In our last issue, we ran the story of a group of Hare Krsna youths touring North America by bus. This time we present a Hare Krsna couple traversing America at a much slower pace—on a horse-drawn wagon. So far they've covered twelve hundred miles on their way to Mexico and beyond, giving out the teachings of Lord Krsna in hundreds of towns along the way.
On the other side of the world, Adbhuta Hari Dasa reports on a place where Krsna spoke His teachings fifty centuries ago just before leaving this world. In "The Song Goes Ever On," Satyaraja Dasa gives us a summary of those teachings and tells us about Uddhava, the intimate devotee to whom Lord Krsna spoke them.
Krsna's extraordinary departure from the earth is one of His many divine acts, the most endearing of which took place in Vrndavana, India. In "A Vrndavana Tour in Northern Ireland," we learn of how devotees are creating reminders of the holy sites of Vrndavana thousands of miles away.
This issue coincides with the anniversary of Lord Krsna's appearance as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Amala-bhakta Dasa relates some of Caitanya Mahaprabhu's feats in "The Wonders of Lord Caitanya."
Hare Krsna.—Nagaraja Dasa, Editor
• To help all people discern reality from illusion, spirit from matter, the eternal from the temporary.
Encouraged by the Youth
I thoroughly enjoyed the article "Hare Krsna Youth on Tour," in the January/February issue. Not having the good fortune of living near a temple, I have often wondered about children raised as devotees. Are they happy? Well-adjusted? It was encouraging to see that the American Hare Krsna youth were able to experience the beauty of their country and at the same time introduce people to Krsna consciousness. Just seeing their smiling faces on the cover tells me they're special kids.
Lord Caitanya's mercy is revealed in Tota Gopinatha's biography [Jan/Feb]. I too ride a Harley for God. I have been allowed into places and situations dressed as a biker that give golden opportunities to talk about the Absolute Truth, Radha-Krsna. Tears of joy ran down my face as I read about Tota's past. Mine is not too different. I was initiated by Prabhupada in 1974, fell down, and scratched my way back to reality.
Signs of Spiritual Progress
How can I know that I've improved in my devotional service?
Our Reply: Here, from Srila Prabhupada's books, are several important ways we can tell if we are improving in devotional service.
In his purport to Bhagavad-gita 13.8-12, Srila Prabhupada writes that we can tell we are making progress if we are developing the qualities that Krsna mentions in these verses:
"Humility; pridelessness; nonviolence; tolerance; simplicity; approaching a bona fide spiritual master; cleanliness; steadiness; self-control; renunciation of the objects of sense gratification; absence of false ego; the perception of the evil of birth, death, old age and disease; detachment; freedom from entanglement with children, wife, home and the rest; even-mindedness amid pleasant and unpleasant events; constant and unalloyed devotion to Me; aspiring to live in a solitary place; detachment from the general mass of people; accepting the importance of self-realization; and philosophical search for the Absolute Truth."
In his purport to Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.23.29, Prabhupada stresses detachment from sex life as an indication: "One who is advanced in devotional service is never attracted by sex life, and as soon as one becomes detached from sex life and proportionately attached to the service of the Lord, he actually experiences living in the Vaikuntha [spiritual] planets."
In his purport to Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila 7.143, he writes, "A devotee's only attachment is Krsna; he no longer wants to maintain his attachments to many other things."
And in his purport to Sri Caitanya Caritamrta, Adi-lila 1.60, he writes, "Unless one gets this spiritual encouragement by following the instructions of the spiritual master, it is not possible to make advancement. Therefore, one's development of a taste for executing these instructions is the test of one's devotional service."
The Supremacy of Krsna
Based on the four original Vedas, how do we find Krsna as the Supreme Godhead, outside of Siva, besides the sayings in the Gita? I have studied in the past with a Saivite, and he states that Siva is the supreme being. I would like some clarification on this.
Ty H. Phillips
Our Reply: The Narayana Upanisad (4) says, brahmanyo devaki-putrah: "The son of Devaki, Krsna, is the Supreme Personality." We also find references to the supremacy of Visnu and Narayana, plenary expansions of Krsna. The ag Veda (1.22.20) states, om tad visnoh paramam padam sada pasyanti surayah: "The devas are always looking to that supreme abode of Visnu." The Narayana Upanisad (1) says, "From Narayana are born the seven Rudras [forms of Siva]." And the Maha Upanisad (1) states, "In the beginning of creation there was only the Supreme Personality Narayana. There was no Brahma, no Siva. . . ."
Prabhupada wrote in a letter to a disciple: "Sankaracarya is a Lord Siva worshiper and an incarnation of Lord Siva, and he admits that Narayana is the master and Narayana is the Supreme. [Sankaracarya writes:] Narayanah paro 'vyaktat ["Narayana existed before anything else was manifest"]. This is the best authority. What more evidence do you want? This is in his Sanka Bhasya [commentary] on Bhagavad-gita. This is not even the statement of the Puranas but of Sankaracarya's own writings. How can you deny if the incarnation of Lord Siva says that Krsna is Supreme?"
Why No Eggs?
I understand that you Hare Krsnas are vegetarians because you don't want to be responsible for animal slaughter, but why are you prohibited from eating eggs?
Satyaraja Dasa Replies: The most important reason we don't eat eggs is the same reason we don't eat meat or fish: We eat only Krsna prasadam, food first offered to Krsna in love and devotion. And in the Bhagavad-gita (9.26) and other places, Krsna tells us that He wants only vegetarian food, including milk products.
Krsna's diet has the benefit of being nonviolent, which is important to devotees, and which vegetarians can also appreciate. When it comes to eggs, however, it can be argued that no violence results from eating them. So why refrain from eating eggs?
First of all, to eat an egg you must first torture a chicken—the two are inextricably related. The modern factory farm is a veritable concentration camp, with horrors better left unmentioned in the pages of this magazine.
Commercially produced eggs (for eating) do not require male chickens; they are the unnatural product of biological manipulation. Thus, they are often referred to as "vegetarian eggs." But make no mistake—eggs can never be vegetarian. In the first place, they do not grow on trees. Secondly, the ovum, even in factory-produced eggs, remains in the center. This means that the eggs people eat contain living cells with all the processes of metabolism, such as respiration, digestion, and so on. The fifteen thousand pores on the eggshell alone are used to inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide and water vapor. What does all this mean? If that same unfertilized ovum were to encounter sperm, it could become a fertilized egg—and then a chicken. As strange as it sounds, what we are really talking about here is the eating of a chicken's daily menstrual secretion.
In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna categorizes foods according to their effect on the consciousness. Eggs belong in the category of foods that drag the consciousness toward darkness and ignorance—something that persons on the spiritual path would do well to avoid.
Please write to us at: BTG, P. O. Box 430, Alachua, FL 32616, USA. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lord Krsna Himself sets up the system by which His teachings find their way to us.
by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Prahlada Maharaja said: One who is sufficiently intelligent should use the human form of body from the very beginning of life—in other words, from the tender age of childhood—to practice the activities of devotional service, giving up all other engagements. The human body is most rarely achieved, and although temporary like other bodies, it is meaningful because in human life one can perform devotional service. Even a slight amount of sincere devotional service can give one complete perfection.
Today I shall explain the importance of Krsna consciousness as it was conceived by one of the greatest devotees in this disciplic succession. You know we are under disciplic succession. We do not manufacture anything by mental concoction. We do not approve that method. We receive knowledge from the authorities, and out of many such acaryas, or authorities, who have appeared and disappeared, Prahlada Maharaja is one.
We don't say "born" and "died," but "appear" and "disappear." This is the explanation: None of us, neither Krsna nor we living entities, are born or die; we appear and disappear. In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna says on the battlefield, "My dear Arjuna, don't think that you or Me or all the kings and soldiers who have assembled on this battlefield did not exist in the past and will not exist in the future." That means they existed in the past and they're existing at present and they would exist also in the future. That means we are all eternal.
The body is changing, and the final change, when you transmigrate from one body to another, is called death. But actually, there is no death. Na jayate na mriyate va kadacit [Bg. 2.20]. In the Bhagavad-gita you'll find that the living entity is never born and never dies. Na hanyate hanyamane sarire. One may say, "I see that he is dying." But he is not dying; he is finishing this present body.
An example is given: vasamsi jirnani yatha vihaya [Bg. 2.22]. Just as one changes his dress, when the present body is unworkable he changes to a new body. When the eyes cannot see, there is blindness. Similarly, when the hand cannot work, the leg cannot work, the tongue cannot work—because at the last stage these mechanical arrangements of this body will stop functioning—that is called death. Try to understand: If I cannot see, that does not mean I am dead. Similarly, when the senses of the body cannot function, that also does not mean that I am dead. This is to be understood with a little intelligence and a cool head.
Prahlada Maharaja, a great devotee, is in the line of disciplic succession. He's considered one of the great acaryas, authorities. Who is an acarya? An acarya is one who knows the intricacies of Vedic knowledge, behaves in terms of that knowledge, and teaches his disciple in terms of that knowledge. The word acarya means a person whose behavior is to be followed—we don't just follow someone according to our taste—and that acarya comes in the standard disciplic succession.
Twelve Great Authorities
We are discussing the instructions of Prahlada Maharaja because he happens to be one of the stalwart acaryas. The names of such authorized acaryas are mentioned in Srimad-Bhagavatam. Who are they? Svayambhur naradahsambhuh . . . [Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.3.20]. Svayambhuh means Brahma. Brahma is born without any material father and mother. Therefore he is called svayambhuh, "self-manifested." He is the only living creature within this universe born without a father and mother. That means without a material father and mother. But he has his father. His father is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Narayana. Brahma is born out of the lotus flower grown from the abdomen of Narayana. Therefore he's called svayambhuh. Before him there was no existence of material creation.
Next is Narada. Narada is born from Brahma. Then Sambhu, who is also born of Brahma. Sambhu is Lord Siva. He is also one of the acaryas.
Next are the Kumaras, who are also sons of Brahma. The word kumara means brahmacari, celibate. When they were born, Brahma wanted to create living entities to fill the universe, so he wanted many sons and grandsons.
Brahma requested his four Kumara sons, "My dear boys, get yourself married and increase the population."
But the Kumaras said, "My dear father, we are not going to marry. We are not going to be entangled in this material way of life. We shall remain as brahmacaris and cultivate Krsna consciousness."
Oh, the father was very angry.
"Oh, you are refusing my order?"
From his anger Lord Siva was born. Lord Siva's name is also Rudra because he was crying (rudra) from the very beginning of his birth. He too is one of the authorities.
Kapila, another acarya, is the son of Devahuti, and He's considered an incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Next is Manu, the father of the mankind. From manuh, the word "man" is derived.
Now Prahlada's name comes. Then Janaka, the great king whose daughter, Sita, was married to Lord Ramacandra. Therefore, Sitas name is also Janaki, "the daughter of Maharaja Janaka." He is also a great authority.
Then Bhisma. You have heard the name of Bhisma, the grandfather of Arjuna. He is also one of the authorities.
Then Maharaja Bali, a king. He was a grandson of Prahlada Maharaja. All these persons became authorities by their exemplary character for advancing in Krsna consciousness. Therefore they are considered authorities.
Next is vaiyasakih, which means "the son of Vyasadeva," or Sukadeva Gosvami. He's also an authority. And the verse ends with the word vayam, "we," meaning Yamaraja, the controller of sinful activities and the speaker of the verse. He is like the superintendent of police, appointed by Krsna. He is also one of the authorities. How can you deny the superintendent of police as an authority? As the superintendent of police is an authority in the state, so Yamaraja is an authority.
An Atheist's Saintly Son
Today we are speaking about the instructions of one of the authorities, Prahlada Maharaja. What is the history of Prahlada Maharaja? He was born in the family of a great atheist. His father was a great atheist, Hiranyakasipu. Hiranya means gold, and kasipu means enjoyment in soft bedding. He was concerned with two things: money and sense enjoyment. That was his business, and he wanted to train his boy in that way. But fortunately, the boy happened to be a great devotee by the instruction of Narada. He was born in the family of atheists—his father was a great atheist. But because he was blessed by a great devotee, Narada, he became a great devotee.
Now, Prahlada took the opportunity of spreading Krsna consciousness. Where? In his school. He was a five-year-old boy, and as soon as he would get the opportunity, he would spread Krsna consciousness to his classmates. That was his business.
And so, many times Prahlada Maharaja's father called in the teachers: "What education are you giving to my child? Why he is chanting Hare Krsna? [Laughter.] Why are you spoiling my boy?" [Laughter.]
You see? So don't think that I am spoiling these boys and girls by teaching them Hare Krsna.
So the teacher said, "My dear sir, I teach your son very nicely about politics, economics, and, as you want, to become a very clever man in the material world. But unfortunately I do not know wherefrom your son has learned this Hare Krsna. So please excuse me. I am trying to make your son forget this nonsense Hare Krsna, but I do not know how. By nature, he chants Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, and not only is he spoiling himself, but he's spoiling my whole school. [Laughter.] Because as soon as he chants Hare Krsna, all the boys join with him, and they clap and they dance. So this is going on."
The Gaudiya Vaisnava Succession
Now, this edition of the Srimad-Bhagavatam here on the table is a great, grand edition. Each verse contains eight commentaries by great stalwart devotees. They represent different disciplic successions of devotees. There are four authorized disciplic successions. As I have already mentioned, Brahma is one of the authorities. He has a disciplic succession: from Brahma to Narada, from Narada to Vyasadeva, from Vyasadeva to Madhvacarya, from Madhvacarya to—I am making a shortcut—Madhavendra Puri, from Madhavendra Puri to Isvara Puri, from Isvara Puri to Lord Caitanya, from Lord Caitanya to Svarupa Damodara, from Svarupa Damodara to the six Gosvamis, from the six Gosvamis to Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami, the author of Caitanya-caritamrta, and from him to Narottama Dasa Thakura, from Narottama Dasa Thakura to Visvanatha Cakravarti, from Visvanatha CakravartiThakura to Jagannatha Dasa Babaji, from Jagannatha Dasa Babaji to Bhaktivinoda Thakura, from Bhaktivinoda Thakura to Gaurakisora Dasa Babaji Maharaja, and from Gaurakisora Dasa Babaji to my spiritual master. And then we are descended.
In this way, the disciplic succession is coming. What is the significance of the disciplic succession? If you receive knowledge from the descendants of these authorities, then you get perfect knowledge. Perfect knowledge is imparted by the supreme perfect, God, and it is received by Brahma. And the same knowledge is handed over to Na-rada. Narada hands it over to Vyasadeva, Vyasadeva hands it over to Madhvacarya, and so on. If a ripe fruit on the top of the tree falls down all of a sudden, it is destroyed. But if it is handed over from up to down, down, down, then it comes as it is, and you can enjoy the undamaged fruit. Similarly, when knowledge is handed down by disciplic succession, then you can enjoy the reality.
That is confirmed in the Bhagavad-gita. In the fourth chapter you'll find that Krsna says, imam vivasvate yogam proktavan aham avyayam [Bg. 4.1]. "First of all, I spoke this yoga system to Vivasvan." Vivasvan is the name of the controlling deity in the sun planet. As we have got many presidents, each higher planet has a president. According to Vedic language, they are known as the moon-god or the sun-god or Varuna, and so on. You also can occupy such posts if you become qualified. Just as you can become the President, you can also occupy the predominating post in the sun planet, in the moon planet, and in all the other planets. That is also confirmed in the Bhagavad-gita [7.23]: devan deva-yajo yanti. Anyone who aspires to be elevated to the planetary system inhabited by the demigods can go there.
So Krsna says, "First of all, I narrated this yoga system to Vivasvan." Vivasvan is the predominating deity of the sun. He was taught the Bhagavad-gita. And Krsna says, vivasvan manave praha: "And Vivasvan, this gentleman, spoke the truth about Bhagavad-gita to Manu." I have already mentioned the name of Manu. Manu means the father of mankind. That means that from the sun planet, the message of Bhagavad-gita was handed down to the chief man of this planet, the father of mankind, Manu. And Manu handed over this knowledge to his son named Iksvaku.
Iksvaku is a great king. He happens to be the original king in the family in which Lord Ramacandra appeared. It is called surya-vamsa, the descendants from the sun. There are two classes of ksatriyas, or rulers. One is coming from the sun planet, and the other is coming down from the moon planet. According to the Mahabharata, those of Indo-European stock also belong to the ksatriya family.
Krsna says in the next verse, evam parampara-praptam imam rajarsayo viduh [Bg. 4.2]. In this way, this knowledge was received by disciplic succession of rajarsis. Rajarsi means a monarch who is just like a sage. In the history given in the Mahabharata there were many kings who were like sages. In name they were monarchs, but they were always thinking of the welfare of the citizens. Maharaja Yudhisthira is an example.
Then Krsna says, sa kaleneha . . . yogo nastah parantapa [Bg. 4.2]: "Now this parampara system, or disciplic succession, has been broken by the influence of time." Just imagine. It was coming down from the sun planet, so there is every possibility of that occurring. Suppose I hand over some knowledge to you and you hand over to some other person, in succession. There is the possibility that there may be some deviation from the exact knowledge I delivered at the beginning. That is called the breakage of the parampara system. Krsna says, "That parampara system, by the force of time, is now broken; therefore I again begin that parampara system with you, Arjuna."
Therefore if we understand the Bhagavad-gita as it was understood by Arjuna, then we get real knowledge. That is the way to understand parampara. Although we are not present before Krsna, if the message of Krsna is received through the parampara system as it was understood by Arjuna, then we get the message from Krsna directly. This is the system. But if I interpret in my own way, then the parampara system is broken.
I gave an account of our parampara system from Lord Caitanya. We do not manufacture any knowledge by our fertile brain. We accept knowledge as it is coming down from the supreme authority. That is perfect knowledge. For example, we receive knowledge from our parents: "This is called a lamp, this is called a table, this is called a book." If you protest, "Why shall I call it a book? I may call it something else"you can do that, but that is a deviation from the knowledge.
The parampara system is considered the perfect system of knowledge. I may be imperfect or my disciple may be imperfect, but if we stick to the knowledge coming down from the parampara system, then we are perfect.
This is such a simple, nice thing. The parent teaches the child, "This is called a watch or a timepiece." If he accepts it, he hasn't got to make any research—"Why is it called a timepiece?" It is a very easy system. "My father has told me this is a timepiece. I accept it as a timepiece," and everyone will understand that this is a timepiece. But if I manufacture some name out of my fertile brain—"This is this"oh, people will call me crazy. "What are you saying?" So the parampara system is very nice.
Take the phrase "Man is mortal." You have learned from your parents or teachers that man is mortal. Now, if you want to research whether or not man is mortal, it will take a long, long time. But if you accept it from the authorities—"Man is mortal"your knowledge is perfect.
The parampara system of knowledge is given in the Vedas. This system of knowledge is followed by the great acaryas, and Prahlada Maharaja is one of the great acaryas.
Try to accept what Prahlada Maharaja is advising to his classmates. What is he advising? Kaumara acaret prajno dharman bhagavatan iha [Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.6.1]: "My dear friends, Krsna consciousness should be practiced from childhood." Why childhood? Because if one is intelligent he can understand, "There is no certainty whether this is my childhood or my old age."
Generally we think that we die when we are old. But who can say that I'm not old enough to die in the next moment? If I have to gain something supernatural which will give me the ultimate benefit of my life, then why shall I wait for old age? Immediately let me begin. If Krsna consciousness is a very nice thing, and if it will give me the highest benediction of life, then if I am intelligent I must begin it immediately, without any delay. But generally people think that childhood or youth should be enjoyed.
In one verse, Sankaracarya laments that boys, youths, and old man are very happy in their materialistic way of life. A spiritualist like Sankaracarya, or Lord Jesus Christ, is unhappy, "Oh, what foolish things are they doing." That is the thankless task of persons who are spiritually enlightened. They can see plainly how others are spoiling their valuable life simply for sense gratification.
Prahlada Maharaja is teaching the same thing. He says that one should practice dharman bhagavatan from the beginning of life. Dharma means occupational duty. "Religion" is not a perfect translation of the Sanskrit word dharma. Religion is a kind of faith. That we can change. But dharma means your occupational duty, which you cannot change. You have to execute it. What is our dharma? What is our compulsory duty? I have several times analyzed this fact. Our compulsory duty is to serve. Every one of us is serving, and all the boys and girls present here can know it. Nobody can deny that he or she is serving. Everyone is serving. That is our compulsory duty. I may change myself to become a Mohammedan or a Christian or a Hindu, but my real occupational duty is to render service to others. That cannot be changed. That is the real enunciation of "religion."
Therefore in the Vedic system it is called sanatana-dharma, the eternal occupational duty you cannot cease. Prahlada Maharaja is advising, dharman bhagavatan. Bhagavata means "pertaining to Bhagavan." And Bhagavan means the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Bhagavata is the adjective form of the noun Bhagavan. The real form of the word is bhagavat. Vat means possessing, and bhaga means opulences. One who possess all the opulences is called bhagavat. And from bhagavat this word has come: bhagavata.
So bhagavata means pertaining to God and His devotees. This book is called Bhagavata because it deals only with the subject of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, nothing more. And you'll find described in this book the dealings between Bhagavan, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and His devotees. There are two kinds of bhagavatam: the devotee bhagavatam and the book Bhagavatam. Prahlada Maharaja advises that from childhood, if one is very intelligent, then his duty is dharman bhagavatan—he should engage himself in the execution of the occupational duties in relationship with devotees and the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Thank you very much.
We risk disrespecting God when we underestimate the spiritual power of chanting His names.
by Urmila Devi Dasi
This is the fourth in a series of articles on offenses to be avoided when trying to progress spiritually by chanting God's names. This article discusses the offenses of considering the holy name a mundane auspicious ritual, giving the holy name an imaginary meaning, and thinking that the glories of the holy name are exaggerated.
"She has between two and twenty-four hours left."
My mother's breathing had become labored, and she could no longer give that tiny nod or shake of head to indicate her desires.
So, it had come. Unable to speak, my mother had written "When?" once or twice in her many weeks without any sustenance but water. Now I immediately thought of rituals of protection—marking her body with sacred clay, putting beads of tulasi wood on her, and so on. But that was not to be.
"No Krsna rituals," my cousin the doctor admonished me. Although not her attending physician, being a doctor he had more or less taken charge of things. "Your mother was not a Hare Krsna. Let her die as she lived."
"But," I argued, "these last weeks I've been chanting to her, reading stories to her from our scriptures, singing devotional songs. She often asked me to, and really loved it. Why should I do something different today?"
I was hopeful, yet nervous. For two weeks now I'd been with my mother twelve hours or more a day. The first week my muscles gradually became intensely strained, as I was on constant full alert, trying to notice when death would come so I could help her remember Krsna. Finally I understood: If I told my mother to surrender to Krsna, I had to do the same. The time and circumstances of her death were not in my hands. I couldn't be with her every moment, controlling the situation. Hadn't her roommate here in the nursing home, apparently in reasonably good condition, died unexpectedly from a heart attack practically in this very room just days ago? At that moment, I'd been at the nurses' station. Would I be there when my mother's death came?
"No Krsna rituals," he repeated.
I sighed and then looked directly into his eyes and shook his hand.
"No rituals," I said, "and that's a promise."
Keeping that promise, I again read my mother the story of how Krsna married Rukmini. Then I chanted out loud on my beads, "Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare."
My mother's private aide, who had worked as a registered nurse in South America, was an educated, intelligent woman with a sweet simple faith in God and Jesus.
When she heard my chanting, she said with a conspiratorial glance, "Your cousin is still in the building."
When he returned to the room sometime later, I quickly put down my beads, but though he saw and heard me chanting, he didn't complain. Did he understand that chanting the holy name is not a religious ritual, what to speak of a sectarian one?
Purity Without Rituals
Because Krsna, the Supreme Lord, is the summit and definition of purity, no one can achieve His direct service without also being pure. All the genuine scriptures and religious traditions of the world, therefore, have rituals and processes for bringing a human being to a level of purity where love of God becomes possible. But the holy name itself has the power to create purity without the need of rituals.
Unfortunately, transcendent spiritual practices such as chanting God's names can be mistaken for rituals or become transformed into external, meaningless traditions over time. Therefore, many people assume that the chanting of Krsna's names, as in Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, is the formal procedure of a particular religious sect, meant for gaining worldly happiness, power over the body and mind, or salvation. Such thinking is an offense to the name. Similar offenses are to give a material interpretation of the holy name and to think that the spiritual glories attributed to the name are exaggerations or mythology. If we offend the name in these ways, Krsna will hide His name's true meaning and blessings from us. The result will be sorrow, rather than the awakening of our love for Krsna.
There are reasons why we might be confused about the transcendental nature of Krsna's name. For example, the scriptures promise material rewards or liberation to one who chants the holy name. And there are standard procedures—apparently rituals—for chanting the Lord's name, such as taking a vow to chant a certain number of names a day and using beads as an aid to meditation.
Krsna's name, however, is Krsna Himself incarnated as sound. The holy name comes directly from the most intimate, sacred realm of the Supreme: Goloka Vrndavana, Krsna's abode in the spiritual world. The holy name is Krsna entering our hearts and rising to dance on our tongues. But just as computer novices know only a few elementary functions, beginners in spiritual science may not appreciate who the name is and how the name is within their mouth. In other words, beginners might not understand that the holy name has unlimited power.
Krsna has invested the holy name with all energies, so chanting gives one access to all energies, including the spiritual. In contrast, a person who performs mundane, karmic activities, or pious acts meant to obtain wealth, health, and other things of this world, contacts only material energies. And meditation, contemplation, and philosophical endeavors connect one only with energies for salvation, sometimes called brahma-nirvana. Therefore, we offend the name if we think chanting to be only as potent as activities of piety and salvation.
It is true that sometimes working piously (karma) or for liberation (through jnana) helps create a situation conducive to chanting the holy name. Yet the difference between these activities and chanting can be further explained as follows. Actions for piety or salvation are means to an end. They're eventually abandoned and are always less than pure. Chanting the holy name, however, is both the principal means to attain love of God and the main activity one performs once one attains that love. The holy name is never impure; the purity and glories of the name become uncovered as the chanter's purity increases. A person who understands these points about the holy name rejects karma and jnana and takes solely to bhakti, which centers on chanting.
Works and Faith
Critics of chanting who see it as a ritual say that God and His service are unattainable through our own effort, including chanting. Like austerities, study, and other "works" (to use the biblical term), chanting can't force God to accept us. We would agree with that—at least in the sense of mechanical chanting. Srila Prabhupada writes, "Revival of the dormant affection or love of Godhead does not depend on the mechanical system of hearing and chanting, but it solely and wholly depends on the causeless mercy of the Lord. When the Lord is fully satisfied with the sincere efforts of the devotee, He may endow him with His loving transcendental service." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.7.6, Purport)
What are those "sincere efforts" that attract the grace of Krsna? They are our efforts to grab Krsna's merciful love when offered. The externals of genuine systems of spiritual life and religion, such as taking up a regime of chanting, are meant to display our sincerity to Krsna so that He will be inclined to reveal Himself to us.
There is thus a symbiosis between "works" and "faith" (citing the biblical terms again). But ordinary pious or philanthropic works do not attract Krsna's attention, although they can be helpful to bring a soul to a life of self-realization. Only work in devotion, in direct service to the Lord and saintly persons, brings Krsna's notice.
In fact, ultimately nothing but the mercy of the Lord will bring us to our original state of spiritual happiness.
The main way to show our desire for this mercy is to connect with Krsna's names, especially by chanting the maha-mantra: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
But what of those material benefits promised to the chanter? They're true, and not held up as merely glittering trinkets to attract our attention and get our motivation churning. Yet Krsna's devotee may not achieve such benefits. Why? Because the devotee doesn't ask for those small and tasteless fruits, having attained the juicy sweet nectar of Krsna's love.
The scriptures also describe examples of immediate tremendous spiritual realization and purification through chanting and other transcendent services of devotion. Because such results are uncommon, however, one might think the scriptures exaggerate the benefits of chanting. But the benefits are real. It's just a matter of when and how a person experiences the name's glories, and that depends on Krsna's mercy and the chanter's careful avoidance of offenses.
Why Chanting Gives Happiness
Some people think that positive changes in one who chants the holy names result from the mechanics of chanting rather than from a spiritual transformation. For example, a prominent American newsmagazine recently ran a cover article about how all "religious experience" can be attributed to the brain's neurological functions. In other words, some scientists claim that the physical act of chanting changes brain chemistry and such alterations cause what is then termed spiritual happiness or realization. But scriptures and saints tell us that transcendent pleasure and understanding cause positive changes in the body and mind, some of which may be measured in brain chemistry. It is reasonable that the love of someone enraptured by Krsna would affect the body in which he or she resides, just as a party in a house would vibrate the walls and floors. To state that the floors' vibrations caused the joyous mood of the revelers would be illogical.
The holy name has the potency to transform someone from illusioned to enlightened because the name is Krsna Himself and in the form of the maha-mantra—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare —it is the Lord and His supreme energy, Radha. The word Hare is the way to call someone named either Hari (masculine, a name for Krsna) or Hara (feminine, a name for Radharani).
Srila Prabhupada told us that we are calling to the supreme mother, Hara, to help us approach the Lord, Krsna or Rama. Krsna means all-attractive, an appropriate name for God because He is the strongest and the most wealthy, renounced, famous, beautiful, and intelligent—the primary categories of opulence. And Rama is a name for God as the supreme enjoyer, full of pleasure. Hara literally means "to take away." Radharani, addressed as Hare, takes away the pain of material attachments and brings us to Krsna. She also steals Krsna's mind, attracting the most attractive with her incomparable love. The maha-mantra is thus an exultation of Radha-Krsna's love and a plea to Radha-Krsna to allow the chanter to help further the unlimited expansion of Their love.
Many great spiritual teachers have given their own meditations on the name and the maha-mantra, all in accord with the basic understanding above. Bhaktivinoda Thakura, for example, explained that each couplet of the mantra refers to one of the eight prayers (Siksastaka) written by the Lord to Himself when, as Caitanya Mahaprabhu, He appeared in the mood of Radharani. Bhaktivinoda further says that each of these couplets and prayers corresponds to a stage in the gradual progress of realization of a spiritual aspirant.
"Go to Govinda!"
Krsna may find many ways to convince us of the name's power. My mother's passing was a powerful lesson for me.
My many relatives who had vehemently objected to "Krsna rituals," both directly and through the doctor, suddenly and inexplicably left the room after declaring that they would stay "until the end." As I sat with my mother, another devotee entered the room and began chanting Hare Krsna to her, not knowing she had only moments left.
The aide sat on one side, saying, "Just go to the Lord, just love the Lord!" And I sat on the other, describing Krsna's form and singing songs of the spiritual world. My mother's body shuddered as if someone had grabbed the stem of a large plant within her and shaken it. For several weeks, she'd been unable to speak, even though her consciousness had been clear and alert. Was it her inner desire that had set the stage for hearing only Krsna's glories? Would my relatives come back and accuse me of sectarian rituals? Would she go on like this for days, with the chance that I could be out of the room at the moment the soul left? Leaving all this up to Krsna, I told her of His beautiful hair, His eyes, and His love.
"Go to Govinda! Go to Gopala! Give Him all your love and everything. Leave your material attachments and become attached only to Him. Radhe Jaya Jaya, Madhava. Go to Gopala!"
Her breathing stopped. Then a tiny bit of air came from her mouth, and her body was still. Could one whose life had no background of Vedic ritual come to Krsna through the power of His name, even in the last moments? I'm still astonished at how the holy name is so merciful and how Krsna in that form is above all considerations.
The phone rang.
"How is Grandma?" my daughter asked.
"Grandma just died. One minute ago."
"One minute ago? One minute ago I was at the altar, begging Lord Caitanya to protect her."
With faith in the power of the name, with awareness that Krsna in that form is fully present with all potencies, and with conviction that the names includes and is beyond all else, let us chant with enthusiasm.
Urmila Devi Dasi and her family run a school in North Carolina. She is a frequent contributor to BTG and the major author and compiler of Vaikuntha Children, a guide to Krsna conscious education for children.
During His presence on earth about five hundred years ago, Lord Krsna's most recent incarnation often displayed His divine powers.
by Amala-bhakta Dasa
This is the second of three articles describing the mirac-ulous events in the life of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. The information herein comes from Sri Caitanya-caritamrta and Sri Caitanya-Bhagavata.
Soon after Lord Caitanya began His movement for chanting the holy name of the Lord (sankirtana), many of His followers would sing, dance, and play musical instruments for many hours in glorification of Lord Krsna. Some envious brahmanas resented the Lord's increasing power and influence over the people and decided to try to check Him at any cost.
These brahmanas complained to the Moslem Kazi, or governor, that Lord Caitanya's movement was sinful and would result in Navadvipa's becoming deserted. Many Moslems also complained, but mainly about the resounding noise of the sankirtana. All the faultfinders urged the Kazi to banish the Lord from the city.
These reports greatly angered the Kazi. So one evening, entering a home in which sankirtana was in progress, the Kazi broke a devotee's drum. He then banned all sankirtana and threatened serious punishment to anyone who violated his order. Shocked and disheartened, the devotees informed Lord Caitanya, who then organized a massive civil disobedience march consisting of hundreds of thousands of devotees engaged in a thunderous sankirtana.
When the demonstration reached the Kazi's residence, Lord Caitanya conversed with him on several issues, and the governor revealed an amazing experience he'd had.
"On the evening I broke the drum and forbade any further sankirtana," the Kazi said, "I had a horrifying dream. I saw a dreadful creature with a human body and a lion's face roaring loudly. He jumped on my chest and savagely laughed at me. Placing His nails on my chest, He said in a grim voice, 'I shall tear your chest apart the way you broke the drum! You have forbidden the performance of My congregational chanting; therefore I must kill you.'
"Horribly afraid, I shut my eyes and trembled. Then the man-lion said, 'I have conquered you just to teach you a lesson. But I will be merciful to you because on that day you did not create a big disturbance. So I have forgiven you and not killed you. But if you do that again, I will destroy you, your entire family, and all the meat-eaters [the Moslems].'
"After the man-lion said this, He left. I would like you to see the scratches He made over my heart."
The Kazi then revealed his chest, and as the people there saw the scratches, they were astonished. Every-one realized that Lord Nrsimha, the half-man, half-lion incarnation of God, who had appeared long ago to kill the demon Hiranyakasipu and protect His devotee Prahlada, had again appeared for a similar purpose. But what most people did not know was that Lord Caitanya Himself was also Lord Nrsimha—and thus His sankirtana mission could not be checked.
The Kazi then revealed something equally extraordinary.
On the same day that he had dreamed about Lord Nrsimha, one of his soldiers said, "When I went to stop the congregational chanting, suddenly flames struck my face. My beard was burned and there were blisters on my cheeks."
Every other orderly who had tried to check the devotees' sankirtana reported a similar experience.
But even more remarkable was that some of the complaining Moslems, after hearing the Hare Krsna mantra, began to uncontrollably chant it, even though they had no desire to.
When the conversation ended, the Kazi said to Lord Caitanya, "To all my future descendants, I give this solemn order: No one should ever stop the sankirtana movement."
His descendants have respectfully honored those words.
The Lord Revives a Child
One night at Srivasa Thakura's house, Lord Caitanya, along with His devotees, was deeply absorbed in sankirtana. During the festival, Srivasa Thakura was informed that one of his sons, who had been seriously ill, had just died. To avoid disturbing Lord Caitanya and His devotees, Srivasa forbade his family members from expressing their sorrow and grief at that time. Thus, the blissful chanting and dancing continued without tearful interruptions.
But when the sankirtana ended, the omniscient Lord Caitanya said, "There must have been some calamity in this house."
He was then told about the death of Srivasa's son.
"Why wasn't this news given to Me earlier?" He sorrowfully asked.
Then He went to the deceased body and said, "My dear boy, why are you leaving Srivasa Thakura's house?"
The soul of the dead boy re-entered the body and replied, "I've lived here for as long as I was destined to. That time is now over. So I'm going someplace else now—to wherever You're sending me. I'm Your eternal servant, a living being who depends on You. I must act only in harmony with Your wish. I can't do anything else. I have no such power."
Hearing these words, all the members of Srivasa Thakura's family received transcendental knowledge and felt happily assured. Thus, they felt no reason to lament or grieve anymore.
The Lord Reveals Himself
One day, in Jagannatha Puri, Lord Caitanya had a philosophical discussion with the famous scholar Sarvabauma Bhattacarya.
After the Lord defeated him on every point, Sarvabauma Bhattacarya thought, "Lord Caitanya is certainly Lord Krsna Himself. Because I could not understand Him and was very proud of my learning, I have committed many offenses."
When Sarvabauma denounced himself as an offender and took shelter of Lord Caitanya, the Lord wanted to show him His mercy, so He manifested His four-armed Visnu form. Then, just after this, He manifested His original two-armed Krsna form, with a blackish complexion and a flute near His lips.
When Sarvabauma Bhattacarya saw this, he prostrated himself before the Lord. Then he arose and with folded palms offered Lord Caitanya prayers of glorification. By the Lord's mercy, all truths were revealed to him, and he could understand the importance of chanting God's holy names and distributing love of God everywhere.
From that time on, Sarvabauma did not know anything but reverence for the feet of Lord Caitanya. And all his explanations of the revealed scriptures were in strict accordance with the process of devotional service.
Calling the Ganges
One day Lord Caitanya, who always enjoyed Paramananda Puri Gosvamis company, asked him, "How is the water in your well?"
"The well is bad, so the water is horrible. It's very muddy."
Lord Caitanya raised both His arms and prayed, "O Lord Jagannatha, O great Lord of the universe, please grant Me this blessing. Please make the pure Ganges River flow into this well."
Lord Caitanya then went home, and the devotees went to sleep.
Goddess Ganga took the Lord's order on her head and filled the well.
When the devotees arose the next morning and saw the well filled with pure, clear water, they glorified the Lord by shouting His name. And when Paramananda Puri saw it, he fainted with joy.
Everyone said that Goddess Ganga had entered the well, so they circled it a few times out of deep respect for her.
Then Lord Caitanya arrived there, looked at the water, and said, "Devotees, please listen. Whoever drinks this water or bathes in it achieves the same result as dipping into the Ganges. The sinful reactions he created in the past will never manifest—for they will be eradicated. And he will achieve pure love and devotion for Lord Krsna."
All the devotes fully appreciated this and cried out, "Hari!" one of the Lord's holy names.
Healing a Devotee Leper
In South India an enlightened brahmana named Vasudeva was afflicted by leprosy. He was so compassionate toward other living beings that as soon as a worm would fall from a sore on his body, he would retrieve it and replace it on the spot from where it had fallen. Vasudeva believed he deserved to suffer for sinful deeds he had committed in the past.
When Vasudeva heard about Lord Caitanya's arrival in his village, he went to visit Him. But when he reached the house at which the Lord had been staying, he learned that the Lord had already departed. Hearing this, he became so overwhelmed by anguish that he fell down unconscious.
When Vasudeva regained consciousness and sorrowed over not having seen the Lord, Lord Caitanya, knowing His devotee's heart, at once returned to that area and embraced him. And just by the Lord's touching Vasudeva, both his leprosy and his distress vanished. Indeed, to Vasudeva's great joy, his body became quite handsome. Out of appreciation and respect, Vasudeva touched Lord Caitanya's feet and said, "O my merciful Lord, such mercy is not possible for ordinary living entities. Only in You can such mercy be found. When sinful persons would see me, they would walk away because of my bad bodily odor. Yet you have touched me. Such is the independent nature of the Lord."
Meek and humble, Vasudeva worried that he would become falsely proud over his being healed by Lord Caitanya. So to protect him, the Lord counseled him to chant the Hare Krsna mantra ceaselessly and to deliver people from their miseries by teaching about Lord Krsna. By doing these things, the Lord assured him, he would never become falsely proud.
Enlightening the Buddhists
During Lord Caitanya's travels, He would sometimes meet with proud intellectuals who did not believe that God was a person. They thought He was merely a principle or a power or a light or a consciousness or all of these combined. One of these persons, a leader of a Buddhist sect, along with his disciples, once came before the Lord to instruct Him. Setting forth nine chief principles, the Buddhist tried to convince the Lord of the superiority of his teachings. But with strong logic the Lord easily defeated the Buddhist leader's arguments. When spectators began to laugh, the Buddhists felt both shame and fear. Realizing that the Lord was a Vaisnava—a devotee of Krsna—they unhappily returned home.
Later, the Buddhists plotted to avenge themselves. They brought the Lord a plate of untouchable food and falsely called it maha-prasada, food that has been first offered to the temple deity. But just when this food was presented to Lord Caitanya, a large bird appeared there, picked up the plate in its beak, and flew off. As it did, the untouchable food fell on the Buddhists; then the bird dropped the plate on the head of the Buddhist teacher, and the teacher fell down unconscious.
His students cried out and hastened to Lord Caitanya's feet for shelter.
Addressing Him as the Lord, they begged, "Sir, please forgive our offense. Please have mercy on us and revive our spiritual master."
The Lord replied, "All of you chant the names of Krsna and Hari very loudly near the ear of your guru. By this means, he will regain consciousness."
The students followed the Lord's advice, and their teacher became conscious. He at once began chanting the holy name of the Lord and then submitted himself humbly before Lord Caitanya. Everyone gathered there was amazed.
The Lord then suddenly and strangely disappeared from everyone's view, and no one could find Him.
Repelling the Bhattatharis
While Lord Caitanya traveled to various holy places, He was accompanied by His servant Krsnadasa. One day Krsnadasa, who was simple and gentle, was lured away from the Lord by a group of nomads known as the Bhattatharis. Outwardly, they dressed like sannyasis, or renunciants, but their real business was stealing and cheating. Polluting Krsnadasa's intelligence, they persuaded him to come to their camp and enjoy their kept women. Their motive was to compel Krsnadasa to join their community and become one of their members.
As soon as the Lord learned of this, he went to their camp and asked them, "Why are you keeping my brahmana assistant? Both you and I are renunciants, yet you are deliberately distressing me. I do not see any good logic in this."
Hearing this, all the Bhattatharis proceeded to try to attack the Lord, their sharp weapons raised maliciously. But instead of striking the Lord's body, their weapons uncontrollably fell from their hands and struck their own bodies. When some of the Bhattatharis were thus cut to pieces, the others ran away in all directions. As the Bhattatharis roared and cried, Lord Caitanya grabbed Krsnadasa by the hair and took him away. Later on, when Krsnadasa realized how he had been contaminated, he was most grateful to the Lord for freeing him from those rogues.
Dispatching Seven Trees
Many thousands of years ago, Lord Caitanya incarnated as the famous Lord Rama. In Valmiki's great epic Ramayana, Lord Rama, a mighty warrior, promised Prince Sugriva that He would kill Sugriva's brother King Vali, who had not only banished Sugriva from his kingdom, but had also illicitly appropriated his wife. But because Vali was extremely powerful, Sugriva entertained a doubt as to whether Lord Rama could slay him. Therefore, Sugriva asked Lord Rama to prove His prowess by shooting an arrow into a distant tree. After Rama shot His arrow, it pierced not only the indicated tree but also six other trees standing behind it. The arrow then touched the earth and quickly returned to Lord Rama's quiver.
When Lord Caitanya toured south India, He saw those same trees that He, in the form of Lord Rama, had long ago pierced with His arrow. But now playing the role of a devotee, He considered those trees extremely holy, having had contact with the Lord's mystic arrow. Lord Caitanya then embraced each of them, causing all seven trees to disappear. Where did they go? The Lord dispatched them to Vaikuntha, the spiritual world, freeing the souls occupying them from ever having to take birth again in the material world.
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.
South along the coast from Lord Krsna's city of Dwarka lies the sacred area where He closed the curtain on His earthly drama.
Text and photos by Adbhuta Hari Dasa
The city of Somnath lies on the west coast of India, in the state of Gujarat. The area was formerly called Prabhasa, and it was here that Lord Krsna arranged for the members of His dynasty to leave this world, on the pretext of killing one another in a great battle.
The main temple at Somnath is that of Lord Siva as Somesvara, "the lord of Soma, the moon-god." (Somnath, from soma-natha, means the same thing.) At the entrance to the temple, I was welcomed not by priests but by four police officers, stationed there because of recent terrorist attacks in Gujarat. I encouraged them by telling them that by protecting the temple they were performing the real duty of the ksatriya, or administrative, class.
As is common in Siva temples, the deity is a Siva-linga, a phallic representation of Siva as the original progenitor. According to the Siva Purana and Nandi Upa-Purana, Lord Siva is especially present on earth in twelve places. The Siva-lingas in these places are known as Jyotir-lingas ("lingas of light"), and the foremost of these is Somesvara at Somnath.
To see Somesvara, I passed through two impressive pillared halls. The Jyotir-linga looked like other Siva-lingas I'd seen, but the priest told me that a person who has attained a certain degree of spirituality sees the Jyotir-linga as a column of fire piercing through the earth. Many people were visiting the temple, most of them to perform the sraddha ceremony for the sake of their ancestors.
Outside, from the back of the temple I had a beautiful view of the ocean and the beach. Local people sold conch shells and small sculptures of deities, and pilgrims enjoyed riding on horses and camels.
When I returned to the police stand to retrieve my bags, an officer, pleased by my previous words of sincere praise, told me some history of the Somnath temple's repeated destruction. He compared the temple to the mythical Phoenix, a bird that burns up but leaves behind an egg so that another Phoenix can rise.
"Similarly" he said, "this temple, with the deity whose shape is like that of an egg, has risen eight times after being plundered and reduced to ruins between A.D. 1300 and A.D. 1707."
While excavating for the present temple, workers found the remains of many former temples. Unearthed sculptures, artistic pillars, ceilings, and inscriptions are displayed in the Prabhas Patan museum in town. The original temple is said to have been built in four phases. Soma, the moon-god, built it out of gold; Ravana, the enemy of Lord Rama, rebuilt it out of silver; Lord Krsna rebuilt it out of wood; and the Pandava Bhima rebuilt it out of stone.
References to Prabhasa can be found in the ag Veda and in several Puranas. The Srimad-Bhagavatam (Bhagavata Purana) mentions that Lord Balarama came here twice, once when He went on pilgrimage to avoid taking sides in the Battle of Kurukshetra, and again, on the request of sages, after He killed the disrespectful Romaharsana Suta.
At Prabhasa Arjuna heard that Lord Balarama was arranging the marriage of Subhadra to Duryodhana. Disguising himself as a mendicant, Arjuna went to Dwarka and eventually won Subhadras hand.
Origin of the Temple Deity
The story of Candra's installation of Somesvara is found in the Skanda Purana and the Mahabharata. Although Candra, the moon-god, was married to all twenty-seven daughters of the progenitor Daksa, he was partial to Rohini, keeping her always with him and neglecting the others.
Annoyed, the other twenty-six wives complained to their father. After repeated warnings, Daksa cursed Candra to suffer from tuberculosis, lose his beauty and radiance, and wane into nothingness. Candra's affliction disturbed the tides and the growth of vegetation. Sages asked Daksa to withdraw his curse, but he said he didn't have the power to do so. He advised Candra to take refuge in Lord Siva. Candra came to Prabhasa with his wife Rohini, found the Jyotir-linga here, and worshiped Lord Siva in that form. Pleased, Lord Siva blessed Candra with fortnightly phases of waning and waxing. Because the moon regained his growth and light here, the place became known as Prabhasa ("to shine").
While riding on the two-wheeled horse carriage from Somnath to the Gita temple, I passed by the Surya (sun) temple and Pandava-guha, a cave associated with Pandavas, who according to the Mahabharata did penance at Prabhasa. In the Gita temple, I saw the deity of flute-playing Krsna. On the right side of the temple in a small attached shrine is a deity of Lord Balarama with Ananta Sesa, His expansion. This is considered the site where Lord Balarama departed from the earth. Next to Balarama's shrine is a Laksmi-Narayana temple. A room used by Vallabhacarya, founder of the Pusti Marga spiritual line, is in a courtyard nearby. His followers worship this place.
Opposite the Laksmi-Narayana temple is the confluence of three rivers: the Hiranya, the Kapila, and the now dried up Saraswati. Lord Krsna left the earth from this spot. His footprints in marble are installed in a small open shrine.
On the way to Veraval, a larger city six kilometers northwest of Somnath, I stopped in Bhalka village to visit a Krsna temple known as Bhalka Tirtha. The temple is built around the tree under which Krsna was sitting when Jara the hunter shot an arrow into His foot. On the left side of the tree is a white marble altar on which Lord Krsna is sitting. His pink foot points toward Jara, who kneels with folded hands. At this spot Lord Krsna spoke His final instructions to Uddhava. [See "The Song Goes Ever On," page 25.]
I was encouraged at Somnath to see that brahmanas and ksatriyas are preserving and protecting sanatana-dharma—eternal religious principles. The government of Gujarat is protecting the temples, which were repeatedly raided by invaders and face the same threat today. And Vaisnava priests of the Vallabha line are preserving authentic spiritual knowledge, which is always threatened by the misinterpretations of atheists.
Adbhuta Hari Dasa joined ISKCON in 1994 in Croatia. He serves as personal assistant to his spiritual master, Sridhara Swami.
How to Get There
The nearest airport, in Keshod, about sixty kilometers away, has daily flights from Mumbai.
A train from Ahmedabad takes about twelve hours, from Mumbai about eighteen hours.
There are buses to Somnath from all over Gujarat. Dwarka is seven hours by bus.
Where to Stay
Somnath is a small town with basic rooms available in a few hotels. Visitors usually stay in nearby Veraval. Hotels in Veraval: Satkar Hotel (phone: 20120), Hotel Kasturi (20488), Hotel Ajanta, and Toran Tourist Bungalow.
For more information, consult Holy Places and Temples of India, by Jada Bharata Dasa, available from the Krishna.com Store.
Lord Krsna's Disappearance
"Sukadeva Gosvami said: Then Lord Brahma arrived at Prabhasa along with Lord Siva and his consort, the sages, the Prajapatis, and all the demigods, headed by Indra. The forefathers, Siddhas, Gandharvas, Vidyadharas, and great serpents also came, along with the Caranas, Yaksas, Raksasas, Kinnaras, Apsaras, and relatives of Garuda, greatly eager to witness the departure of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. As they were coming, all these personalities variously chanted and glorified the birth and activities of Lord Sauri [Krsna].
"O King, crowding the sky with their many airplanes, they showered down flowers with great devotion. Seeing before Him Brahma [the grandfather of the universe] and the other demigods [who are all His personal and powerful expansions], the Almighty Lord closed His lotus eyes, fixing His mind within Himself, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
"Without employing the mystic agneyi meditation to burn up His transcendental body, which is the all-attractive resting place of all the worlds and the object of all the worlds and the object of all contemplation and meditation, Lord Krsna entered into His own abode.
"As soon as Lord Sri Krsna left the earth, Truth, Religion, Faithfulness, Glory, and Beauty, immediately followed Him. Kettledrums resounded in the heavens and flowers showered from the sky.
"Most of the demigods and other higher beings led by Brahma could not see Lord Krsna as He was entering His own abode, since He did not reveal His movements. But some of them did catch sight of Him, and they were extremely amazed.
"Just as ordinary men cannot ascertain the path of a lightning bolt as it leaves a cloud, the demigods could not trace out the movements of Lord Krsna as He returned to His abode.
"A few of the demigods, however—notably Lord Brahma and Lord Siva—could ascertain how the Lord's mystic power was working, and thus they became astonished. All the demigods praised the Lord's mystic power and then returned to their own planets.
"My dear King, you should understand that the Supreme Lord's appearance and disappearance, which resemble those of embodied conditioned souls, are actually a show enacted by His illusory energy, just like the performance of an actor. After creating this universe He enters into it, plays within it for some time, and at last winds it up. Then the Lord remains situated in His own transcendental glory, having ceased from the functions of cosmic manifestation." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 11.31.1-11)
Unfortunately, nowadays some people and some tourist publications try to diminish Lord Krsna's glories by treating His disappearance pastimes like the activities of an ordinary human being and using phrases like "breathed his last" and "renounced his mor-tal human form." By such disinformation, they misguide sincere pilgrims to Somnath. Guided by pure devotees like Srila Prabhupada, we should value and glorify the Lord's departing pastimes, which are as inconceivably wonderful as all His other acts.
A brief look at Uddhava and the Uddhava Gita.
by Satyaraja Dasa
At a recent academic conference, I found myself engulfed in a discussion about the Bhagavad-gita, the battlefield dialogue between Krsna, or God, and his dedicated devotee Arjuna, the heroic warrior.
"The Gita gives us the most profound philosophy," I said to one of the scholars. "It shows us how Krsna interacts with His loving devotees."
A nearby eavesdropper, hearing only the barest details of my discussion, queried, "Oh, are you talking about Gita-govinda, where Krsna shows His love for Radha?"
"Well, no, I . . . "
Another scholar, standing only a few feet away, chimed in: "I think he was talking about the Anugita, a summary of the Bhagavad-gita found later in the Mahabharata."
At an academic conference of scholars who specialize in India's religious texts, my reference to "the Gita" turned out to be a careless one—India is full of Gitas, the Bhagavad-gita being one among many.
When I returned home, I decided to look at Srila Prabhupada's books to see which Gitas he considered important. To my surprise, in the Third Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam (3.4.32, purport), Prabhupada says something interesting about the Uddhava Gita: "Undoubtedly, the Bhagavad-gita was spoken by the Lord on the Battlefield of Kuruksetra just to encourage Arjuna to fight, and yet to complete the transcendental knowledge of Bhagavad-gita, the Lord instructed Uddhava. The Lord wanted Uddhava to fulfill His mission and disseminate knowledge which He had not spoken even in Bhagavad-gita."
It is not that Srila Prabhupada is here minimizing the importance of the Bhagavad-gita, which elsewhere he praises as the most profound philosophy known to man. But he is saying something about the unique importance of the Uddhava Gita.
Krsna's Other Gita
The Uddhava Gita is found in the Eleventh Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, Chapters 7-29. It is one of many Gitas associated with the worship of Krsna. Though the Bhagavad-gita is arguably the most famous of these Gitas, the tradition offers us Gita-govinda, Gopi Gita, Venu Gita, Bhramara Gita, and several others. Gita means "song," and within the context of sacred literature, it refers to particularly mellifluous and blessed songs of divine truth, uttered by great devotees or by the Lord himself. The songs include both philosophical and devotional outpourings.
Uddhava Gita is among the most important of the genre, for it focuses on Krsna's final instructions before leaving the earthly plane. More, these instructions are delivered to Uddhava, recognized by the tradition as a maha-bhagavata, or "greatest among the devotees," and as mukhyam krsna-parigrahe, "foremost of those who are intimate with Krsna." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.4.24) He is also Krsna's cousin, and practically His twin in appearance.
For these reasons and others, it is curious that the Uddhava Gita has never enjoyed the fame of its sister text, the Bhagavad-gita, with which it shares several verses in common. In certain ways, the Uddhava Gita goes further than the Bhagavad-gita, as Prabhupada tells us, illuminating the Bhagavad-gitas central teaching of devotion to Krsna and emphasizing the importance of seeing Krsna everywhere, in everyone, and at all times.
Who Is Uddhava?
The Srimad-Bhagavatam introduces Uddhava in the Third Canto. Uddhava meets the Pandavas' uncle Vidura, who asks Uddhava about his conversation with Krsna (Uddhava Gita) and about Krsna's associates and family members. The Bhagavatam (3.2.2) informs us at this point of Uddhava's single-minded devotion—from the age of five he was absorbed in Krsna and nothing more. It also reveals the depth of Uddhava's love for Krsna. On remembering Him, "Uddhava had all the transcendental bodily changes due to total ecstasy, and he was trying to wipe away tears of separation from his eyes." (3.2.5) Clearly, Uddhava is no ordinary player, even in this most transcendental of plays.
Uddhava begins to answer Vidura's questions by poetically telling him, "The sun of the world, Lord Krsna, has set, and our house [the Kuru dynasty] has now been swallowed by the great snake of time." (3.2.7) He recounts Krsna's pastimes in Vrndavana, many of which took place near the Yamuna River, where Vidura and Uddhava now sit. He then describes the many events that took place in Mathura and in Dwarka, in the latter part of Krsna's manifest pastimes.
Though Vidura, at this point, wants Uddhava to be his spiritual master, Uddhava is concerned about etiquette. Vidura is senior to him, and so, ultimately, he sends him to Maitreya, a sage in whom Uddhava has great confidence. Maitreya was present while Uddhava received instructions from Krsna, and so Maitreya, too, heard truth directly from the lips of the Lord. Hence Uddhava's certainty that Maitreya could ably guide Vidura.
In this portion of the Bhagavatam are two significant verses about Uddhava from the lips of Lord Krsna himself: "Now I shall leave the vision of this world, and I see that Uddhava, the foremost of My devotees, is the only one who can be directly entrusted with knowledge about Me. Uddhava is not inferior to Me in any way because he is never affected by the modes of material nature. Therefore he may remain in this world to disseminate specific knowledge of the Personality of Godhead." (3.4.30-31)
A Taste of the Uddhava Gita
The setting of the Uddhava Gita is the last night of Krsna's manifest pastimes on this planet. He is planning to leave at a predetermined time, and His loving devotee Uddhava, knowing Krsna's plan, approaches Him: "O Lord Kesava, my dear master, I cannot tolerate giving up Your lotus feet even for a fraction of a moment. I urge You to take me along with You to Your own abode." (11.6.43)
Krsna, of course, is naturally inclined to comply with His devotees' wishes. Still, He has a higher mission for Uddhava: to stay and sing His glories again and again. Krsna explains the importance of detachment and tells Uddhava to roam the world as a renunciant, specifically to go to Badarikashram, high in the Himalayas, and to tell the sages there of His life and teachings.
Just to be clear on what these teachings are, Krsna explains in great detail the philosophy summarized in the Bhagavad-gita. He begins by saying that the material world is ephemeral and that God and the soul are eternal. He explains the distinction between the body and the self, the soul, just as He does in the Bhagavad-gita. But here He adds scriptural references and analogies to enhance His argument.
Uddhava asks Krsna how one can realize the truth of the soul, since the material world and its illusions are so immediate, so alluring. How one can relinquish attachments and control the mind?
Krsna explains that the human intellect is capable of cultivating spiritual knowledge. Krsna stresses the importance of approaching a guru, but He also says that one can observe many truths by heeding the "spiritual master" known as nature. He enumerates for Uddhava twenty-four teachers of the true spiritual seeker, including the earth, the air, and the sky. From the air, for example, one can learn to come in touch with sense objects while remaining unaffected by them.
Krsna next explains the complexities of karma, giving vivid examples of just how entangling karma can be. He recommends only pure works, done on His behalf.
Krsna then explains the three modes of material nature—goodness, passion, and ignorance—and how to become free from their influence. He points out the importance of keeping company with devotees, giving elaborate details on how to identify who is truly advanced in spiritual life, and who is not.
Krsna also conveys to Uddhava the art of meditation, explaining that meditation reaches its perfection when one learns how to meditate on Him. He then points out the importance of deity worship and delineates the specifics of formal worship of installed deities. This leads to an elaborate discussion of bhakti-yoga, the science of devoting oneself to God.
Krsna then outlines the yogic siddhis, or the mystic powers one may develop through yoga. He explains that such powers can be an asset but are more often a deficit, distracting practitioners from the path of devotion.
Uddhava asks Krsna to list His divine attributes, so that devotees will have substance for meditation and contemplation. Krsna is pleased by the request, praising Uddhava as expert in asking appropriate questions: "On the Battlefield of Kuruksetra," Krsna says, "Arjuna . . . asked Me the same question that you are now posing." After this reference to His conversation with Arjuna, Krsna explains how He can be seen in the world and, nearly echoing His own words in the Bhagavad-gitas Tenth Chapter, enumerates His opulences as the Absolute Truth: "I am the ultimate goal . . . I am the three-lettered omkara . . . I am the Gayatri mantra . . . I am the Himalayas," and so on. He adds several that are not in the Gita, such as "Among jewels, I am the ruby, and among flowers the lotus."
The next two chapters of the Uddhava Gita detail the ancient social and spiritual system known as Varnasrama Dharma. Krsna makes it clear, as He does in the Bhagavad-gita, that one fits into this system according to quality and work, not birth (as in the modern-day caste system). The original system is meant to help practitioners use their God-given talents and inclinations to gradually become God conscious.
Different Instructions for Different Students
As the Uddhava Gita comes to a close, Krsna again emphasizes the importance of bhakti-yoga, or devotion to Him, and makes two additional points: (1) He asks Uddhava to try to see the Supreme Soul, Krsna Himself, in all living beings and at all times. There is a spiritual oneness to all things, Krsna tells Uddhava, and yet He—God—remains a distinct and transcendent individual as well. This is the great mystery of spiritual life. (2) Krsna tells Uddhava to renounce the world and accept the life of a mendicant. Students of the Bhagavad-gita will notice that this instruction seems diametrically opposed to that given to Arjuna. In the Bhagavad-gita, Krsna tells Arjuna to unhesitatingly fight on behalf of the righteous. In other words, Krsna tells him to work in the world for a divine purpose, on God's behalf, not to renounce all action and sit on his laurels like a would-be yogi.
Is Krsna contradicting Himself by telling Uddhava to become a renunciant, to shy away from worldly activities? Not in the slightest. Arjuna was a warrior, in the middle of a battle, and many were depending on him to do his duty. But Uddhava's temperament was different. He was inclined to the mood of the gopis. [See the sidebar "Uddhava Sandesa."] The teachings of Krsna consciousness, as delivered in both the Bhagavad-gita and the Uddhava Gita, take each person's unique psychophysical make-up into account, celebrating the diversity of creation and the special way in which each of us is meant to serve God.
In the last verse of Uddhava Gita (11.29.49), Sukadeva Goswami, the narrator of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, feels intense love for the Lord and utters the following words:
I offer my obeisances to that Supreme Personality of Godhead, the original and greatest of all beings, Lord Sri Krsna. He is the author of the Vedas, and just to destroy His devotees' fear of material existence, like a bee He has collected this nectarean essence of all knowledge and self-realization. Thus He has awarded to His many devotees this nectar from the ocean of bliss, and by His mercy they have drunk it.
Satyaraja Dasa is a disciple of Srila Prabhupada and a regular contributor to BTG. 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.
The Uddhava Sandesa
In addition to his brief appearance in the Third Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam and his elaborate role in the Eleventh (Uddhava Gita), Uddhava is also prominent in the Tenth Canto. There, Krsna sends Uddhava to Vrndavana to console His devotees, who are pining for Him. Uddhava's message to the people of Vrndavana is known as Uddhava Sandesa ("Uddhava's Message").
Uddhava speaks first with Nanda and Yasoda, reminding them that Krsna is eternally present with them, and within them; He dwells in the hearts of all living beings. The next day, Uddhava delivers a similar message to the gopis. When the gopis see him for the first time, they are struck by his resemblance to Krsna, both in his physical features and in his apparel. This resemblance, of course, increases their sense of separation from their beloved. Before speaking to them, Uddhava listens to their outpouring of love: he hears them lament with aching hearts, bemoaning their intolerable position, their vacant world in Krsna's absence. (10.47.4-21).
Overtaken by their unmotivat-ed and uninterrupted devotion, Uddhava praises them as the best of all devotees. He conveys the Lord's message: He is all-pervasive, and so the gopis are always united with Him in love. But these words ring hollow in the presence of the gopis' passionate longing for the love of their lives. Still, Uddhava tells them that they must cultivate the ability to see Krsna spiritually, in their heart of hearts. It is for this reason that He remains separate from them—so that they might develop a deeper vision, understanding Him to be always united with them in a love whose intensity cannot be shaken by mere physical absence.
Though the gopis accept all that Uddhava says as philosophically accurate, they are still adamant that union is better than separation, and they ask whether Krsna still remembers them, His faithful Vrndavana companions. While their pain is somewhat assuaged by Uddhava's presence, they are ultimately inconsolable in their unrequited love.
Uddhava is amazed by their unwavering devotion, and he again praises them as true models for all Krsna devotees. So moved is he that he prays to be reborn as a shrub, creeper, or herb in Vrndavana, so that he might catch the dust kicked up by their feet. (10.47.61-63)
Sukadeva Gosvami said: Hearing the words spoken by Lord Krsna, and having thus been shown the entire path of yoga, Uddhava folded his hands to offer obeisances. But his throat choked up with love and his eyes overflowed with tears; so he could say nothing.
Steadying his mind, which had become overwhelmed with love, Uddhava felt extremely grateful to Lord Krsna, the greatest hero of the Yadu dynasty. My dear King Pariksit, Uddhava bowed down to touch the Lord's lotus feet with his head and then spoke with folded hands.
Sri Uddhava said: O unborn, primeval Lord, although I had fallen into the darkness of illusion, my ignorance has now been dispelled by Your merciful association. Indeed, how can cold, darkness, and fear exert their power over one who has approached the brilliant sun?
In return for my insignificant surrender, You have mercifully bestowed upon me, Your servant, the torchlight of transcendental knowledge. Therefore, what devotee of Yours who has any gratitude could ever give up Your lotus feet and take shelter of another master?
Nurturing our faith helps ease the inevitable suffering of life in the material world.
By Rashi Singh
I'm groggy. It's early. I'm way too tired to go to work today. After nearly shattering my alarm clock, I slowly drag myself out of bed. I shower, worship my deities, chant my rounds, and head downstairs for breakfast. I glance at the newspaper that sits untouched on the kitchen table.
"Father Convicted of Killing Two Children"
"Young Couple Victim of Hit and Run"
"Infant Dies of Malnutrition After Abandonment"
And I thought my problems were bad.
True to my morning ritual, I glance at Radha-Krsna, who guard the kitchen through the antique picture frame that hangs above the table. I flash Them my best "good-morning-have-a-great-day" smile and touch Their feet. Usually, I'd now head out to face the cut-throat corporate world. But today I pause, turn around, and pull up a chair in front of Radha-Krsna.
"I don't get it," I say aloud.
I scan the vicinity to ensure that no one is within earshot.
When I'm sure the coast is clear, I say, "This world is filled with suffering. Even the people who try to serve You go through so much misery. Why?"
The only thing I know for sure is that I'm not the only one who doesn't quite understand the apparent inequality and unfairness of the material world, characterized by birth, death, old age, and disease. The current age of Kali is further characterized by greed, drought, famine, envy, irreligion, and, well, the kinds of stories you read about in the newspaper every morning. In fact, the entire history of the material world is filled with sadness and tragedy, even during Lord Krsna's time here. Lord Krsna Himself went through seemingly troubled times, such as His separation from His beloved gopis, the cowherd girls. His paternal aunt and dedicated servant Kunti lost five grandsons to murder in one night. His sister, Subhadra, lost her son Abhimanyu in the battle of Kuruksetra. His friend Arjuna was faced with a dilemma most of us never even dreamed of: whether or not to kill some of his own family. The Lord's great devotee Prahlada Maharaja was tormented by his own father and survived several of his father's plots to kill him. Why must the Lord's own servants suffer so much in this world?
People can tell us until they're blue in the face to have unflinching faith in the Lord and devotion to Him, amidst all of our pain and suffering. People can tell us to trust that the Lord has a specific plan for us and it's fruitless for us to try to comprehend this plan. But that doesn't stop us from hurting, or from dwelling on our misfortunes. But here's the thing: Those people are right. If Lord Krsna can put His own family and intimate associates in such severe "misery," what makes us so special?
Krsna and the Gopis
Probably the most touching of Krsna's pastimes involve His association with His most dedicated and sincere servants, the gopis. They were absorbed in thoughts of Him twenty-four hours a day. They cringed at the thought of grass hurting the soles of His lotus feet as He traversed the forests of Vrndavana. His happiness was their happiness.
One day, the gopis were enjoying spending time with their beloved when they began to feel proud of being with Him. Sensing their pride, the Lord disappeared from their sight. The pure, simple-hearted gopis could not endure even one moment without Krsna's company. Their pain was immeasurable; the only thing they could think about was where He was, why He'd left them, and if He was all right. Their tears were plentiful, their grief unbearable. They sought advice from animate and inanimate objects alike: Had anyone seen their beloved? Where had He gone? In their desperate attempts to find Him, they became even more immersed in thoughts of Him. When He finally reunited with them, they couldn't have been happier or more relieved. But they were still confused; they could not understand why He'd left them to begin with. When they asked Him, He responded as follows (Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.32.20-22):
The reason I do not immediately reciprocate the affection of living beings even when they worship Me, O gopis, is that I want to intensify their loving devotion. They then become like a poor man who has gained some wealth and then lost it, and who thus becomes so anxious about it that he can think of nothing else. My dear girls, understanding that simply for My sake you had rejected the authority of worldly opinion, of the Vedas, and of your relatives, I acted as I did only to increase your attachment to Me. Even when I removed Myself from your sight by suddenly disappearing, I never stopped loving you. Therefore, My beloved gopis, please do not harbor any bad feelings toward Me, your beloved. I am not able to repay My debt for your spotless service, even within a lifetime of Brahma. Your connection with Me is beyond reproach. You have worshiped Me, cutting off all domestic ties, which are difficult to break. Therefore please let your own glorious deeds be your compensation.
Krsna Is Listening
It is clear: More than anything else, we should understand that so-called misfortune and disaster truly are a form of Krsna's mercy. They are a sign that Krsna is trying to deepen our love for Him, intensify our devotion.
It is true what people say: Unflinching faith is really the answer to all our problems and uncertainties. There are times when it appears that Krsna is neglecting us or not listening to our prayers. But as the Supersoul, He's always listening. He's not our order-carrier. His will is what ensues. The better and more sincerely we serve Him, the more He reciprocates and answers our prayers.
Pure devotees want nothing from Krsna but more opportunities to serve Him and His devotees. Our goal should be to aim to attain even the smallest fraction of the mood of the gopis. Krsna was so overwhelmed and appreciative of the gopis' loving service that He told them, "I have nothing left to give you. Please be content with your own actions." He becomes indebted to them. The creator, the proprietor of everything, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, had nothing left to give those dear sweet gopis. In fact, He was so overwhelmed by their pure love for Him that He became their servant.
He did all He could to satisfy them. If they asked Him to dance, He danced. If they asked Him to play the flute, He played. That is the beauty of the relationship between the Lord and His devotees. So simple, so pure, so honest, so real—unlike anything we can find among ourselves in the material world.
Another example of unfaltering faith is Kunti, who after the death of her grandsons approached Lord Krsna and asked Him to please continue to put her through distress and hardship, because it was in those times that she thought of Him the most. That is the sign of a pure devotee.
A pure devotee looks at misfortune as bad karma being exhausted. A devotee thinks that Krsna is lessening his sinful reactions. A devotee realizes that during the most difficult times, Krsna within is guiding and protecting him. He realizes that his hardships are simply the Lord trying to keep His child close to Him, trying to encourage him to remember Him.
I understand that suffering comes because of karma, or things we've done in the past. And I understand that karma exists because we have free will, which Krsna has given us so we can freely choose to love Him. Still, I can't explain exactly why a particular thing happens. I don't know why that man killed his children. I don't know why that driver fled the scene after striking that couple. I don't know why that poor baby's mother left him to die.
But I do know that Krsna has a plan for all of us. I do know that He loves all of us equally; He is impartial, like a father who doesn't favor any one child. Still, Krsna reciprocates loving transactions with us proportionately to what we offer. Chanting Hare Krsna will burn all of our good and bad karma, the causes of bondage to the material world.
A devotee once suggested to me that because the world is filled with exploitation and deceit, for maximum protection one should try to chant sixteen rounds every morning before leaving home. He said that if I did that, I'd develop an aura, almost a shield, that would bar people from hurting me. Minimum sixteen rounds each day for maximum protection.
The maha-mantra is so powerful. It is Krsna Himself incarnating as His name, and we directly associate with the Lord while chanting. We are awakening our dormant love for Him beneath the dust of the mirror of our hearts. It's simple: Unfortunate circumstances will ensue, we won't always understand what Krsna's plan is, but chanting, reading, and associating with devotees will virtually, if not completely, remove our pain. These practices will cause us to view our suffering in a different light, just as the gopis did, just as Kunti did, as Prahlada Maharaja did, and as Srimati Subhadra did.
Raise your hands and rejoice in the power and beauty of the Lord's sweet names: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare!
And that's what I do as I look at the photo Radha-Krsna this morning.
That's my mum. She has just rounded the corner and is peering at me, clearly wondering what exactly I'm doing, and if I'll be in need of medication.
"Were you just talking to yourself?"
"Oh. Hi mum. I . . . uh . . . well, emmm . . . Stop talking to me—I'm late! Bye!"
And with that, I once again venture into the cut-throat corporate world. But I feel safer. I feel protected. I feel the warmth of Krsna in my heart. I can deal with anything today.
Rashi Singh graduated with an honors degree in marketing from the Schulich School of Business at York University. She lives in Toronto, Canada.
A couple at the ISKCON community on Los Angeles prove that age is no obstacle for one who sincerely desires to serve the Lord.
by Karuna Dharani Devi Dasi
The home of Vidura and Manjari Mehta smells like worship. A soft scent of ghee wicks and incense and camphor fills the clean, simple rooms. From where I live next door, I regularly hear the conch shell announcing their twice-daily arati for their deities. Today, Radha-Gopinatha, Gaura-Nitai, and Laddu-Gopala are freshly bathed and immaculate, dressed in bright yellow-and-white cloth Manjari has sewn for Them. I offer my obeisances and take a seat as this couple, Vidura, 85, and Manjari, 83, recall for me their first encounter with Srila Prabhupada and his Western disciples.
They were strolling along the Chowpatty shore, as they did every evening in Mumbai in 1971. There was not so much to see, just a big stretch of beach and a few buildings. Yet that evening, in a large open area that was usually vacant, stood a big canopy with a group of men inside. They were wearing saffron, the color of cloth for a renunciant in the Mehta's Vedic culture. The men were dancing and were singing the names of Krsna, an activity familiar to Vidura and Manjari, chanters themselves.
But something was clearly different here. As they drew closer, they saw that it was foreigners who were singing.
This they had never seen—Americans dressed in the traditional sacred robes of their own Hare Krsna faith.
At first they couldn't believe what they were seeing. They stood with eyes fixed on the very enthusiastic sankirtana before them. The crowd grew thick with surprised and curious onlookers.
"This is not a miracle."
Vidura remembers the strong voice of Srila Prabhupada, standing outside the canopy and addressing the gathering crowd, gesturing toward his Western followers.
"I am not a miracle worker. These young Americans have become Vaisnava devotees of the Lord."
A few days later Vidura and Manjari saw the same group of devotees at the nearby Maha-Laksmi temple. They remember seeing a sannyasi with a birthmark on the left side of his forehead. They couldn't have known then what significance this sannyasi would someday have in their lives.
"For me, the Western devotees were a very good sight to see," says Vidura.
Vidura and Manjari were both born into Vaisnava families and initiated in the Pusti line of Vallabhacarya, an associate of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Manjari has worshiped Bala (child) Krsna since she was seven years old. She remembers that in her childhood her mother would go every day to worship at the Kunja-Bihari temple in her neighborhood at Devgad Baria, Panchmahal District, Gujarat.
Vidura received his education in Ahmedabad, and later he moved to Mumbai, where he worked in a bank and then became the manager of a rubber factory on Grant Road. Vidura was twenty-three and Manjari twenty when they married. They have two sons, Madhukar and Kamal. During their years of raising the boys, they visited local temples, taught their sons to chant and worship in their home, and kept up their Krsna conscious practice of chanting on beads sixty-four rounds of the mantra sri krsna saranam mama ("Lord Krsna is my shelter").
Every year they took the boys on pilgrimage to visit the popular temple of Lord Krsna as Sri Nathaji, in Nathdwara, Rajasthan. When their sons graduated from high school and began college in Ahmedabad, Vidura and Manjari began a series of pilgrimages that took them to Gokula, Mathura, Vrndavana, Kedarnath, Badrinath, Haridwar, Rishikesh, Gangotri, Yamunotri, Tirupati, Madurai, Kanniyakumari, Mayapur, Jagannath Puri, and other holy places.
Finding Their Guru in America
Madhukar, the eldest son, graduated in Ahmedabad with a degree in pharmaceutical studies, and he moved to Boston for six more years of education in his field. In 1982, when Vidura and Manjari visited him there, Madhukar brought them to attend the services at the Boston Hare Krsna temple.
In the meantime their son Kamal took a job in architecture in Houston.
"We moved to Houston to be reunited with our son Kamal," says Vidura, "and we began to attend Krsna conscious programs every Friday evening. Lecturing at these programs was Tamal Krsna Goswami. We recognized him as the same sannyasi with the birthmark on his forehead whom we had seen twelve years before in Mumbai."
In Houston the Mehtas soon began their own spiritual home-programs, inviting friends and family to celebrate an evening of Krsna conscious singing, speaking, and feasting. Kamal Mehta became active in putting on the programs every week for the benefit of friends, family, and members of the Houston ISKCON congregation. Though the Mehta's had left India, they hadn't given up their spiritual heritage. They continued their personal spiritual practices and added the spirit of giving Krsna consciousness that was so evident to them in Srila Prabhupada's discourses at Chowpatty.
Vidura and Manjari became initiated by Tamal Krsna Goswami in Houston in 1986. At the time of their initiation they were each chanting sixty-four rounds of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra as well as the mantra sri krsna saranam mama of the Pusti line. Their son Kamal was later initiated by Lokanath Swami and received the name Krsna Prema Dasa.
Eventually Krsna Prema's architectural work took him to Tustin, California, near Los Angeles. Vidura and Manjari went with him and his wife, Gopi, to help take care of their three sons while the parents were at work. Every Saturday night all of the Mehtas attended ISKCON programs held in any of forty homes in southern California. (The various programs draw 150 families and include bhajanas that go on for well over three hours at every event. In the last few years the number of programs has more than doubled to include Friday nights as well as some Sunday afternoons.)
Nirantara Dasa, the director of life membership and home programs for ISKCON Los Angeles, asked Vidura to lead the opening kirtana and offer the final arati at every Saturday program. This required a lot of traveling to various homes, but Vidura, a very determined devotee of Krsna, enjoyed his assigned duty at every event.
In July 1996, Vidura was diagnosed with a lumbar disc disease called scoliosis, which severely afflicts the sciatic nerve. After five years, he was in great pain and confined to a wheelchair. His doctor suggested an operation but couldn't guarantee its success.
Vidura wrote to his guru, Tamal Krsna Goswami, for guidance, telling him that he was praying to Lord Krsna to either let him die during the operation and take him back to the spiritual world or heal him for vigorous devotional service.
Tamal Krsna Goswami replied that, lacking medical expertise, he could not advise Vidura on whether or not to have the operation, but if Vidura did have it and recovered, he must remember to follow through on his promise to dedicate his life to Krsna's service.
Vidura decided to have the six-hour operation. After six months of recuperation, he regained his ability to walk. He now lives at New Dwarka, the ISKCON community in Los Angeles. Nowadays we see Vidura early every morning before mangala-arati, preparing trays for the morning worship. For the last six years, he has offered mangala-arati every morning as well as the Sunday feast arati. After the Sunday feast arati Vidura helps Ravindranatha Dasa, the head priest, give a prasadam sweet to everyone who comes to the temple. For seven years Manjari has made the full supply of ghee wicks for the deity worship: five hundred tapered wicks and five hundred lamp wicks every week. They each chant daily thirty-two rounds of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra on their beads.
"Since the passing of Tamal Krsna Goswami," says Vidura, "we have missed him very heavily. He loved us and treated us like his parents. We now feel like orphans in his absence."
Tamal Krsna Goswami once told him, "Vidura, I have done my duty to you, and now it is your turn to do your duty to me."
Vidura humbly asked, "Gurudeva, what is my duty to you?"
Tamal Krsna Goswami replied, "Please bless me. You are my parents."
"Vidura is a very determined, forceful, and principled devotee," says Nirantara, who has known him for fifteen years. "He takes his service very seriously. His dream is that he and his wife will pass away at the same time while doing service to Sri Sri Rukmini-Dvarakadhisa. Manjari is the universal mother. Nothing pleases her more than to cook for and feed devotees."
They are both very fond of their devotee grandchildren. Three generations of Mehtas engage in Krsna's service. All three of the Mehta grandsons took the Krsna book home-study program administered by Nirantara Dasa, and they graduated with high honors. They attend home programs and enjoy singing, and they play the harmonium and drums. They also help with life membership and the office that organizes the home programs. They live in New Dwarka and attend college at nearby UCLA and USC.
"New Dwarka is a very spiritual atmosphere," says Nisanth, who is studying to be a doctor. "I can really feel the difference when I come back to the community here. We visit the deities daily and like to do some service."
Anand, who is pursuing a degree in communications, adds, "And we get to see our grandpa. We feel inspired to see our grandparents serving Krsna in their advanced age."
I too am inspired by the example of Vidura and Manjari Mehta, including their life-long worship and chanting and their training of their family members to be Krsna conscious.
Vidura wrote in a letter to his guru, "Please let me tell you that I have experienced profound happiness and joy while doing arati at several ISKCON temples."
Steady devotional service to the Lord in the later years of life is a reward for those who have paid the price of surrender to guru and Krsna. Next stop, Krsna-loka.
Karuna Dharini Devi Dasi, a disciple of His Grace Virabahu Dasa, serves the deities at New Dwarka, where she joined ISKCON in 1979. She lives with her husband and daughter.
Here we continue a conversation between His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and the mother of one of his students, along with a Jesuit priest. It took place in the garden at Bhaktivedanta Manor, near London, England, on July 25, 1973.
Mother (to Srila Prabhupada): Yes, Father, I understand you are educated on a different platform, as you say—no doubt a most sublime and spiritual platform. But aren't you still drawing upon your basic educational background for translating your books?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. That's all right.
Mother: Isn't that a great joy to you?
Srila Prabhupada: For translating of books, it does not require so much education. Of course, that is required when the purport of the translation is given. Otherwise, the real thing is culture. The essence of education is culture. Simply money-making education for maintain-ing this body—that education will not satisfy any more. Just as I told you: Despite all arrangements for education, why are the young men turning out to be hippies? That is my question.
Mother: Oh, but not your followers. Your followers are not being hippies—people who follow you. Therefore, you've got the people whom you could help to become cultured like you.
Srila Prabhupada: So my father educated me in a different way. Therefore, I have come to this stage. My father never allowed me even to drink tea.
Mother: Well, I'm disappointed in you. I came to see you because I felt that, being so cultured, you would want all your boys to have this culture and to have this, to have the best . . .
Disciple: Thanks to Srila Prabhupada, we've got this culture.
Mother: Oh, but you haven't, you see. You're all young boys.
Disciple: No. Your culture we don't have.
Mother: But you're not mature yet.
Disciple: But the culture that Srila Prabhupada has—this culture he's giving to us.
Mother: Yes. But you're not mature. It takes years to be-come mature. Hurt, pain, happiness, everything together. You find God? Yes, I've found God. We all . . . I feel very close to God, and I feel very happy. But I would also still wish to be educated. And fortunately, I was given the chance to have an education, and I don't misuse it.
Srila Prabhupada: Education means to know God. That is education. In our Vedic culture, the high-class man is called a brahmana.
Srila Prabhupada: Brahmana. You know that.
Mother: Brahmana. Yes.
Srila Prabhupada: So who is a brahmana? One who knows God—he is called a brahmana. Therefore, the culmination of education is to understand God. That is education. Otherwise, to get education about how to nicely eat, how to nicely sleep, how to nicely have sex life, and how to defend—this education is there even in the animals. The animals, also—they know how to eat, how to sleep, how to have sex life, and how to defend.
Mother: Yes. It seems to worry you—this sex life. I mean . . . we don't take . . .
Srila Prabhupada: No, no, no. I'm not worried.
Mother: . . . any notice if . . . It fits into its place.
Srila Prabhupada: This is also necessary. This is also necessary. But these four types of branches of education are not sufficient for a human being. A human being—above all this education, he must have the knowledge of how to love God. And that is the perfection of life.
Mother: Yeah. Well, Michael was taught that when he was very small. The Jesuits saw to that.
Srila Prabhupada: Knowing how to love God—that is perfection.
Mother: The Jesuits certainly did.
Srila Prabhupada: So to understand how to love God, there must be a religious system. In every civilized human society—it doesn't matter whether the system is Christianity or Hinduism or Muhammadanism or Buddhism—the religious system is there, along with the education about eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. That other education is there in the animal society. So a human being is distinct from the animal when he has education about how to understand God and how to love Him. That is perfection.
So that is now wanting. Our Krsna consciousness movement is not depriving people of their education. You get education about how to eat, how to sleep, and that's all right. But side by side, you take education about how to know God and how to love Him. That is our proposition.
Mother: Yes. I agree with you.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Mother: Yes, I agree with you every time.
Srila Prabhupada: We don't say that you stop all this education. No.
Mother: No, I don't agree with you there. No, Father. No, no. No, no.
Srila Prabhupada: We don't say.
Mother: No, I think these young men here must . . .
Srila Prabhupada: You can go on with your industries. You can go on with your university. But side by side, you become competent to know what is the nature of God and how to love Him. Then your life is perfect.
Mother: I could mention a lot of persons that are still very close to God and brilliant men in science. Where would we be without our scientists, without our doctors, medicine? They all have to go to university and get a degree before they . . .
Srila Prabhupada: That I say. You get a degree.
Mother: Yes, but we need them.
Srila Prabhupada: You get.
Mother: Yes. Well, the some of your boys could be doctors.
Srila Prabhupada: But simply becoming a doctor of medical science will not save me. Unfortunately, these men do not believe in the next life.
Mother: Oh, yes they do. I go to . . . I had a doctor who came to church—and Michael knows him—every Sunday. A very good man.
Srila Prabhupada: Mostly. I have spoken with many educated persons. In Moscow I was talking with Professor Kotofsky. He said, "Swamiji, after this body is finished, everything is finished." But he's a big professor. Generally, even if they do believe in the next life, they do not believe in it very seriously. If we actually believe there is a next life, then we must be prepared: "What kind of next life am I going to have?"
Mother: Yes. Well, Father . . .
Srila Prabhupada: Because there are 8,400,000 forms of life. The trees are also forms of life. The cats and dogs—they are also forms of life. And there are higher, more intelligent persons in the higher planetary systems. They are also forms of life. The worm in the stool—that is also a form of life. So, calculating all of them, there are 8,400,000 species of life. So I am going to have a next life. Tatha dehantara-praptih—we have to change out of this body and go to another body. So our concern should be, "What kind of body am I going to get next?"
Mother: I agree for some people to—you especially—to think of this, because you are a leader of your Vedic religion. But for everybody to do that —where would we be? We couldn't all sit down and think all the time.
Srila Prabhupada: But where is that education?
Mother: But we . . . you can also work and think.
Srila Prabhupada: No. We work. I mean to say, where is that education in the university to prepare the student for the next life?
How Lord Krsna's holy land was transported halfway around the world to the lake know as Inis Rath.
by Maha-mantra Devi Dasi
Govindadvipa, ISKCON's 22-acre island in Northern Ireland, has been home for the deities Sri Sri Radha-Govinda since 1986. I first laid eyes on Radha-Govinda in 1985, before They were formally installed in the temple, and from that moment on, They made arrangements to draw me into their service. I moved into the temple community on January 7, 1986. Radha-Govinda were installed soon after, and I was allowed to take care of them.
My spiritual master, Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami, instructed me to make sure to read Srila Prabhupada's books even if my heavy schedule of service to Radha-Govinda made it difficult. He said that the reading would help me understand that Radha-Govinda are not just statues standing on the altar; They are Radha and Krsna, and They have Their pastimes.
Srila Prabhupada's book Krsna contains many of Radha-Krsna's pastimes, and that book has always attracted me. I find that when I read it the pastimes enter my mind. And going to Their holy land in India has allowed the pastimes to enter my heart.
Besides my regular service to Radha-Govinda, I've been fortunate to go twelve times to Vrndavana for ISKCON's annual Vraja Mandala Parikrama, a one-month tour of the holy places of Krsna's pastimes. I've seen proof that Radha-Govinda don't just stand on the altar; I've seen Govinda's footprints on top of Charan Pahari in Kamyavana, one of the twelve forests of Vrndavana (Vraja), and I've seen the imprint of Radhas crown at Surya Kund.
My Dream for Govindadvipa
Much of the beautiful island of Go-vindadvipa (also known as Inis Rath) is covered by forest, and being surrounded by water, it resembles Vrndavana, where the Yamuna River flows. Early in 2003, our temple president, Manu Dasa, asked the devotees here to write down what they feel is the purpose of Govindadvipa.
"And you can dream," he added.
So I wrote him my dream for Govindadvipa, which was to turn the island into a replica of the twelve forests of Vrndavana, with signposts, figures depicting the pastimes, and ghats on the lake.
When Manu read it, he was very encouraging: "Go for it. Just do it."
I drew a map of the island with the pastime places on it and put it on the temple notice board, petitioning devotees to contribute toward it. A little money came, and I bought a vanload of wood. My artist friend Syama Priya Dasi painted on the wood many four-foot-tall figures performing pastimes. They were then cut out and heavily varnished. Another artist, Caitanyacandra Daya Dasa, came forward and volunteered to paint more figures. He also designed the wooden roof structures and taught Giriraja Dasa how to make them. So we did a few. Then more money came, and we did some more. In the end we had sixty signposts and twenty-five sets of figures under roofs around the island. Devotees worked very hard. Lila Vrndavana Dasi would put her baby to bed, then go into the art room and paint names on signs all night.
Walking around the island and finding the pastime places became a wonderful meditation. It started to be that nothing on Govindadvipa was ordinary anymore. When I found an old stone structure that resembled the grinding mortar from Krsna's pastimes at Gokula, I put it in our Gokula beside the figures of Krsna and Yasoda, His mother. It had been outside the temple for years, but now it was definitely "the grinding mortar."
In August, we had our second "Radha-Govinda's Vrndavana Pastimes Seminar" for three days, starting on Lord Balarama's appearance day. Dina Bandhu Dasa, one of the tour guides for the Vraja Mandala Parikrama, came all the way from Vrndavana to give the seminar. Over the three days, Radha-Govinda were dressed in five different pastime outfits. Dina Bandhu spoke about the pastimes, and devotees performed a drama /dance depicting each one.
On the first day, Dina Bandhu cut the ribbon to officially open Govindadvipa's parikrama path. In the first forest, Madhuvana, he spoke about the pastimes that had taken place there. He said that Krsna appeared in Madhuvana in each of the four Vedic ages: Satya, Treta, Dvapara, and Kali. We saw the figure of Dhruva Maharaja receiving the audience of Lord Narayana, which happened in Satya-yuga. Further into the forest was the cave of Lavanasura, who in Treta-yuga was killed there by Satrughna, Lord Rama's brother. Then we saw Krsna and Balarama coming to water their cows at Krishna Kund, which happened in Dvapara-yuga, and the figure of Lord Caitanya, who performed Vraja parikrama in Kali-yuga.
In the second forest, Talavana, we saw the figure of Lord Balarama and a big stuffed donkey demon—Dhenukasura. Dina Bandhu invited the children to beat up Dhenukasura. Then at the appropriate time in the story the donkey flew through the air, flung by Balarama, and landed in a tall tree. (Special effects by Radhanatha Dasa.)
And so we went, completing one third of the parikrama each day, fully enlivened by Dina Bandhu's dynamic delivery of the nectar pastimes.
Srila Prabhupada said that all our temples are Vrndavana, because wherever Radha and Krsna are, that is Vrndavana. Everything contained in the twelve forests of Vraja is available to us at our Radha-Krsna temples. The scriptures reinforce this point by explaining that Radha decided to accompany Krsna to earth only after He had agreed to bring Vrndavana with Them from the spiritual world. Since Radha has appeared in our temples, we can be sure that Vrndavana is there too.
Krsna fulfilled my dream for Govindadvipa. But I'm not done dreaming yet. I want to increase and improve the figures over the next few years. I want to see stone figures under concrete roof structures, and I want to see stone ghats. But already, a walk around Govindadvipa will never be the same again.
Maha-mantra Devi Dasi has been serving Radha-Govinda at Govindadvipa and making outfits for them since she joined ISKCON in 1986. Readers interested in helping develop Govindadvipa Parikrama with donations or sculpturing talents can e-mail govindadwipa@ pamho.net.
A husband-and-wife team set out on a journey across America, armed with Krsna's message and a strong faith in His protection.
by Avadhuta Siromani Dasa
It was July 2001, the hottest month of the year in India. I was on Padayatra ("pilgrimage by foot"), walking toward Agra on the way to Vrndavana. During a break, the other devotees ate and the oxen drank water. I was sitting under a tree with His Holiness Lokanath Swami, who oversees Padayatras worldwide, and he suggested that I and my wife, Candrabhaga Devi Dasi, perform a Padayatra in America.
His words came as a surprise. We were happy in India, but it seemed Krsna had other plans for us. But how would we fulfill them? We didn't have a clue.
By August we were in Washington, D.C., starting to develop the program. We faced skepticism from a few leaders, but Lokanath Swami and Virabahu Prabhu very caringly supported us.
After a year of traveling everywhere on the East Coast and meeting with devotees, people on the street, and ISKCON's Indian congregation, we were ready to start building the wagon and training the horses. Following Lokanath Swami's suggestion, we based our program at Gita Nagari, ISKCON's farm in Pennsylvania. There we were able to get help and encouragement from His Holiness Bhakti Tirtha Swami, a great blessing for us.
We spent the fall and a cold winter at Gita Nagari. The devotees there, always eager to help, donated a wagon, which we modified for our needs. In May 2003, our Padayatra deities—Sri Sri Nitai-Gaurasundara (Caitanya and Nityananda)—arrived from Mayapur, India, and were installed by Bhakti Tirtha Swami, the event attended by 250 devotees.
The wagon was finished, the horses trained, the deities installed, the maps collected, the route chosen, the information about the permits collected, the kitchen set up, and the books and a few dhotis and saris packed. We were ready. But we weren't sure what to expect as we pulled away from Gita Nagari and started down Highway 75 toward Maryland. We didn't have money to survive for more than a few days. How would we be received in a country where material pursuits predominate? Where would we stay tonight? Bhakti Tirtha Swami's last words to us resounded in our ears: "Depend on Krsna. He'll take care of you."
From the day we left Gita Nagari until our arrival at New Ramana Reti in Alachua, Florida, twelve hundred miles later, Krsna did indeed take care of everything. People of all ages and backgrounds came like ants to sugar. They inquired from us and heard our message of love, in which we encouraged everyone to glorify God by chanting His names. We told them that only by understanding our personal relationship with God, which is based on love, can we find happiness and satisfaction. Inspired to help, people brought hay, water, clothing, money, food supplies, and food for the horses. Often, as in Vedic times, they placed their gifts before the deities.
Thousands of people came in contact with the Padayatra. Whoever came went away with some mercy of Sri Sri Nitai-Gaurasundara—books, prasadam, the holy name, a viewing of the deities, or the opportunity to render some devotional service. The American people were inspired by our simple example of glorifying God by living a life of dependence on Him. Many people phoned their local newspapers, which responded with accurate articles and often a photo of Nitai-Gaurasundara on the front page.
Our Dedicated Horses
For walking in America, horses have some advantages over oxen. They can tolerate the hot weather better than American breeds of oxen, and they can be shoed (by standing on three legs), essential for walking all day on asphalt.
Kana and Balaji, eight and nine years old, are our team of horses. They are Padayatras ambassadors, attracting people to Nitai-Gaurasundara with their beauty and massive size—two thousand pounds each. They're also worthy of praise for their dedicated service of pulling the wagon, which carries everything, day after day in temperatures ranging from thirty-five to over a hundred degrees Fahrenheit. They press on despite the challenges of wind, water, rain, trains, fire trucks, police cars, ambulances, tractor trailers, big cities, army training fields, mountains, or sandy beaches. They're always steady, patient, ready to work.
We see these strong-willed horses as devotees who have become trusting of us and would rather die than break the relationship we have established on the basis of love and respect. Balaji and Kana have shown an incredible ability to adapt to any circumstance. And the more they perform service, the more they eat prasadam, and the more they hear the holy name, the more refined their minds become.
Life on Padayatra
All of our time on Padayatra is used for presenting Krsna consciousness. We walk, we stop, we walk, we stop—without privacy. People come when we're cooking, worshiping the deities, or taking care of the horses, and we extend ourselves to whoever is ready to receive the Lord's mercy. To live on Padayatra is to feel how sweet it is to let Krsna take care of us. It brings us back to the state of consciousness in which we become satisfied with whatever Krsna provides, in which the taste of glorifying Him is always increasing, and in which the material attachments of life seem to naturally go away.
Padayatra life is like being on a transcendental ship that travels along the ocean of illusion helping people realize the importance of surrender by learning how to love God. It is an adventure with all kinds of situations, some dangerous. We feel like pioneers facing challenges and difficulties that provide opportunities to reciprocate with the Lord in a very personal way.
Avadhuta Siromani Dasa was born in the United States and raised in Columbia, South America. A disciple of His Grace Virabahu Dasa, he joined ISKCON in Los Angeles in 1995.
Candrabhaga Devi Dasi, a disciple of His Holiness Lokanath Swami, is originally from New York. She joined ISKCON in Denver in 1997.
Author's note: I would like to thank Candrabhaga Dasi, my wife, for her constant support during the Padayatra. She is always enthusiastic to perform any service—cooking, deity worship, communication, diary editing, care of the horses, distribution of literature. She has shown a mature attraction for serving guru and Krsna, accepting with pleasure a way of life that lacks material comforts. She displays the conviction that our only shelter, our only beloved, is Lord Krsna.
For information about Padayatra America's next trek, from Alachua, Florida, to the Mexican border, visit padayatraamerica.com or send an email to email@example.com
Signs of Krsna's Blessings: Diary Excerpts
We were crossing the mountains in Maryland, and after a long, hard journey, I could see that the horses were tired. With only about thirty minutes of sunlight left, I wanted to stop for the night at a farm. Till then, farmers had welcomed us, but when we tried this time, we were asked to move on. The road was very narrow, curvy, and hilly, and as the sun was setting, we kept going, with no place to stop. It was a dangerous situation. All we could do was pray.
After about a mile, the horses suddenly pulled into a small entrance in the middle of a curve. All I could see was a field and a narrow road. I walked to get a closer look, and I saw a sign: KRISHNA BHAGAVAN.
Up the road was an elegant house with beautiful gardens. It reminded me of a temple. I went to the door, and a woman named Gita answered—and the festival began. Gita has been familiar with Krsna consciousness for thirty-five years. She welcomed us according to the high standard of Vedic culture, sincerely appreciating our arrival as the arrangement of the Lord. She fed the horses, gave us cloth and food supplies, accepted prasadam, donated money, bought books, invited neighbors, and arranged an interview with a local radio station. We felt overwhelmed that Nitai-Gaurasundara had allowed us to take part in giving Their mercy to Gita by engaging her in Their service.
With forty-five minutes of sunlight left, we were near the border of Virginia and North Carolina. We decide to try to cross the town and stop on the other side. But the town was bigger than we'd expected. A police officer made us move to a different road, and he escorted us for a few blocks before stopping us again. As Candrabhaga ran to get some milk and I got water for the horses, the police officer came up to look at the horses and then the deities. He cheerfully told me that if we just went four miles farther, we'd find a place for the night. I laughed to myself. He obviously didn't know how slowly we move. It would take us more than an hour to go four miles, and by now there were only about fifteen minutes of sunlight left.
Just then a girl pulled up. She had been seeing us for the last three days and invited us to stay in her yard, one block away.
As usual, a festival began, with many people showing up, fascinated by the Padayatra. Police officers came by at intervals and let the locals know we were good people. A reporter came, and a nice article ran in the local paper the next day. When we moved on, we left behind new friends in Lawranceville, Virginia.
Devotee at the Potomac
We were about to cross the Potomac River in Maryland, but we discovered that the bridge was too small for us. A man invited us to stay at his place and gave us directions for another route across the river. As we were traveling in an isolated area, a woman shouted to us, "Hare Krsna! My son is a Hare Krsna!"
Her son, Jai Nitai Dasa, had just arrived at her house an hour earlier. We spent a wonderful evening with him, relating stories of our travels.
The next day, we discovered another reason why the Lord had detained us: One of the wooden wheels of the wagon was broken, and we needed someone with great patience to help us get it fixed. Jai Nitai Dasa spent four days helping us with the task, driving here and there. We discovered the truth in the saying that with one action, Krsna fulfills many objectives.
Walterboro, South Carolina
We were leaving Walterboro, South Carolina, headed to Yemassee. The holy name resounded from our speakers as the traffic moved slowly.
Suddenly Reverend Bale, a Christian pastor with a big smile, rushed up to us. He was fascinated by our mission and our simple style of glorifying God.
He looked at the deities and said sincerely, "Thank you for bringing this to us."
He offered to help, and when I said we needed hay for the horses, he said, "Let me see what I can do. I'll come back later."
At that moment a big truck full of hay was crossing the highway. The white-haired Reverend Bale, dressed in a suit, ran onto the highway and stopped the truck. He procured a donation of hay and was overcome with happiness. He jumped and raised his arms and shouted, "God is good!"
After a pleasant conversation, he seemed very sincerely and strongly moved. He left with a deluxe copy of Bhagavad-gita As It Is.
Appreciations from Online
It is so impressive how you and your wife are such ideal dedicated devotees. You really had a big impact on the devotees in Gita Nagari, especially myself, so please keep up the good work. You both represent your spiritual masters very well.
Padayatra America has achieved a lot of good will and has made many good contacts. The credit goes to the team leaders of Padayatra America. Avadhuta Siromani pushed Padayatra with great determination despite various obstacles on his path.
Things don't happen automatically. What is required is for a devotee to become an instrument for making programs happen. Your service will be rewarded unlimitedly.
I am truly inspired by your efforts to send out the word of God all over America. I had the blessing of sighting the Padayatra today and received your words of love, hope, and peace. I admire your courage in that I always fantasize about doing something like that but don't have the desperation of force behind me to follow through. So the best I could do was give food and a small donation. I'm praying for your mission —that God may continually send power for your lips and peace to your soul.
We have been extremely honored and blessed by getting to know our new friends Avadhuta and Candrabhaga. These two ambassadors of Krsna have truly touched our lives. They have exhibited amazing humility, patience, and grace. Our lives have been enriched through our experience with Padayatra. We will always keep them and their mission in our thoughts and prayers.
I love reading your diary entries and learning about the progress of the Padayatra. I check your web site every day. Very nice, espe-cially how people are receiving you. It is a very, very nice arrangement of the Lord. I pray for your health, strength, and continuous enthusiasm for this most amazing mission you have taken on. Hare Krsna.
On encountering Hare Krsna devotees chanting on the street, people respond with every reaction from amusement to anger. Few understand what the chanting is all about. To many, it seems a frivolity, often inspiring the remark "Get a job!"
But there's nothing frivolous about chanting the names of God. Srila Prabhupada had great faith in the transformative power of chanting. He told us that simply by chanting Hare Krsna we would become self-realized. He spoke from experience and on the basis of the teachings of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who emphasized chanting as the most effective means of God-realization in the present age.
Prabhupada saw his disciples mature spiritually by chanting. And he stressed that if we continued to chant sincerely, we would attain spiritual perfection.
In the Siksastaka, or "Eight Teachings," Lord Caitanya Himself listed seven spiritual benefits of chanting:
• Chanting cleans the mirror of the heart. Lord Caitanya compares the heart, or the consciousness, to a mirror in which one sees oneself. The dust of lifetimes of material pursuits sullies our consciousness, blocking a clear vision of our true identity as spiritual beings. Chanting the holy names washes away that dust, allowing us to finally see who we really are.
• Chanting puts out the fire of material existence. We think we're the body, and that brings on limitless sufferings, chief of which are disease, old age, death, and rebirth. Because chanting awakens our true identity, it delivers us from repeated lifetimes of misery at the hands of nature.
• Chanting is like a moon, spreading good fortune. Even in the early stages of practice, a chanter feels the lightening of a great burden. Because God and His names are identical, the blessings invoked by chanting are incalculable.
• Chanting is the life of all knowledge. Without spiritual knowledge, we eternal beings are doomed to stay in this temporary place where we can never be fully satisfied. The essence of spiritual knowledge is to know our eternal relationship with Krsna. By removing the material covering, chanting awakens that knowledge, which lies dormant within us.
• Chanting expands the ocean of transcendental happiness. Any spiritual happiness is far beyond anything attainable through material endeavors, but the highest spiritual pleasure comes from our relationship with Krsna. As the purity of our chanting increases, so does our love for Krsna, the key to an ever-deepening relationship with Him. Lord Caitanya gives the example of an ocean to show the amount of happiness that awaits us—even an ordinary ocean isn't big enough to hold it; an ever-expanding ocean is needed.
• Chanting lets us taste the nectar of happiness at every step. We eventually become satiated by any kind of material pleasure, but the spiritual happiness unlocked by chanting Hare Krsna is always new and fresh.
• Chanting bathes us in full satisfaction. Restoring our long-lost relationship with Krsna fully soothes the soul.
Lord Krsna longs for us to return to Him, and our heartfelt plea spoken in the Hare Krsna maha-mantra is just what He wants to hear.
If you have this faith—that the soul is the eternal servant of Krsna—then you will have no more misery and when you chant the holy name of Krsna, your body will shiver in ecstasy and your eyes will shed tears in love of God.
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura
If somehow or other by good fortune one develops faith in hearing and chanting My glories, such a person, being neither very disgusted with nor attached to material life, should achieve perfection through the path of loving devotion to Me.
Lord Sri Krsna
Even a liberated soul merged in the impersonal Brahman effulgence is attracted to the pastimes of Krsna. He thus installs a deity and renders the Lord service.
The Vedic literatures composed by the omniscient Mahamuni Vyasadeva are evidence of all spiritual existence. Only through these revealed scriptures can all conditioned souls attain knowledge.
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu
Because of His great handsomeness, sweetness, charm, and opulence, because of the musical sound of His flute, because He is filled with love, and because of His host of friends and relatives, great poets and philosophers say that Lord Krsna, the son of Maharaja Nanda, is the original Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Srila Baladeva Vidyabhusana
To the extent the heart is polluted with sins, it cannot place its faith in the Vedic scriptures or the bona fide spiritual master. By hearing the Vedic scriptures in the association of saintly devotees, love for the Lord is manifest. That is the great result of having performed many pious deeds in many previous births.
Not knowing the real value of life, people think that the material body and the land where it is produced are all in all. This is the basic principle behind nationalism, socialism, and communism. Such thinking, which simply bewilders the living entity, is nothing but rascalism. It is due to the darkness of maya, but as soon as one becomes Krsna conscious, he is immediately relieved from such misconceptions.
His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada