Culture

A Suicidal Civilization


This exchange between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and some of his disciples and guests took place during a morning walk on the Berkeley campus of the University of California, in July of 1975.

Guest: About a month ago, Srila Prabhupada, there was a crazy story in the newspaper. It seems a young student went through the archives in the Washington, D.C., public library, and he compiled enough information to construct an atom bomb. So now many leaders are afraid that within a few years, any terrorist group will be able to make their own atom bomb.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, that may be….

Guest: Oh, do you see that tower? Students here have been known to jump from it. Actually, at schools all over the country, a growing number of students are committing suicide.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. They are openly committing suicide, and the rest of the people are covertly committing suicide. This man who found out how to construct an atom bomb—he’s thinking that now his life is successful. But if he doesn’t use his human life for trying to become spiritually realized, he is committing suicide.

Guest: How’s that?

Srila Prabhupada: Because he won’t be able to save himself from his own death and rebirth.

Guest: Interestingly enough, the scientists originally developed the atom bomb to prevent death—to end the Second World War as soon as possible.

Srila Prabhupada: How can they prevent death? They do not know how to prevent it. They can accelerate it, that’s all. Here is your problem, Mr. Scientist: janma-mrityu-jara-vyadhi—the cycle of birth, death, old age, and disease. Solve it! Where is the scientist who can do that? instead they take some childish problem and try to avoid the real problem. But they cannot avoid it, because Krishna puts it openly before everyone: janma-mrityu- jara-vyadhi-duhkha-doshanudarshanam—“The real seer will see to this problem of birth, death, old age, and disease.” But the scientists have no answer, no solution to this problem. Where is the biochemist or the psychologist or the nuclear physicist who can solve this problem?

Disciple: They have a theory nowadays that by the proliferation of atomic weapons—Russia has so many weapons, China has so many weapons, the United States has so many weapons—everyone will be afraid of using them.

Srila Prabhupada: They will inevitably use them! That is nature’s arrangement. “You all die”—that is nature’s arrangement. For instance, in your country you have so many cars that even a poor man goes almost everywhere by car and hardly an inch on foot—because there are so many cars. So, because there are so many weapons now, they must be used. That is the natural sequence.

Guest: But every country knows that an atomic war would mean total destruction.

Srila Prabhupada: Well, total or partial—that we shall see. But the weapons will be used…. Everything can be solved by understanding these three items: God is the proprietor, He is the enjoyer, He is the friend of everyone. But the scientists and philosophers and politicians are acting with just the opposite understanding: “I am the proprietor, I am the enjoyer, I am the friend—because I am God.” You see? And everyone who says he’s the people’s friend ultimately proves to be their enemy. President Nixon collected votes by pretending to be a friend, and later on he proved an enemy…. Everyone…. Gandhi pretended to be a friend, but he proved to be an enemy. Otherwise, why was he shot down? Unless some people regarded him as an enemy, why was he shot down? So nobody can be your actual friend, except Krishna.

Disciple: But the Lord’s pure devotee—he’s also a friend to all….

Srila Prabhupada: Because he carries the message of Krishna. Krishna is everyone’s friend, and the pure devotee is carrying the friend’s message. Therefore he is a friend. if there is a nice friend, and if somebody gives information about that nice friend, he is also a friend. Therefore, nobody can be an actual friend except Krishna and Krishna’s representative. Materialistic life means, “I am your enemy, and you are my enemy.” Envy and enmity—this is the whole construction of the material world. So how can the enemy become a friend? This is pretension, cheating.

Disciple: When we go out to distribute your books, we’re letting people know that your disciples are actually their friends, also.

Srila Prabhupada: Oh, yes. That is real friendship. You are giving people the message of Lord Caitanya [Krishna’s most recent incarnation, who appeared in India five centuries ago]: kota nidra yao maya-pishacira kole … enechi aushadhi maya nashibara lagi’/ hari-nama maha-mantra lao tumi magi: “People everywhere, you are sleeping under the spell of maya, illusion. How long will you sleep and suffer in this world of death and rebirth? I’ve brought you this eternal, spiritual medicine. Take it and sleep no more.” Hari-nama maha- mantra lao tumi magi: “Now take the Hare Krishna mantra—this is your medicine.”

Guest: So all the relationships within this material world are based on enmity? But the scientists and philosophers and politicians often speak highly of love.

Srila Prabhupada: That is not love. That is lust—“As soon as my lusty desire is not fulfilled, then you are my enemy.”

Guest: Sometimes, though, it seems these people really have our best interests at heart.

Srila Prabhupada: Sometimes we see a dog swimming in the water, and we may think, “Oh, let me capture his tail and I shall cross.” Similarly, those who are thinking the so-called scientists and philosophers or any other materialistic person will solve their problems—it is exactly like trying to cross the Pacific Ocean by capturing the tail of a dog.

On Sex and Suffering


The following conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and some of his disciples took place on an early-morning walk in January 1974 at Venice Beach, California.

Devotee: Srila Prabhupada, here in California the divorce rate is nearly 50%. Why do you think that is so?

Srila Prabhupada: In India there is a saying that he who is married laments and he who is not married also laments. The married man laments, “Why did I marry? I could have remained free.” And he who is not married laments, “Oh, why didn’t I accept a wife? I would have been happy.” [Laughter.] By sex one begets a child, and as soon as there is a child there is suffering. The child suffers, and the parents also suffer to take care of him. But again they have another child. Therefore it is said in Srimad-Bhagavatam [7.9.45], tripyanti neha kripana bahu-duhkha-bhajah. In connection with this child-producing there is so much difficulty and trouble, but although one knows that, one again does the same thing.

Sex is the main happiness in this material world. That is the main happiness, and it is very abominable. What is this happiness? Kanduyanena karayor iva duhkha-duhkham. It is like the rubbing of two hands together to relieve an itch. Sex produces so many bad results, but still one is not satisfied. Now there are contraceptives, abortion-so many things. Maya [illusion] is so strong; she says, “Yes, do this and be implicated.”

Therefore the Bhagavatam says, kandutivan manasijam vishaheta dhirah. A man who is dhira, sober and sane, tolerates this itching sensation of sex desire. One who can tolerate the itching sensation saves so much trouble, but one who cannot is immediately implicated. Whether illicit or legitimate, sex is trouble.

Devotee: Srila Prabhupada, this is the first time we’ve walked this way. Everything looks different and new.

Srila Prabhupada: [Laughs.] This is material life. We are wandering sometimes this way, sometimes that way, and we are thinking, “Oh, this is new.” Brahmanda bhramite: we are wandering all over the universe trying to find out something new. But nothing is new: everything is old.

When a man becomes old, he generally thinks, “Oh, this life is so troublesome.” So he is allowed to change to a new body, a child’s body. The child is taken care of, and he thinks, “Now I’ve got such a comfortable life.” But again he becomes old and disgusted. So, Krishna is so kind: “All right,” He says, “change your body.” This is punah punash carvita-carvananam, chewing the chewed. Krishna gives the living entity many facilities: “All right, become a tree. All right, become a serpent. All right, become a demigod. All right, become a king. Become a cobbler. Go to the heavenly planets. Go to the hellish planets.” There are so many varieties of life, but in all of them the living entity is packed up in this material world. He’s looking for freedom, but he does not know that freedom is available only under the shelter of Krishna. That he will not accept.

Seeing the suffering in this material world, the Mayavadis [impersonalists] want to make life variety-less (nirvishesha) and the Buddhists want to make it zero (shunyavadi). But neither proposition is possible. You may remain variety-less for some time, but again you will want varieties. Big, big sannyasis [renunciants] preach so much about brahma satyam jagan mithya [”The impersonal Absolute is true; this universe is false”], but again they come down from Brahman to do political and social work. They cannot remain in Brahman for long, so they have to accept this material variety, because variety is the mother of enjoyment. Therefore, our proposition is this: Come to the real variety, Krishna consciousness. Then your life will be successful.

Devotee: Most people are trying to enjoy so much in this life that they don’t even think about the next life.

Srila Prabhupada: They do not know what the next life is, so they make it zero. They say, “There is no next life,” and in that way they are satisfied. When a rabbit sees some danger it closes its eyes and thinks there is no danger. These rascals are like that. It is all ignorance.

Devotee: There is a philosophy called stoicism, which says that since life is meant for suffering, one should just become very sturdy and suffer a great deal.

Srila Prabhupada: So, their idea is that one who can suffer without any protest—he is a first- class man. Believing in such a philosophy means that one does not know how to stop suffering. One class of philosophers says that suffering cannot be dismissed and therefore we must be strong to tolerate it. And another class of philosophers says that since life is full of suffering, we should make life zero. But neither class has any information that there is real life where there is no suffering. That is Krishna consciousness. There is life, but no suffering. Anandamayo ‘bhyasat: simply bliss. Dancing, eating, and chanting, with no suffering. Would anybody refuse that? Is there any such fool?

Devotee: People deny that such a life exists.

Srila Prabhupada: But suppose there is such a life, where you can simply dance, eat, and live happily for eternity. Would you not like to accept it?

Devotee: Anyone would like to accept it. But people think it doesn’t exist.

Srila Prabhupada: So our first proposition should be that there is a life like this—only happiness, with no suffering. Everyone will say, “Yes, I would like it.” They will accept it. Unfortunately, because people have been cheated again and again, they think that this is another cheating. Therefore, preaching Krishna consciousness means to convince people that there is a life full of happiness, with no suffering.

Devotee: What will convince them that we are not cheating, also?

Srila Prabhupada: Invite them to come to our temple and see our devotees. We are chanting, dancing, and eating nicely. This is practical proof.

Devotee: But doesn’t one have to be purified before one can realize these things?

Srila Prabhupada: No. We say, “Come and chant Hare Krishna with us; you’ll become purified. We don’t want anything from you. We shall give you food—we shall give you everything. Simply come and chant with us.” This is our message.

Does belief in karma kill Compassion?

Dry wing scrapes over the dead land. Young boys cry, flies on their mouths, air in their bellies. Famine. Drought.

Hopeless reality for millions of human beings.

I can just see those Krishnas now, smugly sitting back, “Karma this, karma that.” (Karma, you know: “Everything happens because of destiny, blah, blah, blah.”) Believing in karma is crazy. It makes you a compassionless robot who doesn’t care about the problems of here and now.

Karma, in fact, means: “Every action has a reaction.” For example, if I act like a jerk I’ll get a reaction—I’ll turn people off. Or if as an infant I burned my hand on the stove, even once I’ve forgotten about it I may still have the reaction—a lifelong fear of hot things.

Whatever mess I find myself in today results from what I’ve done in the past. For some, this is hard to accept. It means I’m fully responsible for my own life. No scapegoats, no one to blame, just me. And other people are also responsible for their own lives. They bring about their own suffering and enjoyment.

So are people in Ethiopia suffering because of their own acts, their own karma? That seems like an awfully cold way to look at things. If it’s their karma, why try to help them? They’re just getting what they deserve.

Deeper Understanding

So do we go around sneering and pointing at old men in wheelchairs—”Hey, you deserve it, buddy”? Of course not.

He doesn’t deserve it. Yes, karma gives what he deserves—but he doesn’t deserve karma in the first place. The soul in its natural state is free from all karma. So people don’t deserve to suffer. Anyone who understands this becomes truly sympathetic and never tires of helping others get free from suffering.

Most people only feel compassion for certain special others—the retarded, the homeless, the hungry. But a person who fully understands karma feels compassion for everyone. Everyone’s got karma,so everyone suffers, sooner or later. That’s why compassion and kindness should go out to everyone.

Understanding karma doesn’t stop one from feeling compassion or the urge to help the world. In fact, it extends and magnifies that compassion so it embraces all living beings.

Chosen People Or People Who Choose?

The rich theology of the Vedic literature can end speculative attempts to resolve the apparently contradictory concepts of predestination and free will.

Kimberly picks up a tape by a rock band known for its satanic image and clicks it into her Walkman. Putting on the earphones, she turns the volume way up.

“Maybe I was just made evil,” says Kimberly to herself. That leads to another thought. “Maybe some people are made good. Like Heather. Everything always seems to go right for Heather. God seems to like her.”

Kimberly’s not a theologian, but she’s contemplating something that Western theologians have discussed for centuries without reaching any definite conclusions. The question is this: Does God choose certain individuals or groups for salvation? In other words, are there chosen people? And, alternatively, are certain persons selected for condemnation?

The technical term for the matter under discussion is predestination, a word which implies that our final destination, be it heaven or hell, is programmed into our souls from the beginning of our existence. Thus the question of predestination is closely connected with the concept of free will.

A lot has been spoken and written about all this, but most of it is highly speculative. Not surprisingly, many of the views expressed contradict each other.

Speaking of the Judeo-Christian tradition, C. T. McIntyre writes in his article on predestination in The Encyclopedia of Religion, “Advocates of all positions have appealed to the scriptures, although the scriptures do not contain doctrines of free will and predestination, nor even these words.”

It would be too bad, however, if we had to rely on theological speculators to answer such questions. It’s hard to trust them, because the human mind is so limited and prone to error. That’s why God gives scriptures in the first place.

According to the sages of India. God has given different scriptures to different people at different times and places according to their level of understanding. Some scriptures therefore give more information than others. The Bible and the Koran, for example, give only very limited information about the soul and the important questions of free will and predestination. The Vedic scriptures of India, however, give more detailed information, which will help us examine these questions without going off into the insecure realm of imagination and speculation.

The basic message of Vedic literature on the question of predestination is that the choosing is done by the individual soul and not by God. We are choosing people, not chosen people.

God says He is neutral. In Bhagavad-gita (9.29), Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, says, “I envy no one, nor am I partial to anyone. I am equal to all.” We could say that God is the original equal opportunity employer.

Yet Krishna goes on to state in that same passage of the Gita, “But whoever renders service unto Me in devotion is a friend, is in Me, and I am also a friend to him.” God exhibits no special favoritism to any particular person or group. But if someone voluntarily behaves in a friendly way toward Him. He responds in kind.

Now one might object: “Ha! So if you’re not friendly to God, then He zaps you, right? That’s not very cool.” But no, you zap yourself, so to speak.

The Vedanta-sutra (2.1.34) says vaishamya- nairghrinye na sapekshatvat tatha hi darshayati: The Lord neither hates nor likes anyone, though He appears to.” He surely does appear to, one might be tempted to say.

The reason God appears to hate one person and like another is related to the fact that He arranges to fulfill the desires of each individual, giving each his or her justly deserved reward or punishment A perverted desire yields a bad result A good desire yields a good result. Mixed desires yield mixed results. Because the results come by God’s arrangement it looks like He is to blame. But He’s not really.

Consider the example of a judge. One person comes before the judge and receives an award of a million dollars in a lawsuit against an insurance company. Another person comes before the judge and is sentenced to ten years in prison for fraud. The judge is responsible for neither the award of a million dollars nor the ten-year prison sentence. The law is there, and in the final analysis the persons who come before the judge have by their own behavior determined the results they will receive. The judge is neutral—at least he should be.

One difficulty with the suggestion that God is fulfilling our desires is that we do not appear to always get from God what we consciously want. If I want a million dollars, then why don’t I get it? Right away!

The reason is that the results of our desires and activities accumulate over the course of many lifetimes, as we take on one material body after another. If in a past life we unlawfully deprived others of wealth, we may now have to suffer for that by having unfulfilled desires for riches. In other words, what we desire is weighed against what we deserve.

Another consideration is that the desire to get rich quick by demanding large amounts of cash from God is a perverted desire. Our desires are evaluated according to a standard not of our own making. And it is according to that standard, whatever it may be. that the results of the specific desires are calculated. Maybe those results will match up with our expectations, and maybe they won’t. But as the Bhagavad-gita teaches, whatever we get is exactly what we deserve, which might be the pain of poverty, or a struggling middle-class existence, or being rich but not rich enough.

So to sum up. God sets up the system but is not responsible for what we get. The responsibility lies squarely with each one of us. As Krishna says in the Gita (4.13), “Although I am the creator of this system, you should know that I am yet the non-doer.” He also says in the Gita (9.9), “I am ever detached from all these material activities, seated as though neutral.” And in Chapter Thirteen He says, The living entity is the cause of the various sufferings and enjoyments in this world.”

Now, if you want to criticize God for setting up the system as He did (so that we get bad results for certain desires and actions), you can. But it really doesn’t do much good. Srila Prabhupada says it well in his purport to Srimad- Bhagavatam 7.2.39:

The Lord does not create this material world at anyone’s request …If one argues. “Why does He act in this way?” the answer is that He can do so because He is supreme… .The answer is that to prove His omnipotence He can do anything, and no one can question Him. If He were answerable to us concerning why He does something and why He does not. His supremacy would be curtailed.

Certain people will be satisfied with a statement like this; others will feel extreme dissatisfaction, even repulsion. Here we are getting to the heart of the whole question.

By nature we are capable of liking God or disliking Him, of obeying His orders or disobeying them. More accurately, according to the Vedas our natural position is to serve God with love; and if we so desire we can give up that position and attempt to serve our own selfish desires.

The Vedic literature gives reliable information about the fundamental nature of the living being. The Vishnu Purana states:

vishnu-shaktih para prokta
kshetrajnakhya tatha para
avidya-karma-samjnanya
tritiya shaktir ishyate

“The potency of Lord Vishnu is summarized in three categories, namely the spiritual potency, the living entities, and ignorance. The spiritual potency is full of knowledge; the living entities, although belonging to the spiritual potency, are subject to bewilderment; and the third energy, which is full of ignorance, is always visible in fruitive activities.”

In other words, God has three main energies: the spiritual energy, the energy composed of the innumerable living entities, or souls, and the material energy. The living entities are known as the tatastha-shakti, or the marginal potency of the Lord, because they have the ability to identify with either matter or spirit to exist in full knowledge or in total illusion.

By nature, however, the soul belongs to the spiritual potency. This is confirmed in the Bhagavad-gita (15.7), wherein Lord Krishna says, mamaivamsho jiva-loke jiva- bhutah sanatanah: “The living entities in this conditioned world are My eternal fragmental parts.”

We have always been around. As God has always existed, we have always existed. Some theologians speculate that the soul comes into being when the present body comes into being. This is not only illogical (how can something eternal have a beginning?) but unsupported by scripture.

The Vedic scriptures further state, vasanti yatra purushah sarve vaikuntha-murtayah: “In the spiritual planets everyone lives in bodies featured like the Supreme Personality of Godhead’s.”

So if in our original condition we were eternal beings living in the spiritual world, in spiritual bodies like God’s, then what happened to us? What are we doing here. subject to birth and death?

An obvious question and a good one. Lord Krishna tells us in Bhagavad-gita (7.27).

iccha-dvesha-samutthena
dvandva-mohena bharata
sarva-bhutani sammoham
sarge yanti parantapa

“O scion of Bharata, O conqueror of the foe, all living entities are born into delusion, bewildered by dualities arisen from desire and hate.”

So one component of the reason for our being in the material world rather than the spiritual world, our real home, is that at some point we developed a desire to enjoy separately from the Supreme Lord, Krishna. Instead of serving Him with love, we desired to serve our own false ego. Although Krishna knows we can never be satisfied without serving Him in our natural position. He nonetheless respects our independence and free will and allows us to act out our impulses to enjoy separately from Him in the material world.

A second component of the reason for our being in the material world is our hatred for, or envy of, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. One aspect of envy is the desire to usurp the position of the envied person. For example, if one envies a wealthy person, one may desire to become the enjoyer of that person’s wealth. Similarly, the envious soul may desire to take the Lord’s position as the supreme enjoyer. This necessarily involves partial or total forgetfulness of God’s existence.

One thing to keep in mind is that no one can honestly say, “The devil made me do it” According to the Vedas, God has no competitor battling with Him for souls. God is described asamaurdhva, “having no equal or superior.” If we are apart from God, we can blame no one but ourselves, our own desire and hatred.

There is no irreversible, eternal condemnation. Each soul always has the opportunity to exercise its free will. If a soul is “eternally” condemned, it is only because of its own continuing unwillingness to love God. One can always turn back to God, even from the most fallen position. Srila Prabhupada explains:

The Supreme Personality of Godhead expanded Himself into many for His ever-increasing spiritual bliss, and the living entities are parts and parcels of this spiritual bliss. They also have partial independence. but by misuse of their independence, when the service attitude is transformed into the propensity for sense enjoyment, they come under the sway of lust. This material creation is created by the Lord to give facility to the conditioned souls to fulfill these lustful propensities, and when completely baffled by prolonged lustful activities, the living entities begin to inquire about their real position.

Although the Vedic literature doesn’t talk of Satan, or the devil, it does describe Maya, the goddess in charge of the material energy. Maya is a servant of Lord Krishna who performs the unpleasant but necessary task of creating the temporary world of illusory happiness and distress for the souls who desire to forget Krishna and enjoy themselves apart from Him. And if a soul somehow develops a desire to return to Krishna, Maya is always there to test him with allurements: “So you think you love God? Well what about this ... ? And this … ?”

So if that’s our position now, then what is to be done? The answer is simple. We should use our independence to reestablish a friendly relationship with the Supreme Lord, Krishna, and thus end our unpleasant stay in the material world. This is the most important business of human existence.

We should choose to make ourselves pleasing to God. And everyone has an equal opportunity to do that. It is not that any particular group of people has a monopoly on salvation.

Every soul has the opportunity to achieve the highest goal. pure love for God. In his introduction to Bhagavad-gita As It Is. Srila Prabhupada explains, “The ways and the means for ultimate realization, ultimate attainment, are stated in the Bhagavad-gita, and the doors of this knowledge are open for everyone. No one is barred out. All classes of men can approach Lord Krishna by thinking of Him, for hearing and thinking of Him are possible for everyone.”

Lord Krishna Himself says in the Gita (9.32), “Those who take shelter in Me, though they be of lower birth … can attain the supreme destination.” It doesn’t matter if one is male or female, higher or lower in social status.

The real chosen people are those who choose to endear themselves to God by their behavior. And in the Bhagavad- gita (12.20) Lord Krishna explains who is dear to Him: “Those who follow this imperishable path of devotional service and who completely engage themselves with faith, making Me the supreme goal, are very, very dear to Me.”

The imperishable path of devotional service begins with hearing and chanting the glories of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Lord Caitanya taught the simple method of awakening love of God through the congregational chanting of His holy names: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna , Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

Lord Caitanya was Krishna Himself, appearing as a devotee of Krishna. In other words, He was God showing by His own example how to please God.

Lord Caitanya prayed, “O son of Maharaja Nanda [Krishna], I am Your eternal servitor, yet somehow or other I have fallen into the ocean of birth and death. Please pick me up from this ocean of death and place me as one of the atoms at Your lotus feet.”

When a devotee petitions Krishna in this way. Krishna responds. He says in Bhagavad-gita (12.6-7): “Those who worship Me, giving up all their activities unto Me and being devoted to Me without deviation, engaged in devotional service and always meditating upon Me, having fixed their minds upon Me, O son of Pritha—for them I am the swift deliverer from the ocean of birth and death.”

One can best meditate upon Krishna and fix one’s mind upon Him by chanting His holy names. In this way one can escape the cycle of birth and death and become situated at Krishna’s lotus feet Lord Caitanya prayed:

O my Lord, Your holy names alone can render all benedictions to living beings, and thus you have hundreds and millions of names, like Krishna and Govinda. In these transcendental names You have invested all Your transcendental energies. There are not even hard and fast rules for chanting these names. O my Lord, out of kindness You enable us to easily approach You by Your holy names, but I am so unfortunate that I have no attraction for them.

Here Lord Caitanya is revealing our problem. We are trapped in the material world because we misused our independence. Even so, Krishna has made it possible for us to return to our original position simply by chanting His holy names. The method is easy; even a child can perform it. And it is guaranteed to be effective. Yet we are so unfortunate that we are not attracted to chant. We remain reluctant, attracted to other things.

Still, Krishna is non-different from His name. And in the form of His name, He is waiting for us to choose to accept Him into our hearts once more. If we can do so, we shall also enter into Krishna’s heart. Krishna says in the Srimad- Bhagavatam (9.4.68).

The devotees are always in My heart, and I am always in the hearts of the devotees. The devotee does not know anything beyond Me, and I also cannot forget the devotee. There is a very intimate relationship between Me and the pure devotees. Pure devotees in full knowledge are never out of spiritual touch. and therefore they arc very much dear to Me.

So, although we are "choosing people," in a sense there are also chosen people—the devotees. Because they have chosen God, God has chosen them. And He guarantees that their destination will be His eternal, spiritual abode.

Kierkegaard and the Three Modes

A philosopher’s conjecture leads him to a universal law discussed in the Bhagavad-gita.

Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) is perhaps best known for his theory of the three stages of human existence: the aesthetic stage, the ethical stage, and the religious stage.

The aesthetic stage is not about being an aesthete, as one might suspect. Rather, a person in the aesthetic stage pursues pleasure and avoids commitment. This stage, says Kierkegaard, begins and ends with despair.

A person in the ethical stage is committed. He or she has a sense of duty, labors for family and society, and pursues universal goals. In this stage the feverishworker usually loses his individuality, becoming a cog in the work-a- daymachine of life.

The religious stage, according to Kierkegaard, generally comes after repeated frustration with working hard for society, the rewards seeming limited and meager. At this point, says our Danish philosopher, a person moves beyond the universal to the specific and starts to worship God.

Not all people go through all three stages. Kierkegaard says that in a person’s life, one stage will predominate and usually engulf a person until the day he dies.

Anyone who is familiar with theBhagavad-gita and the philosophy of Krishna consciousness will notice how Kierkegaard’s three stages correspond to the three modes of material nature. These three modes—sattva (goodness, virtue), rajas (energy, passion, turbulence), and tamas (inertia, ignorance)—are an integral part of the Hare Krishna world view.

Mode is a translation of the Sanskrit word guna, which literally means “thread” or “rope,” implying that goodness, passion, and ignorance are the ropes that bind one to the material world. According to the Gita, these three modes, or qualities, underlie everything we see, hear, taste, touch, and smell. Permutations of these qualities make up the world, mixing like the primary colors to produce countless variations.

Sattva controls virtues and qualities such as joy, wisdom, and altruism; rajas controls greed, anger, ambition, and frustration; tamas controls sloth, delusion, and idleness. Sattva clarifies and pacifies; rajas confuses and impels; tamas obscures and impedes.

Lord Vishnu, the supreme Godhead who maintains the cosmic manifestation, is naturally the master of the mode of goodness; Brahma, the creator, controls passion; and Siva, the destroyer, presides over ignorance.

As in Kierkegaard’s system, the Gita explains that a particular mode will predominate in a person’s life, influencing the way he or she behaves. And while we might achieve relative happiness by understanding how the modes condition us and interact with our consciousness, we should aspire to become detached from all three modes, even goodness, which embodies finer material qualities. Such qualities are still material and can serve as “the last infirmity of a noble mind,” as Indologist A. L. Basham has articulated it, “causing the soul to cling to wisdom and joy as opposed to God consciousness proper.”

The Gita devotes one hundred of its seven hundred verses to a systematic analysis of the modes of nature. According to the Gita, God, as the creator of the modes, is naturally above them (Bg 7.13); but the modes bind the ordinary soul to the body through conditioning (Bg 14.5); once we understand how the modes work and discover what lies beyond them, we can become free of conditioning and devote our pure mind to the service of God (Bg 14.19).

The fourteenth chapter of the Gita outlines the general characteristics of the modes, and the seventeenth chapter teaches how to perceive the modes in types of worship, food, sacrifice, austerities, and even charity. By analyzing how the modes affect people, Bhagavad-gita helps us understand distinct personality types.

The Gita mainly discusses how the modes influence a person’s character, behavior, and approach to life. For example, if goodness predominates, one will aspire for (and generally achieve) long-term happiness, even if one must accept temporary inconveniences. The person overtaken by passion is usually satisfied by short-term happiness and doesn’t expect much more out of life. And the person dominated by ignorance rarely achieves happiness at all.

In applying the three modes to food, the Gita says that a person in the mode of goodness leans toward healthy and nutritious food, which increases strength and longevity. Persons in passion like overly spiced foods with powerful flavors, temporarily enjoying tasty cuisine that brings on sickness and disease. A person in ignorance has little taste left and tends to eat rotten food that quickly causes ill health.

The Gita summarizes: Goodness leads to lasting happiness that begins by tasting like poison but ends by tasting like nectar. Passion leads to short-term happiness that begins like nectar but ends like poison. And ignorance (at best) leads to happiness that is illusory in both the long and the short term, being the result of sleep, idleness, and negligence. In this way the Gita analyzes various aspects of life and shows how the modes influence all living beings and the world.

Other Traditions

Other traditions have elaborated on three-part processes that correspond to personality types. Plato, for example, discusses the rational soul, the spirited soul, and the appetitive soul. These refer respectively to the intellectual, contemplative person, the pugnacious, overly active person, and the selfcentered braggadocio. Plato acknowledges that all three personality types can be found in everyone but inevitably (as with the three modes of nature) one personality type will predominate.

Modern psychology acknowledges three somatotypes, or body types, namely ectomorphy (thin), mesomorphy (muscular), and endomorphy (fat). These are said correspond to certain mental dispositions: cerebrotonia (brain-oriented), somatotonia (muscle-oriented), and viscerotonia (stomach-heart-oriented). Scholars of Indian religion, such as A. L. Herman, professor of philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, have noted that while this classification does not directly correspond to the three modes of material nature, the similarity warrants further research. Nonetheless, as Herman acknowledges, the Gita provides one of the most consistent and far-reaching psychological analyses of people and their conditioned responses to the material world. Therefore the Gita, with its in-depth study of the three modes of material nature, offers us indispensable clues about the true nature of the world around us. Taking these clues to heart may enable us to become happy in this life and in the next one as well.

A Step Further

Kierkegaard would probably have appreciated the analysis of the modes set down in the Gita. In fact, after reading the Gita he could conceivably have added a fourth stage to his three stages of life: the transcendental stage. The Gita explains goodness, the highest mode, in about the same way that Kierkegaard explains his religious stage. But what exists beyond the religious stage? What does one do after going through the despair associated with the mode of ignorance (the aesthetic stage), the work ethic associated with the mode of passion (the ethical stage), and the abandonment of all prior conceptions to come to the mode of goodness (the religious stage), where one lives happily and begins to serve God?

When one meets a pure devotee, one moves beyond religious generality and becomes absorbed in true transcendence. Srila Prabhupada spoke about this often: ordinary religiosity versus transcendental religiosity. The science of how to transcend the three modes, and thus to transcend Kierkegaard’s three stages of life, is found within the sacred pages of Bhagavad-gita.

The Scent Of Happiness

A lesson in pleasure seeking

The search for happiness is natural, because it is the constitutional position of the spirit soul to be eternally joyful. But our search for happiness in the external, physical world is always frustrated; we look everywhere, never realizing permanent pleasure.

The musk deer, an animal native to Central Asia, gives us a hint to the solution of this predicament. The musk deer is famous for the scent produced from a glandular sac beneath the skin of the male’s abdomen. Not only is the reddish- brown secretion from this sac much sought after by human beings, who use it as a base for many perfumes, but according to the Vedic tradition, the musk deer himself sometimes goes mad over the powerful fragrance. In his madness he runs wildly about, looking everywhere for the intense scent. Everywhere, that is, except within himself.

Are you about to hear some facile pronouncement about “the happiness within”? Well, yes and no. Yes, the devotees of Krishna will tell you that by serving Krishna one feels happiness within—happiness independent of the fleeting pains and pleasures of the physical body. No, their statement is not facile; it is based on experience, and on a realized understanding of our spiritual identity.

Every living entity is a spirit soul—part and parcel of the Supreme Soul, Krishna—and entitled to the unlimited spiritual pleasure derived from satisfying Krishna’s transcendental senses. The temporary physical body is only a covering over the soul, just as a shirt or coat is only a covering over the body. In comparison to even a drop of the transcendental happiness of serving Lord Krishna, the greatest pleasures of the physical world appear meager.

We just instinctively follow the “scent” of happiness, but if that scent leads us to gratify our bodily senses, rather than to serve and please Lord Krishna, we have been fooled. Like the musk deer, we’ll search vainly in the external world, never experiencing the happiness within.

On Sex and Suffering

From the popular point of view, it's the best thing there is. From our experience, there are superior options.

The following conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and some of his disciples took place on an early-morning walk in January 1974 at Venice Beach, California.

Devotee: Srila Prabhupada, here in California the divorce rate is nearly 50%. Why do you think that is so?

Srila Prabhupada: In India there is a saying that he who is married laments and he who is not married also laments. The married man laments, “Why did I marry? I could have remained free.” And he who is not married laments, “Oh, why didn’t I accept a wife? I would have been happy.” [Laughter.] By sex one begets a child, and as soon as there is a child there is suffering. The child suffers, and the parents also suffer to take care of him. But again they have another child. Therefore it is said in Srimad-Bhagavatam [7.9.45], tripyanti neha kripana bahu-duhkha-bhajah. In connection with this child-producing there is so much difficulty and trouble, but although one knows that, one again does the same thing.

Sex is the main happiness in this material world. That is the main happiness, and it is very abominable. What is this happiness? Kanduyanena karayor iva duhkha-duhkham. It is like the rubbing of two hands together to relieve an itch. Sex produces so many bad results, but still one is not satisfied. Now there are contraceptives, abortion-so many things. Maya [illusion] is so strong; she says, “Yes, do this and be implicated.”

Therefore the Bhagavatam says, kandutivan manasijam vishaheta dhirah. A man who is dhira, sober and sane, tolerates this itching sensation of sex desire. One who can tolerate the itching sensation saves so much trouble, but one who cannot is immediately implicated. Whether illicit or legitimate, sex is trouble.

Devotee: Srila Prabhupada, this is the first time we’ve walked this way. Everything looks different and new.

Srila Prabhupada: [Laughs.] This is material life. We are wandering sometimes this way, sometimes that way, and we are thinking, “Oh, this is new.” Brahmanda bhramite: we are wandering all over the universe trying to find out something new. But nothing is new: everything is old.

When a man becomes old, he generally thinks, “Oh, this life is so troublesome.” So he is allowed to change to a new body, a child’s body. The child is taken care of, and he thinks, “Now I’ve got such a comfortable life.” But again he becomes old and disgusted. So, Krishna is so kind: “All right,” He says, “change your body.” This is punah punash carvita-carvananam, chewing the chewed. Krishna gives the living entity many facilities: “All right, become a tree. All right, become a serpent. All right, become a demigod. All right, become a king. Become a cobbler. Go to the heavenly planets. Go to the hellish planets.” There are so many varieties of life, but in all of them the living entity is packed up in this material world. He’s looking for freedom, but he does not know that freedom is available only under the shelter of Krishna. That he will not accept.

Seeing the suffering in this material world, the Mayavadis [impersonalists] want to make life variety-less (nirvishesha) and the Buddhists want to make it zero (shunyavadi). But neither proposition is possible. You may remain variety-less for some time, but again you will want varieties. Big, big sannyasis [renunciants] preach so much about brahma satyam jagan mithya [”The impersonal Absolute is true; this universe is false”], but again they come down from Brahman to do political and social work. They cannot remain in Brahman for long, so they have to accept this material variety, because variety is the mother of enjoyment. Therefore, our proposition is this: Come to the real variety, Krishna consciousness. Then your life will be successful.

Devotee: Most people are trying to enjoy so much in this life that they don’t even think about the next life.

Srila Prabhupada: They do not know what the next life is, so they make it zero. They say, “There is no next life,” and in that way they are satisfied. When a rabbit sees some danger it closes its eyes and thinks there is no danger. These rascals are like that. It is all ignorance.

Devotee: There is a philosophy called stoicism, which says that since life is meant for suffering, one should just become very sturdy and suffer a great deal.

Srila Prabhupada: So, their idea is that one who can suffer without any protest—he is a first- class man. Believing in such a philosophy means that one does not know how to stop suffering. One class of philosophers says that suffering cannot be dismissed and therefore we must be strong to tolerate it. And another class of philosophers says that since life is full of suffering, we should make life zero. But neither class has any information that there is real life where there is no suffering. That is Krishna consciousness. There is life, but no suffering. Anandamayo ‘bhyasat: simply bliss. Dancing, eating, and chanting, with no suffering. Would anybody refuse that? Is there any such fool?

Devotee: People deny that such a life exists.

Srila Prabhupada: But suppose there is such a life, where you can simply dance, eat, and live happily for eternity. Would you not like to accept it?

Devotee: Anyone would like to accept it. But people think it doesn’t exist.

Srila Prabhupada: So our first proposition should be that there is a life like this—only happiness, with no suffering. Everyone will say, “Yes, I would like it.” They will accept it. Unfortunately, because people have been cheated again and again, they think that this is another cheating. Therefore, preaching Krishna consciousness means to convince people that there is a life full of happiness, with no suffering.

Devotee: What will convince them that we are not cheating, also?

Srila Prabhupada: Invite them to come to our temple and see our devotees. We are chanting, dancing, and eating nicely. This is practical proof.

Devotee: But doesn’t one have to be purified before one can realize these things?

Srila Prabhupada: No. We say, “Come and chant Hare Krishna with us; you’ll become purified. We don’t want anything from you. We shall give you food—we shall give you everything. Simply come and chant with us.” This is our message.

The Soul of Psychology and the Psychology of the Soul

On October 3, 1972, psychologist Dr. Gerald Frazer visited His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada at ISKCON’s world headquarters, in Los Angeles. Their conversation follows.

Dr. Frazer: I am curious to know what you do when one of your students has a problem on the physical or emotional platform. Do you help that person over his problem by getting him to transcend it, by rising above it?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, we speak only on the transcendental platform, not on the bodily or mental or intellectual platform. We recognize four platforms: the bodily or sensual platform; then, above that, the mental platform; above that, the intellectual platform; and above that, the spiritual platform.

First of all, our direct perception is on the sensual platform, by sense perception (indriyani parany ahuh). For example, now I am directly seeing your tape recorder—this is the sensual platform. But if you describe your tape recorder to me, then I see it on the mental platform. These two visions—sensual and mental—are different. And when an electronics expert thinks of how to improve the tape recorder, he is seeing on the intellectual platform. That is another vision. So, even in the material realm, there are three visions, three platforms: sensual, mental, and intellectual. And above all these is the spiritual platform. On this platform is the soul, who experiences the world through the material senses, mind, and intelligence.

So, we speak on the spiritual platform. We know that if someone is spiritually sound, then he will be intellectually, mentally, and physically sound as well. That is our proposition. When you have one hundred dollars, then you also have fifty dollars, twenty-five dollars, and ten dollars. So, we train our students spiritually. For spiritual understanding, they have to rise early in the morning, they have to take a bath, they can eat only krishna-prasada [vegetarian foods offered to Lord Krishna], and they refrain from certain things. In this way, their physical and hygienic problems are automatically solved. We don’t spend very much in doctor’s bills. In the last seven years, I have not had one doctor’s bill. And most of our students are not troubled by physical disease.

Good health actually depends on the presence of the spirit soul within the body. Within your body is you, the spirit soul. And because the spirit soul is there, your body looks healthy. But as soon as the spirit soul is gone from your body, your body will immediately begin to decompose. This is the distinction between a living body and a dead body. When the spirit soul is within a body, it is called a living body, and as soon as the spirit soul is not there, it is called a dead body. Therefore, you should always keep yourself spiritually fit. Then you will keep mentally, intellectually, and physically fit.

Now, as far as the spirit soul is concerned, do you have any conception of it?

Dr. Frazer: Some conception.

Srila Prabhupada: And what is that?

Dr. Frazer: My words cannot describe it very well. It is the inexpressible, ineffable essence of both me and you.

Srila Prabhupada: No, that is not an explanation. That is a negation. Unless we actually perceive and know the spirit soul, there is no question of spiritual knowledge.

Dr. Frazer: When you talk about the spirit soul, you seem to refer to that part of me I feel most when I am not using my physical senses.

Srila Prabhupada: Your physical senses are working due to the presence of the spirit soul. You are moving your hand because the spirit soul is within you. And as soon as the spirit soul is gone from your body, your body becomes simply a lump of matter.

Dr. Frazer: So, matter is separate from the spirit soul?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. The soul is the vital force, the moving force, that is in you, that is in me, that is in the ant, that is in the elephant, that is everywhere.

Dr. Frazer: Is it in our bodies after we are dead?

Srila Prabhupada: Death means you are gone from your body. But other spirit souls are there in your body in so many germs, parasites, and so on. There are innumerable individual spirit souls in your body.

Dr. Frazer: Individual spirit souls?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. You are an individual, I am an individual, everyone is an individual

Dr. Frazer: And what is there about all spirit souls that is the same?

Srila Prabhupada: The quality is the same. Just as (since you are a human being and I am a human being) you have two hands and I have two hands, you have two legs and I have two legs, and so on. But still, you and I are different. That is individuality. Understanding that is Krishna consciousness.

Dr. Frazer: What happens when someone comes to you, and he is caught up in a problem in, say, the physical or mental plane, and he can’t understand the spiritual plane. Do you tie him into the spiritual plane so that he can transcend his problem?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, that is the purpose of the Krishna consciousness movement. If someone comes to the Krishna conscious platform, then he has no more problems, either physical, mental, or intellectual.

Dr. Frazer: What I am especially curious about is how you bring someone to Krishna consciousness when he approaches you. Do you have a healing process?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Just as you heal by some psychiatric process, so we also heal by this Krishna consciousness.

Dr. Frazer: Could you say a bit about that process?

Srila Prabhupada: It is the chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra. This chanting is just like the process for curing snakebite. Have you seen snake charmers in India? We have them there still. If someone is bitten by a snake and is lying unconscious, the snake charmer can gradually awaken him by chanting a certain mantra. This is a material process. Similarly, we are spirit souls, and everyone of us is either psychologically or physically diseased. So, by this chanting of Hare Krishna we awaken the consciousness that cures all our physical, mental, and intellectual diseases.

Dr. Frazer: It would seem that someone would have to have a certain kind of mentality for the chanting to be of assistance.

Srila Prabhupada: No. We create the healthy mentality simply by chanting. We chant, and we ask him to join us in chanting. Then he is cured intellectually, mentally, and physically.

Dr. Frazer: There are many people who would not do that. They seek healing from other individuals and not from themselves—not from what they can achieve through internal concentration or chanting. They are not used to looking within.

Srila Prabhupada: Nevertheless, we have so many students who have been cured of all mental, physical, and intellectual problems simply by chanting. There are so many students. You can talk to any of them.

Dr. Frazer: After they’ve gone through the process to get to Krishna consciousness, do your students stay in the temple, or do they go out into the community and work at regular jobs?

Srila Prabhupada: Some of them do that. This student [gestures toward a devotee} is a doctor of chemistry. He is doing his job, but he is in Krishna consciousness. And there are many professors and many workers in our movement. One doesn’t have to live in the temple. No. He can live outside, but he keeps his Krishna consciousness. However, within the temple it is easier to remain Krishna conscious because of the association of devotees. Their association is an important influence.

Dr. Frazer: Do you teach control of the body?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. No meat-eating, no intoxication, no illicit sex, no gambling. These are some of the no’s. And there are so many yeses. "Do’s" and "do nots"; that is control of the body. Our students do not go to the cinema or restaurants. They do not even smoke, drink tea or coffee—nothing. We have no such expenditures, and almost no doctor’s bills.

Dr. Frazer: You said no illicit sex. What is permissible sex?

Srila Prabhupada: Permissible sex means, first of all, sex only with one’s wife. One must be married, and with his wife he can have sex once in a month after the menstrual period. And when his wife is pregnant, no more sex life. This is permissible sex.

Dr. Frazer: Do you impose any punishment for illicit sex?

Srila Prabhupada: Punishment will be there automatically, by nature’s way. As soon as you violate nature’s law, you will be punished. Suppose you are eating. If you eat a little more than you need, you will be punished. That is nature’s law. If you have too much sex, then you become impotent. That is nature’s punishment for too much sex indulgence. And if you indulge in all these prohibited things—illicit sex, intoxication, meat-eating, and gambling—then you will never understand spiritual consciousness. That is the greatest punishment. If you do not understand spiritual life, you remain like an animal, in ignorance. So, in spite of getting the chance of a human body, if we remain like animals, is this not the greatest punishment?

Dr. Frazer: I suppose it is, but how can we end this ignorance?

Srila Prabhupada: As soon as you understand God, then your knowledge is perfect. If you do not understand God, then your knowledge is imperfect. The animals cannot be educated about God, but human beings can. Therefore, there are so many scriptures in the human society. But if you don’t take advantage of this human life to understand God, then you remain an animal.

Dr. Frazer: Have you seen people who have understood God, who have been Krishna conscious, but who have regressed back to the bodily, mental, or intellectual platforms?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Just as you may be cured of a disease but again become infected and have a relapse, so you may also become Krishna conscious but again fall down into material life. But if you always keep yourself spiritually fit, then there is no chance of downfall.

Dr. Frazer: Could you tell me what the essence of Krishna consciousness is?

Srila Prabhupada: To understand God.

Dr. Frazer: To understand God and to do what is most natural—to follow the natural laws?

Srila Prabhupada: The essence of Krishna consciousness is to know God and to love Him. That is our proposition. Human life is meant for understanding God and loving Him.

Dr. Frazer: I can easily follow what you are saying. Krishna consciousness seems to involve doing what’s most natural. Overeating, overindulging in sex, overdoing anything is not natural.

Srila Prabhupada: First of all, the basic principle of understanding is that you are a spirit soul—you are not your body. But because you have accepted a body, you have to suffer so many bodily troubles. All our troubles are due to this material body. Therefore, this material body itself is our problem.

Dr. Frazer: Since, as you mentioned before, the spirit soul and the body are always different, does the perfectly realized soul feel physical distress? In other words, can someone in Krishna consciousness get a physical disease?

Srila Prabhupada: The body is subject to physical disease. How can I avoid it? But if I do not identify with my body, then the disease will not bother me. For example, suppose two men are sitting in a very nice car. Somehow or other the car is damaged. The man who possesses the car is afflicted, but the other man is not, although they are both sitting in the same car. Why is this? Can you explain this psychologically? The owner is afflicted—he is concerned—but his friend is not concerned. What is the cause of the owner’s distress?

Dr. Frazer: His possession.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. The owner is absorbed in possession: “Oh, my car is ruined!” But because the friend has no sense of possession, he is not affected. In the same way, the body is different from the soul, and when you come to the consciousness of not possessing your body, then there is no trouble.

Dr. Frazer: So, someone in Krishna consciousness may come down with a bodily illness, but he won’t be afflicted by it spiritually?

Srila Prabhupada: No, he won’t be afflicted. He is just like the man who is perfectly detached from his car: “All right, the car is damaged. I will lose some money, but it doesn’t matter.” But another man, who is very much absorbed in possession, thinks, “Oh, my car is damaged!” In the same way, one who is absorbed in bodily identification is more afflicted, and one who is not absorbed, who knows that he is not his body, is not afflicted. It is a question of consciousness. A Krishna conscious person may become diseased, but he simply says, “Oh, it comes and goes. It doesn’t matter. Let me do my duty. Hare Krishna.” This is the difference. It is a question of development of consciousness.

Dr. Frazer: What do you do when someone preoccupied with bad thoughts comes to you?

Srila Prabhupada: When someone is absorbed in thoughts of Krishna, there is no scope for bad thoughts. You can think of only one subject matter at a time, so if you are absorbed twenty-four hours a day in thoughts of Krishna, then there is no question of bad thoughts.

Dr. Frazer: If I understand you correctly, Krishna conscious people are cured of bad thoughts just by getting away from them—not by expressing the thoughts and getting away from them, but by not expressing the thoughts and getting away from them.

Srila Prabhupada: The process is like this: a man comes to our society with bad thoughts, but by chanting, chanting, chanting, he becomes relieved of these bad thoughts.

Dr. Frazer: He doesn’t talk about the bad thoughts to anyone?

Srila Prabhupada: He may talk or not talk; it doesn’t matter. But the bad thoughts go away.

Dr. Frazer: One thing I don’t quite understand. You and the people around you often seek to proselytize strangers, to involve new people. Why is that?

Srila Prabhupada: You also proselytize. When a madman goes to you, you turn him into a sane man. Is that not proselytizing?

Dr. Frazer: Yes, but he comes to me. Your people go out to other people.

Srila Prabhupada: So we are better friends to those who are suffering. You charge fees, but we canvass without any personal gain. Therefore, we are better friends than you.

Dr. Frazer: What if someone says no to you?

Srila Prabhupada: Then it is no. Suppose a fruit vendor is canvassing, “Here is a nice mango.” That does not mean everyone will buy. The mango is good. Because someone does not buy it, that does not mean the mango is bad. It is his misfortune that he did not buy the nice mango.

Dr. Frazer: I was just thinking of what you said about charging a fee. How else could professional people make a living?

Srila Prabhupada: Of course. You are a professional, but we are not professionals. We distribute our knowledge without demanding a personal salary. We distribute such an exalted thing—Krishna consciousness—without any desire for our own profit.

Dr. Frazer: Yet it seems to me that when a person joins you he gives you his time, he gives you his energy—

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, he gives everything. Take these devotees, for instance. They have given everything. Why do they give everything? We don’t charge anything. Do you think they are all fools to give everything for Krishna? What is your idea?

Dr. Frazer: They may do whatever they wish. They want to give everything.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. And that is natural—to give everything to Krishna. That is the sane condition. To withhold anything from Krishna is an insane condition. It is something like stealing from this temple. Suppose someone takes this box without my knowledge. He will be in tribulation: “Oh, I have taken this without Swamiji’s knowledge! What will he think?” But he is cured of all this trouble when he returns the box. Similarly, everything belongs to Krishna. Everything belongs to God. Nothing belongs to me, not even this body. Therefore, to offer everything to Krishna is the sane condition of life. So, when someone comes to Krishna consciousness, he returns every thing that he has received from Krishna. This is sanity. Everyone else is a thief, enjoying another's property and claiming it to be his. For example, take your country, the United States of America. Do you think it is actually your country? Two hundred years ago it did not belong to you; it belonged to the red Indians. Now you are claiming it to be your country. Why? After another two hundred years it might belong to others. So, why is it your country now? Similarly, God has given us this life, God has given us this body. God has given us this mind, God has given us everything. Therefore, everything belongs to God, and to come to this understanding is called Krishna consciousness.

Dr. Frazer: What about other philosophical studies—

Srila Prabhupada: Actually, by philosophical study we have to understand that everything belongs to God. That is the original philosophy: ishavasyam idam sarvam: “Everything belongs to God.” You, I, and everyone else belong to God, and since we are all children of God, we have the right to use God’s property—but not more than what we require. Now, you are God’s son, I am God’s son, and everything is God’s property. So, you may enjoy your father’s property, and I may enjoy it, but when you encroach on my property so that I starve, that is illegal. If we accept that everything belongs to God, and that we are all sons of God—every one of us, even animals, insects, birds, bees, trees—then we all have the right to use God’s property—but no more than what is required. That is God consciousness.

Dr. Frazer: Well, I certainly agree with that, but again, my own conflict is whether Krishna consciousness is the only consciousness for everyone.

Srila Prabhupada: Other consciousness is partial. Krishna consciousness is full. For instance, American national consciousness—that is partial. But when you speak of Krishna consciousness, that is complete.

Dr. Frazer: How is it more complete than Hinduism?

Srila Prabhupada: We are talking of God, not Hinduism or Christianity. God is for everyone. God is neither Hindu nor Christian; He is for everyone. Simply love God. It doesn’t matter whether you are Hindu or Christian or Muslim or whatever.

Dr. Frazer: Thank you for seeing me and talking with me.

Srila Prabhupada: Thank you very much. Hare Krishna.

Standard Vaishnava Prayers

Mantra prayers to Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and His associates.

Should be spoken before chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra

listensri-krishna-chaitanya

prabhu-nityananda

sri-advaita gadadhara

srivasadi-gaura-bhakta-vrinda

I offer my obeisances to Sri Krishna Chaitanya, Prabhu Nityananda, Sri Advaita, Gadadhara, Srivasa and all others in the line of devotion.

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Mantra prayer to A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

listennama om vishnu-padaya krishna-preshthaya bhu-tale

srimate bhaktivedanta-svamin iti namine


namas te saraswate deve gaura-vani-pracarine

nirvishesha-shunyavadi-pashchatya-desha-tarine

I offer my respectful obeisances unto His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who is very dear to Lord Krishna, having taken shelter at His lotus feet. Our respectful obeisances are unto you, O spiritual master, servant of Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami. You are kindly preaching the message of Lord Chaitanyadeva and delivering the Western countries, which are filled with impersonalism and voidism.

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Mantras for applying sacred tilaka.

listenom keshavaya namah

listenom narayanaya namah

listenom madhavaya namah

listenom govindaya namah

listenom vishnave namah

listenom madhusudanaya namah

listenom trivikramaya namah

listenom vamanaya namah

listenom sridharaya namah

listenom hrishikeshaya namah

listenom padmanabhaya namah

listenom damodaraya namah

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Prayers for Offering Food to Krishna

listennama om vishnu-padaya krishna-preshthaya bhu-tale

srimate bhaktivedanta-svamin iti namine

namas te sarasvate deve gaura-vani-pracarine

nirvisesha-sunyavadi-paschatya-desa-tarine

I offer my respectful obeisances unto His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who is very dear to Lord Krishna, having taken shelter at His lotus feet. Our respectful obeisances are unto you, O spiritual master, servant of Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami. You are kindly preaching the message of Lord Chaitanyadeva and delivering the Western countries, which are filled with impersonalism and voidism.

listennamo maha-vadanyaya

krishna-prema-pradaya te

krishnaya krishna-chaitanya-

namne gaura-tvishe namah

O most munificent incarnation! You are Krishna Himself appearing as Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. You have assumed the golden color of Srimati Radharani, and You are widely distributing pure love of Krishna. We offer our respectful obeisances unto You.

listennamo brahmanya-devaya

go-brahmana-hitaya ca

jagad-dhitaya krishnaya

govindaya namo namah

My Lord, You are the well-wisher of the cows and the brahmanas, and You are the well-wisher of the entire human society and world.

You can also chant the Pancha Tattva and Hare Krsna mantras three times:

listensri-krishna-chaitanya prabhu-nityananda

sri-advaita gadadhara srivasadi-gaura-bhakta-vrinda

“I offer my obeisances to Sri Krishna Chaitanya, Prabhu Nityananda, Sri Advaita, Gadadhara, Srivasa and all others in the line of devotion”

listenHare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare

Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare

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Prayer to say before eating a meal.

listensarira avidya-jal, jadendriya tahe kal

jive phele vishaya-sagare

ta’ra madhye jihva ati-, lobhamay sudurmati,

ta’ke jeta kathina samsare

krishna bada dayamay, karibare jihva jay,

sva-prasadanna dila bhai

sei annamrita pao, radha-krishna-guna gao,

preme dako chaitanya-nitai

O Lord, this material body is a lump of ignorance, and the senses are a network of paths to death. Somehow, we have fallen into this ocean of material sense enjoyment, and of all the senses the tongue is most voracious and uncontrollable; it is very difficult to conquer the tongue in this world. But You, dear Krishna, are very kind to us and have given us such nice prasadam, just to control the tongue. Now we take thisprasadam to our full satisfaction and glorify Their Lordships Sri Sri Radha-Krishna, and in love call for the help of Lord Chaitanya and Lord Nityananda.

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Prayer to devotees.

listenvancha-kalpatarubhyas ca

kripa-sindhubhya eva ca

patitanam pavanebhyo

vaishnavebhyo namo namah

I offer my respectful obeisances unto all the Vaishnava devotees of the Lord. They can fulfill the desires of everyone, just like desire trees, and they are full of compassion for the fallen souls.

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Shikshashtaka: The Eight Prayers by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.

listencheto-darpana-marjanam bhava-maha-davagni-nirvapanam

sreyah-kairava-chandrika-vitaranam vidya-vadhu-jivanam

anandambudhi-vardhanam prati-padam purnamritasvadanam

sarvatma-snapanam param vijayate sri-krishna-sankirtanam

(1) Glory to the sri-krishna-sankirtana, which cleanses the heart of all the dust accumulated for years and extinguishes the fire of conditional life, of repeated birth and death. This sankirtana movement is the prime benediction for humanity at large because it spreads the rays of the benediction moon. It is the life of all transcendental knowledge. It increases the ocean of transcendental bliss, and it enables us to fully taste the nectar for which we are always anxious.

listennamnam akari bahudha nija-sarva-shaktis

tatrarpita niyamitah smarane na kalah

etadrisi tava kripa bhagavan mamapi

durdaivam idrisam ihajani nanuragah

(2) O my Lord, Your holy name alone can render all benediction to living beings, and thus You have hundreds and millions of names, like Krishna and Govinda. In these transcendental names You have invested all Your transcendental energies. There are not even hard and fast rules for chanting these names. O my Lord, out of kindness You enable us to easily approach You by Your holy names, but I am so unfortunate that I have no attraction for them.

listentrinad api sunichena

taror api sahishnuna

amanina manadena

kirtaniyah sada harih

(3) One should chant the holy name of the Lord in a humble state of mind, thinking oneself lower than the straw in the street; one should be more tolerant than a tree, devoid of all sense of false prestige, and should be ready to offer all respect to others. In such a state of mind one can chant the holy name of the Lord constantly.

listenna dhanam na janam na sundarim

kavitam va jagad-isha kamaye

mama janmani janmanisvare

bhavatad bhaktir ahaituki tvayi

(4) O almighty Lord, I have no desire to accumulate wealth, nor do I desire beautiful women, nor do I want any number of followers. I only want Your causeless devotional service, birth after birth.

listenayi nanda-tanuja kinkaram

patitam mam vishame bhavambudhau

kripaya tava pada-pankaja-

sthita-dhuli-sadrisham vicintaya

(5)O son of Maharaja Nanda [Krishna], I am Your eternal servitor, yet somehow or other I have fallen into the ocean of birth and death. Please pick me up from this ocean of death and place me as one of the atoms at Your lotus feet.

listennayanam galad-ashru-dharaya

vadanam gadgada-ruddhaya gira

pulakair nicitam vapuh kada

tava-nama-grahane bhavishyati

(6) O my Lord, when will my eyes be decorated with tears of love flowing constantly when I chant Your holy name? When will my voice choke up, and when will the hairs of my body stand on end at the recitation of Your name?

listenyugayitam nimeshena

chakshusha pravrishayitam

sunyayitam jagat sarvam

govinda-virahena me

(7) O Govinda! Feeling Your separation, I am considering a moment to be like twelve years or more. Tears are flowing from my eyes like torrents of rain, and I am feeling all vacant in the world in Your absence.

listenaslishya va pada-ratam pinashtu mam

adarshanan marma-hatam karotu va

yatha tatha va vidadhatu lampato

mat-prana-nathas tu sa eva napara

(8) I know no one but Krishna as my Lord, and He shall remain so even if He handles me roughly by His embrace or makes me brokenhearted by not being present before me. He is completely free to do anything and everything, for He is always my worshipful Lord, unconditionally.

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Sacred mantra prayers for any time.

listenom ajnana-timirandhasya

jnananjana-salakaya

cakshur unmilitam yena

tasmai sri-gurave namah


sri-caitanya-mano-’bhishtam

sthapitam yena bhu-tale

svayam rupah kada mahyam

dadati sva-padantikam

I was born in the darkest ignorance, and my spiritual master opened my eyes with the torch of knowledge. I offer my respectful obeisances unto him. When will Srila Rupa Gosvami Prabhupada, who has established within this material world the mission to fulfill the desire of Lord Chaitanya, give me shelter under his lotus feet?

listenhe krishna karuna-sindho

dina-bandho jagat-pate

gopesa gopika-kanta

radha-kanta namo ’stu te

O my dear Krishna, You are the friend of the distressed and the source of creation. You are the master of thegopis and the lover of Radharani. I offer my respectful obeisances unto You.

listentapta-kancana-gaurangi

radhe vrindavanesvari

vrishabhanu-sute devi

pranamami hari-priye

I offer my respects to Radharani, whose bodily complexion is like molten gold and who is the Queen of Vrindavana. You are the daughter of King Vrishabhanu, and You are very dear to Lord Krishna.

listenvancha-kalpatarubhyas ca

kripa-sindhubhya eva ca

patitanam pavanebhyo

vaishnavebhyo namo namah

I offer my respectful obeisances unto all the Vaishnava devotees of the Lord. They can fulfill the desires of everyone, just like desire trees, and they are full of compassion for the fallen souls.

listensri-krishna-chaitanya

prabhu-nityananda

sri-advaita gadadhara

srivasadi-gaura-bhakta-vrinda

I offer my obeisances to Sri Krishna Chaitanya, Prabhu Nityananda, Sri Advaita, Gadadhara, Srivasa and all others in the line of devotion.

listenhare krishna hare krishna

krishna krishna hare hare

hare rama hare rama

rama rama hare hare

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Hare Krishna Maha-mantra

listenhare krishna hare krishna

krishna krishna hare hare

hare rama hare rama

rama rama hare hare

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“Blind Surrender to God Will Not Last”


Carol: Your Divine Grace, how would you go about teaching this idea of love [of God]?

Srila Prabhupada: Love means that just as I want to eat something, so if I love somebody then I will see that my beloved also eats. Also, naturally the lovers present things. For instance, when a boy loves a girl, he presents something, and she should also give him something. And if I have got some confidential thing in mind, I should disclose it to the lover, and the lover is also expected not to keep anything secret. She should disclose it. If I love you just because you are beautiful—for my sense gratification—but I keep everything secret, that is not love. That is sense gratification. Lust.

So these are the six kinds of reciprocation or exchange between the lover and the beloved. These are the signs of love.

dadati pratigrihnati
guhyam akhyati pricchati
bhunkte bhojayate caiva
shad-vidham priti-lakshanam

Priti means “love,” and these are love’s symptoms: give and take, eat and give to eat, disclose your mind and know the other party’s mind. This is love. The more you increase these six kinds of loving exchange, the more you increase the love.

Carol: If a man wants to perfect his love, should he withdraw from the world?

Srila Prabhupada: First of all, we have to understand that love exists not just within one person—love must be between two. Then you can expand the love. But first we should know, love requires two—the lover and the beloved. So the transaction begins between the two; then it expands.

Carol: Do you look at the “two” as, say, the creator and the person? Would that be the two that you have in mind?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. The creator and the created. Do you believe in the creator?

Carol: An impersonal creator, yes.

Srila Prabhupada: Impersonal?

Carol: Yes.

Srila Prabhupada: Oh. What kind of philosophy is that—“impersonal creator”?

Carol: Without any attributes.

Srila Prabhupada: Creator is an attribute. Being the creator—that is an attribute. If I create this bell, I know the art of how to create a bell. Knowing this creative art is my attribute. So how can you say the creator is without attributes? This is false philosophy. I know how to create this bell. That is my artistic sense. That is my attribute. So how can you say I am without attributes? As soon as you say “creator,” then that creator has got many attributes.

Carol: How can ignorance be removed?

Srila Prabhupada: The ignorant people can learn from the learned. If you have got this idea that the creator is impersonal, that means you are not learned; you have no knowledge. And this is the simple answer. As soon as you say “creator,” you can understand He has so many attributes or qualities.

Suppose I am ringing this bell. Now, if the bell’s spring is loose, the bell will not sound. So others may not know what to do, but the person who has created the bell knows—“Oh, the spring is loose. Now I’ll tighten it again.” That means the creator knows the ins and outs of whatever he has created. That is the nature of one who creates something.

So just imagine: The one who has created everything that exists—He is cognizant of everything that exists. How can He be impersonal? What is this philosophy? Hmm? Answer. You are a philosopher.

Carol: Well, He would incorporate personal attributes, not be governed by them.

Srila Prabhupada: Hmm? She says “He.” But “He” has to remain impersonal. [Laughter.]

Carol: Yes. [Laughs.] It’s true that creation does imply intellect and perhaps emotion.

Srila Prabhupada: Such vague ideas. And yet in this nonsensical culture, these vague ideas are passing as philosophy. “He” contradicts your impersonal idea. You say “He.” And still, you insist that “He” is impersonal.

Carol: At the emotional level, it’s a very personal …

Srila Prabhupada: Why should you be emotional? You are a philosopher. You should talk very rationally.

Carol: Oh. I … don’t philosophize. My sense is that God is impersonal but He incorporates personal features. If God is in everything, then the personal attributes must be part of “Him,” “it,” or whatever. But God is not just limited to being a person.

Srila Prabhupada: You have no idea of God. He must be a person. As soon as you say, “He knows everything,” “He creates,” and so many other things, then these all mean He is personal. Repeatedly you say “He.” These are all personal.

Carol: This is only our idea of God.

Srila Prabhupada: That means you have no clear idea of God, only a vague idea. So you have to learn what God is.

Carol: You think you can know the nature of God?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. You can know, also.

Carol: In an intellectual way?

Srila Prabhupada: You can know, also.

Carol: You might know something in your heart but not be able to express it.

Srila Prabhupada: Why not be able to express it? You can express it. Whatever is within your heart—if you cannot express it, then you are not perfect. You must express what is within your heart very clearly. Not that I have got something within my heart but I cannot express it. That means my knowledge is imperfect.

Carol: So often, our understanding moves sort of separately—through the heart, through feelings and emotion.

Srila Prabhupada: Emotion is not required for scientific knowledge of God. Emotion is not required. Useless. Knowledge of God must be factual. Emotion is of no use. Emotion is useful in highly developed stages of ecstatic love. But it is not that for preliminary scientific study of God you require emotion. No.

Carol: And yet in the bhakti way of doing things, this emotion and love actually are very closely intertwined, aren’t they?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, but that is a higher stage. Not in the beginning. In the beginning, devotion means I should be devoted to God very rationally. To start with, why should I be devoted to God unless He is worthy? For instance, Krishna says, “You surrender unto Me.” So unless I understand that Krishna is worthy of my surrendering to Him, why shall I surrender to Krishna? If I had demanded of you, as soon as you arrived here, that you surrender, would you have liked to do that? Unless you are fully aware of my abilities, qualities, why should you surrender?

So before surrendering, one has to study the person to whom he is going to surrender. Then he surrenders. That is real surrender. But blind surrender will not last.

Similarly, blind surrender to God will not last. So since our first business in this human life is to surrender to God, we must know who and what God is. Then you must surrender. And then, when it is based on solid knowledge, your emotion is good. That means you are advanced. If you understand that God is giving us everything, emotion based on that understanding is very good. If, even from the very beginning, one understands and becomes emotional—”Oh, God is so kind, God is so great. He is giving us all our necessities, so I must serve Him”—then this emotion is very good.

But for the ordinary man, this emotion does not come. He needs to study who God is, what God is. And later, when he fully understands, “Oh, God is so great,” then that emotion is very nice. That is genuine emotion. Otherwise, his surrender to God is merely sentimentality. It will not stay. It will not last. It is temporary.