IN THIS ISSUE we present an extensive article on His Holiness Tamal Krishna Goswami, who passed away in a car accident in March. An early disciple of Srila Prabhupada, he left a record of extraordinary achievements in the service of Prabhupada's mission. Encouraged by senior members of ISKCON, we advised author Satyaraja Dasa to take as many pages as he needed to honor the memory of this exalted devotee of Lord Krsna. We hope that reading of Tamal Krishna Goswami's example of dedicated service will inspire our readers, just as it has all of us who helped bring the article to print.
Also in this issue, Srila Prabhupada analyzes the three main types of yoga and shows why bhakti is the best. Arcana-siddhi Devi Dasi, a family therapist, writes about depression. Without discrediting modern medicine, she shows how only Krsna consciousness can get to the root of the problem.
ISKCON educator Bhurijana Dasa suggests a way to approach Srila Prabhupada's books that lets them transform us, and Gopiparanadhana Dasa gives us insight into Prabhupada's method of scriptural commentary. Mathuresa Dasa concludes the story of King Prataparudra he started in the last issue. This time, the king fulfills his long-cherished desire for the company of Lord Caitanya.
—Nagaraja Dasa, Editor
• To help all people discern reality from illusion, spirit from matter, the eternal from the temporary.
Web Site for the Future
I would like to congratulate you on launching www.krishna.com. It's a great searching web site for a brighter future in Krsna consciousness. My heartfelt thanks to all of the "second-generation" who work behind the scenes.
I have also read in the March/April issue "A Prophecy Fulfilled," by Satyaraja Dasa. Surely, Lord Caitanya's mercy is reaching to the hearts of thousands in the Kali-yuga. And thank you for reports like the one on New Vraja Dhama in Hungary.
I would just like to say a special thank you to the workers of the Krsna web site. I'm always delighted to click onto the site. Thank you also for all the great information and newsletters. I'm very proud of my culture and of the Hare Krsna movement!
Ria Tulsie Ramnath
Body and Soul
According to the Bhagavad-gita, the soul gets a new body based on fruitive activities done in the past life. Now, as per Chapter 2, the soul is not actually changeable. I want to know why the soul is suffering from the deeds of the body, when it does not take part in sense gratification. What makes the soul suffer or get the fruits of the activities of the body.
OUR REPLY: Although the soul is factually detached from matter, it suffers because it identifies with the body, and therefore with the body's actions and reactions.
My first visit to the ISKCON temple was about one and a half years ago. This really transformed the way I look at life. I was impressed by the way the swamis and others were so deeply involved in the service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, away from temporary, material desires. I started the maha-mantra japa then, and now I am doing eight rounds daily. Of course, there is a long way to go, but I am sure Lord Krsna will show me the right way whenever I digress.
[Written to Hare Krsna Devi Dasi and Pundarika Dasa.]
Just writing to applaud your article in BTG ["Doctors of Body and Soul," March/April], but more your courageous convictions to resolutely follow the order of your Guru Maharaja and Srila Prabhupada. Indradyumna Maharaja's article ["My Mother's Transformation] moved me to tears, but yours moved me back into the bathroom—to put on tilaka!—a habit which has sadly lapsed a bit over the years of living out here in the sticks. I recall how, as new devotees, the first time we lived in rural Wales we'd apply it daily enthusiastically (my husband still does), and be greeted with the same comments as you. Now, mixing with the country folk, I've lost the habit. A most heartfelt thank you for reminding me of my duty as a disciple, and of the benefits I can give everyone freely—even the cows and sheep!
Gandharvika Devi Dasi
Advertise Our Heritage
I really enjoyed your article on wearing tilaka at work. I encourage all my fellow readers, both male and female, to wear tilaka or tikkas to show your identity. Particularly in these troubling times, we can advertise our Vedic heritage to help this world be a better place.
Guidance for Women
I am a twenty-four-year-old Singaporean living in Singapore. I have been in the Hare Krsna movement, and reading Back to Godhead, for almost a year. I'm full of praise for your teamwork in coming up with such a wonderful magazine. It has really been an eye-opener for me.
I would like to know more about Krsna consciousness for women. Please advise me on the proper guidance for women in the Hare Krsna movement.
Urmila Devi Dasi replies: Regarding the place of women in Krsna consciousness, on the spiritual level, for the nine processes of devotional service, there is no limitation of any material circumstance. The body one has doesn't matter, and all souls have an equal opportunity to serve Krsna. Materially, each of us has talents and abilities that others don't, so there is no material equality. But we can each use our material situation in the Lord's service, and doing so is as good as directly hearing and chanting.
A peaceful society is required for people to advance in spiritual life. We contribute to a peaceful society when we work harmoniously and don't artificially imitate others' duties. Men's and women's duties differ in some areas, and that should be respected.
The March/April issue BTG is excellent and spiritually gorgeous. "My Devotee Is Always Saintly," by Jayadvaita Swami, guides Krsna devotees on the right track. I sometimes violate the fundamental principles of Krsna conscious-ness, and I feel very bad in my heart about this. By reading the article, I felt encouraged. Thanks for being the guide for many devotees in this small world. Thanks for spreading the wonderful message of Srila Prabhupada.
Bharath Radhe Krishna
Please write to us at: BTG, P. O. Box 430, Alachua, FL 32616, USA. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Of the three main types of yoga discussed in the Gita, only one gives complete knowledge.
By His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
"The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: Now hear, O son of Prtha, how by practicing yoga in full consciousness of Me, with mind attached to Me, you can know Me in full, free from doubt."
WE ARE SPEAKING from the Bhagavad-gita. I think most of you know this book. The Gita is sometimes translated in foreign languages as The Song of God. In other words, God Himself is speaking.
We cannot understand God by mental speculation. Even in this material world we cannot understand what is present in the planetary systems. Our knowledge is very, very limited. Besides that, we have four deficiencies. One deficiency is that we commit mistakes. Anyone, any big man of this material world, commits mistakes.
And he is illusioned. Illusion means to accept something that is not a fact. For example, if we accept the body as the self, that is called illusion. According to Vedic understanding, anyone who thinks of the body as the self is an animal. A dog thinks he is the body. Similarly, if a man thinks he is the body—that he is American or Indian or French or German or Hindu or Muslim—according to the Vedic understanding this conception is the animal's conception. That is called illusion.
The next item is cheating. Cheating means that with imperfect knowledge one takes the role of a teacher.
And the last deficiency is that our senses are imperfect. Our senses are not independent. Still, we are very much proud of our senses. For example, the atheist asks, "Can you show me God?" He does not consider whether he has any power to see. We can see only when conditions are fulfilled. If someone turns off the light here, we won't be able to see one another. So what is the value of these eyes? You simply see under certain conditions. You simply smell under certain conditions. You can hear under certain conditions. Therefore your materialistic life is conditional life.
With imperfect senses we cannot understand God. The most useful sense to understand God is the ear. When a man is sleeping and some enemy comes to attack him or kill him, if some friend cries, "Mr. Such-and-such, wake up, wake up! Here is your enemy. He'll kill you!" the man can rise up. So when all other senses are useless, the ear can work. Therefore, to understand God we have to use the ear. We have to receive the sound vibration, and it will act.
You ladies and gentleman are interested in the yoga system. The first-class yoga system is bhakti-yoga. In this Bhagavad-gita I am trying to explain the first verse of the Seventh Chapter. In the Sixth Chapter, the yoga system has been explained. It is said that one has to select a very sacred, secluded place. He has to sit down there in a perpendicular posture, with the neck and body in a straight line. And then he has to think of Krsna or Visnu. The thinking should be carefully done. One cannot divert his attention to any other subject. In the Patanjala yoga system it is said, yoga indriya-samyama: yoga means to control all the senses. Unless the senses are controlled, the mind will sicker, go this way and that way. The mind is the leader of all other senses. If you control the mind, concentrate on the feature of the Supreme Lord, that is the yoga system.
Therefore, describing the yoga system, Krsna prescribes so many methods, but after hearing the system of practicing yoga, Arjuna replies, "Krsna, this system is so difficult I cannot practice it."
Arjuna was not an ordinary person. He was specifically the friend of Krsna. He said, "This practice of yoga, ha ha-yoga, is not possible by me."
So Krsna concluded His instructions on the yoga system by saying, "Don't be uncertain. There is another yoga system, the bhakti-yoga system. You can adopt it."
Bhakti-yoga is summarized in the Sixth Chapter of Bhagavad-gita [6.47]:
yoginam api sarvesam
This is the topmost system of yoga: bhakti-yoga, always thinking of Krsna. That system is being described in the Seventh Chapter:
"My dear Arjuna, just try to divert your attachment to Me." We have attachment. Everyone has attachment to something. The bhakti-yoga system means simply to divert the attachment to Krsna. That's all. When the mind is fully diverted for increasing attachment to Krsna, that is called bhakti-yoga.
Yogam yunjan mad-asrayah: "This yoga system should be practiced under my direct supervision." Mad-asrayah means "under My direct supervision."
This means that the yoga system is not impersonal. Therefore the words used are bhagavan uvaca: "the Supreme Personality of Godhead said." Bhagavan, the Absolute Truth, is a person. There are many who think the Absolute Truth is impersonal. But the Absolute Truth is a person. Impersonal realization of the Absolute Truth is partial. It is not complete realization. Therefore it is mentioned here asamsayam, "without any doubt," and samagram, "in full."
After all, yoga means an endeavor to understand the Absolute Truth. Yoga means "linking," "connecting." When you connect with the Absolute Truth, that is called yoga. Another meaning is "plus," adding something else. Like two plus two. That is also called yoga. Similarly, God is one; I am also one. When we join together, that is called yoga.
There are many methods of yoga practice, but the direct method is bhakti-yoga. I am a person, and God is also a person. When we join together, that is called bhakti-yoga. Bhakti means the process of connecting with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. As soon as we use the word bhakti, which means the process of devotion, there must be bhakta [devotee] and Bhagavan. Bhagavan is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and the bhakta here is Arjuna. Bhagavan is personally teaching Arjuna the process to understand Him fully and without any doubt. Therefore it is mentioned here, bhagavan uvaca: "the Supreme Personality of Godhead said."
Three Angles Of Vision
The Absolute Truth is realized in three angles of vision. It is said in the Vedic literature [Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.2.11],
vadanti tat tattva-vidas
The Absolute Truth is the ultimate truth, tattva. Tattva means Absolute Truth. Those who are aware of the Absolute Truth say that the Absolute Truth is one but He's realized in three angles of vision, namely Brahman, Paramatma, and Bhagavan. Those who are trying to speculate to understand the Absolute Truth can realize up to impersonal Brahman. Generally, speculators, big, big philosophers, can understand the impersonal Brahman. These impersonalists are generally known as jnanis. Jnanis are wise men, or persons very much aware of everything. They can understand the impersonal feature of the Absolute Truth.
Another class is the yogis. The yogis can understand the Paramatma feature of the Absolute Truth. Paramatma means the Supersoul situated within everyone's heart.
The personal feature of the Lord is realized by the bhaktas, or the devotees.
The jnanis and yogis cannot understand perfectly what is God. God is transcendental, sat-cit-ananda, a combination of eternity, knowledge, and bliss. If we realize the Absolute Truth partially—simply knowledge of eternity—that is called brahma-jnana. And when one is further advanced and realizes by yoga practice the Absolute Truth as the localized aspect, Paramatma, or Lord Visnu within everyone's heart, that is called paramatma-jnana. The objective is one, but there are different degrees of understanding. One example can be given in this connection, that of the sun globe, the sungod, and the sunshine. The sunshine is light and temperature, the sun globe is light and temperature, and within the sun globe is the personality known as the sun-god, who is also light and temperature. But all this light and temperature is present in different degrees. The temperature and light of the sunshine is less than that of the sun globe, and the temperature and light of the sun globe is less than that of the sun-god.
When you reach the sun-god, then you understand the complete temperature and light. That completeness is realized by the word bhagavan. Therefore these words are used here: asamsayam samagram. "You can understand Me in full and without any doubt—asamsayam.i
If you are interested to understand the Absolute Truth, God, then you must take to bhakti-yoga. And if you want to understand the Absolute Truth with some doubt, and not completely, then you may take to jnana-yoga or dhyana-yoga.
This Krsna consciousness movement is meant for understanding the Absolute Truth completely—without any doubt and without any incompleteness. The Eighteenth Chapter confirms that if you want to know God completely and without any doubt, then you have to take to the bhakti-yoga process. It is said,
bhaktya mam abhijanati
"One can understand Me only by the bhakti-yoga process. And when one is fully aware of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, then he becomes fit to enter into the kingdom of God."
The purpose of yoga practice is to leave this material atmosphere and enter into the spiritual atmosphere. The jnana-yogi remains in the impersonal feature of the Absolute Truth. The dhyana-yogi is practicing to realize the localized aspect of the Absolute Truth, but the bhakti-yogi is promoted directly to the planet called Goloka Vrndavana, and there he associates with the Supreme Personality of Godhead and enjoys life blissfully, eternally.
There are different planetary systems within the material world. Where we are situated is called Bhurloka. Above this is Bhuvarloka. Above that are Svarloka, Janaloka, Maharloka, and Satyaloka. There are seven steps of planetary systems up and, similarly, seven planetary systems down. By jnana-yoga, bhakti-yoga, or dhyana-yoga, which means the mystic yoga system, we can be promoted to the higher systems, but if we practice bhakti-yoga then we go to the transcendental world directly and associate with the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
The dhyana-yogi and jnana-yogi can go to the brahmajyoti, but there is the chance of falling down again to this material world. Generally, jnana-yogis remain speculators within the material world, and dhyana-yogis, as soon as they get some material power to perform miracles they become implicated with this power and fail to achieve the spiritual world. But the bhakti-yogi, being the perfect yogi—the topmost yogi—can enter the kingdom of God, or the planet where God is.
God is everywhere, but He has a special planet, called Goloka Vrndavana. You can enter there and mix with the Supreme Lord, just as we are here, mixing with one another. I can see you, and you can see me. Similarly, you can go directly, see God and live with Him, dance with Him, play with Him, eat with Him. That is the perfection of life.
This perfection of yoga can be achieved by practicing bhakti-yoga as recommended here: mayy asakta-manah partha yogam yunjan mad-asrayah—under the guidance of the Supreme Personality of Godhead or His bona fide representative. If you practice this yoga, then you can understand the Supreme Personality of God-head completely, without any doubt. If you practice this yoga in this life and try to understand Krsna, then after giving up this body—you have to give up this body today or tomorrow—then you go directly to Krsna.
It is therefore explained in the Fourth Chapter,
janma karma ca me divyam
"My dear Arjuna, if anyone simply tries to understand why I come to this material world—what is My mission, what do I do—then he immediately becomes fit for being transferred to the spiritual world."
So our Krsna consciousness movement is meant to educate people to understand Krsna and then make their lives perfect.
Thank you very much.
"Within days of chanting the mantra
by Arcana-siddhi Devi Dasi
IN THE EVENING of November 14, 1975, I received a phone call in my dorm room at college. Absorbed in studying for exams, I answered nonchalantly, expecting it to be my boyfriend, who would normally call me around that time. Instead, I heard an unfamiliar voice on the other end, and a young man identified himself as one of my brother's new housemates.
I thought, "What has Philip done this time?"
For the past six years, Philip had suffered from a bipolar disorder, then known as manic depressive disorder. Several times he had stopped taking his medications and lapsed into a psychotic manic state. The last time that had happened, he was found lying in the middle of the road, trying to see if the cars would stop. He rationalized his behavior as a test to see if man was inherently good or evil. Luckily he was arrested before any harm came to him, and he was again admitted to a psychiatric hospital to become stabilized on medication.
The night I received the phone call, I'd just seen my brother the previous day. He'd been in a subdued, thoughtful mood. Although attending classes at the university and doing well, he said that he didn't see any hope for his future. Everything seemed futile. I gave him one of my standard pep talks, reminding him that things would get better and he just had to ride out the storm. But since I shared his views about the futility of life, I wondered how convincing I'd been.
I too struggled with depressed moods. I'd just started my own spiritual search, but I didn't yet have compelling answers to his desperate question of why to go on in life. Still, he had assured me he'd be all right and thanked me for our talk.
After a long pause on the telephone, his housemate blurted out that Philip had hanged himself in the basement. His body had just been found. The caller offered condolences and hurriedly excused himself from the conversation. I hung up the phone, stupefied and numb.
My brother's tragic death intensified my spiritual search. I looked for answers in religious books and scriptures. I fervently prayed for guidance.
I soon had the good fortune to meet devotees of Krsna. They too shared my views about the futility of living a life just to grow old and die. But unlike me, they were radiant and happy. That apparent contradiction increased my curiosity to understand more about their beliefs.
I learned that the devotees were accessing another dimension of reality. They taught me that beyond this temporary world of birth and death is an eternal world, where a person's happiness is ever increasing in relationship with the Supreme Person, Krsna.
I was familiar with the concept of an afterworld through the teachings of Christianity: Live a good life, and you'll be assured a place in that world at the end. But what attracted me to the Krsna conscious presentation of an eternal world was that I didn't have to wait until I died to be transported somewhere; I could achieve spiritual consciousness in this life.
This did two important things for me. First, it gave me a goal worth living for. Second, I could perceive the progress I was making each day, and that would help give me the impetus to keep working toward the ultimate goal of realizing my spiritual identity in relationship to Krsna.
The devotees showed me the basic ingredients for spiritual progress. Foremost was the chanting of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, the sound incarnation of the Lord. Krsna has empowered the mantra to purify our hearts of all unwanted feelings, such as jealousy, greed, and hate. The mantra helps us uncover our real spiritual consciousness, now shrouded in countless desires that separate us from the Lord.
Within days of chanting the mantra regularly on beads, I felt a lifting of my depressed feelings. Light entered the darkness I was so accustomed to living in.
The sound of the mantra released me from a vision of the world as vacant and without purpose. I quickly became devoted to chanting the maha-mantra more than seventeen hundred times a day (sixteen "rounds" on beads), a practice I've continued for the past twenty-five years. The chanting has had many positive effects. One of the most dramatic changes for me has been a freedom from the depression I lived with for so many years before being introduced to Krsna consciousness.
Most people have depressed moods from time to time, often pointing to a need for change, either internal or external. We might have to alter our perception or understanding of something, or find a different kind of job or a new place to live.
Feeling low now and then is not the same as clinical depression. To be diagnosed as a clinical depression, a severe depression in an adult must be present every day for at least two weeks, and a less severe depression must be present most days for at least two years.
In the deepest sense, depression or despondency is the soul's yearning to be with Krsna. Ultimately, our desires can never be satisfied by the things of this world.
In the West, one of the most vivid examples of this dissatisfaction is the Christmas morning ritual. How many Christmas mornings did we race to the tree, bursting with anticipation? How many Christmas mornings did we rip through wrapping paper, hoping to find the gift we'd asked for all year? Then, in the wake of torn paper, tangled ribbon, mangled bows, and strewn boxes, how often did we feel morose and unfulfilled?
The magic of anticipation disappeared. Yet, amazingly, the next year we'd again be tricked into believing we can find happiness under the glittering Christmas tree.
Covered by the Lord's illusory potency, we think we can be happy in this world even though we've been disappointed time and time again. To teach us the error of this kind of thinking, Krsna sometimes covers His own liberated servants with illusion so they can act like one of us. One such devotee is Arjuna. Faced with the prospect of having to fight against relatives, teachers, and friends, he is briefly overcome by depression and loses sight of his spiritual identity. Thrust into the illusion of bodily identification, he wants to run away to the forest, neglecting his duty as a warrior. In that bewildered and painful emotional state, Arjuna tells Krsna he can't find any way to drive away his grief, which is drying up his senses. At that point he realizes that no material solution will bring him relief. He turns to the Lord for shelter.
To help Arjuna out of his depression and back to spiritual consciousness, Krsna then speaks the timeless wisdom of the Bhagavad-gita. These transcendental talks with Krsna cure Arjuna of his desperate anguish and allow him to act according to the Lord's directions.
Depression And Spiritualists
We might doubt that a serious spiritualist could develop an emotional or mental ailment. But just as the Lord can use physical sickness to bring a devotee closer to Him, He can use mental distress as well. That was shown in Krsna's dealings with Arjuna.
We have access to the same source of solace Arjuna had. The Supreme Lord, Sri Krsna, is seated within our hearts. He wants to give us good counsel and direct us out of our unhappy state of being. And He directs us to a bona fide spiritual teacher who will also help us on our journey in this temporary world.
The material world is not our actual home, and the body we see in the mirror is not our real self. The Srimad-Bhagavatam says that we can't be happy in this world unless we're a fool or a pure devotee. A fool can ignore reality and live as if he'll never die. But a pure devotee, having realized his spiritual identity, is no longer affected by the impermanent material body. Pure devotees are with Krsna in the spiritual world, even though their physical bodies are here on earth.
Since most people fall somewhere between the fool and the pure devotee, no wonder most people feel depressed moods off and on and an estimated twenty-five percent of the population of the United States develops a clinical depression sometime in life.
Depression can be useful if it leads us in a spiritual direction as we seek answers to our unhappiness. The Lord in the heart will coax us toward Him. If we choose to ignore Him by turning our attention to the ephemeral, external world for comfort, by drowning our emotions and insecurities in intoxication or other mind-altering activities, we'll perpetuate our miserable feelings. We'll destroy our sensitivity to hearing the internal voice of reason and wisdom.
While spiritual practices are the ultimate cure for all depression, the very nature of depression sometimes prevents spiritual seekers from doing the very things that could help them out of the quagmire. For a jaundiced person, candy, the cure for the disease, tastes bitter. But if the patient keeps eating the candy, the jaundice is cured and the candy tastes sweet again. In our diseased material consciousness, chanting Hare Krsna—the cure—may often seem difficult, but as we advance in our spiritual consciousness, the chanting becomes sweeter and more and more enjoyable.
So while we should encourage others to take to the spiritual remedy of chanting, we may need to encourage them to get medical help as well. We should never ignore the symptoms of clinical depression in ourselves or in our family or friends. The symptoms include some or all of the following: low self-esteem, irritable moods, lack of energy, thoughts of worthlessness, poor appetite or over-eating, sleeping too much or too little, thoughts of suicide or murder, lack of desire to do things once found pleasurable, and feeling little hope that things will get better.
Although depression is a state of mind, science has found that a chemical imbalance in the brain accompanies clinical depression. Often, depression can be treated without drugs. That is to say, if we change our emotional state, such as through spiritual practices, we can change our brain chemistry. In more severe cases, though, we need medication to restore a healthy chemical balance. Untreated or poorly treated depression can have tragic outcomes, as was the case with my brother.
I wish that when my brother had come to see me the night before he ended his life I could have given him the holy name instead of just sympathy. I wish I'd known about the philosophy of the Bhagavad-gita and could have given him knowledge of the eternal self. I wish I'd known that Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead and that He is our dearmost friend and ever well-wisher. I wish I could have consoled him with this spiritual knowledge.
He still would have needed his medicine and therapy. But I think Krsna consciousness would have given him a reason to go on. I pray that wherever he is he will come in contact with Krsna consciousness and be able to progress toward his ultimate spiritual goal.
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.
"We Want To Give Eyes To The People"
At the end of a talk in Los Angeles, on November 18, 1968, His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada took questions, and a memorable exchange ensued.
Woman: Are you familiar with Joan of Arc? She was a saint.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Woman: Is there any person in the Srimad-Bhagavatam similar to her?
Srila Prabhupada: You want to see Joan of Arc in Srimad-Bhagavatam? Why don't you take Joan of Arc of the Srimad-Bhagavatam? Any activities of the Lord's devotees—that is Srimad-Bhagavatam. What do you mean by Bhagavatam? Bhagavatam: this word comes from bhagavan, meaning "God." Anything pertaining to Bhagavan is Bhagavatam. So Bhagavatam can be expanded unlimitedly. Anything in relationship with God—that is Bhagavatam. So if Joan of Arc was in relationship with God, she is also Bhagavatam. You should expand Bhagavatam in that way. [Turning to an inquiring disciple:] Yes.
Disciple 1: Srila Prabhupada, recently it said in the newspaper that the scientists were sending a rocket around the moon. I have read in your Easy Journey to Other Planets that no matter how many endeavors they make, they will never reach these other planets. Is this . . .?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. This is not the process for reaching the other planets. This is childish. About this, also, I have made a statement. This is childish. You cannot go to the moon planet in that way. It is not possible. The scientists will simply create a story, but they'll never be successful.
Disciple 2: Srila Prabhupada, will we come to know Krsna, as well, by thinking always how we can spread this Krsna consciousness? Will this kind of thinking help us to know Krsna as much as if we thoroughly study the Vedas?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Siddhanta baliya citte na kara alasa: somehow or other, you have to understand the science of Krsna. There are so many books. The Gosvamis were studying and writing. Nana-sastra-vicaranaika-nipunau: they were very much expert in studying very scrutinizingly all Vedic literatures. Of course, the process is either reading or hearing. You may not have time to read, but try to read. If you have no time, you are hearing. We are publishing literature, books. And I am trying to speak to you. When you hear me, that is also understanding; that is also studying the Krsna science.
Rather, hearing is better reception. The Vedas are, therefore, known as sruti. Sruti means knowledge received through hearing. The real process is hearing. And in this age, Kali-yuga, people cannot study so much. For instance, when Caitanya Mahaprabhu was questioned by Prakasananda Sarasvati, He said of Himself, "What can I understand about Vedanta-sutra? I am a fool. Therefore, My spiritual master has ordered Me to simply chant."
So this chanting will help you. Yasya deve para bhaktir yatha deve tatha gurau: simply by studying, by becoming a bookworm, you cannot advance; the real secret is—this is stated in the Vedas—unflinching faith in God and the spiritual master. Then things will be revealed from within. How much strength have we got to study all these books? But the Vedas say, yasya deve para bhaktir yatha deve tatha gurau. If one has got unflinching faith in God and similar faith in the spiritual master, then tasyaite kathita hy arthah prakasante mahatmanah: to him only, the Vedic knowledge becomes revealed.
And this special revelation is also confirmed in the Bhagavad-gita. Lord Krsna says, tesam satata-yuktanam bhajatam priti-purvakam—"Those who are engaged in My service with love and affection"—buddhi-yogam dadami tam—"I personally give them intelligence"—yena mam upayanti te—"by which they can come to Me." In another place in the Bhagavad-gita, Krsna states, tesam evanukampartham—"In order to show these devotees special favor"—aham ajnana-jam tamah nasayamy—"I personally dissipate their darkness within the heart." The mind is utterly full of darkness; therefore, we are conditioned. So Krsna, from within He drives away the darkness of ignorance. Aham ajnana-jam tamah nasayamy atma-bhava-stho. Just like that.
So He is within you. If you are sincere to Him and to the instruction—following—then everything will come out automatically, even if you don't read. This is the special significance of Krsna consciousness, that we want simply sincere souls; then everything is there. You study or don't study. But for preaching work, studying is required. Because you have to meet so many opposing elements, it will be well if you can give some references from books of authority. But even if you don't give references, you can speak logically. You can place arguments logically. So Krsna will help. Krsna is within you. Don't think that Krsna is without.
He's without and within, both. That is explained in Srimad-Bhagavatam. When Krsna was standing before Kunti and He also entered within the womb of Uttara to save Pariksit Maharaja, Kunti said, "I see that You are within and without. Still, You are unseen." God is within and without, but the rascals cannot see. They say, "Where is God? Can you show me?" But He is always everywhere, within and without.
One has to train himself how to see. That is described in the Brahma samhita: premanjana-cchurita-bhakti-vilocanena: one has to anoint the eyes with love of God—then he can see. Premanjana-cchurita-bhakti vilocanena santah sadaiva hrdayesu vilokayanti.
This verse mentions the santah, the saintly persons. For instance, in your San Francisco, we find the word sant, or saint. Sant or santah is a Sanskrit word. The saint word is a Sanskrit word. And santah sadaiva hrdayesu vilokayanti: those who are saints—santah—they always see God, within and without. They have got eyes to see. What are those special eyes? Love of God. That's all.
Disciple 3: Srila Prabhupada, Lord Jesus Christ says that if you would see God, your eye must be single. Is he referring to this same scriptural statement and saying love of God is this single eye?
Srila Prabhupada: Do you mean that one of your eyes will be lost? What do you mean by that? What do you understand by this statement?
Disciple 3: I understand that your attention should be one-pointed on God.
Srila Prabhupada: That's it. That's it. When you actually see God, you cannot see anything except God. That is God-seeing. That is stated in Caitanya-caritamrta. Sthavara-jangama dekhe, na dekhe tara murti: an elevated devotee, a first-class devotee—he sees trees or animals, nonmoving or moving beings of so many varieties, but he does not exactly see their form. He sees the soul within, and everywhere he sees Krsna.
That is a fact. Krsna says, sarva-yonisu kaunteya sambhavanti murtayayah yah: "There are millions of varieties of forms of life, but I am the seed-giving father." So a devotee sees, "Oh, right here is a son of Krsna. Over there is a son of Krsna. To my left is a son of Krsna. And to my right is a son of Krsna."
So if you love somebody, as soon as you see his son you immediately remember whose son he is. Therefore, the saintly person sees the tree and immediately remembers, "Oh, it is Krsna's." He sees a dog; he immediately sees Krsna. "Oh, he is Krsna's." He sees a watch; he immediately sees, "It is Krsna's." Therefore, he is single-eyed, focused on Krsna. That's all. He has no other vision. Everything—Krsna's.
Therefore, he wants to take everything and everyone towards Krsna. "Please come to Krsna consciousness. You are missing Him. You are Krsna's. Why are you are identifying with this nonsense? Why you are thinking 'American,' 'Indian,' or this or that? You are Krsna's. Come to Krsna." This is our propaganda. We want to give eyes to the people. They are blind; their leaders are blind. Andha yathandhair upaniyamanas, na te viduh svartha-gatim hi visnum: they do not know what is their ultimate goal of life—Krsna, God. So what Lord Jesus Christ says—it is right.
Any other question? Then have kirtana. Hare Krsna.
The devotional life of Tamal Krishna Goswami
by Satyaraja Dasa
"My spiritual master knew that I alone could not do this great work. Therefore, he has very kindly sent you all to help me in this task. I accept you therefore as representatives of my Guru Maharaja, playing as my affectionate disciples." (Srila Prabhupada, letter to Los Angeles devotees, August 26, 1972)
THERE WERE CERTAIN things only he could do," said Pradyumna Dasa.
Pradyumna (or "Punditji," as Prabhupada affectionately called him) traveled with Srila Prabhupada for a portion of the 1970s. He was a talented Sanskritist, and as they journeyed throughout much of the world, His Divine Grace instructed him on how to translate Vedic texts. At first, I thought Pradyumna was talking about Prabhupada himself. But then it became clear.
"Prabhupada put a lot of stock in Tamal Krishna Goswami," he said. "If a situation arose that required expert management skills or just good, clear thinking—wherever we happened to be, anywhere in the world—Prabhupada would say, 'Get Tamal!'
This discussion took place in early February. About one week later, Tamal Krishna Goswami (or TKG, as he was known to many of his friends) called me, and I told him of my conversation with Pradyumna. He was touched. It clearly meant a lot to him to be singled out as being that important to Srila Prabhupada.
TKG and I had been close since 1974, and this intimate relationship had intensified in recent years, for now, more than ever before, our service overlapped: He was pursuing his Ph.D. at the University of Cambridge, and I was the founder and senior editor of The Journal of Vaishnava Studies, an academic quarterly that has been in circulation for over a decade. In short, we were both interested in bringing Krsna consciousness to the academic arena.
The theme of TKG's doctoral dissertation was Srila Prabhupada's contribution to the world of theology, and TKG liked to bounce ideas off Godbrothers. So it was not uncommon for him to call. On this particular occasion, however, it was not his dissertation that he wanted to discuss but rather an article he was writing for an academic volume on bhakti, or devotion to Krsna, God. The article was to be called "Dying the Good Death: The Transfigurative Power of Bhakti," and it would focus on how to face death with a spiritual outlook. Naturally, he would be writing mainly from a Vaisnava perspective, though he did want it to be somewhat comparative in approach.
We discussed the medieval Christian concept of memento mori, a Latin phrase meaning, "Remember, you must die!" We laughed at the thought of reminding a contemporary person that his time had come. Such a reminder might seem both supersuous—for who does not know that he will one day pass away?—and intrusive. People today just don't want to hear it. They don't want their illusion of continuity disturbed.
Not so for Vaisnavas, devotees of Krsna. TKG and I discussed the famous Puranic story of Maharaja Yudhisthira, who was asked by Yamaraja, the lord of death, to describe the most wonderful or amazing thing in the world. Yudhisthira replied that the most amazing thing is that despite witnessing that all people die in due course, most people are unwilling to admit their own mortality. Devotees of Krsna are well aware of the body's demise and the eternality of the soul, and they try to live each day as though it were their last—by focusing on God and His holy names.
As the phone conversation came to an end, TKG informed me that he would be taking a short detour in his work: He was planning to fly to Mayapur, India, for the annual meeting of the GBC, ISKCON's governing body. He hadn't been to one in six or seven years, mainly because of the demands of his academic work, and he was excited about going. He would return in the middle of March, he said, and we should resume this discussion at that time.
I received a call on March 15. TKG had passed away in a car accident outside Calcutta.* The car toppled in the region of Phuliyagrama, a sacred area associated with the great saint Haridasa Thakura: Five hundred years ago Haridasa lived there in a cave, chanting the holy name 300,000 times a day. It is also said that Haridasa conquered Mayadevi, illusion personified, at this place.
Perhaps TKG was thinking of these things as he passed by. The car accident occurred on the holy disappearance day of both Gaura-kisora Dasa Babaji and Rasikananda Prabhu, two important spiritual masters in the line of Lord Caitanya, and it was around 5:00 A.M., an auspicious time of day. It was as if the Lord Himself had orchestrated a suitable place and time for his servant to pass from this world. "Dying the Good Death" would be TKG's final project while in his bodily form. Though he hadn't finished writing it, he had clearly achieved it.
A Tree Grows In ISKCON
The Vaisnava text Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (Adi 9) speaks of the figurative "plant of bhakti." It envisions Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the combined form of Radha and Krsna, as the gardener of this plant, though He is also the essential tree itself, including the trunk. The branches are the many great devotees and associates of the Lord, who extend the reach of this tree throughout India and, as we shall see, the rest of the world.
The extension of the metaphor, and of the branches as well, is particularly evident in the life and work of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. He brought the tree of bhakti to towns and villages around the world. Among his many achievements, he nourished one particular seed that sprouted into a beautiful Tamal tree. (Krsna is said to be the color of the tamal tree; hence His name "Tamal Krsna.") The leaves and fruits of this tree would be among the most colorful and succulent that Prabhupada's branches had to offer.
Born Thomas Herzig in 1946, Tamal Krishna, the "tree" in question, blossomed as a child of the sixties, and the spiritual quest soon became his primary occupation. This quest led him to Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco, where his second birth took place on Easter Sunday in 1968: On that day he became Srila Prabhupada's initiated disciple. "You are now Tamal Krishna Dasa."
Years later, Prabhupada wrote him a letter with information about his new name: "Perhaps you know Tamal is a nice tree in Vrndavana, and because the color of the tree exactly resembles that of Krsna, therefore Srimati Radharani always used to take rest underneath the Tamal tree when she was feeling separation from Krsna." (May 1, 1970)
As the sixties came to a close, Tamal Krishna became an indispensable ally in Prabhupada's mission in the West: He introduced street chanting (sankirtana) and BTG distribution to the fledgling Hare Krsna movement on the West Coast. Along with his close friend Visnujana Dasa—and the tens of dozens of devotees flowing into the movement—he helped create a Hare Krsna explosion heard throughout the world.
In October 1969, Srila Prabhupada recognized his disciple's ingenuity and dedication and asked him to go to Lon-don to organize similar activities there. Working with the three devotee couples Prabhupada had already sent to London, Tamal Krishna helped develop the Krsna consciousness movement there. Prabhupada saw in him a man of singular determination, completely given over to his spiritual master's mission. So, he sent Tamal Krishna to Hamburg and Paris to repeat the formula of street chanting and distribution of BTG, activities that Tamal (as Prabhupada called him) would personally oversee until the middle of 1970.
At that time, seeing Tamal Krishna's distinct competence, Prabhupada made him a Governing Body Commis-sioner (GBC), a leading managerial authority for the movement. His zone of responsibility was India, the homeland of Krsna consciousness. While in the subcontinent, Tamal Krishna developed Srila Prabhupada's main projects there, including temple construction in Vrndavana, Bombay, and Mayapur. In fact, when no one else was able to procure the land necessary for ISKCON Mayapur, Tamal Krishna—undergoing serious challenges that made the purchase seem impossible—successfully secured the land and offered it at Prabhupada's lotus feet.
After traveling with Srila Prabhupada to the holy land of Jaipur, Tamal Krishna was awarded sannyasa, the renounced order of life, in 1972. While this formalized his complete dedication to his spiritual master, it meant he would have to travel and preach, which in turn meant he would have to temporarily give up his position as GBC in India. Prabhupada wanted his GBC leaders to be householders, married people, for just this reason. But now, as a renounced traveling preacher, Tamal Krishna "Goswami" would leave his post. (When one takes sannyasa, he becomes a "swami" or a "goswami," both words indicating that one has gained mastery over one's senses.) For a short time, he traveled through India as a mendicant—without a managerial position in ISKCON. But Prabhupada quickly decided to reinstate him as GBC. TKG's skills as a leader demanded it.
GBC or not, his passion for preaching soon took him to the most fertile of preaching lands: America. As Prabhupada had written to him in an early letter, "This preaching spirit will make you recognized by Krsna." (December 28, 1974). His training in India, in fact, made him preeminently qualified for his return to Western shores. He had imbibed Indian culture in a way few Westerners can, living the traditional life of a sadhu, or holy person, under Prabhupada's direct guidance. In future years, when he would assume the mantle of guru, this intimate connection with Indian culture would serve him well, leading to visionary and strategic moves for Prabhupada's mission: In places like Fiji and Houston, by strong preaching, TKG encouraged hundreds of Indian devotees to come forward for initiation and to become temple presidents, head priests, and active leaders within ISKCON.
Prabhupada had personally taught him all aspects of Vaisnava culture, from cooking to business management, from philosophy to the subtle art of how to love Krsna. Thus, with the saffron cloth of a renunciant and the staff that symbolizes a life dedicated to God, Tamal Krishna Goswami started for the country of his birth. But he was not going empty-handed. He was going with the special seed of love of God, the bhakti-lata-bija, or the seed of devotion—a seed Prabhupada had implanted in his heart and had taught him how to implant in the hearts of others.
And so it was that in 1974, after a full four years in India, TKG returned to the United States to launch a traveling sankirtana party with his old friend Visnujana, who had also taken sannyasa and was now known as Visnujana Swami. Together they devised a program in which they converted buses into traveling temples. Soon after the purchase of the first bus—which continued as the main temple for the duration of their program—they organized a fleet of these temple-buses. Entering one of these mobile shrines was like entering sacred ground, the atmosphere thick with devotion. Each bus was complete with deities and make-shift kitchens. Radha-Damodara, the forms of Radha and Krsna most dear to TKG, were on the main bus; the other buses housed deities of Lord Caitanya and His comrade Nityananda. In this way, they would traverse the States, mainly from one college campus to another, spreading the holy name of Krsna to all who would listen. This they did by chanting, distributing BTGs and Prabhupada's books, and holding outdoor festivals showing the richness of the Krsna conscious tradition. The party was a grand success—hundreds of devotees joined the movement, and the Caitanya tree, with its far-reaching branches, expanded throughout America.
After three years, Srila Prabhupada called TKG to be his personal secretary, and he served as such from the beginning of 1977 to His Divine Grace's passing in November of that year. The details of his service to Srila Prabhupada at this critical time are preserved in TKG's Diary, a book compiled from extensive notes—hand-written as he traveled with Srila Prabhupada. Elsewhere, TKG writes of his spiritual master's departure from this world, but these could easily be the words and sentiments of his own disciples now that he has passed on:
Two months after I learned of my father's demise Prabhupada departed from this world. Vaisnavas speak not of death, but of the departure of the soul. Nor do they consider that the body itself has life; it is the soul's presence which animates the body and gives it apparent life. The soul leaves, then enters another body appropriate to its consciousness. But Prabhupada, a pure devotee, had no need to take another birth; his pure consciousness carried him back to Godhead.
In a more emotional section of the same discourse, TKG continues:
Yet [this]...does not mitigate the grief one feels in separation. A year ago, as I was walking in the hills of Santa Barbara, I suddenly became overwhelmed with intense feelings of separation from Prabhupada. I was "weeping-walking," as Grimes [a prominent scholar] calls it, and when I returned to that very spot the next day the weeping began again. A flood of hot tears poured from my eyes, the kind a child cries when it feels totally abandoned. I knew intellectually that this was not how it was, but no thought was able to console me at that time. As much as I had Prabhupada's words—a whole library of them at my reach—they could not replace him in exactly the same way his physical presence had been for me. Crying eased the pain of separation, smoothed its jagged edges so it did not hurt so much.—From A Hare Krishna at Southern Methodist University
The Tree Bears Fruit
Soon after Prabhupada's departure, the collective GBC announced that some of Prabhupada's senior men would continue the lineage by initiating new disciples of their own. Naturally, TKG, as one of Prabhupada's nearest and dearest servants, would be one of these people. Between 1978 and 2002 he initiated over a thousand disciples from around the world, and he labored to train them in the way Prabhupada had trained him. He spoke of this often: As Srila Prabhupada, in pioneering a worldwide spiritual movement, demanded much of his central leaders—especially TKG, who had a prominent role among them—he felt he had to be equally demanding on others, but never as much as he was on himself.
TKG was not a spiritual master who sat on his laurels while giving instruction to others. His achievements would have made his spiritual master proud. For example, he effectively transformed portions of the Southwest Sun Belt region of the United States, known for its Christian fundamentalism, into an area where Krsna consciousness is deeply appreciated. His vision took him to the heart of Texas, where with the help of Godbrothers and disciples he developed the existing ISKCON center in Dallas into something unique and otherworldly—an oasis that reflected his own inimitable style. His inspiration came from Srila Prabhupada, and from the beautiful deities of Radha-Kalachandji, who reside there.
Allowing this inspiration to take him further, he soon opened Kalachandji's Restaurant, serving pure vegetarian food that has been offered to Krsna (prasadam). This attracted college students from neighboring areas, and other religious groups came as well (TKG had a penchant for interreligious preaching). The result was that the temple was frequented by legions of young people and religionists of every denomination. The delicious vegetarian cuisine, of course, was the main attraction: Favorably reviewed by prominent newspapers and magazines, this elegant and stylish restaurant soon won accolades from top food critics and local connoisseurs, who came to consider it one of the finest restaurants in Texas. In fact, Vegetarian Times declared it one of the top ten vegetarian restaurants in the country.
Apropos of his genius, TKG strategically placed the restaurant in the center of the Radha-Kalachandji temple, so that patrons would see the deities or otherwise enjoy a spiritually uplifting experience. Magnificently constructed, the inner temple looks as though it were mystically transplanted from regal India. TKG created an atmosphere there that could easily evoke Krsna consciousness—with original works of art and an elaborate decor that came to be the envy of wealthy patrons in the area. The restaurant is in an outdoor garden so that guests can dine in the midst of plants and fragrant flowers. The centerpiece of the garden is a holly tree, encircled by a fountain set in the middle of a stone tile floor. Enclosing the garden are stucco walls. Their stained-glass windows glitter like precious jewels as they filter the evening sunlight falling on the area where people relish the best food in Texas. This was TKG: He did everything with style and grace, but, more, he was relentlessly thorough, leaving no details unattended to.
The Dallas project was a great success, and so he went forward with a similar venture in Houston, where, again, the ISKCON center is highly regarded by local people and the media. This multi-million-dollar project, including a huge hall for intercultural events, is now one of ISKCON's leading temples. At center stage are the beautiful deities of Radha-Nila-Madhava, among the tallest forms of Radha-Krsna in the world.
TKG's projects in the Bible Belt have become model householder communities for ISKCON devotees in general. Dallas and Houston are but two examples of how married Krsna conscious couples, who center their lives on the deities, can earn a livelihood for their families while adhering to the practices of Krsna consciousness. TKG's beautiful temples, meticulous methods, and mature disciples are exemplary, embodying not only the richness of the Krsna conscious tradition but the heights that a sincere devotee can attain.
TKG became known throughout the movement as a superlative sannyasi, both because he remained a celibate monk for a solid thirty years (cut short only by his death)—preaching and traveling on behalf of Lord Caitanya's mission—and because he was fearless, as sannyasis are traditionally supposed to be. There are many examples of his fearlessness. To cite only two: In the same way that Prabhupada left India to start the movement in the West, not knowing what to expect when he arrived here, in 1976 TKG left for the Orient—on Prabhupada's order—with little accompaniment and few resources, and began chanting beneath a tree. Soon hundreds of local people came and took part in ISKCON there, making it a booming center for Krsna consciousness.
By the time he passed away, many Asians had taken to Krsna consciousness, their presence felt at many of ISKCON's festivals. In Mayapur this year, thirty bright-faced Taiwanese devotees attended TKG's specially translated Nectar of Devotion classes and swam daily with him in the Ganga. Their presence was a small sample of the fruit of his twenty-five years of dedicated preaching in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and other parts of Asia. Not that this was his only preaching field: He was co-GBC for South Central USA (Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas), as well as for Mayapur, Calcutta, the Philippines, and North and South Korea. He gave his precious time not only to disciples but to Godbrothers and others—he seems to have touched nearly everyone in or around the movement.
The second example of his fearlessness and courage as a cutting-edge preacher was his return to academia. Always ready to meet a challenge, he decided to enroll in Southern Methodist University (S.M.U.) in Dallas, Texas, at fifty years of age. He could have gone anywhere, but because his service took him to Texas, he opted for "the Harvard of the South," a prestigious school with a difficult regimen. He wanted to "bring Krsna to the university" in a way that hadn't been tried before. And so he arrived in the academy of the Bible Belt, with shaven head and the traditional robes of a sannyasi, with bright yellow tilaka on his forehead and a tuft of hair in the back—Hare Krsna style!
No one expected what came next. It is best articulated by Dr. Lonnie Kliever, Professor and Chair, Department of Religious Studies, Southern Methodist University:
What I do know is that he has given himself to the academic community with the same intensity and dedication that must characterize his service to his religious community. Some small measure of that devotion is seen in his 4.0 Grade Point Average and the academic awards he has accumulated in his two years at S.M.U. In 1996 he won the 1996 Harvey Paul Alper Award for Outstanding Work in an Eastern Religion, and this year he received the Isaac Gustave Bromberg Award for Outstanding Work in the Humanities and the Department of Religious Studies Annual Writing Award. Even more impressive than these departmental awards, Goswami has made the Dean's list of Dedman College every semester, and this year was inducted into S.M.U.'s prestigious Robert Stewart Hyer Society and received the society's University Achievement Award.—From the Introduction to Reason and Belief: Problem Solving in the Philosophy of Religion, by Tamal Krishna Goswami
In other words, he excelled in academia as he had in Krsna consciousness, showing the scholarly world—the educators—that his spiritual practices were effective, leading him to determined intellect and a superior sense of discipline. This can clearly be seen in his literary output [See the sidebar "Tamal Krishna Goswami's Published Works," on page 31.]: He wrote prodigiously, including a novel, a history of ISKCON, papers for academic conferences and journals, and perhaps most impressively, an English work that adheres to the rules of classical Sanskrit drama. Titled Jagannatha-priya Natakam, it is a breakthrough in the world of scholarship.
Dr. Gary Tubb, a Sanskrit professor from Harvard University (now at Columbia), writes, "In Tamal Krishna Goswami's Jagannatha-priya Natakam we have a delightful creation in the form of a play that, while composed in English, conforms in every detail to the requirements of Sanskrit drama." According to Dr. Tubb, this is the first example of "such a work composed in English and yet representative of the Sanskrit tradition."
To write this book, as well as his others, required an intellect of profound measure. Prabhupada showed high regard for TKG's intelligence when he wrote in a letter, "I cannot but admire your capacity to grasp so quickly about the whole philosophy." (August 19, 1968)
But Tamal Krishna Goswami was clearly not a dry scholarly type. Those who knew him marveled that along with his immense capacity for learning, he was a practical man who believed that one must practice what one preaches. He didn't merely write about the Lord; he surrendered unto Him, completely absorbed in chanting the holy name and immersed in the higher reality of Vrndavana, the holy land of Krsna. Dhanurdhara Swami, a good friend who spent much time with TKG in Vrndavana, writes:
Outside of Vrindaban one can only know Krsna's position as the Creator and Maintainer. In Vrindaban, His home, His full personality is revealed. One can know Him intimately as a friend, parent, or lover. I knew the Vrindaban Tamal Krishna Maharaja, his personal side. Growing up in ISKCON, however, I first knew him only in terms of his position as Srila Prabhupada's personal secretary, one of the first zonal acharyas, the most prominent and insuential GBC....[I gradually came to see,] however,...his internal nurturing of spiritual life in Vrindaban. He came there to devote quality time to studying the works of the Goswamis and to chant and hear about Krsna.
Tamal Krishna Goswami's love for Vrndavana and Mayapur, the two holiest places in the cosmos, is well-known to those who were close to him. He had plans to build a library in Mayapur for visiting scholars who might want to enter deeply into the Krsna tradition. And he had already established a beautiful temple at the foot of Govardhana Hill in the Vrndavana region. This temple is a haven for traveling devotees, who often relish the first-class—TKG-style!—temple and accommodations in this holiest of places. In recent years, his academic work stopped him from going to these places as much as he would have liked. But he did manage to go now and then, and when he did, he would absorb himself in hearing, chanting, and remembering the names and pastimes of the Lord. He became more and more fervent about these things as the years passed. And during his last visit to Mayapur, just days before his bodily sojourn would come to an end, he enthusiastically engaged in hearing and chanting for hours with Godbrothers and other loving devotees. Many who were in those kirtanas have attested to the fact that he had clearly developed an intense taste for the holy name of Krsna and that he seemed truly peaceful and happy.
But let us continue narrating the story of how this Vrndavana Goswami brought his unique form of spiritual finesse to the academic world. On May 16, 1998, he graduated with a B.A. from Dedman College at S.M.U. with departmental distinction in religious studies. In October of that year he began to pursue his doctoral studies at the prestigious University of Cambridge, where his advisor, an esteemed academic in Hindu theology, was enthusiastic to work with him. Two months later, TKG was diagnosed with cancer. With the help of loving Godbrothers—especially atadhvaja Swami and Kesava Bharati Prabhu—and his ever attentive disciples and friends, he fought the deadly disease head-on and won. His doctor announced that he was cancer free. Thus, with the determination and drive that characterized his earlier efforts, he rebounded from the cancer and went headlong toward his Ph.D. thesis with renewed vigor. Had the cancer taken his life, his dissertation would have never been conceived nor executed. Krsna may have spared him for this last vital service.
As he recuperated, he explained to his academic advisor at Cambridge that Prabhupada was unique among teachers from India. Together they came up with the subject for his thesis: Prabhupada's contribution to theological thought. Tamal Krishna Goswami worked diligently to finish the thesis, which was near completion when he passed away. Given the circumstances, his academic advisor has agreed to fine-tune it and ready it for publication himself. TKG may thus receive a posthumous Ph.D., honoring Prabhupada both by the subject of his thesis and by showing the intellectual class that devotees of Krsna can excel in any endeavor. If the Bible's words are true—that you can know a tree by its fruits—then Prabhupada's TKG is a testament to Prabhupada's greatness.
Besides the dissertation, there are four unpublished books, three of which his disciples will publish, and one, his commentary on the Brahma-samhita, will be released by the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. We have certainly not heard the last of this great soul. A special issue of The Journal of Vaishnava Studies will be dedicated to the life and work of Tamal Krishna Goswami, and several major scholars have already committed to writing for it.
"A prominent limb of Srila Prabhupada's legacy has left the world," said Radhanatha Swami, a leading devotee and dear friend to TKG. "The list of Tamal Krishna Goswami's accomplishments is so vast; he was empowered by Srila Prabhupada to accomplish many, many difficult tasks. And there is much more that even we do not know about."
Perhaps this is what Pradyumna alluded to when he told me, "There were certain things only he could do."
As Hridayananda Dasa Goswami, another close associate of TKG and fellow pioneer in academic preaching, noted, "Srila Prabhupada would always call upon him to render unique and powerful services. And as we all know without a doubt, Srila Prabhupada has again called his right-hand man, Tamal Krishna Goswami, to another service, to again do what he alone can do."
As for myself, I will miss him greatly, but I take solace in knowing that, wherever he is, he is serving Krsna with heart, mind, and soul.
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.
Tamal Krishna Goswami's Published Works
TKG was a prolific writer. His early work began with BTG, gradually evolving into academic articles and full-length books. An abbreviated list of his literary output appears below. For more information, please visit www. goswami.com.
Servant of the Servant (1982)—An intimate account of the early days of ISKCON, from 1968 to 1975. It contains many of the letters written by Srila Prabhupada to Tamal Krishna Goswami, as Srila Prabhupada guides his disciple to become a leader in the pioneering days of the Hare Krsna movement.
A collection of eighteen award-winning essays written by Tamal Krishna Goswami as a student at Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas, in 1995-1997. The book covers a wide range of subjects and offers intriguing reading for all levels of interest in Krsna consciousness.
Most of these excerpts are from eulogies given in Mayapur the day after his passing.
Rukmini Devi Dasi
I first met Tamal Krishna Goswami in 1968 at the wonderful San Francisco temple. He made me feel welcome and part of the family.
As Srila Ramananda Raya has said, the greatest pain on earth is separation from a devotee. So what a great pain for this earth to lose such a great, great devotee as Tamal Krishna Goswami! He took the words of Srila Prabhupada as his life and soul.
For many of us, Prabhupada had to engage us according to our propensity—as we liked, not necessarily what he liked. Tamal Krishna Maharaja, however, would do whatever Prabhupada wanted. Prabhupada could ask him anything, and he would go anywhere and do anything for Srila Prabhupada—he was such a great example.
I was praying to Radha-Madhava, "If you think it's so important to take him right now, I'm going to have to ask You to please empower all the rest of us to be as empowered as he was to take his place."
Ravindra Svarupa Dasa
I first had extended acquaintance with Tamal Krishna Goswami in the early seventies. He made the greatest impression on me, because I learned things from him that are the foundation of my spiritual life. These are the things that I don't think you can learn unless you see them. You can read about them, but you really won't get the idea until you see it. And what I learned from Tamal Krishna Goswami was tivrena-bhakti-yogena: intense devotional service. I saw how intense and focused he was in his devotional service, and then I also began to understand that this inten-sity of focus was the intensity of his service to Srila Prabhupada. And that's when I learned what it meant to serve Srila Prabhupada. I am forever grateful to him for teaching me that. He taught me so many other things too; he was so intelligent. He taught me a lot of things I never could have learned anywhere else, and I've always been his disciple.
The primary meditation I have been considering is the value the world is provided by the mere presence of one so attached to Krsna as Tamal Krishna Goswami. One manner of appreciating Tamal Krishna Maharaja is to consider his capacity to provide shelter, directly and indirectly, for so many. For example, to get his saintly association, a contingent of thirty or more Taiwanese devotees came to Mayapur this year. It was such a powerful experience just to see all the Taiwanese devotees assembled together, coming daily together into the temple, replete with tilaka, all in dhotis and saris, with bright and shiny faces. I knew that Tamal Krishna Maharaja had completely captured their hearts, just as he has done singlehandedly with so many unique individuals. That is what brought these souls to Krsna consciousness, and to Mayapur.
He liberally showered personal time and attention upon them whenever he had some free time between our GBC meetings' sessions. And if that many Taiwanese came to Mayapur, how many are still back in Taiwan? What a powerful personality! All this was going on while he was completing his Ph.D., no less!
When I spoke with him briefly in Mayapur, I complimented him for two things. First, I told him that my experience is that his disciples love him uniquely, incredibly deeply, which tells me that he has given so much of himself to them—and he had so much to give! The other compliment I offered was that wherever his disciples are in this world, they are universally known to be quite mature and have very highly trained manners and Vaisnava etiquette. This is no accident; it is because they learned these things from him.
Hridayananda Dasa Goswami
Because His Holiness Tamal Krishna Goswami was such a great servant of Srila Prabhupada, his passing is a powerful teaching of Krsna consciousness that brings us closer to Srila Prabhupada and Lord Krsna. I pray that we all honor Tamal Krishna Goswami by deeply assimilating the many valuable lessons he has given us through his life, his teaching, his writing, and even his glorious passing at a most auspicious time and place in the presence of many exalted Vaisnavas.
Srila Prabhupada would always call upon him to render unique and powerful services, and as we all know without a doubt, Srila Prabhupada has again called his right-hand man, Tamal Krishna Goswami, to another service, to again do what he alone can do.
Devotees are freely declaring to the world that a great Vaisnava has passed, and in doing so they personally and deeply recognize and acknowledge that Srila Prabhupada's dear disciple Tamal Krishna Goswami was indeed a great Vaisnava. We all, in our grief, cry out that this was an exalted servant of Srila Prabhupada, a great soul who played a mighty part in transforming the world.
Devotees everywhere are seeing that every living being that benefits from Srila Prabhupada's movement owes an eternal debt to His Holiness Tamal Krishna Goswami, who did more than words can tell to serve the mission of his eternal spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada. Let us rejoice in our certain knowledge that Tamal Krishna Goswami will now speedily return to the personal service of his eternal spiritual master, a service he valued above all things.
Srila Prabhupada said that when a Vaisnava departs we feel simultaneously happy and sad. We feel happy because we know that the Vaisnava has gone to Krsna, but we feel sad because we will miss the Vaisnava's association. I have no doubt that Srila Gurudeva [TKG] has gone not just to the lotus feet of Srila Prabhupada, but also to the lotus feet of Sri Sri Radha-Kalachandji. By such service as Srila Gurudeva offered to Srila Prabhupada for so many years, one is naturally promoted to their Lordship's service.
His insight, his intelligence, and his association with Srila Prabhupada made him uniquely qualified to answer questions and give guidance. It is extremely rare to find someone so spiritually attuned and at the same time so astute in worldly matters, so conscious of a person's mentality and psychology and mood and sincerity.
I am feeling tremendous loss. During my presentation at the GBC meeting, I felt great pleasure and comfort seeing Maharaja "back in his chair" in a position of revered leadership. I was proud that such a senior devotee should still care so much about Srila Prabhupada's movement, and felt secure and safe in his association. There is now a tremendous void in Maharaja's absence, and I do not know how we will fill that chasm.
All I can say is, Maharaja's disciples and followers are not alone. His Godbrothers and Godsisters are also grieving his absence and are praying to Lord Caitanya that his wonderful disciples continue his splendid mission.
Goswami Maharaja, with your departure I have lost a dearmost friend who had my real interest at heart and who extended himself to me on numerous occasions. Our association goes back to the mid-1970s, when each year you, Bhagavan Dasa, and I would go on a spiritual retreat to the sacred abode of Hrishikesh in the Himalayas. There we would read and chant, swim in the Ganga, and have kirtanas, just the three of us, in the spiritual atmosphere of that sacred abode. It was during those retreats that I imbibed from you a great zeal for the missionary activities of Krsna consciousness, for you would always preach to me the glories of the holy names, book distribution, and the making of devotees.
But what amazed me the most was your brilliant plans and strategies for organizing these activities. Recognizing these abilities early in your devotional career, Srila Prabhupada entrusted you with the most responsible services, such as being part of the first Governing Body Commission, acquiring and securing the land for our Mayapur project in India, and heading up book distribution in America. Prabhupada's supreme love and trust in you was demonstrated by his making you his personal secretary—a service you executed faithfully for so many years up to the very moment of his departure.
As a result of that service, you had an intimate look into the life of a pure devotee, something you have shared freely with us all these years. You were part of a rare breed of devotees, Goswami Maharaja—devo-tees who had intimate association of His Divine Grace and understood his mood and the particular way he did things for Krsna. No doubt, you earned the most prestigious title any ISKCON devotee could earn, for you were in every way a "Prabhupada man."
One method of allowing
By Bhurijana Dasa
THIS approach is one of attitude. As aspiring devotees, we might approach Srimad-Bhagavatam for varying purposes, but in all cases eagerness to hear the Bhagavatam is itself favorable, because eagerness added to our reading inspires Krsna to help our attempts for purity and advancement in Krsna consciousness.
Sri Krsna, the Personality of Godhead, who is the Paramatma [Supersoul] in everyone's heart and the benefactor of the truthful devotee, cleanses desire for material enjoyment from the heart of the devotee who has developed the urge to hear His messages, which are in themselves virtuous when properly heard and chanted. (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.2.17)
The goal of prayerful reading is less an intellectual gathering of information and more an attempt to allow sastra (scripture) to affect us. It is an attempt to gain association, to listen carefully to Krsna's message, to let potent transcendental words sink deeply into the core of our consciousness. When reading in this way, one doesn't attempt to read a specific quantity. That goal is superseded by a desire for depth of purification through associating with Srila Prabhupada, our acaryas, and Sri Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Even a small step toward such a lofty goal requires a correct attitude when approaching the book.
An essential attitudinal element is to approach Srila Prabhupada's books as being non-different from Srila Prabhupada. When he returned to Sri Vrndavana Dhama in ill health in May 1977, he gravely said, "So there is nothing to be said new. Whatever I have to speak, I have spoken in my books. Now you try to understand it and continue your endeavor."
Prabhupada once said that he would never die but would live forever in his books.
In addition, Krsna Himself is fully present within the Bhagavatam. Indeed, the sages of Naimisaranya asked, "Since Sri Krsna, the Absolute Truth, the master of all mystic powers, has departed for His own abode, please tell us to whom the religious principles have now gone for shelter." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.1.23)
Srila Suta Gosvami replied: "This Bhagavata Purana is as brilliant as the sun, and it has arisen just after the departure of Lord Krsna to His own abode, accompanied by religion, knowledge, etc. Persons who have lost their vision due to the dense darkness of ignorance in the age of Kali shall get light from this Purana." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.3.43)
In the purport to the next verse, Srila Prabhupada comments: "One can certainly see directly the presence of Lord Sri Krsna in the pages of the Bhagavatam if one has heard it from a self-realized great soul like Sukadeva Gosvami. . . . But somehow or other if someone hears with rapt attention from the right person, at the very beginning one can assuredly see Lord Sri Krsna in person in the pages of the Bhagavatam.
For me at present, the most interesting quotations about hearing from the Bhagavatam are from Srila Prabhupada's purports to Canto Seven, Chapter 14, verses 4 and 8. (The emphasis added in bold is my own.)
Another specific description here is srnvan bhagavato 'bhiksnam avatara-kathamrtam. It is not that because one has once finished the Bhagavad-gita he should not hear it again. The word abhiksnam is very important. We should hear again and again. There is no question of stopping: even if one has read these topics many times, he should go on reading again and again because bhagavat-katha, the words spoken by Krsna and spoken by Krsna's devotees about Krsna, are amrtam, nectar. The more one drinks this amrtam, the more he advances in his eternal life.
In the sastras—the Puranas and other Vedic literatures—there are so many narrations describing the transcendental activities of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and everyone should hear them again and again. For example, even if we read the entire Bhagavad-gita every day, all eighteen chapters, in each reading we shall find a new explanation. That is the nature of transcendental literature.
To me, these two quotations indicate the amrta—freshness—and life that each reading of transcendental literature can offer. To help us truly realize the potency of Srila Prabhupada's books, and therefore understand his stress on both reading and distributing them, and to help us increase our own devotion, we may honestly, humbly, and prayerfully seek instruction, association, and mercy each time we read Srimad-Bhagavatam. Attitude assists our receptivity.
Suggested Steps When Beginning To Practice Prayerful Reading
1. Decide on what you will read. Mark the place. Decide how long you will spend reading. The time can be fifteen minutes, thirty minutes, or one hour or more. It's up to you.
2. Go to a quiet place where you can be alone and uninterrupted for a specific time. Make whatever arrangements you need to avoid interruptions, including taking care of bodily needs. Arrange that no one will visit you and the phone won't ring. Shut the door. This is important time for you to be alone with Srila Prabhupada's book.
3. Make yourself comfortable, but not so comfortable that you'll fall asleep. You may sit in a chair or on the floor; your goal is to arrange a situation where you can uninterruptedly concentrate on sastra without physical distractions.
4. Take time to cultivate an appropriate attitude of approach to your reading. Again, the proper mood is to think that you will soon associate with Sri Krsna, through the potent transcendental words spoken by Srila Prabhupada and other great Gaudiya acaryas (spiritual masters in the line of Lord Sri Caitanya). Therefore, your mood should be that of a soul in need of association, guidance, and mercy. Be humble.
5. Before starting, you may offer prayers to those you will associate with in your reading, for example, Srila Prabhupada, Sri Sri Guru and Gauranga, or Sri Sri Radha and Krsna. By their mercy your reading can assist in purifying and illuminating your consciousness.
6. When you're ready, begin reading, aloud or silently, but slowly. You have already chosen where your reading will begin. It doesn't matter where you stop, even if you read only a single sentence. This is not the time to "get through a chapter" or a specified section. Yet, if you are inspired to do so, you may read a larger amount of text. How much you complete may depend upon the book or section you are reading. Again, the purpose of this kind of reading is not quantity but meaningful association.
7. Read until a word, a phrase, or an idea strikes you or catches your attention. Stop at that point. You may repeat that meaningful phrase to yourself over and over. You may think aloud or silently about what you've read, but simple repetition often helps more to inspire insights. Repetition—going over a point a second or even a third time—can assist deep assimilation (and even memorization) of the point that caught your attention. Just stay with that point until you've meditated upon it enough or it no longer holds your attention. Pauses in reading may assist in deepening and assimilating what you have read.
Then move along, slowly reading again until another point strikes you as special. Repeat the process as often as you wish, or for as long as your allotted time allows.
8. There is no need to rigidly adhere to the above steps. They are offered as guidelines to assist you in getting started. If your reading inspires you to directly pray to or glorify Krsna, His associates, and devotees, then do so. Our interest, again, is to accept the assistance of Prabhupada's books so that we may actually become devotees.
9. When your time is up, offer obeisances and, if you like, words (either aloud or mentally) of appreciation for any realizations that may have been offered to you.
If we have been receptive, our reading will most probably have been successful and, as Srila Prabhupada writes, "in each reading we shall find a new explanation. That is the nature of transcendental literature."
10. As much as you can, assimilate into your life what you have read and realized. If this method of reading suits you, read Srila Prabhupada's books in this fashion regularly—daily, weekly, each Ekadasi, monthly, occasionally. You may also wish to keep a journal to help you recall your thoughts.
Bhurijana Dasa joined ISKCON in 1968 and has been active in ISKCON education since the late 1970s.
Encouragement from Srila Prabhupada
In these excerpts from letters to his disciples, Srila Prabhupada stresses the importance of regular reading of the scriptures.
I am requesting all of my students to read my books very seriously every day without fail. In this way, if your mind becomes absorbed at least one or two hours daily in the transcendental subject matter of Srimad-Bhagavatam, Bhagavad-gita, and other books then very easily you will make your advancement in Krishna consciousness. (June 13, 1972)
Krsna-lila-stava by Srila Sanatana Gosvami
O Srimad-Bhagavatam, O nectar churned form the ocean of all the Vedic scriptures, O most prominent transcendental fruit of all the Vedas, O You who are enriched with the jewels of all spiritual philosophical conclusions, O you who grant spiritual vision to all the people of the world, O life-breath of the Vaisnava devotees, O Lord, You are the sun which has arisen to dispel the darkness of the Kali-yuga. You are actually Lord Krsna, who has returned among us.
O Srimad-Bhagavatam, I offer respectful obeisances unto You. By reading You one attains transcendental bliss, for Your syllables rain pure love of God upon the reader. You are always to be served by everyone, for You are an incarnation of Lord Krsna.
O Srimad-Bhagavatam, O my only friend, O my companion, O my teacher, O my great wealth, O my deliverer, O my good fortune, O my bliss, I offer respectful obeisances unto you.
O Srimad-Bhagavatam, O giver of saintliness to the unsaintly, O uplifter of the very fallen, please do not ever leave me. Please become manifested upon my heart and my throat, accompanied by pure love of Krsna.
—Translated from Sanskrit by Kusakratha Dasa
A look at one of Srila Prabhupada's
By Gopiparanadhana Dasa
SRILA A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada was the founder and organizer of a large worldwide religious movement; that he developed it in just twelve years, all after his sixty-ninth birthday, shows that he was not only practical, innovative, and determined but also spiritually empowered. Although these are valid reasons to think highly of Srila Prabhupada, he always de-emphasized his own abilities, preferring to be judged on the more objective grounds of his bona fide allegiance to the teachings of the Vaisnava tradition he represented. He did not credit his preaching success to any special abilities of his own. As he once said, "I don't claim that I am a pure devotee or perfect, but my only qualification is that I am trying to follow the instruction of the perfect."
In any case, spiritual realization is essentially a private matter, not open to objective evaluation. There are too many false saints who allow their disciples to fanatically advertise them as much greater than they really are. In the opinion of orthodox Vaisnavas, the saintliness of a person can be known only by someone just as saintly. To publicly establish spiritual authority, then, a teacher, rather than making an open spectacle of his intimate ecstasies, should simply speak philosophically on the basis of what previous authorities have said in scripture and on reputable commentaries of scripture. Srila Prabhupada wanted his own authority to be accepted according to how faithfully he lived up to that standard.
The Gaudiya school of Vaisnavism to which Srila Prabhupada belongs was founded by Caitanya Mahaprabhu in Bengal five centuries ago. This Gaudiya sampradaya is officially connected with the Vaisnava school established by Madhva in the thirteenth century and also has strong philosophical and cultural bonds with the even older Sri Vaisnava school of Ramanuja.
Although the founding teachers of other Vaisnava schools each wrote major commentaries on Badarayana Vyasa's Vedanta-sutra and their followers carried on debate with Advaita impersonalists and others on the basis of their theistic interpretation of Vedanta, Caitanya Mahaprabhu chose not to busy His own followers in the same way. He proposed that the ancient Bhagavata Purana (known also as Srimad-Bhagavatam) served perfectly well as a natural commentary on the Vedanta-sutra, having been written by the same Veda-vyasa. Lord Caitanya advised His associates that since the Bhagavatam was already available and easily understandable, there was no need for them to compose new commentaries and sub-commentaries on Vedanta.
Another Purana, the Garuda Purana, corroborates Lord Caitanya's reliance on Srimad-Bhagavatam:
purnah so 'yam atisayah
"This [Purana] is perfectly complete. It is the purport of the Vedanta-sutra, establishes the meaning of the Mahabharata, is a commentary on Gayatri, and completes the message of the Vedas. It is the Sama Veda among the Puranas, spoken directly by an incarnation of God [Vyasa]. This work, consisting of twelve cantos, hundreds of chapters, and eighteen thousand verses, is called Srimad-Bhagavatam."
Srila Prabhupada considered the Srimad-Bhagavatam, along with the Bhagavad-gita, the substantial foundation of his International Society for Krishna Consciousness. He created ISKCON primarily for making the theology of the Gita and Bhagavatam universally accessible, and he directed his disciples to give priority to the work of publishing and distributing these two scriptures, in English and many other languages.
Srila Prabhupada's opus magnum, a multi-volume English translation of and commentary on the Srimad-Bhagavatam, was unfortunately left incomplete when he passed away in 1977; it was finished, however, ten years later by the collaborative effort of a few of his disciples. Having served as an editor of this entire series of the Srimad-Bhagavatam and participated in its posthumous completion, I have gathered some insights into Srila Prabhupada's hermeneutic methodology. In this essay, I will examine Srila Prabhupada's translation and commentary on one verse from Srimad-Bhagavatam, with the aim of showing how he based his own presentation largely on the commentaries of previous authorities.
Srimad-Bhagavatam is presented as literal, albeit very ancient, history. A few narrations in this Purana, however, are intended to be understood as fiction—most of them allegories devised by one of the most frequent speakers in the Bhagavatam, the itinerant preacher Narada. The text we are going to look at belongs to one of these allegorical passages, the story of King Puranjana told by Narada to Maharaja Pracinabarhi in Chapters 25-29 of the Fourth Canto.
In brief, the imaginary Puranjana is equivalent to the Everyman figure in medieval European morality plays. He represents the illusioned soul suffering from misidentification with his temporary embodiment in material life. Puranjana tries for years to enjoy with his consort, the female personification of his material intelligence; he finally succumbs to old age, disease, and death, and then, because of too much attachment to his wife, takes his next birth as a woman. This female reincarnation of Puranjana marries a pious king who dies young, leaving his wife bewildered in lamentation.
Our text occurs at this point in the narration, as the fifty-first verse of Chapter 28. It describes an unexpected visit by an old, forgotten friend. Here are the original Sanskrit text and Srila Prabhupada's translation:
tatra purvatarah kascit
"My dear King, one brahmana, who was an old friend of King Puranjana, came to that place and began to pacify the Queen with sweet words."
Srila Prabhupada's explanation of this verse, his "purport," fills two pages. It is based on the short commentaries, each only a few lines long, by two standard Vaisnava teachers, Sridhara Svami and Visvanatha Cakravarti. We will first describe these commentaries and then analyze how Srila Prabhupada used them.
The oldest extant commentary on Srimad-Bhagavatam was written by Sridhara Svami; older commentaries are known only by name or by isolated fragments. No solid evidence supports his exact life span; Karl Potter has tentatively assigned his birth to the beginning of the fifteenth century, though Sridhara Svami may have lived earlier than that, since less than a century later Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu described Sridhara as being a venerable authority. In India, more than one century is usually needed for a commentator on traditional literature to become established as an authority.
As far as is known, Sridhara Svami did not belong to any of the major Vaisnava schools, but was probably an initiated member of Sankara's Advaita sampradaya. Nonetheless, the opinions he expressed in his commentaries on Srimad-Bhagavatam and the Visnu Purana were staunchly Vaisnava. Caitanya Mahaprabhu's cutting comments to Vallabhacarya, a prominent Vaisnava, testify to the great respect Caitanya had for Sridhara's opinions, as Lord Caitanya's biographer Krsnadasa Kaviraja recounts:
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu smilingly replied, "One who does not accept the svami [husband] as an authority I consider a prostitute. ...You have dared criticize Sridhara Svami, and you have begun your own commentary on the Srimad-Bhagavatam, not accepting his authority. That is your false pride. Sridhara Svami is the spiritual master of the entire world because by his mercy we can understand the Srimad-Bhagavatam. I therefore accept him as a spiritual master. Whatever you might write due to false pride, trying to surpass Sridhara Svami, would carry a contrary purport. Therefore no one would pay attention to it. One who comments on the Bhagavatam following in the footsteps of Sridhara Svami will be honored and accepted by everyone." (Sri Caitanya-caritamrta,Antya-lila 7.115 and 132-136)
The two-sentence commentary of Sridhara Svami on the verse we are considering reads: "The friend who is 'very old' in the sense of being eternal without origin is the Supreme Lord, in accordance with the statement of revealed scripture beginning 'Two birds . . .' He addressed her with sweet words of consolation."
In the first sentence, Sridhara Svami identifies the old friend of the queen as every soul's original friend, the supreme controller (isvara). He supports this opinion by proposing that this verse of Srimad-Bhagavatam alludes to one of the oldest Vedic hymns. Although it is well known that the verse beginning dva suparna occurs in both the Mundaka and Svetasvatara Upanisads, less well-known is that the verse is originally found, verbatim, in the First Mandala of the ag Veda, the most archaic of scriptural sources:
dva suparna sayuja sakhaya
"Two friendly companion birds together reside on one tree. One of them is eating the tree's fruits while the other does not eat but simply watches His friend."
Vaisnava commentators explain that this verse refers to God in His accompanying of the finite soul in all the soul's incarnations in material existence. In every form of life, the finite soul and Supreme Soul sit together in the heart, one of them trying to enjoy material life and the other simply waiting for His eternal friend to remember Him.
The second commentary drawn upon by Srila Prabhupada in his purport to the Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.28.51 is the one written by Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura in the second half of the seventeenth century. Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti was the most prominent spiritual master of sixth-generation Vaisnavas in Caitanya Mahaprabhu's sampradaya. Srila Visvanatha led the Gaudiya Vaisnava community in Vrndavana during the time of the Mogul emperor Aurangzeb, who persecuted the Vaisnavas. Visvanatha's own predecessor was the celebrated devotional poet Narottama Dasa, and among his disciples was Baladeva Vidyabhusana, author of the Govinda-bhasya commentary on Vedanta-sutra.
Visvanatha Cakravarti's commentary on this verse is four sentences long. The first sentence suggests a deep meaning to the allegory of Queen Puranjani's lamentation: "[This verse] implies that in such a mood of distress as is suffered when one's spiritual master has departed from this world, a disciple can experience the direct presence of God."
In this realization of Visvanatha Cakravarti, Everyman has been replaced with a rare, special soul—the surrendered disciple of a pure Vaisnava. Without any other qualifications of his own, a sincere disciple earns the right to see God simply by his attachment to his spiritual master. After the guru has passed away, the serious disciple does not lose his spiritual strength but continues to advance by remembering and executing the guru's instructions. The intense devotional mood of separation can develop into direct vision of the Supreme Person.
Visvanatha Cakravarti's second sentence is a near exact repeat of Sridhara Svami's first sentence: "In this context, the friend who is 'very old' in the sense of being eternal without origin is the Supreme Lord, in accordance with such statements of revealed scripture as the one beginning 'Two birds . . .'"
In the tradition of Sanskrit commentary, this sort of "plagiarism" is considered ethical. It is appropriate to simply repeat the statements of one's predecessors when further explanation for one's own generation is not required. To pretend to be original, furthermore, is frowned upon. Most of Visvanatha Cakravarti's contemporaries who could read Sanskrit were probably acquainted with Sridhara Svami's commentary and would have recognized this citation; for those unfamiliar with Sridhara, Visvanatha was being considerate by passing on the past master's words.
The third sentence explains why the old friend in the allegory appears as a brahmana: "He [the Supreme Lord in the heart] is a brahmana, or in other words, he is in the guise of a brahmana; by this [the present verse] means to inform us that without pure love of God one can never have direct realization of God's true, original form."
The sincere disciple represented by Queen Puranjani is not prepared to fully realize God's personality, but even in His disguised form the Lord kindly gives the soul instructions that enable him to gradually achieve perfection.
Visvanatha Cakravarti's fourth sentence explains another word in the verse, the adjective atma-van (literally, "self-possessed" or "self-realized"), which further characterizes the brahmana: "'Self-possessed' here means also having His original form, which He kept hidden within Himself."
Ordinarily, God, who sits silently within every person's heart, limits His functions to being a witness, sanctioner, and facilitator of the living being's endeavors. In the case of the rare soul who has become purified from material desires, God advises the soul directly from within the heart how to progress toward liberation. Besides being the Supersoul, however, He is simultaneously nondifferent from God in His full personal form. Those who progress beyond liberation to pure devotion thus realize their own personal relationship with God.
Srila Prabhupada's Purport
Now we can look at Srila Prabhupada's purport. He begins by retelling Visvanatha Cakravarti's second sentence, which, as we have seen, is Sridhara Svami's first sentence and refers to the Upanisads and the ag Veda. Visvanatha Cakravarti had said: "In this context, the friend who is 'very old' in the sense of being eternal without origin is the Supreme Lord, in accordance with such statements of revealed scripture as the one beginning 'Two birds...'"
Srila Prabhupada writes:
The appearance of an old friend in the form of a brahmana is very significant. In His Paramatma feature, Krsna is the old friend of everyone. According to Vedic injunction, Krsna is sitting with the living entity side by side. According to the sruti-mantra (dva suparna sayuja sakhayah), the Lord is sitting within the heart of every living entity as suhrt, the best friend. The Lord is always eager to have the living entity come home, back to Godhead. Sitting with the living entity as witness, the Lord gives him all chances to enjoy himself materially, but whenever there is an opportunity, the Lord gives good counsel and advises the living entity to abandon trying to become happy through material adjustment and instead turn his face toward the Supreme Personality of Godhead and surrender unto Him.
Srila Prabhupada next presents the idea of Visvanatha Cakravarti's first sentence, which reads: "[This verse] implies that in such a mood of distress as is suffered when one's spiritual master has departed from this world, a disciple can experience the direct presence of God."
From this, Srila Prabhupada's derives the following:
When one becomes serious to follow the mission of the spiritual master, his resolution is tantamount to seeing the Supreme Personality of Godhead. As explained before, this means meeting the Supreme Personality of Godhead in the instruction of the spiritual master. This is technically called vani-seva.
In Sanskrit the word vani means "the faculty of speech," "words," and "instructions." Seva means "service." A disciple can serve his spiritual master's body (vapuh) whenever opportunities arise, but more important is serving his vani. Vani-seva is not limited by the absence of the person being served. Prabhupada continues in his purport:
Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura states in his Bhagavad-gita commentary on the verse vyavasayatmika buddhir ekeha kuru-nandana (Bg. 2.41) that one should serve the words of the spiritual master. The disciple must stick to whatever the spiritual master orders. Simply by following on that line, one sees the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Then Srila Prabhupada renders the third sentence of Visvanatha Cakravarti: "He [the Supreme Lord in the heart] is a brahmana, or in other words, he is in the guise of a brahmana; by this [the present verse] means to inform us that without pure love of God one can never have direct realization of God's true, original form."
Srila Prabhupada writes,
The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Paramatma, appeared before the Queen as a brahmana, but why didn't He appear in His original form as Sri Krsna? Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura remarks that unless one is very highly elevated in loving the Supreme Personality of Godhead, one cannot see Him as He is.
Visvanatha Cakravarti's fourth sentence was "'Self-possessed' here means also having His original form, which He kept hidden within Himself."
Srila Prabhupada's version of this is:
Nonetheless, if one sticks to the principles enunciated by the spiritual master, somehow or other he is in association with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Since the Lord is in the heart, He can advise a sincere disciple from within. This is also confirmed in Bhagavad-gita (10.10):
"To those who are constantly devoted and worship Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me."
Srila Prabhupada finishes his purport with a citation from another Vaisnava authority:
In conclusion, if a disciple is very serious to execute the mission of the spiritual master, he immediately associates with the Supreme Personality of Godhead by vani or vapuh. This is the only secret of success in seeing the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Instead of being eager to see the Lord in some bush of Vrndavana while at the same time engaging in sense gratification, if one instead sticks to the principle of following the words of the spiritual master, he will see the Supreme Lord without difficulty. Srila Bilvamangala Thakura has therefore said:
bhaktis tvayi sthiratara bhagava yadi syad
"If I am engaged in devotional service unto You, my dear Lord, then very easily can I perceive Your presence everywhere. And as far as liberation is concerned, I think that liberation stands at my door with folded hands, waiting to serve me—and all material conveniences of dharma [religiosity], artha [economic development], and kama [sense gratification] stand with her." (Krsna-karnamrta 107)
If one is very highly advanced in devotional service, he will have no difficulty in seeing the Supreme Personality of Godhead. If one engages in the service of the spiritual master, he not only sees the Supreme Personality of Godhead but attains liberation. As far as material conveni-ences are concerned, they automatically come, just as the maidservants of a queen follow the queen wherever she goes. Liberation is no problem for the pure devotee, and all material conveniences are simply awaiting him at all stages of life.
This single text, of course, is only a tiny sample of Srila Prabhupada's purports. A much broader survey needs to be taken before a fair appraisal can be made of how he used his predecessor's commentaries. The project of researching the sources of Srila Prabhupada's purports in Srimad-Bhagavatam and Bhagavad-gita As It Is is only beginning, and requires the ongoing diligence of any number of disciples and scholars.
Srila Prabhupada was firmly convinced of the relevance of Srimad-Bhagavatam. In his view, the Bhagavatam's teachings were timeless, the perennial science of God consciousness. His own responsibility was simply to translate them without distortion. If the instructions of his authoritative predecessors were properly served, the whole world would surely benefit.
Admittedly, the ideas and images Srila Prabhupada strove to convey in his purports are sometimes difficult for modern readers to comprehend, what to speak of assimilate. The original texts he translated are messages from a different world, ancient and foreign. But Prabhupada felt the urgent need to deliver these messages as best he could. He was thus always concerned with how to make the Bhagavatam's enlightening instructions comprehensible to the average, contemporary public. Certainly not everyone would understand, but even if only a few readers received benefit from this transcendental knowledge, the endeavor could be counted as a great success.
Before Srila Prabhupada came to America in 1965 with his first English volumes of Srimad-Bhagavatam, a well-intentioned person could have questioned him, "Why present this work, which has a very small audience? Why not something else, easier and more popular?" Prabhupada, however, did not think in such a way. To him it did not matter that there were no readers for the Srimad-Bhagavatam; he created his own readership. In a few years, thousands of disciples became serious students of the Bhagavatam, and millions of other people around the world brought the book into their homes. This is the sign of a great author—that he creates an audience where there was none.
Gopiparanadhana Dasa has been a Bhaktivedanta Book Trust (BBT) Sanskrit editor and translator for more than twenty-five years. He is currently working on Srila Sanatana Gosvami's Sri Brhad-Bhagavatamrta, the first volume of which is now available at the Krishna.com store (page 63).
In the year 1513,
By Mathuresa Dasa
ON Ratha-yatra day in the summer of A.D. 1513, Lord Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His associates rose in the dark and bathed. The predawn streets were busy with last-minute festival preparations as the Lord and His party hurried to the temple of Lord Jagannatha (Krsna as "the Lord of the universe"). For weeks carpenters and craftsmen had been at work building the festival's three colossal wooden carts and decorating them with brightly colored canopies, with silk banners and flags, with mirrors, pictures, gongs, bells, camara whisks, and flower garlands.
Hundreds and thousands of pilgrims had arrived in Puri to see massive wooden deities of Lord Jagannatha, Lord Balarama, and Subhadra Devi ride through the streets on these festival chariots. The entire town of Puri, residents and guests alike, joyously prepared to serve and glorify the deities, incarnations of the Supreme Lord, during the Jagannatha Rathayatra parade.
Maharaja Prataparudra, the king of Jagannatha Puri, was up early too, his mind occupied with the coming events. The king took a personal interest in the Jagannatha temple and in all the details of this annual celebration. The sheltering and feeding of the pilgrim throngs reflected upon him and was his pleasure. Friends and subordinate rulers attended as his guests, not to mention his own queens, children, and retinue.
The regular duties of administering a sprawling kingdom up and down the coast of the Bay of Bengal pressed upon him as well. But most of all, for the first time Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu would be attending Rathayatra, and Maharaja Prataparudra had the promise of a private audience with the Lord. Along with his festival functions, King Prataparudra could think of little else.
When Lord Caitanya and His party arrived at the Jagannatha Temple, the king and his entourage were waiting to let Him through the crowds and give Him an honored vantage point to watch Lord Jagannatha emerge from the temple.
To the tumultuous sounds of various musical instruments, devotees specially chosen for their strength, carried the heavy deities of Jagannatha, Baladeva and Subhadra from the temple to Their festival chariots. Before crowds of his subjects and visitors, King Prataparudra took the part of a lowly street sweeper, using a broom with a golden handle to sweep the road in front of Lord Jagannatha as the deity moved toward His chariot. The king also sprinkled the road with sandalwood-scented water. Seeing this humble public example set by King Prataparudra, Lord Caitanya became very happy.
A king and a street sweeper may be at opposite ends of the social spectrum, but in a society dedicated to the service of Lord Jagannatha everyone equally becomes a menial servant of the deity. We are kings or sweepers temporarily. Our permanent and exalted position is as humble servants of Krsna. Lord Caitanya Himself had made it clear that He wished most of all to be a servant of a servant of the servants of Krsna, to serve Krsna holding all other servants as superiors.
The King's Aspiration
In the two years since Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu had first passed through Puri on His way to southern India, King Prataparudra had aspired to meet the Lord and had steadily served Lord Caitanya's followers. The king had released Ramananda Raya from government duties and provided him with a generous stipend for Lord Caitanya's service. He had respectfully approached Lord Caitanya's disciples in Puri and asked them to arrange a meeting with the Lord. And in the past several weeks he had eagerly provided lodging for two hundred of Lord Caitanya's followers from Bengal and had enjoyed learning their names and hearing of their exceptional qualities.
Now Maharaja Prataparudra had eagerly rendered menial service to Lord Jagannatha. As a humble servant both of Krsna and of Lord Caitanya's followers, King Prataparudra greatly satisfied Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the universal guru, and became a sure candidate for Lord Caitanya's mercy. While the Lord continued to outwardly regard King Prataparudra as a sensual materialist and to avoid him, He prepared to bless the king during the Rathayatra parade.
As the chariots rolled forward, drawn by sturdy servants of Lord Jagannatha tugging on thick ropes, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu wandered through seven chanting parties. He chanted the holy names and shouted "All glories to Lord Jagannatha! All glories to Lord Jagannatha!" Inspired by Lord Caitanya's participation, the devotees chanted and danced with all their hearts, forgetting all fatigue while the hours passed. In every direction the sound of the holy names and the music of sankirtana filled the air as Lord Caitanya, to further raise the blissful atmosphere, displayed His inconceivable potency as the Supreme Personality of Godhead by expanding Himself into seven transcendental forms, dancing and chanting in all seven parties simultaneously. Everyone was thinking, "Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu stays with my group, showing us special favor. He does not go anywhere else." Only the most confidential devotees, those absorbed in pure devotion, could see and understand that seven forms of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu danced and chanted.
One of those devotees, standing motionless in stunned astonishment, breathless with the vision before him, was King Prataparudra. Still externally singled out by the Lord as a dangerous worldly man, still refused a personal audience, Maharaja Prataparudra became an intimate devotee of the Lord by the Lord's mercy, privy to the Lord's confidential mystic powers. In all the crowds of celebrating pilgrims and among all the assembled followers of Lord Caitanya, only Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya joined the king in observing and relishing the Lord's seven-fold transcendental performance.
Catching his breath, Prataparudra informed Kasi Misra of Lord Caitanya's feat, and Kasi Misra replied with heartfelt congratulation, "O king, your fortune has no limit!"
Meeting At Last
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's expansive powers as the Supreme Lord were not all that had transfixed Maharaja Prataparudra. Lord Caitanya's demeanor as a devotee of the Supreme transformed the king as well. The Festival of the Chariots is a grand display of opulent worship commemorating the grandeur at Kurukshetra during Lord Krsna's pilgrimage there with the royalty of the Yadu dynasty. Lord Caitanya, with His first Rathayatra in this historic summer of 1513, sweetened the joyously opulent celebration of Lord Jagannatha's glories with ecstatic remembrance of the residents of Vrndavana, who came to the Kurukshetra gathering to see Lord Krsna for the first time in many years. While many kings and devotees at Kurukshetra took satisfaction in observing Lord Krsna's opulence and in glorifying His position as the Supreme, the villagers of Vrndavana saw Krsna as their fellow villager and prayed that He return home with them. Lord Caitanya's absorption in the mood of the residents of Vrndavana shone through in His performance of sankirtana with His devoted Bengali followers. This too entranced King Prataparudra.
When the procession reached a place called Balagandi, the carts stopped and from all sides pilgrims as well as local devotees offered their best cooked foods to Lord Jagannatha. King Prataparudra, his queens, ministers, friends, and all other residents of Jagannatha Puri made offerings wherever they could.
Taking advantage of this interlude, Lord Caitanya and His followers went to rest in a nearby garden. Exhausted from hours of dancing and chanting, they lay down on the ground beneath the garden trees and enjoyed the cool, fragrant breezes.
King Prataparudra too, setting aside his royal apparel, entered the garden dressed in simple cloth like a devotee of Krsna. Humbly taking permission from Lord Caitanya's followers, the king bowed down before the Lord, who was lying on the ground with His eyes closed, and began to expertly massage the Lord's legs. The king also recited verses from the Srimad- Bhagavatam about Krsna's pastimes with the gopis.
Hearing this, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu said again and again, "Go on reciting, go on reciting."
As the king happily continued his recitation, Lord Caitanya embraced him and cried, "You are most kind! You are most kind!"
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was in ecstasy and did not seem to recognize the king.
"Who are you?" the Lord asked. "You are doing so much for me. All of a sudden you have come here and made me drink the nectar of Lord Krsna's pastimes."
"My Lord," King Prataparudra replied, "I am the most obedient servant of Your servants. It is my ambition that You will accept me as such."
The devotees resting in the garden praised Maharaja Prataparudra's good fortune in receiving Lord Caitanya's mercy, and in doing so their minds became open and blissful. As pure devotees, they were happy to see another servant elevated in devotional service. King Prataparudra replied by offering prayers to the devotees with folded hands. Then he bowed again before Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and humbly left the garden.
The king's service to Lord Sri Caitanya's followers brought him a meeting with the Lord, and that meeting confirmed his desire to serve the devotees. Srila Prabhupada writes (Madhya-lila 14.8): "The greatest achievement for a devotee is to become a servant of the servants. Actually no one should desire to become the direct servant of the Lord. That is not a very good idea. ... Being the servant of the servants of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the highest benediction one can desire."
Mathuresa Dasa, a disciple of Srila Prabhupada, has written many articles for BTG. He and his wife, Ganga-gati Devi Dasi, and their four children live in Alachua, Florida.
LORD Krsna's appearance in deity form is another display of His compassion, another opportunity for loving exchange with Him. The deity is not a material idol. With our present eyes and other senses we can perceive only matter, though we may appreciate the existence of spirit. For example, when a person dies we note that consciousness, the soul's energy, leaves the body, but we cannot see the soul itself depart. The supreme soul, the Lord of the universal body, is similarly not visible to material eyes, but He makes Himself visible as a deity to accept our service. All the material elements are God's energies. He can use them as He likes and appear as He likes. He is omnipotent. For Him there is no distinction between matter and spirit.
One may fashion a deity of wood, stone, clay, or jewels, or the deity may be a painting or a drawing. Mind too is God's subtle material energy, so a mental image of the Lord in line with scripture is also a worshipable deity. The key is that the deity must be a form authorized by scripture, just as a mail box must be authorized by the post office. Dropping your mail in any old box will not do. As each mailbox has the support of the entire postal system, the deity form authorized by the Lord through scripture has the same unlimited potency as the Lord Himself.
If service to the deity were material idol worship, as critics say, then the critics' own mental images of God would be idols as well. Mind is in itself no less material, no closer to spirit, than granite or styrofoam. In fact, those who maintain mental images of God as impersonal or void, or as an old man, do serve fanciful material idols, since according to revealed scripture God is neither void nor impersonal nor old. Service rendered to an authorized deity on the other hand, whether we fashion the deity of stone, wood, paint, or mental elements, is service to the Lord Himself, to His original personal form of eternity, bliss, and knowledge. Servants of the deity gradually realize that they are in direct contact with the supreme person.
The Festival of the Chariots:
In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna states that His birth and activities are transcendental. He does not take birth and die against His will, as we do, but descends out of compassion to orchestrate loving pastimes with His devotees. Queen Kunti, the great devotee-poet, opines that Krsna, while present in every particle in all existence, appears in human society like a dancing actor, undetected by unfortunate men with the intelligence of donkeys. Devotees remember and celebrate the pastimes of Lord Krsna, which he displays in places such as Vrndavana, Dwaraka, Hastinapura, and Kurukshetra.
Kurukshetra is the site a few hundred miles north of Hastinapura, modern Delhi, where Lord Krsna spoke the Bhagavad-gita and to which, many years before that, He once journeyed as a pilgrim. Accompanied by His brother, Balarama, and sister, Subhadra, and by other gener-als of the Yadu dynasty, Lord Krsna came to Kurukshetra, renowned even then as an ancient holy place, for fasting and prayer during a full solar eclipse.
Arriving from His coastal kingdom of Dwaraka, He met with commanders of the Kuru dynasty, including Bhisma, Drona, Dhrtarastra, and Duryodhana, with the Pandavas, headed by King Yudhisthira, and with many other heads of state. The gathering of leaders, along with their wives and retinues, made for a magnificent religious, diplomatic, and social occasion. The Yadus and other dignitaries appeared in full-dress regalia, carrying their swords and other weapons. Kurukshetra resounded with the rumbling of ornate royal chariots drawn by powerful horses as graceful as ocean waves. Guests and celebrities made their entrances riding on great elephants that moved like clouds in the sky.
Though at home amid this splendor and pageantry, Lord Krsna had grown up among the gentle cowherd men and women of the village of Vrndavana. Political dangers had obliged Krsna's father, Vasudeva, a Yadu prince, to place Krsna and Balarama from Their births under the care of Vrndavana's King Nanda. Nanda and his wife, Yasoda, raised Krsna and Balarama as their own children, and the two boys became the darlings not only of Their foster parents but of the entire village. While Krsna roamed the forests and fields of Vrndavana during His youth, playing and tending cows with His cowherd boyfriends and Balarama, the hearts of everyone in Vrndavana went with Him. In particular the young cowherd girls, or gopis, could not tolerate even a moment without seeing Krsna. When at the age of sixteen Krsna reluctantly left Vrndavana to take up princely duties, the gopis were devastated and longed day and night for His return.
Eyes Only for Krsna
Hearing that Krsna would be at Kurukshetra for the solar eclipse, all Vrndavana prepared to go. Loading gifts and belongings on ox carts, the simple rural cowherd boys, girls, men, and women made their way north to the gala royal assembly. Religion and diplomacy were not high on their agenda. They wanted only to see Krsna and Balarama, their life and soul.
They arrived at Kurukshetra to a warm welcome from the Yadus, who were their intimate friends and relatives. Inquiring about each other's well-being, everyone cried in jubilation while their smiling faces bloomed like lotus flowers. Both parties were great devotees of Krsna, and their talk turned around Him. The Yadus, despite their regal opulence and their participation in the lofty religious rituals at Kurukshetra, had no interest in wealth or piety. In all their duties and activities their sole object of devotion was Krsna. And as for the residents of Vrndavana, they circulated in the dazzling grandeur of the Kurukshetra assembly with eyes only for Krsna, their dearmost cowherd boy.
Nanda and Yasoda's affection for Krsna was so strong that despite hearing Krsna praised by the assembled kings as the omnipotent and omnipresent Supreme Lord, they could think of Him only as their little child. At the first opportunity, they took Krsna and Balarama aside to talk, placing the grown princes on their laps like eight-year-olds.
The gopis, though also not denying Krsna's royalty or His position as the Supreme, were interested less than anyone in these trappings. They were overjoyed to see Krsna again, but the hubbub at Kurukshetra was a distraction. The crowds of people, along with horses, elephants, and the din of huge chariots moving here and there, left little room for intimacy. Krsna wore the formal attire of a prince and moved in the company of military officers. Drawing Krsna away from the crowds, the gopis requested Him to return with them to Vrndavana. Vrndavana was quiet, they pointed out, with beautiful streams and flower gardens. You could hear the buzzing of bees and the chirping of birds. Krsna wouldn't need to dress up in all this finery or take part in all these ceremonious matters. In Vrndavana the gopis and Krsna could be alone together again.
Though Krsna regretfully explained that He could not yet fulfill the gopis' request, and although after a three-month visit with His dear childhood family and friends He returned to Dwaraka, the gopis forever aspired to have Him back. They longed to leave Kurukshetra with Krsna in tow on His grand royal chariot, pulling Him with them down the road to Vrndavana.
FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY General Janet Reno was traveling through Florida last week, campaigning for the governorship of the state. The local radio news ran an excerpt of her speech. She declared, with typical campaigner's canned enthusiasm, that if we can send people to the moon then, by golly, we should be able to give all kids in Florida a good education!
I hear similar arguments often: "If we can send people to the moon, we should be able to [enter your favorite social problem here]." But social problems prove a lot harder to solve than technical ones.
Referring to the expression "It doesn't take a rocket scientist," a reporter recently asked a rocket scientist what he and his colleagues might say: "It doesn't take a . . . ?"
The rocket scientist admitted that the problems he tries to solve are easy compared with those like war, crime, poverty, broken families, and so on.
"The people trying to solve those problems," he said, "really have to be smart."
He's right. Take war, for example. Dozens of armed consicts are raging today. Who's smart enough to solve the problem of war?
Lord Krsna is. Ralph Waldo Emerson called Bhagavad-gita "the voice of an old intelligence." For thousands of years people have turned to Lord Krsna's words for answers to life's problems. Krsna has something to say about achieving peace. It will come, He says, when people know that God is the supreme enjoyer, controller, and friend.
That knowledge must show in action. We reveal our understanding that Krsna is the supreme enjoyer by offering everything for His pleasure. Places of worship in all religions exist for that purpose. We go to the temple, church, or mosque to offer prayers and praise for God's pleasure, not ours. That attitude of submission should follow us home and into our daily lives.
We reveal our understanding that Krsna is the supreme controller by giving up the illusion that we're in control. We struggle against Krsna's control in the form of the laws of nature. But nature repeatedly foils our attempts to control things for our ultimate material success. Our battle with nature will stop when we give our lives over to the compassionate control of Krsna.
Finally, we reveal our understanding that Krsna is the supreme friend by accepting His friendship. He comes along as we wander this world, ever waiting for us to turn to Him and accept His loving guidance. And since He's in everyone's heart, if we see that, we'll find no cause for consict with others.
We'll get a peaceful world only when we have peaceful people. Seeing Krsna as the supreme enjoyer, controller, and friend brings peace because it aligns us with our natural position. We can get that vision by purifying our hearts through chanting the names of God.
Many people today don't like to hear about a return to God as the antidote to war. Too many consicts seem to involve religious people. But it's religion based on bodily identification that falls short—in deterring wars and in many other areas. Real religion, real God consciousness, transcends race, nationality, and sectarian religious designations. It sees everyone as brothers and sisters, united in peace as souls under the common Father.
In the mundane field [the] outlook of doing good to others in the form of society, community, family, country, or humanity is a partial manifestation of the same original feeling in which a pure living entity feels happiness by the happiness of the Supreme Lord.
His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Even though one may have gone to the other side of all the Vedas, and even though one is well versed in all the revealed scriptures, if one is not a devotee of the Supreme Lord, he must be considered the lowest of mankind.
Garuda Purana (Quoted in Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.9.36, Purport)
Although maya [illusion] is false or temporary, the background of maya is the supreme magician, the Personality of Godhead, who is Mahesvara, the supreme controller.
Svetasvatara Upanisad 4.10
The devotees of the Lord never annihilate their individual existences even after the dissolution of the entire cosmic manifestation. The Lord and the devotees who associate with Him are always eternal, in both the material and spiritual worlds.
Skanda Purana, Kasi-khanda
Just as the illumination of a fire, which is situated in one place, is spread all over, the energies of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Parabrahman, are spread all over the universe.
Visnu Purana 1.22.53
Let me take shelter of Him whose incarnations and qualities and activities are mysterious imitations of worldly affairs. One who invokes His transcendental names, even unconsciously, at the time he quits this life, is certainly washed immediately of the sins of many, many births and attains Him without fail.
The sun is naturally warm, the moon naturally cool, the earth naturally tolerant, the wind naturally restless, the saints naturally grave, and the ocean naturally deep. Similarly, Krsna is naturally controlled by love.
Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami
Pure devotional service in Krsna consciousness cannot be had even by pious activity in hundreds and thousands of lives. It can be obtained only by paying one price—that is intense greed to obtain it. If it is available somewhere, one must purchase it without delay.
Srila Rupa Gosvami, Padyavali