Rescue from Children?
I thank Urmila for her list of creative ideas for preschool children [BTG, May/June]. However, I have a generally uncomfortable feeling after reading her article because she de-values the importance of the family. The nursery, she says, frees mothers from having to divide their minds between children and housework. The community will benefit because mothers will have more time to help in a local temple or project. And even if there isn't a nursery, creating a nursery-school atmosphere for an hour or two at home will make children happy so a mother can devote more time to other service.
Actually I feel sad about these arguments, which imply that parents need to be rescued from their children. Why should mothers necessarily be pleased to have their children off their hands so they can do something else?
Factually the burden will be lifted the more parents love, accept and truly feel the joy of sharing their lives with their children. Many of us did not receive this kind of loving as children, and that makes it difficult for us to give, but we can change that. We can soften and heal ourselves and then find the space in our lives to fully embrace our children instead of passing on the "no time for you" attitudes we may have suffered ourselves.
Having eight children taken care of by one adult is good short-term economics because seven mothers are then free to work, but in my ideal society there would be no nurseries.
Syama Devi Dasi
URMILA DEVI DASI REPLIES: I'm sorry to have given you the impression that parents "need to be rescued" from their children. I've spent most of the last nineteen years or so taking care not only of my own children but the children of many other devotees. I find their association a great joy.
For a nursery school to succeed, the teacher should be serving for the sake of the children first, not for the sake of the parents. Helping the parents must be secondary. Yet it is a real consideration. Why?
First, life in a modern nuclear family where a woman must spend all day at home with just her children is unnatural. In a Vedic society the women share child care in an extended family. I have seen my brother-in-law's family, originally from Yemen, work this way. Each child has loving care from many "mothers and fathers." Those children are happy, peaceful, and well cared for. Such sharing of child care is good for the children, good for the aunts, good for the grandmothers, and good for the unmarried older girls.
And children themselves like what an extended family can give them. Children like to play with others their own age, at least for a few hours. And they like to have a time where they can have somewhat structured activities meant just for their spiritual development.
Unless a mother can afford servants, she simply does have more things to do than watch her children. Cooking, cleaning, laundry, shopping, and gardening, what to speak of spiritual duties, take up a lot of time. And most women want to spend at least some time helping in some preaching beyond the family. That is good for the mother because it reminds her that other people, beyond her bodily family members, are part of Krsna's family. It's good for the husband because it reminds him that his wife does not belong to him; he is protecting her because she is Krsna's servant. And it's good for the children because it shows them that their parents have concerns that extend beyond the walls of the house.
This can be overdone, but that doesn't negate the benefits. And Srila Prabhupada wanted this. He wanted nursery schools, or women who'd teach their young children as if in nursery schools. And he wanted everyone to give at least some time to helping spread Krsna consciousness, in addition to raising family members as devotees. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura set the example: he was a first-class husband and father, yet apart from his family duties and his work he wrote more than a hundred books.
Guides for Spiritual Pilgrims
I am glad that in your articles about places of pilgrimage you have finally started providing specific information on how to visit them. The articles should be written in such a way that readers can copy them and take them to India as guides on where to go, how to get there easily, where to stay, and so on. This will make the articles complete and most useful for everyone, especially those not so experienced in traveling in India. When people visit these holy places, they can have experiences that will purify and inspire them for the rest of their lives. So we want to make sure their pilgrimage can go smoothly.
Sri Nandanandana Dasa
Spiritual Vision, Not Television
I was especially impressed by Urmila Dasi's article about the influences of television [BTG, July/August]. For both children and parents, watching TV only reveals, and fosters, a lack of spiritual strength.
Sriman Pandita Dasa
Inspired by Shelter
The Shelter band is the most powerful connection between the youth of today and Krsna! I am delighted to see what has happened to the music scene ever since Shelter started a few years back. I see kids wearing tulasi beads at every show. The lacto-vegetarian diet is spreading rapidly. Not one day goes by when I don't hear Krsna in a conversation. Attitudes are changing and lives are being changed.
The best part of it all is the opportunity to attend a Shelter show and associate with great devotees. It is not just a show, it's an experience. The club is filled with an energy that goes unmatched by any bands around. The lyrics are taken to heart by hundreds of kids eager to move up front and sing along with Raghunatha Dasa.
There is simply nothing as sincere, pure, energetic and pleasing as the message and music that Shelter has brought us kids.
Thank you, Shelter, for presenting us "a better way." Prabhupada would have been very pleased.
Pedro A. Ramos Costa
Jayadvaita Swami's "Where do the Fallen Souls Fall From?" [BTG, May/June] misses the whole point. Srila Prabhupada does not reject the idea that the jivas [living beings] originally fell from the brahmajyoti [Lord Krsna's impersonal spiritual effulgence].
If we all fell directly from Vaikuntha (or Krsnaloka) [the personal abode of the Lord], then we would all be nitya-siddhas, eternally liberated souls like Arjuna, play-acting that we are in illusion. But Srila Prabhupada states over and over in his books thatjiva souls are generally nitya-baddha, eternally conditioned souls. Why would Srila Prabhupada contradict Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami, who says, jivera svarupa haya krsnera nitya-dasa ("The actual form of the jiva is that of an eternal servant of Krsna")? And krsnera tatastha-sakti bhedabheda prakasa: The jiva is Krsna's tatastha-sakti, a manifestation of light simultaneously one and different from Krsna. The clear significance of this conclusion is that we are infinitesimal and insignificant. We are small; Krsna is great.
It appears that the Editorial Board of BTG is trying to establish (and has been for more than a decade now) that the jivas fall from the very personal company of the Lord. Your article is a clear challenge to the authority of our ISKCON GBC [Governing Body Commission], which in March 1990 resolved that its Philosophical Research Committee should deal with the issue. Like others, I believe that until a philosophical conclusion is reached through the authoritative department of the society, BTG should not canvass for any particular opinion of its own.
Swami B. R. Sadhu
Sao Paulo, Brazil
JAYADVAITA SWAMI REPLIES: Tirthaprada Dasa tells us that Srila Prabhupada does not reject the idea that the jivas originally fell from the brahmajyoti. This statement might deserve credence if Srila Prabhupada hadn't placed his rejection in writing. But he did (in a letter to Revatinandana Dasa on June 13, 1970). So what am I supposed to say?
Tirthaprada's argument that if we fell directly from the Lord's personal abode we would all be eternally liberated is so obviously self-contradictory that it hardly needs comment.
Srila Prabhupada, of course, never contradicts the great authority Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami. And when quoting from Srila Kaviraja Gosvami directly, Tirthaprada Dasa stands on firm ground. The living being is eternally a servant of Krsna. So Tirthaprada's conclusion is right: We are small; Krsna is great. All's well that ends well.
Let me assure Swami B. R. Sadhu that the editors of BTG are not campaigning for some privately arrived-at philosophy. I simply presented what Srila Prabhupada said. That, as far as I know, is my job.
The GBC's resolution in 1990 asked that a committee write a paper giving scriptural information about the soul's fall. Can I repeat Srila Prabhupada's teachings without over-stepping that resolution? I believe so. Asking for a paper is different from imposing a gag order.
The main point of my article was that arguing on and on about where the fallen soul falls from is simply a useless waste of time. And that was Srila Prabhupada's main teaching about the subject.
As he told one disciple in 1972: "The conclusion is that whatever may be our past, let us come to Krsna consciousness and immediately join Krsna. Just like with a diseased man: it is a waste of time to try to find out how he has become diseased. Better to spend time curing the disease…. So wherever you were, in the brahma-sayujya [the brahmajyoti] or with Krsna in His lila [pastimes], at the present you are in neither, so the best policy is to develop your Krsna consciousness and go there [back to Godhead], never mind what is your origin."
Some of our friends may disagree. They may think that arguing about this topic ad infinitum is a worthwhile or essential engagement. That's their privilege. But fallen as I am, and as much as I might like to argue, I believe we have better things to do.
As jivas, or living beings, we emanate from, or belong to, Lord Krsna's tatastha-sakti, or marginal potency, and may therefore turn either towards the Lord or away from Him. About this there should be no dispute. We should simply use our tiny independence by properly engaging in Lord Krsna's devotional service, following the standard rules and regulations under the guidance of a bona fide spiritual master. That will bring us to the transcendental platform on which all questions are answered and all controversies resolved. Where did we fall from? Let's go back to Godhead now, and if we like we can argue about it later.
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