Mothers and Sons

Just a small correction to Urmila Prabhu's otherwise very nice article [Nov/Dec 1993]. She writes, "… a properly trained young man should be able to look upon any woman other than his wife as if she were his mother…. Similarly, a girl should see men other than her husband as her father."

In a 1970 lecture in Los Angeles, Srila Prabhupada said, "The woman treats the unknown man as son, and the unknown man treats the unknown woman as mother. This is Vedic civilization."

Not only is that what Srila Prabhupada taught; it just makes sense.

Still, Urmila made her main point well: relationships between the sexes should be free from illicit desire.

Vegavati Devi Dasi
Port Royal, Pennsylvania

Stoop We Must

It was inspiring to read "One Book in Bengali," by Maha-Visnu Swami [Sep/Oct 1993]. For such a senior man, his stooping is exemplary. Stoop we must, especially after years of initiation into Krsna consciousness.

Devala Dasa
Markham, Ontario, Canada

Spare those Snakes!

I was horrified to find [in BTG, September/October] the casual, even boastful relating of how one of the devotees "nailed" a rattlesnake with a shotgun. I truly thought that with your vegetarian pro-life stance you could see beyond the walls of the slaughterhouse, but apparently it's OK to kill certain beings.

Wow! "Nearly five feet"! Are you proud? I'm not. I'm sad. It may well have been a young Eastern Diamondback, a species fast disappearing in the Southeast due to man's encroachment on its God-given abode. I thought devotees would know better or, at least, if killing the poor thing was absolutely unavoidable, would show more reverence at its passing.

I too live in "rattlesnake country," and I'm proud to say that I haven't had to kill one in the 20-odd years I've lived here. Why? Because when I see or hear one (that tail-buzzer is a warning, not a threat) I (or my wife or children) run not for the shotgun but for the snakepole, with which a mere child can noose and bag an unwanted serpent for relocation out of harm's way. Safely.

I thought perhaps you might counter my criticism with the example from Srila Prabhupada's biography in which Srila Prabhupada, shocked at his spiritual master's apparent happiness over the killing of a serpent, is relieved to find a verse in the Vedas saying that saintly persons may rejoice at such things.

To that I say I seriously doubt that the sainthood of the shotgun-holder is comparable to that of Srila Prabhupada's guru. And furthermore the snake in that incident was almost certainly a mamba or krait (two species indigenous to India that also are the only venomous snakes on earth known to attack without warning). It certainly wasn't a cobra, known for its coexistence with man (if unmolested) and definitely not a rattler (nonindigenous to the Old World).

I would think devotees would set a better example.

The venom of the rattlesnake (unlike the neurotoxin of a cobra, mamba or krait) is part of its digestive process, intended for the small prey on which it feeds. In all my years of snake encounters I've never once encountered a rattler that was not retreating from a "prey" (me) way too big for his interest!

So put down the shotgun, pick up the snakepole (they're really easy to make, all of 10 minutes work check your library for details), and please be cognizant of the fragile remains of the besieged Florida ecosystem you've relocated to. Give thanks for all the bounty of Lord Sri Krsna's creation, and above all, be kind, be kind, BE KIND!

Greg Nicholson
Villa Grande, California

ARCITA DASA REPLIES: Though Jayadvaita Swami wrote the editorial, I'm the person who shot the snake. I would have preferred not to have killed it. In fact, after I fired I must have looked pretty sad, because a devotee said, "What's the matter? You look like you just shot your best friend. Don't you know it's OK to kill venomous snakes?"

He then mentioned a verse (the one you alluded to) from Srimad-Bhagavatam (7.9.14). There Prahlada Maharaja, a five-year-old boy, was speaking to Lord Nrsimhadeva, Krsna's incarnation as half-lion, half-man. After the Lord had killed Prahlada's demonic father, Hiranyakasipu, the Lord was still angry. So Prahlada tried to pacify Him by saying, "My Lord, please cease Your anger now that my demonic father has been killed. Even saintly persons take pleasure in the killing of a scorpion or a snake. So all the worlds have achieved great satisfaction because of the death of this demon."

Srila Prabhupada begins his purport by saying, "The most important point in this verse is that although saintly persons never desire the killing of any living entity, they take pleasure in the killing of envious living entities like snakes and scorpions. Hiranyakasipu was killed because he was worse than a snake or a scorpion, and therefore everyone was happy."

As devotees we know that the soul is eternal, but we don't take this knowledge as a license for unnecessary killing. We've taken seriously your suggestion about snakepoles, and we'll look into getting some. Hare Krsna.


More to Tell about Television

Regarding television and technology, I believe readers of BTG will get the wrong understanding unless a proper focus is placed on using things in Krsna's service. Srila Prabhupada often commented that tape recorders, microphones, automobiles, etc., can all be used in Krsna's service. They are not inherently good or bad. What determines whether they are favorable or unfavorable to Krsna consciousness is their application.

The spirit soul is trying to enjoy in contact with matter (whether television or anything else), altogether forgetting about Krsna, or God. When what he's trying to enjoy brings too much anxiety or frustration, he rejects it. And after renouncing for a while, the enjoying mood prevails again. Thus the living being alternately tries to enjoy and renounce.

Krsna consciousness is different altogether. The essence of Krsna consciousness, or bhakti-yoga, is dovetailing one's life, work, relationships, and love with Krsna. Ultimately, one's senses should be engaged only for the loving service of the Lord.

Many beautiful and enlightening books, audiotapes, videotapes, and computer programs have been made by ISKCON's talented devotees, using up-to-date technology. Srila Prabhupada always applauded such efforts. Because everything is part of Krsna's energy, everything can be dovetailed in Krsna's service through the expert direction of one's bona fide spiritual master. Srila Prabhupada, as a liberated soul, had vision that was transcendental and fully dedicated to Krsna's satisfaction. So we need to keep very close to his lotus feet to keep the transcendental perspective in the forefront.

While television can become an addiction, it is here to stay, and its influence worldwide will undoubtedly become enhanced by the so-called information highway just over the horizon. I hope that creative devotees such as Yaduvara Dasa and Visakha Devi Dasi, whom I met filming in Vrndavana in 1971, will continue to use their talents in Krsna's service for the benefit of us all.

Pusta Krsna Dasa
Aptos, California


Complete Faith in Guru

I would like to comment on the opinion expressed by two readers regarding the origin of the soul [BTG Nov/Dec].

The Vedic literature may appear to present contradictions, and that's why we need a guru to help us. It is stated in the scriptures, "One should not try to know more than the guru" and "One must have complete faith in his guru." In fact, it is the duty of the disciple to confirm the statements of his guru and not contradict him. Srila Prabhupada has clearly left us this instruction: "Speak as I have spoken and do as I have done." I think we in ISKCON should strive to do only that much.

Adi Purusa Krsna Dasa
Teluk Intan, Malayasia

The real issue here is not whether we originally descended from the spiritual planets or the impersonal effulgence but whether we really take Srila Prabhupada's statements as the first and last word.

In one sense it doesn't really matter whether we came from here or from there. What does matter is that Srila Prabhupada said certain things and if we begin to detach ourselves from his entirely transcendental perspective in the name of openmindedness we are asking for serious trouble.

Srila Prabhupada is not a Bengali gentleman whose understanding of reality was formed in reference to particular biases and traditions. Rather, he is a fully self-realized resident of the spiritual world. We have been charged by him to make his message understandable in all cultural circumstances; but we are not at liberty to change or ignore his definitive statements.

What may start as just a "little difference of opinion" can grow in time into an enormous gap. The habit of mental speculation breeds deviations and offenses, and so the propensity must be recognized and challenged whenever and wherever it appears.

I am writing this, somewhat wistfully and hopefully a little wiser, from personal experience, from being part of a glorious project that lost sight of its real identity (only temporarily, we hope). What starts as just a little deviation, barely noticeable to anyone, in time grows into a chasm. Therefore we pray: "Gurudeva, my only wish is to have my consciousness purified by the words emanating from your lotus mouth."

Srila Prabhupada made everything so clear and simple. And as long as we make his teachings our reference point, then our own lives will be clear and simple also.

Narasingha Gurudasa
Athens, Ohio