How I Came to Krsna Consciousness
In 1978 my family attended a tent campaign conducted by the Hare Krsna devotees. Our village was in a rural area. I was four years old. That night was very wonderful. The atmosphere was filled with a nice aroma coming from the incense. My father purchased some of the books and incense, and also a few japa beads.
When I was about ten years, I would read these books. I began to follow the instructions from them. I soon began to chant. One day as I was reading, I suddenly remembered the tent campaign. I remembered my mum taking me into a bus the devotees stayed in.
Now I felt more determined. I would sometimes cook my own food whenever my mum would cook meat. But I never saw devotees after 1978.
Then in 1985 we attended the opening of the temple in Durban. And during that year my cousin took me to the temple for an evening program. I began to read and chant more.
In 1989 I attended a congregational meeting of devotees. That gave me strength to continue. And in 1993 I attended a tent campaign again after fifteen years.
A devotee there (later I learned that his name is Partha Sarathi Maharaja) asked how I had come to Krsna consciousness. I told him it all started when I remembered the 1978 tent campaign. He was amazed that I could remember such a thing, having been only four years old that year. He then smiled and said that he also remembered it and that he had been in the bus. I was very happy when he told me to join the temple. He gave me a lot of guidance.
Now I'm married, and I have a daughter, Radhika, who is ten months old. I'm fortunate to be a follower of ISKCON. Although I did not have any association of the devotees in my early stages, Prabhupada's books always gave me that association.
Durban, South Africa
The "Original" Among Eternals?
What Does It Mean?
Since Lords Baladeva, Ramacandra, Narasimha, etc., are all eternal personalities, what do you mean when you say that Lord Krsna is the original Personality of Godhead?
Hounslow West, England
OUR REPLY: Krsna is the original Personality of Godhead because all the other Personalities of Godhead expand from Him. We accept this from Vedic scripture (krsnas tu bhagavan svayam; aham sarvasya prabhavah). If you want to, you can say that They are eternally expanding from Krsna. In other words, there is no time when They were not expanding from Krsna.
It is difficult, however, to comprehend the inconceivable Absolute by our tiny mental powers. It is best to simply accept what the Vedic scriptures say on this point.
The Vedic scriptures give the analogy of the sun and sunshine. The sun is the source of the sunshine, yet they both exist simultaneously. In fact, neither has meaning without the other, nor could there possibly be a chronological order: first the sun, then the sunshine. Yet it is completely true to say that the sun is the origin of the sunshine.
Praises for Prabhupada Nectar
Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami must be commended for the description of Prabhupada's pastimes in Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta. It has certainly made me realize and appreciate Prabhupada's dedication towards the Krsna consciousness movement. I also began to appreciate and worship Prabhupada's highly exalted spiritual position.
Durban, South Africa
How About Pages for Kids?
I have subscribed to Back to Godhead and have enjoyed reading it.
Just one suggestion. Could you have a page or two in every issue for children in a lower age group? Possibly a story (nonviolent), a quiz, or a puzzle. By this the children in families who receive Back to Godhead would be exposed to Krsna consciousness and would eagerly await the arrival of the magazine.
I would also like to thank the devotees concerned for bringing out Back to Godhead in India.
Hiren N. Kara
OUR REPLY: We have sometimes thought about pages for children. But we keep coming to the same decision: Following the standard set by Srila Prabhupada, we'll keep editing BTG for adults and leave aside features aimed at children. Time, Scientific American, India Today they don't have pages for children. And neither will we.
Children deserve Krsna conscious magazines of their own, and we know of two in the works. One is called Back to Krishna, the other Bhakti-Lata Bija. For information on subscribing or on getting involved in helping on the staff here's where to get in touch:
Back to Krishna,
The Magazine of Hare Krishna Children
P. O. Box 987
Alachua, FL 32616, USA
Phone: +1 (904) 462-7868
Bhakti-Lata Bija, The Magazine for Children
Co. Wicklow Ireland
Phone: +353 (0508) 73229
Hostages Reach Home
On August 2, 1990, my wife, Sudha, and I were on our way to visit India. Our plane stopped to refuel at Kuwait Airport and we were caught by the Iraqi invasion. We were offered Indian passports because of Sudha's birth.
I thought, "Because I have been through all this before in Viet Nam ('65), I had better stay and try to help those who haven't."
My wife refused to leave without me. We were taken to N.E. Iraq and used as "human shields" on a big dam. Its destruction would have meant the flooding of the whole of Iraq.
President Bush had told Saddam Hussein, "If you use chemical weapons we will bomb your dam." We would have been the first to know. But on December 9, 1990, Saddam Hussein let all the hostages go.
At the end of last year we were looking for somewhere to give our service when I retire from the factory where I work (Glaxo Wellcome). We visited Bhaktivedanta Manor and knew that our country's roads have taken us home.
Why Criticize Mayavada So Strongly?
I am working in BARC Tarapur as a scientific officer. I am an engineer. I have been associated with Krsna's devotees for the last one year. I myself chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra daily. I have read three to four books published by ISKCON, including Bhagavad-gita. I have deep reverence for ISKCON and its activities to spread Krsna consciousness. I have attended ISKCON programs in the temple like sankirtana [chanting], pravachan [lectures], arati [worship of the Deity], etc.
I might not be able to understand all the books, but whatever I have perceived has raised some doubts in my mind. I think it is better to clear doubts as early as possible, so I have one question or complaint. Please take note that by asking this question I do not intend to offend anybody.
In all the books published by ISKCON which I have read, I find severe criticism for Mayavada and Advaitavada philosophy. According to my knowledge or whatever I have gained from the above sources, these theories are paths of self-realization, or grossly, I can say, liberation.
My question is whether it is fair to criticize such theories or people who are following these theories. Mayavada and Advaitavada might be difficult, timetaking or laborious, but does it mean they are wrong? In addition, these theories were propounded by Sri Gautam Buddha and Sri Adi Sankaracarya respectively. Scriptures say that these great personalities were respectively incarnations of Lord Krsna and Lord Siva. Then is it not an offence to criticize the theories suggested by the Lord Himself?
Please elaborate on this and clear my mind of this doubt as early as possible.
OUR REPLY: Thank you for your appreciation of ISKCON and its books and activities. Yes, it is true that our books strongly criticize Mayavada (the theory that all variety and individuality are illusion) and Advaitavada (the theory that the only truth is impersonal undifferentiated oneness).
Is it fair to criticize these theories? Why not? Theories ought to be open to reasonable criticism. And if they collapse beneath the weight of superior arguments, they may justifiably be looked upon as wrong, and their adherents as mistaken.
As stated in Bhagavad-gita (12.5), Mayavada and Advaitavada are indeed difficult, timetaking, and laborious. Apart from that, scriptural and logical evidence also demonstrate them wrong. The books of the Hare Krsna movement present this evidence strongly.
In the case against Mayavada and Advaitavada, numerous points can be made. But here, let just one suffice.
According to these monistic theories, the Ultimate Reality is ultimately pure undifferentiated oneness. And all variety and individuality are but products of illusion. Accepting this view, one logically has to ask: Where does this illusion come from? This is a question that Mayavada and Advaitavada can't answer. If only oneness exists, illusion cannot also exist, because then we would have twoness duality not oneness. And if we say that twoness only seems to exist that its existence is but an illusion then we're back where we started, and going around in a circle.
Lord Caitanya therefore taught the doctrine that everything is one with the Absolute Truth yet simultaneously, inconceivably different from the Absolute Truth as well, just as sunshine is both one with and different from the sun. Within the Personality of Godhead, everything irreconcilable is reconciled. The Personality of Godhead, the Supreme Reality, has countless energies, and these are all real including the energy that places us under illusion when illusion is what we desire. In Bhagavad-gita (7.14) Lord Krsna says that although this illusory energy is nearly insurmountable, one who surrenders to Him can at once cross beyond it. The Hare Krsna movement therefore strongly teaches surrender to Krsna, the Personality of Godhead, in preference to all speculative impersonal theories.
In the incarnation as Lord Buddha, Lord Krsna rejects the Vedas and teaches what is in essence an atheistic philosophy. He does this to stop needless animal slaughter being indulged in under the excuse of Vedic rituals.
Later, by the order of Lord Visnu, Lord Siva appears as Sri Adi Sankaracarya, defeats Buddhism, and reasserts the authority of the Vedas, but to do so he teaches a compromised philosophy that is in essence a covered form of Buddhism.
So even though taught by great personalities, these doctrines of voidism and impersonalism are temporary contrivances, not the conclusive truth. For the true Vedic conclusion, we should turn to Srimad-Bhagavatam, as taught by Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His followers, now represented by the Hare Krsna movement.
A detailed discussion of these points may be found in Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila, Chapter Seven.
Descartes and the Soul
Thank you all very much for your great service. BTG is really excellent. I especially liked the article of Drutakarma Prabhu, "The City of Nine Gates," in the April/May issue. I would like to offer a brief comment on the following paragraph (page 36):
Here we note that each species of life consists of a soul inhabiting a particular kind of body. In this respect, the Bhagavata Purana account differs from that of Descartes, who held that only humans have souls. For Descartes, animals were simply automatons. If one concedes that animals, with all their signs of life and consciousness, are simply automatons, then why not human beings as well? The Bhagavata Purana model avoids this weakness of Descartes's system.
Descartes, being a Christian, had used Christian terminology which later became incorporated in the Western philosophy and science systems and is generally accepted until now. The problem is that the Christian word definitions differ from those in Srila Prabhupada's books. When devotees use these terms without considering their "Western" definitions, it creates a potential misunderstanding between them and the people in the West.
The spirit and the soul are considered two different subjects in the Christian doctrine (see Bible quotes below). By the word "soul" Christians indicate the subtle material body (linga sarira) and the "spirit" is the soul (jivatma) for them. Therefore when they say the animals have no soul it means the animals haven't the same mind and intelligence capacity as humans (or at least they are unable to use it as fully as humans).
And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and [I pray God] your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:23)
For the word of God [is] quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and [is] a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
Thank you for your attention.
DRUTAKARMA DASA REPLIES: You imply that according to Descartes animals do have an immortal conscious self (which you want to call spirit). You base this on your identification of the word soul with the subtle material body and the word spiritwith the eternal conscious self. So if it is said that animals have no soul, this does not, according to your interpretation, mean that Descartes thought the animals had no spirit (immortal conscious self).
The Bhagavad-gita and other Vedic books give very clear definitions of the soul (the eternal conscious self), the subtle body (composed of the subtle material elements mind, intelligence, and false ego), and the gross material body (composed mainly of visible material elements). Unfortunately, the Bible gives no exact definitions for soul, spirit, etc. And this has led to a very confusing situation, allowing for many contradictory definitions of these terms.
Let us take the Catholic Church as an example. The New Catholic Encyclopedia (1967), Volume XIII, p. 571, says:
Spirit … and soul … [in the New Testament] are often used interchangeably, although the tripartite division of man in 1 Thes 5:23 may indicate that the spirit is of a higher order than the soul and more amenable to God's influence, whereas soul would pertain more to man's rational nature. However, this division is unique in Paul and NT [New Testament] and is certainly not evidence of an elaborated psychology.
Indeed, The New Catholic Encyclopedia (Vol. XIII, p. 462) says, "There is no unanimous Christian teaching on every point concerning the human soul." Furthermore (p. 467), "The notion of the soul surviving after death is not readily discernible in the Bible. … Hence, save for a few important examples (Wisdom; Mk 8:35; Mt 10:39; 16:25-26; Lk 9:24-25; Jn 12:25) where life is seen as a necessary condition for eternal blessings, the Bible does not speak of the survival of an immaterial soul." Here the word soul is being used by Christians in a way that goes against the definition you offered.
In any case, as for Descartes, it is clear that he did not believe animals had immortal conscious selves (call them spirit, or soul, or whatever). In his Discourse on Method, Descartes said:
After the error of those who deny the existence of God … there is none more powerful in leading feeble minds astray from the straight path of virtue than the supposition that the soul of the brutes is of the same nature with our own; and consequently that after this life we have nothing to hope for or fear, more than flies and ants; in place of which, when we know how far they differ we much better comprehend the reasons which establish that the [human] soul is of a nature wholly independent of the body, and that consequently it is not liable to die with the latter and, finally, because no other causes are observed capable of destroying it, we are naturally led thence to judge it immortal.
Here, it is clear that Descartes believed the flies and ants, unlike humans, had no immortal soul, and thus nothing to hope for or fear after this life.
Descartes got it wrong. Animals do have immortal souls, just as humans have immortal souls.
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