Where did the Pandavas go?
The Mahabharata mentions that after the disappearance of Lord Krishna, the five Pandavas went to the Himalayas, performed austerities and quitting their bodies there, ascended to the heavenly planets. If they were pure devotees then why did they go to the heavenly planets instead of going to the spiritual world, Goloka Vrindavana? – Jagdish Soni
Our reply: For an unfamiliar person, all the books in the Vedas is one unit. For someone who has been educated in the intricacies however, there is clear logical differentiation in different parts of the Vedas. Some sections like Upanisads are scholarly philosophical treatises while some sections like the histories viz. the Puranas are accounts of lives from the past teaching the same philosophical principles in an easy-to-digest form of stories.
In this line of thought, the Mahabharata is a book that focuses on morality and ethics of life in this world. The emphasis is on depicting and emphasizing the importance of leading one’s life in an unselfish and service-oriented state of mind keeping higher values in the forefront. There is very little mention of transcendence as the highest goal of life. Sometimes, too much emphasis on transcendence leads a man of independent thought to become neglectful of worthy ethics and morals of this world without having necessary grounding in transcendence either.
Thus Mahabharata presents to us a picture of the Pandavas as those who lead exemplary lives in this world and then even went on to higher destinations after their demise. From the Srimad-Bhagavatam we understand that the Pandavas ascended not only to the heavenly planets but to the spiritual world as eternal associates of Lord Krishna. In the context of the Mahabharata this spiritual world is interpreted as the heavenly planets. For a worldly man unacquainted with the high concepts of the spiritual world, the heavenly planets sound more attractive and worth desiring and thus can induce him to start leading a life in service to God practicing pure values and principles. The Vedic scriptures are compilations of events from the past and thus the Mahabharata just records history as it happened.
Alternatively, the mention of Pandavas ascending to heaven can also be explained as their visiting the heavenly planets for some time on their way to the spiritual world and then re-commencing their onward journey.
Why India cannot progress?
Sometimes I just fail to understand that in spite of so much religious activities like worshipping of demigods, performance of austerities etc. practiced in India, Indians have not much progressed materially whereas in the western world there is comparatively very less worship and religious activities but they have been blessed with much more material progress. How do we understand this? – Rajeev Sehgal
Our reply: History books depict a picture of India as a land of boundless prosperity and limitless natural resources. In addition, India is also portrayed as an advanced civilization steeped in high values for transcendental pursuits. Always focusing on spirituality, people here for ages have always aimed at noble aims and high values. This magnificent combination of extreme prosperity in the hands of unattached owners was too good to resist for foreign invaders. Add to this the effects of the age of Kali where mutual dissension scores over efforts to stand united against foreign adversaries and one can get a quick idea about how so much damage could be caused so easily.
A quick look at the history of India for the past 2000 years reveals that India suffered incalculable invasions from almost all dominant civilizations of Europe viz. the English, the Dutch, the Portuguese, the French, from others like the Turkish, the Mughals etc. The museums in London and Teheran bear mute testimony to the fact that most of what is priceless there is loot from India. Untold quantities of gold from temples all over India have been taken as booty over the centuries. The Kohinoor diamond, the peacock throne etc. and many such unequalled priceless articles which adorned India at one point are unmatched in their grandeur even today. This is a simple but profound proof that India was a land of abundance a land where there was always enough to loot.
The West depicts great material progress to an unwary eye. A little closer inspection reveals that all this material “progress” has also gifted to it horrendous mental diseases, broken families and a complete loss of financial and social equilibrium. On the other hand, even today the average Indian (untouched by Western values) has no mental problems, enjoys stable family life and due to his simple wants derives satisfaction even from inadequate wealth. The Western way of measuring prosperity is by calculating indices viz. GDP, GNP etc. One will be surprised to know that one of the activities that contributes to the growth of these indices is when a sick person gets himself some expensive treatment viz. a CT scan, an MRI scan etc. Thus, more the number of people getting themselves inspected by costly procedures, more the GDP of a nation will zoom and apparently reflect the prosperity of that nation. Any sane person would disagree with such a measurement of prosperity.
Another way of measuring “prosperity” is to gauge the quality of lives of people, not from an external perspective counting the devices and gadgets they possess, but by understanding the fulfillment that one feels in one’s heart. By this standard, India indeed scores higher than any Western nation.
Replies to the above letters were written by Nanda Dulal Dasa.
Why not free education?
In "Real Education" (BTG June 2012), Srila Prabhupada lays stress on the importance of free education. Why do you charge fees in ISKCON gurukulas and schools? If you cannot follow your founder-acharya then whom do you expect to follow him? Why are you printing such type of articles and instructions that you yourself are not following? – Madhupriya Dasa
Our reply: Srila Prabhupada set us many ideals to strive for, and we often print and discuss those ideals even if we haven't achieved them completely. In regards to this particular instruction, free education is part of a social system; it doesn't exist in isolation. Free education is offered, Prabhupada explains, when government gives tax money to schools, and families in the community where schools are located also give regular donations. As you may note in the quote we published, Prabhupada says that the students begged from the local villagers and gave their gifts to the teacher. If such tax money and donations do not exist, then schools must charge for education in order to meet their expenses in providing that education. Without tax money and donations, all teachers and administrators would need to have an additional paying job, which would take their time and energy away from their teaching.
ISKCON now has a growing number of schools which are government supported and can thus offer free education. ISKCON members would like to help, advise and create governments which would support free spiritual education. Thus we promote Prabhupada's instructions, even though there are areas of the world where such an instruction cannot be followed at present.
On another side, Krishna explains that a sacrifice without remuneration to the priests is in the mode of ignorance. It is essential that students and society in general support, in all respects, including financial, those who teach in various fields.
Reply to the above letter was writen by Urmila Devi Dasi
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