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Topic: Culture

Reading Complexity: Easy
To anyone unfamiliar with the concept, it may be difficult to grasp how a single person can contain or "be" all of reality: this world is full of relative truths, and Krishna is a different kind of person than we may be used to thinking about. Here’s an example of a "non-absolute," or relative truth: "The sky is blue." That may be true—if it’s daytime and there aren’t any clouds—but the sky won...
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Among the selected books of Vedic literature His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada translated and wrote commentaries on, the trilogy known as Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead is unique. Srila Prabhupada’s Krishna books directly tell us what God is like in His original, personal form and what He and His liberated associates are doing in the eternal, spiritual world. In...
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My spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, would always close his letters to his disciples with the phrase “Hoping this meets you in good health….” Of course, everyone wishes good health to those they love. But what actually constitutes good health? There are many different opinions. For years Americans have heard that a balanced diet must include meat. The National Academy of Sciences has long...
Reading Complexity: Easy
In writing about Krishna consciousness for Back to Godhead, I sometimes browse through books of quotations from famous people. I recently came across this quote from an American comedian: “Most of the time I don’t have much fun. The rest of the time I don’t have any fun at all.” The power of wit is in delivering the unexpected, and also in saying something we can all agree with. Wouldn’t we all...
Reading Complexity: Easy
In most people’s minds a person is a body. Whenever a child is born, a new person has come into existence. He grows up, lives out his life, and finally dies, and then that particular person has ceased to exist. In this view, life is sort of a one-time, open-and-shut affair. From the Vedic viewpoint, however, a person is an eternal traveler who wanders from one body to the next. He appears in...
Reading Complexity: Easy
Former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno once traveled through Florida campaigning for the governorship of the state. The local radio news ran an excerpt of her speech. She declared, with typical campaigner’s canned enthusiasm, that if we can send people to the moon then, by golly, we should be able to give all kids in Florida a good education! I hear similar arguments often: “If we can send...
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Freud’s astute analysis of material suffering strikingly resembles the Vedic description. But does he offer a viable remedy? The conditioned soul … is always covered by ignorance and embarrassed by the threefold miseries of life. Thus he is a treasure house of all kinds of tribulations. (Caitanya-caritamrita [a sixteenth-century Bengali scripture], Antya-lila, Chapter 5, verse 127...
Reading Complexity: Easy
An allegory from the Srimad-Bhagavatam sheds some light on our modern struggle for enjoyment. When we view the world around us through the eyes of the scriptures, our understanding of it changes. The scriptures tell us that because nothing is permanent in this material world, that which appears desirable-like wealth, fame, strength, or beauty is ultimately not, because it is not retainable....
Reading Complexity: Easy
Why try to forget life’s hardships through mind-numbing diversions, when you can escape to the pleasure of reality? The glories of the Lord, God of all creation, as He appears in His original form as Krishna fill the pages of the book before me. The Srimad-Bhagavatam delivers excitement, adventure, love, bravery and battles, the inner and outer struggles of real people interacting with the Lord...
Reading Complexity: Easy
In Vedic society “love” of dogs, cats, country, relatives, and humanity goes by a different name. There’s a long history to bumper stickers. It began with Stone Age cavedwellers, who sometimes painted pictures on the walls of their homes. Later on, the Egyptians invented pyramids and decorated them with hieroglyphics. After that, Rome was built, and people were busy inscribing mottos and decrees...
Reading Complexity: Easy
In more than twenty-five years of coming to India, I’d never seen the Taj Mahal—never had a desire to or a reason to. But when my mother came on her first-ever trip to India, how could she go back home to America and say she hadn’t seen the Taj Mahal? So I brought her. And I confess to being pleased with her when she found the Taj “rather a disappointment.” At first view, it was “breathtaking,”...
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A Vedic perspective on the popular allure of Buddhism. Buddhism has at times attracted a measure of interest from a small number of Americans. In the last century Henry David Thoreau wrote, “Some will have bad thoughts of me, when they hear their Christ named beside my Buddha.” And in the middle of this century, writers like Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and Alan Watts showed a regard for...
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From its founding in 1966 the International Society for Krishna Consciousness has been invigorated by the participation of the Indian community, both in India and the West, and by the endorsements of Hindu organizations around the world. Many of ISKCON’s Indian members, some of whom have leading roles in the Krishna consciousness movement, have worshiped Lord Krishna from their childhood and have...
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From Back to Godhead Magazine, Vol. 17, No. 6 (June 1982) The three interesting-looking persons depicted here are Brahma, the world-creator, Vishnu, the world-maintainer, and Shiva, the world-destroyer. Perhaps you’ve heard them characterized in that very misleading cliché of introductory World Religions texts as “the Hindu trinity.” And perhaps you’re simply inclined to dismiss them as the...
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Beyond the walls of the universe, time assumes a different feature. What is time? The question has perplexed philosophers throughout the ages. If you wanted to give a quick answer, you might say, “Time is what changes things.” Or you might want to go along with Albert Einstein, who said, in effect, “Time is what a clock reads.” Or maybe you consider the question itself a waste of time. In the...
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Nadine is the mother of four children. Her son Ravi, age seven, was born deaf and dumb. The other day, using sign language, Ravi asked his mother why he cannot speak or hear like his brother and sisters. Nadine, who has recently taken up Krishna consciousness, answered by explaining in a very simple way the law of karma. Ravi understood. Nadine feels that had her son asked this question prior to...
Reading Complexity: Easy
Why are some people by nature outgoing and talkative while others are quiet and shy? What are the forces of nature that compel people to act the way they do? How do these forces work, and who is controlling them? Dr. and Mrs. A. B. Bright and their two children have a small home, just suitable to their needs, in a peaceful country town. Dr. Bright is the local, M.D., a thoughtful, qualified man...
Reading Complexity: Easy
Did a supremely intelligent being create the universe? The elaborate Vedic description of creation can make even an atheist curious. The universe around us appears to be orderly and symmetrical. The planets rotate perfectly in their orbits. Our bodies possess complex circulatory, respiratory, and digestive systems. Even the atoms are highly structured. All this suggests that the universe was...
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Krishna assures us in the Bhagavad-gita that if we want to live there He will make the arrangements. But first we must demonstrate that we are ready. Though the spiritual world is the abode of the highest pleasure, hardly anyone wants to go there. We say we’d like to go, and we may think we are going, but our actions speak differently. Either we don’t fully believe in a spiritual world, or the...
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Srila Prabhupada would often say that from the Vedic literature we learn not only that God is great but in what ways He is great. Before coming to Krishna consciousness, I had only a vague idea of God. Now, like millions of others, I’ve gained a wealth of knowledge about God from Srila Prabhupada through his presentation of revealed Vedic wisdom. The following short list includes just some of the...
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One Christmas, Life magazine did a cover story entitled “Who is God?” They asked that question of many people and printed the replies. The color photos of worshipers throughout the world showed many ways of approaching God. Life said, “The God of our story is the God of personal, private faith.” Intrigued by the topic, I asked myself, “Okay, what’s your answer to ‘Who is God?’” My personal faith...
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Of the Avatars of Lord Krishna described in the Srimad- Bhagavatam, Lord Nrisimha, whose appearance coincides with this issue of BTG, is especially intriguing to many of us. Half man, half lion—and all God. People encountering a picture of Nrisimhadeva ferociously ripping apart Hiranyakashipu are often taken aback. “You believe this is God?” Why not? God is the ultimate in everything. He can...
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Not long ago I gave a talk about the importance of preparing our consciousness for death. We have to face the fact that death is inevitable, I said, so we’d better be ready for it. Several people in the audience were hearing about Krishna consciousness for the first time. After the talk, one of them, Jerry, commented that my emphasis on death was a negative way of looking at life. “I try to...
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“I’m taking some good courses in college.” “That’s great. Tell me about some of them.” I cradle the phone on my shoulder as I help Jahnu, my three- year-old grandson, settle down to his lunch. Sitting next to him, I listen as a graduate of our school tells me about his classes, teachers, and life in general. “What about all those classes you took in that university overseas?” I ask. “Oh, credit...
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The philosophy of Krishna consciousness is vast and deep. After twenty-five years of study I’ve yet to master all its subtleties. Still, I’ve found that contemplating even the basic concepts can be highly satisfying. Srila Prabhupada stressed the importance of studying the teachings of Lord Krishna every day. Just the other day I was reading Srimad-Bhagavatam when one of Prabhupada’s explanations...
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The sage Chanakhya wrote, “There is no misery like attachment. There is no happiness like detachment.” I lost my briefcase recently, and although it was a relatively insignificant loss, I felt disappointed and thought about how painful it can be to lose things we value greatly. Attachment often leads to disappointment. Either the object of our attachment doesn’t continue to satisfy us, or it...
Reading Complexity: Easy
After I lectured recently to a class of philosophy students, an articulate young man raised his doubts. “I can’t see the difference between what you said and what the atheists say,” he said. “How do you mystics, who maintain the absolute incomprehensibility of the Deity, differ from skeptics and atheists who assert that the first cause is unknown and unintelligible?” I replied that the Absolute...
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We often gain a new appreciation For Krishna consciousness by observing someone trying to understand—independently of Vedic knowledge—a concept that is perfectly expressed in Vedic literature. I found this recently, while reading a book on theology. In Search of Deity: An Essay in Dialectical Theism, by John Macquarrie. Macquarrie was discussing the tendency for the religious and philosophical...
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I had a dream. I was traveling, trying to reach some distant destination, but I kept being delayed. My airplane arrived at the first stop on time, but when I tried to connect with a further flight I was unable to go on. I found myself in an airport terminal with thousands of travelers, all experiencing similar delays and anxieties. Some began to despair of immediately catching onward flights, so...
Reading Complexity: Easy
Introspection. You need it. Take a break and think about what your life is about. Put your routine aside, put your plans aside, put your everything aside, and take the time to think: What is my life for? Where am I going, and where do I want to go? If I stay on my present track, what will my life come to—and is that all right, or is it drab, disappointing, crummy, empty? “Russell Jones keeled...
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In the Vedic literature we find the phrase shastra- caksus, which means “to see with the eyes of scripture.” Scriptures like the Bhagavad-gita teach eternal truths, and these truths can be confirmed in our daily experience. By this combination of hearing from scripture and seeing the material world as it really is, we can realize firsthand the nature of the soul and of God, even while we are...
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“From the viewpoint of eternity, a life span of five thousand years is the same as that of five years: both are a flash, both temporary.” Two summers ago when the Reforestation Department of the Sequoia National Park in California gave away excess baby Sequoia trees, I got four and planted them on our nine-acre property in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Sequoias don’t produce...
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William James’s “Soul Theory” seemed imposing at first—as imposing as William James Hall must have looked to my grandmother. As it turned out, James was pretty close to home. Gammy, my grandmother, had a passing acquaintance of sorts with William James, the great American psychologist and philosopher. She owned a two-century-old white clapboard house on Kirkland Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts...
Reading Complexity: Easy
From leads obtained during my visit to the Thoreau Lyceum in Concord, Massachusetts, I have now gathered a few more articles and books that link Thoreau’s life and philosophy with the Vedic tradition. My readings have confirmed the feelings I had while at Walden Pond that Thoreau was striving in his own way to practice yoga. Without a bona fide spiritual master, however, he was unable to...
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We can’t afford it. But what about life’s non- athletic non-recreational business? I was only half correct when I began to suspect, around age twelve, that life didn’t make any sense, and that although I dearly wanted to be distinguished and accomplished, any accomplishment or distinction was ultimately useless and stupid. What was the value of studying math, English, Latin, and science, of...
Reading Complexity: Easy
As the most elevated species, we human beings should have something to show for it. Last summer I spent an afternoon at the Philadelphia Zoo with my two-year-old son, Uttama. It was a hot August day, and as I carried Uttama from cage to cage, from the elephant compound to the lion house to the bird sanctuary, I began to wish I had heeded my wife’s advice to bring along the stroller. “Why bring...
Reading Complexity: Easy
Jill, a student at a local college where I sometimes lecture, is typical of many people I meet: She considers herself spiritual but not religious. Her spirituality doesn’t include God, she says, at least not God defined as “the Supreme Being.” “I don’t want to be told what to believe,” says Jill, who doesn’t identify with any religion. “I want to discover the truth myself.” And she wants more...
Reading Complexity: Easy
There is a movement afoot to correct the worldwide abuse of the English language. Reformers claim that our abuse of words is crucially linked with the moral decline of our society. One of the leaders is Edwin Newman, author of the best-selling Strictly Speaking, and there have been others. “Bad language ultimately is immoral,” says Professor Richard Mitchell, who wages a war against linguistic...
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When Bhagavad-gita As It Is, with translation and commentary by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, was first published in 1968, a reviewer remarked, “The criticism of the world is harsh.” Since then many persons who have heard lectures or read articles by devotees of the Krishna consciousness movement have had a similar response. People are sometimes set back when they hear...
Reading Complexity: Easy
An enlightened person sees with equal vision a learned scholar, a cow, an elephant, a dog, and a dog-eater. Attempts to establish equality among all people are naive and superficial unless supported by spiritual understanding. Materially, we are not equal. Some people are geniuses; others are fools. Materially, the rule is not unity but diversity. Ours is a world of diverse bodies, diverse faces...
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“There is no ‘real’ me—a tiny homunculus hidden beneath layers of frozen feelings. … It is not an isolated ‘object,’ a ghost locked in a machine or a mere consciousness located within the body. … You are inextricably enmeshed in the web of meanings shaped by the psychoculture that you helped to form and that, in turn, helps to form you.” (Daniel Yankelovich, in New Rules: Searching for Self-...
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Lord Krishna has two energies, material and spiritual, but they can be used interchangeably if one knows how. Just as the same electricity can be used to heat or cool a building, so Krishna’s energies can be used for different purposes according to the living entity’s desire. That doesn’t mean that the living entity can control Krishna’s energies, only that he can use them. When a conditioned...
Reading Complexity: Easy
Our ideas of the real and the unreal are formed early in life. Life is filled with sensual and subtle impressions that condition us to accept certain things and reject others. Those impressions also lead us to form habits, good and bad, and to learn to feel happy or unhappy according to our perception of pleasure. We also learn fear and, usually, learn that most of our fears are imaginary—they...
Reading Complexity: Easy
By the time I encountered the Krishna consciousness movement. I was so eager to transcend material existence that I was willing to renounce practically everything for the sake of liberation. So convinced was I that pain and suffering were of the essence of this life that I did not desire to reserve any attachment, even to the highest and best part of it. And to me, that highest and best was...
Reading Complexity: Easy
Confusing “cast” with “caste” is an innocent error, but mistaking Lord Krishna’s varnashrama system for an oppressive, hereditary class structure is a far more serious blunder. Baseball, to most anyone’s mind, has little in common with the Indian caste system, which rigidly divides society into four hereditary classes. But for me there’s a subtle link between the two, as the result of an injury I...
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How can society be organized for the peace and well-being of all? Srila Prabhupada discusses this question with Mr. C. Hennis of the U.N.'s International Labor Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, in May of 1974. Mr. Hennis: The International Labor Organization is interested in promoting social justice and protecting the worker. Srila Prabhupada: By natural arrangement, the social body has four...
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This conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and India’s ambassador to Sweden took place in Stockholm, in the fall of 1973. Srila Prabhupada: In America and India and so many countries all over the world, they have a “secular state.” The government leaders say they don’t want to favor any particular religion, but actually they are favoring irreligion. Ambassador...
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Recently a national news magazine ran a full-page ad entitled “I Think That Ad Is Lying.” The text announced, “Most advertisers work very hard to make sure their advertising is completely honest and truthful. But if you ever see an advertisement or commercial that you think takes liberties with the truth or makes questionable claims, there is something you can do about it. Write to the National...
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originally published in Back to Godhead Magazine in 1980 The Republican Party seems to have emerged from its recent national convention as a reconstituted American conservative party, and the November elections may give the voters at least the appearance of choice between a clear right and a clear left. They say this is a good thing, but I have always had a problem making that kind of choice, and...
Reading Complexity: Easy
originally published in Back to Godhead Magazine, October 1997 So we’re headed for Mars. Forget the moon. Mars is the place to go. But why? Hey, we’re exploring, we’re questing for knowledge, we’re searching for signs of life out there. It’s science—get it? So every twenty-six months between now and the year 2005 we’re going to send machines up there. And 2012 is the target date for landing the...
Reading Complexity: Easy
Here we are in the middle of the sexual revolution, and yet, amazingly, more and more people are touting chastity. Says former game-show star Jaye P. Morgan, “Your perceptions deepen, and you reach a higher level of awareness. And the good effects are cumulative. I feel much better now….” “Now that I’m celibate, I feel fresher,” says a Chicago businessman. “My energy level is higher, and my mind...
Reading Complexity: Easy
With theories being established, taught, and discarded like disposable napkins, a father wonders whether his child will get a real education. In the summer of 1970, I felt for the first time the fear that parents know when their child ventures out into the world. My daughter Emily wasn’t even three years old, a toddler. Yet one morning, as I watched her walking down the street to play, I suddenly...
Reading Complexity: Easy
Following Vedic tradition, sons come to Gaya to worship the Lord, insuring auspiciousness for their departed fathers. This is not the place where Buddha attained enlightenment. That’s Bodhgaya, about twelve kilometers south. But Gaya itself, as a place of pilgrimage, has an importance of its own. Pious Hindu sons from all over India come here to make offerings and give prayers for the sake of...
Reading Complexity: Easy
Learning how to cope with stress in daily life is not a newly discovered gift from modern psychologists. Mental illnesses from anxiety, as well as expert cures for stress, are as old as humanity itself. The Vedic knowledge of ancient India, as taught today in the form of Krishna consciousness, goes to the very source of the problem and gives solutions not only for how to cope effectively with...
Reading Complexity: Easy
It’s rather common now in America—a sign proclaiming “Drug-free School.” But teachers, parents, and students know the idea is a joke. Intoxicants—tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, cocaine—rage through the minds and bodies of young people practically everywhere. Studies, treatments, and educational programs have done little. Rather, children are taking intoxicants at younger ages, and use is increasing...
Reading Complexity: Easy
The first day of nursery school delivers a lesson for mom. Since nursery school was to be a new experience for our two- year-old, on the first morning I stayed in the school to help her adjust. For a while she clung to me, apprehensive, until she became intrigued by some toys. Finding one she particularly liked, she held it tightly and declared to the other children, “Mine.” As it was clear she...
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When our oldest son was less than three, he and I were once in a supermarket when a woman passing out samples handed him a cookie that looked like ones made at our temple. He was several yards away from me, and I was apprehensive he’d automatically put the cookie into his mouth. Instead, he ran over to me and asked, “Prasadam? Prasadam?” I said no, it hadn’t been offered to Krishna and couldn’t...
Reading Complexity: Easy
Caring for children in the service of the Lord is a great blessing, a gift from the Lord given out of mercy. One can hardly claim to deserve such a gift, whether by educational achievements, spiritual dedication, or even just the willingness to do the work. A blessing? Sure, children can be smiling and glowing, but just as often they’re fighting and moping. Their growth in knowledge and skills,...
Reading Complexity: Easy
Our Dead Son’s Body, nine inches long, lay in my hand. For some months afterward, my natural affection—that motherly impulse hard-wired into body and mind—cried for that child. “What you grieve for is not the child,” the midwife told me, “but how you had projected that child into your life.” I had become attached to a desire to have a child to love and enjoy. That attachment, based on the body...
Reading Complexity: Easy
We sit in the Calcutta Airport waiting for an announcement, the flight three hours late. The many ceiling fans do little to refresh the air, polluted by cigarette smoke and hundreds of bodies. My ten-year-old son and I sit by a door, opened a crack but with negligible effect. I talk with a blue- saried nun from Puna who wishes us the best in our spiritual journey. Then I talk with a couple who...
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Srila Prabhupada educational systems to produce high-class people, high not in wealth or status but in character. We often describe the ideal character of a brahmana (intellectual) as tolerant and austere, of a kshatriya (civic leader) as heroic, and so on. Yet for the training of our children, Srila Prabhupada also emphasized another quality: independence. Brahmanas, kshatriyas, and vaishyas (...
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Children needs lots of love. Love your children, and then love them some more. It’s said that every great man had a mother who gave him much love. We often hear such glorification of love. But what does love really mean? The stereotype of a smiling parent holding a child with great care is not the complete picture of parental love. Judith Viorst, writing in Newsweek, says, “It didn’t take me long...
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After giving Arjuna knowledge of matter and spirit, Lord Krishna tells him, “Deliberate on this fully, and then decide what you wish to do.” Our children also have to choose between material and spiritual life. To prepare them for this choice, do we need to give them experiences of both? Do our children need any experience of materialism to choose Krishna consciousness? The sages do indeed say...
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Three adults are taking a group of children on an educational excursion, and the “no’s” begin. “Don’t climb on that fence!” “Stop putting your hand in your nose!” “Please stop hitting Vishakha!” “You’re making too much noise!” A lot of instruction about what not to do. Educator Michael Grinder calls telling someone what not to do a “double message.” He compares it to telling someone, “Don’t think...
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Here in the material world it’s easy to become absorbed in attachment and love for our family, especially our children, and forget about loving God, Krishna. We often see a child’s photo or shoes or artwork given a prominent place within a home, almost as if the child were the worshipable deity of the household. Though the Vedic scriptures advise us to detach ourselves from such affection, Srila...
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Once, some weeks went by when Srila Prabhupada was not writing as much as usual. When a disciple asked him if something was wrong, Prabhupada replied that every endeavor has periods of activity and relaxation. We parents and teachers who guide and care for children in Krishna consciousness must consider our need to relax, recharge, and get spiritual nourishment. Otherwise, we’ll become exhausted...
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Two years old, Lalita Madhava sits with all her concentration focused on the book our 14-year-old daughter is showing her. Lalita Madhava’s older sister has just graduated from our gurukula school, her mother is at our house to print a letter, and Lalita Madhava is thinking of Krishna’s pastimes. “Krishna,” she says and points to the picture. She carefully turns the page. Having spent more than...
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The year is full of holidays and special events unrelated to spiritual life. Even in India, where Janmashtami, the anniversary of Krishna’s divine birth, is a general festival, many other days are dedicated to the country or some ordinary, materialistic person. Outside of India, festival days sometimes even focus on demonic beings such as witches. National holidays, and even religious festivals...
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Celibacy is such an important part of Vedic education that the Sanskrit word for student is brahmacari (“celibate”). The pressure to give up celibacy begins, of course, in adolescence, the most dangerous age and often the turning point of one’s life. Young adults need guidance before and during the teenage years to recognize and follow the right path. Celibacy trains adolescents for self-...
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Can we make our children turn out the way we want? Srila Prabhupada once said, “If you place a child in good association, he will act properly, and if you place him in bad association, he will act improperly. A child has no independence in that sense.… According to Vedic civilization, as soon as a child is four or five years old, he is sent to a gurukula, where he is disciplined.” Anyone who has...
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Why do children disobey or get into mischief? We might assume they’re simply rebellious, but that’s rarely the case. Let’s discuss some possible causes of misbehavior. The Lower Modes Lord Krishna explains in Bhagavad-gita that material nature is composed of three modes: goodness, passion, and ignorance. Everything is in one of these modes or a combination of them—food, work, games, books,...
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Srila Prabhupada would sometimes refer to his disciples as pure devotees. Anyone who has read his books or been in the company of his followers for any length of time knows that the term “pure devotee” generally refers to someone who loves Krishna fully and is free of all material desires. It’s who we want to become. So we ordinary mortals who are surely still works in progress wonder, “Why would...
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A mile or so from my house, beside a country road that curves gently through pine forests and hay fields, sits a haven of abject cruelty. On a concrete slab under a shiny metal roof, a few dozen calves endure what will be short lives in cages they barely fit in. Someone is—to say it euphemistically—raising veal. I don’t usually drive that road, so when I noticed the calves one day I started to...
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There's a lot of talk these days about how to relieve stress. We often feel stress because of change, and change comes under the larger headings of fate and time, and of Krishna’s will. How does a devotee of Krishna handle the stress of feeling his life suddenly subject to upheaval? A devotee turns to the scriptures for shelter. The Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam are full of advice about how...
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As we read the scripture and hear from the spiritual master, we will hear both easy and difficult instructions. We’ll naturally be attracted to those that seem easier to follow, but the two types of instruction have a unity of purpose. One of the most encouraging verses I have found in Bhagavad-gita is 2.40: “In this endeavor there is no loss or diminution, and a little advancement on this path...
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Optimism and pessimism appear to be opposite terms, but both states of mind can be used in Krishna consciousness. Although everyone is familiar with the meaning of these two terms, I would like to present their dictionary definitions: Optimism: 1. A tendency to look on the more favorable side, or to expect the most favorable outcome of events or conditions. 2. The belief that good will ultimately...
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As long as we are attached to material enjoyment we will not be able to concentrate on devotional service. Srila Prabhupada in his purports to Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam encourages us to practice both renunciation and devotion and to see them as interdependent. Renunciation and devotional service run along parallel lines, and understanding one facilitates understanding the other. As the...
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I recently discussed with a friend the importance of trying to see good in all persons. But my friend doubted: “Isn’t it a fact that some people are actually bad?” It occurred to me that I should have first defined what I mean by good. Positive thinking must be more than vague sentiments. According to Vedic knowledge, any thought or act progressive to spiritual life is good. And spiritual life...
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Krishna consciousness is both serious business and great fun. Observers figure that anyone as earnest about spiritual life as Hare Krishna devotees seem to be (as evidenced by all the rules we follow) must not be enjoying life. Sometimes they ask, “What do you do for fun?” I thought of that question this morning during the Srimad-Bhagavatam class in our temple. We’ve been blessed the past few...
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In the Second Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam, Shukadeva Goswami criticizes those who pursue material life and have no desire to inquire into self-realization, and although he spoke thousands of years ago, his words are still relevant today. Those who are not interested in self-realization hover in a world of illusory pleasure and suffering. Material life tends to become increasingly complicated. The...
Reading Complexity: Easy
A therapist draws on Lord Krishna’s teachings to help a child control his rage. The hospital room smells strongly of antiseptic as I walk in. Chris sits on his bed, immersed in rapidly pushing buttons with his thumbs. “Nintendo?” I ask nonchalantly, breaking his concentration. “Play Station,” he replies, continuing to madly push buttons. I sit in a chair next to his bed, observing his strategy...
Reading Complexity: Easy
"A natural human sentiment, compassion finds its highest expression in the works of devotees of the Lord. The tenderness of the heart experienced toward Krishna is known as bhakti. All other jivas are servants of Krishna. When one experiences tenderness of heart toward them, it is known as daya, compassion. Therefore, compassion is included within bhakti." Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Jaiva Dharma...
Reading Complexity: Easy
Here it is, New Year’s Day, and like so many others, I’m sitting here thinking about New Year’s resolutions. Our resolutions usually involve giving up bad habits or picking up good ones. We may not stick to our resolutions, but that we make them at all tells us at least one thing: we have an innate belief that we can change, that we have at least some ability to improve ourselves. One problem...
Reading Complexity: Easy
Atheists think that a prayer to God is sheer imagination. But for centuries, thousands of sincere practitioners have accumulated definite evidence of the positive results of prayer. The serious doubt regarding prayer is not whether God can hear and respond, but whether the things people pray for are worthwhile. According to St. Teresa of Avila. “More tears are shed in this world from prayers that...
Reading Complexity: Easy
Misery and happiness come and go in this world, just like winter and summer. The Bhagavad-gita advises us to tolerate both happiness and distress. We are meant to tolerate while we keep performing our duties, and we are meant to keep worshiping Krishna despite everything. The Bhagavatam (10.14.8) states, tat te ’nukampam su- samikshamano… “My dear Lord, one who earnestly waits for You to bestow...
Reading Complexity: Easy
If tended with care, the creeper of devotional service will one day reach the abode of Radha-Krishna. When my mother-in-law came to visit us for the first time in our new mountain home, she noted our persimmon tree standing in its two-gallon pot, waiting to be planted. Over our heads, the tree’s leaves and branches swayed in the breeze. “This poor tree is so root-bound,” she remarked, “I don’t...
Reading Complexity: Easy
The visit of Pope John Paul II to America last fall may come to be remembered most for the strange contrast it presented between the overwhelming enthusiasm shown for the man and the decided lack of enthusiasm shown for what he had to say. Among the unpopular positions espoused by the Pope was his insistence on maintaining the celibacy of priests. On the evening of October 3 he reiterated this...
Reading Complexity: Easy
Vegetarians are just self-righteous vegetable-killers, some people say, and their milk-drinking implicates them in violence. Nowadays vegetarianism is becoming popular for various economic, health, and ethical reasons; but spiritual reasons are more difficult for people to comprehend. Some people ask, “What’s the difference between being a vegetarian and being a meat-eater? An animal has a soul,...
Reading Complexity: Easy
The term science refers to knowledge we can reliably verify by practical methods. So to study a subject scientifically, we must clearly understand how to use our senses to obtain trustworthy knowledge of what we are studying. This article, which concludes a series from the book Mechanistic and Nonmechanistic Science, examines how a person can take advantage of his innate transcendental senses to...
Reading Complexity: Easy
One wet evening in 1972, when I was first learning about Krisna consciousness, I sat in a tent leafing through Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita As It Is. Occasionally I looked out gloomily through the rain to see the dim outline of the Pyrenees Mountains surrounding the little green valley in which I was marooned. The rain had fallen steadily for two days without sign of letting up. Even my...
Reading Complexity: Easy
Lord Krishna discusses the major forms of yoga, setting up a hierarchy and saying clearly which one belongs at the top. When Time magazine ran a cover story on the science of yoga, it reported that "fifteen million Americans include some form of yoga in their fitness regimen—twice as many as did five years ago." Yet one wonders if any of the fifteen million are getting out of yoga what they...
Reading Complexity: Easy
Ages ago, Saubhari Muni was so accomplished at yoga that he could meditate underwater. Everything was going fine, until … To practice yoga, or silent meditation, you first of all need a secluded place. Traditionally, yogis have retired to Himalayan caves, to remote corners of dense, unexplored jungles, even to the depths of an ocean or river. The great yogi Saubhari Muni meditated for many years...
Reading Complexity: Easy
A dozen or so students gathered in the assembly room of the college dormitory for an introductory talk on bhakti- yoga. I got their attention and said we’d now do some yoga. About half of them pulled their legs up into some semblance of the lotus position, waiting for tips on breathing and concentration. But instead of the sound of silence, they heard the sizzle of a small pair of hand cymbals....
Reading Complexity: Easy
This ancient Vedic text gives an accurate map of the planetary orbits known to modern astronomy. Today we take for granted that the earth is a sphere, but the early Greeks tended to think it was flat. For example, in the fifth century B.C. the philosopher Thales thought of the earth as a disk floating on water like a log.1 About a century later, Anaxagoras taught that it is flat like a lid and...
Reading Complexity: Easy
In the pages of Back to Godhead (and Krishna.com) you may often come across the term “disciplic succession.” It’s an English rendering of the Sanskrit word parampara. The meaning of the word is simple yet important. The parampara is the chain of spiritual masters and disciples through which Krishna consciousness is taught and received. In Bhagavad-gita Lord Krishna says, “I taught this ancient...
Reading Complexity: Easy
Hanuman is easily among the most popular divinities in India. A small monkeylike figure, Hanuman is often portrayed kneeling with joined palms before the Personality of Godhead Ramacandra, Sita (Rama’s consort), and Lakshmana (Rama’s brother). Hanuman is shown sometimes tearing open his chest to show Rama’s image in his heart, other times soaring through the sky with a Himalayan peak in his hand...
Reading Complexity: Easy
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and several of his disciples were joined by Father Emmanuel Jungclaussen, a Benedictine monk from Niederalteich Monastery. Noticing that Srila Prabhupada was carrying meditation beads similar to the Catholic rosary, Father Emmanuel explained that he also chanted a constant prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, be merciful unto us.” The following...
Reading Complexity: Easy
In the sixteenth century, the Muslim governor of Bengal loses two of his best men to the recently founded Hare Krishna movement. Nawab Hussain Shah, who ruled Bengal from A.D. 1509 to 1532, had two expert and trusted ministers in the brothers Dabhir Kas and Sakara Mallik. The Nawab had recruited the brothers from the aristocratic Karnatic brahmana community, given them Muslim names, and taken...
Reading Complexity: Easy
In the year 1513, the Festival of the Chariots held a special meaning for Maharaja Prataparudra, the king of Jagannatha Puri. The King’s Aspiration ON Ratha-yatra day in the summer of A.D. 1513, Lord Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and His associates rose in the dark and bathed. The predawn streets were busy with last-minute festival preparations as the Lord and His party hurried to the temple...
Reading Complexity: Easy
As a young academic searching for answers in academia, grad student William Deadwyler (now known as Ravindra Svarupa dasa) decides to investigate Krishna consciousness in the mood "of an anthropologist" and finds himself drawn into a completely new and fascinating world.