IN THIS ISSUE we present photo features on two pilgrimages, one in India and the other in Slovenia. ISKCON's Vraja Mandala Parikrama is an annual trek to sacred sites of Lord Krsna's pastimes in Vrndavana, India. It has been taking place for the last sixteen years, drawing Krsna's devotees from all over the world. Four thousand miles away from Krsna's holy land, in Slovenia, ISKCON members launched their first Padayatra, or "walking pilgrimage," delivering Krsna consciousness to resort areas on the coast and in the mountains.
Whether in India or elsewhere, pilgrimages are meant to increase our faith and devotion. In "Redirected Love," Srila Prabhupada explains why our devotion to things of this world will never fully satisfy us. Our mission in life should be to reawaken our love for Krsna, which begins by understanding that He—the eternal person Krsna—is the highest aspect of the Absolute Truth. In "A Personal Look at the Nature of God," Satyaraja Dasa discusses how most commentaries on the Bhagavad-gita miss this essential point.
Dvarakadhisa Devi Dasi writes about properly understanding our subordination to Krsna in "Becoming the Lord's Servant." And Arcana-siddhi Devi Dasi, in "Why Do We Criticize Others?" provides insight into a powerful hindrance to our spiritual progress.
Hare Krsna.—Nagaraja Dasa
• 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.
Public Chanting For Spiritual Growth
I liked the From the Editor article "Beyond Religion" in the January/February issue. In answering Mr. Gupta's question "Why are you asking me to do more?" you explained that Krsna consciousness goes beyond performing daily rituals and endeavoring for salvation. The goal of life is not salvation but pure love of Krsna, which He gives to those who satisfy His servants.
That made me think about how Lord Caitanya became dissatisfied with chanting solely among His associates for their benefit and routinely took His followers out of homes and temples and into the streets to spread the maha-mantra through public chanting. And Srila Prabhupada com-missioned his students to perform harinama-sankirtana (congregational chanting) regularly. The desire to spread the benefits of chanting is a distinguishing feature of Gaudiya Vaisnavas, followers of Lord Caitanya.
Congregational chanting easily and quickly puts the performer on the high platform of preacher. If Mr. Gupta is not performing this sacrifice, may I suggest he begin? Surely Krsna will see that His servant is pleased and will bestow the true goal of Krsna consciousness: love of Sri Krsna.
Rupacandra Devi Dasi
Bonners Ferry, Idaho
I just read your article about the London harinama chanting party [March/April]. Urmila Devi Dasi wrote, "Perhaps some of us chanters consider what people will think of our acting like madmen, but most of us are so absorbed in the chanting that public opinion seems like a far-away dream of no value." This reminded me of when I first went on harinama in London in 1999. I would notice people looking at me and would wonder what they thought of me chanting. But nowadays this self-consciousness is not an issue. Imperceptibly my attitude changed. Over the years my interest in chanting grew to the point that I feel part of the group and look forward to moving from spot to spot (Leicester Square, Picadilly Circus, and so on) to chant and dance.
Vedic Evidence Against Meat-Eating
One simple reason that meat-eating incurs bad karma is that there is no need for it, as God has provided humanity a bounty of natural foods without having to resort to slaughtering animals. I have been told that there are specific references in the Vedas and other scriptures to that effect, but I have not come across any such reference in the Vedas, not even in the Gita.
Another matter that has bothered me is the cruel practice of animal sacrifices, like the asvamedha-yajna, found in the Vedas. This seems contrary to the otherwise lofty thinking of the Vedas.
Via the Internet
REPLY BY Krsna-krpa Dasa: Lord Krsna denounces meat-eating indirectly in the Gita. In verse 9.26, He says that He will accept a leaf, a flower, fruit, or water if it is offered with devotion. He does not mention that meat is acceptable, and because it cannot be offered there is karma incurred in eating it.
Bhagavad-gita 17.10 describes that untouchable and decomposing food is in the mode of ignorance, and it can be argued that meat falls into that category. Srila Prabhupada certainly understood it in that way. The mode of ignorance directly opposes devotional service to Krsna, and is therefore condemned.
As for your second question, an animal killed without regard for scriptural rules suffers by having to repeat its term of imprisonment in that body, whereas animals killed in authorized Vedic sacrifices are elevated in their next life. The apparent violence is in fact beneficial to the soul within the body of the sacrificed animal. Animal sacrifices are forbidden in this age, however, because priests lack the purity and expertise required to raise the animal to a higher stage. The recommended sacrifice for this age is the fully nonviolent practice of chanting the holy names of the Lord.
Working for Justice
I have been in contact with ISKCON for one year, but I am still not happy. I believe that I have taken birth to serve India. I want to live and die for India. I don't want to go to the kingdom of God until I feel that I have completed my job on this earth.
My problem with ISKCON is that the lectures teach only the ways to go to God, but I want to know the ways to live in this Kali-yuga. Of course, I will remain a devotee of Lord Krsna. But please give me some tips that will help me live in this Kali-yuga.
Let me tell you my aim in this life: I want to light for justice. I want to serve the people of India. I want to serve the society. Please help me.
Pradeep N. Rajvanshi
Belgaum, Karnataka, India
REPLY BY Krsna-krpa Dasa:
Lord Krsna has appeared in this Kali-yuga as Lord Caitanya, who states that the duty of every Indian is to make his life perfect by becoming Krsna conscious and helping others become Krsna conscious. If you accept that as your service for India, you will make a great contribution. Because Srila Prabhupada took Lord Caitanya's instruction seriously, he was able to greatly benefit the world by giving the perfection of India's spiritual culture, pure devotion to Lord Krsna. If you follow in his footsteps, that will be the greatest service you can perform for Krsna, for India, for the world, and for yourself.
The best way to live in this world is the same as the way to go to the spiritual world: to fully engage in God's service.
It is said that those who have lost their spiritual vision in this age of Kali can get light from Srimad-Bhagavatam. So you can study under the guidance of a realized soul and be enlightened and act in an enlightened way. The Srimad-Bhagavatam says that those who know the essence of things worship the age of Kali because in this age one can attain all desirable things simply by chanting the holy name of the Lord.
The greatest injustice is that because people lack real knowledge, they are being systematically slaughtered life after life as a result of neglecting their relationship with God. You can teach, by your own example, that life's goal is spiritual realization, and you can also help educate others and end this slaughtering by teaching them Bhagavad-gita. If you want to do good to others, why not work for their eternal benefit? If you do this, you will be forever gloried and your soul be fully satisfied.
CORRECTION: In the last issue, the photographer for the article "Dynamic, Expanding Bliss: The Hare Krsna Mantra" was Rajasana Devi Dasi, not Rajasana Dasa. We apologize for the error.
Please write to us at: BTG, P.O. Box 430, Alachua, FL 32616, USA. E-mail: email@example.com.
Lord Krsna tells us how to find the fulfillment
By His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
"Sanjaya said: Having spoken thus, Arjuna, chastiser of enemies, told Krsna, 'Govinda, I shall not light,' and fell silent."
IN THE previous verse Arjuna said, "There is no profit in this lighting, because on the other side are my relatives, and by killing them, even if I become victorious, what is the value?" That kind of renunciation sometimes takes place in ignorance. It is not intelligently placed renunciation.
Evam uktva hrsikesam. Arjuna is speaking to Krsna, or Hrsikesa, "the master of the senses." In a previous verse Arjuna said, sisyas te 'ham . . . prapannam: "I am Your surrendered disciple." Krsna has become the guru, and Arjuna the disciple. Formerly they were talking as friends. But friendly talking cannot decide any serious question. When there is some serious matter, it must be spoken by authorities.
Hrsika means the senses, and isa means the master. Hrsika-isa. And they join together: Hrsikesa.
Arjuna is called Gudakesa. Gudaka means darkness. And, again, isa, means master. Darkness means ignorance. A disciple comes to the guru for enlightenment. Every living being is born foolish, even the human beings. Because they are coming from the animal kingdom by evolution, their birth is, like that of the animals, in ignorance.
Therefore, even though one is a human being, one requires education. An animal cannot take education, but a human being can. Therefore sastra, scripture, says, nayam deho deha-bhajam nrloke kastan kaman arhate vid-bhujam ye [Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.5.1]. In conditions of life lower than those of the human being, we have to work very hard simply for four necessities of life: eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. The main object of concern is sense gratification. Therefore everyone has to work very hard. But in the human form of life, Krsna gives us so much facility in the form of intelligence. We can make our standard of living very comfortable, but that should be done with the purpose of attaining perfection in Krsna consciousness. Live comfortably. That's all right. But don't live like animals, simply increasing sense gratification.
The human effort is going into living comfortably, but people want to live comfortably for sense gratification. That is the mistake of the modern civilization. Yuktahara-viharasya . . . yogo bhavati duhkha-ha. In the Bhagavad-gita (6.17) it is said yuktahara. Yes, you must eat, you must sleep, you must satisfy your senses, you must arrange for defense. But as much as possible do not divert your attention too much to these things.
We have to eat—yuktahara. That's a fact. But not atyahara, overeating. Rupa Gosvami has advised in his Upadesamrta that if you want to advance in spiritual consciousness—the only worthy objective of life—then you should not eat too much or acquire too much. That is our philosophy.
Krsna The Enjoyer
The other day in Paris a reporter from the Socialist Press came to see me. I informed him, "Our philosophy is that everything belongs to God." Krsna says bhoktaram: "I am the enjoyer." We become happy by working for His enjoyment. For example, the whole body is working to enjoy life, but where does the enjoyment begin? The stomach. You have to give sufficient nice food to the stomach. If there is sufficient energy, you can digest and all the senses become strong and you can enjoy sense gratification. But if you cannot digest, there is no question of sense enjoyment. So sense enjoyment begins from the stomach.
Another example: The luxuriant growth of the tree begins from the root if there is sufficient water. Therefore trees are called pada-pa: They drink water from the legs—the roots—not from the heads. We eat from the head. There are different arrangements, but one must eat.
As for Krsna, He can eat from anywhere. He can eat through His hands, His legs, His eyes, His ears—anywhere—because He is complete spiritual. There is no difference between His head and legs and ears and eyes. That is stated in the Brahma-samhita.
So in the body our sense enjoyment should begin from the stomach, and the tree begins developing luxuriantly from the root. Similarly, Krsna is the origin of everything, so without Krsna consciousness, without pleasing Krsna, you cannot be happy. That is the system.
How will Krsna be pleased? We are all Krsna's sons, God's sons. Everything is Krsna's property. These are facts. Because Krsna is the proprietor and the enjoyer, everything should be given first to Him, and then we can accept it from Him. That will make us happy.
That principle is stated in Bhagavad-gita (3.13). Bhunjate te tv agham papa ye pacanty atma-karanat: "Those who cook only for themselves, without offering the food first to the Lord, are simply eating sin." Everything should be done for Krsna, even your eating. You can enjoy all sense enjoyment—but after Krsna has enjoyed. Then you can eat.
Therefore Krsna's name is Hrsikesa, the master of the senses. You cannot enjoy your senses independently. A servant may cook very, very nice food in the kitchen, but he cannot eat first. He will be dismissed. The master first of all must take, and then the servant can enjoy all the nice food.
The whole world is struggling for sense gratification. Here is the simple philosophy: "First of all let Krsna enjoy. He is the master. Then we enjoy."
The Isopanisad says, isavasyam idam sarvam: "Everything belongs to Krsna." Our mistake is that although everything belongs to Krsna, we are thinking, "Everything belongs to me." This is illusion. Janasya moho 'yam aham mameti. Everyone is thinking, "I am this body, and everything—whatever we find in this world—is to be enjoyed by me." That is the mistake of modern civilization.
The real knowledge is "Everything belongs to God. I can take only whatever He gives me, whatever He kindly allows for me." Tena tyaktena bhunjithah.
This is not just Vaisnava philosophy; this is fact. Nobody is the proprietor of anything. Isavasyam idam sarvam. Krsna says, "I am the enjoyer. I am the proprietor." Sarva-loka-mahesvaram. Maha-isvaram. Maha means great, and isvaram means controller. We can claim that we are also an isvaram, a controller, but Krsna is described as maha-isvaram, "controller of the controller." That is Krsna. Nobody else is an independent controller.
Definition Of Bhakti
Therefore Krsna is called Hrsikesa, and bhakti means to serve Hrsikesa by the hrsika, the senses. Krsna is the master of the senses. Therefore whatever senses I have, the master is Krsna. When our senses are engaged in the satisfaction of the master of the senses, that is called bhakti. That is the definition of bhakti, devotional service. And when the senses are engaged for sense gratification, not for the master, that is called kama, lust.
Two words: kama and prema. Prema means to love Krsna and do everything for His satisfaction. That is prema, love. And kama means doing everything for the satisfaction of my senses. That is the difference. Either you satisfy your senses, or you satisfy Krsna's senses. But when you satisfy Krsna's senses you become perfect, and when you satisfy your senses you become imperfect, illusioned. Because you cannot satisfy your senses without Krsna.
Therefore one has to purify the senses. At the present moment everyone is trying to satisfy his senses. There are two kinds of living entities, male and female. The male is trying satisfy his senses, and the female is trying to satisfy her senses. There is no love. It cannot be love, because neither the man nor the woman is trying to satisfy the other party's senses. Everyone is trying to satisfy his or her senses. A woman loves a man for satisfying her senses, and a man loves a woman for satisfying his senses.
Therefore, as soon as there is a little disturbance in the sense gratification, there is divorce. "I don't want this." Because the central point is personal sense gratification. But we can make a show: "Oh, I love you so much. I love you so much." There is no love. It is all kama, lust.
In the material world, there is no possibility of love. The so-called love is only cheating: "I love you. I love you because you are beautiful. You will satisfy my senses. Because you are young, you will satisfy my senses." That is the nature of the material world. The basic principle of the material world is sense gratification. In the material world, so-called society, friendship, and love depend on sense gratification, beginning with sex. Yan maithunadi grhamedhi-sukham hi tuccham. When one becomes free from maithunadi-sukham, happiness beginning with sex, he is liberated.
As long as one is attached to the sex impulse, he is neither a swami nor a goswami. Swami means master of the senses. As Krsna is the master of the senses, when one becomes Krsna conscious he becomes master of the senses. It is not that the senses should be stopped. No. They should be controlled. When I require, I shall use them; otherwise not. That is the position of a master of the senses. I shall not act impelled by the senses. The senses should act under my direction. That is the position of a swami.
Therefore Arjuna is called Gudakesa. He is a master of the senses. And he is not a coward, but he is compassionate because he is a devotee of Krsna. Anyone who becomes a devotee of Krsna has all the good qualities manifest in his body.
That is Arjuna's position. Otherwise how could he become an intimate friend of Krsna? They must be of the same position. Friendship becomes very strong when the friends are on an equal level: same age, same education, same prestige, same beauty. The more similar the position, the stronger the friendship. Arjuna is on the same level as Krsna. If somebody becomes the friend of the president or the friend of the king or the queen, he is not an ordinary man. He must be of the same position.
Giving Up Religion
In our line, Lord Caitanya's chief disciples Rupa Gosvami and Sanatana Gosvami were big leaders, government ministers. They could associate with the governor because they were also important men. But as soon as they became acquainted with Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, they decided, "We shall retire from this ministership and join Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu to help Him." Rather, to serve Him, not to help Him. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu does not require anyone's help. But if we try to associate with Him and serve Him, then our life becomes successful.
Krsna came to teach Bhagavad-gita. That was His mission: "These rascals have become servants of so many things—society, friendship, love, religion, nationality, community. They should stop all this nonsense." Sarva-dharman parityajya: "Give up all this nonsense. Simply surrender unto Me."
That is religion. Otherwise, why would Krsna advise, "Give up all religious systems?" He came to reestablish the principles of religion: dharma-samsthapanarthaya. Now He says, sarva-dharman parityajya: "Give up all religion." That means that anything without Krsna consciousness, without God consciousness, is a cheating religion. It is not religion.
Religion means the order of the Supreme Lord: dharmam tu saksad bhagavat-pranitam. If we do not know who is the Supreme Lord, if we do not know what is the order of the Supreme Lord, then where is religion? That is not religion. That may go on in the name of religion, but that is cheating. So Bhagavad-gita ends sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja, and the Srimad-Bhagavatam begins from that point.
Therefore Bhagavad-gita is the preliminary study of Srimad-Bhagavatam, which begins, dharmah projjhita-kaitavo 'tra: "Now, in this Bhagavatam, all cheating types of religion are rejected, projjhita."
Real religion means to love God. Therefore Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.2.6) says, sa vai pumsam paro dharmo yato bhaktir adhoksaje: "Devotion to the Supreme Lord is first-class religion." The Bhagavatam's definition doesn't say that you must follow this religion or that religion. You may follow any religion. It doesn't matter. Either Hindu religion or Christian religion or Muslim religion—anything you like. But we have to test. For example, if a student has passed the M.A. examination, nobody inquires, "From which college have you passed your examination?" No. "You have passed the M.A. examination? That's all right. We are concerned whether you are a graduate. That's all." Nobody inquires, "From which college, from which country, from which religion have you passed your M.A. examination?"
Similarly, nobody should inquire, "To which religion do you belong?" One must see whether he has learned this art: how to love God. That's all. That is religion. Here is the religion: sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja. That is religion. The Bhagavatam says, dharmah projjhita-kaitavo 'tra: "All cheating types of reli-gion are kicked out from this Srimad- Bhagavatam."
The Bhagavatam is only for the nirmatsaranam, those who are not envious of God. The demons ask, "Why shall I love God? Why shall I worship God? Why shall I accept God?" But the Srimad-Bhagavatam is only for those who are actually serious about loving God.
Redirecting Our Love
Real success of life is when you have learned how to love Krsna. Then your heart will be satisfied. Krsna means God. If you have another name of God, that is also accepted. But you must love God, the Supreme Lord, the Supreme Person.
We all love somebody. The loving propensity is there in everyone, but it is misdirected. Therefore Krsna says, "Kick out all these love objects. Try to love Me." Sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam. Misdirected love will never be able to satisfy you. If you want real satisfaction, you must love Krsna, God.
That is the whole Vedic philosophy—or any philosophy you take. Because, after all, you want satisfaction of your self, full satisfaction of your mind. That can be achieved only when you love God. Therefore that religion is first-class which trains the candidate how to love God. And that love is without motive. Here in the material world we say, "I love you; you love me." But in the background is some motive. Love of God means no motive. All other desires become zero.
The pure nature of bhakti, love of God, is taught in the Bhagavad-gita. Somebody is working for knowledge, and somebody is working for sense gratification. That is the material world. Somebody is trying to become a very big scholar: "What is this? What is this? What is this?" He is not trying to understand God but to gain some superuous knowledge. That is called jnana. And karma means working day and night for sense gratification. But bhakti is transcendental. It is not tainted by all these contaminations, jnana and karma.
Therefore Narottama Dasa Thakura says, jnana-kanda, karma-kanda, kevala visera bhanda: "Whether you engage in karma or speculative knowledge, both are pots of poison. Whether you drink this one or that one, it doesn't matter."
If you follow karma-kanda, the path of karma, you'll get a body next life according to your karma. Jnana-kanda also leads to another material body. If you become very advanced in knowledge, you can get a body in a brahmana family, in a very educated family. But you'll have to go through the transmigration of the soul, the repetition of birth and death. There is that risk. You do not know what body you will get. It is not guaranteed. Even a little mistake can result in your getting a lower body. For example, at the time of death Bharata Maharaja was thinking of a deer, and next life he got the life of a deer.
Nature is so perfect that you will get a body similar to your mental condition at death. Krsna is with you. He will see, "Now he is thinking of becoming a king," or "Now he is thinking in such a way that he will become a dog." So Krsna immediately gives you the body of a dog or a lion or a king. You must take the body He gives you.
Similarly, if you are thinking of Krsna, you will take a body like Krsna's —immediately. That is Krsna consciousness: to train the mind to die thinking of Krsna. Then your life is successful.
Therefore we have to chant Hare Krsna and always think of Krsna. Then our life is perfect.
Thank you very much.
A look at the causes and cures for faultfinding, a major obstacle to spiritual progress.
By Arcana-siddhi Devi Dasi
CONDUCTING A SUMMER therapy group with middle-school boys is always a challenge. Donte calls Michael a retard, and Michael calls Donte's mother a crackhead. I intervene, sitting the boys down to cool off. This age group (11-14) is notorious for saying and doing things to hurt each other. I reflect on my own years in junior high school and recall some painful interactions with peers. While most of us mature and become more sophisticated in our social interactions, our critical nature generally doesn't disappear unless we make spiritual progress toward our original identity.
Our original nature, the pure self uncontaminated by material energy, is free from the propensity to criticize or find fault with others. In fact, the pure soul sees all others as superior to himself. The further we fall from our original pure consciousness and depart from the mode of goodness toward ignorance, the more our tendency to criticize others will show itself.
A story in the Mahabharata illustrates the difference in mentality between a pure soul and a person hostile to God and thereby covered by the mode of darkness. Krsna, the Supreme Lord, met with both Maharaja Yudhisthira, a pure devotee of the Lord, and Duryodhana, an extremely envious king who had acquired his position through cheating and deceit. Krsna asked Maharaja Yudhisthira to go out into the kingdom and return after finding someone less qualified than himself. And He asked Duryodhana to search the kingdom for someone better than himself.
When wicked Duryodhana returned, he told Lord Krsna that he couldn't find anyone better than himself. Most of us would describe a person like Duryodhana as narcissistic, bombastic, conceited, and egoistic. Many of today's leaders would t that portrayal.
The saintly Yudhisthira, on the other hand, returned unable to find anyone inferior to himself. Such humility is practically gone among today's leaders.
From this exchange, Lord Krsna is teaching us something about human psychology. The closer one comes to his original pure identity, the more he shows humility and freedom from seeing the faults in others. And the further one falls from his pure identity, the more he feels superior to others, seeing faults in them and not in himself.
The Root Of Separation
The mentality that originally separates us from God is our desire to take His position. We can't do that, of course. But He's so kind that He lets us try, so we have to think we're great and powerful. Many of us have been criticized at one time or another for trying to "lord it over" others. But that's what we've all come to the material world to do. We think we're the center of the universe, that everything revolves around us. This delusion sets the stage for our competitive drive to remove any opponent for the coveted position of Lord.
If this portrayal of our mindset sounds exaggerated, consider this: Since God is the creator, everything here is His property, and in our quest to acquire it for our enjoyment, we are indeed playing God. Unlike God, though, we have to compete for that position.
While faultfinding may be an outcome of several mental states, it is often the mind's attempt to gain a superior position over others. Duyodhana was expert at finding faults in others regardless of their purity, and he had a knack for disregarding his own shortcomings. Lacking empathy for the suffering of others, he would use any means to achieve his goals. This is a common personality profile of demonic persons. And the root of their problem is their lack of proclivity for developing their relationship with the Supreme Lord.
Our Mixed Natures
Most of us traversing the spiritual path fall somewhere between the pure soul (Yudhisthira) and the envious demon (Duryodhana). We recognize that we still tend to criticize others, but we want to become free of such behavior. Often devotees ask, "How can I stop finding fault with other devotees?" But as with any unwanted behavior, it is important to understand what we get out of doing it—the payoff. If we fail to address this step, our mind will undoubtedly sabotage out efforts to give up criticism. Often the secondary gain will be easy to see. Some common motivations for criticism are (1) gaining a sense of superiority, (2) getting back at someone who has hurt us, (3) asserting our position or belief as the best or only way, and (4) avoiding scrutiny of our own shortcomings. Identifying our motives takes honesty and courage. We need to have a strong desire to change. But sometimes, despite our good intentions, the reason we do something may not be so evident. I remember working with a devotee in therapy who was addressing her critical nature. She recognized how destructive it was to her spiritual progress, and she wanted to stop but felt impelled to do it. She finally came to understand that she found fault with others so she wouldn't have to get close to them. Once she realized the secondary gain she derived from criticizing others, she could address her fear of intimacy. Dismantling her underlying reason for faultfinding allowed her to give it up. Another devotee was finding fault with her friend. As she got more in touch with the reasons for her feelings, she discovered she was feeling guilty that she hadn't supported her friend during a crisis. Finding fault with her friend was her way to justify her lack of involvement in her friend's life. It also protected her self-image and her belief that she is caring and helpful. In this case the devotee was able to forgive herself for not being sympathetic and apologized to her friend.
Not everyone who has problems with faultfinding needs to go into therapy. Prayer and strong spiritual practices are our methods for overcoming impurities. When I was a new devotee, I had a very critical nature. I was proud of my education, and thought I was more competent and advanced than the other devotees. After chanting for a short while, I became aware that my mentality was hindering my spiritual advancement. I prayed every day to become free of my critical nature. Krsna kindly answered my prayers in a way I didn't expect: He took away my ability to do most things. For about two months I felt I was in a fog. I couldn't remember things. I had trouble articulating my thoughts. I wasn't able to complete even simple tasks. The only service I could render was cleaning, and that would take an inordinate amount of time. Although I struggled through that period, I was grateful for the lesson. In the Caitanya-caritamrta, Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami tells us that by the mercy of the Lord a lame man can climb mountains, a blind man can see the stars, and a dumb man can recite beautiful poetry. So in the same way, the Lord can take away any ability that might make us proud and prone to criticizing devotees. Also in the Caitanya-caritamrta is a story about a man named Gopala Cakravarti that illustrates this point. Learned and handsome, he came from a prestigious family and was proud of his scholarship and position. One day while taking part in a discussion about the glories of the Lord's holy names, the exalted devotee Haridasa Thakura expressed his deep realization about the potency of the holy name. Gopala Cakravarti challenged Haridasa's statements. He cursed Haridasa, saying that Haridasa's nose should fall off if one didn't reap the benefit from chanting that Haridasa professed. Gopala's denigrating challenge came from his envious heart, and his motive was to discredit both Haridasa and the holy name. Gopala suffered an instant reaction for his insults and envy of Haridasa. His beautiful body became disfigured from leprosy, which ate away his nose. Agonized, Gopala begged Lord Caitanya for redemption. At first Lord Caitanya was unmoved by Gopala's pitiable plight. But finally, when Lord Caitanya recognized that Gopala had undergone a sincere change of heart, He released Gopala from his suffering. Gopala then took shelter of the Lord and His devotees. The devotee is blessed when the Lord rectifies his mentality with seeming reverses. In another narration from the Caitanya-caritamrta, Amogha, the son-in-law of Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya, spied on Lord Caitanya while He ate at Sarvabhauma's house. Aware that Amogha was critical of the Lord's pure behavior, Sarvabhauma chased him away and cursed him for his envious mentality. The following day Amogha was afflicted by cholera and was dying. Lord Caitanya went to see Amogha and placing his hand on his heart. "Why have you allowed jealousy to sit here?" the Lord asked. "Because of this, you have become like a candala, the lowest of men, and you have also contaminated a most purified place—your heart." The Lord then told Amogha to chant Hare Krsna. Amogha jumped up and chanted and danced, his heart purified by the touch of the Lord's lotus hand. Both Gopala Cakravarti and Amogha were greatly fortunate. Their faultfinding, critical natures were purified, and they received the greatest goal of life, pure devotion to the Lord. We may not be so lucky, and may instead find ourselves cut off from the Lord's service for many lives.
An Unreformed Faultfinder
I have seen devotees who follow the rules strictly and chant their prescribed rounds on their beads every day but have little joy in their spiritual lives. For many, criticism and faultfinding block their spiritual progress. This problem was exemplified by another person described in the Caitanya-caritamrta, Ramacandra Puri. He criticized his own spiritual master, and from then on he delighted in finding faults in saintly persons. If he couldn't find a fault in a devotee, he would induce the devotee to overeat so he could criticize him. Despite Lord Caitanya's spotless character, Ramacandra Puri invented a fault in Him. When he saw ants where Lord Caitanya was living, he criticized Him for eating sweets—a sign to Ramacandra Puri that the Lord was not acting as a proper renunciant.
Because Ramacandra Puri was the Godbrother of Lord Caitanya's spiritual master, the Lord respectfully abstained from responding to his offense. This was unfortunate for Ramacandra Puri, because he continued to offend Vaisnavas wherever he went. Unlike Gopala Cakravarti and Amogha, he didn't suffer some extreme material condition. But also unlike them, he didn't have a change of heart or receive love of God.
Suffering is not the only way to change our attitudes and behaviors. Ideally, we will gain insight into the problem and then work diligently to correct it. Recognizing and accepting our difficulty is half the battle. Finding a trusted devotee to confide in and seek guidance from is helpful. Attentive, focused, and prayerful chanting will help us see things differently and inspire to change behaviors contrary to devotional life. Incorporating daily Prabhupada's powerful teachings and instructions from his books, tapes, and videos will help us remember what things are favorable and unfavorable to our spiritual lives.
As we become happier and more spiritually fulfilled, our desire to find fault in others will proportionately diminish. And as we practice seeing the good in others and serving them, the Lord will reciprocate with our efforts and we'll make steady spiritual progress.
The next time we feel the urge to say something negative about someone, we should stop and ask ourselves, "What is my motive for saying this? What will Prabhupada think when he hears me say this? Will this help me develop my loving sentiments and make spiritual progress?"
Often our answers to these questions will convince us to be silent. If we commit ourselves to practicing abstinence from faultfinding, we'll reap the abundance of spiritual rewards that will follow.
Arcana-Siddhi Devi Dasi was initiated by Srila Prabhupada in 1976. She lives with her husband and son in Baltimore, Maryland, where she works as a family therapist.
When Charles asked his son and daughter-in-law—a Hare Krsna couple—to move in with him, he knew he'd have to adapt, but his reward wasmore than he could ever imagine.
By Sukhada Devi Dasi
Charles was born in 1917. He grew into a man of courage and principles, serving his country in the U.S. Navy for twenty years and then the Civil Service for twenty more. Assigned to a submarine eet during World War II, he saw his share of pain and suffering and, like many veterans, came to value a safe, secure home for his wife and two young children. Charles was proud of his country and its ideals and strove to instill values in his children that would enable them to grow into responsible, God-fearing citizens.
When his son Charlie, at the age of 24, announced his plan to join the Hare Krsna movement, Charles was shocked. What! Why? Where had Charles gone wrong? Like many parents, Charles was horrified that his son was choosing a path radically different from what he had envisioned for him. It seemed the foolish choice of a young man who couldn't know the world as Charles did. He did his best to talk his son out of it, but it was no use. Ultimately, he could only accept Charlie's decision—and hope that someday Charlie would change his mind.
Little did Charles realize what a praiseworthy path his son had chosen. Giving up the usual pursuit of wealth and social status, Charlie instead chose to develop love for God, Sri Krsna. Charles had no way of knowing that he himself would someday reap great benefits from his son's actions. In the Srimad-Bhagavatam, Lord Krsna assures a boy that because of his saintly behavior, his "entire dynasty has been purified." Although to Charles his son's decision seemed a rejection of his family values, Charlie would bring his family a spiritual opulence more transforming than any material success.
Moving in with Dad
In 1973 Charlie joined the Hare Krsna movement and was initiated by Srila Prabhupada, receiving the spiritual name Godruma Dasa. At the time, Charles was not in close contact with his son, who was spreading Krsna consciousness in the U.S.A., Japan, and India.
In 1983 Godruma married a girl named Visnupriya. They returned to the U.S.A. in 1985 because his mother was ill. Charles was excited to see his son after so long and couldn't help but notice the changes in him. Godruma had become peaceful, friendly, and tolerant. Charles welcomed Visnupriya, who was moved by his kindness and wonderful sense of humor.
In 1986 Charles lost his beloved wife to cancer. Heartsick, he asked Godruma and Visnupriya to come live with him in Jacksonville, Florida. Moved by his loneliness, the young couple agreed. But they all had concerns about their different ways of life. Godruma and his wife wanted to keep up their spiritual practices. There could be no meat, fish, eggs, onions, or garlic in the house. Nothing could be eaten unless the food was blessed by offering it to Krsna. They would want to keep worshiping their deities, Sri Sri Radha Madana-mohana, installing Them in Charles's house. Godruma and Visnupriya would need to rise early, before 4:00 A.M., to chant Hare Krsna and perform their morning worship before going to work. Then in the evenings they would cook an offering and once more worship their deities and read from Srila Prabhupada's books.
Contemplating all of these changes, Charles decided it was a small price to pay for the closeness of his family.
"I guess I can learn," he told them, adding that the most difficult thing would be to remember to offer his food to Krsna.
"But I can give it a shot!"
"We had several discussions about his needs and ours," says Visnupriya. "We didn't want to impose on him, and he really wanted to see if he could adapt. I had serious doubts but was amazed at how quickly he adapted to the changes. Godruma and I went through culture shock too. This was the first time we were not living at a temple, and the nearest one—in Alachua—was eighty miles away. We wanted to continue to follow Srila Prabhupada's instructions to the best of our ability."
They soon became a close-knit family. Godruma and Visnupriya shared Prabhupada's teachings with Charles, and Charles shared his home with them. Charles would listen to tapes of Srila Prabhupada's singing and speaking, often commenting on how convinced Prabhupada sounded when he spoke. Charles appreciated what Srila Prabhupada had done for his son, feeling that Godruma had become a better person.
The young couple would invite devotee friends over, filling the house with feasting and the holy names. In time, Charles grew to look forward to these gatherings. He developed a special fondness for the food, known as krsna-prasadam, or "the mercy of Krsna." Visnupriya's sister, Sashi Mukhi, would bring her children Siddhartha and Sujata over. Charles grew to love the children—and Sashi Mukhi's cooking.
To everyone's great sorrow, Charles developed prostate cancer. He received conventional treatment, but throughout the years 2000 and 2001 his health deteriorated. He was in and out of the hospital. Although Charles had recognized the benefits of the Hare Krsna movement for Godruma, and had come to love the devotees and their ways, he had not accepted the deep philosophy of the Vedas and the teachings of Srila Prabhupada. He saw himself as someone apart from the Hare Krsna devotees.
One day, listening to Visnupriya and her nephew discussing reincarnation and life after death, Charles said, "When I go, it will be the end for me. Nothing exists after death."
Although the prostate cancer went into remission, Charles developed chronic leukemia. He also suffered from shingles, which made it impossible for him to walk. So Charles, all his life the strong and capable provider, was now forced to rely on others.
Charles's doctor prescribed physical therapy for his legs, and the therapist would come to their home. One day the therapist mentioned that he had often seen Hare Krsna devotees on the campus of the University of Florida. Godruma offered the therapist a copy of the Bhagavad-gita, but the man hesitated to accept it.
Charles chimed in, "You really should take the book. It will help you."
The therapist took the book.
Charles was in immeasurable pain. He didn't regain his ability to walk. On a return stay in the hospital, he developed a urinary tract infection. There seemed no end to his misery.
He turned to Visnupriya and said, "You've got to help me."
Reaching for the only solace she could offer, Visnupriya told him that if he prayed to Krsna, he would feel a lot better.
Helplessly, Charles replied, "Really?"
The three of them decided to end all of Charles's treatment and bring him back home. Godruma and Visnupriya would care for him and surround him with their love—and with the sound of the holy name. They told their beloved father that they would play a tape of Srila Prabhupada chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra twenty-four hours a day. Charles would only need to listen. And to relieve his distress, he could learn to chant Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
"I'm too old to learn that," Charles protested. "Can I just chant 'Krsna, Krsna'?"
"Absolutely," they replied.
Difficult situations can often reveal our dependence on God. There are, it is said, no atheists in the foxhole. And the old fighter, in the depths of his helplessness and pain, was opening to the possibilities of God's love. He began to love the sacred chanting that was his constant companion.
When hospice workers visited the house and asked about the unusual music, Charles happily told them, "This is our family music. Why don't you sing along?"
When faced with unbearable pain or depression, Charles would call out, "Krsna! Krsna!"
During the summer of 2001, he started having terrible apparitions. He would see ghosts, skeletons, terrorists, wild animals, and dead bodies.
In fright he would cry out, "They're coming to get me!"
Visnupriya and Godruma increased the spiritual protection. They placed sacred tulasi beads around his neck. (He had been eating tulasi leaves offered to Krsna since 1986 and was very fond of them.) And every morning Godruma started giving him caranamrta (water that has bathed deities). In his line of vision they placed large pictures of Srila Prabhupada, Gaura Nitai (Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Nityananda), Krsna-Balarama, and Radha-Syamsundara.
Watching this, Charles quietly noted, "You are preparing for my departure."
Visnupriya could only admit to the truth.
"But," she comforted him, "we want you to be surrounded by auspiciousness."
As the terrible days of his increasing illness passed, Charles began to find more and more solace in Krsna consciousness. Visnupriya and Godruma would bring him special gifts from the temple, such as prasadam, flower garlands, and sanctified water. He rejoiced in the smallest signs of Krsna's mercy on him.
One day Charles suffered a great deal and was afraid. Visnupriya gave him a Back to Godhead magazine, and he was pleased to recognize the picture of Nagaraja Dasa, whom he had met.
"Oh, I know him!" Charles said, "I think I'll read this magazine."
Reading Back to Godhead helped calm him down.
Godruma and Visnupriya read to him as much as they could from the Bhagvad-gita and Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Charles listened to the reading intensely.
"I don't understand everything you read," he told them, "but please continue. I love to listen."
In September the nurses said they saw a difference in Charles. He seemed peaceful, even though his physical deterioration continued unabated. One evening Visnupriya was sitting at his side when she noticed he was smiling.
"There's someone standing at the foot of my bed," he told her.
"Who is it, Dad?" she asked.
Charles pointed to the picture of Srila Prabhupada near his bed.
Incredulous, Visnupriya grabbed Charles's hand.
"Are you sure?"
"Dad, you're going to be O.K.," Visnupriya said in wonder. "You have the shelter of Srila Prabhupada."
When this happened several more times, Visnupriya let go of her own fear and worry. Obviously, her father-in-law was under much greater care than her own.
A Blessed End
In the final weeks of September, as the level of pain greatly increased, Charles became peaceful. He loved looking at his picture of Srila Prabhupada. Then, on October 2, Charles found it difficult to breathe. Godruma had been giving him sacred Ganges water every morning and evening for the past two weeks, and he was eating tulasi from a garland from Radha-Syamsundara in Vrndavana, India. The nurse told Godruma and Visnupriya that their father had just a few hours to live.
They were filled with a jumble of feelings. They loved him dearly and didn't want to say good-bye, but there was no chance of recovery. They had hoped and prayed that he would find his own way to Krsna, and he had. Death would not end the real Charles, the spiritual being who had come to love the sound of Krsna's name. It would only end his body. Whatever lay ahead for Charles was surely wonderful and auspicious.
Godruma and Visnupriya sat chanting as Charles gradually dimmed from consciousness. They urged him to chant Krsna's name.
With great difficulty, Charles said, "Ah, K . . . r . . . s . . . na, K . . . r . . . s . . . na."
Those were his last words before he lost awareness. His son and daughter-in-law continued to chant. They
Visnupriya and Sashi Mukhi, filled with the peace of the room, went outside. They gazed up at the moon. It seemed so bright, and the sky was beautifully clear. They considered that according to the Vedas that particular full moon—occurring during the month of Purusottama—was an auspicious time, and they marveled at the way Charles had transformed his life into something so pleasing to the Lord. They rejoined Godruma and spent the night chanting and reading the Bhagavad-gita.
Krsna Svarupa Dasa from the Alachua temple community performed the last rites for Charles before cremation. Following Vedic custom, on the thirteenth day after his departure the family sponsored feasts in his memory at ISKCON temples in Alachua, Atlanta, and Hyderabad.
Sukhada Devi Dasi, a disciple of Srila Prabhupada, lives in Alachua, Florida, with her husband, Puskara Dasa (the artist), and their twelve-year-old daughter, Prtha. Sukhada teaches at the Alachua Learning Center, a state-sponsored school run by devotees.
"What is the Value of Your Education?"
Continuing a conversation between
Los Angeles, June 23, 1975.
Disciple: Srila Prabhupada, the universities nowadays don't teach any courses in the nature of the soul.
Srila Prabhupada: Therefore, the young person says, "What is the wrong if I become a dog?" Because there is no education. He does not know the difference between the dog and the human being. Therefore, he says, "What is the wrong if I become a dog? I will get more facility for sex without any criminal charges." This is the advancement of education.
Dr. Mize: How does the mind, then, come to know that there is a soul?
Srila Prabhupada: You have to be educated. How are these people, my students, convinced about the soul? They have been educated by knowledge and by practice. Everything has to be learned by being properly educated. And therefore, the Vedic injunction is tad-vijnanartham—"In order to know that science"—sa gurum evabhigacchet—"you must go to a guru, a teacher." So the answer is that you must go to the teacher who can teach you how the soul is there.
Disciple: Srila Prabhupada, you're teaching us how the soul is there, and is there a way to describe the connection between the soul and the mind?
Srila Prabhupada: The mind is there in the soul. But the mind is now polluted by material contamination. Just like a madman: he has got his mind, but his mind is contaminated. Therefore, he requires treatment by a psychiatrist. You cannot say the madman has no mind. He has got a mind, but it is contaminated. You have to see about treatment.
So the mind is there—everything is there in the soul. And now the mind, contaminated by matter, is perverted. The same example: a madman has got a mind, but it is useless. He is simply acting in madness. The same madman, when properly treated, will act like a sane man. So the mind is there always, whether we speak of the pure soul or the soul encaged in the material body. Everything is spiritual. The soul is spiritual; the mind is spiritual; the intelligence is spiritual. But it is now contaminated. So you have to see about treatment. When it is purified, by Krsna consciousness, then the mind is controlled, the intelligence is properly acting, and the soul is in his proper position. Therefore, those who are under treatment must observe it strictly. They must not do something wrong, such that the treatment may be hampered.
Disciple: Srila Prabhupada, philosophers generally try to use their minds to speculate about the nature of the soul. But with the mind alone, they can never understand.
Srila Prabhupada: Just like the madman is speculating. He is thinking, "I am president." He is lying down on the street. "Oh, I am completely independent. Why shall I go on the foot path?"
Dr. Mize: When the soul was in the spiritual sky, he also had a mind and an intelligence like he has here?
Srila Prabhupada: Oh, yes. Yes. Unless he has got a mind, how does he misuse his intelligence?
Dr. Mize: But he misused that intelligence in his freedom, his independence.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Yes. In the spiritual world, the mind is there also. Spiritual mind. Everything is spiritual. There is nothing material. The body is spiritual; the mind, spiritual; the intelligence, spiritual; each person, spiritual; the land, spiritual; the water, spiritual. Everything is spiritual. That is the spiritual world.
Here in the material world, except the spirit soul everything is material. And he is encumbered with this material atmosphere, by twenty-seven strata, layers. For instance, the five gross elements, then ten senses, and then three gunas, or modes of nature.
In this way, there are twenty-seven layers. The soul is within, and he has to be taken out. That is called liberation. For instance, if you are covered with twenty-seven layers of dirty things, it is a very difficult position. But there is a process to clear the garbage and take the soul out. That is this Krsna consciousness movement—to take the soul out of the covering of twenty-seven layers of material atmosphere. That sloka we read before says nasta-prayesu abhadresu: "almost cleansed"—prayesu abhadra. Abhadra means dirty things. So this clearing process is going on. When the soul is almost cleansed, he feels, "Oh . . ."
And that process: nityam bhagavata-sevaya—constantly being engaged in the service of the Bhagavata: the grantha, or book, Bhagavata and the person Bhagavata. Then the covering will be cleansed away.
And then, when the soul comes out, that is brahma-bhutah prasannatma: "Oh, I am now free." Na socati na kanksati—no more lamentation, no more greediness. Everything finished. Then he begins his real business, as part and parcel of God. That is perfection.
Disciple: Srila Prabhupada, in the thirteenth chapter of Bhagavad-gita, "Nature, the Enjoyer, and Consciousness," in texts six and seven, Lord Krsna mentions those twenty-seven coverings: "The five great elements, false ego, intelligence, the unmanifest, the ten senses, the mind, the five sense objects, desire, hate, happiness, and distress, the aggregate, the life symptoms, and convictions—all these are considered, in summary, to be the field of activities and their interaction."
Srila Prabhupada: In material life, these are our field of activities. The body is a combination of all these things, like a huge computer. The body is made of these material things, but the mechanical parts are very minute, different. All these are matter. But within this matter, because the soul is there, this finest machine is working. Just like our composition machine for publishing my books—kut-kut-kut-kut-kut. But one has to push the button; otherwise, it is useless. However very nicely made the machine, without a living being's touch, it is useless. So this whole big machine, the material body, is wonderful so long as the soul is there. And as soon as the soul is out, the body is a lump of matter. Useless. Not worth a penny. Throw it away.
But in modern civilization, we are giving importance to the machine—not to the person who is dealing with the machine. This is the folly of modern civilization. We are thinking like a child: "The machine is working independently." But that is not the fact. The big airship, the 747, is flying because the pilot is there. And the pilot is a soul, covered by another bodily machine. And that is the missing point in modern civilization: who is working with the machine. That they do not know. That is ignorance. It is said . . . [glancing at a disciple:] you see Bhagavad-gita . . . isvarah sarva-bhutanam hrd-dese 'rjuna tisthati/ bhramayan sarva-bhutani yantrarudhani mayaya. Yantra means "machine." So the modern education is missing the pilot. They are simply wandering with the machine. [Glancing again at the disciple:] Read it.
Disciple: "The Supreme Lord is situated in everyone's heart, O Arjuna, and is directing the wanderings of all living entities, who are seated as on a machine, made of the material energy."
Srila Prabhupada: That's it. They do not consider this body a machine. In spite of all education, they are thinking there is no other element than this machine. And yet actually, they are finding that such a big, nice machine as a computer—without an operator, it does not work. And this huge machine, the material nature, is working without any spiritual touch? Just see how much foolishness. They think, "Automatically working. Nature is working automatically." Do they not think this?
Dr. Mize: They think there's a mind, but not a soul.
Srila Prabhupada: No, that's all right. Something is there which is working. Now, that may be debatable—you call it soul or mind. That is the next understanding. But the machine is not working independently. That should be understood first. Then how the machine is working—that will be the next chapter.
So they have no understanding, even, of how the machine is working. Mudho 'yam nabhijanati loko mam ajam avyayam. . . . Mayadhyaksena prakrtih suyate sa-caracaram: God is directing everything—that fact these mudhas, asses, do not know.
So if you do not know how the machine is working, then what is the value of your education? Education means enlightenment. But you do not know what is the final cause. That huge body is working as nature: so many planets—big planets like the sun and moon—they are oating in the air. Who has made this arrangement? We see it every day. And yet these great professors will never accept that God is the original cause. That thing does not come to their brain. They are putting forward different theories, and those are being accepted. One theory is accepted today, and tomorrow, "No, this is not accepted any longer. Here is another—an advanced theory." That "advanced" means he does not know.
A pilgrim from the West discovers
By Pradyumna Dasa
LAST FALL I HAD the special opportunity to take part in ISKCON's sixteenth annual Vraja Mandala Parikrama. Now the wonderful sights and sounds of this sacred land live in my heart and ash through my mind constantly.
Located eighty-five miles south of New Delhi, India, the villages of Vraja, the place of Lord Sri Krsna's childhood pastimes, spread over an area about forty miles in diameter. it includes the city of Mathura (the birthplace of Lord Krsna) and twelve primary villages and forests, of which Vrndavana is the most famous. ISKCON's annual Vraja Mandala ("circle") Parikrama ("circumambulation") is open to all. It lasts the entire Vedic month of Kartika, which falls in October and November.
Before I departed for India from Baltimore, various doubts ran through my mind. How, where, and when would basic needs of hygiene and food be fulfilled while we walked through the villages of Vraja? Being fifty-seven years old, I feared getting ill and the physical challenge of walking several hours each day. But with encouragement from my family and other devotees in Baltimore, and after prayers to the most merciful Srimati Radharani, the eternal queen of Vraja, I departed, ready for whatever was to come.
Our group from Baltimore arrived in India on October 17. It was a bright, sunny day, and the scenic drive from New Delhi to Vrndavana reminded me of my childhood in India and past trips to Vrndavana. Still, this trip felt special. Upon nearing Vrndavana and seeing temple domes and complexes from afar, I began to think of the countless pastimes of Radha and Krsna and was overjoyed to be in the holy land.
Once we arrived at ISKCON's Krsna-Balarama Mandir, I quickly settled in and then went to offer respects to the deities—Gaura-Nitai, Krsna-Balarama, and Radha-Syamasundara —and to Srila Prabhupada in his Samadhi Mandir (memorial temple). I was excited to see the hundreds of devotees who had come from all over the world, and to talk to devotees I had met over the years.
The first day of walking started with the town of Vrndavana. The Vrajavasis (residents of Vraja) believe that circumambulating Vrndavana can wash away any offenses committed in the holy land. Following custom, and out of respect for the holy land, I walked barefoot during the Vrndavana Parikrama. I was tired, and my feet were sore and blistered as the day came to an end. I questioned my commitment to last the entire month if every day was going to be like this. But encouragement from Parikrama veterans like Radha-Ramana Dasa, Radha Govinda Swami, and others strengthened my resolve.
The next morning, before departing Vrndavana and the Krsna-Balarama Mandir, devotees took personal vows in front of the deities. I prayed to Sri Sri Radha-Syamasundara for the strength to finish the one-month walk. Leaving the temple gates, I looked back at the massive white domes of the Krsna-Balarama Mandir and felt the presence of the Lord in the form of the hundreds of devotees walking with me. We were now on our way to Mathura.
A Challenging First Week
After walking about half the day, we arrived at historic Vishram Ghat, where Krsna and Balarama rested after killing the demonic Kamsa, and where Lord Caitanya bathed upon entering Mathura. After bathing in the cold, murky waters of the holy Yamuna River and setting up camp for the evening, a small group of us visited some nearby temples.
The next day, we performed Mathura Parikrama, stopping at various holy places in the city. Radha-Ramana Dasa, Bhadra Dasa, and other senior devotees gave short talks and led kirtanas at the holy sites. After another night in Mathura, we departed for Madhuvan at six o'clock the next morning, the fourth day of the Parikrama.
The first week of the Parikrama seemed long and hard. I was tired from walking during the cold mornings and hot afternoons. Slowly but surely, though, my fearful thoughts for health, hygiene, and food faded away, and only thoughts of the people and places of Vraja entered my mind. Other devotees, too, lost track of time. We became oblivious of what day it was, and our entire focus was to understand and meditate on the pastimes of Lord Sri Krsna at each spot we visited. The daily schedule of rising early, bathing in the cold, and living the village life became routine and felt natural. In this way, we walked each day from place to place hearing about the pastimes of the Lord, taking part in ecstatic kirtanas and aratis, and associating with many devotees, sannyasis, and Vrajavasis.
A Midnight Dip
In the afternoon of the seventh day we reached the famed Radha Kund, our base for the next three days. I was especially excited about visiting Radha Kund, home to so many temples and holy sites. We set up camp and then visited the banks of Radha Kund and Shyama Kund, which are adjacent to each other. Telling the history of the two ponds, Radha-Ramana Dasa explained how and why Krsna had called on all of the sacred rivers of the world to come fill them. [See BTG, September/October 2002].
After paying our obeisances and performing a short worship ceremony at Radha Kund, we visited several surrounding places, including the memorial tombs of Raghunatha Bhatta Gosvami, Raghunatha Dasa Gosvami, and Krsna Dasa Kaviraja Gosvami, prominent followers and contemporaries of Lord Caitanya.
The next day we walked around Govardhana Hill, stopping occasionally to hear of the numerous pastimes of Lord Krsna at locations such as Manasi Ganga and Kusuma Sarovara. Our final full day at Radha Kund consisted of doing Parikrama of Radha Kund and Shyama Kund during the day and bathing in the holy waters at midnight. Because it is the anniversary of the appearance of Shyama Kund and Radha Kund, a midnight bath on this day is an annual ritual for all the Vrajavasis who live in the area.
As we left Radha Kund the morning of the tenth day, I felt new appreciation for our disciplic lineage. Hearing lectures by Lokanath Swami, Radha-Govinda Swami, and Gopal Krsna Swami on the pastimes of Radha and Krsna, and visiting temples and places of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and past acaryas like the six Gosvamis, gave me a strong feeling for the Gaudiya Vaisnava tradition carried on by Srila Prabhupada.
As we walked farther along the Parikrama path, the days and nights went quickly. From Deeg to Badrinath to Kedarnath—with each stop I was learning more and trying to absorb as much as I could of the holy land.
Each day as we walked through forests and villages filled with a plethora of vibrant colors and sounds, local residents would come out of their homes, fields, and shops to greet us. The children of the villages would follow us to the edge of town, shouting "Haribol!" and "Radhe! Radhe!" with their arms raised. Many adults would greet us with offerings of hot milk or sweets. And if we happened to be staying overnight in their village, they would often invite a group of us into their small homes to stay for the night or eat prasadam in the evening. Their love and kindness for us, total strangers, amazed me. I feel as though I got a glimpse of why the Vrajavasis are so dear to Lord Krsna. On the sixteenth day we reached Varshana, home of Srimati Radharani. Realizing that Varshana was the midpoint of our pilgrimage, I was saddened that there would eventually be an end to the bliss I had been feeling the past two weeks. I wanted to take in all I could in the time remaining. We spent two days in Varshana exploring the glorious homeland of Srimati Radharani. From way atop the hill on which the main Radharani temple sits, to the narrow alleys of the bazaars of Varshana, all I could hear was glorification of Radha-Krsna. Jaya Jaya Sri Radhe-Syama!Also at this halfway mark, I began to realize the magnitude of effort put forth by the organizers and devotees assisting the Parikrama. Twice a day a group of devotees from Mayapur cooked delicious food for Lord Krsna and the more than four hundred Parikrama participants. Another group brought gallons upon gallons of filtered water to the campsite for the devotees to drink, and yet another group of devotees assisted in setting up and taking down the camp. This task included erecting several huge tents under which devotees slept (when better facilities such as schools or hostels were unavailable). The tents provided modest cover from the chilly autumn evenings and mornings. A hired crew kept the campground safe, and cleaned up the next morning. Each evening a mo-bile shop arrived at the campsite, selling basic items such as soap, candles, and batteries. Laundry service was al-so available daily, as was a shuttle bus to and from the ISKCON center in Vrndavana.
Spiritual Health For A Doctor
As in past years, a doctor accompanied the Parikrama. This year it was Dr. Mahesh Bhatt, from Baroda, Gujarat. He told me he had met ISKCON devotees before but had never really considered himself religious. He decided to help the devotees as a humanitarian service. He had never before worn a dhoti or tilaka, or even risen before sunrise. After he'd received Lord Sri Krsna's blessings and the association of devotees, everything changed for him. He told me that by taking part in the Parikrama, chanting the holy names of Sri Krsna, and coming in touch with Vraja's atmosphere of simple living and high thinking, he had been changed for life. He said he would assist the Parikrama organizers with his services every year from now on. We left Varshana on the morning of the eighteenth day and traveled to Nandagram and then, the next day, to Kokilavan. The second half of the Parikrama ew by just as fast as the first half. In the waning days, we traveled from Brahmanda Ghat, where Mother Yasoda saw the entire cosmos within Krsna's mouth, to Raval, the birthplace of Radharani. Finally, on the thirtieth day of our pilgrimage, we returned to Mathura for a concluding bath at Vishram Ghat. Upon ending the Parikrama, I could feel my faith in Lord Sri Krsna and the message of Srila Prabhupada increase tenfold. I encourage all devotees to take part in the Vraja Mandala Parikrama, be it for one week, two weeks, or the entire month, at least once in their lifetime. I have the greatest respect for all of the organizers and participants of the Parikrama. I will never forget the wonderful sights and sounds of Vraja. They will live forever in my heart. I hanker to go back there again and again.
Pradyumna Dasa, a disciple of His Holiness Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami, lives outside Baltimore, Maryland, with his wife, Damodara Devi Dasi. Together they teach Krsna consciousness in the Indian community through home programs and other events. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
May 15 marks the appearance day of Lord Nrsimha, the half-man, half-lion incarnation of Lord Krsna. Nrsimhadeva descended to protect His devotee Prahlada from the torment of his atheistic father, Hiranyakasipu, who had performed great penance and gained boons he felt would secure his immortality. But Lord Nrsimha killed the murderous demon while simultaneously honoring the boons he had received from Lord Brahma. The story is narrated in Canto Seven of the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Devotees pray to Lord Nrsimha for protection from both bodily harm and their own materialistic desires. [To see more paintings by Madhava Priya Devi Dasi, go to www.glimpseofkrishna.com.]
By Laksmi LaCuestahalf-man, half-lion
blood paints the floor
a garland of intestines
he has been outsmarted by You
just as a cat plays with a mouse
Your anger is so intense
yet Prahlada Maharaja
You have saved him from his father's
All glories to You!
Why impersonalist philosophers don't see the whole picture.
By Satyaraja Dasa
God exists, and God is light
—William Blake (1757-1827)
A MAJOR PUBLISHER recently approached me to write a book that would compare the more than one thousand existing English translations of the Bhagavad-gita. I replied to say I would consider their offer, and within a week I received, by special delivery, a box full of the decade's most prominent Gita translations. Looking through each one carefully, I noticed that most translators misunderstood the basic teaching: that God is a person, Krsna, and that the goal of life is to develop love for Him. Instead, these "Gitas" claimed that God is an abstract force, an impersonal entity that lies beyond the purview of the senses. The commentators squeezed this out of the Sanskrit itself and often made it the focus of their analyses.
The impersonal or monistic conception of the Supreme—wherein one envisions God as an inconceivable force, without form—is clearly a legitimate part of what the Bhagavad-gita teaches. But that part is eclipsed by the idea of God as the Supreme Person. As Krsna Himself says in the Gita (7.24), "Unintelligent people, who do not know Me perfectly, think that I, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna, was impersonal before and have now assumed this personality. Due to their small knowledge, they do not know My higher nature, which is imperishable and supreme."
And yet, despite the Gita's emphasis on God's personhood, the impersonalistic dimension of the Gita has become more popular. Teachers in the Krsna conscious tradition suggest that the desire to depersonalize God comes, on a subliminal level, from the desire to avoid surrender. After all, if God is a person, then questions of submission and subservience come into play. If God is a formless abstraction, we can philosophize about it without a sense of commitment, without the fear of having to acknowledge our duty to a higher being. Then again, maybe the popularity of the impersonal conception, at least in relation to the Gita, can be traced, plain and simple, to inadequate knowledge of Sanskrit.
Impersonalism really doesn't even make sense. Form is everywhere, from mountain to snowflake. Everything has form. Even invisible things have shape. Consider the atom: Though we don't see it, we know it occupies definite space, and with the proper equipment we can perceive it. Deep down we know that in this world a thing and its form are inseparable.
And this, of course, is where the theory of impersonalism comes in. Impersonalists reason that if everything in this world has form, everything in "that" world must be formless, for matter and spirit are seen as diametrically opposed. While the premise here may be true, the conclusion is illogical. The reasoning is like the thinking of a cow that has once run from a burning barn: whenever it sees red, it runs. Similarly, everyone in this world knows that material forms are temporary and limited. This truth is embedded in our consciousness, and we naturally (if sometimes subliminally) apply it to all form, never imagining that spiritual form may have different characteristics altogether. So we foist formlessness on God and on all spiritual phenomena, inadvertently following a tradition of impersonalism with the enthusiasm of a fire-fearing cow running from red.
If one studies the Gita in Krsna consciousness, however, one sees clearly that the person Krsna, also known as Bhagavan (the Lord), reigns Supreme. Nearly every verse stresses service to Him. There is much evidence that the Gita supports the personalistic doctrine. Krsna says, "I am at the basis of the impersonal Brahman [the formless Absolute]." (14.27) And when discussing the comparative value of the impersonal and the personal, He says, "Those who focus their minds on My personal form, always engaged in worshiping Me with intense spiritual faith, are considered by Me to be most perfect." (12.2) In other words, according to the Gita the conception of God as a person, to whom one may become devoted, is prior to and superior to the conception of God as an impersonal force, into which one may merge.
And what exactly is meant by "merging"? Vaisnavas, worshipers of Krsna, shun this idea of becoming "one with God," saying it is almost as repulsive as gross materialism. Srila Prabhupada says the idea is motivated by fear. In his purport to Bhagavad-gita 4.10 he writes:
It is difficult for a person who is too materially affected to understand the personal nature of the Supreme Absolute Truth. . . . Consequently, they consider the Supreme to be impersonal. And because they are too materially absorbed, the conception of retaining their personality after liberation from matter frightens them. When they are informed that spiritual life is also individual and personal, they become afraid of becoming persons again, and so they naturally prefer a kind of merging into the impersonal void.
So just as impersonalism stems from the fear that one will have to submit to a higher entity, as stated earlier, we now see that its concomitant "merging" is also a product of fear—the fear that one's individual existence, with all its imperfections, will continue into eternity. But Vaisnavas promote a philosophy of fearlessness, for they know that spiritual personality is not beleaguered by the limitations of matter. Some scholars are wise to this too. Professor Huston Smith, a prominent author and teacher in the field of comparative religion, eloquently expresses the Vaisnavas' distaste for merging with the Supreme. He does this with the help of a traditional bhakti poem written in sixteenth-century India:
As healthy love is out-going, the bhakta [devotee] will reject all suggestions that the God one loves is oneself, even one's deepest Self, and insist on God's otherness. As a devotional classic puts the point, "I want to taste sugar; I don't want to be sugar."
Can water quaff itself?
—poem by Tukaram
Is God Really A Person?
Seeing the many impersonal translations and commentaries got my fiire. God is, first and foremost, a person. Prabhupada is clear on this in his Gita commentary, incredulous that anyone could accept the impersonal idea of the Absolute:
We cannot understand how the Supreme Personality of Godhead could be impersonal; the imposition theory* of the impersonalist monist is false as far as the statements of the Gita are concerned. It is clear herein that the Supreme Absolute Truth, Lord Krsna, has both form and personality. (Bg. 7.24, Purport)
Even the findings of modern scientists support this personalistic view. Here is a particularly powerful statement by Dr. John C. Cotran, who before he retired was Professor of Chemistry and the Chairman of the Science and Mathematics Department at the University of Minnesota:
Chemistry discloses that matter is ceasing to exist, some varieties exceedingly slowly, others exceedingly swiftly. Therefore, the existence of matter is not eternal. Consequently, matter must have had a beginning. Evidence from Chemistry and other sciences indicates that this beginning was not slow and gradual; on the contrary, it was sudden, and the evidence even indicates the approximate time when it occurred. Thus at some rather definite time the material world was created and ever since has been obeying law, not the dictates of chance. Now, the material realm not being able to create itself and its governing laws, the act of creation must have been performed by some nonmaterial agent. The stupendous marvels accomplished in that act show that this agent must possess superlative intelligence, an attribute of mind. But to bring mind into action in the material realm as, for example, in the practice of medicine and the field of parapsychology, the exercise of will is required, and this can be exerted only by a person. Hence our logical and inescapable conclusion is not only that creation occurred but that it was brought about according to the plan and will of a person endowed with supreme intelligence and knowledge (omniscience), and the power to bring it about and keep it running according to plan (omnipotence) always and everywhere throughout the universe (omnipresence). That is to say, we accept unhesitatingly the fact of the existence of "the supreme spiritual being, God, the creator and director of the universe."
It Gets Personal
Vaisnava devotees feel offended when their beautiful Lord is described as having no eyes, no mouth, no hair, no form, and as a result, no love. To deny God these distinct personal characteristics is the height of arrogance. Do humans have something that God does not? Would this not make us greater than He is—especially when it comes to loving exchanges? We can love, but God cannot?
To say that God is unlimited and then to say that He cannot have a form is contradictory. If He is unlimited, He can do whatever He likes. And if loving exchange is the highest thing in creation, as most will admit, then God would most definitely deign to be a person, for loving exchange loses meaning without personhood; it can exist only between people.
Ultimately, Vaisnava philosophy says that all conceptions of God are included in the personal form of Sri Krsna. The impersonal Brahman, according to the tenets of Vaisnavism, is but an aspect of the Absolute, which by its very nature is endlessly qualified and perfect in unlimited ways. Vaisnavas dismiss as absurd and meaningless the concept of the Absolute as merely impersonal, beyond all thought and speech. Such an Absolute cannot stand, for it would cancel itself out. Our very language disallows it: Even to say that Brahman is inexpressible or unthinkable is to say or think something about it.
Sankaracarya, an eighth-century Indian philosopher, was among the first to emphasize the impersonal Absolute. While he accepted the undifferentiated Brahman as the sole category of existence, he failed to give a satisfactory explanation of the world of appearance, which implies distinct qualities (visesa) in Brahman. In other words, how can a variegated world, with such diverse attributes, come from an undifferentiated Absolute? Impersonalist philosophers say that all variety in the material world is false and only the Supreme Brahman, or Spirit, is real. Vaisnavas counter that because the world emanates from Brahman, if Brahman is real how can the world and its varieties be false? For example, if a tree bears fruits, can anyone realistically claim that the tree is real but its fruits are not?
The Logic of Personalism
The notion of personality is not only consistent with the infinite Godhead but essential to it. The whole impersonalistic enterprise leaves some very basic questions unanswered. Consider this: I'm a person. If my source is impersonal, then where do I come from and what am I in an ultimate sense? If my source is impersonal, how can I, a person, relate to it? Moreover, even if some kind of mystical, impersonal experience exists, such an experience always occurs to a person. It's you and I—people—who have the "impersonal" exchange with God. In other words, even if you call the exchange impersonal, it must be considered a variety of personal experience because it happens to a person.
When all else fails, impersonalistic philosophers generally grasp at one well-worn argument: A qualified and personal Absolute must be limited, they say, because to attribute certain qualities to it is to deny their opposites. But impersonalists must understand that it is not personification or the attribution of character or qualities to the infinite that limits it, but it's these things not carried to their fullest extent. Chandogya Upanisad (7.14.4) says that Brahman is not only endowed with characteristics but displays such characteristics in endless ways. For example, Krsna's form may seem limited in size, but it is described as inconceivably "all-pervading" as well. He has innumerable expansions and incarnations, and He is endlessly beautiful. His wisdom knows no bounds, and He experiences unending bliss. In short, His form is not like ours—it is entirely spiritual. Countless scriptural verses support this view, showing how He is, in fact, unlimited.
Lord Caitanya argued that the impersonalistic view of unqualified Brahman derives mainly from the indirect meaning of Sanskrit words. He says that the indirect meaning of words (laksana vrtti) is justified only where the direct meaning (mukhya vrtti) doesn't make sense. Sankaracarya's exclusive emphasis on unqualified Brahman conceals the direct and real meaning of the scriptures, which more often than not describes Brahman as qualified.
How, then, can impersonalists who accept the Vedic texts make any case at all for a formless Absolute? To be fair, we must admit that many texts describe Brahman as unqualified. Katha Upanisad (1.3.15), for example, describes Brahman as being without sound, touch, or form. This idea is echoed in the Brhad-aranyaka Upanisad (1.4.10), where Brahman is said to be without eyes, ears, speech, mouth, or mind. But what does this really mean?
The celebrated philosopher Jiva Gosvami, in the line of Lord Caitanya, partly resolves the question by showing that the word nirvisesa ("without distinction or qualities"), for example, is often used by the scriptures to deny all prakrta (material) qualities of Brahman and not to deny qualities as such. If nirvisesa were used to deny qualities as such, it would not be possible to attribute to Brahman the qualities of nityatva (eternity) and vibhutva (all-pervasiveness), which even the followers of Sankaracarya accept as undeniable qualities of the Absolute. Jiva Gosvami also quotes from the Visnu Purana to prove that although Brahman does not have any ordinary, or material, qualities, it has infinite transcendental qualities.
Thus, Brahman, or God, cannot be described as merely impersonal or unqualified. Jiva Gosvami writes that such a "Brahman" is like a subject apart from its predicates or a substance apart from its attributes. Since the complete (samyak) form of an object includes both its substance and its attributes, the unqualified Brahman is only an incomplete (asamyak) manifestation of the Absolute. Jiva Gosvami insists that the personal Brahman includes the impersonal Brahman as the formless luster of His divine form (anga-kanti). In Prabhupada's words, the impersonal Brahman is merely Krsna's effulgence.
Implicit in these arguments is the understanding that God is inconceivable and, ultimately, both personal and impersonal. His impersonal aspect depends upon His personal form, which is prior. The arguments are logical enough, and yet our minds revolt against the idea of an Absolute being at once personal and impersonal. We want to choose one or the other, because we are inclined to think of the Absolute in human terms. Therefore, I should reiterate that the form of the Absolute is different from our own. We have to be careful not to limit the infinite with our human thoughts and terms—the fallacy that impersonalists attribute to the doctrine of a personal God. When dealing with any problem relating to the infinite, we have to use the laws of our understanding with reservation and caution, not allowing them to impair the perfection of the infinite or impoverish our notion of divinity.
Henry L. Mansel, a nineteenth-century English philosopher, who was Professor of Moral and Metaphysical Philosophy at Oxford, expressed the same idea in this way:
It is our duty, then, to think of God as personal; and it is our duty to believe that He is infinite. It is true that we cannot reconcile these two representations with each other, as our conception of personality involves attributes apparently contradictory to the notion of infinity. But it does not follow that this contradiction exists anywhere but in our own minds; it does not follow that it implies any impossibility in the absolute nature of God. The apparent contradiction, in this case, as in those previously noticed, is the necessary consequence of an attempt on the part of the human thinker to transcend the boundaries of his own consciousness. It proves that there are limits to man's power of thought, and it proves no more.
To describe the Absolute as merely nirvisesa, or without distinct qualities and attributes, is to make Him imperfect by "amputating" His divine limbs. Once we recognize the absolute, complete, and perfect nature of the Divine Being, we move beyond the philosophy of impersonalism. We can reconcile conflicting statements of the Vedas and the Puranas when we understand the Absolute as both personal and impersonal, or rather, as possessing in-finite attributes and forms, including an impersonal dimension. But according to the primary and general sense of the scriptures, the Absolute is essentially personal, because only in a personal Absolute, possessing infinite and inconceivable potencies, can the infinite forms of Godhead, including the impersonal Brahman, have their place.
Will I write the requested book about the many editions of the Gita? Probably not. Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita As It Is is clear enough about what the Gita teaches and includes the best of all the versions I looked through. In terms of design, clarity, scholarship, and accessibility, no other Gita comes close. So I may just have to send all those books back to that publisher. But if they would like me to do a book on personalism versus impersonalism . . .
Satyaraja Dasa is a disciple of Srila Prabhupada and a regular contributor to Back to Godhead. He has written twenty books on Krsna consciousness, and is the editor of the recently published Holy War: Violence and the Bhagavad Gita. He lives with his wife and daughter near New York City.
Krsna devotees launch an annual Padayatra,
WE'LL ORGANIZE a Padayatra this summer," said Ljubljana temple board member Lalita Govinda Dasa at the start of 2002.
It was the middle of winter, and we were skeptical but willing to help. We were due for a change. In the last several years, we hadn't embarked on any major projects to spread Krsna consciousness in Slovenia.
The Padayatra project seemed improbable at first, but things began to work out well. Lalita-Govinda's enthusiasm generated a spiritual mood, and the devotees cooperated. Thanks to financial and practical help from our congregation, Padayatra started taking shape. The state authorities granted us permission to drive an ox-cart on the roads, and we borrowed an ox, built and painted an ox-cart, and put together a sound system. Unity and harmony prevailed as we got ready to give Slovenians the gift of Krsna consciousness. We titled our excursion "Eco-Caravan—Slovenia Padayatra 2002."
"The eco-caravan is a great chance for devotees to spend time together and live simply in nature, without the unnecessary comforts that materialistic society is based on," says Isana Dasa, who works in Ljubljana and conducts a correspondence course on Krsna consciousness. "It can help devotees strengthen their character and gain valuable realizations for their spiritual progress."
We produced Padayatra T-shirts and posters, as well as a music-and-chanting CD called "Padayatra 2002."
The Padayatra ran from July 1 to July 21 and covered 170 kilometers. Because we started on the Adriatic coast, a tourist haven, we published an introductory brochure about Padayatra and Krsna consciousness in four languages: Slovene, English, Italian, and German.
The Padayatra was divided into two parts. After walking along the Adriatic coast, we went to the mountains and circled Lake Bohinj (Slovenia's largest lake) and Lake Bled (famous for its seventeenth-century island church).
Twenty-two devotees walked full time, and others came along on their free days. The high point was a weekend day when seventy-four devotees showed up.
"When people saw the happy and enthusiastic devotees on the road," said Lalita-Govinda, "the devotees' mood was transferred to them,"
During the walking days, the ox-cart rolled while devotees sang the Hare Krsna mantra and distributed Srila Prabhupada's books and free brochures and cookies. The colorful caravan attracted many tourists' cameras.
"People in villages happily greeted us," said Isana Dasa. "On village roads, people passing by in cars stopped for cookies. When we chanted amid tourists, they gathered and asked us about the chant and—what to them—were other extraordinary things."
Our base shifted every few days. We stayed in tents at tourist camps and at schools in villages. We had six bases on the coast and three in the mountains.
"The first night," said Bhakta Matej, a college student, "we drove to a school with all of our equipment, and I was surprised that the woman in charge was waiting up for us till a late hour. That was a good sign. She was very nice."
One radio station faithfully ran two broadcasts about Padayatra every day, and we received other radio and newspaper coverage. Each evening, we held two programs. For the benefit of people in nearby towns, we went out and chanted the holy names. For guests visiting our base, we offered prasadam, a puppet show, melodious bhajanas, Bharat Natyam dancing, and a slide show about India.
"In one camp we had the whole program," said Matej, "and the best part was Sri Radhika Devi Dasi's dancing with the children. They really enjoyed it. She showed them the steps, and they all danced together."
"For two nights," said Bharata Dasa, a temple devotee, "we stayed in a tourist camp that sponsored various evening programs for children. On the first night, the leader of the program encouraged children to repeatedly shout the Fred Flintstone line 'Yaba-daba-doo!' All the kids were shouting for ten minutes. The devotees joked about how nice it would be if these children were shouting the names of the Lord. The next evening it was our turn to perform, and we had a puppet show about Krsna lifting Govardhana Hill. As I introduced each character in the puppet show, I asked the children to welcome the puppets by raising their hands and shouting 'Haribol!' The response was amazing: Krsna, Nanda, and the cowherds were enthusiastically welcomed with cries of 'Haribol!' And during the show, whenever a new character appeared the children greeted him with more shouts of 'Haribol!'"
Peaceful Bhima The Ox
The main attraction of Padayatra was Bhima, a brown seven-year-old ox with a sweetly innocent demeanor, named after the strongest Pandava brother. It was impossible not to notice this gentle ox weighing more than a thousand kilos.
"I remember many people, especially parents with children, coming to pet Bhima or feed him grass as they talked with us," said Matej. "Some children were put on Bhima's back, and their parents proudly took photos."
Our original plan was to borrow the ox for Padayatra only, but later we realized that sending Bhima back to his owner was sending him to certain death. He was scheduled to be sold and slaughtered. So we bought him. Now he has a new home—a small cowshed built just for him on a devotee's farmland. It was a happy ending for fortunate Bhima, or, really, just a beginning, because the Slovenia Padayatra will be an annual event. We intend to find him a companion. Some devotees are inheriting farmland from their parents and are eager to take up farming and cow protection. Two-thirds of the people of Slovenia still live in a rural environment.
The experience we gained on our first Padayatra strengthened our faith in Lord Krsna. We're confident that Padayatra 2003—this July—cannot be anything but successful. We are even hoping to make it international by inviting devotees from neighboring countries.
Kisora Dasa, a lawyer in Ljubljana, will soon spend a year in India.
Tattvavit Dasa, a disciple of Srila Prabhupada who has visited Slovenia four times, helped BTG produce this article.
See an expanded photo gallery for this article at www.krishna.com/373
Renewing the Unity in "Community"
This history was compiled by Alesh Chrnich, who wrote the first Ph.D. thesis on the Hare Krsna movement in Slovenia. He is now doing further research in India.
THE Padayatra was organized largely for devotees as a way to renew their unity, because in the past six or seven years many devotees' lives had changed, sometimes in disappointing ways. After the "Hare Krsna Centre" opened in Ljubljana in 1993, thirty to forty devotees lived there together for a few years. Ten began distributing two thousand books a week throughout the country. In 1994, Transcendence—a devotee band—emerged as part of the community's activities and for several summers played successful concerts across Slovenia. The boundaries began to diminish between initiated devotees living in the temple and uninitiated ones from the congregation, who lived on their own and worked or studied.
For six weeks—also during the summer of 1994—Padayatra Europe entered Slovenia with a bullock cart on a historic walk from London to Moscow. This was part of the centennial celebration of Srila Prabhupada's birth—Padayatras in a hundred countries. The Ljubljana devotees successfully advertised the caravan and joined in its travels. Some even walked to Moscow.
By the end of 1996 (the Centennial year), sixty devotees lived at the temple. Only two couples had gotten married and moved out. In 1996 a summer camp was organized in Croatia, and for the first time initiations were conferred upon congregational members from Slovenia. Toward the end of 1997 and in 1998, many devotees moved out of the temple and joined the growing congregation. Some were getting married, and some were dissatisfied with the leadership or the strictness of temple life. Sanghas, or weekly group meetings of congregational members, became a regular activity. Some gurus who preached in Slovenia left ISKCON at this time, and in 1999 practically all the senior devotees left the temple. A large number of other gurus visited during this period, however, and many devotees received initiation from them.
Today, a hundred devotees form the core of the community, and twice as many are less active. Most of the active members are about thirty years old and are well-educated by Slovene standards. Half of them are married and have full-time jobs, and a third of them are students.
Twenty devotees now live in the temple, some of whom have jobs. Ananta Dasa, the temple president, initiated in 2002, is earning a Ph.D. in engineering. This year ISKCON Slovenia celebrates the twentieth anniversary of its registration as a religion in the Republic of Slovenia.
7: Dasyam —Becoming the Lord's Servant
Service to the Lord is so intimate that
By Dvarakadhisa Devi Dasi
In Srimad-Bhagavatam, the devotee Prahlada Maharaja, a great spiritual authority, says, "Hearing and chanting about the transcendental holy name, form, qualities, paraphernalia, and pastimes of Lord Visnu [Krsna], remembering them, serving the lotus feet of the Lord, offering the Lord respectful worship . . . , offering prayers to the Lord, becoming His servant, considering the Lord one's best friend, and surrendering everything unto Him (in other words, serving Him with the body, mind, and words)—these nine processes are accepted as pure devotional service. One who has dedicated his life to the service of Krsna through these nine methods should be understood to be the most learned person, for he has acquired complete knowledge." Here we continue our series on the nine processes of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service to the Lord.
PICTURE this classified ad: "SERVANT NEEDED. Must be qualified to anticipate and fulfill the master's every desire without direct instruction. Must be available 24/7, with no time off for sick leave, vacations, or holidays. Should be willing to sacrifice life if needed. No salary. Modest meals and humble dwelling provided, along with much good will if the master is satisfied."
Would there be many takers? The position of servant is the lowest in the socio-economic hierarchy. Servants collect garbage tossed aside by the rest. Always under orders from others, servants have the least liberty to pursue their own dreams and goals. Servants are overworked, unnoticed, underpaid, unappreciated.
As modern-day materialism deteriorates higher spiritual values, repugnance for servitude follows like a virus. The once noble, beloved, trusted servant has become a paid lackey, coldly measured by productivity, subject to impersonal obligations and betrayals. Though savvy bosses train employees to superficially delight the "always-right" customer, service jobs carry limited respect and value.
In such an atmosphere we approach the next process of devotional service: dasyam, the rendering of personal service to God. Here we step beyond materialistic views of servitude. Ideally, service leads the servant to become a confidante of the served. Service to God is so intimate that He offers it only to the most trustworthy souls.
Dasyam refers to a heartfelt yearning to be of personal service to the Supreme Lord, Sri Krsna. It is the ultimate expression of humility, yet it is bold in its aspiration to such a lofty position.
To attain dasyam one must completely understand that God is a person. He is not our creation. Rather, Krsna is a person of such wonder and magnitude that this vast, imponderable world is just a tiny spark of His creative ability. To serve Krsna we must come to know this magnificent person and understand His desires.
Just as famous or wealthy people don't allow just anyone into their personal employ, Lord Krsna accepts personal service only from the pure-hearted. He sees when service is tainted by selfish motives. And while He kindly recognizes all attempts at service, the self-centered cannot attain intimate, truly personal service.
Two Noted Servants
The Ramayana offers an extraordinary example of personal service. Lord Rama, the celebrated incarnation of Krsna, loses his wife, Sita, to a kid-napper. Traveling to her rescue, Rama meets the monkey warrior Hanuman, who scours the earth and leaps the ocean to find Sita. Lord Rama did not have to instruct Hanuman or offer endless encouragement; because of Hanuman's pure love for the Lord, the opportunity to serve enthralled him.
During his search, Hanuman was captured and tortured by the kidnapper Ravana. Yet Hanuman's desire to serve remained unchanged. "An apparently pitiable condition in devotional service may appear distressing to the inexperienced student," writes Srila Prabhupada in The Nectar of Devotion, "but the feelings of the devotee in this pitiable condition are considered to be ecstatic by expert devotees."
Service to Krsna is described as both the means and the end. It is not simply a step to bigger things. In this world, who aspires to remain a servant for life? We expect some kind of payback—money or prestige. But spiritual servitude completely satisfies the servant. Hanuman prayed to Lord Rama: "My dear Lord, if You like You can give me salvation from this material existence, or the privilege of merging into Your existence, but I do not wish any of those things. I do not wish anything which diminishes my relationship with You as servant to master, even after liberation." (The Nectar of Devotion)
Daruka, Krsna's chariot driver, once prayed to the Lord to remove the ecstasy he felt as he fanned the Lord to cool Him. Daruka's powerful spiritual bliss interfered with his concentration on his simple service, and he begged the Lord to help him control his overwhelming spiritual pleasure.
Daruka and Hanuman knew clearly the wishes of their masters, and the venerated Vedic scriptures herald them as great servants of God. Today, however, you may rightly ask who could be more presumptuous than one who claims to know God's will. Although Lord Krsna reveals His will in general through scripture, His immediate will is veiled by layers of illusion wrapped about our hearts. While we are under the spell of this world, we cannot presume that we're qualified to be Krsna's servant. That would be prideful and offensive to the Lord and to the pure souls who offer selfless, unblemished service.
Servant of the Servant
So for us, dasyam means not to serve the Lord directly, but to serve those who serve Him. Indeed, if we are honest within ourselves, we'll admit that even that position is perhaps too exalted for us. Our aspiration should rather be to serve the servants of the servants of the servants of the Lord, stretching our humility as far as our realizations will allow. It is said that the servants of the Lord are even kinder than the Lord Himself. So even if we're impure, they can accept on His behalf our clumsy attempts to serve Him without offense.
That's one reason we need a guru to attain dasyam. But who is a guru? In spiritual life, external appearance is irrelevant. People claiming a direct link to God may be simply advertising themselves as fools, captivated by a desire to be God's best servant, basking in the praise of others. A true servant of God finds joy in serving the servants of God. So great is the pleasure found in the effort and sacrifice of such service that misery arises when pride obstructs it. True humility thus naturally appears in a true guru, whose heart is ever-satisfied as the servant of Krsna's servants.
Dvarakadhisa Devi Dasi is a frequent contributor to Back to Godhead. She lives with her husband and daughter in Gainesville, Florida.
Fierce Lord of Love
OF THE AVATARS of Lord Krsna described in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, Lord Nrsimha, whose appearance coincides with this issue of BTG, is especially intriguing to many of us. Half man, half lion—and all God.
People encountering a picture of Nrsimhadeva ferociously ripping apart Hiranyakasipu are often taken aback. "You believe this is God?"
Why not? God is the ultimate in everything. He can light like no one else. He can tear up the mighty terrorist Hiranyakasipu with little effort.
But if you find the fierce aspect of God unappealing, know that His supreme anger is a display of His intense love for His devotee Prahlada, Hiranyakasipu's son, who was being tortured by his atheistic father.
But Nrsimha's actions were also motivated by love for Hiranyakasipu, His apparent victim. Hiranyakasipu is one of the Lord's eternal servants, a gatekeeper in the spiritual world. Lord Visnu yearned for good light, so He arranged an incident in the spiritual world that ended with His servant's fall to the material world to spend three lives as the Lord's greatest enemy. What to our eyes seems like the attack of a bloodthirsty creature is in fact a dance of love between the Lord and His servant.
We must always be careful to understand God's activities under proper guidance. God's devotees know that He can do no wrong. Everything He does springs from His love for us and His infinite desire to exchange love with each of us in a deep, personal, unique relationship. We may look at Hiranyakasipu and feel sorry for him, but that's the wrong reaction. We should praise him for his great fortune at having been chosen to assist the Lord in His quest for a knock-down, drag-out light. If only we could be so privileged!
We learn from the Bhagavad-gita and other Vedic books that we have a unique relationship with God and should use our human life to revive it. When Krsna comes to this world in His countless forms, He shows some of the endless variety of ways we can exchange love with Him. In Lord Nrsimha's appearance, for example, we see extreme contrast in His displays of love for Prahlada and Hiranyakasipu.
Another example of Lord Nrsimha's unique love is His relationship with Lord Brahma, His empowered servant who creates the universe. Brahma had given Hiranyakasipu several boons—up to Brahma's limit of power to bestow—through which Hiranyakasipu believed he had become immortal. He could not be killed by any known being in the universe, by any weapon, during the day or night, inside or outside, in the sky, in the sea, or on the land. Lord Nrsimha showed respect and love for His devotee Brahma by honoring his benedictions. Outsmarting Hiranyakasipu, He assumed a form as half man, half lion to kill Hiranyakasipu with His fingernails, at dusk, on His lap, in the doorway of the palace. The Lord could have disregarded Brahma's benedictions, but He chose to show his affection for his servant by honoring them. When we carefully study the activities of the Lord's incarnations, we'll find them to be the highest expressions of love, no matter how violent they may seem at first glance.
The leaders of society, despite all their materialistic plans, are misleaders, for they have no plan to revive our lost relationship with the Lord.
His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
It is directly seen, realized, and applicable to all times, places, and persons that by offenselessly remembering the holy names of Sri Caitanya, all material desires of the conditioned souls are diminished; in other words, the conditioned souls attain freedom from the conceptions of being entangled in other desires, like material enjoyment and mental speculations.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura
O descendant of King Bharata, one who desires to be free from all miseries must hear about, glorify, and also remember the Personality of Godhead, who is the Supersoul, the controller, and the savior from all miseries.
Srila Sukadeva Gosvami
All the demigods and all the transcendental philosophers who desire liberation bow down to the Supreme Lord.
If one chants the holy name of the Lord, even in a helpless condition or without desiring to do so, all the reactions of his sinful life depart, just as when a lion roars, all the small animals flee in fear.
Anyone, even a person in an impure state, who absorbs his mind in Him [the Supreme Lord] for just a moment at the time of death burns up all traces of sinful reactions and immediately attains the supreme transcendental destination in a pure, spiritual form as effulgent as the sun.
All the bodies of the Supreme Lord are eternal and everlasting. They are never subject to material destruction or born of matter. They are the embodiment of supreme bliss and are completely transcendental.
The pastimes of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu are full of nectar, and the pastimes of Lord Krsna are like camphor. When one mixes these, they taste very sweet. By the mercy of the pure devotees, whoever tastes them can understand the depths of that sweetness.
Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami