In this issue we look at how one of India's greatest festivals—Rathayatra, the chariot festival of Puri—spread to cities all over the world. Srila Prabhupada, the founder/acarya of the Hare Krsna movement, introduced Rathayatra to the West in San Francisco during the height of the '60s counterculture. The hippies loved it, of course, but Prabhupada knew they wouldn't be the only ones—a fact proven by the smiles on the faces of millions of people from all races and walks of life who have witnessed the festival over the last thirty-six years.
Because Rathayatra honors Lord Krsna (as Jagannatha, "the Lord of the universe"), Prabhupada saw it as an excellent way to demonstrate an essential point of the philosophy of Krsna conscious: God is a real person. In "God Beyond the Void," Prabhupada's lecture in this issue, we hear the urgency with which Prabhupada wanted to convey that message.
In "What Is Love?" Arcana-siddhi Devi Dasi shows what the personhood of God is all about: the exchange of love between God and His devotees. And in "Full Surrender to the Lord," the last in our series on the nine processes of devotional service, Dvarakadhisa Devi Dasi explains what we need to do to taste the fulfillment of loving the Supreme Person.
Hare Krsna.—Nagaraja Dasa, Editor
• To help all people discern reality from illusion, spirit from matter, the eternal from the temporary.
Piotr Adamski, of the Hare Krsna temple at 26 Second Avenue in New York City, created the display of Krsna's face shown here using hundreds of Post-it notes containing BTG's "Vedic Thoughts" (see inside back cover). When the Society for Environmental Graphic Design (SEGD), an international non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C., announced the winners of its 2003 Design Awards, the display was among the winners. Here's the write-up from SEDG's Web site (sedg.org):
Juror Award ("Please Take One")
Location: Central Park, New York, NY
For the Krishna Festival in August 2002, representatives of the Hare Krishna movement in New York wanted to provide a way to communicate the Vedic philosophy in an inexpensive (up to $300) but appealing way. The mosaic was a board consisting of 1800 Post-it notes in various colors recently released by 3M. The image was a close-up of the eyes of Krishna, the personification of God in traditional Vedic culture, based on a photo of deities from one of the main temples in Imphal, Manipur, India. The notes were each printed with quotes from the philosophical masterpieces of Vedic literature, creating a wall of spiritual thoughts to be noticed, read, and taken by passersby. Piotr Adamski wrote "Please Take One" on a cardboard sign, and the message worked. On a sunny afternoon, more than half of the 1800 notes were noticed, read, and taken. The goal was achieved: Vedic wisdom was absorbed and passed on to an otherwise unreachable group of people. Taking into account the short life of festivals, the project was deliberately constructed to be destroyed, disappear, and taken away in small pieces. The artwork was sacrificed as a whole in order to extend the existence of its message.
"This is an extremely clever, ephemeral, low environmental impact, religious communication art piece. Viewers become participants, interacting with the piece, and gradually deconstruct the Vedic image as they take messages away. The Post-it notes were a perfect low-budget choice."
The philosophy of Krsna consciousness presents a fuller understanding of God than that of the impersonalists and voidists.
by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Bhaktivinoda Thakura said krsnera samsara kara chadi 'anacara: everyone can engage in family or worldly life, but one simply has to abandon his destructive habits. This is not a question of negation; it is positive understanding. Simply negating material existence by impersonal voidist philosophy, or Mayavada philosophy, is not sufficient. There must be a positive platform. Without it, simply giving up something negative will not in itself help us progress in spiritual life. If we have no positive destination, simply abandoning or trying to abandon our present condition is of no value.
There are two kinds of Mayavada philosophy. One, called voidism, states that the origin of everything is simply void. Generally, Buddhist philosophy advocates voidism in that the Buddhists maintain that this material existence is a combination of material elements and when these material elements are dismantled, whatever was formed by the combination again becomes void. We may bring some iron, wood, stone, cement, and other ingredients together to make a large house, but when we separate the bricks, iron, wood, and so on, the construction becomes void.
The voidists maintain that material miseries arise from a combination of matter. The bodies of living entities are certainly combinations of material elements—earth, water, fire, air, ether—and subtle elements such as mind, intelligence, and false ego. These are all considered material, and somehow or other they are combined to make an abode of misery. The voidists say, "Separate them and there will be no more happiness or distress."
The other Mayavada philosopher, the impersonalist, says, brahma satyam jagan-mithya: this material combination is false, but behind it there is spirit. This is also a fact because matter can only grow when there is spirit within. If a child is born dead, it will not grow even if we somehow keep it chemically preserved. The body will not develop unless the spirit soul is present within. It is a generally accepted fact that matter grows because of spirit, but the impersonalists say that this spirit is impersonal, that it has no form. The Krsna consciousness philosophy takes exception to both of these theories of the Mayavada philosophers.
Spirit Has Form
The philosophy of Krsna consciousness maintains that spirit is a fact and that indeed the spirit has form. If one's body is round and bulky, one's suit, his coat and pants, will also be round and bulky. Because the body has arms and legs, one's suit has them also. The external material body is compared to one's clothes in that it covers the spirit soul. If the spiritual body, which the material body clothes, is void, then why does the material body have form? The impersonalists cannot answer this, but Bhagavad-gita (2.22) explains it clearly:
vasamsi jirnani yatha vihaya
"As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, the soul similarly accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones."
Once we had the bodies of infants and children, but now those bodies are changed. When this body becomes too old, the spirit soul gives it up and accepts another. The spirit soul has form, but it is so small that its length and breadth cannot be estimated by material means. Material scientists can only estimate intermediate manifestations; they cannot estimate the smallest, and they cannot estimate the great-est. In other words, they cannot mea-sure the vastness of outer space, nor can they measure the minuscule particle that is the spirit soul.
Indeed, the spirit soul is so infinitesimally small that it is stated in Vedic literature to be no larger than one ten thousandth the size of the tip of a hair. In other words, it cannot be seen by the most powerful microscope available. Modern science has no suitable instrument to measure the soul. Consequently, out of frustration they say that the soul is formless. In actuality, however, the soul is not formless; they simply have no instrument to measure it.
Similarly, because the impersonalists cannot measure the greatest and the smallest, the infinite and the infinitesimal, they say that God and the spirit soul are formless. The Krsna consciousness philosophy, however, maintains that both God and the individual soul have form. The difference is that God is infinite and the spirit soul is infinitesimal. Otherwise they are qualitatively one, just as a drop of sea water and the great sea itself are qualitatively one. Quantitatively there is no comparing the sea and the drop of water, just as there is no comparing the individual soul with the supreme soul.
The Great And the Small
According to the Krsna consciousness philosophy, one should accept one's position as a drop in comparison to the infinite. As often said, God is great, and we are small; our position is to serve the great. That is natural, for everywhere we find the smaller serving the greater. God is great, greater than anything else, and since nothing is equal to Him, it is the constitutional position of all living entities to serve Him. That rendering of service is called Krsna consciousness.
Instead of artificially attempting to negate material existence, the members of this society for Krsna consciousness are trying to enter into a real existence by chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, studying the philosophy of Bhagavad-gita, and rendering service to the society, which is devoted to spreading the philosophy of Krsna consciousness throughout the world. In this way material existence is automatically negated by entering into the reality.
When we come to the reality, we automatically become healthy in the sense that we become freed from this material disease, symptomized by the material body, which is always full of disease. It is not that because we are diseased we have form and that when we become free from disease we become formless. That is the Mayavada contention, and it is nonsense. At what stage in our development do we become formless?
The impersonalists say that the form-less state is attained at death, but in Bhagavad-gita (2.27), Krsna says, "One who has taken his birth is sure to die, and after death one is sure to take birth again." It is not possible, therefore, to remain in a formless situation.
The point is that we should keep our form but keep it in a healthy condition. That means realizing our spiritual form or spiritual identity, which is called svarupa. It is an insanity to think, "Because I have this form, I am feeling pain and pleasure, so now let me become formless." This is strictly a materialistic view of the form of the spirit soul. The real point is to keep the form in a healthy condition; this healthy condition is called mukti, or liberation from material conceptions.
How is this possible? All one has to do is simply dovetail everything to Krsna, to steep one's life in Krsna con-sciousness. For example, under the spell of maya, illusion, people are moved to dance. In any case, dancing will continue, but one person is dancing in the ballroom for his own personal gratification, and another person is dancing in a temple for the satisfaction of Krsna. There is a vast difference between the two. Ballroom dancing is conducted on the platform of the material body, but in Krsna consciousness dancing is on the spiritual platform.
Therefore the society for Krsna consciousness invites everyone to come dance and sing to relish transcendental pleasure. That is the real program of this Krsna consciousness movement. It is not very difficult; a child can also dance and clap. By real singing and dancing, we can make advancement in spiritual life. The living entity can continue singing, dancing, eating, sleeping, and mating, but he should permeate these things with Krsna consciousness, or God consciousness. Everyone is seeking eternal happiness, and this is the program. There is no question of trying to merge with the void or become formless.
In the Bhagavad-gita (15.8-10) it is stated that our next body is determined by our mental condition at the time of death. How does this happen? Lord Krsna gives the following example:
sariram yad avapnoti
srotram caksuh sparsanam ca
utkramantam sthitam vapi
"The living entity in the material world carries his different conceptions of life from one body to another, as the air carries aromas. Thus he takes one kind of body and again quits it to take another. The living entity, thus taking another gross body, obtains a certain type of ear, eye, tongue, nose, and sense of touch, which are grouped about the mind. He thus enjoys a particular set of sense objects. The foolish cannot understand how a living entity can quit his body, nor can they understand what sort of body he enjoys under the spell of the modes of nature. But one whose eyes are trained in knowledge can see all this."
The air carries the aroma of roses from a rose garden, but if the air happens to pass over a sewer, it will carry the obnoxious odor of waste products. The air is pure, but according to the situation, it carries either pleasing or unpleasing odors. The spirit soul is also pure, being part of the Supreme Lord, but due to its association with material nature it is manifest in different bodies. Different bodies are constantly being acquired. It is a fact that even in our present life we pass through so many different bodies—a baby's body, a child's body, a boy's, a young man's, a mature man's, and an old man's. Finally, when in old age the body becomes useless, we accept another body. This is called transmigration of the soul.
A Body Like Krsna's
Our next body will be created according to the consciousness we are presently culturing. Therefore this human form of life is especially meant for cultivating Krsna consciousness so that when we leave this body and accept another, we get a body like Krsna's—that is, a sac-cid-ananda body, an eternal body of bliss and knowledge. That is the purpose of this Krsna consciousness movement. We are trying to change the consciousness of all people so that they can get a body exactly like Krsna's in their next life. In a spiritual body like Krsna's, it is possible to dance with Krsna in the rasa dance of eternity. That is the highest goal a living entity can attain—personal association with Krsna.
Those who are actually in knowledge know what kind of bodies they will get in the next life. A man knows that he is going to London because he buys an airplane ticket for that destination. Similarly, anyone can know where he is going after death by knowing the consciousness he has cultivated during this life.
It is stated in the Gita that one takes his next body according to the particular mode predominating at one's death: One who dies in the mode of ignorance attains an animal body or a body in the lower species, one who dies in the mode of passion attains a human form on a planet like the earth, and one who dies in the mode of goodness is promoted to the higher planetary systems and attains a body like a demigod.
All of these bodies, however, are temporary. If one is fortunate to die in Krsna consciousness, he attains an eternal body like Krsna's and associates with the Supreme Lord in His eternal abode. Once that body is attained, it is not changed. Therefore from the scriptures we can understand that the people in general have to be taught to live in the mode of goodness. At least in this way they'll be guaranteed a life in a higher planetary system, if not liberation.
The Vedic civilization is thus meant to elevate people. At the present moment we are most fallen, having been put in this material world as criminals. Wanting to enjoy material nature, we have been put here to attempt this enjoyment, and consequently wherever we go we see people struggling hard to enjoy themselves. Everyone is thinking, "I shall enjoy myself and become great. I shall become prime minister or president. I shall be a big merchant or a big leader." When the living entity fails at everything, he finally thinks, "Now I shall become God."
All of these aspirations, even the desire to become God, are material. Therefore Krsna says that we cannot become happy by practicing a religious system based on the idea of increasing sense enjoyment or becoming one with God.
Some religious systems maintain that by practicing certain religious principles one can go to the heavenly planets and enjoy beautiful women and drink soma juice for ten thousand years. This may sound like a great promotion, but it is simply a more advanced materialistic life. There is nothing spiritual about it.
When one finally understands that there can be no actual happiness in this way, he declares the material world to be false, saying, "This universe is false —now let me search out Brahman." Unfortunately this philosophy negates the spark of enjoyment within every living entity.
The scriptures say that such elevated persons, believing this world to be false and not knowing Krsna, become impersonalists and voidists to detach themselves from false engagements and negate material enjoyments. Many religious systems are manufactured on such a platform—how to enjoy oneself to the fullest extent and how to become zero.
Actually we are neither enjoyers nor are we zeros; therefore Krsna rejects any religious system based on false renunciation or material enjoyment. We mistakenly take this material world as a fact and consequently try to enjoy it, and when we become frustrated, we try to make it zero. Actually it is not zero, nor is there any cause for frustration. We simply have to receive the right knowledge regarding it.
Krsna the Enjoyer
This right knowledge is given in Bhagavad-gita (13.23, 28) by Lord Krsna, who says:
samam sarvesu bhutesu
"Yet in this body there is another, a transcendental enjoyer, who is the Lord, the supreme proprietor, who is existing as the overseer and permitter, and who is known as the Supersoul. One who sees the Supersoul accompanying the individual soul in all bodies, and understands that neither the soul nor the Supersoul within the destructible body is ever destroyed, actually sees."
If we simply understand that Krsna is the only enjoyer, our propensity to become false enjoyers will be vanquished. We must simply admit: "I am not the enjoyer; Krsna is the enjoyer."
If we understand this, there is no question of renunciation. Krsna also says, "I am the proprietor of all planetary systems." Then what is there for us to renounce? Since Krsna is the proprietor of everything, there is no question of renunciation, and if He is the only enjoyer, there is no meaning to our separate or independent enjoyment.
If we try to enjoy or usurp another's property, we become thieves, and if we renounce the property of another, we become pretenders, for in actuality we have nothing to renounce. This is our position, and one who knows this perfectly well should be known to be situated in Krsna consciousness.
We should know for certain that Krsna is not poor. Isavasyam idam sarvam: "Everything animate or inanimate that is within the universe is controlled and owned by the Lord." [Isopanisad, Mantra 1] If we remain satisfied with whatever is given to us by Krsna, and if we remain in Krsna consciousness, always thinking, "My father is so kind and rich. Let me abide by His orders and live peacefully," then the world and we ourselves will become peaceful. But as soon as we want to encroach on another's property and enjoy more than is allotted us by the Lord, we automatically become criminals.
To become free from criminal offenses, we have to abide by the many prescriptions given in the scriptures. These prescriptions are of the nature of tapasya, or penance. One is practicing tapasya when he would like to steal another's property but thinks, "No, it would be criminal. My father said that it is criminal, and therefore I shall not take it." We all have the inclination to steal, to usurp other's things, but we must restrain ourselves and act in accordance to the laws of Krsna, who is our father.
This process may at first seem a little difficult, but if we study Krsna consciousness we will not only understand Krsna but will be happy and liberated. In Bhagavad-gita Krsna says that one who simply understands Him, as He is, will be liberated. Understanding Krsna superficially is not real knowledge. Krsna also states in Bhagavad-gita that it is very difficult to understand Him, but despite this if one is fortunate and sincere, he can readily understand. Krsna says that there is no truth higher than Him, and if one is fortunate enough to understand this and follow the advice of Krsna, he is on the path of liberation.
One who has the fortune to discriminate can understand Krsna very easily, but the association of devotees is also required. It is very difficult to know Krsna when one is removed from the association of Krsna's devotees, and therefore this International Society for Krishna Consciousness is formed to give everyone an opportunity to associate with devotees of Krsna and also become devotees. This movement is open to everyone because Krsna is everyone's father. We should not think that Krsna is a Hindu God or is for the Indians and not the others. He is for everyone. If He were not, how could He be God? God cannot be God simply for a particular type of man or for a particular section of society. God is God for all human beings, beasts, aquatics, insects, trees, plants—all the varieties of creation. That is God. When we come to understand Him in His universality, and when we come to realize our relationship with Him, we will have arrived at Krsna consciousness.
Thank you very much.
The last of the nine processes of devotional service to Krsna incorporates the other eight.
by Dvarakadhisa Devi Dasi
Faithful readers of Back to Godhead will remember the very earliest installments in this series on the nine processes of devotional service. Completing all nine has taken me years, because I have a great trepidation when it comes to expounding on such sacred and powerful topics. Nevertheless, this discussion of atma-nivedanam, surrendering everything to the Lord, completes the series. For new readers, here is a little background information about the subject.
The nine processes of devotional service to the Lord are listed by Prahlada Maharaja in the Seventh Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam. They are (1) sravanam, hearing, (2) kirtana, chanting, (3) visnu-smaranam, remembering the Lord, (4) pada-sevanam, serving the Lord's lotus feet, (5) arcanam, worshiping the Deity, (6) vandanam, praying, (7) dasyam, becoming the Lord's servant, (8) sakhyam, considering the Lord one's best friend, and (9) atma-nivedanam, surrendering everything (mind, body, and words) to the Lord. Srila Prabhupada writes, "One can engage in all nine devotional processes, or eight, or seven, or at the very least in one, and that will surely make one perfect." (Bhagavad-gita As It Is, 11.55, Purport) And in The Nectar of Devotion, Srila Prabhupada lists the exemplars of each of the nine processes—each became perfect by perfecting one process.
King Bali's Surrender
In considering atma-nivedanam, it is good to start with the story of the devotee Srila Prabhupada cited as the best example of surrendering everything to the Supreme Lord, the great king Bali Maharaja. The story takes place in an ancient time, so some of the elements may seem fantastic to us now. Nevertheless, human nature is as recognizable in this tale as in yesterday's headlines. Greed, envy, betrayal, and redemption all make their appearances as a magnificent king is forced to make a difficult choice.
Bali Maharaja had conquered this entire planet, and his power was so great that he also overcame the devas, the rulers of the heavenly planets. Now, Bali was a pure and pious soul, but he had been born in a family of materialistic atheists. The author of Srimad-Bhagavatam calls such atheists asuras, or demons, for however great their riches, however strong their armies, however beautiful their kingdoms, they remain unconscious of the majesty of the Supreme Lord.
The asuras' motivation was materialistic gain, and even religion was simply a tool to obtain more material opulence. Bali Maharaja's conquest of the heavenly planets—a tremendous surge of demonic power—deeply alarmed the devas. While the devas are themselves replete with riches beyond our imagining, they are ultimately servants of the Lord. So, naturally, in their distress they turned to the Supreme Lord with prayers, requesting His intervention.
When God decides to involve Himself in affairs of this world, He often comes in a form that shows His flair for surprise and humor. Perhaps the devas were envisioning the Lord in the form of a frightening warrior, slashing through the formidable army of Bali Maharaja. They certainly wouldn't have expected the form the Lord did assume, that of a brahmana boy-dwarf named Vamana. Surely no one could inspire less trepidation in the heart of a mighty king than this small, peaceful child. And yet it was Vamana who brought Bali Maharaja to his knees.
You need to know a little bit about Bali Maharaja. Much earlier, in another story, he was killed and then brought back to life by a powerful mystic, Sukracarya. Predictably, Sukracarya acted as Bali Maharaja's greatest advisor in both material and spiritual matters. For demons, spiritual matters consist of performing the proper sacrifices to increase wealth and power. Don't underestimate Sukracarya's importance to Bali Maharaja; in those days, a king like Bali would rather die than disobey his spiritual master.
Vamana in Bali's Court
So, the sweet brahmana boy came to Bali Maharaja's court. Vamana was so effulgent and beautiful that it was immediately evident that He was not an ordinary brahmana. It was the custom at that time for the ruling class to serve the saintly brahmanas. So when Vamana entered Bali's palace, Bali observed the custom of washing Vamana's feet.
Although Bali Maharaja and his family were asuric, they still understood the need for a class of pure-hearted persons fit to perform austeri-ties and sacrifices for everyone's benefit. This kind of brahmana worship is something very different from devotional service; it is more like a spiritual business deal.
The air must have been tremendously surcharged, and Bali Maharaja understood that here was a divine person. In the humility born of his natural piety, Bali Maharaja took the water from Vamana's feet upon his own head.
Sukracarya was not pleased to see all of this. He was instantly able to perceive Vamana's true identity, and the knowledge filled him with fear, which only increased as he listened to King Bali offer Vamana any boon He desired. Here was a person who could take it all, all of the wealth and power Bali Maharaja had acquired over so many triumphant years of conquest. Yet Lord Vamana made the most humble of requests. Three paces of land was all He asked. And, looking at the boy-dwarf standing before him, Bali could only think that they would be three very small steps indeed. So Bali tried to talk Vamana into a more substantial offering, an entire island perhaps. But Vamana demurred, stating philosophically that three paces of land was all this humble brahmana needed. Bali agreed to Vamana's request.
But Sukracarya could not stand this. It is a trick, he hissed at Bali Maharaja. Obviously, this little brahmana is the Supreme Lord, always looking out for the welfare of the devas, our enemies. If you agree to give Him anything at all, you will lose everything.
Some spiritual guide, this Sukracarya! He demanded that Bali retract his promise of three paces of land, pretty much telling Bali that if he didn't, Bali could go to the hellish planets. Although it was a grave sin to lie to any brahmana, what to speak of such an exalted brahmana as Vamana, Sukracarya insisted that Bali would be blameless for breaking his promise, because he would only be defending his hard-won kingdom.
The exquisite torment facing Bali Maharaja at that moment can hardly be contemplated. He knew, with the very deepest conviction of his heart, that Vamana was really the Supreme Lord. And, despite his upbringing, he understood that everything in this world truly belonged to Him. Still, he was facing unprecedented wrath from the very man who had given him life and guided him well throughout the years. It would have been easy, so easy, to simply yield to the instructions of his spiritual master, ignoring the truth hammering in his own heart. For all Bali knew, Sukracarya's curses were correct, and this gift of three paces of land would result in eternal suffering for Bali.
Bali spoke respectfully but firmly to Sukracarya, explaining his decision to fulfill his promise to the brahmana Vamana. All the wonderful opulence he had gained would be lost at death anyway, he said. After his death, all that would remain of him would be the dark legacy of his lie, his cheating of a brahmana. Since the Supreme Lord is the recipient of all Sukracarya's elaborate sacrifices anyway, what would it matter if Bali just handed over everything today?
Well, none of this convinced Sukracarya. Furious, he cursed his formerly beloved disciple to lose all his opulence. A very powerful yogi, Sukracarya could indeed make that happen.
Apparently unperturbed, Bali again washed Vamana's feet and poured the water on his own head. He then invited Vamana to take His three steps of land.
Three Big Steps
Sukracarya was right about one thing: It was a trick. Vamana at once grew to a tremendous size, and with His gigantic first step He covered the entire universe. This is difficult to picture, but the Srimad-Bhagavatam helps us out by describing how everything in the universe then became part of Vamana's body. The earthly surfaces were on the tops of His feet, all the birds in the universe in His knees, the seven oceans in His waist, and so on. When Bali saw this incredible sight, he was awed. His asuric friends, however, were scared out of their wits. It was one thing to speculate about the potency of this divine brahmana boy, and quite another to see the entire universe absorbed into His huge form.
Then Vamana took His second step. This step stretched so far, far out of sight, beyond all of the heavenly kingdoms, that it covered all that existed. After this step, there was no place left for step number three. Bali's demoniac associates were extremely angry at this point, and there was a bit of a scuffle with the devas, but the demons lost in the end. And Bali himself was arrested and humiliated for failing to keep his promise of three steps.
Nothing to Withhold
Then Vamana stood before the greatly diminished Bali and demanded, "Where shall I place My third step?"
In one of the most beautiful moments in all of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, Bali lowers his head and replies, "Please, place Your third lotus footstep on my head."
This is what Prahlada Maharaja was talking about when he spoke about atma-nivedanam—this incredible moment of love and realization, when there is nothing at all to withhold, and no reason to fear any loss.
For very few does the test come with such clarity and drama; for most of us, to remember who we really are and who really controls everything around us is a minute-by-minute struggle. We cling to our collection of possessions, our place within the community, our commendable religious practices. Perhaps there are days when we long for this one single, defining act. But the real battles are in those moments when resentment flares ("How dare he do that to me?"), or when our control wavers ("I never said to do that!"), or when smoldering envy kicks in ("It looks good, but she must have cheated!).
Our chances for atma-nivedanam come most often within the privacy of our own hearts, when Krsna is tugging at our attachments and we respond with gratitude or anger. To be willing to give away our sense of superiority to others, to walk away from insults with a light heart, to feel the needs of others more deeply than the needs of our own self—these are precious intimacies that Krsna offers repeatedly in human life. It's sometimes as simple as nodding your head or writing a check. And it's sometimes as complicated as changing your livelihood. For every soul the extractions of devotion are highly personal and unpredictable.
For Bali Maharaja, the ending was happy, much happier, in fact, than if he had clung to his enormous kingdom. Vamana awarded Bali an entire planet to rule, and He Himself would serve as the doorkeeper. The real prize was not the breadth of Bali's new kingdom, but the opportunity for eternal association with the Supreme Lord.
Beyond Surrender of Possessions
So, can a person claim the prize of devotional service just by giving everything away? Many have tried. But for most, just walking away is little more than relinquishing responsibilities that had become unwanted anyway. For others, the "renunciation" has its true basis in fear—fear of intimacy, or failure, or even of success. Someone might relinquish all possessions and embark on a monastic life for a million reasons that have nothing to do with surrendering to the Supreme Lord. On the other hand, a person who can let go of materialistic trappings is in an advantageous position to begin work on the subtler attachments of the mind and intelligence. The original impulse may be self-centered, but certainly it's easier to detach yourself from your possessions if you have none.
A good system of tithing can help loosen our grip on our material well-being. But be sure you give your money to someone who will truly spend it in the service of the Lord. If you support the activities of pure-hearted souls, you will receive some benefit. If you toss your money at a charity that is corrupt or not God-centered, then you'll cheat yourself of the chance to render real service.
With elegant symmetry, the ninth process of devotional service encompasses the first eight. We need to speak, so why not speak about God? We need to work, to serve, so why not serve God? We need our stories, our memories, our prayers, so why not form all of these around God?
After explaining about all nine processes of devotional service, Srila Prabhupada notes an exceptional devotee, Maharaja Ambarisa, who practiced them all. It would be fitting to close this series with a description of the remarkable Maharaja Ambarisa:
King Ambarisa fixed his mind on the lotus feet of Lord Krsna, engaged his words in describing the abode of the Lord, his hands in cleansing the temple of the Lord, his ears in hearing the pastimes of the Lord, his eyes in seeing the form of the Lord, his body in touching the body of the devotee, his nostrils in smelling the flavor of the flowers offered to the lotus feet of the Lord, his tongue in tasting the tulasi leaves offered to Him, his legs in traveling to the holy place where His temple is situated, his head in offering obeisances unto the Lord, and his desires in fulfilling the desires of the Lord . . . and all these qualifications made him fit to become a mat-parah devotee of the Lord." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 9.4.18-20)
Dvarakadhisa Devi Dasi, a longtime BTG contributor, has a Master's degree in library science and works as a librarian for the Alachua County [Florida] Library District.
Here we conclude a conversation between His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and Professor John Mize. It took place in Los Angeles on June 23, 1975.
Professor Mize: And if the Lord has all qualities, does this mean He even has jealousy?
Srila Prabhupada: Everything.
Professor Mize: It's difficult to imagine Krsna jealous.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Professor Mize: What could He possibly envy or be jealous of?
Srila Prabhupada: You can speak of whatever quality, whether anger or whatever you have got—God has got it in a bigger quantity and in a perfect quantity. That is the conception of God—without any . . . what is it called?
Professor Mize: Imperfection?
Srila Prabhupada: Imperfection, yes.
Professor Mize: I hope He doesn't have my ignorance in such a huge quantity.
Disciple: But ignorance is not a positive existence.
Professor Mize: Well, is anger or jealousy?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Sometimes anger acts. Unless you become angry, you cannot fight.
Disciple: In the Vedic literature there are so many stories of Krsna's anger, all the way from His babyhood to His later life.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Disciple: Krsna's activities are always for the good.
Professor Mize: Righteous anger.
Disciple: Yes, spiritual anger.
Srila Prabhupada: Everything has got its proper use. In the material condition we do not know that. Therefore, Narottama Dasa Thakura has made a list: how to use your anger, your greediness—like that. He says, kamah krsna-karmarpane: we are lusty for doing something for our sense gratification, but the same desire, the same propensity, can be utilized for serving Krsna.
For instance, I am writing books—staying up at night, the whole night. So for an old man like me, it is tedious. But I am doing it for Krsna. So similarly, another author may be writing the whole night to produce some sex literature. So the labor for producing sex literature and the labor for producing Bhagavatam is the same. It may be the same ambition: "Let me become a big author. My name will be very popular." But one thing is being done for Krsna; the other thing is being done for sense gratification.
So that propensity of becoming a reputed author, or the labor to do so—it is the same, but it is being utilized for different purposes. Similarly, you can take any other quality. For instance, Hanuman became angry at the demon Ravana. He set fire in his city. Destroyed the whole city. Hanuman showed his anger, but not for his personal sense gratification—he wanted to serve Lord Rama. Rama's consort, Sita, had been stolen by Ravana, so there was an arrangement for fighting, and Hanuman set fire. To set fire in your home or your country is not good, but he did it for the satisfaction of Lord Ramacandra.
So everything has its proper use when it is utilized for serving Krsna. That is Krsna consciousness. We are liv-ing beings. We are conscious. We can-not give up anything. But we are being trained up in how to utilize everything for Krsna. That is Krsna consciousness.
Disciple: Srila Prabhupada has written a book on the various philosophers. Prabhupada is discussing where their ideas connect with Krsna consciousness and where their ideas fall short.
Professor Mize: I look forward to seeing it.
Disciple: Srila Prabhupada, in this book do you speak about Kant's philosophy? As you know, he's very popular.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, Kant is very popular. I was also a student of philosophy. In my student life, my professors were all Europeans. I was a student at Scottish Church's College, in Calcutta. So Dr. W. S. Urquhart was our professor for psychology and metaphysics. Later on, he became the vice-chancellor of the University of Calcutta. A very nice gentleman.
Disciple: Srila Prabhupada, Professor Mize finds that he's chanting Hare Krsna a little in the shower now. When he takes a shower, he chants a little.
Srila Prabhupada: [Chuckles.] In Berkeley, during the early days of our movement, a reporter wrote, "After visiting the university and hearing this Hare Krsna for just a few minutes, I came home chanting all the way—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna." He gave this report.
Disciple: Many scholars have a hard time realizing that just by chanting Hare Krsna . . .Srila Prabhupada: Yes, it is so nice and so easy.
Disciple: . . . that you get the highest philosophical realization—just by chanting Hare Krsna.
Professor Mize: Your Divine Grace, thank you.
Srila Prabhupada: Take this nice prasada.
Professor Mize: [Begins eating.] This is delicious.
Srila Prabhupada: Now you can take. Krsna has given us so many nice things. Why should we kill the poor animals? That's not good. Because there is no spiritual vision: samah sarvesu bhutesu—the sense that every other being is my equal, as a spirit soul, part and parcel of God. But now the average man is not a brahmana. He'll give the dog a bad name and hang it. "The animal has no soul." What is this—the animal has no soul?
Disciple: But, Prabhupada, sometimes people argue that vegetarians are also killing the vegetables.
Srila Prabhupada: That's all right. The vegetables also have life. But we are not killing them. When you pluck a blossom, the bush is not killed. When you take a fruit, the tree is not killed. When you harvest grains, they have already died. Only then can you take the grains. There is no question of killing. But even if it were killing, it would not be as murderous as killing a cow.
Why does the state hang a man when he kills another man? The man can plead, "So many animals are being killed every day—if I kill one man, what is the wrong there?" The punishment is there because "You have killed a very important animal."
Therefore, in the Bhagavad-gita we find krsi-go-raksya: the cow should be protected, because she is a very, very important animal. In fact, Lord Krsna does not speak of other animals. Nor does He say "all animals." He says "cows," because the cow is so very important. She's supplying you milk, such an important food. She is your mother—and you are killing your mother? Is that your civilization? Killing your mother?
"My mother is old; my mother is no longer supplying milk. Kill." Is there any such sanction? Rather, our old mother should be given more protection. But what is this civilization—killing our mother? In the morning we require milk immediately, and our mother the cow is supplying. And when she cannot supply—"Kill her." What is this philosophy?
Disciple: Srila Prabhupada, during a talk at a university, I was explaining this simple idea, and one man said, "This is just your sentiment. You just have some sentiment." So I asked him if he had a dog. And he said, "Yes." So I asked him, "When your dog becomes old, will you kill it?" And he said, "No. Why shall I kill it? It's a good dog."
Srila Prabhupada: In this civilization, the dog is good, the cow is bad. The dog is always creating nasty things, while the cow is so pure that it has been scientifically demonstrated that even her stool is pure and antiseptic—and yet she has to be killed.
So, learned scholars and philosophers should understand the importance of this movement and how it is beneficial. People are suffering for want of knowledge of the spirit soul. They are keeping themselves on the animal platform with their so-called education. Unless there is spiritual understanding, people's so-called education has no value. Harav abhaktasya kuto mahad-guna manorathenasati dhavato bahih: they will remain on the mental platform, and since their mind is now materially contaminated, they will remain on the material platform. They cannot make any advancement. One has to come to the spiritual platform. That is required.
Disciple: Srila Prabhupada, what is the symptom that you have reached the spiritual platform?
Srila Prabhupada: That I have already explained. Prasannatma na socati na kanksati, samah sarvesu bhutesu: you are joyful, without hankering or lamentation, and you see, "All other living beings are spirit souls, equal to me." These persons who are on the mental platform—they will argue, "The animal has no soul."
Though Lord Caitanya is known as Krsna's hidden incarnation, His biographers have preserved accounts of His displays of divinity.
by Amala-bhakta Dasa
Lord Caitanya, unlike ordinary human beings, was not conceived in His mother's womb by seminal discharge. Rather, by His own free will, twelve months before His advent He miraculously entered His father's heart; from there He transferred Himself to His mother's womb, just as He had done about 4,500 years earlier when He appeared as Lord Krsna. And on February 18, 1486, in Mayapur, West Bengal, India, during a full-moon eclipse, Lord Caitanya appeared in this world.
He was named Visvambhara, which means, "one who protects and maintains the universe." But He was also nicknamed Nimai and Gauranga—Nimai, because He was born under a neem tree, and Gauranga (which means "golden limbs") because He had a golden complexion. The name Krsna Caitanya ("all-attractive living force") was awarded to Him when He became a renunciant monk at age twenty-four.
Lord Caitanya's horoscope clearly showed that He would be an intellectual genius, an amazing teacher of religion, and a world savior. And, according to Vedic astrology, the unique markings on His feet—flag, conch, disc, fish, thunderbolt—doubtlessly signified that He was an incarnation of God. These markings had also been visible on Lord Krsna's feet. Besides, Lord Caitanya's entire form—His nose, arms, chin, eyes, knees, skin, and so on—like Lord Krsna's, showed all thirty-two symptoms of a great or divine personality.
Tricking Adults into Chanting
Even as a baby, the Lord intimated that His mission would be to help people become God conscious. For example, He would often cry loudly, but when His mother's friends would begin chanting God's names and clapping, He would stop crying and begin smiling. But when they would think He was fully pacified and stop chanting, He would again begin crying. So they would again chant God's names, and He would again stop crying and begin smiling. That was His cute way of tricking them into chanting God's holy names throughout the day and blessing them with divine bliss. After a while, this sacred activity became a regular fun-filled game that brought laughter, delight, and wonder to those affectionate ladies.
Why the Lord Hides His Identity
Even to His parents, who were great devotees of God, Lord Caitanya rarely revealed who He was. He wanted to bless them with a relationship with Him full of informality and familiarity rather than awe and reverence. This closer relationship gives God more pleasure and satisfaction because it is more intimate and affectionate. But He reserves such closeness for His extremely surrendered and devoted servants.
Thus Lord Caitanya's parents did not regard Him as God but rather as their little, dependent, lovable child. They considered themselves His protectors and caretakers, even though He protects and cares for the entire world. As we will soon see, though the Lord enjoys playing the part of a helpless, innocent toddler, He can, when He so wishes, instantly reveal His divine nature and power.
Baffling the Thieves
One day Lord Caitanya, wearing golden ornaments, was wandering alone near His home. Two thieves ambled into the area and spotted the child. Attracted by His glistening ornaments, they decided to steal them. Since there were people on the street, the thieves resolved to abduct the boy in a way that would appear as if they were playing with Him.
One of the thieves asked, "Son, where have you been all this time?"
And the other thief said, "Come on, son, let's go home."
The Lord smiled and said, "Yes, let's go home."
One of the thieves placed the Lord on his shoulders, and the other gave Him some candy. Then they walked toward their own house, where they hoped to steal the ornaments and kill the child.
After the thieves had gone some distance from the Lord's neighborhood, the Lord's family members realized He was not near the house. Extremely anxious, they began searching for Him and calling, "Nimai! Nimai!" When they couldn't find Him, they became frantic. They felt as if their very life had been stolen away.
As the thieves carried the Lord, something mystical happened. The Lord playfully clouded their minds. First, He made them walk on the wrong path, which led back to the Lord's house. Then, when they reached His house, they thought they were at their own house.
"Okay, son," one of the thieves said, "we're home."
"Yes, we are," replied the Lord. "So you can put me down."
As the thief lowered the Lord to the ground, the Lord saw His family members in the distance desperately searching and calling out for Him. He ran away to His father, who picked Him up and hugged Him. Seeing Him, all the family members felt immensely relieved and blissful.
Then, by the Lord's will, the thieves suddenly realized they weren't at their home at all. Indeed, they were right where they had started. How, they wondered, had they become so thoroughly deluded? Seeing the boy's family members coming and fearing arrest, they fled from the area as fast as they could.
Revealing His Divine Form
One day an itinerant pious brahmana, who was on pilgrimage and always chanting Krsna's name, wandered near Lord Caitanya's house. When the Lord's father, Jagannatha Misra, saw this effulgent devotee, he invited him in and properly honored him.
Jagannatha Misra asked, "Would it be all right if I arranged for you to cook?"
"As you wish," replied the holy man.
Jagannatha Misra brought him a variety of foodstuffs, and the holy man proceeded to happily cook them. When the food was ready, the brahmana began offering it to the household deity of Lord Krsna. Just then, Lord Caitanya, the child, entered the room. Smiling at the brahmana, He took a handful of the rice and ate it.
"Oh, no!" cried the brahmana. "This restless boy has stolen Krsna's food!"
Since food is supposed to be offered first to Lord Krsna, the child, by eating it first, had apparently made it unfit for Krsna.
Jagannatha Misra entered the room and noted his son's offense. Angry and embarrassed, he wanted to strike his son to teach Him a lesson. But the brahmana checked him, because he understood the mischievous nature of children. Then Saci Devi, the Lord's mother, to prevent her son from further stealing, carried Him to a neighbor's house and watched Him carefully.
Jagannatha Misra brought more foodstuffs for the brahmana, who was happy to cook again. When the meal was ready, the holy man again began to offer it to Lord Krsna.
Meanwhile, at the neighbor's house, Lord Caitanya mystically caused everyone there to forget about Him. Then He sidled out of the house and returned home. Seeing the brahmana offering the food to Lord Krsna, the child smiled at him, took a handful of rice, and began eating it.
"Oh, no!" shouted the brahmana.
When Jagannatha Misra saw what his son had again done, he was determined to strike Him. But the brahmana stopped him and philosophically opined, "I guess it's not my destiny to eat food that Lord Krsna has eaten today."
The family members persuaded the brahmana to cook again. But to make certain the Lord would not again interfere with the offering rite, they confined Him to His room. His father not only guarded the door, but also bolted it from the outside.
When the devotee finished cooking, he again offered the meal to Lord Krsna. At that moment, Lord Caitanya caused everyone else in the house to fall asleep. Then He mystically entered the kitchen and appeared beside the food offering.
Seeing Him, the holy man exclaimed, "Oh, no!"
But the Lord replied, "As you were offering the food, you asked Me to come and eat it. So I have come. You always want to see Me, so now I'm revealing Myself to you."
Suddenly the child manifested Himself as the youthful Lord Krsna in a wonderful eight-armed form—holding a disk, a club, a conch shell, and a lotus flower in four hands, holding fresh butter in one hand, putting butter in His mouth with another hand, and playing the flute with His remaining two hands. He further manifested the beautiful Vrndavana forest—the place of His most intimate pastimes—with its lovely birds, trees, milkmaids, and cowherds. Seeing all this, the brahmana swooned in ecstasy. When the Lord touched him, he regained consciousness.
Lord Caitanya said, "O brahmana, you've been My servant for many births. When I appeared as Krsna in Nanda's home, I revealed this same form to you and ate the food you offered Me. But you don't remember this. Birth after birth you've been My servant. Persons who are not My servant cannot see My form. What I have told you is a secret. Please don't tell anyone. If you reveal it during My present incarnation, I'll destroy you. In this incarnation, I will begin the sankirtana movement—the congregational chanting of Krsna's holy names. In every country I will preach sankirtana and initiate pure loving devotional service in every home."
Having given comfort and mercy to the brahmana, Lord Caitanya ate the offering, returned to His room, reassumed His child form, and lay down on His bed. Everyone else in the house remained asleep.
The brahmana then ate the Lord's remnants, wept, danced, sang, laughed and cried out, "Victory to Krsna!"
This woke up everyone. When they all came and saw the brahmana eating peacefully, they became happy. The brahmana wanted to reveal that Lord Caitanya was Lord Krsna. But remembering the Lord's dreadful warning, he restrained himself.
Defeating the Pandita
Lord Caitanya was a Sanskrit prodigy and began teaching when He was only eleven years of age. Struck with wonder by His intellectual precocity, hundreds of students studied under Him. He became known as the greatest savant of Sanskrit grammatical literature, of the nyaya system of philosophy, and of the Vedic scriptural knowledge. Whoever challenged Him to a debate in learning was always sorely defeated.
One evening while Lord Caitanya was sitting on the bank of the Ganges River with some of His students, the famous Kesava Kasmiri approached Him. He had traveled around the country to various learning centers, debated numerous Sanskrit experts, and defeated every one of them. The undisputed world champion, he was known as Digvijayi ("the conqueror of everyone in all directions"). Kesava Kasmiri spoke in a proud, patronizing way, minimizing the scholarly accomplishments of the Lord. Unaffected by such arrogance, Lord Caitanya humbly asked the scholar to show his poetic expertise by instantly composing original Sanskrit verses glorifying the Ganges River.
The goddess of learning, Sarasvati, had blessed Kesava Kasmiri, her devotee, to always remain invincible in debates. Thus, quite confident of his intellectual prowess, he quickly composed and recited one hundred verses. Lord Caitanya, having instantly memorized each of them, repeated the sixty-fourth verse and asked the Digvijayi to explain it.
Kesava Kasmiri, astonished by the Lord's feat of memory, elucidated on the verse. The Lord next asked him to cite its virtues and faults. But the Digvijayi was reluctant because he felt that such subject matter was well beyond the range of Lord Caitanya's poetic knowledge.
But the Lord said, "I can find in this verse many faults and many virtues."
He then critiqued it, noting five virtues and five faults. The faults concerned redundancy, improper composition, and contradictory meanings. The virtues related to purpose, analogy, and alliteration. The Lord said that His analysis of the verse was based only on the obvious.
"But if we consider it in detail," He said, "we will find unlimited faults."
The Digvijayi was surprised and impressed by the Lord's comments. But when he tried to respond to them, he found himself unable to speak. His pride humbled and his confidence shaken, he felt helpless and defeated. Filled with insecurity, he wondered whether he had offended Goddess Sarasvati, and whether such an offense had led to this debacle.
That night Kesava Kasmiri worshiped the goddess. Later, she appeared in a dream and informed him that Nimai Pandita was none other than the Lord Himself.
The next morning the poet hastened to Lord Caitanya and surrendered at His feet. In return, the Lord bestowed His mercy on Him, gave him spiritual guidance and instruction, and freed him from the bondage to material attachment.
The poet thereafter renounced his pomp and position and became a simple, humble servant of the Lord.
Starting His Mission
When Lord Caitanya was sixteen, He traveled to Gaya with some students. There He performed a ceremony (called sraddha) for the benefit of the soul of His deceased father. Afterwards, He visited Chakraveda to view Lord Krsna's footprints in the Gadadhara temple. As He gazed at them, brahmana priests sang praises glorifying God's love. The Lord then, for the first time, exhibited devotional ecstatic symptoms publicly: His hair stood up, tears flowed from His eyes continuously, and His entire body trembled.
He next met the great devotee Isvara Puri, accepted him as His spiritual master, and was initiated into the chanting of Lord Krsna's holy name. Actually, since Lord Caitanya was the Lord Himself, He did not require a guru. But in this incarnation, playing the role of the Lord's perfect devotee, He wanted to show by example that a sincere seeker must be initiated into the chanting of God's holy names by a bona fide spiritual master, one in an authorized disciplic succession. Otherwise, the chanter may experience only very limited benefits.
At this point, Lord Caitanya discarded His persona of the "great pandita" and replaced it with the character of the pure devotee of Lord Krsna. He often swooned or became entranced upon hearing or reciting Krsna's holy name or adventures. His every moment was filled with divine ecstasy, and many devotees of the Lord, noting His superlative and contagious quality of love for God, eagerly joined Him. Thus it was not long before He became the undisputed leader and guide of all the devotees in His area, Navadvipa. This marked the beginning of His sankirtana movement, for which He had descended to earth from the spiritual world.
Punishing an Offender
Lord Caitanya at first engaged in sankirtana with His intimate devotees at Srivasa Thakura's house. Only the most sincere devotees were admitted inside. The envious—the scoffers and the scorners—had to stay outside. Nonetheless, they could hear the tumultuous singing and music. Consequently, out of vengeance, Gopala Capala, a brahmana, tried to compromise the distinguished reputation of Srivasa Thakura, who was learned in all the scriptures.
One night Gopala placed the worship paraphernalia of Goddess Durga outside Srivasa Thakura's' door—a red flower, a plantain leaf, a pot of wine, and reddish sandalwood paste—so that he might appear to passersby to be her devotee instead of Lord Krsna's. Krsna devotees do not eat meat, fish, or eggs or imbibe any kind of intoxicants. But the Durga worshipers are often meat-eaters and wine-drinkers. Thus Gopala Capala tried to make Srivasa Thakura appear like a hypocrite—outwardly noble but secretly ignoble.
Lord Caitanya did not appreciate this offense against His devotee and decided to punish the offender. So, three days later, He arranged for Gopala Capala to contract leprosy, in which blood oozed from sores all over his body. Moreover, as germs and insects bit him everywhere, he felt unbearable pain. He then went to Lord Caitanya and asked Him to save him from his illness.
"You sinful person!" the Lord angrily replied. "Not only will I not save you, but you will be bitten by these germs for millions of years! For your offense, you will have to fall down into hellish life for ten million births."
Some years later, when Lord Caitanya visited the town where Gopala Capala was still suffering, Gopala took shelter of the Lord and begged for His grace.
Changing His mood, the Lord advised Gopala Capala, "First, go to Srivasa Thakura and beg for his mercy. If he gives it to you and you don't commit such sins again, you will be freed from your sinful reactions."
Gopala Capala followed this instruction, and Srivasa Thakura forgave and blessed him, freeing him of his inconsolable misery.
Thus we can see how caring and protective the Lord is of His devotees and how angry and retributive He can be towards mischievous non-devotees. Yet when these non-devotees become genuinely repentant, He can become equally forgiving and kind. The Lord sees all beings as His children but treats each according to his or her behavior.
Revealing His Universal Form
One day Advaita Acarya, an intimate devotee of Lord Caitanya, asked the Lord to reveal to him the universal form He had kindly shown to Arjuna, as described in the Eleventh Chapter of the Bhagavad-gita. Lord Caitanya agreed and showed him that magnificent form. Advaita saw in the body of the Lord everything in existence—the sun, moon, planets, oceans, rivers, gods, human beings, demons—a wondrous, brilliant, unlimited, all-expanding form. It is said that if hundreds of thousands of suns were to rise at once into the sky, their radiance might resemble the effulgence of the Lord in that universal form.
The Instant Mango Tree
Once, after Lord Caitanya and His devotees had performed vigorous sankirtana, they were greatly fatigued and sat down. The Lord then sowed a mango seed in the yard, and the seed fructified at once into a tree and began to grow. As people watched, the tree became fully grown, with ripe fruit. Everyone was astonished. The Lord then picked about two hundred mangoes, and after washing them, offered them to Lord Krsna to eat.
The mangoes were completely red and yellow, without a seed or skin. Noting the quality of the mangoes, Lord Caitanya was greatly satisfied. After eating some first, He distributed the rest to the devotees. The mangoes were full of delectable juice and so sweet that a person would be fully satisfied by eating just one.
Mangoes grew on that tree every day throughout the twelve months of the year, and the devotees would eat them to the Lord's great satisfaction.
Dispelling the Rain
One early evening, while Lord Caitanya was performing kirtana with His devotees, dark rain clouds gathered overhead. As they thundered threateningly, the devotees became afraid. But the Lord banged His hand cymbals, chanted the Hare Krsna mantra, and gazed at the sky, as if to order the rain-making gods. Immediately, all the clouds dispersed, the sky became clear, and as the moon rose, Lord Caitanya danced ecstatically with His jubilant and satisfied devotees. Because of this miracle, that place is still known as Meghera Chara ("The Place Where the Clouds Were Moved").
These accounts represent only some of Lord Caitanya's early miracles. Throughout His presence on earth, He continued to reveal His divinity, especially to devotees with purified vision, and sometimes even to ordinary people.
Amala Bhakta Dasa, well-known for his audio recordings of Krsna conscious books, is the author of The Life of Tulasi Devi, Mystical Stories from the Mahabharata, and Mystical Stories from the Srimad-Bhagavatam.
Modern research supports the validity of the Vedic alternative to Darwinian evolution.
by Drutakarma Dasa (Michael A. Cremo)
The question of human origins has always been a hot topic among philosophers and scientists. Today, most of them accept the Darwinian account that humans like us came into existence about 100,000 years ago, having evolved from more apelike ancestors. But the Vedic literature gives us another account of human origins. I call this account human devolution. To put it in its most simple terms, we do not evolve up from matter but devolve, or come down, from spirit. In this article, I want to show how this Vedic concept of human devolution can be presented to those who are not very familiar with the Vedic literature.
The human devolution process, the process by which conscious selves enter human bodies on earth, has been going on for a very long time. According to the Puranas, or histories, humans like us have existed on earth for vast periods of cyclical time. The basic unit of this cyclical time is the day of Brahma, which lasts for 4.32 billion years. The day of Brahma is followed by a night of Brahma, which also lasts for 4.32 billion years. The days follow the nights endlessly in succession. During the days of Brahma, life, including human life, is manifest, and during the nights it is not manifest. According to the Puranic cosmological calendar, the current day of Brahma began about two billion years ago. One of the forefathers of humankind, Svayambhuva Manu ruled during that time, and the Bhagavata Purana (Srimad-Bhagavatam) 6.4.1 tells us: "The . . . human beings . . . were created during the reign of Svayambhuva Manu." Therefore, a Vedic archeologist might expect to find evidence for a human presence going that far back in time.
In our book Forbidden Archeology, my coauthor Richard L. Thompson (Sadaputa Dasa) and I documented extensive evidence, in the form of human skeletons, human footprints, and human artifacts, showing that humans like ourselves have inhabited the earth for hundreds of millions of years, just as the Puranas tell us. This evidence is not very well known because of a process of knowledge filtration that operates in the scientific world. Evidence that contradicts the Darwinian theory of human evolution is set aside, ignored, and eventually forgotten.
The Next Step
Although this evidence for extreme human antiquity contradicts the current Darwinian theory of human evolution, it does not tell us anything about the actual origin of human beings. These discoveries simply tell us that we need a new explanation for human origins. But that is also important. Why offer a new explanation unless one is really required? In my new book, Human Devolution, I set forth such a new explanation, based on information found in the Puranas.
Before we ask, "Where did human beings come from?" we should first of all ask, "What is a human being?" Today most scientists believe that a human being is simply a combination of matter, the ordinary chemical elements. This assumption limits the kinds of explanations that can be offered for human origins. I propose that it is more reasonable, based on available scientific evidence, to start with the assumption that a human being is composed of three separately existing substances: matter, mind, and consciousness (or spirit). This assumption widens the circle of possible explanations.
Any scientific chain of reasoning begins with some initial assumptions that are not rigorously proved. Otherwise, one would get caught in an endless regression of proofs of assumptions, and proofs of proofs of assumptions. Initial assumptions must simply be reasonable on the basis of available evidence. And it is reasonable, on the basis of available evidence, to posit the existence of mind and consciousness, in addition to ordinary matter, as separate elements composing the human being.
For the purpose of scientific discussion, I define mind as a subtle material substance associated with the human organism and capable of acting on ordinary matter in ways we cannot explain by our current laws of physics. Evidence for this mind element comes from scientific research into the phenomena some call "paranormal" or "psychical." Here we are led into the hidden history of physics (the knowledge filtering process also operates in this field of knowledge).
For example, every physics student learns about the work of Pierre and Marie Curie, the husband and wife team who both received Nobel Prizes for their work in discovering radium. The account is found in practically every introductory physics textbook. What we do not read in the textbooks is that the Curies were heavily involved in psychical research. They were part of a large group of prominent European scientists, including other Nobel Prize winners, who were jointly conducting research into the paranormal in Paris early in the twentieth century.
For two years, the group studied the Italian medium Eusapia Palladino. Historian Anna Hurwic notes in her biography of Pierre Curie (1995, p. 247), "He saw the seances as scientific experiments, tried to monitor the different parameters, took detailed notes of every observation. He was really intrigued by Eusapia Palladino." About some seances with Eusapia, Pierre Curie wrote to physicist Georges Gouy in a letter dated July 24, 1905: "We had at the Psychology Society a few seances with the medium Eusapia Palladino. It was very interesting, and truly those phenomena that we have witnessed seemed to us to not be some magical tricks—a table lifted four feet above the floor. . . . All this in a room arranged by us, with a small number of spectators all well known and without the presence of a possible accomplice." Pierre Curie reported that on such occasions, the medium was carefully physically controlled by the scientists present. On April 14, 1906, Pierre wrote to Gouy about some further investigations he and Marie had carried out: "We had a few new 'seances' with Eusapia Paladina (We already had seances with her last summer). The result is that those phenomena exist for real, and I can't doubt it any more. It is unbelievable, but it is thus, and it is impossible to negate it after the seances that we had in conditions of perfect monitoring." He concluded, "There is, according to me, a completely new domain of facts and physical states of space of which we have no idea."
Such results, and many more like them from the hidden history of physics, suggest there is associated with the human organism a mind element that can act on ordinary matter in ways we cannot easily explain by our current physical laws. Such research continues today, although most scientists doing it are concentrating on microeffects rather than the macroeffects reported by Pierre Curie. For example, Robert Jahn, head of the engineering department at Princeton University, started to research the effects of mental attention on random number generators. A random number generator will normally generate a sequence of ones and zeros, with equal numbers of each. But Jahn, and his associates who have continued the research, found that subjects can mentally influence the random number generators to produce a statistically significant greater number of ones or zeros.
Evidence for a conscious self that can existence apart from mind (subtle matter) and ordinary matter comes from medical reports of out of body experiences (OBEs). During traumatic events such as heart attacks, blood stops flowing to the brain, and the subjects become unconscious. But some subjects report separating from their bodies at such times and consciously observing their own bodies. The reality of such experiences has been confirmed by medical researchers. For example, in February 2001, a team from the University of Southampton, in the United Kingdom, published a favorable study on OBEs in cardiac arrest patients in the journal Resuscitation (v. 48, pp. 149-156). The team was headed by Dr. Sam Parnia, a senior research fellow at the university. On February 16, 2001, a report published on the university's Web site said that the work of Dr. Parnia "suggests consciousness and the mind may continue to exist after the brain has ceased to function and the body is clinically dead." This is exactly the Vedic conception. At death the conscious self leaves the body, accompanied by the subtle material covering of the mind, and then enters another body of gross matter. Memories from past lives are recorded in the mind, and may be accessed by the conscious self in its new body made of gross matter, as shown by psychiatrist Ian Stevenson's extensive studies verifying past life memories of children.
If the human organism is composed of gross matter, mind, and consciousness (or spirit), it is natural to suppose that these elements come from reservoirs of such elements. This suggests that the cosmos is divided into regions, or levels, of gross matter, mind, and consciousness, each inhabited by beings adapted to life there.
First, there is a region of pure consciousness. Consciousness, as we experience it, is individual and personal. This suggests that the original source of conscious selves is also individual and personal. So in addition to the individual units of consciousness existing in the realm of pure consciousness, there is also an original conscious being who is their source. When the fractional conscious selves give up their connection with their source, they are placed in lower regions of the cosmos predominated by either subtle material substance (mind) or gross material substance.
There is thus a cosmic hierarchy of conscious beings. Accounts of this cosmic hierarchy of beings can be found not only in the Puranas but in the cosmologies of many other cultures. The cosmologies share many features. They generally include an original God inhabiting a realm of pure consciousness, a subordinate creator god inhabiting a subtle material region of the cosmos along with many kinds of demigods and demigoddesses, and an earthly realm, dominated by gross matter, inhabited by humans like us.
This suggests that the universe of our experience should show signs that it was designed by a higher intelligence for accommodating human life and other forms of life. Modern cosmology does provide evidence for this. Scientists have discovered that numbers representing fundamental physical constants and ratios of natural forces appear to be finely tuned for life to exist in our universe. Astronomer Sir Martin Rees considers six of these numbers to be especially significant. In his book Just Six Numbers (2000, pp. 3-4), he says, "These six numbers constitute a 'recipe' for a universe. Moreover, the outcome is sensitive to their values: if any one of them were to be 'untuned,' there would be no stars and no life." There are three main explanations for the apparent fine tuning of the physical constants and laws of nature: simple chance, many worlds, and some intelligent providential creator. Many cosmologists admit that the odds against the fine tuning are too extreme for a simple chance to be offered as a credible scientific explanation.
To avoid the conclusion of a providential designer, they have posited the existence of a practically unlimited number of universes, each with the values of fundamental constants and laws of nature adjusted in a different way. And we just happen to live in the one universe with everything adjusted correctly for the existence of human life. But for modern science these other universes have only a theoretical existence, and even if their existence could be physically demonstrated, one would further have to show that in these other universes the values of the fundamental constants and laws of nature are in fact different from those in our universe. The Vedic cosmology also speaks of many universes, but all of them are designed for life, and beyond all of these material universes, with their levels of gross and subtle matter, is the level of pure consciousness, or spirit.
Originally, we exist there as units of pure consciousness in harmonious connection with the supreme conscious being, known by the Sanskrit name Krsna (and by other names in other religious traditions). When we give up our willing connection with that supreme conscious being, we descend to regions of the cosmos dominated by the subtle and gross material elements, mind and matter. Forgetful of our original position, we attempt to dominate and enjoy the subtle and gross material elements. For this purpose, we are provided with bodies made of the subtle and gross material elements. The subtle material body is made up not only of mind, but of the even finer material elements: intelligence and false ego (for the sake of simplicity, I have in this discussion collapsed them into mind). The gross material body is made of earth, water, fire, air, and ether. Bodies made of these gross and subtle material elements are vehicles for conscious selves. They are designed for existence within the realms of the subtle and gross material elements. According to their degree of forgetfulness of their original nature, conscious selves receive appropriate bodily coverings. Those who are more forgetful receive bodies that cover their original consciousness to a greater degree.
The original conscious being in the Vedic universe (aside from God) is Brahma, the first demigod, or deva. His body, manifested directly from Visnu (the expansion of Krsna who controls the material universe), is made primarily of the subtle material elements.
He is tasked with creating bodies for the other conscious selves existing at various levels of the cosmic hierarchy. From the body of Brahma come great sages, sometimes known as his mental sons, and also the first sexually reproducing pair, Svayambhuva Manu and his consort, Satarupa. The daughters of Manu become the wives of some of the sages, and they produce generations of demigods and demigoddesses, with bodies composed primarily of the subtle material energy. These demigods and demigoddesses, by their reproductive processes, produce the forms of living things, including humans, who reside on our earth planet. In the devolution process, our original pure spiritual consciousness, Krsna consciousness, is covered by layers of subtle and gross material elements.
But the process can be reversed. There is a kind of re-evolution by which we can free consciousness from its coverings, and restore it to its original pure state. Every great spiritual tradition has some means for accomplishing this—some form of prayer, meditation, or yoga. In the Krsna consciousness movement, we rely on the process of vibrating the transcendental sound of the Hare Krsna mantra to restore consciousness to its pure state. Today many medical establishments use ultrasound to purify and clean medical instruments. The Hare Krsna mantra might be characterized as the ultimate ultrasound vibration. God has invested all of His transcendental energies within the sound of this mantra, and it thus has the power to spiritualize, and eventually permanently remove, all the layers of material elements covering the conscious self. Indeed, the mantra is nondifferent from Krsna Himself, so that in the course of chanting the mantra, as the covering elements are spiritualized and removed, one gradually finds oneself coming back in touch with the original source of all conscious beings.
Drutakarma Dasa (Michael A. Cremo) is a disciple of Srila Prabhupada. Since 1984 he has been involved in establishing Vedic conceptions of human origins in the world of science. He has presented papers at meetings of the World Archeological Congress, the European Association of Archeologists, the International Congress for History of Science, and the International Union of Prehistoric and Protohistoric Sciences. Besides lecturing at universities, he has also given invited lectures for the Royal Institution of Great Britain, the Russian Academy of Sciences, and other scientific institutions worldwide.
Chanting the Lord's name with full attention removes hindrances to pure chanting.
by Urmila Devi Dasi
This is the second in a series of articles on offenses to be avoided by anyone trying to progress spiritually by chanting the names of the Lord. This article discusses the offense of being inattentive while chanting the holy names.
One day I sat with a group of friends, speaking of the day's business. Some other people walked by, and one of my friends thought he heard his name.
"Did you mention me?" He asked the passersby.
"No, we said something else," they replied.
Disappointed, he turned back to our conversation.
I thought of how when we are in a crowded room, others' conversation becomes a background buzz, but if our name is spoken, somehow we distinguish it and become alert.
Krsna also is interested when it seems we're calling Him.
"Oh, do you want Me?" He asks.
But if we really said something else, or if we said His name carelessly, He will wait until we truly want Him. Therefore Srila Prabhupada writes and speaks about chanting the Hare Krsna mantra with quality. To take a vow to meet a quota of chanting is certainly valuable—simply doing so shows spiritual sincerity—but the quality must be there as well. For beginners, making our quota may seem enough of a challenge. Still, we must progress to chanting that is a true call to the Lord.
When we chant with attention and in a mood of surrender and devotion, Krsna naturally reciprocates with us. Then we quickly overcome all other obstacles to chanting, to spiritual life in general, and to our goal of perfect love for God. But if our chanting is without attention, all the hindrances will remain, if not increase.
Why is attentive chanting the key to being free from all other offenses to the name? When we chant with attention, we are in touch with Krsna, who will then show us how, for example, we are dealing with other devotees with less than respect.
The root of inattention is distraction, or having an interest in something other than the name we are saying. This interest can be in wealth, material success, the opposite sex, position in society, or so many other things. Chanting with distraction is like asking someone a question and then thinking of other things, maybe even looking out the window, when they respond.
Besides basic distraction, chanting is inattentive if one is lazy—one's sluggish mind keeps stopping its focus on the name. We can also just be indifferent to the name, which from a spiritual point of view is madness—how can a sane person not value the holy name?
Aids to Attentive Chanting
To chant with care and attention, we should first be attentive to completing a fixed number of Hare Krsna mantras daily. Any initiated disciple in the International Society for Krishna Consciousness must chant at least 1,728 mantras daily (16 times around the string of 108 beads), but beginners can start with any number, as long as there is steadiness. Steady, regular service is appreciated in any section of society; in spiritual life it is a sign of sincerity and devotion to the path.
To chant with full concentration, it is best to chant in a peaceful place.
The best places are sheltered from material influence. One can chant in a temple, a sacred place of Krsna's pastimes, or any quiet, secluded spot. One's home can be a temple, if Krsna's deity and Krsna's pleasure are made the center of life. The Hare Krsna movement has many temples for public worship and education. In India, numerous traditional temples are devoted to Lord Krsna, many at places where the He incarnated, displaying His divine activities.
Chanting with persons advanced in spiritual understanding helps too. Laziness will flee if our friends are those who eagerly absorb their consciousness in chanting, without wasting time in useless diversions. Naturally, in their company we will also imbibe a sense of urgency and determination.
It helps to chant at a quiet time (early morning is ideal). An inner mood of begging for Krsna's mercy is also essential. These remedies will soon vanquish our insane indifference to the holy name.
A Wish for Millions of Mouths
To deal with the foundation of inattention—interest in something other than Krsna and His name—it is wise to have times when we do nothing other than chant day and night. If on a holy day such as Ekadasi or the anniversary of Krsna's appearance we abstain from eating, sleeping, ordinary business, and so on, and simply chant for hours without interruption, gradually our mind will rejoice in Krsna. Such times of total absorption will aid our concentration on ordinary days of chanting.
Having conquered distraction, laziness, and inattention, we will chant, as Prabhupada says, like a child calling its mother—with great intensity, desire, and helplessness.
When our chanting is with full concentration of mind and heart, we will never find it boring, nor will we need to give much care to the stumbling blocks that trip so many on the path to perfection. The blocks will melt into the road, making our way easy and expeditious. Then, like the great teacher Rupa Gosvami, we will say, "I do not know how much nectar the two syllables 'Krs-na' have produced. When the holy name of Krsna is chanted, it appears to dance within the mouth. We then desire many, many mouths. When that name enters the holes of the ears, we desire many millions of ears. And when the holy name dances in the courtyard of the heart, it conquers the activities of the mind, and therefore all the senses become inert."
Urmila Devi Dasi and her family run a school in North Carolina. She is a fre-quent contributor to BTG and the major author and compiler of Vaikuntha Children, a guide to Krsna conscious education for children.
"There is no vow like chanting the holy name, no knowledge superior to it, no meditation that comes anywhere near it. It gives the highest result. No penance is equal to it, and nothing is as powerful as the holy name.
"Chanting is the greatest act of piety and the supreme refuge. Even the words of the Vedas do not possess enough power to describe its magnitude. Chanting is the highest path to liberation, peace, and eternal life. It is the pinnacle of devotion, the heart's joyous proclivity and attraction, and the best form of remembrance of the Supreme Lord. The holy name has appeared solely for the benefit of the living entities as their lord and master, their supreme worshipful object, and their spiritual guide and mentor.
"In spite of the influences of Kali-yuga, whoever continuously chants Lord Krsna's holy name, even in sleep, can easily realize that the name is a direct manifestation of Krsna Himself."
—Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Saranagati (quoted from Agni Purana)
Our relationships in this world can leave us wondering whether true love really exists.
by Arcana-siddhi Devi Dasi
I remember sitting with my boyfriend in his fraternity house, studying for a history exam, struggling to stay focused on pages of notes.
"You know," Tim nonchalantly said, "I really don't know what love is."
Rather than applaud his astute query, I felt panic. Here my boyfriend of the past two years—who would tell me how much he loved me two or three times a day—was now questioning the whole foundation of our relationship. I responded in an attack mode.
"What do you mean you don't know what love is? Have you been lying to me for the past two years?"
Before he had a chance to say anything, I packed up my books and stormed out of the room.
I left the fraternity house and walked to a quiet place in a nearby park. I sat down and thought about his question and, more important, my abrupt and childish reaction. I realized I'd reacted that way because I also didn't understand or know what love was but was pretending, so as to keep the illusion of something so elusive alive. To love someone risked getting hurt, being rejected, or hurting and rejecting him. Love seemed so fragile and unpredictable. All these thoughts swirled in my confused mind.
I thought about the popular movie Love Story we had recently gone to see. An attractive, sassy, and smart college girl falls in love with a handsome, intelligent college boy. They develop what seems to be the ideal relationship, and then she is diagnosed with leukemia and dies.
With inevitable death factored in, I wondered if relationships were worth pursuing. I thought back to the early stages of our relationship. We were both floating in a bubble of euphoric feelings. In my eyes he was perfect, and in his eyes I was perfect. Making sacrifices in the relationship felt effortless. At some point, the bubble popped and we fell to the ground, jolted out of rapture and awakened to the harsh realities of imperfection in one another. This inevitable transition from rapture to reality is often the demise of relationships, as individuals interpret it to mean they have now "fallen out of love." But we persevered, hoping to be re-enveloped by that blissful bubble.
The Spectrum of Love
Despite being bewildered by love, I had always been fascinated by the dynamics of relationships. At that point in my life I knew only about material relationships. I was interested in the spectrum of love. On the lowest end of the love continuum we find the selfish, narcissistic love that is all about gratifying one's own needs. People with this low-grade love generally become angry at and abusive to their partners. Recently a young doctor where I work was murdered by her ex-boyfriend shortly after she'd ended their relationship. This is the epitome of an exploitative relationship. In essence: "If I can't enjoy you, then nobody can." Most relationships in this world are tinged by some degree of this mentality.
When I left college to move into a Hare Krsna ashram, my college boyfriend said that it would have been easier for him if I'd died—at least he would have gotten sympathy from others. I remember thinking that if he actually loved me, he would want me to be happy, but as long as he wasn't in the equation, he didn't care about me.
I'd heard people talk about "selfish love," and I felt the term to be an oxymoron. If you truly loved someone, you would want the best for him or her regardless of your own needs. But in my experience there were so few examples of unselfish love. There were people like Mother Theresa who sacrificed bodily comforts and took untold risks for helping others. This was on the highest end of the spectrum of love that I had encountered, and I found it very noble and admirable.
Vedic Psychology of Love
My encounter with Vedic books such as the Bhagavada-gita helped me understand much more about the psychology of attachment of one person for another. In the Bhagavada-gita Krsna tells Arjuna that when we become absorbed in thinking about how someone or something can please our senses, then naturally we develop an attachment and want to exploit that person or thing for our pleasure. If we can't enjoy the object in the way we want, we become angry. This attachment is really lust. But because it resembles love, a person who is the object of another person's lust may be fooled into thinking he or she is being loved.
Lust is all about getting and taking from others. It is never satisfied and is compared to fire. Trying to satisfy lust through material pursuits is like pouring gasoline on a fire to extinguish it. While the hungry flames may seem momentarily subdued, they consume the gasoline and burst into an inferno.
Many narratives in the Vedic literature illustrate this point. One I found particularly instructive is a story found in the Srimad-Bhagavatam about a great king, Yayati, who saves a young maiden who had been thrown into a well after her clothes were stolen. The maiden, Devayani, was the daughter of a powerful brahmana, Sukracarya. He blessed the fated union between Yayati and his daughter with the stipulation that Yayati must refuse to have sex with any woman other than Devayani. During the time of this event, men from the ruling/warrior class would often have many wives. The king agreed to the condition, and the marriage took place. But the king later transgressed the agreement and impregnated one of Devayanis maidservants. As a result, Sukracarya cursed the king to lose his sexual prowess and become an old man.
King Yayati begged Sukracarya to remove the curse, and Sukracarya conceded that the king could trade his old age for someone's youth. When Yayati asked his sons to make the trade, his youngest son agreed after the elder sons had all refused. King Yayati was again invigorated to enjoy the pleasures of sex with Devayani and did so with abandon.
After many years of enjoying with his wife, the king came to the stark realization that such enjoyment only increased his desires to enjoy and that there was never any sense of satisfaction. He therefore returned his youth to his son and accepted old age. When the king gave up exploiting his wife for happiness, his real fortune began. Free of lust for material enjoyment, which had disabled him from experiencing love, he discovered spiritual love for Krsna.
The Art and Science of Love
My own experience of being frustrated and unfulfilled in material relationships attracted me to these ancient histories and the philosophy embedded within them. They so clearly mapped out the pitfalls of a life dedicated to finding pleasure through our senses. The Vedic literature also described an alternative: bhakti-yoga, the art and science of reawakening our love for God. That love lies dormant within us, just as love for a man or a woman lies dormant within a child, only to be awakened during puberty. Our love for Krsna will automatically awaken when He is convinced that we want it more than anything else.
Furthermore, by loving God we come to love everyone, because everyone is part of Him. In the beginning, this kind of love requires practice, but it will eventually be spontaneous.
How is this love different from the love I struggled to understand before becoming a devotee? I found the answer to this question in verses left by Lord Caitanya. Krsna has many incarnations, each with a specific and magnificent purpose, but most glorious is the incarnation of Lord Caitanya. He appears in this most degraded age to teach us how to love the most lovable object, Sri Krsna. In this incarnation, the Lord appears as a devotee of Himself, with the loving sentiments of His most special devotee, Sri Radha. This esoteric form of the Lord can be difficult for outsiders to comprehend, and those of us who have been introduced to this divine form should consider ourselves very fortunate.
Lord Caitanya's disciples wrote many books to describe the goal of life, which is to rekindle our love for Krsna. But Lord Caitanya wrote only eight verses to leave as His divine legacy. Known as Siksastaka, these eight verses contain the essence of the voluminous teachings of the Vedas. In the final verse, Lord Caitanya, speaking to Krsna in the mood of Radha, says, "Even if You leave Me brokenhearted by not being present before Me, You are my worshipable Lord birth after birth." This is pure, unconditional love: one gives without expecting anything in return.
In His relationship with every living being, Krsna Himself exemplifies this type of love. No matter how disdainful we are toward Him, no matter how much we reject Him, He continues to accompany us in all species of life, encouraging and coaxing us to turn back to our spiritual roots. He doesn't discard or discount even souls who have assumed the role of demonic adversaries. He always sees our greatest potential as His loving servant. When we resume our eternal identity as His servant, we too will possess the love Lord Caitanya describes in His final verse of Siksastaka.
In the spiritual world, only pure love exists. On that plane of reality, the merchant's mentality of love doesn't exist. Ironically, by giving without expectation, we receive the greatest gift of being enveloped in a blissful love affair whose bubble never bursts. The happiness just keeps increasing.
Loving Krsna is not just for the spiritual world. Putting love and service of Krsna in the center of all our dealings here is the success formula for healthy marriages and families. Taking the focus off of ourselves and directing it toward the Lord helps us remember our position as servant rather than as exploiter. Practicing loving relationships with devotees on this plane of existence can help satisfy our psychological need for society, friendship, and love and allow us to simultaneously pursue the ultimate goal of pure love for Krsna.
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.
A gambling casino is a sure sign that we're in the thick of the darkest age.
by Satyaraja Dasa
One mantra was coming from every direction: "Craps—you lose!"
I was visiting an old high school friend, Ritchie, in Las Vegas, Nevada, where he has lived for the last ten years, and he insisted on taking me to a gambling casino.
"But I don't gamble," I told him.
"Don't worry," he said, prepared for my resistance. I've been a devotee of Krsna for thirty years, and my old buddy knows well that we scrupulously avoid gambling of all sorts.
"I'll do all the gambling," he said. "I just want you to see how I spend a bit of my leisure time."
The casino was frightening. Though beautifully decorated, with tons of money obviously lavished upon every detail of the ambiance and setting, there was something perverse about the atmosphere, which pandered to the fantasies and base desires of the poor souls who frequented the place. Ritchie is a good guy, but he buys into the wicked dreams of middle-class America—"Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die." He had always bought into it, and although he's older now, things haven't changed all that much.
As I watched the dice roll on the gambling tables, I thought of the age of Kali, the current age of quarrel and iniquity—a perfect setting for this tasteless display of gambling, booze, and sex run amok. According to ancient India's Vedic texts, each world cycle is subdivided into four yugas, or ages. These are comparable to the ages of the Greco-Roman tradition, in which moral excellence declines from one age to the next (and as each age moves forward). People become more and more unfortunate, with decrease in strength, memory, and discretion, and a commensurate shortening of their life spans as well. The classical ages of the West took their names from precious metals: Gold, Silver, Brass, and Iron. But the Vedic ages originated from the four throws of an ancient Indian dice game. The names of the Vedic ages are associated with four throws of an ancient Indian dice game, in which rolls of four, three, two, and one were called, respectively, Krta, Treta, Dvapara, and Kali.
The Descent of Kali
Krta-yuga, also known as Satya-yuga, is the age of innate goodness, when Truth prevails. Satya, in fact, means "truth," and krta means "perfect" (or, more accurately, "well-done," since the word is the past participle of the verb-root kri—"to do"). In Treta-yuga, three-fourths of Truth remains (treta means "three"). After this, things start going downhill quickly. Dvapara-yuga is the age of two parts (dvapara: "twofold"), when one-half of Truth remains. When Dvapara-yuga ends, material degradation comes to the fore, bringing about a sharp decline of spiritual interest and acumen. This is known as Kali-yuga, or the Dark Age, when only one part of Truth remains. Anger, ignorance, indifference, and selfishness are the order of the day. As I looked around me in the gambling casino, I had no doubt we were in the thick of Kali's reign.
It takes a long time for Kali to rear its ugly head. From the beginning of Satya-yuga to the beginning of Kali-yuga is 3,888,000 years. We're five thousand years into Kali-yuga now, and Las Vegas shows me just how far we've come.
Until the age of Kali, says Srimad-Bhagavatam, Dharma, or religious truth, personified as a bull, happily walked along on four legs—austerity, cleanliness, mercy, and truthfulness—safely guarding moral order. But now, in Kali-yuga, only one leg remains—truthfulness—and that is diminishing day by day.
In ancient India, Krta is the dice-throw that wins the jackpot. Kali is the losing throw. "Craps—you lose!"
During Kali-yuga, man and his world are at their very worst. The Visnu Purana (1.33.7) says: "When society reaches a stage where property confers rank, wealth becomes the only source of virtue, passion the sole bond of union between husband and wife, falsehood the source of success in life, sex the only means of enjoyment, and showiness the sign of spirituality—then know for certain we are in Kali-yuga."
My mind turns to the first written records of dice as a game of chance. This is found in the Sanskrit epic the Mahabharata. There, the evil Duryodhana challenged the noble Yudhisthira, the eldest of the Pandava princes, to a game of dice. By cheating, Duryodhana defeated Yudhisthira each time. The prince threw "Kali" again and again, losing his wealth and kingdom and setting the course for a series of events that would lead to the war mentioned in the Bhagavad-gita. Soon after the end of this war, Kali-yuga began with full steam.
A Lucky Throw
Vedic texts, especially the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, at times refer to Kali-yuga as Pusya-yuga and Tisya-yuga. The terms pusya and tisya refer to something "fortunate" or "auspicious." Why would these words be identified with Kali? The answer lies in the Puranas, another section of the Vedic literature. An important, much-cited verse in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (12.3.52) says, "Whatever result was obtained in Satya-yuga by meditating on Visnu, in Treta-yuga by performing sacrifices, and in Dvapara-yuga by serving the Lord's lotus feet can be obtained in Kali-yuga simply by chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra." The same truth is expressed in the Visnu Purana (6.2.17), the Padma Purana (72.25), the Brhan-naradiya Purana (38.97), and elsewhere.
In other words, even though Kali is an age beleaguered by faults, there is a compensating factor: The means of self-realization is easier than that of other ages. One simply has to chant Hare Krsna, as emphasized by Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His followers. Mahaprabhu's appearance five hundred years ago ushered in the Prema-yuga, the age of love of God, which will last ten thousand years. While human culture deteriorates, those who take part in Mahaprabhu's mission will live happily in Krsna consciousness.
Mahaprabhu is known as the Yuga Avatara. God descends in each age with a specific process of God realization, and Mahaprabhu came equipped with the holy name. The Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.5.32) tells us, "In the age of Kali, those who are truly intelligent perform congregational chanting in the mood of Sri Caitanya." As I left the gambling casino, I was certain this verse was not about the people I saw around me.
But maybe it was. Sri Caitanya is also known as Patita Pavana, "the deliverer of the most fallen." And so, as we left the casino, I started to tell Ritchie my thoughts about Kali-yuga and the original dice tale told in the Mahabharata. He expressed interest and agreed to finally read The Golden Avatara, by his Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada—a book about Sri Caitanya I had given him some twenty-five years ago. Life was rough, Ritchie admitted. And he realized there must be more than gambling and showgirls. Here, I thought, was a good beginning, and as I looked out at the seductive lights of the Las Vegas night life, I knew that this conversation could have only taken place in Kali-yuga.
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.
Srila Prabhupada and his followers have exported one of India's greatest religious festivals to cities around the world.
by Akincana-priyabandhu Dasa
The Rathayatra ("chariot festival") of Lord Jagannatha has been held in Puri, Orissa, and in other places in India for thousands of years. In the West the first Rathayatra of Lord Jagannatha (a form of Krsna) took place thirty-six years ago, in 1967, in San Francisco. Srila Prabhupada then introduced Jagannatha worship and the Rathayatra in many cities around the world.
In February 1970, Srila Prabhupada wrote to Hanuman Prasad Poddar (the founder of Gita Press, with whom Prabhupada had a friendly relationship): "The Deities worshiped in [ISKCON] temples are Jagannatha Swami with Balarama and Subhadra and Radha-Krishna. When we first start a temple we start with Jagannatha Swami. My Guru Maharaja recommended temples of Jagannatha in these countries, so I was inspired to establish first of all Jagannatha Swami because He is kind even to the mlecchas [persons outside Vedic culture]. Then, when there is opportunity I establish Radha-Krishna murti." In 1973 Srila Prabhupada wrote: "I want to see my disciples all over the world introduce two items, opening Radha-Krishna temples and Rathayatra festivals." Therefore it is certainly not by chance that Lord Jagannatha's worship and the Rathayatra have been introduced in the Western world. It may be safely said that in all countries where ISKCON is well established, Lord Jagannatha is worshiped and the Rathayatra is held.
Jagannatha Worship in the West Begins
Srila Prabhupada spent the first part of his life in Calcutta, and there he met his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, who requested him to spread the message of Lord Caitanya throughout the English-speaking world. In September 1965 Srila Prabhupada arrived in America, and in July 1966, after almost a year of great struggle, he established the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). Soon after the first center was opened in New York City, Srila Prabhupada brought the message of Krsna consciousness to San Francisco. There, in early 1967, Lord Jagannatha made His merciful appearance.
One day Malati Devi Dasi, a new disciple of Srila Prabhupada, got a small wooden figure from a shop and showed it to Srila Prabhupada, who at once offered obeisances with folded hands.
Prabhupada happily told Malati, "You have brought Jagannatha, the Lord of the universe. He is Krsna Himself. Thank you very much."
Prabhupada explained to Malati and other devotees that Krsna in the form of Jagannatha is worshiped all over India, but especially in Puri, in the state of Orissa. Countless thousands of pilgrims come there to see and worship Lord Jagannatha along with His brother, Balarama, and His sister, Subhadra.
Then Malati remembered that she had seen two similar figures in the same shop. She immediately went to get them, and indeed, these were the figures of Baladeva and Subhadra. Srila Prabhupada then asked Syamasundara Dasa, Malatis husband, to carve three-foot-tall deities of Jagannatha, Balarama, and Subhadra. Srila Prabhupada installed them in the temple, and San Francisco came to be known among his followers as New Jagannatha Puri.
Prabhupada taught the devotees to chant jagannathah svami nayana-patha-gami bhavatu me:—"O Lord of the universe, kindly be visible to Me"and to perform a very simple worship of Lord Jagannatha. Every day the devotees offered Their Lordships new garlands, arati, and so on, and whoever came to the temple brought some gift for Jagannatha, such as fruits, sweets, flowers, and even popcorn.
For the devotees of Lord Jagannatha in India it might not be so easy to imagine what it meant to introduce the worship of Jagannatha in a place where no one had any knowledge of the Vedic culture. Especially in San Francisco at that time, many young people were hippies. But Srila Prabhupada saw them all as spirit souls, parts of Krsna, and patiently and lovingly he awakened in those souls their natural and spontaneous inclination to worship Jagannatha with love and devotion. Then, step by step, he introduced a more strict and detailed procedure of worship. These were not only the first Jagannatha deities worshiped in a temple in the West, but also the first deities in ISKCON.
The First Western Rathayatra
As a sannyasi preacher, Srila Prabhupada did not stay long in one place, and there were so many places all over the world where Krsna consciousness had yet to be introduced. But when Prabhupada saw that the devotees were upset with his leaving San Francisco (they were crying in the airport), he told them, "If you arrange a Rathayatra for Lord Jagannatha this year, then I shall definitely come to see it."
None of his disciples knew how to build a ratha (processional chariot), so Srila Prabhupada advised them to rent a truck, make a ratha-like dome, and decorate it as nicely as possible. They should put the Deities on this "chariot" and organize a procession, which would move slowly through an important street in San Francisco.
The devotees followed his instructions with great sincerity and enthusiasm, and by the grace of the Lord, the first Rathayatra in the Western world was a grand success (July 1967). Many people joined the procession, and the devotees danced and chanted, played the harmonium, drums, and cymbals, passed out apples, oranges, bananas, and chapatis, and threw flowers all around. Everyone was happy, and Srila Prabhupada knew that his spiritual master and Lord Jagannatha were also pleased.
Shortly after that, Rathayatra was introduced in London. Whenever Srila Prabhupada and his disciples would bring Krsna consciousness to a new place, they would introduce the worship of Lord Jagannatha there. As early as 1970, the first Rathayatra was held in Tokyo, Japan. Srila Prabhupada himself took part in ISKCON Rathayatras in different cities—several times in San Francisco, and in London, Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York.
Prabhupada recalled that throughout his childhood he would think how one day, when he grew up and got some money, he would buy a ticket to Puri and go to see Lord Jagannatha. Later in his life Srila Prabhupada went to Puri, but even at the age of six he conducted his own Rathayatra in Calcutta. Known then as Abhay, he asked his father to buy him a small chariot and help decorate it. Then, under Abhay's leadership, the children of the neighborhood performed the Rathayatra, with their amused parents also taking part. Srila Prabhupada later said that while introducing deity worship and spiritual festivals all over the world, he was doing the same things he had learned and done as a child, with the help of his good parents.
In 1974 Srila Prabhupada wrote to one of his disciples: "This Rathayatra festival is very dear to me from my childhood days, so I very much appreciate your holding this festival in Chicago."
In many other letters, as well as in books, lectures, and conversations, Prabhupada would instruct and inspire his disciples in their loving service to Lord Jagannatha: "So far additions for this year's Rathayatra, you may make three rathas, one for each of the deities. The rest of the details are already there; simply you may supply more money for festoons, decorations, flowers, bells, flags, etc. The spiritual sky is far away, but you just try to do it following Jagannatha Puri Rathayatra."
In a lecture given in London on July 12, 1973, Srila Prabhupada again stressed the importance of the Rathayatra: "Just like the other day we held the festival, Rathayatra. Chant and take prasadam. That's all. Organize this all over the world. They will be saved. They will understand Krsna."
After the first Rathayatra took place in 1967, all new ISKCON centers, especially in the U.S., were eager to follow the example of San Francisco. In the summer of 1972, the deities of Jagannatha, Balarama, and Subhadra were installed in Philadelphia and a Rathayatra was held. It was the first Rathayatra on the east coast of the United States. Later, Philadelphia became known among devotees as New Nilachala Dhama. Also in 1972, Srila Prabhupada installed Jagannatha deities in Amsterdam. These deities now reside in Radhadesh, Belgium, but they use to travel and have their Rathayatra in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Den Hague, and other cities in the Netherlands and Belgium.
During a Rathayatra in London, Srila Prabhupada, although at the age of 76 and in poor health, walked at the head of a grand procession, chanting and dancing with raised hands all the way to the Trafalgar Square, where he gave a lecture about the holy name. The next day a photo of the chariot appeared in the newspaper The Daily Guardian with a caption stating that it rivaled the famous column of Lord Nelson in Trafalgar Square.
Gradually, under Prabhupada's guidance, the Rathayatra festival was introduced in Canada (Toronto, Montreal), France (Paris), and Australia (Melbourne, then Brisbane). In 1976 the Rathayatra was held in ten major cities of the world. Prabhupada was pleased to hear that the media and city authorities had remarked that the festivals were peaceful and well organized.
"This is the real United Nations," Prabhupada said, "everybody dancing together and glorifying Jagannatha, the Lord of the universe."
A Disciple's Dedication
That year, in 1976, Prabhupada took part in the Rathayatra in New York City, when three great chariots, surrounded by thousands of people, moved down what Prabhupada called "the most important street of the most important city." The media reports were most favorable: "East meets West on Fifth Avenue." After that RathayatraSrila Prabhupada wrote to his disciple Jayananda Dasa: "For so long I have wanted to have Rathayatra in New York, and now at long last you have helped me fulfill this long-cherished dream." The Fifth Avenue Rathayatra is now an annual event.
To arrange a Rathayatra always requires the combined endeavors of many dedicated devotees, but this devotee, Jayananda, played an especially important role in arranging the Rathayatras in the West, beginning with San Francisco in 1967. He would build the chariots, buy (or get donated) the food and decorations, make the advertisements and invite people, inspire and organize other devotees, and then chant and dance during the festival—while steering the lead chariot.
In 1977 Jayananda, terminally ill with leukemia, organized the spectacular Los Angeles Rathayatra. The festival was a great success, but Jayananda did not take part in it; he left this world a few months earlier. After Jayananda's demise, Srila Prabhupada wrote in a letter, "Jayananda's death is glorious. It is very good that he stated, 'What is the use of such a useless body, better to give it up.' He has left his body very wonderfully and has been transferred to Vaikuntha. . . . I am very proud that I had such a nice disciple. If possible Jayananda's picture should be hung on the ratha of Lord Jagannatha, and in all our temples a day may be set aside for holding a festival in his honor, just as we do on the disappearance days of other great Vaisnavas."
Twelve years later, in 1989, a high school classmate of Jayananda's happened to see ISKCON's Rathayatra festival in Durban, South Africa, and there a devotee showed him a photo of Jayananda on Jagannatha's chariot. Greatly impressed, he wrote to tell his other classmates about the honored status their friend held in the Hare Krsna movement.
Durban is not the only place in Africa where Lord Jagannatha is worshiped. In Kenya, for the last twenty years Rathayatra has been taking place annually in Nairobi (the capital), in Mombasa, and, more recently, in Kisumu. Many thousands of people take part, and the festivals have been praised and supported by successive governments and leaders through the years as being an inspiration and bringing together many tribes and diverse groups.
Around the World
Indeed, Lord Jagannatha's glories have been broadcast around the world, and His devotees can be found everywhere. Srila Prabhupada installed the deities of Jagannatha, Balarama, and Subhadra in Auckland, New Zealand. This year, 2003, the first Rathayatra was held in Mexico. Lord Jagannatha is worshiped in Brazil and other countries of South America. In Brazil, Rathayatra is held in several cities, including Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, and Belo Horizonte. A restaurant run by ISKCON devotees in Buenos Aires, Argentina, is called Jagannath Prasadam. In Moscow, Russia, a popular restaurant run by devotees is called Jagannatha Express. The ISKCON temple in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, is known as Jagannath Mandir. One of ISKCON's temple communities in Bangladesh is also called Sri Jagannath Mandir, and the place where it is situated is known as Jagannathpur. Both in Bangladesh and in Malaysia the Rathayatra has been held annually since the 1980s, and Muslims together with Hindus happily take part in these transcendental festivals.
In Zurich, Switzerland, the presiding Deities are Jagannatha, Balarama and Subhadra, the place is known as New Jagannatha Puri, and Rathayatra is held annually. In Spain, Rathayatra is held in three cities: Madrid, Barcelona, and Malaga. In Italy, the festival is held in Milan. And of course in India Lord Jagannatha's Rathayatra festivals are arranged by ISKCON devotees in many important places, including Delhi, Mathura, Bhubaneswar, Kolkata, Mayapur, Mumbai, Baroda, and Bangalore.
In early 1977, Srila Prabhupada went to Orissa to lay the foundation stone of an ISKCON temple in Bhubaneswar. On several occasions Srila Prabhupada said that because devotees from outside India are not allowed into Lord Jagannatha's temple in Puri, he wanted a beautiful temple built there where anyone, from any country and any community, could come and worship the Lord of the universe.
In November 1977, just a few days before Srila Prabhupada departed this world, his disciple Gour Govinda Swami came from Bhubaneswar to Vrndavana to see him and tell him of various details of the Rathayatra festival, which was special in many ways that year in Puri. Srila Prabhupada listened with great interest and asked many questions. He was especially concerned that the great ancient tradition should be continued purely.
In Former Communist Countries
After the closure of Srila Prabhupada's manifested pastimes, his followers continued to introduce Lord Jagannatha's worship and Rathayatra festivals in new places. With the fall of communist regimes, Rathayatra started in Eastern Europe and different parts of the former USSR. In Budapest, Hungary, Rathayatra is held. In Belarus there are many devotees of Jagannatha. In Riga, Latvia, there are deities of Jagannatha, Balarama, and Subhadra, and They have Their Rathayatra both in Latvia and in Lithuania. There have been Rathayatras in Abkhasia and in Kazakhstan. In Russia, Jagannatha deities are worshiped in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Rostov, Sochi, Seversk, and Tomsk, among other cities.
In St. Petersburg the Rathayatra has taken place every year since 1990. Similarly, in Saratov, on the great Russian river Volga, the devotees have arranged the Rathayatra festival every year since the early 1990s. In the Urals (Ekaterinburg, Perm) and in Siberia (Novokuznetsk, Omsk) Rathayatra is also held annually. In Vladivostok, a major city in the far east, ISKCON devotees have held the Rathayatra festival every year since 1991, and the place is known as New Jagannatha Puri. Even in some smaller places, like Kurjinovo, the Rathayatra is celebrated. In Vladimir, an ancient town not far from Moscow, a small group of devotees has been arranging Rathayatra festivals annually since the mid-1990s. In Dnepropetrovsk, an important city in the Ukraine, their Lordships Jagannatha, Subhadra, and Balarama are worshiped in a beautiful temple and the Rathayatra has been held every year since 1993. ISKCON's center in Dnepropetrovsk is known as New Purushottama Kshetra.
In Europe and America
In North America and the United Kingdom, more cities are joining the "Rathayatra club." Besides San Francisco, New York, London, and other cities mentioned above, the festival is held in Washington, Atlanta, Detroit, Jersey City, Boston, Boise, Buffalo, Vancouver, Birmingham, Leicester, Manchester, Brighton, and other places.
In 1996, the one hundredth anniversary of Srila Prabhupada's appearance in this world, ISKCON organized the first Rathayatra in the history of Scandinavia. It was held in Stockholm, near the palace of the king of Sweden, and devotees from other countries came to take part. Also, in 1996 there was the first Rathayatra in Sofia, Bulgaria, and since then it has been held there annually.
This article contains only an incomplete list of ISKCON centers where Jagannatha deities are worshiped and the Rathayatra is held. Besides the ISKCON temples, hundreds and thousands of devotees all over the world worship Jagannatha in their homes. I'm unable to mention here all the places throughout the world where Lord Jagannatha's Rathayatra is held. The glories of Lord Jagannatha are ever expanded by His pure devotees, and even this tiny presentation could be made only by their mercy.
Akincana-priyabandhu Dasa was born in Moscow, Russia, and met Hare Krsna devotees in 1984. He has been translating Srila Prabhupada's books into Russian since the late 1980s. He lives in Jagannatha Puri, India, with his wife and son and is translating the Tenth Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam.
by Kaumudi Rau
Rathayatra is a very special occasion. By its pure, auspicious nature, a soul can be cleansed, ignorance destroyed. Although undeserving, by the Lord's mercy I was granted the Rathayatra experience.
Rathayatra is a way to honor the Lord and His associates. It is a chance to show our devotion to Him and at the same time view His gorgeous face. We pull the Lord through the streets and sing His praise, and our thoughts focus on His sweet pastimes. We forget the miseries of this material planet and remember the glory of Krsna's abode. We mimic the beautiful gopis—the cowherd girls of Vrndavana—who were so attached to Krsna that they decided to pull Him back to the forests of Vrndavana.
For some, Rathayatra is a show, for others it is a dance—for me it was a transcendental wonderland. The festival site was a haven of glorious goodies. Colorful tents bulged, filled with everything from enlightening displays to edible delights. The scene was abuzz with devotees, all grinning from ear-to-ear, and most of them chanting happily.
My favorite tent was devoted to the International Society for Cow Protection (ISCOWP). There, a protective mother watched over her two Brahmin calves, as onlookers begged for attention. In Johannesburg, where I live, it is hard to really get close to cows, and this was a wonderful experience for me. Somehow, "mother" and I connected, and she let me stroke her every time I came to visit. Her humility and care astounded me, and I fell in love with her big brown eyes. It was not difficult to see why these sacred animals reside in the sweet heart of our Lord. As the ultimate providers, they are our true mothers, and deserve the same respect.
My next favorite was the gift tent. Stuffed to the brim with devotional paraphernalia, it was a veritable feast for the eyes. If I were richer, I could have bought CDs, jewelry, clothing from India, or even tiles for my altar room, but I was still able to find some treasures I could afford.
Books for the World
Next on my list was the book tent, containing a miniature version of Vrndavana, including a tiny Govardhana Hill. It was a sheer delight to see the small yet powerful Yamuna River. In this tent sat His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada in his deity form. I remembered the effect that Srila Prabhupada's books have on my own spiritual advancement. Through his books I find the truth I seek, and I realize how deeply indebted we all are to him. Srila Prabhupada gives his mercy to people all over the world, everyday, just through his books.
In front of their author, shelves and shelves of his books were displayed, along with books by his disciples and grand-disciples. I bought a little book I had never seen before, and considered apt: The Lilas [Pastimes] of Lord Jagannatha. Throughout the week I spent in Durban, this little book brought bundles of inspiration.
Of course, the tents selling or giving away prasadam were a huge success too. Govinda's Restaurant did a roaring trade in piping hot curd-and-pea samosas, which I still dream about, and cubes of channa magaj, which plagued me incessantly. I was also a regular at the Food for Life tent, and offer my admiration to all the devotees who prepared the huge quantities of food.
The main tent was almost as attractive as the Lord Himself. Dramas, traditional dancing, and wonderful singers all glorified the pastimes of the Lord, leaving audiences stunned.
In the temple tent, Sri Jagannatha, Sri Baladeva, and Subhadra Devi were adorned with garlands, and the altar bulged with fresh fruit. I remember going into the tent for a throbbing kirtana, and just staying there, taking in the beauty of the Lord. I remember marveling at His mercy that had gotten me from Johannesburg to Durban, and singing my heart out to Him. I sang and sang and sang, glorifying Him, and yet I never once felt tired. I left with prasadam and a huge grin.
Throughout the festival, two tents were used for question-and-answer sessions. Hearing the answers given by senior ISKCON devotees was enlightening and a real treat.
A Parade for All
All that is left to paint is the heart of the event: the Rathayatra procession. As thousands of people followed the chariot into one of the most degraded areas in Durban, the praises of the Lord reverberated off the walls and into my heart. I thanked the Lord for His mercy, and prayed that everyone else could get the same fortune I was getting. I saw people up in their flats looking down at the dancing mass, and hoped that they too could catch a glimpse of Him. I jumped for the Lord, I sang for the Lord, and my heart soared for all my fellow devotees, also engaged in sweet glorification.
I managed to pull the cart for just a few moments, and then decided to let everybody else have a chance. I knew that I was fortunate enough to be practicing Krsna consciousness, so I just chanted the holy names of the Lord as loud as I could, and danced as much as I could too. I caught sweets thrown from the cart, shared them, and kept a special one for myself. By the end of the procession, I was exhausted but happy.
The Lord's mercy is such that all who pull His chariot at Rathayatra are relieved of reactions to sins. For me, the mercy of Krsna did not end there. I was on the receiving end of a whole lot more, and I am ever thankful for it. Thank you, Lord Krsna, for saving me. Thank you for Your love.
For me, one of the great attractions of Krsna consciousness is the richness of its offerings in both philosophy and "nectar," or the sweet pastimes of the Lord. In this issue, Amala-bhakta Dasa has retold some of the early activities of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who is Krsna Himself appearing in this age. Amala-bhakta's main sources were Sri Caitanya Bhagavata and Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, both written shortly after Lord Caitanya's time here. These masterpieces delight us with accounts of Lord Caitanya's life as well as His teachings.
Of the two books, Sri Caitanya-caritamrta contains the more detailed, in-depth philosophical presentation of Krsna consciousness. It is an astounding blend of philosophy and nectar. I sometimes think that if I were for some reason allowed only one book, I'd choose Caitanya-caritamrta. I could relish the life and teachings of both Lord Caitanya and Lord Krsna. Because Lord Caitanya is Krsna in the role of His own devotee, Caitanya-caritamrta overflows with krsna-katha, or topics about Krsna.
Like the Srimad-Bhagavatam—another gem of Vaisnava literature—Caitanya-caritamrta is a perfect picture of the essence of Krsna conscious life: It shows pure spiritual pleasure on a foundation of solid philosophy.
Our lives as aspiring devotees of the Lord involve both the heart and the intellect. Study of the philosophy of Krsna consciousness helps us reach our goal: pure love for Krsna.
First-time readers of Caitanya-caritamrta might be expecting to dive right into the nectar of Lord Caitanya's pastimes. But the author, Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami, begins the book with deep philosophy. He explains why after presenting some philosophical points in the second chapter: "By such conclusive studies I know the glories of Lord Caitanya. Only by knowing these glories can one become strong and fixed in attachment to Him."
Although any respectful hearing of Lord Caitanya's activities purifies us, philosophical conviction about His identity and teachings increases the value of the hearing. Devotion doesn't mean sentimentality. Srila Prabhupada expressed deep concern that his disciples learn the philosophy of Krsna consciousness, not only as a foundation for their ongoing spiritual progress, but also as a defense against arguments from atheists and others with what he called "a poor fund of knowledge."
Prabhupada wanted to fill our fund of knowledge. Knowing that his time with us would be short, he carefully chose the books that would guide us best. For example, one of his first was Teachings of Lord Caitanya. Drawing from Caitanya-caritamrta, it presents Lord Caitanya's philosophical discussions with His disciples and others. And before he published the full Caitanya-caritamrta, he separately published a chapter that focuses on an important discussion between Lord Caitanya and Prakasananda Sarasvati, leader of thousands of impersonalists in Benares. In that exchange, Lord Caitanya solidly established devotion to Lord Krsna as the conclusion of the Vedic literature.
Srila Prabhupada was known among his God-brothers for his learning and devotion, and they awarded him the title "Bhaktivedanta." He was the emblem of both love for Krsna (bhakti) and thorough knowledge of the Vedic scriptures (vedanta). He said that he wanted his disciples to inherit his title by mastering the teachings of Lord Krsna and Lord Caitanya. Fortunately, all readers of his books have the ideal means to do that. We can take advantage of Prabhupada's gift to us in the form of his exquisite presentation of Caitanya-caritamrta.
Laksmi, the goddess of fortune, is the constant companion of Lord Visnu; they remain together constantly. One cannot keep Laksmi in one's home without Lord Visnu. To think that one can do so is very dangerous. To keep Laksmi, or the riches of the Lord, without the service of the Lord is always dangerous, for then Laksmi becomes the illusory energy. With Lord Visnu, however, Laksmi is the spiritual energy.
His Divine Grace A. C. BhaktivedantaSwami Prabhupada
My dear Arjuna, only by undivided devotional service can I be understood as I am, standing before you, and can thus be seen directly. Only in this way can you enter into the mysteries of My understanding.
Lord Sri Krsna
The abode of Vrndavana is illuminated by innumerable moon rays of transcendental bliss. It is cooled by the nectarean mellows of ecstatic love. It is filled with many desire trees and chirping birds. Therefore who will not be attracted to Vrndavana, where Sri Radha and Krsna are eternally enjoying Their pastimes?
Srila Prabodhananda Sarasvati
In Vaikuntha [the spiritual world] nothing exists but devotional service, rendered through sankirtana [the congregational chanting of God's names] and in many other forms. It goes on incessantly, with great enthusiasm, spreading the ecstasy of pure love.
See how universal is the religion of Bhagavat [Srimad-Bhagavatam]. It is not intended for a certain class of Hindus alone, but it is a gift to the mankind at large in whatever country born, in whatever society bred, and of whatever culture produced. In short, Vaisnavism is the Absolute Love binding all men together into the Infinite, Unconditioned, and Absolute God (Krsna).
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura
Scriptural evidence clearly indicates that for the yogis, jnanis, and karmis to become successful in their individual paths, their engagement in devotional service is imperative, whereas to attain perfection in the path of bhakti, which results in spontaneous love of Godhead, there is no need of yoga, jnana, karma, or any other process.
Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura