Back to Godhead Magazine

Volume 36, Number 02, 2002


Founder's Lecture: Mayapur, India—March 27,...
My Mother's Transformation
Srila Prabhupada Speaks Out
A New Web Site
Coming Back To Vrndavana
Karna's Choice
Doctors of Body and Soul
"My Devotee Is Always Saintly"
Spiritual Places
Lord Caitanya's Eight Teachings
From the Editor
Vedic Thoughts

© 2005 The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International


THIS ISSUE coincides with one of our most important annual festivals: Sri Gaura Purnima, the anniversary of the appearance of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. As Srila Prabhupada explains in "The Devotional Form of Krsna," Lord Caitanya is Krsna Himself. He made His divine descent in Mayapur, West Bengal, in A.D. 1486 and started the movement centered on chanting the holy names of the Lord.

Srila Prabhupada carried Lord Caitanya's movement to the West. Today his organization, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, has hundreds of farms, temples, and restaurants around the world.

In this issue, we visit one of those farms, in western Hungary, where a growing community of 150 devotees is pursuing the simple life with Krsna in the center.

We see the reach of Lord Caitanya's movement in other articles in this issue. "Doctors of Body and Soul" tells of a devotee couple, both doctors, who are always ready to answer spiritual questions from their students and patients. In New York City, university students attend a series of lectures about "Lord Caitanya's Eight Teachings." And, thanks to Lord Caitanya's representative in the form of her son, a mother finds Krsna in the final months of her life.

Hare Krsna.—Nagaraja Dasa, Editor

Our Purposes

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

Use back button to return.

Return to top


Transcendental Gift

This transcendental gift that Srila Prabhupada gave us—BTG—is a wonderful treasure. I feel ecstatic when I get my BTG. The article about our dear George [January/February] and the words by Syamasundara Prabhu gave happiness to my soul. Thank you for the wonderful service. Thank you millions of times.

Premananda Gaura Dasa
Alachua, Florida

Copies for Friends

Excellent issue. Especially the articles about George, and especially "My Sweet George." Excellent writing. I am grateful to BTG for a job well done. I plan on ordering five copies for friends here in Lee County.

Robert Covington, Jr.
Cape Coral, Florida

What George Did for Us

I wanted everyone involved to know how much I enjoyed the January/February issue of Back to Godhead. One of the reasons, I admit, is your fine tribute to George Harrison. George was known throughout the world as a popular musician with the Beatles. As a musical group they changed the world in hairstyles, attitude, and youth culture. But what did George end up doing for me and for many other devotees around the world? He introduced us to Krsna consciousness in such a way that we weren't reached before. Because of him I bought my first copy of the Gita, and it was through George that I heard the chants and the songs of the Radha Krishna Temple.

Thank you for reminding us what George was like. I eternally thank George for being my true friend, and I hope Krsna has blessed him with His presence.

Robert Koenig
Mineola, New York


Thanks for being the torchlight of millions of aspiring devotees. The feelings after reading BTG are something really fascinating. I hope it maintains its uninterrupted and unmotivated service towards the fallen conditioned souls like me.

Vikramaditya Pandit
Via the Internet

Chanting Is for Everybody

I would like to congratulate you for the very nice picture [of two women chanting] on page 43 of the November/December issue. For the common people, it gives encouragement that every-body may join the sankirtana movement of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and for devotees, it is a reminder of the sincerity in chanting everybody may get, whether in Vaisnava or Western dress. Thank you.

Hamsa Rupa Dasa
Via the Internet

Perspective on Tragedy

The issue [November/December] arrived right on time to guide me through the spiritual travels of the Krsna consciousness realm. I greatly enjoyed the article titled "Feelings and Philosophy: Reactions to the Terrorist Attacks." I have often wondered how to properly react to devastation and loss due to temporariness. Thank you for sharing the views of the contributors of this article, as the tragedy of 9/11/01 needed to be explained from a Krsna consciousness perspective concerning our service in the face of many more tragic events to come.

Kalki Dasa
Crescent City, California

No Eggs

We are vegetarians and do not eat meat, fish, poultry, or eggs. Our question for you is: Are eggs acceptable to eat if they are unfertilized?

We have contacted some of the egg manufacturers here in the U.S., and they have told us that commercial eggs are unfertilized. So we were wondering if it is okay to eat these eggs, since they are not fertilized.

Ashvin and Falguni Patel
Via the Internet

OUR REPLY: It is Vaisnava practice not to eat any eggs, fertilized or unfertilized, because in either case they are considered low-class food and detrimental to spiritual consciousness. We're not aware of a specific scriptural reference on this point, but Srila Prabhupada, our spiritual guide, told us not to eat any eggs. That is the tradition. He taught that fruits, nuts, vegetables, grains, and milk products are meant for human beings. These kinds of foods are indicated by Krsna's request that we offer Him "a leaf, a flower, fruit, or water." Above all other considerations, our diet is dictated by what Krsna wants.

Sixteen-Year Reader

I have been receiving your magazine now for sixteen years, and I still have every copy. I read it from cover to cover, and over the years I have ordered tapes, CDs, and books from the Bazaar. I think this magazine is the best Vaisnava magazine I have ever read. Keep up the good work. I think that Srila Prabhupada would be extremely proud of what the staff of this magazine have achieved since his passing in 1977.

Atmananda Dasa
Via the Internet

Touched by "Where to Die?"

I have been reading Back to Godhead for sometime. I was deeply touched by the article "Where to Die?: Is Vrndavana the only choice for devotees of Lord Krsna?" by Sarvabhauma Dasa (January/February). Very few people think about their own death, even though they see their kith and kin dying around them.

It brought tears of joy to my eyes when I read (on page 30) that His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada "considered it helpful when devotees chanted while he and others were departing from this world." This was also apparent when the spiritual Beatle, George Harrison, left this material world. News reports said that Hare Krsna devotees kept chanting at his bedside in the hospital during his final hours.

His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada concludes his purport to verse 2.11 in Bhagavad-gita As It Is by stating, "The body is not as important as the soul. One who knows this is actually learned, and for him there is no cause for lamentation, regardless of the condition of the material body." Sarvabhauma Dasa affirms in his article (in the sidebar on page 29) that His Divine Grace Srila 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."

Thank you for carrying out the blessed task of spreading Krsna's holy names.

Suk Shah
Woodbury, Minnesota

Please write to us at: BTG, P.O. Box 430, Alachua, FL 32616, USA. Or: BTG, 33 Janki Kutir, Next to State Bank of Hyderabad, Juhu, Mumbai 400 049, India. [Phone: (022) 618-1718.] E-mail:


Several readers objected to the painting showing Lord Krsna and Srila Prabhupada (January/February). Although the painting was meant to be symbolic, Brahmananda Dasa, one of Prabhupada's first disciples, informed us that Prabhupada said that in our disciplic succession the acarya is never shown with Krsna. We regret the error and apologize to readers disturbed by the painting.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

Founder's Lecture: Mayapur, India—March 27, 1975:
The Devotional Form Of Krsna

Learning how to love and serve
God is so important that God
Himself comes to teach it.

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

yad advaitam brahmopanisadi tad apy asya tanu-bha
ya atmantar-yami purusa iti so 'syamsa-vibhavah
sad-aisvaryaih purno ya iha bhagavan sa svayam ayam
na caitanyat krsnaj jagati para-tattvam param iha

"What the Upanisads describe as the impersonal Brahman is but the effulgence of His body, and the Lord known as the Supersoul is but His localized plenary portion. Lord Caitanya is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna Himself, full with six opulences. He is the Absolute Truth, and no other truth is greater than or equal to Him."—Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila 1.3

THE AUTHOR OF Caitanya-caritamrta, Krsna dasa Kaviraja Gosvami, is establishing with great stress that there is no greater truth than Krsna Caitanya. We are after truth. The author of Caitanya-caritamrta is asserting, "Here is the Supreme Truth: Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu."

Krsna has appeared as Krsna Caitanya. We explained this truth yesterday, according to Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya's declaration:

siksartham ekah purusah puranah
krpambudhir yas tam aham prapadye

"Let me take shelter of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krsna, who has descended in the form of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu to teach us real knowledge, devotional service to Him, and detachment from whatever does not foster Krsna consciousness. He has descended because He is an ocean of transcendental mercy. Let me surrender unto His lotus feet."

The purusah puranah, the oldest person, is Krsna. Govindam adi-purusam tam aham bhajami: "I worship Govinda [Krsna], the primeval Lord." In many Vedic scriptures Krsna is described as the puranah purusah, the oldest person. Puranah purusam nava-yauvanam ca: "Although He is the oldest of all, still He is always a fresh youth."

How it this possible? People are trying to understand God. Sometimes they paint a picture of God as a very old man. "Because He is the original person, by this time He must have become very old." That is imagination. That old man is not actually the form of the Lord. The form of the Lord is described in the Brahma-samhita and other Vedic scriptures. Even Sankaracarya, an impersonalist, has accepted Lord Krsna as the supreme Narayana, the Personality of Godhead. Commenting on the Bhagavad-gita, Sankaracarya says, narayanah parah avyaktat: "Narayana is beyond the material creation." And while describing Narayana, he has affirmed, sa bhagavan svayam krsnah: "Narayana is Krsna." To confirm this he has clearly mentioned, "Now He has appeared as the son of Devaki and Vasudeva," because a person's identity is confirmed when his father's name is given.

Krsna is accepted as para-tattva, the Supreme Truth, by all the acaryas, the great spiritual teachers in the Vedic tradition. We are not talking of the fools and rascals who theorize without any knowledge. We are concerned with the authorities. In India, people follow the Vedic system under the authority of the acaryas. Acaryavan puruso veda: "One who follows the path of the acaryas has real knowledge." We cannot accept anyone as an authority if he does not follow the parampara, the disciplic succession of acaryas. That is the Vedic system.

Proof By Vedic Evidence

Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami is emphatically asserting, na caitanyat krsnaj jagati para-tattvam param iha: "There is no greater truth than Krsna and Krsna Caitanya." According to the Vedic system, if you say something emphatically you must prove it by Vedic evidence. Otherwise, you can go on talking, but nobody will listen. Sometimes people ask us about Krsna and Caitanya Mahaprabhu—"What are the Vedic evidences?" The Vedic evidences are given in later chapters of Caitanya-caritamrta. Kaviraja Gosvami is not falsely asserting. He is a very, very advanced devotee and scholar, not an ordinary human being. To write Caitanya-caritamrta he was empowered by Madana-mohana, a Deity of Krsna in Vrndavana.

No ordinary person should try to write Vedic literature. Vedic literature means the sruti, the smrti, the Puranas, and so on. Srila Rupa Gosvami has confirmed this:

pancaratra-vidhim vina
aikantiki harer bhaktir
utpatayaiva kalpate

"Devotional service to the Lord that ignores the authorized Vedic literature like the Upanisads, Puranas, and Narada-pancaratra is simply a needless disturbance in society." Utpata means "simply a disturbance." People claim, "I can manufacture my own way." But this rascaldom has been condemned by Srila Rupa Gosvami. You will find many so-called bhaktas, devotees, imitating the ecstasy of advanced devotees by crying, falling on the ground, and so on. But immediately after their exhibition you will see them smoking. Why? Because they do not follow the injunction of Srila Rupa Gosvami. They chant very loudly, dance, and after the performance is finished—I have seen it—"Can you give me a bidi [cigarette]?" You see? "My throat is now dried up." This is utpata. Srila Rupa Gosvami has described this kind of so-called devotional attitude as simply a disturbance.

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura has condemned these imitators. There are so many apa-sampradayas, deviant sects, pretending to be Caitanya Mahaprabhu's devotees. Who are they? Aula, baula, kartabhaja, neda, daravesa, sani, sahajiya, sakhibheki, smarta, jata-gosani, ativadi, cudadhari, and gauranga-nagari. Bhaktivinoda says, "I do not associate with these classes of men." After the disappearance of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, many apa-sampradayas sprang up. We should be very careful not to be fooled by them.

Sampradaya means those who carefully follow the Vedic principles. Therefore Kaviraja Gosvami, although as-serting the truth, is prepared to give Vedic evidences. Now with today's verse he has begun, by citing the Upanisads. The Vedic literature includes the four Vedas, the Upanisads, the Puranas, the Ramayana, the Vedanta-sutra, then the Srimad-Bhagavatam.

The Srimad-Bhagavatam is the explanation of the Vedanta-sutra. Therefore at the end of each chapter of the Srimad-Bhagavatam Vyasadeva states, brahma-sutrasya bhasya: "The Srimad-Bhagavatam is the commentary on the Brahma-sutra." Brahma-sutra, or Vedanta-sutra, gives the gist of the Vedic literature in codes. And the Srimad-Bhagavatam explains these codes. The Vedanta-sutra begins, athato brahma-jijnasa: "Now is the time to inquire into the Absolute Truth." And the Srimad-Bhagavatam states, jivasya tattva-jijnasa: "The only business for living beings is to inquire about the Absolute Truth."

That is the only business. People are in trouble because they have given up their real business. Human life is meant for this business—brahma-jijnasa, to inquire about the Absolute Truth. We human beings have been given so many facilities by nature. There are so many living entities who must stand rooted to the ground for many years—the trees, the plants. The aquatics are in the water for many, many years. The flies and insects remain in their condition for many, many years. And gradually, by the soul's evolution, we come to this form of human life.

The Aryans, especially—the advanced, civilized human beings—have all the necessary facilities for inquiry about the Absolute Truth. Uncivilized men, such as those living in the jungle, cannot utilize such resources. Therefore Narottama Dasa Thakura, in a simple Bengali song, says, hari hari biphale janama gonainu: "O Lord Hari, Krsna, I've wasted my life." This is our position. We have the human form of life, but we are simply spoiling it. In the Krsna consciousness movement we are traveling all over the world, and according to our view, how people are spoiling their very valuable human life in the false identification that "I am this body! Under big, big names—"I am American," "I am Indian," "I am German"—they are spoiling their life by this bodily conception.

According to sastra, scripture, anyone who identifies himself with his body is a fool. That is the first instruction of the Bhagavad-gita. Krsna brought Arjuna to fight with the Kurus, and because Arjuna identified himself as the body, Arjuna thought, "Killing my cousin-brothers will not be good, because I have a bodily relation with them." So to dissipate that conception of life, Krsna rebuked him, asocyan anvasocas tvam prajna-vadams ca bhasase: "While speaking learned words, you are mourning for what is not worthy of grief."

We are talking very big talks and plans, but actually we are nothing better than cats and dogs. This is our position, because we identify with the body. "My country, my community, my society, my family." This is the basic ignorance. Aham mameti: "I and my." People do not know the truth. They are thinking, "I am this body, and anything in relationship with the body is mine." This is ignorance. But this ignorance is going on all over the world.

Therefore in the beginning of the Caitanya-caritamrta the author says:

vande sri-krsna-caitanya-
nityanandau sahoditau
gaudodaye puspavantau
citrau sandau tamo-nudau

"I offer my respectful obeisances unto Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Lord Nityananda, who are like the sun and moon. They have arisen simultaneously on the horizon of Gauda to dissipate the darkness of ignorance and thus wonderfully bestow benediction upon all." Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Nityananda Prabhu have come to deliver the fallen souls of the material world who are in the darkness of false conceptions. Somebody just told me that the king of Saudi Arabia has been killed by his own nephew. This is going on. Even in family affairs it is going on. Why? Because of this darkness: aham mameti, "I and mine."

The First Lesson

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu along with His associates—Nityananda Prabhu, Advaita Prabhu, Gadadhara Prabhu, Srivasa, and other devotees—are trying to dissipate the darkness of this false identification. Krsna instructed Arjuna about Arjuna's darkness as to his identity. Krsna chided him, "You are talking very big, big words, but you are lamenting about a subject for which no learned person laments." Then Krsna said, gatasun agatasums ca nanusocanti panditah: "You are fool number one. No learned person talks like that. Now try to understand the real position."

Krsna then said:

dehino 'smin yatha dehe
kaumaram yauvanam jara
tatha dehantara-praptir
dhiras tatra na muhyati

"As the embodied soul continuously passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. A sober person is not bewildered by such a change." Or in other words, "First of all try to understand what you are."

That is the beginning of Bhagavad-gita. Bhagavad-gita is not politics. It is knowledge, pure knowledge. The politicians take advantage of it, and the sociologists and the so-called swamis and yogis take advantage of it to try to prove their nonsensical theories. But what they present is not at all Bhagavad-gita. Bhagavad-gita "as it is" is pure knowledge, beginning with the first knowledge one has to understand: that we are not the body. Because the basic principle of ignorance is this: "I am this body," "I am American," "I am Indian," "I am a brahmana," "I am this," "I am that."

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu points out the same ignorance in a different way. He says, "I am not a brahmana. I am not a ksatriya [warrior]. I am not a vaisya [merchant]. I am not a sudra [laborer]. I am not a brahmacari [celibate student]. I am not a grhastha [householder]. I am not a vanaprastha [retired person]. I am not a sannyasi [renunciant]." These are negations. Then what is the positive? He says, gopi-bhartuh pada-kamalayor dasa-dasanudasah: "I am the servant of the servant of the servant of the gopi-bhartuh, Krsna, who maintains the gopis, His cowherd girlfriends."

So this is also our identity, but we have forgotten. We have forgotten our real relationship with Krsna, and we are trying to be happy by material adjustments. This is modern civilization. One is thinking, "If I get a nice house, a nice motorcar, a nice business, a nice bank balance, a nice wife, nice children . . ." This is material civilization. But people do not know that this way they will never be happy. Now, you Europeans and Americans have a good qualification: As I have described many times, you are no longer very much interested in all these "nice" things. The real nice thing is spiritual understanding. That nice thing begins, aham brahmasmi: "I am not this body." That is the beginning of the Bhagavad-gita. Krsna is instructing Arjuna, "You are not this body. You are spirit soul. Try to understand."

Unchanged Message

We should learn from Krsna. We should learn from Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who is Krsna Himself. Therefore the author of Caitanya-caritamrta says, "Accept this authority."

When Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu appeared five hundred years ago, people had already become fools and rascals. They did not care for the teachings of the Bhagavad-gita. Therefore He came as a devotee of Krsna to teach us how to serve Krsna, how to love Krsna. This is Caitanya Mahaprabhu's cult. When Krsna appeared He said, sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja: "Give up everything, all your rascaldom. Just surrender to Me." And Caitanya Mahaprabhu, as a devotee, said the same thing. Yare dekha, tare kaha krsna-upadesa: "Whomever you meet, tell him about Krsna's instructions." Lord Caitanya said nothing new. That is the sign of authenticity. Those who say "I have manufactured some way" are all rascals. In your country it is said, "Old wine in a new bottle." Similarly, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is teaching the same thing as Krsna. Krsna says, mattah parataram nanyat kincid asti dhananjaya: "There is no truth superior to Me." Caitanya Mahaprabhu says the same thing: yare dekha, tare kaha krsna-upadesa. And we are saying the same thing, na caitanyat krsnaj jagati para-tattvam: "There is no truth superior to Krsna Caitanya." Why? Because He is the same truth as Krsna. This is called the parampara system: We are repeating what Krsna said and what Caitanya Mahaprabhu said.

So it is not difficult to understand the Absolute Truth. Krsna says directly, "Surrender to Me." And Caitanya Mahaprabhu says, "Preach Krsna's message." We are not going to teach anything but what is spoken by Krsna and supported by Krsna Caitanyadeva. This is our principle. This is the principle of the Krsna consciousness movement. Krsna preached about Himself, Caitanya Mahaprabhu preached the same principle, and we are preaching the same thing. We do not preach anything else. We do not manufacture anything. That is not our business.

By the grace of Krsna, by the mercy of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, you European boys and girls joined this movement at my soliciting. I went to your country with this word only. I did not show you any magic, nor do I have any knowledge of how to play magic. I simply repeat the same message: "Here is Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Here is Krsna Caitanyadeva, the devotional form of Krsna. Accept Them, and your life will be successful."

Thank you very much.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

My Mother's Transformation

"I once asked her if she believed in God,
and she replied, 'Something may be out there.'"

By Indradyumna Swami

March 7-14, 2001

FROM THE MUNDANE view, I was flying home. I was born and raised in San Francisco before joining the Krsna consciousness movement in 1970. But there's nothing left for me there now. Both my parents have passed away, and my brothers and sisters are scattered throughout the country. Nevertheless, as I looked out of the plane window, memories of my childhood came to mind, bringing with them sentiments not worthy of my attention. I quickly caught myself and came back to reality, remembering the written words of my spiritual master—reflections on his own family members with the passing of time:

Where have my affectionate
Father and mother gone now?
And where are all my elders and other relatives,
Who were my own folk?

Who will give me news of them now?
I ask you—tell me who?
All that is left of this so-called family
Is a list of their names.

As the froth upon the sea water
Arises for a moment and then subsides,
The play of maya's worldly illusion
Is exactly like that.

No one is actually a mother or father,
A family member or relative.
Everyone is just like foam on the sea water,
Remaining in view for only a few moments.

But all of us are actually relatives,
O brothers, on the platform of pure spirit soul.
These eternal relationships are not tinged
With the temporary delusions of maya.

The Supreme Lord is Himself
The ultimate soul of everyone.
In their eternal relationship to Him,
Everyone in the universe is equal.

—Srila Prabhupada, Vrindavan Bhajan, circa 1958

Srila Prabhupada writes that no one is our "mother or father" but rather "everyone in the universe is equal." In other words, all of us are equal as brothers and sisters because we have one common father, God. A devotee of the Lord takes every opportunity to remind all conditioned souls of this fact. Therefore, although a devotee may renounce the idea that he is part of a particular family, society, or nation, he is not at all averse to helping even his own "mother and father" in Krsna consciousness. In fact, simply having a devotee in one's family benefits that family immensely. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati writes:

When a great saint, a pure devotee, appears in a family, his ancestors and descendants for a hundred generations are elevated. When a devotee of middle stature (madhyam bhagavat) appears in a family, his ancestors and descendants for fourteen generations are elevated. When a neophyte devotee appears in a family, his ancestors and descendants for three generations are elevated.—Srila Prabhupader Upadesamrta ("The Nectarean Instructions of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada")

I tried my best to help my own mother in spiritual life. Unfortunately, throughout most of her life she never showed the slightest interest in religion. I once asked her if she believed in God, and she replied, "Something may be out there." Whenever I visited her we would often debate the existence of the soul, life after death, karma, and similar topics. Throughout the years I continued cultivating that little "something" in her heart by sending her Srila Prabhupada's books, which invariably ended up in a pile at the back of her garage collecting grease and dust.

A few years ago she telephoned me late one night. It was an unusual hour to call, and I was surprised to hear from her. She began the conversation by asking if I would take her to Vrndavana, India.

I was shocked. I thought, "Mother wants to go to Vrndavana, the land of Krsna's birth! What is this? How does she even know what Vrndavana is?"

But she insisted and wanted to know when we could go. Although intrigued at the prospect of taking my mother to Vrndavana, because it was late (and I was very tired) I told her I'd call her back early the next morning and we could discuss the matter in detail. I woke up refreshed the next day, and after my shower excitedly dialed her phone number. My brother answered.

I said, "Pete, can I speak to Mom?"

There was a prolonged silence, and I sensed something was wrong. Finally, his voice choked with emotion, he replied, "Mom passed away last night."

I was stunned.

"What happened?" I asked. "I talked to Mom only last night!"

"I know," he said. "She had been battling cancer for six months. She didn't want to tell you."

Collecting myself, I said, "Cancer! Did she say anything at the end?"

"Yes, she did," he replied. "She said, 'Don't lament for me! I'm not this body. I'm eternal spirit soul. I'll never die. I'm going to Krsna!' With those words on her lips, she passed away."

I couldn't believe it. My mother, the intellectual who never went to church, who never inquired about God—debated His very existence—was "going to Krsna!"

I asked my brother, "But how is it possible Mom said those things at death?"

He replied, "When Mom learned she had cancer and was going to die, a strange transformation came over her. She became restless and unsettled. She began asking about you, wanting to know where you were and what you were doing. She had an intense desire to meet with you, to speak with you. But when I suggested calling you she'd always say, 'No, don't bother him now. We'll contact him later.'

"One morning I went out to the garage to empty the garbage, and I found her going through all those books you had sent her during the past twenty-five years. She looked up at me and asked me to carry them into the house. That afternoon she carefully dusted them off. For the last five months she just sat in her rocking chair reading those books. Sometimes she'd underline a certain passage or quote that had particular relevance or importance to her. She also contacted your tape ministry in London and ordered all your lecture tapes. She'd listen to them on her headphones, rocking back and forth in her armchair, looking at your picture, which she kept on the table nearby. She must have listened to at least three a day.

"Gradually her condition deteriorated, but she wasn't afraid. I think there was something in those books that made her fearless. Then last night she sensed she was going to die. She told me to call you. Her last request was that you take her to a place called Vrndavana."

I put the phone down and cried—not out of mundane sentiment or attachment, but in appreciation that my spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, had extended his mercy to my mother and delivered her from material existence.

I went home for the memorial service and arranged her estate. Just before I was leaving to return to Europe, my brother and sister approached me and asked what they should do with her ashes. Remembering my last conversation with her, I smiled and took the ashes with me. Several weeks later one of my disciples placed them in the sacred waters of the Yamuna River in Vrndavana, India. I had fulfilled my mother's last request to me, a request that I pray will also be on my lips the day I leave this world.

May the land of Sri Vrndavana, where Subala and the other wonderful cowherd boys, who are all dear friends of Sri Krsna, play, where Lalita and the other splendidly beautiful young gopis, who are all filled with love for Srimati Radharani, enjoy transcendental bliss, and where Sri Sri Radha-Krsna thirst to enjoy wonderful transcendental amorous pastimes day and night, become manifest in my heart.—Vrndavana Mahimamrta, Introduction, Text 15

His Holiness Indradyumna Swami travels around the world teaching Krsna consciousness. In Poland each summer he oversees dozens of festivals. Since 1990 these festivals have introduced Krsna to hundreds of thousands of people.

From the unpublished Diary of a Traveling Preacher, Volume 3. To receive chapters as they come out regularly on e-mail, write to (Volume 1 is available from the Hare Krsna Bazaar )

Use back button to return.

Return to top

Srila Prabhupada Speaks Out

God Himself Is Teaching God Consciousness

Here we continue an exchange between His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and a television interviewer. It took place in Gainesville, Florida, on July 29, 1971.

Interviewer: Your Divine Grace, you mention that you and your followers are following in the footsteps of Lord Caitanya. He's the one who appeared on earth five hundred years ago?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes.

Interviewer: In India.

Srila Prabhupada: India, yes. So He is Krsna Himself, and He is teaching how to love Krsna. Therefore, His process is most authorized. For instance, in this establishment you are the expert. If some new person is doing something and you personally teach him, "Do like this," that is very authorized. So when God appears as Lord Sri Krsna Caitanya, God Himself is teaching God consciousness.

Or take the Bhagavad-gita. Krsna—God—is speaking about Himself, and at last He says, "Just surrender unto Me. I'll take charge of you." But people misunderstood. So Krsna came again as Lord Caitanya, to teach people how to surrender. And because we are following in the footsteps of Lord Caitanya, this method is so sublime that even foreigners who never knew Krsna—they're following it.

This method is so potent. So that was my purpose in coming here. We don't say, "This religion is better than that religion" or "My process is better." We want to see by the result. In Sanskrit there is a phrase—phalena pariciyate: "A thing is judged by the result."

You can say, "My method is very nice." You can say your method is very nice. But we have to judge by the result. The Srimad-Bhagavatam says, "A process of religion is very good if, by following it, one becomes a lover of God."

Interviewer: Yes. But, you know your religion is not the only one which teaches this particular precept.

Srila Prabhupada: That I am explaining—that this is not the only one. There may be many that teach the precept "Become a lover of God." But this one is practically effective.

Interviewer: Now, in the part of the world where this particular philosophy originates—which is in India, right?—in the Eastern part of the world, at least as we look at it, is it successful there?

Srila Prabhupada: Oh, yes.

Interviewer: Do you have a large following there?

Srila Prabhupada: Oh, yes. Recently, I was in India. I held two meetings that lasted for ten days each, and twenty to thirty thousand people were attending daily. The Indian people's position is that they're naturally Krsna conscious, but at the present moment, thanks to their so-called leaders, they want to replace Krsna consciousness with material consciousness.

Interviewer: Is the Krsna consciousness philosophy compatible with the Hindu religion?

Srila Prabhupada: Any religion.

Interviewer: Any religion.

Srila Prabhupada: Because God is one. Krsna consciousness is the science of God. Two plus two equals four—it is understood by everyone. Not that it is to be understood by the Christians and not by the Hindus. Two plus two equals four is a fact for everyone. Similarly, God is a fact for everyone. Now, when it comes to the method for loving God, this is the only process.

Interviewer: Now, do you claim, then, that your way of loving God is the way to love God?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. At least for this age.

Interviewer: For this age?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes.

Interviewer: You mean for Kali-yuga?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes.

Interviewer: For the time we live in right now?

Srila Prabhupada: Because the method is authorized. Krsna prescribes this—Krsna Himself in His original form, and also in His manifestation as Lord Caitanya. He says that in this age this is the only method for self-realization, or for God realization, or to learn how to love God.

He says. Krsna says. Therefore, it is authorized. And it is practically happening. Otherwise, these boys and girls—they're foreigners. They never knew Krsna. But now I have got sixty centers, and in each center there are, on average, a hundred devotees. And they have dedicated their life. So how is it happening, unless it is authorized?

Interviewer: Well, you know, they say they never knew Krsna, and you are, of course, right. But different people name their Gods in different ways. You name your God Krsna. In the Western world many, many people name their God Jesus.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. That's all right. We say in that connection that if you have got a name which is actually referring to God, that will also do—just as we are chanting Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare . . .

Interviewer: Right. Yes.

Srila Prabhupada: So according to the Vedic literature, krsnas tu bhagavan svayam: "Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead." He has got many names, thousands and millions of names. This is the original name. So Lord Caitanya says that you have to chant Krsna, but if you have got another actual name for God, then chant that. We are not asking that you chant Krsna. If you have got another actual name for God, then you can chant that. We are requesting this: "Chant God's holy name."

Interviewer: But before, when you came here—now, you came here in the middle sixties, less than a decade ago—what . . . what was it . . . this is what I'm trying to find out from you . . . what was the motivating force behind your coming to the United States?

Srila Prabhupada: That is already explained. Caitanya Mahaprabhu wanted that this propaganda be made all over the world—and that people will accept. And my Guru Maharaja said to me, "You go and try to do this." So I came with this purpose, and it is becoming fulfilled.

Interviewer: There must have been an element, though, of dissatisfaction on your part with the way God was being professed in this part of the world before you came. Otherwise, there would have been no sense in your coming.

Srila Prabhupada: Dissatisfied not just with this part of the world. Every part. In every part of the world, practically everyone—very little interest in God. There's more interest in dog.

Interviewer: You are trying to increase the interest in God. Is that correct?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. That is the only interest we must have in human life.

Interviewer: And you were not particularly interested in what name this God has.

Srila Prabhupada: No, no. Our purpose or mission is that people may become God conscious. And the process is, in this age, chanting the holy name of God. If you have got any name for God which is actually a name of God, then you'll be successful by chanting that.

Interviewer: The chanting of Krsna's name, the Hare Krsna mantra, seems to play a very important role in the profession of your religious belief. Right? In fact, I think I will ask you—and some of your followers who are sitting here with us tonight—a little bit later to chant the name of Krsna. That probably would be a proper ending to this particular program.

However, I'm still wondering, you know, about some of the aspects. In reading a little bit—and I have not read much, of course—but in reading a little bit of your writings in your magazine and your other publications, it seems to me, sir, that there is a very high emphasis placed on the relationship between the individual and God.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. That is for everyone.

Interviewer: In fact, there seems to be more emphasis on that relationship than on the relationship between one individual and another individual. Am I right in that?

Srila Prabhupada: No. We have to reestablish first our lost relationship with God. You see? Then we can understand what is the relationship between one individual and another.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

A New Web Site

IF YOU GET ONLINE and you're interested in Krsna—or anything that has to do with Krsna well ... read on.

In April of 2002, we're launching a major new site— That's the same web address that BTG has had for years now, but the site, top to bottom, is a whole new story: new people, new resources, new purposes, new ideas.

The new site will be the combined home for the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, the Bhaktivedanta Archives, and BTG. All three are putting their energy into it—everything in one place.

We're not just "putting up a site." It will be kinetic, dynamic, growing. What you'll see in April should be good—but it will just be what we're starting out with. After that, you'll see a lot happening in the next few months. And continuously after that.

The site will be multi-lingual. The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust publishes in about seventy languages, and the site will be available in many of them. After English, early on the list of new languages will be Spanish, Portuguese, and Chinese. And more will come. (Like to help with one? Let us know.)

This will not be a site just for Hare Krsna devotees. It's meant to serve the diverse needs and interests of students, teachers, scholars, spiritual seekers, the Hindu community, and anyone who's devoted or attracted to Krsna, or just wants to know more.


Among the resources you'll find:

Short introductory articles about Krsna's philosophy and teachings. Send them to your friends, or your friends to them.

Longer articles also, for going deeper.

Magazine articles—past and present, from BTG.

"BTG Extra." Photos, info, letters, links, beyond what you ?nd in the magazine itself.

Entire books online. Read as much as you like. (Most of us would rather read printed books. But if you live in, say, China or Saudi Arabia or anywhere else where getting the books may be tough, help yourself to the books online.)

A gallery of original artwork. From the Bhaktivedanta Archives, home of the world's greatest collection of Krsna imagery.

E-cards. That same artwork, in the form of electronic greeting cards.

MP3s. The sounds of Srila Prabhupada and his followers.

Krsna conscious computer programs, wallpaper, screen savers, sound files. Take them, post them, share them.

Info on BBT books. Suggested readings. Study guides. Courses. What books you can get in what languages, and where to get them.

ISKCON Addresses. The most up-to-date list of ISKCON centers and home gatherings. And here you can fill us in on changes and new listings.

Links, links, and more links—to ISKCON and non-ISKCON sites and resources. Selected so the ones you get will be useful.

Srila Prabhupada, the Founder-Acarya of the BBT. Information about him. Scholarly appreciations. Photos. His Vyasa-puja books. And more.

A big Krsna Store. BBT books. Books from other publishers. BTGs. Audio CDs and cassettes. Videos. Photos. Posters. Multimedia. The VedaBase. Beads. Meditation kits. Incense. All sorts of Krsna conscious stuff!

Free e-mail: Your own POP3 account on the Krsna domain.

MyKrsna—your fully customizable home page. Include your favorite search engines, your favorite links-whatever you'd like, from within the site or beyond. When you get on the web, you can start with MyKrsna.

Behind the Scenes

• Manu Dasa, a "second-generation" ISKCON devotee, heads up the production and tech side. Balarama, one of his second-gen colleagues, helped with programming. Govinda (second gen, North European BBT) tweaked the design on the navigation bar.

• Radha—second gen again—is taking charge of getting the word out about the site, prepping and designing web pages, and serving you with the Krishna Store.

• Krsna Kirtana Dasa—generation two—is providing our site hosting.

• Dave, who lives in China, responded to our call for help at our VirtualSeva site (www.backto He and Aitendra Mahajana are working on the MyKrishna part of the site.

• Damodar Mahajan is working on bringing you eCards, MP3s, and a virtual gallery exhibition.

• Meera Khurana, a computer professional in the UK—again that second generation—is guiding us with our database architecture.

• And for the next phase of the site, a team of programmers are working for us in Chennai—all pro bono, courtesy of Ashok Dudakia (Adya Dasa Adhikari) of Omnitek Info Systems, USA, and Ganapathy Subramaniam of Swatee Systems, Chennai.

• Pranada Dasi is helping the team pull all the pieces together as one of the project managers.

Get Involved

Log on. Take advantage of the goodies. Upload your own goodies to share with others. Tell your friends about us. If you've got a site of your own, put up a link to us. Offer your comments and suggestions.

And if you've got web skills, editorial skills, artistic skills, or anything else you'd like to contribute-by all means let us know! Hare Krsna.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

Coming Back To Vrndavana

Twenty years after her first visit,
a pilgrim tries to enter deeper into
the mood of this best of holy places.

By Arcana-siddhi Devi Dasi

I FEEL ANXIOUS AS our taxi careens in and out of traffic—made up of cows, human beings, motorbikes, and bicycle rickshas. Incessantly blowing the horn, our driver maneuvers past slower conveyances, barely squeezing by without collision. This ride through Vrndavana's commercial center surpasses any of my past encounters with amusement park thrill rides.

My body begins to relax as we exit the bazaar and come onto a wider, less congested road. Familiar smells of open-air cow-dung fires mixed with hot cooking oil bring back memories of my last visit, twenty years ago.

I never thought I'd return to India. The expense, my weak health, and a bout last time with amoebic dysentery all factored into my general indifference about returning. But one evening, feeling particularly moved after reading about Krsna's pastimes in Vrndavana, I felt a stirring of desire to go back. Perhaps the twenty years of devotional service I had done since my last visit would help me get a glimpse of the Vrndavana Prabhupada describes in his book Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

Vrndavana is more than a geographical location; it is a replica of Krsna's spiritual home. It descended in preparation for His coming to this world five thousand years ago. The Lord enjoyed His earthly activities for 125 years and then returned to His original spiritual home. Krsna's place of pleasure pastimes, Vrndavana, stays on earth and keeps its spiritual potency. But only with a pure heart can one see the actual Vrndavana. That vision is a rare commodity in this world. It comes only to a very sincere practitioner of devotional life who has attracted the mercy of the Lord.

Seeing The Real Vrndavana

Most people see Vrndavana with material vision. In the commercial section they see the narrow lanes lined with shops, the open sewage, the beggars, and the hogs, cows, and dogs competing for refuse piled high on the side of the street. Further out they see many ashrams and temples, as well as flat agricultural fields dotted with grass and mud huts.

One may be repulsed, attracted, or indifferent to this landscape. But to love Vrndavana, one must have spiritual vision to see past the material covering.

I for one don't have such spiritual vision. After twenty years I reenter Vrndavana with mixed emotions. I haven't transcended the material plane. I'm put off by some features and charmed by others. But I believe that with purified vision one can see the real Vrndavana beyond the external covering, the Vrndavana of spiritual cintamani gems and wish-fulfilling trees.

Because I've become a little purified from practicing bhakti-yoga for the past twenty-five years, I can detect the increased intensity of spiritual energy at this holy place. When we arrive at the Krishna-Balarama Temple, I'm flooded with feelings of gratitude at having been allowed to come despite my disqualification. I enter the samadhi (shrine) of my spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada. After paying respects and gazing at the bright brass form of Prabhupada, I pray to deepen my relationship with him and Krsna's holy name. I pray to develop humility and compassion for others. That's why I've come to this holy place: to receive spiritual blessings from my spiritual master and all the eternal residents of Vrndavana.

I also pray that I can accept whatever form of mercy the Lord gives me here. We have a tendency to discriminate between mercy we like (e.g., receiving a plate of delicious prasadam sweets) and mercy we don't like (e.g., getting sick or injuring our body). I expect to get both kinds of mercy and remind myself that everything Krsna does is for our highest good.

After praying to Prabhupada, my husband and I go to see the gorgeous deities in the Krishna-Balarama Temple. The temple is in the section of Vrndavana known as Raman Reti, where Krsna and Balarama, along with Their cowherd boyfriends, would play as children. For this reason, the center altar sports beautiful black Krsna and His older brother, Balarama, who rests His graceful white arm on Krsna's dark shoulder. On the left altar stand the most merciful incarnations of Krsna and Balarama: Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityananda. Flanking Them are nearly life-sized white marble forms of Srila Prabhupada and his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati.

On the right altar, exquisitely beautiful Radha-Syamasundara are lovingly served by Lalita and Visakha, Their principal cowherd girlfriends. At home I often gaze at my photos of all these deities, but that doesn't compare to seeing them here in person.

The altar and the deities' clothing, jewelry, and other ornaments are a feast for my eyes. I breathe in the sweet aroma of the incense and listen to the melodious kirtana. The sensually pleasing atmosphere in the temple startlingly contrasts with the sordid conditions of Vrndavana's commercial district. Prabhupada understood his disciples' need for aesthetics and comfort, so he had this temple built to provide a favorable and pleasing atmosphere to help us take up the path of bhakti-yoga. In our pure state, to be fully absorbed in loving Krsna we don't require any amenities, but before coming to that platform, we require so many things.

I have more appreciation this visit for the greatness of Srila Prabhupada's mission. Inspired by the order of his spiritual master and deep compassion for suffering humanity, he left his quiet spiritual home here in Vrndavana to travel west to New York City, one of the most materialistic cities in the world. After successfully spreading Krsna consciousness in the West, Prabhupada returned to Vrndavana in 1970 to get land and start building a magnificent temple to attract devotees from all over the world. Now, twenty-four years after Prabhupada's departure from this world, thousands of devotees from all over the world have come to Vrndavana and taken shelter of his Krishna-Balarama Temple, gaining spiritual strength to continue his mission. The temple is a tribute to Prabhupada's greatness, his compassion, and his love for his spiritual master and Krsna.

My eighteen-day visit to Vrndavana passes quickly. Days are filled with spiritual activities in the temple, visits to holy places where Krsna performed pastimes five thousand years ago, shopping for devotional supplies to take back to the West, and associating with devotees from all over the world.

As I expected, the Lord's mercy comes in many forms. I get my share of intestinal problems, was well as a su and a cold. But I get to speak with advanced devotees who inspire me with their realizations and their service to the Lord. I get to celebrate Govardhana Puja and Prabhupada's Disappearance Day in the holiest of places in the world. I receive gifts and prasadam from devotees I meet. One devotee gives me a shawl that Radharani wore on the altar. Another devotee brings my husband and me garlands from Krsna and Balarama as we are leaving Vrndavana.

The greatest gift is the mornings I chanted attentive japa and felt a deeper connection with Krsna's holy names than ever before. Although I would leave Vrndavana, Krsna's holy names would be with me wherever I went. As Krsna and Vrndavana are identical, so are Krsna and His holy names. I have come to Vrndavana to deepen my relationship with Krsna in the form of His holy name, and I feel that the desire has been fulfilled.


While sitting in the New Delhi airport waiting for our 1:30 A.M. flight home, I reflect on things I will and won't miss about Vrndavana:

I won't miss the herds of monkeys that congregate almost everywhere.

I won't miss the hogs, the open sewers, and the garbage in the street.

I won't miss the firecrackers and other fireworks that exploded almost every night when I was trying to go to sleep.

I won't miss the polluted air and water.

I won't miss the bicycle-ricksha rides to Loi Bazaar or the taxi rides to Govardhana or New Delhi.

I will miss the beautiful Krishna-Balarama Temple, the decorative altars hung with canopies of fresh flowergarlands, and the exquisitely adorned forms of the Lord.

I will miss the melodious kirtanas with hundreds of voices singing responsively together glorifying the Lord.

I will miss chanting in Prabhupada's samadhi in the pre-dawn hours.

I will miss chanting in Prabhupada's warm, cozy writing room.

I will miss going barefoot in the soft sands around Govardana Hill and seeing the white cows with lotus eyes that gather around us at Govinda Kund while we sing a soft kirtana.

I will miss hearing the Srimad-Bhagavatam class from so many mature devotees.

I will miss the little banana-leaf bowl full of warm maha-prasadam kitri I buy at the end of class for five rupees.

I will miss the many sweet devotees who came to Vrndavana this holy month (Kartika) and the stalwart residents I had the good fortune to meet.

I will miss having someone wash and iron my laundry each day for a few rupees.

I will miss the absence of mundane news.

I pray that Radharani will allow me to return soon and some day go beyond the external Vrndavana. I hope that one day I will be able to see the eternal home of the Lord in all its beauty and splendor and engage in uninterrupted, unmotivated devotional service to Sri Sri Radha-Syamasundara.

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.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

Karna's Choice

A tragic figure of the Mahabharata had to decide
between Krsna's pleasure and his own prestige.

By Urmila Devi Dasi

WHY DID MY FATHER have me serve sage Durvasa?" Princess Kunti wondered as she prepared to put her firstborn son into a basket in the river.

Durvasa had been a difficult guest to host. He would ask for a meal to be ready at 2:00, but then he wouldn't arrive until midnight. Or he'd ask for something and then refuse it. Always unpredictable and irritable, he had stayed with Kunti's family for a year. He had great powers, and if even slightly displeased, he might curse his host. The stories of his curses were legendary. But Princess Kunti, her heart full of love for the Supreme Lord, Krsna, was able to peacefully tolerate the sage's moods and earned his gratitude.

"What gift would you like?" asked Durvasa, who had extraordinary powers to bless.

"I am content," Kunti replied, "but maybe in the future I'll need something. Please give me something that will benefit me."

The sage gave her a mantra and told her, "The celestial controllers will be forced to come to you when you chant this."

Sometime later, as she sat alone, Princess Kunti thought, "Let's see."

She recited the mantra while thinking of the sun. To her surprise its deity appeared, his radiance filling the room. To her greater surprise he told her that the mantra obliged him to have a child with her.

Now, remembering all this as her baby floated down the river, the young Kunti cried.

The sun-god had transformed her back into a maiden and arranged for the child to be born with mystical armor and earrings as part of his body. He would be known as Karna.

After her marriage to Emperor Pandu, Kunti used her mantra again. Pandu was cursed to die if he attempted to have a child. So he requested Kunti to have children by devas (demigods) on his behalf, and she agreed.

When King Pandu died, Kunti lived with their five young sons under the care of Dhrtarastra, Pandu's older brother, who was blind. Dhrtarastra was acting regent until Pandu's oldest son, Yudhisthira, would come of age. But Dhrtarastra had his own sons, and the oldest, Duryodhana, felt that he, not Yudhisthira, should get the throne.

The cousins—Pandu's and Dhrtarastra's sons—had as their graduation exercise a public display of their skill with weapons, including mystic, subtle ones unknown to our modern, supposedly more advanced, technology. Kunti's son Arjuna showed such extraordinary skill that the people were entranced.

Then Karna, his bodily luster noticeable even in the bright sunlight, sauntered into the arena, proclaiming that he could show skill greater than Arjuna's.

"Who are you?" the teachers asked. "Who is your family?"

Karna looked down. He would not be permitted to show his skills unless he was royalty, but he had been raised as the son of a charioteer.

Karna's distinctive natural armor and earrings shocked his mother, who had been watching her other five sons in their glory.

"My son!" she thought. "Oh, he is alive—a young man asking to be recognized as royalty!"

But out of shame, she couldn't bring herself to say, "He is my son, conceived by the deity of the sun before my marriage."

Then Karna's fortunes changed.

Duryodhana came into the arena and declared, "As the acting king's oldest son, I award this son of a charioteer kingship over the province Anga."

Kunti ached to know the story of her son, now a king. He didn't know how much she pined for him. But, then, he didn't know her at all. The parents he knew lived by the Ganges and had found him floating in a basket. His natural armor, earrings, and luster were unusual. Yet the childless couple raised him as their own with affection. His adoptive father was a servant to warriors, a chariot driver. But Karna wanted to be more than that. He wanted to be a warrior, or even a king.

But a chariot driver couldn't dream of governing. Although the sacred Vedas and their corollaries state that inclination and training, not birth and family, should determine one's occupation and social status, the cycle of ages was shifting into our present time of materialism and ignorance, and superficial bodily considerations were replacing knowledge of the inner self. Society would dictate that Karna, like the man everyone thought was his father, was to be a servant, at best a warrior's servant.

But Karna's nature was stronger than circumstances, and his adoptive father had found a teacher to impart military and political skills to the boy. Karna had learned those arts well. But he often thought of those born into royalty. How lucky they were! How the public adored them! When Karna had finished his training, he had heard of the graduation of the famous Pandava princes.

"Let me go there," he had thought, "and I will show the public that I am as qualified as these much-praised princes."

Now Karna was royalty by decree!

His voice quavering and his eyes moist, Karna turned to Duryodhana, confident that now all his desires would be fulfilled. He placed his massive, muscular arms around his benefactor and swore lifelong devotion.

Unfortunately, Duryodhana wasn't a benefactor in the true sense. He gave to get in return. He wanted Kunti's sons to have no chance to rule, and he thought that Karna could help him win a military coup if necessary. Karna had promised loyalty without knowing the nature of his new friend.

Meanwhile, Kunti felt trapped. If she had revealed Karna's identity, he'd not have sworn allegiance to Duryodhana. What kind of a man would Duryodhana be when even as a child he had attempted to poison her children to secure his own position? What joy to see her lost child, now a king! But what sorrow to have him in such company.

"Why was my son so eager for a kingdom that he would make friends with whoever would give it to him? A noble person cares more for pleasing Lord Krsna than for personal reputation."

Seeking Krsna's guidance and protection, and wishing the best for Karna, Kunti returned with her other sons to the palace.

Duryodhana's Treachery

As the many years passed, Duryodhana tried to kill his cousins and Kunti. He had a flammable palace built for them, and arranged to burn it when they slept. But they escaped, and with the help of a powerful king, they returned for the kingdom.

Karna stood by his friend Duryodhana and suggested that the returning princes be given some useless land to rule. But Kunti's sons turned that land into a place like heaven, because they were friends of the Supreme Lord, Sri Krsna, who had incarnated to establish governments of righteous people. Duryodhana could burn a palace and give the pious, rightful rulers a desert to govern, because the Lord does not interfere with our freedom. Yet Krsna's desire always triumphs, regardless of our actions. Yudhisthira not only became king of a paradise, but later received the recognition of all kings as world emperor.

Then Duryodhana, Karna beside him, challenged Yudhisthira to gamble. The warriors' code forbade refusing a challenge. And because Yudhisthira's uncle Dhrtarastra invited him, playing meant obeying an elder. Duryodhana was obviously cheating, and Yudhisthira gambled away all—his empire, his brothers, and his wife, Draupadi. Gloating, Duryodhana and Karna mocked Draupadi as their slave. Yudhisthira then won back his family, but they were obliged to go into exile for thirteen years.

Karna and Duryodhana took over Yudhisthira's palaces, including the famous hall of illusions. They usurped his kingdom and wealth. Kunti, who stayed at the palace, would hear how they would laugh and tell each other, "When they finish their exile, let's arrange to send them back to the forest for thirteen more years!"

Lord Krsna helped Kunti's sons many times during their exile, and then Yudhisthira and his brothers returned, asking for their kingdom. Krsna was their messenger for peace, humbly begging Duryodhana for at least five villages, one for each of the brothers to rule.

"Not enough land for them to stick a pin into!" Duryodhana replied. "Let them fight for it if they want it! With fighters such as Karna on my side, who can defeat me?"

If Karna could be induced to break his bond with Duryodhana, then perhaps the usurper's confidence would be eroded. So Krsna showed Duryodhana and his court, including Karna, His form as the universe, encompassing all time and space and blazing with searing light. But Duryodhana remained unmoved. Let the Lord of all give support to his enemies! He would conquer through strength and cleverness.

Then Krsna privately approached Karna.

"Do you know who you are?"

Karna stood straight and looked at the Lord.

"A chariot driver's son," he replied. "The king of Anga, and the friend of Duryodhana."

"Do you know your real family?" Krsna asked.

Karna shifted and looked down.

"You are the elder brother of Yudhisthira and his brothers, whom Duryodhana has envied and cheated. You were born to their mother before her marriage."

His lifelong enemies—enemies because they were Duryodhana's rivals—were his younger brothers? His mother was a queen? No. But Krsna is God; He's all-knowing . . .

"And my father?" Karna finally asked.

"Your father is the celestial being who rules the sun. You may know that the devas fathered Yudhisthira and his brothers on Pandu's behalf. Out of curiosity, when Kunti was still quite young she called for the sun's deity. Your luster and natural armor are signs of your celestial origin."

"They abandoned me," said Karna, "and now that they are threatened they want my allegiance? I will stick to Duryodhana, who gave me wealth and power."

"Your considerations are selfish, Karna," Krsna said. "You think you deserve acclaim and honor, and whoever gives you those is your friend. Don't you see that Yudhisthira has always been truthful, wise, and concerned for the people's welfare, whereas Duryodhana has cared only for his own position? Disregard your own pleasure and go to the side of truth."

"Duryodhana gave me a kingdom," Karna replied. "Pandu's sons have given me nothing but scorn. They consider me a servant's son only. Why should I now embrace them as brothers?"

Krsna wanted to give Karna spiritual life, the highest pleasure, but He doesn't interfere with our will. He then offered Karna a lower reward.

"Karna, as the oldest of Pandu's sons you will have the first right to world rule if Yudhisthira regains his empire. As soon as he knows your true identity, he will give you the world and serve you obediently."

"I will honor my pledge of loyalty to my friend Duryodhana," Karna said, "even if it means I die in battle and fight against the true emperor and against Your wishes."

Krsna lets us get the results of our choices. He left Karna to his thoughts and returned to Yudhisthira and his brothers.

A Mother's Request

Meanwhile, Kunti also thought, like Krsna, to bring Karna to his blood family. Karna had vowed that anyone who came with a request during his worship would get their desire granted if it was within his power. Kunti came at that time, without fanfare or royal dress.

"Beggar," he asked her, "what do you want?"

"I am your mother," she said, telling him her story and taking his head in her lap.

How Kunti cried to hold her son for the first time since his birth!

"Come," she said, making the same offer as had Krsna. "Your brothers will recognize you as the elder and give you the empire of the earth."

"Ask for something else, mother who abandoned me at birth," said Karna. "You cannot ask me to join you now."

"Then do not kill your younger brothers in the upcoming war," she pleaded.

"I cannot agree to that, either," Karna replied. "I have pledged to fight for Duryodhana. But I promise that I won't kill more than one of my brothers. If I live and one of my brothers dies, you'll still have five sons. It is as the mother of five sons that the world knows you."

The war came, a great war that involved most of the world's armies.

Karna came before Arjuna on the battlefield. Facing Arjuna meant also facing his chariot driver, the Supreme Lord. Krsna had asked Karna to join the side of truth, and now Krsna was opposing him directly. Even now, if Karna accepted Krsna's will the Lord would give him all protection. But Karna stuck to his vow of loyalty.

"Stand and fight!" Arjuna called.

The two opponents were so evenly matched that neither could gain the advantage. Karna, however, was burdened. Before the battle, the celestial king Indra, Arjuna's father, had asked Karna for his armor during the time of Karna's worship. Cutting it off his body, Karna deprived himself of protection. Earlier in life, to gain an education as a warrior, he had deceived his teacher about his parentage. When his teacher discovered the lie, he cursed Karna to forget his military knowledge at the most crucial moment.

When Karna's chariot ran into a rut and he got down to free it, Krsna told Arjuna to kill his foe.

"But when he's not fighting, the code forbids it," Arjuna countered.

"Didn't Karna support Duryodhana when he burned your house, insulted your wife, and cheated you of your kingdom?" Krsna replied. "Didn't he break the code to kill your son? A cheater should be cheated. Kill him!"

Seeing Arjuna reach for his weapons, Karna left aside the wheel and tried to invoke divine missiles, but he couldn't remember the method. A moment later, he lay dead.

Krsna teaches that one who dies re-membering Him attains his own original, divine nature. Karna, dying while seeing the face of God, got such a benediction. Still, he had caused much suffering to himself and society by blindly following a promise of faithfulness to an evil man for the sake of his own prestige. As Kunti openly mourned him at the end of the day, her other sons lamented that their brother had unnecessarily become their enemy.

Urmila Devi Dasi and her family run a school in North Carolina. She is a frequent contributor to BTG and the major author and compiler of Vaikuntha Children, a guide to Krsna conscious education for children.

To Lord Krsna

(during the fight between Karna and Arjuna)

The bowstrings twang
Flash! Arrows sang
Your glory as the fight's begun—
Arjuna fights the sun-god's son.
The weapons blaze upon the sky
As soldiers, stunned, are standing by
And cowards flee away from fear
While You, Krsna, are sitting near.
No one's plans can conquer You
Or anyone who serves You true
For what You want will come to pass
While plans of demons cannot last.
Your face far brighter than the moon
Shines benediction on Arjuna
But also graces Kunti's son
Who is not known to anyone.
As wheels rumble the dusty ground
Hardly anyone is found
Who cannot help but stop and stare
As divine weapons clash in air.
Who will You save and who defeat?
Both conquer fear with no retreat.
Then! Ground bites Karna's chariot wheel,
Knowledge of war his guru does steal.
Arjuna remembers the death of his son—
For dharma another battle is won.

Urmila Devi Dasi

Mysteries of Karna's Life and Death

KARNA IS AN enigmatic figure in the Mahabharata, the ancient world history. An illegitimate child abandoned at birth and scorned for his supposed lower-caste status, he seems an innocent victim. He is sometimes praised for his loyalty to Duryodhana, which continued even after he understood that his mentor was an envious, ruthless murderer who would lose everything. Karna's spiritually glorious death in Krsna's presence seems a vindication of his life's choices, but it is a further mystery: Why would Krsna grant salvation to such an evil man?

First, no one is truly a victim. Our birth and circumstances result from our own actions in previous lives. If one commits a crime and is put in jail, the bad atmosphere there is no excuse to continue or worsen one's behavior. Yes, it is harder to be virtuous in jail, but the hardship is self-imposed.

Next, no praiseworthy quality can be judged independently of circumstances. Karna pledged fealty to Duryodhana not because he thought he had found a worthy master, but because Duryodhana granted him the honor and respect he craved. Here is a lesson to those throughout history who have blindly sworn allegiance to a leader for personal gain, or perhaps thinking they would benefit their society. "I was following orders" or "I swore to obey" are not proper defenses against criminal charges. Better to break one's vow than to continue to serve evil in the name of truthfulness.

Finally, Krsna's liberation of Karna operates on a platform of spiritual logic. Salvation is not the result of having done good or evil deeds. Rather, both good and evil deeds lead to further rebirth, not freedom. Freedom from rebirth and attainment of one's original spiritual form result from having Krsna as the focus of one's attention and love. Generally, only one who gives up evil can have such a focus. In fact, we could define evil as that which turns one away from Krsna. But in rare cases a person concentrates on the Lord in spite of his or her demonic actions. Absorption in Krsna is so powerfully purifying—especially at death—that it can turn to love of God in a moment and nullify all previous evil. One must not intentionally live a bad life with the hope of remembering Krsna at the end; such a plan is an offense to the Lord and will be unsuccessful. But Krsna's greatness is revealed by the examples of those who became perfect in their last moments when their ill-motivated attention on Him suddenly turned to devotion.

In Karna's case, the pure devotee Kunti always wanted his spiritual welfare. Krsna reciprocates with the love of His devotees by giving mercy to those for whom they pray. While some may interpret such actions as partiality, they are in fact simply reciprocation: to those who give all to Krsna, He gives all in return. Krsna also showed His impartiality by giving salvation to all who died seeing Him, whether friends or enemies.

In many ways, Karna represents the rebellious, conditioned souls. We are Krsna's spiritual children, heirs to a life of eternal, always-increasing pleasure and knowledge in His kingdom. But we think ourselves permanent members of families in this world. We give our loyalty and service here, and we think ourselves good because of that. When Krsna asks for our obedience and love, we refuse, citing our many responsibilities. Although our material plans and loyalties have no lasting value, we cling to them rather than re-join our real home and family. But if, like Karna, we can get the blessings and mercy of a pure devotee of Krsna such as Kunti, we can come to our real life even before death, and see that the Lord is with us always.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

Doctors of Body and Soul

Two doctors discover the benefits of doing their work while wearing tilaka, the symbol of the Lord, on their foreheads.

IN ONE OF OUR FIRST meetings with His Holiness Sivarama Swami Maharaja, who is now our spiritual master, he instructed my husband and me, "Now you are doctors of the body. You should become doctors of the soul." Shortly after, he directed us to wear tilaka to work.

That was more than thirteen years ago, and his instruction to wear tilaka has given us many opportunities to share Krsna consciousness in our daily lives. Our duties as general practitioners/family physicians are performed in our surgeries,* in hospitals, and at a university medical school where we teach. We also visit patients in their homes and other residential institutions, such as homes for the elderly. We're parents too, so parental duties take us into schools and shops, to children's activities, and into contact with other parents. We have come to appreciate all these situations as opportunities for spiritual exchanges.

Traditional Practices

When we first met Krsna devotees, I was already accustomed to wearing the red kumkum dot on the forehead, as is done by married Indian women. From a young age I had learned that this would bring auspiciousness into our marriage. Daily, as I got used to applying it, whether I got dressed in a sari or in Western clothes, I prayed for my husband's continued welfare. I got used to people asking what it was for. Sometimes I would explain that it was like my wedding ring, solemnizing my marriage vows.

Because of my father's strictness, my sisters and I were not allowed to cut our hair. I wore mine long, braided or tied in a bun. When my husband and I were newly qualified as doctors, a senior Indian colleague mentioned that the generation of Indian wom-en with their traditional saris, ornaments, and embellishments was being threatened by a new gene-ration that adopted Western dress styles. But we began to appreciate the abiding faithfulness in these practices shown by many middle-aged and, particularly, elderly Indian women. There was something especially coherent, we sensed, in their maintaining their dress culture. It even seemed to help them cope with illness and family tragedies. Besides, they looked beautiful and dignified.

Our feelings were reinforced when we read Srila Prabhupada's instructions on Vedic dress codes. He said that his female disciples looked more beautiful when they dressed the Indian way. And he wrote that when devotees of Krsna, men and women, were properly dressed—with tilaka on their bodies and beads in their hands and on their necks—they seemed to be coming from Vaikuntha, the spiritual world.

The sari gradually became more and more my everyday attire, even in rain or snow. My grandmother, who came to England in 1966 and lived to 82, had never worn anything else. My mother, who arrived seven years later, would take occasional exceptions to don Sulwar kameez, or trouser pants.

Srila Prabhupada's instructions on dress were not fanatical. His emphasis was always on dressing as a means for spreading Krsna consciousness. He encourged a disciple, about to address a group of scientists, to wear Western dress but keep his tilaka and sikha—the tuft of hair on his otherwise shaven head.

Srila Prabhupada compared the devotees' dress to that of a policeman: "Just like a policeman. As soon as he appears in his dress—'Oh! Here is a policeman!' So, similarly, these things—tilaka, neck beads, dress—are required to remind others. Our process is to raise persons to Krsna consciousness. So if by our symbolic representation one immediately remembers Krsna, that is our success."

Recently I was inspired when listening to some girls who are part of the Bhaktivedanta Manor congregation. They want to embrace the practice of wearing a sari and tilaka in their daily lives. Most of them are students or professionals in mainstream British society. One girl, a Gujarati accountant, said that her biggest hurdle was her mother, who had felt pressured to adapt to the prevailing dress culture on her arrival to Britain.

Uneasy With Tilaka

For me, the tilaka was more of a challenge than the sari. Early attempts by my husband and me to install the tilaka on the forehead did not always produce satisfying results: not straight enough, not always in the middle, the lines too thick or uneven. A lot would be peeling off by the time I reached my surgery. My spectacles would get in the way. My confidence would waver, and I'd rub most of it off. What were our staff members thinking? Colleagues? Patients? What of those eye contacts that made a sudden diversion? My husband was asked, "Have you been decorating, doc? You have paint on your nose." The sweetest were the children and babies, who would just stare with frank eyes. Some parents would allow them to look on, or would enquire further. Others would rush off in embarrassment.

We began to realize that people's embarrassment was proportional to our level of unease with the tilaka, and our ignorance of its underlying spiritual worth. Once I was struck by the appearance of a couple of Punk patients with suorescent lime and shocking pink hair. "Why is the oddity of my tilaka daunting me?" I asked myself.

One Christmas eve, an eighty-four-year-old Catholic nun asked me as a parting shot, "You don't celebrate Christmas, do you, doctor?"

Half an hour later, after hearing my Krsna conscious perspective, she left, pointing accusingly at me with her wizened finger.

"The only problem with professional people like you," she said, "is that whilst you believe in God, you do not make it your practice to publicize it so!"

My forehead tilaka, and its carriage, would get bolder from that day.

We came to appreciate that anyone who happened to see this symbol of the Lord on our foreheads would get spiritual credit. We were no longer applying the tilaka for our own sake. The doctor of the body could become the doctor of the soul.

The Padma Purana states, "Those who have Visnu tilaka on their foreheads are to be understood as the devotees of Lord Visnu in this world. Their presence makes the world purified, and anywhere they remain, they make that place as good as Vaikuntha." The Skanda Purana says that a person decorated with tilaka need not fear the Yamadutas, the agents of Yamaraja, who punishes the sinful after death. The tilaka wearer, when seen even once, can help the seer become relieved from all sinful activities.

Srila Prabhupada said that although we need not disturb people who might think our appearance strange, we must show who we are by wearing tilaka. He said that Caitanya Mahaprabhu would not see a person's face if there was no tilaka. Lord Caitanya compared such a face to a crematorium ground.

Tilaka sparks conversations in unexpected of places. Recently, in the dentist's waiting room, the receptionist asked across her desk what the beautiful face decoration was in aid of. When I explained, she observed that neither of my two sons was wearing tilaka, adding that she too had challenges practicing her Christian faith with her teenager. My son Govinda responded by showing her his sikha.

At a recent medical symposium, the courage of two sisters, devout Muslims, reinforced for me the need for the outer expression of one's faith. When the organizer asked for any special needs, they unhesitatingly stood up in Muslim attire and asked about arrangements for their obligatory prayers.

Back in our surgery, my husband is asked, "What's that war paint on your face, doc?"

The patient, an emergency walk-in, has lived with Native Americans and fondly recalls that they always painted their faces. After his medical problems are solved, my husband speaks to him about tilaka.

"Yes, ours is a kind of war paint, too," my husband says. "It symbolizes a spiritual war to end all our suffering in the material world."

Hare Krsna Devi Dasi and her husband, Pundarika Dasa (Dr. Paul Oliver), live in Nottingham, England.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

"My Devotee Is Always Saintly"

Lord Karna overlooks the accidental sins of
devotees wholeheartedly engaged in His service.

By Jayadvaita Swami

A talk given on May 22, 2001, at ISKCON's first temple: 26 Second Avenue, New York City.

"Even if one commits the most abominable action, if he is engaged in devotional service he is to be considered saintly because he is properly situated in his determination." (Bhagavad-gita 9.30)

BACK WHEN Brahmananda Prabhu was the temple president here at 26 Second Avenue [in the late sixties], Srila Prabhupada once explained this verse by saying, "Even if you were to see Brahmananda walking down the street smoking a cigarette, still you would have to consider him saintly."

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura explains that generally our spiritual activities and our material activities are meant to go together. For example, we eat (a material activity), and before we eat we offer all the food to Krsna (a spiritual activity), so everything we're doing goes in the same direction. Or we're working, but we're working for Krsna. All in the same direction. But sometimes our conditional life crosses our spiritual life, and instead of going parallel our activities go at cross purposes. So then there is a material discrepancy, a falldown.

When this happens, a devotee violates social principles or ethical principles or even spiritual principles. He somehow gets caught by the material energy. So then we might say, "All right, now that he has done this, he's a hypocrite. He's good for nothing." But Krsna takes a revolutionary stance. "Even if someone grossly misbehaves," Krsna says, "if he's seriously engaged in My service that's a higher consideration."

In the material world, anyone may get caught in the whirlpool of material energy. But if one is seriously engaged, wholeheartedly engaged, in serving Krsna, then still he has to be considered a saintly person. Very strongly Krsna asserts this.

Srila Prabhupada explains, "A person who is situated in Krsna consciousness and is engaged with determination in the process of chanting Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare should be considered to be in the transcendental position, even if by chance or accident he is found to have fallen. The words sadhur eva, 'he is saintly,' are very emphatic. They are a warning to the nondevotees that because of an accidental falldown a devotee should not be derided; he should still be considered saintly even if he has accidentally fallen down. And the word mantavyah is still more emphatic. If one does not follow this rule, and derides a devotee for his accidental falldown, then one is disobeying the order of the Supreme Lord. The only qualification of a devotee is to be unflinchingly and exclusively engaged in devotional service."

In the Bhagavad-gita study guide Surrender Unto Me, Bhurijana Prabhu cites Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, who paraphrases Krsna's words and says, "Take up your cymbals and beat your drums and declare that even if My devotee is wicked in his behavior, he will never persish." One may argue, "But he's done this, he's done that." Krsna says no—still he's a saintly person. The value of devotional service is so great that even a great discrepancy in one's material activities doesn't rule him out of the picture. He's still a saintly person—maybe a misbehaved saintly person, but still a saintly person, because he's chanting Hare Krsna and he's devoted to Krsna.

Even if a materialist is first-class in his moral and ethical principles and is doing everything ideally, if he has no devotion to Krsna he's not a saintly person. A recent article in our Back to Godhead examined Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura's four categories of ethical behavior. In the lowest category is the person who's not Krsna conscious, not God conscious, and also not ethical. He doesn't follow moral principles. So he's a rat. He's nowhere. Higher than him is the person who is moral but not God conscious. He has the idea that one should be moral for the upkeep of social principles, or the welfare of others, or to keep up one's own place in society. He's more or less selfish, but he's in a higher category—a moral atheist. And still higher is the person who is moral and God conscious, though more prominently moral. And finally there's the person who is fully engaged in the service of Krsna, and for him God consciousness is more compelling than morality. He's moral, but his standard of morality is dictated by what pleases and displeases Krsna. Such a person is on a higher platform than those who are just asking themselves, "Is this moral? Is this ethical?" He has an absolute standard of ethics: If Krsna is satisfied, it's moral. If Krsna is dissatisfied, it's immoral.

Of course, Krsna Himself tells us that generally one should follow moral and ethical principles. Those principles come ultimately from Krsna Himself. They are Vedic principles, and they appear in diluted form in civic laws. But when moral and ethical principles are severed from God consciousness, they slide downwards and start to crumble, because people no longer have an ultimate reason for them, an ultimate ground for those principles to stand on. The laws become arbitrary. What's moral? What's immoral? People shift their values to fit their own sense gratification. Politicians, particularly, make all sorts of moral arguments for doing reprehensible things "because it's in the national economic interest." That's morality in the material world. It's adjustable. Because ultimately it's selfish.

But it's not that a Krsna conscious person can do any sort of mischief and then say, "Oh, that was for Krsna." That's an offense. In chanting Hare Krsna, one of the offenses to be avoided is namnad balad yasya hi papa-buddhih: to perform sinful acts on the strength of chanting Hare Krsna. Chanting Hare Krsna is a purifying process, and if one wishes to be purified one should never think, "Well, okay, I'm doing something sinful, but Krsna understands. I'm chanting Hare Krsna, so it's okay—Krsna will forgive me." That's very bad. And that's not what Krsna is referring to here.

But somehow if accidentally, in the course of one's Krsna consciousness, one does something apparently sinful, or actually sinful, still, because he's sticking to the lotus feet of Krsna, "All right. It's not considered." Why? Because he's so much engaged in the service of Krsna.

Spots On The Moon

Srila Prabhupada explains, "In the Nrsimha Purana the following statement is given:

bhagavati ca harav ananya-ceta
bhrsa-malino 'pi virajate manusyah
na hi sasa-kalusa-cchabih kadacit
timira-parabhavatam upaiti candrah

The meaning is that even if one fully engaged in the devotional service of the Lord is sometimes found engaged in abominable activities, these activities should be considered to be like the spots that resemble the mark of a rabbit on the moon."

Just as Americans and Europeans see a man in the moon, the Hindus see a rabbit in the moon. Therefore the moon is sometimes called sasi. Sasi means "moon," and sasi also means "having a rabbit." So there are some marks on the moon which resemble, depending on what culture you're from, a man or a rabbit. And Srila Prabhupada continues, "Such spots do not become an impediment to the diffusion of moonlight. Similarly, the accidental falldown of a devotee in the path of saintly character does not make him abominable."

There will always be someone who criticizes: "The moon has spots on it." But someone who knows how to appreciate will see that the moon is giving so much light, the moon is so beautiful, so glorious, cooling, soothing. So even if it has some spots, that's not a disqualification. It's not that the moon should be removed from the sky because of spots. Spots and all, it should be accepted. And so the devotee also.

Generally a devotee should be spotless. Elsewhere the Bhagavad-gita says, nirdosam hi samam brahma: Just as the Personality of Godhead, or the Absolute Truth, is faultless, so is the devotee. But sometimes some faults appear. That's superficial.

"On the other hand," Srila Prabhupada comments, "one should not misunderstand that a devotee in transcendental devotional service can act in all kinds of abominable ways; this verse only refers to an accident due to the strong power of material connections. Devotional service is more or less a declaration of war against the illusory energy. As long as one is not strong enough to fight the illusory energy, there may be accidental falldowns. But when one is strong enough, he is no longer subjected to such falldowns, as previously explained. No one should take advantage of this verse and commit nonsense and think that he is still a devotee. If he does not improve in his character by devotional service, then it is to be understood that he is not a high devotee."

Well, there's the other side of it. Sometimes we see that a so-called religious person will do anything and everything, and his followers will say, "Well, but it's all transcendental. You have to understand, it's all his lila [pastime], it's all—" It's all a wash. He's really a misanthrope, a debauchee, but everything gets painted "transcendental." No. It's not that one can go on and on in sinful life and just say, "Well, it's okay, I'm a devotee." That's just base.

Devotion And Degradation

There's a class of men called sahajiyas who act as debauchees and say it is part of their devotional practice. They have some sentiment for Krsna, but they don't follow the rules or principles of devotional service. We have our four rules: no gambling, no intoxicants, no meat-eating, no illicit sex. But the sahajiyas regularly decry all these rules, because "the main thing is to love Krsna"—and because they can't follow these rules anyway. Nor do they want to. Instead they produce a hodgepodge of "high devotion" and low behavior, an unsavory mixture of devotion and degradation. That's not what Krsna means here, not "still they're considered saintly, however vile their way of life." No.

But if a devotee who knows the rules and principles and is trying to follow them somehow stumbles and falls, it's not that such a devotee is finished, that he's all washed up, that for one mistake everything is wiped out. Devotional service is not like that. Krsna has such high regard for devotional service that He thinks, "All right, even if something happened, still the main thing is that he's a devotee." Krsna therefore helps him. And therefore in the next verse Krsna says, ksipram bhavati dharmatma: Very quickly he comes back to the standard.

Sometimes a devotee commits a mistake, but then he sincerely regrets it: "Oh, I did something very wrong." For such a case, the scriptures mention that whatever impurities there may be, whatever reactions there may be, are burned off in the fire of sincere regret. So he becomes purified, and he very quickly comes back to the standard of pure devotion. Therefore, Krsna says, kaunteya pratijanihi na me bhakta pranasyati: "My dear Arjuna, please declare that My devotee is never finished." A materialist would be finished, but a devotee has such transcendental credit that even if there's some accidental falldown, Krsna is inclined to be generous: "All right. Everyone makes mistakes." And the devotee quickly comes back up to pure behavior.

Therefore a devotee should never be derided. Rather, devotees should be appreciated. Krsna is called bhakta-vatsala, "the person who is very much inclined to His devotees." So an intelligent person who is trying to make advancement in spiritual life should see, "Oh, here's a devotee. He's dear to Krsna."

Still, it's not that we can maintain a deviant track. That won't work. And it's not that we blindly take any degradation to be okay. But if a devotee is sincerely engaged in the service of Krsna, even if he does something abominable, we have to consider him saintly. Srila Prabhupada, I'm told, once gave the example of the precision required in space launches. If the trajectory is slightly off, the spacecraft goes zooming past its mark. One has to be on target in Krsna consciousness. Therefore, if a devotee deviates, he fires his retrorockets, gets back on course, and continues. And the mission is still successful.

His Holiness Jayadvaita Swami joined ISKCON in New York City in 1968. He was the previous editor of Back to Godhead. He is now editing a three-volume English edition of Sri Brhad-bhagavatamrta, a foundational Sanskrit text on bhakti by Srila Sanatana Gosvami. The first volume is scheduled for release by the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust as this issue of BTG goes to press.

An abridged version of this talk originally appeared in Matchless Gifts, the newsletter of the 26 Second Avenue temple.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

Spiritual Places

New Vraja Dhama
Creating the Land of Krsna In Hungary

Here devotees are developing a community
with Krsna in the center and free
from the bad influences of the age.

By Adikarta Dasa

VRAJA DHAMA is another name for Vrndavana, Lord Krsna's eternal residence in the spiritual world and the transcendental arena for His all-attractive pastimes when He comes to earth. New Vraja Dhama is a community founded on the idea of expanding the mood of Krsna's sacred place in India to other parts of the world. As in Vrndavana, Lord Krsna resides in New Vraja Dhama as the cause and recipient of selfless devotion.

Located approximately two-hours' drive from Budapest, the capital of Hungary, New Vraja Dhama is a manifestation of Srila Prabhupada's desire for self-sufficient country communities. Inspired by His Holiness Sivarama Swami, the devotees here have succeeded in capturing the mood of a genuine holy place in this remote part of the world. New Vraja Dhama's 450 acres of prime agricultural land boast hundreds of fruit trees and acres of grapevines. Purchased in 1993, it is home to approximately 150 devotees.

While complete self-sufficiency is the goal of New Vraja Dhama, at this stage some money is still needed, and it is acquired partly through a special law in Hungary that allows people to donate one percent of their owed taxes to a religion of their choice. The donations can be given only during the first two months of the year, so at that time many devotees leave the farm to collect contributions, which seem to come easily because of the popularity of the Hare Krsna movement in Hungary.

Prabhupada's Vision

Srila Prabhupada had many plans for elevating society to a better way of life. He said that "books are the basis" for the Hare Krsna movement, and he took much time to translate dozens of ancient India's sacred texts. These books not only give the greatest philosophy and logic but also contain the blueprint for a way of life radically different from our present mechanized society and much more beneficial for humanity.

Three months before leaving this world, in 1977, Srila Prabhupada became keen to teach his disciples (and the world at large) how one could live off the land simply and peacefully, without dependence on artificial amenities. Even though very ill, to show how it could be done he wanted to travel to America—to Gita Nagari, a Hare Krsna community in rural Pennsylvania. Sadly, his health prevented the trip.

Although he promoted the simple life, Prabhupada was not an enemy of machines, and they are currently being used effectively to spread Krsna consciousness. Citing the example of using a thorn to remove a thorn, Prabhupada used high-tech equipment to promote simple living. Why? Because these things could speed up the propagation of Krsna consciousness, the goal of which is to teach dependence on God, not on machines.

Most people today object to the idea of returning to a simple life, saying that modern conveniences have made life so much easier, more enjoyable, and interesting. They say that going back to the land would be a step back to a less civilized and enlightened age.

One could write volumes of books debating the superiority of one way of life over the other, but the main point is that the biggest problems of life, namely birth, death, old age, and disease, are just as present today as ever. If living simpler helps solve those problems by making our minds less distracted by artificial stimulation, surely that must be better. If we have more time and our life is molded for thinking and serving Lord Krsna, we will be happier.

One major problem is that Westernized people think they are more intelligent because they have so many machines, and that only "simple" people live off the land. It's a shame that modern man has no conception of the ideal traditional way of life in the Indian village. It hardly exists today, for reasons too numerous to present here, but the Supreme Lord Krsna Himself designed the world to be lived in that way. Tampering with His plan and trying to adjust things as we have, in the name of progress, may give the illusion of an easier life, but present-day reality hardly gives rise to optimism. In fact, the very worst problems—terrorism, atomic warfare, anthrax, airplane hijackings, and so on—can exist only in a mechanized society.

Although the New Vraja Dhama community started fairly recently and has a long way to go to be a perfect model of self-sufficiency, there's plenty of evidence there that Srila Prabhupada's vision of "simple living and high thinking" can become a practical solution to modern man's problems. From my visit I saw how devotees were happy living the simple life.

Temple At The Center Of Life

I was fortunate enough to visit New Vraja Dhama on the special occasion of Radhasami, the sacred birthday of Srimati Radharani, Lord Krsna's beloved consort. There was a special atmosphere in the temple, lit by oil lamps, as devotees gathered at 4:30 A.M. for mangala-arati, the first ceremony of the day. They decorated their eyes with the forms of Sri Sri Radha-Syamasundara, the presiding deities of the community. Beholding the beautiful deities and hearing the pure chanting of the maha-mantra, I felt transported to that eternal abode of the Lord, Sri Vrndavana Dhama.

The temple is a fitting complement to the radiant beauty of the deities and acts like a powerful magnet to draw everyone into its own unique jewellike interior. Everything about it is highly devotional. From the vibrant colors to the artwork and the intricate trim work, everything intoxicates the senses, as if one had opened the door to the spiritual world. I could see why devotees seemed so enthusiastic about going to the temple.

I was amazed by the cleanliness of the temple. Every day I saw several devotees, both male and female, happily washing windows, polishing floors, and dusting ceilings and walls. They must have known well that they were simultaneously cleaning their own hearts. On seeing such a spotless home for the Lord, my mind felt refreshed.

In the ideal self-sufficient way of life, Lord Krsna Himself in His deity form is the center of the community. Even in modern India, deities like Radha-Govinda in Jaipur and Lord Jagannatha in Puri are still devotedly worshiped daily by thousands of devotees. Similarly, in New Vraja Dhama the deities are obviously served with great love and devotion. Seriously following the principles of sadhana-bhakti, the scientific process of scheduled devotional activities, the devotees seem highly committed to their spiritual development, which is centered on the temple. Maybe this accounts for the enthusiastic, carefree mood. Knowing that so many devotees would be there chanting and dancing, I looked forward to the morning prayers with great eagerness.

The devotees at New Vraja Dhama happily welcome many guests to the community, and receiving guests is an important part of their lives. Last year, more than twenty thousand guests visited. Guests seem impressed by what they see—the guest lodge, the Vrndavana-style lakes and bathing places, the pottery, the art studio, the bakery, the restaurant, the gift shop, the gorgeous temple room. In exchange for their endeavor to visit New Vraja Dhama, their senses are rewarded with a variety of devotional treats: bhajanas, philosophy, Oriya dance, books, and of course prasadam. Seeing the guests pleasantly intoxicated by Krsna's special bliss, the devotees themselves naturally become happy as they explain the meaning of the paintings or the position of Srila Prabhupada.

Cow Protection And Ox Power

Just as in the original Vraja Dhama, where Lord Krsna, as the son of Nanda Maharaja, the king of the cowherd men, takes care of many cows, the devotees here also care for and protect this most valuable of creatures. According to Ayurveda, the ancient medical system of the Vedas, given by the Lord in His form of Dhanvantari, cow's milk is the most beneficial food. Lord Krsna Himself especially loves food offerings prepared with milk products. From ghee (clarified butter), butter, yogurt, buttermilk, and of course milk itself, so many tasty and healthy preparations can be made. Even in our degraded Kali-yuga, the present Age of Quarrel, the cow's by products are still very popular. Whether it's milk on their cereals, cream in their coffee, ice-cream, yogurt, or lux-ury leather seats in their cars, most people still benefit from mother cow. Sadly, father bull, the symbol of religion, is cruelly slaughtered, because ox power is one of those so-called primitive practices that has been replaced by the tractor.

Here, though, both the cows and oxen are valued as essential to the community. The oxen look satisfied using their strong bodies to plow the land or pull cartloads of wood, and the cows produce milk products for the offerings to the deities. By their service these animals make spiritual progress and live out their natural lives, unlike their kin whose nondevotee owners slaughter them when they are no longer profitable.

The Natural Life

Life without electricity, at least here, doesn't seem to present a problem. Although there are a few solar panels to power computers and other machines for spreading Krsna consciousness, life seems a lot more peaceful without electricity. Most of the cooking and heating is done with wood from the devotees' own land. Dried cow dung, renowned as the best cooking fuel, is used in the deity kitchen. The temple, the deities' sanctum, and the houses all use attractive glazed-tile furnaces for heating. Even water for bathing is heated with wood in unusual but efficient water heaters. Some of the water comes from the local village, but many of the twenty or so houses have their own hand-operated wells beside them. Washing is done by hand using hot water from the wood stoves.

Setting up all the aspects of the ideal Vedic village may take many generations. Because pleasure is the motivating principle for all living beings, the way of life needs to be so satisfying that people won't want to give it up—and won't miss cinemas, TV, and so on. Practiced properly, the natural way of life is far superior to the unnatural urban alternative. Every day is something of a festival. With lots of chanting and dancing, a high standard of deity worship, captivating explanations of the scriptures, regular dramas with colorful costumes and touching portrayals of Krsna's pastimes, dances, musical events, marriages, fire sacrifices, and huge celebrations on special days like Janmastami (Krsna's birthday), life can be like the spiritual world. Of course, there is also plenty to do to survive, but everything is enhanced by the mood of devotion.

Srila Prabhupada used to quote the British poet William Cowper as saying, "God made the country, and man made the town." Life in the city means economic development and artificial necessities. Working for money to buy these things requires the mode of passion. Country life means living in the mode of goodness, appreciating the beauty of nature, the running stream, the peacefulness of God's creation.

While devotees find cities good for distributing books and interesting people in Krsna consciousness, for the majority of married devotees, the rural way of life is much cheaper, healthier, more peaceful, more conducive to raising children, and more in line with the ideal social structure presented by Lord Krsna in the Bhagavad-gita. Known as the varnasrama system, it depends on four classes of men to make a complete society whose interdependence is essential and mutually beneficial. The head of society is the brahmanas, who guide; the arms are the ksatriyas, who protect; the stomach is the vaisyas, who trade, farm, and protect cows; and the legs are the sudras, who provide labor and other services. Unlike the modern-day corrupt caste system of India, in varnasrama anyone, regardless of birth, can achieve the highest position if qualified. No class is better than the others, because each is essential. Without cow protection, this way of life does not work, because farming will need tractors, which require money, and the whole scheme collapses.

So far, New Vraja Dhama has only a few children, because the residents are young. But they have built a large building where youth will receive an education based more on service to God than on preparing to fit into a chaotic society. The plan is for future generations to be able to provide for themselves by staying and using their natural talents, whether in pottery, farming, painting, teaching, protecting others, or running a restaurant.

Because we live in such an artificial environment today and eat unnaturally, many children, at least in America, are prescribed tranquilizers to calm them down. Here the children have plenty of space to run around and lots of home-grown foods to nourish their growing bodies.

The main purpose of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness is to teach people that we are all eternal servants of Lord Krsna and that to love Him is real satisfaction for the soul. Cities are good for spreading that message. But to completely transform people's lives—saving them from a world where they're forced to warm the globe, eat pesticides, drive to work at breakneck speed, or work in a factory or a nuclear-power plant—New Vraja Dhama is the right kind of place. It can shelter people from the bad influences of this age and let them associate with like-minded people. They can live peacefully, in harmony with Krsna, and at the end of this life go back to the eternal Vrndavana in the spiritual world.

Toward Self-Sufficiency

Here are some of the things being done at New Vraja Dhama in the quest for self-sufficiency:

• Temple constructed using rammed-earth walls and other traditional techniques
• Temple lit by traditional oil lamps or by lamps that burn oil pressed from locally grown rape seeds
• Very little use of electricity
• Most electricity generated by solar panels
• Heating by super-efficient wood-burning stoves, using wood sustainably harvested from a fifty-acre forest plot
• Home-grown fruits and vegetables (600 fruit trees)
• Home-grown and ground wheat
• Honey from bee-keeping
• Oxen used for farming and transport
• Cows giving milk for an endless variety of milk products


Adikarta Dasa joined ISKCON in 1974. He lives with his wife and two of his five children in Prabhupada Village, an aspiring self-sufficient community in North Carolina. He lectures on Krsna consciousness at colleges, distributes Prabhupada's books, grows a few fruits and vegetables, and milks the cows now and again.

Use back button to return.

Return to top

Lord Caitanya's Eight Teachings

Introduction—A Prophecy Fulfilled

Caitanya Mahaprabhu's descent to this
world fulfilled the prophecies of the
Vedic scriptures about the incarnation
of the Lord for this age.

by Satyaraja Dasa

This is the first of a five-part series on Lord Caitanya's Siksastaka, or "Eight Teachings." The series has been adapted from lectures presented at the New York City Public Library to a group of students from Columbia University.

I WOULD FIRST OF ALL like to thank Dr. Lundquist and the other good scholars and librarians affiliated with the Oriental Division for allowing us to meet and discuss the philosophy of Sri Caitanya, especially in regard to His eight verses, or Siksastaka. These important verses contain the sum and substance of Indian religious thought and indeed of all spiritual philosophy.

Some background information is in order. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was a preeminent religious figure of the sixteenth century, although today He is not well known. One reason for this is that He left no literary contribution to speak of. His eight original prayers, which we will be discussing at length, are considered original compositions, although they were not written down in the usual sense. They were profound devotional outpourings, which He spoke in an enhanced state of spiritual ecstasy. They were eventually written down by Caitanya Mahaprabhu's intimate follower Sri Svarupa Damodara. And Mahaprabhu instructed His intimate disciples, chief among whom were the six Gosvamis of Vrndavana, to delineate in a scholarly way His message of scientific devotion, His message of advanced spirituality, His message of love of God. This they did in great detail, and Mahaprabhu's teachings later came to be known as the philosophy of Gaudiya Vaisnavism. So although Mahaprabhu Himself left little in the way of written documents, His followers left a vast wealth of philosophical literature, codifying and systematizing Mahaprabhu's teachings for future generations.

Besides Caitanya Mahaprabhu's negligible literary career, a more important, reason that He is not well known is that He is a particularly esoteric avatar and is known as the channa-avatara, or the hidden incarnation of God.

You see, ancient India's Vedic literature, the world's most time-honored and comprehensive scriptural tradition, predicts God's many appearances in this world, referring to His parentage, the town in which He makes His appearance, the mission He seeks to accomplish, and things of this nature. The arrangement is very scientific. So there can be no mistake about an incarnation's authenticity.

In recent years, especially since the '60s, it has become fashionable to sentimentally accept someone as a guru or, worse still, an incarnation of God, based on whimsy, speculation, or gut impressions. But this is risky. Cheaters abound. Separating the saints from the swindlers, the avatars from the avaricious, is sometimes difficult. For this reason Sri Sanatana Gosvami, a direct disciple of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, asked Him, kemane janiba kalite kon avatara? This is the Bengali. It means, "How can I understand who is the incarnation of God for Kali-yuga, the current age?" Mahaprabhu answered, "One can understand that someone is an incarnation in this age in the same way one could have ascertained such a thing in previous ages—by consulting the scriptures." This is the secret.

The scriptures reveal exact information—specific things to look for in an alleged incarnation. First, there is svarupa-laksana. This refers to personal characteristics, such as form, nature, and bodily features—external things that one can observe. Then there is ta astha-laksana. This refers to marginal characteristics, such as specific information about His transcendental activities. In other words, there is a reason why an incarnation descends—and it's not just to collect money, grow a long beard, and look holy on special holidays! So one who learns this transcendental science from a teacher in disciplic succession—a teacher who represents one of the four genuine Vaisnava lines and does not deviate from the scriptures—will not be cheated. There is thus a way to objectively distinguish the genuine incarnation from a bogus person.

Caitanya Mahaprabhu was specifically described in the scriptures, and so according to these standards He is rightly accepted as an incarnation of the Supreme.

A Rare Appearance

But let's backtrack for a second. The scriptures describe many incarnations in great detail. For example, Buddha is predicted, and the names of His parents and village are specifically mentioned. So, too, are a host of other avatars mentioned, or predicted, in this same exacting way.

Some are explained in a general way, but not so general that it is left vague. Sri Rupa Gosvami's Laghu-bhagavatamrta, for example, says that the Lord appears in Satya-yuga, the first age, with a white complexion. In the next age, Treta-yuga, He appears with a red complexion. In the following age, known as Dvapara-yuga, He comes with a dark complexion. Finally, in Kali, the fourth age, He generally comes in a blackish form, but sometimes comes in a golden form. This is a secret, esoteric incarnation. The Eleventh Canto of the Bhagavata Purana, for instance, tells us that in a rare Kali-yuga, which occurs only in the twenty-eighth divya-yuga of the seventh Manvantara—that is to say, every 8.64 billion years—this special Golden Avatar appears. This is Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Therefore, at this special point in our evolution of yuga cycles, the Lord is called Triyuga, or "He who appears in three of the four ages." Why? Because in the fourth age He is channa-avatara, or the special hidden incarnation.

Question: You are referring to the predictions in the Vedic texts?

Satyaraja Dasa: Oh, yes. There is much concrete evidence for the divinity of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. For example, there are direct statements in the Mahabharata and the Bhagavata Purana, and there is even a book known as Caitanya Upanisad, which is said to be an appendix to the Atharva Veda. The Krsna-yamala and the Brahma-yamala both specifically mention by name Caitanya Mahaprabhu's mother, Saci, as well as the town of Navadvip, where He took birth. These two scriptures also mention His mission: the sankirtana movement, or the movement that centers on the congregational chanting of the holy names of the Lord. The Vayu Purana says, kalau sankirtanarambhe bhavisyami saci sutah: "In the age of Kali, when the sankirtana movement is inaugurated, Krsna will descend as the divine son of Sacidevi."

So Caitanya Mahaprabhu's divinity is fully acknowledged in the Vedic literature, and scholars of the Gaudiya Vaisnava tradition have brought this out in many academic works and lucid writings. Especially, if one carefully reads Sri Caitanya-caritamrta with the translation and commentary of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, one will be convinced of the preeminent position of Lord Caitanya.

Confidential Mission

Question: But in India, at least, Sri Caitanya is not recognized by everyone. If He were such an important avatar, as you indicate, then you would imagine that He would be accepted across the board.

Satyaraja Dasa: In this age, nothing is accepted across the board. [Laughter.] This is the age of disharmony and argument. [Laughter.]

Actually, what you are bringing out is the real glory, or the inner meaning, of channa-avatara. Mahaprabhu's mission is confidential—the most secret of all secrets. Therefore, the Bhagavatam [11.5.32] predicts that only the most intelligent will recognize His glory: "In the age of Kali the Lord incarnates as a devotee, yellowish in color, and is always chanting the holy name: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Although He is Krsna, His complexion is not blackish like Krsna's, but golden. He preaches love of God through His sankirtana movement, and those living entities who are sufficiently intelligent will adopt His method of realization."

So this is the great secret of the scriptures. It is no wonder that it is accepted by a fortunate few! But Krsna had warned that it would be so. In the Gita [7.3] He says, "Out of many millions of people, only a handful will look for perfection. And out of that handful, hardly one will know Me in truth." So this can be said to relate directly to Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Only a rare breed will take up His method of realization. Those who are serious. Those who want love of God and nothing else.

Of course, this is not an ego game. The exalted stature of Caitanya Mahaprabhu's devotees should not be taken as a pompous sentiment. His method is open to everyone. Simply chant the holy name, whatever your religion, whatever your language. Chant God's name and devote your life to His glorification. If you do this much, then you are a practitioner of Caitanya Mahaprabhu's method, at least in a fundamental sense. So it is not exclusive. We don't say that one must become a Hindu, or a Jew, or a Christian, or anything. No. Just develop love for God. This is the actual substance of Caitanya Mahaprabhu's nonsectarian message, and it can be embraced by everyone.

What is the result? The highest realization. Caitanya Mahaprabhu is not only Krsna, but Radha and Krsna combined. Male and female absolute—the most complete manifestation of Godhead. This is the verdict of the Gaudiya line.

So, in answer to your question, yes, it is a rare thing, not widely accepted. But that is not very shocking. If you have a rare gem, you shouldn't expect that everyone will have what it takes to purchase it.

Question: I'm curious about documentation. How accurate are the stories relating to Sri Caitanya's life? Were biographies written much later, or were they written during His own time period?

Satyaraja Dasa: More than any other major religious figure, perhaps, Lord Caitanya was written about in His own lifetime and shortly thereafter. Early biographies include Caitanya-candrodaya-natakam and Caitanya-carita, a lengthy work, both by Kavi Karnapura, one of Lord Caitanya's contemporaries. And then there were the diaries kept by Murari Gupta, Svarupa Damodara, and Raghunatha Dasa Gosvami, all close associates of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Mahaprabhu's personal servant, Govinda, kept a diary. Several authoritative biographies were written a generation or two after Caitanya Mahaprabhu—Vrndavana Dasa Thakura's Caitanya Bhagavata, for example, and Locana Dasa Thakura's Caitanya-mangala. Sometime later came Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami's Caitanya-caritamrta, perhaps the most elaborate and esoteric of the Lord's biographies. These are great scholarly works. And then there is Cudamani Dasa's Gauranga-vijaya, and the Gaura-pada-taranginim and the Gauranga-campu—oh, there is no limit!

You see, Caitanya Mahaprabhu was known as a divinity in His own time. So contemporaries and devotees of the next two generations took it upon themselves to write many books to capture His pastimes. His history is well documented.

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

Use back button to return.

Return to top

From the Editor

Getting to Know Krsna

THE CHEERY DENTAL assistant asked me how I'd be spending the weekend.

"I'll be gathering with other members of the local Krsna community for a big festival," I told her.

"Christian community?" she asked.

Apparently, my Hare Krsna haircut didn't mean anything to her.

"No," I replied, "Krsna community. I'm a Hare Krsna."

"Hare Krsna?"

"You've never heard of Hare Krsna?" I asked.

"No. Is it something like Islam?"

"No. It's from India."

And that's as far was we got before the dentist's drill found my mouth and ended our conversation.

I was surprised that someone living in an area that's home to hundreds of Hare Krsna devotees had never heard of Krsna. But I was happy to introduce her to Him.

On my first visit to a temple, in 1974, I heard the lecturer say that Krsna is God because Krsna possesses six opulences in full: beauty, wealth, strength, fame, knowledge, and renunciation. These are attractive qualities, he said, and since Krsna is the reservoir of all of them, He's naturally the most attractive person. That's why He's called Krsna—"the all-attractive person."

Pondering the qualities the lecturer had mentioned, I balked momentarily at the idea that Krsna possesses unlimited fame. Two days earlier I'd never heard of Him. How could He be the most famous person?

I asked someone about that later.

"Well, He's God," he replied. "Everyone's heard of God! And because He's the most famous (among other things), He's called Krsna."

Srila Prabhupada came to teach us that Krsna is God. I sometimes wonder at how easily I accepted that proposition back then. The night before my first visit to the temple, I read a small book called Krsna, the Reservoir of Pleasure. I had bought it from a devotee that afternoon for twenty-five cents. I'd been haphazardly looking for "the truth" and keeping a diary of my search. When I finished reading that night, I wrote in my diary, "Maybe this Krysna [sic] is it."

I'm sure the devotees' conviction had a lot to do with my attraction to Krsna consciousness. I arrived at the temple a few hours before the Sunday Feast, so I was escorted to the apartment of a devotee couple, where I spoke with several devotees and witnessed something of their lives. One impression stuck: "Boy! These people are really into what they're doing!"

Their dedication inspired me to dive into Srila Prabhupada's books. And only a few weeks later I was blessed to see Srila Prabhupada himself at the San Francisco Rathayatra festival. That day I started wearing Vaisnava neckbeads—an outward sign of my growing conviction that Krsna is God.

Seeing Prabhupada and reading his books helped me understand the depth of faith shown by his disciples. Srila Prabhupada's conviction, clearly derived from experiences higher than any I could imagine, was contagious. His day was spent in full absorption in Krsna, in thought, word, and deed. And his books contained none of the hedging found in pretty much everything else I'd read.

Now I'm trying to do my small part to help Srila Prabhupada spread the name and fame of Lord Krsna.

Nagaraja Dasa

Use back button to return.

Return to top

Vedic Thoughts

The most confidential part of knowledge is that one should become a pure devotee of Krsna and always think of Him and act for Him. . . . He should arrange his life in such a way that throughout the twenty-four hours he cannot but think of Krsna. And the Lord's promise is that anyone who is in such pure Krsna consciousness will certainly return to the abode of Krsna, where he will engage in the association of Krsna face to face.

His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Bhagavad-gita As It Is, 18.65, Purport

The residents of both heaven and hell desire human birth on the earth planet because human life facilitates the achievement of transcendental knowledge and love of Godhead, whereas neither heavenly nor hellish bodies efficiently provide such opportunities.

Lord Sri Krsna
Srimad-Bhagavatam 11.20.12

Those who are fortunate to receive the teachings of Lord Caitanya can progress very quickly. In a short life span, a person can easily progress from varnasrama to the highest level of prema, pure love of God.

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura
Sri Caitanya Siksamrta, Chapter 3, Part 1

One has to have great strength of mind to know the truth. If one wants to learn to swim, he must not be afraid of water. At the same time, one should know that saranagati, or the path of exclusive surrender, is not a difficult thing. In fact, it is very easy and natural for the soul. Anything which is opposed to it—that is unnatural and painful.

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura
Reply to a disciple's question

The Personality of Godhead, Lord Krsna [Govinda], is the exclusive shelter for all great living beings, and His transcendental attributes cannot even be measured by such masters of mystic powers as Lord Siva and Lord Brahma. Can anyone who is expert in relishing nectar [rasa] ever be fully satiated by hearing topics about Him?

Sages of Naimsaranya
Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.18.14

Material enjoyments are full of poison, but you consider them pleasing. Do not think of them as a source of happiness, but understand them as distress. Be absorbed in full thought of Govinda, associate with His devotees, and conclude that devotional service is the goal of life.

Srila Narottama Dasa Thakura
Sri Prema Bhakti Candrika

Use back button to return.

Return to top