Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day

The Point of Prayer

According to a recent Associated Press article, eighty-seven percent of the people in America pray, mostly "for guidance, for family, for health, for friends and family, and in thanksgiving." Skeptics, the article said, are puzzled by the practice and "question the necessity of prayer," because they can't see why a believer should appeal to God over and over for something God, being omniscient, must already know he wants. They consider praying nothing but a lack of faith.

In defense of prayer the article cited Jesus' parable of the widow who kept returning to plead her case before a hard-hearted judge, who kept refusing her. Finally the judge gave in and heard her case. Jesus said that God similarly vindicates those "who cry to Him day and night." The author's point, of course, was to defend the practice of persistent prayer.

That's all right. But the article made no distinction between different motives in praying. As a child, for example, I prayed for various boons a bicycle or good grades assuming like many other people that God was my order-supplier and that the primary purpose of prayer was to petition Him for my wants. It never occurred to me that my selfish motives were rendering my prayers spiritually substandard.

Only after taking to Krsna consciousness did I come to see the lack of faith and the inherent irony in self-centered prayer. If one accepts God as eternal master, it stands to reason that the purpose of prayer should not be to ask God to serve us but to ask that He engage us in serving Him. Certainly the all-powerful Lord is capable of fulfilling His servants' every need. If we choose to remain unsurrendered and foolishly independent, why should we expect God to fulfill our faithless, selfish prayers? Are we not asking for the same blessings that He naturally bestows on His surrendered servants? Our faithlessness is demonstrated by our unwillingness to surrender to God, implying that we think Him incapable of maintaining us. If instead of praying for service we pray to Him for the fulfillment of our material needs, are we not asking Him for the same blessings we thought Him incapable of granting in the first place?

Indeed, many religionists nowadays openly exhort their followers to pray for health, wealth, education, success in business and in their love life, and on and on. These mundane goals are not even remotely concerned with awakening our dormant love of God. Plainly, this covert hypocrisy is what brought on the skeptics' acrimonious attack on prayer.

Of course, some prayer is better than no prayer, inasmuch as belief in God is better than utter defiance of God. Still, an article that purports to defend prayer ought to distinguish between praying to serve God and praying to be served by God. It ought to point out the hypocrisy in self-centered prayer.

Most of all, it should indicate precisely the kind of prayer we should "cry to Him day and night." Something, perhaps, along the lines of Lord Jesus' own prayer: "Lord, not as I will, but as Thou wilt." Or, as Srila Prabhupada taught his followers to pray, "My dear Lord, please engage me in Your devotional service."

South Africa: What's The Problem?

A reporter recently asked us for our position on economic sanctions against South Africa. Our reply:

All problems are caused by ignorance of spiritual knowledge and by a deficiency of love of God. Our movement is meant to enlighten the world with spiritual understanding and give people a practical method for developing transcendental love for God. We have already written a letter to the state president giving him our idea of how the problems can be solved. We are awaiting his response.

The letter to the state president:

His Honor, the State President, Mr. P.W. Botha,

Please accept my greetings and the blessings of God Almighty.

I am a disciple of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the late founder and spiritual master of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness and author of numerous authoritative translations of important writings from India's Vedic literatures.

The problems in South Africa are many and complex. As national secretary for our Society in South Africa, I would like to offer some observations.

Since each individual has his own intellectual and physical capacity, the strong must protect the weak. If instead of protecting the weak, the strong exploit them, [here will be trouble. Before God we are all weak. Therefore, for the solution to our problems we must take shelter of Him.

In the Bhagavad-gita, a Vedic scripture recorded five thousand years ago, the Lord states that He is the father of every living entity. As the supreme father, He wishes well for all His children. By nature's arrangement some are stronger (or more intelligent) and others weaker. The stronger brothers must protect the weaker ones on behalf of the supreme father.

Of course, by our own ability we cannot protect anyone; only God can protect. We must help people take shelter of God. In this age the best way to attain the Lord's shelter is to chant His holy name. One can chant any name of God found in any bona fide scripture. We chant Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna. Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

When people chant the holy name of the Lord, they come into contact with the Lord, and because the Lord is all-blissful, the chanters also become happy and satisfied. On the other hand, no amount of political, social, or economic adjustment can make people happy.

It is your duty as leader of the twenty-five million people of South Africa to give them the Lord's association. Then they will be peaceful and happy. Otherwise their frustrations and anxieties will only increase.

For the well-being of all concerned, we recommend a vigorous program of engaging the entire population in chanting the Lord's holy names. All facilities are at your command, and if you use them in the service of God for the benefit of all, you will be blessed and the entire population will become successful.

If you are doubtful about the effectiveness of chanting God's names, why don't you try it? You have nothing to lose. And the gain is very great: you will get peace in God.

If you would like to know more about how to apply this process on a large scale, or on a personal level, we are at your service. We would also like to invite you to visit the magnificent Temple of Understanding we recently opened in Durban. In the meantime we enclose a book by our spiritual master that may help you in dealing with the difficult problems you face.

Thank you for your consideration.
Hare Krishna!
Yours in the service of the Lord, 
Giriraja Swami

Very often people come to us and ask, What is your solution to the drug problem? What is your solution for crime? What is your solution to the hunger problem? But we offer the same solution for every problem, because we see every problem as a variation of one problem, yaya sammohito jiva: The living entities are bewildered by the illusory energy of the Lord (maya), and thus they suffer so many problems. Although the living entities are transcendental to material nature, they falsely identify with the material body and think, "I am white," "I am black." "I am dependent on so many material things."

Indian Farmer

In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Sri Krsna states that this illusory energy, consisting of the three modes of material nature (goodness, passion, and ignorance), is very difficult to overcome, but that one who surrenders unto Him can easily surpass it. Similarly, in the Srimad-Bhagavatam Srila Vyasadeva declares, anarthopasamam saksad bhakti-yogam adhoksaje: The material miseries of the living entity, which are superfluous to him, can be directly mitigated by linking with God through the process of devotional service. Therefore Srila Vyasadeva compiled the Vedic literatures to explain the science of devotional service to Krsna.

When one learns to serve Krsna, all his problems disappear. For example, take the economic problem. Where is the problem? Anywhere in the world you can cultivate the land and keep some cows. The cows give milk and fertilizer, and the bulls pull the plows and do other work. There is no problem. Krsna gives this formula in Bhagavad-gita: cows and land.

If someone asks us for the solution to the crime problem, we will give the same solution follow bhakti-yoga, chant Hare Krsna. And by following bhakti-yoga, we also solve the health problem, because the life of the yogis Very regulated and clean, so he is naturally healthy and happy. All problems are solved in Krsna consciousness-health problems, social problems, economic problems, political problems all problems.

So there is no problem. The only problem is that we have forgotten our eternal relationship with God, Krsna. The Isopanisad states, om purnam adah purnam idam purnat purnam udacyate: "The Personality of Godhead is perfect and complete, and because He is completely perfect, all emanations from Him, such as this phenomenal world, are perfectly equipped as complete wholes." We want to be happy, but we are incomplete. Krsna is purnam, complete. If we link with Krsna through bhakti-yoga,we become complete.

We cannot fulfill our desires through maya, material adjustment. This material world is like a great desert, and we are thirsting for happiness. If someone says, "I shall supply water one drop," what is that drop? How can it satisfy us? That one drop is the sense gratification offered by maya in return for our illusory pursuit of material advancement of life. Due to maya we imagine we need so many material things, and when we do not have them, we think we have so many problems. But that thinking is simplymaya, illusion. External arrangements can never fulfill our inner desires.

Because the general populace is bewildered by maya, they think that this material world is everything, and thus they have created so many problems. But for persons practicing bhakti-yoga there is no problem. For example, in our International Society for Krishna Consciousness we have hundreds of branches, but we have no problem because Krsna is there. We are spending millions of dollars. From where is the money coming? Krsna is sending. We are not working in factories. We are living together blacks, whites, Indians, Africans, Christians, and Muslims but we have no problems. In South Africa we have a beautiful plot of land in a wonderful location, and we recently constructed a magnificent Temple of Understanding for the spiritual upliftment of all. The land was given to us for the equivalent of one dollar, and the center was built at a cost of one million dollars. We can see practically that when we come to Krsna consciousness, there is no problem. All problems are solved: Krsna is there.

"But," one may ask, "if all problems are solved just by surrendering to Krsna, by bhakti-yoga, why don't more people do it? There are many famous and intelligent persons; why don't they surrender to Krsna?" The answer is given in Srimad-Bhagavatam. People cannot take to Krsna consciousness unless they bow down to the dust of the lotus feet of the exalted devotees of Krsna, who have nothing to do with this material world. Niskincananam na vrnita yavat: Unless human society accepts the dust of the lotus feet of Krsna's devotees (in other words, unless they learn the science of serving Krsna from Krsna's devotees), they cannot turn their attention to the lotus feet of wonderful Krsna.

Therefore the devotees of the Krsna consciousness movement go from door to door and country to country just to give people the chance to take to Krsna consciousness. And if they take, all their problems will be solved.