IN THIS ISSUE we present two stories on Kumbha-mela, the largest religious gathering in the world. With her words and camera, Nitya-trpta Devi Dasi gives us a close-up look at this extraordinary event, while Lokanath Swami tells us the history behind it.
This issue also offers a special section on Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, a great spiritual teacher in the line from Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. While serving as a district magistrate in the British government of India in the late 1800's, Bhaktivinoda Thakura worked tirelessly to spread the teachings of Lord Krsna, especially among his educated countrymen. He was also a pioneer in attempting to deliver Krsna consciousness to the West.
One fortunate beneficiary of Bhaktivinoda's work, by way of disciplic succession, was Jayananda Dasa, who joined the Hare Krsna movement in San Francisco in 1967. When Jayananda passed away in May 1977, Srila Prabhupada praised his service to Krsna and his glorious death while hearing the chanting of Krsna's holy names. "A Modern Saint" tells of Jayananda's inspiring example of dedicated service to the Lord.
Hare Krsna.—Nagaraja Dasa, Editor
• To help all people discern reality from illusion, spirit from matter, the eternal from the temporary.
Drop the Science
In regards to Sadaputa Dasa's "Challenges Facing Science and Religion" [March/April]: In his thirteen-page commentary on mundane materialistic scientists' theories, opinions, and speculations, there were perhaps only two paragraphs directly speaking of Krsna consciousness. Who needs these atheistic mundane materialists, with their prejudiced guesswork, to verify their faith? (Not to mention that this so-called science is tasteless, unappealing, boring, mundane, and dry.) Krsna's creation is amazing, wonderful, beautiful, and incomprehensible. To break it down into little boxes or mathematical formulas is folly. Please stick to pictures of Krsna, stories of Krsna, devotee stories, etc. Mundane material science is not needed to verify Krsna!
Scientists, Not Sentimentalists
I would like to thank you for publishing Sadaputa Dasa's article "Challenges Facing Science and Religion." At present the concept of God is not intellectually respectable, and it is our job to make it so. We have much work to do in this area, and Sadaputa's work is a great step in that direction.
I was reminded of a statement by Srila Prabhupada I'd read recently, in which he expressed his appreciation for the work of his scientist disciples: "The Bhaktivedanta Institute is doing something for the benefit of modern science. It is not an ordinary thing. Discuss like scientists, not like sentimentalists. It will grow more and develop." (Oct. 27, 1977)
Sadaputa offered a brief historical overview showing how modern science has divorced itself from the concept that a transcendental person, Krsna, controls nature on a grander scale. He also showed that Krsna acts within history and deals with people on an individual level. And he pointed out the shortcomings of science and the many areas where science can broaden its scope to more accurately describe the world we live in. There is more to life than meets the eye.
Please keep up the good work in broadcasting the science of God for the benefit of all the people of the world.
Regarding the Gujarat earthquake and its repercussions: Is this another lila of the Lord to teach the population of India to wake up from illusion and walk towards reality in life and go back to Godhead?
Hare Krishna Mani
OUR REPLY: Everything is under the Lord's control, so earthquakes don't happen without His permission. We can't know exactly why Krsna does a specific thing, but we do know in principle that He sends sufferings like earthquakes to try to get people to realize the folly of material life and turn to Him.
No Mystic Powers?
Your magazine is the best God conscious magazine I have ever read. Hence I have subscribed to it for two years, in spite of protests from my parents. One question my parents ask is, Why do devotees in ISKCON not have mystic powers like yogis and gurus in India?
OUR REPLY: Devotees don't want mystic powers. We are followers of the Gita, and Lord Krsna never says that we should try for mystic powers. You get what you work for, and working for mystic powers is a waste of time. The goal of life is love of God, so that we can return to Him. Mystic powers won't help us; rather, they will distract us from our real business: awakening our love of God.
In the article "Draupadi: Emblem of Surrender" [January/February], Satyaraja Dasa writes that Draupadi is an expansion of Goddess Laksmi. That is incorrect. Goddess Laksmi is the eternal consort of Lord Visnu. Draupadi appeared from Agni (Fire).
Satyaraja Dasa REPLIES: Arjuna is also an eternal associate of Krsna, yet he appears in the form of Ramananda Raya in Caitanya lila. Ramananda Raya is also an incarnation of Visakha. These things are difficult to understand, and these personalities are not subject to the same limitations we are. In fact, because they are the Lord's eternal associates, they are beyond ordinary limitations. Therefore, there is no reason why Laksmi can't have several relationships with Krsna. And she can appear from fire or in any other way she chooses.
Inspired by Journey
I was really thrilled to go through the story of the spiritual yet dangerous journey by Dhruva Dasa to the nine forms of Lord Narsimha in South India [January/February]. This article has really inspired me and reinforced my conviction that whenever you leave everything to Lord Krsna with true and full faith, He always comes to help you. Please convey my heartiest congratulations to the author for his successful maiden trip to nine forms of Lord Narsimha—a rare opportunity in life.
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In the article about Parasurama Kunda in the last issue, the sage Agastya was mistakenly identified as Atri in connection with the history of the Vindhya Hills.
If we know where to look, we can find out who's an authentic incarnation of the Lord, and who's not.
By His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
sarvajna munira vakya——sastra 'paramana'
"The Vedic literatures composed by the omniscient Mahamuni Vyasadeva are evidence of all spiritual existence. Only through these revealed scriptures can all conditioned souls attain knowledge."—Caitanya-caritamrta (Madhya-lila 20.353)
WE SHOULD ALWAYS think that we are in the mode of ignorance. We are just trying to make progress from ignorance to goodness and then transcend. That is the process of spiritual realization. Nobody should think that he is perfect. We cannot be. Only God is perfect, and we are all imperfect. Even in our so-called liberated stage we are still imperfect. Therefore we have to take shelter of authority, because constitutionally we are imperfect.
Lord Caitanya says, ama-saba jivera haya sastra-dvara 'jnana.' For real knowledge we have to consult the scriptures, sastra. Sadhu-sastra-guru. Sadhu means a pious, religious, honest person. One whose character is spotless is called a sadhu. Sastra means scripture, and guru means spiritual master. These three are on an equal level. Why? Because the medium is scripture. The guru is considered to be liberated because he follows the scripture. The sadhu is considered to be honest and saintly because he follows scripture. Nobody can become a sadhu if he does not accept the principles of scripture. Nobody can be accepted as a guru, or spiritual master, if he does not follow the principles of scripture. That is the test.
tad-vijnanartham sa gurum evabhigacchet
"To learn the transcendental subject matter, one must approach a spiritual master. In doing so, one should carry fuel to burn in sacrifice. The symptom of such a spiritual master is that he is expert in understanding the Vedic conclusion and therefore he constantly engages in the service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead." [Mundaka Upanisad 1.2.12] Srotriyam means that one who has accepted the Vedic literature, the sastra, as guidance can be a guru. An extravagant upstart who makes some group and religious principles of his own cannot become a guru.
Lord Caitanya is replying to Sanatana Gosvami's inquiry about how to know who is an avatar. Caitanya Mahaprabhu says that the medium is sastra and the direction is from the guru. We need the help of a guru to understand the scripture. Sometimes we find contradictions in the scripture. There is no contradiction, but because of my poor fund of knowledge I might think there is. I cannot understand. Therefore the assistance of a guru, a spiritual master, is required.
Lord Caitanya says that we have to see through the sastra whether or not a person is an incarnation. We should not blindly accept anybody as an incarnation, because there are, nowadays, numberless "incarnations."
In the next verse Lord Caitanya says,
avatara nahi kahe——'ami avatara'
"An actual incarnation of God never says 'I am God' or 'I am an incarnation of God.' The great Vyasadeva, knowing all, has already recorded the characteristics of the avatars in the sastras." An incarnation never says, "I am incarnation of God." I have read a book about a big "avatar" in India. He was canvassing his students, "Do you now accept me as an incarnation? Do you now accept me as incarnation?" Perhaps you know. And the disciple was denying: "No." Then, after some time the disciple said, "Yes, I accept you."
This is not an avatar. Here Caitanya Mahaprabhu says that an avatar does not canvass: "I am an avatar." A guru does not canvass. A sadhu does not canvass. Automatically, by their qualities, they become accepted.
Muni saba jani' kare laksana-vicara. The munis, those who are thinkers and are actually in the line of disciplic succession, see the symptoms and specify, "Yes, here is an avatar." What are the symptoms of an avatar? First, there is reference in the sastra, scripture, that in such and such time, such and such personality will come and he will be an incarnation of God. Even his father's name, his birthplace—everything is written in the scripture. So we have to identify, laksana. The scripture will say that he'll act like this, he'll come like this, and so on. We have to analyze according to these criteria to determine whether someone is actually an avatar.
Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu never said, "I am an avatar." But from His symptoms, from His characteristics, later on great sages, great philosophers, decided that He's an avatar.
Here Sanatana Gosvami is trying to get Lord Caitanya to confirm that He's an avatar. The avatar of Krsna for this age, Kali-yuga, is described in the Srimad-Bhagavatam [11.5.32]: krsna-varnam tvisakrsnam sangopangastra parsadam. He is in the category of Krsna, but unlike Krsna His complexion is "non-black," akrsna. And He's always followed by confidential associates. Yajnaih sankirtana-prayair yajanti hi su-medhasah. People who are intelligent will worship Him by the process of sankirtana, the congregational chanting of the names of God.
Su-medhasah refers to persons who have got good brain substance, not foolish persons. They can understand, "Oh, here is the avatar for this age." Lord Caitanya's appearance is described in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, the Mahabharata, the Upanisads, the Puranas. There are many explanations of His symptoms. But still many fools do not accept Him.
Accept or not, His work, His activities, His characteristics will be known, because God will be known. Take, for example, Lord Buddha. He is accepted as an incarnation in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Buddhism was patronized by Emperor Ashoka. So Buddhism was broadcast throughout the Far East, including India, and practically everyone became a Buddhist. Later on, Sankaracarya drove Buddhism from India.
The difference between Buddhism and Hinduism is that Lord Buddha did not accept Vedic authority. According to Hindu culture, if somebody does not accept the Vedic authority, then he's not an authority.
There are different philosophical parties in India. Generally, there are two parties: the Mayavada philosophers and the Vaisnava philosophers, or the impersonalists and the personalists. The Mayavadi philosophers say that God, the Supreme Absolute Truth, is impersonal. The Vaisnava philosophers say that in the ultimate end, the Absolute Truth is a person and He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead Krsna. Krsnas tu bhagavan svayam.
That is the little difference between the two parties. They stick to their positions and fight by philosophical arguments. That has been going on for a very long time. But both of them belong to the sanatana Hindu dharma because both of them will talk on the Vedanta philosophy. They'll give different interpretations, but they cannot say, "We don't accept Vedanta." If they do, then what they say is at once rejected. One must give an interpretation of the Vedanta philosophy; then he'll be accepted as an acarya, or spiritual authority. One must be able to explain three books—Vedanta philosophy, Bhagavad-gita, and Srimad-Bhagavatam—then he'll be accepted as an acarya. These are the principles.
The impersonalists also accept the principle of avatar. They accept Krsna. Sankaracarya accepted Krsna: sa bhag-avan svayam krsna. To specify Krsna, Sankaracarya called Him devaki-vasudeva jatah: Krsna who appeared as the son of Devaki and Vasudeva. That Krsna.
Sankaracarya has written a nice prayer about Krsna. The present followers of Sankaracarya cannot say that this is not composed by Sankaracarya. It is very famous.
bhaja govindam bhaja govindam
Sankaracarya has made many prayers about Krsna, especially about His Vrndavana pastimes. He has worshiped Krsna in many ways. And this was his last composition of poetry. Bhaja govindam bhaja govindam bhaja govindam mudha mate. Mudha mate means "you fools." He was addressing the whole world: "You fools." Bhaja govindam: "Just become a devotee of Krsna. Just become Krsna conscious." Samprapte sannihite kale na hi na hi raksati dukrn-karane: "You are philosophizing. You are talking on grammar in this way and that way."
People want to establish imperson-alism from Bhagavad-gita by strength of grammar. Such nonsense they are. They want to understand God through grammar, as if God is so cheap that He can be understood through grammar. Therefore Sankaracarya specified, samprapte sannihite kale: "When death will catch you, your grammar will not save you. You fools. Please become Krsna conscious." That was the instruction of Sankaracarya. And he has especially mentioned Bhagavad-gita and Ganges water: "A little Ganges water and a little study of Bhagavad-gita will save you from many dangerous positions." So, because Krsna has the symptoms of bhagavan, God, even the so-called impersonalist Sankaracarya accepted Him as God.
Many others don't accept Krsna. The spiritual authority Sri Yamunacarya wrote a verse about such persons. Sri Yamunacarya, a great devotee, is considered to be the spiritual master of Ramanujacarya. He was a great king, and later on he became a great devotee. In the Ramanuja-sampradaya, there are twelve great authorities, and he's one of them. He has written a very nice verse in his Alavandaru about the atheistic demons. In the Vedic literature, those who are atheists are called demons, raksasas. The atheist Ravana, for example, was a great scholar in Vedic philosophy. He was the son of a brahmana, and he was very learned. His kingdom was so materially advanced that his capital was called golden. He was so rich. He was so great in every way—in education, in opulence, in power. His only fault was that he was an atheist. Therefore he's called raksasa, asura. The only fault of all the asuras, demons, mentioned in the sastra is that they are atheists. Otherwise, they are very much advanced.
In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna describes the asuras:
na mam duskrtino mudhah
"Those miscreants who are grossly foolish, who are lowest among mankind, whose knowledge is stolen by illusion, and who partake of the atheistic nature of demons do not surrender unto Me." As soon as one becomes an atheist—oh, it is very difficult to convince him. Therefore our preaching should avoid the atheist class. Of course, if we do that, then we cannot find any theists. The present time is such that 99.9% of the people are atheists. So we have to take the risk of talking with atheists also. But generally it is advised that preachers should not talk to the atheist class because they simply argue. Their only point is to argue and waste your time. That's all. They'll never accept, however you may try to convince them with reason and argument.
Here is the verse by Yamunacarya. It was written, say, about one thousand years ago. He says,
tvam sila-rupa-caritaih parama-prakrstaih
"My dear Lord, devotees like Vyasadeva and Narada know You to be the Personality of Godhead. By understanding different Vedic literatures, one can come to know Your characteristics, Your form, and Your activities, and one can thus understand that You are the Supreme Personality of Godhead. But those who are in the modes of passion and ignorance, the demons, the nondevotees, cannot understand You. They are unable to understand You. However expert such nondevotees may be in discussing Vedanta and the Upanisads and other Vedic literatures, it is not possible for them to understand the Personality of Godhead."
There are different kinds of auth-orities. The first is authorized sastra, scripture. The description of each avatar—his characteristics and his work—is mentioned there. Prabalais ca sastrair. Prabala means "very powerful." Vedanta philosophy is very powerful. Bhagavad-gita is very powerful. Srimad-Bhagavatam is very powerful. So we give evidences from these powerful sastras. Not only that—prakhyata-daiva-paramartha-vidam mattais ca. We give the opinions of great stalwarts. Prakhyata means "very famous." Vyasadeva, for example. Who can be more famous than Vyasadeva? He's the compiler of all the Vedic literature. And Narada, the greatest rsi, sage. And Asita, Devala, Vasistha—there are many stalwarts. Especially these twelve persons: Brahma, Narada, Lord Siva, the Kumaras, Manu, Kapila, Ja-naka, Prahlada, Bhisma, Bali, Sukadeva, and Yamaraja. These are authorities. So Sri Yamunacarya writes that even after hearing the evidences of the authorized scriptures, which are accepted by great stalwarts and sages and munis, still the atheistic persons will never accept God. They'll never accept. They'll simply go on arguing.
The Vedic process is that if something is mentioned in the Vedas and is accepted by the previous acaryas, then one must accept it. That's all. I don't have to bother with research. This is the simple process. Suppose I am fool number one. That doesn't matter. I may be a fool, but if I follow the previous authorized acaryas, then I am all right. A child may be innocent, but if he catches the hand of his father, then he's all right. He can walk. He can cross the street. In the Vedic process there is no research. What nonsense research can you do? You shall research about God? There is no such research. Research is not accepted in Vedic philosophy. You have to accept the authority. That's all.
Yamunacarya says, "My dear Lord, by understanding different Vedic literatures, one can come to know Your characteristics, Your form, and Your activities, and one can thus understand that You are the Supreme Personality of Godhead." Krsna's character was certified by Bhisma. Bhisma was Arjuna's grandfather. So practically he was, in age, Krsna's grandfather. He was fighting on the battlefield, a great warrior. He's called pitamaha, Grandfather Bhisma. His character was spotless. Although he was living as a house-holder, he was more than any sage or any saint.
The history of Bhisma is that he was the son of the Ganges. The Ganges was his mother. His father, Maharaja Santanu, after the death of his wife wanted to marry again. At that time Bhisma was grown up. He was about twenty years old. But instead of getting the son married, the father was himself very much anxious to get married. So he selected a very beautiful girl, but she belonged to a low-caste family. Ksatriyas can marry girls from any caste. That is the injunction. They are not within the boundary of the caste system.
The girl was a fisherman's daughter. Maharaja Santanu wanted to marry her. Her father was very cunning.
Her father said, "No, no. I cannot offer my daughter to you. You are an old man. You have got your son. So I cannot offer her to you."
Maharaja Santanu was bargaining.
"No? Why? I shall give your daughter a palace. We shall enjoy so many years."
"No," the girl's father said. "I can offer you my daughter provided my daughter's son becomes the king after your death. Then I can offer her."
"Oh, I cannot agree to that, because my eldest son is living."
Bhisma understood. "My father wants to marry that girl, but the only impediment is that the father of the girl is making a condition that her son should be king, and my father is declining because I should be king."
Bhisma at once approached the father of the girl.
"What is your condition, sir?"
"This is my condition."
"All right, I shall not accept the kingdom of my father. Your daughter's son will be king. I agree to this."
"Oh, no. You may agree, but your son will claim the throne, because you are the proprietor, you are the prince."
"Oh, you think so? Then I shall not marry. Is that all right?"
Bhisma promised, "I shall never marry in my life. That's all right? Then marry your daughter to my father."
Bhisma was so pious and so strict. He was a brahmacari, a celibate, from the very beginning.
Bhisma glorified Krsna's character during Maharaja Yudhisthira's Rajasuya-yajna. The Rajasuya-yajna is a sacrifice performed by the world emperor. All the princes of the world are invited, and they recognize the performer as the emperor of the world. In that sacrifice, with all the princes present, Krsna was proposed to become the president of the assembly, although He was a young man. But the princes Sisupala and Dantavakra, who were very much against Krsna, objected: "Oh, Krsna cannot be selected. There are many others."
At that time Bhisma recommended, "Nobody present here is of spotless character like Krsna. When He was sixteen years old, He was surrounded by girls, but He had no sex desire. I am a brahmacari from my birth. I think I could not be such a restrained personality as Krsna."
Bhisma recommended like that. That is mentioned in the Mahabharata. So that is Krsna's character.
Sri Yamunacarya also mentions rupa, form. Lord Caitanya's form is mentioned as tvisa akrsna: by complexion He's not black. Similarly, everything about the avatars is mentioned. So Yamunacarya says, "Your character, Your beauty, and Your wonderful work are mentioned in sastras. You are accepted by great authorities. In spite of all this, those who are atheists will never accept You."
Thank you very much.
Recalling the Krsna conscious
By Bhayahari Dasa
ON JANUARY 16, 1967, Srila Prabhupada flew from New York to inaugurate the first Hare Krsna temple in San Francisco. His arrival was covered by the Channel Four news and by both daily newspapers. While most of San Francisco may have ignored the story, a young man named Jim Kohr noticed it. Despite having a degree in mechanical engineering from Ohio State University, he had been driving a taxi on the streets of San Francisco. Never quite able to fit into the corporate rat-race or the upper-class crowd, he was often unhappy and didn't really know why. Though Jim was not a religious person, the article ignited a ray of hope in him. He resolved to check out the Indian Swami.
Unknowingly, Jim was taking his first step toward fulfilling his destiny. Though he would live for only another ten years, in that short time he would witness the culmination of lifetimes of spiritual effort. He would depart the world leaving behind many valuable lessons to inspire and instruct present and future generations of Vaisnavas, devotees of the Lord.
The following evening, Jim arrived at the temple to find it filled mostly with hippies. With his short hair, clean-cut looks, and well-pressed clothes, he stood out. And at 28, he was older than most of the others there. But Jim's misgivings disappeared when he saw the Swami enter. Jim sat through the lecture and bought a three-volume set of Srimad-Bhagavatam, which Srila Prabhupada autographed with the inscription "To Sriman Jim Kohr." For the first time in many years Jim felt peaceful. He had just received the audience of his eternal spiritual master.
Jim started coming to the temple regularly. He especially liked the morning program, when most of the hippies were still sleeping. Sometimes he would be the only person in the class. Years later he revealed that he trusted the Swami and felt confident the Swami wouldn't cheat him. As a four-year-old, Jim had once stood up in church and looked around anxiously. When his grandmother had asked him what was the matter, he had asked, "Where is God?" Now he felt that Srila Prabhupada was answering this ancient question buried deep in his consciousness. In February 1967, Prabhupada accepted Jim as his disciple and initiated him with the name Jayananda Dasa.
In Vaisnava scriptures, such as Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura's Madhurya-kadambini, we learn that a conditioned soul progresses through stages of sadhana-bhakti (devotional practice) before attaining spontaneous love for God. The new bhaktas (devotees) at the San Francisco temple would often struggle with their material desires and their daily spiritual practices, falling in and out of Krsna consciousness. Surprisingly, no one remembers Jayananda in the role of a "new bhakta." He took to Krsna consciousness naturally and effortlessly. He relished all aspects of Krsna consciousness—chanting on his beads, singing in kirtana, eating prasadam, performing Deity worship, and so on. He would often remark, "Krsna consciousness is so sweet."
In fact, Jayananda found Krsna consciousness so sweet that he soon lost the taste for anything else. He gave his life savings to Srila Prabhupada, and in the Preface to The Nectar of Devotion, Prabhupada publicly thanked him: "I beg to acknowledge, with thanks, the contribution made by my beloved disciple Sriman Jayananda Brahmacari."
Paying The Bills
Jayananda became absorbed in practical devotional service. He was constantly serving the Lord, whether buying supplies, cooking prasadam, cleaning the kitchen, taking out the trash, or teaching new devotees. He did all this after a full day of cab driving, by which he'd pay the temple's bills. He became an expert in anything needed to spread Krsna consciousness. He went out to sell Prabhupada's Teachings of Lord Caitanya, becoming a pioneer in a service dear to Prabhupada's heart—the public distribution of hardbound books on Krsna consciousness.
On the appearance day of Lord Caitanya, Srila Prabhupada was very pleased to see Jayananda spontaneously performing kirtana on the street outside the temple. Encouraged, Jayananda then started singing regularly on busier streets with other devotees, laying the foundation for chanting parties that would soon travel all over the country.
Both devotees and others were instinctively attracted by Jayananda's purity. Once, when he offered a garland to Srila Prabhupada, he apologized for his greasy clothes.
Srila Prabhupada remarked, "There is absolutely no offense. You [my disciples] may be dirty, but your hearts are pure."
Jayananda touched the hearts of many people, and they usually responded by doing some service for Krsna. He would get almost everything for the temple free or at a steep discount. He was friends with shopkeepers, city officials, drunks, and derelicts. Everybody loved Jayananda, and he happily engaged everyone in the service of the Lord. He worked the hardest, but he praised the service of everyone else. He was humble, tolerant, compassionate, and renounced. His actions, his words, his life, and his death all exemplified the process of bhakti, devotional service to the Lord.
Srila Prabhupada's instructions—especially those encouraging practical service—became Jayananda's very life. Once, when a devotee asked him how to make advancement in Krsna consciousness, Jayananda shrugged and said, "I really don't know. I'm too busy working."
So immersed was Jayananda in executing Prabhupada's instructions that he would rarely get time to meet Srila Prabhupada. Serving in separation, he understood that association through instructions is more important than physical association. It is said that one must act in such a way that Krsna will want to see you; Jayananda exemplified this dictum by his service attitude.
Invariably Srila Prabhupada would ask for Jayananda, and someone would have to go fetch him. For Jayananda, Sri Krsna and Srila Prabhupada were the only two ultimate truths. Everything else, including his body, was to be engaged in their service.
One day some devotees got a small deity of Lord Jagannatha (Krsna as "the Lord of the universe") from an import store. Srila Prabhupada sent them back to get the other deities of the set—Lord Balarama and Subhadra Devi—and he started their worship in the temple. Meditating on the deities, Srila Prabhupada expressed his intense desire to spread their mercy by organizing a Rathayatra, the chariot festival held in their honor each year in the holy city of Puri in India. Jay-ananda dedicated himself to fulfilling this desire of Prabhupada's. Starting with a flatbed truck, he put together a "chariot" with whatever help he could get from devotees and anyone else. On July 9, 1967, the first Ratha-yatra in San Francisco—the first ever outside India—took place because of Jayananda's blood, sweat, and toil.
Jayananda improved the festival year after year, raising money, getting permits, doing the publicity, building huge chariots from scratch, and even baking pies for groups he'd interact with, such as the city police and the U.S. Park Service. He would live with the chariots while they were being built, often working with little or no sleep as the festival date approached. Eventually held in Golden Gate Park, the festival drew bigger and bigger crowds year after year. Thanks to Jayananda's efforts, thousands of people received Lord Jagannatha's mercy. The festivals now held in cities around the world.
Srila Prabhupada often expressed his deep gratitude to Jayananda for the festivals. When Jayananda passed away, Srila Prabhupada said that his picture should be carried on one of the chariots at every Rathayatra.
While preparing for the New York Rathayatra in 1976, Jayananda found painful lumps growing on his body. A Godbrother worried that they might be cancerous, but Jayananda made him promise not to tell Srila Prabhupada until after the festival. Jayananda's main concern was that the Rathayatra should be a success; everything else was secondary.
The New York Rathayatra was indeed a great success. Rolling down Fifth Avenue, the three chariots delighted thousands of people, many becoming inspired to inquire into and even take up the practices of Krsna consciousness. Srila Prabhupada was ecstatic. He called it a grand success and thanked Jayananda for his service.
The lumps on Jayananda's body turned out to be cancerous. He was diagnosed with leukemia, which gradually reduced his body to a shell. Accepting that he would die soon, Jayananda continued to express his deep gratitude toward Srila Prabhupada. His friends were shocked and saddened to see his disease-ravaged body, but Jayananda was still too busy performing devotional service to give it much concern. And when he did agree to medical treatment, he used his time in the hospital to tell doctors, nurses, and patients about Krsna consciousness.
Jayananda constantly thought about how to expand Rathayatra to other cities. In his final months, he helped organize the Los Angeles Rathayatra, making phone calls, raising money, and guiding devotees. One day, while walking on Venice Beach, where the festival would be held, he looked down and—as if visualizing the upcoming festival—said, "What a wonderful Rathayatra!"
On May 1, 1977, just a few months before the festival, Jayananda passed from this world. In a letter written to Jayananda after his passing, Srila Prabhupada congratulated him on a glorious life and an even more glorious death, since both in life and at death he had been absorbed in the service of Krsna. Prabhupada ordained that the disappearance day of Jayananda be celebrated like those of other Vaisnava saints. As Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura so eloquently said:
He reasons ill who says that Vaisnavas die
As I think about Jayananda, I imagine this scene: Somewhere an ISKCON Rathayatra is about to start. Conch shell blasts and cries of "Jaya Jagannatha!" pierce the sky. Looking on from the spiritual world, Jayananda turns to Srila Prabhupada, who nods and says, "Thank you very much."
Bhayahari Dasa, a disciple of Romapada Swami, lives in Fairfax, Virginia, with his wife, Indulekha Devi Dasi, and six-year-old son, Dhruv. He works in information technology and can be reached at email@example.com.
A Friend to All
ONCE, A YOUNG MAN came to visit the San Francisco temple, and he wanted to help. So the temple president sent him to the trash area, where Jayananda was preparing the weekly trash run.
Jayananda told the young man, "I'm the garbage man around here. For years I've been watching garbage men carry out trash, and now Krsna is giving me a chance to do this for Him."
The young man not only helped load the trash, but accompanied Jayananda to the garbage dump. Later he became a devotee of Krsna, and he recalled thinking, If the garbage men at this temple can be so blissful, just imagine what the rest of the people are like!
As it is said of the six Gosvamis of Vrndavana, Jayananda was "dear to both the gentle and the ruffians." He would make friends while out chanting on the street, and they would come to him later and say, "Hey, where have you been?"
Once a devotee was approached by a staggering drunk in San Francisco. The drunk looked at his robes and asked, "Hey, where's my old friend Jayananda?"
When devotees would take over Jayananda's old territory for incense-selling runs or trips to the vegetable market, they would meet people who said such things as "Where's Johnny Ananda?" or "That man—he's the nicest and purest man I've ever met." One man said, "I don't know much about your philosophy, but if that Jayananda is into it, it must be all right."
Once, Jayananda and another devotee were struggling to load a heavy refrigerator onto a truck. Two drunks were walking up the alley, and Jayananda said, "I'm going to give them a chance to do some devotional service."
His enthusiasm for devotional service was usually contagious, and this was no exception. Soon, the drunks were right in there working, and the job was done in no time.
Jayananda then told them, "Now say 'Hare.'"
"Now say 'Krsna.'"
"Now say 'Hare Krsna.'"
Drunks: "Hare Krsna."
"Jaya! Haribol! Thank you, fellas. All glories to Srila Prabhupada!"
—Compiled by Kalakantha Dasa
"We Can Feed People Unlimitedly,
We continue an exchange between His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and Australia's director of research for the Department of Social Welfare. It took place at the Melbourne ISKCON center on May 21, 1975.
Director: Then, Your Grace, to stay with your example, you think that because the patients in the doctor's office don't know medicine the way he does, therefore they have no mind of their own?
Srila Prabhupada: They have their mind, but insofar as medical science is concerned, theirs is a mind of depreciated value. Or take the example of a madman. He has got his mind, but what is the value of that mind? You are not going to take the opinion of a madman. He has his mind, but he is a madman. Mudha, ass. Mayayapahrta-jnana: his knowledge has been taken away. His mind being in a disordered condition, his opinion has no value.
Director: But what if the brahmanas start to rule the world simply in their own interest?
Srila Prabhupada: Hmm? A genuine brahmana advises the government not for his own interest but for everyone's interest. That is honesty.
Director: What if he's misguided? The world changes, and since your scriptures were recorded, conditions have changed for the worse.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes—simply because people have not followed the scriptures. For instance, in India gradually the culture—and the character of the brahmanas—has become lost over the last thousand years, because most of the time India has been subjugated by foreigners. The Muhammadans introduced some of their culture. Then the Britishers came and introduced some of theirs. Everyone wanted an interest. When British rule came, Lord Macaulay reported back to London, "If you allow these Indians to remain as followers of the Vedic culture, you will never be able to rule them." So the British government's policy became to condemn everything Indian.
Director: But didn't you say before that the British didn't allow drinking?
Srila Prabhupada: No. The British allowed drinking. Very carefully, of course, because they did not want to apppear to be directly putting their hands on India's culture. But they introduced drinking underground. And so all these years later, now that the people of India have been trained up in drinking, now they are openly drinking. But the training was done by the Britishers. After all, in sophisticated society there must be drinking. So the British provided the introduction.
Director: But in Indian society, drinking alcohol is forbidden.
Srila Prabhupada: In Indian society, people did not know how to drink tea, even. In our childhood we saw that the Britishers started tea gardens. There were no tea plants before the Britishers. The Britishers saw that Indian labor was very cheap, and they wanted to do business, so they started introducing tea. Just as they did in Africa—so many coffee and tea gardens. So they started introducing tea, and the tea they produced in India they exported for sale to America.
The Britishers were after business. Now, though, with more tea being produced than they could sell to America, who would con-sume it? So by heavily taxing the tea-garden holders, the British government pressed them to canvass street to street and get the Indian people to start drinking tea. The tea-garden holders' business became canvassing, preparing tea—very nice, palatable tea—and advertising, "If you drink tea, then you will not feel very hungry, and your malaria will go away." And so on and so forth.
So the Indian people began to drink tea. They began wanting a nice cup of tea. I have seen it. Now they had gotten a taste. Now, gradually, you would see the street sweeper early in the morning, waiting in the tea shop to get a cup of tea.
During our childhood, tea was taken only if somebody was coughing. Sometimes people would resort to tea, but otherwise it was unknown. Drinking tea, drinking wine, smoking, eating flesh—these things were unknown. Prostitution. There was prostitution, but not that, as today, every woman would be pressured to dress and act like a prostitute. Very strong restrictions. So these things should be taken care of. At least, a class of men must be ideal, so that other people will see.
And this training should go on, just as we are doing. We are inviting people to come and chant Hare Krsna with us, dance with us, and take prasada, food offered to Krsna. And gradually people are becoming devotees. The same people who had been addicted to drinking, addicted to prostitution, addicted to meat-eating—they are becoming saintly persons. This is practical. You can see what was these people's previous history and what they are now.
Director: But how do we reconcile what you recommend with the fact that our doctors tell us we should eat meat because of the protein?
Srila Prabhupada: That is foolishness. My disciples here have not been eating meat for several years. Do you think they are reduced in their health? Rather, people say, "What bright faces!" In Boston one priest wearing plain dress said, "Swamiji, how is it your students look so bright?" And often we are portrayed by the press as having bright faces. Recently some ladies were so struck by my students' appearance that they asked, "Are you American?"
Director: But how would you react if somebody breaks into this place and tries to steal?
Srila Prabhupada: If a thief came in, we would punish him.
Director: You would be violent?
Srila Prabhupada: Why not? A thief should be punished.
Director: You would punish him yourself? What would you do? Would you start attacking him?
Srila Prabhupada: No. Whether by ourselves or someone else, a thief has to be punished. A thief has to be punished. By ourselves or yourselves, the government men—it doesn't matter. A thief is a thief, and he should be punished.
Director: What if he breaks in because he is hungry?
Srila Prabhupada: Well, we advertise, "Everyone—come and eat." Why should this man remain hungry? We invite everyone, "Come here and eat—no charge." We don't charge. Why should he remain hungry? Let us increase this program. "All hungry men of Melbourne city, come here. You take your meals sumptuously." We invite, "Come on. Why should you remain hungry?"
Director: What if he's an alcoholic and he's hungry?
Disciple: Some alcoholics come here, and we give them a meal every night.
Director: You do?
Disciple: Yes. And each week they visit our Sunday feast, and we give them a meal then, too.
Srila Prabhupada: Krsna consciousness requires a little time to practice. Otherwise, it is open to everyone for his reformation.
Director: But you would have your limitations as to how far you can go in feeding people.
Srila Prabhupada: We can feed people unlimitedly, provided the government helps.
Director: You could make a place where destitute people could come and have a free meal.
Srila Prabhupada: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. Everyone—we open our doors to everyone. "You come and take prasada."
Director: Could the government, in a word, use you ...
Srila Prabhupada: No, we cannot be used by the government. We can use the government. The government cannot dictate to us. That will not help.
Director: Just a moment. Just a moment. It is a fact that we have a lot of destitutes to look after. And you feel your religious order would like to help people. If the government subsidizes you to provide these services ...
Srila Prabhupada: That we can do.
Director: That you can do. As long as they don't contradict your ...
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Our principle is this pure, Krsna conscious way of life. You can see one day. If you kindly come early in the morning and stay for the entire day, you can see our activity, how nicely we are doing. And then you can do the needful.
Kumbha Mela 2001
The sights, sounds, smells, and spirit of
by Nitya-trpta Devi Dasi
MY HUSBAND, Krsna Prema Dasa, and I are on our second pilgrimage to Kumbha-mela, having come here in 1989. Our excitement rises as we reach the edge of the vast encampment. The air is hazy with fog, dust, and campfire smoke. The Indian government has erected numerous pontoon bridges spanning the mighty Ganges River. As the Tata Sumo we're riding in drives over a bridge into the city of tents, we feel we've entered a place untouched by time.
Everything looks and feels much the same as it did when we came here twelve years ago, and will probably look the same twelve years from now. Pilgrims arrive in families with great bundles on their heads. Sadhus dressed in saffron carry sticks or tridents. Some have mountains of matted hair piled on their heads. Some (known as Naga Babas) are naked.
Camps have erected front gates, ranging from simple bamboo frames to huge, elaborate entrances that resemble palaces or temples. Every camp has several loud-speaker horns blaring music, drama, or discourse. Government loudspeakers, placed on poles every ten meters, compete for attention with news, music, discussions, or announcements. All this goes on constantly. The sounds and music mingle and crash together to make such a menagerie of sound that I wonder how anyone can understand any of it.
We finally enter Sankaracharya Marg, the main road, where the
The three-acre camp sits near a huge brick support for a train bridge that spans the Ganges and sandy plain. A thirty-meter-high "HARE KRISHNA" sign over the camp can be seen from anywhere in the entire Kumbha-mela.
Hopping out of our Tata Sumo, we enter the camp and quickly make our way to the reception tent, eager to settle in and head out for a photographic overview.
I'm soon donning my photo-vest and filling it will film and lenses. As Krsna Prema pulls out his video gear, we hear the loud beating of drums and head for the central area of the camp. Bhakti Svarupa Damodara Swami has come from Manipur with his "100 Drums" troupe. They dance gracefully while beating out intricate rhythms. I wiggle my way through the crowd to get a good vantage point for photos, the turbaned drummers spinning and leaping through the air while pounding the wooden drums.
As the drum exhibition ends, we ease our way out onto the streets of the Kumbha-mela. The Shastri Bridge provides a good vantage point, so we head toward it.
Pilgrims and loudspeakers release a continuous river of prayers and mantras. Allahabad was previously known as Prayag, "place of sacrifice." Holy men are meant to perform sacrifice and penance here to benefit human society by reawakening and renewing spiritual values. I see devotees of different orders everywhere. The various colored devotional markings on their foreheads add to the tapestry of Kumbha-mela.
By the time we reach Shastri Bridge, the sun is hovering low on the horizon. The vast tent city spreads as far as we can see. As we cross the bridge, the golden sun reflects softly on the Ganges as it converges with the Yamuna. Lights flicker in the twilight as mist from the rivers thickens with campfire smoke.
We finish our photo session in near darkness. As we make our way back to camp in time for the evening meal, my eyes sting from the smoke of a thousand campfires.
Mangala-arati (early-morning wor-ship) takes place in the center of the compound in front of the ornate ISKCON Padayatra bullock cart, which bears deities. Padayatra, a walking festival that travels from village, began in 1984 and has walked around India four times since.
I walk out onto the streets of the Mela. It is still dark and slightly foggy. Thousands of colored lights adorn the vast encampment. Exotic smells of incense and spices drift through the vibrant morning air. I photograph illumined gates up and down one of the main roads.
Thousands of pilgrims move about through the mist. Lights twinkle and flash on and off in patterns. Smiles and curious eyes are everywhere. Mantras mix with announcements. Today is one of the important days for immersion in the confluence of the three holy rivers: the Ganges, the Yamuna, and the subterranean Sarasvati. Bathing at this holy time and place and associating with saintly persons purify sinful reaction, opening the heart to spiritual understanding, liberating one from repeated birth and death.
Back at our camp, everyone prepares for a procession to the confluence. Our procession consists of the "100 Drums" from Manipur, a large blue banner declaring that we are ISKCON, small deities of Lord Caitan-ya and Lord Nityananda, and a small brass icon of Srila Prabhupada.
We chant and dance spontaneously through the streets. The drummers beat out a strong rhythm that can be heard at a great distance, clearing the way and attracting onlookers. As we near a pontoon bridge, we get stuck in a mass of pilgrims. We push on until we're jammed in tight, going nowhere.
Bursting out from the mass of humanity, I find myself on the edge of a parade of yogis and pilgrims returning from their holy dip. Unlike my last visit, this year the Naga Babas seem indifferent to photographers. I happily snap away as hundreds of ash-covered naked or loincloth-clad Naga Babas leap and bound off the pontoon bridge, waving swords and tridents and calling out to Lord Siva.
When I hear Krsna Prema shout that our procession is moving, I join, and we soon enter the bathing arena. Pilgrims are everywhere. As we near the water, Krsna Prema and I spot a raised vantage point that allows us to see the expansive confluence of the rivers glistening in the late-morning sun. Bathers everywhere chant and sing with exuberance. Within eleven hours, ten million people will immerse themselves in the water. It is simply amazing that so many can gather in peace and respect solely to come closer to spiritual perfection. In some densely populated Western cities, a violent crime occurs every twenty seconds. Six weeks of Kumbha-mela produced no violent crimes.
After taking photos, we near the water, but because we're so laden with equipment, we just sprinkle water on our heads, knowing that this simple act will somehow uplift and energizing our souls.
We return to our camp, and I hobble with blistered feet past twelve dioramas depicting philosophical concepts and the Lord's pastimes and incarnations. Devotees stand at each diorama, ready to answer questions.
Three booths selling Srila Prabhupada's books are quite busy. A half-naked yogi with trident in hand and matted hair piled on his head inspects and then buys a book.
I enter a large tent decorated with chandeliers. Onstage, dramas, dance recitals, and philosophical discourses run morning to night. When the programs end, pilgrims sleep there. Some generous ISKCON members have donated blankets and jackets to the poor sadhus.
After breakfast we walk three kilometers to take a closer look at the confluence of the rivers. The crowd is much thinner than yesterday, making it easier to navigate the sandy streets of the Mela.
An impromptu market occasionally comes into view—rows of merchants sitting on the ground, their wares spread out before them or on a cart. Items for sale range from fruit and vegetables to bangles, bobbles, and water jugs (to bring home Ganges water to friends and relatives).
As we reach the embankment leading down to the river, the Ganges and Yamuna glisten in the sun. Boats ply to the center of the confluence. Birds rise and fall, silhouetted against the river water. Pilgrims of all ages are everywhere—some in the water, some preparing to go in, some drying off, some offering prayers, and some carrying brass pots of the prized confluence water.
On the way back to camp, we spot the daily ISKCON chanting party. Two beautiful oxen from Gujarat pull the carved wooden Padayatra cart. Standing tall with huge horns curving over their heads, they look stately and majestic, undisturbed by the chanting and dancing that surrounds them.
The streets of the Kumbha-mela resound with Hare Krsna. Devotees know that chanting the holy name of the Lord is the perfection of yoga. Small elderly ladies and loincloth-clad yogis join the chanting. The nectar of immortality flows freely in the form of the holy name.
After waking up with a cold and a sore throat, I spend the morning lying in the winter sun, chanting and listening to the sounds of the Mela.
Later I decide to watch the abundant prasadam distribution at the ISKCON camp. The gates open at 11:00 A.M. Ordinary pilgrims stand in line for hours, but sadhus have a special line. Donors sponsor five thousand hot-and-tasty meals a day. Thirty devotees from Vrndavana cook over wood-pit fires, using enormous pots. I feel awed by their dedication.
Surely Srila Prabhupada is pleased with the ISKCON camp. The devotees seem to be doing everything right. The daily chanting party, the public tent program, the question-and-answer booth, and the prasadam distribution all run smoothly. More than fifteen hundred books are sold daily to the ten thousand daily visitors. A mood of helping pervades the camp, reflecting the spirit of the Mela.
Nitya-trpta Devi Dasi, a photographer, and her husband Krsna Prema Dasa, a musician, created Krsna Vision, a multi-slide-projector presentation. Now they're moving more into the digital realm, developing multimedia interactive CDs and computer presentations.
The Inhabitants of the earth benefit
By Lokanath Swami
THE LORD'S pastime of protecting the devas (demigods) from the asuras (demons) by producing nectar from the ocean of milk is described in detail in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, Canto 8, chapters 5 through 11.
Millions of years ago, the sage Durvasa visited the capital of Indra's kingdom in the heavenly planets. While Durvasa Muni was passing on the road, he saw Indra on the back of his elephant and was pleased to offer Indra a garland from his own neck. Indra, however, being too proud of his material wealth, took the garland and placed it on the trunk of his carrier elephant. The elephant, being an animal, could not understand the value of the garland. It threw the garland between its legs and smashed it. Seeing this insulting behavior, Durvasa Muni cursed Indra to become poverty-stricken.
The asuras, the natural enemies of the devas, took this opportunity to attack Lord Indra and steal all the riches and virtuous possessions in his kingdom. A fierce battle for supremacy of the heavenly planets raged. Bereft of all influence and strength, the devas were defeated.
The devas then went to Lord Brahma for help. Unable to offer a solution, Lord Brahma took them to Svetadvipa, the abode of Ksirodakasayi Visnu in the ocean of milk.
Lord Visnu advised the devas to cooperate with the asuras and churn the ocean of milk to attain an immortal nectar that would make the devas invincible. He told the devas to follow the logic of the snake and the mouse in dealing with the asuras. A snake and a mouse were once caught in a basket. The snake said to the mouse, "Look, I could eat you very easily, but it's more important for me to get out of this basket. So why don't you make a hole so that we can both escape?" The mouse agreed and started working. But as soon as the hole was big enough, the snake ate the mouse and came out of the basket.
Similarly, the Lord wanted the devas to take help from the asuras, but He had no intention of giving any of the nectar to the asuras. He would appear as Mohini-murti and cheat them.
The asuras and devas uprooted Mandara Mountain to use as a churning rod and requested Vasuki, the king of the serpents, to serve as the churning rope. With the churning, the mighty golden Mandara Mountain began to sink slowly into the ocean of milk. The devas and asuras became discouraged at the turn of events.
Then the Lord took the form of a tortoise, known as Kurma-avatara. He entered the water and held the great mountain on His back. The mountain moved back and forth with the churning motion, scratching the back of Lord Tortoise, who, while partially sleeping, was pleasingly experiencing an itching sensation.
Soon a fiercely dangerous poison was produced from the ocean, covering all directions. The compassionate Lord Siva drank the poison and held it in His throat, turning his neck bluish and earning him the name Nilakantha, "one who has a bluish neck."
Products Of The Milk Ocean
The milk ocean then produced many wonderful items: a surabhi cow, a beautiful horse named Uccaihsrava, the elephant Airavata, eight great white elephants that could go in any direction, eight she-elephants, the crescent moon, a conch shell named Pancajanya, a bow named Haridhanu ("the bow of Hari"), the goddess Varuni, the precious Kaustubha jewel, a desire-fulfilling parijata flower, Apsaras (the most beautiful women in the universe), Laksmi (the goddess of fortune), and Dhanvantari.
A partial incarnation of the Lord, Dhanvantari rose slowly from the ocean. Srimad-Bhagavatam (8.8.32-33) describes his beautiful form:
He was strongly built; his arms were long, stout, and strong; his neck, which was marked with three lines, resembled a conch shell; his eyes were reddish; and his complexion was blackish. He was very young, he was garlanded with flowers, and his entire body was fully decorated with various ornaments. He was dressed in yellow garments and wore brightly polished earrings made of pearls. The tips of his hair were anointed with oil, and his chest was very broad. His body had all good features, he was stout and strong like a lion, and he was decorated with bangles. In his hand he carried a jug filled to the top with nectar.
The jug of nectar was the prize everyone was waiting for. The asuras quickly stole the jug, and they began to fight over who should take the first drink. While they argued, the Lord assumed the form of an extremely beautiful woman known as Mohini-murti and slowly approached them.
Mohini-murti said, "The demigods are very miserly and are excessively anxious to take the nectar first. So let them have it first. Since you are not like them, you can wait a little longer. You are all heroes and are so pleased with Me. It is better for you to wait until after the demigods drink."
The asuras, overwhelmed by Her beauty and charm, gave Her the jug of nectar, and She promptly delivered it to the devas.
The asuras were furious at the deception and attacked the devas with all their force. According to the Skanda Purana, at one point during the fight, Jayanta, a son of Indra, took the kumbha (jug) and ran away toward the heavenly planets. The asuras followed, eager to retrieve the nectar, and the fierce fighting continued. From time to time during twelve days of fighting, circumstances compelled Jayanta to place the kumbha at four places on earth: on the bank of the Godavari River in Nasika, Maharashtra; at the Shipra River in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh; at the Ganges in Haridwar, Uttar Pradesh, and at the Triveni-sangam in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh.
When the kumbha was lifted at each location, some drops of nectar fell onto the earth. That same nectar appears at these sites during certain planetary configurations. Even today, millions of people come to partake of the nectar, to become immortal by bathing in the holy rivers and drinking the nectarlike waters. Because the fighting between the devas and the asuras lasted for twelve earth years (twelve demigod days), Kumbha-melas are held at each of these sites once every twelve years.
Lokanath Swami is the director of ISKCON Padayatras ("walking pilgrimages") worldwide and the author of the recently published book Kumbha: The Festival of Immortality.
Srila Prabhupada at Allahabad
FOR THIRTEEN YEARS Srila Prabhupada lived in Allahabad. He moved there in 1923 with his family. Allahabad was a good location to start his pharmaceutical business, Prayag Pharmacy. He entered a business partnership with a physician, Dr. Ghosh, who diagnosed patients and gave medical prescriptions, which Prabhupada would fill. Motilal Nehru and his son, Jawaharlal, (the future Prime Minister of India) were both customers at Prabhupada's pharmacy.
During his time in Allahabad, Prabhupada stayed in contact with Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, whom he had first met in 1922 in Calcutta. On November 21, 1932, under the direction of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, the Allahabad Gaudiya Matha held a cornerstone-laying ceremony for their new temple. The governor, Sir William Haily, was the respected guest. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta held an initiation ceremony, and Prabhupada received initiation (harinama and Gayatri) from him.
Previously, upon learning that Prabhupada had requested initiation, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta had remarked, "He likes to hear. He does not go away. I have marked him. I will accept him as my disciple."
The Vedic literature states that whoever bathes in the Triveni-sangam at the auspicious time of the Kumbha-mela is guaranteed of liberation from birth and death. That is why the Mela has always attracted millions of pilgrims.
Yet Srila Prabhupada said, "We are not interested in liberation. We have come to preach devotional service. Being engaged in Krsna's unalloyed devotional service, we are already liberated."
In contrast to almost everyone present, Prabhupada emphasized giving spiritual knowledge as the prime reason for attending the Mela. The devotee's only ambition is to enlighten as many people as possible. Pilgrimage was secondary. With this mood, the devotees attended the 1971 Kumbha-mela with Prabhupada and enthusiastically presented Krsna consciousness to the millions of pilgrims.
None of the western devotees had ever attended the Kumbha-mela. The many bizarre sights can bewilder and confuse the mind, but Prabhupada reminded the devotees that spiritual life is neither exotic nor bewildering, but simple and practical.
"To go to a holy place means to find a holy person and hear from him," Prabhupada had said. "A place is holy because of the presence of the saintly persons."
In a conversation recorded in January 1977 (just before the Kumbha-mela), Prabhupada said that the real purpose of the Kumbha-mela is to take advantage of the spiritual knowledge presented there:
The Kumbha-mela is sat-sanga. If you go to the Kumbha-mela to find out a man of knowledge, then your Kumbha-mela is right. If one thinks that this salila, the water—to take bath in the water—is Kumbha-mela, then he is a go-kharah [a cow or an ass]. But the real idea is "Now there are assembled so many saintly persons. Let me take advantage of their knowledge." Then he is intelligent. People should take advantage. You can go to different groups of saintly persons. Different groups means brahmeti paramatmeti bhagavan iti. There are some yogis, some jnanis, some bhaktas. They are of the same category, little difference. But they're all spiritual. They have no interest in this material world.
Srila Prabhupada said that although many of the sadhus present were inauthentic and didn't really know the highest goal of human life, many were perfect yogis. These yogis, from remote parts of India, would come out for the Mela and then return to seclusion.
"I have personally seen," Prabhupada said, "that they take bath in the Ganges and come up in the seven sacred rivers. They go down in the Ganges and come up in the Godavari River. Then they go down and come up in the Krishna River, and go down, like that."
The devotees, therefore, should respect everyone who attended the Mela.
Prabhupada also explained that one is not liberated automatically by taking bath at the Kumbha-mela on the specific auspicious days. But by coming to the holy tirtha and taking bath on the holy days, the door to liberation gets opened.
"If you are trying to enter a room and the door is closed," he said, "there is some prohibition. It is more difficult for you to enter the room. But if the door is opened for you, then your entrance to the room is easier."
After the 1977 Kumbha-mela, the story of the death of a Naga Baba made the national newspapers. Wearing no clothing, he had died from the extreme cold.
Prabhupada commented on the incident.
"He must die. They imitate. They have no sadhana [regulated spiritual practice], no bhajana [worship], and simply naga [naked]."
The devotees told Prabhupada that the imitators smoke chillums (marijuana) and become so intoxicated that they don't feel the cold. One disciple told Prabhupada that he had seen a Naga who had been smoking cigarettes for twelve years without stopping. Another man had been holding his arm up in the air for the past twelve years. His fingernails had grown very long, and his arm was flat. Another renunciant hadn't sat down for eighteen years. He carried a small swing with him, which he would tie to a tree and lean on.
"This is markata-vairagya, the renunciation of a monkey," Prabhupada said, referring to the type of renunciation that, although difficult to perform, doesn't produce any advancement in Krsna consciousness. The monkeys also have no clothes to wear and live in treetops in the secluded forest, but the male monkeys have a large group of female monkeys to sport with.
Some devotees concluded that severe penance was not recommended anywhere in the Vedas, but Prabhupada corrected them: "No, Hiranyakasipu did it. But what did he gain? He became a raksasa [demon] and was killed."
The Significance of Prayag
THE WORD prayag refers to a place where great sacrifices are held. Many ages ago, Lord Brahma chose as a place for sacrifice a prime piece of land encircled by three sacred rivers: the Ganges, the Yamuna, and the Sarasvati. That site became known a Prayag. In A.D. 1573, the Mogul king Akbar erected a large fort at the confluence of the three rivers and renamed the city Ilahabas or Ilahabad, "the city of Allah." From that time, Prayag became known as Allahabad.
The confluence of the three rivers is known as the Triveni-sangam. Tri means "three," veni refers to a braid, and sangam means "union." The dark blue and black Yamuna flows swiftly into the white and gray Ganges. The Sarasvati flows underground.
Bathing in any of these sacred rivers is purifying, but the purification is said to increase a hundred times where the rivers meet. The Varaha Purana states: "In Prayag there is the Triveni. By bathing there one goes to heaven, and by dying there one gets liberation. It is the king of all tirthas [holy places of pilgrimage] and is dear to Lord Visnu."
Lord Brahma has said, prayagasya pravesesu papam nasyanti tatksanam: "All sins are at once cleansed upon entering Prayag."
Many exalted saints and sages have visited Prayag. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Lord Nityananda, and Advaita Acarya all spent time there during pilgrimage tours.
A doctoral study on the effects
By Dhira Govinda Dasa
I WAS INVITED by the Society of Social Work Researchers to make a presentation at their annual conference, held this year in Atlanta on January 20-22. Back to Godhead readers may remember articles about my doctoral research into the effects of chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra (BTG January/February 2000). The research demonstrated that chanting can elevate one in the modes of nature, reducing stress and depression. At the Atlanta conference, I made a presentation with Dr. Neil Abell, the main professor for my doctoral work. I related the maha-mantra research to a topic of importance to con-ference attendees: intervention outcome research conducted in a doctoral program. ("Intervention outcome research" is jargon for research on whether a technique for helping someone actually worked.) About forty professors attended our presentation, including some of the top names in social work research and scholarship.
After having sat through two presentations before ours and observing audience reaction, I wasn't expecting the response to the maha-mantra presentation to be particularly enthusiastic—perhaps some perfunctory show of interest at best. During the presentation I recited the maha-mantra and described its purported effects according to Vedic theory. This included an explanation of the research I conducted on the three gunas, which was described in BTG (May/June 1998, March/April 1999), as well as in Psychological Reports (June 1999) and The Journal of Indian Psychology (January 1998). I also briefly described Vedic ontology and epistemology, as it relates to mantra chanting. We left about three minutes for questions and discussion. The group kept us half an hour overtime, a rarity for this sort of conference.
The professors were fully enlivened by the subject and complimented us for our boldness in researching such an esoteric, spiritual subject. It seemed they were amazed that someone was researching something genuinely interesting—a research project not motivated by grant dollars or keeping a faculty position. Several professors asked for copies of papers and articles I had written, such as "The Vedic Theory of Social Work" and "A Psychometric Analysis of the Three Gunas." One professor told me after the presentation that he had been practicing siddha-yoga for ten years. The Hare Krsna maha-mantra was one of the mantras he chanted, and it has always been his favorite.
Dr. Abell has been impressed with how well my study has followed a recognized academic model for implementing intervention outcome research into a doctoral program. This compliance is the subject of an article being considered for publication in the top journal in social work education. A manuscript on the pilot testing of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra has already been accepted by a scholarly journal, and a manuscript on the group design has been accepted by a top research journal. (The pilot test involved only one group, and each member chanted Hare Krsna. "Group design" refers to the experiment that included three groups—a maha-mantra group, an alternative-mantra group, and a control group.) Additionally, the data of the experiment lends itself to a newly developed statistical procedure, and Dr. Abell and I will be writing an article on this aspect of the maha-mantra analysis. The top scholar on this statistical procedure, with whom we spoke during the conference, will join as a third author.
At the end of an evening conversation during the conference, Dr. Abell asked me for a set of japa beads, which I gladly obtained for him during a recent visit to India.
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura (1838-1914)
In honor of the anniversary of the passing of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, which coincides with this issue of Back to Godhead (June 21), we present this special section on his life and teachings and the discovery of his family's deities, Sri Sri Radha-Madhava.
An appreciation of the gifts of
By Srila Gour Govinda Swami
This is a translation of part of a speech delivered on September 2, 1993, the 155th anniversary of the birth of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura. On that day a public meeting was held at the Dinabandhu Sahoo Law College, Kendrapara, Orissa, to glorify Thakura Bhaktivinoda, whose portrait was installed in honor of his being the first law graduate of Orissa.
"I bow down to Sri Srila Saccidananda Bhaktivinoda Thakura, who is the embodiment of the energy of Sri Gaurasundara [Caitanya Mahaprabhu] and a great sadhu in the line of the followers of Sri Rupa Gosvami Prabhupada."
Srila Saccidananda Bhaktivinoda Thakura was born with the name Sri Kedarnath Dutta on September 2, 1838. He appeared in the village of Ula, in the district of Nadia, West Bengal, which was his maternal uncle's home. But the house of his forefathers is in the village of Choti in the Kendrapara District of Orissa. Choti is the sripat, the native place of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, and he resided here.
Having been decorated with the dust of Bhaktivinoda Thakura's lotus feet, this is a very sacred place. But most people have not known about it. This place is now coming to everyone's notice because of the blessings of Bhaktivinoda Thakura. Getting the strength of that blessing, the research scholar Dr. Fakir Mohan Das has been working to reveal this place to the world. Without such blessings, no one can do this work. Sripada Fakir Mohan Das may face much opposition, but after resisting this opposition strongly, he will surely establish the real truth.
Best Welfare Work
What is the best welfare work for the world? Thakura Bhaktivinoda has expressed the following in his monthly journal Sajjana-tosani:
Showing kindness, daya, to living entities can be divided into three categories:
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura exhibited the topmost type of kindness or welfare work, but how many people understand it? How many people glorify the qualities of such Vaisnava sadhus and mahajanas [great persons]? Even learned persons do not understand the work of the Vaisnavas.
We see that those who have done or are doing something for the welfare of the body or mind are highly glorified. But who is speaking the glories of those doing welfare work for the soul? How many people have spiritual knowledge? How many people realize the soul? How many people have the vision to see the soul? The sadhu-mahajanas have dedicated their whole lives for doing welfare work for the soul. By their blessings, spiritual vision has been received by many persons. Who knows and glorifies these sadhus and mahajanas? In this material world, no one speaks about their great works and efforts.
Srila Thakura Bhaktivinoda left this world on June 23, 1914. He dedicated his whole life to preaching Gaudiya Vaisnavism [devotional service in the line of Lord Caitanya] and spiritualism, or bhagavat-dharma [eternal service to God]. In the Bhagavad-gita it is said, yada yada hi dharmasya glanir bhavati bharata: Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, Lord Krsna Himself descends along with His followers to reestablish the principles of religion. Thakura Bhaktivinoda is the embodiment of this verse. In this age of skepticism and fruitless nihilism, he exercised his mighty pen to reestablish sanatana-dharma, eternal religion. Inspired by the Gaudiya Vaisnava Acaryas [spiritual masters], he wrote book after book, refuting materialistic views based on nihilism and atheism. By speaking on the eternal Vedas, on civilization and education, he enlightened many conditioned souls who had forgotten their real spiritual identity.
Without imparting scriptural knowledge there is no means to bring the living entities, who are oppositely attracted, towards para-tattva, the Supreme Truth. Gaudiya gurus such as Srila Rupa Gosvami, Srila Sanatana Gosvami, and Srila Jiva Gosvami did the work of spiritual masters by analyzing the Srimad-Bhagavatam and commentaries on it. The Bhagavatam is the essence of the eternal Vedic sound and the mature fruit of the desire tree of the Vedic literature. Thakura Bhaktivinoda nicely strung together the teachings of these Gaudiya gurus in easy and simple language. Therefore, after the six Gosvamis [leading disciples of Lord Caitanya], Thakura Bhaktivinoda is known as the Seventh Gosvami.
Following in the footsteps of Srila Jiva Gosvami, in 1884 Bhaktivinoda reestablished the Viswa Vaishnava Sabha (World Vaishnava Congregation) and preached the Vedic religion—Upanisads, Vedanta Sutras, Srimad-Bhagavatam—as well as the life and philosophy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. His son Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Goswami Prabhupada inherited these bright qualities from him and preached this great ideology of Gaudiya Vaisnavism throughout the Indian subcontinent, from the Himalayas to the oceans and abroad.
Thakura Bhaktivinoda wrote more than one hundred books, both original works and commentaries, in English, Sanskrit, and Bengali. His numerous devotional songs, immersed in divine love born of full surrender, reveal his deep love for Lord Sri Krsna. These songs have inspired all types of people, from ordinary conditioned souls to highly elevated devotees. His books of devotional songs, such as Saranagati, Gitavali, and Kalyana-Kalpataru, are food for the soul and are very praiseworthy in human society. In this age of short-lived sensual pleasure and false renunciation, these books are Bhaktivinoda's great call for those who are thirsty to get a taste of Vaikuntha [spiritual] love. Who can imagine the kindness he has shown?
Conditioned souls, being victims of illusion and the repetition of the cycle of birth and death, are prone to commit errors. The material world created by the Lord is our testing place. Here at every step we are continually being tested by maya. To pass this test one has to hear the devotional message spoken by mahajanas like Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura.
Bhaktivinoda's teachings should be preached more and more. If the leaders of present-day society sincerely desire the welfare of humanity, they should deeply cultivate and introspectively reflect upon these teachings. Please practice these teachings in your life and teach them to the world. This will surely bring auspiciousness and the unlimited blessings of Thakura Bhaktivinoda.
I pray for his blessings as follows:
adadana strnam danter idam yace punah punah
Keeping straw between my teeth, I pray repeatedly that life after life I may be a particle of dust at the lotus feet of Thakura Bhaktivinoda.
Jaya! Sri Srila Saccidananda Bhaktivinoda Thakura ki jaya!
Sripada Gour Govinda Swami, an ISKCON guru and a native of Orissa, passed from this world in 1996.
The discovery of the ancestral deities of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura.
By Bhaktarupa Dasa
FIVE HUNDRED years ago when Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu launched the sankirtana movement of the congregational chanting of the holy names of the Lord, He commissioned His closest associates to spread the movement everywhere. On the order of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Nityananda Prabhu traveled extensively throughout Bengal, humbly begging everyone He met to chant the holy names and worship Sri Sri Radha-Krsna. Many Bengalis surrendered at His lotus feet, becoming His disciples and adopting the Gaudiya Vaisnava way of life. Among these disciples was Krishnananda Dutta, a wealthy landowner residing in Ulberia, not far from present-day Calcutta.
Krishnananda Dutta worshiped deities of Sri Sri Radha-Madhava in his home in Ulberia until his retirement from family affairs. Then, taking the deities with him, he moved to the holy place Puri, Orissa, home of the famous temple of Lord Jagannatha. In Puri, Krishnananda lived a pious and simple life, not speaking to anyone, but chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra the whole day and night and worshiping Sri Sri Radha-Madhava. After living in Puri for some time, he met the feudal king of Ali State, about two hundred kilometers from Puri. Impressed with Krishnananda's spiritual qualities, the king invited him to live in his state, where he donated an entire village, named Choti (formerly called Choti Mangalpur), to the worship of Sri Sri Radha-Madhava.
The descendants of Krishnananda Dutta worshiped Sri Sri Radha-Madhava in Choti from generation to generation. Eventually the worship passed into the hands of his descendent Kedaranath Dutta (1838-1914), who is well-known to all Gaudiya Vaisnavas as Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, the great saint who was the first to present the teachings of Caitanya Mahaprabhu in a modern context.
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura wrote hundreds of songs glorifying the Supreme Lord in Bengali, Sanskrit, and Brajaboli (a dialect that combines Bengali, Sanskrit, and Oriya). His songs capture the essence of Gaudiya Vaisnava philosophy. One, Jaya Radha-Madhava, was a favorite of Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who would sing it every day just before his public lectures. This song paints a beautiful picture of the pastimes of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura's beloved deities Sri Sri Radha-Madhava.
After the departure of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, the worship of Sri Sri Radha-Madhava was handed down to his son, Bimala Prasad Dutta, also known as Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, the spiritual master of Srila Prabhupada. Because Srila Bhaktisiddhanta was a lifelong celibate and a dedicated traveling preacher, whenever he would visit Choti he would not enter into his ancestral home there; he would visit the temple of Sri Sri Radha-Madhava and stay in the nearby Dassahera Mandap.
Unfortunately, after Srila Bhaktisiddhanta's departure from this world the worship became neglected. A neighboring family schemed to lay their own claim on the lands belonging to the deities and secretly moved the deities to another village. This family claimed that the deities had become broken and thus, according to traditional practice, had to be submerged in the nearby Birupa River.
In the terminology of Gaudiya Vaisnavas, the native place of a great saint is called a sripat, and such places are considered worshipable by all the followers of the saint. But just as the village of Choti was deprived for five decades of seeing its proprietors, Sri Sri Radha-Madhava, the village—the native place of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Thakura—became all but forgotten by the spiritual descendants of these two great saints during that time. Now, though, ISKCON devotees from Bhubaneswar sometimes perform sankirtana in Choti.
Fortunately for us all, Bhaktivinoda Thakura left information about his connection with Choti in his autobiography. Dr. Fakir Mohan Das, a research scholar and professor at Utkal University in Bhubaneswar, and one of Bhaktivinoda Thakura's spiritual descendants, came across this information. Starting in 1982, Dr. Das visited Choti whenever he had the opportunity, and through painstaking research he eventually uncovered and published the facts about the history of the place for the benefit of the Gaudiya Vaisnava community. But the challenge of reestablishing the worship of Sri Sri Radha-Madhava in Choti remained.
Dr. Das was never fully satisfied with the story of how the deities had been submerged in the river, and he continued to make inquiries. Finally, in January 2000, after nearly twenty years of searching, he found Sri Sri Radha-Madhava in the house of a brahmana, Sri Duryodhana Dwivedi, where They had been secretly moved in about 1950. Sri Dwivedi was keen to hear of the international interest that would be generated by Their discovery, and he happily donated Their Lordships to a group of devotees headed by ISKCON Governing Body Commissioner His Holiness Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Swami, under the guarantee that Their worship would be reestablished in Choti on Their traditional lands.
Presently They are being worshiped in Bhubaneswar pending the construction of a new temple for Them in Choti.
Bhaktarupa Dasa, a disciple of Srila Prabhupada, lives in Bhubaneswar, Orissa, India. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura
"Krsna is the lover of Radha. He displays many amorous pastimes in the groves of Vrndavana. He is the lover of the cowherd maidens of Vraja, the holder of the great hill named Govardhana, the beloved son of mother Yasoda, and the delighter of the inhabitants of Vraja. He wanders in the forests along the banks of the River Yamuna."
This is the original nature of Krsna. He is Radha-Madhava; He is the lover of Srimati Radharani. And—kunja-vihari—He always enjoys the company of the gopis [cowherd girls] within the bushes of Vrndavana forest. Radha-madhava kunja-vihari. Not only is He the lover of Radharani, but—vraja-jana-vallabha—all the residents of Vrndavana love Krsna. They do not know anything else. They do not know whether Krsna is God or not. Nor are they very much harassed by the thought "I shall love Krsna if He is God." Instead they think, "He may be God or He may not be God. Whatever He is, it doesn't matter, but we love Krsna."
That's all. That is called unalloyed love. "If Krsna is God, then I shall love Him"—this is conditional love, not pure love. Krsna may be God or whatever He may be, but by His wonderful acts the Vrajavasis [residents of Vrndavana] are thinking, "Oh, Krsna is a very wonderful child. He may be some demigod."
People are generally under the impression that the demigods are all-powerful. The demigods are powerful within this material world, but people do not know that Krsna is above all of them. Isvarah paramah krsnah sac-cid-ananda-vigrahah. The highest demigod, Brahma, is giving his opinion: "The supreme controller is Krsna."
So, as the residents of Vrndavana love Krsna without any condition, Krsna loves them without any condition.
Giri-vara-dhari. When the inhabitants of Vrndavana stopped the sacrifice to Indra, they were in danger because Indra became very angry. For seven days he incessantly sent very great, powerful clouds and rain over Vrndavana. When the inhabitants became very much disturbed, Krsna, although He was only a seven-year-old boy, saved them by lifting Govardhana Hill. In this way He taught Indradeva, "To stop your disturbance is the business of My little finger. That's all." So Indra fell to his knees before Krsna. These things you'll find in our book Krsna.
As Gopi-jana-vallabha, Krsna's only business is how to protect the gopi-jana [gopis]. Our Krsna consciousness movement is teaching how to become one of the gopi-janas. Then Krsna will save us from any danger, even by lifting a hill or a mountain. Krsna is so kind and so powerful. When Krsna lifted the hill He had not practiced some yoga system. He was playing like a child. But when there was some need, He manifested Himself as God. That is Krsna. Not that He has to go and practice some yoga system to become God. No. He is not that type of "God," not a manufactured "God." He's God.
Yasoda-nandana, vraja-jana-ranjana. Krsna likes to be the child of a devotee. As the beloved child of Yasoda, He is called Yasodanandana, He wants to be chastised by His devotee father and mother, because everyone worships Him and nobody chastises Him. So He takes pleasure when a devotee chastises Him. That chastisement is service to Krsna. If Krsna takes pleasure in being chastised, then the responsibility is taken up by a devotee: "All right, I shall become Your father and chastise You." When Krsna wants to fight, one of His devotees becomes Hiranyakasipu and fights with Him. Therefore, become an associate of Krsna and develop Krsna consciousness.
Yasoda-nandana, vraja-jana-ranjana. As the vraja-jana's [Vrndavana residents'] business is how to satisfy Krsna, Krsna's business is how to satisfy the vraja-jana. This is reciprocation of love.
Yamuna-tira-vana-cari. Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is wandering on the banks of the Yamuna River to please the gopis, the cowherd boys, the birds, beasts, and calves. They are not ordinary birds, beasts, calves, or men. They are on the top level of self-realization. Krta-punya-punjah—after many, many lives they got the position to play with Krsna.
Our Krsna consciousness movement is so nice that everyone can go to Krsnaloka and associate with Krsna as a friend, as a servant, as a father or mother, as so many things. And Krsna is agreeable to any one of these propositions. These things are described very nicely in our book Teachings of Lord Caitanya.
Krsna does not go even one step out of Vrndavana. The original Krsna is in Vrndavana. Take advantage of these books, this knowledge, this prasadam, and this chanting. Be happy, and go to Krsna. It is such a nice thing.
By Madhavananda Dasa
A lecture before The National Seminar on Values and Ethics in Business, Utkal University, Bhubaneswar, Orissa, India, given on April 20, 2000.
BEFORE COMING here today I was considering how it is that a group of professors and professional businessmen would invite a shaven-headed renunciant dressed in simple dhoti and kurta, with no money of his own and no business experience, to be the chairman of the first session of this seminar. Why would you spend your valuable time unless there was some practical and profitable reason? You must be considering that the spiritual conception of ethics has practical value in today's business world. Here we'll discuss the spiritual conception of ethics from a most practical perspective, as presented by the famous son of Orissa Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura.
Bhaktivinoda Thakura (1838-1914) was the great theologian who first presented the teachings of Caitanya Mahaprabhu in a modern context. His pioneering efforts have manifested today as the Hare Krsna movement, which is being spread worldwide by ISKCON, or the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. In a discussion on ethics it is significant to analyze the work of ISKCON. The cultural and philosophical teachings of ISKCON have inspired millions of people all over the world to reject immoral behavior and embrace a saintly way of life.
The term ethics refers to the systems of moral behavior accepted by individuals or groups. Different mature individuals will have different conceptions of what kinds of behavior are right and what kinds are wrong. Such conceptions of right and wrong define different ethical systems. As leaders of society we need to know which ethical systems are valuable in a progressive society and which are not, and those which are valuable should be promoted. Bhaktivinoda Thakura has offered a scientific conception of ethics and morality based on the Vedic literature, which states that a truly progressive society is one that discourages its members from exploiting others.
Societies that adopt ethical systems based on materialistic conceptions cannot be progressive because they cannot be free of exploitation. To establish this, Bhaktivinoda has described four categories of materialists: ** (Adapted from Sri Caitanya Siksamrta, Chapter 3, Part 3.)
(1) Those who have no ethics and no faith in God: immoral materialists.
(2) Those with ethics but no faith in God: non-theistic moralists.
(3) Those with ethics based on faith in God, but who give more importance to morality than they do to God: theistic moralists.
(4) Those who engage in immoral behavior while posing as theists: pretenders.
Those who follow no ethical system are the lowest of human beings. They are the primitive peoples and the hedonistic modern man. Indeed, such human beings are on the same level as animals. Bhaktivinoda describes the attitude of the hedonists: "They consider that this variegated universe is simply a chance combination of atoms and molecules with no creator. Any belief in God or the soul is simply blind faith and gross superstition. As we only live once, a person should try to enjoy as much as possible." ** (Sri Caitanya Siksamrta, Chapter 8.)
With his far-seeing vision, Bhaktivinoda Thakura perfectly described the popular idea embraced by many today that life is simply a chance combination of chemicals with no intrinsic purpose. With such a conception there is no particular need to honor or respect others. Is it any wonder that a great ethical crisis has risen and sprouted into an increase of violent crimes and corruption?
Next, Bhaktivinoda describes that higher than the immoral materialists are the non-theistic moralists who accept some ethical system but are not concerned with God. Describing the view of the non-theistic moralists, he has written:
Being more intelligent, the moralist can easily defeat the immoral materialist. He says: "Oh brother, I respect what you say but I cannot accept your self-motivated actions. They are not at all good. You are seeking out happiness in life, but without morals how can there be happiness? Do not think that your life is everything! Consider society as well. Rules which can increase the happiness of the human being in society are advisable. That is called morality. Gaining happiness through morality makes man superior to animals. It is necessary for man to accept individual suffering where it will give happiness to society. That is called selfless morality, and it is the only path for man. You must cultivate all the positive sentiments such as love, friendship and compassion in order to increase the over-all happiness of society. By doing this, violence, hatred and other evil tendencies will not be able to contaminate the heart. Universal love is universal happiness. Take up ways of increasing this happiness." Positivists such as Compte and Mill, Socialists such as Herbert Spencer, as well as lay Buddhists and Atheists firmly believe this philosophy. ** (Sri Caitanya Siksamrta, Chapter 8.)
The non-theistic moralists are superior to the immoral materialists, but they are still selfishly motivated. Although they follow the ethical and moral rules of society, they do so to avoid public censure, imprisonment, or execution. A businessman may adopt ethical principles just to ensure plentiful customers, or a politician may accept ethical principles to attract followers. This is a more intelligent position than that of the immoral materialist, as there is concern for long-term enjoyment rather than just immediate gratification. However, since there is still an underlying selfishness, a non-theistic moralist is likely to exploit others as soon as he or she thinks there will be no adverse reaction.
Included in this category are the mundane philanthropists who engage in work for the physical, mental, or emotional well-being of others. Because they are unable to appreciate the objects of their compassion as anything more than dull chemicals, the "good deeds" of such "selfless" moral materialists are invariably motivated for their own enjoyment, either subtle or gross. In actuality their "selflessness" is only a fasade, for their actions are motivated by the desire to have the satisfaction of thinking of themselves as, or being well known as, greatly pious persons.
The Scorpion And The Camel
The ethics of the non-theistic moralists are compared to those of the scorpion who once requested a favor from a camel. The scorpion wanted to cross a deep river but could not find any way to do so. Seeing a camel nearby, the scorpion approached him and asked the camel to carry him across. The camel refused, saying, "You will sting me."
"No, no. I am an ethical scorpion. I promise I won't sting you."
The camel agreed and, taking the scorpion on his hump, began crossing the river. Halfway across, the scorpion suddenly stung the camel.
"Why did you do that?" the camel asked. "Now we will both die."
"What can I say?" the scorpion replied. "It's my nature."
Similarly, although the non-theistic moralists try to live an ethical life, because their concept of the meaning of life is limited to dull matter any ethical behavior they adopt is selfishly motivated and quickly discarded.
Although they speak about universal love and brotherhood, the non-theistic moralists, like their immoral brothers, are unable to appreciate others as anything more than dull matter. Their perception is limited to the external body, and the relationships they form with others are similarly skin-deep—shallow, short-lived, and ultimately prone towards exploitation. Since they identify themselves as temporary matter, there is no reason for them to perform truly selfless acts. The best social message the non-theistic moralists can offer is, "You are just a bag of chemicals and molecules that somehow just appeared and has no intrinsic meaning. Other persons are also only bags of chemicals and molecules—but you should be nice to them."
The natural reply will be, "Why should I be nice?"
"Because it's the good thing to do, and if you don't you'll go to jail."
Since the basic motivation of the ethical behavior of atheists is to avoid public censure, is it any surprise that as soon as they think they have an opportunity to gain some illicit advantage without getting caught they will do so?
More fixed in ethical conduct and hence superior to the non-theistic moralist is the theist. The theist is dissatisfied with the mechanistic concept of life offered by the non-theist. Bhaktivinoda describes the thinking of the theist as follows:
If consciousness arises by some special process through combination of atoms, there should be some evidence of this somewhere in the universe. There should be some example of this in human history. Man is produced from the womb of a mother. Nowhere is any other process observed. In spite of the growth of material science, nothing otherwise has yet been observed. Someone may argue that man has arisen by a chance combination of matter, and later man has adopted this particular process of birth from the womb. However, the succeeding events should be similar to the first event. Even now we should observe at least a few conscious entities arising by chance combination of matter. Therefore it can only be logically concluded that the first mother and father must have arisen from the supreme consciousness. ** (Sri Caitanya Siksamrta, Chapter 8.)
When the materialist becomes dissatisfied with the mechanistic idea that consciousness is simply a chance combination of chemicals, and thereby concludes that life must be something anti-material or spiritual, he comes to the platform of theism.
Bhaktivinoda points out many ways in which belief in God contributes to moral conduct:
(1) Even is someone has a strong sense of moral values, still the senses are often so strong that even great moralists are defeated. If the opportunity arises to enjoy immorally in secret, belief in God will act as a preventative measure. God can see what man cannot. One who thinks like that will be unable to secretly perform acts contrary to morality.
(2) Everyone will accept that faith in God produces a greater tendency to perform pious acts than morality alone.
(3) If God exists, then by faith in Him so much is gained. If He does not exist, believing in Him is harmless. On the other hand, if God does exist, to not have faith in Him is harmful.
(4) By belief in God, the tendency toward righteousness grows quickly in the mind.
(5) By faith in God, compassion and tolerance become stronger.
(6) By belief in God, one is more eager to perform selfless action.
(7) By belief in God, acceptance of afterlife arises, and man cannot be disappointed by any event in life. ** (Sri Caitanya Siksamrta, Chapter 8.)
Morality More Important
Bhaktivinoda states that among the theists, most are materialistic. He describes a group called the theistic moralists who worship God with some degree of faith, but who give more importance to their conception of morality than they do to God. Some of them believe there is no harm in imagining a God, worshiping him with faith, and then abandoning that worship when good conduct is achieved. Others believe that by performing worship of the Lord and acting ethically, the Lord will be pleased and will grant one's material desires.
Either subtly or grossly, the worship of the theistic moralists is selfishly motivated. Although they consider themselves worshipers of God, they are not much interested in God's form, personality, activities, or desires, but instead are interested only in what they can gain through worshiping Him.
Bhaktivinoda compares the relationship between the theistic moralists and God to the temporary meeting of travelers at an inn. When morning comes and the travelers leave for their separate destinations, the relationship is forgotten. Theistic moralists worship the Lord not out of devotion but simply because they think it to be the proper thing to do, which will result in their happiness.
Being motivated in this way, materialistic theistic moralists are still in the realm of selfishness. Although they conceive of their ethical behavior as being harmless to others, because they are not on the platform of spiritual vision they are unable to maintain impartial dealings and will inevitably fall prey to exploiting others.
In describing different types of acti-vities aimed at human welfare, Bhaktivinoda has stated in his Sajjana Toshani magazine: "Showing kindness to the soul is the best welfare work of all. By such kindness one attempts to save a person from all worldly sufferings by giving him devotion to Lord Krsna."
Because the theistic moralists are not functioning on the spiritual platform, their ethical systems will never be able to alleviate all the worldly sufferings of the living entities; hence they are unable to completely serve society. They will always fall prey to narrow biases based on bodily, social, or religious differences. In actuality, their relationship with others is much like their relationship with God: as superficial as travelers meeting at an inn.
Although there is some partial social benefit from the ethics of the theistic moralists, because there is no spiritual bliss in the mechanical worship they perform there is every chance that they will either give up their theism or else adopt the ways of the cheating pretender.
The next class are those who engage in immoral behavior while posing as theists. Bhaktivinoda has described them as pretenders. He says:
Although the pretenders do not accept the eternal nature of devotion, they wear the dress and markings of a believer. They have their own motives, which any honest person would decry. Cheating everyone, they pave the way for a world of sin. Undiscerning people, allured by their external appearance, take up the same path and end up rejecting God. They may have beautiful tilaka, devotional dress, chant the name of Krsna, appear detached from the world, and give attractive speeches, but secretly they harbor desire for wealth and women. Many such persons exist. ** (Sri Caitanya Siksamrta, Chapter 3, Part 3.)
Bhaktivinoda has compared such pretenders to the cat and the crane. Once some mice came and said, "Have you heard the news? The cat has become a saint. He is now wearing tilaka and neck beads. He is chanting and has become a vegetarian." Thinking in this way, the mice gave up their fear of the cat. But when the mice started to come nearby, the cat gave up his pretense and pounced on them.
Similarly, the crane stands motionless on one foot for hours at a time, and thus looks like a great yogi. His real motivation, though, is to catch fish. As soon as a fish comes near, he abandons his saintly demeanor and gobbles it up.
Bhaktivinoda has said, "There is no worse association in the world than such pretenders. It is better to associate with immoral atheists than to associate with them. ... Only if one gives up the association of crooked hypocrites can he honestly engage in devotional service. Honest worship is the only way to attain Krsna's mercy." ** (Bhaktyaloka commentary on Srila Rupa Gosvami's Upadesamrta, Text 2.)
By presenting themselves as saintly and concerned for others, the pretenders sometimes gain positions of trust and responsibility in even spiritually-minded societies. But because their real motivation is to exploit others to satisfy their own subtle or gross pleasures, they are the worst enemies of society.
Devotees who are situated on the platform of pure love of God see their beloved Lord everywhere and see everything, moving and non-moving, in connection with God. From such a platform, to offer respect to all living entities regardless of material bodily designations is quite natural and genuine, and thus on this platform alone can one be free from the propensity to exploit others.
The Bhagavata Purana explains that even though one may follow religious ethics for some time, without genuine devotion to the Lord the subtle desires in the heart, which are the roots of immoral tendencies, are not destroyed and will rise again. Only pure devotion can remove all immoral tendencies. This is described in the Bhagavata:
kecit kevalaya bhaktya
"Only a rare person who has adopted complete, unalloyed devotional service to the Supreme Lord Vasudeva, Krsna, can uproot the weeds of sinful actions with no possibility that they will revive. He can do this simply by discharging devotional service, just as the sun can immediately dissipate fog by its rays." ** (Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.1.15.)
One problem arises in our discussion of morality. Sometimes, understanding the moral behavior of devo-tees is difficult. A good example is the activities of Krsna's most exalted devotees, the gopis of Vrndavana, who would leave their homes and husbands in the middle of the night to meet with Krsna. To accept such behavior as saintly is difficult for many persons. On several occasions Srila Prabhupada described the apparent contradiction between morality and the behavior of the gopis:
Any activities that are spiritual are all-good, and any activities that are material are all-bad. This is the difference between spiritual and material. The so-called morality and goodness of the material world is bad, but in the spiritual world even so-called immorality is good. This we must understand. For example, to dance with the wives of others at the dead of night is immoral, at least according to the Vedic civilization. Even today in India, a young woman will never be allowed to go to a young man at the dead of night to dance with him. But we find in Srimad-Bhagavatam that as soon as the gopis, the young cowherd girls of Vrndavana, heard Krsna's flute, they immediately came to dance with Him. Now according to material conceptions this is immoral, but from the spiritual point of view this is in accord with the greatest morality. Caitanya Mahaprabhu therefore said, ramya kacid upasana vraja-vadhu-vargena ya kal-pita: "There is no better mode of worship than that which was conceived by the vraja-vadhus, the damsels of Vrndavana." ** (Teachings of Queen Kunti,Chapter 10.)
The gopis superficially seem to transgress the codes of mundane morali-ty. This perpetually puzzles mundane moralists. ... The reason the Lord displays the rasa-lila is es-sentially to induce all the fallen souls to give up their diseased morality and religiosity, and to attract them to the kingdom of God to enjoy the reality. A person who actually understands what the rasa-lila is will certainly hate to indulge in mundane sex life. For the realized soul, hearing the Lord's rasa-lila through the proper channel will result in complete abstinence from material sexual pleasure. ** (Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi 4.30.)
Our standard of morality and immorality is to see whether Krsna is satisfied. If Krsna is satisfied, then it is morality. If Krsna is dissatisfied, then it is immoral. ** (Lecture on Bhagavad-gita, August 29, 1973, London.)
According to Bhaktivinoda, the best ethical system is that which is based on the awareness that all others are part of the Supreme Lord and meant to give pleasure to Him alone. Any system that gives prominence to the fulfillment of one's own selfish desires will ultimately be exploitative and thus harmful to the progress of society.
These are some of the practical teachings of Bhaktivinoda Thakura on the topic of ethics. I hope that the respected and learned persons of this assembly will consider them deeply.
Madhavananda Dasa is the editor of Sri Krsna-kathamrta magazine and lives in Bhubaneswar, Orissa, India. He can be reached at madhavananda.ggs@ pamho.net.
From Tours of Duty to Tours of Love
In search of some meaning In life, he tried the Army,
By Dayal-Nitai Dasa
IT WAS THE SUMMER of '86, and I had just graduated from high school and was eager to do something with my life, so I decided to enlist into the U.S. Army. I was unhappy, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with my life, and it seemed like my friends were so focused. I didn't have big aspirations to go to college like them. I just wanted to know the purpose of life. I wanted to know why I was here.
When I came home on leave, I met up with an old friend who always knew the up-and-coming bands in the punk/hardcore music scene. He handed me a record by the Cro-Mags entitled "The Age of Quarrel." I was intrigued by the title and asked him what the band was all about. I was shocked to learn that they were Hare Krsna devotees. They played aggressive music with a positive message, subtly promoting the science of self-realization. That appealed to me. Most bands with a good message tend to shove their beliefs down your throat, but these guys just said it the way it was and let you decide for yourself.
After some years had passed and I was out of the Army, I joined a well-established hardcore band. We soon signed a record deal, recorded an al-bum, and toured Europe and the U.S.
Our label arranged for us to tour with the very same Cro-Mags who had intrigued me a few years before. The first show of the tour was in Dayton, Ohio, and I was really eager to ask them about the philosophy they followed. I approached the singer, Jayananda Dasa, and he took the time to speak to me about reincarnation, vegetarianism, karma, and living a clean life free of drugs and alcohol. I was astonished to find that the philosophy wasn't some dry, speculative religious process but was actually a scientific philosophy based on truths proven through logic and reason. He explained that we are not these bodies but spirit souls encased within the material body. That was an intense realization for me.
Our tour included New York City, and Jayananda took me to a small storefront temple there. When I walked in I felt an amazing warmth come over me. I heard Prabhupada singing on the CD player, and I smelled the most amazing incense I've ever smelled. A friendly devotee offered me a cup of sweet-rice and asked me to sit down and relax. As I looked around, I saw people in the temple with a glow about them that portrayed true happiness. I could tell they were living for a higher purpose than I was.
After that tour I began to meet devotees in my hometown (Cleveland, Ohio). I slowly started to follow the rules of Krsna consciousness. The girl I was dating thought I was crazy to give up meat-eating and disliked my new way of life. She wanted to get married and gave me an ultimatum: "It's either Krsna or me." A few weeks later, I found myself helping her pack her bags.
Two years went by, and I was now a full-time devotee chanting sixteen rounds on my beads and following the four rules. I quit the band I was playing in to form a band with devotees. I wanted to spread Krsna consciousness through the hardcore/straight-edge music scene. I recalled how I'd felt when I'd first read the lyrics in the Cro-Mags album. I, too, wanted to write songs about self-realization.
We called the band Raja-Vidya ("The King of Knowledge"), but nobody in the magazines or club scene could spell it or pronounce it, so we decided to keep it simple and changed the name to Run Devil Run. We felt that name was synonymous with our spirit of "fighting evil."
In my former band I had always felt I was killing myself to get ahead in the music industry; this time I committed myself to accepting what Krsna was giving us. Within weeks of forming the band, we signed with a European record label and were asked to tour Europe for four weeks. The tour went well, and we distributed many of Srila Prabhupada's books at our shows. We were happy to serve Krsna in our occupation, and we got to see a lot of ISKCON's European temples.
When that tour ended, we were asked to tour Europe two more times to play festivals and do a short headlining tour. I began to realize that Krsna was making this all possible because we were trying to serve him according to our inclinations. I began to correspond with many people from Europe and the U.S. about Krsna consciousness. I had never realized how many people feel the same emptiness that ran through me in my youth.
Run Devil Run performed at the world-renowned Dynamo Open-Air Festival in Eindhoven, Holland, in May 1999. The festival draws eighty thousand people. It was a great opportunity to spread the message of Krsna consciousness.
After these tours, I felt I might hang it up. I had just gotten married and was accepted into the laborers union in Cleveland. As a band, we discussed our future and decided to record one more album and see how it went. Just after recording our second record, it was picked up by Victory Records and was set to be released in the U.S. and Canada. Victory is the biggest label in the world for our style of music. They released such Krsnacore bands as Shelter, Baby Gopal, and Cause For Alarm.
We have decided to just let Krsna call the shots in this band. He has provided us with excellent arrangements for service. We are now touring in the U.S. and are slated to go back to Europe. I hope that through Srila Prabhupada's books we can inspire everyone we come into contact with to inquire about the purpose of life and make a positive change.
Dayal-Nitai Dasa is a disciple of His Holiness Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami.
Excerpts from songs by Run Devil Run.
The age of Kali-Yuga, quarrelsome.
—From "Struggle for Existence"
I've gotta take what's dealt my way,
—From "Temple of Jiva"
Everybody's out to tell me
—From "Forcefed Reality"
Look around the world,
—From "I Could Be"
Yoga for a Lofty Goal
A DOZEN OR SO STUDENTS gathered in the assembly room of the college dormitory for an introductory talk on bhakti-yoga. I got their attention and said we'd now do some yoga. About half of them pulled their legs up into some semblance of the lotus position, waiting for tips on breathing and concentration.
But instead of the sound of silence, they heard the sizzle of a small pair of hand cymbals. Eyes opened, jaws dropped.
It didn't take long, though, before the students got the idea. Soon many were singing along with the Hare Krsna mantra, their faces lit up with smiles.
After the demonstration, I asked the students to tell me what they thought yoga meant. I got the predictable responses, mostly having to do with sitting, stretching, twisting, and concentrating. Someone spoke of clearing the mind of all thoughts. Someone mentioned picturing yourself as "identical with the One."
"Bhagavad-gita says that yoga means to connect with God," I began my talk, "and that's why we chant Hare Krsna."
Their pleased expressions showed they were losing misconceptions. When people see Hare Krsna devotees singing in the street, they probably don't think we're doing yoga. But in the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna teaches us how to make our whole lives yoga. Srila Prabhupada often said that his students were practicing yoga twenty-four hours a day.
Today's so-called yoga usually aims at a healthy body and a peaceful mind. That's fine if that's all you want. But the real purpose of yoga is to reestablish our relationship with Krsna—clearly a much loftier goal. The word yoga means "to connect," and from it we get the word yoke. Krsna covers various kinds of yoga in the Gita, but they're all meant for the same thing: to awaken our love for Him.
Bhakti-yoga is not only the easiest type of yoga; Krsna declares it the best: "And of all yogis, the one with great faith who always abides in Me, thinks of Me within himself, and renders transcendental loving service to Me—he is the most intimately united with Me in yoga and is the highest of all. That is My opinion." (Bg. 6.47)
Since the goal of yoga is to concentrate on God, what better way to do that than by bhakti-yoga—serving Him in love? Prabhupada would scoff at the practice of doing fifteen minutes of meditation in the morning and then spending the rest of the day in material pursuits. Bhakti-yogis take their meditation to work. Krsna tells Arjuna to fight and remember Him. "In all activities be conscious of Me," He says.
Prabhupada taught his disciples to mold their lives so they could never forget Krsna. He gave us a program of morning and evening practices focused on Krsna. He told us, as Krsna does, to offer the fruits of our work to Krsna. He told us to try to chant Hare Krsna always.
After my talk, one of the students, Mira, thanked me for clearing up some confusion.
"I was always attracted to stories of yogis," she said, "and now I'm happy to hear I can be a student and a yogi at the same time."
And I was happy to hear she understood.
Although there are sometimes directions in the Vedic literature to think oneself one with the Lord, that does not mean that one becomes identical with the Lord in every respect. Undoubtedly there is oneness of the living entity with the Lord in many respects, but ultimately the living entity is subordinate to the Lord, and he is constitutionally meant for satisfying the senses of the Lord.
His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
There is nothing superior to the abode of the Supreme Godhead, and that abode is the ultimate destination.
Katha Upanisad 1.3.11
I am the goal, the sustainer, the master, the witness, the abode, the refuge, and the most dear friend. I am the creation and the annihilation, the basis of everything, the resting place, and the eternal seed.
Lord Sri Krsna
O [Krsna,] Lord of Madhu, as the Ganges forever flows to the sea without hindrance, let my attraction be constantly drawn unto You without being diverted to anyone else.
I do not pray to the Supreme Personality of Godhead for the eight perfections of mystic yoga, nor for salvation from repeated birth and death. I want only to stay among all the living entities and suffer all distresses on their behalf, so that they may be freed from suffering.
Remembrance of Lord Krsna's lotus feet destroys everything inauspicious and awards the greatest good fortune. It purifies the heart and bestows devotion for the Supreme Soul, along with knowledge enriched with realization and renunciation.
Srila Suta Gosvami
Let the wonderfully varied pastimes of the Lord be the very life of His servants who think of nothing but Him. For such devotees, those pastimes always increase the ecstasy of love of God.
All the demigods and all the transcendental philosophers who desire liberation bow down to the Supreme Lord.