THIS ISSUE was in its final stages of production the day terror struck in New York and Washington. At the Back to Godhead office, we watched as one of the twin towers collapsed on live television. We knew at once that thousands had died.
Although I hesitated to throw the magazine off schedule, I felt that BTG couldn't wait to say something about this tragedy. Then we began receiving submissions from devotees who had spontaneously written about the attacks and the consequent suffering. We decided to free up some pages (including my editorial page) to bring you the thoughts of some devotees in the wake of the events.
The three related articles appear under the title "Feelings and Philosophy: Responses to the Terrorist Attacks." The first is a letter from Hridayananda Dasa Goswami to his disciples, stressing the need for true compassion in response to the events. Yogesvara Dasa, who works in Manhattan and was there the morning of the attacks, gives his perspective as both a New Yorker and a devotee of Krsna. Finally, Kalakantha Dasa sent us an essay he wrote originally for his own benefit—a kind of therapy, he said.
Hare Krsna.—Nagaraja Dasa, Editor
• To help all people discern reality from illusion, spirit from matter, the eternal from the temporary.
Inspired to Subscribe
I just wanted to drop a note to say how much I enjoyed the July/August issue of BTG. Urmila Devi Dasi's article on humility was honest and thoughtful and made me want to practice that same honesty and thoughtfulness on myself. I also enjoyed the article on deity worship. The picture of the New Delhi deities is beautiful and helped me to understand the spiritual significance of the arati ceremony. I actually got a subscription after reading this issue!
The first edition of BTG we received was the July/August 2001 issue, with the most beautiful painting of Radharani on the cover. All the articles were very good and interesting. But I was particularly inspired with one article by Urmila Devi Dasi titled "Real Humility." Before I received that BTG, like many others I had spent considerable thought on humility. It was so important, yet I did not have a clear understanding of what it meant. I tried various ways to "become humble"—by denying even the genuine compliments I got, refusing to admit that I had made any progress at all, trying to be meek and submissive—but all the while I knew that something was wrong in my idea of humility because my consciousness remained as rebellious and proud as always. Urmila Devi Dasi's article cleared all my misconceptions. It is indeed a joy to be humble or even try to become humble. Thank you very much and keep up the good work.
Seeing Krsna's Mercy
[To Urmila Devi Dasi:] The article you wrote in BTG, March/April 2001, about karma helped me through my sufferings of the last three years. I never understood what was happening to me. After reading your article, I accepted that everything was the mercy of Lord Krsna. I felt very relieved. Through your words I finally came to the conclusion that my only shelter in this material world is Srila Prabhupada and the devotees of Lord Krsna. You gave me so much, I don't have the words to thank you. The only thing I'm begging for is to love Lord Krsna, Srimati Radharani, and the Vaisnavas with my whole heart. I'm forever indebted to you.
All of the articles are just great. They have helped me when I've felt weak or lonely. The latest issue [July/August] is stupendous. I have a co-worker who believed we are sexist. So I copied the article "Radharani: The Feminine Side of God" and gave it to her. Now she views the movement differently. Thank you. I came to Krsna almost two years ago. He has definitely changed my life.
Now I chant every day, read, and try to remember Him at all times. I still have to fight maya at every turn. But I'm trying my best.
A Small Miracle
I wanted to share a small miracle that occurred in my life today, all thanks to Lord Krsna's mercy and Lord Caitanya's sankirtana movement.
Like many new devotees, I am sure, I have been trying to go clean up past wreckage of my life. Two years ago, before becoming a devotee, I had a run-in with the law and was placed on two years probation, and the main terms were to keep up on my fine payments, which were really steep. Since becoming a devotee, I have had a hard time trying to figure out what I would like to do for work, as my experience is in food service and I no longer want to work with meat, fish, or eggs. I fell behind in my court payments and got a one-month extension, hoping to find work by then. That was last month.
The whole time I was struggling to do what I could to fix the situation and not leaving it up to Krsna. I could not focus while I chanted, and I began to isolate myself from devotees, wallowing in my depression. Last Thursday I exclaimed utter defeat to Krsna. I told Him I was tired of trying and spent the day chanting as best I could.
The next day I got a call from a devotee's friend who owns a business making vegetarian salads and sandwiches. I was to interview Monday. But on Saturday I received a notice that my probation was to be revoked and that I faced thirty days in jail.
Well, I could see that Krsna did fine with the job, and I had to trust and keep my faith in Him. I got the job, and my grandmother-in-law offered to pay off the rest of my fines and told me I could pay her back when I could. Amazing—because she is usually a stickler when it comes to money.
Today I went to court and faced the same judge I had two years ago. Before going in I promised Krsna I would give the judge a Bhagavad-gita As It Is as a thank-you gift—if things worked out in my favor.
Despite my having paid everything, the judge still wanted to revoke my probation and send me to jail for thirty days. Before it was final, I spoke up and told him that due to the court's intervention two years back, and due to having God in my life now, I have been able to turn my life completely around. I am not even close to the person I was back then. I told him about my job, my new wife, and my new friends in fellowship in the spiritual organization I belong to.
He paused, asked for a few details, paused again, and then dismissed the case and ended my probation, calling it successfully completed!
I kept my promise and wrote a quick thank-you note and gave the book to the clerks for Judge Ackerman. I hope he reads it and gets as much out of it as I do.
Right on Time
I have noticed that this kind of thing has happened to me many times over the years: I will be feeling the pangs of material life, and then Krsna will get my attention somehow or another, and most always I will then receive my latest issue of BTG in the mail right on time. Krsna knows and cares enough to send me the ways and means to get me out of maya's grip.
Please write to us at: BTG, P.O. Box 430, Alachua, FL 32616, USA. Or: BTG, 33 Janki Kutir, Next to State Bank of Hyderabad, Juhu, Mumbai 400 049, India. [Phone: (022) 618-1718.] E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We failed to mention that the article about Sriman Jayananda Dasa ("A Modern Saint," May/June) relied heavily on the book Radha-Damodar Vilasa, by Vaiyasaki Dasa. We apologize to Vaiyasaki Dasa for the omission. Radha- Damodara Vilasa is an exciting, thoroughly researched work on Jayananda Dasa, Visnujana Swami, ISKCON's Radha-Damodara Deities, and the early days of ISKCON. It is available from the Hare Krsna Bazaar (http://www.krishna.com).
In the article "Temple of the Supreme Enchanter" (July/August), the deity Madana-Mohana was said to have been taken from the home of Purushottama Chobey. The devotee's name was actually Damodar Chobey.
Overwhelmed by useless information, we fail to hear about life's most important topic.
By His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
"Those persons who are materially engrossed, being blind to the knowledge of ultimate truth, have many subject matters for hearing in human society, O Emperor."—Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.1.2
ABOUT SIXTY, SEVENTY years ago a big politician of India came to see my Guru Maharaja, inquiring about our activities. He was informed, among other things, that my Guru Maharaja was publishing papers monthly in English, Bengali, Hindi, Oriya, and Assamese, and a Bengali daily, Nadiya Prakash. The politician was surprised.
"Oh, you are publishing every day a Bengali paper?"
"Yes. Why are you surprised?"
He was surprised. He was a politician, and he was thinking, "What can one speak of God, or Krsna, daily in a paper?" He was surprised because people generally think, "Sometimes we go to the temple and pray 'God, give us our daily bread,' " and then their business with God is finished.
My Guru Maharaja replied, "Why are you surprised? This Calcutta city is a most insignificant part of the universe, and it is producing so many papers."
Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita, "The whole material world is situated in one part of My energy." Ekamsena sthito jagat. When Arjuna asked about the opulence of Krsna, Krsna described some of the material world. Then He summarized:
atha va bahunaitena
"How much shall I go on speaking to you? Just try to understand My potency: This whole material world is sustained by one part of My energy." [Bhagavad-gita 10.42] The spiritual world is the three-fourths part. Suppose one unit of Krsna's energy is acting. So out of that one-fourth unit is exhibited the material world. What is that material world?
yasya prabha prabhavato jagad-anda- koti-
In some corner of the Brahman effulgence is mahat-tattva, material energy. And that material energy is described in another place:
The material world means the innumerable universes coming out through the breathing of Maha-Visnu. Innumerable universes. We cannot account for the one universe in which we live, and there are innumerable planets. Everyone has experience in seeing the stars and planets. This is one universe. And such universes are coming out—millions—through the breathing of Maha-Visnu. When He exhales they come out; when He inhales they go within. That accounts for the states of creation and non-creation.
The material world is only a manifestation, an exhibition, of one-fourth of the energy of Krsna. Within the material world there are so many universes, and within each universe there are so many planets. We are living on one of those planets. And on this planet there are so many cities—Calcutta, Bombay, Madras, Delhi, Paris, London, and so many hundreds and thousands of others. In every city there are newspapers. And each newspaper is publishing three, four editions daily. This is the most insignificant planet, and still there is so much news to hear.
Therefore it is said here, srotavyadini rajendra nrnam santi sahasrasah: "There are millions and millions of subjects for hearing." That is a fact. Every paper is publishing three, four editions daily, especially in the Western countries. So if they have got so much news in the material world on this insignificant planet, just imagine how much news is there in the three-fourths manifestation of God's energy.
So my Guru Maharaja said, "You are surprised, sir, that we are publishing a paper daily. But we can publish a paper every minute. Unfortunately, there are no customers."
They have customers for their newspapers, but for our news we have to canvass, "Will you kindly take this? Will you kindly take this?"
They are not interested. They're interested in material news—radio, paper, magazine, edition after edition. They have no time to read the little news we are giving about God in Back to Godhead. Why? Apasyatam atma-tattvam. They do not know what is atma, the active principle of all these activities. They do not know. na te viduh svartha-gatim hi visnum durasaya ye bahir-artha-maninah [Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.5.31]. Durasaya means that they have so much news to hear with the hope that they will be able to exist here and be happy. Durasaya means "useless hope."
Take, for example, your Napoleon Arch. Napoleon was conquering all over Europe, and he thought he would be able to enjoy his conquests. But where is Napoleon? The arch is there, that's all. This is the position. But he worked so hard. Not only he—everyone is working. The arch will remain, because it's a stone, but he's finished. He's finished.
This is called apasyatam atma-tattvam. People do not know what is reality. They are simply after so-called reality. It is a very important point. Try to understand. Atma-tattvam. One who does not know what is atma—what is soul, the nature of soul—does not know what is reality.
Arjuna's First Lesson
Therefore, in the Bhagavad-gita Krsna begins by explaining the constitution of the atma, or spirit soul. When He began to teach Arjuna Bhagavad-gita, the A-B-C-D lesson was to convince him about the soul within the body. That is called atma-tattvam. Nobody knows about this. Therefore, bahir-artha-maninah: they are accepting the external feature. We can understand very easily that the body is the external feature. The real "I" is within. As soon as I go away from this body, the external feature becomes as good as garbage in the street. People do not understand that. They are busy piling garbage. "Bring more garbage, more garbage." They think, "This garbage will save me."
On the other hand, atma-tattvam means to think, "I am now within this garbage for the present. And after leaving this garbage, I pile up so many other garbages. And in this way, working uselessly my whole life, then I transmigrate from this body to another garbage body."
Apasyatam atma-tattvam refers to those who do not know this. Apasyatam means "not seeing." A means "not," and pasyatam means "seeing," or "one who sees." He's seeing in this way: "This garbage is everything." He does not see atma-tattvam.
Apasyatam atma-tattvam grhesu. Grha means "home." You can take the body as home, because we are living within the body. And we are living on this planet and within this universe. These are also home. Or I may have a little home, an apartment, ten feet square, that's all. That is also home. We have attachment for this home, ten feet by ten feet or millions of feet by millions of feet.
We living entities are within this home. The whole universe is home because we're living here. And we are moving from this place to that place. From Bombay I have come to Paris. This is all within the home—within the universe or within this planet. We see that people are very busy, driving cars at seventy miles per hour. But within Paris they may go seventy miles or eighty miles, but they cannot go beyond. One of our countrymen, the poet Rabindranath Tagore, was in London, and he saw that people walk very fast. So he remarked, "These people are walking very fast. But this is a very small country. They'll fall into the sea."
You see? This is going on. [Laughs.] A dog in the park is jumping and running. But as soon as the master says, "Come on. Come on," the dog must obey: "Yes, sir."
"Give me your neck."
The dog is thinking he's free, but as soon as the master calls he has to submit. That is our position. We are very busy, but the master is the material nature. Daivi hy esa guna-mayi mama maya duratyaya. [Bhagavad-gita 7.14] The fact is that we are under the stringent laws of material nature. We have no freedom. That we do not know. We are struggling so much. War has been waged all over the world, especially in Europe, for freedom. You have that freedom statue. And in America, also, there is freedom. But where is the freedom, sir? That they do not know.
Why? Apasyatam atma-tattvam. They do not know what freedom is. Therefore they have created so many newspapers for freedom, so-called freedom. But there is no freedom. Even big, big leaders have no freedom, so what to speak of us.
Therefore Krsna points out in the Bhagavad-gita [13.9] that real freedom is when you get freedom from four problems: janma-mrtyu-jara-vyadhi-duhkha-dosanudarsanam. If you get freedom from these four things—birth, death, old age, and disease—that is freedom. But where is that freedom? The so-called scientists, big, big scientists, have very scientifically advanced, but they have no freedom from death. They have to die on a fixed date. Professor Einstein or any other big scientist could not manufacture any scientific instrument and keep it in the custody of his student: "As soon as I die, just apply this machine. I shall come alive again." Where is that freedom?
So-called scientific improvement, advancement in civilization, is just like the jumping of a dog. That's all. It has no value. Real value is to understand atma-tattvam: "What am I? Why is death imposed upon me? I do not wish to die. Why is old age imposed upon me? I do not wish to become an old man or an old woman. I wish to remain beautiful, young."
"No, sir, that is not possible."
Then where is your freedom? Why are you jumping so much? As soon as the master will call, then: "Yes, sir. Bind me."
You are completely under nature's control. Nature is pulling you by the ear.
And you're thinking you are free. You are completely under the control of the modes of material nature.
"The spirit soul bewildered by the influence of false ego thinks himself the doer of activities that are in actuality carried out by the three modes of material nature." [Bhagavad-gita 3.27] This is called false egotism: "I am something." "I am Napoleon Bonaparte." "I am Mussolini." "I am Hitler." This is ahankara-vimudhatma. Fools and rascals think like that.
"No freedom, sir. No freedom."
Being puffed-up with false prestige, a person is thinking, "I am something. I can do something." This is the disease. So for such persons these newspapers are very useful. But for one who is fixed up in atma-tattvam, there is no need of this so-called news.
"I am Brahman. I am not anything of this material world." Persons who know this should try to understand Krsna. That is the only business. There is no other business. And how will you understand Krsna? By service. Krsna has agreed: "I'll accept your service." Therefore He has come as the deity in the temple. You cannot serve Krsna in His universal form. You have limited potency, but Krsna has agreed to come in a such way that you can touch Him. You can touch His lotus feet. You can make clothing for Krsna with devotion. You can dress Krsna. You can prepare food according to your capacity. You can offer the preparations to Krsna, and Krsna will eat. He says,
patram puspam phalam toyam
"If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, a fruit, or water, I will accept it." [Bhagavad-gita 9.26]. Krsna is so kind that although He is all-pervading, universal, He has agreed to accept your service just to give you liberation from this misunderstanding, this lack of atma-tattvam. The Krsna consciousness movement is meant to help everyone serve Krsna.
Krsna, God, is great. How great He is you cannot imagine. But still He has agreed to accept your service, becoming small. That is greatness. In the material world something very big cannot become small. The elephant is a very big animal.
You ask the elephant, "Please become like an ant."
"Oh, that is not possible, sir. That is not possible."
But God is so great that although He's universal, He can enter into the atom. Anor aniyan mahato mahiyan: "Greater than the greatest, smaller than the smallest." That is God. In the Brahma-samhita (5.35) it is said,
eko 'py asau racayitum jagad-anda kotim
Just to create this material world, one portion of Krsna, Paramatma, has entered into the mahat-tattva as Maha-Visnu and into the universe as Garbhodakasayi-Visnu. He has entered everyone's heart as Supersoul, Ksirodakasayi-Visnu, and He has entered into the atom—although He is so great.
It is Krsna's mercy that He can become smaller than the smallest and greater than the greatest. We cannot capture the one who is greater than the greatest. That is not possible. Therefore it is His kindness that He has become just suitable to be handled by you. The deity in the temple is called arca-murti or arca-vigraha. Deity worship is arcanam. It is one of the nine items of devotional service. You can hear about Krsna, chant about Krsna, remember Krsna, worship the deity of Krsna, offer prayers to Krsna. There are nine different ways. Just try to understand Krsna by these nine processes, by some of the processes, or by even one of them. Krsna will agree. Krsna is so kind. And as soon as you understand Krsna's nature, then you become liberated. Tyaktva deham punar janma naiti mam eti so 'rjuna. [Bhagavad-gita 4.9] That is the process.
The real problem is how to get out of material existence. If we remain attached to material existence—whether to the body or the society or the nation—that is our bondage. One should be careful to understand the position of the soul and how to go back home, back to Godhead, to again meet the Supersoul, Krsna, and live there permanently with a blissful life, full of knowledge. That is wanted.
Thank you very much.
With the help of a well-informed
By Indradyumna Swami
ON FEBRUARY 13 I arrived in New Delhi from Moscow with Sri Prahlada Dasa and his wife, Rukmini Priya Devi Dasi. We will be spending ten days in India, resting and recuperating from our trip to Russia.
After spending one precious day in Vrndavana, I traveled south to Udaipur to join my son, Gaura Sakti Dasa, and two of his business associates, Mickey and Sherry Goldman, all of whom are on a business and recreation trip in Rajasthan. After meeting Mickey and Sherry, I was a little apprehensive about spending a planned five days with them; our initial conversations didn't go much beyond the daily news and the weather. Mickey and Sherry are both older than I am and come from conservative Jewish backgrounds, and I could sense they felt a little uncomfortable around a Hare Krsna devotee in saffron robes. But it appeared that Krsna had a plan for them, which gradually unfolded as the days went by.
When I suggested to Mickey and Sherry that they begin by visiting Udaipur Palace, they asked if I would come along. Though the palace is of little spiritual interest, I agreed, hoping to develop a deeper relationship with them through which I might be able to inspire them in Krsna consciousness.
At the palace we made our way through the inner chambers. When we reached the renowned Room of Mirrors, a young American man, seeing my saffron cloth, approached and asked if he could speak with me. With folded hands he said, "Hari om," and asked if I had ever read the Bhagavad-gita. When I replied that I had, a lively conversation began, wherein we debated whether God is a person or an energy.
Mickey and Sherry listened intently as I presented arguments for the existence of a personal God. My arguments seemed to impress them, and as the day wore on they began asking questions of a spiritual nature. Last night over dinner we discussed a number of spiritual topics, and our conversation seemed to make them more relaxed in my presence. At the end of the evening Mickey concluded by saying that it is unfortunate that in America Krsna consciousness is sometimes thought of as a cult, when in fact it is an ancient religion.
A Hard-Earned Darsana
Pleased with our visit to Udaipur Palace yesterday, Mickey and Sherry ask me to recommend another place to go. I was planning to visit the temple of Sri Nathji in Nathdwara, about fifty kilometers north of Udaipur, and offered to take them along. They were excited about the opportunity, as it was a journey off the general tourist route. But afterwards I wondered if I had made the right decision to invite them along. How would they, as members of the Jewish faith, relate to deity worship?
I explained that in the Vedic tradition, the deity is carved from stone, marble, or wood, and after installation according to authorized scriptures, is accepted as identical with the Lord.
Grappling with the new idea, at first they seemed confused.
Mickey said, "We were taught that worshiping such statues is idol worship."
Then to my surprise, Sherry spoke up and said that because God is present everywhere, there is no reason He couldn't be in the deity while at the same time not being limited to that form. Mickey nodded his head in agreement. Confident that my new friends had made a little progress in Krsna consciousness, I opened the door of the taxi as it arrived, and we began our journey to Nathdwara.
Mickey and Sherry were obviously pleased with the exotic atmosphere of Nathdwara, with its colorful flags, banners, and shanai bands that welcome thousands of pilgrims. Approaching the Sri Nathji temple, we saw many pilgrims waiting for the doors to open, the men at one set of doors, the women at another. The custom at the temple is that when the doors are opened, the pilgrims charge forward to have the best vantage point for seeing Sri Nathji. The women are directed to the front of the temple, and the men toward the back.
I told Mickey and Sherry that it would be "every man for himself" when the doors opened and that they should try their best to get inside the temple and see the deity. We would meet outside after the thirty-minute darsana [viewing] was over. There wasn't much else I could do. I knew from experience that darsana of Sri Nathji was like a transcendental football match, with hundreds of pilgrims pushing and shoving to see Him in a very limited space.
Sure enough, when the conch sounded and the doors opened, hundreds of men and women surged forward to get Sri Nathji's darsana. Sherry's eyes opened wide as she was suddenly swept into the temple with a wave of women. I grabbed Mickey by the arm as the men's group tumbled into the darsana hall. As the crowd surged forward, Mickey and I were shoved backward and forward, while simultaneously being spun around, as everyone clamored to see Krsna.
My few moments of meditation on Sri Nathji were broken when the huge crowd, heaving with hundreds of devotees, suddenly spilled Mickey and me back out onto the stone steps in front of the temple.
While gathering ourselves, I looked anxiously at Mickey, wondering how he had fared with his first darsana of the Lord in a temple. Buttoning up his shirt and rearranging his disheveled clothes, he looked at me and said with a surprised look on his face, "I made it!" It wasn't exactly the reaction I had hoped for.
A few moments later Sherry emerged from the temple with a blissful look on her face. With a big smile she said, "Maharaja, I got some of the sacred water, and I also ate the little green leaves the priest gave me!"
As we walked back to the car, she excitedly told us how she had been "right in front of the deity" and began explaining in detail how beautiful He looked. As she described His big eyes, His charming smile, and His curious form "bent in three places," I smiled, remembering my apprehension as to how she and her husband would understand what a deity was. A few days ago they had come to India as simple tourists, but by the Lord's mercy had already begun to understand some aspects of the all-beautiful Lord.
Mercy From Govindaji
Our entourage of Gaura Sakti, Mickey and Sherry Goldman, and I reached Jaipur on the morning of February 18. We were joined by Sri Prahlada and Rukmini Priya, arriving from Vrndavana. Mickey and Sherry were eager to see the sights of the Pink City constructed by Maharaja Jai Sing II as a fortress to protect Srila Rupa Gosvami's deities, Sri Sri Radha-Govindaji, who left Vrndavana when the Moguls invaded India in the late 1700s.
The temple of Radha-Govinda was naturally the first place to visit because of its being in the very center of the city. Thousands of people begin their day there by attending the early morning mangala-arati or greeting the deities a little later in the morning.
I first came to Radha-Govinda's temple as a new sannyasi in 1979. I was traveling alone on my way to South India to visit the appearance site of Lord Nrsimha in Ahovalam. When I entered Radha-Govinda's temple early one morning, thousands of people were singing beautiful songs to Govindaji with intense emotion. With their hands together in namaskara, they swayed back and forth, appealing to the deity with love and devotion. I had been chanting Hare Krsna for years, but I had never chanted with so much feeling. The fact that thousands of people were doing so simultaneously had an overwhelming effect on me. I realized that the holy names were the only means of deliverance in this age, and I witnessed that the beauty of Govindaji made those devotees call out to Him with love.
As Mickey and Sherry entered the Radha-Govinda temple with me, they seemed relieved that visiting a temple didn't necessarily mean going through the pushing and shoving we encountered with the enthusiastic followers of Sri Nathji in Nathdwara. Although thousands of people were coming to see Govindaji, there was ample space in the large temple. To my surprise, Mickey and Sherry went straight to the front to get a good view of Radha-Govinda and study Their transcendental forms. In Nathdwara they had only a glimpse of Sri Nathji; here they wanted to see first-hand who all the commotion was about.
Our discussion about deity worship had evolved since our initial conversation, when they politely referred to it as "idol worship." But they had witnessed something special at Sri Nathji's temple and were curious to know more. Their attitude reminded me of Srila Prabhupada's words at the installation of the first Radha-Krsna deities in Los Angeles.
"If you see these deities as brass," he said, "They will remain like that to you forever. But if you approach Them with love and devotion, one day They will speak to you."
Seeing Mickey and Sherry intently studying the forms of Radha and Krsna, the head pujari [priest] did an amazing thing that only deepened my faith in the power of the deity to reciprocate with our approaches to Him. He called Mickey and Sherry forward to the front of the altar and had them stand only ten feet away from Radha-Govinda. Sherry had spontaneously bought a garland outside the temple, and now that she was in front of the deity, she gathered strength and slowly handed it to the pujari, indicating that he should give it to Radha and Krsna. Understanding the special moment, the pujari took the garland and gave it to Radharani, and then took two garlands from Radharani and tulasi leaves from the feet of Govindaji and came back and gave them to Mickey and Sherry. I and many pilgrims present watched in amazement.
When Mickey and Sherry came back from the altar, they garlanded themselves, ate the tulasi leaves, and folded their hands in namaskara, looking at Radha and Krsna.
Deciding that from this point on I would have no hesitation in bringing them closer to the Lord, I gave them several of Govindaji's huge sweetballs and suggested they distribute them. As soon as they held the prasadam out, they were deluged by pilgrims eager for mercy. Mickey was in bliss and turned to me to say, "It's better to give than to receive."
We left very early the next day for Vrndavana. Mickey and Sherry were eager to go to Vrndavana because I had told them there were five thousand temples there.
During the ride, Mickey asked if there were deities in every temple.
"Yes, of course," I said.
Then he asked if all the deities were black.
"Yes," I replied, "most of Them are."
When he asked, "Who is the girl always standing next to Krsna?" I gave him a brief explanation.
As he started with yet another question, I had to say, "Mickey, let's take a little rest now. We'll talk about all this in Vrndavana. The atmosphere there is very conducive to these types of questions."
For a few moments he was silent, and then like a young boy he asked "How long will it take us to get to Vrndavana?"
I replied, "I don't think it's going to take you very long to get there, Mickey."
"What's that?" he asked.
"Nothing, Mickey. Let's take rest," I said.
I couldn't believe the transformation that had taken place with our two guests from rural America. Only days before they'd had so many doubts about worshiping the deity of the Lord. Now they were expressing such eagerness to see Him. Krsna is surely the supreme mystic.
Our small party entered Vrndavana early on the morning of February 20. In a sense, Mickey and Sherry had come to Vrndavana as pilgrims. Although they were tourists in India, they were no longer interested in going to the spots where tourists generally go. On the way to Vrndavana, they had taken a side trip to India's ultimate tourist destination, the Taj Mahal. But upon entering Vrndavana, they could at once perceive the difference.
As we neared ISKCON's Krsna-Balarama Temple and the adjacent MVT buildings, where they would be staying, Mickey offered his first assessment of Vrndavana: "The Taj Mahal was dead compared with Vrndavana. There's a special atmosphere here."
We soon took rickshas into town to visit the Radha-Damodara temple, where I told Mickey and Sherry about Srila Prabhupada's coming to the West. The story so touched their hearts that when Sri Prahlada led kirtana in Srila Prabhupada's room, they enthusiastically chanted Hare Krsna with us. It was the first time they had chanted, and it seemed to me to be the beginning of the end of their material existence.
In the evening we visited the temple of Vraja-Mohana, the deity of Srila Narottama Dasa Thakura. After kirtana, Mickey turned to me and said that he had heard that Vraja-Mohana was a special deity for me. I replied that it was true and that I was helping to reconstruct the temple. I mentioned that my Russian disciples, eager to help me in my service, had recently donated more than $1,000 to paint the temple and make three new outfits for the Lord. I explained to Mickey that this is the real meaning of deity worship; it allows us to render personal, intimate service to the Lord.
Looking at Vraja-Mohana, Mickey said, "I think I understand now."
When we all left the temple, Mickey wasn't around, so I went back inside to find him. From a distance, I saw him with the priest. He was handing him a $100 bill, pointing to the deity and indicating that it was for His service.
On February 21, we visited other prominent temples. As we headed into town that morning, I didn't see Sherry, and I asked Mickey if she would be coming. He smiled and pointed to the group of women accompanying us. There I saw Sherry in a silk sari with a bindi on her forehead. She kept her head covered the whole day and offered her respects to all the deities in the temples we visited, folding her hands and sometimes praying. I also prayed to those same deities, amazed by Their potency to transform the hearts of my guests.
The next day I went out alone to visit some holy sites where I always feel inspiration. In the evening I returned to Vrndavana to make final preparations for my departure to Africa the next morning. When I arrived there, Mickey and Sherry came to see me. They asked where I had been during the day, and I said I'd been to Govardhana Hill and Radha Kunda. Apparently, some devotees had told them about the glories of those places, and they lamented that they wouldn't have a chance to see them before leaving India. Hearing their enthusiasm to go there, and considering that such a visit would be the crowning glory of their trip to India, I decided to take them to Radha Kunda on our way to Delhi to catch our flights.
Rising early the next day, Gaura Sakti, Mickey, Sherry, and I packed our belongings in the Tata Sumo van that would be taking us to the airport. As I loaded my things, I was already feeling separation from Vrndavana.
By the time we left, we were running late, but Mickey and Sherry were determined to see Govardhana Hill and Radha Kunda. After a quick darsana of Govardhana upon arriving, we proceeded to Radha Kunda, the most sacred of all holy places. Situated in a small rural village, Radha Kunda can be truly appreciated only by those advanced souls whose eyes are covered by the salve of love of God. Beginners can have some appreciation by the study of scriptures, but non-devotees can only be bewildered as to why someone would be eager to visit the two little ponds at the foot of Govardhana Hill called Syama Kunda and Radha Kunda.
I could see that I didn't have to worry about Mickey and Sherry. They were eager to see Radha Kunda and appreciated that it was indeed special mercy for them. They had been groomed for this moment by the devotees, and no doubt by the Lord Himself. What tourists ever get darsana of Sri Nathji in Nathdwara, Sri Sri Radha-Govinda in Jaipur, and Sri Sri Radha-Syamasundara in Vrndavana? What tourists live for ten days on the maha-prasadam of the Lord? What tourists get the opportunity to give their hard-earned money to Vraja-Mohana, the beloved deity of Srila Narottama Dasa Thakura? The cumulative effect of all that mercy was evident in the awe and reverence Mickey and Sherry showed when they approached Radha Kunda and put her sacred waters upon their heads.
On the way back to the van, Mickey said to me, "Maharaja, you've been so kind to us these ten days here in India. In particular, you and Sri Prahlada have answered all our questions to our full satisfaction. But I have one question left, and this time I'm afraid that neither of you will be able to answer."
Thinking there might be a lingering doubt in Mickey's mind despite all the mercy he'd received, I asked, "What's that question, Mickey?"
"How will I be able to explain all of this to my friends back home?" he asked. "How does one put into words the wonders of what we've seen and done? How do you explain Vrndavana to those who've never met devotees like yourselves?"
"It's not easy, Mickey," I replied. "But devotees of the Lord carry Vrndavana in their hearts, and wherever they go they share that mercy with others. My spiritual master in particular took Vrndavana to the West. If people read his books, they'll get an idea of the special mercy available here."
As we got into the van, everyone had an empty feeling inside. We felt we were leaving our real home. As we drove down the road and out of Vraja, Mickey and Sherry looked back. From the look in their eyes, I knew one day they would return.
His Holiness Indradyumna Swami travels around the world teaching Krsna consciousness. In Poland each summer he oversees dozens of festivals. Since 1990 these festivals have introduced Krsna to hundreds of thousands of people.
Adapted from the unpublished Diary of a Traveling Preacher, Volume 3, Chapters 22-24. To receive chapters as they come out regularly on e-mail, write to indradyumna. swami@ pamho. net. (Volumes 1 and 2 are available from the Hare Krsna Bazaar. http://www.krishna.com)
"If the Leaders Do Something Wrong,
Here we conclude 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: Actually, I haven't come here for "treatment."
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Otherwise, why have you come?
Director: I was invited.
Srila Prabhupada: Just to get some ideas to help your social-welfare activities, you have come to take some suggestion from us. But when we give the suggestion, you reject it.
Director: If I were to come and join your movement, then I would accept your prescription.
Srila Prabhupada: No. You may join or not join, but you have come here to consult us, to see whether we can help your activities. But when we prescribe, you do not accept.
Disciple: Srila Prabhupada, the Director is scheduled to return to his office fairly soon.
Srila Prabhupada: Then just give him a nice plate of prasada. [Returning to the Director:] So to make the whole human society happy, this God consciousness movement must spread.
Director: Well, I'll surely report back with that message. Thank you very much for seeing me.
Srila Prabhupada: Please wait for a moment.
Disciple: We want you to enjoy some prasada, some delicious vegetarian dishes that we've offered to Krsna. It's the Vedic custom. Srila Prabhupada says to give prasada to everyone.
Srila Prabhupada: It is our custom that if anyone comes, he should be offered a nice seat and given some eatables. Yes.
Director: Have you seen many people in Melbourne?
Srila Prabhupada: There are daily one or two gentlemen. Like you, they are coming, but they find our prescription very strict. [Laughter.] But we are not going to change it. We are not beholden to vox populi. Public opinion is not our concern. We have got our standard method.
Director: Yeah. Sure. I believe that you should have these standards if you want them.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. That is making us successful. We do not make any compromise. This is our method. If you like, you take it. If you don't like, you go away. We don't mind.
Director: If you can convince the society to change, then the public servants will change.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, we are working hard within the society, and we are inviting everyone, and they are coming. Gradually, they are becoming converted to this genuine spiritual culture. My hope rests on these young boys. They will do my work.
Take the whole plate. It is fruit and other sweet things. It is very nice. Patram puspam phalam toyam: in Bhagavad-gita Krsna instructs, "Just offer Me, with devotion, fruits and vegetables and flowers." This kind of foodstuffs is meant for the human being—the fruits and vegetables. For instance, the tigers will not even eat the fruits. The tigers, with their huge teeth—they will not like the fruits. We human beings have got a different kind of teeth, for eating fruit.
Director: It's very nice and sweet.
Srila Prabhupada: So we have got grains. We have got fruits and vegetables. We have got milk. By the combination of fruits, vegetables, milk products, and grains, we can prepare so many nice, palatable dishes, full of vitamins. Why should we kill some poor animal? Let the animal live, and take her milk and prepare nice food, full of vitamins. Milk is nothing but a transformation of the animal's blood. So why do you take the blood by killing? Take the blood in a different form—milk. This is our program. Let the animal live peacefully, and if you are meat-eaters, let the animal die naturally, and then you can eat. There will be no charge for it.
To the meat-eaters we say, While taking the cows' milk, we will see that they are protected, and when they die naturally, we will call you meat-eaters and say, "Please take this." You can take the skin for free, you can take the bones for free, and then you can eat the meat. Just wait for the animals to die. They will die, after all.
That much of a concession I want. Let the animals live without any fear of being killed, so that they will supply more milk. Suppose you know that I am keeping you here for eventually being killed. Will you be very happy? Your mind will be always disturbed. We could not get good service from you. So the animals also understand, "They are going to kill us." Therefore, you don't get so much milk. But when they are assured that they will not be killed, they will give double the milk. People do not know the animals' psychology. This is going on.
Director: Thank you very much.
Srila Prabhupada: So if you want to eat meat, let the animals die naturally. That is our program. If you like, you can accept. Thank you very much. [The Director departs.]
[To disciples:] Lust. This is the modern world's disease. For instance, the leaders want to keep the poor girls free for prostitution, so that they can enjoy. This is the main point. The Director has admitted as much. Keep the young girls "free." They also have sex desire, and so let us enjoy. This is the whole basic principle here in the Western world.
Disciple: Srila Prabhupada, the Director was of a very ripe old age. Still, he was saying that . . .
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Ripe old age notwithstanding, up to the point of death one is sexually inclined. Up to the point of death. Even at the point of death, one is still looking for a young girl. That is natural. Unless one is trained up, that is natural. That is maya's entrapping machine to keep the living entity within this material world.
Disciple: Sometimes when we offer young people Krsna consciousness, they say, "When I get older, I won't be so attached to sex enjoyment, so then I can take up Krsna consciousness."
Srila Prabhupada: They generally think so, but that is not possible. In Paris very, very old men—seventy-five or eighty years old—they are going to nightclubs, paying fifty dollars' entrance fee, and then they spend money for wine and women. And they stay there a few hours and go home, only to come back another night. They are all old men. So breaking this sex attachment is a very difficult job, but still, by Krsna's grace you disciples are accepting this principle. That is the great mercy of Krsna. Otherwise, it is very, very difficult.
One old man, the Marquis of Zetland—he proposed to one of my God-brothers, "Can you make me a brahmana?"
"Oh, yes. You give up these lusty habits."
"Oh, that is impossible. That is impossible. These things are our life."
So in the Western countries, these things are their life—to have illicit sex, meat-eating, drinking, and gambling. And yet people are accepting this Krsna conscious principle—young boys like you. It is Krsna's mercy on us. Otherwise, it is impossible. Breaking these lusty habits is impossible, unless we enjoy with Krsna.
No illicit sex. Sex we are not stopping. But sex is restricted to the grhasthas, the householders. We are not stopping sex. Sex is required. But under rules. If you enjoy illicit sex, then the whole society is spoiled. You make the innocent girls spoiled. And they have no other business than prostitution. That means you put the society into chaos. The young girls become cheap, and you enjoy them and become irresponsible. You stop maintaining the family structure. That is the situation. What is the reason for this welfare department? It is that the young boys enjoy the young girls, and the girls get children. So the government has to support the girls and their children.
Disciple: That's the cause of this whole problem.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. The welfare department is for that purpose only.
Disciple: And this gentleman is a big leader in the welfare department.
Srila Prabhupada: And yet he does the very same thing—the same illicit sex that created the need for the welfare department in the first place. He does not know how to cure the problem.
Disciple: In so many words he said, "I could not live without illicit sex."
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. The leaders themselves have created this "bachelor daddy" madness: young men posing themselves as bachelors, uninterested in having wives and children, simply interested in having sex. You see. And these leaders are accepted as standard. And if you want to reform this situation, then it is so difficult.
The basic wrong is, the leaders have become godless animals. That's all. The only method for reform is this Krsna consciousness. There is no second method. Harav abhaktasya kuto mahad-gunah: you cannot raise anybody to high qualities unless he is God conscious, Krsna conscious. That is a fact. And the proof is here. Because these boys have taken to Krsna consciousness, they are ideal. All others—what is their value? That welfare director is a leader—and he says, "Yes, illicit sex is all right. By contraceptive methods we are enjoying it." If the leaders do something wrong, others will follow.
Muktinath: Abode of Liberation
Equipped with Krsna's
By Phalguna Dasa
August 3, 2000, Mayapur, West Bengal
EIGHT BOYS, AGES twelve to sixteen, join me on a northbound bus headed for the temple of Muktinath in the Himalayas. They are students at ISKCON's boys school in Mayapur, where I teach. Most of them have never been out of Bengal. They're excited about the trip, of course, but they're also looking forward to another kind of adventure: the chance to introduce people to Krsna consciousness.
So much has happened already. When we crossed into Nepal, we had to wait several hours for our bus connection, so we decided to pass the time at a nearby Hanuman temple. The priest in charge was very friendly and treated us like honored guests.
We decided to try to distribute some of Srila Prabhupada's books. Without even leaving the temple, we unexpectedly sold six Bhagavad-gitas. We couldn't speak Nepali, and most of the boys had never done book distribution before. I felt that Krsna was inspiring people to come and get His words.
I found Nepalis to be religious, devotional people. They were quite interested to speak to a Western devotee of Krsna (I'm from South America). Their pride in their Vedic heritage was particularly apparent at Durbar Square, a striking assembly of ancient temples and palaces where Nepali kings are crowned and their coronations solemnized. The boys and I set about distributing some of Srila Prabhupada's books, which were well received by both local people and tourists.
We went to this town near Katmandu during the festival of Gayatra. Many Nepalis joined our chanting procession as part of similar events surrounding the festival.
One young lady named Veronica had just arrived from Austria. She said she was fed up with the materialistic "rat-race, exploitive society" and had come to Nepal seeking higher knowledge. She eagerly accepted Prabhupada's books and discussed Krsna consciousness with us at length.
One of my students, sixteen-year-old Hariscandra, had his first taste of book distribution.
"I had no idea what to do," he told me. "But I found that the people were friendly and generous. There were some rough people, but most would listen, and I found myself greatly enjoying book distribution."
A particularly good philosophy student, Hariscandra was honored one morning with an invitation to give the Srimad-Bhagavatam class in the ISKCON Katmandu temple.
After the wonderful celebration at the ISKCON temple, I went to walk and chant in the hills overlooking Katmandu and the Vishnumati River. It is a beautiful place to chant. After being immersed for some time in the chanting, I saw a smiling young man coming toward me. He told me his name was Vinoj, and he invited me to his house, so we climbed the hill to it. Vinoj, his brother Svaraj, and his sister Manju then hosted me with great care.
The encounter helped me understand how Krsna enters the hearts of people through the mercy of devotees. Sometime ago a devotee from Mayapur had came through here and planted the seed of bhakti. I was able to
Our destination, Muktinath, is a famous holy place high in the Himalayas. The Mahabharata mentions it as Salagrama. Only those willing to trek the steep trail can reach it.
Soon after setting out from Kathmandu, we encountered the remains of a big landslide. The boys joined some local devotees in chanting their way over the rubble. Without much delay, we reached our first destination, a small ISKCON temple at Pokora. Here we enjoyed a striking view of the Ceti-Gandaki River.
We made it to Beni, a small town that's as far as the buses can go. From here on it's either by foot or by mule. We chose to go by foot.
The day started out rainy as we set out for Muktinath from the south. Reaching Muktinath has always been difficult. Although the trail has been made relatively safe in recent years, many pilgrims have lost their lives negotiating the ancient path rimming the worlds deepest and steepest river gorge.
Here the men employ mules for hauling on the steep mountainsides. Although accustomed to seeing pilgrims, the men seemed quite interested in our unusual party. They were simple and kind.
We came across several obstacles, such as rivers and steep climbs. The Gandaki River roared with its dark waters, breaking up the mountains. We sometimes walked around cliffs tempting us to fall into the sacred waters.
I reflected on how strange all this must appear to these young devotees, whose lives to this point had been entirely spent on the perfectly flat terrain of West Bengal. They seemed fascinated as they soldiered on up the steep trail.
We walked on through wonderful forests. Suddenly I noticed a huge cloud rolling in from behind us. Within minutes it had swallowed the sky above us and the mountains ahead. One of the boys commented innocently, "We are touching the clouds." It sounded so logical and true that it stuck in my mind. Yes, we were walking in the clouds here, three thousand meters above our ashram home in Mayapur.
More imposing than the physical challenges were the constant mental demands. My mind seemed to constantly chant, "What is the use of this austerity?" I talked with the boys to help us keep up our determination. We were rewarded with exquisite views of Krsna's hand in nature.
We passed several small villages where the people had special sympathy for the chanting of the holy name. There are many Hindu and Buddhist temples, shrines, and prayer wheels.
We approached Muktinath with sore feet and inspired hearts. The well-beaten path had been set for us by countless pilgrims, each completing the rigorous climb to worship and view the sacred deity of Muktinath. The arduous task of traveling to this holy site and undertaking personal austerity on the way made the prospective darsana (viewing of the deity) extraordinarily exciting.
Our day began with a beautiful view of the path of the Kali-Gandaki River between the mountains and of the Muktinath River joining it. But our determination to ascend to the holy shrine was tested by the steepest hills of our journey. Our ascent was demanding. We arrived after several hours of arduous climbing to that magnificent place glorified throughout the centuries.
Before one goes to the main temple for darsana of the deity of Lord Visnu called Muktinatha ("The Master of Liberation"), the custom is to bathe first under 108 water spouts, an act said to award liberation, The spouts are arranged in a semi-circle, and the pilgrim should step under each of them, taking the water on his head. Most people begin with the intention of going under each spout, but the water is freezing, so after three or four spouts they start running, without considering if they've touched them all.
Only born Hindus are allowed to enter the temple, but one member of our group talked with the priest, and he agreed to let me in. Inside, the place of worship is lit with oil lamps. The soft light gives a feeling of intimacy with the Lord, seated in a beautiful yoga posture. Sri Muktinath is a brass deity with the most wonderful sweet expression. Very merciful. He is accompanied by Sri Maha-Laksmi, the goddess Sarasvati, and Garuda.
After a minute I realized that I was the only pilgrim at that time. The priest closed the door and let me stay for a long time. I offered mantras and prayers to the Lord, asking Him to bestow his unlimited mercy on us. Then the doors opened, and the rays of the outside world rushed in. I understood that it was time for me to go out.
The next day we headed down, another trek filled with experiences.
On the outskirts of Ghasa, an elderly monk greeted us with sweet words and invited us to his simple ashram for a cup of milk. We thanked him and reciprocated by offering him an apple. He gladly accepted it and then, stepping into his ashram, returned with an armful of apples and handed one to each of us.
We sat with the elderly sadhu and discussed bhakti. He said that he spent much of his time chanting, and that in his heart there was only one name, that of Sri Radha, who is devotion to Krsna personified. His life, he said, was meant for serving the devotees on pilgrimage to Muktinath.
I felt so touched by his simple kindness that I gave him a valuable warm wool chaddar (wrap). He accepted it graciously, then again stepped into his tiny ashram. This time he came out with an armful of wool hats and presented one to each of the boys. They watched the exchange and remembered our discussions on the importance of priti-laksanam: loving exchanges between devotees of Krsna.
The trek to Muktinath had taken four days, but we made it back down in three—just in time to observe Radhas ami, the appearance day of Srimati Radharani, at the Kathmandu ISKCON temple.
A natural human sentiment,
By Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami
"The tenderness of the heart experienced toward Krsna is known as bhakti. All other jivas are servants of Krsna. When one experiences tenderness of heart toward them, it is known as daya, compassion. Therefore, compassion is included within bhakti."—Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Jaiva Dharma, p. 179
I WAS AWARE OF THE CONCEPT of compassion before I met Srila Prabhupada. While studying at Brooklyn College, I took a philosophy course in which we studied the writings of Bertrand Russell. In particular, I remember how he presented Nietzsche in comparison to Buddha. He gave a synopsis of Buddha's philosophy, compared it to Nietzsche's approach to humankind, and said in effect, "Which do you think is better?" Russell was obviously taken with Buddha's compassion for living beings, and considered a Buddha superior to a philosopher who worked with humanity as an idea. That was my introduction to how compassion was meant to be a heartfelt sentiment.
Just before I entered the Navy, I went to Confession at a Staten Island church. I told the priest I had begun to doubt the sacrament of Confession. When he invited me to meet him at the rectory, I poured out my concerns—the injustice whites were perpetrating against blacks, the senseless Korean War, and the complete materialism of standard American values.
The priest said simply, "I see you have a lot of love in you."
I was flattered, but I knew what I was really saying: How could a loving God allow so many injustices in the world? I was losing faith. The world seemed cold-hearted, competition-based, and loveless. Most of my friends agreed with this analysis. Thinking back, I see now that the priest was acknowledging my sentiment but recognizing that I had no idea how to express my love properly.
Being in the Navy did not help develop such sentiments. Upon discharge, I accepted a job in the Welfare Department. This is usually considered a compassionate field. I didn't take the position because I felt any particular sentiment for the poor, however; rather, I took it because it was an easy job for a college graduate to get.
There were people working in the Welfare Department who actually cared about their clients, but I saw right away that such concern was difficult to maintain. So many of these clients were simply trying to beat the system; few of them were interested in improving their lives. Many used the money to buy alcohol or drugs or engage in activities that degraded them. I felt my heart grow hard while working with those people. I think what really affected me was that there was no way out for them. The welfare system provided only a subsistence lifestyle, and many of these people were genuinely needy. It was going to take more than a new refrigerator or a few dollars to lift them out of both their poverty and the mentality that prevented them from being able to do more with their lives.
I could see that the Welfare Department was bailing a boat with a leaky bucket. My experience is probably common in the professionally compassionate fields. Later, I would hear Prabhupada quote Vidyapati in another context: When you are dying of thirst in a desert, what good is one drop of water? I realized early that I could make no real impact on my clients' lives, and that material welfare work could not lift these people above their suffering.
Later, in 1966, I broke my heels in a fall and was confined to bed for six weeks. I used the time to read books on Eastern philosophy and religion, including the Upanisads and other Vedic books, and books on Buddhism. I still remember one book in particular—The Compassionate Buddha—because I liked the idea of being compassionate. Although selfishness is a natural characteristic of conditioned souls in Kali-yuga, few of us are born without a natural sense of compassion. Still, Srila Prabhupada states that that natural compassion is becoming more and more covered in this age:
But in this age—it is called Kali-yuga—we are reducing our bodily strength, our memory, power of memorizing, our feelings of sympathy for others, compassion, age, duration of life, religious propensities. ...Formerly if somebody is attacked by another man, many persons will come to help him: "Why is this man attacked?" But at the present moment if one man is attacked, the passersby will not care for it because they have lost their sympathy or mercifulness for others. Our neighbor may starve, but we don't care for it. . . . This is Kali-yuga.—New Vrindaban, September 2, 1972
Even those who manage to retain their compassionate sentiments into adulthood are deluged by the media with images of suffering. Gradually, we become jaded, our sentiments dulled. It is normal to hear that fifty thousand were killed here, twenty thousand there, two million in such-and-such earthquake, ten thousand homeless from such-and-such flood—again and again and again—and all of it is horrible. We are helpless in the light of so much suffering. Over time, we back away from the world's pain to experience or sidestep the suffering we can find in our own backyards. It just seems too much to try for more.
When I met Srila Prabhupada, I came to understand real compassion. I also came to understand how truly rare a compassionate person is. Compassion is not a material quality but an extension of our spiritual consciousness. The dictionary defines it as "a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another's suffering or misfortune, accompanied by a desire to alleviate the pain or remove its cause." Synonyms: commiseration, tenderness, heart, clemency. Antonyms: mercilessness, indifference.
Sympathy: "Harmony of or agreement in feeling, as between persons or on the part of one person with respect to another; a quality of mutual relations between people or things whereby whatever affects one also affects the other; the ability to share the feelings of another, esp. in sorrow or trouble; compassion or commiseration; sympathies: feelings or impulses of compassion."
Here is a list of Sanskrit terms that further divide the sentiments of compassion:
anugraha—favor, kindness, conferring benefits upon, promoting the good objective of, gracious toward
karuna—compassion; the pathetic sentiment in poetry
krpa—compassion accompanied by tenderness, pity (krpalu); specifically refers to compassion expressed toward those whom one knows
daya—widespread or generalized feelings of mercy or sympathy. (In the Bhagavatam, Daya is the daughter of Daksa (Expertise) and the mother of Abhaya (Fearlessness).)
The Compassion Of Great Souls
Compassion means we think beyond our own troubles and feel sympathy and heartfelt sorrow for the troubles of others. There are those who are compassionate toward those they know—their friends, relatives, countrymen, or fellow religionists; and there are those great souls who are compassionate toward all spirit souls. Prabhupada was such a great soul. Prabhupada's heart bled to see our suffering, and he dedicated his life to helping us overcome it. What makes him rarer still is that not only was he willing to dedicate his life to alleviating our pain; he actually knew the panacea.
And he asked us to repay him by helping those whom we met.
But what if we don't share the depth of his compassion? What if we don't feel any compassion at all? We can still enlist in his mission. By working for someone compassionate, we can develop compassion. By serving others, and by serving Srila Prabhupada's compassionate heart, we can give up selfishness and become big-hearted.
Some devotees may hear this and wonder how this could be true. If Srila Prabhupada began a compassionate movement, and if we have been working for him all these years, why didn't we become compassionate? Or perhaps it can be argued that we did become compassionate, but only toward those who had not yet contacted Krsna consciousness. But why didn't our compassion spill over in our relationships with other devotees?
I won't pretend to have the single answer to that question, but I think it is healthy to ask it. There was a time in ISKCON when we presumed we were the most compassionate people in the world; after all, we were distributing the Hare Krsna mantra, the greatest benediction ever to be given to humankind. The scriptures define Krsna consciousness as the best welfare work for humanity. It is supposed to be better than the Peace Corps, better than the Cancer Research Society—better than any other idea anyone else has ever had about how to free people from suffering. Krsna consciousness is also universal, and there is nothing to bar anyone from taking part. It is sarvatra sarvada, suitable to be practiced in all times, all places, and under all circumstances. Srila Prabhupada writes:
Men do not know that the ultimate goal of life is Visnu . . . due to being bewildered by the glaring reflection in the darkness, and as such everyone is entering into the darkest region of material existence, driven by the uncontrolled senses. The whole material existence has sprung up because of sense gratification . . . principally . . . sex desire, and the result is that in spite of all advancement of knowledge, the final goal of all the activities of the living entities is sense gratification. . . . Universal consciousness is factually achieved by coordinated service of all concerned to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and that alone can insure total perfection. Therefore even the great scientists, the great philosophers, the great mental speculators, the great politicians, the great industrialists, the great social reformers, etc., cannot give any relief to the restless society of the material world because they do not know the secret of success . . . namely, that one must know the mystery of bhakti-yoga. . . . The Srimad-Bhagavatam therefore says again and again that without attainment of the status of bhakti-yoga, all the activities of human society are to be considered absolute failures only.—Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.9.36, Purport
That we have such a great, compassionate gift to offer others, however, does not mean that we are ourselves the most compassionate of workers. It also does not mean that those who are working in less glorious ways but who are giving more selflessly of themselves are not expressing compassion. In fact, they may be expressing more compassion toward others than we are. Many grassroots workers in this world sacrifice their lives for their chosen causes, even though those causes may offer only temporary relief to those whom they are trying to help. What could be motivating them except a sense of compassion? Still, we devotees tend to think we are better simply because we have access to the highest welfare.
Real compassion is not achieved automatically upon joining the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. Compassion is not a line of work but an expansion of heart. Srila Prabhupada genuinely understood the suffering of material life and the pain of rebirth. He knew and taught his followers that only by awakening the people's dormant Krsna consciousness could they be freed from the cycle of birth and death. It is not enough, he said, to alleviate people's material hunger and thirst. It is not enough to alleviate their suffering for this lifetime only. He wanted his followers to save not only the drowning man's coat but the drowning man himself.
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.
Adapted from the Introduction to Vaisnava Compassion, just published by Gita Nagari Press and available from the Hare Krsna Bazaar. http://www.krishna.com
"My dear Lord, let me suffer perpetually in a hellish condition, accepting all the sinful reactions of all living entities. Please finish their diseased material life."—Spoken by Srila Vasudeva Datta. From Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya 15.163
From The Purport by His Divine Grace
A Vaisnava is so liberal that he is prepared to risk everything to rescue the conditioned souls from material existence. Srila Vasudeva Datta Thakura is universal love itself, for he was willing to sacrifice everything and fully engage in the service of the Supreme Lord. . . .
Vasudeva Datta's example is unique not only within this world but within the universe. It is beyond the conception of fruitive actors or the speculation of mundane philosophers. Due to being illusioned by the external energy and due to a poor fund of knowledge, people tend to envy one another. Because of this they are entangled in fruitive activity, and they try to escape this fruitive activity by mental speculation. Consequently neither karmis [fruitive workers] nor jnanis [mental speculators] are purified. In the words of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Thakura, they are kukarmis and kujnanis—bad fruitive actors and bad speculators. The Mayavadis and karmis should therefore turn their attention to the magnanimous Vasudeva Datta, who wanted to suffer for others in a hellish condition.
No one should consider Vasudeva Datta a mundane philanthropist or welfare worker. Nor was he interested in merging into the Brahman effulgence or in gaining material honor or reputation. He was far, far above philanthropists, philosophers, and fruitive actors. He was the most exalted personality to ever show mercy to the conditioned souls. This is not an exaggeration of his transcendental qualities. It is perfectly true.
Actually, there cannot be any comparison to Vasudeva Datta. As the perfect Vaisnava, he was para-duhkha-duhkhi, very much aggrieved to see others suffer. The entire world is purified simply by the appearance of such a great devotee. Indeed, by his transcendental presence the whole world is glorified and all conditioned souls are also glorified. As Narottama Dasa Thakura confirms, Vasudeva Datta is the ideal devotee of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu:
One who executes Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's mission must be considered eternally liberated. He is a transcendental person and does not belong to this material world. Such a devotee, engaging in the deliverance of the total population, is as magnanimous as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu Himself.
Such a personality factually represents Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu because his heart is always filled with compassion for all conditioned souls.
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August 11, 2001—Indian Prime Minister Atal B. Vajpayee sent the following complimentary message on the occasion of the thirtieth anniversary of ISKCON in Russia.
"I am pleased to know that the International Society for Krishna Consciousness will be celebrating its thirtieth anniversary in Russia on August 12, which coincides with Krishna Janmastami. Over the last few decades, ISKCON has played an important role in popularizing the noble message of the Gita and the inspiring life of Lord Krishna in many foreign lands. It is a tribute to the resolute spirit of the followers of ISKCON that they have sustained their temple in Russia for so many years. This indeed shows that Krishna's message is eternal and relevant to all people at all time.
"I compliment ISKCON Russia for this achievement. I hope that, in the years to come, it will continue to serve the people of Russia and Lord Krishna with the same fervor as it has done so far. On this occasion, I send my best wishes to the devotees of Lord Krishna in Russia."
Reactions to the Terrorist Attacks
Does the philosophy of Krsna consciousness demand only indifference to the tragic events of this world?
When terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon stunned the people of America, many devotees of Krsna grieved along with their fellow Americans. Was that a proper response for persons trained in the philosophy of Krsna consciousness? In the days following the attacks, many devotees pondered that question and similar ones, and not everyone reached the same conclusions. Here we present some thoughts by three members of the Krsna consciousness movement.
by Hridayananda Dasa Goswami
[Originally written as a letter to disciples soon after the events.]
Surely by now you have all heard about the recent terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania. Since we aspire to be servants of the Lord, it is important that we not take a casual or dismissive attitude toward these events and say, for example, "It's just a fight among the materialists" or "People are just suffering their karma." Were this to be the full extent of our response to these events, I think we would be deficient in our devotion to God. Why do I think this way?
Lord Krsna states in the Bhagavad-gita (6.32) that a devotee should feel universal empathy. Srila Prabhupada translates this verse as follows: "He is a perfect yogi who, by comparison to his own self, sees the true equality of all beings, in both their happiness and their distress, O Arjuna!"
This verse, among other meanings, recommends a kind of universal empathy. In his purport Srila Prabhupada stresses the point of empathy: "One who is Krsna conscious is a perfect yogi; he is aware of everyone's happiness and distress by dint of his own personal experience. In other words, a devotee of the Lord always looks to the welfare of all living entities, and in this way he is factually the friend of everyone."
We find another explicit, powerful call for devotional empathy in the Bhagavatam (6.10.9): "If one is unhappy to see the distress of other living beings and happy to see their hap-piness, his religious principles are appreciated as imperishable by exalted persons who are considered pious and benevolent."
This is how we can apply such empathy in the case of the recent terrorist attacks:
First, we can imagine what it would have felt like for us to have been on one of the four planes that were hijacked and destroyed, or in one of the three attacked buildings. There is ample information available so that we can be quite specific and explicit in imagining the experience.
Second, we will probably have to honestly admit that we would feel significant discomfort, pain, or anxiety in such a situation. If we are capable of deep empathy, if we are able, as Srila Prabhupada states, to understand the experiences of others by comparing them to our own experiences, and we are "factually the friend of everyone," then we experience true Vaisnava compassion.
In other words, we should not be more detached from the suffering of others than we are from our own suffering. We should not arrogantly dismiss the anguish of others, as if we are beyond anguish. A devotee who is truly transcendental to material suffer-ing, and who would not have suffered at all in one of those four airplanes, or in one of those three buildings, would be a most exalted pure devotee and as such would feel great compassion for the fallen conditioned souls. Those who are not compassionate, and who dismiss as trivial or unimportant such great suffering, are not actually demonstrating advanced detachment in Krsna consciousness, but rather they are demonstrating a disturbing lack of common empathy, and are in fact embarrassing our movement by their neophyte response.
ISKCON devotees oppose animal slaughter. How can we not oppose human slaughter? If one says, "It's their karma," then we reply that the same is true for cows and other animals that are slaughtered. If one says, "This is just a political fight among materialists," I would reply that in the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna clearly distinguishes between acts in the different modes of nature, and He specifically describes certain acts as not only materialistic, but as evil and demonic. It is surely evil and demonic to murder thousands of innocent persons. Let us remember that in Vedic culture we are required to treat people according to their innocence and guilt in this life. God will take care of their past karma. We are not allowed in Vedic culture to abuse people, harm or kill them, and then say, "It must have been their karma." Vedic culture is not moral anarchy in the name of karma. We should be above mundane morality, not below it.
During the Bangladesh War in the early 1970s, Srila Prabhupada strongly condemned the Muslim atrocities against the Hindus, and indeed against other Muslims, in Bangladesh. Of course, in every country on earth there are tragedies, and the devotees will benefit themselves personally, and greatly enhance their preaching, if they are able to achieve a real state of deep empathy, not in the cause of materialism or the bodily concept of life, but as a symptom of a budding self-realization that leads one to feel liberated compassion for all suffering beings.
Hridayananda Dasa Goswami is an editorial advisor for Back to Godhead.
by Yogesvara Dasa
Somehow I managed to get out before New York City was shut down. Moving at a snail's pace across the Fifty-ninth Street Bridge, my car was one of the few vehicles in an exodus of pedestrians crossing to safety in Long Island City. I looked south from the bridge into a cloud of gray smoke and ash that covered lower Manhattan. Those of us close enough to feel the tremor or see two mountains of concrete and glass crumble went into a dreamlike daze, like sitting in the front row of a disaster film, surrendering rational thought to energies and sensations way beyond our control. The impossible was playing itself out in front of our eyes. The World Trade Towers were an inevitability on the skyline of New York, an immovable permanence—and they just disappeared, as if someone had passed over them with a giant eraser. It was one of the world's most feared nightmares.
Truth be told, we've always known it might happen. The Towers held a place in our collective subconscious as one of the few targets whose destruction would instantly sever America's main financial artery, garner headlines on every front page and newscast in the world, and make an indelible mark on history. What terrorist could possibly fail to envision their destruction?
What came to mind at that moment on the bridge was how naively we define ourselves by our impermanent surroundings. We are New Yorkers, so we expect to see the Towers when we look up at the skyline of our world. Yet the landscape of reality anywhere in the world is no more than a chimera, a gleaming semblance of truth that induces a false security, dulls our senses, puts us to sleep. The constructs of our petty lives, both physical and psychological, are like a Hollywood movie set that exists for a while, then gets struck with a few blows from a hammer, deconstructed, and put back into storage.
The risk in awakening to the impermanence of the world is an erroneous assumption that action is consequently irrelevant. What does it matter how we live, what we eat, whether we extend ourselves to others or not? It's all illusion. The Bhagavad-gita clarifies this mistaken impression.
"Not by merely abstaining from work can one achieve freedom from reaction, nor by renunciation alone can one attain freedom." (3.4)
"On the other hand, if a sincere person tries to control the active senses by the mind and begins karma-yoga [in Krsna consciousness] without attachment, he is by far superior." (3.7)
"Whatever action a great person performs, common people follow. And whatever standard he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues." (3.21)
"One who is unattached to the fruits of 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." (6.1)
"Acts of sacrifice, charity and penance are not to be given up; they must be performed. Indeed, sacrifice, charity and penance purify even the great souls." (18.5)
Sensitive To Suffering
How do devotees respond to such crisis? The people I am privileged to call friends in Krsna consciousness wept copiously for the victims of the tragedy, for their families and friends. Knowing, as devotees do, that everyone in this world struggles to make sense of his or her life softens the heart, makes people more sensitive to the suffering of others. On an action level, the Krishna Foundation, a nonprofit organization formed to support and strengthen the mission of the Krsna consciousness movement, is serving as a conduit for contributions from temple communities worldwide, with all funds going to appropriate New York relief agencies. Devotee educators and child development professionals are preparing a booklet for people working with children, offering recommendations and suggestions for frequently asked questions. And the Oxford Center for Vaisnava-Hindu Studies is editing a special edition of the ISKCON Communications Journal addressing issues raised by the recent tragedies.
On a personal level, I feel that we as a spiritual collective must move up a notch in our seriousness and commitment to devotional practices. What more startling proof could we ever witness to substantiate the urgency of nurturing our spiritual life? This was a rude, shocking wake-up call, and we can be grateful for being among the tiny handful of people graced with the knowledge that there is something else; that when the dust of our petty dreams and stubborn enterprises finally settles, there will be Krsna, ready to welcome us home.
Yogesvara Dasa is senior vice president at Ruder Finn, New York's largest public relations and communications firm. His office is forty-eight blocks from the former World Trade Center.
by Kalakantha Dasa
The sickening images of two hijacked passenger jets smashing down two huge office towers knots my gut and floods me with raw, confusing feelings.
Sorrow. For the terrified, doomed passengers, the thousands of unsuspecting office workers buried or burned alive, and the hundreds of heroic firefighters crushed when the mighty steel-framed edifices melted and collapsed on them within an hour. For their devastated children, spouses, parents, brothers, sisters, and friends.
Anger. At the inhuman zealot hijackers and their lying masters. At pig-headed politicians on all sides who talk and spend money and never compromise. At the inevitable spiral of measures and countermeasures now sure to destroy peace and multiply the pain.
Frustration. With a society that mercilessly slaughters animals and the unborn, oblivious to the endless, horrific reactions.
Betrayal. By a billboarded mirage of enticements collapsed in a pile of smoldering rubble. By marketers of false material happiness and security who have cheated me and left me in pain with no customer-service desk in sight.
Detachment. I want to disaffiliate from this world. I'll do my duties and live my life, but after seeing this, how can I again believe that I or anyone else belongs in such a disgusting, hellish place?
Krsna, the goal of life! What a good time to remember You!
The warrior Arjuna once pried a bit and asked to see his divine friend Krsna's form as the material universe. Arjuna soon regretted it, for in His universal form Krsna opened His huge, ferocious, saming mouth and sucked in everyone. His razor-sharp teeth sliced and chewed innumerable arms, legs, trunks, and heads, like those being picked today from the dusty New York rubble.
Seeing Krsna as inevitable death, Arjuna changed his attitude toward Him. Arjuna cursed himself for being too familiar and begged Krsna's forgiveness. He lost the sense of friendship and intimacy that Krsna enjoyed. Instead, Arjuna recoiled into a more common pose of fear before God almighty.
Arjuna then begged Krsna to withdraw His ugly, terrible material form and show Himself again as his beloved friend and charioteer. Krsna happily complied.
Today I have seen Krsna's horrible form of material nature. Let me be like Arjuna. Humbled, sobered, let me pray to see Krsna in His eternal loving form. Let me forget my longstanding fascination with His material energy, for its backside is death.
Gratitude. I thank Srila Prabhupada for giving me a chance to live my insignificant life in Krsna consciousness.
At a victims' memorial service at the National Cathedral, Reverend Billy Graham, "America's Preacher," said, "I have been asked hundreds of times why God allows tragedy and suffering. I have to confess that I really do not know the answer totally, even to my own satisfaction. I have to accept, by faith, that God is sovereign and He is a God of love and mercy and compassion in the midst of suffering. The Bible says that God is not the author of evil. It speaks of evil as a 'mystery.' "
Reverend Graham is honest. I wonder if he would appreciate Prabhupada's explanation of the Vedic answer. In a nutshell, it's this:
Evil exists because our purpose in coming to this world is selfish and godless and therefore evil. God is neutral; if we want to materially enjoy ourselves without Him, He lets us try. However, as spiritual beings we are built to love God, not matter. Material suffering reminds us of that fact. When one seeks and finds happiness in God, Krsna, not in buildings and power and sesh, then material suffering becomes a great incentive for loving God, the true purpose of human life.
The happiness of loving God is not a beggar's banquet for material losers. It is an endless, varied feast, rich, healthy, and satisfying, unfettered by anxiety or guilt.
Philosophy aside, these terrorist attacks are a terrible tragedy. My heart goes out to all the victims and their families. Should I give blood or send a check? For now, I'm writing this in hopes that someday, by Krsna's grace, some of them find comfort in Krsna consciousness.
To all who suffer over this disaster and its descendents: you may get retribution, but will it end your suffering? Enjoyment and suffering are the twin towers of material life. Please instead lovingly call out the name of God as you address Him. Or join us in chanting Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Kalakantha Dasa is an associate editor for Back to Godhead.
For more reactions to the terrorist attacks, please visit our website, www. krishna.com.
Ramakeli—Historic Home of Rupa and Sanatana
Two leaders of Lord Caitanya's movement once
Text by Vrndavani Devi Dasi
RECENTLY I FULFILLED a long-cherished desire to visit Ramakeli, in northern West Bengal. It was once home to Rupa Gosvami and Sanatana Gosvami, direct disciples of Lord Caitanya and leaders in His Hare Krsna movement. Ramakeli is a small village, where groups of cows and goats are more common than cars on the dusty roads. There are no shops, and water is available only from hand pumps. It appears that little has changed here for hundreds of years.
I stayed with friends at the home of Amalendranath Maitra, a well-known advocate in nearby Malda. He arranged a car to take us on a tour of Ramakeli, some fifteen kilometers from Malda.
We arrived at the gateway of the Radha-Madana-Mohana temple, founded by Rupa and Sanatana and later managed by their nephew Jiva Gosvami, another pillar of Lord Caitanya's movement. After Jiva left to join his uncles in Vrndavana, the area became plagued with cholera. The deities were kept closed within the temple until Jitendranath Maitra, in the disciplic line from Jiva Gosvami, started the worship again three hundred years later.
In 1930, Amalendranath Maitra's father, Upendranath Maitra, came to Ramakeli, and the local people, who were very poor, asked him to repair the temple. He told them he would go home and think about it. That night he dreamt of Radha-Madana-Mohana, who asked him to build a new temple for Them. Without hesitation Upendranath Maitra arranged for all the building materials, and within a month a new temple was built.
From Ministers to Gosvamis
As we sat looking at the beautiful deities of Radha-Madana-Mohana, the head priest, Purna Chandra Panigrahi, related the following history of Rupa and Sanatana:
Five hundred years ago the area was governed by the Muslim ruler Nawab Hussein Shah, who controlled Bengal, Orissa, and Bihar. At that time Rupa and Sanatana (then known as Amara and Santosh) were living in Ramakeli. They were highly respected in the brahmana community. Noting their incredible intelligence, the Nawab forced the brothers to work in his government. He made Rupa his treasurer and Sanatana the prime minister. The government thrived under their expertise, and in appreciation the Nawab showered them with immense wealth.
Being great devotees of Krsna, Rupa and Sanatana cared nothing for their wealth and positions and yearned for the time when they would be freed from their predicament. They frequently wrote letters to Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, asking for His help so that they could dedicate their lives to Him.
In 1514, Lord Caitanya, on the excuse of going to Vrndavana, visited Ramakeli only to see His eternal associates Rupa and Sanatana. He was accompanied by thousands of devotees. He initiated the brothers and told them that Krsna would soon release them from their government posts.
Rupa and Sanatana had been living at the Nawab's house, but after meeting Lord Caitanya they started worshiping the deities of Radha-Madana- Mohana and lived near Them. They could no longer tolerate working for the Nawab. Rupa gave his wealth to his family and the brahmana community and made his way to Vrndavana.
Sanatana, being the prime minister, stayed for some time but told the Nawab he was too sick to work. The Nawab became suspicious and sent his doctor to find out what was wrong. When the doctor arrived at Sanatana's house, he saw that he had made it into a devotional ashram with daily scriptural classes going on. The Nawab was furious. Seeing that Rupa had already left, he ordered Sanatana to do more work for him. When Sanatana told him he was now resigning, the Nawab had him imprisoned.
Meanwhile, in Vrndavana, Rupa Gosvami dreamt that Sanatana was in jail. He managed to get a letter to him informing him that he had deposited ten thousand gold coins with a local shopkeeper for the service of devotees. With seven thousand of these coins, Sanatana was able to bribe the jailkeeper to release him, enabling him to join Lord Caitanya. Jiva Gosvami joined Rupa and Sanatana later, after the death of his mother.
When the priest finished his narration, we were served maha-prasadam, food offered to the deities, on banana leaves. After lunch we went to see Radha Kunda and Syama Kunda, two lakes next to the temple. Rupa and Sanatana built the lakes, replicas of Radha Kunda and Syama Kunda in Vrndavana, to use their wealth and pacify their minds in separation from Vrndavana. The area surrounding the lakes is known as Gupta ("Hidden") Vrndavana. I filled a small container with sacred soil here as a souvenir.
The main priest then took us to see the sitting place of Lord Nityananda, which faces two trees. The larger tree is said to be six hundred years old and is next to a tiny temple containing Lord Caitanya's footprints. The other tree was grown from a branch of the tree under which Lord Caitanya initiated Rupa and Sanatana and their brother Vallabha, who became Anupama. Jiva Gosvami, then a young boy, hid behind a tree, watching. Nearby stands a temple of a beautiful deity of Lord Caitanya worshiped by Jiva Gosvami.
After thanking the priest for showing us all these places, we went back to the car to see the rest of the village. Ramakeli is very beautiful, covered with lush vegetation interspersed with many tranquil lakes and thatched cottages. The area has been famous since ancient times for silk and excellently savored mangoes. Coconut trees and date palms tower gracefully above the other greenery.
We passed the remains of Nawab Hussain Shah's government building. His horses and elephants would graze on the expansive grassy slope nearby.
A short ride along the road brought us to the prison where Sanatana Gosvami was held. Slowly making our way through the many cows grazing outside, we entered the building. The inside shape reminded me of the Radha-Govinda temple in Vrndavana. The tall building with its arched brick ceiling was built without any supports. Modern builders are baffled at how it stays up. Walking back outside, I was thinking how Sanatana Gosvami would have come through the same doorway to be released after spending seventeen months and nineteen days inside.
Ramakeli got its name to commemorate a visit by Lord Rama. Our last stop was the lake where Sita, the wife of Lord Ramacandra, performed pinda (oblations for departed souls) for her mother. Nearby is a tree said to be five thousand years old. Many thousands of people come once a year from Bihar to perform pinda here and worship the tree, known as Bala Briksha. It is certainly the largest tree I have ever seen, with fronds hanging from huge branches almost to the ground.
As we drove back to Malda, I considered how fortunate I was to have visited this village touched by the feet of Lord Caitanya. Here He recruited three towering spiritual figures: Rupa Gosvami, Sanatana Gosvami, and Jiva Gosvami. They built the foundation upon which the present Krsna consciousness movement was built. All of us who have been blessed by this movement are eternally indebted to them.
Vrndavani Devi Dasi joined ISKCON in 1980. She lives with her family near Bhaktivedanta Manor in England and handles the mailing of Back to Godhead to our readers in the U.K.
The Life of Gaura-kisora Dasa Babaji Maharaja
by Satyaraja Dasa
namo gaura-kisoraya saksad-vairagya-murtaye
"I offer my respectful obeisances unto Gaura-kisora Dasa Babaji Maharaja, who is renunciation personified. He is always merged in a feeling of separation and intense love of Krsna."
HIS DIVINE GRACE A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder-acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, comes in a long line of spiritual teachers. While all of these masters lived extraordinary lives, the most unconventional is probably that of Gaura-kisora Dasa Babaji Maharaja, the spiritual master of Prabhupada's teacher, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura.
Gaura-kisora Dasa Babaji appeared in the early 1830s in the village of Vagyana, Faridapura district, East Bengal (currently Bangladesh).* The son of a merchant, young Vamsidasa (later Gaura-kisora Dasa Babaji Maharaja) married early and lived a conventional life for more than twenty years, working as a grain broker. But as time passed he found himself looking for something more in life, and his passion for spiritual truth increased each year.
After his wife passed away, Vamsidasa left his business and went to Vrndavana, the land of Lord Krsna. Here he hoped to find spiritual fulfillment under the tutelage of great religious masters. He soon found himself studying under various selfrealized souls and developing a deep appreciation for Gaudiya Vaisnava siddhanta, or Krsna conscious philosophical truths as presented by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. He gradually became known as a prominent practitioner, for he uncompromisingly lived according to Vaisnava teachings.
After some years of intense practice, Vamsidasa approached Srila Bhagavata Dasa Babaji, one of the foremost disciples of Srila Jagannatha Dasa Babaji Maharaja—the leading Krsna conscious teacher of his time—and accepted from him the exalted initiation of Vaisnava Babaji. This initiation demanded total commitment to high standards of renunciation and austerity, with the singular goal of developing love of God.
Excelling in this practice, Gaura-kisora Dasa Babaji Maharaja became completely renounced, residing under trees in diverse parts of the Vrndavana landscape and depending on God alone for his sustenance.
Living in Vrndavana for some thirty years as a wandering ascetic, he left only to travel periodically to other holy places in northern and western India. He also regularly made pilgrimage to Gaura-mandala (the area of Navadvipa, West Bengal), where Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the dual incarnation of Radha and Krsna, exhibited His earthly manifestation some five hundred years ago. When visiting Jagannatha Puri, in Orissa, Gaura-kisora Dasa Babaji associated with Srila Svarupa Dasa Babaji Maharaja, a renowned devotee who exhibited symptoms of ecstatic love for Krsna. Srila Svarupa Dasa Babaji's activities were recounted in the autobiography of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, whom Gaura-kisora Dasa Babaji also met during his travels to east India. He developed a deep and abiding relationship with Bhaktivinoda, whom he saw as his guru.
Srila Gaura-kisora Dasa Babaji became famous among the great devotees of Vrndavana and was awarded the exalted title Bhajananandi, which refers to one who has achieved ultimate bliss and accomplishment in solitary meditation.
While Srila Gaura-kisora clearly deserved such an honor, others at that time engaged in solitary "meditation" merely to avoid being identified as the frauds they were. To check such deception and insincerity, great teachers recommended the path of the Gosthyanandi: congregational chanting and preaching, or sharing one's spiritual life with others.
Srila Gaura-kisora spoke out strongly against pseudo-renunciants, or less qualified "Bhajananandis." He was entirely removed from cheating inclinations and performed his pure devotional practices alone, in a profound mood of devotional ecstasy. His integrity was unassailable.
In 1897, when he was in his sixties, Srila Gaura-kisora moved to Navadvipa, relishing its spiritual identity with Krsna's holy land. In Navadvipa as in Vrndavana, he lived by begging alms from householders. For cooking, he collected dry wood from the roadside, and for drinking and washing, he used earthen pots discarded by villagers near the river Ganges. To clothe himself he went to the shore of the holy river to collect and wash discarded cloth that had been used to cover corpses at the burning ghat. As his biographer Haridasa Dasa says, "It was him and God. And little else."
Srila Gaura-kisora exhibited the highest standard of devotion to God, Krsna, and because of his exemplary character he was recognized as the greatest among the greatest devotees. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, his only disciple, has written:
Many learned and educated persons came into contact with Srila Gaura-kisora Prabhu, yet they could not realize his true identity. This is indeed the mystic opulence of the devotees of Lord Krsna. Only they can recognize true devotion. Many people came to consult with Srila Gaura-kisora Prabhu about their insignificant, worldly desires. He would always try to help them, but his suggestions were usually the cause of their disappointment, for he was relentless in his attempt to get them to go further, to transcend their attached and compromised level of existence.
In 1908, Srila Gaura-kisora lost his physical vision. When his eyesight started deteriorating, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati requested him to go to Calcutta for treatment. Bhaktivinoda Thakura, too, for the same reason, repeatedly asked him to go there. But he was uninterested. "As long as I can see Krsna in my heart of hearts, I do not need an eye doctor."
The Joy Of Raw Eggplant
Babaji Maharaja became renowned as the brightest gem among spiritual practitioners, but it was not always easy to understand his actions. He sometimes wore his begging bowl as a hat, worshiped in an outhouse, and beat with an umbrella those who wanted initiation from him. (In his humility, he could not entertain requests to be anyone's spiritual authority.) He often roamed about naked or with his loincloth half tied.
His behavior was considered especially unusual in Navadvipa, where many conservative priests and intellectuals resided at the time. His state of love of God bordered on divine madness, and yet his ecstatic symptoms could be corroborated by Vaisnava scriptures. Learned authorities were able to ascertain that his seemingly eccentric behavior was in fact symptoms of the highest stage of love of God.
Sometimes, while in these exalted states, Babaji Maharaja found distasteful foods to be just like nectar. Oblivious to the external world, he would offer such food to Krsna and then relish the remnants. For example, he would eat raw rice or other grains lightly soaked in water or in Ganges mud.
One day he picked up an unripe eggplant from the market and sat down at the base of a jhao tree at Baganbari. He cut the eggplant into pieces and dipped them into Ganges water and put a tulasi leaf on them. He offered them to his isadevata [personal deity] and sang a song of offering: Bhaja Patita Uddharana, Sri Gaura Hari—"O Lord Caitanya, please accept the worship of this fallen soul." He then said to his Deity, "I don't know the right method of cooking this, but please eat a little of this food."
—From Sri Sri Gaudiya Vaisnava Jivana, by Haridasa Dasa
Srila Gaura-kisora would dance along the roadside, calling out, "Jaya Radhe!" ("All glories to Radha, Krsna's beloved."), and the local people would think he was mad. The religious experts knew better, though. Little boys would run along behind him, and he would play with them. When he saw a boy who had a dark complexion, he would think of him as Krsna, and a light-skinned boy would become Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
He often fell into trances, madly calling out the names of Krsna with great love. Once, he shouted, "Ha Krsna Caitanya! Ha Krsna Caitanya!" over and over. Vaisnavas in the vicinity heard him screaming these words hour after hour. They thought that unless they could change his mood, or otherwise stop him from shouting these divine names, he would hurt himself—his throat would become torn and bloody. Several of the assembled devotees shouted names of God that reflected other aspects of His divine nature. This distracted Srila Gaura-kisora, changing his spiritual mood, and his screaming subsided.
At times Babaji Maharaja would worship with Bhaktivinoda Thakura at the birthplace of Lord Caitanya, which had recently been discovered by Bhaktivinoda and restored with images of Lord Caitanya and his wife Visnupriya. The two unparalleled devotees would sing and dance before these deities, and their bodies would undergo the eight sattvika bhavas, or the ecstatic symptoms outlined in scripture that appear only in the most accomplished devotees.
A Word Of Caution
Like Krsna's gopis (cowherd girlfriends) and other supremely advanced devotees, Srila Gaura-kisora had inborn devotional love, and its spontaneous nature was shown in his asastriya behavior—behavior that goes beyond scriptures or ordinary conventions. In his own life, he disregarded many Vaisnava rules about purity and proper worship techniques. And yet he strongly recommended pure behavior and standard techniques for others. How might this be understood?
Srila Gaura-kisora was clearly not ordinary. For most people, standard religious rules and regulations serve a purpose, gradually bringing one to transcendence and heartfelt spontaneity. At this point, one can rise beyond conventions and the constrictions of neophyte practice. But unless one is totally absorbed in the Absolute—and this is exceedingly rare—one must assume that one's own spiritual level is still wanting, only to be enhanced by the instructions of a self-realized soul and by constant practice.
Srila Gaura-kisora constantly meditated on Radha and Krsna in the mood of divine love, and this of course is what distinguished him from ordinary souls. Consequently, while Srila Gaura-kisora should most definitely be appreciated, he should not be emulated. Unless one is on a spiritually advanced platform, one should not attempt to act like Babaji Maharaja. Unless one reaches his level of spiritual absorption, one should not reach for an unripe eggplant.Srila Prabhupada writes in Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (Madhya 7.29): "There are many instances of devotional service rendered by pervious acaryas who did not care about social behavior when intensely absorbed in love for Krsna. Unfortunately, as long as we are within this material world, we must observe social customs to avoid criticism by the general populace. This is Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's desire."
Vaisnava tradition asserts that practitioners should follow the example of Srila Gaura-kisora Dasa Babaji's essential Krsna consciousness and not the particulars of his approach. In other words, he should be followed but not imitated. The distinction between following and imitating is brought out by Srila Rupa Gosvami, who uses the Sanskrit terms anukarini ("one who imitates") and anusarini ("one who follows"). In Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu (1.2.294-296) he asks practitioners to follow the essential example of the great souls and not imitate their external behavior. This instruction certainly applies to how we should respond to the behavior of Babaji Maharaja.
The Final Instruction
One day at sunrise, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta left Navadvipa for the nearby mud hut where Srila Gaura-kisora was staying. He knew that his master would soon depart. That day, November 16, 1915, Srila Gaura-kisora entered the eternal pastimes of the Lord.
The head priests of Navadvipa's temples and ashrams argued among themselves about where Srila Gaura-kisora's remains would be interred. There was an ulterior motive behind the dispute: the contending parties felt that establishing Srila Gaura-kisora's tomb at their particular ashram or temple would popularize it and thus put them in a position to earn considerable money from tourists. But Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, Gaura-kisora Dasa Babaji's only disciple, opposed their illegitimate attempts, and in his outspoken way exposed their materialistic intentions.
Still, they challenged him in a public debate, claiming that they were advanced sannyasis while Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati was still only a young man. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta replied in a voice like thunder:
I am the sole disciple of Paramahamsa Babaji Maharaja. Even though I have not yet accepted sannyasa, I am a celibate brahmacari, and by the grace of Babaji Maharaja I am not a hypocritical renunciant secretly addicted to abominable habits, as most of you are.
—From Babaji Maharaja, by Karnamrta Dasa Adhikari
The police commissioner had come to the debate expecting a riot. When he heard Srila Bhaktisiddhanta's words, he asked, "How will the evidence for this be produced?"
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta replied, "I will take them at their word."
Sensing Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati's seriousness and strength of purpose, the pseudo spiritualists backed off. One by one they slowly turned and walked away in defeat. The police commissioner was dumbfounded.
On the following day, November 17, 1915, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati laid the body of his guru to rest on a newly formed sandbar of the Ganges at Kuliya-gram. The spot was near a place where Srila Gaura-kisora loved to chant the names of Krsna. Srila Gaura-kisora had reached the highest levels of love of God, and his disciple, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, vowed to give his disciples that same love. One disciple in particular, His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, imbibed this love with full enthusiasm and continues to distribute it throughout the world through his International Society for Krishna Consciousness.
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.
The Bhaktivedanta Archives
Founded in 1978, the Bhaktivedanta Archives is the official repository for the films, photographs, documents, manuscripts, correspondence, audio recordings, and other memorabilia of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, founder-acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.
The Bhaktivedanta Archives site www.Prabhupada.com shows some of the work and holdings of the Archives, including rare photographs of Srila Prabhupada and conversations between him and prominent people. The site offers two free email newsletters and is updated regularly with interesting and stimulating images, articles, and information about Srila Prabhupada.
The Bhaktivedanta VedaBase© website www.VedaBase. com supports the searchable database of Srila Prabhupada's teachings. The site provides product information and instructions. The new "forum" feature allows visitors to ask questions and get answers from experienced users.
Dr. O. B. L. Kapoor
Dr. Oudh Bihari Lal (O. B. L.) Kapoor, initiated as Adi Kesava Dasa, passed away on April 9 at the age of 92. A godbrother and friend of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Dr. Kapoor was initiated by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura in 1932.
Dr. Kapoor received his Ph.D. from Allahabad University in 1938. His dissertation focused on the philosophy and religion of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and was eventually published as a book. These words from Srila Prabhupada appeared on the book's dust jacket:
I have read with great pleasure Dr. O. B. L. Kapoor's work entitled The Philosophy and Religion of Sri Caitanya. Packed extensively with quotes and notes, the treatise bears the hallmark of authentic research. It is, in my opinion, the first scientific delineation of the philosophy of Sri Caitanya based primarily on His direct utterances, as contained in Caitanya-caritamrta and Caitanya-bhagavata, and supported profusely by references to the vast literature left by His learned disciples, most of which was written under His express command and on the basis of the guidelines provided by Him.
The book is written in elegant style. I am sure it will be acclaimed, not only by the Vaisnavas in India, but by the members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness and lovers of philosophy and religion all over the world.
Dr. Kapoor held many important positions in educational institutions throughout India until his retirement in the 1960s. At that time he relocated to Vrndavana, where he stayed until his passing. He wrote twenty-five books and was a contributor to Back to Godhead magazine. His three BTG articles—"Bhakti: The Perfect Science" (No. 53, 1973), "Vrndavana: The Highest Paradise" (No. 62, 1974), and "The Path of Bhakti" (No. 65, 1974)—were deeply appreciated by Srila Prabhupada, who wrote to him in July 1973: "This writing is first-class preaching, and we want to publish more and more of your articles in Back to Godhead."
In 1998, Back to Godhead (Vol. 32, No. 2) ran an interview with Dr. Kapoor conducted by Hari Sauri Dasa. The conversation reveals Dr. Kapoor's deep understanding of Vaisnava thought and, more importantly, his deep appreciation of Lord Caitanya's mercy and his heartfelt feelings for Srila Prabhupada, whom he saw as one of his dearest friends. He was convinced of Prabhupada's purity and effectiveness as a representative of the Lord. Prabhupada, he said in the interview, "had the blessings of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. It is the blessings of Mahaprabhu that made him Prabhupada."
Man and woman should live together as householders in relationship with Krsna, only for the purpose of discharging duties in the service of Krsna. Engage the children, engage the wife, and engage the husband, all in Krsna conscious duties, and then all these bodily or material attachments will disappear. Since the via medium is Krsna, the consciousness is pure, and there is no possibility of degradation at any time.
His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
In the spiritual world, the individual soul eats, plays, and enjoys.
Chandogya Upanisad 8.12.3
The sixteen words of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—are especially meant for counteracting the sins of the age of Kali. To save oneself from the contamination of this age there is no alternative but to chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra. After searching through all the Vedic literature, one cannot find a method of religion for this age so sublime as the chanting of Hare Krsna.
O son of Maharaja Nanda [Krsna], I am Your eternal servitor, yet somehow or other I have fallen into the ocean of birth and death. Please pick me up from this ocean of death and place me as one of the atoms of Your lotus feet.
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu
When one understands that the Supreme Personality of Godhead and the individual spirit souls are eternally distinct entities, he becomes qualified for liberation and lives eternally in the spiritual world.
Svetasvatara Upanisad 1.6
One should fix one's mind on Krsna by any means. All the rules and prohibitions mentioned in the scriptures should be the servants of this principle.
Srila Rupa Gosvami
The foolish with a poor fund of knowledge cannot know the transcendental nature of the forms, names, and activities of the Lord, who is playing like an actor in a drama. Nor can they express such things, neither in their speculations nor in their words.
Sri Suta Gosvami