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I am an older lady and a very long-time reader of your magazine. I Find it special and most enjoyable and have often thought to write you but hesitated, as I was not sure if I would receive a reply in this part of the world.
I would like to refer to the excerpt from Perfect Questions, Perfect Answers in Vol. 21, No. 6. I do understand Srila Prabhupada's stress in placing Krsna before all and that science at times is open to question. But I myself am glad that over the years there have been people who have questioned and found ways to assist with the daily chores of life. I would not like to go back to the conditions women had to tolerate even a hundred years ago. I am grateful for the fridge to keep my food fresh, the stove on which I can cook without stoking up with wood and coal, and the electric light with which I can sit and read my books in the lonely hours of the night these same books that are not hand-produced but now mass-produced and within my means to buy. I have even the ability to read them. I can even fly to the other side of the world in a few hours, and you will have this letter long before a sailboat would reach you.
I felt I had to put my view, for feeling there is nothing wrong in questioning. How else can we learn?
Our reply: You refer to a conversation in which Srila Prabhupada is making the point that scientists should not claim to know more than they actually know. Because scientists have the respect of the layman, whatever the scientists speak is usually accepted as truth. So a problem arises when they assert as fact things they cannot prove. At present scientists guess about many things but pass off their speculations as scientific knowledge.
We do not object when scientists or technologists tell us about a radio or a microphone, which they may know about. But when they start telling us that in the beginning there was a big bang and from that everything has come, then we must object. They have overstepped their limits and misled millions of people to believe that life comes from matter, that there is no God, and that in the ultimate analysis life is meaningless. There are many examples (evolution is one) where scientific theories are accepted as truth and as a result people are led away from God.
Another point is that for every comfort science has given us, many discomforts have also resulted. We enjoy reading by electric light, but what are the consequences? One obvious drawback is that our energy supply is rapidly becoming depleted. To solve it we come up with things like nuclear reactors all potential Chernobyls and Three Mile Islands.
And for the so-called technological advantage of improved transportation, for example, we must accept the disadvantage of jet crashes and car accidents that kill hundreds of thousands of people every year. The automobile, with all its comforts, has brought us many discomforts: noise pollution, air pollution, hellish factories, and on and on, just so we can get around a little faster and with a little more comfort. Is it really worth it?
Our comfort and discomfort are already allotted to us according to our past good and bad acts. In other words, we're not really living any better with all these modern inventions. Because when we compare the advantages of modern technology with the disadvantages, we'll see that we're really not any happier than we would be without them.
Hearing our apparently negative outlook on technology, people naturally question, "If you're so much against technology, why do you use it?" Our answer is that the devotee can use everything in the service of God. We are not attached to the amenities created by modern technology and will not waste our energy trying to produce them. Human life is meant for understanding God not for trying to become more comfortable. But if technologists insist on producing such commodities, we will find some use for them in the service of Krsna. Then their actual value will become realized.
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Hare Krsna. I'm wondering about Sri Jayadvaita Swami's article "A Journey for the Sake of Our Fathers" (BTG Vol. 21, No. 10). This offering made for the benefit of one's departed father I don't really understand. How can the soul receive the benefit of the offering if he has already left his body? Who can say where he is and what his situation is like? Also, the family connection is gone; it is a temporary bodily connection. Isn't this worship in the lower mode as stated in the Gita? If there is a possibility of offering the merit of worship to a dead father, can the merit of worship be offered to living friends and family?
Our REPLY: Krsna knows everything about where the soul is and what type of life he is in. So the devotee who wants to benefit his forefathers worships Visnu, or Krsna, who gives the benefit where it belongs. This is not ancestor worship, but worship of Krsna, so it's transcendental to all material modes.
We can benefit living friends and relatives, surely, just as we can benefit all other living beings by giving them a chance to hear the chanting of Hare Krsna, learn more about the science of Krsna, eat delicious krsna-prasadam, and in other ways take part in the sublime process of Krsna consciousness. Krsna Himself says in Bhagavad-gita that Krsna consciousness is the highest form of worship because its merits are shared by all.
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Just a quick note to thank you for the Feb/March 1987 issue of Back to Godhead. I am very pleased to see the return of the "Letters" column, and it was very helpful that you focused on the issue of personal/impersonal God. This is an issue I struggle with often. I must add that the whole magazine was interesting and stimulating, particularly the piece "On Chanting." The photography in black and white was powerful and inspiring.
Cynthia C. Kessler
New York, New York