THIS ISSUE we visit the temple of Ranchor Raya in western India, where Lord Krsna is lovingly remembered for once having fled from battle, apparently out of fear. Of course, Lord Krsna is never afraid of anything; His apparent desertion served several purposes, especially His desire to attend to a confidential letter from Rukmini, His first wife.
Unlike Lord Krsna, we're subject to fear, especially today, in light of the recent terrorist attacks in the United States. In "How Scared Should You Be?" Arcana-siddhi Devi Dasi writes about how she's dealing with fear and how we can take help from the Vedic literature to feel safe in higher knowledge.
Overcoming fear of bodily harm through philosophy is one thing. But what about the fear of failure in spiritual life? With his characteristic insight, Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami takes on this topic in "Facing Our Reality, Living With Our Ideals."
Generally, the ultimate thing we fear is death. But devotees of Krsna, assured of a better destination, tend to approach death with calm. In "Where to Die?" Sarvabhauma Dasa gives some examples of ISKCON devotees who passed away fearlessly in the loving company of fellow servants of the Lord.
Hare Krsna.—Nagaraja Dasa, Editor
• To help all people discern reality from illusion, spirit from matter, the eternal from the temporary.
Loved Every Article
Wow! This issue [November/December] is the topmost! Awesome! I loved it. I've been a subscriber for twenty-one years and have loved other issues, but I can't remember one better than this one. I loved every article!
Over the years BTG has been consistently good, but I must say your current work has outstanding potency. You are doing great work and are truly honoring Prabhupada. You BTG devotees must be maintaining a certain level of purity to produce such potent work. There is no doubt. Please know that your efforts are greatly appreciated by me and, I'm sure, many, many others.
Association Through BTG
I always look forward to seeing what is written in every issue of BTG and really like that BTG is presented very professionally and that the articles are very informative. I also feel it is so good to have association of the devotees elsewhere in the world via the BTG.
Ms. Ramola Chauhan
Worth Reading Every Day
Your article "For the Gentle and the Ruffians" [Indradyumna Swami, September/October 2001] was such a shocking and interesting one. Even in a situation where devotees' lives were in danger, they still went ahead with the festival. And Lord Krsna, residing in the heart of everyone, changed the hearts of those ruffians, and they also chanted the holy name of God.
I think that for those who doubt the potency of chanting the holy name—the Hare Krsna maha-mantra—and of taking prasadam, this article is worth reading every day. And for those devotees who were wounded in that incident, I wish you all speedy recovery. And don't be discouraged. Always remember that this is Kali-yuga; the demons are always terrorizing the devotees, and we must take seriously the mission to spread the chanting of the maha-mantra everywhere. As the madness of Kali-yuga manifests itself in more obvious ways, it is easy to see that there is no other hope.
I am a regular reader of BTG. I read the article "Let Krsna Bless America," by His Holiness Lokanath Swami, online [www.krishna.com]. The article was amazing, especially Lokanath Swami's remembrance of Prabhupada's struggles in connection with the Mumbai temple. I wish to read more like this—the realization of various senior devotees. Please include more articles like this in your future issues.
True and Personal Articles
I had always enjoyed reading the articles of His Holiness Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami. His recent article "The Authenticity of Spiritual Places" [September/October 2001] was very instructive for practicing devotees of ISKCON. He mentions, "The real service to a holy place is to meditate upon the event that took place there, and it is just as potent to compose ourselves in our own place, meditate on the significance of the particular place, and to then allow the mood of that place to imbue our service with new life." In this way Maharaja has given every devotee a vision of the purpose of visiting a holy place.
In fact, Satsvarupa Maharaja's articles always give lots of inner reflection about individual devotional practices, making the articles very true and personal. I especially enjoyed reading "Holding Fast in Times of Stress" (May/June 2000) and "No Fear" (November/December 2000). My conviction in Krsna Consciousness grows stronger whenever I read his articles.
Solving Arjuna's Dilemma
I am a student in Nottingham University and have to write an essay on the Mahabharata. My essay title is "How Did Arjuna Resolve His Moral Dilemma?" I have researched this paper thoroughly through reading extracts of the Gita and other sourcebooks. I am, however, puzzled as to what Krsna's involvement was in the war. More importantly, what did he say to Arjuna? I have read through, and the language is quite confusing. I was hoping that you could shed some light on what Krsna said that helped Arjuna resolve his moral dilemma.
I also wanted to know if any aspect of free will is involved in this essay. If fate and destiny control our paths and the cycle of karma, did Arjuna really have a decision to make, or was it already made for him by the universe?
OUR REPLY: The concise answer to your question is that Arjuna solved his moral dilemma by doing as Krsna desired. Krsna says many times in the Gita that He is God, and Arjuna accepts Krsna's statements as true. The last word in morality is to obey the order of God. After all, God is ultimately the judge of what is right or wrong.
As for karma and free will, Krsna makes it clear that although He has decided that the soldiers on both sides will die, Arjuna is free to choose whether or not to "become My instrument" in the fight. Neither Krsna nor Arjuna's karma is forcing Arjuna. Krsna says, yathecchasi tatha kuru: "Do as you wish." Of course, there are different reactions to different courses of action, but Arjuna does have a choice.
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. E-mail: email@example.com.
Only to His devotees does Lord Krsna
By His Divine Grace
"The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: My dear Arjuna, because you are never envious of Me, I shall impart to you this most confidential knowledge and realization, knowing which you shall be relieved of the miseries of material existence."—Bhagavad-gita 9.1
Sri-bhagavan uvaca. This word, bhagavan, I have explained many times. Bhagavan means the supreme authority. Krsna's authoritative power has been analyzed by Srila Rupa Gosvami: Cent percent power or cent percent qualification is in Krsna. Krsnas tu bhagavan svayam: "Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead."
Even though other persons in the Vedic literature may sometimes be addressed as Bhagavan, that does not mean that they are equal to the Supreme Person. Sometimes Narada Muni is addressed as Bhagavan. Lord Siva is also addressed as Bhagavan. Not only visnu-tattva [God and His full expansions], but others are also sometimes addressed as Bhagavan. But in order to particularly point out Krsna, it has been said in the Srimad-Bhagavatam [1.3.28], krsnas tu bhagavan svayam: "Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead."
Bhagavan is Krsna because Krsna has cent percent qualities of Bhagavan. That is analyzed in Caitanya-caritamrta. Krsna is cent percent Bhagavan. Others are also Bhagavan, visnu-tattva. Narayana is also Bhagavan. But Srila Rupa Gosvami has analyzed that Narayana is ninety-four percent, not cent percent.
Bhagavan is sad-aisvarya purnah, full in six opulences: beauty, wealth, strength, fame, knowledge, and renunciation. That Bhagavan is Krsna. Expansions of Krsna are also sad-aisvarya purnah, but the full opulence is not displayed. Even Lord Ramacandra did not display the full opulence of Krsna, even though our authority Madhvacarya has accepted Him as Bhagavan.
Ramadi-murtisu kala-niyamena tis han. Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is existing as the Supreme Person along with Rama, Nrsimha, Varaha—many thousands of avatars. They are also Krsna. Kesava dhrta-rama-sarira jaya jagadisa hare. Kesava dhrta-mina-sarira jaya jagadisa hare. Krsna exists with all the incarnations, not that He exists only as Krsna. So when we speak of Krsna, we mean all His expansions and incarnations.
Therefore it is said, ramadi-murtisu kala. They are kala. Kala means partial expansion, not full expansion. Full expansions are called purna. They are also Bhagavan. But krsnas tu bhagavan svayam means that bhagavatva—the authority of Bhagavan—is fully expressed in Krsna, not in others. Therefore in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, after the list of different incarnations, it is said, ete camsa-kalah pumsah krsnas tu bhagavan svayam: All the incarnations mentioned are partial expansions and expansions of the expansions, or expansions of Krsna's power, saktyavesa-avatara. Lord Buddha is a saktyavesa-avatara. There are many saktyavesa-avataras.
In this way Krsna always exists along with His expansions and incarnations. But the real, original Personality of Godhead is Krsna. Krsnas tu bhagavan svayam. Bhagavad-gita is being spoken by Krsna. But in order to distinguish Him, Vyasadeva writes sri-bhagavan uvaca. He does not write sri-krsna uvaca, because he wants to distinguish: krsnas tu bhagavan.
Knowledge From The Supreme
We are pledged to receive knowledge from the Supreme Personality of Godhead. That is our mission in Krsna consciousness. Here is knowledge given by Krsna. Idam tu te guhyatamam pravaksyamy anasuyave: "Now I am giving you this knowledge, very confidential knowledge."
Krsna says that this knowledge is guhyatamam. Guhya means "confidential," guhyatara means "more confidential," and guhyatamam means "most confidential." Positive, comparative, and superlative. Guhya is positive, guhyatara is comparative, and guhyatamam is superlative.
Brahma-jnana, or knowledge of Brahman, spirit, is guhya, confidential, because if you achieve brahma-jnana you become the most important person within the material world. That stage is called brahma-bhutah. And brahma-bhutah is the stage of the brahmana, or above that. To become brahma-bhutah, brahma-jnani, is guhya, confidential knowledge.
The next stage is Paramatma realization. Brahmeti paramatmeti. Isvarah sarva-bhutanam hrd-dese 'rjuna tishati [Bg. 18.61]. There are two different souls. One is Paramatma, and He is present everywhere. The Mayavadis, impersonalists, say there is no difference between atma, the individual soul, and Paramatma, the Supersoul, but that is not a fact. Atma is present within one body. I am atma; you are atma. Dehino smin yatha dehe [Bg. 2.13]. Asmin dehe means "in this body." I am atma, you are atma, but I am not Paramatma. Paramatma is different. Paramatma is Krsna, or the Supreme Personality of Godhead, situated in everyone's heart. That understanding is guhyataram, more confidential.
First of all, to understand brahma-jnana, or self-realization, is confidential. That is not ordinary knowledge. It is above ordinary knowledge. Therefore it is called guhya. Guhya means confidential. Nobody understands even atma-tattva.
Grhesu grha-medhinam. Those who are living within family life cannot understand atma-tattva, self-realization. Sukadeva Gosvami is advising Pariksit Maharaja that people are too busy with ordinary things to inquire about atma-tattva. An ordinary, worldly man purchases huge volumes of newspaper, and he is interested in the contents. But he is not interested in understanding Bhagavad-gita, where atma-tattva is described. People are not interested.
Sukadeva Gosvami told Pariksit Maharaja that for the ordinary man there are thousands and thousands of news items. We can see so many magazines—technical, musical, cinema magazines—and ordinary news in so many editions of every newspaper in every city. So this is a fact. Srotavyadini rajendra nrnam santi sahasrasah. Sahasrasah means thousands and thousands and thousands. Why are people busy with so many newspapers, and why they are not interested in hearing Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam? Because apasyatam atma-tattvam: They do not know that the real purpose of life is to understand atma-tattva. Why do they forget? Grhesu grha-medhinam. They have made a vow to maintain the family and to have some enjoyment from family life.
Family life means society, friendship, and love. There is a song by the poet Vidyapati: Ta ala saikate vari-bindu-sama, suta-mita-ramani-samaje. The exact English equivalent is "society, friendship and love." Everyone is busy with society, family, friends, country, nation, community. And what is the composition of these? Suta means children; mita means friends; and ramani means woman. If a man has a beautiful woman, he thinks it is very nice.
So people are busy. The other day we spoke with a guest in Hyderabad. He is very busy with this suta-mita-ramani-samaje. Everyone is.
Somebody may ask, "Unless there is happiness, why should people be interested in these?" There is happiness certainly. But the great poet Vidyapati has compared it to a drop of water in the desert. The desert requires huge quantities of water. Nowadays, practically in every country, especially in India, every land is just like a desert for want of water. You see in Vrndavana that so much land is lying vacant. No agriculture. Why? There is want of water. There is no sufficient supply of water. So in this way, if there is scarcity of water, then gradually these places will be converted into deserts.
So Vidyapati uses the word desert because a desert requires a huge quantity of water. Similarly, in this material world we are trying to be happy in society, friendship, and love. Suta-mita-ramani-samaje. But the happiness we are getting is compared to a drop of water in the desert. If in the vast desert we say that we want water and somebody brings a drop of water and suggests we take it, it will be very insignificant. The offer has no meaning. Similarly, our heart desires real pleasure, transcendental bliss. So if we are put into this desert—suta-mita-ramani-samaje—where is the benefit?
This song is confirmed in Srimad-Bhagavatam, where it is said apasyatam atma-tattvam: People do not know the aim of life. They are satisfied with this drop of water in the desert. It will never mitigate the dryness. The desert is a vast tract of dry land, and if somebody says, "All right, take one drop of water," what is the meaning? It has no meaning.
Similarly, we are spirit souls. We are hankering after Krsna. That is our inner desire. What happiness shall we get with this society, friendship, or love? That is not possible. There is some happiness—temporary happiness, very small quantity, so-called happiness—but it will never satisfy you. Because we are eternal, we are trying to get eternal happiness.
For The Non-Envious
Krsna is speaking here. Idam tu te guhyatamam pravaksyamy anasuyave. Asuya means envious. Everyone is envious of Krsna. That is demoniac. Take Kamsa, for example. In this tract of land, Mathura, there was Kamsa. He was so envious that he ordered his servant, "As soon as Krsna is born, please bring the child. I shall kill Him." That is asuya.
At the present moment, practically the whole world wants to be godless. Everyone is trying to prove that there is no God, there is no Krsna. This sentiment we find everywhere, especially in the Communist countries. If you become a demon, a Communist, or in favor of them, then you are also infected with asuya, envy of Krsna. Then you cannot understand Krsna.
Krsna is very strict. But devotees are very lenient. Krsna doesn't want to speak with demons. But the devotees are so kind, they go to the demons and pray, "Kindly hear. Kindly hear about Krsna."
Therefore a devotee is more merciful than Krsna. Krsna doesn't speak to the demons. Bhagavad-gita was spoken to Arjuna because he is a devotee: bhakto 'si me sakha ceti. Krsna was very strict. About Bhagavad-gita Krsna said, ya idam paramam guhyam mad-bhaktesu abhidhasyati: "One who speaks this confidential knowledge amongst the bhaktas . . ." He recommends the bhaktas, devotees. But the devotees go to the abhakta, nondevotees, transgressing the order of Krsna because they are so merciful: "All right, Krsna has rejected them. Let me try. Let me try." This is the position of the bhaktas. They are not only nonenvious of God, but they are also nonenvious of everyone.
Therefore devotees are called karunikah, most merciful. Devotees are always tortured by the demons. The demons are prepared to torture even Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and great devotees also. Devotees tolerate all these tortures. Therefore the devotees are described as titiksavah, tolerant. Caitanya Mahaprabhu teaches, trnad api sunicena taror api sahisnuna: a devotee should be more tolerant than a tree. A devotee should learn this verse by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Karunikah. Devotees take the risk of preaching amongst the demons, the nondevotees, because they are karunikah, very merciful—more merciful than Krsna.
Krsna says, "Do not speak this Bhagavad-gita to the nondevotees, because they will not accept it." Krsna says, sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja [Bg. 18.66]: "Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me." Who will accept this unless he is a devotee? The Mayavadi, the karmi [fruitive worker], the jnani [mental speculator], and the yogi cannot accept. They are envious: "I am Krsna. I am God. Why shall I surrender to Krsna? Why shall I accept Krsna as God?"
This is the position of the bhukti-mukti-siddhi-kami, those desiring material enjoyment, impersonal liberation, or mystic powers. You will find so many yogis who can play jugglery, magic, but who are not devotees. They will not surrender to Krsna. Such persons cannot understand Krsna. They cannot understand the science of Krsna. They cannot understand because Krsna does not disclose Himself to the nondevotees. So by their own attempt, however big a yogi or a jnani or a karmi they may be, they cannot understand Krsna. Krsna reveals Himself to the anasuyave, to one who is not envious. And that is the devotee. Anasuyave means the devotee, who is not envious of Krsna. Others—karmi, jnani, and yogi—are envious.
The karmis will say, "Work hard and get the result and enjoy. Why are you going to the temple to pray?" This is the philosophy of the Communists. "Why should you go to the church? Why should you go to the temple? Forget all these things. Work hard, earn money, and enjoy life." But that is demonic. Because they envy God, they are demons.
Devotee Of The Devotee
The science of God, or the science of Krsna, krsna-tattva, is never disclosed or revealed amongst the non-devotee demons. It can be revealed to, and be understood by, a person like Arjuna. Therefore it is said anasuyave: We should never be envious of Krsna and His devotees. You cannot think, "I am envious of the devotees, but I am not envious of Krsna." No, no. Krsna does not accept that kind of business. First of all you should be nonenvious of the devotees. Mad-bhaktah pujyabhyadhikah. "If you are envious of My devotee and try to become a devotee, that is not possible."
It is stated that one who is directly a devotee of Krsna is not a devotee, but one who is a devotee through His devotee—he is a devotee. You should learn this philosophy. You cannot say, "But why shall I go through a guru or through a Vaisnava to Krsna? I can go directly. I am so qualified." No, you are not qualified. If you jump over like that, that is not acceptable. In Bengal it is said that one cannot jump over the horse to eat the grass in front of the horse. So one should be a devotee first of all. Tad-vijnanartham sa gurum eva abhigacchet. We must approach a bona fide guru to understand the science of Krsna. If you want to learn about Krsna, then you should be very humble and submissive to Krsna and His devotee—anasuyave.
Real Scientific Knowledge
Jnanam vijnana-sahitam. Jnana—this knowledge, most confidential knowledge—is not sentiment. Vijnana-sahitam. It is science. In scientific knowledge you must know theoretically and practically. Not that you simply know that so much oxygen, so much hydrogen produces water by mixing. That is theoretical. You have to make water by mixing these two chemicals. That is practical. In the B.Sc. examination in the university, one is tested for both theoretical and practical knowledge.
The theoretical science in the Gita is sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja. Krsna says, "Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me." But when you really surrender, that is practical science. That is practical. If you decide to surrender—that is called saranagati—then you have to learn the science of how to become surrendered. That is vijnana. Jnana means theoretical knowledge, and vijnana means practical knowledge.
So we have to do it practically. Not that I think, "I have read Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam, so I have become a devotee." No. You should practically demonstrate in your life that you are actually a devotee. That is called vijnana-sahitam.
And if you learn this science, the result is you become liberated from asubha, the inauspicious condition of life. Yaj jnatva moksyase asubhat. What is that inauspicious condition of life? This materialistic life. People are thinking, "We shall make it subha." Subha means "auspicious." People think they can make material life auspicious by material adjustment, by having a nice car, a nice road, skyscraper buildings, and so many machines and bodily comforts. These are known as material advancement. But the sastra [scripture] says that it is all inauspicious.
If you want to become free from this inauspicious kind of life, then you should learn the science Krsna is teaching, not materialistic so-called science. You should learn the real science, sa-vijnana. That is how to surrender to Krsna, how to become nonenvious of Krsna.
This is a great science. We have to learn it. And this science of Krsna consciousness is spoken in this Ninth Chapter. If you become expert in this science, then you become free from inauspicious science, material science.
Thank you very much.
By choosing service to Krsna over
By Arcana-siddhi Devi Dasi
I PULL OUT THE stack of mail from our mailbox and bring it into the house, where I plop it down onto the kitchen table. I begin the ritual of sorting out the few important items from the plethora of junk mail and catalogs. The cover of Newsweek captures my attention with the headline "How Scared Should You Be?" Below the headline is a picture of a man wearing a gas mask.
I sit down holding the magazine, debating whether I should subject myself to the contents. Hadn't I already had one sleepless night after listening to a radio program that was about the very real danger of biological and chemical warfare? To increase public paranoia, it related how a suspected terrorist had asked farmers in Florida how to operate crop dusters.
I think about the advice I've been giving to parents of children suffering increased anxiety since the September 11 attacks. Foremost I recommend, "Keep them away from the media." Srila Prabhupada once said of a news magazine that it made maya (illusion) seem real. I contemplate those words now as I hold a copy of Newsweek. The crumbling of he 110-story World Trade Center towers, the mass carnage, and the suffering of thousands people seemed real enough. Yet while I listened to others describe the events, what I heard most often were the words "surreal" and "dreamlike."
Maya means "that which is not," an illusion. I always liked the sound of the word illusion—the richness of the syllables as they rush into one another like ocean waves. And I have a fond association with the word. My great-uncle was a magician, a master of illusion. Once, when I was a young girl of perhaps seven, he asked me to be his assistant in his magic show. I excitedly accepted the offer. While on stage I would hand him things when he asked. When I handed him several small balls, he put them into his hand and passed a handkerchief over them, and they disappeared. He took his hat off, and there they were. Then he asked me to hand him a saw, and he cut through a wooden box with a woman inside. I held my breath and closed my eyes, fearing the worst. But she came out whole.
After the show I begged my uncle to tell me how he did it.
"A magician never reveals his secrets," he replied, giving me a big hug.
Despite my begging and pleading, he kept silent, and I finally relented.
I never figured out that illusion, but I did come to learn from the Vedic scriptures and Srila Prabhupada that our lives in this word are also a kind of illusion—nothing more than a long dream of some number of years. So death is an illusion too, because death is only for the body; the real self, the soul, never dies. He can't be burned, crushed by debris, stabbed by a terrorist, or blown up by a bomb. He can't be poisoned by chemicals or infected by anthrax. Our illusion is to think we are indeed this temporary, destructible body. This original illusion perpetuates all other illusions and misconceptions in this world.
Because we are all so entrenched in thinking we are the body, and that our relatives and friends are their bodies as well, we derive happiness in the company of those we love and feel deep sorrow in their absence. And while we may even intellectually accept the premise that we are souls separate from my body, that acceptance doesn't lessen the pain and sadness we feel when the bodies of others are destroyed.
So would I be compassionate if I told the families of terrorist victims that it's all an illusion, just a bad dream? The crushed and burned bodies of the victims in the twin towers didn't reappear unscathed like the woman from the magician's box. They're still buried under tons of debris. And their loved ones, bearing the burden of loss, suffer with anguish and despair.
Lessons On Death From The Lord Of Death
To help myself find the right mix of compassion and philosophy, I turn to a historical narrative in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Once Yamaraja, the Lord of death, appeared as a small boy to instruct relatives crying inconsolably over the dead body of their king. Yamaraja appeared as a child because children can be candid without having to observe social etiquette. They can speak the truth without offending others. I have many recollections of my son, when he was a preschooler, telling my relatives, "You shouldn't eat dead animals." Had I told them that, they would have felt offended. But the innocent and unpretentious nature of my child allowed them to hear the instruction from him. Similarly, appearing as a child, Yamaraja could deliver transcendental knowledge to the widowed queens.
Knowing what to say to someone who recently lost a loved one is difficult. Part of the problem is that most people have little real knowledge about what death is and what happens at death and beyond. All we can usually say is how sorry we feel that the person has died. Beyond that, most of us feel awkward and become silent. We depend on greeting cards to say something comforting. Because we feel so inept at knowing what to say, we may even avoid seeing a grieving person until they have "gotten over it." Yamaraja, however, has perfect knowledge, and his words could pierce through the misconceptions of the grieving party.
First Yamaraja establishes that Krsna, the Supreme Lord of the creation, is in control of everything that happens. Nothing happens accidentally or haphazardly. He is completely competent to destroy and protect. In making sense of the recent terrorist attacks, we can remember that not a blade of grass moves without the sanction of the Lord. If the Lord wants to protect you, no one can kill you, and if the Lord wants to kill you, no one can protect you.
It is easy to see the Lord's hand when you or a loved one are saved from death. A woman who worked on the top floor of the World Trade Center was fired from her job the day before the attacks. Another was spared because her babysitter was late. But what about those who perished? It's not that the Lord wanted to kill them like some vindictive God; rather, for various reasons (which God knows), the time was up for those who died. This is a difficult point to understand. But Yamaraja instructs the queens about karma, and from his instructions we can understand that people perished at the World Trade Center because they were destined to.
Next Yamaraja tells the queens about the nature of the soul. The soul, not the body, is who we are. The queens have never seen the real person who resided within the body of the king. They only knew the body, the covering for the soul. And since the body is still lying in visible form before them, why should they lament?
Krsna uses similar logic in the Bhagavad-gita when speaking to grief-stricken Arjuna. Arjuna is about to fight in a war to retaliate against injustices perpetrated against himself and his family. Although cousins, the Kurus have tried to kill Arjuna's family, the Pandavas, out of envy and greed through many heinous acts similar to those of the modern-day terrorist. Arjuna, however, becomes overwhelmed by bodily attachment to friends and relatives on the opposing side, and in his weak moment tells Krsna he can't fight the battle. Krsna then asks Arjuna a rhetorical question: If Arjuna thinks his relatives are their bodies, made of material elements, why feel bad if they are killed? They're nothing more than chemicals that come together for some time to produce life symptoms and are then destroyed. And if Arjuna thinks his relatives are the soul within the body, he still has no reason to grieve, since the soul is eternal and never dies. Such logic helps Arjuna give up his depression and perform his duty as a warrior.
Yamaraja then tells the grieving queens about the Supersoul, an expansion of the Lord who accompanies us to the material world. He is the Lord within the heart. He directs us in many ways to assist us in our journey in, through, and out of the material world. It is this merciful expansion of the Lord whom some identify as the small, still voice within. The more we can live in harmony with godly principles, the more we will be in touch with the Lord's beneficial instructions from within the heart.
Yamaraja then tells the queens, "As long as the spirit soul is covered by the subtle body, consisting of the mind, intelligence, and false ego, he is bound to the results of his fruitive activities. Because of this covering, the spirit soul is connected with the material energy and must accordingly suffer material conditions and reversals continually, life after life." This instruction implies that the only way to become free of suffering in this world is to become permanently free of the material body. Death frees us from the gross material body, but not the subtle body. The subtle body carries us to another material body at death. Only when the subtle body becomes completely free of material desires and inclinations to enjoy separate from the Lord can the soul regain his original spiritual form.
This instruction prompts the question of how to become free of material desires. That is the subject of much of the Vedic literature, including the Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam. In the present age, known as the age of quarrel and hypocrisy, the recommended process for becoming free of unwanted desires and habits is to chant the Lord's holy names. Krsna has invested His full power into His names, and we can derive the greatest benefit from chanting them. Chanting the Lord's holy names is our ticket out of the material world.
Finally, to punctuate his points to the queens, Yamaraja tells the story of two kulinga birds. Once a hunter captured a female kulinga bird in a net. The bird's mate helplessly looked on, feeling hopeless and defeated. While he lamented for his mate in that condition, the hunter took the opportunity to take aim at the kulinga bird and strike him with an arrow.
After narrating this story, Yamaraja told the queens that nothing could bring back their dead king. In the mean time, their own lives were being swallowed by all-devouring time.
The queens could then understand that everything material is temporary and prolonged grief was a poor use of their precious life. After hearing the boy's transcendental discourse, the relatives became freed of their illusions and obtained transcendental peace and happiness. Yamaraja showed real compassion for the queens of the dead king. He didn't offer them flowery words to console them, but rather spoke truth that freed them from the illusion of being their bodies.
While the instructions of Yamaraja are very potent, before repeating them we may have to consider time, place, and circumstance. His talks took place in a time when people were more advanced in spiritual understanding and more philosophical by nature. Most people in this age would find it difficult to respond to direct philosophy. In helping others, it is important to acknowledge their humanness. Part of grief counseling is to allow people to grieve and express their feelings. The goal, however, is to bring them to accept the reality of whatever has happened. Counseling therefore requires sensitivity and compassion. In my work as a therapist, the combination of empathy and philosophical teachings proves most successful for helping people through their grief. I recommend this strategy to everyone who wants to help others in their loss. It affords people the opportunity to become free of illusion and fear.
The only way to become truly fearless is to take shelter of the Lord. So when pure devotees of the Lord are asked, "How scared should you be?" they can without reservation answer, "Not at all." On the other hand, someone still convinced that he is the material body and that the goal of life is to enjoy in this temporary world will answer, "I am very scared."
We can decide to be fearless or fearful by the choices we make at every moment. Krsna consciousness is the gradual process to free us from the fear of death. If we choose to serve the Lord and be under His protection, we will become fearless by His grace. If we chose to serve our material body and senses and ignore the Lord, we will be fearful, because we will have no sense of our eternal identity or real shelter. The choice is ours.
Arcana-siddhi Devi Dasi was initiated by Srila Prabhupada in 1976. She lives with her husband and son in Baltimore, Maryland, where she works as a family therapist.
This exchange between His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and a television interviewer took place in Gainesville, Florida, on July 29, 1971.
Interviewer: Your Grace, this is being recorded on videotape, so it will be broadcast later.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Interviewer: Not right now, but later on. I, of course, know very little about this subject.
Srila Prabhupada: [Laughing.]
Interviewer: Yes. So if I ask questions which, you know, sound sort of ignorant . . .
Srila Prabhupada: [Laughs.] Yes. I shall . . .
Interviewer: I ask your indulgence. Thank you.
Srila Prabhupada: Hare Krsna. [Laughing.]
Interviewer: You are the expert, and I know very, very little about this.
Srila Prabhupada: The expert is Krsna. He is the expert. [Chuckles.]
Interviewer: The expert is Krsna. Yes. That much I understand. Yes. In fact, Krsna is everything.
Srila Prabhupada: [Chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra softly on his beads.] One who fully accepts that Krsna is the expert—he is authorized.
Interviewer: So you are authorized.
Srila Prabhupada: I or anyone that follows Krsna's instructions. My book Bhagavad-gita As It Is is authority.
Interviewer: Yes, I know.
Srila Prabhupada: MacMillan publishes every year fifty thousand copies. You can inquire from your side about any reading matter from this original Bhagavad-gita. That will be nice. Then I can explain.
Interviewer: All right. [To a member of his television production team:] You're going to cue me, right?
[Beginning his presentation:] Lord Krsna is the Absolute Truth, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, as confirmed by all the Vedic scriptures and by the great sages in disciplic succession. He has a body made of eternity, bliss, and all knowledge. God has infinite forms and expansions, but of all His forms, His original form, His transcendental form, is as a cowherd boy, a form which He reveals only to His most confidential devotees. So go the teachings of Krsna, as laid down in the Vedic literature. And of the sages in the disciplic succession, which I mentioned, one is our guest for this conversation today. He is His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, foremost teacher in the West of the Krsna philosophy, which, moreover, he teaches not only by word but by example. He came to this country in 1965, on orders of his spiritual master. As a Krsna disciple, he is the present human exponent of a line of succession going back five hundred years, to the appearance in India of Lord Caitanya, and beyond that to a time five thousand years ago, when Lord Krsna Himself was on this planet and His words were recorded.
[To Srila Prabhupada:] Welcome, sir. What is Krsna consciousness?
Srila Prabhupada: Krsna consciousness means that every living being is part and parcel of Krsna. Krsna has got many expansions. They are called personal expansions and separated expansions. So, separated expansions are we—we living entities. But although we are very intimately connected with Krsna, somehow or other we are now separat-ed by contact of material nature. So we have practically forgotten that we are part and parcel of Krsna. Actually, that is a fact, but the living being forgets. Just as a rich man's son—somehow or other, he has forgotten his father, and he's loitering in the streets like a poor man. But actually, that is not his position. He has forgotten, simply.
So this Krsna consciousness movement means we are trying to invoke that original consciousness that the living being is part and parcel of Krsna. Why should he remain in this material world and suffer the threefold miseries? So we want to revive our original consciousness. The original consciousness is Krsna consciousness. Just like a man born of a lord's family—his title should be that of the lord's family, but unfortunately, forgetting his own home, he's accepting some menial title. So our whole Vedic literature is meant for that purpose, to revive everyone's original consciousness. Aham brahmasmi—"I am spirit."
Interviewer: You came, sir, to this country in 1965, as I said, on instructions or orders given you by your spiritual master. By the way, who was your spiritual master?
Srila Prabhupada: My spiritual master was Om Visnupada Paramahamsa Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Prabhupada.
Interviewer: Now, in this line of succession that we were talking about earlier—this disciplic line which goes way back, all the way back to Krsna Himself, right?—was your spiritual master the previous one before you?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. The disciplic succession has been coming from Krsna over the past five thousand years.
Interviewer: Is your spiritual master still alive?
Srila Prabhupada: He passed away in 1936.
Interviewer: So you are, at this particular time, then, sort of the world head of this movement? Would that be correct?
Srila Prabhupada: I have got many Godbrothers, but I was particularly ordered to do this, from the very beginning of my association with my spiritual master. So I am trying to please my spiritual master. That's all.
Interviewer: Now, you were sent to this country, to the United States of America. This is your territory. Is that correct?
Srila Prabhupada: Hmm. "My territory." What my spiritual master said was, "You go and speak this philosophy to the English-knowing public."
Interviewer: To the English-speaking world?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. And especially to the Western world. Yes. He told me like that.
Interviewer: When you came, sir, to this country, you did not come to a part of the world where religion as such was lacking. In the United States of America we have many religions, and I think a great majority of people in this country like to believe that they are religious—people who believe in God, you know, who devote themselves to some form of religious expression. And I wonder what your thinking was. What did you think that you could add to the already living religious expression in this country by coming here and adding your own philosophy to it?
Srila Prabhupada: When I first came to your country, I was guest of an Indian friend at Butler.
Interviewer: In Pennsylvania?
Srila Prabhupada: Pennsylvania. So although it was a small county, I was very much engladdened that there were so many churches.
Interviewer: So many churches? Yes, yes.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, so many churches. And I spoke in many of the churches there. My host arranged for that. So I did not come here with the purpose of defeating some religious process. That was not my purpose. Our mission is—Lord Caitanya's mission is—to teach everyone how to love God. That's all.
Interviewer: But in what way, sir, may I ask—in what way did you think, and do you think right now, that the teaching of the love of God which you are doing is different and perhaps better than the teachings of the love of God which already were being conducted in this country, and have been conducted in the Western world for centuries?
Srila Prabhupada: We are following in the footsteps of Lord Caitanya. He's accepted by us according to the authority of the Vedic literature. He is personally Krsna.
Although Lord Krsna wants our full surrender,
by Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami
THE Srimad-Bhagavatam (3.29.11-12) states, "The manifestation of unadulterated devotional service is exhibited when one's mind is at once attracted to hearing the transcendental name and qualities of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is residing in everyone's heart. Just as the water of the Ganges flows naturally down towards the ocean, such devotional ecstasy, uninterrupted by any material condition, flows towards the Supreme Lord." In his purport, Srila Prabhupada writes, "No material condition can stop the flow of the devotional service of a pure devotee."
Srila Prabhupada is describing the perfect stage, one in which a devotee has no distractions from Krsna's service, no material desires, no failure to remember the beloved Lord. It is easy for us to admit that we are not at this level, but we should never lose sight that, as impossible as this sounds, it is what we want to become. We want to live with no interest separate from Krsna's interest.
At the same time, I believe for myself (and I advocate to others) that we should engage our personal natures in Krsna's service. There is no need to censor or forbid them. Our natures include our psychophysical tendencies, our cultural orientation, and our various drives. The scriptures assure us that it is impossible to kill desire and inadvisable to try. Rather, we are to engage ourselves and everything we have in Krsna's service. When we reject matter in the name of renunciation, our renunciation is incomplete.
But how to practically engage ourselves and everything else in Krsna's service? It has been a phenomenon in ISKCON that devotees join the movement and are told to surrender completely, to submerge their personal interests and engage fully in temple service. Many devotees put aside careers, propensities, sometimes even families and the many things they loved and thought part of themselves, to engage in devotional service. Then years later they begin to think differently. Sometimes they feel they were misled into surrendering something that did not need to be abandoned. Sometimes they feel they were manipulated by those who spoke of complete surrender but who were not themselves completely surrendered. Sometimes they simply feel that whatever propensity or interest they gave up was actually meaningful to them. Such devotees often turn back to those same activities and take them up again, not for personal enjoyment, but as a way to serve Krsna.
We call this varnasrama-dharma, the gradual process of renunciation and surrender. In Bhagavad-gita Krsna recognizes that those who are not on the path of spontaneous and total surrender may need to offer what they like to do to Krsna. Therefore, the scriptures prescribe rules and regulations by which such activities can be performed. Krsna's highest request is that we give up everything (sarva-dharman parityajya), but if that is not possible immediately, there is a process by which we can gradually approach that highest goal. A devotee should always be careful not to misidentify the gradual stepping stones with the ultimate goal.
Remember The Goal
We should remember the goal and we should never resent it. "Those persons who execute their duties according to My injunctions and who follow this teaching faithfully, without envy, become free from the bondage of fruitive actions." (Bhagavad-gita 3.31) The goal is to turn our will completely to Krsna's will and to have no separate interests; if at any point along the way this seems too difficult, we should not feel that Krsna is therefore asking too much from us. Rather, Krsna is trying to bring us to the standard of the residents of Vrndavana. In his purport to Bhagavad-gita 3.31, Srila Prabhupada writes:
But an ordinary man with firm faith in the eternal injunctions of the Lord, even though unable to execute such orders, becomes liberated from the bondage of the law of karma. In the beginning of Krsna consciousness, one may not fully discharge the injunctions of the Lord, but because one is not resentful of this principle and works sincerely without consideration of defeat and hopelessness, he will surely be promoted to the stage of pure Krsna consciousness.
In the meantime, there is still disparity between the ideal and our personal reality. It seems we cannot actually surrender to Krsna by giving up, throwing away, burning, sushing down the toilet all of what we thought we were. We must learn to render it, and in so doing, purify it, until it becomes an offering for Krsna. The philosophy of Bhagavad-gita assures us that dovetailing our propensities is a lower standard than being fully surrendered, as is evidenced in the verse describing the process of karma-yoga: yat karosi yad asnasi . . . Yat karosi ("whatever you do") is not at the same standard as sarva-dharman parityajya. Existentially, however, if we must apply the yat karosi verse to reach the platform of giving everything, Krsna has encouraged it.
Even if we don't resent the intensity of Krsna's instruction, we may wonder what it can mean not to have any desire other than to do whatever Krsna wants done. I spoke about this with a Godbrother. In the discussion, he represented the superiority of complete surrender over dovetailing, and to reconcile the two sides he said, "What we must do is to approach the spiritual master unconditionally. The spiritual master, in his wisdom and knowing our nature, will engage us according to our propensity." Surrender means to first accept the position of an unconditional servant.
To be unconditional, we have to be sincere. Sincerity requires humility; it requires that we admit that we have not completed or perfected our Krsna consciousness. When we understand our actual position, we will be willing to try in whatever ways are possible for us to find a personal surrender and we will naturally give up selfishness.
I tend to encourage devotees to perform whatever service they would like to do, even if it's not what has been assigned, especially when they no longer feel able to carry out that other duty. Then, when they are engaged in whatever service they have chosen, I encourage them to remain faithful to it regardless of the austerities. Serving another, including serving the Supreme Person, is always filled with austerity. One of the greatest austerities a devotee experiences is coming face-to-face with his or her own weak-heartedness. Staying fixed in that particular service helps the devotee steady the mind and to find the inner consciousness of rendering the activity as service.
Ultimately, whatever we choose to do, we must purify it to the point that we are not only offering the fruits of an activity that is personally pleasing to us, but we are actually offering the activity itself for Krsna's pleasure. When we present our offering, we will have to do it with fear and trembling, with the hope that Krsna will accept our tiny offering amid the millions of more wonderful offerings He is receiving.
Such devotional consciousness is within our reach. We are capable of becoming enthusiastic about our activities, and we are capable of working toward the goal of pure devotional service.
In ISKCON more and more devotees are reevaluating how we have separated ourselves from the world. Perhaps we do have something to do with family, society, country, and humanity, and perhaps we can become more whole and realistic. Perhaps we should address such issues and not speak always from the platform of the fanatical preacher. This is a sign of our movement's maturing. At the same time, the devotees should never forget that ultimately we must disconnect ourselves from everything but service to Krsna. How we achieve that goal does not necessarily mean kicking off everything else, but learning how to use everything for Krsna. "According to the opinion of devotees, constant remembrance of the Supreme Lord is called samadhi, or trance. If one is constantly in trance there is no possibility of his being attacked or even touched by the modes of material nature. As soon as one is free from the contamination of the three material modes, he no longer has to take birth to transmigrate from one form to another in this material world." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.33.27, Purport)
Srila Prabhupada never emphasized that pure Krsna consciousness was beyond our reach. Rather, he encouraged us that it was attainable.
The Price Of Purity
Of course, there is a price. In a lecture Srila Prabhupada gave on March 13, 1974, in Vrndavana, he discussed Rupa Gosvami's statement that if pure love of Godhead is available in the market, we should purchase it without delay:
Tatra laulyam ekalam mulyam. Rupa Gosvami advised, krsna-bhakti-rasa-bhavita matim kriyatam yadi kuto 'pi labhyate. He advises that "Krsna consciousness, if it is available, you purchase. You purchase anywhere it is available." That is Caitanya Mahaprabhu's advice, that one should be eager to purchase this Krsna consciousness at any price. Generally, we think price means some, in terms of money, monetary transaction, say, hundred pounds or two hundred pounds or millions of pounds, billions of pounds, like that. The price is different. Here Rupa Gosvami says, "You purchase at any price." But what is that price? . . . Laulyam, eagerness. That is the price. That is the only qualification. You must be very, very eager to see the lotus feet of Krsna in this very life. You must be very eager to talk with Krsna in this very life. But not to become sahajiya [sentimentalist]. By service. Krsna talks with the devotee, but not with the nondevotee. He says in the Bhagavad-gita, tesam satata yuktanam bhajatam [priti-purvakam]. Only persons who are always engaged in Krsna's service, who have no other business. Satata. Satata means twenty-four hours. He has no other business. . . . And bhajatam. Bhajatam means in service. You must find out always some opportunity how to render service to Krsna. That is the qualification. It doesn't matter what you are. You may be this or that. It doesn't matter. But this eagerness for service can be acquired by anyone simply by sincerity. That is the price.
Prabhupada's words are practical. If he had said we should think of Krsna at every second and never cease serving Him, never have separate interest, it would have sounded impossible for us. Rather, Prabhupada emphasizes practical service. By absorbing ourselves in the details of our activities, and remembering for whom we are performing them, we can become fixed in Krsna consciousness throughout the day. Prabhupada was expert at teaching an active form of self-realization.
I remember when I was younger and serving as the temple president in Boston. Although we may not have been inwardly meditating on Krsna or even free of material desires, we worked to the point of exhaustion to serve Prabhupada's mission. Our lives were so demanding that there was no time to think of ourselves. We could barely keep up with the workload. If later, however, we found ourselves unable to maintain that pace, we had to find other ways to be Krsna conscious.
Another point Prabhupada emphasizes is expressed in the purport to Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.21.33:
The question may be raised that since the Lord is supposed to be worshiped by great demigods like Lord Brahma, Lord Siva, and others, how can an ordinary human being on this planet serve Him? This is clearly explained by Prthu Maharaja by the use of the word yathadhi-kara, "according to one's ability." If one sincerely executes his occupational duty, that will be sufficient. One does not need to become like Lord Brahma, Lord Siva, Indra, Lord Caitanya, or Ramanujacarya, whose capabilities are certainly above ours. Even a sudra [laborer], who is in the lowest stage of life according to the material qualities, can achieve the same success. Anyone can become successful in devotional service provided he displays no duplicity. It is explained here that one must be very frank and open-minded, amayinah. To be situated in a lower status of life is not a disqualification for success in devotional service.
Being frank means admitting to Krsna that we cannot do what He is asking of us; we are simply not pure enough, not surrendered enough, to do only what He wants without any self-interest attached. Being open-minded means expressing distress at our own condition. We want to be Krsna's devotee, but we cannot become devotees without His help.
Srila Prabhupada continues: "The only qualification is that whether one is a brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya, or sudra, he must be open, frank, and free from reservations. Then, by performing his particular occupational duty under the guidance of a proper spiritual master, he can achieve the highest success in life."
After admitting to Krsna that we cannot be perfect devotees, we don't say, "Therefore I won't do anything." Rather, we say, "This is what I can do. I can offer my occupational duty and beg You to accept it."
Finding The Balance
The first question ISKCON devotees often ask on this topic is how to find the balance between being guided by authority and self-determination. We have to follow a process of trial and error. One model is to surrender to a temple authority and to trust that he will guide us. Of course, a temple authority will naturally guide us according to the needs of the mission, some-times at the expense of our own needs. Sometimes, also, such leaders disappoint us in real ways and we may find ourselves becoming bitter and moving toward another extreme: complete self-reliance.
By trial and error we will find the right formula for ourselves. We may try to follow someone's advice and see whether it works for us. If it doesn't work, or works only partially to increase our Krsna consciousness, then we may need to find some adjustment. It is important, therefore, to develop a strong sense of conscience, and to be able to hear that voice within ourselves that tells us whether or not what we are doing is healthy for our devotional development. To acquire that conscience takes time and maturity.
Often our uncertainty about what we are doing stems from a misconception of what Krsna consciousness is about. In earlier years, I felt consistently dissatisfied regardless of what I was doing. If I was out preaching, I thought I should be doing more management. If I was managing, I felt I should be out preaching. At one point, a Godbrother pointed out to me how I never seemed to be satisfied, and he was right. Such restlessness is a sign of immature understanding. Perhaps we imagine that in the perfect state we will always feel completely elated—moment-to-moment ecstasy—about what we want to do. But the reality is that even when we choose the best situation we can imagine for ourselves, there are still difficulties. Even Prabhupada faced obstacles in his preaching, although he never doubted his mission. At such times, we have to continue in our service and wait out the dissatisfaction.
Ultimately, as we grow up in Krsna consciousness we will begin to be convinced that what we are doing is our best offering at the moment, and we will not be so dependent on outside validation. It's so wonderful to see devotees who feel this conviction in their services and in their Krsna consciousness. Such devotees are very fortunate, and we see that they have struck their balance by the fact that they lose interest in developing a wide variety of skills, they are no longer restless, and they are fixed in their activities. Despite financial or other worries, they tend to understand that they are dependent on Krsna and to let go of those concerns.
There is no one way for all devotees to find such balance, but each of us must strive for it. It is not necessarily unhealthy to churn up our own histories in order to understand where we have been and where we would like to go in our attempt to surrender to Krsna. And in the meantime, we should be careful not to change the philosophy or resent the principles just because we may not be able to follow them. We should feel ourselves fallen and pray to Krsna for His support.
One problem is that young devotees, especially, are not always sure just what their own propensities are. In such cases, it is healthy for a devotee to try to become a blank slate and to receive training in the temples in what the institution describes as complete surrender. That will form the foundation for later personal development. Those early days in the temple are a time of intense study and practice. Just as a college student studies more during his college years than at any other time in his life, so a devotee moving into the temple can take good advantage of the intense training. At the least, this will give a devotee the opportunity to theoretically understand Krsna's instructions, and doing the needful according to the mission's demands may even reveal his own nature to him. Personal service propensities are revealed more as a person matures.
Ultimately, we have to find out how to care for our own souls and offer them to Krsna. Because trusting ourselves completely is a risky proposal, we submit ourselves to the spiritual master and the Vaisnavas. We should have friends who will sympathize with our level of advancement and who can both listen to us and advise us in ways that preclude judgment. It is a delicate matter to decide what it is Krsna is asking of us, and it takes both prayer and support. Sometimes the signs are clear and sometimes they are not. Whatever we decide, however, it should carry the charge of spiritual reality and be free of stereotyped conceptions of what devotional service is.
As we are going through this process, we should check our spiritual vital signs. Just as a doctor will check our vital signs regardless of our complaint, to ascertain the general state of health, so we should check our spiritual vital signs: Are we feeling enthusiastic to serve Krsna? Do we have a taste for krsna-katha, topics about Krsna? Do we want to associate with devotees? Are we aspiring for pure chanting? By checking these symptoms we will know whether we are proceeding on the right path.
As we progress, we should work as much with the realistic as with the idealistic. That is, we may not always know exactly what Krsna wants us to do, and even if we knew, we may not always be able to do it. Therefore, we can simply go on using our God-given intelligence to give everything we can to Krsna.
Prabhupada assures us that it doesn't matter what we are as long as we are serving Krsna. Devotional service is not a hobby but a full-time engagement. We can see it as a mysterious, esoteric process, or we can follow Prabhupada's down-to-earth instruction to engage always in service while thinking of the person to whom it is being offered.
With Prabhupada's emphasis on service, it behooves us to discover our personal vocation—that thing we can really do for Krsna—and dedicate ourselves to it.
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.
"Really want to see you lord
GEORGE HARRISON was a longtime friend of the Hare Krsna movement, often calling himself a "plainclothes devotee." Already interested in Eastern philosophy and music, he heard the 1966 recording Srila Prabhupada made with disciples. George would later recall in a November 1980 interview the impression that album, Krishna Consciousness, made on the Beatles:
"I remember singing it [the Hare Krsna mantra] just for days, John and I, with ukulele banjos, sailing through the Greek islands—Hare Krsna. Like six hours we sang, because you couldn't stop once you got going. You just couldn't stop. It was like as soon as you stop, it was like the lights went out."
George was inspired to help the devotees of Krsna even before meeting Srila Prabhupada in 1969. He produced and recorded the Radha Krishna Temple album, featuring the London devotees. One of the songs from that album, "Hare Krishna Mantra," went to the top of the charts in several European countries. For many people, including many future devotees, this recording was their first contact with the names of Lord Krsna. On Srila Prabhupada's request, another song, "Govindam," is played in all ISKCON temples around the world for daily morning audience with the deities.
George included the chanting of Hare Krsna in his famous song "My Sweet Lord" and introduced the holy name to millions. He met Srila Prabhupada on numerous occasions and visited ISKCON temples around the world. He is also recognized for donating Bhaktivedanta Manor outside London to the Krsna consciousness movement for use as a temple and ashram. And he helped publish Srila Prabhupada's books and wrote introductory words for Prabhupada's book Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Many devotees are reflecting on George Harrison's contributions to Srila Prabhupada and his movement and remembering with appreciation his efforts to introduce Krsna's names around the world. For many of us, it was George who sparked our interest in Krsna consciousness, and we owe him our thanks.
Visit www.krishna.com for more on George Harrison, including expressions of gratitude by devotees.
George on Chanting Hare Krsna
Excerpt from an interview conducted by Mukunda Goswami in 1982.
Mukunda: As a practitioner of japa-yoga, what realizations have you experienced from chanting?
George: Prabhupada, acarya [spiritual master] of the Hare Krsna movement, told me once that we should just keep chanting all the time, or as much as possible. Once you do that, you realize the benefit. The response that comes from chanting is in the form of bliss, or spiritual happiness, which is a much higher taste than any happiness found here in the material world. That's why I say that the more you do it, the more you don't want to stop, because it feels so nice and peaceful.
Mukunda: What is it about the mantra that brings about this feeling of peace and happiness?
George: The word Hare is the word that calls upon the energy that's around the Lord. If you say the mantra enough, you build up an identification with God. God's all happiness, all bliss, and by chanting His names we connect with Him. So it's really a process of actually having a realization of God, which all becomes clear with the expanded state of consciousness that develops when you chant. Like I said in the Krsna book some years ago, "If there's a God, I want to see Him. It's pointless to believe in something without proof, and Krsna consciousness and meditation are methods where you can actually obtain God perception."
Mukunda: Is it an instantaneous process, or gradual?
George: You don't get it in five minutes. It's something that takes time, but it works because it's a direct process of attaining God and will help us to have pure consciousness and good perception that is above the normal, everyday state of consciousness.
Mukunda: How do you feel after chanting for a long time?
George: In the life I lead, I find that I sometimes have opportunities when I can really get going at it, and the more I do it, I find the harder it is to stop, and I don't want to lose the feeling it gives me.
For example, once I chanted the Hare Krsna mantra all the way from France to Portugal, nonstop. I drove for about twenty-three hours and chanted all the way.
Is Vrndavana the only choice for devotees of the Lord?
By Sarvabhauma Dasa
DEVOTEES OF Krsna traditionally go to Vrndavana, the divine place of Krsna's pastimes, when their time comes to leave this world. The great devotee Prabodhananda Sarasvati Thakura praised residence in Vrndavana—especially at death—without mincing his words:
I pray that this land of Vrndavana, which great sages experience as sweet nectar, give me shelter until the moment I leave this body....They who somehow or other remain up to the moment of death here in Vrndavana, which with its splendor bathes all moving and non-moving creatures in an ocean of bliss, are at the head of all great Vaisnavas....Brother, do you know for certain when you will die? Do you think the maha-mantra will check powerful death? Do you think death will patiently wait and allow you to die at the time you prescribe? Is it for these reasons that you again and again fearlessly leave Vrndavana? Even if my heart were pierced by thousands of thunderbolts, I would not leave Vrndavana. (Sri Vrndavana-mahimamrta, Sataka 1.17, 43, 50, 6)
Scriptures describe earthly Vrndavana (Gokula Vrndavana) as essentially identical to Krsna's supreme abode in the spiritual sky, Goloka Vrndavana. Although to conditioned souls earthly Vrndavana may appear similar to other rural towns or forests of this world, the scriptures explain that its spiritual nature is inaccessible to mundane vision, just as the sun's brilliance can be obscured by a thick, dark cloud.
Regardless of how one perceives Vrndavana, Prabodhananda Sarasvati explains that contact with Vrndavana gives immeasurable spiritual benefit: "If one lives in the earthly land of Vrndavana, touches it, sees it, travels to it, meditates upon it, bows down to it, sings or hears about its glorious qualities, carries its dust on his head, or has any relationship with it, then this purifying earthly Vrndavana will carry him to the supreme abode of Vrndavana in the spiritual world." (V.M. 6.29)
He adds that in earthly Vrndavana "all people automatically and effortlessly obtain pure ecstatic love for Krsna" and that Vrndavana "transforms sinners into saints" and is pavana pavane, "the most purifying of all purifiers." (V.M. 1.47, 39, 41) For these reasons and many more, serious devotees of Krsna have always valued the chance to reside in Vrndavana, to perform devotional service there, and ultimately to depart from this world in that sacred land. [See Sidebar: "Leaving and Not Leaving Vrndavana."]
As a consequence of this, in Vrndavana today you will find samadhis, or sacred tombs, honoring great devotees of Krsna who passed away there. His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada left this world in Vrndavana in 1977, and a large samadhi, part of the Krishna-Balaram Temple complex, stands in his honor.
Shelter For Iskcon Members
A number of ISKCON devotees have traveled to Vrndavana to leave this world. Gauri Dasi, a shy, warm devotee who overcame her timidity and became a compassionate and empowered distributor of Srila Prabhupada's books, departed in Vrndavana. She is said to have had ecstatic experiences of communion with Krsna in her final days. Buddhimanta Dasa, a pioneer of book distribution in the West, also departed in sacred Vrndavana, graced by a chanting party led by Aindra Dasa, which came just at the time of his departure. A book has been written about Vraja-lila Dasi, a saintly young disciple of Indradyumna Swami who took shelter in Vrndavana in her final days.
Lohitaksa Dasa from New York traveled to Vrndavana in serious condition, taking the risk that he might die en route, but was able to exit within days of his arrival. The Italian devotee Namananda Dasa, once ISKCON's number one book distributor in the world, passed away at the Prabhupada-vani Ashram, perhaps getting special mercy for his years of intense endeavor to share Krsna consciousness with others. Krsna Mayi Dasi, a rather new and inexperienced devotee, by special good fortune made her way to Vrndavana in her last days. She departed as her spiritual master, Dhanurdhara Swami, was singing the devotional song Jaya Radhe, Jaya Radhe Radhe. An elderly pujari from the Nairobi temple named Tulasi Priya Devi Dasi visited Vrndavana and came down with pneumonia, which proved fatal. Although she had no family there, Aindra Dasa and other brahmacaris chanted at her passing, and the gurukula students and teachers took her body to the Yamuna for cremation.
These are a few examples of the many devotees who departed in Vrnda-vana. Most had enough notice of their impending demise to allow them to go to Vrndavana, but some, unaware of their impending death, were the beneficiaries of a special arrangement by Krsna.
Given the choice and the means, it seems unlikely that a devotee would choose to depart in a materialistic city in the West rather than a holy place like Vrndavana. Still, no one who saw my dear friend Kirtida Devi Dasi in her final days argued that she should have departed in Vrndavana, rather than Dallas, Texas.
Despite the onslaught of cancer, which ravaged her frail sixty-one-year-old body, Kirtida remained blissful and Krsna conscious through her final days, spent in a small room filled with pictures of Vrndavana. On her altar were many deities brought by local devotees. The home she departed from stood on Gurley Avenue, just across the street from the temple of Sri Sri Radha-Kalachandji, the Radha-Krsna deities installed by Srila Prabhupada in 1972.
Considering earlier events in Kirtida's life, that she chose to leave this world from anywhere but Vrndavana was surprising. She had nearly died from health problems in the late 1980s while working as a surgical nurse in Dallas hospitals. Devotee friends often repeated to her Srila Prabhupada's instruction that Vrndavana is the best place for the soul to depart from the body, and she began to resolve to spend her last days there.
As early as 199l, when doctors estimated that Kirtida had only six months to live, a devotee gave her a free plane ticket to India. She gratefully accepted it, seeing it as a sign of Krsna's sanction of her desire to go there and pass from this world. Soon she retired, bought a flat in Vrndavana, and spent six years there, always aware that each day could be her last. Remarkably, the spiritual atmosphere gave her new life. At first she survived in Vrndavana only by taking intravenous chemicals. But after praying at sacred Govardhana Hill, she found she was able to take solid food again for the first time in years.
Kirtida grew to truly love Vrndavana, and whatever energy or strength Krsna gave her, she gave back in the form of devotional service. She became a volunteer nurse at the gurukula dispensary and took visiting devotees on tours of the holy places. She even started walking barefoot on arduous pilgrimages, such as the twenty-six kilometer parikrama (circumambulation) of Govardhana Hill, while devotees half her age struggled to keep up. As years passed, Kirtida was no longer a visitor: she was a resident of the holy dhama (abode).
So why did she leave Vrndavana and die in the West? In 1997 her spiritual master, Tamal Krsna Goswami, began academic work in England, but after some time he was diagnosed to have cancer and underwent surgery in Dallas. Kirtida offered her assistance, even if it meant leaving her beloved shelter, Sri Vrndavana Dhama. For six months Kirtida offered medical service twenty-four-hours a day as Tamal Krsna Goswami recovered at the Dallas temple. Then, when he went back to England to resume his studies in less than full health, she offered to go there to assist him.
It was in England that Kirtida herself was found to have cancer. She underwent a major surgery in London that appeared to cure the cancer. She began recuperating in sunnier Dallas, where she could also get the audience of her beloved deities again and visit with her old devotee friends. But during this happy visit to Dallas came the bad news: tests revealed that her cancer had returned. She began treatment at a local hospital, but the cancer got worse. Finally she decided to stop all therapy, check out of the hospital, and prepare for death.
Tamal Krsna Goswami, who for years had instructed Kirtida to pass away in Vrndavana, suggested that she stay in Dallas rather than try to travel to India. One consideration was the heat: it is swelteringly hot in Vrndavana in May and June, and many devotees leave the dhama at that time. In Dallas she would have more devotees to chant with and give her support. And her departure could be instructive, since no elderly devotee had ever died in the community.
So it was that Kirtida Devi Dasi passed away in Dallas, surrounded by loving devotees, her spiritual master, and the continuous chanting of the holy names of Krsna.
Glorious Departures In The West
Many devotees have chosen to pass away in the West in Krsna consciousness. Jayananda Dasa, famed for his humble service attitude in the early days of ISKCON, died of leukemia in the Los Angeles temple community, serving Srila Prabhupada until almost the end by organizing the Rathayatra festival.
Other devotees who were unable to always practice Krsna consciousness strictly nonetheless were able to associate with devotees at the end of their lives. Hayagriva Dasa, who had been away from the devotees for some time, returned to New Vrindaban (in West Virginia) at the end of his life and benefited from the devotees' association in his last days. Sudama Dasa, once a personal servant of Srila Prabhupada and a preacher in Japan, had also drifted away from strict practice of Krsna consciousness. But when he learned he had a terminal illness, he moved to the devotee community in Los Angeles and passed away surrounded by well-wishing devotees chanting the holy names. He was covered with garlands from the deities Sri Sri Rukmini-Dvarakadhisa, and at the time of his passing, his mother was entreating, "Go back to Prabhupada, Sudama! Go back to Prabhupada!"
Upendra Dasa, also a former personal servant to Srila Prabhupada and a pioneer of Krsna consciousness in Australia, had left the association of devotees and was near death in San Francisco. Kurma Dasa, from Australia, raised money so that Upendra could pass away with his old devotee friends at the New Govardhan farm in Australia. Kurma describes the flight and ensuing events:
Upendra ended up going into a coma and almost dying on the plane. The United Airlines flight to Sydney was almost forced to make an emergency landing on the way. He stayed in intensive care in a major Sydney hospital for over two weeks. His health improved enough for him to move up to the farm, where many devotees looked after him until his departure a few months later. At the time of his passing, Jayadvaita Swami suddenly arrived on the farm. He was rushed up the hill to the house, where a resounding kirtana was in full force, and he took over leading the kirtana. As Upendra gazed at a picture of Gaura-Nitai held at the foot of his bed, he passed away peacefully.
When Ratnaranjini Devi Dasi, a senior devotee in Scotland, learned she had a brain tumor a few years ago, devotees booked her a flight to Delhi. But just two days before her scheduled departure, she had a seizure. Doctors changed her destination from holy Vrndavana to Glasgow's Western General Hospital. After another seizure, when everything seemed bleak, she told her husband, Balabhadra dasa (now Bhakti Balabha Puri Goswami), "The Lord is so merciful! All the time I was having the fit, all I could see was Vrndavana Syamasundara's face in my mind. He is so kind!" After this, Balabhadra helped his wife perform Vrndavana pilgrimage in her mind, meditating on each sacred landmark in perfect order. She was blissful in her final days, always chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra. A small book about her life and passing has recently been published.
Malati Devi Dasi describes how a Kunti Dasi, a disciple of Srila Prabhupada in New Vrindaban, accepted the news of death's approach:
Kunti could have gone to India. Although it would have been a difficult trip, there were devotees ready to pay the extra cost of arranging a bed for her on the flight. I reminded her that New Vrindaban is nondifferent from Vrndavana in India, and with that in mind she chose to remain. It was a glorious passing, and every member of our community benefited from the experience in so many diverse ways. Many served her personally, many came to chant again after a lengthy absence, many came to speak to devotees again after a long silence, and everyone saw the closeness of death as a reality. She who was the closest to the door of death remained calm, sanguine, and immersed in topics of Krsna, blissfully going about the process of exiting the physical body. She also kept up a tremendous sense of humor. She said that she had taken her second birth [spiritual initiation] in New Vrindaban and that she would leave her body here.
Sunita Devi Dasi, a senior disciple of Srila Prabhupada, was born in Mathura, near Vrndavana, but she passed away in the devotee community in Alachua, Florida. Her passing inspired an outpouring of support and emotion by a great number of devotee friends and acquaintances.
Savitri Priya Dasi, a seemingly ordinary housewife in London who took initiation from His Holiness Bhakti Caru Swami, received a tremendous boost from devotees who visited at her hospital and home in her final weeks. Many devotees from Bhaktivedanta Manor visited and poured affection on her daily. Interrupting his filming in America, her spiritual master came to London and gave her many valuable instructions. She received phone calls from Tamal Krsna Go-swami and visits from Sivarama Swami, Vipramukhya Swami, Radhanatha Swami, Radha-Govinda Swami, Maha-Visnu Swami, and many other devotees. Although she had planned to go to Mayapur or Vrndavana to die, travel was deemed too risky when her condition deteriorated rapidly. At the moment of her passing, Savitri Priya lifted her chanting beads to her forehead and chanted Hare Krsna.
At a talk at the ISKCON center at 26 Second Avenue in New York, Radhanatha Swami discussed the passing of his dear disciple Abhirama Tha-kura Dasa, a great devotee of Krsna and Srimati Radharani. Abhirama passed away in Mumbai in the association of his dear devotee associates and close to his worshipful deities, Sri Sri Radha-Gopinatha.
Namacarya Dasa, who chanted incessantly and lived a simple, Krsna conscious life, left this world peacefully and nobly in deepest China, surrounded by devotees.
Mahatma Dasa, of the Hare Krsna community in Dallas, explains how Kirtida's presence there in her final days benefited all the devotees: "Because there was so much hearing and chanting going on, we saw a tremendous change in the consciousness of the devotees. The whole community was thousands of times more Krsna conscious than ever before."
When a nurse named Jerry, assigned by a local agency to attend to Kirtida, arrived at the devotee home and saw forty devotees chanting sweetly, she was deeply moved. Within days, Jerry, a devout Christian, learned to chant on beads, took prasadam, wore a sari, and watched Krsna conscious videos—all while taking care of Kirtida.
Bir Krsna Dasa Goswami, who guides a Krsna conscious community in North Carolina, notes, "It is very important for devotees to see realized Vaisnavas leaving their bodies. This is another consideration for having the devotee pass away close to his or her associates." He adds, "When I die, I wish to die near my deities of Radha-Golokananda in North Carolina, because my heart is dedicated to Them. I could not bear to be anywhere else. I consider where my deities are to be identical to Vrndavana. Or anywhere there is pure devotional service is identical to Vrndavana."
Flying Our Own Plane
In one sense, death is a very personal, internal, and solitary experience. We may die in Vrndavana or surrounded by loving devotees in the West. Or it could happen when we are alone at home, in a hospital at 1:00 A.M. with no devotees around, in a bus station, or on an airplane. There is no certainty exactly what our environment will be at that unknown time. But, our own consciousness or inner state of being will be there; that is certain. And ultimately that is under our control alone. Prabhupada made an analogy with the airplane: "So you go high in the sky. But if you are in danger, no other airplane can help you. You are finished. Therefore you must be a very careful pilot to take care of yourself."
In commenting on a verse in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.19.15), however, Prabhupada explained that the association of devotees significantly helped King Pariksit go back to Godhead. Even though he "sew his own plane," he also had assistance: "The atmosphere created by the presence of great devotees of the Lord on the bank of the Ganges and [my emphasis] Maharaja Pariksit's complete acceptance of the Lord's lotus feet were sufficient guarantee to the king for going back to Godhead."
The presence of devotees—sadhu sanga—helped King Pariksit go back to Godhead. Prabhupada considered it helpful when devotees chanted while he and others were departing from this world. He wrote a disciple, "You have done your duty at the last moment of your wife's life, so that she could hear them chanting."
Returning to the analogy of the airplane: Although a pilot controls the plane, who can deny that a pilot has assistance? He has associates on the ground (air traffic controllers) who give him constant guidance, and he has technicians and staff who help him on the plane as well. Similarly, devotees can help dying friends remember Krsna at the time of death.
A dramatic example of how a devotee can assist another at the time of death is that of Kesava Bharati Dasa, whose elderly mother passed away a few years ago in her home in Northern California. Kesava Bharati read the book Krsna to his mother, a devout Christian, to help her stay conscious. She began to enjoy hearing about Krsna and finally asked her son "Who is God?" When he replied that Krsna is the same God she had worshiped her entire life, she nodded that she understood. In her last days she received Vaisnava initiation by telephone from His Holiness Sivarama Swami. Although she was far from Vrndavana at the time of her passing, Vrndavana and its king and queen came to her by the association of her devotee son. This is not surprising, because Krsna is bhakta-vatsala, never failing in His affection for His devotees.
Radhika Desai, a devotee in Dallas who spent part of her youth in Vrndavana and chanted long hours for Kirtida in her final days, expressed how although Kirtida's departure did not take place in Vrndavana, Krsna could manifest Vrndavana in a materialistic city in the West for His devotee. She recounted two pastimes in which the Lord's mercy made it easier for His devotee. In the first, Sanatana Gosvami, a leading disciple of Lord Caitanya, was so old that it was difficult for him to go on the arduous circumambulation of Govardhana Hill. Lord Caitanya then told him that if he just went around the Govardhana sila (a sacred stone from the hill) in the Radha-Damodara temple seven times, that would be equal to walking the twenty-six kilometers around the hill. In the second, Krsna's parents, Nanda and Yasoda, wanted to visit the four chief holy places in the four directions of India as was the custom of pious people. But because His parents were old, Krsna summoned the holy places to Vrndavana.
Who can put a limit on Krsna's mercy?
Sarvabhauma Dasa, a disciple of His Holiness Tamal Krsna Goswami, is based in Texas, but for the last few years he has been doing devotional service in England.
May there be good fortune throughout the universe, and may all envious persons be pacified. May all living entities become calm by practicing bhakti-yoga, for by accepting devotional service they will think of each other's welfare. Therefore let us all engage in the service of the supreme transcendence, Lord Sri Krsna, and always remain absorbed in thought of Him.
—Sri Prahlada Maharaja
Leaving and Not Leaving Vrndavana
ON HEARING of Prabodhananda Sarasvati's absolute resolve to never leave Vrndavana, one might wonder why Srila Prabhupada left Vrndavana to travel around the world. The reason is that although Prabodhananda Sarasvati and Srila Prabhupada each wanted only to serve Krsna, there was an external difference between them. Prabhodananda Sarasvati acted as a ksetra-sannyasi, a renunciant who vows to perpetually stay in the holy land of Vrndavana (or another holy dhama) and perform worship (bhajana) there. Technically this type of devotee is called a bhajananandi.
Srila Prabhupada, however, did not take a vow to worship perpetually in one place. Rather, like his spiritual master, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, he was a parivrajakacarya, a traveling preacher of Krsna consciousness. In fact, taking the order of his spiritual master as his life and soul, he willingly risked dying outside Vrndavana to spread Krsna consciousness all over the world. He even suffered heart attacks aboard the steamship Jaladuta in 1965 and in New York in 1967—attacks that nearly caused him to perish in materialistic environs far from holy Vrndavana. He once grimly joked, "In New York if I die, you will have to entomb me on the roof." Such a fearless preacher is termed a gos hyanandi.
Both the bhajananandi and the gosthyanandi have the same goal, to serve and love Krsna as do the eternal residents of Vrndavana. But the way they do so is quite different. While a bhajananandi like Prabodhananda Sarasvati vows to never leave Vrndavana, great gosthyanandis like Syamananda Pandita and Narottama Dasa Thakura were sent out of Vrndavana by Jiva Gosvami to preach—and they left this world in full Krsna consciousness away from Vrndavana.
As a preacher, Prabhupada was not restricted to Vrndavana. Although it is said Krsna that never leaves Vrndavana (vrndavanam parityajya padam ekam na gacchati), because He is unlimited He can simultaneously stay in Vrndavana and leave. Prabhupada brought Krsna out of India in the form of His holy names and His deity, whom he installed in many temples. And Prabhupada's books carried Krsna to every corner of the world. Prabhupada's mood reflected that of his spiritual master, who traveled widely in India to preach Krsna consciousness and sent disciples to preach in England, Burma, and other places outside India.
Kurma Rupa Dasa, a scholarly devotee who has resided in Vrndavana for many years, compared the factor of one's physical location to that of one's inner state of being, or consciousness.
"I have heard there are statements to the effect that if one leaves his body in Vrndavana he is guaranteed to go to Goloka [the spiritual world]," he said. "But, personally, I'm unable to give them as much weight as Krsna's own words in the Bhagavad-gita: 'Whatever state of being [bhava] one remembers when he quits his body, O son of Kunti, that state he will attain without fail.' " [Bg. 8.6]
"It is the bhava that determines one's next destination," he concluded, "not the location one leaves from."
In the Srimad-Bhagavatam (12.3.49), Sukadeva Gosvami tells King Pariksit how to attain a Krsna conscious bhava: "Endeavor with all your might to fix the Supreme Lord Kesava [Krsna] within your heart. Maintain this concentration upon the Lord, and at the time of death you will certainly attain the supreme destination."
The story of Ajamila, a degraded brahmana who inadvertently chanted the name of the Lord at the time of his death—and ultimately attained liberation—shows how concentrating one's attention on the holy names of the Lord can overcome even the most polluted physical surroundings. Ajamila didn't chant in a holy place like Vrndavana; rather, he called out "Narayanai in a house where religion had been abandoned and many sinful activities had taken place.
Prabhupada seems to have confirmed that one's consciousness, or bhava, at the end of life is ultimately more important than one's physical whereabouts. He wrote to Mukunda Dasa in 1967 from New York City: "I don't mind whether I die here, or in Vrndavana—wherever there is Krsna, there is Vrndavana." Certainly for Prabhupada, Krsna was everywhere, and therefore he carried Vrndavana in his heart wherever he went.
Are we simply puppets, helplessly
By Bhayahari Dasa
I LOOK ON WITH dismay as the tow truck drives away with the wreck that used to be our car.
"It's all right," my wife tries to console me. "Probably some bad karma."
I consider her words. She has just mangled our car by driving it into the rear end of a truck, and she seems quite eager to let destiny take responsibility for her actions. I wonder if it's really bad karma, or just bad driving.
Are we simply puppets, helplessly manipulated by the strings of our past activities, or do we have the freedom to act? If everything is predestined, what control do we have over our activities? What exactly is the interplay between destiny and endeavor?
Apparently, similar doubts had also beset Satyavrata Muni, a great king and a sage in ancient times who was able to get his doubts addressed authoritatively by Lord Matsya, an incarnation of Sri Krsna. Their conversation has been recorded in the Matsya Purana.
Satyavrata Muni inquires, "O Lord, which is superior: fate or one's own exertion and effort? I have doubts on this; kindly resolve them."
Satyavrata Muni is raising the perennial philosophical conundrum of predestination verses free will. In reply, Lord Matsya explains that three elements—fate, effort, and time—conjointly affect the course of one's life. He gives the example of a farmer, whose crop depends on three factors: planting, rain, and time. Planting represents effort, and rain represents fate. If the farmer plants but there's no rain, he'll have no crop. And if it rains but he hasn't planted, he'll have no crop. Both fate and effort are required, as is time.
If we act properly and perform pious activities, we are awarded good fortune, and if we act sinfully, we have to suffer. Over time, good fate manifests as situations favorable to our endeavor and bad fate as unfavorable situations. Destiny may even give us enjoyment or suffering without much endeavor. Winning a lottery, being born in a rich family, or diseased body are examples of this.
The relationship between endeavor and destiny seems quite straightforward, at least conceptually. By our endeavor we create our destiny: We reap what we sow. But not so apparent is the reverse, the relationship between destiny and endeavor, which started me on this train of thought. If we are fated to enjoy or suffer, will our efforts somehow lead us down a predestined path? Are all our activities completely bound by the dictates of destiny, or do we have free will?
Sri Krsna explains the effect of destiny in the Bhagavad-gita (15.15). The Lord says, "I am seated in everyone's heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge, and forgetfulness." Later (18.61) Krsna reiterates: "The Supreme Lord is situated in everyone's heart, O Arjuna, and is directing the wanderings of all living entities, who are seated as on a machine, made of the material energy." In his purport Srila Prabhupada elaborates: "After changing bodies, the living entity forgets his past deeds, but the Supersoul, as the knower of the past, present, and future, remains the witness of all his activities. Therefore all the activities of living entities are directed by this Supersoul. The living entity gets what he deserves."
According to our past activities, remembrance and forgetfulness are supplied to us and are revealed as our propensities, desires, and aspirations. What we ultimately get is a combination of what we desire and what we deserve. For instance, many people would like to be millionaires, but only a few will work toward the goal, and only a small fraction of them will actually achieve it. On the other hand, some people are born to inherit wealth without any endeavor. Performing pious activities is like making a deposit into the karma-account: When the deposit matures, one may withdraw it and enjoy it. So one who desires to be wealthy and has enough pious credits may be born wealthy, another with fewer credits may have to work for it, and yet another with insufficient credits may not achieve it despite hard work.
Destiny sets the stage for us to perform our activities. A cow tethered to a post is free to move only as far as the rope will go. Similarly, the scope of our present endeavors depends on our past activities. A person born in a rich family is offered greater opportunity and freedom than one in a poor family. An extreme example is the animal or plant forms of life, which a soul gets as a severe reaction to past sinful activities. Here the living entity has practically no free will and simply acts out the acquired modes of material nature. That is why the human form of life is considered so special. Only in this form does the soul have some degree of freedom to shape its destiny. But with free will also comes accountability, which is why only in the human form does one accrue good or bad karma. The law of karma does not apply to animal or plant life, where the soul's promotion to higher life forms is automatic.
Even though being in an accident, suffering from a disease, being poor, being rich, and so on, are all predestined, that does not mean we can now start driving negligently, ignore our health, and stop taking care of ourselves. Let's assume we do start driving negligently. The law of karma dictates that this irresponsible action will yield an undesirable reaction. It may be an accident, or it may be something else. But it will come.
The law of karma is so complex that conclusively determining the precise outcomes of our activities is impossible. Ultimately, our endeavor shapes our destiny, and that is why the scriptures give us so many guidelines about what to do and what not to do.
The scriptures also warn us that understanding the law of karma should not make us callous to the suffering
Changing Our Karma
An important point to understand is that the reactions to our prior activities can be altered. There are two processes for this. The first is prayascitta, or atonement, and the second is devotional service.
The Vedic way of life prescribes atonement for sinful activities. With atonement, a person voluntarily accepts some penance to offset the reactions to previous sinful activities. It is like a criminal voluntarily surrendering in exchange for a lighter sentence. But atonement is like trying to relieve the symptoms rather than cure the disease. One reaction to sinful activities is a desire to commit more activities that are sinful. While atonement may soften the suffering from past sins, it does not lessen the stockpile of desires that motivate one to commit such activities. That is why Sukadeva Gosvami says (Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.1.11), "Persons who subject themselves to the rules and regulations of atonement are not at all intelligent."
Furthermore, pious activities condition one to the resultant enjoyment and thus provide the motivation to perform more activities that are pious. Since a soul is forced to accept a material body to live out these reactions, the self-perpetuating reactions of any endeavor bind one to the cycle of birth and death.
In Bhagavad-gita Sri Krsna offers a way out. While Krsna concedes that "One cannot even maintain one's physical body without work," He goes on to explain that by abandoning attachment to the results of one's activities, one becomes free of karmic reactions. Such a person is satisfied by gain that comes of its own accord, is undisturbed by success and failure, and is never entangled although performing actions. For such a person the cycle of karma ceases. In verse 18.66 Sri Krsna emphatically states, "Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear." It is important to note that Sri Krsna is recommending that one abandon all varieties of religion, including pious activities, since such activities will also bind one to the material world.
While activities performed in the mood of detachment do not have any reactions, devotional service, performed only for the pleasure of the Lord, goes one step further. It not only stops the cycle of karma; it relieves one from one's due distress and eradicates the unmanifest desires in various stages of maturity. In Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu (1.1.17), Rupa Gosvami describes devotional service, or bhakti, as klesaghni subhada, which means that if one takes to devotional service, all kinds of unnecessary labor and material distress cease entirely and one achieves all good fortune.
In Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.14.19) Krsna explains: "Just as a blazing fire turns firewood into ashes, devotion unto Me completely burns to ashes sins committed by My devotees." The conclusion is that one should not strive too hard for mundane things that may come of their own accord and bind one to material existence, but rather use one's valuable time in the service of the Lord.
Sharing The Blame
A couple of weeks later, our car is back from the repair shop, more or less restored to its old glory, and I think I now have a better insight into the event that started me thinking about these points. My wife's accident was predestined, a result of some past sinful activity she committed. Or maybe the accident was an immediate reaction to negligent driving.
I explain this to her one day during another drive.
"So ultimately it's my fault?" she asks.
"I guess so," I reply.
"Well, you had to take the car for repair, pay for the damages, and so on, right?"
"Yes," I say.
"So you suffered too—which means it was also a reaction to your sinful activities. So in that sense, it's your fault too," she concludes triumphantly.
"I guess you're right," I reply, "but please watch out for that truck!"
The Intricacies of Endeavor, Fate, and Time
ENDEAVOR IS activity performed in various circumstances. Even with the guidance of scripture, determining conclusively what is pious and what is not is difficult, because of considerations such as time, place, circum-stance, and the consciousness of the doer. For instance, the Srimad-Bhagavatam relates the story of a king named Nrga who would give countless cows to brahmanas in charity. Once, without the king's knowledge, one of the cows he had already given in charity wandered back and was given to another brahmana. Since King Nrga was now guilty of misappropriating the property of a brahmana, albeit unknowingly, he had to suffer for a long time in the body of a lizard. So seemingly pious activities done with the best of intentions may by circumstance become impious.
Fate, or destiny, is the enjoyment or suffering in store for us as the result of our past actions. The Bhagavad-gita states that by performing pious activities one may get promoted to heavenly planets and live a long life of opulence there. But as it is difficult to always determine whether an activity is pious or not, it is more difficult to determine the precise results of an activity. While general indications are given in the Srimad-Bhagavatam and in the sections of Vedas that deal with fruitive activities (called karma-kana), predicting the exact outcome of activities is almost impossible.
Destiny and endeavor are linked by a third factor: time. Some actions may yield instant reactions, while the results of others may come after several lifetimes. For instance, if I were to punch someone, the reaction would be swift and immediate. But if I were to criticize someone secretly, the reaction would be delayed. In Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu Srila Rupa Gosvami classifies reactions as already manifest (prarabdha) and waiting to manifest (aprarabdha). Some people may perform many pious activities and continue to suffer, while others may be performing sinful activities with apparent impunity. Looking at them we can understand that one reason for this is the factor of time, which separates them from the results of their activities.
One can compare the law of karma to a giant computer that constantly creates situations for us by analyzing our past activities and time. How we act in those situations becomes a part of the ongoing computation for the future, and in this way the cycle of karma goes on eternally.
Bhayahari Dasa, a disciple of His Holiness Romapada Swami, lives in Gaithersburg, Maryland, with his wife, Indulehka Devi Dasi, and their seven-year-old son, Dhruv. He works in information technology and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here Lord Krsna is worshiped for an act
Bhakti Vikasa Swami
DAKOR IS FAMOUS throughout Gujarat, India, for a deity of Lord Krsna named Ranchor Raya. Ranchor (rana-cora) means "one who flees from battle" or, more simply, "deserter," and raya (from raja) designates a king or a respected person. Krsna gained fame as Ranchor Raya when He fled a battle, apparently out of fear. Actually, He wanted to prevent needless killing and attend to His pastime of kidnapping Rukmini, His first wife. Krsna's fleeing the battle is especially glorified by devotees in Gujarat because it marked Krsna's taking up residence in Dwarka (Dvaraka), in Gujarat.
Nowadays the deity Ranchor Raya makes Dakor almost as much esteemed in Gujarat as the nationally famous Dwarka, Lord Krsna's capital city. But Dakor is visited mostly by Gujaratis, as evidenced by the signs: all in Gujarati. (The signs in Dwarka or other nationally famous holy places are in Hindi and English as well as regional scripts.)
We drove to Dakor in early January through countrysides rich with banana trees, castor plants, and cotton. Our trip had an auspicious beginning: As we left our ISKCON center in Vallabh Vidyanagar, Gujarat, a gentleman coming from Dakor arrived and gave us the prasadam of Ranchor Raya.
Gujaratis visiting and living in Dakor warmly welcomed us, because all over Gujarat people recognize ISKCON devotees. Our group included two devotees from the former Yugoslavia, one from Poland, an American, a Gujarati, and me, a Britisher. Happy to see Western devotees, many pilgrims bowed and touched our feet or joined their palms in respect. Many just greeted us with "Hare Krsna."
Pilgrims From The Villages
In Dakor we couldn't park closer than half a kilometer from the temple because of the heavy traffic. Tourist buses were coming and going, filled with people singing bhajanas, devotional songs. It was Purnima, the full-moon day, which every month attracts about a hundred thousand pilgrims seeking the blessings of Ranchor Raya. (Although Dakor is small—population about 30,000—to handle the Purnima crowds it has one of the longest railway-station platforms in India.) Many people vow to visit Dakor every Purnima, but crowds are especially large on Kartika Purnima (in October/November)—already a particularly auspicious day for Krsna's devotees—because Ranchor Raya was installed in Dakor on that day. Many pilgrims arrive the evening before the full-moon night so they can attend mangala-arati, the first worship, at 6:30 the next morning.
During the months of Kartika and Caitra/Phalguna (approximately February through April) Ranchor Raya attracts many bhajana-mandalis—village groups who walk to Dakor singing bhajanas. Bhajana-mandalis often include villagers whose forefathers for generations performed this monthly pilgrimage to Dakor. Some groups walk more than a hundred kilometers. Some village groups—two hundred to four hundred people—walk several days carrying a big decorated flag, often just a simple colored cloth with a silver border, inscribed "Jaya Sri Ranchor Raya!" ("All glories to the beautiful Ranchor Raya!") When the bhajana-mandalis arrive in Dakor, they have their flag installed on the temple spire as an offering to Ranchor Raya and as a sign of the completion of their pilgrimage.
We observed one such group of villagers exuberantly singing the names of the Lord while dancing, jumping, and spraying colored powders. Their clothes and bodies multicolored, they waited in the courtyard to give their flag to the priests. Then they entered the temple, and by the time they exited, their flag had been hoisted. They stood and looked up with great devotion to see their flag atop the temple. Flags from other village groups kept coming, one after another. When one flag went up, another came down. A flag is sometimes raised only a minute and then taken down. But that is enough; the pilgrims are satisfied that their offering has been made to Ranchor Raya.
We expected to interview a few people, but it turned out that many people practically interviewed us: "Where are you from? How do you like Ranchor Raya?" The first people we spoke with were several young men who own a tailoring shop in Ahmedabad, eighty kilometers away. They've been coming to Dakor on foot every Purnima for the last six years. Their journey takes them two days. They stay overnight, then take a bus back.
Stawa Bhagat came to Dakor from a place near Dwarka. He has come at least once a year for the last six years.
"I don't want anything," he said. "I'm not coming for any material reason. I just want to have the Lord's darsana [audience]."
I asked him how he feels here.
"I become so ecstatic with feelings for the Lord," he replied, "that no bad feelings can enter my heart, only good feelings."
Seeing The Lord
Above the entrances and elsewhere around the temple are closed-circuit TVs showing the deity, but the pilgrims are not much interested in them. They want to get in and see the deity as He is. Streams of people pour in the main gates, as others pour out the side gate. The front gates are barricaded to allow people to enter in shifts. The women use a separate entrance, and once inside they stand in front of the men, separated by a barrier. All the pilgrims see the deity and then go outside and circle the temple.
To have darsana of the Lord during arati is auspicious, but the aratis last only a few minutes, so there's a tremendous rush. The security forces inside blow whistles to control the crowd, but with no effect. Thousands of people push and shove their way around one another. No one seems to mind. The Lord's big eyes look kindly upon His devotees. Everyone is happy chanting the Lord's names and having His darsana.
People bring boxes of sweets, open them, hold them above their heads, and offer the sweets by waving their hands toward the Lord over the boxes. They will take the sweets home and give them to people in their villages. In front of the temple a shop sells tulasi leaves to place on sweets bought to be offered to Ranchor Raya.
Apart from Ranchor Raya, Dakor is also famous for go a, lo a, and pho a. Go a means a local variant of pakora (batter-dipped, deep-fried vegetable) made with coarse chickpea sour and fenugreek leaves and served with yogurt. Lo a means a drinking cup; many copper, steel, and aluminium lo as are available in Dakor. Pho a means a photo of the deity. These are the things people like to buy.
Groups Of Worshipers
There are 227 brahmana families living in Dakor. They are extended families, so there's a large population of brahmanas. They don't belong to any particular lineage, but the families are divided into three groups: Tapodhanas, Kaowas, and Sri Gauras. The Tapodhanas were the original residents when Dakor was just a place in the jungle, but they were considered ineligible for temple services, so other kinds of brahmanas were called in.
As is common in temples where many brahmana families perform the worship, the brahmanas take turns serving the deity (for periods of some weeks) and have other occupations the rest of the time. Half of the temple's annual income is divided among the brahmana families. The temple receives money in its collection box, by selling prasadam, and by renting shops and residences in a large area around the temple.
The temple management puts the other half of its income into three trusts: the temple trust fund, the goshala (cow farm) trust fund, and the Thakurapura trust—a donated village area of 1,820 acres. All the milk the cows produce is used in the temple kitchen. Although four hundred cows give milk, the huge quantity of food cooked daily (in ghee) for Ranchor Raya requires that the temple buy more ghee from another goshala, in Rajkot.
Many residents of Dakor visit the temple three times a day: at mangala-arati, at midday (which for many means closing their shops for a while), and in the evening.
After spending most of the morning experiencing the bustle of the temple on Purnima, we visited the home of Ashok Bhai, a local merchant our devotees have befriended. Then we met Guha Dasa, a local ISKCON devotee, who had invited us to his home for lunch.
We returned to the temple at 5:30 in the evening. Crowds were still around. A horse about to be used for a temple procession looked high-strung—jumping, prancing. Within the temple compound is a scale for weighing yourself. A sign suggests you donate to the goshala the equivalent of your weight in gold, silver, rupees, rice, cloth, sugar, or anything else.
Ranchor Raya receives seven offerings of food daily, and the cooking goes on nonstop. We had hoped to go into the kitchen and take photos, but we were not allowed in. We could smell cumin seeds frying in ghee. The evening offering is called Chapan-bhog, which means "fifty-six items offered for the Lord's pleasure." We made an arrangement with a pujari (priest) to sample Chapan-bhog after it had been offered.
After 6:00 P.M., the Lord's clothes and ornaments are removed in public view and He's dressed for the night. Everyone watches. In the rush, we were shoved and pushed around—not with malice, but with eagerness to see the Lord. Some people called out, "Krsna Kanaiya . . . " and others finished the refrain: " . . . Lala, ki jaya!" ("All glories to the darling boy Krsna.") Someone else cried, "Ranchor . . . " and everyone responded, ". . . Raya, ki jaya!" Ranchor Raya's bright pink dress was changed to a night outfit of orange-red. The cloth used to make His turban is long, like that of villagers, and intertwined to make a thick cloth helmet that protects from the summer heat and winter cold.
Soon we were looking at the fifty-six items of prasada. After being offered, the items are brought to a room and divided. All the pots are solid silver. On Diwali, gold pots are used for the offerings. Rice, dhal, kharhi, dokla, papad, puris, sweets, kacoris, capatis, paratha, acar, huge jalebis, goa, sabjis, kaman, srikhand, gulabjamun . . . Outside the room, people stood at the grill gates and offered prayers to the prasada.
We exited the temple at eight in the evening. As the full moon rose, the temple was closing and everyone was leaving. The guards waited to lock up. A few people came late and put boxes of sweets outside the main gate. They left them there a few minutes as an offering to Ranchor Raya and then took them away as prasada.
To end our visit, the pujari Ashok Sevak, an ISKCON Life Member, brought us to his house to sample the Chapan-bhog. We had good appetites—maybe because of walking around all day orthe cool night air. You could say it was just Ranchor Raya's mercy that we were blessed to taste many of the fifty-six items. As Srila Prabhupada writes: "The power to taste, when one enjoys by eating prasada, is perfected." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.21.13, Purport) How was the Chapan- bhog? If you want to know, then come to Dakor and find out for yourself.
Bhakti Vikasa Swami, originally from England, has lived in India for many years. He teaches Krsna consciousness at the ISKCON center in Baroda, Gujarat. He is a frequent contributor to BTG.
Our thanks to Tattvavit Dasa for his help in putting together this article.
For more on Dakor, visit www.krishna.com.
Getting to Dakor
DAKOR is a short bus ride from Baroda or Ahmedabad, cities well linked by plane, train, and bus with other major Indian cities. You can go to Baroda, Ahmedabad, Anand, or Vallabh Vidyanagar—in all these places there are ISKCON centers—and get buses to Dakor. By bus it takes one and a half hours to go to Dakor from Ahmedabad or Baroda, and less from Anand or Vallabh Vidyanagar.
Devotees wishing to have darsana of Rancor Raya may visit ISKCON's center in Baroda. Devotees there can guide you on how to go to Dakor and what to do while there.
Accommodations in Dakor: Dharmashalas (simple, inexpensive rooms for pilgrims) are available, but most people don't stay overnight.
In The Times of the Mahabharata, the Dakor area was a pleasant jungle rich with streams and lakes. Danka asi was one of several sages residing in ashrams there, and after pleasing Lord Siva he requested him to remain in his hermitage. Lord Siva agreed and appeared there in his linga form, still known as Dankanath Mahadev. Thus in ancient times Dakor was known asDankapura.
When Lord Krsna and Bhima went to the hermitage of Danka asi, Krsna asked the sage to request a benediction from Him. Danka asi requested that Krsna, like Lord Siva, stay in his hermitage permanently. Krsna promised that after staying in Dwarka for some time, in Kali-yuga He would come to live in Dankapura.
Danka asi's desire was eventually fulfilled by Bodana, a great devotee of Krsna, in the 1200s. In a previous birth Bodana is supposed to have lived in Gokula, where Krsna gave him the boon to be born in Gujarat in Kali-yuga and again have His darsana.
A rajput of Dakor, Bodana was a staunch devotee. He grew tulasi and traveled to Dwarka every six months to worship Krsna with tulasi leaves. He did this unfailingly until he turned 72 and found it difficult to continue. Seeing his plight, Krsna appeared in his dream and told him that on his next visit to Dwarka he should bring a bullock cart with him and then He (as the deity) would accompany him back to Dakor.
When Bodana arrived in Dwarka, the priests asked him why he had brought a cart this time. Bodana replied that he had come to take the deity of Lord Krsna away. Looking at the rickety cart, the priests didn't believe him, but they locked the temple that night just in case. At midnight, Krsna broke open the doors, awoke Bodana, and told him to take Him to Dakor.
When the brahmanas found the deity missing, they rushed to Dakor in pursuit. Bodana was frightened, but Krsna told Bodana to hide Him and meet the priests. The priests became angry, and one of them threw a spear at Bodana and killed him. Bodana achieved liberation.
Lord Krsna then directed Bodana's wife to give the brahmanas the equivalent of His weight in gold and tell them to return to Dwarka. The poor woman could not afford to do so. But by a miracle, the deity became as light as her gold nosering (five grams), which was all the gold she had. The brahmanas were disappointed, but the Lord mercifully told them that after six months they would find an exact replica of His deity in a well in Dwarka, which, of course, they did.
Jaya Damodara Dasa studied at Vallabh Vidyanagar and is now married and lives close to the ISKCON Baroda temple, which he regularly visits. He assists Bhakti Vikasa Swami in writing projects and performs other services at ISKCON Baroda.
A tribute to
By Syamasundara Dasa
Los Angeles, December 2, 2001.
THIS WAS THE FIRST thing you said to me, George, in that winter of '68: "I've been waiting to meet you—where have you been?" Well, here I am again, George—and there you are. And from that time till now there never was an edge between us, so closely have we traveled the same trails through time...
Picking up where we had last left off, in that roomful of rock-stars, promoters, and delirious fans, we huddled shut off from their puzzle and envy and yakked about the Absolute, who you knew to be a Person—yeah, yeah, and yeah, you said, and who am I to be telling you that Krsna is the Supreme Person, the All-Attractive Person—"attracts me like no other lover"—(later you said you had to say "she" or everyone would think you a "poof")—and who am I to say the way to God's heart is through love (you, minstrel of love to the world)? Ah, but you must meet my master, Bhaktivedanta Swami, I said that day. He's so wise and beautiful . . .
O Prabhupada, my beloved spiritual master! I can't forget how you dress yourself slowly, and keenly observe each cloth before choosing, lifting your thread to drape on your shoulder while you tie and tuck your dhoti with care; nor can I take my eyes off your pink fingers at the buttonholes, knowing sometimes you lean forward for me to finish off the one at the neck.
Watching you shave always had me in stitches, and the wide intent eyes and grimaces as you swiveled the mirror to check that your tilaka was straight—or to check on a possible loose tooth.
I remember the soft golden sesh of your shoulder—and the surprising hard tissues below; the flow of blue veins under forearms, behind knees, how they throbbed with a cool even pulse as you lounged in the sun—and roared with power when you danced all day!
The overwhelming beauty of your face and mouth, the mobile ease and perfect lines of cheeks and crinkles wrapping around and punctuating another perfect mood; your dancing eyes, now somber, unmoving in thought—now wide and full of mischief and glee!
Like now! Late '60s London, reclined at ease on your embroidered bolster, both legs stretched out straight, it's times like this beyond all doubt I know there is a Perfect Person, and I am seeing you, and God knows why or how but somehow or other I'm explaining to you the American game of baseball—or updating you on the price of gold—or asking you to define "Being" or "Time"—or introducing you—yes, come in, come in—to my new friend George Harrison, who approaches you now, bows down with his long hair sopping and with a grin as big as yours, says Hare Krsna!
With wonder and a pleasure so deep my shoulders tingle, I watch you two, ancient souls playing question-and-answer, posing this way and that, Prabhupada popping his eyes with delight, the Master of Charm himself—and George, how you laughed and hooted at absurd reality stripped of mirrors and its neon shell, drinking in like a thirsty soldier everything he said—
"Oops! Must go now, my chariot awaits, lunch with the queen, poems to polish—"
"Got a lot of work to do, Try to get a message through!"
And off you dashed to save the world, attacking ignorance with your sword of satire, rescuing fallen souls from material dungeons, and singing your love songs to Krsna:
Give me love, give me love,
What a brave young platoon we were then, Captain George and a handful of devotees: The chart-busting Radha Krishna Temple!—with Prabhupada our Commander-in-Chief.
"What's the time now, Syamasundara?"
"It's 1968, George, 1969, 1970, 71, 72 and 3."
You've just phoned from Sicily to our freezing flat in Covent Garden, to sing me long-distance a little ditty you'd just cooked up, wondering if I thought anyone'd like it: "Here comes the sun, here comes the sun, ah say it's all right now dah dah dah dah dah . . ."
"Yeah, George . . ."
Or walking down Regent Street, you look at me and say, "That's a first—more people are lookin' at you than me!"
How about that time in Paris, at Maxim's Restaurant, hounded by hordes of press-people, you and I sliding a hundred miles an hour down that laundry chute in our escape, to land in that huge pile of dirty sheets? And me slugging and dragging paparazzi off the cobble-stoned street in front of your get-away cab . . .
Or how about those early months at Friar Park, crashed out in our sleeping bags, a hundred rooms, no heat, no furniture. And those early mornings when you'd return from an all-night session, piling into the kitchen (the only warm room in the house) with your rock-n-roll side-men, alive with some new tune you'd hatched that night—"What d'ya think of this one, Syamsundara—we call it 'My Sweet Lord'—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna..."
Early days Friar Park when you sew the skull-and-crossbones: You and I strapping those silly same-throwers on our backs and attacking the ivy, brambles, Commies and Nazis with wild abandon . . .
Twelve cases of rubies I sent you from my mine in India you spread on the walkway around your swimming pool . . .
Or a couple years back when you scared the holy bejesus out of Mukunda and me flying down that Oxfordshire country lane at 150 miles an hour in your latest wonder car—"Use my body like a car, Taking me both near and far, met my friends all in the material world"—this car's body you had decorated at great cost with thousands and thousands of tiny Hare Krsna mantras . . .
And remember our days in India! How delicately you laid a tiny blossom at Lord Krsna's feet in Vrindavan—and then grabbed a stick to chase away the monkeys! How you looked into my camera on that rooftop with all the trees and parrots and bells and temples of Vrindavan spread out below you, and said: "Still Krsna after all these years..."
A lot of adventures, pranks, and love we shared again this time around, George. You've always been the lucky one. Now I pray you've won the prize of prizes: Sitting—or singing—or dancing—or driving a fast car somewhere with Krsna, playing with your Sweet Lord at last—and Prabhupada nearby.
Well, drop us a line from time to time, George, give a ring.
I only pray someday I'll be back on that trail again, together with you and Prabhupada—I just hope it doesn't take so long for me to find you again, next time.
Living through a million years of crying,
—From "Art of Dying," 1970
Syamasundara Dasa, one of Prabhupada's first disciples, joined the Hare Krsna movement in San Francisco in 1967.
(A summary of Lord Krsna's Vrndavana pastimes)
by Srila Rupa Gosvami
Poeticized translation of Text 1 by Draviada Dasa
Jiyan nama murarer prema-marandasya navyam aravindam
All glories to the holy name of Krsna, Mura's foe!
The conditioned soul is forced to act under the pressure of the modes of material nature. The living entity has no independence. When he is under the direction of the Supreme Personality of Godhead he is free, but when, under the impression that he is satisfying his senses, he engages in sense gratificatory activities, he is actually under the spell of material nature.
His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
The desire to gratify one's own senses is kama (lust), but the desire to please the senses of Lord Krsna is prema (love).
Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami
Even though in this world we don't get to meet many devotees from the spiritual world, the conversations and pastimes of the devotees of [Caitanya] Mahaprabhu's time eternally exist in the form of books and sound, and that is why we do not feel so much pain from material troubles. If we live here in the association of the words of the spiritual world, then the memory of this association will keep us at a distance from material misery.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura
To those who are constantly devoted to serving Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me.
Lord Sri Krsna
We wrongly look upon Krsna and Balarama as ordinary human beings, as whirling men see the whole world whirling around them.
Under no circumstances can the words of persons bewildered by the illusory energy of the Lord deviate the intelligence of those who are completely surrendered souls.
Do not put faith in this temporary material body, because Yamaraja, the lord of death, is waiting next to you. The flow of karma is just like the ocean of sorrow. Consider this properly and worship the lotus feet of Radha and Krsna with attachment under the guidance of saints and scriptures.
Srila Narottama Dasa Thakura