Cow-Killing and Karma
I would just like to thank you for that wonderful article by Jayadvaita Swami "Mc-Cow-Killer Comes to India" (Jan./Feb. '97). Clear and to the point. We hope BTG will print more articles in the future about the relationship between cow-killing and karma, also the relationship between meat-eaters and trying to have a spiritual life.
I am incarcerated in the New York State corrections system. I recently stumbled upon your magazine while searching the library cart for something interesting to read. To be truly honest, I had no intentions other than to browse through it. But I found the topics fascinating, and I ended up reading it twice. In fact, it was so immensely intriguing that I decided to write and thank you all at Back to Godhead.
Pine City, New York
Peace and Calm for the Soul
I always wait for the next issues of BTG and IWR [ISKCON World Review now Hare Krishna World]. To read these publications cover to cover is one of the most relaxing and peaceful acts for mind and body. Without any question, since I have started Krsna prayers, I feel much more strengthened, happy, and at peace. To be spiritually raised and freed from the miseries of the cycle of birth and death is a prize that is the most valuable in this material world. This is the actual peace and calm for our soul, which might have been tormented for thousands of years in the past in different life forms. To reach Sri Krsna's planet and never come back is what all of His devotees strive for. That is the answer to all of the questions put to us by this material world.
The Best Ever
I just wanted to write a short note and compliment you and the BTG staff on the Jan./Feb. edition of BTG. I thought it was the best BTG I've ever seen (not because my article happened to be there). The layout, the color schemes, the photos, the articles I found everything attractive and captivating. Thank you for taking this service on and making BTG what it should be for the glorification of Srila Prabhupada and the sankirtana movement.
Durban, South Africa
Where Among The Ten Avataras?
I have been associating myself for some time with devotees of the Hare Krsna movement, and simultaneously I have had the pleasure to read some books written by Srila Prabhupada, including the translation of Bhagavad-gita, and have listened to many discourses. I am attending arati and occasionally performing devotional service. This has really revived my Krsna conscious heart. It is a real bliss.
However, there is one little question remaining unanswered and in need of some clarification. According to our scriptures, there are ten avataras, and the name of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu does not appear among them. Please clarify.
Quartre Bornes, Mauritius
OUR REPLY: The ten incarnations you mention are among the most well known of Lord Krsna's avataras (incarnations), but the Vedic literature tell us that the Lord comes in innumerable avataras. Although Lord Caitanya is not among the ten avataras, He is mentioned in the Vedic literature. Srila Prabhupada cites at least ten references in his commentary on Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (Adi-lila 2.22). Although we can't list all the references, here is one of the most important, taken from the Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.5.32):
yajanti hi su-medhasah
"In the Age of Kali, intelligent persons perform congregational chanting to worship the incarnation of Godhead who constantly sings the names of Krsna. Although His complexion is not blackish, He is Krsna Himself. He is accompanied by His associates, servants, weapons, and confidential companions." The verse is spoken by the saint Karabhajana Rsi when describing the incarnations of Krsna for the four ages Satya, Treta, Dvapara, and Kali.
Although Lord Caitanya is sometimes called an avatara, He is actually more than that; He is Krsna Himself the avatari, or source of all incarnations. So that is another reason why we don't see Lord Caitanya on the list of ten avataras just as we don't see Lord Krsna's name on that list.
Prabhupada and other devotees of Lord Caitanya have not changed the scriptures by accepting Lord Caitanya as Krsna. Rather, the evidence is available to those eager to find it.
I really enjoyed the article about the devotees in Sarajevo. I thought it was well written and uplifting. Those devotees are amazing! I hope you will do a follow-up on them in a year or two.
I particularly like the articles on various temples around the world, especially when they include pictures of the temple rooms and Deities. I only have one complaint. The magazine is too short and too infrequent! I wish you would return to a monthly edition and expand the articles. I would gladly pay more for the subscription. Please consider expanding, I need more! Hari bol.
GSLIS Graduate Student
OUR REPLY: Thank you for your praise. We'd like to expand in every way at once. BTG now has twice as many pages as when it was monthly. To expand further, we need more subscribers. (Spread the word!) Thank you again. Hare Krsna.
Evolving in Understanding God
After reading the many interesting articles and letters concerning the position of demigods, I felt the desire to write and express my ideas. Being somewhat a student of world religious thought and spiritual philosophy, with a strong affection towards the Hare Krsna movement, I see things a little different from the views now being expressed.
The core differences between the personalists and the impersonalists have already been discussed, so I will not go into this except to state that the stance of the impersonalists considers all demigods, man, etc. to be the manifestation of the impersonal Brahman or nirguna, being attributeless. The basic idea of the personalists, especially the Gaudiya Vaisnavas, is that Lord Krsna is the Supreme and is a person, Himself different from the jivas [living beings], though not in essence, and the demigods are subordinate servitors to the Supreme Lord Krsna Himself.
The main issue being put forward in BTG is that worship of any deity other than Krsna is inferior. It seems what is missing here is the understanding of the soul's expanding consciousness through the process of transmigration. The reason that various religious systems exist, such as Islam, Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism, and the numerous sects and sub-sects, is that God manifests knowledge of Himself in various aspects to appeal to men of varying levels of consciousness. Meaning that no one system of belief or understanding is either inferior or superior but each respects a different aspect of the Absolute.
While I personally am more inclined towards the understanding of God as Sri Krsna as taught by Srila Prabhupada, this is due to my present level of consciousness, and the practices of Saivites, smartas, or Mormons are not inferior. The various demigods, while being personalities themselves, do represent different aspects of the Godhead. So they are both separate personalities and representatives of the differing levels of God's manifestation.
OUR REPLY: First of all, we should understand clearly the difference between the jiva and God. God, or Krsna, is unlimited, all-pervasive, the source of everything, and so on. Though the jiva is made of the same spiritual substance as God, the jiva is infinitesimal and always subordinate to God, the Supreme Controller.
Because the demigods are empowered by Krsna to perform certain functions, they are said to represent Krsna. But representing God and being God are not the same thing. The demigods are jiva souls in powerful material positions. They are not the Supreme Lord.
While it is true that people can evolve in their spiritual understanding, "evolving" implies improving. There are higher and lower levels of understanding. The highest understanding is that Krsna is the Supreme Lord, we jivas are minute parts of Him, and we are His eternal servants. The demigods are not the Supreme Lord; they are jivas. We are not part of the demigods, and we are not their eternal servants. They are servants of Krsna.
So if one is worshiping the demigods, we cannot say that he has no need to progress. We have to point out that his worship is inferior. Krsna Himself says that it is avidhi-purvakam "performed with an improper understanding."
It is not that all understandings are equal. Srila Prabhupada gave the analogy of a person approaching a mountain. From a distance the mountain looks like a cloud, as one gets closer one sees trees, and when one reaches the mountain one sees all kinds of variety. Many people have only a hazy understanding of the Absolute Truth, but the Bhagavad-gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam, and other Vedic scriptures give us a clear view. In Back to Godhead we try to present that for everyone's benefit.
One may be a demigod worshiper, or whatever, but on learning that the highest truth is to worship the Supreme Lord, why not accept it? We're not saying that people who worship God without a clear understanding are bad, but we're convinced that the most clear and exact explanation of the Absolute Truth is available in the Vedic literature, so we want to allow everyone to take advantage of that knowledge.
Saving Vedic Culture
India's spiritual culture has always been a source of attraction for people across the world. But bogus gurus, who posed as leaders of India's ancient Vedic culture, cheated and destroyed the spiritual lives of thousands of Western people. For these bogus swamis and miracle men, meditation was a way to become famous and acquire wealth. They killed the real essence of sanatana-dharma.
Srila Prabhupada, a bona fide guru and a great scholar, exposed such so-called gurus and their rascal philosophy. Srila Prabhupada, whose mind was filled with the nectar of honesty, propagated without any change the Vedic philosophy that greatacaryas of Vaisnavism like Sri Ramanuja, Madhva, Nimbarka and Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu had taught. Srila Prabhupada propagated Vaisnavism in the Western countries without compromising with the ironlike materialistic Western way of life.
Today's young generation in India are opting for the imported version of materialistic life, which they see on Madonna movies or at Michael Jackson concerts in India, and are leaving behind in the dustbin their original Vedic culture.
But due to the efforts of ISKCON, India's Vedic culture has taken root all over the world. And by the efforts and hard work of foreign preachers and devotees, many young Indians have had their eyes opened and been inspired to keep their gemlike culture.
I greatly admire the efforts of the pure devotees of ISKCON to preach to the young-generation Indians who are aping the Western materialistic way of life. These efforts inspire the young generation to love their Vedic culture. When they see foreign preachers practising Krsna consciousness they also feel inspired.
I congratulate and admire the good work of ISKCON in broadcasting the Vedic knowledge throughout the world, thus saving Vedic dharma from destruction. Keep up the good work.
Jagannath Das Munirkha
South Delhi, India
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