IN THIS ISSUE we visit Nashik, a holy site whose history traces to the remote past. In a previous age, Lord Kapila performed austerities there. Much later, Lord Rama chose it as the site for His ashram. Still later, the sage Gautama established a temple to Lord Siva there. The story of the origin of that temple shows the prominent role that reverence for the cow played when Vedic culture prevailed in India. Today, mistreatment of the cow in India is a sad symptom of the decline of that culture, as Braja Sevaki Devi Dasi tells us in Culture? What Culture?
At the root of Vedic culture is acknowledgment of a supreme controller behind the forces of nature. Like the rest of the world, people in India today often fall prey to exaggerated promises of what science can do for us. In this issue's Vedic Observer, Caitanya Carana Dasa writes of the false hopes engendered by cloud seeding in India, an example of trying to force nature into submission rather than cooperating with her and her controller.
Srila Prabhupada worked tirelessly to revive Vedic culture, in India and around the word. Punk and Krsna in a Teabag tells the story of one of millions of souls who heeded his call.
Hare Krsna.—Nagaraja Dasa, Editor
• To help all people discern reality from illusion, spirit from matter, the eternal from the temporary.
Congratulations on another excellentissue of BTG [Sept/Oct]. I especially liked the article about my dear friend Sridhara Swami, and the article on Bangladesh by Indradyumna Swami was quite enjoyable as well. If I may, I'd like to mention some of the courageous ISKCON devotees who first carried Srila Prabhupada's movement to Bangladesh.
In 1978, the year after Prabhupada's departure, Prabhavisnu Swami and Jayapataka Swami asked Vaiyasaki Dasa to go to Bangladesh with ISKCON's distinct message of love for Krsna. Vaiyasaki and Canuri Dasa, a French devotee, courageously journeyed to that primarily Muslim land and brought the holy name of Krsna. The early days there were rough. Rasika Dasa and Nisthula Dasa soon came with assistance. These devotees all risked their lives in a country where there was much animosity toward anyone or anything non-Muslim.
Four Stages of Life
Are the four stages of one's life—brahmacari, grhastha, vanaprastha, sannyasi—recommended in the present age?
OUR REPLY: In general these four asramas are always recommended in any age because they are created by Krsna along with the four varnas: brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya, and sudra (Bhagavad-gita 4.13). In the present age, however, everyone is a sudra by default, and the sudras generally accept only the grhastha asrama (married life). Generally the vaisyas and ksatriyas accept the brahmacarya, grhastha, and vanaprastha asramas, and the brahmanas accept all four asramas. The Krsna consciousness movement is especially training brahmanas, and it expected that they will accept the four asramas. Of course, some brahmanas skip the grhastha and vanaprastha asramas and go straight to sannyasa, but that is a minority. There is a verse forbidding the acceptance of sannyasa in the age of Kali, but that is because most people are not qualified for sannyasa. Lord Caitanya, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, and Srila Prabhupada, all of whom are perfect teachers of Vedic knowledge, accepted the sannyasa asrama, and Srila Prabhupada gave sannyasa initiation to many disciples.
Could you give me some guidance on improving my chanting?
OUR REPLY: Chanting is very simple, but the mind has the tendency to wander. In Bhagavad-gita (6.26) Lord Krsna mentions the flicking nature of the mind, so we should not be at all surprised to encounter it. Arjuna complained to Lord Krsna that it was more difficult to control the mind than the wind (Bg. 6.34). Krsna, however, considered that it is possible to control the mind by suitable practice and by detachment (Bg. 6.35). Our practice is to chant Hare Krsna, and our detachment is to give up the four sinful acts. So we should not conclude that it is impossible, although it may sometimes seem that way.
During japa we can always try to bring the mind back to the holy sound of the maha-mantra, soberly considering that at the moment of death we must fix the mind on Krsna and death can come at any time. We can also consider the greatness of the holy name—it is Krsna Himself—and how Bhaktivinoda Thakura says that there is nothing of value in the entire material world but the holy name of the Lord.
The holy name can free us from all material distress and submerge us in an ocean of transcendental happiness. The holy name is well worth paying attention to. Japa is the practice of fixing the mind on Krsna's name whenever it runs off. You will get better gradually simply by practicing every day with awareness of its great importance, just as we improve at anything we practice. Moreover, Krsna is always inclined to help His devotees, so there is great hope for success.
Practice hearing and chanting the spiritual sound with enthusiasm, and you'll ultimately become absorbed in Krsna consciousness. You can also try tricks like chanting louder (so it is easier to hear) or faster (so there is no time to think about anything else). But ultimately we have to drag the mind back. When we start a new round on our beads, we can practice attentiveness with renewed determination and try chant with perfect attention as long as possible.
You can find more advice in books like The Nectarean Ocean of the Holy Name, by Sacinandana Swami, and Art of Chanting, by Mahanidhi Swami.
Avataras for Each Age
I read all the main topics on Krishna.com, and that was very helpful. I am very thankful to the team that developed the site. Could you please explain the different yugas and what form of the Lord appears in each?
OUR REPLY: There are four yugas, or ages: Satya, Treta, Dvarapa, and Kali. Kali lasts 432,000 years. Dvarupa is twice as long as Kali, Treta is three times as long as Kali, and Satya is four times as long as Kali. The eleventh canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, chapter 5, identifies the yuga-avataras by color: (1) sukla (white) in the Satya-yuga (Bhag. 11.5.21); (2) rakta (red) in the Treta-yuga (Bhag. 11.5.24); (3) syama (dark blue) in the Dvaparayuga (Bhag. 11.5.27); and (4) generally Krsna (black), but in special cases pita (yellow)—as Caitanya Mahaprabhu—in the Kali-yuga (Bhag. 11.5.32 and 10.8.13).
Guidance for Deity Worship
Would you be able to guide me in deity worship? What are the offenses to be avoided? What must we think about and what prayers should we say in front of the deities, when bowing down, in kirtana, on leaving the temple, and so on? Can we really talk to the deities?
OUR REPLY: We are to think that the deity of Krsna is identical to the Supreme Lord Krsna Himself, and thus we should cultivate awe and reverence for the deity. We should bow down before the deity upon coming into and leaving His presence. Prayers of great devotees of the past may be offered. Rupa Gosvamis Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, which Srila Prabhupada summarized in The Nectar of Devotion, tells all the offenses to be avoided as well as positive devotional activities to be performed, so it would be good for you to get that book.
Yes, we can talk to the deities by offering prayers, but we must be very spiritually elevated for the deity to speak to us.
The cover artist for the Sept/Oct issue was incorrectly identified. The artist was Madhava-priya Devi Dasi. We apologize for the mistake.
How we can recognize a person truly free from the influence of material nature.
by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
prayena munayo rajan
"O King Pariksit, mainly the topmost transcendentalists who are above the regulative principles and restrictions take pleasure in describing the glories of the Lord."
There is a stage called the paramahamsa stage. At that time, one does not very strictly follow the regulative principles. Or, rather, it is not that the paramahamsas are not following, but they're above all regulative principles. We should not imitate that position: "Now we have become paramahamsas, and we can neglect all regulative principles." No. You must prove that you are a paramahamsa.
What is the paramahamsa stage? Nairgunya-stha ramante sma gunanukathane hareh—when one's only business is to glorify Krsna. A paramahamsa does not think, "I have become a paramahamsa. Let me eat and sleep." No. The symptom is that one cannot waste a moment without glorifying Krsna. That is a paramahamsa. When you cannot remain even for a single moment without describing Krsna, then you can know that you are on the paramahamsa stage. No attachment for anything material; simply attachment for Krsna.
Then you can give up the regulative principles. Not before that. Don't imitate. You must first come to that positive stage.
The paramahamsa stage is not simply negative. You must stand on a positive platform. Those who are sunyavadi [voidists] are simply concerned with the negative. The other day a Zen Buddhist came. He said that the goal is "to become desireless." These people do not know that it is impossible to become desireless. Therefore they are disturbed always. It is not possible to become desireless. That is a negative post, nirvana.
That is Buddha philosophy, nirvana. "Stop these material nonsense activities." But unless one has positive activities, how he can give up this nonsense? Param drstva nivartate [Bhagavad-gita 2.59]. You must give someone good engagement. Otherwise, he'll go on committing all nonsense. Just like you. You have been given good engagement—deity worship and so many other things. You are engaged. Therefore you have no time to divert your attention for nonsense things.
To try to stop nonsense artificially will not work. The U.S. government tried to stop intoxication—LSD—by spending millions of dollars. Not a single man was stopped. And here in Krsna consciousness, as soon as they come, immediately they stop. Why? Param drstva nivartate. When one understands that he is getting better "intoxication," then he thinks, "Why shall I go to LSD?" That is required.
Here it is said, nivrtta vidhi-sedhatah. There are two things—vidhi and nisedha, or do's and don'ts. We say, "Chant the Hare Krsna mantra," and "No illicit sex." Positive and negative. Vidhi means do's, and nisedha do not's.
These do's and don'ts are the beginning of life. Don't try to become a paramahamsa from the very beginning. Then you'll fall flat. Nairgunya means above material nature. Material nature is called traigunya. Traigunya means the three modes of material nature: goodness, passion, and ignorance. When you rise above these three gunas, or modes, then there is the possibility of becoming a paramahamsa.
Krsna advised Arjuna, traigunyavisaya veda nistraigunyo bhavarjuna [Bhagavad-gita 2.45]. The Vedas deal with the three gunas, giving directions according to each one. For persons in sattva-guna, or the mode of goodness, there are six Puranas. There are eighteen Puranas in all. Some of them are for persons situated in the mode of goodness, some of them are for persons in rajo-guna (passion), and some of them are for persons in tamo-guna (ignorance).
In the Vedas there is a recommendation to worship goddess Kali. That is for the tamo-guna, not for the sattva-guna. The Puranas for sattva-guna include the Visnu Purana, Brahmanda Purana, Brahma-vaivarta Purana, and Bhagavata Purana. Knowledge has to be given to everyone, but according to each person's capacity. If one is in tamo-guna, you cannot raise him immediately to the sattva-guna. Tamo-guna is meat-eating, drinking. These are in tamo-guna—in darkness. The Vedas give everyone a chance: "All right, you want to eat meat? All right, eat meat. But offer it to the goddess Kali." That means that there is a restriction. Meat-eating is not required, but a rascal will not want to hear this immediately. Therefore give him some concession: "All right, you can eat meat by offering a sacrifice. Not the cow, but a lower animal, like goats."
But regulated meat-eating is not meant for sattva-guna. For persons in sattva-guna the prescription is different. And for rajo-guna the prescription is different.
Rise Above the Modes
On the whole, we are always mixed up with the sattva-guna, rajo-guna, and tamo-guna. That is our material position. Therefore sometimes we come to Krsna consciousness when we are in sattva-guna, and when tamo-guna or rajo-guna attacks, we sometimes fall down. So we have to rise above these gunas. Traigunya-visaya veda nistraigunyo bhavarjuna. Krsna advised Arjuna, "Rise above these three gunas."
How it can be done? Simply by hearing about Krsna. This is nairgunya-stha ramante sma gunanukathane hareh. If you simply engage yourself only in hearing about Krsna, then you are nistraigunya, above the modes. That is the process. Simple. No other business than hearing about Krsna.
We have given you so many books. Don't sleep. Don't waste a single moment. Of course, you have to sleep, but reduce it as much as possible. Eating, sleeping, mating, and defending—reduce them.
That is the example shown by the six Gosvamis. Nidrahara-viharakadivijitau: they conquered eating, sleeping, and sex. That is the spiritual platform. No more sleeping, no more eating, no more sex life. That is perfection. And one who can conquer these three things—eating, sleeping, and sex—is fearless, automatically. There is no requirement of defense because such a person can meet any situation.
That is the paramahamsa stage, where there is no regulation. Don't imitate. Some of our students have exhibited that their thought is "There is no need of regulations. We are all paramahamsas." Not paramahamsa—rascal number one! Here is the test of the paramahamsa: one who is not influenced by the material qualities—rajo-guna, sattva-guna, and tamo-guna. And the test of that is that one has conquered eating, sleeping, and sense enjoyment.
Rise above the modes by hearing about Krsna. The Gosvamis were always writing books about Krsna. Following their example, we are simply describing the different activities and attributes of Krsna. In today's verse it is said, gunanukatha: "describing the glories of the Lord."Anu means not whimsically, but by following the superior authorities. You cannot write anything not approved by the superior authorities. Therefore, we have to give examples, with quotations from the sastra, the scripture. What I am speaking, it is supported by the sastras. Not that I have inventive power—"I can write anything I like." That is nonsense. Anukathane means you must hear from the authority perfectly. Then try to write. Not that you write whimsically, whatever you like. That is not allowed. And that will not be accepted.
Therefore, in the beginning of this chapter [2.1.1] we learned,
variyan esa te prasnah
"My dear King, your question is glorious because it is very beneficial to all kinds of people. The answer to this question is the prime subject matter for hearing, and it is approved by all transcendentalists." Atmavit-sammatah: "It is approved by the realized souls." Not that whimsically I do something or you question something. No. The question must be approved by atmavit, a self-realized person, and the answer should be given by the self-realized person. That is wanted.
We have no independence, either materially or spiritually. But we're falsely thinking to become independent. That is called illusion, maya. The rascals do not know that there is no independence at all, either materially or spiritually. Just like the outlaws—they have no independence, either criminally or civilly. When a person is a good citizen there is no independence, and when he's a criminal there is no independence. So why is he thinking, "I shall act criminally and become independent"? That is not possible. And because he cannot understand it, he is a rascal. His independence is illusion.
Where is your independence? Illusion. Maya. When you are under the strict rules and regulations of material nature, how are you independent? Daivi hy esa gunamayi mama maya duratyaya [Bhagavad-gita 7.14]. People think that to surrender to Krsna is a slave mentality. "I shall remain free." But where is your freedom, sir? That is illusion.
As long as one is a rascal, falsely thinking that he's independent, he must observe the regulative principles, vidhinisedha. When he's actually situated on the transcendental platform, that is called nairgunya-sthah. Stha means "situated,""not flickering,""permanent." So nairgunya means devotional service. That is nairgunya.
That is stated in the Bhagavad-gita:
mam ca yo 'vyabhicarena
"One who engages in full devotional service, unfailing in all circumstances, at once transcends the modes of material nature and thus comes to the level of Brahman." [14.26]
"One who is thus transcendentally situated at once realizes the Supreme Brahman and becomes fully joyful. He never laments or desires to have anything. He is equally disposed toward every living entity. In that state he attains pure devotional service unto Me." [18.54]
Everything is there in Bhagavad-gita.
Nairgunya means one who is twenty-four hours engaged in devotional service. He's on the nairgunya platform and is no longer influenced by the material qualities. Mam ca yo 'vyabhicarena. Avyabhicarena means without any flaw, without any fault. When one is strictly following and engaged in devotional service according to the restriction, or instruction, of the sastra and spiritual master, one can conquer or surpass the three modes of material nature. And that stage is brahma-bhutah.
Symptoms of the Spiritual Platform
Now, everyone can say, "I am now in the brahma-bhutah." But the symptom of one on that platform is given, so you cannot cheat. What is that symptom? Brahma-bhutah prasannatma. If you are actually on the brahmabhutah platform, then the symptom will be prasannatma: jolly, always. There will be no more moroseness. Always jolly. That is the first symptom. "Oh, I am now free from the material clutches."
As soon as you are actually engaged in devotional service, there will be no more punishment by the material nature. Therefore you will always be jubilant, prasannatma. What is the meaning of prasannatma? Prasannatma means na socati na kanksati: not desiring anything, and not lamenting for anything. That is the brahma-bhutah stage. If something is lost, "Never mind. Krsna desired the loss. That's all right." And if there is a gain, one does not jump like a monkey—"Oh, I have gained this! I have gained this!" [Laughter.]
No. Everything is Krsna's. I am engaged in Krsna's service. If there is some loss, it is Krsna's desire. And if there is some profit, it is Krsna's money. I don't possess anything. Why shall I jump? Of course, we can jump. "Oh, we have gained so many things for Krsna!" That is different.
Another symptom of the brahmabhuta stage is samah sarvesu bhutesu: equal to everyone. One who understands that everyone is a spirit soul, some way or other entangled in a material body, is fit for transcendental service to the Lord.
After being liberated from the three material modes, one has to be situated in nistraigunya. Here it is stated "nairgunya."Nairgunya and nistraigunya have the same meaning. Nairgunya-stha ramante: one enjoys life. As soon as you come to the platform of nairgunya, free from the infection of the three material qualities, then ramante: everything is pleasure.
Therefore those who are yogis—who are bhaktas, bhakti-yogis—also enjoy life. It is not that we restrict: "Don't enjoy the senses." Sense "enjoyment" is not enjoyment; it is bondage. Suppose I am enjoying either illicit or legal sex. I am under bondage. Even it is legal sex life, I get children, and then I have a duty to the children. So either in goodness or in ignorance, there is bondage.
Therefore one has to rise above the three modes, and then one enjoys. What is that enjoyment? Ramante yogino 'nante. That is not limited enjoyment, for few minutes. No. Anante, eternal enjoyment. And that is satyanande, that is real ananda. That is real bliss. When your ananda does not stop, that is real ananda. And the ananda, or the pleasure, which is for a few seconds or a few minutes, that is not ananda. That is illusion. Real ananda will continue. It will never stop. It will never end. Therefore it is said,
ramante yogino 'nante
"The Supreme Absolute Truth is called Rama because the transcendentalists take pleasure in the unlimited true pleasure of spiritual existence." [Padma Purana] When we enter the platform of continuous blissfulness, ananda, that is the connection with, and that is the meaning of, Rama. That means that when one is situated in the service of the Param Brahma, the Supreme Truth, his life is successful.
Fix the Mind On Kassa
Here it is said, nairgunya-stha ramante sma gunanukathane hareh: when not a single moment is wasted without talking about Krsna. So practice this. First of all, fix your mind on the lotus feet of Krsna. If your mind is fixed, then the other senses will act, because the other senses act under the leadership of the mind. Your mind is your enemy or your friend. The mind engaged in Krsna consciousness is your friend. And the mind engaged in other consciousness is your enemy.
You can create your mind as friend or enemy—according to your desire. Deity worship means to fix your mind on the lotus feet of Krsna, always worshiping Krsna. If you fix your mind on the lotus feet of Krsna, immediately you are nairgunya-stha—situated in the nairgunya, the transcendental platform.
In another place, it is said,
srnvatam sva-kathah Krsnah
"SriKrsna, the Personality of Godhead, who is the Paramatma [Supersoul] in everyone's heart and the benefactor of the truthful devotee, cleanses desire for material enjoyment from the heart of the devotee who has developed the urge to hear His messages, which are in themselves virtuous when properly heard and chanted." [Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.2.17]
Krsna is situated within your heart. He's your best friend. Suhrdam sarvabhutanam. He's always considering how your perfect welfare can be done. Krsna is so nice a friend. When I take the body of a hog, Krsna is there advising me. And when I am in the body of a human being, there also Krsna is advising me. Krsna is so kind. Therefore suhrdam sarva-bhutanam. He's the friend not only of human beings, but even of the hogs, dogs, cats—everyone. Suhrdam sarva-bhutanam.
This is the science one has to know. People are trying to become leaders of society to act for others' welfare, but that is impossible. If a person is a rascal, how he can become the friend of the citizens? One's business should be to make friendship with Krsna and advise others to make friendship with Krsna. That is real leadership. But the rascals do not know what is their own benefit, and they have become leaders.
Sanatana Gosvami said to Lord Caitanya, apanara hitahita kichui na jani. . . . "Sir, I was a government minister. People used to say that I was a very learned scholar, and I accepted that. But when I came into contact with you, I thought, 'What kind of leader am I? I do not know what is beneficial for me. I am such a leader. I am such a fool. I do not know my own benefit, and I want to become a leader to lead others for benefit in life.'"
Andha yathandhair upaniyamanah. How can a blind man lead other blind men? That is cheating. All these leaders are blind themselves. They do not know the aim of life, and they're becoming leaders. So the blind leader and the blind followers are all going to hell. That is the position of the world.
Therefore we should be careful that we don't imitate—"I have now become a paramahamsa. I do not require to follow the rules and regulations. Let me do whatever I like." Don't do that. The test is there: gunanukathane hareh. When you are a paramahamsa, you have no other business than simply to hear about Krsna and chant about Krsna.
For seven days in 1975, devotees in Caracas basked in the presence of the ambassador of the spiritual world.
by Jagat Caksur Dasa
In the '70s, Srila Prabhupada and his disciples traveled all over the globe spreading the Krsna consciousness movement. But even in places where neither Prabhupada nor his disciples had yet visited, Krsna consciousness took root simply by the strength of his books. One such country was Venezuela, South America.
Ilan Chester was a young Venezuelan musician looking for answers to the purpose of life. While visiting Tel Aviv, Israel, in 1972, he met Krsna devotees for the first time. He carried books on Krsna consciousness back to Venezuela and distributed them among his friends. Soon there was a small group of people chanting Hare Krsna and regularly reading Srila Prabhupada's books. Ilan wrote a letter to the Mexico City temple requesting help to open a center in Caracas. Around that time a group of devotees headed by Hanuman Goswami were touring Latin America and the Caribbean. By the end of 1972 they arrived in Caracas from Trinidad. Along with the small group of local devotees, they opened the first ISKCON center in South America.
Citsukhananda Dasa, who had opened the first temple in Mexico and served as temple president there for some time, also wanted to join the Venezuelan devotees and help establish the movement there. He wrote to Srila Prabhupada asking for his permission and blessings. Prabhupada replied on December 11, 1972:
So I think because Hanuman is always sending me successful reports of preaching meetings, so many newspaper articles and photos, that this Krsna consciousness movement will be very famous there and you will find many interested persons to become devotees, just like at Mexico. . . . If there is good possibility to arrange nice programs, and if you have got a very nice place by then, why shall I not stop there in Caracas while returning to your country sometime next year?
At the beginning of 1973 Citsukhananda became the first temple president in Caracas. In December 1973, one year after the Caracas temple was established, the first Venezuelan devotees traveled with Citsukhananda to Los Angeles to receive initiation from Srila Prabhupada. Among them was Ilan, who received the name Havi Dasa. The other devotees to take initiation were Viraha Dasa, Virabahu Dasa, Tamoha Dasa, Pramana Dasa, Karta Dasi, and Vara Dasi. During a morning walk in Cheviot Hills Park, Prabhupada promised the Venezuelan devotees he would visit their country in the near future.
The devotees in Venezuela were inspired by Prabhupada's appeal to broadcast Krsna consciousness for the benefit of all living entities. The movement expanded quickly in Venezuela, and many people were becoming attracted to Krsna consciousness, as predicted by Srila Prabhupada in his letter to Citsukhananda. But the devotees were not without opposition.
Once, at the beginning of 1973, Hanuman was speaking to a group of students at the Central University of Venezuela. They were communists and became disturbed at Hanuman's criticism of atheism. A heated exchanged ensued, and by the end the enraged students chased Hanuman, shouting, "Catch him! Hang him!" Somehow they thought Hanuman belonged to the CIA and wanted to lynch him. A lawyer named Bolivar was passing by in his car. Seeing Hanuman being chased, he stopped and motioned for him to jump in, thus saving his life.
Around that time there were many new religious groups in Venezuela. Some of them were dubious and attracted complaints from the public. So the government decided to investigate all the new religious groups in the country. Without notice, the police would arrive at each center and search the premises. Their discoveries were then broadcast in the newspapers the next day.
One day the police arrived at the Caracas temple and barged in with their shoes and guns. The devotees were helpless. The police failed to find anything abnormal but still decided to take all the devotees present to jail. Viraha, the temple president, asked if they could give the devotees some time to finish the morning program. They agreed to wait for half an hour only. Viraha asked one devotee to read something. Virabahu Dasa randomly opened the book Krsna and started to read. Aptly, the chapter was entitled "Kamsa Begins His Persecutions."
At noon some other devotees came to the jail with prasadam. They were allowed to distribute the food to the jailed devotees and even gave some to the policemen. The police were apologetic, saying they were sorry because they felt the devotees were good people but they had to obey their authorities. The devotees were released from jail the same day without charges, but the next day the incident was reported in the newspapers in a sensational way. A lawyer who read the article and felt that an injustice had been done to the devotees came to the temple and offered his services for free. He was Bolivar, the same lawyer who had saved Hanuman at the university a year before. Bolivar became the temple legal advisor, and his service was of a great help at that difficult time.
Despite these obstacles, Krsna consciousness continued to expand successfully in Venezuela. Every Sunday the temple was full of happy guests who enjoyed the transcendental festive atmosphere created by the devotees' enthusiasm and sincerity. The devotees were distributing thousands of books and magazines all over Venezuela. The good news soon reached Srila Prabhupada, who was very pleased. In October 1974, Prabhupada sent a letter to Hridayananda Dasa Goswami, who had recently become ISKCON's governing body commissioner for Venezuela:
Actually these books are the foundation stone of our movement. Whatever we are is resting on these books, so far reading them and distributing them. This should be our only motto. Your invitation to visit Mexico and Caracas sounds very nice, and I shall be very pleased to come there. I shall be going to Hawaii sometime in December, and then I can come wherever you like.
But Prabhupada was unable to visit Venezuela until February 18, 1975. A month before his visit, with his approval the Caracas devotees held an installation ceremony for Gaura-Nitai deities. By now Krsna consciousness had spread to several other countries in Latin America, and Prabhupada's visit to Venezuela became a focal point for devotees all over the region. Devotees from Brazil, Argentina, Trinidad, Santo Domingo, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and even from as far as Canada and the U.S. flocked to Caracas for Prabhupada's visit.
On the evening of Prabhupada's arrival, the devotees performed kirtana at the temple with great vigor and enthusiasm. When Prabhupada arrived and got out of the car, we all immediately offered respectful obeisances. For most of us it was the first time we were seeing our spiritual master. There was excitement and happiness on everyone's face, and due to the transcendental atmosphere created by Prabhupada's presence it seemed like the temple was floating in the air. The kirtana went on unabated. Suddenly Prabhupada looked at me. I had never seen anybody with such a transparent and pure look. It seemed like the spiritual world was manifesting itself before us. An ambassador from Krsna's land, Vrndavana, was among us, and with a merciful glance he was approving our humble effort to welcome him.
After the welcoming ceremony, Prabhupada looked at the deities and said, "It is very nice that these two Prabhus [Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai] are here with us tonight. They came here from their home in Navadvipa, which is very far away from this land . . . There is a beautiful song. Can you follow me?"
While feelingly staring at the beautiful golden deities, Prabhupada started to sing Parama Karuna. Just by uttering the first two words of the song, Prabhupada's voice choked up and tears of love came out of his closed eyes.
Having been so fortunate to witness Prabhupada's genuine spiritual emotion, and noting my own material conditioning, I felt humbled. As a result, this verse from Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.14.23) has come to mean very much to me: "If one's hairs do not stand on end, how can the heart melt? And if the heart does not melt, how can tears of love flow from the eyes? If one does not cry in spiritual happiness, how can one render loving service to the Lord? And without such service, how can the consciousness be purified?"
After a few minutes Prabhupada came back to external consciousness, eyes shining with spiritual emotions. He said, "Parama karuna. . . Lord Caitanya is so merciful. If He had come to kill the demons like Krsna did, then practically speaking almost nobody would be left in Kali-yuga. In this age the divine and the demoniac spirit are in the same body, and Lord Caitanya came to kill the demoniac spirit with the chanting of the holy name of Krsna. You are very fortunate because you received Lord Caitanya's mercy. Now, you have to make others fortunate too."
Since that day our deities came to be known as Parama Karuna Gaura-Nitai.
Srila Prabhupada stayed for seven days in Caracas, and during his visit he had interviews with professors, psychiatrists, the Metaphysics Society, and a yoga group. Every day he would go to a park for his morning walk. Bolivar the lawyer accompanied Prabhupada every morning and asked questions, which Prabhupada enjoyed answering.
Ancient Vedic Culture in South America?
One morning at the park Srila Prabhupada told the devotees that Lord Ramacandra was once taken through a tunnel from Sri Lanka to Brazil, where Ravana's brother Mahiravana had his headquarters. When the demons told the Lord to bow down in front of goddess Kali to sacrifice Him before her, Lord Ramacandra asked them to show Him how to do it. When they bowed down, the Lord took a sword and chopped off their heads. Interestingly, near the ISKCON farm in the Amazon in Brazil is an ancient town called Hanuman. Also in the Amazon in Venezuela is a mountain called Meru.
On one morning walk, Prabhupada stopped to watch some alligators swimming in a lake. One of them stopped to look and opened his mouth to show his big teeth.
Prabhupada jokingly told him, "You have good arguments to catch, but no opportunity to catch."
The alligator closed his mouth and opened it back again.
Prabhupada smiled and said, "No food. He is inviting us!"
On February 22, 1975, there was an initiation ceremony, and many devotees from Venezuela and other countries in Latin America were initiated by Srila Prabhupada.
When I was called to receive initiation, Prabhupada told me: "Your name is Jagat Caksur Dasa. Jagat Caksur means 'the eye of the world.' In whatever situation or place we may be, we should always feel God's sight on us. He is the witness of everything that we do. We should always remember that."
Prabhupada pointed his finger at me and said, "You cannot hide from the eyes of God!"
I felt that Prabhupada was reading my mind, because sometimes I used to go to the kitchen, steal a sweet, and hide somewhere to eat it, thinking nobody was watching me. Now I felt that Prabhupada had caught me in front of everyone.
This incident made me more Krsna conscious, and I appreciated Prabhupada's words very much. In Prabhupada's company everything was surcharged with Krsna consciousness, and I felt secure and protected from the illusion of maya. Prabhupada spoke from the transcendental platform, and his nectarean words penetrated the dense darkness of my heart, enlightening my being with the clear understanding that I am the eternal servant of Krsna.
Continue the Enthusiasm
Inevitably the morning of Srila Prabhupada's departure arrived. In front of the deities, Prabhupada said that he felt happy in the Caracas temple and petitioned everyone to faithfully continue performing devotional service so that in this same lifetime they would be able to see Krsna face to face.
Quoting Srila Rupa Gosvamis Nectar of Instruction, Prabhupada said: "Utsahat. The first thing is enthusiasm—that 'I must see Krsna.' You are seeing Krsna. The deity of Krsna and Krsna are not different. But even personally we can see. Simply we have to continue the enthusiasm. Enthusiasm means to take things very seriously—utsahat. Dhairyat—and patiently. Although we are determined to go back to home, back to Godhead, we should patiently follow the rules and regulations."
At the airport Hridayananda Goswami presented Srila Prabhupada the First Canto of the Spanish Srimad-Bhagavatam, which had just arrived at the airport from Los Angeles. Prabhupada left Venezuela with the book in his hand.
Prabhupada's visit created a very spiritual, harmonious atmosphere in the temple. The devotees felt that his visit had passed too quickly, and keenly felt separation from him, not knowing when they would again have a chance to see him. But by Krsna's mercy more than thirty devotees from the Caracas temple were able to see Prabhupada again at the first New York Rathayatra, in July 1976.
In a letter, Prabhupada wrote, "I am always thinking of the Caracas temple. Although I went there once, it has given me some impression."
Although Prabhupada has disappeared from our mundane vision, he stays forever in the heart of all his sincere followers, guiding them through their sojourn in this material world, and always calling them back home, back to Godhead.
Jagat Caksur Dasa, born in Syria, emigrated at an early age to Venezuela, where he was later initiated by Srila Prabhupada. He has served in Central and Latin America as well as Spain and Portugal. This article was excerpted from a Spanish book he wrote entitled Srila Prabhupada en Venezuela. He translated the excerpt into English, and it was then edited by Karuna Dharini Devi Dasi and Ananda Tirtha Dasa.
When Lord Rama asked the sage Agastya to suggest an area where He could build a hermitage, Agastya directed Him to this place.
Text and photos by Adbhuta Hari Dasa
As described in Valmiki's Ramayana, at the time of Lord Ramacandra the Nashik area was a peaceful and attractive forest that abundantly supplied all the needs of its inhabitants. Lord Rama, along with Sita and Laksmana, spent time here during His exile from Ayodhya. Today Nashik is abundant with pilgrims and is attractive because of many beautiful temples, which are a testimony to its rich, eventful history.
The name Nashik derives from the word nasika, Sanskrit for "nose." It was here that Laksmana cut off the nose of the demoness Surpanakha, Ravana's younger sister.
On the first day of my stay in Nashik, my guide, Yogesh, suggested we visit the Triambakeshwar Temple, located in a small village twenty-eight kilometers from Nashik. The temple is dedicated to Lord Siva. (Tri means "three,"ambaka "eye," and isvara "controller.") This marvelous temple made of intricately carved black stone is famous because this is one of the twelve places where Lord Siva is self-manifested in a phallic form (jyotirlinga). He appeared here because he was pleased by the austerities of the sage Gautama. [See the sidebar "The Origin of Triambakeshwar."] The extraordinary feature of this jyotirlinga is that it has three faces: Brahma, Visnu, and Siva.
After seeing the deity of Lord Siva, we walked for about one kilometer and arrived at Kushavarta, a pond built by the sage Gautama. The pond is so named because it was formerly surrounded by kusha grass, used for worship. Today a pillared hall and a few temples surround it. The pond is at the foothills of Brahmagiri Mountain, the source of the Godavari River. On Brahmagiri, pilgrims visit a temple of Ganga Devi (the Ganges), a cave where sage Gautama performed austerities, and Rama-Lakshman Pond, where it is believed that Lord Rama stopped for a few days to performed ceremonies on behalf of his departed father, King Dasaratha.
The next day, in Nashik, we bathed in the sacred Ramkund, where people offer oblations to their forefathers, as Lord Rama did. Beside Ramkund is a small temple of the Godavari River. It is opened only every twelfth year, during the Nashik Kumbha-mela, a great festival.
After bathing, we went to Tapovan ("forest of penance"), situated on the bank of the Godavari and Kapila rivers some six kilometers south of Ramkund. On the spot where the Kapila meets the Godavari is Kapila Tirtha, where Lord Kapila performed austerities. Under a large banyan tree sits a small shrine where a deity of Lord Laksmana is worshiped. Next to it is a small room containing a sculpture of Laksmana cutting off the nose of Surpanakha. Local people believe this to be the spot where this incident took place.
The most interesting temples in Nashik are the Sundara Narayana Temple, the Kapaleswar Temple, the Naroshankar Temple, and the Kala Rama Temple, all built from black stone in eighteenth century. They are situated in the Panchavati area, close to the Godavari River. Panchavati is where Lord Rama, Laksmana, and Sita lived. [See the sidebar "At Home in Panchavati."] The name means "the place of five banyan trees," and even today there are five banyan trees here. Next to them is a wooden house in which there is a small cave called Sita Gumpha. Deities of Rama, Laksmana, and Sita are installed inside.
It is believed that Sita took shelter in this cave when an army attacked Lord Rama. Ravana kidnapped Sita in Panchavati, so that event, as well Lord Rama's killing of Marica in the form of a deer, are exhibited in the room across from Sitas cave.
Spending several days in Nashik, Yogesh and I found great inspiration visiting the holy places. But we were disappointed to see that pilgrims are more interested in performing rituals for material rewards than in learning about the activities of Lord Rama here. The renounced sages who live here were unable to answer our questions about the real spiritual significance of the place. Even in a holy place like Nashik, spiritual knowledge about our relationship with the Supreme Person seems to be lost under the influence of this age. Fortunately, we have found spiritual direction by hearing from previous spiritual masters in our line and from Srila Prabhupada and his faithful followers.
Adbhuta Hari Dasa, from Croatia, is based at the ISKCON temple in Baroda, Gujarat, India. He travels with a group of devotees distributing Srila Prabhupada's books.
Nashisk is about 190 km northeast of Mimbai.
How to Get There
Where to Stay
Where to Eat
For more information, consult Holy Places and Temples of India, by Jada Bharata Dasa, available from the Krishna.com Store.
The Origin of Triambakeshwar
From Siva Purana
Once the sage Gautama performed great penance to invoke rain. When the deva Varuna, who is in charge of water, appeared before him, Gautama requested him to cause it to rain. Varuna replied that if Gautama pleased Lord Siva, his desire would be fulfilled.
Later, Varuna told Gautama to dig a pit, which Varuna then filled with water. Varuna blessed Gautama by saying that this pond would never dry up. The sages who had abandoned that place because of the drought then returned there.
One day, sage Gautama instructed his disciples to fetch some water from the pond. When the disciples reached there, they came upon the wives of numerous sages, who would not allow them to take water and instead rebuked them. The disciples returned to the hermitage and told Gautama what had happened.
Ahalya, Gautama's wife, pacified the angry disciples and went to the pond to fetch water. This became her daily routine. One day Ahalya met the wives of the sages at the pond, and they tried to prevent her from fetching water. When they returned to their hermitages and told their husbands what had happened, the sages became angry that Ahalya was trying to use the pond.
The sages worshiped Ganesa to please him. When Ganesa appeared, they requested him to drive Gautama from that place. At first Ganesa was reluctant to comply, but when they persisted he agreed at last. Disguised as a cow, Ganesa entered Gautama's barley field and started grazing. Gautama tried to drive out the cow by hitting her on the back with a bundle of grass. The artificial cow died instantly. Gautama was very sorry for his act. But when all the sages from the surrounding area arrived there, they forced Gautama to abandon that place at once.
Gautama left and made his hermitage at a little distance from there. One day he came to the sages and asked them how he could atone for his sin of killing a cow. The sages told him that he would have to walk around the earth three times, all the while saying, "I have killed a cow." They also told him that after that he would have to perform austerities for one month.
As an alternative, the sages said that Gautama could help Ganga manifest herself and take bath in her water. Or he could worship thirty million Siva lingas.
Gautama made the Siva lingas and started worshiping them. Lord Siva, pleased by his devotion, appeared before him. Gautama requested Lord Siva to free him from the sin of killing a cow. He also requested Lord Siva to manifest the river Ganges there.
Lord Siva tried his best to make Gautama understand that he was innocent and that the real culprits were the wicked sages. But Gautama was unconvinced. At last Siva instructed Ganga to appear in the form of a woman. Gautama eulogized Ganga, and by the blessings of Lord Siva, Gautama was freed from the sin of killing a cow.
When Ganga asked to leave, Lord Siva asked her to stay on the earth. Ganga consented on the condition that Lord Siva and Goddess Parvati would also stay on earth. So Lord Siva established himself as Triambakeshwar jyotirlinga, and Ganga becamefamous as Gautami Ganga.
At Home in Panchavati
They had arrived at Panchavati. Rama looked around and said: "Lakshmana, this is the place which was indicated by the sage Agastya. Look at those trees laden with flowers and the river which is so near! This must be Panchavati. Look around, Lakshmana. You know only too well the kind of place I would like. Look for a place where there is enough water for us to perform our daily worship of the gods. Sita should be happy and we should have peace. Trees should be around and Samith [firewood], darbha grass and flowers should be within reach. Build for us an ashrama in such a place."
Lakshmana said: "I am but your servant, Rama. I will build the ashrama but the choice of the location should be yours. I will not presume to know where it should be." Rama smiled at the words of Lakshmana and together they looked around for a suitable site. After some rambling around they found the ideal place. Rama took Lakshmana's hand in his and said: "Look, this place seems to me to be best suited for our purpose. The ground is level and it is surrounded by trees in abundance. Build an ashrama here for us. Close by is a small stream, and the perfume of lotuses floating on its surface reaches us here. And just across, some distance from here, is the river Godavari which the rishi told us about. There are mountains, and herds of deer are roaming on the slopes. Peacocks are dancing everywhere and the mountains have several minerals that glow red, white and yellow. The green of the trees together with these colours present the appearance of a painted picture. The elephants stand out against this colourful background as though they are etched in space. I like this picturesque Panchavati. Let us live here."
Lakshmana built an ashrama there on the site indicated by Rama. He brought lotuses from the river Godavari after bathing in it. He made an offering of flowers to the gods that guarded the forest and spoke words prescribed for averting evil. He went to Rama and Sita. He told them that the ashrama was ready for them.
Rama saw how well-planned it was and how sturdily built. He was enchanted with it. He embraced Lakshmana warmly and said: "I am very pleased with you. You have done me a very good service and the only way I can thank you for it is to embrace you. You are wise, you are righteous, and, even without being told about it, you know what my wishes are. My father, I think, is not dead but is here, before me in the form of my brother." Rama was shedding tears of joy and Lakshmana stood with an embarrassed smile on his face.
They lived happily in that ashrama for a long while without any disturbance. Sita enjoyed collecting flowers and stringing them, making friends with the birds, the deer and the peacocks. Rama was like Indra in Amaravati. He was happy.
The mistreatment of cows rips the fabric of India's esteemed heritage.
by Braja Sevaki Devi Dasi
The I-5 freeway that runs between Los Angeles and San Francisco is a long, straight stretch of road. The landscape is bordered to the west by barren mountains whose brown, smooth folds, like loose skin, belie a rugged terrain.
For almost half the length of this 400-odd mile road, as far as the eye can see to the east are constant green splashes of farming—miles of orange trees and other crops planted by optimistic farmers on irrigated, otherwise barren, desert soil.
Somewhere around the middle of this journey, the landscape begins to resemble an alien nation. Coming over a rise of land, one sees brown soil covered by thousands of cows. At first sight, the mass of seething bodies is hard to identify, or perhaps the mind just hesitates to accept it. When recognition dawns, the effect is powerful and, for a cow lover, emotional. The smell in the air—even through the air conditioning vents of the car—is thick, earthy, pungent. A truck circles the vast expanse of cowhood, spraying water to temper the dust and (perhaps) cool the cows that stand in morose clusters with no water, food, or shade.
This is not a cattle farm. It is a waiting room for a slaughterhouse. These cows are on death row.
Now on to India
This is, of course, an American vista, not a scene one would imagine encountering in India. But in the holy land of the sacred cow, a controversy rages about the prevention—or legalization—of cow slaughter. One Hindu (lapsed, no doubt) even wrote an editorial in one of the country's leading newspapers, speaking of his "freedom of choice" when it came to killing cows to eat them. No such consideration for the cow, though . . . alarming sentiments from a person whose whole history, both cultural and spiritual, is one of protecting the cow.
In a Western country this issue wouldn't attract even a paragraph of media attention. Slaughterhouses dot landscapes across the world. Sanitized, packaged, and colored to perfection, meat is sold in air-conditioned stores with piped music, surroundings designed to lull the senses into a peaceful shopping ambience. Nowhere do you hear the screaming of cows or see the blood-soaked tunics of slaughterers; nowhere can you smell the stench of death or see the filth and putrefaction of dead flesh as it is torn from bones and sinew, the skins "tanned" in the most vile smelling process imaginable.
But in India? Surely it's not possible that the most venerated of God's creatures should be subjected to this kind of treatment in India. As unreal as it may seem, state boundaries and religious leaders can do nothing at present to stop the slaughter. Whatever restrictions apply are easily avoided by running herds of cows across state borders so they can be legally slaughtered in a state that has no respect for the ancient laws of God or the more recent ones of godly men. Yet history shows that this is hardly a current issue. In the 1800s, violence erupted between Muslim and Hindu groups over the slaughter of cows. Even as far back as the sixteenth century, rulers like Aurangzeb and Akbar decreed bans on cow slaughter out of respect for the brahminical and Jain communities.
The current call for a nationwide ban on cow slaughter parallels a demand for its legalization. The concern of both groups, apparently, is the treatment and condition of cows who are the victims of illegal cattle running scams. Cow slaughter is legal in only two Indian states: West Bengal in the east and Kerala in the south. For a country that supports a $4 billion worldwide leather trade, this raises suspicions of how such an enormous amount of money can be generated from just these two states. The fact is, illegal traders run border lines and bribe authorities to turn a blind eye and allow their trucks through. Even the government-operated train lines are used in the illegal transportation of cattle between state borders.
A Cultural Problem
And so we see an ancient culture rise to the test of maintaining its standards and setting an example to the world. The nation is divided over an issue which, if dealt with in the light of scripture and culture, wouldn't be an issue at all. But in the desperation to keep up with the West, Indians have succumbed to the ideas of multi-nationals who think it's okay to destroy a football-field-sized portion of forest every few minutes or so to graze cattle being fatted up for the kill.
Alarmingly, one article suggests that, in defense of the suffering cows, their slaughter be legalized to "prevent them suffering any further"that is, eliminate the black market cattle runners by legalizing cow slaughter:
"Villagers can't afford to keep unproductive cows. They're not saints," says Bangalore animal-welfare worker Suparna Baksi-Ganguly. "Slaughter has to be made more accessible—suppressing it causes greater misery to the animals."
A nice, healthy, rounded approach to the slaughter of India's sacred image? I think the cows would disagree. But it's an interesting angle to use in support of a thick-steak-per night habit, and it's a subtle attempt to show that religion, not the animal slaughterers, undermines the safety of cows. Because someone can't maintain or respect religious standards, best legalize the barbaric slaughter of these holy creatures so that they are not put in "greater misery."
Perhaps this "animal-welfare worker" is ignorant of India's ancient culture and scriptures and therefore doesn't understand that killing a cow is akin to killing one's own mother. One website states that banning cow slaughter contradicts "the secular vision of the Constitution." Would we be so concerned with contradicting the Constitution if our mothers and sisters were being killed?
Perhaps the most alarming point of all is the lack of consideration of karma. In a country where most religions accept the principle of reincarnation, it seems to be conveniently forgotten when it comes to cow slaughter. But the reactions for killing are guaranteed, and selective memory won't help us at the time of death.
In a conversation recorded in Chicago in 1975, Srila Prabhupada pointed out the results of cow slaughter on an international scale:
Disciple: So the wars and the crime are a direct result of the cow slaughter.
The knowledge available in the Vedic scriptures translated by Srila Prabhupada is more than the religious portion of a vague, irrelevant culture. The Vedic culture is a scientific formula for human behavior, a guide to living in any age. Unfortunately in this age, Kali-yuga, only remnants of the culture remain. In the Caitanya-caritamrta, Lord Caitanya says, "In this Age of Kali most people are bereft of Vedic culture, and therefore they are called yavanas. They are concerned only with killing cows and brahminical culture. In this way they all engage in sinful acts."
One would expect something different from the nation that is the source of such an ancient and powerful culture. Instead we see Westerners adopting the spiritual practices and religion of the Vedas. Thousands have taken to the Vedic philosophy and have given up their habits of Western life. Westerners in India often promote the Vedic culture, even to the extent of trying to turn Indians back to vegetarianism. Within the supposedly sacred borders of India, Westerners who have chosen India as their home constantly see environments that resemble the West that they so longed to escape. "Mother India" is fast becoming a spiritually barren wasteland in comparison to her former glory. In one Calcutta newspaper recently, I read an article about the "growth phenomena" of vegetarian restaurants. At first glance it would appear that India is turning away from the influence of the West and back to the culture that was the valuable foundation of the nation. Yet on further inspection it seems that instead, it's simply a case of dancing to the tune of America, where vegetarianism is a trend and vegetarian restaurants are common.
As Srila Prabhupada pointed out, the Indian culture is a shadow of it's former glory, and not much evidence of it remains:
Disciple: At least here [India] there is Indian culture.
Yet the Vedic culture has its roots here, and as Srila Prabhupada also said, modern-day Indian civilization could be compared to a dead elephant. An elephant is such a valuable creature that even when dead, because of its tusks and hide it remains almost as valuable as when alive and working. Similarly, although the Indian culture is practically dead, India still has great potential. That potential is the Vedic culture, the true spiritual culture.
And not only for Indians. Westerners have one thing in their favor that will move them to adopt fine elements of this culture: their dominance in the advancement of modern society and their trendsetting tendencies. This consumer strength is a powerful one, and can be used in a positive direction. All it takes is for someone to realize the strength, beauty, and power of the Vedic culture, and to take it up as a viable alternative to the madness that passes for modern civilization. In turn, the Indians will see how "Vedic" is done Western style in the twenty-first century.
Braja Sevaki Devi Dasi is a disciple of His Holiness Tamal Krsna Goswami. She is the author of three books, and her poetry has been published in Australia and Britain. She lives in Mayapur with her husband, Jahnu Dvipa Dasa.
BHURIDA: The Most Munificent
by Lokanath Swami
While devotees from far and wide offered prasadam to Lord Jagannatha during the Rathayatra festival, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu stopped His dancing and went to a nearby garden. There, immersed in a great ecstatic emotion, He fell flat upon a raised platform. Fragrant, cool breezes refreshed His transcendental form, covered with perspiration due to the hard labor of dancing. The devotees who had performed sankirtana also came there and took rest under every tree.
King Prataparudra entered the garden in the dress of a Vaisnava. With folded hands he humbly took permission from the devotees and, summoning all his courage, fell down and touched Lord Caitanya's feet.
The king began expertly massaging the Lord's legs while reciting the Gopi-gita from the Srimad-Bhagavatam. As Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu lay there with His eyes closed in a mood of ecstatic love, He became pleased beyond limits and said repeatedly, "Go on reciting! Go on reciting!"
Upon hearing the verse beginning with tava kathamrtam, the Lord rose up and embraced King Prataparudra, saying, "You have given me invaluable gems, but I have nothing to give you in return. Therefore I am simply embracing you."
The Lord then recited that verse again and again as both he and the king trembled, tears flowing from their eyes.
The Lord told King Prataparudra, "You are bhurida [the most munificent]." Then He bestowed upon that fortunate king His great and powerful mercy, making his life successful.
This is the verse—spoken by the gopis to Lord Krsna—that so increased Lord Caitanya's ecstatic mood:
tava kathamrtam tapta-jivanamkavibhir iditam kal masapaham
"The nectar of Your words and the descriptions of Your activities are the life and soul of those suffering in this material world. These narrations, transmitted by learned sages, eradicate one's sinful reactions and bestow good fortune upon whoever hears them. These narrations are broadcast all over the world and are filled with spiritual power. Certainly those who spread the message of Godhead are most munificent." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.31.9)
One can easily imagine Lord Caitanya embracing Srila Prabhupada and speaking these same words—"Your are bhurida."Srila Prabhupada's whole life was dedicated to bringing the message of Godhead to everyone on the planet. He helped fulfill Lord Caitanya's prophecy that in every village His holy names would be chanted. He made available the transcendental narrations of ancient sages through more than sixty volumes of sacred literature, painstakingly filled with his Bhaktivedanta purports. His conversations alone fill almost forty books. He gave hundreds of lectures on Bhagavad-gita and Bhagavatam. He inspired Rathayatra festivals worldwide, taught us deity worship, and in the midst of all his preaching had time to write eight thousand letters to guide and uplift his followers.
Srila Prabhupada writes, "Even a little of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's mercy serves as a great asset for spiritual advancement. Therefore the Krsna consciousness movement must be spread through the mercy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. The Lord's special mission is the deliverance of all fallen souls in Kali-yuga."
Because Srila Prabhupada was fully dedicated to Lord Caitanya's mission, he was a complete embodiment of His mercy.
Becoming Bhurida Ourselves
Every December, ISKCON undertakes a marathon to distribute Srila Prabhupada's books. By taking part, we can all become bhurida. December also corresponds with Gita Jayanti, the month in which Krsna spoke Bhagavad-gita. And this December is especially significant because this is Srila Prabhupada's 108th anniversary year.
We encourage everyone—temple devotees, life members, congregation members, and friends—to take advantage of this time of year to distribute as many of Srila Prabhupada's books as possible. If we help Srila Prabhupada serve Lord Caitanya's mission, we will receive the unlimited mercy of his bountiful and loving blessings upon us. Then surely Lord Caitanya's golden arms will open wide to embrace each of us. What a glorious opportunity to receive benedictions from the ocean of mercy and make our lives successful!
FEATURED 108 EVENTS
October 28-November 26: Vrndavana Karttika Festival—Join the tour of Krsna's holy places in Vrndavana, India, during a month of festivals.
November 14-16: Vrndavana Prabhupada's Disappearance Day Festival—Srila Prabhupada's departure from this world is celebrated in all ISKCON temples worldwide with remembrances, offerings, arati, and a feast.
December 18-19: World Enlightenment Weekend—Devotees take time to join in the spirit of distributing books. This weekend gives us all an opportunity to go out armed with Srila Prabhupada's books and shower them into the laps of faithful conditioned souls. Prabhupada ordered us, "Distribute books, distribute books, distribute books." Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
December 22: Gita Jayanti Day—(Contact your local temple for dates.) Lord Krsna spoke Bhagavad-gita on this day. Huge quantities of the book are distributed in commemoration.
December 1-31: Prabhupada Book Distribution Marathon—Devotees worldwide commit to distributing large quantities of Prabhupada's books throughout the month. Contact email@example.com for details.
• 108 Ways You Can Get Involved (download from website)
January: Mumbai Re-enactment of Original Pandal Program
by Caitanya Carana Dasa
"Artificial rains soothe Maharashtra." Headlines like these have been a frequent sight in recent newspapers in India. Accompanying the headlines are mind-grabbing images of a political leader and a scientist flying in an airplane, shooting a chemical spray into the clouds, and bringing down the rains. For people tormented by prolonged water scarcity, artificial rainfall seems to be a graphic demonstration of the power of technology to counter human suffering caused by the vagaries of nature.
If we look more closely, though, we'll see a picture quite different from the hype. To begin with, the name "artificial rains" is misleading; all that is done is that scientists stimulate rainfall from naturally formed clouds. Contrary to the hype, cloud seeding, as it's called, can therefore offer no relief to drought affected areas, where there are generally no clouds anyway. Also, ordinary cumulus clouds—the kind of clouds most often found in the sky—are too small to produce any worthwhile rains by seeding. Further, because of unpredictable wind motions, no one can control where cloud seeding will cause rains. American meteorologist Chuck Doswell explains that the rain at the ground from a seeder's typical target cloud—a fairly large cloud ten km tall and ten km in diameter—would be on the order of 1of an inch. Not much of a result—just about enough to wet the sidewalk.
Hence it needs to be seriously examined whether the Rs 5.6 crore (US$1.24 million) that the Maharashtra government has spent on Project Varsha leads to commensurate returns. Moreover, no exhaustive studies have been done about the likely side-effects of cloud seeding, which, American scientists like Johnny Micou say, include flooding, tornadoes, rain suppression, and silver iodide toxicity.
Cloud seeding has dubious benefits and may be harmful. Using it in public areas is like testing an unproven drug on humans—and making them pay for both for the drug and its side-effects. Unconscionable, isn't it?
Our Dependence On Nature
While the desire to reduce the sufferings of the drought-afflicted is not wrong, the method of forcible extortion of the rains from the clouds is questionable. Science has long believed that if we understand nature, we can control it. But we're discovering that we'd be better off cooperating with nature. Our tinkering with nature disturbs its balance and often leads to calamity.
The sheer magnitude of the natural forces is awesome, as is our dependence on them. In the science magazine Nature (May 15, 1997), researchers from the University of Maryland presented the world with a "bill to nature" for $16 trillion to $54 trillion dollars per year for the natural resources and raw materials we take from nature: food, water, air, lumber, rocks, metals, jewels, oil, and so forth. Our cosmic bill to the sun is no less. American scientist Dr. Edwin Kessler has calculated that if we had to pay five cents per kilowatt-hour (a relatively cheap price) for the energy provided by the sun every day over the state of Oklahoma, the cost would be around $60 billion per day.
Consciousness Controls Nature
Science would have us believe that cosmic change governs the forces of nature. The Vedic texts consider this understanding nanve and uninformed. Vedic science posits the existence in the cosmos not only of physical elements and forces, but also of conscious elements, especially a supreme conscious intelligence behind everything.
The idea of a conscious intelligence orchestrating nature is becoming much more scientifically acceptable. Many scientists doubt that nature can be explained only in mechanistic terms. The more scientists study nature, the more they are stunned by its astounding order, awesome energy, incredible intricacy, and masterly harmony.
"Everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science," wrote Albert Einstein, "becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe—a spirit vastly superior to that of man."
Mounting empiric evidence is confirming this conclusion. "Consciousness controls nature" is the working principle of New Age gardeners who seek communion with their plants and crops as a means for higher yields. A vivid example is the Findhorn farm community in Scotland, which grows amazing flowers and vegetation on barren, sandy soil. Dorothy Maclean, a member of the original family that started farming in Findhorn in the 1960s, explains their gardening secret: she communicates telepathically with the nature spirits and "devas" in charge of the garden, and all the gardening is done exactly according to their instruc tions. Many people are likely to be skeptical about such a claim, but the miraculous abundance is well documented and is there for everyone to see—and it defies traditional scientific notions. The idea is catching on: These days any trendy urban bookshop can supply at least a few deva gardening manuals.
The Vedic texts not only assert that a supreme conscious being, God, controls all the natural phenomena, but they also stress the need for harmonizing with Him. As citizens of the universe, we're expected to obey the cosmic government headed by God and pay cosmic taxes for the universal utilities of light, heat, air, and water. The traditional Vedic method of remitting cosmic taxes is through elaborate fire sacrifices (yajnas) accompanied by the precise chanting of specific mantras.
On superficial examination, yajnas may seem a colossal waste of resources: ghee, silk, and grains are put into fire. But Vedic followers offer oblations into the sacred fire to appease the cosmic controller and receive profusely all the gifts of nature in return. The proof of the authenticity of the yajnas is the resulting prosperity. The prosperity of ancient India is described both in the Vedic literature and by many scholars and historians. India's prosperity, derived from acting in harmony with the cosmos, continued till even a few centuries ago. Experts in Vedic science explain that the neglect and rejection of the Vedic principles by modern Indians has caused the present downfall of India.
Vedic science thus reveals the real cause of the present water-crisis: non-cooperation with the cosmic govern ment. Trying to extort water from the clouds is hi-tech robbery. Like a common thief, we might get something out of it, but we'll suffer in the end. We've seen this in other areas. For example, we increased crop yields with fertilizers but ended up with barren soil; we fed animals artificial food to fatten them,and ended up with mad cow disease. Trying to avoid paying our universal bills just doesn't work.
For modern times, the Vedic texts recommend a method of cosmic bill paying more practical than fire yajnas. In the present age of Kali, the recommended Vedic sacrifice is the sonic glorification of the Supreme Lord, as confirmed in the Bhagavad-gita (10.25), where Lord Krsna says, yajnanam japa-yajno 'smi: "Of sacrifices, I am the chanting of the holy names." Sonic control of matter should not be difficult for us to relate to; most of us have probably heard of fans that turn on and off by the clapping of hands. From the Vedic perspective, this sort of sonic technology is crude and rudimentary. The sonic technology, or, more accurately, the mantra technology, that the Vedic texts talk about is of a level of sophistication that modern science is yet to fathom. Mantras are powerful sounds attuned with various phenomena in nature and with the predominating deities controlling them. Hence the chanting of the Vedic mantras can harmonize modern society with the cosmic state and thus bring about sustainable prosperity. The mantra most pleasing to the Supreme Lord, and thus able to satisfy all obligations, is the maha-mantra: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Is It Blind Faith?
The idea of chanting mantras for rain may be difficult to digest. But it becomes much less difficult once we see the wisdom of the idea that God controls nature. And if we look at nature closely, that idea is hard to avoid.
For example, let's look at nature's water-supply system. Millions of gallons of water move through the airways in clouds. The design of these water tanks is so astounding that an airplane can pass right through them and they won't leak. Further, variations in pressure and temperature turn water vapor into cloud droplets, which come together to form rains drops. But raindrops tend to grow only to a certain size. If raindrops grew to huge sizes, rain would destroy life rather than sustain it. But raindrops usually come down in the right size, and gently, seldom hurting even a blade of grass.
It takes blind faith to believe that this wondrous and benevolent arrangement is happening by itself, by chance. No wonder then that the renowned physicist Kelvin said, "If you think deeply enough you will be forced by science to believe in God." Once we have scaled the intellectual hurdle in understanding that God controls nature, we can more easily comprehend the effect of mantras on natural phenomena. Just as we need to know medical science before we can understand how medicine put into the mouth can heal a pain in the foot, so we need to know higher-dimensional science before we can understand how mantra technology can activate rainfall.
We should cooperate with nature through the gentle science of mantra, instead of bludgeoning her into submission through science. John Milton has therefore wisely said in his Paradise Lost, "Accuse not Nature, she hath done her part; do thou but thine."
"The Hare Krsnas shaved their heads like us, so they couldn't be that bad."
by Manoharini Devi Dasi
The following is dedicated to His Holiness Sridhara Swami, who asked me to write about this experience, my steppingstone into Krsna consciousness. He said it would purify me to write it and purify others to read it. Possibly some would relate it to a similar background.—MDD
I was born in the darkness of ignorance, and my spiritual masters opened my eyes with the torchlight of knowledge. I offer my respectful obeisances unto them.
I grew up in a regular Western household in eastern Canada. My mother stayed home to raise me, and my father worked as a wildlife biologist. When I was eleven years old, my parents, like so many today, decided to separate. My mother and grandmother moved to British Columbia. I went to school and worked part-time while my single mother worked hard at her job and tried to make ends meet. She was now mother and father. Like any teenager, I listened to a variety of music. Searching to find something to relate to, I stumbled across a fast beat with aggressive, blunt lyrics. The messages were antiwar, anti-racism, anti-hypocrisy—the list went on. It was the Punk Rock movement.
I had found something that blurted out the problems of the material world. No more generic love songs to band-aid the truth. Anarchy was much better than following lying, cheating political leaders, and we were going to tell the world what they needed to know.
The Punk Rock movement was similar to the hippie movement of the '60s and '70s. Yet the children of the next generation saw the need for a more radical and aggressive movement to take birth among the wilted daisies.
Soon I was going to see Vancouver Punk bands that played at various lower-eastside warehouses and bars. After shaving most of my head, I was coloring what was left of my hair and dressing as defiantly as possible. The music was angry but felt true in all its blunt, hardcore glory.
The gigs (concerts) were wild. Hurling my body off the stage into the "slam pit" (the slam-dancing crowd) was exhilarating and set my mind and pent-up frustration free, at least temporarily. We went to peace rallies and walks, some attended by Hare Krsna devotees. We went to anti-racism demonstrations, disregarded the police, and separated ourselves from the mainstream society as much as possible.
I had found a lifestyle with truth, rebellion, and spunk, yet somehow the frustrating material world, along with a headache, still appeared with the dawn each day.
Ching, Ching, Ching
One day, as I was walking through downtown Vancouver, I heard a ching, ching, ching from across the street. As I approached the corner, a Hare Krsna devotee emerged from a chanting party and handed me an invitation card to a Sunday Feast.
"No thanks!" I said sharply. "I don't take pamphlets from strange men who wear bed sheets!"
With that, I smugly walked off, snickering with my friends.
A year later, I was once again walking through downtown Vancouver with my friends when I noticed a strange-looking storefront. In the window was a small diorama of the cycle of birth and death along with some books.
"Look!" I said. "It's that Hare Krsna cult place."
On a self-dare, I ran in, peeked through the beaded doorway, and rushed out. Just as my foot left the doorway, a devotee stopped us in our tracks with a "Haribol! Are you hungry?" And, "Come on in. We have a free feast every Sunday."
We loved the freaky look and the wonderful exotic smells and decided to go in. Besides, they shaved their heads like us, so they couldn't be that bad.
After that first time, I would visit a couple of times a month with different friends each time. I recall getting a flower garland or a stick of incense once in a while. I always left feeling elated.
Off and on over the years I would see devotees, running into them here and there. I'd sometimes invite them to my apartment, which was in the middle of downtown. The devotees would bring pizza and halava prasadam, Srila Prabhupada's books, and kirtana. I always looked forward to going to the Rathayatra every year or two. It just felt right.
Years later I moved into the country with a boyfriend. As I uselessly pursued the domestic life, there came a day when I woke up with a powerful feeling: "Is this all there is to life?" I had been in the relationship for six years, had no future plans, was working in a dead-end home business, and, worse yet, had been eating fish and chicken after being a vegetarian for eight years. I felt I was on the wrong path.
In the mornings, I enjoyed playing my karatalas to one or two kirtana tapes. If I played them in the car, there would almost always be a volume war between the boyfriend and me. I had contact with one devotee family who had never given up on me. That was Yamala Arjuna Dasa and his great wife, Lilamrta Dasi. They would always keep contact via the mail, and I treasured opening the mailbox and finding a big letter with pictures of Srila Prabhupada and Krsna plastered all over the envelope. It seemed to glow in the dark mailbox. These were the same devotees who had given me my first taste of prasadam.
One day I got up and made my usual cup of morning herbal tea. Each teabag came with a little message attached to the teabag string. That morning it read, "Those who don't remember the past are forced to repeat it." It hit me hard and motivated me. It reminded me of karma, and karma reminded me of Krsna consciousness. It was time for me to make some major changes.
My mind took off. I thought for weeks about the feeling welling up inside of me that something was missing and that the material world is a jungle of dead ends, boredom, and temporary existence. I thought about the blissful feeling I had after listening to a kirtana tape or smelling the fragrance of flowers and incense permeating the air at the devotees' downtown center and at the temple.
I remembered the peaceful feeling deep in my soul as I walked through the Rathayatra parades. There was the mist of scented rosewater sprayed on the crowd of beautiful devotees to cool them down in kirtana. There was the deep resonating beat of the mrdanga drum pounding through my stone heart. I remembered seeing Jagannatha, Balarama, and Subhadra on their cart and the devotees pulling them along the beachfront road. The deities seemed to be playing a transcendental game of peek-a-boo to increase the devotees' love for them. The billowing clouds of frankincense would dance in front of the Lord and then be cleared away by the strong winds from the ocean. There were stacks of flowers and fruit at the Lord's lotus feet. I thought that anyone who had missed this experience had to be out of his or her mind. What could compare to this? I remembered how beautiful and happy the devotees looked. I remembered the smell of tilaka and the first time I had put some on. Could I put this on every day? Could I really become a Hare Krsna? Was this what I'd been missing all my life?
I had come to the realization that my redundant cravings for the Punk Rock lifestyle would never give me a solution to the frustrating and twisted way of material life. I was sick of the record skipping in the same groove of life, and I craved the reality of Krsna consciousness in all its beauty and purity.
A Quick Exit
When I had made my decision, I couldn't move fast enough to leave the relationship and the home we had bought together. I went to a trade school and was a nail technician for a short time while doing some service in the garden of the Vancouver temple, New Gokula Dham. Before I knew it, I was working at Govinda's Restaurant and had moved a few blocks from the temple. I felt at home at last.
I've had many spiritual masters on this long journey. In 1996, I met His Holiness Bhaktimarga Swami, and by his mercy I received first initiation in 2000 and brahminical initiation in 2002. I feel extremely grateful to be able to personally serve Lord Jagannatha, the Lord of the universe, as His pujari, after seeing Him from afar for so long. Krsna has allowed me to serve many wonderful devotees. Krsna has also allowed me to marry a wonderful devotee, and we have three sons. We feel truly blessed.
Had Srila Prabhupada not fulfilled the order of his spiritual master and brought the glorious gift of Krsna consciousness to the West, there would be many more frustrated souls searching in a desert of darkness, hypocrisy, and repetition. Srila Prabhupada has given us Krsna consciousness in all its glory. It's the greatest gift the material world will ever receive.
From saving Krsna's temple, to spreading Krsna's message to other youth, Pandava Sena celebrates its tenth anniversary.
by Nima Suchak
Pandava Sena is the student arm of ISKCON UK, and one of Britain's most dynamic youth groups. This year marks the tenth anniversary of the PS, as it is fondly known, formed initially as a protest body to save ISKCON's UK head quarters, the Bhaktivedanta Manor outside London.
Ten years on, PS aims to create a spiritual revolution. With members aged from fifteen to twenty-five, the group innovatively educates and engages youth in the Krsna conscious life through dynamic events and activities.
Though Pandava Sena has a majority British Asian membership, it also has many members from other backgrounds. Nine thousand people identify with Pandava Sena and attend its events around the world—festivals, vacations, home programs, sadhana groups, university events—coordinated by about one hundred of its members.
Dawn of a New Era
"Get this ban pushed aside, build our road big and wide . . . Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna . . ."
The slogan was chanted throughout the streets of London. It was January 1994, and over ten years had passed in the battle to save Bhaktivedanta Manor from shutting down. With only ten weeks left before the prospective closure, the youth rallied together to make a statement.
Romapada Dasa, one of the group's inspirers, recalls the day Pandava Sena was established.
"I and two other young devotees—Pradyumna Dasa and Navina Krsna Dasa—outlined the goals, agendas, and structure of a youth group to specifically serve the campaign."
It was decided that the group would take the cause to the streets, the media, and the government.
Romapada adds: "Akhandadhi Dasa, the temple president at the time, approved the idea. And there it was. Our name: The Pandava Sena—'The Pandavas' Army.' Our symbol: the Hanuman flag."
The youth group's presence gave the whole campaign momentum and forced concerned people to realize the severity of the issue: If they didn't act, Bhaktivedanta Manor would close.
Pandava Sena's first rally was a candlelit vigil outside the London temple, followed by two protest marches before the Houses of Parliament. The first march attracted over 36,000 people. During the second march, as Big Ben struck 3:00 P.M. on May 12, 1994, Pandava Sena members and others led 5,000 people to throw themselves onto the streets before the Houses of Parliament, bringing central London to a standstill.
Sivarama Swami remembers: "I recall the exuberance of the Pandava Sena members as they returned to their buses after the event. Intoxicated with Lord Caitanya's mercy, they were chanting and dancing as they went along the road. I was thinking that it was for such service that Indians are scattered all over the world. Their duty is not academic or economic pursuits. They're meant to serve Lord Caitanya's mission. And when they follow this calling—engage in their true dharma—they taste real bliss. I hope Pandava Sena always engages in the Lord's service in that mood, and with such results."
The results? The government finally approved the right of public worship at Bhaktivedanta Manor, admitting its undeniable need and value.
From Campaigners To Practitioners
Created specifically to save the temple, the group had fulfilled its purpose. The question now was, Where do we go from here?
Navina Krsna, the chairman at the time, noticed the youths' natural attraction to chanting Krsna's names, and Pandava Sena transformed from a campaign group into a Krsna conscious youth group. Following a retreat in Ireland, "Jammin'" was established—a weekly kirtana program. Then Pandava Sena spelled out its goals in the context of five projects:
Kassa at the University
Srila Prabhupada emphasized that student life, a time when attachments and responsibilities are minimal, is the best time to cultivate spiritual knowledge and principles as a way of life. Pandava Sena's university activities began in 1996, and by 1998 "Vedic and Spiritual Arts Societies" were set up in London and Birmingham (later to be called "Krishna Consciousness Societies"). The Societies held discussions and intercollegiate festivals, with ISKCON leaders as guest speakers.
The beginnings were sweet; the vibrant youthful energy brought positive results. Eventually Pandava Sena put together a team of graduates dedicated to university programs. There are now programs at eighteen universities, including Oxford and Cambridge. The weekly programs involve discussions, yoga classes, lunchtime prasadam distribution, and trips to the temple. This year, for the first time, students attended a long-weekend retreat at Radhadesh, Belgium, that included seminars and workshops. Many British students now chant, read Srila Prabhupada's books, follow the regulative principles, and help run the Krishna Consciousness Societies.
Whether as diners at Govinda's Restaurant or as volunteer cooks and distributors for Food for Life, university students are engaging in the service of Sri Sri Radha-Londonisvara, the deities of the ISKCON temple in London. Wednesday evenings the temple hosts "Oasis in the City," a Pandava Sena program of discussion, kirtana, and prasadam for university students.
PS demonstrates that for a young person there is always time for Krsna. Members join with other devotees every Saturday night to chant in central London. Some perform dedicated service at the temple. From London, Pandava Sena has expanded steadily to major cities in England, and to the USA, Kazakhstan, Slovenia, and The Netherlands.
Loud and lively festivals buzzing with energy are a Pandava Sena specialty, and blowing things up seems to be inbred. Dusshera, the festival honoring Lord Rama's slaying of the wicked Ravana, includes the burning of a huge effigy of the demon, along with music, drama, and fireworks. Holi, the dye-throwing festival of Radha-Krsna, is re-enacted with an enormous bonfire and, this year, the throwing of a quarter ton of dyed powder.
Bhaktivedanta Manor stages the largest Janmastami (Krsna's appearance) festival outside India, and PS hosts thousands of young pilgrims by staging dramas, multimedia presentations, and lots of kirtana.
Every Town and Village
Members joined Tribhuvanatha Dasa (who passed away in 2001) on the UK and Africa Hare Krsna festival tours, and continue to do so under Giridhari Dasa. Birmingham Rathayatra is also a youth festival. There's always a sleepless fun run up to the event, organizing everything from the chariots, stage show, and decorations, to funding, publicity, and media. Pandava Sena has been celebrating New Year's Eve ever since the first program in 1996, honoring the Srila Prabhupada Centennial. A PS Christmas day means gift-giving, comedy Christmas pantomimes, kirtana, and Christmas dinner. Pandava Sena also takes part in governmentendorsed festivals supported by the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies.
"Whatever position we're in," Tribhuvanatha Dasa told PS members some years ago, "we should use it to benefit others spiritually. So what that means in terms of Pandava Sena is that you have to sacrifice as much as you can, especially in your youth, to try to please Krsna and Srila Prabhupada."
There is a drive in Pandava Sena to become serious devotees. Many members chant sixteen rounds on their beads and follow the four regulative principles. Nitai Kirtana Dasa, a disciple of Jayapataka Swami, was the first Pandava Sena member to be initiated, and many more have followed suit.
Pandava Sena has been fortunate to receive direct instruction and care from many ISKCON leaders, especially Bhakti Caru Swami, Sivarama Swami, and Radhanatha Swami, as well as Tribhuvanatha Dasa. This summer, Urmila Devi Dasi spent ten days training Pandava Sena girls.
"Caitanya Mahaprabhu says that there are really only two activities, a devotee should do," says Sacinandana Swami. "Become Krsna conscious and spread Krsna consciousness. I have always seen that the Pandava Sena group focuses on these two aspects by having spiritual programs and by making innovative and creative plans to spread Krsna consciousness."
A mentorship program has been set up to ensure that more experienced Pandava Sena members care for those who want to become more serious about spiritual life.
Dhruva Maharaja Dasa, the boys' mentorship secretary, says, "Guidance and training are formalized to ensure progressive advancement in spiritual life and loving relationships."
Last September, twelve members joined a training program hosted by Bhaktivedanta Manor. Rina Daya, one of the students, says, "The six-month program is to train young devotees to become strong preachers and develop a solid basis of devotional practice. It involves pilgrimages to Mayapur and Vrndavana, training at the Chowpatty temple in Mumbai, and study and training in the UK."
A ground-level course was started in 2003.
"The course gives Pandava Sena members a thorough understanding of Srila Prabhupada's teachings and solidifies their practices," says Dina Krsna Dasa, the course leader.
The weekly course consists of three manuals: Theology & Philosophy, Devotional Practices, and Vaisnava Culture.
Small Sadhana Groups also take place fortnightly across England for those wishing to undertake systematic study of the scriptures in an intimate local environment.
Krsna, exotic grounds in foreign lands, interactive seminars with brilliant speakers, kirtana, lots of prasadam, massive chanting sessions in major cities, and adrenalin-pumping activities for over 130 students are what constitute Pandava Sena annual retreats. Mixing fun with spirituality, they offer an experience of the temple environment and a summer vacation bubbling with energy.
"A high point in my life came when I was invited to give lectures at Pandava Sena retreats in Ireland," says Sacinandana Swami. "When I dance with Pandava Sena devotees in kirtana, I feel thirty years younger."
The first Pandava Sena retreat was in 1995, with Tribhuvanatha Dasa. The retreats have become bigger and better, with international destinations each year under the direction of former chairman Sandipan Krsna Dasa and Sonal Gathani.
Urmila Devi Dasi, a BTG editor and ISKCON educator, joined the Pandava Sena's 2003 retreat to Prabhupada Desh, Italy.
"All of us speakers encouraged the group to improve their spiritual life and avoid imitating Western youth," she says. "What I found really interesting was Bhakti Tirtha Swami's comments. He said that Prabhupada wanted to combine the best of the East (spiritual knowledge) with the best of the West (material advancement). This group—Indian by heritage and to a large degree by culture, but raised in the West and living in the West—exemplified Prabhupada's mission and were, he explained, the best hope for the future. I'd frankly never thought of Western-raised Indian youth in that light and felt very enlivened."
The first Pandava Sena retreat to the USA took place this summer. Pandava Sena UK joined members from New Jersey, New York, and Philadelphia in New Vrindavan, West Virginia, for a week of seminars, kirtana, sports, and lots of fun. The fifty-strong group was joined by Jayadvaita Swami, Bhakti Tirtha Swami, and Radhanatha Swami. In New York, Pandava Sena replicated Jammin'-style programs with American youth and visited places associated with Srila Prabhupada and the founding of ISKCON.
The Future is Here
Bhakti Caru Swami explained that spreading Krsna consciousness will occur through the youth. As world history shows, it only takes a few friends to begin a revolution. Pandava Sena projects like Jammin' and Krishna Consciousness Societies can be replicated in any town or village. We urge youth all over the world to use their ambition, courage, and intelligence to spread Krsna consciousness. We are the future, but will we make it on our own?
Nima Suchak is a freelance journalist, an early member of Pandava Sena, and part of the Bhaktivedanta Manor congregation.
Contributors to this article: Sandipan Krsna Dasa, Rangadevi Devi Dasi, Anupma Parihar, Dimpy Patel, and Yuvaraj Rana (Pandava Sena Chairman).
Start a Group
For information on starting a youth group in your area, contact Pandava Sena.
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: Well, I'm a nurse, and so that is why I would like to see some of your people trained as medical men.
Srila Prabhupada: But there must be division of labor. When there is the necessity of brainwork, you take help from the brain. And when there is the need of walking, you take help from the leg. It is cooperation. Not that everyone has to learn everything.
Mother: I myself did training. I became a nurse.
Srila Prabhupada: You are asking us, "Why are you not taking medical education?" Why should we take it?
Mother: Because if everybody—
Srila Prabhupada: No. There is no necessity. If I can pay and get the help of a medical man, why should I waste my time in that way? Let me—
Mother: Ah, but you should be self-supporting. You should be—
Srila Prabhupada: Let me engage my time for understanding God.
Mother: You should be self-supporting in that way.
Srila Prabhupada: "Self-supporting." We are self-supporting. Just like, I have given the example of your body or the social body. There are four divisions: the head division, the arm division, the belly division, and the leg division. So the belly is doing the work of the belly or stomach. The leg is walking. The hand is defending, and the head or the brain is giving instruction to everyone. This is cooperation. So that is the Vedic system of civilization: brahmanas, ksatriyas, vaisyas, sudras—teachers and advisors, administrators and protectors, merchants and farmers, laborers and craftsmen. There must be divisions of work. Not that everyone has to learn everything.
Mother: No. I don't mean that. You're misunderstanding me.
Srila Prabhupada: That's all right. Then your question is answered. When I need the help of a medical man, I go to the medical man.
Srila Prabhupada: So what is the wrong there?
Mother: Well, what I'm saying to you is that . . .
Srila Prabhupada: No. What is the wrong? Find something.
Mother: . . . you can love God and be near God and train to be a medical man. Why don't you let some of your boys be trained to be medical men? Why do you say no?
Srila Prabhupada: But again you are putting the same question. We are training them for acting as society's brain, and you are asking me, "Why don't you train them for acting as the leg?" That is your question.
Mother: But they can still love God. They can still work for God at the same time.
Srila Prabhupada: No, no. Why are you asking this brain to learn how to walk? Why are you asking this odd question?
Mother: Well, my brain works. And I also—if there was a war tomorrow—I could go and be a nurse and look after the sick . . .
Srila Prabhupada: That's all right. That's all right.
Mother: . . . and still be with God.
Srila Prabhupada: That question I have already explained. In the social body there are four divisions. So each division can take the help of the other divisions. That is another thing. But you are asking, "You are simply interested in the brain. Why not in the leg?" But we are interested. Simply not in that way—that we train ourselves for becoming the leg. When we can see that we can pay the medical man and we can get the help, then why shall we waste our time by becoming a medical man?
Mother: I think it's so sad to see a lot of very good . . .
Srila Prabhupada: No, no. Just try to understand this point.
Mother: . . . young men becoming cabbages.
Srila Prabhupada (looking to his disciples): They're misunderstanding. [Returning to his disciple's mother and the Jesuit priest:] Yes. Just like here is Father. He's trained up in how to preach. He's not a medical man—and he doesn't require to learn the medical science.
Mother: No, but I didn't ask you to be a doctor. I said some of your boys.
Srila Prabhupada: Why? Why are you asking? My boys are the same.
Disciple: Which ones? Which ones of us should become doctors here?
Mother: Well, all . . . all . . . all . . .
Disciple: Supposing they all want to be spiritual teachers. Do you go to your Catholic seminaries and take some boys from the various classes to become doctors?
Mother: Yes—well, if you had an epidemic of smallpox . . .
Disciple: No, no, no.
Mother: . . . or typhoid . . . you . . . you know what smallpox is like in India.
Srila Prabhupada: You are presupposing. There must be social divisions.
Disciple: Again, do you go to your Catholic seminary and take boys out to become doctors?
Mother: It'd be no good at all being a priest if you had smallpox—would it?
Disciple: So, therefore, you should just go to your Catholic seminary and take some boys to become doctors. By force. "Now, you all come and be doctors." Even though they all want to be spiritual teachers.
Mother: You've got to have balance. Balance, somehow. Yes.
Srila Prabhupada: "Balance." This is balance. You may take some students and train them as medical men. But I am training these students to become spiritual teachers. Why are you interfering with my business? You do your own business.
Mother: Well, my son is my business.
Srila Prabhupada: Your son is not dependent on you. He's independent.
Mother: Yes, but he was . . .
Srila Prabhupada: You want him to have independence. He's already independent of you.
Mother: He was snatched out of the university by your people going 'round the universities. He was in the university.
Srila Prabhupada: That's all right if some of our students go to the university. There are many students there who are interested in this Vedic spiritual science.
Disciple (to the mother): Now, wait a minute. We didn't snatch Michael.
Srila Prabhupada: We don't object to their inquiring from us.
Disciple: Michael came to our center in London, sat down, and didn't want to go away.
Mother: He'd been taking LSD, and he was very sick. And somebody took him in.
Srila Prabhupada: So, when he was taking LSD, what did you do for him?
Disciple: And why was he taking LSD? He had such a wonderful education, such a happy home, and so many other things.
Mother: Well, he was experimenting. Now, this is it.
Disciple: But LSD is known to be a dangerous thing to experiment with.
Srila Prabhupada: Did you like that? Did you like that?
Mother: Well, he had a false . . . this was not . . .
Srila Prabhupada: When he was taking LSD, did you like that?
Mother: I didn't know, did I?
Srila Prabhupada: Then?
Mother: Until afterwards, and we found him.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Mother: And this is it.
Srila Prabhupada: So we must train these various divisions for the upkeep of the society. That is missing. At the present moment, there are no divisions being systematically trained.
Mother: But he had a false religious experience, due to the LSD.
Srila Prabhupada: No, I am talking generally, not of him—that there must be these divisions. Just like naturally in our body we have got divisions. The whole object is to keep the body fit, but there are divisions: the head division, the arm division, the stomach division, and the leg division. So similarly, there must be four classes of men in society: the intelligent class of men, the administrator class of men, the productive class of men, and the laborer class of men. Everything is required, but not that the intelligent class of men have to learn the business of the laborer class of men. That is not required. Just try to understand. The laborer class of men—they are required. But one who is intelligent class—he cannot be trained up as an ordinary laborer in the factory. That is a mistake. The intelligent person must work according to his capacity. If he's intelligent, he must be trained to be a spiritual teacher. He must be God conscious. He can then educate people that "This eating-sleeping is not all. There is God. You should understand—you have got a relationship with Him. If you want to have a better life next time, then you must become God conscious. You must be sinless." These things are required in society.
A POPULAR HINDU magazine recently ran a two-page color spread on ISKCON's installation of the Panca-tattva deities in Mayapur. I was happy to see that the magazine's subscribers are being blessed by the sight of Lord Caitanya and His associates. Predictably, though, the magazine's editors couldn't adequately describe the significance of the event or correctly explain the identities of Lord Caitanya and the other members of the Panca-tattva.
As Satyaraja Dasa pointed out in our special issue on the Panca-tattva installation, the members of the Panca-tattva represent five aspects of the Absolute Truth. Tattva is a philosophical concept that means "a true principle." In Vaisnava theology, it is used to refer to absolute categories of reality. Most people today, including Hindus and editors of Hindu magazines, have little understanding of tattva. Therefore, when they talk about prominent personalities within Vedic culture—devas, rsis, avatars, gurus—they can't clearly distinguish their relative status. And, influenced by the philosophy of monism, they often imply, intentionally or not, that everything and everyone is God.
Vaisnava theologians tell us that there are many tattvas and it is important to know who fits where. Four main tattvas, of which there may be subdivisions, are visnu-tattva, jiva-tattva, siva-tattva, and sakti-tattva.
The two most important to differentiate are visnu-tattva and jiva-tattva. In the category of visnu-tattva are God and the expansions of God equal to Him in power. Krsna is the origin of all visnu-tattva expansions, who include such personalities as Lord Ramacandra, Lord Nrsimha, and Lord Narayana. The Upanisads explain that it is the nature of God that even though He is unlimited, He can reproduce Himself unlimitedly without diminishing Himself. Therefore, even though God is one—Krsna—He has an endless number of expansions equal (except for some unique qualities) to Him.
In the category of jiva-tattva are all the minute souls who expand from Krsna's marginal energy. As Krsna is infinite, they are infinitesimal, and their power is limited. The jivas in the material world inhabit all kinds of bodies—plants, animals, human beings, even devas, whom Prabhupada refers to as demigods. Hindus today generally do not differentiate between God (visnu-tattva) and the devas (jiva-tattva). The Vaisnava acaryas teach that the jivas are always subordinate to the one God, or Supreme Personality of Godhead. Even the devas must submit to Krsna's control, whether directly or through His material energy.
The most prominent deva is Lord Siva, or Sankara. His position is unique because he is neither visnu-tattva nor jiva-tattva. He has his own category, called siva-tattva. Lord Brahma explains in his Brahma-samhita that Siva is simultaneously Visnu and not Visnu in the same way that yogurt is both milk and not milk. Lord Visnu never directly touches the material energy. The expansion of Visnu who consorts with the material energy (Maya) is Lord Siva.
Finally, the akti-tattva category includes the ever-liberated associates of the Lord in the spiritual world. Expansions of God's internal energy, they never rebel like we jivas wandering in the material world. By following their example of oneness in purpose with Krsna, we can one day join them in the spiritual world.
Srimad-Bhagavatam is the topmost theological science, and therefore it can react on the laymen as medicinal doses. Because it contains the transcendental activities of the Lord, there is no difference between the Lord and the literature. The literature is the factual literary incarnation of the Lord.
His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada,
The Supreme Lord, who incarnates out of His causeless mercy, regularly manifests His various pastimes in order to award supreme eternal benefit to the averse living entities of this world. All of His pastimes are performed with a desire to deliver the living entities.
Srila Bhaktisddhanta Sarasvati Thakura,
Among sacrifices I am the study of the Vedas, and I am nonviolence among vows. Among all things that purify I am the wind, fire, the sun, water, and speech.
Lord Sri Krsna
The word Brahman indicates the complete Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is Sri Krsna. That is the verdict of all Vedic literature.
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu,
For receiving the mercy of Krsna, I surrender unto His energy [Radha], and for receiving the mercy of His energy I surrender unto Krsna. By worshiping Them, a practitioner becomes freed from all sinful reactions and, being fully satisfied, he goes to the eternal abode of the Lord.
Chandogya Upaninad 8.13
By knowledge of the Absolute Truth, the sober practitioners realize that blissful, immortal, all-pervading Supreme Lord.
Munddaka Upaninad 2.2.7
The Vedic mantras explain that the all-powerful Absolute Truth possesses a spiritual form and although He remains in the spiritual sky, He is simultaneously present everywhere. He personally appears within the heart of the perfect devotees who constantly meditate upon Him.
O my tongue, since my mouth has become like a lotus by dint of the presence there of these eloquent, ornamental, delightful syllables, you are like the swan that plays there. As your foremost pleasure, always articulate the names Govinda, Damodara, and Madhava.
Srila Bilvamangala Thakura,