ACCORDING TO PEOPLE who estimate such things, last October saw the arrival on earth of human being number six billion. Many people wish that he or she had never made it. They complain that the planet's already too crowded and every new birth just adds to the problem.

As I look out my window at the cows grazing in a spacious pasture nearby, crowding and overpopulation are far from my mind. Whenever I fly, I'm always amazed at how much land lies unpopulated and uncultivated. From the sky, at least, there seems to be plenty of room for more people. The earth shouldn't have any problem handling its six billionth passenger, or even any of his or her brothers and sisters who may follow.

My impression squares with research, which shows that the earth can support many times the current population if those of us already here manage resources properly. At least three changes would help assure the prosperity of growing populations: honest management and distribution of the earth's bounty, the return to a simpler, more natural way of life (including vegetarianism), and the congregational chanting of the holy names of the Lord.

What does chanting have to do with feeding the world? Chanting God's names pleases Him, and He responds by sending rain, without which the crops won't grow. We can live simply and manage wisely, but unless the rains come, fertile fields become deserts.

Lord Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita that He'll send rain if we'll send Him a token of our appreciation. He wants us to perform sacrifice, to offer Him a sample of the gifts He sends. In former times, people executed sacrifices daily in their homes and temples, and kings diligently sponsored elaborate sacrifices attended by thousands of people. Stadiums were built for these affairs, and the resources of the kingdom were pooled. The citizens didn't complain about government spending for these events; they knew that the sacrifices brought prosperity.

People today scoff at the idea that sacrifices bring rain. But are traditional sacrifices really that much different from the bill-paying rituals we perform each month? We sit at our sacrificial altar (desk), pull out our sacrificial paraphernalia (pen and checkbook), perform some hand motions (write the check), take a ritual walk (to the mailbox), and so on. By this sacrifice, the water keeps running. Similarly, by Vedic sacrifice, the rains come. We're paying our cosmic bill.

The Vedic scriptures tell us that in the current age we don't have to perform elaborate sacrifices; we can simply take part in the sublime sacrifice known as sankirtana the congregational chanting of the holy names of the Lord.

Showing our gratitude to Krsna by sacrifice is essential, but it's just the beginning of reconciling with Him. Krsna wants more than official tax-paying. He wants our love, and chanting His names can awaken that love. We should chant not only to repay our debts to Him but to love Him as well.

Nagaraja Dasa