Q: The Bhagavad-gita (18.48) says that we should continue to carry out our prescribed duties, for they are born out of our own nature. (1) What does "born out of our own nature" mean? (2) The purport also says that a sudra should carry out the orders of the bad master even though they should not be done. I assume this means one should go on doing something wrong even if he knows about it. Changing things would mean not doing your prescribed duty. Please elaborate on this topic.

In your March issue, under the topic "A Great Husband's Great Wife," you explained the rules of conduct of a chaste and faithful wife (sadhvi). The purport also says that even if there is some wrong on the part of the husband, the wife must tolerate it, and thus there will be no misunderstanding between husband and wife. If the husband shows some illicit sexual advances towards his wife, should she just please him or should she shun him? Where does one draw the line between one's duty and tolerance?

Mukesh Mehta

Kew Gardens, New York

A: The Bhagavad-gita tells us that three modes of nature goodness, passion, and ignorance govern our physical and mental qualities. These qualities make up "our nature."

And according to our nature, there's a work that suits each of us best. An intellectual will be ill-suited to street-sweeping, a street sweeper ill-suited for teaching trigonometry. So the Vedic system assigns duties to each of us, fitted to our nature.

In the Vedic conception, what's wrong for us depends on our occupation. For example, a brahmana (a priest or intellectual) must be scrupulously honest. So for a brahmana, lying is wrong. But in a vaisya(merchant), lying is tolerable. A merchant tells us, "For you I'm not making any profit." It's a lie, of course, but that's business.

Similarly, for a ksatriya (king or statesman) a vow to be nonviolent is wrong. A ksatriya must protect his citizens, so when force is needed he must use it. But for a brahmana to use violence is wrong. A brahmanamust be peaceful and nonviolent.

Similarly, a brahmana must be free and independent. So for him it's wrong to be employed and obliged to others. A bought-out intellectual, the Vedic sages say, is no better than a dog. But for a sudra, a hired workman, independence is wrong. A sudra, by definition, lacks higher intelligence. Given independence, he'll misuse it. So for a sudra, acting independently is wrong.

Every duty has some fault in it. But when we try to cure such faults by going against our natural duties, the Vedic sages say it won't work. The wrongs we cause will be greater than the wrongs we try to rectify.

The highest duty for all living beings is to serve the Supreme Personality of Godhead. So in the highest sense, whatever acts bring us closer to Krsna are right, and whatever acts pull us away are wrong.

A wife should tolerate the wrongs of her husband, but not to the point of getting dragged into the four main sins illicit sex, meat-eating, gambling, and intoxication. The Srimad-Bhagavatam (7.11.28) says, "A chaste wife should engage with affection in the service of a husband who is not fallen." In Krsna consciousness, a wife is not a machine for sense gratification.

Q: I'm hoping you won't mind answering a couple of questions about the maha-mantra.

First I'd like to know: Is there a verse somewhere in the Vedas that actually states the mantra in the form printed in BTG [Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare]? I haven't come across any, so I'm curious.

Also I'm wondering: Does a recording of chanting have the same effect as "live" chanting, e.g., I have a tape of Srila Prabhupada singing the mantra, so would just listening to that be very effective?

Stefan Sondej

Sydney, Australia

A: Yes, the maha-mantra is found in the Vedas, in the following verse (5) from the KalisantaranaUpanisad:

iti sodasaka namnam
kali-kalmasa nasanam
natah parataropayah
sarva-vedesu drsyate

Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

"Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare these sixteen names can nullify all the degrading, contaminating effects of the materialistic Age of Kali. In all the Vedas, no higher way is to be found." The chanting of Hare Krsna is always equally potent, whether heard "live" or on tape. This is the nature of transcendental sound. The Bhagavad-gita is a "recording" of Lord Krsna's words. Yet the Gita is still as potent today as it was when the Lord first spoke it. When we hear the transcendental sound from the lips of a pure devotee of the Lord, that sound vibration is always effective.

Q: In several books I have read by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada he says that to chant Jesus's name will work for becoming God conscious. What should I tell Christians when they say Jesus was the son of God and by giving your life to him you can be "born again" and go to heaven? Should Krsna's servants think that Jesus was also a messenger of God and what he said is true?

I was raised a Methodist, but I feel so good when I chant Hare Krsna. I feel that Krsna consciousness is awakening my soul!

Thank you for your help and thanks to you and Krsna for Back to Godhead.

Mark Haydon

Des Moines, Iowa

A: Christ is the son of God, and Krsna is God. So by giving one's life to Krsna one perfectly follows the teachings of Jesus. Hare Krsna.