All Because of BTG
Let me first state at the outset that this is the first time I have ever written to a magazine giving feedback about an article I have read. This is noteworthy, because I am a college professor and my friends and associates consider me to be well read. I do not like to waste my time, so I always carry something with me to read while I am waiting for a doctor's appointment, in the bank line, etc. More times than not, I carry the latest issue of BTG.
All of that being said, let me share with you that I was truly touched by your article in the May/June 2000 issue entitled, "Holding Fast in Times of Stress." I have been an enthusiastic reader of BTG for several years, and I have been impressed with a number of articles, but none have moved me to tears as did this fine piece of writing.
One article you did a couple of years ago also stands out in my memory. It was about an "ordinary" guy who explained how he came to Krsna consciousness. Up until that article I didn't think it was possible to embrace this "science" unless you lived full time in a temple. That one article started me reading all of Srila Prabhupada's books from all available sources. This in turn gave me the hope that one day I too could become an initiated devotee. The next logical step was to put all of this "book knowledge" into practice. I decided to turn to the back of your magazine and find the nearest ISKCON center to me. It took a big leap of faith to visit a center needless to say, all of my friends thought that I had lost my mind (smile)!
I visited a rural community, New Talavan, and spent three days there getting to know the devotees and more about the Hare Krsna movement. I won't go into detail here about how impressed I was with their lifestyle and the love I experienced there, but suffice it to say due to their efforts I now consider myself to be a full devotee of Krsna living the four principles. All of this happened because of your magazine!
In closing, let me ask you to write more articles about "average" people and how they came to embrace Krsna. I guarantee you that articles of this type will be an impetus for others to want to return to Godhead. Thank you for your service I am already looking forward to your next issue!
Van V. Gignilliat
Suffering Subtle Body
I happened to come across your Nov./Dec. 1998 issue, in which you have published excerpts from the Srimad-Bhagavatam, Third Canto, Chapter 30, verses 19-31, explaining the plight of the sinful soul after death, after it leaves the material body on earth. The dreadful account can't be true, because the soul cannot reap the fruit of his actions, bad or good, until he gets a material body again. The subtle soul will never suffer any hardship, as explained in Bhagavad-gita 2.22-25.
Whereas the Bhagavatam describes the punishment of the sinful person in hell, the Gita states that after leaving the material body, the soul gets another material body. I find a lot of variance between the two books. Please elucidate the correct position. Both cannot be right.
Our Reply: Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam present the same teachings in essence, but the Bhagavatam elaborates points discussed briefly in the Gita. The Gita (7.4) explains that besides the gross material body, the soul also inhabits a subtle material body, made up of the mind, intelligence, and false ego. It is this subtle body that undergoes punishment in the hellish planets. While it is true, as the Gita says, that the soul goes on to another body, it is also true, as the Bhagavatam says, that the sinful soul first of all undergoes punishment in hellish planets. Because the suffering takes place on a subtle plane, the time duration seems very long, when in fact it is brief. (Researchers tell us that although episodes in dreams seem to last a long time, they are actually very short.)
We can understand how the subtle body feels pain by considering what happens in our dreams. During the day we identify with our gross, physical body, and at night we identify with our subtle body, in dreams. When we dream, the experience seems real. If something harms us in a dream, we "feel" it. We might, for example, wake up screaming because of pain or fright. This is an indication of how the subtle body is punished in the hellish planets.
More from the Sixties
Back to Godhead is my favorite magazine. I got the May/June issue in the mail two weeks ago, and it was wonderful. I just loved the story by Damodara Dasa, and I love the old photos of Prabhupada and the devotees. I'd love to see more articles from devotees who joined ISKCON in the 1960s.
Ashcroft, B. C., Canada
Dealing with Loss
How does one deal with losing one's job? I was a heavy drinker and have found great comfort in Krsna consciousness. I have started drinking because the pain and anxiety are so great. How do I deal with this?
Via the Internet
Our Reply: The best remedy is to increase your absorption in Krsna consciousness. Chant more, read more, and if possible, associate with devotees. Many of our habits come from association. If you had friendships with devotees, you would be much less inclined to look for solace in a bottle. Besides these spiritual solutions, read literature or attend meetings that will convince you that even on a material level, drinking will only make things worse.
Congratulations on another fine issue (May/June). The subject discussed in the Letters department brought out a significant dilemma that every devotee I'm sure struggles with daily: concentration in chanting. For my first twenty years or so of regular chanting, the challenge of sixteen straight unbroken rounds might as well be that of climbing Mt. Everest.
My deliverance came in a simple form. I began to intersperse the recitation of the Siksastaka prayers of the blessed Lord Caitanya through the rounds. Then, because that seemed to help intensify the experience and focus the mind on its goal, I added some Bhagavad-gita verses and some personal prayers and affirmations. I am sure that there are enough people out there who could be likewise helped, so I thought it would be useful to mention the idea. If one doesn't find success in chanting, the rest is useless.
Please write us at: BTG, P.O. Box 430, Alachua, FL 32616, USA. Or: BTG, 33 Janki Kutir, Next to State Bank of Hyderabad, Juhu, Mumbai 400 049, India. Phone: (022) 618-1718. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org