anything except the thrill of being in this spiritual place.
My contentment was short-lived; now it was time to go to the eighth form, which meant another long walk through the mountains. At last we reached the temple of Mohaloha Narasimha, situated on the side of a mountain. According to Madhu, Laksmi did penance to marry the Lord here.
Next we went to the Prahlada school, which has Sanskrit writing on the walls dating from the days of Prahlada's studies here. Near this high, mountainous spot was another cave, with a beautiful Yoga Narasimha deity in it. But we still had one more destination: the Bhavana Narasimha deity, four miles away.
Although Madhu had warned me not to walk ahead on the path, I did so anyway. Suddenly a huge cobra slithered in front of me. It seemed to be ten feet long. I heeded Madhu's warning and let him lead. The jungle was so dangerous, even in the daytime. Now it was close to dark, and we still had miles to go.
As we ascended the mountain trail, nearby villagers screamed angrily at us. Madhu just kept walking. When we reached a mountain-top stopping point, he told me they were saying that it is forbidden to enter the jungle at night because of the wild animals. People who go in, they said, never come out again. They also said that no one should go to the Bhavana temple at night, because at that time the demigods come to worship Lord Narasimha.
Now I was really scared. Then I saw a dead snake in the middle of the path. A bad omen, Madhu said, but we just had to depend on the Lord for protection. Suddenly it was pitch black. I pulled out my tiny flashlight. I shook with fear and prayed to Lord Narasimha for protection.
Protected by Fire
In spite of the dark we somehow made it over the big mountain. As we did, we were amazed to see that the forest ahead was on fire, except for the small path we were following.
I thought, It must be Lord Narasimha lighting up the jungle and keeping wild animals away.
The fire went on all the way to the temple.
At last we reached the ninth and last deity. Lord Narasimha and His consort looked so beautiful. We thanked Him for allowing us to attain His audience.
We were exhausted, and it was too dark to go back, so we decided to sleep in the front area of the tiny temple. I tried to go to sleep, but I felt too excited and amazed to be sleeping in the Lord's temple.
Suddenly I felt something sniffing and touching the back of my neck and ear. I jumped up and saw nothing. Madhu said he would stay up to see what it was. He turned on the flashlight and began telling me wonderful stories about the Lord. Then, with a loud pop, the brand-new flashlight went out. We tried everything to fix it, but without success.
Just at that moment the wind started to blow ferociously. I wondered if we were offending the demigods by being here. After a while I fell asleep, only to be awakened by Madhu frantically pulling me into the temple's inner sanctum. I was so groggy I didn't ask why. Madhu hastily slammed the gate shut and secured it as best he could.
Looking up I was stunned to realize I was sitting right at the base of Lord Narasimhadeva's lotus feet. I lay down and felt at peace. Then a bone-chilling roar broke the stillness.
I froze and whispered to Madhu, "What was that?"
He assured me there was nothing to worry about.
"Just go to sleep," he said.
The next morning we set off for a long walk to two more Narasimha temples, named Giridhari and Jyoti. Jyoti was the most amazing and ferocious deity of all I'd seen. His name indicates that the forest would always be burning because of His anger.
From Jyoti we were able to catch a bus back to Ahovalam. It took seven hours. In the evening when we arrived we went straight to Laksmi-Narasimha temple—the first stop on our tour—and thanked the Lord for His protection. Later, while we ate, Madhu explained why he had moved me to the inner sanctum of the Bhavana temple the previous night. While I was asleep, three huge wild black bears had come up, smelled us, and circled the temple.
The next morning we returned to see Bhargava Narasimha, the second of the nine forms. I felt blessed when we were allowed to clean the whole temple. As we left, a crowd of villagers surrounded us. Madhu spoke with them, then translated for me. They were shocked to see us alive after entering the jungle at night. They also said that, although they were born there and had lived their whole lives in the area, we were the first people they'd known who had managed to see all nine forms of Lord Narasimha in a single day.
Meeting the Swami
It was time to move on. I thanked Madhu profusely, and we both said we hoped to meet again. Because of his humble and devotional attitude, Madhu had been an inspiration for me. Far from trying to take advantage of me, an inexperienced young Westerner in a foreign land, Madhu had taken care of everything, even our bus fares. As my bus lumbered away, I thanked Lord Narasimha for giving me Madhu's company.
A few days later I arrived in Jagannatha Puri. After checking in to a hotel, I was astonished to learn that Indradyumna Swami happened to be staying at the very same place. I had never met him, except through the article in the old BTG. I went to his room and paid my respects. Tears filled his eyes as he learned of the journey I had made in his footsteps.
Dhruva Dasa lives with his parents, Dharmatma Dasa and Dvijapriya Devi Dasi, and brothers in Alachua, Florida.
Draupadi—Emblem of Surrender
by Satyaraja dasa
Although married to five of the greatest warriors on earth, only Krsna could protect her.
In the world's religious traditions, we find that God sometimes reveals His presence through ordinary objects. In the Bible, for example, He appears before Moses as a burning bush. Elsewhere in the Bible, a beam of light and as a voice from on high signify His presence. It should not be surprising, then, that in the epic Mahabharata He lets the members of a royal assembly know He's present—though unseen by them—by supplying an endless sari for His devotee Draupadi.
The Vaisnava tradition sees Draupadi as the very emblem of surrender to the Lord. She was a princess of the ancient Indian kingdom of Panchala. The Mahabharata says that she is an expansion of the goddess Laksmi, consort of Lord Visnu. In the life just before her birth as Draupadi, she was an ascetic woman named Nalayani. Lord Siva, best of the devas, or demigods, blessed her to have five virtuous husbands in her next life. So as Draupadi she became the wife of the Pandava brothers, the heroes of the Mahabharata. (Although monogamy was the norm in India even at that time, five thousand years ago, polygamous and polyandrous marriages were known among the warrior class.)
When Draupadi reached marriageable age, her father, King Draupada, held a magnificent celebration during which she would choose her husband. Warriors came from all over to show their mastery of military arts and vie for her hand. Arjuna, the most skilled archer among Pandava brothers, easily won the contest—and the bride. On returning home, Arjuna told his mother, Kunti Devi [see BTG, May/June, 2000], that he had won a valuable prize. Without turning to look, Kunti replied, "Whatever it is, share it with your brothers."
Because of Kunti's spotless character, her words could never prove false. So, after a discussion of propriety and Vedic precedent, each of the five brothers accepted Draupadi as his wife.
Draupadi was a dutiful wife of great integrity. She selflessly accompanied her husbands during their forest exile after they had lost their kingdom to the Kauravas. She accepted her husbands' fate as her own. While in the forest, she offered them much needed comfort and solace. And when required, she spurred them into action.
A woman of courage and determination, Draupadi stood her ground in marital disputes. For example, she rebuked Yudhisthira for his grave error in gambling away the kingdom. Yudhisthira nearly cost Draupadi her honor and even her life. Before losing the kingdom, Yudhisthira had wagered Draupadi and lost. So the Kauravas, the avowed enemies of the Pandavas, claimed Draupadi as their own. The Kaurava Duhsasana dragged Draupadi by the hair into the gambling arena and the presence of royalty and elders. Infuriated and humiliated, Draupadi argued that the Kauravas had tricked Yudhisthira into the rigged gambling match. And since she was the wife of all five Pandavas, she said, Yudhisthira had no right to decide alone to wager her. She questioned the ethics behind the whole affair and spoke lucidly about the deviousness of the Kauravas.
But the Kauravas would not hear it. They berated her, and Duhsasana tried to rip off her sari. She protect herself for a while, but eventually she realized that Duhsasans's strength too great. She threw up her arms in surrender—not to the Kauravas, but to Krsna.
"Krsna!" she cried. "O Govinda! O Kesava! O beloved of the gopis and Lord of Vrndavana! O Janardana, You are the destroyer of all affliction. I am sinking into the Kaurava ocean. O Lord, O soul of the universe, O creator of the world, save me! I am distressed and losing my senses in this evil assembly!"
In Dvaraka, hundreds of miles away, Lord Krsna heard her prayers. He came to her rescue by supplying unending cloth. The more Duhsasana pulled, the more Draupadi's sari increased. Shocked by the miracle before him, Duhsasana fell to the floor exhausted.
The image of Draupadi with arms upraised in total dependence on Krsna inspires surrender in devotees even today. It reminds them of a devotee who, long ago, showed herself to be the very emblem of surrender.
Lord Krsna's supplying unending cloth to Draupadi has its roots in an earlier exchange that took place in Indraprastha, the Pandava's kingdom. While Lord Krsna was visiting, Draupadi, despite having many servants, personally served Him, winning His affection. One day Krsna cut His finger while paring fruit. Draupadi quickly tore off a piece of her sari to bandage the cut.
Accepting the cloth, Lord Krsna smiled and said, "O gentle lady, I will surely repay this gift of your sari."
Although Krsna's body is completely spiritual, He can choose to bleed if it enhances an exchange of love between Himself and His devotee.
An incident at the end of the Battle of Kurukshetra elicited from Draupadi an astonishing display of compassion. Asvatthama, the son of Drona, the Pandava's military teacher, killed Draupadi's five sons in their sleep. For this cowardly, heinous act, Arjuna captured him and brought him before Draupadi to decide his fate. Arjuna was ready to kill Asvattama on the spot, encouraged by Lord Krsna. But Draupadi stopped him.
"Release him," she said. "Don't make the wife of Drona cry like me."
Rising above hatred and vengence, Draupadi showed the world a superlative example of selfless love and the heart of a Vaisnava.
Because of her pure love for Krsna, Draupadi naturally achieved His association after death. The Srimad-Bhagavatam says that she and her husbands returned to the spiritual world in the same bodies with which, here on earth, they had taken part in Lord Krsna's eternal pastimes.
The History of Draupadi's Birth
IN YOUTH, Prince Drupada and the brahmana boy Drona, son of the sage Bharadvaja, played and studied together as close friends. But when Drupada became king, he looked down on Drona and refused his friendship. Vowing revenge, Drona traveled to Hastinapura, where the great Kuru elder Bhisma turned over to him his grandsons, the Kurus and the Pandavas, for military training.
Though a brahmana, Drona had received celestial weapons from Parasurama, the incarnation of Lord Krsna who had descended to destroy the irreligious ruling class. After Drona had taught his students all the military arts, he sent them to conquer Drupada's kingdom. When they brought Drupada before him, Drona told Drupada that they could now be friends, since they both had kingdoms: Drona would keep half of Drupada's kingdom, conquered by Drona's students, and let Drupada keep the other half.
Humiliated, Drupada left Hastinapura with but one wish—to get a son who would uphold his name by killing Drona. After pleasing the sage Yaja, Drupada convince him to help him attain his goal. Yaja prepared a special dish, which, when taken by Drupada's queen, would make her conceive twins. When Yaja offered the queen the dish, however, she said she wasn't ready, and the sage offered the dish into the sacrificial fire.
From out of the fire came a warrior, glowing like the fire itself. Dressed for battle, he let out warrior cries. Yaja named him Dhrstadyumna, signifying a bold, courageous person born from shining light. He was destined to kill Drona.
Then from the middle of the sacrificial fire arose an enchantingly beautiful maiden. No woman on earth could match her beauty. A voice from the sky announced that she had come to fulfill a divine mission and would be would be the ruin of many kings.
Yaja revealed that because she would be a great devotee of Krsna and because she was dark (krsna), she would be called Krsna.
She was also known as Draupadi, and her mistreatment at the gambling match between Yudhisthira and Sakuni was one of the main causes of the Battle of Kurukshetra—a battle ultimately arranged by Lord Krsna to rid the world of its burden of demoniac kings.
Satyaraja Dasa is a disciple of Srila Prabhupada and a regular contributor to Back to Godhead. He has written several books on Krsna consciousness. He and his wife live in New York City.
A Lifelong Search for Something More
"I am now in a place where I can never forget Krsna,
by Indrani Devi Dasi
I was born at home in Harlem, New York, on October 31, 1926. My father was sixty-two, my mother in her late forties. Mother was a pious woman who read her Bible regularly and always spoke of God. My parents were strict with me, but that did no harm. Discipline and etiquette were an important part of my life.
My parents were members of the Marcus Garvey movement, or the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), founded in 1914. Garvey (1887-1940) devoted his life to correcting the injustices black people suffered. He provided a vision that gave many people a renewed sense of dignity and destiny. As members of the Marcus Garvey movement, we didn't go to church on Sundays but to meetings and rallies. The meetings always opened with prayers, followed by a lecture.
As a child growing up I noticed that most of my friends went to the local Catholic church. When I spoke of wanting to go to there, my father became angry. He told me that the Pope had blessed Mussolini's troops to invade Ethiopia and kill our ancestors and kinsman. Being obedient, I submitted to his wish and did not attend the church.
At eighteen, however, now legally an adult, I decided to go to the Catholic church despite my father's opinion. By then I had visited other churches, but I didn't feel as comfortable and peaceful as I did in the Catholic church. I got married in the Church, and later raised three children as Catholics.
Eighteen years passed. Gradually I began to feel there was more to know about God. I felt it was still important to worship Jesus and all the saints regularly, but I wanted to reach the top person. Jesus always spoke of the "Father," but I didn't know who He was.
One Sunday I heard a radio program from The Church of Religious Science, speaking of positive thinking and affirmations. The show's host assured me that such things would change my life. He called the study "the science of mind." His philosophy reminded me of my father, who in his later years had studied metaphysics and meditation and had wanted to introduce me to those topics. I recall observing how his personality had transformed.
After a period of study, I decided to leave the Catholic Church and joined The First Church of Religious Science. As a member, I studied metaphysical principles, beginning with the concept that God is the Universal Spirit, all-powerful, all-intelligent, all-love, and present in and through all. According to Religious Science, the Universal Spirit creates through the instrument of Universal Mind; all mind is God-mind, so all ideas originate in God, and through the creative medium, become created form. We used "Spiritual Mind Treatment" prayer, based on the theory that the word spoken into the Spiritual Law creates its manifestation in the world.
These teachings were helpful in my life because by knowing that God is present everywhere, I found I could talk with God/Spirit and knew I was being heard. This made dealing with my financial and other difficulties easier.
Over the next ten years my financial circumstances improved after I took a job at a research laboratory of a large hospital in the Bronx. Working gave me an incentive to return to college to complete the studies in laboratory technology that I had begun twenty years earlier.
At age fifty I completed the two-year degree in medical-laboratory technology and decided to enter the bachelor degree program. Difficult days followed. I struggled with courses in organic chemistry, calculus, and other subjects in the biology curriculum. The other students couldn't understand what I was doing in such a program, and I often wondered myself. My salary had increased, and the degree would now make little difference. But the Science of Mind studies helped me maintain a positive attitude; I felt always connected to God/Spirit.
"Learn the Principles"
In 1974 I divorced my husband after twenty-four years of marriage. As I continued to seek spiritual growth, he seemed too stagnant. He wasn't a bad person. He went to work, came home, then sat in front of the television day after day—something any number of people do in this world. Still, I was growing and discovering the meaning of life, and I knew I could not live the same life he was living.
One morning, while I was still in college, I woke up with the words "Learn the principles" clear in my mind. At first I thought the words meant I should learn the principles of algebra, because I was struggling so much with physics and calculus. But it seemed deeper than that. Could it mean I should learn the principles of life? After much introspection, I decided to withdraw from school for a while.
After withdrawing, I asked aloud what would I do now? I needed to travel. I needed to relax from the stress I felt at school and focus my attention on God and the meaning of life. I visited friends out of the state and people I hadn't seen in a long time. They were quiet visits. I began reading books on African, Eastern, and Buddhist teachings. I began questioning at a deeper level my teacher at Science of Mind. He became irritated with me. That nagging was within me again. There must be something more. I knew it was time to move on.
In October 1977, a car hit me while I was crossing the street. I remember thinking, "OK, Spirit, what's this all about?" That questioning felt like a moment of complete surrender. Through the trauma of the emergency room, x-ray room, ICU ward, and the broken arm and leg, I lost my sense of worry. I felt like a child again. I had to have a home care attendant; I was in a wheelchair with a cast from left leg to hip and another on my left arm. I could not do much for my self. Another crossroads—and I crossed into a state of thankfulness.
While recuperating I had time to read spiritual books. I observed that my body healed without any direction from me. God, who created everything, knew how to put the broken bones together again.
My experience and readings gave me the basis to help others have faith and trust in God/Spirit. This revealed to me that I wasn't to go back into the laboratory. I wanted to assist others to grow spiritually.
Back to School
I decided to go back to school, this time for a degree in counseling. I completed my bachelor's degree and then my master's. I worked for Social Services, followed by a position in the City University system, in a special program for young people. I worked with young people for a few years. I found that I was able to encourage people, especially parents, to realize they had choices about how to think and live.
Meanwhile, I was attending any retreat or meeting that appeared spiritual in some way. At one meeting, I met the members of a spiritual community from Uganda, East Africa. They were vegetarians, chanted a mantra, and had a charismatic leader. They held a large conference in Uganda in 1987, which I attended. I felt at home there. Although the spiritual discourses were esoteric, the community's plans to build a spiritual city were realistic.
By the time I returned to the U.S.A., I had decided to move to the community in Uganda to live out the rest of my life. I applied for early Social Security at sixty-two and prepared to move. It meant I had to give up most of my material goods. I gave away my car, jewelry, and mink coat. Having lived in my apartment for thirty-six years, there was a lot to get rid of. I did that without any regrets, because I was determined to do whatever was necessary for spiritual growth.
I was not in the best of health while in Uganda. My doctor in America had been concerned about my heart. Tests had indicated a problem. It didn't matter. I was determined to go. I left for Uganda in June 1988, not knowing whether I would see America or my family again. I felt so strongly about growing spiritually that I didn't want anything to stop me.
The experience in Uganda certainly required faith in God. It was not easy. I lived in a straw hut where the cows would come and nibble, the ants built hills, and the roof leaked when it rained.
On the more positive side, there were spiritual discourses twice a day, although not usually in English. It didn't matter that I couldn't understand much; I enjoyed getting up in the morning and sitting in the circle with the members of that pious community. I always felt that the lectures carried the vibration of something I needed. Most of the discourse was esoteric or metaphysical. But the group planned to build a spiritual city on the shores of Lake Victoria, consisting of a university, a hospital, a school, and brick homes instead of straw huts, and to develop a culture of spiritual people who would bring about world change. I was excited by the idea and took part in some of the planning.
But my heart condition was not getting better. I finally had to go to the hospital in Kampala. Someone called my daughter in Washington, D.C., who then arrived with my son and other daughter to take me home. When I left Uganda, my heart was beating at thirty-seven beats per minute. Upon arrival in the States, I underwent surgery for a pacemaker implant. It was so strange to hear police sirens and traffic sounds after being away from all that for a year.
As I recuperated, the questions returned. I was sixty-three and on Social Security. What should I do with the rest of my life? Where will I live? I had given up the apartment I had lived in for thirty-six years in the Bronx. I had even given away most of my clothes and other possessions. I had almost nothing. Then my oldest daughter invited me to live with her in Washington, D.C. What else could I do?
It is difficult to describe my feelings at that time. I had given up all my material possessions and security for my spiritual growth, and here I was in a room in my daughter's house, wondering what to do next. My cup seemed empty. I began to pray. "Not my will but Your will be done."
It was now May 1990. I was walking on the Howard University campus in Washington, D.C., and I was handed a flyer. All I remember seeing was "Spiritual," and the address for a meeting. I went to the meeting on time, expecting an answer to my prayers. It was the first meeting of The Institute for Applied Spiritual Technology, under the directorship of Bhakti Tirtha Swami.
Two Institute staff members conducted the meeting. They spoke of consciousness and the spirit soul in a way that held my attention. It was a pleasant, informative evening, and I knew I would return. I attended every meeting after that.
A few weeks later, I heard that Bhakti Tirtha Swami himself would conduct the meeting. He spoke on stress management with a marvelous spiritual flair. The subject was so intriguing that I began to get a taste of "the something more." The next week he spoke of about conflict resolution, again with a spiritual flair. I was intrigued because years ago when I lived in New York I tried to give workshops on personal growth and development with a spiritual basis. Here was something to fill my empty cup.
I found each meeting more informative than the last. I also found the meetings to be presenting something higher than any other lecture or workshop I had attended. Bhakti Tirtha Swami answered all questions with knowledge and understanding. After a few weeks, he left to travel to Africa and his staff members again conducted the meetings.
One evening one of the staff persons said, "God is a person." I was taken aback. A person? God? But because I had already opened myself to learning from these people, I took in the information.
At the next meeting, someone in the audience asked if the meeting's facilitator was a Hare Krsna, and he said he was. Well, my mind jumped. What is a Hare Krsna? What was I getting myself into? I questioned myself all the way home. What had God brought me to? I found I trusted God, and I decided to keep attending the lectures.
An Important Meeting
Eventually, one of the staff members recommended I have a meeting with Bhakti Tirtha Swami. I was surprised that someone so knowledgeable and busy would take time to speak to me. When we met, I felt I could speak openly with him. I told him of my experience in the community in Uganda and of other spiritual pursuits. He listened attentively.
As the meeting came to a close he said, "God knows what is in your heart."
I cherished those words, because I knew I wanted to know God. He also suggested that instead of thinking that my experience in Uganda was incomplete, I should think of it as being all that I needed at that time. I should now look forward to the next experience.
Then he informed me that the plans for the Institute in Washington, D.C., were being formed and that he thought I had a role to play in them. I could be of some service.
Bhakti Tirtha Swami kept an open-door policy at the Institute. That was helpful for me. I was still letting go of so many old ideas I had gathered from my various paths. He made it easy for me to understand the concepts a little at a time.
Through that time I realized that my search had brought me to Bhakti Tirtha Swami and Krsna consciousness. Now I began to learn how to serve. There was always some service to do. I enjoyed meeting the people who came to visit Bhakti Tirtha Swami after attending his lectures or hearing him speak on radio or television, and I was beginning to enjoy discussing the concepts taught in the Krsna consciousness philosophy.
On October 3, 1990, Bhakti Tirtha Swami departed for West Africa. At the departure gate he handed me a rose and said that I was the mother figure for the Institute. At the end of that month I celebrated my sixty-forth birthday. I was beginning a new life with a new family and a loving family leader, and I was thankful.
While Bhakti Tirtha Swami was away, I became more involved in the Institute's activities. I joined the counseling unit and attended the facilitator's course, in which senior devotees taught the philosophy of Krsna consciousness. I was asked to take part in the presentation about spiritual counseling.
In March 1991, Bhakti Tirtha Swami returned from Africa, and after a few weeks, he began planning for initiations. I knew I needed a spiritual master. I knew Bhakti Tirtha Swami loved me and cared about my spiritual growth. His teaching encouraged me to strive for greater spiritual awareness. I knew I cared for and respected him. I felt he was the teacher/guide who would fulfill the desires of my heart—to know and experience God while in this body. Yet was I ready to take the final step?
My mind went into overdrive. There were so many things I didn't know. Maybe I should wait until I knew all the Sanskrit prayers. I didn't know how to offer my food properly. I needed more time, I decided. I called the Institute to have my name removed from the list of initiates, and to my amazement, Bhakti Tirtha Swami answered the phone. I expressed my doubts, and he listened. He told me that some of my concerns were external, and that the qualification for initiation was based on a strong desire to know and serve God. Maybe I wasn't serious, he said. When he hung up, I realized how much he had been there for me, but that I must make this decision now.
I felt I had been at this point before but had not completed the journey. I did not rest well that night. The next day, I attended the meeting Bhakti Tirtha Swami held for the candidates for initiation. After the meeting, I requested not to remove my name. I felt ready to make the commitment.
On May 4, 1991, I accepted initiation from Bhakti Tirtha Swami and received the name Indrani Devi Dasi (servant of the queen mother of the demigods). As I publicly offered obeisances to my spiritual master, I knew he had brought me to where my soul had been crying to be. He has truly "opened my darkened eyes and filled my heart with knowledge."
After initiation my services increased fantastically. The Institute for Applied Spiritual Technology was growing at a tremendous rate. Bhakti Tirtha Swami was giving lectures in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. People were filling our space on Sunday afternoons. They came to Bhagavad-gita classes, meditation classes, and training classes. Endeavoring to understand devotional service, I transcribed tapes of Bhakti Tirtha Swami's lectures. I put out a newsletter and set up the Institute mailing list. I was meeting, greeting, encouraging, and counseling. I found that many of the mature professionals who where coming because Bhakti Tirtha Swami had touched their souls had been on the spiritual search for many years, as I had been. So I could understand, encourage, share with them.
Role Model and Hero
Bhakti Tirtha Swami always speaks of his spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, and always praises him before every lecture. On the days commemorating Srila Prabhupada birth and passing, we came together at the Institute and read about him and listened to his tapes. I felt a connection with Srila Prabhupada when I heard about his heart problems. I was inspired to hear how he began his work in America at an older age, and to hear of the hardships he endured until he formed the organization. Hearing about his loving interaction with young people gave me the courage to continue to study and share Krsna consciousness.
In fact, Srila Prabhupada is a role model and hero to me because I came into Krsna consciousness at an older age and my interaction is mainly with younger devotees. When the going gets intense, especially physically, I pray to Srila Prabhupada for strength. I also give thanks to Krsna because I see His hand guiding me through each experience to reach Him.
After nine years of service at the Institute, in June of 1999 I moved to the Gita Nagari farm community in Port Royal, Pennsylvania. As my body gets older it is slowing down. Yet I have so much to be thankful for. I am now in a place where I can never forget Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. I am very close to Their Lordships Radha-Damodara. I am regularly closer to nature than I have ever been. I can hear lectures every day. I have the quiet time every morning to chant on my beads. I see the cows grazing and the peacocks strutting with their beautiful tail feathers spread. On clear nights I can see the sky full of stars. Full-moon nights are breathtaking.
The devotees on the farm are hard-working, devotional, and caring. I know I've been given the opportunity to continue to serve at a different level and to chant my way out of this material world whenever that time comes.
Because Krsna wants us to enter His elite group of personal associates, He is ever eager to help us develop our love for Him.
by Satsvarupa Dasa Gosvami
Dhruva Maharaja performed austerities to gain a kingdom greater than that of his grandfather, Lord Brahma, the creator of the universe. By the grace of the saint Narada, however, Dhruva received the audience of Lord Visnu. After being touched by the Lord's conch shell, Dhruva offered prayers to the Lord. The last verse of his prayers sums up his previous materialistic attitude and his present devotional one:
My Lord, O Supreme Lord, You are the supreme personified form of all benedictions. Therefore, for one who abides in Your devotional service with no other desire, worshiping Your lotus feet is better than becoming king and lording it over a kingdom. . . . To ignorant devotees like me, You are the causelessly merciful maintainer, just like a cow who takes care of the newly born calf by supplying milk and giving it protection from attack.
Dhruva originally epitomized the type of devotee who approaches the Lord to have his material desires fulfilled. After meeting Lord Visnu, however, Dhruva realized how cheap that material desire was.
I like to study Dhruva Maharaja's prayers because although we have no such great material ambitions—our material ambitions extend only to a little insignificant sense gratification—we can relate to Dhruva's transformation. We have spent lifetimes thinking ourselves the center of enjoyment. Now we have turned to Krsna consciousness with the hope of freeing ourselves from suffering (material desire) and of coming to pure love of God. Dhruva Maharaja has realized that serving Krsna's lotus feet is much more relishable than the enjoyment of even a hugely opulent kingdom in the material world. So he prays to Visnu as the protector of one on the devotional path, similar to a cow protecting her calf. And what is Visnu protecting the devotee from? From him-self—from his own defective nature.
In the first sentence of the purport to this verse, Srila Prabhupada writes, "Dhruva Maharaja was cognizant of the defective nature of his own devotional service." Even those fortunate enough to come in touch with the Krsna consciousness movement, to hear the message of bhakti, will not automatically be free of mistakes. We are faulty beings, and it takes time before we learn to offer our service in a pure way. Here, Dhruva describes Krsna as being active in our coming to the pure stage.
Unfortunately we don't always value His participation. Often, devotees think that Krsna consciousness is so much a science that everything must happen by our own endeavor. They imagine Krsna at the top of a long line of pure devotees, sharing His pastimes with them and not thinking much of those further down the line. If we are not pure, we may think Krsna cares less for us than for those fully surrendered. We think that the path of bhakti has been scientifically organized and that Krsna remains neutral, waiting for our purity to develop, at which time He will love us more. In the meantime, we try to hoist ourselves up from one stage to another.
Of course, the truth is that we are not pure; we are defective. This fact was prominent in Dhruva Maharaja's mind, and he felt a deep regret to see how materially motivated he had been. His regret lasted even beyond his audience with Krsna.
And the truth is that pure devotion is uncompromising: anyabhilasita-sunyam jnana-karmady-anavrtam. We must offer our love without being motivated by karma (material endeavors) or jnana (mental speculation). We must learn to want only Krsna's pleasure.
Neither of these truths—that aspiring devotees are not pure and that pure devotion is uncompromising—means that Krsna has no mercy toward a devotee before he or she comes to the unmotivated stage. Rather, like a cow, Krsna gives His calves milk and also protects them from danger. Although in the material sense, a cow is herself vulnerable to danger in this world, she is prepared to give her life to protect her calf.
Also, the calf remains completely dependent on the mother. A calf will follow its mother without regard for where she is going. The mother in turn shows even more tender concern for her calf. Krsna exemplifies this tender concern toward His faltering bhaktas.
What makes us so helpless, so dependent on Krsna, is not simply our smallness in the material energy, but the misleading desires within our hearts. Any mother knows that an infant is at risk not only from outside influences but from the child's own nature.
Of course, despite Krsna's tender concern, He will not interfere with the free will of the living entity. To receive His mercy, we must reveal some level of sincerity or inclination toward Him. In Sanatana Gosvami's Brhad- Bhagavatamrta, after Gopa-kumara finally returns to the spiritual world, Krsna embraces him and says, "I'm happy that you have come back. For so long I was awaiting an opportunity to bring you to Me."
Why did Krsna not simply rescue Gopa-kumara from the material world? Because we have free will. Krsna will never take that from us. His liberal attitude is like that of a kind parent: Krsna provides His children space to grow as they will, yet remains loving toward them and prepared to help if they turn to Him. In Bhagavad-gita He says that He provides the intelligence by which we can return to Him. He also says that He provides what we lack and carries what we have, and that He is the swift deliverer from the ocean of birth and death.
Even if these points are still theoretical for us, we should acknowledge the truth of the Lord's intention toward us. We should not refuse Krsna's gestures of protection. If we accept that our service is defective, that our hearts are filled with gross and subtle material desire, and that we are lost without Krsna's guidance, we will better be able to accept that guidance in the form that He gives it. He is always giving it. We can pray to Him to protect us, to help us give up the lower stages of bhakti in favor of the higher forms of surrender, and to clarify our intelligence so that it is filled only with Him.
If our main purpose in life is to attain bhakti, we should trust Krsna to maintain our attempt. Krsna is, after all, "the causelessly merciful maintainer, just like a cow who gives milk and protection from attack."
One of the symptoms of surrender is to know Krsna as the maintainer. In our stage, we often look to the Lord to protect us materially. We shouldn't just look to Krsna to protect our possessions, however. Although Srimad-Bhagavatam provides prayers such as the Narayana-kavaca shield, wherein mantras are chanted over different parts of the body to provide armor against gross and subtle weapons, we are not interested in seeking Krsna's protection so we can survive more comfortably in our material bodies. We see Krsna as the protector of our bhakti. We pray that our bhakti—our service to the spiritual master, our attempts to progress in chanting and hearing—may not be deviated.
The knowledge we receive from Bhagavad-gita is the sword with which we can slay our doubts. Krsna has also given us His elder brother, Balarama, to help us. It is Balarama who provides us with the strength to wield the heavy sword of knowledge. We will never become materially exhausted, never left without Krsna's mercy in the form of the knowledge He provides us. Any advancement in Krsna consciousness is Krsna's gift to us.
We need to trust in that. The material world is full of jivas trying to enjoy. As Ksirodaksayi Visnu, Krsna maintains all of them. How much more will He maintain His devotees! The materially engrossed jivas receive His maintenance through the neutral auspices of the Supersoul, who guides their wanderings according to their karmic activities and desires. Krsna Himself personally attends to the relatively small group of souls who are interested in His direct love and protection.
Krsna's Elite Group
In this regard, Prabhupada once commented that devotees have monopolized devotional service. They have cornered the market with their love. Still, the bhakti market is open to any who wish to pursue it. As soon as a jiva understands that Krsna is the maintainer of the attempt to approach Him, He welcomes that jiva into His elite group.
When we relate to Krsna personally in this way, we receive His heart. This is Krsna's real nature: His desire to reciprocate with His devotees (bhakta-vatsala). Because He is responsible, He maintains all living entities, although He does it through His expansions and energies. But because He is bhakta-vatsala, He offers Himself to His devotees. Therefore, devotional service is rarely achieved.
But anyone who wants to try for devotional service can gain entrance. Despite their faults, Krsna will help those who want to enter. He wants His elite group to expand. He wants us to take to devotional service for our own sake. Why shouldn't He help us?
Of course, material attachment may mean we don't value the form in which His protection comes, just as a calf may not always appreciate the mother's insistence on a certain path. Still, Krsna protects us.
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.
Portraits of a Pure Devotee
The Vedic scriptures repeatedly stress the exalted position of the pure devotees of the Lord. Lord Krsna says, "Such devotees are as worshipable as I am." His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who left our vision in 1977, is a pure devotee of Lord Krsna, as shown by his spotless character, his complete dedication to spreading the glories of Lord Krsna, and his tremendous success in awakening thousands of souls to Krsna consciousness.
In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna says that His pure devotees are always under the shelter of His internal potency and therefore transcendental to the material world. Because pure devotees are intimate associates of Krsna, we can progress spiritually by glorify them and meditating on their lives and teachings.
The drawings on these pages are the meditations of one of Srila Prabhupada's followers. They show moods of devotion tasted by a pure devotee in his unique relationship with Krsna. May they inspire us to study the teachings and follow the example of Srila Prabhupada, a dear servant of the Lord.
"Without Krsna there is nothing. It is simply by the influence of maya that we forget the relationship of Krsna with everything that be."
"By constantly chanting the Hare Krsna mantra and remembering the transcendental pastimes of Krsna, one can be fully Krsna conscious and thus make his life sublime and fruitful."
"Krsna's pastimes are all jubilant. He is by nature full of bliss. We shall never find Krsna unhappy. Krsna is always happy, and whoever associates with Him is also happy."
"Life should be so molded that one will always have the chance to think of Krsna. One should always act in such a way that all his daily activities are in connection with Krsna." "Life should be so molded that one will always have the chance to think of Krsna. One should always act in such a way that all his daily activities are in connection with Krsna."
"We cannot increase our attachment to Krsna without Krsna's mercy. We cannot become devotees without Krsna's mercy; therefore we simply have to serve Krsna, for by service Krsna is satisfied."
"The Lord is unlimited, and His name, attributes, pastimes, entourage, variegatedness, etc., are unlimited, and those who relish them can do so unlimitedly and still not feel satiated."
"One should be submissive and say, 'Krsna, I am very poor. I have no means to understand You. Please be merciful upon me. Please allow me to understand You and surrender.' "
Aleksandra Urbanska, originally from Poland, studied at the top art academy in Poland and received the highest honors in her field.
Aleksandra came to Krsna consciousness on the urging of her sister, Lila Manjari Devi Dasi (wife of bhajana singer Vaiyasaki Dasa). She convinced Aleksandra that the Hare Krsna maha-mantra is God Himself and that one can realize God by chanting His names. To have that experience, Aleksandra took the instruction to heart and began chanting sixty-four rounds a day on her beads. She has been chanting sixty-four rounds ever since, even after joining the temple and doing a full-day's service.
Aleksandra has been a member of the Hare Krsna movement for eleven years. She studied under His Holiness Gour Govinda Swami until his passing in 1996. She now receives inspiration from His Holiness Subhaga Swami. She lives and serves at ISKCON's Krishna Balarama Mandir in Vrndavana, India.
Unlike material achievements,
by Urmila Devi Dasi
I'm taking some good courses in college."
"That's great. Tell me about some of them."
I cradle the phone on my shoulder as I help Jahnu, my three-year-old grandson, settle down to his lunch. Sitting next to him, I listen as a graduate of our school tells me about his classes, teachers, and life in general.
"What about all those classes you took in that university overseas?" I ask.
"Oh, credit for them doesn't transfer. Here in America, half a year is a complete course, but over there you need three years to finish a course, and I only had one and a half years."
"That's not very good. What a lousy deal!"
Jahnu is eating pieces of fried homemade cheese by nibbling around the edges. He has finished most of them but hasn't touched the noodles. I had put basil on them, which he identifies as "spices," disqualifying them as edible.
"No, I don't get any credit for that," my former student replies.
"What about your study toward your pilot's license? Can any of that transfer to your present school?"
"No." A pause. "I'm not getting my degree in aviation, so none of that work will count toward the credits I need."
"How awful!" I say, and then smile and quip, "So you've wasted the last four years of your life."
"Really? But I've been chanting Hare Krsna!"
"Oh, yes, that transfers!"
"Even if you get a D grade, it still transfers!" he says, and we laugh. * (D is the lowest passing grade in America. But if you switch to another college or university, credits for courses with D grades don't transfer.)
We're busy in life trying for success, however we measure it. As we depart from our body at death, some of us may be able to check off our list of accomplishments. But how useful are achievements that end with the body? And the body may end at any time. Of course, while in our body we have responsibilities. But we are eternal beings. Shouldn't we be mostly concerned with successes that benefit us forever? Like my student's hard work at his former university, our academic degrees, job skills, bank balance, and artistic creations won't follow us to our next body.
What we do carry from one life to the next are the reactions—good and bad—to our desires and actions. And we might also take along tendencies or interests that help us learn something faster in our new body. We may have a natural feel for something if we've done it for many lifetimes. But even those tendencies may fade after many births, and, except in rare cases, we still have to learn and practice rigorously, no matter what level of success we achieved in other bodies.
Achievements of the soul are different. When the Supreme Lord Sri Krsna appeared on earth thousands of years ago, His friend Arjuna asked about transferring spiritual credits. Arjuna's question is part of their recorded conversation, the Bhagavad-gita. Arjuna understood the difficulty in achieving total purity in spiritual life, especially gaining control over one's mind and senses. What would happen, he asked, if someone started spiritual life but didn't complete the process? Wouldn't he or she lose everything? Since spiritual life can mean less emphasis on material goals, those would go unfulfilled, and one would have gained neither spiritually nor materially. So would one end up with a grade of "Incomplete" on the cosmic transcript? No credits toward the degree?
No, Krsna assured Arjuna. Evil never overcomes real goodness, and the slightest progress keeps one enrolled in the school of spiritual life.
What's the observable result of past spiritual progress? One takes birth in a family where spiritual life is safe, or, if one's progress has been great, strongly encouraged. And one feels a natural interest in developing a relationship of love and service to the Supreme Lord. That interest surpasses sectarian rituals and dogma; it is a craving to know and live the essence of religion.
Jahnu had helped me offer our food to Lord Krsna before he ate. Now done, noodles untouched, he sits and looks at books of Krsna's pastimes, identifying the characters and praising Krsna. Jahnu's spiritual credits have transferred to this life. Perhaps he will complete his "studies" this lifetime. Perhaps he will love Lord Krsna fully, free from lust, anger, greed, and envy. We hope for that, guiding him as we ourselves strive for perfection. But even if his life's achievement is less than perfect, all his spiritual emotions and realizations will follow him through his lifetimes until he's eligible to regain his place as Krsna's pure devotee.
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.
Sri Gowtum Teelock
Sri Gowtum Teelock, one of the first patron members of ISKCON Mauritius, passed away last August 25 at the age of eighty-two. Mr. Teelock had been a member of Parliament, serving as a junior minister of agriculture. Hailing from a leading Hindu family of Mauritius, he at once took a liking to the devotees, moved by their simple way of life. He offered to help them set up ISKCON in his country. He would tell his friends and colleagues about the need to have a movement to wake up the "sleeping Hindu community" in Mauritius. Because he was convinced of the message of Krsna consciousness, he was able to convince others as well.
Mr. Teelock worked to bring Srila Prabhupada to Mauritius in 1975. He received Prabhupada and arranged for important persons to come to hear Prabhupada speak. Srila Prabhupada recognized his special position and asked him to help the devotees. Mr. Teelock took the request seriously and always did his best to fulfill it. He was pleased to help the devotees deal with government and legal affairs.
Whenever Mr. Teelock would go to Bombay, he would meet Srila Prabhupada there, and they became friends.
When ISKCON was unsuccessful in acquiring land in Mauritius, Mr. Teelock donated five acres of prime agricultural land for the ISKCON Vedic Farm. He also helped them get Hare Krishna Land in Phoenix.
Sri Gowtum Teelock was known for his genuine concern for the welfare of others. He had the highest principles and never compromised for the sake of personal gain or popularity.
Howling Blue Jackals
India's Hitopadesa, a sort of a sort of Aesop's fables, tells of a nosy jackal who, while slinking around a village, fell headfirst into a vat of blue dye. He pulled himself out, shook, and dashed back into the forest, his mangy fur drying to a brilliant blue.
The other forest animals, even the lions, beheld the blue newcomer with awe. Accepting him as a supernatural being, they promptly elected him the new king of the jungle. The clever jackal, long accustomed to scrounging remnants from other beasts, quickly adjusted to the royal life of fresh meat served by loyal subjects.
One night, when the full moon appeared, the jubilant jackal let forth a long, deeply satisfied howl. Hearing it, the other animals realized their new king's true identity and drove him from the throne.
Moral: However one may doll himself up on the outside, his inner colors will eventually show.
Recently, controversy surrounded another election, the one for President of the United States. During the long campaign, the candidates touted their superior character and qualifications. But when a remarkably close finish delayed a decisive outcome, both candidates quickly descended to self-righteous posturing and legal wrangling. Each dispatched packs of diamond-studded legal gladiators to argue passionately and eloquently over a boxful of disputed, ill-punched ballots.
The battle created a sense of what to expect from any new administration: partisanship, petty arrogance, feverish attachment, and scarcely a mention of the God in whom, their motto says, Americans trust.
What would a Krsna conscious leader do?
A Krsna conscious leader, as described in Srimad-Bhagavatam, would remember the supremacy of God's will and seek to understand it. He would be detached, knowing he is in truth an eternal soul and not identified with a particular country, race, position, or political party.
Such an enlightened leader might attack the vile, destructive slaughterhouse industry with the same zeal that the American legal system recently cracked down on big tobacco companies. He would present fresh, spiritual approaches to social ills such as crime, divorce, abortion, and inaccessible health care.
Krsna conscious leaders are known as rajarsis, rare souls who embody the abilities of a noble, powerful leader (raja), and yet are saintly persons (rsis). The ancient rajarsis valued character and spirituality above all. In every circumstance they took guidance from priests and scriptures. Rather than clinging to office till death, in their maturity they responsibly renounced their kingdoms and devoted themselves fully to developing love of God.
Without such a sincere and overarching personal commitment to God consciousness, how can a leader exhibit good qualities? One who thinks "I am this body" will always be driven by a self-centered craving for material profit, adoration, and distinction. One such animal will compete with another for the top spot, with public interest an afterthought and God all but off the radar screen.
Tired of the bickering, Americans now hope to hear sweet music. But the howling has already begun.—Kalakantha Dasa, Associate Editor
One should act according to the order of Krsna. This is a very important point. That order of Krsna comes through disciplic succession from the bona fide spiritual master. Therefore the spiritual master's order should be taken as the prime duty of life. If one gets a bona fide spiritual master and acts according to his direction, then one's perfection of life in Krsna consciousness is guaranteed.
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Pure devotional love of God is unattainable without great faith, without intense eagerness to relish the nectarean pastimes of the Supreme Lord, and without a deep understanding of the esoteric truths of the scriptures.
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura
Pure love for Krsna is eternally established in the hearts of the living entities. It is not something to be gained from another source. When the heart is purified by hearing and chanting [about Krsna], the living entity naturally awakens.
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu
Both animals and men share the activities of eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. But the special property of the humans is that they are able to engage in spiritual life. Therefore, without spiritual life, humans are on the level of animals.
Who can be worthy of the name of the Supreme Lord but the Personality of Godhead Sri Krsna? Brahmaji collected the water emanating from the nails of His feet in order to award it to Lord Siva as a worshipful welcome. This very water [the Ganges] is purifying the whole universe, including Lord Siva.
Sri Suta Gosvami
The holy name of Krsna is the highest benediction. It is sweeter than the sweetest honey, and it is the fruit of transcendental knowledge of the tree of the entire Vedic scriptures.
The word krs is the attractive feature of the Lord's existence, and na means spiritual pleasure. Krs added to na becomes Krsna, which indicates the Absolute Truth.
Mahabharata, Udyoga Parva 71.4