Consoled by BTG
Recently my cousin Reshma Rampersad, a very great devotee of Srila Prabhupada and Srimati Radharani, left her body. A week prior to this she spent a few weeks at Sri Sri Radha-Radhanatha temple in Durban and did a lot of service, especially in preparation for the Janmastami festival there. In order to console ourselves, and think of her death in a Krsna conscious manner, we turned to the Back to Godhead magazine. This made us stronger in our devotional service. I am sure this wonderful magazine will help many more devotees in the future in all situations.
Port Elizabeth, South Africa
The Enemy Within
I would like to thank Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami for his excellent article "Where Are the Enemies?" appearing in the July/August issue. My personal experience of twenty years while presenting Krsna consciousness to the so-called high society of Bombay and other parts of India is that
(1) Gambling increases and feeds the enemy within the gambler by increasing his lust and greed, leading to further illusion.
(2) Meat-eating (including eating of eggs) increases the sins of anger and envy towards other living beings, leading to acts of madness.
(3) Intoxication quickly increases illusion and madness.
(4) Illicit sex thrives on lust, increases anger, envy, and illusion, and makes a person commit truly demonic acts of madness.
I might add a positive remedy also, emphasized repeatedly by Srila Prabhupada. To fully rid oneself of the last traces of the six enemies one should do at least the following five things (originally listed by Srila Rupa Gosvami, the great acarya who was a principal disciple of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu):
(1) Chant the maha-mantra Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. (Srila Prabhupada recommends that we chant at least 16 rounds per day without fail and avoiding offense.)
(2) Regularly read Bhagavad-gita As It Is and other books, such as Srimad-Bhagavatam, which are now available in almost all the major languages of the world from the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.
(3) Eat only prasadam (food offered to Krsna, literally "mercy").
(4) Associate with devotees by discussing topics of Krsna regularly.
(5) Live in a temple of Krsna. You can make your own house a small temple by putting Sri Sri Radha-Krsna at the center and having a proper Deity room for prayers, and so on.
By following the above, our soul will be purified. We will then be eligible to develop pure love of God and go back home, back to Godhead.
Sri Nathji Dasa
Reading and Sharing
BTG has been very valuable to me. It has helped me to open my eyes and has shown me many different aspects of the Krsna consciousness movement. I read each issue cover to cover many times and share it with others.
San Antonio, Texas
Subtly Becoming Hodge Podge
In regard to the decreasing quality of BTG articles, I liked the format change made a few years ago. I did not find everything in that new format attractive, but I found at least one or two articles of interest in each edition. I especially liked to read (1) the histories of holy places and pastimes there, (2) Hare Krsna Devi Dasi's articles, and (3) Sadaputa Dasa's articles. However, now it seems that the format of BTG has subtly changed to a hodge podge of short articles, none of which has enough substance to make it worth a subscription. Furthermore, the demigod articles seem to have been written for children, not anyone familiar with even the basics of Krsna consciousness.
Inappropriate Armenia Photos
While I offer you and all devotees my sympathy regarding the sobering incident involving fellow devotees in Armenia, I would like to express my extreme dissatisfaction with the article in the July/August issue of Back to Godhead which portrayed it. The photos were violent, more appropriate for a human-rights publication than an ISKCON publication. Besides the negative impact on children who might come across them, the emotional effect they could have on anyone seems to me to be against the ISKCON belief in the importance of peace, selflessness, and bhakti. I object to the insensitive inclusion of these pictures.
I feel strongly about this matter because of an incident that occurred at my home yesterday, when Back to Godhead arrived in the post. I live with two housemates a woman and her four-year-old daughter and when the child saw the magazine (which she knows always has beautiful, uplifting devotional pictures) she asked to look at it. We hadn't yet read it ourselves, but since this was an ISKCON publication there would certainly be no pictures that were inappropriate for her.
We were sorely mistaken. As one would expect, she was quite shaken by the photos. I felt angry, despite myself. It is evident that this article was published on selfish grounds. If Back to Godhead is going to include pictures of devotees being abused, then why not pictures of horrors towards other people as well? Or is ISKCON only concerned with its own? I think we should try harder to see things from a broader perspective.
What is required is more earnest devotion, not more sensationalist press. We need to inquire into what our personal duty entails rather than inducing anger towards others, however evil they may be. Only by adopting this philosophy and conveying this message can we sincerely say we are on the genuine path back to Godhead.
Cape Town, South Africa
OUR REPLY: Several other readers conveyed to us similar views. Though the pictures quickly get across what happened, their brutality is an element not expected in BTG. Our apologies to those who felt shocked. The material world is a grim place. Though we prefer to highlight the joyous and transcendental, in Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna sometimes sees fit to remind us, also, that the material world is a place of horrors and miseries. But we shall try to be more sensitive about pictures that show these miseries so repulsively. We are against illicit sex also but that doesn't mean we should print pictures of it.
As for selfishness, we sympathize with all victims of human-rights abuses. Yet BTG is a magazine concerned with Krsna and the Krsna consciousness movement. That is why we reported only on abuse toward devotees in Armenia, not on other atrocities committed in Armenia or elsewhere. To give an opposite example: We sometimes publish articles about children and families. But the articles concern families in Krsna consciousness, not family life in general. Our guiding principle: A topic fits BTG when Krsna and His devotees are the focus.
The article was indeed intended to arouse strong feelings. Even anger has an appropriate place in Krsna consciousness. A devotee feels the full range of human emotions even anger. We understand that ultimately no one is evil everyone is eternally a part of Krsna and therefore eternally good. Yet when the eternally pure soul picks up evil qualities and becomes violent towards the Lord and His devotees, a feeling of outrage is a natural spiritual response. Lord Krsna tells us in Bhagavad-gita that one reason for His descent to this world is to see to it that honest people are protected and evil-doers vanquished. We feel compassion even for the doers of evil. But we should show them kindness, we believe, not by passively sitting aside but by protesting their evil deeds and stopping them.
Exaggerated Tea Costs
In reference to Ravi Gupta's article "Helping Our Motherland" (July/August), he writes "I estimate that every year an average family in India spends 15,500 rupees, or about $500, on tea." With all due respects to the teenager, upon reading these figures, though an estimate, I couldn't fail to see the exaggeration. An average Indian family spending 1,280 rupees monthly on tea is unaffordable. My relatives in India, a family of four, for example, make do with a pension of 800 rupees along with the help of the land and the cow. Even if they spend 640 rupees monthly on tea half of what Ravi Gupta estimates they would certainly plunge into a hole of extreme poverty.
OUR REPLY: Thank you for pointing this out. Despite the questionable estimate, we hope readers caught the main point of the article that the best we can do for people in India is to encourage them to give up non-Vedic habits, such as drinking tea.
NOTE: The Radha-Krsna dolls offered in our Hare Krsna Catalog in the September/October issue are now available only from the doll-maker herself. Contact Rukmini Dasi (Maria Chacon), P. O. Box 1423, Alachua, FL 32615, USA; phone: (904) 418-1316.