IN THIS ISSUE we present Kalakantha Dasa's article "The Bittersweet Taste of Spiritual Separation" to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the passing of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder/acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. Though not directly about Srila Prabhupada, the article, most of which is a poem, shows the intense longing devotees feel when the Lord—or His pure representative—leaves their vision. Disciples and followers of Srila Prabhupada honor the anniversary of his departure by rededicating themselves to his mission, guaranteeing themselves eventual reunion with him.
"Srila Prabhupada's Gifts to Malaysia" highlights some of Prabhupada's contributions to the world during the twelve years he spearheaded the Hare Krsna movement. Prabhupada spent only a few days in Malaysia, but he successfully planted seeds of Krsna consciousness that are bearing fruit today.
Prabhupada delivered his supreme spiritual gifts first to the West and then to the rest of the world. Those who feel indebted to him try to repay him by following his example. In this issue we travel with a group of intrepid disciples and granddisciples as they brave racial tension to carry the message of Krsna to Zulu homelands.
Hare Krsna.—Nagaraja Dasa, Editor
• To help all people discern reality from illusion, spirit from matter, the eternal from the temporary.
• To expose the faults of materialism.
• To offer guidance in the Vedic techniques of spiritual life.
• To preserve and spread the Vedic culture.
• To celebrate the chanting of the holy names of God as taught by Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
• To help every living being remember and serve Sri Krsna, the Personality of Godhead.
Thank you for Arcana-siddhi Devi Dasi's article "Dealing with Depression" [July/August]. The edition landed on my doorstep a week after my mother's brother died tragically. The entire family was, and is, in turmoil, but are thankfully taking some shelter of the holy name.
I have been a practicing devotee for eight years, and never before had the distress and temporary nature of the material world been so obvious to me. My mother's pain, and my own, is something I didn't know how deal with, and your article helped me understand this, and also be open to seeking help spiritually or professionally. The devotees' support and guidance is absolutely invaluable, especially in times of distress.
The Chanting Cure
I read the article "Dealing with Depression" in your recent issue of BTG. The article is very interesting and is indeed a motivator for all. In today's world, where all are hankering for possessions and the increase of material assets, there is bound to be depression. Chanting the maha-mantra not only takes the individual from the material to the spiritual platform, but also assists in identifying the self with the soul and not the body.
I've always loved BTG. Over the years, while feeling separation from devotees, struggling at the university, BTG has been the window to the Krsna conscious realm. Now, in the intensity of separation from my spiritual master, Tamal Krishna Goswami, again BTG offers a helping hand.
Receiving the May/June BTG felt like receiving an invitation when I most needed it. Srila Prabhupada's words in his lecture "Come to My Eternal Place" and Kalakantha Prabhu's wonderful editorial felt like the blessings of Prabhupada and Tamal Krsna Goswami on us—that we could all meet again in Tamal Krsna Goswami's room, relishing his association along with the sweetest kirtana. All this in a delightful magazine called Back to Godhead!
The July/August BTG, with the feature article about the life of Srila Tamal Krsna Goswami, was also incredible. We are very grateful to Satyaraja Prabhu for writing such a touching, brilliant article. Tamal Krsna Goswami has been glorified in a dynamic way.
To everyone at BTG, including the Web site designers, thank you so very, very much. BTG is truly something out of this world.
Yasoda Dulala Dasa
Johannesburgh, South Africa
I just want to congratulate you all for the success you have had with Back to Godhead and the new Krsna Web site. Both are top notch in terms of quality and quantity. You are the empowered agents of the Lord, and I am glad that due to your hard work you have enlightened so many fallen souls, including myself and my brother Art.
Of course I also want to offer my respectful obeisances unto Prabhupada's lotus feet. Without his courage and determination there would be no ISKCON. Keep up the good work and keep on printing many beautiful pictures of naughty butter-stealing Krsna.
Via the Internet
I am writing to express my sincere blessings to this most extraordinary magazine. I become ever more indebted to everyone there after every article that I read, especially when I read an explanation of an aspect of the eternal faith that I may have not understood. I say with Lord Narayana in my heart that I wish the best for your magazine.
Kalyan namastu! (May you prosper.)
Vijay bhava! (May you be victorious.)
Satyam eva jayate! (Only truth triumphs.) Your magazine is the truth to this statement.
Via the Internet
According to the Srimad-Bhagavatam, the living entities are all created by the Pracetas. Who was the first human being on this planet? Science says that on this planet, there were first trees and animals and so forth. According to the Vedas, were humans created in some mystical way suddenly out of the dust, as Lord Brahma appeared mystically?
We know, according to Bhagavad-gita, that the Vedic science was passed down from Brahma to the sun-god, who again passed it down to Iksvaku, the king of the earth. Was he the first human being here? He can only be a king when there is population. Is there any information existing about this?
Drutakarma Dasa Replies: "The rebirth of Prajapati Daksa as the son of the Pracetas, and the progeny of Daksa's daughters, who initiated the races of demigods, demons, human beings, animals, serpents, birds, and so on—all this is described." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 12.12.17) This verse appears to give the proper sequence of events. Daksa is the son of the Pracetas, and Daksa's daughters, who were given in marriage to different demigods and sages, are the generators of the human population on earth and other planets.
This populating of the earth takes place after the end of each manvantara period in a day of Brahma. There are fourteen such manvantara periods, and the human population on earth is regenerated after the devastation that normally follows each one.
The humans and other species are the offspring of the reproductive processes of the daughters of Daksa. So it is not that God is creating the human beings from dust.
All the details of how exactly the demigods generate the human population, and who exactly the first human on earth was, I cannot say, based on what I currently know from the Vedic literature.
Human populations on earth are also generated after each night of Brahma and after each life of Brahma. I assume the process would be similar to that which takes places after the end of each manvantara, namely that demigods from the higher material regions of the universe produce the populations through their reproductive activities.
Please write to us at: BTG, P. O. Box 430, Alachua, FL 32616, USA. E-mail: email@example.com.
Although we occupy the body, we should acknowledge that it belongs to someone else.
By His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
"Yet in this body there is another, a transcendental enjoyer, who is the Lord, the supreme proprietor, who exists as the overseer and permitter, and who is known as the Supersoul."—Bhagavad-gita 13.23
HERE ARE two purusas, or enjoyers. One purusa is the living entity, atma, and the other purusa is the Supersoul, Paramatma. Sometimes the Mayavadi philosophers, or impersonalists, do not distinguish between atma and Paramatma. But here it is distinctly explained by the Supreme Personality of Godhead that there are two purusas. One purusa is enjoying the fruits of his activities, prakrti-sthah. Being influenced by the quality of prakrti, material nature, he is sad-asad-yoni-janmasu: he is taking birth in different types and species of life. And the other purusa is upadrasta, the overseer. He simply sees how the other purusa is working. And according to the living entity purusa's karma, or work, the overseer gives the result. The overseer is the witness.
If the living entity purusa works piously, then he gets a certain type of body. Janmaisvarya-sruta-sri. He gets a nice body, born in a rich family or a brahmana family or a scholarly family. He gets opulence, a beautiful body, a good education. These distinctions are there because the Paramatma purusa is observing the activities of the jivatma purusa. According to the individual soul's karma, and according to his desire, the Supersoul gives different types of body.
In another place it is said, isvarah sarva-bhutanam hrd-dese 'rjuna tisthati [Bhagavad-gita 18.61]: the Supreme Personality of Godhead as Paramatma, Antaryami, is situated in everyone's heart. Bhramayan sarva-bhutani yantrarudhani mayaya [Bhagavad-gita 18.61]: He is directing maya, the illusory energy, to give each living entity a particular type of body, and the living entity is moving with that body.
For example, according to the price, you can get a car. You can get a Rolls Royce, a Chevrolet, a Cadillac, a Ford, an Ambassador, a Jeep. According to your ability to pay for it, you get a certain type of car, and you can travel. Similarly, according to your karma, good and bad, you get a type of body. There are 8,400,000 species of body. You get one of them and suffer and enjoy.
Tatha dehantara-praptih [Bhagavad-gita 2.13]. You have to change your body. Next you can get a cat body or a dog body, a tree body or a demigod body, a Brahma body or a Indra body, an Indian body, an American body, a serpent body, an insect body, a bird body—any. There is no guarantee which body you will get. That will be awarded to you according to your karma. Unfortunately, people do not know this. Just like animals, they do not know how to get a better body.
asitim caturas caiva
This is a statement from the Padma Purana. Janma-paryayat: by evolution we come to the human form of body, and in the human form of body we have the chance to develop Krsna consciousness. If we do not do that, then we are missing the opportunity.
You shall get your next body according to your karma. But if you become Krsna conscious in this body, and if you try to understand Krsna, then tyaktva deham punar janma naiti [Bhagavad-gita 4.9]—after giving up this body, you do not accept another material body. That is the purpose of the Krsna consciousness movement. We are trying to educate people to become Krsna conscious so that they may not have to accept another material body.
Soul And Supersoul
The other purusa described here is Paramatma. We are atma, soul, and He is Paramatma, Supersoul. We are isvara, controller; He is Paramesvara, supreme controller. We are not Paramesvara. We are Brahman, spirit, and He is Parabrahman, supreme spirit.
The word param, "supreme," is used. But sometimes men with little intelligence cannot distinguish between Paramatma and atma, Paramesvara and isvara.
Here another phrase is used: bhokta mahesvarah. We are not bhokta, the enjoyer. We are trying to become bhokta, but we are becoming baffled. It is not possible. We cannot become bhokta. We can be the enjoyed, the predominated, but not the predominator. One thing is enjoyed, and the other the enjoyer. The Supreme Lord is the enjoyer. Bhoktaram yajna-tapasam sarva-loka-mahesvaram [Bhagavad-gita 5.29].
Mahesvara, or maha isvara. Maha means great. Isvara means controller. We can control a few men, but the name Mahesvara means that God controls all living entities. Nityo nityanam cetanas cetananam [Katha Upanisad 2.2.13]. We may be very proud of controlling a factory, a few thousand workers, but we are not Mahesvara. The Mahesvara is Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who in His Paramatma feature is situated in every body. Paramatmeti capy ukto dehe 'smin. Asmin dehe means "within this body."
There are two souls. In this chapter Krsna says, ksetra-jnam capi mam viddhi sarva-ksetresu bharata [Bhagavad-gita 13.3]: "I am also the ksetra-jna." The body is the ksetra, or field, and the soul is ksetra-jna, one who knows about the body. You have your body, and I have my body. I know it is my body, and you know it is your body, just as you know your apartment or your living room. But there is a partner in our body. That is Krsna, Paramatma. I can take care of my body. I am the owner of this body. But Krsna is the owner of all bodies.
The tenant is the occupier, and the landlord is the owner. Similarly, I am the occupier of this body, and Krsna, Paramatma, is the owner of this body. To understand that is knowledge. I am not the owner of this body. Therefore Krsna's name is Hrsikesa. Hrsika means the senses, and isa means the controller. We are claiming, "This is my hand," but this is not my hand. This is Krsna's hand. The tenant may occupy the room, but he is not the owner of the room. The owner is a different person. Similarly, we may occupy this body or any body, but we are not the owner of this body.
As soon as we know, "I am not the owner of the body; I am the occupier of the body," that is knowledge. We are falsely claiming that we are the owner of the body. But we are not the owner of the body. I cannot therefore repair anything. If any part or limb of my body goes wrong, I do not know how to repair it. But Krsna can do it because He is the owner, Hrsikesa.
Hrsikena hrsikesa-sevanam bhaktir ucyate. You have to pay the owner of your apartment. Similarly, we have to serve Krsna for allowing us to occupy this body. That is devotion.
All Krsna's Hands And Legs
It is also explained: sarvatah pani-padam tat. The Supreme Lord has His hands and legs everywhere. How is that? Because your hands and my hands are Krsna's hands. Therefore they should be used for Krsna.
In ordinary understanding, because I think these are my hands I use my hand for my eating, not for others' eating. But actually all hands and legs belong to Krsna and should be used for Krsna. That is called bhakti. If you don't use your hands and legs in that way, that is against the laws of nature.
Krsna, the Supersoul, is anumanta: without His permission you cannot do anything. Because everything belongs to Krsna, how can you use something without His permission? Take, for example, a father and a son, a little child. The child wants to do something and wants permission from the father, and the father gives it. In our childhood I remember that even for going to the privy I wanted permission from my mother. "Can I go?" That is nature. Mother is not restricting me; still, I am asking her permission. "Can I go? Can I go?" I remember it. That is natural. Similarly, we cannot do anything without the permission of the Supersoul within the heart. Therefore He is anumanta.
When we do something wrong, why has Krsna as Antaryami, as Paramatma, given permission? That question may be raised. Because I cannot do anything without His permission, He must give permission for me to do something wrong. That has already been explained.
purusah prakrti-stho hi
"The living entity in material nature thus follows the ways of life, enjoying the three modes of nature. This is due to his association with that material nature. Thus he meets with good and evil among various species." [Bhagavad-gita 13.22] Krsna can give you permission, but you will have to take the enjoyment and suffering. You insist on getting permission: "I want to do this." And without permission, you cannot do it. Therefore Krsna gives you permission: "All right, do it, but at your risk." Krsna does not want that you should do it, but you want to do it. Therefore He gives permission. Krsna wants us to surrender to Him: sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam [Bhagavad-gita 18.66]. That is His demand. But our demand is different.
"I shall not surrender, Sir. I want to do this."
"All right, do it at your own risk."
But if you follow the instruction of Krsna, then He takes charge of you. Aham tvam sarva-papebhyo moksayisyami. So you do sinful or pious acts and enjoy the effect, but when you follow the instruction of Krsna, there is no such distinction. Your actions are transcendental. That is called Brahman, and it is above the gunas, the three modes of material nature.
mam ca yo 'vyabhicarena
Krsna says, "Anyone engaged in rendering service unto Me is not affected by the activities. He is immune from the result of all activities." [Bhagavad-gita 14.26] The same point is made in many places.
If you want to act for your satisfaction, Krsna will give you permission, but you will have to enjoy or suffer the effects. It is very simple to understand. So therefore Krsna is called anumanta, the one who gives permission: "Yes, you can take. You can do it."
Two Birds In A Tree
It is figuratively explained in the Upanisads that there are two birds [souls] in this tree [the body]. One is observing, and the other is enjoying. The observing bird is the Paramatma, Krsna. He is upadrasta: He is simply seeing your activities and giving you the effect. And He is anumanta. What you are doing now, Krsna does not want it. But because you wanted persistently to do it, He gives permission—because without His permission, you cannot do it. That is the conclusion.
He is the maintainer. You cannot get anything without His mercy. There may be ample supply of the necessities of life by the grace of Krsna, and there may be scarcity. People are now complaining about overpopulation. There is no question of overpopulation. Krsna is quite competent, able to maintain everyone. But as you become godless, as you become disobedient to the laws of God, there will be restriction. You cannot have the full supply of the necessities of life.
That time has already come. All these rascals, godless rascals, are now suffering. The only remedy is to become a devotee. Krsna is bharta: He can maintain many millions. There is no question of overpopulation. He can maintain. But nature will not supply. Nature will restrict supply if you become godless. Nature is very strong, strict. Daivi hy esa gunamayi mama maya duratyaya [Bhagavad-gita 7.14]. Krsna will restrict the supply.
In this age, Kali-yuga, people are becoming degraded, and the supply will be reduced. There will be no supply of milk. There will be no supply of sugar. That is stated in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. There will be no supply of rice, no supply of wheat. Now you can get these things, either on the black market or on the white market, but the time is coming when there will be no supply. You will be forced to eat beef. Now it is opening here—beef shop, big, big beef shop. The time has already come, gradually, and it will increase, unless you take to Krsna consciousness.
kaler dosa-nidhe rajann
Kali-yuga is a time of suffering. Being godless, people cannot get a comfortable life in Kali-yuga. And Kali- yuga means godlessness. Mandah sumanda-matayo manda-bhagya hy upadrutah [Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.1.10]. Therefore everyone should take to Krsna consciousness to save himself from the onslaught of Kali-yuga, which will increase day by day.
Thank you very much.
"My co-workers' reaction to this incident pushed me to examine my own attitude toward suffering."
By Karnamrta Dasa
EARLY THIS YEAR law enforcement officers, acting on a tip, visited the Tri-State Crematory on sixteen acres in Noble, Georgia, owned by the Marsh family. When police found a skull and a torso floating in a lake on the property, they kept looking and eventually unearthed more than three hundred bodies in various states of decomposition.
For many years, the Marshes had accepted bodies for cremation but had instead dumped them, still in body bags, into shallow "graves," heaped on other bodies. The gruesome sights rivaled the worst horror movie and traumatized workers and family members of the deceased. Many witnesses to the gory scene needed extensive counseling.
The story touched a nerve with my usually placid co-workers. Sympathizing with the deep grief of family and friends of the deceased, many were incensed and spoke out with anger. Every day the news media bombard us with so much violence and human misery that we tend to become desensitized to others' suffering. I know I am. But my co-workers' reaction to the incident pushed me to examine my own attitude toward suffering, and to consider my responsibility to share relevant, compassionately applied spiritual knowledge as I've learned it from Srila Prabhupada.
Generally speaking, I see that uninformed people, lacking knowledge of the eternal soul, fear death and don't know the purpose of life. This cloud of uncertainty surrounding life and death causes unnecessary anxiety and misery. Ironically, to live joyfully and peacefully, we must know what death is, and understand how to die.
The Tri-State Crematory news made me think that although many people in the United States rate themselves high in their standard of living, they score low in their knowledge of death, as shown in their rituals for death, which reinforce their illusion. As soon as a person dies here, the body is whisked away to a funeral home to be prepared for viewing. An artificial, cosmetic process makes the body appear as alive and as beautiful as possible, perpetuating the myth that we are the body. Because we ignorantly think our self (soul) to be the body, we want our body to look good even when it's dead.
Although materialistic culture does not give much stock to the next life or the eternality of the soul, costly, lavish funerals can exploit people's sentiments. Funeral eulogies by the minister or the family—a good chance to help people understand death—are usually merely flowery, sentimental words meant to make people feel good.
Unfortunately, Western culture hides, denies, and disguises death. This life is taken to be everything, so there's no use worrying about an unproven afterlife. Confusion about death underlies the sterile, superficial, and impersonal rituals, whether at burials or cremations.
I've seen that Hindu ceremonies for death in India are a different story. They still follow ancient edicts from the Vedic scriptures. Traditionally, dead bodies are carried in procession to a burning place, usually a ghat at a holy river, with all the loved ones of the deceased present. Seeing the body burn and then placing its ashes in the river shows participants dramatically that they must develop detachment for temporary, material things (like the body), that they should connect instead to the soul and focus on the permanent spiritual objective.
Another reason for burning the body (instead of burying it) is to benefit the so-called deceased. Some souls stay attached to the body even when it's dead and refuse to leave it (remaining as ghosts). The Vedas inform us that ghosts are tormented souls living in their subtle, or astral, body, without the benefit of a physical body. Some people can sense ghosts through eerie feelings at graveyards or in old houses, or in others ways. Burning the body can help the soul move on to the next life.
Unfortunately, we tend to forget our impending death soon after witnessing a cremation. In Sanskrit this is called smasana-vairagya, or the temporary feelings of renunciation at the crematorium. To learn and remember these spiritual truths, we should repeatedly hear them from advanced holy teachers. Srila Prabhupada reminds us not to forget the inevitability of physical death. Thinking about death is not "morbid," as some would say. Rather, it's meant to remind us where our real shelter lies—with God—and not with the temporary.
Death is a doorway between lives. We must prepare for it by absorbing our life in pursuing spiritual truth. Our actions and motivations will determine what happens to us at death. Will we have to accept another material body, or will we return to God in His spiritual kingdom? The Bhagavad-gita (8.6) says that what we primarily focus on because of our attachments will carry us to the next life at the time of death. What we do in life is tested at death.
Justice And Compassion
As I try to empathize with the victims of the Tri-State Crematory—the grieving family and friends—I remember that in my own father's death I was more fortunate then they. Even though he took his own life, in my sadness I was at least able to sprinkle his ashes in the holy water of the Ganges River. Knowing that such an act, done with sincere prayers, would benefit him, I felt at peace. I did as much as I could for him in life, and then, at death, I was able to feel closure with our earthly relationship.
I wonder how I would have felt if I'd discovered that my father's so-called ashes were some other substance, and that his body lay decom-posing in a shallow makeshift grave?
I'm sure I'd feel angry at being cheated, and disappointed that I hadn't helped my father leave this world. I'd want to see someone punished.
My indignation would have support. The Vedas say that civil laws and their consequences, though imperfect, help to lessen a person's karmic reaction for wrongdoings. In addition, punishing a guilty person gives some consolation to the victims.
To feel shock and outrage when we hear about reprehensible behavior, and to seek punishment for the guilty, is natural. But we must be careful to hate the sinful mentality and not the person. Otherwise, our heart will become closed and unable to feel compassion, an important spiritual quality.
Loving Krsna includes loving His children, which we show by teaching them essential spiritual knowledge. That makes us dear to Krsna. But if we don't care about others, how will we want to give them spiritual solutions?
In the Chinese language the symbol for danger also means opportunity. A dangerous mentality is an opportunity for spiritual growth. In the face of increasing inhumanity, insensitivity, and violence among human beings (and toward animals), as well as our own tendency to be lethargic and uncaring, we can decide to think and act differently. We may not care as much as we'd like or act with great compassion, but we can pray for compassion and the desire to help others in distress. We can also become inspired by studying the saintly qualities of pure devotees, and by hearing about the lives of great compassionate devotees like Srila Prabhupada, Prahlada Maharaja, and Haridasa Thakura.
When we're with those in pain, we can sympathize and let them vent their distress. Then, according to our relationship with them, we can share the truth of the soul and God, the key to becoming free from suffering.
Krsna reciprocates with our sincere desire. We must be committed to acting with kindness and compassion as an important part of our spiritual practice. If we do so while we seriously follow the principles of spiritual life given by Srila Prabhupada, we'll make spiritual progress and develop the good qualities of the soul.
Krsna consciousness is the process of converting our illusory bodily consciousness—the cause of our suffering—into our original blissful spiritual nature. Lord Caitanya came five hundred years ago to teach us how to do this practically by chanting the Hare Krsna mantra and living a pure life. Chanting the holy name and giving the rare treasure of the holy name to others are practices of real compassion, and the best contributions we can make to suffering humanity.
Karnamrta Dasa, a disciple of Srila Prabhupada since 1970, lives with his wife, Arcana-siddhi Devi Dasi (a frequent contributor to BTG), in Baltimore, Maryland. He works for a logist-ics company and, along with his wife, conducts therapy and workshops for couples.
"Independence Means You Can Do Whatever You Like"
Here we continue a conversation between His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and John Mize, a professor of philosophy. It took place in Los Angeles on June 23, 1975.
Srila Prabhupada: Independence means you can do whatever you like. That is stated in the Bhagavad-gita: yathecchasi tatha kuru.
[Turning to a disciple:] Find this verse in the Eighteenth Chapter.
That independence is there. After speaking the whole Bhagavad-gita to Arjuna, Krsna gave him independence—"Now whatever you like you can do." Krsna never forced him to accept the teachings of Bhagavad-gita. He gave him independence. "Now whatever you like you can do."
And Arjuna agreed. "Yes. Now my illusion is over. I shall act as You say."
In Bhagavad-gita, Arjuna had the same independence that we have.
[To the disciple, now ready with the requested verse:] Yes.
iti te jnanam akhyatam
"Thus I have explained to you the most confidential of all knowledge. Deliberate on this fully, and then do what you wish to do."
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Now, if you say, "Why should the soul become so foolish?" that is his misuse of his independence. An intelligent father has got an intelligent son, but sometimes the son becomes a fool. So what is the reason? He is part and parcel of the father—he should have become exactly like the father. But he does not.
I have seen. In Allahabad there was a big lawyer or barrister, Mr. Bannerjee. His eldest son was also a barrister. But his youngest son—on account of bad association, he became an ekala wala. In India there is a carriage drawn by one horse. So he liked to be an ekala wala. That means he fell in love with a low-class woman, and by her association, he became an ekala. There are many instances. Take Ajamila. He was a brahmana, but then he fell down very low. So this freedom to misuse our independence is always there.
Disciple: Srila Prabhupada, here in this material world, in our materially contaminated state, when we behave foolishly or madly, we know that tamas, the mode of ignorance, is acting upon us. But in the spiritual sky—when the living entity is in his pure state of consciousness—what acts upon him? Does something act upon him to make him illusioned at that point, also?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Take, for instance, the gatekeepers Jaya and Vijaya. They committed an offense. They did not allow the four Kumaras to enter the spiritual world. That was their fault. And the Kumaras became very sorry. Then they cursed Jaya and Vijaya: "You are not fit to remain in this place."
So we sometimes commit a mistake. That is also misuse of our independence. In general, we are prone to fall down, because we are small. Just like a small fragment of fire—although it is fire, it is prone to be extinguished. The big fire does not become extinguished. So Krsna is the big fire, and we are part and parcel of the big fire—sparks, very small. So within the fire there are sparks—fft, fft—there are so many. But if the sparks fall down, then they are extinguished.
Coming to this material world is like that. Fall-down means coming to this material world. There are three different grades: tamo-guna, or the mode of darkness; rajo-guna, or the mode of passion; and sattva-guna, or the mode of goodness.
For instance, when a spark falls down, if it falls upon dry grass the grass becomes ablaze—so the fiery quality is still maintained, even though the spark has fallen down. On account of the atmosphere of the dry grass, the spark makes another fire, and its fiery quality maintains. That is sattva-guna. And if the spark falls down on green grass, then it is extinguished—yet when the green grass becomes dry, there is a chance that the spark will again come to the stage of blazing. But if the spark falls onto water, then it is very difficult.
Similarly, when the soul comes into the material world, there are three gunas, or modes. So if he comes into contact with tamo-guna—with darkness, laziness, and delusion—then he is in the most abominable condition. If he falls down and associates with rajo-guna, the mode of passion, then there is a little activity; for instance, most people are working. And if he falls down into the sattva-guna, then he at least keeps himself in the knowledge that "I am fire—I do not belong to this dull matter."
So we have to bring the soul again to the sattva-guna, the mode of goodness—brahminical qualification—so that he can understand, aham brahmasmi: "I am spirit soul. I am not this matter." Then his spiritual activity begins. Coming to the platform of sattva-guna means giving up the business of rajo-guna and tamo-guna—no meat-eating, no illicit sex, no intoxication, no gambling, so many nos—to protect the soul from the influence of material qualities. Then, once he is situated in the sattva-guna and remains on this platform of goodness, the base qualities of passion and ignorance cannot disturb him. So tada rajas-tamo-bhavah kama-lobhadayas ca ye: we want to see that one is free from at least these base qualities, namely kama, or lusty desires, and greediness.
In the material world, generally, people are under these base qualities, meaning they are always filled up with lusty desires and are not satisfied—greedy. So when we conquer over these base qualities, then we become happy. Tada rajas-tamo-bhavah kama-lobhadayas ca ye, ceta etair anaviddham. When one's consciousness is not influenced by these base qualities and when—sthitam sattve prasidati—he is situated on the platform of sattva-guna, then he feels happy.
That is the beginning of spiritual life. So long as the mind is disturbed by lusty desires and greediness, there is no question of spiritual life. Therefore, the first business is how to control the mind, so that it may not be influenced by the base qualities, lusty desires and greediness. We have seen in Paris that even an old man, seventy-five years old—he is going to a night club. Why? Because lusty desires are there. He pays fifty dollars for entering the club, and then he pays further for other things. So even though he is seventy-five years old, lusty desires are there.
Professor Mize: Did all the souls that were in the spiritual sky fall out of the spiritual sky at once or at different times? Or are there any souls that are always good? They're not foolish—they don't fall down?
Srila Prabhupada: No, not all the souls have fallen out of the spiritual sky. The majority—in fact, ninety percent—are always good. They never fall down.
Professor Mize: So we're among the ten percent.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Or less than that. In the whole material world, all the living entities are as if in a prison house. In a prison house there are some people, but they are not the majority. The majority of the population—they are outside the prison house. Similarly, the majority of living entities—being part and parcel of God, they are in the spiritual world. Only a few fall down.
Professor Mize: Does Krsna know ahead of time that a soul is going to be foolish and fall?
Srila Prabhupada: Krsna? Yes, Krsna may know, because He is omniscient.
Professor Mize: Are more souls falling all the time?
Srila Prabhupada: Not all the time. But there is the tendency of fall-down. Not that all fall down, but there is independence. Of course, not everyone likes to misuse his independence. The same example: a government constructing a city also constructs a prison house—because the government knows that some persons will be criminals, so their shelter must also be constructed. It is very easy to understand. Not that cent percent of the population will be criminals, but the government knows that some of them will be. Otherwise, why do they construct the prison house? One may say, "You are constructing a prison house, but where are the criminals?" The government knows—there will be criminals. So if the ordinary government can know, why can't God know? Because there is the tendency.
Professor Mize: What is the origin of that tendency? From where does that tendency come?
Srila Prabhupada: "Tendency" means independence. Everyone can know that independence means one can use it properly or one can misuse it. That is independence. If you make it one way only—that you cannot become fallen down—that is not independence. That is force. Therefore, Krsna says, yathecchasi tatha kuru: "Now you do whatever you like."
Srila Prabhupada's Gifts to Malaysia
People in Malaysia today are reaping the benefits of Srila Prabhupada's presence there thirty years ago.
By Adi Purusa Dasa (Dr. Ananda Krishnan)
YEARNING TO spread Krsna consciousness throughout the world, Srila Prabhupada circled the globe fourteen times. His travels took him to parts of Southeast Asia, including Brunei, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Some countries welcomed him with open arms and accorded him full honors. In Malaysia, for example, the sole Indian minister in the cabinet, Tun V. T. Sambanthan, took a personal interest in Srila Prabhupada's travel schedule and offered to help in many ways.
Malaysia has a migrant population from South India of more than two million. The British brought Hindus to Malaysia during the colonial era to build roads and railways and work on plantations owned by private entrepreneurs. Remnants of Vedic traditions are still seen in many of their customs, such as marriages, the consecration of temples, house-warming ceremonies, and the offering of oblations to departed forefathers.
Srila Prabhupada visited Malaysia from May 5 to May 9, 1971. Before his arrival, Vaisnavism was not well known here. Soon after Srila Prabhupada's visit, a group of brahmacaris (celibate students), including a young Singaporean Chinese man who was later initiated by Srila Prabhupada, spent at least six months touring the country and teaching Krsna consciousness. The local people received them well, and their programs attracted capacity crowds. But the fruits of their untiring efforts were not to be realized until a decade later.
The early disciples set about explaining Lord Krsna's actual position according to the scriptures and painstakingly helped clear up many misconceptions about Him. While many people turned away from Krsna consciousness because of its strict principles, some were attracted for the same reason. Those who took it up began teaching friends, relatives, and family members, and to this day it is common to see families and their friends becoming adherents to Krsna consciousness together.
Srila Prabhupada's books transformed lives in Malaysia, just as they have all over the world. The Malaysian branch of the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust has published some of Prabhupada books and helped translate some of them into the South Indian language Tamil. During the various local Hindu festivals, there is always a great demand for Srila Prabhupada's books.
Chanting, Prasadam, And Festivals
The chanting of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, another gift of Srila Prabhupada's, has greatly benefited the people of Malaysia. After taking up the chanting, many Malaysians have become vegetarians and given up bad habits.
Srila Prabhupada instructed his disciples to accept only Krsna-prasadam, food prepared for and offered to Krsna. This has become a standard practice all over the world. Likewise in Malaysia: One can walk into any ISKCON temple and expect to be served sumptuous Krsna-prasadam. Outside the temple, prasadam distribution goes on through the ISKCON Food for Life program. Whenever there is a need for mass distribution of food—be it a festival or a disaster—Food for Life is ever ready to serve out piping hot meals. Devotees also regularly deliver prasadam to schools, orphanages, and retirement homes. Many benevolent and well-to-do members of the public contribute generously to this program. At markets, Chinese vendors of fresh vegetables readily agree to donate large amounts of their stock for this cause.
Yet another gift that has transformed people's lives in Malaysia is Hare Krsna festivals. As a child in Calcutta, Srila Prabhupada celebrated Rathayatra, "The Chariot Festival." And as the spiritual master of the Hare Krsna movement, he bade his disciples to rejoice in this festival in as many cities as possible. In Malaysia fifteen Rathayatras are held annually, probably the highest in the world. Many people, including non-Indians, are now familiar with the bright canopy of mixed hues hovering over the tropical sky. As the gaily decorated chariot winds its way through the streets, carrying the beaming deities of Lord Jagannatha, Lord Baladeva, and Subhadra Devi, the instant response from the spectators is "Hare Krsna!" Thus Srila Prabhupada showed how to give the Lord's mercy to thousands of people even without their asking.
Festivals such Krsna Janmastami and Rama Navami were already being celebrated in the Hindu community on a small scale, but with the advent of Srila Prabhupada these festivals were solemnized with greater pomp and splendor. For instance, at the annual Krsna Janmastami celebration in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, at least five thousand people line up to see the worship.
The Vedic philosophy advocates a life of simplicity and tells us how to solve modern economic ills by protecting the cows and depending on Moth-er Earth's natural fertility. To demonstrate the practical values of "simple living and high thinking," Srila Prabhupada started farms all over the world. Malaysia has a large farm outside Kuala Lumpur. Devotees dismayed with life in the cities, which are becoming increasingly hellish, opt to go there for a homespun life. While some have dedicated their lives to this cause, others take a break from the rat-race and spend a few days at the farm enjoying the wonders of nature.
With the burgeoning of centers all over the country and the rapid increase of congregation members, a new phenomenon has developed in ISKCON Malaysia: the annual National Convention. It offers an opportunity for devotees from all over the country to take part in dramas, dances, bhajanas, seminars, and spiritual discourses. A recent convention, held at the seaside resort of Port Dickson, drew devotees from as far as China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. The number of participants—835—made it one of the largest festivals after ISKCON's international Gaura Purnima Festival in Mayapur.
Because Srila Prabhupada's teachings are universal, transcending manmade boundaries like race, religion, and language, they attract people all over the world. Malaysia is no exception to this transcendental exercise. Apart from the Indians, members of the Chinese community are also coming forward to join the movement.
As a tribute to the success of Srila Prabhupada and his movement, a temple stands in the capital city of Kuala Lumpur, and nearly all other major towns have either temples or organized congregations where weekly classes on the Bhagavad-gita are held. The temples offer a program by which aspirants can enroll and seek spiritual progress at different levels. The congregational groups—of which there are more than a hundred around the country—help guide genuine seekers. Congregation members take part in a host of activities, such as festivals, house programs, book distribution, and Food for Life. Senior congregation members interact with newcomers in a loving and caring spirit and offer supervision when needed.
The Malaysian government has officially recognized the need to help young Indian residents who are increasingly taking to a life of crime and gangsterism. ISKCON is now working closely with Malaysian Hindu Sangam, the official body authorized to discuss with the government all matters concerning Hinduism. Thanks to this alliance, ISKCON devotees counsel convicts in prisons and drug addicts at rehabilitation centers.
When Krsna consciousness first arrived in Malaysia, many considered it a queer religion and the behavior of its followers strange. But over the years that opinion has reversed. People of different occupations and walks of life—students, teachers, doctors, lawyers—are becoming active members of the movement. Srila Prabhupada's disciples and grand-disciples are carrying on his work. In Malaysia, Hare Krsna is here to stay.
Adi Purusa Krsna Dasa and his wife, Lokanandini Devi Dasi (Dr. Latha Anand), are medical doctors and disciples of His Holiness Jayapataka Swami. They have been serving ISKCON in Malaysia for twenty years. Adi Purusa Krsna was a leader in the campaign to open the temple of Sri Sri Doyal Nitai-Gaurahari in Teluk Intan last year. He now serves as an advisor to the temple committee.
Teachings 4&5, Resolute In Purpose
Lord Caitanya says that to attain the goal of pure love of God, we need fixed determination.
By Satyaraja Dasa
This is the fourth installment 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.
na dhanam na janam na sundarim
ALMIGHTY LORD, I have no desire to accumulate wealth, nor do I desire beautiful women, nor do I want any number of followers. I only want Your causeless devotional service, birth after birth."
This verse establishes the exclusivity of purpose necessary for proper chanting of the holy name. Single-minded determination. The Gita also says that one must be vyavasaya-atmika, or "resolute on the path of God consciousness."
"In the minds of those who are too attached to sense enjoyment and material opulence, and who are bewildered by such things, the resolute determination for devotional service to the Supreme Lord Godhead does not take place." (Bhagavad-gita 2.44)
This is like a sister verse to Caitanya Mahaprabhu's fourth verse—it contains all of the same elements. Caitanya Mahaprabhu says that He doesn't want money, He doesn't want followers, He doesn't want beautiful women. No. He doesn't want any material enjoyment at all. Why? Because if He did want such enjoyment, then the resolute determination for practicing devotional service would not take place. And He only wants pure devotional service. He is showing the resolute determination required. If we are divided, if we have some separate interest, we are finished. We will not get the desired goal. We want prema-bhakti, love of God. We want ahaituki-bhakti, totally unmotivated and uninterrupted devotional service.
In His conversations with Ramananda Raya, Caitanya Mahaprabhu rejects svadharma-acarana, or external religious observances; He rejects krsna-karmarpana, or offering the results of our fruitive activities to Krsna; He rejects karma-misra-bhakti, or devotion mixed with fruitive intentions; He even rejects jnana-misra-bhakti, or devotion polluted by a preponderance of knowledge. These things are laudable, no doubt, but Lord Caitanya was only able to endorse pure, unmotivated spiritual love, completely unalloyed—not polluted by even the most subtle tinge of needless knowledge.
That's what He is endorsing in this verse. Mama janmani jamanisvare: "Birth after birth, let me just serve Your lotus feet." In what way? How would I like to serve You? Bhavatad bhaktir ahaituki tvayi: "Let me serve You without any ulterior motive. Let me serve You in a completely pure way."
Question: But it can't be artificial. What if I want to pursue spiritual life but I'm not ready to be totally devoted? What if I do have separate interests but I nonetheless want to try the chanting process?
Satyaraja Dasa: There's no harm. Caitanya Mahaprabhu has already said that there are no hard and fast rules. In fact, unless one begins—and in the beginning it's likely one will chant offensively—how can one possibly graduate to higher levels of spiritual attainment?
So we must begin. Whatever level we're on, that's all right. But Caitanya Mahaprabhu is showing us a higher level. And, in fact, if we are maturing properly, we will see that we are gradually losing our taste for sense enjoyment and developing a taste for spiri-tual pleasure, a taste for the divine name, for sacred vegetarian food, for spiritual painting, for Deity worship, for kirtana, divinely inspired song and dance.
That's what Caitanya Mahaprabhu is showing in this verse: If you are actually developing a taste for the holy name, you will naturally develop a distaste for material enjoyment. Your material fever goes down. In this way you can ascertain your progress. Just like when you're sick—if your fever goes down, you know you're getting well. Krsna says:
"Although an embodied soul may restrict himself from sense enjoyment, the taste for it remains. He can genuinely give up the lower taste only when he has experienced the higher taste." (Bhagavad-gita 2.59)
So, this is the point. When one understands the need for spiritual life and the need to curtail material excesses, one begins to practice certain penance and austerity. People may become vegetarian. Or they may fast on certain days. They may chant a prescribed number of holy names on the rosary—whatever. But they are doing it by using their higher intelligence, not because it necessarily "feels good." It is a calculated austerity. One foregoes some short-range pleasure in favor of a considerably more promising and substantial long-range pleasure. That's the beginning of spiritual life.
But then something interesting happens. Param drstva nivartate: One experiences a higher taste. Then, as Caitanya Mahaprabhu says in this verse, one doesn't care for money, fame, recognition, or the opposite sex. No. Enjoying these things is like chewing the chewed. They have lost their flavor. Rather, one's senses are now alive to spiritual life. They perceive new dimensions. They can now embrace reality in a more substantial way. You're finally awake! Alive! Vibrant! The entire spiritual world opens up, and now, possibly for the first time, you can see the material world in perspective. So this is Krsna consciousness. This is the initial effect of the holy name.
Question: What is the ultimate effect of the holy name?
Satyaraja Dasa: To develop pure love of God.
Hope For The Fallen
Now we'll go on to the fifth verse:
ayi nanda-tanuja kinkaram
"O Son of Maharaja Nanda [Krsna], I am Your eternal servitor, yet somehow or other I have fallen into the ocean of birth and death. Please pick me up from this ocean of death and place me as one of the atoms of Your lotus feet."
I would like to begin with a word of caution: Caitanya Mahaprabhu is Krsna Himself—God—but to teach the highest path of spiritual mysticism, devotional service, He comes in the form of His own devotee. Therefore, in this verse, especially, He speaks as if He were an ordinary, conditioned soul. This is His special mercy. He is commiserating, showing us that He understands and that we can still attain the supreme destination, even in our very fallen condition.
You see, Krsna came at the end of Dvapara-yuga, about five thousand years ago, and He spoke Bhagavad-gita for the enlightenment of all living beings. Many people misunderstood His teachings, however, and so He came again, in Kali-yuga, about five hundred years ago, just to show us by His own example how one can live according to the principles of the Gita. Caitanya Mahaprabhu showed the practical application of His own teachings.
But make no mistake: If the teacher shows the student how to practice writing the alphabet by his own example, we should not think he is doing it to learn himself. Although Caitanya Mahaprabhu, in this verse, posed as a devotee bewildered about his place in this world—He says He is bhava-ambudhah, or "in the ocean of nescience"—we should know that He is just showing us how to admit our own fallen condition. He is teaching by His own example. That's quite clear, for the scriptures themselves and advanced spiritual masters throughout history vouch for Caitanya Mahaprabhu's total divinity. So we shouldn't be bewildered by His apparent splashing in "the ocean of nescience."
It's highly significant that this verse begins ayi nanda-tanuja, for the Lord always likes to be remembered in relation to His devotees, and so Caitanya Mahaprabhu is showing how to do this. He's calling Krsna the son of Maharaja Nanda. When Sri Krsna descended to earth five thousand years ago, He came, as always, with His associates and paraphernalia and abode. So the devotee Nanda always plays the role of Krsna's father. In this way, Krsna relishes a relationship with this particular devotee. In the ultimate analysis, of course, Krsna is eternal, and so the terms "father" and "mother" lose all meaning, at least as we relate to such concepts here in this realm.
But such relationships exist here because they have their original counterpart in that realm, in the spiritual realm. This is called rasa theology, and it is very developed in our Caitanya Vaisnavism. Briefly stated, in one's original, or constitutional, spiritual position, one may interact with God in one of five primary relationships. For example, one can relate as a neutral party, in a relationship called santa-rasa; as a servant in dasya-rasa; as a friend in sakhya-rasa; as a parent in vatsalya-rasa; or as a transcendental lover in madhurya-rasa. Rasa theology is a very important tenet of Caitanya Mahaprabhu's teachings, and it is dealt with at length in the writings of the Gosvamis.
In this, the fifth verse of Siksastaka, Caitanya Mahaprabhu is addressing Krsna in relationship to His great devotee Nanda Maharaja, who is in vatsalya-rasa, parenthood, and this form of address brings great pleasure to the Lord. But what does Caitanya Mahaprabhu tell Krsna, the divine son of Nanda Maharaja? He says, "I am Your fallen servant, eternally."
Yes. We are eternally Krsna's servants. We are part of God. And Cai-tanya Mahaprabhu is bringing out a logical conclusion: "Since I am originally Sri Krsna's servant, I should return to His service. That's my natural, constitutional position."
And I should return to that service in a humble way. Caitanya Mahaprabhu says krpaya tava pada-pankaja-sthita-dhuli-sadrsam vicintaya: "Please be merciful unto me and allow me to be a particle of dust at Your lotus feet." This is the mood. We should not think, "All right. I'll be Your servant. But only if I can make an important place for myself among Your devotees, only if I can take a prominent role." No. Caitanya Mahaprabhu has taught the proper mood: gopi-bhartuh pada-kamalayor dasa-dasanudasah. We aspire to be servants of the servants of the servants of Krsna, the maintainer of the gopis, the revered cowherd maidens. We are removed, indirect servants. The more removed, the better. It is a humble position. "Oh, the servants of Krsna are so great. I'm not worthy of their shoes, not even the dust from their feet." Caitanya Mahaprabhu teaches us to approach God with this humility—dhuli-sadrsam, like a particle of dust.
Many exalted devotees in the annals of Vaisnava history have prayed in this way. For example, Lord Brahma, the first created being and the founder of Caitanya Mahaprabhu's lineage, prayed to take birth as anything—a rock, a leaf—in the forest of Vrndavana. Why? So the great devotees of Krsna who always reside in Vrndavana might perchance step on him and he could get the dust of their feet. Brahma's prayer is recorded in the Tenth Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam.
Uddhava, too, wanted such a benediction. He was the greatest of the Yadavas, Krsna's relatives, but still he knew that the love of the gopis was superior to his. For this reason he wanted to take the dust from their feet on his head. But he was too humble to ask them. So he also prayed to be born as a creeper in the land of Vrndavana. He thought that the gopis would perhaps dance on his head and he would receive the mercy of Krsna.
It should be understood that whether one is an atom of dust at Sri Krsna's feet, as Caitanya Mahaprabhu prays to become, or an atom of dust at the feet of Krsna's pure devotee, there is no difference. It is this mood of humility that is sought by the devotees, and by attaining this level of humility, they can attain the mercy of Sri Krsna.
Brahma received the benediction of being born as Haridasa Thakura, one of Caitanya Mahaprabhu's most intimate followers and the great teacher of the holy name. And Uddhava was born as Paramananda Puri, one of the peers of Caitanya Mahaprabhu's spiritual master. So they received the topmost benediction: They gained entrance into the pastimes of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
Satyaraja Dasa is a disciple of Srila Prabhupada and a regular contributor to Back to Godhead. He has written several books on Krsna consciousness, the latest of which is The Four Principles of Freedom. He and his wife live near New York City.
Questioning the dubious link between religion and violence.
By Caitanya Carana Dasa
Many People Feel that the world would be better off without religion. We can understand their sentiments when we consider that modern times have seen large-scale violence in the name of religion. But is religion the only cause of violence? If it were, then parts of the world dominated by atheistic views should have been absolutely peaceful. But history shows that violence has touched all parts of the world more or less equally, independent of the theological beliefs of the people. In fact, most of the wars throughout history, including World Wars I and II, were fought for purely secular political, economic, or ideological reasons; religion was not an issue at all.
Whenever wars were fought in the name of religion, the real issue was the same: the increase of wealth and power. Religion was just a convenient scapegoat for the powers that be to mask their grossly materialistic mo-tives. And even such "religious" violence has been only a tiny fraction of the secular violence witnessed by the world in recent times.
Is Religion Dispensable?
The protest that religion leads to violence implies that religion is bad and should be rejected. But can the human being do without religion? The universally accepted goal of life is the quest for happiness. When man neglects or rejects religion, consciously or unconsciously his conception of his own self becomes "a lump of chemicals that has by chance come alive." The quest for happiness then degenerates into a savage struggle for carnal enjoyment. Wealth, wine, and women become the only goals of life. Such a conception of life is individually frustrating and globally disastrous.
The fundamental need of the individual is love; everyone wants to love and be loved. But in the material conception of life there can be no such thing as real love. People put up a fasade of love for another person as long as they get sensual pleasure in return. When that stops, they dispose of their object of "love" just as fast as they would dump a broken TV.
In their heart of hearts, people know that no one loves them, no one cares for them. Naturally they feel lonely, rejected, insecure, and frustrated. These feelings are the root of stress, depression, addictions, delinquency, hypertension, criminality, and even suicide. Studies in psychology have confirmed that there is no better insurance against self-destructive behavior (including drinking, substance abuse, and suicide) than strong religious faith.
At a global level the rejection of religion leads to a setting wherein love, ethics, morality, and selflessness become meaningless. Although the anti-religionist may feebly urge the masses to "be good," such an appeal has no substance. "If the goal of life is to enjoy and I'm here for who knows how long and there is no life after death, then why wait? I should just enjoy. Beg, borrow, steal, or even kill, but enjoy." By making religion dispensable, we court global disaster.
The Vedic Definition Of Religion
What is this mysterious phenomenon known as religion—a phenomenon that causes millions of people to congregate annually at Jagannatha Puri, Tirupati, Badrinath, Mecca, and the Vatican, braving the weather, the crowds, and all the other troubles of a pilgrimage?
The Vedic texts of ancient India give an understanding of religion quite different from the common understanding. (To avoid the negative connota-tions the word religion inevitably brings, I'll use the word spirituality to designate the Vedic understanding of what is commonly called religion. I'll discuss the difference between the two terms later.)
According to the Vedic texts, spirituality imparts the vision to see the cosmos in the proper perspective and to live in harmony with it. The basic teaching of the Vedic texts is that the cosmos is not just matter; it has a spiritual dimension. The Bhagavad-gita (13.27) states, "Know that whatever you see in existence, both the moving and the nonmoving, is only a combination of the field of activities [matter] and the knower of the field [spirit]." Modern scientific research in fields such as past-life memories, near-death experiences (NDEs), and consciousness studies also strongly suggests a spiritual part of our being that continues to exist even after bodily death.
The Vedic texts explain that our real self is not material; a spiritual particle called the atma, the soul, animates our material body. The supreme spiritual being who animates the entire cosmos is called the Paramatma, or the Supersoul. And the relationship between the two—the soul and the Supersoul—is loving service, like the relationship between a parent and a child. This loving relationship exists eternally in the highest realm, called the spiritual world. The soul's refusal to harmonize with the will of the Supreme temporarily obscures the relationship. The soul is then placed in the realm of matter, where we all now reside.
The Vedic texts further explain that genuine spirituality is meant to awaken us to our original spiritual identity through a harmony of philosophy and religion, the two rails on which spirituality runs. The philosophical aspect of spirituality involves the study and understanding of matter, spirit, and the controller of both—the Supreme Lord. And the religious aspect involves following rules and regulations that bring about realization and experience of the spiritual realm.
We can note the striking similarity between this definition of spirituality and the approach of modern science. Science involves the formulation of hypotheses to explain the observable phenomena within the universe (similar to the philosophical aspect of spirituality). It also involves following rules that regulate the laboratory environment to verify the validity of the hypotheses (similar to the religious aspect of spirituality). Spirituality thus constitutes a higher-dimensional science; it deals with realms of reality higher than the mundane.
The spiritual scientist, by dint of systematic practice of both philosophy and religion, understands the nature of the cosmos and learns to live in harmony with it. Having realized his own identity as an eternal spiritual being and his loving relationship with the Supreme Being, a mature spiritual scientist sees all living beings as his brothers. His vision of universal brotherhood leads him to spontaneous, selfless, and holistic service to all living beings.
About such a spiritual welfare activist, the Sri Isopanisad (Mantra 2) states, "One may aspire to live for hundreds of years if he continuously goes on working in that way, for that sort of work will not bind him to the law of karma. There is no alternative to this way for man." Thus genuine spirituality, far from being the cause of violence, is the source of harmony—within and without. A true spiritualist is self-satisfied and helps others become self-satisfied. There is no question of violence in a society of self-satisfied persons.
What then, from the Vedic perspective, is the cause of violence?
Imbalance occurs in the cosmic order when humankind lives in disharmony with either of the energies of the cosmos. When the material concept of life prevails over the spiritual, dharmasya glanih, the decline of spirituality, results. Spirituality may decline when one neglects its religious aspect, its philosophical aspect, or both. Srila Prabhupada remarks, "Religion without philosophy is sentiment, or sometimes fanaticism, while philosophy without religion is mental speculation." And the absence of both religion and philosophy marks the degeneration of the human species to the animal platform.
When humanity degenerates to the animal platform, the law of the jungle—survival of the fittest—prevails. And just as peace is impossible in a jungle, peace remains a utopian dream in the concrete jungles of today, despite all sorts of "landmark summit meetings."
Therefore violence is caused not by spirituality but by the perversion of spirituality, which has divested the human being of his humanity. So the way to restore peace is not by rejecting spirituality but by reforming it. This will pave the way for humanity to once again develop human qualities such as love, contentment, continence, selflessness, and humility, which alone can engender lasting peace.
We can compare the defects that have crept into spirituality to a cataract in the eye. To cure the eye, we must remove the cataract, not pluck out the eye. Similarly, we have to arrest the decline in spirituality, not reject spirituality itself. Just as plucking out the eye causes blindness, rejecting spirituality will rob humanity of the precious eyes of divine wisdom, resulting in disharmony and disaster. The spiraling rates of crime and violence all over the globe give us a glimpse of the anarchy in store if humanity continues to neglect spirituality.
When cosmic disorder occurs, the Supreme Being descends to the material realm to reestablish spirituality, by which humankind can once again learn to live in harmony with the cosmos.
In the present age, dharmasya glanih prevails, since all the aspirations and achievements of most of humankind are within the realm of matter. Most people have no interest in philosophy. And those with some interest pursue it mainly as a means to an academic career or for intellectual growth and not as a zealous search for the Truth. Unable to understand the truths of the cosmos, they mislead others.
Similarly, most people are not religiously inclined. The somewhat religious are mostly ritualistic and mech-anical in their religious practices; they have little scientific understanding of what they are doing or why. People often claim to be fighting to protect their religion, but if questioned they don't even know its fundamental tenets. And even if they know them, they're not interested in following them. Such pseudo religionists are interested only in their own profit and use religion as a tool to promote it. Thus the present age of iron is characterized by an almost total decline in spirituality or a perversion of it.
To correct the enormous disorder prevalent in the modern times, the Supreme Being descends in a form that transcends all restrictions of time and space. He descends in His holy names, which always stay with us, irrespective of time, place, and circumstance. That is why we see that the major religions of the world enjoin their followers to chant the holy names of God. Chanting is the universal religion for the current age. And among the innumerable names of God, the Vedic scriptures assert that the most potent is the maha-mantra, "the great chant for deliver-ance": Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
The Supreme Being has also given a concise yet complete manual for the present age in the form of Bhagavad-gita, the essence of Vedic wisdom. It is the ideal textbook for the aspiring spiritual scientist. About Bhagavad-gita, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, "I owed a magnificent day to the Bhagavad-gita. It was the first of books; it was as if an empire spoke 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 which exercise us."
A Call To My Fellow Youth Of India
Eminent thinkers throughout the world, including leading scientists such as Nobel Laureate Richard R. Ernst, peace workers such as Nobel Laureates Oscar Arias Sanchez and Betty Williams, and spiritualists such as Nobel Laureate the Dalai Lama, firmly believe that only a synthesis of science and spirituality can lead the world out of the present troubled times.
As a person who grew up in India, I'd like to appeal especially to the youth of India, who have a unique position in the world. By virtue of birth in the holy land of India, they inherit the priceless wealth of spiritual knowledge expounded in the Vedic texts. And by virtue of their education and training, they have developed the scientific spirit of rational inquiry. Thus they are best suited to bring about the much-needed synthesis of science and spirituality that thinkers all over the world are searching for.
The late Professor Arthur Ellison, a mechanical and electrical engineer, stated, "Surely the great and unique contribution that India has made and must continue to make to the world's progress is in the field of religion—of truth and reality. India can most certainly help the West to find the spiritual way back towards reality, which is essential for all real progress."
Unfortunately, most young Indians today are enamored by the razzle-dazzle of Western culture—blue jeans, supermarkets, Big Macs, Disney "fun," rock music, Hollywood movies, and the like. But before embracing Western culture, wouldn't it be worthwhile to study the condition of those who are growing up in it? According to the 1999 edition of Vital Statistics of the United States, one young person, on average, commits suicide every two hours in the U.S.A. For every completed youth suicide, there are an estimated 100-200 attempts. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students and the third-leading cause of death among youth overall.
Yet for most Indians, America is the land of their dreams. Srila Prabhupada would lament that modern Indians are sitting on jewels and begging for broken glass.
Let the intelligent youth of India become selfless spiritual scientists dedicated to saving the world from its suicidal course. Let them, in the true spirit of science, study the theory of spirituality with all seriousness and at the same time perform the experiment of mantra meditation. Those who take up this challenge will become living spiritual scientists and will help usher in an era of peace, harmony, and understanding.
Caitanya Carana Dasa, 25, is a disciple of His Holiness Radhanatha Swami. He holds a degree in electronics & telecommunications engineering and joined ISKCON Pune full-time in 1999. He runs a free cyber magazine, The Spiritual Scientist, which gives a scientific presentation of Krsna conscious philosophy. He also assists in publishing, communications, and youth programs.
Hearts brighten when devotees deliver nourishing spiritual food and the Lord's holy names to villages of South Africa's largest tribe.
By Indradyumna Swami
SINCE MY ARRIVAL IN South Africa [January 19, 2002], my Indian disciple Laksminatha Dasa has been inviting me to take part in one of his daily Food for Life programs. For more than five years he has practically single-handedly cooked and distributed over fifty thousand plates of prasadam each week in the rural areas north of Durban. Known as KwaZulu-Natal, the region is inhabited by Zulus, the largest tribe in South Africa. Many Zulus live in utter poverty. Knowing that crime is rampant in the area, and that the presence of white people in the South African townships is not appreciated by those who suffered under apartheid, I hesitated to go.
Last month, Laksminatha's Food for Life van was hijacked at gunpoint in broad daylight. He had stopped to give some prasadam to a few young children on the side of the road when three men pulled up in a car, jumped out, and aimed an AK-47 at him while demanding the keys to his van. Laksminatha got out of the van slowly and stepped to the side. The men jumped in the van and sped off—with a quarter ton of prasadam inside. When the police found the van five hours later in a nearby township, it had been stripped of everything—the engine, doors, windows, tires, and even the prasadam.
Since then another group of men tried to hijack his new van. He was driving through a township when a gang blocked the road. Several men came forward and again demanded the keys to the van. Not seeing any weapons this time, Laksminatha refused.
"I'm feeding your people. Why do you want to stop me?"
One of the men replied, "Where do you get the money to feed us?"
"From God," Laksminatha answered.
"Why doesn't God take care of me?" the man shot back.
Laksminatha screamed at him, "If you call out to Him, maybe He will. Why don't you chant Hare Krsna!"
Startled, the man stepped back and said to his friends, "Let him go."
Laksminatha drove off, but he stopped a few hundred meters away.
Taking the big pots from the back of the van, he yelled, "Hare Krsna! Come and get prasadam!"
Soon several hundred people gathered with bowls in their hands to receive the Lord's mercy.
His boldness and determination have made Hare Krsna a household word among the Zulus. Wherever you drive in the greater Durban area, little Zulu children are often seen begging at stop lights. Whenever a devotee drives up, they start jumping up and down excitedly, calling out, "Hare Krsna! Hare Krsna!" But instead of asking for money, they ask for prasadam. Their enthusiasm alone is evidence of Laksminatha's service.
Once Srila Prabhupada was walking on the beach in Mumbai with some of his disciples. At one point, a little girl walked by and with folded hands said to Srila Prabhupada, "Hare Krsna!"
Srila Prabhupada smiled, turned to his disciples, and said, "You see how successful our movement is?"
Confused, one devotee asked, "Successful?"
"Yes," Srila Prabhupada replied, "if you take just one drop of the ocean and taste it, you can understand what the whole ocean tastes like. Similarly, by this one girl greeting us with Hare Krsna, we can appreciate how far the chanting of the Lord's name has spread."
Safe With Sergeant Singh
A few days ago, wanting to reciprocate with Laksminatha's service, I agreed to accompany him into a Zulu township. The next morning, I was napping after the temple program when I heard a knock on my door.
Half asleep, I called out, "Who's there?"
"Sergeant Singh. Durban Police," came the official reply.
Still a little jittery about the idea of going into a Zulu township, I jumped up and answered the door.
"Oh, Sergeant Singh, thank you for coming. Would you like to come in for a moment?"
"No, Swami," he replied. "Laksminatha and the boys are waiting for us at the Food for Life kitchen. Let's go."
Grabbing my chanting beads, a shoulder bag, and my danda [renunciant's staff], I followed Sergeant Singh to his police car. He opened the trunk and put my bag inside. Before closing it, he pulled out his service belt, which held a Tanfoglio 9mm semiautomatic. Taking the gun out of the holster, he checked the chamber and clip to see if it was full of ammunition.
Looking at me he said, "It holds fifteen rounds. But don't worry, I probably won't have to use it. The Zulus in the townships love Laksminatha. He's got carte blanche to go into the African areas where no Indian or white man would dare go. But resentment against the former apartheid regime still runs deep in the townships, and we can't take any chances. Since he was hijacked a couple of weeks ago, we go with him anytime he calls us. You've always got the oddballs out there—and the desperate. They're mighty poor folk."
With the lights flashing on top of the police car, we pulled out of the temple complex with Laksminatha and a few other Indian boys in his Food for Life van behind us. Another car with four women devotees also followed.
Sergeant Singh smiled and said, "A police car with flashing lights gives an air of importance to the mission, don't you think?"
"Yes, officer," I replied. "You're welcome anytime."
We drove north out of Durban for an hour through sugarcane fields to Kwa Mashu, the native land of the Zulus. After another hour, we pulled up along a ridge overlooking a beautiful valley.
Sergeant Singh said, "A few hundred kilometers north of here the Boers defeated the Zulus in the Battle of Blood River in December of 1838. The river was previously called the Ncome River, but so many Zulu warriors were repulsed into the river and killed in that battle that the water turned red. This huge valley once provided the Zulus who lived here all they required for their livelihood. Now many of them have left to live in cities like Durban and Johannesburg. The land lies barren, and those who are left live in shacks."
As I surveyed the ridge sloping down into the valley, I saw small dwellings assembled from all sorts of material—planks of wood, and sheets of plastic, pieces of old corrugated metal—all bound together in various shapes and forms. I couldn't imagine life inside such shacks.
Sergeant Singh continued, "To many nineteenth-century Europeans, the Zulu epitomized the romantic notion of the 'noble savage.' While they may indeed have been noble, they were far from savages. Their warfare was characterized by iron-willed discipline, and their society by a sophisticated culture influenced by the environment in which they lived. Even though most Zulus have become Westernized, many of them adhere to their traditional customs, rituals, and ceremonies. Just look over there, coming up the path. That's an isangoma—a traditional healer."
I looked at the path coming up the valley and saw a stocky woman with a headdress of hundreds of colored beads.
"She's the village doctor," said Sergeant Singh. "Look closely and you'll see a dried goat bladder plaited into the beadwork of her headdress. She's also carrying the traditional wildebeest-tail fly whisk. They say isangomas can communicate with the village ancestors. They're masters of a form of natural medicine using a vast range of herbs, plants, and roots."
As she walked by our car I smiled at her, but she didn't seem to notice me.
"They're often in a kind of trance," said Sergeant Singh. "Unfortunately, the original Zulu culture still exists only here in the rural areas. In the cities, they are prone to drinking, fighting, and stealing. In Durban the crime rate among Zulus is escalating out of control, and over half of them have been found to be HIV positive."
"Good candidates for Lord Caitanya's mercy," I said.
Drawn By The Beat
Laksminatha's van, parked behind us, came alongside, and Laksminatha, a big smile of anticipation on his face, said, "Let's do harinama [chanting] from this spot down into the valley. I'll drive the van in front of the kirtana party, and Sergeant Singh can follow behind. We'll distribute prasadam at the bottom."
Picking up a mrdanga drum, I adjusted the strap and began warming up, playing a few beats on the heads.
"When we get there," I asked Lak sminatha, "how will the people know we're distributing prasadam?"
He replied, "This is not the first time we've been here. The sound of your drum will announce everything. Just look what a few beats have done!"
Turning my head, I was startled to see hundreds of Zulu children, most of them half naked, running toward us along the dirt road leading into the valley. They had all kinds of receptacles in their hands for getting prasadam—bowls, cups, pots, dishes, and even big garbage bins. They were running and calling out, "Hare Krsna! Hare Krsna! Hare Krsna!"
I kept playing the drum and began singing Hare Krsna. The three boys who had come in Laksminatha's van joined in playing karatalas [cymbals]. Within moments, all the children had surrounded us. Immediately swept up in the kirtana, they began dancing.
Sergeant Singh said, "They love the drum beats. It's in their blood. Wait till you hear them sing. Zulus have beautiful voices!"
Hearing that, I asked the kids, through a small sound system, to repeat the maha-mantra after me as I sang. As they all responded in unison, I was struck with wonder. They really did have beautiful voices. Harmonizing naturally, they sounded like an experienced choral group.
"This is a kirtana man's paradise!" I thought.
Following Laksminatha's lead, we all began to move down the road into the valley.
As he went to his car, Sergeant Singh whispered in my ear, "It's all very fun, but remember that you're an uninvited guest in a hostile environment. And you're white. Don't go off the beaten track, and always keep your eyes on me."
As we chanted, the Zulus in the shacks along the way started lining the road. Most smiled and waved, but I noticed some hard glares among the older youth. I kept looking back at Sergeant Singh, and as I did he would flash the blue lights of his police car.
I kept the kirtana going strong, playing the drum as hard as I could and chanting loudly. The sound reverberated off the nearby hills, announcing our descent into the valley. Although there may have been some risk going into that shanty town, I was in bliss. The kids were responding to the kirtana like nothing I'd ever seen. It may have been in their blood, as Sergeant Singh had said, but the fact was that for the time it took us to get to the bottom of the valley, they were in Lord Caitanya's sankirtana party, becoming purified, dancing and chanting Hare Krsna in delight.
As we went along, more children joined us, spontaneously coming out of the shacks with an ever-expanding assortment bowls and dishes. Some were so poor they had only cardboard boxes from which to eat. But every one of them was swept up in the nectar of sankirtana. The happy mood contrasted with the dirt and filth of the township. Garbage lay everywhere, and an open sewer often crossed the dirt path we were following.
It was also very hot and humid. As the sun beat down on us, I lamented that I hadn't brought a hat. After an hour I was exhausted, but tasting so much nectar with the huge crowd of children that I couldn't stop.
Finally, two hours later, we reached the bottom of the valley, where hundreds more people were waiting for prasadam. I kept the kirtana going, though, as the children couldn't seem to get enough. They kept dancing madly, and a few of them even rolled about on the ground.
Eventually I brought it to a close, and they all swarmed around me. They were speaking excitedly in Zulu, of which I couldn't understand a word.
Sergeant Singh smiled and said, "They say they want more kirtana."
Because I didn't continue, they spontaneously started chanting, "Zulu! Zulu! Zulu!"
I thought, "Oh, I'd better bring them back to the transcendental platform."
I told Laksminatha to open the van and start distributing prasadam.
Stampede For Prasadam
As he opened the doors, there was a stampede of children toward the van. Several of the Zulu men stepped forward and commanded the children to form lines and wait patiently. After a few tense moments things were under control, and I jumped inside the van to help distribute prasadam.
As I dished out the kicchari, rich with butter and various vegetables, the children kept asking for ever larger portions. After an hour, a big group of children motioned to me to come and sit with them on the grass. I got down from the van and went over with Sergeant Singh.
There were well over a hundred children sitting tightly in a circle, and as I sat down they all pressed forward to be near to me. When I noticed that most of them were suffering from one form of skin disease or another—ringworm, impetigo, scabies—I moved back a little.
All eyes were on me. At first they were silent, then one girl at the back said something, and the young boy closest to me reached out and ran his index finger down my arm. Holding up his finger, he shook his head and laughed. At that, all the children started laughing. Sergeant Singh was also laughing, and I asked him what was so funny.
"The little ones have never been this close to a white man before. They thought you painted yourself white," he said. "It's a custom among Zulus to sometimes cover themselves with a whitish cream. It's seen as a sign of beauty."
Then the boy proudly held up his black arm and, pointing to it, started chanting, "Zulu! Zulu! Zulu!" Suddenly all the kids started chanting the same thing.
I interrupted and asked the kids to be silent for a moment. With Sergeant Singh translating, I tolded them how actually we're not these bodies but our real identity is the soul inside, which is an eternal servant of God. They all stared back at me with blank faces, and I realized I wasn't going to get far trying to impress upon these young Zulu children even the ABCs of Bhagavad-gita. But by their enthusiasm for kirtana and prasadam, they had already proven themselves worthy of Lord Caintaya's mercy. So I picked up the drum, and even before I started playing it they were already moving their bodies to an expected beat. When several of them called out "Hare Krsna," the rest quickly followed.
Soon we were back in the spiritual world, chanting and dancing without cessation—hundreds of small black bodies jumping and twirling in bliss. Many of the children's parents were on the side, also moving to the sound of the mrdanga and chanting the holy names. I thought how Lord Caitanya's saõkirtana movement is indeed the perfect formula for developing love of God in any part of the world. Nearby, just over 150 years ago, fierce battles for land took place between Europeans and Zulus. Now, by the mercy of Lord Caitanya, white men and Zulus were happily dancing together, their combined voices echoing the holy names of God throughout the valley.
After a while, Sergeant Singh caught my eye and motioned that the sun was setting. As much fun as we were having, it was too dangerous to stay in the township after dark. I reluctantly finished the kirtana and got into the police car. A multitude of sad faces looked on as we ascended the hill.
"I can't remember the last time I enjoyed a kirtana so much," I said to Sergeant Singh. "I'll never forget these kids."
"They'll probably never forget you either," he said. "You'll always be welcome back, and you won't need me next time. There's plenty more work to be done here, Swami. There are ten million Zulus in KwaZulu-Natal, and they all have sweet voices!"
One who is untouched by any piety, who is completely absorbed in irreligion, or who has never received the merciful glance of the devotees or been to any holy place sanctified by them will still ecstatically dance, loudly sing, and even roll about on the ground when he becomes intoxicated by tasting the nectar of the transcendental mellows of pure love of God given by Lord Caitanya. Let me therefore glorify that Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
—Prabodhananda Sarasvati, Caitanya-candramrta 1.2
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 4. 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. Please see page 64.)
Devotees find the deepest pleasure in their anguished longings for the company of Lord Krsna.
By Kalakantha Dasa
WHEN THE NOTED scholar and political leader Ramananda Raya asked Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu to point out the most painful thing in the world, He replied that nothing in this world is unbearable except separation from the Vaisnava, the devotee of Lord Krsna.
Sri Caitanya's disciplic descendant Narottama Dasa expressed a sense of separation like this: "I will smash my head against rock and enter into fire. Where has that great dancer, Lord Gauranga [Caitanya], suddenly gone?"
Fellowship of Vaisnavas, devotees of Krsna, makes sense out of a senseless world. Vaisnavas bless our lives with Krsna consciousness. In their presence problems vanish and hurdles shrink. Having lived with such persons, how can one live without them?
Because pure devotees remind everyone about Krsna, separation from them and separation from Krsna Himself are equally distressing. Yet this distress produces ecstasy, for separation from Krsna immerses one in thoughts of Krsna—the highest pleasure of the soul. Spiritual separation, in that respect, is the polar opposite of material separation, which produces only grief. In separation from Krsna one can savor the finest moods of spiritual fulfillment.
Srimad-Bhagavatam tells of Krsna's life and of His departure from this world. The following verse rendition of Srimad-Bhagavatam's First Canto, Chapters 14 and 15, portrays devotees' intense separation from Krsna.
With Krsna's help, King Yudhisthira, the eldest Pandava brother, has won the throne of the earth. Now, his reign established and his grandson Pariksit in training to eventually inherit the throne, Yudhisthira dispatches his younger brother Arjuna to consult with Krsna at Dvaraka, the Lord's coastal kingdom.
Because the sage Narada had earlier hinted about Krsna's departure, Yudhisthira feels anxious. When Arjuna does not return on time, Yudhisthira's anxiety increases. He calls another brother, Bhima, for a discussion. Then Arjuna returns with the wrenching news of Lord Krsna's departure, confessing his own shocking weakness in Krsna's absence. How will Yudhisthira respond?
Arjuna traveled westward to that kingdom by the sea,
Just after Yudhisthira dispatched his trusted younger brother,
Beloved, trusted friends practiced deceit on one another,
As citizens degraded to unrighteous, troubled ways,
"Arjuna went for Krsna's counsel. Seven months have passed,
"The left side of my body, for the past eleven days,
"The jackal-bitch rebukes the moon while spewing acrid flame,
"Just see! The pigeon heralds news of detriment and doom,
"The earth and mountains throb beneath an evil, smoky sky,
"The sun recedes quite early, turning evening into night,
"The rivers, lakes, and reservoirs rise ominously higher,
"The cows no longer nurse their calves. They cry all day and night.
As Yudhisthira expressed his fears to Bhima in this way,
The King was shocked to see Arjuna sickly, weak, and pale.
"Welcome home, dear brother! Speak of Krsna. How is He
King Yudhisthira asked further of Lord Krsna's friends and wives.
"Did someone speak unkindly words or dare to threaten you?
Arjuna barely heard the King spell out his speculations
Arjuna smeared his hands across his reddened, teary eyes
"Lord Krsna has departed. We're alone now, Yudhisthira.
"O Yudhisthira, I see His face, His warm, enchanting smile!
"Lord Krsna dined, relaxed, and spoke with me, His friend, each day.
"I am 'the great Arjuna,' so-called hero of such fame!
"When I gave up my duty in the Kuruksetra war,
Recalling Krsna's sacred words with loving dedication,
Arjuna's pain appeared to be unbearably intense
To Yudhisthira, the shocking news was worse than he had feared,
The Kali-age set in the day that Krsna disappeared,
For Yudhisthira had tutored young Pariksit like a son
Relinquishing his splendid jewels, silk, and royal belt,
Then Yudhisthira concluded, as a soul he had acquired
He dressed in ragged garments and untied his splendid hair,
Observing what the king had done to greet the Kali age,
The saintly sons of Pandu had encountered many trials.
Thus purified, the sons of Pandu kept themselves absorbed
The pastime of the Pandavas departing from this world
EPILOGUE—In the renowned Bhagavad-gita, when Arjuna struggled on the battlefield Krsna urged him to do his duty, but with detachment. This final act of the Pandavas—renouncing the world of ordinary responsibility—does not contradict Krsna's order. Such renunciation is itself a human duty, especially at the end of life. We may not be able to die to this world as thoroughly and abruptly as Yudhisthira and his brothers did. But we can die to it a little each day as we are born into loving separation from Lord Krsna and His great devotees such as Srila Prabhupada. For it is this materially bitter but spiritually sweet sense of separation that opens the door for us to Lord Krsna's eternal, blissful abode.
Kalakantha Dasa is the author of The Song Divine (a lyrical rendition of the Bhagavad-gita). He is the resource development director for the Mayapur Project. He and his wife and their two daughters are members of the Hare Krsna community in Alachua, Florida.
Disciples and followers of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada will celebrate the twenty-fifty anniversary of his passing on November 8. (The date may vary by one day in various parts of the world. Consult your local Vaisnava calendar or Hare Krsna center.)
Greater Than God
SRILA PRABHUPaDA sometimes told stories about a king in Bengal and his court jester, Gopal Ban.
One morning, when Gopal arrived for the king's daily amusement, the king asked him, "Gopal, what's the difference between you and a jackass?"
Guessing the distance between him and the king, Gopal replied, "Sir, the difference is about three feet."
The king laughed heartily, even though the joke was on him.
Srila Prabhupada told this story to show that although God receives the highest honor and respect, He enjoys taking the role of a subordinate. He's more satisfied by intimate relationships than official ones.
In another story that illustrates the same point, Prabhupada told of a British prime minister who had once kept a guest waiting outside his office while he played "horsey" for his grandson.
Lord Caitanya's followers combed the Vedic scriptures to draw out the most comprehensive description of God. In other places we may learn about God's omnipotence, but in the tradition of Krsna consciousness we learn about God's personality—in striking detail. It's like the difference between knowing a judge in court and knowing him at home.
God in His majesty is God at work; Krsna is God at home.
Lord Caitanya taught us to aspire to be with Krsna in His eternal home, in the pure, relaxed atmosphere of Vrndavana. Whereas awe and reverence pervade other parts of the spiritual world, in Vrndavana love rules. Krsna's devotees there don't know, or care, that He is God. They love Him, that's all. And they're eager to serve Him.
We infinitesimal souls are all eternal servants of God. There's no escaping our role; it's our nature. We can serve God willingly, as devotees, or unwillingly, by serving His material energy, as we unwillingly grow old, get sick, die, and so on. In our rebellious spirit, the idea of servitude seems repulsive. But the pure souls in the spiritual world know service to be the source of unparalleled bliss. Why? Because, quite simply, the residents of Vrndavana serve Krsna by being His friends, His relatives, His respected elders, and so on. What could be better than that? They serve Him by their relationship with Him, because that's what He wants.
Just as we like to enjoy a variety of relationships, so does God. A husband and wife may be happy in each other's company, and may have relationships with friends, subordinates, and superiors, but still they choose to have children and so create new relationships.
Because Krsna is unlimited, He likes to enjoy an unlimited number of relationships, each unique. We each have a unique relationship with Krsna, revealed when our love for Him matures. The relationships between Krsna and His eternal associates are free of the hardships that plague the analogous relationships in the material world. In the spiritual world, all exchanges flow from pure love and are therefore perfect.
While impersonalists want to become one with God, devotees can attain the position of being greater than God. In the intimacy of pure love, they can tell God what do to, and He loves to hear it.
By the mercy of the Lord even a layman can compose prayers of the highest spiritual perfection. Such spiritual perfection is not limited by material qualifications but is developed by dint of one's sincere endeavor to render transcendental service. Voluntary endeavor is the only qualification for spiritual perfection.
His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
The holy name of Krsna is the sweetest of the sweet, the most auspicious of the auspicious. This transcendental fruit of all the Vedas is purely spiritual. Whoever chants it but once, whether with faith or with contempt, is liberated.
Skanda Purana, Prabhasa-khanda
Persons who are very expert and most intelligent in understanding things as they are engage in hearing narrations of the auspicious activities and pastimes of the Lord, which are worth chanting and worth hearing. Such persons do not care even for the highest material benediction, namely liberation, to say nothing of other less important benedictions like the material happiness of the heavenly kingdom.
The Four Kumaras
O Lord, only those devotees who have completely surrendered unto You are able to see Your opulence continuously, although you hide Yourself by Your yoga-maya. Your opulence is beyond time, space, and any material object, and there is nothing equal or superior to it.
Any activities sanctioned in the revealed scriptures and aiming at the satisfaction of the Supreme Personality of Godhead are accepted by saintly teachers as the regulative principles of devotional service. If one regularly executes such service unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead under the direction of a bona fide spiritual master, then gradually he rises to the platform of serving in pure love of God.
Sri Narada Muni
People may say that there are many qualified people in this world with tasteful pastimes and jewellike opulences, but the best of beautiful sages have ascertained that Krsna, the prince of Vraja, is the only source of all this.
Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami