I was wondering what relevance the Hare Krsna movement has in today's society? Could you please spare some of your thoughts on the topic?
Our Reply: Srila Prabhupada, the founder of the movement, used to say that we're giving society a brain. Presently, society has no brain in the sense that it has no direction. The leaders of society don't know the purpose of human life. They mislead people under the misconception that this life is all there is.
But we're spiritual beings, and human life is the chance to reawaken our love for God and return to Him. If we waste our time in material pursuits and neglect our spiritual life which should be our main business we'll have to return to this world after death and take birth in any one of millions of species of life. The Hare Krsna movement is relevant to anyone who wants to make the proper use of human life. We're an educational institution, teaching people about God, our relationship with Him, and the process for going back to Him.
I am a regular reader of BTG, and I have the following doubt in my mind.
The Battle of Kurukshetra was a world war. At that time the progress of human civilization was at the same point everywhere around the globe. After that, Kali-yuga started. Now five thousand years have been passed, and we observe many types of civilizations and people and different levels of progress. People's physical appearance is different (Chinese, Asian, African, etc.). Their languages, language scripts, pronunciation styles, living styles, food habits, customs, traditions, etc., differ from one another very significantly. For what purpose was such variety created in human beings of Kali-yuga only? Or has it happened merely by chance?
Via the Internet
Our Reply: Your assumption that variety in human society didn't exist at the time of the Kurukshetra war is incorrect. The Vedas say that there are 400,000 human "species," so variety has always existed. Various races were present on the Battlefield of Kurukshetra. The Srimad-Bhagavatam (2.4.18) mentions some of the races existing five thousand years ago: Kirata, Huna, Andhra, Pulinda, Pulkasa, Abhira, Sumbha, Yavana, and Khasa. (If you have a copy of Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavatam translation and commentary, you can read his interesting purport to that verse.) These races, like the other species of life, exist by the Lord's arrangement to fulfill the variegated desires and karma of the souls in this world.
Even though the Vedic kings ruled the world, some races lived outside the Vedic standard. For example, in Lord Krsna pastimes we hear about "aborigine girls."
As for the great variety of cultures today, they result from the natural progression of Kali-yuga, an age when people drift further and further away from the Vedic culture, the original human culture.
For more information on this topic, please see Proof of Vedic Culture's Global Existence, by Stephen Knapp (Sri Nandanandana Dasa).
Struggling with the Mind
I want to chant more and read more. I know I should, but my mind demands watching news, sports, etc. Because of my past habits, my mind is quiet when I am doing business or other activities other than spiritual activity. What can I do to change to more spiritual and progressive activity and less worldly affairs? I have family obligations, so I can't associate with devotees full-time. But I attend the temple every time I can and sponsor feasts and chant rounds and read BTG and Bhagavatam. I need to concentrate my mind on progress, and I can't.
At the age of five I was initiated with the mantra sri krsna saranam mama ["Lord Krsna is my shelter."] Because I like ISKCON's congregational chanting and Srila Prabhupada's scientific and transcendental approach to bhakti, I chant both mantras: ten rounds of the mantra I mentioned, and five rounds of Hare Krsna maha-mantra. Is that offensive?
Via the Internet
Our Reply: Everyone struggles with the mind. Therefore, our acarya Srila Rupa Gosvami says that we must execute devotional service with enthusiasm, determination, and patience. We can't expect that there will be no struggle. You are already doing many good things, so just keep doing them, and gradually you'll feel less attracted to material activities.
There is no secret besides steady practice and the mercy of the devotees. In the beginning of our practices (and we're mostly all beginners) we have to perform the devotional practices even if they seem against our nature. Rupa Gosvami says that our condition is like that of the jaundiced patient who can't taste the sweetness of sugar. As he becomes cured, he tastes the sweetness. Rupa Gosvami says that if we practice every day, gradually we'll be cured of our material disease and awaken our taste for devotional service.
It is not offensive to chant both sri krsna saranam mama and the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, but we chant Hare Krsna exclusively because Lord Caitanya, the avatar for this age, instructed us to do so. We accept Lord Caitanya as Krsna Himself, and on His authority we chant the mantra He revealed. Besides that, the maha-mantra has the benefit of addressing both Radha and Krsna. Srila Prabhupada would point out that to approach Krsna we have to go through His energy, or Radha. So in that sense too we can understand why the maha-mantra is most authorized.
No Dairy Milk
Two readers objected to our reply to K. K. Wirth in the last issue, in which we mentioned why ISKCON members drink milk from commercial dairies. We ran out of space in this issue to print their letters, but here's a summary.
Tim Hitchner of Vancouver, B.C., Canada, wrote that ISKCON members should simply be vegan: "To say that as long as I offer the jug of milk I just bought at Safeway to Krsna before using it even though the cow that gave it suffers in a very brutal way in a dairy farm that the cow will still get the benefit is a bit of a stretch."
Ivar Verploegh from The Netherlands, who works in a health food store and has been an ISKCON member since 1993, says the obvious alternative is to use organic milk. His arguments: less violence involved, no harmful chemicals to offer to Krsna, organic cows benefited, easy availability of organic milk now (unlike when Prabhupada was present), better "vibration" in milk from suckling organic cows, and the possibility of soy milk (plus vitamins) as an alternative to cows milk.
Their letters can be found on our website: www.krsna.com.