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BACK TO GODHEAD
51 West Allens Lane
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19119
One of the reasons I started subscribing to BACK TO GODHEAD was for the beautiful artwork. But my issues are being ruined by the address label pasted on the front picture. Why is it necessary to put the labels on the front cover? Why not the back?
Terrell B. Kriegh
Our reply: A few issues ago, we moved up from third-class mail to second-class. When we switched, our mailing people began putting the labels on the front cover. But the Postal Service tells us it's okay for us to put the label on the back, so from now on that's what we'll do. We're sending you new copies of the issues the labels messed up. Thanks for setting us straight.
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I thought that I would send a little note along with my renewal just to let you know how much I really enjoy back to godhead. Each issue is beautiful! (Both the layout and the subject matter.)
Your staff should be very proud of your achievements on this magazine. I salute you all for creating something worthwhile to read in this time of violence and madness. I also salute you for carrying on the work that Lord Chaitanya started centuries ago!
Although I do not officially belong to your movement. I strongly support it. I feel that contrary to popular belief your movement is not a "cult" or any other foul name the media conjures up. (Since when did worshiping the Lord himself become something to be outlawed?)
I think that all those disbelievers would be singing a different song if they tried chanting the maha-mantra for a while. It truly is an uplifting experience!
Brockport, New York
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I've been traveling here and there, but now I've landed in Red Mountain, which is not too far from Los Angeles. I was wondering if my subscription is still valid for BACK TO GODHEAD magazine. I would like to still keep reading it.
I want to express my delight in reading this literature. It's definitely different, and it gives me lots of spiritual insights and knowledge. Just because the pictures are so colorful and Krsna is so beautiful and beautifully dressed, I'm attracted to the "magic" of Krsna devotees. I very much appreciate your spiritual endeavors to give folks love for God. I think it's working!
Red Mountain, California
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In last month's back to godhead, we published a letter (with our reply) from a Mr. Richard L. Miller. Citing the advancement he had made through raja-yoga, Mr. Miller took us to task for closed-mindedness. Any spiritual path, beseemed to assert, could lead one to God. BACK TO GODHEAD disagreed. Now Mr. Miller has more to say.
Thank you for your thoughtful letter.
It is not my view that everyone's path to God is equally valid. Some ways are long and difficult, others short and easy is it not preferable to take the shorter way?
To set matters straight, the scriptural authority on Raja-Yoga is not the Bhagavad-gita but the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
The austerities of Raja-Yoga of which you have spoken, which appear to you as impossible, are grouped under the headings of "Yama" and "Niyama." These may be considered as the ethical or moral foundation of Raja-Yoga.
Now, the virtues we are asked to practice are the same as those which most religions ask celibacy, ahimsa or nonviolence, truthfulness, etc. These are really not at all difficult to practice, as I have learned from experience.
I may also point out that the main purpose of these requirements is to keep the yogi's mind calm and unshaken. It is not unreasonable, therefore, in the present age, for the yogi to choose whatever moral or ethical system helps him to attain this end.
Furthermore, I don't think one should allow the supposed difficulties of the system to frighten one off from Raja-Yoga. Even if one is not totally perfect in Yama and Niyama, one may still reap spiritual advancement, for this reason: Raja-Yoga is a scientific system of attainment and if the practices are followed faithfully, the results will be forthcoming.
Your own system utilizes mantra yoga; I say, why not use all the other yogic techniques?
As for my familiarity with religious scriptures, I have devoted many years to the wholehearted and singleminded study of mystical writings of China, India, Europe, and all other lands. Although it is the work of a lifetime, I feel I have made a suitable beginning and am therefore entitled to speak.
I still feel that your system is incorrect in many of its statements but I will allow the truth to bear witness to itself and write no more.
Richard L. Miller
Our reply (from Jayadvaita Swami, Senior Editor): We are in agreement: among the various ways to truth, the shortest, most direct way is the one we should prefer.
Now, let us consider. As you say, yama and niyama form the ethical and moral basis for yoga. To practice yoga one must be truthful, nonviolent, and so on. But these are only the beginning of raja-yoga. As you point out, raja-yoga is a scientific system. And in science we must proceed step by step.
(It's strange, by the way, to find such an eclectic as you brushing aside Bhagavad-gita, the one book nearly the entire world accepts as the supreme authority on yoga. But anyway, let's proceed.)
Raja-yoga gradually guides one through eight steps. As Patanjali tells us, yama and niyama are steps one and two. The third step is asana sitting in postures for meditation. Then comes pranayama control of the breath. The next step is to withdraw the senses from whatever they're involved in. Then comes mental concentration. Then meditation. And finally one reaches the ultimate stage samadhi, full absorption of one's consciousness in the Absolute Truth. So by following all the steps of raja-yoga, one gradually comes to samadhi, the ultimate goal.
As I pointed out in reply to your previous letter, the path to samadhi through this eightfold system is arduous. Each of the eight steps calls for its own rigorous discipline. (And as in any science, if you don't follow the procedure you won't get the result.)
To give only one example, pranayama control of the breath means that ultimately the yogi has to come to the point of stopping his breathing entirely! Having accomplished this, he holds his senses so well under control that he can take the next step withdrawing the senses from all material engagements. Just from this one example, perhaps you can see why the Vedic sages who taught this yoga system in a previous age tell us not to waste our time with it now. If one follows the practices faithfully, the results will be forthcoming. Only one trouble: the practices are nearly impossible to follow.
In mantra-yoga, however the path the Vedic literature sets forth for the present age meditation is simple and direct. One need not go through the preliminary stages of mechanically trying to subdue the mind and senses by long, difficult exercises in sitting, breathing, sensory discipline, and so on. Instead, one comes directly to the highest stage samadhi, constant meditation on the Supreme Absolute by chanting the transcendental names of the Absolute.
According to Patanjali (sutra 2.45), one attains perfect samadhi simply by meditating on and surrendering to the Supreme Lord (samadhi-siddhir isvara-pranidhanat). In raja-yoga, one must undergo all the disciplines of the eightfold process, step by step, before one can attain this perfection. But by chanting Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, one at once focuses one's attention on the Lord, who is present in the form of His transcendental name.
According to the Vedic scriptures, the Supreme Absolute Truth, the Supreme Lord, is nondifferent from His name. So by chanting His names we immediately come in touch with Him. What could possibly be more simple, straightforward, and direct?
You ask, "Why not use all other yogic techniques?" and you suggest that one choose whatever moral or ethical codes help calm his mind.
This hardly seems a wise suggestion. Suppose a diseased man says, "Why take only one medicine? Why not whatever medicine makes me feel good? Why not take all medicines?" Is this a very intelligent idea? The wise patient takes what the expert doctor tells him will best treat his disease. Similarly, the wise yogi, or the most intelligent person striving for spiritual progress, takes the method of yoga the Vedic literatures recommend for liberation in our present materially diseased age. The Upanisads say:
hare krsna hare krsna
krsna krsna hare hare
hare rama hare rama
rama rama hare hare
iti sodasakam namnam
"The chanting of the maha-mantra Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare can wipe out all the contaminations of our present Age of Quarrel and Hypocrisy. In all the Vedas, one can find nothing superior to this chanting of the maha-mantra."
Chanting the Hare Krsna mantra is the most simple, direct, and easy way to attain the perfection of samadhi. It is therefore the way the Vedas most emphatically recommend for spiritual realization now.