Its Message And Activities

"The Hare Krsna movement says that harmony between itself and the whole world can be established by understanding one simple point …"

This article closely paraphrases and to a large extent copies verbatim an article published in June 1927 in The Harmonist, a journal founded in 1879 by the great spiritual master Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura. The Harmonist article, like all the others in the June 1927 issue, was unsigned. But the editor at the time was Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, the spiritual master of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. We may presume, therefore, that Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati either wrote the article or approved of its contents.

BY THE GRACE of Krsna, the Hare Krsna movement has spread all over the world, spreading Krsna's message.

Devotees Kirtan

The truth spreads in two ways positively through direct support and negatively by opposition. The truth cannot be made sufficiently known by the positive method alone. Propaganda through opposition invokes and glorifies the truth more brilliantly than direct support. In the Satya-yuga, through negative propaganda, the demon Hiranyakasipu more than the devoted Prahlada glorified Krsna in His form as Nrsimhadeva. In the Treta-yuga, the demon Ravana more than the devoted Hanuman proclaimed the greatness of Krsna in His form as Lord Ramacandra. In the Dvapara-yuga, demons like Kamsa, Jarasandha, and Sisupala, more than devotees like the Pandavas and Yadavas, proclaimed the greatness of Krsna Himself. And in the present age, Kali-yuga, antagonists like Jagai, Madhai, Chand Kazi, Prakasananda Sarasvati, Ramacandra Khan, Ramacandra Puri, and in more recent times various sects of hypocrites have glorified Krsna in His forms as Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Lord Nityananda Prabhu more than have Lord Caitanya's own devotees.

The truth is in all ages propagated in this world by both the positive and negative methods. The true message of ISKCON, the International Society for Krsna Consciousness, has spread and is spreading in this manner.*

*When this article mentions ISKCON or the Hare Krsna movement, the original named the Gaudiya Math, an organization that was ISKCON's spiritual predecessor.

It may be asked, "What does ISKCON do? Is it merely another association like the thousands of sects in this world? Or is it among the world's welfare societies? Or is it one of the world's many mischievous organizations?

"What work does ISKCON do for the benefit of the world? Is the Hare Krsna movement affectionate like a mother, a protector like a father, or a helper like a brother? What well-being for society does it desire? What very considerable service does it render to mankind that the world, or the civilized world, or the whole of mankind should listen to its message?"

Many such questions may arise in our minds.

ISKCON is not an association like the world's thousands of sects. It doesn't desire the welfare or non-welfare of the world like other benefit- or mischief-making societies. It does not do work that is beneficial or harmful in terms of worldly enjoyments. ISKCON is neither affectionate nor cruel like a worldly mother. It is neither protector nor destroyer like a worldly father, neither helper nor enemy like a worldly brother. What then is this Hare Krsna movement that the world should listen to its words?

There need be no want of harmony between the Hare Krsna movement and the world. The only disharmony is caused by one little misunderstanding. The Hare Krsna movement says that harmony between itself and the whole world can be established by understanding one simple point: that the duty of all living beings consists in the exclusive service of Adhoksaja, the Transcendence. Most people of this world say that the duty of all living beings is the service of aksaja, or matter. Even when this is not actually said, in practice it is this that is always done.

The Hare Krsna movement says that sadhya, the object of our activities, should itself be the only sadhana, or means for attaining that object. In the opinion of most men of the world, sadhya and sadhana are different. The Hare Krsna movement says that so long as one continues to be under the influence of the physical and mental dharma (functions), words like "unity" and "universal love" are mere sounds, like such words as akasa-kusum ("a flower in the sky"). Harmony is possible only when one has obtained a firm footing in the dharma of the soul.

Service to Godhead or Service to Matter

Hare Krishna Movement

This distinction requires to be made perfectly clear. The service of the Adhoksaja means the service of the transcendental Godhead. That which helps or hinders the gratification of the body or the mind is not the service of the Adhoksaja, the Transcendence; it is the service of aksaja, matter. The body is pleased by the enjoyment of free air and the open sky. The troublesome mind is gratified if allowed to roam at will like an unbridled horse, to revel in the beauties of Nature, to gather honey as it pleases from the many-tinted flowers of the groves of poetry. Contrary to this is the impersonal or voidistic point of view, based upon repugnance for all gratification. Neither of these is service to the Adhoksaja both are service to the aksaja.

Although most people of the world profess to be positivists, dealing only with positive facts and phenomena, they fail to see, though it must be quite patent, the greatest of all phenomena. They at any rate forget it in practice even when they appear to know. Although the greatest of the positivists, Carvaka, could not but have observed this greatest of all phenomena, he failed to take notice of it. That great phenomenon is generally known by the name of death.

If the memory of this great event were retained in our minds we would assuredly be solicitous of the amrta (deathlessness). The Sruti (Svetasvatara Upanisad 2.5) says we are all children of the amrta, heirs of the amrta. Srnvantu visve amrtasya putrah: "Listen, O children of the amrta."

In this world two kinds of endeavor are found for obtaining this amrta. Like the sons of kings in the epochs recorded in history, some try to ascend the throne of their father by treason against the father; on the other hand, loyal sons in seeking to be heirs of a kindhearted and affectionate father look upon constant service as being both the means and the end.

The Hare Krsna movement understands such service to be the appropriate and eternal method. Why is it appropriate? Because

srnvatam sva-kathah krsnah
hrdy antah stho hy abhadrani
vidhunoti suhrt satam

"Sri Krsna is the benefactor of all holy persons. Whosoever listens to or sings about His messages is sanctified. Appearing in the hearts of all who listen to accounts about Himself, He destroys the evil propensities in their hearts to the very root." This root or seed of sin, or sinful desire, or ignorance (avidya), is the cause of the worldly sojourn of the living being.

Why is the method eternal? Because

bhejire munayo 'thagre
bhagavantam adhoksajam

"In the beginning the munis, or sages, worshiped the Adhoksaja, the transcendental Personality of Godhead, in this way."

Harmful Kindness

That type of kindness which does not give rise to manda, or evil, is termed amandodaya daya. For example, if a sick man is allowed to eat forbidden items or a drunkard is helped to proceed to a liquor shop, kindness is indeed shown, but that kindness later turns out harmful to the person who receives it. If the sick man is placed under medical treatment against his will, if the drunkard is protected from his evil course, amandodaya daya, non-harm-producing kindness, is shown. Preventing floods and famines, nursing the sick, pleasing or displeasing anyone, or stultifying anyone's faculty of consciousness (i.e., promoting voidism) every one of these is an instance of mandodaya daya, harm-producing kindness.

Man cannot understand this till he realizes his true position. By such acts the living being is not really benefited. Cutting the root of misery is doing real good to others; the treatment that allows the gangrene of sensual desires to remain does no real good to the patient. Nor does one prove great wisdom, out of spite to the gangrene of sensual desires, to hang the sick man, holding out to him the prospect of mukti, annihilation, as a complete and permanent cure.

svayam nihsreyasam vidvan
na vakty ajnaya karma hi
na rati rogino 'pathyam
vanchato 'pi bhisaktamah

"Just as the best physician, even if a patient evinces a desire for unwholesome food, does not allow it, he who is himself aware of nihsreyah, the highest good, never advises an ignorant person to do karma, work, for his own interest." (Bhagavatam6.9.50) The Sruti (Mundaka Upanisad 1.2.6) says:

avidyayam bahudha varta mana vayam
krtartha ityabhimanyanti balah
yat karmano na pravedayanti ragat 
tenaturah ksina lokasacyavante

"Ignorant persons, being themselves in the midst of manifold avidya, errors, think, 'We have gained what we want.' Because they work for their own interest, attached to their work, they have no experience of the real truth. With extreme solicitude they gain little as the result of their activities. After a time they fall from their position." The Sruti (Mundaka Upanisad 1.3.8) further says:

avidyayamantare varta manah
svayam dhirah pandita-manya manah
jamghanya manah pariyanti mudha
andhenaiva niyamana yathandhah

"Remaining in the midst of ignorance, men consider themselves conscientious and enlightened. Such perverted and ignorant men come to grief, like the blind man led by the blind."

The Remedy for All Distress

Forgetful of their own home under the spell of the enchantress, most people of the world are running headlong in the opposite direction. In this again their intoxication, eagerness, concentration, and firm determination are so intense that they have little opportunity to think about home. But the voice of the Hare Krsna movement is ever proclaiming:

'krsna' bala, sange cala,
ei-matra bhiksa cai

"Chant Hare Krsna. Come along. These are the only alms we beg."

"Back to God and back to home" is the message of the Hare Krsna movement.

To arrest the pervertedly running tide and redirect it towards the Eternal Source is the seemingly unpleasant duty of the Hare Krsna movement.

The Hare Krsna movement says, "All men of the world without exception belong to our family. All birds and beasts, grass and shrubs are our kin. Whatsoever conscious being, wheresoever existing, belongs to our Supreme Lord. We shall conduct our family members from out of the spells of the enchantress towards home. We shall not show for-the-time-being sweet sympathy for them by enabling those who have fallen into the snares of the enchantress to get more deeply entangled. Even if under the spell of the enchantress they fill heaven and earth with their loud protestations against our endeavors, we shall still proclaim the message of the amrta to them."

Even if it is contrary to the current of thoughts of the religious or religiously minded people as those terms are understood by the world, or even if it appears strange or wonderful to them, we will still forever practice and proclaim the sanatana-dharma,the eternal religion made by God, the tidings of which are unknown to any of the rsis, gods, siddhas, and men, the dharma which, although it happens to be hidden, pure, and difficult to understand, alone enables us to attain the amrta. That dharma is the supreme dharma of the living being, the dharma to which all living beings without exception have a claim, the dharma to which everyone in the universe may become the heir. That dharma is the object as well as the method of our endeavors.

The current that is sweeping the world, the flood on which it is adrift, the famine by which it is distressed, the want, fear, sorrow, delusion by which it is mastered, oppressed and tortured, can be prevented, can be pulled up by the root, by the method of moving homeward, the method of self-surrender at the holy feet of the sorrowless and fearless amrta.

The Power of the Holy Name

So long as we stay in the foreign land and the greater the distance and speed with which we continue to run towards foreign lands and away from the direction of home so long and to the same extent will sorrow, fear and delusion refuse to leave us; they will on the contrary mock us like the delusive deer by their further and steady increase. The Sruti (Brhad-aranyaka Upanisad) says, dvitiyad vai bhayam bhavati: "Fear must result from the perception of a second entity different from Godhead."

The Power of Holy name

Death cannot be abolished from this mundane world. By no amount of effort by the united living beings of the universe can the threefold miseries be banished to Siberia. No one can extinguish the fire of Ravana's funeral pyre. Only the water cooled by contact with the feet of Sri Ramacandra has the power to quench it. Once the world is fairly embarked on the high tide of the holy name the insignificant worldly flood retires forthwith. If the alms in the shape of the songs glorifying Krsna become easily procurable, the little famines will leave us for good as a mere attendant result. With the appearance of sorrow-delusion-fear-killing bhakti (devotional service), avidya (nescience), the root of every form of misery of the living being, is destroyed, and the soul is well satisfied.

Bhakti is like fire. Nothing else can purify gold the way fire can. Without bhakti-yoga (the association of bhakti) other forms of effort are meaningless, like the attempt to refine gold by applying tamarind, earth, or ashes.

To imagine artha-vada in regard to the holy name or, in other words, to imagine that the glorification of the name is mere exaggeration of praise is that godless intellectual attitude which gives rise to our belief in other tangible forms of effort. We think that the work of glorifying or preaching the name of Krsna is not conducive to the general good. Or again we may think sometimes that the glorification and preaching of the name is on a level with other kinds of effort.

The first is artha-vada in regard to the name. The second is the offense (aparadha) of believing the chanting of the name to be equal to other good works. To have faith in the holy name is so very rare that we may leave it out of consideration. If we had faith even in namabhasa (the most dimly perceived name) we would have never said that succoring the victims of floods is better than congregationally chanting Hare Krsna and preaching about Krsna, or that opening hospitals or freeing the country from famines is better than preaching devotion to God.

Hundreds of famines can be got rid of not by namabhasa but even by namaparadha (offensive chanting of the name). The mukti (liberation) that is not obtained in millions of births by brahma-jnana, "knowledge of Brahman," can be had by one singlenamabhasa. This is no exaggeration.

The Only Message

This alone is the only true message. Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the avatari (the source of all incarnations), the savior of Kali-yuga, has borne testimony to it through the namacarya (the teacher of the name by his own personal example) Sri Thakura Haridasa.

Never adopting the bad logic of purveyors of vulgar news, neither Lord Caitanya nor any of His devotees was ever in a hurry to prevent flood or famine or to found hospitals, nor did they give any other advice to anyone except telling all men at all times and places:

kali kale nama vina nahi ara dharma

"In the Kali-yuga there is no other dharma but uttering the name of Krsna."

khaite suite yatha tatha nama laya
kala-desa-niyama nahi, sarva siddhi haya

"Regardless of time or place, one who chants the holy name, even while eating or sleeping, attains all perfection." (Caitanya-caritamrta, Antya-lila 20.18)

yare dekha, tare kaha 'krsna' upadesa
amara ajnaya guru hana tara' ei desa

"Whomever you meet, instruct him about Krsna. By My command, be a guru and save this land." (Cc. Madhya 7.128)

ucca sankirtana tate karila pracara
sthira-cara jivera saba khandaila samsara

"You have preached the loud chanting of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra and in this way freed all moving and nonmoving living enities from material bondage." (Cc. Antya 3.76)

bharata-bhumite haila manusya-janma yara
janma sarthaka kari' kara para-upakara

"One born as a human being in the land of India [Bharata-varsa] should make his life successful and work for the benefit of all other people." (Cc. Adi 9.41)

There is no dharma for the living being other than kirtana, chanting of the holy name of God. To the extent that one disbelieves in bhakti, devotional service, as denoted by kirtana or the holy name in other words if one thinks that all wants cannot be fulfilled by kirtana to that extent one is nastika, atheistic. The degree of help one gives in propagating bhakti as denoted by kirtana is the sole measure of one's belief in God. On the other hand, a man is a nastika, disbeliever, to the extent that he obstructskirtana. Since the name has to be chanted every moment, even while eating or sleeping, since bhakti denoted by kirtana is the only dharma of the living being, since there is no dharma but this, where then is the time to get rid of flood or famine or found hospitals? Those who claim to be positivists but forget the greatest of all facts, death, those who are fallen, like the blind man led by the blind, and who under the spell of the enchantress loiter about like travelers without an objective it is such people who have time for work other than hari-kirtana, chanting of the holy name of Krsna. All efforts except hari-kirtana cause samsara, "the worldly sojourn," the road leading not to the east but in the opposite direction. On the other hand, by all-time hari-kirtanaone turns away from every other direction to face the east, or journey homeward.

"We Will Not Listen to You"

The Hare Krsna movement is the missionary of this all-time kirtana. The movement asks not that all efforts of the world be destroyed but that they be deflected in their course. The Hare Krsna movement begs every one of us to offer his all to Krsna. The opulence of the Hare Krsna movement is for the sole purpose of making all efforts of the world krsna-para, "having Krsna as their goal." The offering to Krsna comes first, and after the offering has been made, bhakti begins. The Hare Krsna movement says, "Make the offering to Krsna first, and after that has been done profess to be a bhakta, a devotee."

The Hare Krsna movement says, Do not imitate the kirtana-kari (one who does kirtana). Anukara, imitation, is a mere burlesque. By arraying oneself in the trappings of a devotee like a harlequin one may deceive people, but one does no good either to oneself or to others. It is those who follow the kirtana-kari that are really their own benefactors or properly alive to self-interest. They are also benefactors of others and mindful of others' interests. They are not blinded by considerations of undue personal advantages, nor do they cheat others. They are therefore truly disinterested. It is by kirtana alone that the claims of self-interest, the interests of others, and disinterestedness are simultaneously satisfied.

Bhoga (enjoyment) or mukti (freedom from misery) in the shape of prevention of famines and so on is gained by namaparadha (offensively taking the name) or by namabhasa (taking the dimly perceived name). That by which millions of times greater eternal good is produced, by which the lotus of the eternal well-being of the living entity blossoms forth that Sri Nama (holy name) the Hare Krsna movement endeavors to give away freely. The members of the Hare Krsna movement are earnestly trying to give away, freely, Krsna Himself.

In this world there are many persons who spread unwholesome doctrines after advertising their intention to give good advice. And most men are deceived by the idea that actually the pleasurable experience of the moment is the "good." Sanatana Gosvami asked Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu,

'ke ami', 'kene amaya jare tapa-traya'
iha nahi jani 'kemane hita haya'

"Who am I? And why do the threefold miseries afflict me? If I do not know this, how for me can there be good?"

Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu is the expounder of sanatana dharma, the eternal occupation for every living being. If the message that He delivered to us regarding the only means of obtaining the "good" had once reached our ears, we would not have considered bhakti denoted by kirtana weak and other methods strong. We would not have turned our face away from the direction in which the treasure would be easily found and have hurried towards the south for the bite of wasps, towards the west for the terrors of the yaksa (the demon that guards worldly riches), or to-wards the north to offer our lives to the fangs of the black snake.* Our home is eastward, but we are running with all speed away from the east towards other points of the compass. And when the people of the east call out to us to turn back, deluded by the mirage we say, "We will not listen to you. See what beautiful lakes full of the cleanest water lie yonder before our very eyes." Talking thus and being by degrees enamored of that which only appears to our senses, we are ever moving away from home towards foreign lands.

*The allusion here is to the story of a poor man advised by an astrologer that the man's father had left him a treasure. The astrologer warned that access to the treasure was blocked from the south by wasps and drones, from the west by a demonic ghost, and from the north by a big black snake. But by digging in the east the treasure would at once be recovered. Similarly, the treasure of Krsna consciousness is blocked by the biting wasps of fruitive action, the ghost of mental speculation, and the snake of impersonal yoga. But by devotional service that treasure is easily attained. Editor, BTG

Sects of Hypocrites

In those circumstances the doings of the Hare Krsna movement sometimes seem to us and to those who are like-minded with ourselves to be contrary to our ideas. This is likely and need not cause any surprise. But all this notwithstanding, the Hare Krsna movement, bearing its message, its bright flag flying, emblazoned on it the words that attract our ears and eyes, is ever saying:

neha yat karma dharmaya
na viragaya kalpate
na tirtha-pa da-sevayai
jivann api mrto hi sah
(Bhagavatam 3.23.56)

evam nrnam kriya-yogah
sarve samsrti-hetavah
ta evatma-vinasaya
kalpante kalpitah pare
(Bhagavatam 1.5.34)

yad atra kriyate karma
jnanam yat tad adhinam hi
(Bhagavatam 1.5.35)

"The work not done for the sake of dharma, the dharma not performed for the purpose of vairagya [renunciation], the vairagya not practiced for the service of Visnu whosoever practices such work, dharma, or vairagya is dead in life. Conditional fruitive works [naimittic kamya karmas] are the cause of the bondage of the world [samsara-bandhana] or 'birth-journeys' [yoni-bhramana]. But those very works, if done for Godhead, have the power to destroy ungodliness. The divine knowledge [bhagavat-jnana] associated with devotional service [bhakti], denoted by hearing, chanting, and so on, is assuredly the unswerving fruit of work performed in this world to please God."

This is the subject of the propaganda of the Hare Krsna movement. The movement by its practice proclaims that neglecting to gratify the senses of Godhead but instead gratifying the senses of the living being can bring no real good either to oneself or to others. Nor does invoking mukti (annihilation) in deprecation of the pleasures of the senses of the living being constitute service to God. There are many sects of hypocrites who counterfeit bhakti, devotional service, by falsely assuming the paraphernalia of a devotee but are not aware that bhakti is an impulse of the soul. Of these, some to fill their bellies, some to achieve fame, or some again by imitating some other purpose serve to delude the people.

The Hare Krsna movement says that it is not proper in the name of dharma to practice trade. We should not use Krsna to serve our own pleasures; our duty is only to serve Krsna. The movement says that imitating the devotee of Krsna or putting on the dress of Narada as in a theatrical performance is far from walking after the devotee of Krsna or following Narada. Delightful tune, time, and cadence alone do not constitute the movement's kirtana, or chanting of Hare Krsna. Those are found even in the performances of recording stars and harlots. Cetanata, "consciousness," is necessary. Simultaneous practice and preaching are necessary. The Hare Krsna movement says that he who does not possess a pure character is not fit even to be styled a man, not to speak of being regarded as religious (dharmaka).

The Hare Krsna movement keeps at a distance from the five Kalisthanas, "abodes of quarrel." The Kalisthanas, according to a text of the Bhagavatam, are the following: (1) dissipating games such as cards and dice; or trade or the profession of a trader performed in the name of dharma; (2) indulgence in luxuries such as betel, tobacco, wine, and so on; (3) improper association with woman or unusual addiction to one's own wife; (4) animal slaughter; or not proclaiming the truth to people but deceiving them by untruth, not preaching krsna-katha, "the word of God," to other living beings but in place of krsna-katha giving other kinds of advice; (5) cheating people, or accepting money earned by their labor and applying such wealth to the maintenance of wife and children or increasing the scope of one's own enjoyment; or not employing everything the body, mind, and speech, life, wealth, and intellect in the service of Sri Visnu, who is the proprietor of all things and the Supreme Lord of all wealth.

The Highest Good, With Little Effort

The Vedic literature says that of all things the human body is the dearest to God, for the human body is the giver of param artha, "the highest good," and is very difficult to obtain. Therefore, while this body lasts, without being immersed in any other thing, not deceiving ourselves by thinking that any method other than sorrow-stupor-fear-killing devotional service is productive of good, our duty is to unceasingly practice devotional service. Other forms of devotional service to God are weak; the devotional service denoted by kirtana is strong. Once the protection of the strong bhakti is secured, it gives the living beings the highest good with little effort on their part. Therefore, preaching kirtana at all times, by right of the highest kinship, to induce all living beings to turn homeward is true universal love, true help for others, true kindness, and the true duty of life. Embracing all the inhabitants of the universe without exception, in sadness calling upon all to turn their face towards God to be preachers of this devotional service denoted by kirtana, the Hare Krsna movement says:

he sadhavah sakalam eva vihaya durat
caitanya candra carane kurutanuragam

"O righteous people, bid goodbye to everything from a distance and offer the devotion of your hearts to the feet of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu."