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This letter is long overdue. Nevertheless, I would like to express my sincere admiration and praise to all of you for producing the wonderful magazine Back to Godhead.
I first came across this magazine about nine years ago by chance at home. I was immediately struck by the beautiful layout, the color pictures, and the articles. I had never seen any magazine so beautiful in my life. I was especially struck when I read one particular sentence "There is more to life than eating, sleeping, mating, and defending." This sentence somehow kept ringing in my ears and spurred me (an otherwise agnostic) to Krsna consciousness.
Since then I have read many, many BTGs, and I treasure every one of them. I look forward to receiving BTG every month. Thank you very much for producing this magazine. I am eternally indebted to all of you for bringing this useless fool to Krsna consciousness by way of Back to Godhead.
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I am writing in response to the article Thorny Pleasure." by Ajamidha dasa, in Vol. 23, No. 10. I have for many years been a seeker for Truth, and for the last year I have been a subscriber to Back to Godhead, as I thought within its pages I would find some direction in my journey back to God. Of all the splendid articles presented, "Thorny Pleasure" was the one that touched my inner consciousness the most profoundly. I would like to offer my sincere gratitude to the author for all the article has done for me. Thank you.
Wollongong, N.S.W., Australia
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In Bhagavad-gita (2.34) Lord Krsna says, "For one who has been honored, dishonor is worse than death." If a man who works in a highly respectable profession and who enjoys a very high reputation is dishonored and described in many unkind words by the people in the society, he may be convinced that death is better than this life. He may pray to Lord Krsna to award him death. But if he does not die and instead continues to live this dishonored and humiliated life. what should he do? Should he commit suicide? And if he doesn't, then should he be criticized for living a dishonored life and not dying? Has Lord Krsna drawn any line that a person can pocket insult up to this level and after that he should commit suicide? When does the saturation state of dishonor come?
Professor A. K. Agarwal
Pennsylvania State University
Mont Alto, Pennyslvania
OUR REPLY: We have to understand this statement in the context of Lord Krsna's reasoning with Arjuna at this point, in the Second Chapter of the Gita. Krsna is certainly not proposing that Arjuna commit suicide. He is simply encouraging Arjuna to fight in pursuance of his duty as a ksatriya. In this verse Krsna tells Arjuna that it would be better for him to die in the battle than to live after being dishonored for leaving the battlefield out of cowardice. Krsna's telling Arjuna to fight in the battle even if it means death for Arjuna is certainly different from encouraging someone to commit suicide because his honor has been hurt. Nowhere does Krsna recommend committing suicide.
At this point (in the Second Chapter), Krsna is appealing to Arjuna'sksatriya spirit Later, however. Krsna will speak to Arjuna on a higher, transcendental level. He will tell Arjuna that he should rise above the duality of the material world, which includes the desire for honor and the hatred for dishonor. In the Sixth Chapter, for example. Krsna describes to Arjuna the importance of controlling the mind. He then says. "For one who has conquered the mind. the Supersoul is already reached, for he has attained tranquility. To such a man happiness and distress, heat and cold, honor and dishonor are all the same." In the Twelfth Chapter, Lord Krsna says, "One who is equipoised in honor and dishonor … is very dear to Me." And in the Sixteenth Chapter. Krsna lists the divine qualities of godly men, ending with "freedom from the passion for honor."
As the Bhagavad-gita progresses. Lord Krsna's instructions to Arjuna become more and more sublime and confidential. As the ideal student, Arjuna was able to understand Krsna's final instruction that everyone must surrender unto Him. Because Arjuna did this without considering honor or dishonor he was successful. His real success was that he fought not to protect his own honor, but for the pleasure of Krsna.