Back to Godhead Magazine

Volume 35, Number 05, 2001


Founder's Lecture: New York City—July 26,...
The Authenticity Of Spiritual Places
Srila Prabhupada Speaks Out
Spiritual Places
The Yoga of the Bhagavad-gita
For the Gentle and the Ruffians
On Pilgrimage
A Wrinkle in Time
From the Editor
Vedic Thoughts

© 2005 The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International


IN THIS ISSUE, three articles have to do with pilgrimage. "The Authenticity of Spiritual Places" discusses the qualifications of holy sites and the proper mood for visiting them. The cover story takes us to the holiest of holy places—Vraja Mandala—where for the last fourteen years Hare Krsna devotees from around the world have gathered during the month of Kartika (October-November) to tour the sacred spots where Lord Krsna sported fifty centuries ago. In contrast to the barefoot pilgrims walking miles a day around Vraja Mandala, in "The Ride to Rama Giri" two pilgrims on motorcycles make their way to a holy site connected with Lord Ramacandra.

Although the original places associated with Lord Krsna and His incarnations are all in India, His devotees create new pilgrimage sites wherever they carry His message. Each summer, Indradyumna Swami and a group of devotees put on dozens of Krsna festivals in Poland. Thousands of people attend, attracted by the spiritual culture of India. But not everyone welcomes a pilgrimage site in his homeland. "For the Gentle and the Ruffians" shows that devotees of the Lord sometimes have to face danger to deliver the message of Krsna to lands far from His Vraja Mandala home.

Hare Krsna.—Nagaraja Dasa, Editor

Our Purposes

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

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Religion and Science

BTG magazine is meant to enlighten its readers about their spiritual identity, about God, and about the spiritual world. It is also meant to give information about the revealed scripture to first-time readers. It is not meant to confuse or put doubts in the minds of the innocent or doubtful readers with useless polemics. There is a flood of those in all the public media.

Sadaputa Dasa's article "Challenges Facing Science and Religion" in the March/April issue was one of such polemics. It is absurd to try to compare the revealed sastras [scriptures] with mundane science. Vedic sastras, being revealed by the Supreme Person, Lord Sri Krsna Himself, are perfect. They are superior to earthly religions. Thus it automatically follows that they are far superior to the mental speculation of philosophers and the observations and experiments of mundane scientists, both of whom deal with this material creation only. To try to compare these is foolish, and the danger of such an attempt lies in its false, seeming objectivity. That is the intellectual plane only. The sastras deal with the Absolute, and thus the incompatibility.

The suggestion that there is still much that religion does not know contradicts statements of sastra and of the Lord Himself. He reveals to us in His Bhagavad-gita (7.2): "I shall now declare unto you in full this knowledge, both phenomenal and numinous. This being known. nothing further shall remain for you [misguided humanity] to know." Yes, Vedic sastra does know everything.

Vancouver, B.C., Canada

Sadaputa Dasa replies: The original source of the Vedic sastras knows everything, but the Vedic texts available in human society do not contain all knowledge. Brahma has editions of the sastras that are much more extensive than the texts we have, and these editions certainly contain more knowledge than is available to us. Srila Prabhupada said of Srila Vyasadeva, "He composed many millions of Sanskrit verses, and we are just trying to receive a fragmental knowledge out of them by our tiny efforts only."

Note that the Bhagavatam in human society contains 18,000 verses, while the Bhagavatam on the heavenly planets is much longer. It may be that there is nothing that religion does not know, but this is only true of religion as understood in the spiritual world. Human followers of religion should hesitate before claiming that they know everything by virtue of their religion. For this reason, religious preachers should take a humble position when discussing matters of knowledge.

One of the missions of Back to Godhead is to convey spiritual knowledge to people who regard modern science as their primary source of knowledge. Srila Prabhupada wanted us to preach to these people, and he created the Bhaktivedanta Institute for this purpose. To reach scientifically inclined people, it is necessary to address questions that arise from apparent conflicts between scientific and religious teachings. If a person with limited religious knowledge claims to know everything and dismisses scientific knowledge out of hand, this will not create a good impression or result in successful preaching. It is better to take a humble attitude, realizing that there is much that one does not know about both religion and science.

Nectarean Benefits

I have always been in appreciation of the success of BTG right from Srila Prabhupada's time. As a reader of BTG for several years now, I would like to express my heartfelt good wishes for this magazine to continue for many years more and benefit humanity as ever.

I was especially thankful to BTG when I was able to narrate the story of Madhu and Lord Alarnath (May/June 2000) to our relatives when we went to India. They loved to hear the story and have promised to express their love for the Lord as did little Madhu.

As a resident in the restricted countries of the Middle East, where getting BTG (or any other books for that matter) is not possible through mail, we receive the issues a little late when people from India bring them. We all look forward to receiving them as early as possible to derive their nectarean benefits. Thanks for the wonderful articles.

Radha Rati Devi Dasi
Via the Internet

Pebbles of Service

I just wanted to thank you for another excellent issue (May/June 2001). I always look forward to receiving my issues (through BBT membership). I was particularly touched by the article on Jayananda Dasa and his engaging drunks in Krsna's service. Such honest and simple preaching is an inspiration.

As a new devotee, and shy as well, preaching and even really talking about Krsna is intimidating to me. I hope that someday I can begin to follow in Jayananda Dasa's footsteps and learn how to engage people in such a sweet and sincere way, on their own level. People may not be able to lift giant boulders as Hanuman did, but perhaps they can be like the spider and bring pebbles of devotional service to Krsna's lotus feet.

Bhaktin Christi
North Carolina

Ignoring the Lure

The article "A Modern Saint" was excellent reading. It is truly unbelievable that even in this Kali-yuga there are people from common walks of life who are strong enough to ignore the lure of materialistic desires and spend their life in the service of Krsna. Sriman Jayananda Dasa is truly a modern saint and an inspirational role model for us. Thank you, and especially Bhayahari Dasa, for enlightening us on this modern saint.

Debjit Banerjee
Norco, California

Krsna's Gentle Nudge

Your article on Jayananda Prabhu was such a wonderful dose of inspiration for me, especially at a time when, admittedly, my faith in ISKCON has been slipping. I have been paying too much attention to the bad publicity lately and have let it affect my better judgment and have not listened to what my heart has been telling me all along. Thank the Lord for my BTG subscription!

When I read about Jayananda, I could feel the gentle hand of Krsna nudging me back. What a wonderful example of the simple devotion ISKCON can teach us to have. I finished the article in tears and have begun chanting my rounds again. Keep up the wonderful service.

Neal Carr
Portland, Oregon

Deep Philosophy Made Easy

I really enjoyed the July/August issue. The article "Radharani, The Feminine Side of God" by Satyaraja Prabhu was one of the best articles I have ever read in BTG. I am always a fan of Satyaraja's writing, but this article truly blew me away. What is typically pretty deep philosophy, sometimes a bit difficult to follow and digest, was easily read and understood—having been written in a clever and personal way. Thanks!

Nitai Priya Devi Dasi
Via the Internet

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Founder's Lecture: New York City—July 26, 1971:
Govinda—The Original Person

If personal qualities were absent from the origin
of everything, they would not be present in the material world.

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

THE WORD Govinda refers to one who gives pleasure to the cows and the senses. There are many incarnations of Godhead, but Govinda [Krsna] is the adi-purusa, or the original person. As such He is not technically an incarnation of God but is God Himself, the source of incarnations. Govinda is not some impersonal effulgence or void but a person complete in every respect.

Unless the origin of everything is a person, how can so many persons or individual living entities—be they men, animals, demigods, trees, or plants—exist all over the universe? Every living entity is an individual spirit soul, and every individual spirit soul is a person. How, then, can the origin of everything be impersonal and nothing more? Personal qualities must be there in Him; otherwise they cannot be reflected in this material world. This, then, is the conclusion of Lord Brahma in the verse govindam adi-purusam tam aham bhajami. Lord Brahma is the original creature in this universe, and in Brahma-samhita he states that his origin is also a person. "I worship that original person," he states throughout Brahma-samhita.

The whole world is laboring under the impersonal conception. No one actually knows anything, of course, but they have developed an impersonal philosophy by means of speculation. But how can this impersonalism stand? It is contradicted at every step of our experience, for every individual entity is a person, and the compete whole from which all entities emanate is also a person. Adi purusam.

Lord Brahma's Knowledge

This is the verdict of Lord Brahma, who, having created the universe, knows well what is within this universe. We have very little knowledge of what is within this universe, and what is beyond is totally unknown to us. This is not the case with Lord Brahma, however. Lord Brahma is adi-kavaye, which means that he is the original learned person, the creator of this universe. Tene brahma hrda ya adi-kavaye muhyanti yat surayah [Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.1.1]. The origin of everything, the Absolute, the summum bonum, cannot be impersonal, for He is the origin of the person Brahma. We have no experience of a person coming from something impersonal; because my father is a person, I am also a person. If we trace back through our family trees, we will find that one person comes from another person, and somehow, if it were possible to trace our origins back to the beginning of creation, we would find the original person whom Brahma is praising. The origin of the universe is not void, nor is it some primeval muck, but the origin is a learned person.

Brahma, being the first creature, received his knowledge from the original person, and that is described in Srimad-Bhagavatam. The word brahma means jnana, or knowledge. One may question how Brahma could learn from another person if he is the original creature in the universe. Who was the spiritual master who imparted knowledge to him?

In Srimad-Bhagavatam it is indicated that that knowledge came from within the heart of Brahma. God is situated in everyone's heart, and although Brahma was the first and only creature at the time, the other person, the adi-purusa, was within his heart. It is also stated in Bhagavad-gita (18.61) that isvara, the Supreme Lord, is situated within everyone's heart and is giving directions to everyone.

isvarah sarva-bhutanam
hrd-dese 'rjuna tisthati
bhramayan sarva-bhutani
yantrarudhani mayaya

"The Supreme Lord is situated in everyone's heart, O Arjuna, and is directing the wanderings of all living entities, who are seated as on a machine, made of the material energy."

Those who are not devotees cannot understand how it is that Krsna or God is giving instructions within the heart, but those who are devotees can understand. The devotees therefore are trying to hear the Lord from within, but in order to hear properly, this special qualification is needed. One must be at a certain stage of spiritual advancement. In Bhagavad-gita (10.10) Krsna indicates that to those who are devoted to Him, He gives the means whereby they can understand Him:

tesam satata-yuktanam
bhajatam priti-purvakam
dadami buddhi-yogam tam
yena mam upayanti te

"To those who are constantly devoted to serving Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me."

The words tesam satata-yuktanam mean "to be engaged." The devotees of Krsna engage full time in devotional service out of love (priti-purvakam). The devotees always enjoy thinking, "Here is an opportunity to serve Krsna." The more they engage in service, the more they are pleased and the faster they make advancement in spiritual life. There is no question of retirement. When we perform some material service, we get tired and think, "Oh, I have worked so much. Now let me take a vacation." However, when one performs spiritual service, he actually gets more energy and says, "Let me serve more." To such a sincere devotee, the Lord, sitting within the heart, gives instructions: "Do this, and you will very soon come to Me."

He also gives different instructions to others who do not want to turn to Him. "You want to do this? Here is your opportunity then. If you want to steal, then go ahead." If we wish not to turn to Krsna, if we wish to forget Him completely, He will give us that facility, for He is always satisfying our desires.

Consequently it is stated in the Bhagavad-gita (15.15) that He gives us remembrance of Himself and also allows us to forget, if that is our desire.

sarvasya caham hrdi sannivisto
mattah smrtir jnanam apohanam ca
vedais ca sarvair aham eva vedyo
vedanta-krd veda-vid eva caham

"I am seated in everyone's heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge, and forgetfulness. By all the Vedas I am to be known; indeed I am the compiler of Vedanta, and I am the knower of the Vedas."

Not A Person Like Us

Ordinary persons cannot understand how God can be a person because they think, "God must be a person like me." Therefore in some of the scriptures a personality is denied, for as soon as the foolish accept a personality, they think, "God is a person like me." Therefore it is said, "God is not a person," and in some religions, like the Judaic religion, even images of God in the form of pictures or statues are not allowed. But this is not to say that God is not a person at all. When it is said that God is not a person, we should understand that He is not a person like us. In actuality, He is a person, but He is a different kind of person. Èsvarah paramah krsnah sac-cid-ananda-vigrahah: His personality is eternal; His body does not die like ours. His body is full of bliss, whereas our body is full of misery. His body is full of knowledge, whereas ours is full of ignorance. And He is isvara, the controller, whereas we are the controlled. How, then, can God be a person like us?

Because we are incapable of understanding how the Absolute Truth can be a person, we have to take lessons from Brahma, the supreme poet and sage of the universe who is the first created person. We are in the Brahma-sampradaya, or the disciplic succession starting from Lord Brahma; therefore we accept Brahma's statements and worship adi-purusam, Govinda.

We may not know that adi-purusa, but if we follow in the footsteps of the acaryas, great spiritual teachers, we will not have difficulty. Govinda gives Brahma instructions from within his heart, and Brahma gives instructions to his disciple Narada, and Narada gives instructions to his disciple Vyasa. Vyasa's disciple Madhvacarya repeats the same message, then Èsvara Puri, and then his disciple Caitanya Mahaprabhu, then the Gosvamis, and so on. In this way knowledge is received by parampara, step by step in the disciplic succession. When the same message is repeated without deviation, the knowledge is transmitted perfectly.

Incarnations Of Godhead

From the sastras, or scriptures, we learn that the adi-purusa, or original person, expands Himself in many incarnations. These incarnations are diverse, and their activities are described in Srimad-Bhagavatam. On one occasion Lord Krsna incarnated as a boar, Varaha, and lifted the world up when it was merged within the waters of the Garbhodaka Ocean. The demon Hiranyaksa pushed the earth within the watery half of the universe, and Lord Krsna, in the shape of a boar, not only delivered the planet but annihilated the demon. On another occasion the Lord appeared as a small fish in a water pot, and as time elapsed this fish got bigger and had to be taken to a reservoir.

The fish kept increasing in size, and when He was quite huge He informed Manu, "Devastation is coming. Take all the Vedas and put them in a boat, and I shall protect them."

Therefore Jayadeva Gosvami sings in his prayer, "My Lord, in the shape of a fish You saved the Vedas when there was devastation."

The incarnations of Godhead are described in prayers offered by Jayadeva Gosvami, a Vaisnava poet who appeared about seven hundred years before Lord Caitanya. Jayadeva was a great devotee, and he wrote a very famous song about the Lord called Gita-govinda. He offers another prayer to the tortoise incarnation. Once the demons and demigods were using a great hill as a churning rod and were churning the ocean with it. The resting place of the churning rod was the shell of the tortoise incarnation.

Jayadeva therefore prayed: "You appeared as a tortoise just to be a resting place for the churning rod. Your back itched, and You accepted this hill as a rod to scratch the itch."

In another incarnation, Nrsimhadeva, the Lord appeared in order to save Prahlada Maharaja, a five-year-old boy who was being tortured by his atheistic father. The Lord appeared from a pillar of the father's palace as a half-man, half-lion. Prahlada's father, Hiranyakasipu, had received a benediction from Lord Brahma that assured him that he would not be killed by any man or animal, so the Lord appeared neither as man nor an animal. We often think that we can thus cheat the Lord by our intelligence, but the Lord is more intelligent than we.

In another incarnation the Lord appeared as Vamana, a dwarf. Lord Vamana appeared before Bali Maharaja, who had conquered all the universal planets and had thus disturbed the demigods.

Vamana said, "I am a brahmana, and I have come to beg from you."

Bali Maharaja said, "Yes, I'll give You what You want."

The dwarf asked for only three feet of land, and Bali Maharaja granted His wish. Vamanadeva then took one step and covered half the universe, and then He took another step and covered the other half.

Bali Maharaja then said, "There is no place for You to take the third step, so please place Your foot on my head."

In another incarnation, as Parasurama, the Lord killed all of the ksatriya kings twenty-one times because of the kings' dishonesty. From the history of the Mahabharata, it can be understood that at that time some of the ksatriyas fled and took shelter in Europe, and consequently modern Europeans are descendants of those ksatriyas.

As Lord Rama, the Lord fought with Ravana, a demon with ten heads, and ruled the earth as an ideal king.

As Balarama, the elder brother of Krsna and the incarnation of Sankarsana, the Lord was very beautiful, white in complexion, and He wore blue garments. Once He became angry with the Yamuna River, and He threatened to dry it up. Out of fear of Balarama, the Yamuna agreed to cooperate with Him.

As Lord Buddha, the Lord destroyed the Vedic principles with flawless logic and is therefore considered an atheist. Lord Buddha, however, was an incarnation of Krsna, and he denied the Vedas in order to save animals that were being sacrificed according to the injunctions of the Vedas. In the name of Vedic sacrifice, people were improperly killing animals, and the Lord, as Lord Buddha, appeared to preach nonviolence.

At the end of this age, Kali-yuga, the Lord will appear as Kalki. According to the Vedas, Kalki will appear 427,000 years from now, and His mission will simply be to kill. Lord Krsna gave instructions in the form of Bhagavad-gita, but Lord Kalki will not give any instructions. At the end of Kali-yuga people will be so degraded that they will not be able to understand any instructions; therefore the only recourse will be to kill them. One who is killed by the Lord attains salvation. This is one of the Lord's all-merciful qualities; whether He protects or kills the result is the same. Thus Kalki will appear at the last stage of Kali-yuga and annihilate everything, and after that time, Satya-yuga (the Golden Age) will begin again.

In this way we can see that God is not only a person as the adi-purusa, the original person, but that He manifests Himself throughout the universe in innumerable incarnations and expansions that are also personal in quality.

Seeing God

Despite all this, we often challenge the Lord and say, "There is no God," or "I am God," or even "I don't care for God." Despite this attitude, which is typical of this age, God is there, and we can see Him at every moment. If we deny God's personality, then He will be present before us as cruel death. In Bhagavad-gita there are instructions teaching us how we can gradually understand God and see Him personally, face to face. In Bhagavad-gita the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself states, "I am the taste of water, I am the sunlight, I am the moonlight, I am the vibration of sound in the sky, and amongst great personalities I am the greatest." If anyone is actually serious about understanding God, or the science of God, he can follow the injunctions given in Bhagavad-gita and realize God in so many ways. Everyone is tasting water daily, so if we remember that God is the taste of water, then God realization begins. Who has not seen the moon or the sun? And who has not heard sound vibrating in the air? In so many ways we can see, feel, and hear God. Everyone sees God at every moment, but the atheists claim they do not see Him because He does not exist.

Without God consciousness, or without Krsna consciousness, there cannot be any peace. Everyone is hankering after peace, but no one knows how to achieve it. Therefore this Krsna consciousness movement is promoting the greatest welfare work in the world. The process of understanding this science of Krsna is made very easy in this age by Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu through the chanting of the holy names of God: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. In the Vedas it is stated that in this age people are so fallen that they cannot realize God by any of the prescribed methods; therefore it is recommended that by chanting the holy names of God in this age one can get all the benefits derived in previous ages from meditation, temple worship, and sacrifice.

Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who is Krsna Himself, instructs us that the holy name of God is nondifferent from the Supreme Lord; therefore all the energy that God has is also there in His holy name. On the absolute platform there is no difference between the holy name of God and God Himself.

Caitanya Mahaprabhu said that there are no hard and fast rules for chanting the name of God, and therefore the names can be chanted anywhere and everywhere. In this age the blind are following the blind, for no one knows the aim and objective of human society or the perfection of human life. Life is perfected through self-realization and the reestablishment of our lost relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This Krsna consciousness movement is attempting to enlighten human society on this important point. According to Vedic civilization, the perfection of life is to realize one's relationship with Krsna. From Bhagavad-gita we can understand that all living entities—not only human beings, but animals and lower life forms—are parts and parcels of God. The parts of anything are meant to serve the whole, just as the hands are meant to serve the body. Similarly, as living entities that are part of God, we are duty bound to serve Him.

Actually our position is that we are always rendering service to someone. We are always serving our bodies and the extensions of our bodies in the form of family, society, country, and so on. If a person has no one to serve, he sometimes keeps a pet cat or dog and renders service unto it. Constitutionally we are made to render service to the Supreme Person, but when we deny that person we are forced to render service to something else. In any case, the rendering of service will be there, and that rendering of service is called sanatana-dharma, or the eternal activity or occupation of the living entity.

On the material platform, despite rendering service to our best capacity, we are never satisfied. In the material conception, everyone is frustrated, because the service rendered is not properly directed. If we want to render service to a tree, we must water its roots, not just its branches and leaves. Similarly, if the stomach is given food, all the other parts of the body are nourished. We should understand therefore that if the Supreme Personality of Godhead is served, all His parts and parcels will be satisfied also. Therefore all welfare activities, including all service to society, family, and nation, are perfected by serving the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

In a conversation with his disciple Narada Muni, Lord Brahma made the following statement: "The Vedic literatures are made by and are meant for the Supreme Lord. The demigods are also meant to serve the Lord as parts of the body, the different planets are also meant for the sake of the Lord, and different sacrifices are performed just to please Him. All different types of meditation or mysticism are meant to realize Him. All austerities are aimed at achieving Him. Culture of transcendental knowledge is for getting a glimpse of Him, and ulti-mately salvation is in entering His kingdom." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.5.15-16) By following in the footsteps of Lord Brahma, we can attain that ultimate salvation and glimpse that Supreme Person worshiped by Lord Brahma and all other demigods in the universe.

Thank you very much.

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The Authenticity Of Spiritual Places

Pilgrimages can enhance our devotion to the Lord, provided we go to authorized holy places, and in the proper mood.

by Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami

WHEN SRI CAITANYA Mahaprabhu—Krsna Himself in the role of His own devotee—was present on earth five hundred years ago, He sometimes traveled to holy places, or tirthas. Not only did He tour South India, but He traveled to Vrndavana, Lord Krsna's eternal abode on earth. When Lord Caitanya was about to leave for Vrndavana, King Prataparudra ordered his servants and soldiers to accompany the Lord, to make His path easier and especially to erect monuments at each place the Lord stopped. It is said that anyone who visits places where Lord Caitanya stopped even briefly will receive great benefit from such tirthas.

Wherever the Lord went, tremendous crowds of pious people followed Him to get a glimpse of Him and receive His blessings. He was always merciful to the people, but sometimes He would escape without their knowledge and go on to the next place.

Raghava Pandita, seeing the great crowds following the Lord, took the Lord away to his house. The Lord stayed at Raghava Pandita's place for one day. The next morning He went to Kumarahatta.

Srila Prabhupada writes:

From Kumarahatta, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu went to Kancanapalli (also known as Kancadapada), where Sivananda Sena lived. After staying two days at Sivananda's house, the Lord went to the house of Vasudeva Datta. From there He went to the western side of Navadvipa, to the village called Vidyanagara. From Vidyanagara He went to Kuliya-grama and stayed at Madhava Dasa's house. He stayed there one week and excused the offenses of Devananda and others. Due to Kaviraja Gosvami's mentioning the name of Santipuracarya, some people think that Kuliya is a village near Kancadapada. Due to this mistaken idea, they invented another place known as New Kuliyara Pata. Actually such a place does not exist. Leaving the house of Vasudeva Datta, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu went to the house of Advaita Acarya. From there He went to the western side of Navadvipa, to Vidyanagara, and stayed at the house of Vidyavacaspati. These accounts are given in the Caitanya-bhagavata, Caitanya-mangala, Caitanya-candrodaya-nataka, and Caitanya-carita-kavya. Srila Kaviraja Gosvami has not vividly described this entire tour; therefore, on the basis of Caitanya-caritamrta, some unscrupulous people have invented a place called Kuliyara Pata near Kancadapada. (Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya 16.205, Purport)

From this information we can understand that some so-called holy places are not authentic. What, then, constitutes an actual holy place?

Before Srila Prabhupada's arrival in the West, we knew very little of holy places. We knew that a church or synagogue was meant to be a holy place, and we may have had a conception that the heart was meant to be a holy place, the seat of God. We may have even known of what is called the Holy Land in the Middle East. But we certainly knew nothing of the holy places in India, or of the details that made a place holy in the first place.

Often it is difficult to ascertain the exact location of a tirtha. It is too easy, especially with the influx of comparatively naive Western pilgrims to India, for people to create a holy place to bring in money. Vaisnavas and others, however, usually contest the authenticity of such places.

Qualifications Of A Holy Place

The main qualification for a place to become holy is that the Lord or His pure devotee appeared or had pastimes there. For Gaudiya Vaisnavas, followers of Lord Caitanya, Vrndavana and Mayapur are the main tirthas. In the present age, Kali-yuga, holy places tend to become covered by the material energy, so it is sometimes difficult to understand the mood of such places.

Even when a holy place is established as authentic, the question still must be raised as to our own eligibility to understand its mood. A holy place must be approached with the proper spiritual attitude and humility if we are to gain anything by visiting it.

Nowadays, devotees in the Hare Krsna movement are more concerned with the question of how to define holy places because they are living in places established by Srila Prabhupada, not only in India but in the West. Are ISKCON temples holy places? Most of the land now owned by ISKCON was once owned by persons with no intention of its becoming a tirtha. We usually cannot claim that the site of a temple has historical integrity as a tirtha. Its claim to holy place status must be based on something else.

Several things constitute a tirtha:

1. Devotees must have performed (or be performing) spiritual activities in the place, and the tirtha must be visited by sadhus, saintly persons. In fact, the Vedic scriptures state that a person who visits even the historically bona fide places of pilgrimage only to take bath is no better than a cow or an ass. Visiting a tirtha means associating with the saintly persons in attendance. Canakya Pandita warns that we should avoid a place devoid of saintly persons. And a place bereft of talk of Krsna, or God, and service to Him cannot claim holy place status.

2. By visiting a tirtha we should feel enlivened in our Krsna consciousness; the tirtha should carry that potency.

3. The chanting of the holy names must be present as a prominent feature of the tirtha. Concurrent with that should be deity worship. Srila Prabhupada told us that as he established the various deities around the world, he worried that his disciples would begin to feel the worship as a "burden in the neck." But if the deity worship is going on uninterrupted and the devotees in the area are taking shelter of the deity, then that place is holy.

4. Prabhupada defined a holy place as wherever the Srimad-Bhagavatam was being honored. That might be in a large temple or under a tree, and it may be in India or elsewhere, but wherever there is respectful and repeated reading of the Bhagavatam, that place becomes holy.

Obstacles To Pilgrimage

Devotees sometimes wonder if there are ever any reasons not to visit a particular holy place. Of course, travel is always inconvenient. One inconvenience may be political. Holy places may suddenly be subject to political division, which can make them difficult or even impossible to visit. What was once part of India later became part of East Pakistan, then Bangla-desh. If there is political dispute between the two countries, we may not be able to cross borders in the name of spiritual pilgrimage. Political divisions can also cause a holy place to become lost. Just as the Ganges sometimes shifts her course, so tracts of land upon which the Lord performed pastimes can become lost to our sight. Perhaps generations from now, the Lord or His pure devotees will again uncover them and pilgrims will be able to visit them for purification.

Another inconvenience may be our own inability to travel. Another may be our sense of personal disqualification to enter the mood of a tirtha. Lord Caitanya's devotees never visited the temples on Govardhana Hill, and it's questionable whether Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati ever bathed in Radha-kunda. Many of Lord Caitanya's Navadvipa followers never went to Vrndavana.

Visiting a tirtha requires qualification. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura indicates this in his Navadvipa-bhava-taranga. After mentioning Isodyana, which he calls "the Lord's garden," he writes that if anyone visits this place in Navadvipa, he will find only thorns. Still, those with qualified vision will be able to see the Lord's garden through his descriptions of it. No holy place can actually be "seen" without qualified vision.

While holy places maintain an actual physical integrity, they also maintain an integrity in the descriptions found in devotional literature. During Srila Bhaktisiddhanta's time, a conflict ended in Indians killing a British officer and the British lining up their cannons and destroying a temple. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati noted that although the British thought they had smashed Krsna, they had done nothing more than destroy a temple.

If a tirtha disappears from our vision because of politics or time, we can remember it and see it by submissively reading the scriptures. A tirtha is revealed by the mercy of a pure devotee and is seen through the ears.

The scriptures also tell us that we are not required to travel the world visiting holy places. There is always the tendency for pilgrimage to turn into wanderlust, which results only in a superficial sightseeing. Although some devotees can sustain a feeling of Krsna conscious intensity when on pilgrimage, others are better able to meditate on Krsna and His tirthas while serving in the place assigned to them by their spiritual master. We have limited energy in this lifetime; visiting tirthas can become an entire service in itself if it is done frequently. Often, our spiritual master has assigned us a service other than pilgrimage, and we make more advancement by following his order than by going to tirthas.

Narottama Dasa Thakura has assured us that we can visit all the holy places simply by visiting Vrndavana or Mayapur. He also says that in Kali-yuga, pilgrimage is as much a source of bewilderment as of enlightenment. The real service to a holy place is to meditate upon the event that took place there, and it is just as potent to compose ourselves in our own place, meditate on the significance of the particular place, and to then allow the mood of that place to imbue our service with new life.

Every holy place has an internal reality. We are not always qualified to see it, especially if we remain outsiders to the mood. That is not only true of places like Vrndavana and Mayapur, but in ISKCON temples too. If we wish to really take advantage of the spiritual and historical authenticity of a particular place, we must learn to see with eyes of devotion. When Arjuna and his brothers were being taught archery, only Arjuna was able to see nothing but the eye of the target bird. Only he was successful at hitting the target.

Similarly, we must learn to see to the heart of a place and not focus only on the externals, the apparent faults or shortcomings according to our estimations. We must see the saintly people living there and see a little of their purpose in serving their holy place. If we wish to find the spiritual essence of any holy place, we must learn to appreciate both the service and the mood with which it is offered there. Without that vision, we will always remain outsiders, even in the most spiritually authentic place.

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

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Srila Prabhupada Speaks Out

"The People Are Rascals—and
They Have Elected Another Rascal"

Here 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: Your Divine Grace, how do you feel about Mao Tse-tung? In China he's the ideal man, although, of course, he's a communist.

Srila Prabhupada: His ideal is all right. His ideal—the communist idea that everyone should be happy—that is a good idea. But the communists do not know how to make everyone happy. For instance, they are taking care of the human beings as citizens of the state, but they are sending the poor animals to the slaughterhouse.

Because the communists are godless, they do not know that not only is the human a living being—so, also, is the animal. They think that for the satisfaction of the tongue of the human being, the animal's throat should be cut. That is modern society's defect.

Panditah sama-darsinah: one who is learned is equal toward everyone. That is the meaning of being learned. "I take care of my brother and I kill you"—that is not right. But that is going on, everywhere. Consider this so-called nationalism. "National" should apply to anyone who has taken birth in a particular nation or land. But the poor animals—because they cannot make any protest, send them to the slaughterhouse.

If the world had ideal men, they would have protested. "Oh, why are you doing this? Let the animals live, also. You should live in peace, as well. Just produce food grains. The animals can eat them, and you can also eat them. Why should you eat the animals?" That way of living is recommended in the Bhagavad-gita.

Director: But where the winters are long, people have to kill animals to have something to eat over the winter.

Srila Prabhupada: Well, but you should have a better system. And I am not speaking simply about India, where the winters are short as contrasted with those of Europe. I am speaking about the whole of human society. Just try to understand.

Director: People started eating meat because in winter they had nothing else to eat.

Srila Prabhupada: No, you can eat meat, but only after the animal has died naturally. You cannot eat meat by killing the cow and the bull, your mother and father. This is human sense. You are taking milk from the cow—she is your mother. For instance, in Australia the cows produce so much milk, butter, and everything. But after the Australians have taken all these milk products, then they cut the cow's throat and make business, selling her carcass to other countries. What is this nonsense? Is this humanity, do you think?

Director: Well, say two hundred years ago, people to survive the winter had to kill the—

Srila Prabhupada: No, no. You take your mother's milk—and when your mother cannot supply milk, you kill her. What is this? Is this humanity?

And nature is so strong that for this injustice, for this sinfulness, you must suffer. You must be prepared to suffer. So there will be war, and people will be killed wholesale. Nature will not tolerate this.

People do not know all these things—how nature is working, how God is managing. They do not know God. This is the defect of modern society. They do not care what is the real nature of God. "We are scientists. We can do anything."

What can you do? Can you stop death? Nature says, "You must die. You may be Professor Einstein. That's all right. You must die."

Why have Einstein and other scientists not been able to discover the right medicine or process to stop death? They have never been able to declare, "No, no—we shall not die." They have no such power. So this is the defect of modern society: they are completely under the control of nature, and yet they are declaring "independence." Ignorance. Ignorance. So we want to reform this.

Director: Well, I certainly wish you luck.

Srila Prabhupada: Hmm. Thank you.

Director: As a public servant, I reform society as my life's work. To carry on as the instrument of ...

Srila Prabhupada: So kindly cooperate with us. Try to learn this philosophy, and you will be surprised how nice a philosophy it is.

Director: I'm quite sure.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. So we don't care what percentage become reformed. Let one person become an ideal man. Consider the same example as before: what is the percentage if we calculate one moon per many millions of stars? The percentage is practically nothing. But still, because we are talking about the moon, this one planet is more po-tent than all these stars. So produce a moon.

Director: Yes, but the moon in the sky is big and bright, and therefore, you can recognize it. But another man, to use your analogy, would probably appear like just another star.

Srila Prabhupada: No, that's all right. Strictly speaking, you cannot make men as luminous as the moon, but it is possible if you make them ideal men.

Director: I know what you're saying, but a person would tell you, "You're just a man like me." You know. "You're not a moon. You're just a star. Whatever you say is just your opinion."

Srila Prabhupada: No. If you approve this method, you can cooperate and illuminate the society in so many ways. First of all, you have to see what this nonsectarian method, this Krsna consciousness movement, really is. About this method we are prepared to convince you—the first-class nature of this movement. Now, once you are convinced, try to cooperate. And induce other leaders. You are also one of the leaders. Yad yad acarati sresthas tat tad evetaro janah: if the leaders of the society become compassionate toward this movement, others will automatically follow. "Oh, our leaders, our minister—they are supporting this."

Director: Our minister considers himself a servant of the people, who can be kicked out by the people.

Srila Prabhupada: That is the defect of modern society. The people are rascals—and they have elected another rascal. [Laughter.] That is the defect.

Director: But that's how it is.

Srila Prabhupada: So what can be done? Then it is hopeless. But we are going on without depending on these rascals. We are going on. We are publishing our books; we are establishing our movement. We are honestly trying. That's all. That we are doing, all over the world.

Director: All we in government can do is allow you to convince the population that they should think and behave differently.

Srila Prabhupada: We are doing that. Now, suppose we instruct the population, "Please do not have illicit sex—have sex only for procreation." Have you got any objection?

Director: Yes, I have. I like sex, and my wife likes sex. We just enjoy. We couldn't live without it. Our marriage is happier because we have sex.

Srila Prabhupada: Just see. [Chuckles.] This is the situation.

Director: This is the situation.

Srila Prabhupada: So how have my disciples here accepted this principle of no illicit sex?

Director: I don't know. I don't know. But I couldn't. Our life is enjoying sex, and our marriage is happier with sex.

Srila Prabhupada: No, we don't prohibit sex. We simply prohibit illicit sex.

Director: Well, we use the pill. Various contraceptives. We use all kinds of things.

Srila Prabhupada: Why do you use contraceptives?

Director: Because we don't want any more children.

Srila Prabhupada: Then why don't you stop sex?

Director: Because we like sex.

Srila Prabhupada: Just see. That is tantamount to your going to a physician and saying, "I want treatment, but still, I want to do whatever I like." That is the situation.

Director: I didn't come here for treatment. [Laughter.]

Srila Prabhupada: [Chuckles.] No, no. You have come here for treatment, because with all your government activities, you have failed to control the society. Therefore, you have come here for treatment. But when I prescribe the proper medicine, you don't accept.

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Spiritual Places

The Ride to Rama Giri

An American disciple of Srila Prabhupada
and his Indian Sikh friend ride their
classic motorcycles to an ancient hilltop shrine.

by Patita Pavana Dasa Adhikari

I FIRST SAW Rama Giri before you were born," I say, boasting to my young Sikh friend Anukaran, trying to stir his interest in visiting the hill (giri) of Lord Ramacandra with me.

"I've never been there," he replies, "although I was born just thirty miles away in Nagpur."

"So why don't we ride up there tomorrow? We can take the Enfields."

"Let's get an early start," he says, accepting the invitation. "I can leave at nine."

Anukaran Singh was born in a wealthy Indian family, descendants of proud Punjabi Sikh warriors who generation after generation have laid down their lives against successive waves of tyrannical invaders. Despite his involvement with his family's business, Anukaran is frank about wanting to reestablish his link with India's ancient heritage, the birthright of anyone born in this vast and diverse land.

"In the 70s, it was the fashion to be ignorant of our civilization and culture," Anukaran jokes. "For my present generation, it is the fashion to know more about our actual heritage."

Anukaran is a founding member of the Nagpur Royal Enfield Club, a group of motorcycle riders dedicated to promoting bike safety in a country largely dependent on two-wheeled transport. Everything has its service, and the real use for everything is service to Krsna. So tomorrow Anukaran and I will use our classic Enfields in the service of tirtha-yatra, traveling to holy places.

It will be our privilege to journey to the sacred hill where the Personality of Godhead Lord Rama, His wife and queen, Sita Devi, and younger brother Laksmana were received by the great ascetic Agastya Muni. Ever since that memorable hilltop meeting, the Agastya ashram has been honored by pilgrims as Rama Giri.

History Of Rama Giri

Millions of years ago in the age called Treta-yuga, the Supreme Personality of Godhead Lord Sri Krsna descended as a king: Lord Rama, or Ramacandra. Lord Ramacandra's adventures—His lilas—were written down by the adikavi ("first poet") Valmiki Muni. Valmiki literally means "he who comes from an anthill." By meditating on Lord Rama's transcendental lila, Valmiki became so steadfastly absorbed in the yoga of spiritual trance that huge jungle ants were able to build a hill all about him. After many years he emerged from the anthill to scribe the 24,000-verse Sanskrit scripture Ramayana, the world's oldest book.

The purpose of Lord Rama's advent is to attract us conditioned souls to the timeless, transcendental path of bhakti-yoga, devotional service. By reading the Lord's pastimes in the Srimad-Bhagavatam or Sri Ramayana, and by hearing of His exceptional prowess from the lips of pure devotees like Srila Prabhupada, even the unsophisticated soul becomes drawn to the blissful security of genuine spiritual life. If a pilgrimage is undertaken in a spirit of remembrance of the Lord's lila, then visiting the holy places connected with His pastimes—places like Vrndavana or Ayodhya, or in this case Rama Giri—can be purifying, uplifting, and helpful in the all-important quest for inner development.

Since time immemorial each of us embodied jiva souls has been revolving through the grim cycle of rebirth—samsara. To deliver His servants trapped in the net of maya, God comes Himself or sends His avatar for our salvation from the delusion of material ignorance. Attraction to the lotus feet of the Lord, acceptance of His divine shelter, and the joyful singing of His name open the door for going back home, back to Godhead.

To this day, millions of years after the advent of Sita-Rama, their followers number in the hundreds of millions. The supreme royal couple is even worshiped outside India. In Thailand, for example, a quarter-mile stretch of the halls of the royal palace is artistically painted with scenes from the Ramayana. In the island of Bali in Indonesia, and also in Cambodia and Nepal, thousands more Rama temples can be found. In every corner of India, from tiny village shrines to fabulous temple palaces like Hare Krishna Land at Juhu Beach, Mumbai, the transcendental form of Lord Rama is worshiped, His all-liberating name sung by His devotees.

According to Valmiki's Ramayana, Sri Rama, on the order of His father, King Dasaratha, left His hometown of Ayodhya (in present-day Uttar Pradesh State) and embraced forest life. "As the full moon enters a cloud bank," Rama, Sita, and Laksmana wandered south through the woods to the mountain Chitrakuta. From there they wended their way into Madhya Bharata (central India), hiking through the valleys of the holy Vindhya Hills and crossing the sacred Narmada River. Then they came to the vast Dandaka Forest, the abode of hermits. As Lord Sri Rama passed through Dandaka Forest, Srila Prabhupada recalls in The Nectar of Devotion, many sages achieved perfection in yoga just by seeing Him. With their dormant love of Godhead awakened, these fortunate rsis were later (in Dvapara-yuga) reborn as gopis (cowherd girls) in the lila of Lord Sri Krsna, the original Supreme Personality of Godhead. (Srila Prabhupada and Srila Rupa Gosvami have drawn this information from the Padma Purana.)

The divine threesome camped here and there, bearing bravely the hardships of jungle life and finally arriving at the ashram of Agastya Muni, atop what is now called Rama Giri. As a king, a member of the ksatriya class, Lord Rama offered His respects to the brahmana Agastya Muni with sweet words. The Lord feels so grateful to His devotees that He bows before them, just as Lord Sri Krsna once bowed down to wash the feet of the poor brahmana Sudama.

The incomparable Agastya Muni was tri-kala-jna: He could see the three features of time—past, present, and future. Hence he was well aware that Sri Rama was none other than the almighty Visnu Himself and that in the very near future He would fight a great war with the enemies of dharma, the demons (asuras).

Many sages of the Dandaka Forest had already suffered grievous harassment at the hands of atheistic asuras, and many had fallen victim to their evil schemes. Yet try as they might, none of these asuras could trap the wily Agastya. Through his unbreakable penance and high intelligence, the sage had even outwitted the evil duo Ilvala and Vatapi. Ilvala, taking the form of a Sanskrit-speaking brahmana, would invite different sages to share a meal. Then Vatapi would assume the form of the meal. After dinner Ilvala would smile and say, "Come out, Vatapi," and Vatapi would suddenly burst forth, splitting the poor rsi's belly.

Once Agastya, requested by the devas (demigods), accepted Ilvala's invitation to dine with him. After the meal, the grinning Ilvala called for his wicked brother to exit the sage's body.

But Agastya smiled and declared, "Your brother cannot come out now because he has already been sent to the abode of Yamaraja [the Lord of death] by the fire of my digestion."

The infuriated Ilvala sprang forward, rushing at Agastya, but one stern and fiery look from the powerful sage reduced him to ashes in an instant.

Agastya once requested the Vindhya Mountains to bow low, because their towering peaks were blocking the sun. Agastya promised the lord of the Vindhyas that his rolling hills could rise up and become mountains again after Agastya returned from the south. To keep the Vindhyas humble, Agastya never went north again. Instead he made his hermitage at Rama Giri, in the Deccan, south of the Vindhyas. That is how the Vindhya Mountains became the Vindhya Hills, India's traditional line of North-South division.

Saint Agastya received Sita, Rama, and Laksmana with customary offerings of fruit and flowers. Then he presented Lord Rama with the Brahma-datta bow, which Lord Indra had earlier entrusted to his care. The bow had been inset with diamonds by its creator, Visvakarma, the engineer of the universe. Along with the bow, Agastya handed over to Sri Rama a quiver of arrows that included the undefeatable brahmastra weapon. Lord Ramacandra was also given a sword in a bejeweled scabbard.

In His talks with the sages of Dandaka Forest near and about Agastya's hilltop hermitage, Rama took a vow to vanquish the trouble-making demons. When the Lord took His vow, Rama Giri shook.

By accepting the weapons from Agastya, the Lord displayed His intention of protecting His devotees. Today the village at the foot of Rama Giri is called Rama Tek, literally "Rama's vow." In Bhagavad-gita (4.7-8) Lord Krsna explains His vow to shelter His devotees: "Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion—at that time I descend Myself. To deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion, I Myself appear, millennium after millennium."

Much later at Sri Lanka, during the battle with Ravana and his demonic hoard, Sri Rama's charioteer, Matali, was to remind Rama of the weapons presented by Agastya Muni. True to Agastya's vision and Rama's promise, Rama fired the arrow imbued with brahmastra mantras into the heart of Ravana, where the demon had stored amrta, nectar of deathlessness. [See the sidebar "Champion of the True and Righteous."]

Whether protecting Prahlada as Nrsimha, the sages of Dandaka Forest as Rama, Arjuna as Krsna, or the Hare Krsna sankirtana party as Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the Lord defends His devotee in every age. That is His promise.

The Trip

At 9:00 the next morning, Anukaran pulled up and revved his engine in front of the house of Baba, my brother-in-law, where I was staying as a guest. I rushed out and kick-started my Enfield Bullet.

"Let's get going," I advised him. "The auspicious time for departure lasts for only another fifteen minutes." Within seconds we were headed north to Rama Giri.

After an hour of country riding, sunburned and smiling, we saw the hill of Lord Rama off to our right. Leaning east, we rode through Ram Tek village, with its unusual collection of shops, ashrams, dharmshalas (pilgrim's rest houses), and Buddhist Ayurvedic ashrams.

Riding through the narrow lanes of merchants and farm animals, we at last found ourselves on the twisting road up the hill to the peak of Rama Giri. About half way to the top, we slowed down to pass a group of several dozen pada-yatris, "pilgrims who go by foot." Judging by the dhoti-like way the women tied their saris, I guessed they were a group of Maharastrian villagers. Some walked barefoot, not for want of shoes, but for the higher merit accrued for the austerity.

As the last curve of the road widened to the top, we found ourselves before the steep rock wall of Rama Giri fort. I was to learn that the fort was built several centuries ago by kings of the Bhonsle clan. Rama Giri was chosen as the fort's site for two reasons: (1) strategically, the hill offers a 360-degree view of the surrounding area, which it was the kings' duty to protect, and (2) Vedic kings, even as late as the eighteenth century, were impelled by their burning religious convictions to guard holy areas.

In 1827, however, after the Bhonsle warriors suffered defeat at the hands of British invaders at the Battle of Sitalbuldi, their reign over the area rapidly deteriorated. Today the fort with its old tanks and temples is a protected monument, a historical oddity frozen in time.

After parking the Enfields, we paid our obeisances to the huge, rare deity of Lord Visnu-Varaha who overlooks the valley and the fort. This is one of two giant Varaha deities weighing several tons that I know of. There are two Varaha temples in Mathura, ancient ones visited by Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, as documented by "the king of poets" Krsnadasa Kaviraja in his most inspiring Sri Caitanya-caritamrta. There is also a beautiful white marble deity of Lord Varaha worshiped in a fine temple along the shores of Pushkar Lake in Rajasthan. But the only other deity of Lord Varaha of this immense size is the svayam-bhu ("self-manifested") Sri Visnu-Varahaji of Majholi, Madhya Pradesh. I was unable to ascertain the ancient history of the Ram Giri Varahaji, probably one of the two largest in all of India. After garlanding Lord Varaha and receiving prasadam from the priest, Anukaran and I entered the ashram of Agastya Muni.

Lavishly preserved in marble and carefully maintained by a group of devoted sadhus, the hermitage has been developed as a pilgrims' destination of much importance. Even the yajna-sala, the holy place of fire sacrifice where the rsi received Lord Rama, has been continuously maintained since Treta-yuga. An iron door has been installed over Agastya's deep cave of meditation; only select yogis are allowed entrance into the chamber, called Hatiphor. The ashram's astute crew of ascetics display extreme care in the upkeep and worship of Saint Agastya's shrine. Their devotion reveals that they have correctly understood the place's Puranic significance.

Beyond Agastya Muni's peaceful cave is a large group of temples, the first of which is dedicated to Laksmana, who led the way to Rama Giri, announcing to the sages the arrival of his brother and sister-in-law. This explains why the Laksmana Mandir is first. The other temples are separately dedicated to Lord Rama, Goddess Sita, and Bhakta Hanuman.

The local history of the deities is noteworthy. In 1736 King Raghu Bhonsle visited Rama Giri only to discover that just the padukas—or wooden sandals—of Lord Rama were being worshiped. The deities were no longer present. The king vowed to commission Jaipur deities for the temple. But once the sacred murtis were prepared for temple installation—prana-pratistha—the king had a dream in which Lord Rama told him to search under the waters of the River Sur a few miles north. Finally, in 1753, the original deities were discovered and re-installed atop Rama Giri amidst much festivity and celebration. The Jaipur deities are privately cared for in a reserved area.

Anukaran and I lingered at each temple, offering whatever rupees we had to spare. After darsana, we climbed up the steps to the top of the fortress wall to view the vast valley of farmland, lakes, and tiny villages encircling Rama Giri. Gently at first, the sound of kirtana, the yuga-dharma of chanting of the Lord's holy name, wafted up from the temple room, accompanied by the ringing of karatalas (hand cymbals). The pada-yatri pilgrims we had passed on the road were now sitting peacefully before Lord Rama's deity, singing His holy names. Now every face within earshot reflected blissful meditation upon God. [See the sidebar "The Power of Rama's Name."]

More Enfields To Rama Giri

We fell into silence as our attention now drifted to the pristine beauty of the sacred lake below, Ambala Kund. Around the still waters of the lake, temples and shade trees dot the shore. The lake is said to have been named for King Amba, who was cured of a terrible disease after his bath in these waters, which originate from an underground river called Patala Ganga.

In the eighteenth century King Raghu Bhonsle had the lake and many of the shore temples renovated with fine stone work. These temples include those of Jagannatha, Pancamukhi Mahadeva ("five-faced Siva"), and Surya Narayana (the Sun incarnation of Visnu).

Carried more by spiritual energy than reason at this point, Anukaran and I found ourselves in the saddles of the Enfields, riding downhill toward Ambala Kund. Finding a shady spot, we pulled over. The noonday sun overhead told me it was time for my Gayatri meditation. After a dip and prayers, the silence was broken when Anukaran mused, "I've ridden by Rama Giri many times with the Enfield Club, but somehow the beauty and meaning of the place were never before revealed to me."

I'm back in San Francisco now, catching up on bills and household concerns. The trip to India, like so many I've taken there, now seems almost like a dream. Yesterday I checked my email and got this message: "The other members of the Enfield Club are eager to visit Rama Giri on our next ride. Hare Krishna. Anukaran."

Patita Pavana Dasa was initiated by Srila Prabhupada in 1968. He has written three books on Krsna conscious astrology (available from Sagar Publications in India) and a guidebook to Vrndavana (available, as is Shri Pushpanjali, from The Hare Krsna Bazaar

NOTE: Devotee-pilgrims who would like to visit Ram Tek and Rama Giri may make arrangements with the devotees at ISKCON Nagpur's Sri Sri Radha-Madhava Temple.

The Power of Rama's Name

Struck By The serenity of Lord Rama's temple on Rama Giri, I took advantage of the uplifted mood to hazard a few words.

"Anukaran," I began, "the worship of Lord Rama or Lord Sri Krsna is universal and is not intended only for some particular sect or religion. Their names are imbued with the potency to deliver anyone, any living entity, from every misery into the unlimited world of transcendental bliss. The name of the Lord is nondifferent from the person of the Lord Himself. Although He is the master of the personal spiritual worlds, inhabited by liberated souls absorbed in His loving service, He descends to our world for our deliverance. His worship is performed best in the Kali-yuga by the chanting of His name, a means open to members of all races and religions. The sankirtana movement Srila Prabhupada introduced to the entire world is essentially the same as the melodic vibrations which we are savoring even now.

"Lord Rama never fancied Himself to be some Hindu God. His is none other than the all-pervasive Visnu, the Lord of the universe, and is accepted as such by sages like Agastya. See how Hanuman and his army of vanaras (monkeys), as well as jungle bears and even a squirrel, were impelled to offer their service unto Sri Rama, never considering any selfish rewards. You must be aware your fourth Sikh guru was named Guru Ramadas, 'servant of Rama.'

"Just as worship of Lord Rama or Visnu is uplifting and spiritually invigorating, so is the chanting of Their holy names. Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu often quoted the Brhan-naradiya Purana verse harer nama harer nama harer namaiva kevalam/ kalau nasty eva nasty eva nasty eva gatir anyatha: 'The holy name! The holy name! The holy name! In this iron age called Kali-yuga there is no other way, no other way, no other way to reach the goal!'

"In fact, quite along these lines your Guru Granth Sahib, which I spent a week at Amritsar studying, plainly advises: 'The name of the Lord Hari destroys all miseries and purifies sinners, O beloved. ... Through service to Sri Hari is the highest platform achieved. ... The name of Sri Hari is the highest benediction in Kali-yuga.' (Raga Asa, Mahala IV, Ghar II.1-2)

"In Kali-yuga the name of Rama is the boat that ferries the disciple. In this world and in the next the disciple of the guru lives in bliss by the grace of the name of Rama.

"Guru Nanak advises, 'Having heard the name of Lord Rama, we have become absorbed with love of God. ... The name of Rama pleases the chanter's mind, and he achieves supreme happiness. He for whom the chanting of the name of Rama is a constant companion, even when leaving this world he never goes to the world of Yamaraja. O brother, I meditate on Lord Rama.' " (Raga Asa IV, Ghar I, Chant II, IX. 1, 2.3)

Champion of the True and Righteous

In a poetic translation of Ramayana, Sri Ramesh Candra Dutta, a nineteenth-century Vaisnava poet from Bengal, described Ravana's last moments and the joy of victory of Lord Rama's troops:

Pike and club and mace and trident
scaped from Ravan's vengeful hand,
Spear and arrows Rama wielded,
and his bright and flaming brand!
Long and dubious battle lasted,
shook the ocean, hill and dale,
Winds were hushed in voiceless terror
and the livid sun was pale,
Still the dubious battle lasted,
until Rama in his ire
Wielded Brahma's deathful weapon
flaming with celestial fire!
Weapon which the Saint Agastya
had unto the hero given,
Winged as lightning dart of Indra,
fatal as the bolt of heaven,
Wrapped in smoke and flaming flashes,
speeding from the circled bow,
Pierced the iron heart of Ravan,
lain the lifeless hero low,
And a cry of pain and terror
from the Raksha ranks arose,
And a shout from joying Vanars
as they smote their fleeing foes!
Heavenly flowers in rain descended
on the red and gory plain,
And from unseen harps and timbrels
rose a soft celestial strain,
And the ocean heaved in gladness,
brighter shone the sunlit sky,
Soft and cool the gentle zephyrs
through the forest murmured by,
Sweetest scent and fragrant odours
wafted from celestial trees,
Fell upon the earth and ocean, rode
upon the laden breeze!
Voice of blessing from the bright sky
fell on Raghu's valiant son,
"Champion of the true and righteous!
Now thy noble task is done!"

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The Yoga of the Bhagavad-gita

Lord Krsna discusses the major forms of yoga,
setting up a hierarchy and saying
clearly which one belongs at the top.

by Satyaraja Dasa

THE APRIL 23 cover story of Time magazine highlighted the science of yoga. It reported that "fifteen million Americans include some form of yoga in their fitness regimen—twice as many as did five years ago." Yet one wonders if any of the fifteen million are getting out of yoga what they should. As supermodel Christy Turlington, pictured on the cover as an ardent practitioner, is quoted as saying, "Some of my friends simply want to have a yoga butt." Patricia Walden, a prominent yoga teacher who has made a fortune producing instructional videos, responds to what many would consider a shallow approach to yoga: "If you start doing yoga for those reasons, fine. Most people get beyond that and see that it's much, much more."

Or do they?

The sad truth is that most people are not studying the Bhagavad-gita, traditionally seen as a yoga-sutra, a treatise on yoga. At least in Western countries, aspiring yogis, intimidated by the Gita's Sanskrit terminology, set the book aside to be studied later. Though that response in understandable, let's look at the Gita's teachings on yoga and see why for centuries it has been, and still is, considered among the most important textbooks on the subject.

It should be noted at the outset that the word yoga itself refers to "linking with God." This implies that any genuine approach to yoga should involve the spiritual pursuit, however varied that pursuit may be. For example, in the first verses of the Gita's third chapter, Lord Krsna introduces two forms of spirituality that might be identified with yoga: the contemplative life and the active one.* The people of India in the time of the Gita were given to extreme acts of renunciation. Aspiring spiritualists of the age felt that only by shaking off the burden of active worldly life could one approach a life of the spirit. The Gita seeks to correct this misconception. It takes the doctrine of nivrtti, negation, so dominant in ancient India, and augments it with positive spiritual action. Thus, Krsna (who is also known as Yogesvara, or "the Master of Mystic Yoga") teaches Arjuna not so much about renunciation of action, but about renunciation in action. In later Vaisnava terminology, this is the preferred yukta-vairagya, or "renouncing the world by acting for the Supreme." Krsna accepts both forms of renunciation, but He describes the active form as more practical and more effective as well.

*These two approaches to spirituality can be found in most major religious traditions. In Christianity, for example, one learns of via activa and via contemplativa, which manifest in the Roman Catholic Church as "active" communities and "contemplative" communities, though both share the same theological tenets.

Whichever form, or approach, one chooses, says Krsna, detachment from sense objects is mandatory. The difference, then, lies only in one's external involvement with the world. Krsna asserts that contemplative, or inactive, yoga is difficult because the mind can become restless or distracted. He recommends the active form of yoga, which He calls karma-yoga. This is safer, He says, because one still strives to focus the mind, using various techniques of meditation, but augments that with practical engagement in the material world.

Krsna elaborates on how to perform karma-yoga in the sixth chapter, again emphasizing its superiority to mere renunciation and philosophy:

One who is unnattached to the fruits of his work and who works as he is obligated is in the renounced order of life, and he is the true mystic, not he who lights no fire and performs no duty. What is called renunciation you should know to be the same as yoga, or linking oneself with the Supreme, O son of Pandu, for one can never become a yogi unless he renounces the desire for sense gratification. (6.1-2)

Krsna's instruction here is especially useful for us today, living in the Western world. He is saying that we needn't go off to a forest to contemplate our navel. In fact, He says that such endeavors will most likely fail for most of us. Rather, we can achieve the goal of yoga by learning the art of "detached action," one of the Gita's main teachings. Krsna will explain that art to Arjuna and, by extenuation, to the rest of us. The Gita teaches how we can, in modern terms, be in the world but not of it.

Meditation: Restraining The Mind

Krsna explains that both processes of yoga, the contemplative and the active, begin with learning how to control the mind, which is essentially dhyana, or meditation:

When the yogi, by practice of yoga, disciplines his mental activities and becomes situated in transcendence—devoid of all material desires—he is said to be well established in yoga. As a lamp in a windless place does not waver, so the transcendentalist, whose mind is controlled, remains always steady in his meditation on the transcendent self. (6.18-19)

Such meditation, Krsna admits, is difficult, but one can achieve it through arduous effort:

It is undoubtedly very difficult to curb the restless mind, but it is possible by suitable practice and by detachment. For one whose mind is unbridled, self-realization is difficult work. But he whose mind is controlled and who strives by appropriate means is assured of success. That is my opinion. (6.35-36)

In verses ten through fourteen of the sixth chapter, Krsna elaborates on the "appropriate means," and we begin to see how truly difficult it is to perform this kind of meditation. The yogi must learn to meditate continually, without interruption, in perfect solitude. Free of wants and possessiveness, the yogi must fully restrain his mind. He must prepare a seat for himself in a clean place, neither too high nor too low, covered with cloth, antelope skin, and kusa grass. He must sit in this special place, says the Gita, and learn to make his mind one-pointed, restricting any extraneous thoughts or sensual distractions. The yogi should practice such meditation for his own purification only—without any ulterior motive. Firmly holding the base of his body, his neck, and his head straight, looking only at the tip of his nose, he must be serene, fearless, and above any lusty thought. He must sit in this way, restraining his mind, thinking only of God, Krsna says, fully devoted to the Supreme.

Krsna calls this method raja-yoga, because it was practiced by great kings (raja) in ancient times. The heart of this system is breath control (pranayama), which is meant to manipulate the energy (prana) in the body. Breath control, along with intricate sitting postures (asana), was an effective means for quieting one's passions, controlling bodily appetites, and focusing on the Supreme.

Nonetheless, this contemplative form of yoga, systematized in Patanjali's yoga-sutras and popular today as hatha-yoga, is too difficult for most people, at least if they are going to per-form it properly. Krsna says this di-rectly by the end of the sixth chapter.

Still, He recommends elements of contemplative yoga along with the yoga of action, or karma-yoga. And for most readers of the Gita, this can get confusing. Just which is He recommending—the austere form of disciplined sitting and meditation or action in perfect consciousness? Does the Gita recommend hatha-yoga, or doesn't it? Does this most sacred of texts accept the path of contemplation, or does it say that one must approach the Supreme through work?

Indeed, Arjuna himself expresses confusion in two chapters of the Gita: Is Krsna advising him to renounce the world, Arjuna wonders, or is He asking him to act in Krsna consciousness?

A thorough reading of the Gita reveals a hierarchy, a yoga ladder in which one begins by studying the subject of yoga with some serious interest—this is called abhyasa-yoga—and ends up, if successful, by graduating to bhakti-yoga, or devotion for the Supreme. All the stages in between—and there are many—are quite complex, and at this point most modern Western practitioners become daunted in their study of the Gita.

Stages Of Yoga

The question may legitimately be raised why the two approaches to yoga—the contemplative and the active (and all their corollaries)—seem to be interchangeable in one section of the Gita and a hierarchy in another. The answer lies in the Gita's use of yoga terminology, a lexicon which, again, can be confusing. The whole subject becomes easier to understand when we realize that the Gita uses different words for yoga that actually refer to the same thing: the various yoga systems are all forms of bhakti-yoga. The differences are mainly in emphasis.

Bhakti-yoga is called karma-yoga, for example, when, in the practitioner's mind, the first word in the hyphenated compound takes precedence. In karma-yoga one wants to perform work (karma) and is attached to a particular kind of work, but he wants to do it for Krsna. Karma is primary, yoga secondary. But since the work is directed to God, it can be called karma-yoga instead of just karma. The same principle can be applied to all other yoga systems.

Bhakti, the first word in the hyphenated compound bhakti-yoga, means devotional love. In love, one becomes selfless, and thus, instead of giving prominence to one's own desire, one considers the beloved first. So the second part of the compound (yoga) also becomes prominent—linking with God takes precedence over what the individual wants. The first and second words of the hyphenated compound become one: Real love (bhakti) means full connection (yoga). This makes bhakti-yoga the perfection of the yoga process.

Karma-yoga emphasizes working (karma) for the Supreme, jnana-yoga emphasizes focusing one's knowledge (jnana) on the Supreme, dhyana-yoga involves contemplating (dhyana) the Supreme, buddhi-yoga is about directing the intellect (buddhi) toward the Supreme, and bhakti-yoga—the perfection of all yogas—occurs when devotion (bhakti) is emphasized in relation to the Supreme. The main principle of yoga, in whatever form, is to direct our activity toward linking with God.

Climbing The Ladder

We may first of all, then, observe that the Gita accepts all traditional forms of yoga as legitimate, asserting that they all focus on linking with the Supreme. Yet the Gita also creates a hierarchy: First come study, understanding, and meditation (dhyana-yoga). These lead to deep contempla-tion of philosophy and eventually wisdom that culminates in renunciation (sannyasa-yoga). Renunciation leads to the proper use of intelligence (buddhi-yoga), then karma-yoga, and finally bhakti-yoga.

All of this involves a complex inner development, beginning with an understanding of the temporary nature of the material world and of duality. Realizing that the world of matter will cease to exist and that birth all too quickly leads to death, the aspiring yogi begins to practice external renunciation and gradually internal renunciation, which, ultimately, comprises giving up the desire for the fruit of one's work (karma-phala-tyaga) and performing the work itself as an offering to God (bhagavad-artha-karma). This method of detached action (karma-yoga) leads to the "perfection of inaction" (naiskarmya-siddhi), or freedom from the bondage of works. One becomes free from such bondage because one learns to work as an "agent" rather than as an "enjoyer"—one learns to work for God, on His behalf. This is the essential teaching of the Gita, and in its pages Krsna takes Arjuna (and each of us) through each step of the yoga process.

The Top Rung

The Gita's entire sixth chapter is about Arjuna's rejection of conventional yoga. He describes it as impractical and "too difficult to perform," as it certainly is in our current age of distraction and degradation (known as Kali-yuga). Since the goal of yoga is to re-connect with God, bhakti-yoga rises above all the rest. According to Krsna, Arjuna is the best of yogis because he has devotion to the Supreme Lord. Krsna tells His devotee directly, "Of all yogis, he who always abides in Me with great faith, worshiping Me in transcendental loving service, is most intimately united with Me in yoga and is the highest of all."

This brings us back to the basic definition of the word yoga. The word comes from the Sanskrit root yuj, which means "to link up with, to combine." It is similar in meaning to religio, the Latin root of the word religion, which means "to bind together." Religion and yoga, therefore, have the same end in mind: combining or linking with God. This, again, is the essential purpose of the yoga process, and the end to which the Gita hopes to bring its readers.

Satyaraja Dasa is a disciple of Srila Prabhupada and a regular contributor to Back to Godhead. He has written several books on Krsna consciousness, the latest of which is Gita on the Green: The Mystical Tradition Behind Bagger Vance. He and his wife live near New York City.

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For the Gentle and the Ruffians

At a festival in Poland,
the Lord's holy names soothe
souls to quell a threat.

By Indradyumna Swami

Each summer, His Holiness Indradyumna Swami heads up a group of devotees who put on dozens of Hare Krsna festivals throughout Poland. Here he reports on two of this year's early festivals, revealing the challenges, the dangers, and the victories.

ON MAY 27, AS WE CHANTED through the streets of Thomaszow, a few antagonistic young men shouted obscenities at us. Others simply stood still as we passed by, their angry vision riveted on our kirtana party. On top of that, I noticed that all the posters we had put up the night before (to cover those defaced earlier in the week) were again covered by a bright sticker: "Attention! Sect! Festival canceled!" It seemed a concerted effort was being made to stop our festival, and I sensed that the angry young men we encountered in the town were somehow connected with it.

As darkness descended on the festival that evening, the band was halfway through its repertoire. The kids loved it. Sri Prahlada and the musicians were in full form. Hundreds of youngsters were chanting and dancing, and many of us were thinking it was one of the band's best concerts ever. But just as they were starting their last song, suddenly chaos enveloped the scene.

I was standing beside the sound tent when I saw a big canister sail over the heads of the audience and land in the middle of the crowd in front of the stage. When it hit the ground, it exploded, spraying a huge cloud of pepper gas. All the kids started gagging. Within seconds, twenty young men dressed in black with big boots, and bandanas covering their faces, emerged from the darkness and attacked the crowd. Swinging baseball bats, iron bars, and chains, they beat devotees and guests indiscriminately. The first person they hit was a twelve-year-old girl. She fell to the ground, bleeding from her head.

Before our security could respond, the neo-Nazi skinheads had injured many people as they swung their weapons in all directions. Premaharinama Dasa, one of my disciples from Bosnia, was also one of the first to go down, with a heavy blow to his forehead. Blood gushed from the wound. Ekanatha Dasa was hit with a baseball bat in the face, and when he fell the skinheads kept beating him as he lay on the ground.

Guests were falling left and right as the skinheads, screaming right-wing political slogans, hit their victims with vicious blows. Vaikunthapati, Raksana, and Sri Bhasya, three members of our security force, descended on the attackers with a fury. Along with Vara-nayaka Dasa, a number of guests also fought the skinheads with chairs and tables. In the midst of it all, male devotees were screaming to the women to run to the bus parked nearby.

Outside the melee, people called the police on their cell phones. As more people joined the fight, the skinheads retreated, only to reassemble and attack again. One of them jumped into our gift shop, where Taralaksi Dasi smashed him with a chair. Then, as suddenly as they had appeared, they were all gone, having escaped into the darkness.

Along with the five injured devotees, some injured guests were lying on the ground. There was blood everywhere. Ten minutes later an ambulance arrived and took the most seriously injured to the hospital. A long twenty minutes later the police finally arrived—although they had been only two blocks away. Strangely enough, they were not interested in making a report on the attack and said they couldn't offer us any protection for the rest of the night. They said they had only three men on duty in the entire town. We felt there might have been a connection between the police and the attackers. We even suspected that the local Church might be involved. All day long people were telling us that local priests had been calling to warn them not to come to the festival.

To my surprise, many people stayed and milled around the festival site after the attack. They were angry that such a peaceful event had been so brutally disrupted. People were talking about religious intolerance and discrimination, a common subject at this time in Poland. But I was nervous that so many people remained. I was afraid the skinheads would return to finish off what they'd started. Vara-nayaka, himself injured in the fight, ordered that all the trucks, cars, tents, and paraphernalia be brought into the center of the field so we could protect them more easily.

After deliberating for some time, we decided to dismantle the festival and pack everything up. It was too risky to stay; our security force was not prepared to deal with so many well-armed men. We had needed help from our guests to repulse the attackers. We decided to cancel the second day of the festival.

Nandini Dasi and Radha Sakhi Vrnda Dasi went to the hospital to check on the injured devotees. Their wounds required many stitches, but fortunately none of their injuries were serious.

We sent all the other women back to our base in the bus, while all the men stayed behind to protect the crew who were breaking down the festival site. Several carloads of skinheads arrived two hours later, but we made a show of force, and they retreated. We all arrived back at our base at 4:00 A.M.

A Dangerous City

About two weeks later, on June 12 we packed up after a successful festival in Gorzow Wielkopolski and headed south, back towards Lodz, to begin final preparations for our festival there. Gorzow Wielkopolski had been a picnic for the devotees. We were special guests in the city, and the authorities had made all the arrangements for our festival. Devotees were relaxed and had enjoyed the preaching, but the light mood gradually changed as we drove south.

The attack on our festival in Tomaszow, near Lodz, was still fresh in the devotees' minds, and word had spread among them that our professional security team (hired after the Tomaszow incident) felt that Lodz was the most dangerous city in Poland. Although we were well received when we chanted on the streets in Lodz before leaving for Gorzow Wielkopolski, the writing was literally on the walls in Lodz. The all-pervading graffiti in the city revealed the hate and frustration of many of the youth there: "Poland for Poles," "Death to Jews," and "Nazis Rule Here" are favored slogans on the sides of buildings everywhere. Lodz is an industrial town with lots of factories, but many people are out of work. Boredom and frustration give rise to the sentiments of xenophobia (extreme nationalism) that caused the attack on our festival in Tomaszow.

The further south we drove the worse the weather became. Big black clouds hovered overhead as we passed Lodz and neared our base.

After looking out the window, one devotee turned to me and said, "Maharaja, some devotees feel we're asking for trouble by doing a festival in Lodz. They say the same people who attacked us in Tomaszow may come back."

"We shouldn't worry," I replied. "Devotees are not afraid to defend themselves if necessary."

I quoted from a class by Srila Prabhupada in London in July 1973: "Vaisnavas do not simply chant Hare Krsna. If there is need, they can fight under the guidance of Visnu and become victorious. ... Generally, a Vaisnava is nonviolent, [however] if Krsna wants we shall be prepared to become violent also."

"But if there's trouble," I said, "we won't do the fighting. We're well protected by our hired security team for the entire three-day festival. Don't worry, their very presence will act as a deterrent to anyone who would want to harm us. We must go ahead with the festival. Many interested people are expressing a desire to come. All the major local newspapers have written articles about the festival. If there's anything we should worry about it's those dark clouds above. They're our most formidable enemy right now."

Not wanting to worry the devotee, I didn't share with him the advice our security firm's manager had given me at a recent meeting.

"Despite all the security we're offering you," he had said, "there's still one way your enemies can stop this festival for good."

"What's that?" I asked.

Looking at me intently, he said, "Take you out."

Coming closer, he continued, "You have to take certain precautions from now on. From the attack in Tomaszow it's obvious that some people will go to any extreme to try to stop your festival. Here's a brochure describing different types of bulletproof vests. You'd be wise to place an order."

Taken aback, I thought, "A bullet-proof vest! What would the sannyasis of yore think of that? They were carrying only a water pot and a staff, and here I'll be wearing a bullet-proof vest and carrying a can of CS tear gas and a fighting stick tucked into my dhoti!"

I was going to reply that Krsna protects His devotees, but I realized that Krsna expects His devotees to use their intelligence as well.

"It's your decision," the security team manager continued, "but don't underestimate your enemies."

I pushed the brochure back across the table ... and he pushed it back.

"We're not playing games here," he said. "Give me your measurements."

Clouds And Skinheads

When we arrived back at our base near Lodz, a letter was waiting for us from the police in Tomaszow investigating the attack on our festival. They discovered that on the day of our program a van had been rented by a priest in the town of Czestochowa, fifty kilometers south of Tomaszow, which had transported fifteen tough-looking young men to a parking lot not far from our program. Witnesses had seen the young men hurrying to the festival site near the end of our program, and twenty minutes later running back to the van and speeding off. Further evidence indicates that these young men may have been responsible for the havoc that night. The investigation is continuing, and legal action is to be taken at its completion.

The night before the first day of the Lodz festival, I tossed and turned in bed, unable to sleep. I was worried. I knew it could be a huge festival, if only because we had done more advertising for it than any festival before. We had distributed almost 50,000 invitations, put up more than 1,000 posters, and had been featured throughout the media. But two things weighed heavily on my mind: the frustrated youth of Lodz and the dark rain clouds that hung over the city.

When I woke up in the morning after a brief sleep, the first thing I did was look out the window. The clouds were darker than on the previous day, and I could feel the air thick with moisture. I asked a devotee to buy a newspaper, and when it came, my worst apprehensions were confirmed—the weather report predicted rain. But my eye caught another concern, which hadn't been brought to my attention: Not far from our outdoor festival, and at the same time, there was to be a major soccer match, a sure sign of trouble.

I worshiped my deities, Laksmi-Nrsimhadeva, with all the devotion I could muster, ran through the whole morning program with the devotees, and after prasadam put everyone onto our buses to the festival site. Under ominous clouds, we worked for many hours setting everything up. At 4:30 P.M. we opened the festival to a small crowd. After an hour, the crowd had grown to only 2,000 people. We often get 10,000 or more, and I attributed the relatively poor attendance to the possibility of rain. But as time passed, the rain held off and things were going smoothly.

The fifteen men on the security team, however, appeared somewhat nervous, apparently knowing the nature of the youth in Lodz and the fact that any trouble at the nearby soccer match could easily spill into our festival. But I couldn't see how these men had anything to worry about; each one of them was over six and a half feet tall and built like a fighting machine, with huge muscles, fierce eyes, and scowls on their faces. They were dressed in black and armed with various weapons.

Hold The Prasadam

At one point, I approached the man in charge of security and asked if everything was all right. He replied that we didn't have to worry but he did want to speak to me about one thing. I agreed and we sat down to talk.

"Maharaja," he said, "I don't want my men eating your food anymore. During the last festivals your devotees have been giving them all kinds of things to eat from your restaurant."

"Are you worried there may be drugs in the food?" I asked.

"No," he replied, "I know your pure standards. The problem is that your food has a special effect on my men. It makes them become like all of you."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"It makes them smile all the time. It makes them soft and loving and compassionate. These men have to be tough to do this job. Your food is turning my lions into lambs! Just look over there."

I glanced over toward our restaurant and saw two of his men eating samosas while laughing and joking with the devotees in a relaxed manner.

"They were never like that before," he said. "It's the food, the singing, and the whole atmosphere!"

"OK," I consented, "when the festival season is over, we'll give them prasadam to take home."

I wandered over to the stage just as Sri Prahlada and the Village of Peace reggae band started to play. Darkness was setting in, but I could still see the security men dressed in black guarding the stage. As Sri Prahlada and the band broke into a number chanting Hare Krsna, I looked closely at the security men and saw the words of their chief come true: They were swaying slightly back and forth, chanting the holy names. I left it to the chief to tell them not to sing on the job. For me it was once again confirmation of the power of the holy names to turn hearts of steel into soft butter.

After days of worrying about the festival, I started to relax, seeing our preaching bear fruit.

Another Gang

Then I saw them coming. A big gang of young men appeared on the field. I recognized them by their attire—skinheads. Dressed in black boots, tight Levi's, and T-shirts, they moved slowly toward the crowd. Their faces showed the same hate and anger I'd seen on numerous occasions on the street, and at the festival in Tomaszow in particular. The ominous words of the devotee I had spoken to a few days earlier came to mind: "Maharaja, some devotees feel we're asking for trouble by doing a festival in Lodz. They say the same people who attacked us in Tomaszow may come back."

I looked to the left and right and saw our security men move in closer and brace themselves for trouble. The skinheads went slowly through the festival area, keeping in a big group, as they always do. As they moved around, people backed away. Some started to leave, fearing violence. I looked again toward the security men, who were meeting hastily, obviously planning a strategy if a fight broke out. The situation was tense, and my adrenaline was running. I touched my jacket to make sure my tear gas and fighting stick were still in my pocket.

The skinheads moved quickly into the crowd of young people dancing before the stage and stood there for a moment, as if waiting for a signal. The security men started moving toward them. Sri Prahlada and the band, oblivious of the danger, were singing another song with the maha-mantra, chanting the holy names loudly while the drummer played a driving beat that had the kids dancing wildly. I jumped onto the stage, figuring it would be a vantage point if there was a fight.

Suddenly, to my amazement I saw a few of the skinheads start to tap their big black boots to the music. Then, as our powerful sound system carried the maha-mantra far and wide, some of the skinheads stood as if dazed, then slowly began repeating the words of the mantra. After a few minutes, all of them were chanting and swaying back and forth—a little self-conscious at first, but as soon as the kids saw them chanting, they grabbed them and pulled them into the kirtana, and they started dancing wildly. Eventually they were completely absorbed in the kirtana, chanting Hare Krsna at the top of their lungs and twirling and dancing with abandon. I sat down at the front of the stage in utter astonishment. The security men backed off to their original position, smiling to themselves.

"What's happening here?" I won-dered. "How is it that these young men who came here intent on fighting are now laughing and dancing along with the devotees? How has this sudden change of heart come over them?"

I looked at Sri Prahlada, perspiring profusely as he chanted the holy names with deep faith and conviction from the stage, leaping and twirling through the air. I looked at the audience again and saw skinheads, teenagers, children, and adults all holding hands, dancing in a big circle. Lit by the stage lights, they looked like a huge firebrand being twirled around.

As the kirtana went on, I sat there in amazement.

"This is what it must have been like during the time of Lord Caitanya," I thought. "The gentle and the ruffians chanting the holy names together in ecstasy by the unfathomable mercy of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu."

Knowing it to be one of those rare occasions we witness only once in a great while in Krsna consciousness, I relished the moment.

Then suddenly the band stopped and the kirtana was over. The skinheads, laughing and enjoying themselves, turned around and walked out of the festival grounds. In a few minutes they were gone—although you could still hear them from a distance, singing Hare Krsna.

Indradyumna Swami, a senior disciple of Srila Prabhupada, accepted sannyasa, the renounced order of life, in 1979. Readers interested in receiving chapters of Diary of a Traveling Preacher by email as they come out can write to

Adapted from the unpublished Diary of a Traveling Preacher, Volume 3, Chapters 36 and 40. (Volumes 1 and 2 are available from the Hare Krsna Bazaar.

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On Pilgrimage

Thirty Days In Krsna's Land

In remote corners of Vrndavana,
pilgrims find little known places of Krsna's
pastimes and get a clearer view Into their own hearts.

By Lokanath Swami

THE VRAJA Mandala Parikrama* is a walking pilgrimage throughout the land of Vraja, or Mathura, the district in North India where Lord Krsna appeared five thousand years ago. Devotees walk the entire parikrama path, stopping at the places where Krsna performed His pastimes. Vraja Mandala Parikrama can be considered pada-sevanam (serving Sri Krsna's lotus feet), one of the nine forms of devotional service.

Within Mathura, the Yamuna River and the twelve forests of Vrndavana form the stage for the divine play of Radha and Krsna's transcendental pastimes. Lord Krsna presides over the seven forests on the Yamuna's western bank: Madhuvan, Talavan, Kumudavan, Bahulavan, Vrndavana, Kamyavan, Khadiravan. And Lord Balarama rules the five forests decorating the eastern bank: Bhadravan, Bhandiravan, Bilvavan, Lohavan, and Mahavan. These twelve beautiful forests are the most important places of pilgrimage.

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself, set an example by touring Vrndavana's twelve forests. While Lord Caitanya was performing the parikrama, the residents said:

Who says He is a sannyasi? He is Krsna Himself appearing in this dress and form. Just see the proof. Different birds are all coming for His darsana [audience]. The cuckoos and parrots are happily addressing Him as Krsna, and the peacocks are dancing in jubilation. See the wonderful blooming of the trees! O brother, just see the creepers showering flowers on this person, who is disguised as a sannyasi. The deer are coming near Him and staring undivertedly towards His face. All the cows are coming running from all sides with raised tails, and they also look at His face. By the tears of ecstasy falling from the eyes of these creatures, we can understand that they are meeting Him after a long period of time.

—From the book Mathura Mandala Parikrama, based on Srila Narahari Cakravarti Thakura's Bhakti Ratnakara

The six Gosvamis and other associates of Lord Caitanya, as well as thousands of faithful in His line (Gaudiya Vaisnavas) throughout the centuries, have enthusiastically executed Vraja Mandala Parikrama, a blissful form of devotional service. In October 1932, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, the spiritual master of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, led a group of more than a thousand disciples and other pilgrims on a month-long parikrama of the sacred places of Vrndavana. It was one of the largest parikramas ever seen in Vrndavana. Srila Prabhupada, then a married man living in Allahabad, traveled to Vrndavana intent on seeing Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati and hoping to join the parikrama party.

"I was not initiated at the time of the parikrama," Srila Prabhupada recalled, "but I had very good admiration for these Gaudiya Math people. They were very kind to me, so I thought, 'What are these people doing in this parikrama? Let me go.' So I met them at Kosi."

Today dozens of groups of devotees from different parts of India still perform the padayatra (walking festival) of Vraja Mandala to see and hear about the places of Krsna's pastimes. Every year during the month of Kartika (Oct.-Nov.), Krsna devotees taste the ecstasy of circumambulating Sri Vrndavana Dhama. Besides being a wonderful way to see and serve Sri Krsna's transcendental land, Vraja Mandala Parikrama purifies one's consciousness.

Srila Rupa Gosvami has described Vraja: "I remember the Lord standing by the banks of the Yamuna River, so beautiful amid the kadamba trees, where many birds are chirping in the gardens. And these impressions are always giving me transcendental realization of beauty and bliss." Even non-devotees can feel the bliss described by Rupa Gosvami. The places in the eighty-four-square-mile district of Mathura and Vrndavana are so beautifully situated on the banks of the river Yamuna that anyone who goes there will never want to return to this material world.

Simple, Sacred Life

We rise before the sun and walk through hills and valleys, traveling deep into Vrndavana. Little remote villages dot our path. Village life is simple and austere, but the villagers are warm and generous. Whenever we stop they offer us fresh water, buttermilk, and steaming hot whole-wheat rotis (chapatis, or flatbreads).

As we cross cultivated fields, a team of oxen and a straw-laden donkey amble past rice paddies ornate with exotic birds. The sounds of the cuckoo bird, the mourning dove, and the Hare Krsna maha-mantra mingle together. Some devotees keep to the back of the kirtana party, silently chanting japa on their beads. The morning is calm, and the soft sandy path is gentle on our feet.

As we enter Madhuban, children bounce beside us, their eyes twinkling with glee. The kirtana reverberates off the mud walls and through the narrow lanes. The village brahmana greets us, a wise old man with happy eyes and stubbly beard. He sprinkles holy water on us. The cow-dung homes smell fresh and clean. In a spotless courtyard, children carrying bows and arrows imitate Sita, Rama, Laksmana, and Hanuman. Villagers invite us into their homes for something to eat or drink.

While some devotees rest or read, others venture farther into the village to get a closer look at the life of the local residents (Vrajabasis). Some devotees take a refreshing bath in a pond, while others wash their laundry. Clustered around the village water pump, we watch the children dexterously fill their waterpots. It is a crowded scene. Suddenly, a teenage boy and his mother approach the well. The boy pushes his way through the crowd and takes hold of the pump handle. We think he's angry that we're using "his" pump. But with an infectious smile, he begins to pump water for everyone.

Time To Think

Most devotees who visit Vrndavana never experience Vraja like this. One devotee comments, "If you don't walk, you miss ninety per cent of Vraja." Normally in Vrndavana we tend to feel like transcendental tourists, catching buses to the holy places. But to see Vraja on foot allows one more time to think and to find one's real identity.

We visit Talavan forest, where Lord Balarama killed Dhenukasura. In the village of Etarsi, we visit the temple where breathtakingly beautiful deities of Balarama and His eternal consort, Revati, reside. A tala tree stands just inside the temple compound.

It is traditional to perform parikrama barefoot, and we try our best to follow the example of the saintly persons who have walked before us. Sometimes small thorns prick our feet, and we try to remember the austerities of Dhruva Maharaja, compared to which ours are insignificant. Vraja Mandala Parikrama strips one of all pretensions. We may have a big position in this world, but the thorns don't discriminate.

Before it gets too hot, we climb to the summit of Kedarnath Mountain. A stone staircase etched into the mountainside leads us up 270 steps to a temple of Lord Siva. The temple is a natural cave, its overhang resembling the hoods of a multi-hooded snake. From atop the hill, we view the unique panoramic scene of the Vraja plains, stretched for about twenty kilometers all around us. As our gaze wanders out over the expanse of sacred land, we meditate on and hear about Krsna's Vrndavana pastimes.

Krsna's Footprints

In the early afternoon we take to tarred road on a seemingly endless walk to Caran Pahari. Here, Krsna would play His flute and melt the rocks with a touching melody. The rocks captured Krsna's footprints. We eagerly rush to see them and smear on our heads the dust from these fivethousand-year-old footprints. We pray that our stonelike hearts may also melt in response to Krsna's call.

We bathe in ponds where Krsna played His water sports and submerge ourselves in the Yamuna River, where He performed unlimited pastimes. We feel like we are following Him around Vraja. If we stay on His trail, we'll turn the last corner of material attachment and catch up with Him. On parikrama we get a glimpse of the mood of separation from Krsna as we wander through the forests of Vrndavana. Parikrama instills appreciation for devotional sentiments even within the heart of a neophyte devotee.

Finally we see the city of Mathura rise from the plains of Vraja like an ancient medieval kingdom. We've made it! One hundred sixty-eight miles in thirty days. A tremendous feeling of accomplishment and exhilaration rises in our hearts. Our Vraja Mandala Parikrama is almost over, and our walk on the path back to Godhead has shortened.

A tall bridge leads us across the Yamuna back to Mathura. The kirtana resounds through the crowded back streets of the city. We take our final bath at Vishram Ghat. Vraja Mandala Parikrama is a perfect test for one's spiritual health. In the pure atmosphere of the Lord's land, our impurities stand out clearly, like black spots on a white sheet. Out here we see how far we have come in spiritual life and how far we have to go. Yet, this is encouraging; it increases our desire for purification, so that one day we may become qualified to reside eternally in Vrndavana.

Lokanath Swami is the director of ISKCON Padayatras ("walking pilgrimages") worldwide and the author of the recently published book Kumbha: The Festival of Immortality. He has been coordinating Vraja Mandala Parikrama since 1987.

Replica of the Spiritual World

IN THE SPIRITUAL world of Vrndavana the buildings are made of touchstone, the cows are known as surabhi cows, givers of abundant milk, and the trees are known as wish-fulfilling trees, for they yield whatever one desires. In Vrndavana Krsna herds the surabhi cows, and He is worshipped by hundreds and thousands of gopis, cowherd girls, who are all goddesses of fortune. When Krsna descends to the material world, this same Vrndavana descends just as an entourage accompanies an important personage. Because when Krsna comes His land also comes, Vrnda-vana is not considered to exist in the material world. Therefore devotees take shelter of the Vrndavana in India, for it is considered to be a replica of the original Vrndavana.—Introduction to Teachings of Lord Caitanya, by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

Instructions From Sage Narada

Narada Says to Dhruva: "My dear boy, I therefore wish all good fortune for you. You should go to the bank of the Yamuna, where there is a virtuous forest named Madhuvana, and there be purified. Just by going there, one draws nearer to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who always lives there."—Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.8.42

Acquiring Spiritual Flavors In Vrndavana

SRILA BHAKTISIDDHaNTA Sarasvati Thakura states that the business of the tongue is to gratify itself with the varieties of flavor, but by wandering in the twelve holy forests of Vraja-mandala (Vrndavana), one can be freed from the twelve flavors of material sense gratification. The five principal divisions of material relationships are neutral admiration, servitude, friendship, parental affection, and conjugal love; the seven subordinate features of material relationships are material humor, astonishment, chivalry, compassion, anger, dread, and ghastliness. Originally, these twelve rasas, or flavors of relationships, are exchanged between the Supreme Personality of Godhead and the living entity in the spiritual world; and by wandering in the twelve forests of Vrndavana one can respiritualize the twelve flavors of personal existence. Thus one will become a liberated soul, free from all material desires. If one artificially tries to give up sense gratifi-cation, especially that of the tongue, the attempt will fail, and in fact one's desire for sense gratification will increase as a result of artificial deprivation. Only by experiencing real, spiritual pleasure in relationship with Krsna can one give up material desires.—Srimad-Bhagavatam 11.8.20, Purport

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A Wrinkle in Time

Why old age is a gift from God.

By Arcana-siddhi Devi Dasi

WHENEVER I WENT to my best friend's house, her great-grandmother, Mrs. Werble, would be perched in the same spot, staring at the television. Delighted to have a visitor, Mrs. Werble would insist I sit with her, and she'd ramble on about her past. I was her captive audience, and I would feel sad on seeing the toll relentless time had taken upon her. The loose skin of her shriveled body hung off her bones; she looked out, vacant and lonely, from filmy eyes.

Being a compliant, unassertive child, I would politely sit and listen to Mrs. Werble until my friend came in to rescue me, pulling me up by the arm and leading me out of the room.

I was twelve years old, and old age frightened me. I had a youthful, developing body and felt attractive and energetic. Filled with adolescent desires to enjoy, I loved exerting myself in sports like tennis, skating, and swimming. But looking into the hollow eyes of Mrs. Werble sent chills down my spine. Someday in the distant future, my body would be in a similar condition. Was there any way to prevent such a fate? I thought of the tabloids in the supermarket and the aging faces of my favorite movie stars. With make-up and face-lifts they desperately tried to defeat the effects of time. But it was clearly a losing battle. Even with their millions of dollars, they still withered away.

Having had little religious training, I didn't consider that perhaps God had a plan in such a design for our bodies. I could see only that aging didn't fit into my plan for enjoying in this world, and I couldn't see any redeeming quality in it. I concluded it was better to die young, before having to face the breakdown of the body. But thoughts of Mrs. Werble haunted me. My attempts to enjoy were often frustrated by remembering her body. Since enjoyment is temporary, what is the ultimate purpose of my short life? Why do we get old and die?

Search Through Books

In college these questions led me to research systems of truth in philosophy, literature, and religion. I read such books as Thoreau's Walden, Herman Hesse's Siddhartha and The Bead Game, Camus's existential short stories, Thomas Merton's Thoughts in Solitude, the Bible, the Koran, and Bhagavad-gita As It Is, by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Of all my readings, I found the teachings of the ancient Vedic literature the most appealing and persuasive.

In particular I was drawn to verses in the Bhagavad-gita that describe how we are not the material body but rather a spiritual spark with a spiritual body that never grows old, never gets sick, and is always filled with joy. The Bhagavad-gita teaches that the process to realize our self is bhakti-yoga. I understood that I would still have to suffer disease and old age in this life, but perhaps—if I could take the process seriously—this would be the last time.

Ten years after my visits to Mrs. Werble's house, I enthusiastically took up the practices of bhakti-yoga, rising early every day to chant the Lord's holy names and study the Vedic scriptures. I have continued to add those practices into my busy life for the past twenty-five years.

I'm forty-seven now, and aging is still an undesirable part of my life. I have felt the allure of trying to salvage youthfulness with hair dyes and skin creams. But I understand how aging can help us become more fixed and serious about ending our material journey. Old age is the signal that our time in this body is running out. When old age sets in, we should have had enough experiences to verify that material enjoyment doesn't give substantial pleasure. If we've had spiritual training, we can avoid retiring in comfort and wasting our final years playing games and watching TV. The Vedic literature teaches that death will come and snatch the unsuspecting soul from the body, and the mentality we've cultivated in life will propel us into the next body.

Aging Of The Unprepared

A few years ago, my parents retired after forty-five years of working nine-to-five, five days a week, to maintain their family. During their working years, their weekends were filled with sleeping late, cooking meals, cleaning the house, and shopping. Spiritual and religious practices consisted of two yearly trips to a synagogue to observe the high holidays. They exercised and were careful about their diets. Today, though in their seventies, they're in "good health." Yet there's no escaping the affects of time. Images of the youthful bodies captured in their marriage portraits and preserved under glass barely resemble the aging couple I see today. Thinning gray hair and slackening skin obscure their once attractive features.

Their friends are becoming mentally incompetent and physically handicapped and are dying one by one. All the money my parents saved over the years is now available for Mediterranean cruises and excursions to fancy resorts. Their days are filled with tennis, dancing, and dining in expensive restaurants.

I have a lot of affection for my parents, and although they were at first unhappy about my decision to pursue a spiritual life, they now approve of my practices and show respect for the choices I have made. Yet I feel saddened by their oblivion of the passing of time. They seem so content in their stucco Florida home, like the little alligators bobbing up and down on wooden decoy ducks in the lake across the street.

I pray they may have some epiphany, vision, or near-death experience to pierce through the illusion of their material life. A few years ago my ninety-four-year-old grandfather died. Until his late eighties he was still working as a podiatrist, taking brisk walks in the evening, and living independently. After a stroke, he no longer recognized me. Once, when I visited him in the nursing home, I brought him a piece of cake. He sat and ate the cake. Within seconds of finishing, he looked at me and asked, "What happened to my cake?"

A Reasonable Choice

Sometimes people who challenge my choice to be a devotee ask me, "What if you're wrong and there is no Krsna?"

While my experiences over the years have convinced me that Krsna exists, it's hard to prove His existence to a doubting Thomas. But I logically reply, "If I'm wrong, I've still had a peaceful, satisfying, and fulfilling life, so what's the loss? And what if I'm right and Krsna exists? I'll gain eternal life in a spiritual body."

I then turn the question over to them: "What will you have lost by denying Krsna?"

When I ask this question, I think of my grandfather. He had been a very successful man, but what was the final result?

Consider my grandfather's life in comparison to that of my spiritual father, Srila Prabhupada. At the age of sixty-nine, Prabhupada left the comfort of a holy place to journey to one of the world's most hellish cities, New York. Out of deep compassion for suffering humanity, he traveled across the Atlantic, surviving two heart attacks. Undeterred by sickness, poverty, and lack of support, he repeated the message of his spiritual predecessors, giving hope and guidance to people like me grappling for understanding and truth in these confusing times. In Prabhupada's last twelve years, he built a spiritual movement that brought the teachings and practices of bhakti-yoga to the West and revived it in the East. Till his last breath, Prabhupada taught that the purpose of human life is to reawaken our loving relationship with the Supreme Lord, Sri Krsna. Prabhupada's old age was given to the fulfillment of his spiritual master's vision.

The Opportunity Of Old Age

Human life is a rare gift from God. It affords us the opportunity to progress on our spiritual journey. Krsna has designed our bodies to assist us in this process. If we are on a spiritual path, aging helps us to let go of our attachment to our bodies. Our aging body tells us that death is fast approaching. For the spiritual practitioner, aging subdues the senses and allows us to become more peaceful and increase our internal life.

For a devotee, retirement years are an opportunity to take full advantage of devotional service. Free of responsibilities and obligations, we can use our full time and attention to develop our love for Krsna. We can use our time studying the voluminous Vedic literature, which describes the Lord's activities and teachings. We can increase our meditation on chanting holy mantras and purifying our hearts with the spiritual sound. We can make beautiful clothes and jewelry to decorate the deity form of the Lord. Whatever talents we may have—in art, music, writing, cooking, teaching—can be used to glorify the Lord.

We can travel, too. But rather than going to the Riviera to sunbathe, we can go to holy places where the Lord performed His pastimes on earth. Such pilgrimages purify us and help us feel closer to God by increasing our devotion. We can also travel to share with others our spiritual experiences and realizations.

I look forward to retiring and having more time for the things that enliven me, such as reading Prabhupada's books, chanting the Lord's holy names, making jewelry for the deities, and writing and teaching my realizations for the benefit of others. In the mean time, by regularly reading the Vedic scriptures I become more aware of the shortcomings of life without spiritual practice. For a Krsna devotee, every situation, even old age, can be instructive.

Had Mrs. Werble known about bhakti-yoga, she could have been sitting in that same room chanting the Hare Krsna mantra absorbed in thoughts of her eternal life. Her eyes would have been filled with love and serenity. She would have been joyful in her last days, feeling the presence of her Lord at every moment. And when I came to the house, she would have shared her spiritual thoughts and visions with me and uplifted me from my own ignorance. Even though she didn't take up her spiritual life, I thank her for the role she did play in my spiritual awakening and pray she may find Krsna during her own on-going journey.

Arcana-Siddhi Devi Dasi was initiated by Srila Prabhupada in 1976. She lives with her husband and son in Baltimore, Maryland, where she works as a family therapist.

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From the Editor

Emphasis on Living

NOT LONG AGO I gave a talk about the importance of preparing our consciousness for death. We have to face the fact that death is inevitable, I said, so we'd better be ready for it.

Several people in the audience were hearing about Krsna consciousness for the first time. After the talk, one of them, Jerry, commented that my emphasis on death was a negative way of looking at life.

"I try to concentrate on living a full life," he said, "and not worry about death."

His comment made me think that I could have delivered my message differently. Maybe my talk had come across as rather negative.

"Actually, you're right," I said, trying to redeem myself. "If we live right, we will be ready for death. So let's concentrate on living right. That's what Krsna consciousness is all about."

It's good to have a positive outlook on life, but I have to admit that the fear of death and of the test that comes with it is a significant part of my motivation to keep up my spiritual practices. Krsna says that if we remember Him at the time of death we'll go to Him and if we don't remember Him we'll have to accept another material body. Along with each body come the miseries of birth, death, old age, and disease. I fear the alternative to going to Krsna. Being somewhat (well, maybe more than somewhat) claustrophobic, the thought of being packed in a womb again helps me press on.

This type of negative motivation might not be the ideal, but Krsna does mention it in the Bhagavad-gita. He says that we should always be conscious of the miseries of birth, death, old age, and disease. This vision is one of the items of real knowledge, woefully absent in modern times. "Material civilization," Srila Prabhupada writes, "is a patchwork of activities meant to cover the perpetual miseries of material existence." People absorb themselves in everyday life, trying to live with gusto and trying to forget that the material world is not a happy place.

I was giving my talk in Sarasota, Florida, a balmy, well-to-do city on the Gulf of Mexico. When speaking to an audience like this (people enjoying their good karma), I often have to remind them that although life may seem great to them right now, they can easily see how millions of people around the world are suffering tremendously from war, disease, poverty, starvation—on and on. And are they themselves really that well off? The citizens of Sarasota are not exempt from misery. It just comes in different flavors: stress, depression, bankruptcy, divorce.

We have to step back from our "patchwork of activities" and see things as they are. Fortunately, the life of Krsna consciousness that Srila Prabhupada gave us includes both taking a hard look at material life and living a fully satisfying spiritual one. Devotees of Krsna do concentrate on living, because, after all, real life is spiritual. Real life is the undying exchange between the soul and Krsna.

Later, as Jerry and I spoke while enjoying a feast of Krsna-prasadam, I had a chance to tell to him more about the well-rounded life of Krsna's devotees.

"If this food is any indication," he said, "I'd say you live a great life!"

Nagaraja Dasa

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Vedic Thoughts

The complete functional activities of a pure devotee are always engaged in the service of the Lord, and thus the pure devotees exchange feelings of ecstasy between themselves and relish transcendental bliss. This transcendental bliss is experienced even in the stage of devotional practice (sadhana-avastha), if properly undertaken under the guidance of a bona fide spiritual master. And in the mature stage the developed transcendental feeling culminates in realization of the particular relationship with the Lord by which a living entity is originally constituted.

His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.3.12, Purport

The Lord of Gokula, Krsna, is the transcendental Supreme Godhead, the own Self of eternal ecstasies. He is the superior of all superiors. He is busily engaged in the enjoyments of the transcendental realm and has no association with His mundane potency.

Lord Brahma
Brahma-samhita 5.6

The one Supreme Personality of Godhead is eternally engaged in many, many transcendental forms in relationships with His unalloyed devotees.

Purusa-bodhini Upanisad

Every day hundreds and millions of living entities go to the kingdom of death. Still, those who remain aspire for a permanent situation. What could be more wonderful than this?

Yudhisthira Maharaja
Mahabharata, Vana-parva 313.116

The blessed Lord Siva becomes all the more blessed by bearing on his head the holy waters of the Ganges, which has its source in the water that has washed the Lord's [Visnu's] lotus feet. The Lord's feet act like thunderbolts hurled to shatter the mountain of sin stored in the mind of the meditating devotee. One should therefore meditate on the lotus feet of the Lord for a long time.

Lord Kapila
Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.28.22

The Absolute Truth is Govinda [Krsna], who has an eternal form of bliss and knowledge and who is sitting beneath the shady trees of Vrndavana.

Gopala-tapani Upanisad

One can overcome the path of birth and death only by understanding the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

Svetasvatara Upanisad 3.

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