Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Universe of the Vedas

Sadaputa Dasa

At first glance, the cosmology of the Srimad-Bhagavatam might seem like a wild fantasy. Here are four ways to make sense of it all.

The inquisitive human mind naturally yearns to understand the universe and man’s place within it. Today scientists rely on powerful telescopes and sophisticated computers to formulate cosmological theories. In former times, people got their information from traditional books of wisdom. Followers of the Vedic culture, for example, learned about the cosmos from scriptures like the Srimad-Bhagavatam, or Bhagavata Purana. But the Bhagavatam’s descriptions of the universe often baffle modern students of Vedic literature. Here Bhaktivedanta Institute scientist Sadaputa Dasa (Dr. Richard Thompson) suggests a framework for understanding the Bhagavatam’s descriptions that squares with our experience and modern discoveries.

This article was adapted from Mysteries of the Sacred Universe:

The Srimad-Bhagavatam presents an earth-centered conception of the cosmos. At first glance the cosmology seems foreign, but a closer look reveals that not only does the cosmology of the Bhagavatam describe the world of our experience, but it also presents a much larger and more complete cosmological picture. I’ll explain.

The Srimad-Bhagavatam’s mode of presentation is very different from the familiar modern approach. Although the Bhagavatam’s “Earth” (disk- shaped Bhu-mandala) may look unrealistic, careful study shows that the Bhagavatam uses Bhu-mandala to represent at least four reasonable and consistent models: (1) a polar- projection map of the Earth globe, (2) a map of the solar system, (3) a topographical map of south-central Asia, and (4) a map of the celestial realm of the demigods.

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu remarked, “In every verse of Srimad-Bhagavatam and in every syllable, there are various meanings.”(Chaitanya-charitamrita, Madhya 24.318) This appears to be true, in particular, of the cosmological section of the Bhagavatam, and it is interesting to see how we can bring out and clarify some of the meanings with reference to modern astronomy.

When one structure is used to represent several things in a composite map, there are bound to be contradictions. But these do not cause a problem if we understand the underlying intent. We can draw a parallel with medieval paintings portraying several parts of a story in one composition. For example, Masaccio’s painting “The Tribute Money” (Figure 1) shows Saint Peter in three parts of a Biblical story. We see him taking a coin from a fish, speaking to Jesus, and paying a tax collector. From a literal standpoint it is contradictory to have Saint Peter doing three things at once, yet each phase of the Biblical story makes sense in its own context.

A similar painting from India (Figure 2) shows three parts of a story about Krishna. Such paintings contain apparent contradictions, such as images of one character in different places, but a person who understands the story line will not be disturbed by this. The same is true of the Bhagavatam, which uses one model to represent different features of the cosmos.

The Bhagavatam Picture at First Glance

The Fifth Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam tells of innumerable universes. Each one is contained in a spherical shell surrounded by layers of elemental matter that mark the boundary between mundane space and the unlimited spiritual world.

The region within the shell (Figure 3) is called the Brahmanda, or “Brahma egg.” It contains an earth disk or plane—called Bhu-mandala—that divides it into an upper, heavenly half and a subterranean half, filled with water. Bhu-mandala is divided into a series of geographic features, traditionally called dvipas, or “islands,” varshas, or “regions,” and oceans.

In the center of Bhu-mandala (Figure 4) is the circular “island” of Jambudvipa, with nine varsha subdivisions. These include Bharata-varsha, which can be understood in one sense as India and in another as the total area inhabited by human beings. In the center of Jambudvipa stands the cone-shaped Sumeru Mountain, which represents the world axis and is surmounted by the city of Brahma, the universal creator.

To any modern, educated person, this sounds like science fiction. But is it? Let’s consider the four ways of seeing the Bhagavatam’s descriptions of the Bhu- mandala.

Getting the Picture of God

A conversation with His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

Reporter 2: Your Divine Grace, the various scriptures I’ve read refer often to the life breath. They say the breath comes directly from God, so one path of yoga is to concentrate on the breath and then on God.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. There are various kinds of air within the body, and the soul is within the heart, floating on those airs. So one preliminary form of yoga has to do with controlling those airs. At the time of death, the idea is to elevate the soul from the heart to the brahma-randhra, a small opening at the top of the head. From there the soul goes out to any planet he desires. Naturally he’ll desire to go to a spiritual planet, where he can live without material miseries and in association with God. That is the goal of yoga. But here in your country, yoga means a certain type of physical exercise. Yes.
Reporter 3: And this path of devotional yoga or bhakti-yoga that you teach—this is the path for this time, this age?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Bhakti- yoga is the real yoga. You’ll find in Bhagavad- gita that when the Lord describes the yoga system, He says,
yoginam api sarvesham
shraddhavan bhajate yo mam
sa me yuktatamo matah
“The firstclass yogi is he who is always thinking of Me [Krishna] within himself and rendering transcendental loving service to Me.” The bhakti-yogi is the first- class yogi. So these students of ours are being taught how to think of Krishna always, twenty-four hours a day, without any stop. And that is first-class yoga.
Reporter 3: To think about something, don’t you first have to see it?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Reporter 3: Well, are you showing your disciples Krishna?
Srila Prabhupada: Oh, yes. Certainly.
Reporter 3: Then what is Krishna?
Srila Prabhupada: Ask my disciples. They have already seen Krishna. Ask them. They’ll tell you what Krishna is. But let me ask you, as before: if they give realized information about Krishna, will you accept it?
Reporter 3: Yes.
Srila Prabhupada [motioning]: Then see. Here is Krishna.
Reporter 3: But that’s a painting.
Srila Prabhupada: That is a painting. Suppose a painting of you were there. Could I not say, “Here is Mr. Such-and-such”?
Reporter 3: Yes.
Srila Prabhupada: Then what is the wrong there?
Reporter 3: Well, to paint me, the artist would have to see me.
Srila Prabhupada: No, first of all, are you in your picture or not?
Reporter 3: Yes, I am.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Similarly, Krishna is in His picture. But the difference is that people cannot talk with your picture, but we can talk with Krishna’s picture. That is the difference.
Reporter 3: But some of these pictures of Krishna seem a bit different.
Srila Prabhupada: No. We are speaking of the basic principle. Krishna’s blackishbluish colour is there. Krishna’s flute is there. Krishna’s peacock feather is there. These things are described in the shastra, the scripture. So these paintings follow the actual form of Krishna described in the scripture.
Now, take even a painting of yourself. One man may paint your face a little differently from the way another man paints it. But on the whole, your form is the same, and of course, it does not depend on the painter’s conception. So Krishna’s form is not dependent on the painter’s conception but on the description of His features given in the scripture. Since Krishna is absolute, He and His picture are nondifferent.
Reporter 3: But if a painter were to paint a picture of me or anybody else, first he’d directly study the subject—a living subject.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. In this case, also, the subject is living. Krishna is living, and in the scripture He is described: “Krishna’s colour is bluish. In His hand Krishna has got a flute. Krishna has got a peacock feather on His head.” And tri-bhanga-lalitam: Krishna stands gracefully, His form curving in three places.” Tri- bhanga means that when He stands, in three places His form curves. You see. shyamam tri-bhanga-lalitam niyata- prakasham: “Krishna’s graceful dark-bluish, threefold-bending form is eternally manifest.” These are the descriptions given in the Vedas. And for instance, from these descriptions my students have painted so many pictures. From these descriptions I have simply given hints that “This picture should be like this.” So they take note and make the pictures, and people very much appreciate our pictures. So you can paint pictures by consulting the scriptural authority—the Vedas—and those who have studied the Vedas. That is what we are doing. If you are intelligent, you can make genuine pictures of God like that.
Reporter 3: But still, somebody must have seen Krishna to actually paint Him.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. People have seen Krishna. For instance, when Krishna was present on this earth, so many people saw Him. Ever since then, people have built so many temples. And by worshiping the Deity in their temples, they are regularly worshiping Krishna’s form—just as it is described in the Vedic literature and as the people centuries ago saw personally.
Reporter 3: But has anybody now actually seen Krishna? Now?
Srila Prabhupada: How can someone see Krishna now? One has to see through the parampara, the disciplic succession that began with those who saw Krishna. You may not have seen your grandfather. How do you know what he was like? How do you know? Your grandfather and his father you have not seen. How do you know anything about them?
Reporter 3: By your parents’ telling you.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Your father has seen your grandfather. Although you may not have seen him, still, your father can describe all about your grandfather. “My father was like this, like this, and like this.” What is the difficulty? So therefore, you have to receive knowledge from the authorities, the disciplic succession.

Sri Radha-Ramanaji: The Self-Manifested Deity

by Padma Nabha Goswami

Seeing His devotee’s desire to increase His loving service, Lord Krishna responds in a most glorious way.

When Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu visited South India on His tour of the holy places, He visited the Sri Rangam Temple. In front of the Deity He chanted and danced in ecstatic sankirtana. The head priest of the Sri Rangam Temple, Sri Vyenkata Bhatta, was very much impressed with Sri Mahaprabhu’s love of God.

After Mahaprabhu’s kirtana, Vyenkata Bhatta invited Him to his house. There he requested Mahaprabhu to stay during the four months of Chaturmasya, which was soon to start. Mahaprabhu, as a sannyasi, accepted his request.

Vyenkata Bhatta directed his son, Gopala Bhatta, to render all services to Mahaprabhu during this period, and Gopala Bhatta with great sincerity took care of Sri Mahaprabhu’s every need. As a result he received great benefit by Mahaprabhu’s association. Being pleased with Gopala Bhatta’s devotional affection, Mahaprabhu gave him initiation and ordered him that after the disappearance (death) of his parents he should go to Vrindavana to live there, performing bhajana, devotional service, and writing books.

At the age of thirty, after his parents disappeared, Gopala Bhatta went to Vrindavana. When he reached there, he heard that Mahaprabhu had already visited Vrindavana and had returned to Puri. Hearing this, Gopala Bhatta was disappointed, thinking that Mahaprabhu had never ordered him to visit Him in Puri. Mahaprabhu, however, through Rupa Goswami and Sanatana Goswami, sent Gopala Bhatta His personal asana (seat) and cloth as signs of His blessings.

Later, when Gopala Bhatta heard of the disappearance of Mahaprabhu, he felt great separation from the Lord. But in a dream Mahaprabhu instructed him, “If you want My darshana, if you want to see Me, make a pilgrimage to Nepal.”

In Nepal, Gopala Bhatta visited the Gandak River and took his bath there. After his bath, he filled his waterpot, but was surprised to see that some shalagrama-shilas had entered it. He emptied them back into the river and refilled his water pot, but again he saw that some shalagrama- shilas had entered his water. pot. He emptied his waterpot one more time, and upon filling it a third time, he saw that now twelve shalagrama-shilas were there. Thinking that this must be some mercy of the Lord, he decided to bring all the shalagrama-shilas to Vrindavana.

Gopala Bhatta gave initiation to Gopinatha Dasa, a brahmacari who lived with him and rendered him all services.

One day a wealthy man came to Vrindavana and offered Gopala Bhatta all kinds of dresses and ornaments for his shalagramas. Gopala Bhatta, however, told him to give them to somebody else, since his shalagramas were of a round shape and therefore the dresses and ornaments could not be used.

This incident made Gopala Bhatta think deeply. It was Nrisimha Cahturdashi, the appearance day of Lord Nrisimhadeva, and Gopala Bhatta remembered how Lord Nrisimha, in His form as half- lion, half-man, had come out of a pillar. Gopala Bhatta prayed to the Lord, “O Lord, You are very merciful. You fulfill all the desires of Your devotees. I wish to serve You in Your full form.” He read the pastimes of Lord Nrisimhadeva in the Srimad-Bhagavatm, and after chanting in ecstasy he fell unconscious. The next morning he awoke to find that one of the twelve shalagramas, the Damodara shila, had manifested as Sri Radha Ramana. He informed Sanatana Goswami and Rupa Goswami.

Gopala Bhatta started serving Sri Radha-Ramanaji. After some years, however, he became concerned: after his disappearance, who would continue the service of Sri Radha- Ramana? He asked Gopinatha Dasa, his brahmacari disciple, to get married and take the service of Sri Radha- Ramana as a hereditary duty. Gopinatha Dasa did not want to marry but suggested his younger brother, who was married. Gopala Bhatta agreed and initiated him.

After the disappearance of Sri Gopala Bhatta Goswami, this disciple, known as Damodara Dasa Goswami, continued the worship of Sri Radha- Ramanaji. Since then the Goswami families descended from Damodara Dasa Goswami and, spiritually, from Gopala Bhatta Goswami have continued the worship of Sri Radha-Ramana very nicely in Vrindavana to this very day.

Before preaching in the West, Srila Prabhupada, the Founder- Acharya of ISKCON, was for many years a close friend of Sri Vishwambhar Goswami, an acharya in the line of Gopala Bhatta Goswami. Srila Prabhupada advised his devotees to learn the high standard of Deity worship and Vaishnava etiquette from the Sri Radha-Ramana Temple. Many times Srila Prabhupada visited the Sri Radha-Ramana Temple and was very much impressed.

We Worship Everything

A conversation with His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

Devotee: Srila Prabhupada, if material nature is the absence of Krishna, then what is material?

Srila Prabhupada: Nothing is material. If you continue Krishna consciousness, there’s nothing material. When we offer this flower in Krishna consciousness, is it material?

Devotee: No.

Srila Prabhupada: So how has it become spiritual? It was material in the tree and now it has become spiritual? No. It is spiritual. As long as I was thinking that it is meant for my enjoyment, it was material. As soon as I take it for Krishna’s enjoyment, it is spiritual.

Devotee: So actually this entire world is spiritual.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. That we want—to engage everything in Krishna’s service. Then this world will be the spiritual world.

Devotee: So we can also appreciate Krishna’s creation in that light? For example, this flower is very beautiful because it is Krishna’s.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. We realize that. The Mayavada philosophy says jagan mithya: “This world is false.” We don’t say that. Krishna has created so many nice things for His enjoyment, why shall I say mithya [false]? Suppose you build a nice house and you call me, “Just see,” and if I say, “It is all mithya.”

Devotee: I’ll be offended, because I can’t enjoy it if it is false.

Srila Prabhupada [Laughing.]: How depressed you’ll be!

The Bhagavad-gita explains that the demons say like this—asatyam apratishtham te jagad ahur anishvaram. The rascals, the demons say that this world is asatya, untruth, and that there is no cause, no ishvara. This is the declaration of the demons.

But if Krishna is a fact, His creation is a fact. His energy is a fact. Why shall I say it is false? We don’t say it is false. The Mayavadis say it is false.

Devotee: If someone looks at the Deity of Krishna and thinks it’s only stone or wood, for him it’s still material?

Srila Prabhupada: That is his ignorance. How can it be material? The stone is also Krishna’s energy. For example, electricity is everywhere, and the electrician knows how to utilize it. Similarly, Krishna is everywhere, even in the stone, and the devotees know how to utilize stone to appreciate Krishna. The rascals do not know. The devotee knows because he has no other view than of Krishna. Why should the stone be without Krishna? “Here is Krishna.” That is real oneness. The Mayavadi philosophers propose oneness, but they divide—this is stone, this is not Krishna. Why bring another thing?

Devotee: For a Krishna conscious person is Krishna as much in the stone as in the Deity?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes.

Devotee: Just as much?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Why not?

Devotee: But we order Deities all the way from India?

Srila Prabhupada: Krishna explains, “Everything is in Me, but I’m not everything.” This is called acintya- bhedabheda—simultaneous oneness and difference. Everything is Krishna, but you cannot worship this bench as Krishna. That is rascaldom.

The sunshine is also sun. Is it not? But when the sunshine is in the room, you cannot say, “The sun is my room.” This is called acintya-bhedabheda.

Devotee: But you said one can see Krishna within the stone.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Why not?

Devotee: And one can worship Him within the stone or within everything.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. We worship everything. We see Krishna everywhere. We don’t see the tree; we see Krishna’s energy. Therefore the tree is also worshipable because Krishna and Krishna’s energy are both worshipable. Therefore we say, “Hare Krishna.” Hare means Krishna’s energy. We worship everything.

In our childhood we were taught by our parents that if a grain of rice falls on the floor, we must pick it up and touch it to our head to show respect. We were taught like this—how to see everything in relationship with Krishna. That is Krishna consciousness.

Therefore, we do not like to see anything wasted, anything misused. Why are we preaching? Because we see that so many rascals are misusing their life. We think, “Let us give them some enlightenment.” This is our mission.

We could think, “Let them go to hell.” Mayavadi sannyasis engage in meditation or go to the Himalayas, but we have come to Los Angeles. Why? This is our mission. “Oh, these people are being misused under maya. Let them gain some enlightenment.”

We are teaching how to utilize everything for Krishna, how to understand Krishna in everything. That is our mission. See Krishna in everything. Krishna says, “Anyone who sees Me everywhere, and everything in Me, is perfect.”

Saturday, October 27, 2012

You Can Talk of Peace Till the Cows Come Home

By Sureshvara dasa

Winter is again upon us, and again the world staggers through its holy days, raging with quarrel and war. And though we know winter will soon leave us, when, we wonder, will war?

To answer, let’s go back some fifty centuries to ancient India, where a white cow and bull are grazing peacefully on the shore of the Sarasvati River. Suddenly, out of the tall grasses, a swarthy, bearded man appears, brandishing a club. He wears the dress of royalty, but when he attacks the innocent cow and bull, he shows himself to be a low-class rogue.

Then the real king appears—Maharaja Parikshit. With sword upraised, Parikshit addresses the man, with a voice like thunder.

“You rogue, how dare you beat an innocent cow just because Lord Krishna is no longer present? You are a culprit and deserve to be killed!”

Fearing for his life, the man, named Kali, gives up his royal dress and begs the king’s mercy. Parikshit spares the mischievous Kali, then banishes him to places of gambling, drinking, prostitution, animal slaughter, and hoarding of gold.

This Kali-Parikshit encounter marked the dawn of what Vedic historians call the Age of Kali, our present age of quarrel and hypocrisy. The Supreme Lord Krishna had just left the earth, and Parikshit was determined to protect the universal religious principles the Lord had revived during His visit. But Kali was just as determined to raise hell; and inexorable time was on his side. As winter follows autumn, so Kali follows Krishna, and the best Parikshit could do was temporarily contain him. Places of gambling, drinking, prostitution, and animal slaughter didn’t exist in pious Parikshit’s day, but when Kali found gold, he was in business. And so was our age.

Our Age of Kali has come a long way since the first attempt to kill a cow and bull. Gambling, drinking, prostitution, and animal slaughter are big business now, often sanctioned and taxed by the government. Kali’s spirit possesses us. Excessive pride has ruined our self-control, and excessive sex our health. Intoxication has destroyed our mercy, lying has obscured the truth, and peace has given way to war.

Kali’s spirit of quarrel and hypocrisy pervades even religion, whose mere lip-servers repulse as many as they attract and give God a bad name. Even before church picnics, hayrides, and bingo parties introduce many of us to drinking, sex, and gambling, Kali confirms us as meat-eaters by serving us the flesh of cows. How often have we drunk the cow’s milk with one hand and eaten her flesh with the other?

“One who, being fully satisfied by milk, is desirous of killing the cow, is in the grossest ignorance,” writes Srila Prabhupada, the founder and spiritual guide of the Hare Krishna movement. “We drink cows’ milk; therefore the cow is our mother. And Lord Krishna has created the bull to produce grains for our maintenance; therefore he is our father. Since the bull and cow are our father and mother, how can we kill and eat them? What kind of civilization is this?”

The simple truth of this challenge is lost to most of us. Recently, the American Dairy Association awarded McDonald’s, the world’s largest restaurant organization, the use of its “REAL” seal, which helps customers distinguish dairy foods from imitations. But Lord Krishna’s instructions in the Bhagavad-gita to protect the cow expose the A.D.A. as an imitation dairy association. Why? Because along with an annual 120 million cartons of real milk, 380 million real milk shakes, and 300 million soft-serve ice cream cones and sundaes, McDonald’s has handled enough real cow’s flesh over the years to sell upwards of 45 billion hamburgers. In other words, instead of protecting the cow, Kali’s dairyman is in cahoots with the slaughterhouse.

It is ignorance that compels us to slaughter from 35 to 40 million cows a year. When we buy the nicely-wrapped meat in the market, we have no idea of the suffering we are bringing ourselves by this act. Srila Prabhupada explains:

In this Age of Kali, the propensity for mercy is almost nil. Consequently, there is always fighting and wars between men and nations. Men do not understand that because they unrestrictedly kill so many animals, they also must be slaughtered like animals in big wars. Sometimes during war, soldiers keep their enemies in concentration camps and kill them in very cruel ways. These are reactions brought about by unrestricted animal-killing in the slaughterhouse. As long as human society continues to allow cows to be regularly killed in slaughterhouses, there cannot be any question of peace and prosperity.

Why No Garlic or Onions?

Krishna devotee chef, teacher, author, and TV star Kurma Dasa gets asked this question a lot. Here's his well-considered reply.

One of the most common questions asked to me is this: "Why don't you eat garlic and onions?"

Here's my short answer: As a devotee of Krishna and a practicing Bhakti-yogi, I don't eat garlic and onions because they cannot be offered to Krishna.

Here's my longer answer: You may know that onions and garlic are botanical members of the alliaceous family (alliums) - along with leeks, chives and shallots.

According to Ayurveda, India's classic medical science, foods are grouped into three categories - sattvic, rajasic and tamasic - foods in the modes of goodness, passion and ignorance. Onions and garlic, and the other alliaceous plants are classified as rajasic and tamasic, which means that they increase passion and ignorance.

Those that subscribe to pure brahmana-style cooking of India, including myself, and Vaishnavas - followers of Lord Vishnu, Rama and Krishna - like to only cook with foods from the sattvic category. These foods include fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs, dairy products, grains and legumes, and so on. Specifically, Vaisnavas do not like to cook with rajasic or tamasic foods because they are unfit to offer to the Deity.

Rajasic and tamasic foods are also not used because they are detrimental to meditation and devotions. "Garlic and onions are both rajasic and tamasic, and are forbidden to yogis because they root the consciousness more firmly in the body", says well-known authority on Ayurveda, Dr. Robert E. Svoboda.

Some branches of western medicine say that the Alliums have specific health benefits; garlic is respected, at least in allopathic medical circles, as a natural antibiotic. In recent years, while the apparent cardiovascular implications of vegetable Alliums has been studied in some detail, the clinical implications of onion and garlic consumption from this point of view are still not well understood.

Nevertheless, there are still many adverse things to say about garlic and onions. Not so well known is the fact that garlic in the raw state can carry harmful (potentially fatal) botulism bacteria. Perhaps it is with an awareness of this that the Roman poet Horace wrote of garlic that it is “more harmful than hemlock".

It should be pointed out that Garlic and onion are avoided by spiritual adherents because they stimulate the central nervous system, and can disturb vows of celibacy. Garlic is a natural aphrodisiac. Ayurveda suggests that it is a tonic for loss of sexual power from any cause, sexual debility, impotency from over-indulgence in sex and nervous exhaustion from dissipating sexual habits. It is said to be especially useful to old men of high nervous tension and diminishing sexual power.

The Taoists realized thousands of years ago that plants of the alliaceous family were detrimental to humans in their healthy state. In his writings, one sage Tsang-Tsze described the Alliums as the "five fragrant or spicy scented vegetables" - that each have a detrimental effect on one of the following five organs - liver, spleen, lungs, kidneys, and heart. Specifically, onions are harmful to the lungs, garlic to the heart, leeks to the spleen, chives to the liver and spring onions to the kidneys.

Tsang-Tsze said that these pungent vegetables contain five different kinds of enzymes which cause "reactions of repulsive breath, extra-foul odour from perspiration and bowel movements, and lead to lewd indulgences, enhance agitations, anxieties and aggressiveness," especially when eaten raw.

Similar things are described in Ayurveda. 'As well as producing offensive breath and body odour, these (alliaceous) plants induce aggravation, agitation, anxiety and aggression. Thus they are harmful physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually'.

Back in the 1980's, in his research on human brain function, Dr Robert [Bob] C. Beck, DSc. found that garlic has a detrimental effect on the brain. He found that in fact garlic is toxic to humans because its sulphone hydroxyl ions penetrate the blood-brain barrier and are poisonous to brain cells.

Dr. Beck explained that as far back as the 1950s it was known that garlic reduced reaction time by two to three times when consumed by pilots taking flight tests. This is because the toxic effects of garlic desynchronize brain waves. "The flight surgeon would come around every month and remind all of us: "Don't you dare touch any garlic 72 hours before you fly one of our airplanes, because it'll double or triple your reaction time. You're three times slower than you would be if you'd [not] had a few drops of garlic."

For precisely the same reason the garlic family of plants has been widely recognized as being harmful to dogs.

Even when garlic is used as food in Chinese culture it is considered harmful to the stomach, liver and eyes, and a cause of dizziness and scattered energy when consumed in immoderate amounts.

Nor is garlic always seen as having entirely beneficial properties in Western cooking and medicine. It is widely accepted among health care professionals that, as well as killing harmful bacteria, garlic also destroys beneficial bacteria, which are essential to the proper functioning of the digestive system.

Reiki practitioners explain that garlic and onions are among the first substances to be expelled from a person’s system – along with tobacco, alcohol and pharmaceutical medications. This makes it apparent that alliaceous plants have a negative effect on the human body and should be avoided for health reasons.

Homeopathic medicine comes to the same conclusion when it recognizes that red onion produces a dry cough, watery eyes, sneezing, runny nose and other familiar cold-related symptoms when consumed.

These are just some of the reasons I avoid leeks, chives, shallots, garlic and onions.

Why Offer Krishna Vegetarian Food?

From Bhagavad-gita As It Is by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

Krishna asks that we offer Him vegetarian food. In Bhagavad-gita, Chapter 9, Text 26, He says, "If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit or water, I will accept it."

In his commentary A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada explains,

"…Krishna wants only loving service and nothing more. Krishna accepts even a little flower from His pure devotee. He does not want any kind of offering from a nondevotee.…

"If one wishes to engage in devotional service to the Supreme in order to be purified and to reach the goal of life-the transcendental loving service of God-then one should find out what the Lord desires of him. One who loves Krishna will give Him whatever He wants, and he avoids offering anything which is undesirable or unasked.…

"Thus meat, fish and eggs should not be offered to Krishna. If He desired such things as offerings, He would have said so. Instead He clearly requests that a leaf, fruit, flowers and water be given to Him, and He says of this offering, 'I will accept it.' …

"Vegetables, grains, fruits, milk and water are the proper foods for human beings and are prescribed by Lord Krishna Himself. Whatever else we eat cannot be offered to Him, since He will not accept it. Thus we cannot be acting on the level of loving devotion if we offer such foods.…

"But preparing nice, simple vegetable dishes, offering them before the picture or Deity of Lord Krishna and bowing down and praying for Him to accept such a humble offering enables one to advance steadily in life, to purify the body, and to create fine brain tissues which will lead to clear thinking.

"Above all, the offering should be made with an attitude of love. Krishna has no need of food, since He already possesses everything that be, yet He will accept the offering of one who desires to please Him in that way. The important element, in preparation, in serving and in offering, is to act with love for Krishna."

Srila Prabhupada Festivals

On the anniversary of Srila Prabhupada's appearance, Hare Krishna centers worldwide hold a festival in his honor, called Vyasa Puja. Many centers hold additional special events.

Mayapura Festival and Prabhupada Reunion. Held around February-March at the ISKCON Mayapur campus near Nabadwip, West Bengal, India. The reunion is a one-day event, part of the greater Mayapur Festival, a two-week celebration that features seminars by sadhus and experts in various fields of Vaishnava study, a seven-day walking pilgrimage to holy places, and a Gaura Purnima festival on the anniversary of the appearance day of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. E-mail Website:

Srila Prabhupada Festival in Los Angeles. Held on Memorial Day weekend (towards the end of May) at the New Dwaraka community, this two-day festival includes a reunion of disciples and a Harinama procession in downtown Santa Monica. The ISKCON of New Dwaraka temple was Srila Prabhupada's headquarters in the West for many years, and his rooms here are carefully preserved as a shrine for visitors. Also featured is Srila Prabhupada's garden, where he often sat and conversed with dignitaries and disciples. E-mail or call (310) 815-9393. Or visit

Prabhupada Family Reunion at 26 2nd Avenue, New York City. Held annually during the first weekend in June on the day after the New York Rathayatra, at the site of Srila Prabhupada's first temple in America. For details, call (212) 420-1130. E-mail: Website:

Prabhupada Reunion in Atlanta. Held in early June at the New Panihati Community during the Panihati Festival and Rathayatra. The festivities include a parade and an elaborate offering of hundreds of clay pots filled with chipped rice, yogurt and fruits. E-mail Phone: (404) 377-8680. Website:

Prabhupada Family Reunion Festival at New Govardhana, Australia. Held during the Christmas to New Year's holidays, at the New Govardhana Farm near Murwillumbah, NSW. Devotees from all over Australasia attend the festival, which includes seminars, theatrical performances, reminiscences, and the Rathayatra, or Festival of Chariots, on the beach at Byron Bay. There's also a bonus Rathayatra, when Lord Jagannatha joins the Byron Bay New Year's Eve parade, encircled by hundreds of Hare Krishna chanters, crowds of dazzled onlookers, fire-breathing entertainers, and didgereedoo players. Please contact New Govardhana Farm, P.O. Box 685, Murwillumbah, NSW 2484, Australia. Phone: +61 (02) 6672-6579. Fax: +61 (02) 6672-5498.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Offering food to Krishna

Preparing and offering food to the Lord shows Him our devotion and gratitude. Krishna doesn't need to eat, of course, but He accepts the love with which we offer food to Him.

As far as possible, use fresh, natural ingredients for cooking. Krishna accepts only vegetarian food, and packaged, store-bought products may contain meat, fish, or eggs. So read labels carefully.

Cleanliness is important in cooking for Krishna. Wash your hands before you begin. And don’t taste the food while cooking; the meal is for Krishna’s pleasure, so He should taste it first.

It’s best to have a new set of dinnerware used only for Krishna’s offerings and not used by anyone else.
Place the plate in front of Krishna and ask Him to accept the offering. Then, in a mood of assisting the pure devotees, offer the preparations to Krishna while reciting the following prayers:

Prayers for Offering Food to Krishna

nama om vishnu-padaya krishna-preshthaya bhu-tale

srimate bhaktivedanta-svamin iti namine

namas te sarasvate deve gaura-vani-pracarine

I offer my respectful obeisances unto His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who is very dear to Lord Krishna, having taken shelter at His lotus feet. Our respectful obeisances are unto you, O spiritual master, servant of Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami. You are kindly preaching the message of Lord Chaitanyadeva and delivering the Western countries, which are filled with impersonalism and voidism.
namo maha-vadanyaya

krishna-prema-pradaya te

krishnaya krishna-chaitanya-

namne gaura-tvishe namah
O most munificent incarnation! You are Krishna Himself appearing as Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. You have assumed the golden color of Srimati Radharani, and You are widely distributing pure love of Krishna. We offer our respectful obeisances unto You.
namo brahmanya-devaya

go-brahmana-hitaya ca

jagad-dhitaya krishnaya

govindaya namo namah
My Lord, You are the well-wisher of the cows and the brahmanas, and You are the well-wisher of the entire human society and world.
You can also chant the Pancha Tattva and Hare Krsna mantras three times:
sri-krishna-chaitanya prabhu-nityananda

sri-advaita gadadhara srivasadi-gaura-bhakta-vrinda
“I offer my obeisances to Sri Krishna Chaitanya, Prabhu Nityananda, Sri Advaita, Gadadhara, Srivasa and all others in the line of devotion”
Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare

Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare
Leave the plate there for a few minutes, just as you would if a loved one was eating.
Remove the plate, transfer the food to a serving plate, and wash Krishna’s dinnerware. The food is now prasadam, or “mercy” from Krishna.
While you eat, consider the spiritual value of the food; because Krishna has accepted it, it is spiritually identical to Him. Therefore by eatingprasadam you become purified.
Everything you offer Krishna becomes spiritualized prasadam—flowers, incense, water, food. All prasadam should be respected and shared with others. Spread the mercy around.

What do I need a guru for?

Ekendra dasa

Can’t I figure everything out myself? What do I need a guru for? Can’t I just read a book and learn that way?

Teachers help us progress faster. They can see (if we let them) what we’re doing wrong, and help us correct it. Books can’t do that. Plus, you can close a book. A teacher may pursue you.

Krishna consciousness works best when three items are in place: guru (spiritual master or teacher), shastra (scripture), and sadhu (keeping company with other serious students).

The shastra is the knowledge upon which everything is based. It’s the starting point, the guide. It shows us the goal. How we apply that knowledge is another thing. Do we accept some things and not others? Do we consider part three of the scriptures to be of utmost importance while choosing to ignore part four?

The guru, the teacher, can see where the student is at, and help them adjust their course. A good teacher is always a good student also. They can preach because they practice. A sincere student can progress farther and faster with a teacher than without one: it's true for football, piano, and spiritual life as well.

Meditation for a “Nasty and Brutish” World

by Drutakarma Dasa

Dr. John Heider, a psychologist, believes that meditation “is as necessary to a life of growth as regular brushing is to dental hygiene.” Sounds harmless enough. But what if you were to brush your teeth with a harsh abrasive or a corrosive chemical? That would definitely be detrimental to your dental health. In the same way, how much your meditation is helping you spiritually depends on what kind of meditation you’re practicing and why.

When we focus our minds on sensory input from the external world or on thoughts and feelings that arise within us, we are engaged in a type of meditation, in the broadest sense of that word. So you could say that all of us are already meditating at every moment. To help us understand this kind of meditation, let’s enter briefly into the mind of Richard Morland, a college student in Boston, to see what he’s meditating about.

Richard’s on his way to school. Driving on roads slick from freezing rain, he’s concentrating so as not to spin out or slam into someone’s rear bumper. He thinks about meeting his girlfriend, Susan Johnson, for lunch today, and he smiles and feels a touch of desire coming on. But before he gets to see her, there’s the chemistry midterm. That’s on his mind too. Richard is applying to some top medical schools, so he’s determined to finish his premed studies with the highest grade-point average he possibly can. His mind feels fatigued from the couple of hours of sleep he lost studying last night. That’s all right, though: he’ll make it up on the weekend. No proper breakfast this morning either, so Richard’s feeling a little hungry, but then there’s lunch with Susan in just three hours.

For Richard, the only bad thing about the chemistry midterm is that Fred, Susan’s old boyfriend, who had even been thinking of marrying her, is going to be there. Richard’s mind spins out on that for a while and then settles in on the Beach Boys tune on the radio. The song ends with news on the half hour. More hostage trouble in Lebanon. The United States has moved another carrier into the eastern Mediterranean. Richard tries to picture it—it’s a few years from now; he’s married to Susan; he’s taken hostage; Susan, alone at home with their child, pleads for his life.

Then he starts thinking about his uncle Bob. Richard received a call from his mother last night. Uncle Bob had gone into the hospital for what he had thought was pneumonia, but it turned out to be lung cancer. Richard’s father had died from lung cancer just two years before. Aunt Sarah isn’t taking Uncle Bob’s illness too well, so Richard’s mother is going to stay with her for a while. Richard likes Uncle Bob, who was helping pay for his tuition.... God, Richard prays, God, please let him get through this. With proper medical treatment and some luck he might make it a few more years.

Richard steers the car up the ramp of the campus parking garage and parks. As he gets out of the car and starts walking to class, he suddenly feels he’d like to take a break—not just to take a vacation, but to getaway fromthe whole thing. But he keeps walking, and the feeling merges into the stomach numbing anxiety of his last-minute mentalreview for the chemistry midterm.

From the standpoint of the Bhagavad- gita,Richard’s daily flow of thoughts typifies that of a person in bodily consciousness. Such a person constantly thinks of eating, sleeping, sex, and self-protection or of things related to these four basic activities. Richard, for instance, was feeling hungry and tired, thinking about his girlfriend, and worrying about a possible car accident. Bodily consciousness also creates a widening circle of identification based on the body. One’s ownbody is designated by sex, race, age, and so forth. And this body is connected with other bodies in relationships of family, community, and nation. Richard is involved in his own unique complex of relationships: with Susan, Fred, his mother, his relatives, his fellow Americans facing another international crisis.

The Concept of Deity Worship

Our bodies, our names, and pictures of ourselves are related to us, but they’re not us. We’re spiritual, they’re material. Krishna exists in a different way—He is absolute, pure spirit. All features of His existence (name, form, activities, etc.) are the same as Krishna Himself.

Deities (archa vigraha in Sanskrit) are physical forms of the Supreme Person, made of stone, metal, wood, paint, or other materials. God is not wood or stone, but we can’t see spirit. Krishna appears as His name, or as stone or as wood—so we can better see, hear, and serve Him.

Deities (or paintings) of Krishna are based on descriptions of Krishna in the Vedas, which also explain in detail the authorized process for worshipping Them. Idolatry, on the other hand, is usually defined as worship of any cult image, idea, or object, as opposed to the worship of a monotheistic God.

God is omnipotent. All energies, material and spiritual, are completely under His control—He can turn matter into spirit and vice versa. So, if He wants to appear in a form (apparently) made of wood or stone, who can stop Him?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

How to Practice Japa Mantra Meditation

How to chant - with Kalakantha dasa

Radharani's Mood of Separation

In this recording, Harinama dasi narrates from Srila Prabhupada'sTeachings of Lord Caitanya and Gour Govinda Swami's The Embankment of Separation, to glorify and emphasize the divine mood of separation from Krishna.

Lord Krishna Steals Butter

Sri Krishna Steals Butter
In the service of the devotees, and in honor of Janmashtami, Harinama Dasi narrates a few of many relishable pastimes of Krishna stealing butter.

Lord Balarama Visits Vrindavan

Krishna and Balarama
In honor of Balarama Jayanti (the appearance day of Lord Balarama) Harinama Chintamani Dasi narrates the pastime of Lord Balarama visiting Vrindavan, from Krsna written by Srila Prabhupada.

Lord Nityananda's Pastimes

Lord Nityananda

Lord Nityananda's Pastimes from the Sri Chaitanya Bhagavata, by Vrindavan Das Thakura, narrated by Harinam Chintamani dasi.

Lord Nityananda's Pastimes - Part 1

Lord Nityananda's Pastimes - Part 2

“If You Have No Other Suitable Name, Then Chant Krishna”

A conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada an Allen Ginsberg

Allen Ginsberg: If you’re identifying love, however, with the shabda [sound] Krishna, what of those people who identify love with the shabda Allah?

Srila Prabhupada: Well, of course, if that shabda identifies with God, we have no objection. As Caitanya Mahaprabhu says, namnam akari bahudha nija-sarva- shaktis: God has many names, in which He has invested His transcendental energies. God is attractive, and His name is also attractive, because He’s not different from His name. If you have got a name with exactly the same attractiveness as Krishna, we have no objection. We simply say, “You chant God’s holy name. Then you’ll become purified.” That is our program. We don’t say that you change your Christianity. No. We don’t say that. If you have got a nice name, an all-attractive name, in your scripture—don’t manufacture, but authorized—then you chant that. We simply request, “You chant.”

Allen Ginsberg: Well, then, how would you adapt the Krishna chanting to Christianity? By seeing Krishna as Christ or Christ as Krishna and sounding Christ’s image in Krishna’s name?

Srila Prabhupada: Krishna, Christ. Of course, this question has several times been put to me. I reply that Christ says, “I am the son of God,” and Krishna says, “I am God”—so there is no essential difference between the son of God and God.

We respect everyone. If I respect your father, I respect you, also. Do you mean to say that if I disrespect your father, you’ll be pleased with me? No. That is our philosophy. As Caitanya Mahaprabhu says, “I am the servant of the servant of the servant of the servant of the servant of Krishna.” So if anyone perfectly loves Krishna, he must love Lord Jesus Christ, also. And if one perfectly loves Jesus Christ, he must love Krishna. If he says, “Why shall I love Krishna? I shall love only Jesus Christ,” then he has no knowledge. And if one says, “Why shall I love Jesus Christ? I shall love only Krishna,” then he also has no knowledge. If one understands Krishna, then he will understand Jesus Christ. If one understands Jesus Christ, he’ll understand Krishna.

Allen Ginsberg: Well, then, do you think that the Hare Krishna chant could serve as an intermediary to link the religious tendencies of both the Christian and Muslim religions?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Any religion. That is, if the individual is serious about religion. If he takes religion as a scapegoat, an excuse for doing all sorts of nonsense, that is different. If he wants to understand religion and takes seriously to religion, then he will understand. We want such serious persons.

Now, according to the Srimad-Bhagavatam, religion means the laws created by God. Dharmam tu sakshad bhagavat-pranitam. Religion means the laws of God. Who will deny it? Who will deny it? You may profess any religion—Christian, Muhammadan, or whatever—but who can deny that religion is the laws of God? Simple explanation. If you ask what is meant by religion, the answer is, “Religion is the laws of God.” That’s all. And if you want to know what God is, that is also simply answered: “God is the original source of everything.”

So one should try to understand in this broad-minded way. But if one wants to remain in his compact, sectarian ideas and does not want to go further, then it is very difficult. One should be open-minded and appreciative. Then everything is all right. We say—Caitanya Mahaprabhu says—it is not that you are abitrarily limited to simply chanting Krishna, but if you have no other suitable name, then chant Krishna. Why do you make a differentiation between the Lord’s names? Every name is the same.

Janmashtami Lecture in Montreal

What follows is a transcription of a talk given by Srila Prabhupada in Montreal in observance of Janmashtami in 1968.
Interestingly enough, the Vedabase transcription includes bonus material which the recording omits:
(As Prabhupada is ending his lecture, he asks all the devotees present to stand, one after another, and share their own realizations on the phenomenon of Krishna's appearance.)
Montreal 1968: Prabhupada on Janmashtami
So, today is the birth—appearance ceremony—of Lord Krishna.
In the Bhagavad-gita, the Lord says,
janma karma ca me divyam
yo janati tattvatah
tyaktva deham punar janma
naiti mam eti kaunteya

[Bg. 4.9]
"My dear Arjuna, any person who simply tries to understand about My transcendental birth or appearance and disappearance and activities,janma karma..."
The Personality of Godhead is not niskriya, without activities. So anyone who can understand what kind of activities the Lord has and what kind of birth He accepts; simply by understanding these two things one gets wonderful result.
What is that? Tyaktva deham. By quitting this body—tyaktva deha punar janma naiti [Bg. 4.9]—he does not take any more birth in this material world.
Tyaktva deham punar janma naiti. Some of us may think that “punar janma naiti” means he becomes vanquished. No. Punar janma naiti, butmam eti, "He does not come to this material world, but he comes to Me."Mam eti.
Mam eti means, then...the supreme personality of Godhead has His place, the...abode where we can go, simply by understanding the nature of His appearance and activities.
So today is that auspicious day, Janmashtami, when Lord Krishna appeared—five thousand years ago—in India, Mathura. Those who are Indian ladies and gentlemen present, they know very well where is Mathura. It is about ninety miles south of New Delhi. Mathura is still existing, and it is eternally existing. . .
Krishna appeared in Mathura in His maternal uncle's house in a very precarious condition.
That birthplace, Lord Krishna's birthplace, is now maintained very nicely. One who goes to India, they see.
So anyway, Lord Krishna appeared on this planet five thousand years ago. Now Krishna says, janma karma me divyam [Bg. 4.9]. Divyam means "not ordinary." It should not be understood just like we take our birth.
Krishna does not take his birth like us.
That is also explained in the Bhagavad-gita: when Arjuna inquired from Krishna, "My dear Krishna, You are speaking that formerly You spoke this yoga system of Bhagavad-gita to the sun-god. That means it is millions and trillions years ago You spoke. How can I believe it?" Because Krishna was contemporary to Arjuna, so he was thinking that "Krishna is my friend, is my cousin brother. How it is possible that He spoke this Bhagavad-gita yoga to sun-god?"
So what was the reply? The reply was this, that "You also appear many, many times; I also appear many, many times. The difference is that I can remember. You cannot remember."
That is the difference between God and ordinary living creature—that we are also taking birth after birth. . .
There are 8,400,000 species of life, and, so long we are in this material world, we are cycling ‘round this birth after birth. So Krishna's birth is not like that. Therefore Krishna says,
janma karma me divyam yo janati tattvatah
Tattvatah means “in truth.” Not superficially. Scientifically, one who knows, he can get— immediately—liberation. And how one can understand the same truths? That is also explained in the Bhagavad-gita:
Bhaktya mam abhijanati yavan yas casmi tattvatah [Bg. 18.55].