I very much appreciated the article "Ganga Safari" in your March/April issue. It was like a documentary or being there. The photographs were brilliant. Great composition and perspective, particularly the long shots. I would like to know if anyone can go on that same boat tour, as I'm planning a trip to Vrndavana in the fall.
Vaikuntha Dasa adhikari
Via the Internet
OUR REPLY: Jayapataka Swami is planning to lead an excursion down the Ganges, from Mayapur to the sea, during the upcoming month of Karttika (October 25-November 23). For more information, contact Vidvan Gauranga Dasa, Shree Mayapur Chandrodaya Mandir, P. O. Box 10279, Ballyganj, Calcutta 700 019.
The Basics of Womanhood
I very much appreciated Visakha Devi's article "What's a Women to Do?" [March/April] However, I'm concerned about what might happen if senior devotee women minister to women in general by putting an emphasis on what they could do rather than what tradition or scripture has emphasized. The tendency, as I see it, is that women no longer confined to their traditional roles become egocentric, compete with men, fall into promiscuity, and give up the modesty and chastity of the Vedic women. Visakha Devi was very to the point about a woman always needing the protection of a father, husband, or son, and I have not overlooked that. I just consider that if the senior women in the Krsna consciousness movement are not mindful enough to teach the younger generation about the basics of womanhood, then we'll witness illegitimacy and divorce unchecked.
Yogindra Vandana Dasa adhikari
Carriere, Mississippi, USA
VISAKHA DEVI DASI REPLIES: I agree that the senior women in the Krsna consciousness movement should teach by their words and examples the basics of womanhood to the younger generation. Those basics include modesty and chastity, as you indicate, as well as using their talents to serve the Lord. These basics are not contradictory or conflicting; it is simply a matter of proper training and attitude. If the women (or the men) become egocentric and overly competitive, that's surely an indication of improper training and attitude.
Hare Krsna and Hinduism
I have read your magazine, and I have enjoyed it. I wish to compliment you on it. I have learned many of the Vaisnava beliefs. However, I have a question. Are there any Vaisnava beliefs (Hare Krsna beliefs) that are different from or contrary to Hindu beliefs?
Via the Internet
OUR REPLY: The problem here is in defining "Hindu beliefs." The word Hindu itself comes from Persian languages, not from the Sanskrit Vedic scriptures upon which "Hinduism" is based. So there is no part of the Vedas that says, "A Hindu believes such and such." The word Hindu is not found anywhere in the Vedic scriptures.
The Vedic scriptures are a vast body of literature with great diversity of presentations that suit a variety of spiritual interests. According to scholars, the absence of a commonly accepted core belief system characterizes Hinduism.
For these reasons it is sometimes said that there are 900 million Hindus and 900 million varieties of Hinduism.
Scholars of Hinduism generally divide Hindus into two philosophical groups: those who seek oneness with an impersonal Supreme represented by many Deities, and those who seek the eternal service of a single, personal God.
As Vaisnavas, or devotees of Lord Krsna, we are personalists. We chant Krsna's names and pray for Him to accept our eternal service. We worship Krsna's Deity form, recite and study Sanskrit scriptures, and observe sacred festivals with roots in the Vedic tradition. Such practices are common to virtually all those who consider themselves Hindus.
At the same time, since the scriptures say the soul is eternal and defies such designations, we do not consider ourselves "Hindus." The soul is not Hindu, Christian, or Jew. The soul is part of God. When the body dies, the soul lives on, rewarded according to the relationship one establishes in this life with Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
In short, we are devotees of Krsna, not Hindus. Yet we worship Krsna side by side with millions who consider themselves Hindus. Scholars consider us part of that hard-to-define Hindu religion. We have no problem with either point of view.
Sometimes we see some ill-informed people claiming, out of sectarian concerns, that personalism is not Hinduism. In so doing, they defy not only the views of most scholars of Hinduism but also most Hindus, who easily relate to and take part in the practices of Krsna consciousness.
BTG at the Gym
Your magazine has a broader appeal than you may think. The other day I took BTG with me to read while walking the treadmill at the local gym. After my walk, I left the BTG perched on the back of a weight machine while I lifted weights. During my thirty-minute program three people picked up the BTG and stood reading it for about five minutes each. Realizing it was mine, two of them asked me questions about local Krsna conscious gatherings.
Just that morning I had been wondering if my plan to acquire land for Krsna's Kauai temple was appropriate and in line with Krsna's plan. I found the interest in the BTG during that thirty minutes very encouraging.
I immensely enjoy reading your marvelous magazine. It is enlightening and spiritual. Thank you for bringing Krsna consciousness to this demonism stricken world. May Lord Krsna always be your guiding light.
Via the Internet
Do You Value Life?
I have just started to read "The Song of God: Bhagavad-gita," translated by Christopher Isherwood. On page 36 Sri Krsna says all this great stuff about why Arjuna should fight. But then I am wondering: once you find out about all this great wisdom, do you still value life?
D. C. Stryk
Via the Internet
OUR REPLY: It's extremely important that you read an edition of the Bhagavad-gita translated by someone who has realized its teachings. We suggest you get a copy of Bhagavad-gita As It Is, by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
One who follows Lord Krsna's teachings certainly values life. You seem concerned that Krsna is inciting Arjuna to kill on the battlefield. As Prabhupada explains in his Gita commentary, sometimes violence is necessary for the upkeep of society. He gives the example of a surgeon, who has to cut the patient apparently a violent act for the patient's benefit. To commit violence whimsically or for one's selfish interests is a grievous wrong, but Arjuna was being guided by the Lord Himself, who, as we see later in the Gita, gives and takes away all life. So there is no question of Arjuna's acting irreligiously or with disregard for life.
I am a student in Southern California, as well as a regular attendee at my local ISKCON temple. I have attended the temple for as long as I can remember, and as I have always been brought up in the ISKCON/Hindu lifestyle, I have never really questioned it. I follow all the basic religious teachings I have learned over the years, though as I get older, I have begun to wonder about certain aspects of my life, not because I dislike them, but because I feel that it is important to know why I believe in something, instead of blindly believing in it.
Over the last few years, I've begun to resent some things I hear the temple priest say. For years I've listened to the priest talk about how it's important to live life in a certain way, and I've always been told that the way he tells me to live is the ideal. However, I've had some time to think about it, and I now find myself questioning what the priest lectures about. What right does this man have to tell people how to live life? After all, most temple priests have nothing else to do in life but to live at the temple and pray to God. They know nothing about what it's like to work, pay taxes, have desires, and endure temptation. What gives them the right to tell us how to live life when they don't know what real life is really like?
I am very interested in what you have to say about this issue.
Via the Internet
OUR REPLY: We commend you for asking questions, because a proper philosophical understanding is essential if we want to maintain spiritual practices. In most ISKCON temples, at least those with more than a handful of devotees, many devotees are likely to give lectures. And although some of the lecturers may be temple priests, some are probably devotees with families and regular jobs devotees living in the "real world."
A lecturer can take many approaches in presenting the philosophy and practices of Krsna consciousness, and no doubt some lecturers are more skillful or tactful than others. Maybe you are regularly hearing from someone who seems out of touch with the pressures of day-to-day life. If the lecturer you've been hearing is a celibate living in the temple, he might not have to work and pay taxes. Still, like everyone else in this world, he is certainly faced with temptations and desires.
We all tend to resist being told what to do, and it seems you don't like to hear about some of the restrictions ISKCON recommends. But these restrictions are not rules for the sake of rules. They are meant to help us advance in spiritual life. The goal is to become Krsna conscious, to re-awaken our innate love for Krsna. Naturally, how we live affects our consciousness. So we have to set priorities. If spiritual realization is of utmost importance to me, then I should arrange my life for it. I have to ask myself whether I want to add complications to my life, or simplify and leave myself more time for spiritual practices.
There are members of ISKCON from all walks of life, including college students who face the same pressures you do. But those serious about spiritual life protect it by being careful whom they associate with and what they do with their free time. They may also sometimes feel that those living in the temple are out of touch. On the other hand, they may appreciate reminders about the urgency of spiritual life. While it's true that some ISKCON preachers would do well to tone down the rhetoric, please don't let that divert you from hearing the essential message of Krsna consciousness. Devotees present Krsna consciousness as Prabhupada teaches it in his books. If you study them, you'll have a good basis for evaluating any lecture on Krsna consciousness you may hear in the temple.
Please write us at: BTG, P.O. Box 430, Alachua, FL 32616, USA; fax: (904) 462-7893. Or: BTG, 33 Janki Kutir, Next to State Bank of Hyderabad, Juhu, Mumbai 400 049, India. Phone: (022) 618-1718; fax: (022) 618-4827; e-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org