God and Natural Disasters 

Why does God allow natural calamities to strike holy places like Badrinath and Kedarnath? How could He allow so many people to die in such places? 

Reply by Caitanya Carana Dasa: It is unfortunate that so many people died in Uttarakhand. We express our deepest condolences and prayers for them and their bereaved families. 

The holiness of a holy place is judged not by its immunity to natural disasters but by its ability to award spiritual experiences. Spiritual experiences mean feeling God's presence in these places, the purification that we feel by visiting such places. Such life-changing transformations in pilgrims are the primary characteristics of any holy place. And such divinity and sanctity continue to exist irrespective of whatever happens to these places on a material level. 

Cheaters committing various moral evils can exist in a place, despite being holy. Similarly natural evil in the form of disasters can occur at holy places too. The material world is a place where God does not display his power in very direct ways. Usually things and events work here based on the principle of action and reaction. When we disrupt nature's functioning, we get serious reactions. Massive deforestation, excessive pollution, enormous wastage and indiscriminate exploitation of natural resources, ruthless slaughter of millions of animals – all these human activities have destabilized ecological balance. Nature then reacts in the form of natural disasters. 

But still we may wonder: Why doesn't protect those who came to see and worship Him? We should know that no one in this world suffers unjustly,without a cause. Seen from the limited vision of our current life, it may seem that there is no justice in this world, and that everything is happening without the control of an overseer. The scriptures, however, explain that our current life is just a small fragment in a series of millions of lives. Nothing happens by chance, and every event in our life is being monitored by the laws of nature.

Of course, it would be insensitivity and hardheartedness on our part to dismiss the whole event by saying, "Well, it's their karma." As much as possible, we should extend ourselves and offer humanitarian aid to the affected people. Sometimes the government is inefficient or unprepared to deal with such calamities. Indian political leaders are so much caught up in bureaucratic red tape and political maneuvering that substantive issues are often neglected. As a result, when natural disasters of this degree occur, the casualties are unduly high. 

Thus on a practical and humanitarian level, we offer whatever help we can offer and pray and hope that the affected people can recover from their loss as soon as possible. But on a deeper philosophical level, we need to understand the workings of nature and learn to reform ourselves by seeing things with the eyes of scriptural knowledge.

Impressive Letters 

I was impressed by the very good and practical questions posed by BTG's readers in the June 2013 issue of BTG. I was even more impressed by the replies given by Nanda Dulal Prabhu. His replies are practical, sensible, benign and compassionate, in all eviating the ignorance or misguidance of newcomer devotees. Well done BTG, keep it going! – Gautam Saha, Mumbai 

How to Pronounce Rama? 

In the May 2013 issue of BTG (Letter section), I found that the perfect pronunciation for Lord Ram is Rama (RAAMAA) and not Ram (RAAM) and same for Lord Krishna's name. However I am still not satisfied with that answer. Can you please elaborate further? 

Reply by Nanda dulal Dasa: In the letter quoted above, the pronunciation of word 'Ram' is compared with that of the common English word 'drama.' The correct pronunciation for the word drama is DRAAMA. The last sound 'a' is not long as interpreted by you. Thus the word Ram is pronounced as RAAMA & not RAAMAA or RAM. The sound 'a' after 'r' is long and after 'm' is short. 

Finding Eternal Peace 

I just have one question: Do you believe that if a person is humble, thankful, good to their fellow human beings, does not lie, does not steal, and fights their inner demons every day to try and lead a good life – will they be worthy in the eyes of God to find eternal peace? – Ciara Audrey 

Our reply: The person you describe will be worthy to find eternal peace in the eyes of God only if he or she specifically seeks to develop a relationship with God. The Lord, seeing the divine qualities mentioned above, will certainly guide and assist such a person in developing that relationship; however, love is voluntary and requires the conscious and willing participation of both parties. Therefore this humble, thankful, and good person will have to actively seek out a loving relationship with the Lord in order to achieve the eternal peace that comes only from deep reciprocation with the Lord in a loving exchange. 

Overcoming Spiritual Boredom 

How can constant, moment-to-moment Krishna consciousness be made not boring or bitter? – V. I. Shah 

Our reply: One does not remember and serve Krishna in a vacuum. Devotional service to Krishna has unlimited varieties and opportunities, and there are networks of devotees all over the world with whom you can connect both by computer and in person. 

The basic idea is to think of Krishna and offer the fruits of one's work to Him. You can offer Him the fruits of whatever you are doing daily, and that is being Krishna conscious. 

Of course, for a devotee there are certain regulations to follow to stay pure and sinless. However, besides these few restrictions there are many wonderful and exciting things to do for Krishna, There are festivals and feasts almost daily at Krishna's temples, many enlightening books to read, melodic and soothing kJrtanas, and services galore. So if you are finding Krishna consciousness boring or bitter, please connect with other devotees and find new and different ways to bring Krishna into your life and to engage in His service. 

Junk Food Blues 

Does the food we eat have any effect on our thoughts? When I eat junk food, I feel that it affects my chanting. If that is so, then what should I eat? – Ankur Wahi 

Our reply: Your realizations are proof of the ill effects of eating food not prepared in devotion. Grains cooked by non devotees have very harmful effects on the consciousness. Best to prepare your own meals and offer them in devotion.
You are what you eat, as they say. Srila Prabhupada didn't want us eating anything prepared by non devotees. How can we offer junk foods to Krishna and think that He is really accepting them?
The whole idea is to change our consciousness to Krishna consciousness, and that starts with the tongue – eating only Krishna prasada and chanting His holy name.
Take the time to prepare nice food, fresh and filled with devotion. Krishna will surely accept your offering of that food and enter into it. Then it will be purifying, and not contaminating.