Filling the Void

I thought I would write to let you know how much I enjoy the magazine. It has an interesting and varied format that just gets better and better. Also, I am glad to see that in the last year or so you have been including a colored picture of Krsna or one of His other avatara forms.

Two things I especially enjoy are "On Pilgrimage" and the Mahabharata. There are many travel books and magazines about India, but not spiritual ones, and you fill that void. And Hridayananda Dasa Goswami has done such an excellent job with the Mahabharata that I find myself reading the translation over and over. I definitely want to purchase this translation when it is available in book form.

Please accept my obeisances to the whole staff for making such a magazine available, and may Krsna bless you with everlasting success.

Patricia Pompa
Blue Island, Illinois

Real and Practical

I've just finished reading your May/June issue and wanted to compliment you for a job well done!

Your new feature on "Hare Krsna People" is very nice. Sriman Anuttama Dasa has set a good example for the householder community, and stories such as his serve as a real and practical demonstration for others. I look forward to reading more articles like this.

Srila Prabhupada Speaks Out

The "Prabhupada Speaks Out" and Srila Prabhupada's lectures are always especially nectarean. H. H. Bhakti Vikasa Swami's well-done article on Remuna and Ksira-cora Gopinatha is very informative and makes me quite determined to pay a visit there on my next journey to Orissa.

Bhakta Dasa
Bangkok, Thailand

Keep On Rockin' for Krsna

I am a sixteen-year-old male, and for the last three years I have been involved with Krsna consciousness and ISKCON. Recently, thanks to some devotee friends, I was introduced to the bands Shelter and 108 and became an instant fan. So I was shocked to read Maharani Dasi's letter [BTG May/June '94] in which she criticizes Vraja Kishor Dasa for having a rock band and claims "rock 'n' roll and Hare Krsna don't mix."

On the contrary, both Shelter and 108 (as well as other emerging K.C. bands) prove that rock and Hare Krsna do mix with beautiful results. Personally, I find these bands an excellent means of voicing my opinions on Krsna and the frustrations of Kali-yuga.

Music has always been a vital part of Krsna consciousness. Srila Prabhupada even appeared at the Avalon Ballroom amidst karmi artists and delivered the gospel of Lord Caitanya through music. By doing this, Prabhupada was able to bring Krsna to many seekers. Was this fusion of rock and Krsna wrong?

To all the Vaisnava bands out there: Thank you for being my voice, and keep on rocking for Krsna. Hari bol!

Arjuna (Vineet)
New Hyde Park, New York

Why Are We Here?

I am thirty-seven years old, and I am of Italian origin though born in Montreal. I am very interested in Hinduism, and I would like to become a sincere Vaisnava one day.

I would like to serve Lord Krsna with heart and soul. I find it difficult because the material world takes up a lot of my attention. But I am confident that by chanting the maha-mantra and by going to the temple more often to associate with devotees I will become successful in breaking the hold that the material world has on me.

There is one question that is bothering me, and I write to you today for some help. Srila Prabhupada has said that the material world is the cause of so much suffering. Why then did the Lord create us in the material world? Why didn't He just leave us in the spiritual world? Then there would be no suffering and misery.

I guess that what I'm really asking is: What is the purpose of material existence? Why are we on earth and not with God?

I am very confused and depressed because I do not know the meaning of life. I am born, I suffer, and then I die. My life seems meaningless. I would really like you to help me with this, because many people tell me we must enjoy our life through sense gratification but the questions keep coming to mind: Why are we on earth? Why do we live a few years and then die? What is the meaning of life?

Since Hinduism is the oldest religion, I thought that it might have an answer to my questions. Thank you so much for your kindness and patience! Hare Krsna.

Carlo Pinotti
Montreal, Canada

OUR REPLY: The questions you have asked are most intelligent and valuable. Understanding that this material world is a place of suffering, you ask why the Lord put us here in the first place. Why didn't He just leave us in the spiritual world? And what is the purpose of our material existence?

The answer is that we are in the material world not because of Krsna's desire but because of our desire. As spiritual living beings, we are all originally Krsna conscious, and therefore our natural, healthy condition is that of servants of Krsna in the spiritual world. The vast majority of living beings never leave the spiritual world but stay there eternally. Some of us, however, for no good reason, chose to leave the service of Krsna, just as an unfortunate child may give up the loving protection of his father. Therefore we have come to the material world.

Krsna is completely independent, and since we are tiny parts of Krsna, we also have this same quality of independence, in a very small degree. When we use our independence properly, we stay eternally in the spiritual world. But when we misuse our independence we fall into the material world.

Misusing our independence means trying to enjoy independently from Krsna. If a hand wants to enjoy food, it has to give the food to the stomach. Then the hand will also enjoy it. The hand cannot enjoy independently. Similarly, we also can be happy only by serving Krsna. And when we try to be happy independently, that attempt is called maya, or illusion.

At the present moment, by illusion, we are trying to enjoy the resources of the material world, but instead we are struggling and suffering. Therefore Lord Krsna says, "Please give up this needless struggle. Just surrender to Me and be happy."

The soul in this material world is like a child who insists on touching fire. The father tells the child, "No, don't touch it. You'll get burned." But if the child insists on touching it, the father finally says, "All right, go ahead and learn the hard way." Similarly, Krsna is letting us "learn the hard way" by struggling in this material world.

But at the same time, Krsna gives us the opportunity to give up this illusory struggle, surrender to Him, and go back home, back to Godhead. That is the real purpose of material existence.

The easiest and most effective way to surrender to Krsna is by chanting the maha-mantra Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. By chanting Hare Krsna we associate with Krsna through transcendental sound. In this way our heart becomes purified of all misconceptions, and we return to our happy, normal condition.

The chanting is most effective when performed in the company of devotees. By associating with sincere devotees of the Lord, we revive our natural Krsna conscious devotion. And by continued practice in the association of devotees, under the guidance of a bona fide spiritual master, our life becomes completely successful.

You write that you are confident that by chanting the maha-mantra and associating with devotees you will succeed in breaking free from the hold of the material world. Yes, that is the process. Please stick to this process, and Krsna will help you in every respect. Then it is sure that you will go back home, back to Godhead, for an eternal life of bliss and knowledge, and never return to this miserable material world.

Again, thank you very much for your most intelligent questions. And thank you also for reading and appreciating Back to Godhead.

We'd like to hear from you. Please send correspondence to: The Editors, Back to Godhead, P.O. Box 430, Alachua, Florida 32615, USA.