THIS ISSUE'S cover story takes us to the Ardennes Forest of Belgium, site of major World War II battles. In an area replete with war memorials, we find a beautiful old castle at the center of a sourishing Krsna conscious community: Radhadesh. The castle-turned-temple has become a popular tourist attraction, giving residents the chance to show others life with Krsna in the center.
Also in this issue, we follow up on an article we ran five years ago about the Druze, an Israeli Arab sect with spiritual roots in India. Dhira Govinda Dasa, who wrote the first article, now describes the joyful trip a group of Druze leaders made to India last spring (a trip that included a meeting of the Druze and the Dalai Lama at a Hare Krsna temple).
In our excerpt from Devamrta Swami's Searching for Vedic India, you'll hear unabashed praise for the Vedas from European thinkers who first encountered them. The book is a comprehensive look at evidence supporting the authenticity and superiority of Vedic culture and philosophy.
Satyaraja Dasa continues his enlightening series on Lord Caitanya's "Eight Teachings." And we celebrate an auspicious event on our Vaisnava calendar with Amala Bhakta Dasa's "The Appearance of Radha Kunda."
Hare Krsna.—Nagaraja Dasa, Editor
• To help all people discern reality from illusion, spirit from matter, the eternal from the temporary.
I found Gopiparanadhana's article, "Serving the Words of His Predecessors" [July/August] fascinating! I've been told countless times that Srila Prabhupada based his purports on the commentaries of previous acaryas, and of course I've seen him quote from them directly throughout his purports. I had no idea, though, that practically every sentence and concept is a derivative of the realizations of these great seers.
I personally owe a great debt of gratitude to Gopiparanadhana Prabhu. It's because of his volunteering to teach Sanskrit to our little rag-tag group of gurukula kids here in Hillsborough, North Carolina, that my passion for that beautiful language thrives to this day. Eleven years after my final lesson with him, I'm trying to communicate that same fascination with this ancient language to the students of Padma Academy.
Please publish more of Gopiparanadhana Prabhu's writings.
Campakalata Devi Dasi
The article "Karna's Choice," by Urmila Devi Dasi, in the March/April issue was very good. The Mahabharata is a very complex and long story, but this article summarized it very accurately, and from Karna's viewpoint. Karna spent his life bewildered as to his identity. He felt victimized by fate—a tragic story! Excellently covered.
I also particularly liked the article "Destiny and Endeavor," by Bhayahari Dasa, in the January/February issue. The interaction of fate, effort, and time was very well explained from a personal, everyday practical life perspective.
Please keep up the good work. These articles are food for the soul.
The Good and the Bad
I'd like to point out some of the things you are doing right and some of the things you are doing wrong.
Everyone out here likes the way you list all the Festivals of India for North America every year. I like seeing the list of back issues, especially when you show different covers of back issues. I bought twenty-five back issues this year, and I'm definitely going to buy more. I like seeing BTG crammed full of photos and paintings, along with the names of the artists and photographers.
As for the things I don't like about BTG—there are none!
Yajna Hotra Dasa
Enlightening and Satisfying
Thank you for your sublime magazine. It is so uplifting! BTG is definitely a big help in the self-realization process. It is enlightening and satisfying for the soul. Every two months I eagerly wait for our BTG issue to arrive, and it seems so long in between. My consciousness has a tendency to drop, but when I read the articles, I instantly feel better and hopeful. I am very grateful. Thank you for your excellent work.
I just wanted to write and say thank you. I have been receiving BTG through another person, and I love the teachings and the stories. I read the articles twice sometimes to grasp the full concept of the lesson. I especially enjoyed "Vaisnava Compassion," [November/December 2001] because it taught me the true meaning of compassion.
Please write to us at: BTG, P. O. Box 430, Alachua, FL 32616, USA. E-mail: email@example.com.
I would like to apologize for two historical inaccuracies in my article on Tamal Krishna Goswami in the July/August issue: (1) I say that he began the preaching movement in the Orient, and (2) I say that he began the Radha-Damodara Traveling Sankirtana Party. Both these statements are misleading. I would like to set the record straight: (1) By the time Goswami Maharaja arrived in the Orient, the movement there had already begun; (2) Visnujana Swami had already started the Radha-Damodara Traveling Sankirtana Party, and only somewhat later did TKG join the party. While TKG certainly developed these projects, transforming them into something even more sublime than they already were, he was not their originator. And so, in the interest of historical accuracy, let me go on record as making these corrections.
The Krsna consciousness movement
By His Divine Grace
"I offer my respectful obeisances unto my spiritual master, who with the torchlight of knowledge has opened my eyes, which were blinded by the darkness of ignorance."
Today I am very glad to meet you. You are all students of technology. This Krsna consciousness movement is another technology. In the modern state of civilization there are different depart-ments of knowledge. There is a department for teaching medical science, there is a department for teaching engineering—so many other departments of knowledge. Unfortunately, there is no department for distributing knowledge of the science of the soul. But that is the most important thing, because the soul is the mainstay, the background of all our movements.
In the Bhagavad-gita [3.42] there is a nice verse:
indriyani parany ahur
The idea is that in the present consciousness I am thinking that I am the body, although actually I am not the body. This is ignorance. "Body" means the senses. When I am talking, I am using my tongue for vibration. So these bodily activities are sensual activities.
If you go deep into the matter, you'll find that the senses can act only when the mind is sound. A crazy man, or a madman, cannot use his senses properly. Therefore the technology of the mind is a higher science. First of all there is the technology of the senses, and then a higher technology of the mind, which is known as psychology and studies thinking, feeling, willing. Psychologists are trying to understand how these are working.
Above the mind, or mental science, is the science of intelligence. And above the science of intelligence, the background is the soul. Unfortunately, we have technology for the bodily senses, we have technology for psychology, but we have no technology for intelligence or the science of the soul. The Krsna consciousness movement is the technology of the science of soul.
The Boatman And The Student
There is a nice story. You'll appreciate it. In India, especially in Bengal, there are many rivers. One student of technology was going home, and he was on the boat.
The student asked the boatman, "Do you know what the stars are?"
The boatman said, "Sir, I'm an ordinary boatman. What do I know about these stars?"
"Oh. Then fifty percent of your life is wasted, useless."
Then he asked, "Do you know about these trees? Do you know any science of botany?"
The boatman said, "Sir, I'm an ordinary laborer. What do I know about botany?"
"Oh. Then seventy-five percent of your life is useless."
In this way the student of technology was asking the boatman, "Do you know this? Do you know that?" And the boatman was replying, "I'm an ordinary man. What do I know of all these things?"
Then all of a sudden there was a black cloud, and there was a storm, and the river began to well, and the boatman said, "My dear sir, do you know how to swim?"
"Oh," the student said, "no."
"Then your knowledge is a hundred percent spoiled. Now you have to go down into the river. Your life is finished."
They dropped into the river, and the technology student, because he did not know how to swim, was grabbed by the waves in the storm.
The idea is that we are making progress, certainly, in technology, in economics, in so many other departments of human necessities, but Bhagavad-gita points out the real problem of this world, or the real problem of our life. It is said in the Gita [13.9], janma-mrtyu-jara-vyadhi-duhkha-dosanudarsanam. If you are intelligent enough, then you should see that the real problem is birth, death, old age, and disease. Janma means "birth," mrtyu means "death," jara means "old age," and vyadhi means "disease."
Our actual material problem is this: janma-mrtyu-jara-vyadhi. We have forgotten the precarious condition we were in while living in the abdomen of our mother. We can know from the descriptions of medical science how the child is packed up there and how much suffering is there. The worms bite the child, and he cannot express himself; he suffers. The mother eats something, and the pungent taste gives him suffering. These descriptions are there in the sastras, the scriptures and authentic Vedic literature, telling how the child suffers within the abdomen of mother.
These are the sufferings of birth. A child has to remain in that condition at least for ten [lunar] months. Now just imagine if you are put into that air-packed condition for three minutes now—you will immediately die. But actually, we had that experience of remaining in the mother's womb in that air-packed condition for ten months. The suffering was there, but the child was incapable of expressing himself or his consciousness was not so elevated. He could not cry, but the suffering was there.
Similarly, at the time of death there is suffering. And there is suffering in old age. Because I am an old man, I have so many bodily complaints. The anatomical or physiological condition is deteriorating. The stomach is not digesting food as nicely as when I was young. So the sufferings are there.
And there is the suffering of disease. Who wants disease?
Solution To The Real Problems
Modern technology has no remedy for birth, death, old age, and disease. These are the real problems. But because these problems cannot be solved by modern scientific advancement of knowledge, they have practically been set aside.
But there is a solution. That solution is stated in the Bhagavad-gita [8.15]:
mam upetya punar janma
"My dear Arjuna, if somebody comes to Me . . ." ("Me" means the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna.) "If somebody comes to Me, then he hasn't got to take birth again in this miserable material condition."
Duhkhalayam means "the place of miseries." We are thinking that we have made a paradise, but actually the place is miserable, because the threefold miseries are there. Either in America or in India or in any other country or any other planet, the material miseries are of three kinds: adhyatmika, adhibhautika, and adhidaivika.
Adhyatmika means miseries pertaining to the body and the mind. Sometimes we are feeling headaches; sometimes we are feeling some other pains. For anything pertaining to the body and mind there is some pain. These pains are called adhyatmika.
Similarly, there are pains inflicted by other living entities. They are called adhibhautika.
And there are pains offered by nature. All of a sudden there is an earthquake, or all of a sudden there is famine or something else we have no control over.
These three kinds of miseries are always there. But under the spell of illusion we are thinking we are happy. The material energy is so illusory that however abominable a condition a living entity may be in, he thinks he is happy.
You take any animal. Just take the hog—that life is a most filthy life. Of course, you have no experience of seeing hogs here in the city. In India there are many hogs in the city, and they live in filthy places. They eat stool and live a most abominable life. But if you were to ask a hog, "You are living in such an abominable condition. Let me do something good for you," he'd refuse to accept. If you give him some nice preparation—as we have got in India, halava—he'll not accept it. He will accept stool, because his body is meant for that purpose and he will not like any palatable food. He will like that stool. This is the spell of maya, illusion.
The Right Question
Krsna consciousness teaches that if we are actually educated, then we must question, "Why am I suffering?" This is called brahma-jijnasa. In the Vedanta-sutra the first aphorism is athato brahma jijnasa: We should inquire about our existence as soul, not as body or as mind, because we are neither body nor mind. Atha atah means that this is the time—this human form of life, with developed consciousness and greater intelligence than the animals—when one should inquire about his spiritual existence. That is real technology.
Srimad-Bhagavatam [5.5.5] says, parabhavas tavad abodha-jato yavan na jijnasata atma-tattvam. As long as one does not inquire about his spiritual existence, he is defeated in his real mission of life. Every one of us is born ignorant because we do not know our real identity. Generally, we accept that "I am this body," but actually we are not the body.
This can be understood very easily. Suppose you have been seeing a friend all along. All of a sudden he dies, and you say, "My friend is gone." Well, your friend is lying there with all the body—hands, legs, everything. He's lying there. Why do you say that your friend is gone? Because you have never seen your friend. You have seen only his bodily structure, that's all.
Similarly, at the present moment humanitarian work is going on, but we do not know the basic principle of humanitarian work. The Bhagavatam [10.84.13] answers this: yasyatma-buddhih kunape tri-dhatuke sva-dhih kalatradisu bhauma-ijya-dhih . . . sa eva go-kharah. If a person thinks, "I am this body, my kinsmen will protect me, and the land where the body has grown is worshipable," then he is considered to be like an animal.
These instructions are there. Unfortunately, we have no time or desire to understand actually what I am, why I am suffering, what is this world, what is my relationship with this world, what is God, what is my relationship with God. These questions are very important, and there is technology to understand them. And the Srimad Bhagavad- gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam, Vedanta-sutra—all these literatures are there. If we look to these literatures, we'll find the solution of the problems of life. But we are not interested. That is the difficulty. We are thinking we are happy, we have no problem, although there are so many problems and we are not happy.
That is called maya. Maya means what is not. Ma means "not." Ya means "this." We are thinking we are happy, but actually we are not happy. And even if we are happy, how long are we happy? Take, for example, you Americans, the richest nation of the world. Your material comforts and standard of living are greater than other countries'. But just try to think how long you can remain as Americans. Say, for fifty years or a hundred years at most.
We do not know what is going to happen in our next life, because we do not believe in the next life. But actually there is a next life.
We don't take care for our next life and irresponsibly waste our valuable human form of life like ordinary animals. Ordinary animals demand something to eat, they want to sleep, they want to defend, and they want to mate. So similarly, if a human being is also busy with the four principles of bodily demands, namely eating, sleeping, mating, and defending, then, according to Vedic literature, he is not a human being. Dharmena hina pasubhih samanah. If the human being does not understand his real spiritual identity and is simply busy with the four demands of bodily necessities, then pasubhih samanah—he's equal to lower animals, cats and dogs.
Bhagavad-gita gives you the clue. It is not very difficult to understand this science. The Bhagavad-gita gives you the information of the spirit soul very simply. The Bhagavad-gita [2.13] says,
dehino 'smin yatha dehe
When you were a child you were within this body—not exactly this body, but another body, which was so small. Now where is that body? That body is gone. You have another body. Dehinah means the soul, the spirit soul, who is within this body. He is changing bodies from moment to moment. It is a fact, a medical fact, that you are changing your body every moment. The last change is called death. And then we have to accept another body. But we do not know what sort of body we are going to accept. That technology is wanting in modern civilization.
There are 8,400,000 different bodies, and after leaving this body you may enter any of such bodies. After leaving this body, you can become an American or you can become an Indian or you can become Chinaman. Or you can become a god in the moon planet or some other planet. Or you can become a dog, you can become hog, you can become a serpent—anything. That is under the control of material nature. That is not under your control.
But if you take to Krsna consciousness, it will be under your control. How is it possible? The Bhagavad-gita [9.25] answers:
yanti deva-vrata devan
"Those who worship the demigods will take birth among the demigods; those who worship the ancestors will go to the ancestors; those who worship ghosts and spirits will take birth among such beings; and those who worship Me will live with Me."
There are innumerable planets. The ultimate, highest planet is called Brahmaloka. The advantage of going to Brahmaloka is stated in the Bhagavad-gita [8.17]: sahasra-yuga-paryantam ahar yad brahmano viduh. You can live there for millions and millions of years. But still, there is death and there is birth and there is old age and there is disease. But if somebody is transferred to the planet called Krsnaloka, Goloka Vrndavana, or Vaikuntha, then he hasn't got to come back to this temporary existence.
This information is there, and it is very scientific. It is not dogmatic. If you accept it with reason and argument and with human consciousness, the solutions are there.
Not Bogus Propaganda
The Krsna consciousness movement is not a new movement. This movement has been current at least since five hundred years ago. Lord Caitanya started this movement in the fifteenth century. This movement is current everywhere in India, but in your country, of course, it is new. But our request is that you kindly take this movement a little seriously. We do not ask you to stop your technological advance. You do it. There is a nice proverb in Bengal that says that a woman who is busy in household work also takes care to dress herself nicely. Similarly, you may be busy with all kinds of technology. That is not forbidden. But at the same time, try to understand this technology, the science of the soul. That is there. It is not bogus propaganda. It is factual. It is science.
As science is not bogus propaganda, this Krsna consciousness is also not bogus propaganda. As science means two plus two equals four, Krsna consciousness means mitigating all the problems of life. And the process is very easy. Lord Caitanya recommends that for self-realization in this age, one must simply chant the names of God. He says that in this age, our life is very short, we are not very enlightened in spiritual matters, we are very lazy, and we are unfortunate. Under these conditions people are recommended simply to chant Hare Krsna. Harer nama harer nama harer namaiva kevalam.
The Missing Technology
Now, you may say, "This 'Krsna' is an Indian name or a Hindu name. Why should we chant 'Krsna'?"
But if you have any name of God, you can chant that also. Caitanya Mahaprabhu says that God has millions and billions of names. So any name of God is as good as "Krsna." It doesn't matter.
Then why do we chant Hare Krsna? Because we are following the footsteps of Lord Caitanya, and He chanted this holy name.
So we request you most humbly: There is no loss on your part, but the gain is immense. If you take to chanting Hare Krsna, then gradually your misconception of this life will be cleared off. You will understand your real identity, and you will act in that way. And the technology is so nice that you may remain in your business. That doesn't matter. You simply have to chant Hare Krsna. Suppose you are walking on the street. If you chant Hare Krsna, nobody will tax you, nobody will bother you. But if by chanting Hare Krsna you derive some benefit, why do you neglect it? That is our submission.
This movement is for solving the problems of life, and it can be easily done. Anyone can accept it. It doesn't matter whether one is Indian or American or Hindu or Muslim or Christian. It doesn't matter. Simply chant this vibration: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
I shall thank you if you join us in kirtana and at least for a few minutes chant this Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna.
Thank you very much.
A traveling preacher warms some
By Indradyumna Swami
ON DECEMBER 11 last year, we awoke early to prepare for our journey to Krasnoyarsk, 1,000 km farther east in Siberia. Because our train was canceled, Uttamasloka Dasa suggested we drive 350 km north to Novosibirsk and then catch a train to Krasnoyarsk.
"The road through the forest to Novosibirsk is unsafe, and if our car breaks down we'll be in real trouble. It's minus 45° Celsius [-49° F] outside!"
But there was no alternative, and by noon we were driving slowly north on the icy road to Novosibirsk.
Two hours into our journey, our devotee driver began falling asleep and I made him pull over. Switching seats with him, I drove the car most of the rest of the way. We arrived safely in Novosibirsk five hours later, just in time to catch our train to Krasnoyarsk. As we settled in for the fifteen-hour journey through the Siberian countryside, I breathed easy. I prefer trains to cars while traveling in these remote areas.
Not long after leaving Novosibirsk we were passing through dense forest regions, blanketed in thick snowdrifts. Although rich in gold, oil, iron ore, natural gas, Siberia to this day remains mostly undeveloped because of its remote location and harsh climate. The northern area, in particular, with its treeless marshy plains perpetually frozen to great depths, is inaccessible to humans. Most of the rivers here are frozen solid six to nine months of the year. The only souls brave enough to venture beyond the cities are hunters searching for wolves, bears, reindeer, antelopes, and, in the Amur River region near China, leopards and tigers.
Perhaps another reason the region is slow to develop is the stigma attached to it. In the 1930s and '40s the Soviets used it as a place to exile criminals and political dissidents. Siberian prison camps absorbed tens of millions of victims into a forced labor system that mainly worked the salt mines. Many perished. But I have always found that the more extreme regions of the world are better for spreading Krsna consciousness. People are not in illusion about the temporary and miserable nature of this material world and are, therefore, more inclined to hear our philosophy.
When we arrived in Krasnoyarsk we were met at the station by my disciple Guru Vrata Dasa, who is the temple president, and a number of devotees. Because of its isolated location, Krasnoyarsk receives only one or two visiting sannyasis a year, so the devotees were very happy to see us. That evening, they drove me to a hall program where, once again, I found a gathering of more than five hundred enthusiastic congregation members. Among them I spotted a group of ten gypsy men I had met last year when visiting Krasnoyarsk. When they saw me, they folded their hands in pranama and smiled.
I turned to Guru Vrata and asked if we would be having a program for the gypsies while I was in Krasnoyarsk, something we had discussed on my previous visit.
"Yes," He replied, "they've been waiting one year for you."
The program that night was especially nice. Guru Vrata had informed me that many of the congregation were well educated, being teachers, doctors, lawyers, and businessmen. So I carefully developed my theme of the glories of the holy name, accentuating it with verses and pastimes, and spoke for over an hour.
After the lecture, every member of the audience came forward in file and offered me a flower or a small donation. I was a little embarrassed by the generous response of so many learned people, and even while receiving their kind offerings I was eager to have kir-tana with them as a gesture of my gratitude. I had to wait almost an hour before everyone had come forward, but then we had a kirtana that had everyone (even the finely dressed ladies and gentlemen) chanting and dancing in ecstasy.
The next morning, Guru Vrata came to my apartment and informed me that the leaders of the gypsy community had agreed that I could visit their village just outside of Krasnoyarsk. Guru Vrata himself was surprised, because no outsiders had ever been invited to the gypsy town. Gypsies are generally fiercely independent and keep to themselves, retaining their customs and traditions in an age when many ethnic groups are blending into society. But the ten men I had met last year have been practicing Krsna consciousness for more than four years and are regularly chanting sixteen rounds, following the regulative principles, and visiting the temple. Last year, when I asked if I could visit their village they replied that the elders of their community would not accept it, but they promised to work on them. It appeared that the elders gave their consent only at the last moment.
It was arranged that we would meet in the house of one of the gypsy men who is practicing Krsna consciousness. No women were allowed, because gypsy tradition has it that women are not included in public functions involving outsiders. So a group of devotee men and I headed out of town in the temple van, and after an hour and a half came to a village consisting mainly of old wooden houses. Gypsy children were playing in the snow, but when they saw our van they all ran away to the safety of their homes and peered out the windows at us.
Finding the house where the program was to be held, we got out of our van and walked to the door through the thick snowdrifts. I had no idea what to expect.
When we knocked on the door, a gypsy devotee opened it and greeted us with, "Haribol!" As we walked in, I was amazed at the devotional atmosphere in the home. Everything was spotlessly clean, and nicely framed pictures of Krsna and Srila Prabhupada were on practically every wall. A large bookcase in the living room contained only Srila Prabhupada's books, and a nice altar with photographs of the disciplic succession and Panca-tattva stood on one side of the room.
I noticed that the gypsy men were a little nervous, and I was soon to discover the reason. They all motioned that I was to go upstairs to a large room where we would have our meeting. I walked up the stairs and into the room, where I found the nine elders of the community. They had come to meet me, one of leaders of the Hare Krsna movement.
The atmosphere was tense. As I entered I smiled and greeted them, with absolutely no response. Rather, they stared at me in disbelief, having never seen a devotee in robes before. A few of them even scowled as they looked me up and down. All were dressed in dark clothes, and because of the chill in the old wooden house, some were still wearing their large fur coats. I noted that several of them had scars on their heads and faces.
As I sat down on a big chair provided for me, the gypsy devotees and the temple devotees sat in front of me. When one of the gypsy devotees gave me a big flower garland, I just smiled nervously at the nine elders, but again got only cold stares.
After a few moments, I began my talk by stating that our two communities were closely related, because both had their origins in India. That I knew that gypsies hailed from India impressed the elders, especially the biggest man among them, who appeared to be their leader. After I had spoken for some time about the similarities in our cultures (we are both God conscious communities and we both love to sing and dance), the leader suddenly stood up and, while pointing at the gypsy men who were practicing Krsna consciousness, challenged me loudly, "Do our people have to give up our culture to practice your religion?"
"No," I calmly replied, "it's not necessary. In the beginning, one simply has to add the chanting of Hare Krsna—the names of God—to one's life. You don't have to give up anything. By chanting, one naturally gives up all bad habits."
"Gypsies have bad habits?" he retorted, and at that very moment began coughing heavily, unable to control himself.
Praying to Krsna that my guess was right, I said, "Yes, smoking cigarettes is a nasty habit."
At that, everyone started laughing. Even the leader accepted that I had defeated him on that one, and he gave me a small (very small) smile in recognition.
Then one of the elders, who was holding a badly injured hand (I learned later that it was a gunshot wound), challenged, "And our children?"
That's all he said, but the inference was clear: "Are we interested in turning the gypsy children into Hare Krsna devotees?"
I thought for a moment, carefully choosing my words, knowing that the future of the gypsy devotees lay in what I said.
"What is the harm if a child is being taught to love God?" I replied. "Love of God is natural and the most important thing a child can learn. Nowadays, children are losing the sense of God consciousness and developing so many negative traits. If we encourage your children to love God through singing His names, dancing in happiness, and eating pure food offered to Him in love, we are actually doing a service to your community. Gypsies believe in God. It is a part of your tradition."
All eyes were on the elder as everyone waited for him to respond. He sat there for a few moments, contemplating what I had said and looking at the five or six gypsy children sitting on the floor.
A Child Leads
Suddenly, to everyone's surprise, one of the children, a boy about ten years old, looked up at me and said, "God is very great. How can we, who are so small, understand Him?"
I was stunned by his intelligent and thoughtful question, as was everyone.
Looking at the boy, I replied, "Just as you learn an important subject matter from a teacher, you also learn about God from a teacher."
The boy said, "Are you such a teacher? Can you teach us about God?"
Putting aside humility for the need of the hour, I replied slowly, "Yes, by the mercy of my spiritual master, I am."
"Then tell me what the soul is made of," he said, "and tell me what happens to the soul when we die. Then tell me what God is like."
The room became silent. I looked at the gypsy elders and saw them staring at me intently.
I said, "The soul is a spiritual person with a spiritual form. God is the Supreme Person, and His form is also spiritual. As His parts and parcels, as His servants, we all have a loving relationship with Him. At the present moment, we have forgotten that relationship, because we think we are these material bodies and that the goal of life is material enjoyment."
I spoke pure Krsna conscious philosophy for about forty-five minutes. I watched in amazement as everyone, children and adults, listened. The boy's questions had taken the conversation to another dimension, not challenging and threatening but sincere and searching. I could see that the elders were impressed with him and, by Krsna's grace, the philosophy I was presenting.
At the end of my talk, the leader of the gypsies himself began asking deeper questions. He'd heard about karma.
"What is karma, and why is it bad to kill animals?" he asked. And finally, "How does one become free from sinful reactions?"
The last question was the one I had been waiting for, and I began to explain the glories of chanting Hare Krsna—how it destroys sinful reactions, uproots our material desires, and awakens our love for God.
Then I took the drum and said boldly, "So now we will all sing and dance."
Everyone's eyes lit up as their faces broke out in smiles.
I thought, "Now that we've broken the ice, here's our chance."
United In The Holy Name
I started chanting slowly, beginning with Srila Prabhupada's pranama-mantra. I was concentrating and focusing on His Divine Grace, praying that the chanting of the holy names would enter the hearts of the gypsy elders and purify them. To my knowledge, no gypsies have yet been initiated in Krsna consciousness. It would be a great victory if the community elders allowed their people to freely practice bhakti-yoga.
When I got to the maha-mantra, I continued chanting slowly so that everyone could follow. I became so immersed in the chanting that I had my eyes closed for a long time, and when I finally opened them, I was surprised to see everyone, including the gypsy leader, chanting Hare Krsna loudly with big smiles showing through their huge mustaches. Everyone was clapping and rocking back and forth. I kept the kirtana going, beating on the mrdanga loudly, for almost an hour. When I finally finished, I looked around and saw that once again the holy names had defeated all arguments and had melted the hearts of a few more conditioned souls.
Just at that moment, devotees started bringing in prasadam. A huge feast had been prepared, so all of us (devotees and gypsies alike) took our seats on the floor, and after saying the prayer to prasadam, proceeded to savor it.
The gypsy leader, however, couldn't sit comfortably on the ground because his body was so large, so he stayed in his chair. Halfway through the meal he spoke up, and as he did everyone respectfully stopped eating.
Looking at me, he said, "Sir, is it all right that I am sitting higher than you? I can't sit on the floor, but I don't want to disrespect you."
"No, please don't worry." I replied. "It's perfectly all right that you are sitting higher than me. I am simply a guest in your village. You are the leader."
When I said that, he looked down, and he didn't say anything for the rest of the meal.
Upon finishing prasadam, I washed my hands and stood up. When the gypsy leader saw me stand, he also stood, and we were spontaneously and simultaneously drawn to each other. As I approached him, I took off my big garland and, to the astonishment of all the gypsies, put it around his neck.
There was a brief moment of silence, and then suddenly he reached out with his big arms and embraced me. As devotees and gypsies applauded, he held me tightly and I embraced him with the same intensity.
Afterwards, he stepped back and announced, "They are welcome in our village at any time."
As I prepared to leave for another program at the temple, the gypsy children started pleading with their fathers to let them come to the temple with me. The men looked at their leader, and when he smiled and nodded, all the children rushed to put on their coats and boots. Within a few moments they were piling into the back of the van with one of the fathers. We had kirtana all the way to temple, happily chanting the holy names of the Lord.
That evening I had seen the mercy of Lord Caitanya unfold before my very eyes. Krsna consciousness had come to stay in that gypsy community. I pray I may always have a part to play in Mahaprabhu's mission of mercy—the sankirtana movement of the holy names of the Lord.
"He does not consider whether a person is qualified or not. He does not see who is His own and who is an outsider. He does not consider who should receive and who should not. He does not consider whether it is the proper time. The Lord at once gives that nectar of pure devotional service that is difficult to attain even by hearing the message of the Lord, seeing the deity, offering obeisances, meditating, or following a host of spiritual practices. That Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Gaurahari [Caitanya Mahaprabhu], is my only shelter."—Prabodhananda Sarasvati, Caitanya-candramrta 7.75
His Holiness Indradyumna Swami travels around the world teaching Krsna consciousness. In Poland each summer he oversees dozens of festivals. Since 1990 these festivals have introduced Krsna to hundreds of thousands of people.
Adapted from the unpublished Diary of a Traveling Preacher, Volume 3. To receive chapters by e-mail as they come out regularly, write to indradyumna.swami@pamho. net. (Volume 1 is available from the Krishna.com Store.)
"When the Soul Misuses His Independence"
This conversation between His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and Professor John Mize took place in Los Angeles on June 23, 1975
Srila Prabhupada: In Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna advises Arjuna, "The body and the soul are different."
Dr. Mize: The body and soul are different. Yes. So it seems to me, too.
Srila Prabhupada: That's nice. That is the beginning of spiritual education. People do not understand. I have seen many big, big European professors—they do not have any clear conception that the body and the soul are different.
Dr. Mize: It still disturbs me, of course: how the body can influence the mind so much—the mind not being the soul, apparently.
Srila Prabhupada: Actually, the soul is above not only the mind but also the intelligence. Above the intelligence. Our gross senses provide our present perception, which is direct. And beyond these gross senses, there is the mind. And beyond the mind, there is the intelligence. And beyond the intelligence, there is the soul. So coming to this platform of the soul requires the process of meditation—to make our sense activities calm and quiet and our mind settled, so that we can then rise to the intelligence platform and eventually to the spiritual platform. [To a disciple:] Find this verse:
indriyani parany ahur
Disciple (after repeating the Sanskrit): "The working senses are superior to dull matter; mind is higher than the senses; intelligence is higher than the mind; and he [the soul] is even higher than the intelligence."
And now the Purport, by Srila Prabhupada: "The senses are different outlets for the activities of lust. Lust is reserved within the body, but it is given vent through the senses. Therefore, the senses are superior to the body as a whole. Their outlets are not in use when there is superior consciousness, or Krsna consciousness. In Krsna consciousness the soul makes direct connection with the Supreme Personality of Godhead; therefore the bodily functions, as described here, ultimately end in the Supreme Soul. Bodily action means the functions of the senses, and stopping the senses means stopping all bodily actions. But since the mind is active, then, even though the body may be silent and at rest, the mind will act—as it does during dreaming. But above the mind there is the determination of the intelligence, and above the intelligence is the soul proper. If, therefore, the soul is directly engaged with the Supreme, naturally all other subordinates, namely the intelligence, mind, and the senses, will be automatically engaged. In the Katha Upanisad there is a passage in which it is said that the objects of sense gratification are superior to the senses, and mind is superior to sense objects. If, therefore, the mind is directly engaged in the service of the Lord constantly, then there is no chance of the senses becoming engaged in other ways. This mental attitude has already been explained. If the mind is engaged in the transcendental service of the Lord, there is no chance of its being engaged in the lower propensities. In the Katha Upanisad the soul has been described as mahan, the great. Therefore the soul is above all—namely, the sense objects, the senses, the mind, and the intelligence. Therefore, directly understanding the constitutional position of the soul is the solution of the whole problem.
"With intelligence one has to seek out the constitutional position of the soul and then engage the mind always in Krsna consciousness. That solves the whole problem. A neophyte spiritualist is generally advised to keep aloof from the objects of the senses. One has to strengthen the mind by use of intelligence. If by intelligence once engages one's mind in Krsna consciousness, by complete surrender unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead, then, automatically, the mind becomes stronger, and even though the senses are very strong, like serpents, they will be no more effective than serpents with broken fangs. But even though the soul is the master of intelligence and mind, and the senses also, still, unless it is strengthened by association with Krsna in Krsna consciousness, there is every chance of falling down due to the agitated mind."
Srila Prabhupada: Hm. The yogic process is to control the mind. Our process is, immediately engage the mind in Krsna—thinking of Krsna, feeling for Krsna, willing to act for Krsna. Then everything will be all right. Then everything will be all right. If the mind is immediately engaged in serving the lotus feet of Krsna, then on this side and that side, everything will be all right. Sa vai manah krsna-padaravindayoh. Padaravindayoh: the mind is focused on the lotus feet of Krsna. So this is our process: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—engaging the mind, meditation.
Disciple: Srila Prabhupada, Dr. Mize was saying that he holds to the philosophy of Kant.
Srila Prabhupada: What is Kant's philosophy?
Dr. Mize: It seems one of Kant's major differences with the point of view of the Eastern or Indian philosophies, in particular, is that for him, the soul of man is not something eternal but something created.
Srila Prabhupada: No. The soul is part and parcel of God. Now, God is not created; He is above creation. God created the cosmic manifestation. Before the creation of this cosmic manifestation, God was there. Therefore, He is not created. And the soul—being part and parcel of God, he is also not created.
Dr. Mize: The question that bothers me is, Then why would the soul fall? I understand your conception that the soul is part of the spiritual sky originally, or part and parcel of God. And yet he somehow falls out of this blissful condition, due to pride, much like the Christian thesis that the devil fell out of heaven due to pride. So it seems puzzling why the soul would be so silly, so foolish, so insane, as to do such a thing.
Srila Prabhupada: That is his independence.
Dr. Mize: Independence.
Srila Prabhupada: If instead of using his independence properly he misuses his independence, he falls. He falls down on account of his independence. For instance, you have got independence. You are sitting here. You can go immediately. You may not like to hear me. That independence you have got. I have got it, also. I may choose not to talk with you. So that independence is always there. Similarly, as part and parcel of God, it is the duty of the soul to be always engaged in the service of the Lord. For instance, this finger is part and parcel of my body. Whatever I am ordering, it is immediately carrying out. I say, "Make it like this." [Srila Prabhupada's index finger circles and swoops.] It will—it will do that. But this finger is dead matter—it is acting mechanically. The brain directs the finger, and the finger acts immediately, like a machine. This whole body is just like a machine. But the soul is not a machine, not a mechanical part. It is the spiritual part. So therefore, although I am directing the finger and, being a machine, it is working, at the same time I may direct a friend or servant to do something, and he may not do it. So when the soul misuses his independence, then he falls down. That is material life. Material life means misusing the independence of the soul. Take, for example, a son. A son's duty is to obey his father. But he may not obey. That is his madness. So when the soul misuses his independence and becomes mad, he is sent to this material world.
Dr. Mize: It is puzzling to me that one would be so foolish.
Srila Prabhupada: By independence you can become foolish. Otherwise, there is no meaning of independence. Independence means you can do whatever you like.
Radhadesh—A Spiritual Oasis
In the Belgian Ardennes a Krsna conscious
By Mahaprabhu Dasa
IN A SMALL LOCALE called Petite Somme, where the Ardennes forests and hills transform the otherwise flat landscape of Belgium and Holland, lies a thriving Krsna conscious community called Radhadesh. Standing prominently at the center of the community is the Chateau de Petite Somme, a well-known castle with a rich history going back to the thirteenth century. The present building, in neo-gothic style, dates to the nineteenth century. In World War II, American soldiers used the castle as a hospital during the famous Battle of the Bulge. It stood empty and deteriorating from 1975 until 1980, when ISKCON bought the property, which consisted of the castle, several other buildings, and forty-eight hectares (118 acres) of fields and woods. Devotees at once began renovation work that has gone on for over two decades.
The castle lies a little over a hundred kilometers from Brussels, the capital of Belgium and the European Union. Nature is generous in this part of Belgium—practically no industries, no major cities, and more land per person than anywhere else in Benelux. Thick forests, abundant hills, and clear rivers make the area a popular destination for visitors, who come by the thousands every weekend and holiday from all over Belgium and Holland. History is everywhere: medieval towns and castles, stone barns and houses, and monuments to fallen soldiers from the fierce battles of WW II.
Radhadesh itself has become well known throughout Belgium and Holland, and about 45,000 visitors come every year to visit the castle and community, attracted by the beauty of the place and by the life of its special inhabitants. Eighty devotees live in and around the castle; about half are married.
Most of the devotees and visitors are from Holland and Flanders, the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium, where ISKCON has a good public image and good relations with governmental authorities. But Radhadesh is located in the French part of Belgium (called Wallonia), where the public image suffers because of the influence of France. In France, ISKCON and hundreds of other religious minorities are labeled as dangerous cults. The media, the Belgian government, and anti-cult organizations work hard to create a negative public image for any group they consider a cult. The devotees in Radhadesh are struggling to change that perception by reaching out to politicians, academics, the media, the local people, and established religious organizations.
In 1980, as soon as the castle was bought, the devotees began major renovation work. After several months, devotees and deities moved from Amsterdam to Radhadesh. Hrdaya Caitanya Dasa, temple president in Radhadesh since 1986, is originally from Belgium but decided to join ISKCON in Amsterdam. After only one night in the temple, he moved with many devotees to Radhadesh, where he has worked on almost every renovation and construction project.
The highlight of the rich makeover history is the new temple within the castle. It took a year to build, with beautiful marble from Carrarra, Italy, and a unique marble altar designed by Italian furniture designer and devotee Matsya Avatara Dasa. The temple is heated from beneath the floor, making it pleasant during the long winter months.
Slowly but steadily every building in Radhadesh has been renovated, transformed, and expanded under the expert guidance and hands-on involvement of Hrdaya Caitanya Dasa, who has built Radhadesh into one of the most beautiful ISKCON projects in the world. He has also inspired the devotees by his personal example of steadiness in his spiritual practices and eagerness to perform heaps of devotional service.
The last major project was the building of a large boutique, a new veranda-style cafeteria-restaurant, a conference room for over one hundred people, and a six-story guest house, in a style similar to the castle's. The guest house will include at least twenty guest rooms with attached bathrooms, as well as workshops, storage rooms, and apartments for Radhadesh residents.
Devotees at Radhadesh have several programs for spreading Krsna consciousness, including festivals, book distribution, street chanting, Food for Life, and seminars for the congregation. Yet the unique form of spreading Krsna consciousness that Radhadesh is famous for is the guided tours of the castle. These include an audio-visual presentation; a visit to the temple, with an introductory talk on Krsna consciousness; a long climb up the tower for a breathtaking view of the property and the region; a visit to the Prabhupada room, with its unique stained-glass window depicting the ten incarnations of Krsna; and a visit to the book room, where visitors can buy Srila Prabhupada's books. Before leaving the castle, guests can see a live Bharat Natyam dance performance.
The tour guide then escorts the group from the castle to another building, where they visit the bakery, the boutique, and the cafeteria-restaurant. Many groups choose to take a vegetarian meal in Radhadesh as part of their trip.
Organized tours of the castle began around 1987 and have been developing ever since. In 1989 Ramananda Raya Dasa signed a contract with a bus company to visit Radhadesh with over a hundred buses each year. Once in 1989, seventeen buses arrived in one day. Now at least two hundred buses visit Radhadesh each year. Ramananda Raya Dasa has dedicated his energy to making this program a success.
Five or so devotees welcome and guide the visitors. The tours are a main source of income for the community.
Focus On Education
Radhadesh has developed several educational programs. The first, the Bhakta Program, helps prospective devotees from city temples like Antwerp and Amsterdam become familiar with Krsna conscious philosophy and practices while living in a peaceful environment. A day school, started in the late eighties, is open to the community's children. Radhadesh has become a regular setting for seminars, such as the Teacher Training Course, the Communications Course, and the Bhakti-sastri Course. Most important, the ISKCON Convention has taken place in Radhadesh for over ten years. Around 130 devotees come together from all over the world for five days of learning in an atmosphere of surcharged spiritual association.
This year the Bhaktivedanta College, run by Bhaktivedanta Library Services (BLS), will launch a nine-month ministerial course for devotees from Europe. The course will provide systematic training in many fields of knowledge related to the Krsna conscious way of life. Visnu Murti Dasa and Yadunandana Dasa will direct the project, which will start on September 9 with a pilot course.
To support Radhadesh's emphasis on education, the BLS also manages a new library, opened on June 30. Still in development, it will offer a wide selection of Vedic texts, Vaisnava literature, and books on subjects such as philosophy, comparative religion, and new religious movements. The library will include audio, video, and other media. It is open to students of Bhaktivedanta College, members of the Radhadesh community, and visitors.
A High Standard Of Worship
Sri Sri Radha-Gopinatha, the presiding deities in Radhadesh, were installed in February 1977 in Amsterdam and moved to Radhadesh three years later. Srila Prabhupada himself installed Radhadesh's deities of Jagannatha, Baladeva, and Subhadra in July 1972 in Amsterdam. The installation was filmed by Dutch television and is described in Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta, by Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami. Sri Sri Gaura Nitai were installed in Amster-dam in 1976.
Deity worship in Radhadesh is of a high standard: six opulent offerings a day and seven new outfits a year. As the only deities of Radha-Krsna and Jagannatha in the Benelux, they are very dear to all the devotees serving in those countries. In the Benelux, Lord Jagannatha sometimes performs his Rathayatra pastime four times in one year.
Nikunja Vasini Devi Dasi has been taking care of Sri Sri Radha-Gopinatha since just after Their installation. She and her husband, Prema Siddhi Dasa, oversee the deity worship.
This year, on Janmastami and Vyasa Puja (August 31 and September 1), Radhadesh is celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of the installation of Sri Sri Radha-Gopinatha and the thirtieth anniversary of the installation of Sri Sri Jagannatha, Baladeva, and Subhadra. Many devotees who helped set up ISKCON in the Benelux will be on hand to tell their stories and realizations from those early days.
Mahaprabhu Dasa, originally from Uruguay, joined ISKCON in Paris in 1982 after having studied political science at Syracuse University in New York. He is the vice president of Radhadesh. He and his wife, Asoka Devi Dasi, have an eight-month-old daughter, Susila.
Teachings 2 & 3
by Satyaraja Dasa
When we chant in full spiritual humility,
This is the third of a five-part series on Lord Caitanya's Siksastaka, or "Eight Teachings." The series has been adapted from lectures presented at the New York City Public Library to a group of students from Columbia University.
namnam akari bahudha nija-sarva-saktis
O MY LORD, YOUR holy name alone can render all benediction to living beings, and thus You have hundreds and millions of names, like Krsna and Govinda. In these transcendental names You have invested all Your transcendental energies, and there are no hard and fast rules for chanting these names. O my Lord, out of kindness You enable us to easily approach You by chanting Your holy names, but I am so unfortunate that I have no attraction for them."
This verse begins with an affirmation of the fact that everything can be gotten from the holy name, since the holy name is herein revealed to be nondifferent from the Lord's own nature. Lord Caitanya expresses this by saying nija-sarva-saktih: all of the Lord's potencies exist in His holy name. In other words, the Lord and His name are nondifferent. That is the nature of absolute phenomena.
We, on the other hand, are accustomed to relative phenomena, and so we cannot conceive of an object and its name being nondifferent. In the relative world a name is just a symbol, an abstract representation. If I think of water, for example, the thought alone cannot quench my thirst. The substance water and the word water are two completely different phenomena. I can chant "water, water, water" until I'm blue in the face, but my thirst will not go away. That is the nature of the relative world.
The Absolute realm is just the opposite. There, a name and the thing it represents are identical. If I chant "Krsna, Krsna, Krsna," I'm actually in contact with Him.
This principle was explained in complex theological terminology by the disciples of Lord Caitanya known as the six Gosvamis of Vrndavana. They called it nama-naminor-advaita, which means, "the nondifference between the named one and the name." Jiva Gosvami went so far as to say, bhagavat svarupam eva nama, or "the name is the essence of the Lord." In fact, Caitanya Mahaprabhu taught that the holy name is a type of avatar, varna-rupenavataro 'yam: "the Lord in the form of syllables."
If you study the Judaeo-Christian tradition, you will find that this principle was understood in ancient times. For example, there is great instruction in "Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name." Not only is this encouragement for chanting God's name, but the word hallowed didn't always mean what it means today. Today it means "sacred." We say that the name of God is sacred. But originally the word hallowed meant "whole." The name of God was considered complete. So "hallowed be Thy name" meant that God's name was complete in itself, or full of God's own potency, as Caitanya Mahaprabhu says.
This is true of all genuinely spiritual sound vibrations. It is a nonsectarian principle. Therefore, Caitanya Mahaprabhu says namnam akari bahudha: there are various kinds of names for the Lord. They are not restricted to Sanskrit or Bengali. Any name that describes God is totally spiritual and is thus nondifferent from His very essence. The names Krsna and Govinda are particularly special names, referring to God's highest and original feature in the divine kingdom, in the spiritual world. For this reason, Prabhupada, the translator of this verse, has used these two names as prime examples. But all genuine names of God are accepted. Therefore it is said that He has hundreds and millions of names.
All religious traditions teach this principle and encourage adherents to chant God's names, even if, in practice, the instruction is hardly followed. In fact, all religions emphasize the chanting process as the prime means for developing God consciousness. For example, King David, of the Bible, preached: "From the rising of the sun until its setting, the Lord's name is to be praised." (Psalms 113:3) Saint Paul said, "Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." (Romans 10:13) In this way, the potency of the name is endorsed even in the Western religious traditions.
Not only can it be said that there are diverse names through which one can approach the Lord, but there are no hard and fast rules for chanting these names. No niyamitah, or "restrictions," and no special time, kalah, as Caitanya Mahaprabhu says. Anytime. Anywhere. You see, certain Vedic mantras, and certain prayers within other religious traditions as well, have definite rules about chanting them, according to time, place, and circumstance. But the name of God is special and is to be chanted constantly, as Caitanya Mahaprabhu again confirms in the next verse: kirtaniyah sada harih, which means that one should always chant the Lord's name. This command is also in the Bible: "Pray ceaselessly." (Thessalonians 5:17). Not vain repetition—the Bible warns us about that. But pure, sincere chanting, or prayerful chanting. Calling out to God with love and devotion. There are no rules and regulations to restrict that. That is beyond legislation. It is from the heart. Therefore, taking the position of the perfect devotee, teaching us how to pray in the proper mood, Caitanya Mahaprabhu thanks the Lord for showing us this mercy in relation to the holy name.
But just because the Lord is merciful enough to give us an unlimited variety of names, and to excuse us for offenses, informing us that there are no hard and fast rules for this chanting, we should not become exploitative. We should not abuse His kindness by chanting in an insincere way. No. We should be respectful, grateful, and humble—always anxious to become more and more sincere or adept in our chanting. We should always remember that despite the Lord's kindness, we are still so fallen that we continue to have no taste for the name. Lord Caitanya, taking our position, teaches us exactly what our perceptions should be about our own relationship with the holy name. He says, durdaivam idrsam ihajani nanuragah: "It is my great misfortune that I was born without any attraction or attachment for the holy name." Any questions?
Question: If chanting is an inherent feature of the soul—if it is natural to call out to God in love and devotion—why do we have no attraction? Why, as Lord Caitanya says, do we not have any natural attachment to the chanting?
Satyaraja Dasa: That's a very good question. Caitanya Mahaprabhu answered it in His first verse: We've accumulated dust—conditioning—on the mirror of the consciousness. So we have no taste, or rather, we've developed perverted tastes, so to speak. We've developed attraction and attachment for things of this world, and we've lost, or let us say, we've covered our natural attraction and attachment for things of the spirit, at least to the degree that we are conditioned.
You see, externally it may appear as though our taste for chanting develops gradually, that it is an acquired taste. But actually it is our original taste, the taste of the soul. It is our current personality that is actually acquired—it is unnatural.
In this connection, the etymology of the word "personality" is interesting. It's traced back to the root personna, which originally referred to the mask that an actor wore during a dramatic performance. It wasn't his real identity. It was a part he played. Similarly we've developed materialistic personalities, colored by the three modes of material nature: goodness, passion, and ignorance. And when we finally purify ourselves through certain reliable prescribed austerities, chief of which is the chanting of the holy name, we begin to remember our original personality. We begin to remember who we were before we adopted our external personna. That's called self-realization.
Bhaktivinoda Thakura, a great saint in Lord Caitanya's line, has commented on this verse, directly answering your question. He says that there are basically four obstacles to our attraction and attachment to the holy name. First, he points to svarupa-bhrama, or one's "mistaken identity." As soon as we are born into this world, we identify with the body and mind, totally oblivious of our real identity as the soul within. Still, an honest person will admit, "I don't know where I came from. I don't know where I'm going. Since this is true, I've got a deep suspicion that I don't even really know who I am now." [Laughter.] If a person can admit this much, that's a good beginning for spiritual life.
Next, Bhaktivinoda mentions asad-trsna, or "evil propensities." Because of our conditioning, we become selfish. Where there is self, there is selfinterest. That's natural. But the more covered we get, the more our sense of self-interest becomes exaggerated, and we develop an exploitative mentality, especially if we are conditioned by a preponderance of passion and ignorance. These are the evil propensities that tend to make our heart very hard, and we then have no patience for chanting the holy name. We develop an aversion for supplicating some distant "Supreme Being," and we lose whatever spiritual taste we may have had. Or the taste becomes covered, as I have mentioned earlier.
Hrdaya-durbalya, or "weakness of heart," the third obstacle mentioned by Bhaktivinoda, is closely related to the principle of evil propensities. It takes strength to overcome one's conditioning, which is deep-rooted. And one must purify one's consciousness before one can even really understand why it is ultimately in one's own self-interest to become free from the misconceptions associated with mundane existence.
The fourth and final obstacle mentioned by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura in this connection is aparadha, or "offenses." I've made a list of the ten major offenses, and these can be circulated so you can get some idea.
You can see that it is a great science. And, in answer to your question, the Gaudiya Vaisnavas have an elaborate theology about why the conditioned living entity may feel he has no taste for the holy name.
Now on to the third verse:
trnad api sunicena
"One should chant the holy name of the Lord in a humble state of mind, thinking oneself lower than the straw in the street; one should be more tolerant than a tree, devoid of all sense of false prestige, and ready to offer all respect to others. In such a state of mind one can chant the holy name of the Lord constantly."
Here Caitanya Mahaprabhu continues on the theme of humility. He ended the last verse by bemoaning His lack of taste for the holy name. A devotee will naturally develop such humility. In the third verse, Caitanya Mahaprabhu says that one must chant in a state of amanina: without being even slightly proud and arrogant. That's no easy accomplishment. But that's what it takes to enter into the mysteries of the holy name.
We must consider ourselves trnad api sunicena, "more down-trodden than the lowly grass." And we must have taror iva sahisnuna—the full tolerance of a tree. Even if you hit a tree or treat it disrespectfully, it will still give you all the shade you want. It tolerates scorching heat and driving rain. Most of all, despite any inconvenience, it still gives shelter to others. That's the main thing that one can learn from a tree.
Of course, it may be said that a tree has no choice and we do. But the tenor of this verse is that one must put oneself in that mood of selflessness: "I'm not so special." Only if we feel ourselves to be in this lowly condition will we be ready to offer manadena, or respect to all living beings. That's the mood of a devotee. Now, someone may say that this is too self-effacing. A devotee may lose self-esteem, integrity. And how can one be a productive person—or even serve the Lord, for that matter—if one is feeling oneself to be in a terrible, lowly position?
We should understand that we have to follow Caitanya Mahaprabhu's mood in a practical way. If I have a severe ego problem and feel totally useless, so much so that I can't do any tangible service or even chant, I'd do well to take pride in being an aspiring devotee of Krsna. Because Krsna, God, is the greatest, that's really a great position.
By recognizing that I've found the path of God consciousness in this life, I should be genuinely happy and grateful. I certainly shouldn't be so self-indulgent that I spend all my time worrying about how useless I am.
Truth be told, though, people don't generally suffer from this problem. People tend to lean in the other direction. We generally think we're God's gift to creation. This type of ego problem is much more prominent. In fact, religious or "spiritual" people, too—in some cases, religious people especially—can be guilty of a "holier than thou" attitude. So, to compensate, we're asked to go in the other direction: "You're puffed-up; you think you're so great. So now try and realize how small you actually are!"
And in fact we are tiny. Out of all the countless universes, we're in one small universe. Out of all the planets and stars in this universe, we're on one particular planet. Given the limited dimensions of this planet, there are many countries. And of all those countries, I'm in one. This country is made up of many states, and those states of many cities. Of all these cities, I am in one particular city. In this city, there are many neighborhoods, and of them all, I'm in one particular neighborhood. In my neighborhood, there are many streets; I'm on only one street. Then, on this street there are many houses and apartment buildings. I happen to be in one particular apartment building. In this building there are many apartments of all shapes and sizes. I'm in one of them. And even in my one apartment, there are numerous living beings, such as insects and microbes. I'm one living being among all of these living beings. And I'm thinking, "Oh, I'm so important."
So if we're a little introspective, a little contemplative, we'll see our miniscule place in the universe. It's humbling. If we think about God's greatness, especially, we'll realize how small we actually are. And there are definite advantages to realizing our tiny position. We don't become the loser. Think about it. To be more tolerant than a tree . . . hmmm. That would be quite useful. How often we lose our temper or get angry about petty little things. If we can develop tolerance, we can rise beyond these problems. If you think about it, most of our problems come from having an inflated conception of who we are. Just imagine. If we were genuinely humble, then we would not get angry every time something didn't go our way. And we would be sincerely grateful every time it did.
If we could attain this level, we would have a peaceful mind and we could chant the holy name without any disturbance. Or as Caitanya Mahaprabhu says, kirtaniyah sada harih—we could chant constantly. Why? Because our mind would be free. Mantra means "mind freedom," or "mind release." So to properly chant a mantra one must have a free mind. Actually, there are two sides: one must have a basically free mind to at least begin chanting; otherwise one won't even want to start. And then by chanting, one's mind can go further, attaining new heights of freedom, spiritual freedom. This is alluded to in this verse.
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.
Ten years after meeting Hare Krsna devotees in Israel, Druze leaders visit the land of their spiritual heritage.
By Dhira Govinda Dasa
Besides Lord Krsna, I have no one.
YOU MIGHT EXPECT that these lines were written by a renowned poet of the Vaisnava tradition, such as Jayadeva Gosvami or Narottama Dasa Thakura. But, no, the author is Sheikh Fuad Aburukun, and the poem was composed in Arabic on the occasion of a welcome ceremony offered by the ISKCON Juhu Beach temple in Mumbai for a contingent of more than a dozen Druze sheikhs from Israel.
In its March/April 1997 issue, Back to Godhead printed an article describing the relationship between the Druze and the Hare Krsnas, forged during the late 1980s and early 1990s, when a team of devotees profusely distributed Srila Prabhupada's books in the Druze villages. All sectors of Druze society welcomed the devotees and Vedic knowledge with eagerness. Dr. Salman Falach, Druze minister of education in Israel, bought full sets of books for all Druze schools and libraries and, echoing the thoughts of many Druze, stated, "I think that after reading these books I will discover that our religion is coming from them."
Since the Druze are perceived by the world as an Arabic sect, their receptivity to Vaisnava literature and culture may seem surprising. A study of Druze history, however, reveals that their roots are firmly planted in India. For example, a major tenet of Druze faith is the transmigration of the soul. Also, their histories are cyclical, dating back hundreds of millions of years, with descriptions of incarnations of God in human form appearing at regular intervals. This corresponds to Vedic literature and contrasts the Mideast religious traditions. The term Druze itself is a misnomer, coined by the Muslims, similar to the Muslim invention of the designation Hindu. Druze refer to themselves as muwahidoon, "the one, eternal religion," and believe there are muwahidoon, in various external manifestations, throughout the world.
Kamal Jumbalat, a modern Druze political, intellectual, and spiritual leader assassinated in Lebanon, had profound admiration for Indian culture. He visited India several times and was a strict vegetarian. His writings extol Krsna, the Bhagavad-gita, and the Ramayana. Jumbalat's picture hangs on the walls of most Druze homes.
Devotees met several times with Sheikh Tarif Amin, who was the worldwide spiritual leader for the Druze people. Sheikh Amin was grateful that Druze were placing sets of Srila Prabhupada's books in their homes. He said that he wanted the Druze and the Hare Krsna movement to work together as one race. Considering that the Druze are known for being insulated and secretive, this is a special declaration.
From studying Srila Prabhupada's books for more than a decade and associating with devotees, Druze religious leaders increasingly developed inter-est in Krsna conscious-ness and the similari-ties between Vaisnav-ism and muwahidoon beliefs and practices. Several Druze sheikhs were inspired to visit Vaisnava holy places in March and April of 2001.
On March 9, just after mangala-arati in the temple of ISKCON Mayapur, the Druze were warmly welcomed with a magnificent ceremony. The delegation of sheikhs entered the festive scene singing songs about Krsna and His wonderful followers.
Then, outside the temple, Jayapataka Swami, standing with the sheikhs on a raised platform constructed for the occasion, spoke to the devotees about the history and culture of the visitors. Sheikh Hussein Aburukun then addressed the crowd, reiterating the words of the late Sheikh Amin, proclaiming that the Druze and Hare Krsnas are like one race. After each phrase his words were translated into English and Hindi, and the assembled devotees cheered. Other sheikhs also spoke, expressing their great happiness at being in that holy place with many wonderful people of God.
One sheikh announced, "We are very eager to visit the Ganges, because we have heard that simply by touching the water to our heads we will be freed of all sins."
While in Mayapur the sheikhs did go to the Ganges River, as well as other sacred sites, such as the nearby home of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura. At the ISKCON temple of Sri Sri Radha-Madhava, with a backdrop of roaring kirtana, they worshipfully offered incense to all the deities.
While accepting maha-prasadam, a sheikh exclaimed, "We think that all our problems have now been solved simply by accepting this sanctified food from your hands."
Moved by the devotion of the Vaisnavas, a sheikh said, "What has most impressed us is the humility of the devotees. They are all so humble and gentle. We have a lot to learn from them."
Several sheikhs told the devotees that the atmosphere of Sridham Mayapur had changed their hearts and greatly intensified the mood in which they approach God.
During a speech later in their visit, Sheikh Hussein said, "Since we stepped on the holy land of Mayapur, we felt that we were coming home."
With The King In Puri
Gajapati Maharaja, the king of Orissa, hosted the Druze in Jagannatha Puri on March 11. He asked the sheikhs many questions. Sheikh Hussein explained that the Druze accept that the universe is at least 340 million years old, and that the scriptures from India are remarkably close in many details to the muwahidoon philosophical, historical, and cosmological understanding.
"We know that many incarnations of God have appeared in India," he said, "and this has inspired us to come here. . . . In our culture the grandmother says to the children, 'I hope I may enter the gate of heaven.' To fulfill the desires of our ancestors, we have come to India to find the gate to heaven. . . . All true religious processes give some knowledge of God, but some give more, according to the capacity of the persons receiving the knowledge."
To close the meeting, Gajapati Maharaja spoke about the soul's entanglement in the material world and it's quest for enlightenment through self-realization and God-realization.
Feeling Krsna'S Presence
On March 15 the Druze were greeted at ISKCON's Krishna-Balaram Mandir in Vrndavana.
A leading sheikh spoke: "We have never felt God's presence as much as we do today. We bless you all with the names of Hare Krsna, Hare Rama. We consider ourselves part of this Hare Krsna religion, although there is some difference in the rituals. The leaders and spiritual seekers of our group, such as Kamal Jumbalat, also came to India for knowledge. Formerly we were getting this knowledge via reading the books [of Srila Prabhupada], and now we get more realization by meeting the devotees. And so we have embassies of Hare Krsna in our village, because of the efforts of Vijnana Dasa, Yamunacarya Dasa, and Suddha Sattva Dasa [devotees who run a center in the Druze village of Osafia, Israel]....
"We hope that by our prayers there will be peace between the many races of the world. It is predicted in our holy books that the final teachings of our religion will come from India. It is difficult to express in words our immense appreciation for you. I invite you all to come to our village. I am getting much inspiration from my Godbrothers here, and I would like to finish now by telling everyone Hare Krsna, Hare Rama."
Several ISKCON leaders greeted the sheikhs with warm salutations full of respect. A few led the assembly in chanting Hare Krsna, and the Druze raised their hands in feelings of joy and happily chanted.
When Vedavyasapriya Swami mentioned that in Mayapur the Druze had sung a song about Krsna, the devotees were eager to hear it, and the Druze obliged by singing their Hare Krsna song.
In Vrndavana the sheikhs visited holy sites, such as Lord Krsna's birthplace. One day at the ISKCON temple the sheikhs met with newspaper and television reporters. Although the first questions were political, Sheikh Hussein deftly sidestepped the politics, and the questions then turned spiritual. Later, the sheikh revealed that while speaking to the reporters, the other sheikhs were nudging him and imploring him not to reveal secrets of the Druze scriptures. Sheikh Hussein told them that he wasn't disclosing the Druze scriptures, but rather he was speaking on the Vedic scriptures, and it just so happens that the two are the same.
On March 16 the Druze visited Govardhana Hill. At the Govardhana Palace temple they were received by Jayadvaita Swami and Kesava Bharati Dasa. A philosophical discussion ensued, with the sheikhs posing profound questions, such as "What is the significance of Lord Krsna's pastimes?" "How can we enter those pastimes?" and "If God is Brahman, why do you worship His form?"
At Kusum Sarovara the conversation continued, with the Druze inquiring about the origin and significance of the Sanskrit language and the process of creation. They were very satisfied hearing from Jayadvaita Swami about the detailed, scientific description of the creation provided in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, and about how material creation begins with a glance from the Lord, which conforms to the depiction in Druze literature.
By March 19 the Druze contingent reached Mumbai. There the sheikhs explained that the primary reason that worship of the form of God was relinquished in Druze tradition was to avoid persecution from the Muslim majority in countries where Druze resided. They said that upon seeing the deity worship performed in ISKCON temples, they realized that these rituals were very similar to those described in muwahidoon scripture, but circumstantially abandoned over time. During our original contact with the Druze more than a decade earlier, we learned that many of their current habits, such as meat-eating and coffee-drinking, were adopted to conform with Muslim practices but are not part of the authentic culture of the muwahidoon.
While touring the ISKCON Juhu Beach temple, the Druze met a member of the Hinduja family, who invited them to his home the next morning. They spoke at length the next day with Mr. Hinduja, who befriended and was intrigued by his special guests. They chanted the Hare Krsna maha-mantra together, and Mr. Hinduja suggested they build Krsna temples in Druze villages in Israel. Sheikh Hussein said that he could provide the land for such a project, and their host enthusiastically proposed that they proceed to make the idea a reality.
Druze Iskcon Members
Two of the Hare Krsna devotees who accompanied, served, and hosted the Druze during their visit to India were Tus i Mohana Krsna Dasa and Gopa Kumara Dasa, both native Druze and Arabic speakers. There was some concern that the Druze leaders would be upset that these young members of their community had completely given their lives to the practice of Krsna consciousness. To the contrary, the sheikhs were pleased that these young men had dedicated themselves to a spiritual process the sheikhs considered genuine and consistent with the muwahidoon heritage. Being from a land where external differences in religious practice have caused and continue to create divisive consict, the sheikhs could especially appreciate the essential, unifying principles common to the muwahidoon and the Krsna bhaktas, and to all genuine spiritual practitioners.
These descriptions of the sheikhs' visit to India were sent as letters to me by several devotees who were with the Druze during their pilgrimages. These devotees include Vijnana Dasa, Phalguna Dasa, Tus i Mohana Dasa, and Gopa Kumara Dasa. For me, as a member of the sankirtana team that initially contacted the Druze in the Middle East in 1988, it was a tremendous joy to receive these reports. They were confirmation that the books distributed by the devotees, and studied voraciously by the Druze people, were like seeds that fructified a decade later in the form of this journey to the East, which the sheikhs considered a journey to the homeland of their patriarchs.
Dhira Govinda Dasa, who holds a doctorate degree in social work, is the director of ISKCON's Office of Child Protection, based in Alachua, Florida.
On first encountering India,
By Devamrita Swami
IN 1784 THE ASIATIC Society of Bengal was established in Calcutta, to publish and disseminate historical, linguistic, and literary studies. William Jones, Charles Wilkins, and Thomas Colebrook emerged as the pioneers of Western Indological studies. Charles Wilkins had been the first to learn Sanskrit, and he busied himself studying with pundits in Benares and translating Sanskrit works. In 1785 he published his rendition of the Bhagavad-gita.
Several of the scholarly inclined British colonizers began to intuit that perhaps they had stumbled upon the primeval religion, predating anything from the Middle East. In 1786 the linguistically brilliant judge Sir William Jones announced to the Asiatic Society of Bengal his famous discovery that Sanskrit was related to Latin and Greek, as well as Persian, Celtic, and Gothic.
To be precise, Jones was not the first to notice similarities. One hundred years earlier, a Florentine merchant in Goa, Filippo Sassetti, and an English Jesuit, Thomas Stevens, had independently de-tected the same phenomenon. Jones, however, was certainly the first to make a full scholarly presentation. And he forthrightly proclaimed heartfelt attraction to Vedic literature and philosophy:
I am in love with Gopia, charmed with Crishen [Krishna], an enthusiastic admirer of Raama and a devout adorer of Brihma [Brahma], Bishe [Vishnu], Mahiser [Maheshvara (Shiva)]; not to mention that Judishteir, Arjen, Corno [Yudhisthira, Arjuna, Karna] and other warriors of the M'hab'harat [Mahabharata] appear greater in my eyes than Agamemnon, Ajax and Achilles appeared when I first read the Iliad.
Jones described himself as "a devout and convinced Christian," and like modern scholars he viewed the Bhagavata Purana as "a motley story." Yet, remarkably ecumenical in his outlook, he did not hide his appreciation of the Vedic knowledge of reincarnation: "I am no Hindu but I hold the doctrine of the Hindus concerning a future state to be incomparably more rational, more pious and more likely to deter men from vice than the horrid opinions inculcated by the Christians on punishment without end."
The German Romance With India
The work of the Asiatic Society of Bengal became the highbrow talk of Europe. The Society's journal attained immediate fame, and the English translations by its Calcutta Sanskritists were rendered into German and French. German scholars, in particular, lost no time accelerating into this new intellectual frontier. Sanskrit and Vedic philosophy became a prime delight for many German romanticists. Whereas the British relationship with India quickly entered the mold of colonialism and conversion, the Germans—with no economic or political interests in India to tend—freely plunged into a lively intellectual and emotional attachment.
The first to incite the German passion for India was Johann Gottfried von Herder, a philosopher and writer whose advocacy of intuition over rationality greatly influenced the famed Goethe. From von Herder came many of the ideas that formed the basis of German Romanticism, and he fired the imaginations of his literary fellows to venerate Mother India. "The Brahmins [the spiritual intelligentsia of India] have wonderful wisdom and strength to form their people in great degrees of gentleness, courtesy, temperance, and chastity. They have so effectively established their people in these virtues that, in comparison, Europeans frequently appear as beastly, drunken or mad."
Friedrich von Schlegel, another philosopher and writer whose essays contributed to the intellectual basis of German Romanticism, took to studying Sanskrit. Beginning in 1805, he used his newfound knowledge to teach a series of lectures at the University of Cologne. "Everything, absolutely everything, is of Indian origin," he exulted. He attributed the Egyptian civilization to missionary seeds from India, and asserted that the Hebrew nation based itself on remnants of Vedic metaphysics. In 1808 Schlegel published his Essay on Language and Wisdom of the Indians. The first two sections of his book glorified the beauty and antiquity of the Sanskrit language, as well as its brilliance in conveying profound philosophical concepts. In another section he advocated that a migration of talent and intellect from northern India had introduced civilization to Europe.
To their intense appreciation of India, the German Romanticists grafted a love of Germany as the first European recipient of civilization. "If the regeneration of the human species started in the East, Germany must be considered the Orient of Europe," said Friedrich von Schlegel's brother, August Wilhelm von Schlegel. An insuential scholar in his own right, August Wilhelm became the first professor of Sanskrit at the University of Bonn. In 1823 Julius von Klaproth coined the term "Indo-Germans," and many German writers picked it up. Naturally, non-German intellectuals of the time quickly began to prefer the term "Indo-Europeans," and Franz Bopp, in 1833, established that preference even east of the Rhine.
The Prussian minister of education, Wilhelm von Humboldt, began studying Sanskrit in 1821. Also renowned as a founding father of linguistics, Humboldt published an extensive study of the Bhagavad-gita. He described the Bhagavad-gita as "the deepest and loftiest thing the world has to show." The rampant fascination with India affected also the famed composer Ludwig van Beethoven. His manuscripts contain fragments of selections from the Upanishads and the Gita.
The philosopher Georg Hegel compared the discovery of Sanskrit to the beholding of a new continent. He felt it established "historic ties between the German and Indian people." Though the complex Hegel admitted to no great love for India, and criticized Romantics for idolizing it, nevertheless in his classic Lectures on the Philosophy of History, he eulogized the Indian subcontinent as the "starting-point for the whole Western world."
Another famous German philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer, became completely enchanted by the Upanishads. Upon reading a translation into Latin, he called them "the production of the highest human wisdom." Considering the Upanishads to contain almost superhuman conceptions, Schopenhauer said, "It is the most satisfying and elevated reading (with the exception of the original text) which is possible in the world; it has been my solace in life and will be the solace of my death."
So internationally known was the magnitude of the German immersion in Vedic studies that, when in 1871 the various German states finally consolidated into the German Empire, some British authorities in India attributed the unification to the pervasive German love for Vedic knowledge. Though an exaggeration for sure, the notion does indicate Germany's reputation then for relishing ancient India. Sir Henry Maine, a scholarly member of the Viceroy of India's council, dramatically declared, "a nation has been born out of Sanskrit."
The energetic German commitment to Indic studies continues to this day. Almost every serious German library features a special collection of books on India. Every university maintains a departmental library of Indology. Chairs of Sanskrit are maintained at six universities: Bonn, Tubingen, Hamburg, Munich, Marburg, and Gottingen. Almost every university offers Sanskrit instruction in its department of comparative linguistics. Three German universities publish their own magazine on Indology.
Other Nations Jump Aboard
The French were not to be left out of the rush to embrace India. Voltaire, the quintessential Enlightenment thinker, became fascinated. In 1775 he asserted, "I am convinced that everything has come down to us from the banks of the Ganges: astronomy, astrology, metempsychosis, etc." He too seemed to think everything about Adam and Genesis actually derived from India. Diderot, the French philosopher and writer famed for his work on the Encyclopadie, suggested in his article on India that the "sciences may be more ancient in India than in Egypt." In Paris, the first university chair for Sanskrit was established in 1816. Quickly French scholars translated the works of India-loving Germans. Jules Michelet, the French histor-ian known for his spirited seventeen-volume Histoire de France, felt certain that India was "the womb of the world."
The Slavic peoples also wanted in. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, questions of Slav roots concerned scholars of the various Slavic regions. Some would publish works comparing words in Sanskrit and Slavic languages. The Czech scholar Pavel Shafarik wrote that the Slavic peoples originated in India. A Polish scientist, Valentin Mayevsky, elaborately described the connection between the Slavic peoples and ancient Indians. Russia published its first Sanskrit text in 1787. N. I. Novikov translated Charles Wilkins's rendition of the Bhagavad-gita from English. An Asian Academy was established at St. Petersburg in 1810, with a Sanskrit professorship. Russia would go on to produce famous nineteenth-century Indologists such as V. P. Vasilyev and V. P. Minayev. The Hungarian Csoma de Krsna (1784-1842) visited India and studied language and literature there.
Across the Atlantic the Americans kept up with the Vedic bonanza. Formal Indic studies began there at Yale University in 1841. Elihu Yale, a former governor for the British East India Company at Madras, had funded the university in 1718, with the help of gifts brought over from India. The new university, rewarding his patronage, took on his name. At Harvard University, in 1836, a group of authors and poets gathered to found the Transcendental Club of America. The cream of America's literary world—Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, and others—studied the Vedic texts available, as well as ideas from Goethe, Kant, and the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Persians.
The American transcendentalists, as they are now called, located and studied English translations of the Bhagavad-gita, Upanishads, and the Vishnu and Bhagavata Puranas. Emerson issued forth his classic praise of the Gita: "I owed a magnificent day to the Bhagavad-gita. It was the first of books; it was as if an empire spake to us, nothing small or unworthy, but large, serene, consistent, the voice of an old intelligence which in another age and climate had pondered and thus disposed of the same questions that exercise us."
Henry David Thoreau, the still venerated author of Walden, is on record expressing intellectual euphoria: "What extracts from the Vedas I have read fall on me like the light of a higher and purer luminary, which describes a loftier course through a purer stratum." Also, "In the morning I bathe my intellect in the stupendous and cosmogonal philosophy of the Bhagavad-gita, since whose composition years of the gods have elapsed and in comparison with which our modern world and its literature seems puny and trivial."
Anointing the Gita as the best intellectual treat, Thoreau said, "The reader is nowhere raised into and sustained in a bigger, purer or rarer region of thought than in the Bhagavad-gita." For an American of his very conservative and Christian time, he made a bold evaluation: "The religion and philosophy of the Hebrews are those of a wilder and ruder tribe, wanting the civility and intellectual refinements and subtlety of Vedic culture."
Other giants of the American literary world who acknowledged influence from Vedic philosophy were T. S. Eliot, Paul Elmer, and Irving Babbitt. They had all studied at Harvard under the renowned Sanskritist Charles Rochwell Lanman, who taught for over forty years and published books on Sanskrit and Vedic philosophy. Another factor contributing to Vedic interest in America was the founding, in 1842, of the American Oriental Society.
Certainly amid all the nations cited above, scholars with negative and even racist perceptions of the Vedic texts could be found. What is monumental, though, is the unique freshness and headiness that the very first winds of Indology blew through most academic chambers in the first half of the nineteenth century. "India, yes! The Vedas, yes!"
Especially at the junction of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, European intellectuals expected an "Oriental renaissance." The idea was that, just as the study of Greek had paved the way for the first Renaissance, so the study of Sanskrit and the Vedas would launch the second. The older Orientalism—based on European studies of Arabic, Persian, and Hebrew—had given way to India and the Vedas as the standard bearer.
Unencumbered by biases, the original reactions of European scholars are a testimony to the intellectual joy a fair-minded approach to the Vedas can bring. But the breezes of profound appreciation that swept the European continent did not last. After all, the British Crown had serious business to tend in India—with immense consequences for the study of India's past.
Mainly the Calcutta-based British intellectuals had sparked Europe's enthusiasm for India. In their homeland, however, the boom was modest. Some intellectuals in the British Isles were charmed by the ancient wisdom of India—its Sanskrit, astronomy, and geography. Some even sought to find a connection between ancient India and the Celts. The enthrallment did not last, in the downpour of realpolitik.
But the fire in England was soon damped. Great Britain could not, or would not, be the hearth for such a renaissance. Thereafter...the Victorians procured their best workers only by appealing to the German universities. . . . It was, above all, the case with Max Muller, who was born in Dessau in 1823 and died a professor of comparative linguistics at Oxford in 1900. Ultimately, England was to welcome many more Orientalists than she gave birth.
By the time the nineteenth century turned into the twentieth, almost all the benign attitudes spurring Western scholars' unbiased appreciation of Vedic knowledge had turned into ice. No independent India would be born of Sanskrit knowledge. The British goal, stated and unstated, was to eradicate any notions that India had knowledge in remote antiquity.
His Holiness Devamrta Swami is based in Australia and Los Angeles. He travels regularly throughout South America and Russia.
Their disease was supposed to be terminal,
By Gopala Hari Dasa
THE CROWDED BUS JERKED to a stop. A concerned father and mother, Mukunda and Mina Gandhi, struggled out. With them were their two children, Chirag (7) and Vishal (3), in wheelchairs. Both boys were victims of Pseudohypertrophic Muscular Atrophy, an incurable, terminal disease that gradually destroys all the muscles in the body.
Pushing the wheelchairs forward, the parents walked to the base of famous Mount Abu in Rajasthan. Their destination was a large cave atop the mountain. They had been told that in the cave lived a four-hundred-year-old baba (renunciant). He was an accomplished tantric who could cure any disease.
The wheelchairs could move no farther. The determined parents lifted the children onto their shoulders and proceeded up the steep mountain. Thorns pierced their feet and the sun burned their skin, but they trudged on, seeking a cure for their incurable children.
At last they reached the cave. As their eyes adjusted to the darkness, they saw the old baba. He looked remarkably young, and his body was covered in ash. Next to him were his fellow babas. Many of them were naked, with long matted hair, and they all held the trisula—Lord Siva's trident weapon. It was a frightening sight.
Mukunda explained the reason for their visit. The baba said that he would need to find out whether the children were curable. He picked up a human skull and, holding it up to his ear, began talking to some higher spirit.
He then set the skull down and said, "Yes, your children shall be cured. But I need some herbs from Nepal. These herbs will cost about twelve thousand rupees."
The parents quickly realized that they had fallen into the hands of robbers in the guise of saints.
This was not the first time the Gandhis had been baffled in their attempt to find a cure for their children. Over the last seven years, they had tried every possible cure—allopathic, homeopathic, ayurvedic, tantric, and acupuncture. They had also consulted doctors in America, but all of them had pronounced Chirag and Vishal incurable. The doctors said they wouldn't live past eighteen.
Mukunda and Mina escaped from the cave and ran down the mountain as fast as they could, carrying Chirag and Vishal in their arms. Sweating and panting, they boarded the first bus back to Ahmedabad, their hometown in Gujarat, never to see the babas again.
Soon, Chirag and Vishal began going to school, despite their ill health. By the time Chirag turned fifteen, both parents had resigned themselves to the fact that there was no cure and had decided to let fate run its course. The parents lost interest in religion, while the boys developed a deep interest in science and the meaning of life.
"As time passed," Chirag remembers, "I reached twelfth grade and Vishal entered eighth. Both of us were doing well in our studies. But our physical condition was worsening. We were becoming weaker, and our bodies seemed uglier than before. We began facing difficulties in eating and other ordinary activities. Our speech was unclear. Our parents were very worried."
Gita To The Rescue
At the age of seventeen Chirag completed high school, but he didn't have enough strength to pursue further studies. One day, he asked his father what he should do to use his time. His father was sitting in his office. He looked up at the five editions of Bhagavad-gita on his bookshelf, randomly pulled out one, and gave it to Chirag. It was Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita As It Is.
Chirag read the book and found answers to questions he had been asking throughout his life. He persuaded his father to take him to the Krsna temple in Ahmedabad. Soon, the entire family became devoted members of the temple and attended the Sunday Feast every week.
As the doctors had predicted, however, in his eighteenth year Chirag became very ill. He was taken to the hospital and put under strong medication. He became extremely thin, and doctors warned that he had only a few more days to live.
But amidst all of this, Chirag never forgot the temple. He remembered that the next day was Gaura Purnima, the appearance day of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. He asked his father to go to the temple with Vishal for the whole day, and to bring him there in the evening. His father agreed, although Vishal was also quite sick at the time.
Vishal had faith in the power of Krsna's holy name. At the temple on Gaura Purnima, he chanted 108 "rounds" of the maha-mantra on his beads, from six in the morning until seven in the evening. At four o'clock, Mukunda brought Chirag, who was on intravenous support. After viewing the deities, Sri Sri Radha-Govinda, they both went home.
That night, Chirag drank some caranamrta (water that has bathed the deities) that he had brought with him from the temple, and went to sleep.
The next morning, when Chirag awoke, he had miraculously regained his normal strength. The crisis was over.
Soon after, Chirag and Vishal received initiation from His Holiness Gopal Krsna Goswami, and were given the names Caturatma Dasa and Visvarupa, respectively. Today, despite their illness, they perform immense service for Sri Sri Radha-Govinda. They lead kirtanas expertly and give classes at the temple. Visvarupa has translated Srila Prabhupada's Path of Perfection into Gujarati. And although they cannot walk, they make yearly visits to Mayapur, Jagannatha Puri, Vrndavana, Dwarka, and other holy places.
The brothers' most successful activity in spreading Krsna consciousness is a youth program they have started in their home. By holding regular kirtanas and discussion groups, they have touched the lives of hundreds of young people. The brothers have become spiritual mentors for the youth, encouraging them in Krsna consciousness.
"Caturatma and Visvarupa are role models for me," says one young man. "Their determination and faith are inspiring. If they can be good devotees in the face of such adversity, why can't I?"
The brothers, now 23 and 19, have no worries about the future.
"Lord Krsna nourishes and maintains every living entity," says Caturatma. "He promises in the Bhagavad-gita, 'Surrender to Me. I will protect you. Don't be afraid.' We don't consider our bodies to be miserable anymore. Actually, our disability has made life blissful: So many people come to express their sympathy, and we take the opportunity to tell them about the science of Krsna consciousness."
Gopala Hari Dasa, 18, lives at the ISKCON center in Boise, Idaho, run by his parents. He is pursuing a masters in electrical engineering from Boise State University.
By Amala Bhakta Dasa
Excerpted from the soon-to-be-published biographical novel Lord Krishna—the Supreme Mystic. This excerpt is based on Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura's commentary on Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.36.16.
On A Field Near Govardhana Hill, in the twilight, the demon Arisasura had assumed the form of a bull and, at King Kamsa's order, had tried to kill Lord Krsna. Instead, the Lord had slain him. Just prior to his attack, Krsna had been chatting with His girlfriends, the gopis of Vrndavana, who had become quite frightened by the demon's angry bellowing.
Krsna strolled over to them, expecting to engage in their usual rasa dance. In this, the girls would form a circle, Krsna would miraculously reproduce His body between each two girls, and the party would ecstatically dance round and round. But the gopis, now relieved of their fear of Aristasura, were in a playful, joking mood.
As Krsna tried to place His arm around the shoulder of one of them, she flinched and stepped back, saying, "I don't think You should touch any of us now."
"Oh? And why not?"
"Well, You've just killed a bull. And the scriptures consider a bull to be as sacred as a cow."
"True, but that bull was really a demon."
"Doesn't matter," a second girl said. "He still had a bull's body. So by killing him, You've committed a terrible sin."
"I have?" Krsna beamed, playing along with their joke.
"Absolutely. You're very contaminated now."
"How terrible!" Krsna said with mock seriousness. "Then what should I do?"
"You should atone for Your sin," a third gopi said.
"Atone?" He asked, eyebrows raised.
They all nodded firmly, wanting to laugh but restraining themselves.
The first gopi said, "I think You should bathe in every holy river in the world."
The other gopis nodded.
"All the rivers?" Krsna asked.
"Yes," the girls giggled. "All."
"But that'll take too long. I have a better idea."
"Oh?" they inquired.
"Instead, I'll bring the rivers here."
"How can You do that?" asked the second gopi skeptically.
Krsna turned away from them and kicked His heel into the ground, making a hole.
Then He ordered, "O holy rivers, please come here at once!"
In a few seconds, the personified forms of every sacred river appeared there, standing with their palms folded and heads bowed. The men were bare-chested but decked in rich dhotis, whereas the women were wearing luxurious saris.
Krsna turned to the gopis.
"See? They're all here."
Although the girls were astonished, they scoffed, "We don't see anybody."
Krsna said to the rivers, "Would you please announce yourselves?"
Each river spoke his or her name, such as Ganga, Yamuna, Saraswati, Sarayu, Sona, and Sindhu.
The gopis looked at each other doubtfully. Were those persons really those rivers?
Then the hole that Krsna had made with His heel suddenly expanded into a vast hollow, and all the personified rivers gladly entered it, each manifesting his or her own water form. It was now a beautiful, inviting, holy pond.
Krsna descended and splashed into it up to His neck, dunked His head several times, and climbed out, drying His dark glistening body with His hands.
"Well, now I'm completely pure." He smiled. "You don't have to worry anymore."
The girls tittered, knowing they never had to anyway.
"But look at you," Krsna said with mock condescension, pointing at them.
"What about us?" a few asked.
"You're all impure."
"Us?" several answered, incredulously.
"No, we didn't touch the bull," the second girl said. "You did."
"True, but you've never performed any religious activities for Lord Brahma's pleasure. That makes you impure."
Then Krsna's favorite, Srimati Radharani, turned to Her girlfriends and said, "All right, if we're impure, then we'll become pure."
"How?" the third gopi asked.
"I'll make an even better pond than Krsna's, and we'll all bathe in it."
"But where?" asked the second gopi.
"Just follow Me."
With Krsna in tow, Radharani confidently led Her friends a short distance away. They noticed that Aristasura's hooves had dug a shallow ditch just west of Krsna's pond, and Radharani decided to make Her pond there.
"Let's start digging," She said to Her friends.
They bent over, began clutching clumps of soft clay, and discarded them. After only an hour, they created a large hollow.
Krsna was astonished by how rapidly they had dug it.
When the gopis came out, the Lord munificently said to them, "You can fill it up with the holy water from My pond."
"Your pond?" Radharani asked, patronizingly.
"Yes, why not?"
"Because Your pond is contaminated. When You bathed in it, You left Your bull-killing sin there. I don't want that in My pond!"
Krsna laughed loudly.
"Then where will You get the holy water?"
"From the nearby Manasi Ganga lake. We'll bring many pots of it here."
Krsna recalled that some time ago He had meditated on the holy Ganges River, which was a considerable distance from Vrndavana, and had miraculously made it appear here as a lake. It was thus named Manasi Ganga ("the Ganges created by Krsna's mind"). But now Krsna wanted to spare Radharani and Her friends the heavy labor of lugging thousands of jugs of water from there to here. So He gestured to His pond, and suddenly a male representative of all the holy rivers emerged from it. With tears in his eyes, he folded his palms, bowed his head to the ground before Radharani, and devotedly prayed to Her.
Radharani's mood changed from playful to serious. She could see that he was approaching Her for some sacred purpose.
Rising to his knees, the representative said, "O Goddess, even those who know the scriptures well, such as Lord Brahma and Lord Siva, cannot understand Your glories. Only Krsna, the highest goal of all human effort, can. Therefore, He wishes to make sure that, when You're fatigued, You can wash away Your perspiration. That would make Him very happy."
Radharani gratefully glanced at Krsna, and then returned Her attention to the rivers' representative.
"As soon as Krsna ordered us, we came here to live in His excellent pond. But we all have a desire, and only if You are pleased with us can it be fulfilled."
Radharani pleasantly asked, "Oh? And what is it?"
"We desire to come to Your pond, for only then will our lives be successful."
With a gentle smile, Radharani replied, "All right. Please do."
Her friends nodded in agreement, feeling immensely happy.
At that moment, all the holy rivers in Krsna's pond broke through its blackish clay boundary and quickly flowed into and filled Radharani's pond. This movement sounded like a surging river during a heavy rainstorm.
As Radharani was enjoying this sight, Krsna seriously said, "My dear Radharani, may Your pond become even more famous than Mine. I will always come here to bathe in it and to enjoy water sports. Indeed, this pond is as dear to Me as You."
Radharani was touched deeply and replied, "And I, with My girlfriends, will also bathe in Your pond, even if You kill hundreds of Aris asuras here. And anyone who, with intense devotion, bathes in My pond or resides on its bank will surely become very dear to Me."
"And dear to Me also," Krsna added. "I will certainly bless such persons well!"
As the darkness enfolded them, Krsna and the gopis formed a circle and began their rasa dance. He resembled a rain cloud, and Radharani a flash of lightning. As They danced, They generated a torrential downpour of brilliant, transcendental joy. From that night on, Radharani's pond (kunda) would be called Radha Kunda, and Krsna's, Shyama Kunda. And anyone who would bathe even once in Her pond, or perform devotional service on its banks, would, by Her mercy, develop pure love for Krsna. Such love would of course culminate in continuous divine ecstasy. Thus, Radha Kunda would become known as the most exalted pilgrimage spot in the world.
For this reason, countless pilgrims travel many miles just to bathe in its spiritually exalting waters.
Amala Bhakta Dasa, well-known for his audio recordings of Krsna conscious books, is the author of The Life of Tulasi Devi, Mystical Stories from the Mahabharata, and Mystical Stories from the Srimad-Bhagavatam.
Thousands of pilgrims will visit Radha Kunda on October 29, the anniversary of the appearance of this sacred site.
Evidence for Krsna
PEOPLE WHO DOUBT there's life after death sometimes say, "No one has ever come back to tell us about it."
But what if someone claimed to have come back? Would we believe him? What kind of proof would we want?
Trying to prove that Krsna is God presents a similar challenge.
Someone might ask, "If Krsna is God, why doesn't He come and prove it?"
Well, there's evidence that He does come. For example, when He came five thousand years ago, millions of eyewitnesses saw Him, He did things only God can do, and Vyasadeva, a reporter with impeccable credentials, kept track of it all.
Vyasadeva recorded not only Krsna's matchless deeds but also the testimonials of the greatest spiritual authorities of the time, a time when large numbers of people pursued spiritual realization with every ounce of their being. The consensus of these saints and sages—masters of spiritual learning and discipline—was that Krsna is God.
People today tend to doubt the credibility of Vyasadeva's writings, thanks in large part to a smear campaign started by the British during their takeover of India. Yet despite their efforts, the light of the Srimad-Bhagavatam and other books from Vyasadeva's prolific pen keeps shining. As Devamrta Swami shows in this issue, great Western thinkers who received the Vedas without prejudice were astounded. Vyasadeva's writings were superior to anything they had ever come across.
But what about the "stories" Vyasadeva wrote? Was there really a boy named Krsna who lifted mountains and killed monsters? Scholars for whom Vyasadeva's "mythology" seems incompatible with his erudite philosophical works might propose that Vyasadeva didn't write both things. But that argument fails if we look at just one example of his work: Srimad-Bhagavatam. There Vyasadeva has written both profound philosophy and—as the climax, no less—charming stories about Krsna.
The great leaders of India's spiritual lineages since Krsna's time have concluded that a great philosopher like Vyasadeva wouldn't frivolously insert fanciful stories into his treatise on the Absolute Truth. Vyasadeva's gravity alone is solid evidence that his stories of Krsna's exploits tell of actual events.
Like many nineteenth-century scholars, anyone who reads the Vedic literature with an open mind is sure to be awed. But readers need help, too. Traditionally, a student of the Vedas gets guidance from a self-realized person coming in a line of authorized teachers. Four main lines have directed India's spiritual culture for hundreds of years, and each of them asserts that Krsna, or His expansion Visnu, is God.
I find it disturbing to read media coverage of Krsna conscious events that refers to devotees as worshipers of "the god Krsna." For the average person in the West, the writer might as well be saying we worship "the god Zeus." Why would anyone take seriously a group of people who have arbitrarily chosen to worship one god out of a whole stable of contenders?
But our choice is far from arbitrary. It's founded in the Vedic scriptures, the credibility of saints of respected spiritual lines, and the realized conviction, persuasive writings, and pure character of Krsna's emissary His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
Yoga necessitates controlling the senses, and bhakti-yoga, or Krsna consciousness, is the process of purifying the senses. When the senses are purified, they are automatically controlled. One cannot stop the activities of the senses by artificial means, but if one purifies the senses by engaging in the service of the Lord, the senses not only can be controlled from rubbish engagement, but can be engaged in the Lord's transcendental service.
His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
It is a great wonder that Krsna, being impartial, is fully partial to His devotees.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura
As soon as one becomes inimical to Krsna and desires sense gratification, he is struck down by the illusory energy of the Lord.
Srila Jagadananda Pandita
Krsna is the Supreme Godhead. One should meditate on Him, relish the taste of reciprocating loving exchanges with Him, worship Him, and offer sacrifices to Him.
Gopala-tapani Upanisad, Purva 50
It is the living entity's constitutional position to be an eternal servant of Krsna because he is the marginal energy of Krsna and a manifestation simultaneously one with and different from the Lord.
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu
My dear Uddhava, the unalloyed devotional service rendered to Me by My devotees brings Me under their control. I cannot be thus controlled by those engaged in mystic yoga, Sankhya philosophy, pious work, Vedic study, austerity, or renunciation.
Lord Sri Krsna
Even if one distributes ten million cows in charity during an eclipse of the sun, lives at the consuence of the Ganges and Yamuna for millions of years, or gives a mountain of gold in sacrifice to the brahmanas, he does not earn one hundredth part of the merit derived from chanting Hare Krsna.
The lotus feet of Lord Visnu are the supreme objective of all the demigods. Those lotus feet are as enlightening as the sun in the sky.
Rg Veda 1.22.20