Lord Krishna

A painter discovers that art finds its perfection in the glorification of the Supreme Lord.

PUBLISHING and distributing Vedic literature was the foundation of Srila Prabhupada's plan to spread Krsna consciousness all over the world. And to make the books more attractive and accessible, Srila Prabhupada wanted them to include beautiful paintings depicting Krsna, Krsna's pastimes, and points of Krsna conscious philosophy.

Srila Prabhupada always encouraged and inspired his artists. He told them that painting Krsna was their worship and that the paintings were "windows to the spiritual world."

One of the most prolific artists in the Hare Krsna movement is Puskara Dasa. Born fifty years ago in Brooklyn, New York, he has been painting most of his life. He remembers painting on a mural alongside his father before he was two. By age seven he was attending special art classes at the Brooklyn Museum and at Pratt Institute. Later he attended the High School of Music and Art in upper Manhattan. On graduating from high school, he received two scholarships from the city of New York one to the Art Students League and one to the Brooklyn Museum Art School.

In 1968 the lure of the sixties counterculture drew Puskara to San Francisco, where he attended the San Francisco Art Institute. While in San Francisco he met Hare Krsna devotees, who had a storefront temple on Frederick Street, just down the hill from where he lived.

Invited by an acquaintance, he moved into a small commune of hippies northeast of San Francisco. His friends there often played a recording of Hare Krsna devotees singing, and the commune had a copy of Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita As It Is, which Puskara sometimes read.

He gradually became frustrated with his hippie life and flew to Hawaii, hoping to somehow improve his spirituality. After some time on his own, he joined the asrama of an American spiritual teacher known as Sai, who had a following on the Hawaiian Islands. When Sai became a disciple of Srila Prabhupada's, Sai brought his followers with him.

Puskara ended up at the Hare Krsna center in Los Angeles, where devotees soon engaged him in painting for Srila Prabhupada's books a service he's been doing ever since. In July 1971 he received spiritual initiation from Srila Prabhupada. Puskara Dasa's paintings regularly appear in Back to Godhead, and he is the illustrator for the Mahabharata excerpts that run in each issue.

A book on his life and art has just been published (Windows to the Spiritual World: Spiritrealism and the Art of Puskar. See page 31).