Back To Godhead Year 2011 Volume-08 Number-06

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C O N T E N T S Founded 1944. Vol. 8 No. 6 June 2011

Features

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ÇRÉLA PRABHUPÄDA ON

BHAKTI-YOGA

FROM THE

ROAD

THE EXPRESSWAY TO DEVOTION

Contrary to popular beliefs, practices of bhaktiyoga can take one to the highest levels of spiritual realization.

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LESSONS

COVER STORY

NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCES

Chanting the holy names of Kåñëa is the fastest and most powerful practice for taking us to spiritual perfection.

Where science points to the soul

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HARE KÅÑËA PEOPLE

WRITING FOR KÅÑËA SEARCH FOR HAPPINESS—VI An interview with one of the Going back to Godhead—that’s how we can become permanently happy.

leading authors of the Hare Krishna movement Satyaräja Däsa (Steven J. Rosen).

Departments I Y O W 2 L N

OUR

WN

ETTERS

VEDIC THOUGHTS

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PHOTOSCOPE

ORDS

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Which Kåñëa conscious practice reminds you of your relationship with Kåñëa the most?

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VAIÑËAVA CALENDAR

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Mystic Moment

POETRY

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CENTERS IN INDIA

The Lover

EVERY TOWN AND VILLAGE

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The Kåñëa consciousness movement is so nice that it can render the highest benefit to the entire human race. Everyone can be attracted by this movement, and everyone can feel the result. Therefore, Rüpa Gosvämé and other learned scholars agree that a broad propaganda program for the Kåñëa consciousness movement of devotional service all over the world is the highest humanitarian welfare activity. —Çréla Prabhupäda in Nectar of Devotion, Chapter 1

EDITORIAL

Do you really have 267 friends?

OUR PURPOSES • To help all people discern reality from illusion, spirit from matter, the eternal from the temporary. • To expose the faults of materialism. • To offer guidance in the Vedic techniques of spiritual life. • To preserve and spread the Vedic culture. • To celebrate the chanting of the holy names of God as taught by Lord Çré Caitanya Mahäprabhu • To help every living being remember and serve Çré Kåñëa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

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LETTERS

BACK TO GODHEAD The Magazine of the Hare Krishna Movement FOUNDER (under the direction of His Divine Grace Çré Çrémad Bhaktisiddhänta Sarasvaté Prabhupäda) His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupäda BTG INDIA: EDITOR Çyämänanda Däsa • ASSISTANTS Nimäi Devé Däsé, Muräri Gupta Däsa, Nanda Duläl Däsa, Mukunda Mälä Däsa • EDITORIAL CONSULTANT Caitanya Caraëa Däsa • PROOFREADERS Täriëé Rädhä Devé Däsé, Kaiçoré Devé Däsé, Nimäé Devé Däsé • PUBLISHER Yudhiñthira Däsa (Ujwal Jajoo) • PRODUCTION Saccidänanda Däsa (Sanjiv Maheshwari), Sundar Rüpa Däsa (Sudarshan Sapaliga) •GENERAL MANAGER (CIRCULATION) Pänduraìga Däsa (Rajendra-kumar Pujari) •ACCOUNTS Sahadeva Däsa (S.P. Maheshwari) • SUBSCRIBER SERVICES Manjaré Devé Däsé (Mira Singh) OFFICE Back to Godhead, 33 Janki Kutir, Next to State Bank of Hyderabad, Juhu, Mumbai 400 049, India. SUBSCRIPTIONS Back to Godhead is published twelve times a year. Subscriptions charges—one-year: Rs. 150/-, two-year: Rs. 300/-, five-year: Rs. 700/You can start subscription from any month. Send the amount to Back to Godhead, 302, Amrut Industrial Estate, 3rd floor, Western Express Highway, Mira Road (E) 401 104. Tel: (022) 28457751 E-mail: BTGINDIA@pamho.net To change your address or clear up any questions about your subscription, write to BTG Service Center & Marketing Office at the above address. We can answer your questions faster if you send a recent mailing label or invoice. Allow eight weeks for changes to show up on your mailing label. PRINTING Magna Graphics Pvt. Ltd., Mumbai. © 2011 The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International. All ® rights reserved. (Trustee for the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust: Jayädvaita Swami.) ISSN: 0005-3643. Published for The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust by Ujwal Jajoo , 33, Janki Kutir, Next to State Bank of Hyderabad, Juhu, Mumbai and printed by him at Magna Graphics Pvt. Ltd. 101-C&D, Govt. Industrial Estate, Kandivli (W), Mumbai-400067, India. Editor: Çyamänanda Däsa, Çré Çré Rädhä-Gopénätha Temple, Chowpatty, Mumbai- 400 007, India.

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Master Extraordinaire Kalänidhi Däsa’s poem about the spiritual master glorifying Çréla Prabhupäda is very enlightening and enlivening! I would also add that the poem reflects my sentiments exactly! Çréla Prabhupäda’s writings, especially his translations and commentaries on the Bhagavad-gétä, had a very powerful influence on me when I was mired in materialism in the days of my ignorant youth, not knowing what direction my life would take. Çréla Prabhupäda’s presentations gradually transformed me from a clueless person to one who has taken his first few steps in the direction of the Lord. I did not know hitherto that his masterpiece—the Bhagavad-gétä—was so readable, so approachable, and so easily and succinctly understandable. I am sure that Çréla Prabhupäda’s other works like the Çrémad-Bhägavatam etc. must have transformed millions of people throughout the world. I have personally never seen or met him, but just by reading his profoundly sincere writings and his intense desire to bring the word of the Lord to every home, I know for sure that he is no ordinary master but a “Master Extraordinaire.” —Gautam Saha, Mumbai Violent Vaiñëavas? Why did great Vaiñëava rulers like Mahäräja Parékñit commit animal killing as a sport while going on hunting expeditions? —Rajeev, by email Our reply: Kñatriyas (administrators) during Vedic times shouldered their responsibility to protect dharma and rule their kingdoms based on the proper principles.

Sometimes ferocious animals, which would cause a disturbance in human society, had to be killed for ensuring human well-being. The kings would also punish disturbance-causing rogues and thieves justly. To do this effectively, they had to be trained adequately to administer proper punishment to the perpetrators of crimes. Thus, hunting was allowed only for the kñatriyas for the purpose of training so that they could protect the principles of dharma whenever a need arose. This can be likened to the modern concept of testing medicines on guinea-pigs in the laboratory so that eventually these medicines can be administered to human beings for their benefit. Another way to understand it is that surgeons need to perform surgeries on their patients in the course of protecting their lives. To make such surgeons effective, these surgeons are trained by making them practice their skills on a dead corpse to get used to the unpleasant sights of the internals of the human body viz. blood, bones etc. This ensures that the surgeons will not be disturbed later when a need exists for them to help their patients. In the same mood, the kñatriyas would get used to the art of killing anti-social elements by first practicing their skills on wild animals. Parékñit was an exemplary Vaiñëava and a kñatriya both. Thus, he did whatever was necessary to ensure proper execution of his duty. As opposed to this, we observe that endless violence is meted out to different aquatics/ birds/ animals etc. for human pleasure. For eg. most products of the modern cosmetics industry have various substances obtained by killiungdifferent living beings mindlessly.

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Also, in modern times, having seen many a leader abusing their position and power, totally disregarding their responsibility to protect their subjects from degradation, we perceive even kings like Parikñit through our cynical vision. We should however understand our limitation in trying to compare these two diverse examples of rulers. It is also to be noted that unlike modern leaders of the present age, Vedic kings including Parikñit neither killed for personal satisfaction nor ever opened huge organized slaughterhouses to produce flesh for satisfying the human palate. Dealing With Gossip One of the greatest problems in the life of a devotee is the tendency to gossip (prajalpa). I have noted that gossiping is very detrimental to my sädhana. I want to remove this obstacle but I have seen that it takes time to overcome. I want to really improve in my devotion and sincerity towards Krsna. —Pramita Chodankar, by email Our reply: The tendency to speak is a very strong one as confirmed by Çréla Rupa Gosvämé in the first verse of his book Upadeçamåta. If you are unable to control your tendency to gossip, please be assured that it is not something impossible; it can be tackled. Gossip may be broadly described as some speech that is unfavorable for our Kåñëa consciousness. Some gossip is just light talk, essentially harmless and unintentionally begun. For instance, one may start by commenting on the weather or some other general topic from day-to-day life.

Another category of gossip would be rumor-mongering and spreading discontent around. Such gossip would definitely be intentionally harmful and aimed at belittling someone around us. Both kinds of gossip are to be avoided but of the two, the second one is most dangerous and harmful to our spiritual advancement. An easy way to overcome the tendency to gossip is to replace it with the tendency to glorify Kåñëa and His marvelous activities. Descriptions of these pastimes satisfy our thirst for topics for discussion. Scriptures like Rämäyaëa, Mahäbhärata and Çrémad-bhägavatam offer a practical and attractive panacea for all who are desirous to talk and discuss. We may take advantage of these historical masterpieces and continue talking—but in a way that will bring us closer to Kåñëa. Praiseworthy Editorial The Editorial “Cereal Killer” (BTG February 2011) by Çyämänanda Däsa was really praiseworthy. I want to thank him for his valuable contribution. —Dharmendra Saraf, via email Replies to the letters were written by Nanda Duläl Däsa. Write to us at: Back to Godhead, 3rd Floor, 302, Amrut Industrial Estate, Western Express Highway, Mira Road (E) – 401104. Email: ed.btgindia@pamho.net

Hare Kåñëa Hare Kåñëa Kåñëa Kåñëa Hare Hare Hare Räma Hare Räma Räma Räma Hare Hare

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ÇRÉLA PRABHUPÄDA ON

EXCERPTS FROM ÇRÉLA PRABHUPÄDA’S TEACHINGS

Bhakti-yoga The Topmost Yoga System Contrary to popular beliefs, practices of bhakti-yoga can take one to the highest levels of spiritual realization.

by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupäda Founder-äcärya of The International Society for Krishna Consciousness

Bhakti-yoga Defined The desire to gratify one’s own senses is käma [lust], but the desire to please the senses of Lord Kåñëa is prema [love]. —Cc. Ädi 4.165 Bhakti is not an activity of this material world. It is the activity in relationship with Kåñëa. Therefore it is not material. It is transcendental. —Lecture on Bhagavad-gétä 1.13–14, London, July 14, 1973 Anyäbhiläñitä-çünyaà jïäna-karmädyanävåtam/ änukülyena kåñëänu- çélanaà bhaktir uttamä: “‘When first-class devotional service develops, one must be devoid of all material desires, knowledge obtained by monistic philosophy, and fruitive action. The devotee must constantly serve Kåñëa favorably, as Kåñëa desires.’ —Bhakti-rasämåta-sindhu (1.1.11) Sarvopädhi-vinirmuktaà tat-paratvena nirmalam/ håñékeëa håñékeça-sevanaà bhaktir ucyate: ” “Bhakti, or devotional service, means engaging all our senses in the service of the

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Lord, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the master of all the senses. When the spirit soul renders service unto the Supreme, there are two side effects. One is freed from all material designations, and one’s senses are purified simply by being employed in the service of the Lord.” —Bhakti-rasämåta-sindhu (1.1.12) Bhakti-yoga Versus Other Yogas In the añöäìga-yoga system, the seventh stage of perfection is

dhyäna. This dhyäna is the third stage in devotional service. There are nine stages of devotional service. The first is hearing, and then comes chanting and then contemplating. By executing devotional service, therefore, one automatically becomes an expert jïäné and an expert yogé. In other words, jïäna and yoga are different preliminary stages of devotional service. —Bhägavatam 3.33.26, purport The culmination of all kinds of

Engagement is bhakti-yoga is the culmination of all yoga practices.

yoga practices lies in bhakti-yoga. All other yogas are but means to come to the point of bhakti in bhakti-yoga. Yoga actually means bhakti-yoga; all other yogas are progressions toward the destination of bhakti-yoga. From the beginning of karma-yoga to the end of bhakti-yoga is a long way to self-realization . . . . Factually, bhakti-yoga is the ultimate goal, but to analyze bhakti-yoga minutely one has to understand these other yogas. —Gétä 6.47, purport Development of Bhakti in One’s Heart By the mercy of the spiritual master and Kåñëa one receives the seed of devotional service. Then one has to sow the seed in the field of his heart, just as a gardener sows the seed of a valuable tree. After sowing this seed, one has to water it by chanting and hearing the holy name of the Supreme Lord and by taking part in discussions about the science of devotional service in a society of pure devotees. When the plant of devotional service sprouts up from the seed of devotion, it begins to grow freely. When it is fully grown, it surpasses the length and breadth of this universe and enters the transcendental atmosphere of the spiritual world, where everything is bathed in the effulgence of the brahmajyoti. The plant penetrates even the brahmajyoti and gradually enters the planet known as Goloka Våndävana. There the plant takes shelter at the lotus feet of Kåñëa. That is the ultimate goal of devotional service. After attaining this position, the plant produces the

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fruit of love of Godhead. To taste this fruit, however, it is necessary for the devotee, or transcendental gardener, to water the plant daily by chanting and hearing. Unless one waters the plant by chanting and hearing, there is every chance that it will dry up. —Teachings of Lord Caitanya, Chapter 1

Bhakti-yoga can be practiced only under the guidance of an expert spiritual master.

THE YOGA LADDER Ascending Step by Step to Perfection The below chart explains a comparative analysis of the different types of yoga and how bhakti-yoga is the topmost yoga system.

BHAGAVÄN REALIZATION

BHAKTI-YOGA PARAMÄTMÄ REALIZATION

BRAHMAN REALIZATION

Liberation beyond the modes Taken from Surrender Unto Me, by Bhürijana Däsa

Within the realm of the modes

ASTÄÌGA-YOGA

JÏÄNA-YOGA Passion to goodness/increased knowledge and detachment

KARMA-YOGA Accepts a transcendental goal and is known as a yoga-practitioner Interested in satisfying material desires

KARMA-KÄËÒA/ HUMAN LIFE ANIMAL LIFE

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Awards Transcendental Happiness As long as the material body exists, one has to meet the demands of the body, namely eating, sleeping, defending and mating. But a person who is in pure bhakti-yoga, or in Kåñëa consciousness, does not arouse the senses while meeting the demands of the body. Rather, he accepts the bare necessities of life, making the best use of a bad bargain, and enjoys transcendental happiness in Kåñëa consciousness. —Gétä 6.20–23, purport In the bhakti school, a householder brahmacäré is allowed controlled sex life because the cult of bhakti-yoga is so powerful that one automatically loses sexual attraction, being engaged in the superior service of the Lord. —Gétä 6.13–14, purport The Direct Method The path of bhakti-yoga is especially suitable for this age because it is the most direct method of God realization. —Gétä 6.37, purport Lord Çré Kåñëa is the fullest manifestation of the Supreme Absolute Truth, and therefore

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one who is surrendered to the Supreme Person is a successful transcendentalist. To reach this goal of life through Brahman and Paramätmä realization takes many, many births (bahünäà janmanäm ante [Bg. 7.19]). Therefore the supermost path of transcendental realization is bhakti-yoga, or Kåñëa consciousness, the direct method. —Gétä 6.38, purport Activities in Bhakti-yoga Bhakti-yoga is the system that the Gétä recommends above all others. Generally, the bhakti-yogés are engaged in five different ways: (1) çänta-bhakta, engaged in devotional service in neutrality; (2) däsya-bhakta, engaged in devotional service as servant; (3) sakhya-bhakta, engaged as friend; (4) vätsalya-bhakta, engaged as parent; and (5) mädhurya-bhakta, engaged as conjugal lover of the Supreme Lord. —Gétä 8.14, purport To practice the regulative principles of bhakti-yoga one should, under the guidance of an expert spiritual master, follow certain principles: one should rise early in the morning, take bath, enter the temple and offer prayers and chant Hare Kåñëa, then collect flowers to offer to the Deity, cook foodstuffs to offer to the Deity, take prasäda, and so on. There are various rules and regulations which one should follow. And one should constantly hear Bhagavad-gétä and Çrémad-Bhägavatam from pure devotees. This practice can help anyone rise to the level of love of God, and then he is sure of his progress into the spiritual kingdom of God. This practice of

bhakti-yoga, under the rules and regulations, with the direction of a spiritual master, will surely bring one to the stage of love of God. —Gétä 12.9, purport The Fate of an Unsuccessful Bhakti-yogi If the bhakti-yoga system, or Kåñëa consciousness, is half finished or one-fourth finished, or 10% finished—not complete finished—then what is the result? Kåñëa says, svalpam apy asya dharmasya träyate mahato bhayät. Even if it is little understood, it can save him from the greatest danger. And çucénäà çrématäà gehe yoga-bhrañöo ’bhijäyate. If one is not successful in this life, then he is given another chance in his next life. Where? Çucénäà—in the family of a nice transcendentalist, a brähmaëa or a Vaiñëava. Or if he is less qualified, then he may take birth in a rich family. In rich family he has no economic problem, and in a pious family he gets direct opportunity to advance his past Kåñëa consciousness again. —Room Conversation, July 16, 1968, Montreal

Do you really .... (Continued from page 32) sustained. No one really has 267 friends. One person cut his number of “friends” on Facebook down to fifty recently and got some angry emails about how that wasn’t much of a friendly thing to do. His reply: “From people I live 6,000 miles away from and haven’t seen in person in over three years—LET ME GO.”

How did we fall for this marketing ploy? The trick is simple. The screen mimics/plays to the alertness of the hunter. Just as the cat’s attention is seized by every blade of grass that twitches in the wind, so our eyes are involuntarily drawn to anything that moves; the idle passivity and substitution of reality that the television/ digital age has brought is a magician’s trick performed by monster corporations driven by an automatic urge to growth. It’s power at the touch of the button, but it’s all just a set of remote controls, it’s the thing which I always wanted when I was a kid, a remote control car, but when I got it I found out repeatedly how empty, how unsatisfying it was. The digital age peddles aimless stories with endless hooks but no resolutions. We are becoming underindividualized people sharing lowintensity experiences. We hardly feel a calming, deepening, strengthening interaction. There is no deep absorption, no focused connection, just flitter-flutter. Coming to our original story of the two birds, the Bhagavadgétä describes how Kåñëa is the Wise Bird and the true friend of every living entity. Anyone who knows Kåñëa can indeed be the true friend of every living entity. Go on, add Him as a friend. —Çyämänanda Däsa

Hare Kåñëa Hare Kåñëa Kåñëa Kåñëa Hare Hare Hare Räma Hare Räma Räma Räma Hare Hare

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KÅÑËA

CONSCIOUS REALIZATIONS FROM EVENTS OF DAILY LIFE

LESSONS FROM THE ROAD

The Expressway to

Devotion Chanting the holy names of Kåñëa is the fastest and most powerful practice for taking us to spiritual perfection.

By Yugävatära Däsa

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L

ast Sunday I met a devoteefriend and asked him, “So, how is your japa?” He replied in a depressed tone, “My japa is BEST japa.” I could not correlate the words BEST japa with his depressed tone. On seeing my confusion, he explained, “What I mean is, I chant in the BEST (Brihanmumbai Electric Supply Transport) buses of Mumbai. I cannot hear a single mantra. Please pray for me. I wish I could chant all my japa at home early in the morning.” Some of the most important factors that bring success in mantra meditation are how clearly we pronounce each syllable of the mantra and how attentively we hear them. Following in the footsteps of Çré Caitanya Mahäprabhu, Çréla Prabhupäda gave us the Hare Kåñëa maha-mantra, and devotees in ISKCON chant a minimum of sixteen rounds of this mantra daily on sacred beads. But along with chanting, how attentively we hear the mantra is equally important. The Çrémad-Bhägavatam (9.5.16) says, yan-näma-çrutimätreëa pumän bhavati nirmalaù: simply by hearing the holy name of the Lord, one is immediately purified. Devotees who regularly chant the holy names of Kåñëa, therefore, try their best to chant attentively. Our Surroundings Affect Our Japa Why was my friend unable to feel the same bliss in chanting on the bus as he used to feel when chanting at home? It’s because our surroundings affect the quality of our chanting. Buses and trains are always noisy and crowded with passengers. The quality of the atmosphere inside, or the ether surrounding us, is a sum total of

the thoughts and emotions of the other passengers. All these thoughts affect us—we become agitated sitting next to an agitated person or peaceful next to a saint. Therefore we are advised to chant all our japa in the early morning hours, one-and-a-half hours before sunrise (known as brahmamuhürta), for this is the time when all agitated souls are deeply asleep and only the peaceful devotees of the Lord are awake. Kåñëa says in the Bhagavad-gétä (2.69), yäniçä sarva-bhütänäà tasyäà jägarti saàyamé/ yasyäà jägrati bhütäni sä niçä paçyato muneù: “What is night for all beings is the time of awakening for the self-controlled; and the time of awakening for all beings is night for the introspective sage.” Çréla Prabhupäda writes in his purport: “The sage feels transcendental pleasure in the gradual advancement of spiritual culture, whereas the man in materialistic activities, being asleep to self-realization, dreams of varieties of sense pleasure, feeling sometimes happy and sometimes distressed in his sleeping condition.” A serious devotee therefore never chants his vowed japa quota while commuting. Japa done while commuting is considered extra to the quota. Devotees rest early while ordinary people remain awake till late in the night; devotees then get up early in the morning, when ordinary people are asleep. Because they are asleep, the atmosphere is free of their passionate and agitating thoughts. As they start to rise, usually around 7 or 8 a.m., their thoughts and desires start to fill the ether. An aspiring transcendentalist therefore has to strive harder in meditation after daybreak. Just as traffic jams occur in cities during peak office hours,

so traffic jams of mental thought in the ether occur as soon as people’s daily routines begin. One learning to drive prefers to drive during non-peak hours because the roads are relatively free; once he has perfected driving, he will enjoy driving at any time of day. Similarly, a practicing devotee who is trying to focus on the holy name chooses the early morning to chant since it’s easy to drive on the devotional path at that time. Once his chanting matures and he develops the right focus, he transcends the effect of the modes of material nature and is able to overcome all mental traffic blocks as he relishes the holy name constantly. To achieve this state, however, one must practice chanting japa before dawn. Çréla Prabhupäda writes: “One should rise early in the morning, take bath, enter the temple, and offer prayers and chant Hare Kåñëa . . .” Expressway Rules The path of bhakti-yoga or Kåñëa consciousness—especially the process of chanting Kåñëa’s holy names—is like an expressway to spiritual perfection. Before driving on an expressway, one must learn the rules and protocol. On expressways one has to drive at a certain speed—neither too fast nor too slow. If we drive too fast we will be heavily fined or, worse, may meet with an accident. If we drive too slowly we may discourage other people who may be moving with greater speed. Similarly, on the devotional expressway, if we remain complacent, thinking, “I have many years to live,” then we may discourage other devotees who are marching ahead with great enthusiasm. On the other hand, if we are impatient and over-

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enthusiastic to reach the Vaikuëöha planets immediately, we may meet with severe accidents and our progress may temporarily stop. Therefore, Çréla Rüpa Gosvämé advises us to cultivate the qualities of enthusiasm and patience in our practice. If one has only patience but no enthusiasm, then he will progress at a slow speed. On the contrary, if one is too enthusiastic but has no patience, then such a person, after a short stint, will lose Offense against a devotee is compared his taste and eventuto a mad elephant that can destroy our ally give up the path tender devotional creeper. of devotional service. One will find many kinds of to continue on the devotional vehicles on the expressway, from path. Following the four regulative big cars that can move at high principles—no meat-eating, no speeds to heavily loaded trucks illicit sex, no intoxication, and no that lumber along. Similarly, on gambling—are essential to protect the expressway of devotion, there us from meeting with accidents. are a variety of souls. Some are Rendering service to great souls loaded with heavy karma from their past life; some carry less karma. If by great fortune one receives the causeless mercy of the Lord, one should not become arrogant and laugh at devotees who are slower than us. That would be a grave offense (Vaiñëava aparädha) and is compared to a mad elephant destroying our devotional creeper. One must be extremely careful to avoid such behavior. Smaller Rules Apart from the speed rules, one must follow the basic maintenance program. Regularly hearing Çrémad-Bhägavatam will inspire us

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plays a crucial role in our progress toward our destination. By their blessings, one learns the secret art of chanting with devotion. Service to other Vaiñëavas is also important. While driving on the expressway one may see some broken down vehicles by the side of the road. Their drivers may need help from us. On the expressway of devotion, if we find our other devotees struggling with problems, we should provide as much help as possible. On the expressway, we should be careful not to get distracted by illusory diversions that may appear as shortcuts. And most importantly, we should never stop on this expressway, because Kali’s agents, who are like plunderers, may rob us of our great wealth of devotion. We should drive steadily without losing focus until we reach our destination, the supreme spiritual abode of Goloka Våëdävana. Yugävatära Däsa is an associate professor in Anatomy in a medical college in Mumbai. He is a regular contributor to BTG.

Hare Kåñëa Hare Kåñëa Kåñëa Kåñëa Hare Hare Hare Räma Hare Räma Räma Räma Hare Hare

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PHOTOSCOPE

Mystic Moment

I sit upon the stone ledge in the temple of Rädhä-ramaëa. The sun slants through the courtyard and holds my face. Incense fills the cool air, sweet and smoky. An old sädhu sings to his lord, Rädhä-ramaëa. His voice spirals through the air like . . . . . . like birds that loop through the sunset over the Yamunä River. Amazing. I had just closed my eyes to find the words to describe the sädhu’s singing. Suddenly, I felt something fall over my head. I jerked open my eyes. A pujari had placed a garland from Rädhä-ramaëa around my neck. The fragrance of roses encircled me in an embrace. I breathe in deep. Every moment in Våëdävana is edged with the ethereal. —Bhakti-latä-devé däsé

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COVER STORY

Near-death Experiences Wher e Science Where Points t ot he Soul to the “Science may keep saying, ‘Such things are simply impossible.” Yet so long as the stories multiply in different lands and so few are positively explained away, it is bad method to ignore them.” —American psychologist William James

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s there any scientific proof for the existence of the soul?” is a common question that devotees face whenever they share the philosophy of Kåñëa consciousness with others. Yes, there is. Scientific research into fields like past-life memories, consciousness and near-death experiences (NDEs) do indeed provide persuasive evidence. In this article, we will discuss the phenomenon of NDEs. NDEs: Unusual yet Universal NDEs are experiences of extraordinary visions and perceptions during periods of unconsciousness among people who were medically dead or nearly dead due to various causes like accidents, diseases, surgeries or attempted suicides. These people returned from the dead or the near-dead to tell us their amazing experiences. NDEs have been reported since time immemorial in cultures all over the world. In a crosscultural study published in the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, March 1978, researcher Dean Sheils reported that NDE beliefs appear in about 95 per cent of the world’s cultures and that they are striking in their uniformity even though the cultures are diverse in structure and location. In modern times, popular interest in near-death experiences was initially sparked by Raymond Moody’s 1975 book Life After Life, which reported numerous NDEs among a wide cross section of people. According to the Gallup and Proctor survey in 1980-1981, fifteen percent of all Americans who

have been in near-death situations have had an NDE. In a more clinical setting, Pim van Lommel, a cardiologist from Netherlands, found that, among patients who had been successfully revived from cardiac arrests, eighteen percent had an NDE. Evidence Evaporates Skepticism During the NDEs, patients report undergoing many extraordinary experiences like travelling into a realm filled with beautiful colors, meeting effulgent beings and having life reviews—many of which often have profoundly lifechanging effects on the patients. From the viewpoint of scientific testability, the most relevant among the NDEs are the autoscopic out-of-body experiences (OBEs) in which the patients report having seen their body from a perspective outside the body—generally from above the operating bed—and also give verifiable descriptions of, say, the surgical procedures adopted by the medical staff. According to current mainstream science, patients who are unconscious cannot be aware of such details and so their descriptions can be nothing more than hallucinations or educated guess at best. This indeed was the attitude of by Dr. Michael Sabom, an American cardiologist who started his NDE research in the late 1970s as a skeptic. In his book, Recollections of Death: A Medical Investigation Sabom outlined his initial plan to disprove the claimed perceptions of autoscopic OBE

NDEs cause extraordinary visions and perceptions during the unconscious state.

patients: “I would pit my experience as a trained cardiologist against the professed visual recollections of lay individuals. In so doing, I was convinced that obvious inconsistencies would appear which would reduce these

Dr. Michael Sabom, an NDE researcher

purported visual observations to no more than an ‘educated guess’ on the part of the patient.”

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Sabom’s initial skepticism soon faded away as evidence kept piling up during his over three decades of NDE research. Here are some of the cases from Sabom’s books, cases that changed his understanding of life and death and also the understanding of thousands of his readers. A retired Air Force pilot who had suffered a massive heart attack recounted the resuscitation procedure in rich detail. He even described the motions of the two needles of the defibrillator, which is an electronic device used to administer electric shock to attempt to restore the normal functioning of the heart: “It [the defibrillator meter] was square and had two needles on there, one fixed and one which moved… the first needle moved each time they punched the thing and somebody was messing with it. And I think they moved the fixed needle and it stayed still…It [the moving needle] seemed to come up rather slowly, really. It didn’t just pop up like an ammeter or a voltmeter or something registering…The first time it went between one-third and one-half scale. And then they did it again, and this time it went up over onehalf-scale, and the third time it was about three-quarters.” Sabom explains the significance of this specific observation: “I was particularly fascinated by his description of a ‘fixed’ needle and a ‘moving’ needle on the face of the defibrillator as it was being charged with electricity. The movement of these two needles is not something he could have observed unless he had actually seen this instrument in use. These two needles are individually used

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(1) to preselect the amount of of her lumbar disk surgery which electricity to be delivered to the was performed with the patient in patient [patient’s description: supine position. She reported “they moved the fixed needle and that her surgery had been perit stayed still”] and (2) to indicate formed, to her surprise, not by the defibrillator is being charged her surgeon but by the chief to the preselected amount resident in neurosurgery, a detail [patient’s description: “the movthat was correct but had not been ing needle seemed to come up divulged to her. rather slowly, really. It didn’t just Following the lead of Sabom, many other researchers have also pop up like an ammeter or a come across NDEs involving voltmeter or something registerveridical or factual perceptions. ing”]. This charging procedure is only performed immediately prior Unconscious yet conscious? to defibrillation, since once How could the subjects have charged, this machine poses a acquired such accurate informaserious electrical hazard unless it tion of what had happened while is correctly discharged in a very they were medically unconscious? specific manner. Moreover, the Could they have got the informameters of the type described by tion about the medical procethis man are not found on more dures from prior general knowlrecent defibrillator models, but edge? Such precise knowledge were in common use in 1973, at seemed unlikely among patients the time of his cardiac arrest.” not directly connected with the How could a person who was medical profession, still Sabom, (1) in the middle of a cardiac arrest, (2) about to be jolted by an electric shock, (3) while being almost certainly unconscious ,(4) not in a physical position to observe the defibrillator meter, Unconscious patients undergoing surgical operations have revealed methodiamazing details about the surgery after coming back to consciousness. cally obbeing a rigorously scientific serve the motion of the needles researcher, decided to evaluate on its dial? this possibility. So he questioned a In another Sabom case, a control group of twenty-five woman provided a medically cardiac patients, whose backaccurate and detailed description

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grounds were similar to the backgrounds of those reporting NDEs. When the control subjects were asked to imagine what they would see happening in the operating room when doctors resuscitate a cardiac arrest patient, two of them could not give any description at all and twenty among the remaining twentythree made major errors. In marked contrast, of the 32 subjects who reported having NDEs, 26 gave general descriptions that did not include any major errors and six gave very detailed reports that exactly matched their medical records, which had not been seen by them. Based on this study, Sabom concluded, “These NDE accounts most likely are not subtle fabrications based on prior general knowledge.” Could the subjects have been partially conscious and thus acquired this information possibly through sounds and touches? But this hypothesis fails to explain the NDE cases in which the subjects provide accurate information from outside their immediate vicinity, information that they could not have obtained from sounds and touches or by any normal means even if they were conscious. Sabom reports a case in which a patient recovering from sickness suffered an unexpected cardiac arrest. After he was revived, he reported that he had an OBE in which he had travelled down the hall and had seen his wife, eldest son and daughter arriving there, which was what had actually happened. This information is highly significant because (1) as he was soon to be discharged, he was not expecting

his family members to visit; (2) even if he had known that they would be visiting him, he couldn’t have known who would be visiting because he had six grown children, who took turns accompanying their mother when she came to see him; (3) his family members were stopped in the hall that was ten Many NDEs involve unconscious patients giving doors away from accurate information from beyond their vicinity. the room where he was being worked on by the Real Hallucinations doctors and nurses; (4) his face Could these experiences was turned away from them; and simply be hallucinations of people (5) he was in the middle of being wanting to avoid fear of death? resuscitated from cardiac arrest. But NDEs are markedly different NDEs involving unconscious from hallucinations in their patients giving factually accurate contents and effects, as is evident information from beyond their from the table below: vicinity have been reported for NDEs differ from hallucinamore than half a century, as indicated in Hornell Hart’s article tions not only in their experiential aspects, but also in their published in the Journal of the scientific causative mechanism. In American Society for Psychical an article in the medical magaResearch, 48(4) (October).

HALLUCIATIONS

NDEs

Hallucinations generally comprise disorderly events with hazy visions

NDEs generally comprise orderly events with clear perceptions

Hallucinations usually leave their subjects feeling disturbed and agitated

NDEs usually leave their subjects feeling peaceful and serene

Hallucinations have little noteworthy long-term effect on the subjects

NDEs are often profoundly lifetransforming, inspiring the subjects toward a more purposeful and spiritual reorientation of beliefs and lifestyle.

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ence to explore alternative scienroundings and zine, The Lancet, Pim van tific explanations. A promising 3. Knowledge beyond one’s Lommel and her Dutch coway out of the box is offered by surroundings. researchers expose a fatal flaw in the Vedic literature like the But NDEs show that what is all such physiological explanaBhagavad-gétä which offer pentheoretically considered impostions of NDEs: “With a purely etrating insights about the source sible has actually happened, as physiological explanation [for of consciousness and the mechahas been documented by rigorous NDE] such as cerebral anoxia for nism of interaction between the researchers, under well monithe experience, most patients body and the soul. tored conditions. In science, the who have been clinically dead The Gétä (2.17) explains that purpose of theory is to explain should report one.” Lommel the soul which pervades the body the facts, and not to quarrel with points out that among all the with consciousness is indestructhe facts. Given the facts, NDEs people under similar hallucinotible (Bhagavad-gétä 2.17), thus strongly disprove the theory of genic or physiological conditions, implying that it continues to only some undergo NDEs. exist when the body is dead This selectiveness of NDEs or nearly-dead. Further, the shows that they are not Gétä (13.34) elaborates that hallucinations and also that consciousness is the energy they are not caused by any of the soul with which it physiological conditions. pervades the body just as Add the compelling fact sunlight is the energy of the that many NDE subjects sun with which it pervades give factually accurate the universe. When the soul information that could is embodied, the soul, its never have been obtained consciousness is channelized through hallucinations and through two kinds of bodies: the hallucination hypothgross and subtle. The gross esis about NDEs can be or visible body is what we safely buried deep under According to the Bhagavad-gétä, the soul, or normally call our physical the ground. consciousness, pervades the entire body and continues body and the subtle body is to exist when the body is dead or nearly-dead. comprised mainly of what Out-of-box thinking on we normally call the mind. Usuthe cerebral origin of consciousout-of-body experiences ally the consciousness of the soul ness. Indeed, just one of the NDE research is not restricted is channelized through the mind hundreds of NDE cases is enough to a few non-mainstream sciento the brain and the body to the to disprove that theory; if even tists; hundreds of scientists all external world. one person’s consciousness conover the globe are engaged in But because the soul and the tinues when his brain is nonNDE research under serious body are essentially different, the functional, then that one case global forums like The Internasoul can separate from the body proves that consciousness does tional Association for Near-Death under special circumstances like not originate from the brain. Studies (IANDS) with peerwhen the body is damaged as in Then, where does consciousreviewed publications like the OBEs. Upon such separation, the ness originate from? Taking the Journal of Near-Death Studies. factuality of the perceptions If consciousness were emerging question further, who is it that it during the OBEs strongly suggests perceiving from outside the body from the brain, as mainstream that the soul continues to be during OBEs? Seeking answers to science would have us believe, conscious through the subtle body questions like these, cutting edge then an unconscious person even when the brain is dysfuncresearchers are courageously cannot have: tional. This mechanism is diathinking outside the box of 1. Clear thought process, grammatically depicted below: materialistic, reductionistic sci2. Knowledge of one’s sur-

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to see. Among the blind, due to biological factors, their sensory organ is impaired and so they are unable to see. But they as souls still have the power to see and so when their subtle body is decoupled from the gross body in OBEs, the above mechanism suggests that the subtle eye which is no longer obstructed by the dysfunctionality of the gross eye is able to see. Similarly, the Vedic paradigm can also explain many other paranormal phenomenon like telepathy, clairvoyance, clairaudience etc. To conclude, NDEs offer a dramatic and authentic scientific demonstration that consciousness is not dependent on the brain and life is not dependent on the material body. By giving some of us experiences of life beyond the perishable body, the NDEs beckon all of us to strive for the complete experience of eternity. The Bhagavad-gétä offers a systematic and practical methodology to experience our own innate spirituality and thus reclaim our lost right to eternal life. Indeed, the import of the NDEs resonates with the universal message of the Vedic scriptures to reclaim the eternal life that is our eternal birthright. Måtyor mä ’måtaà gamaya: “Go from death to eternity.”

Diagrams adapted from the doctoral thesis of Mukunda Mädhava Däsa

Experience of normal vision

Experience of vision in OBE and NDE

A Holistic Explanation and a Holistic Life The characteristic of a good scientific theory is that it not only explains coherently the phenomenon that it is intended to explain, but it also explains other related phenomenon. The soundness of the Vedic soul theory is evident from its ability to explain not only

NDEs and OBEs, but also related phenomena like mindsight. In his book NDEs of the blind: Mindsight, Kenneth Ring describes many blind people who were able to see only during their NDEs and never again. The Vedic texts explain that the mind has subtle sensory faculties which when coupled with the gross sensory organs enable the soul

Caitanya Caraëa Däsa holds a degree in electronics and telecommunications engineering and serves full-time at ISKCON Pune. He is the author of eight books with upcoming Solving the Reincarnation Puzzle from which this article is adapted. To read his other article and to subscribe to his free e-zine, visit thespiritualscientist.com

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A Clarification about the “Dum Maro Dum” Song Message from Anuttama Däsa, ISKCON Minister for Communications, on the release of the new movie Dum Maro Dum Some of you will recall that in the year 1971, Dev Anand produced and directed the movie Hare Rama Hare Krishna that showed images of our founder Çréla Prabhupäda and ISKCON devotees chanting. The movie also included the song ‘Dum Maro Dum’ which had references to the Hare Kåñëa mantra. Unfortunately, the movie and song’s depiction of drugs and illicit activities misled the general public to think that Hare Kåñëa devotees indulge in such things. This misinformation damaged the reputation of the young ISKCON movement in India and caused undeserved pain to our devotees, members and friends. It took years for the people of India to understand that sincere followers of ISKCON strictly refrain from smoking, drinking, gambling and illicit relationships. And that, in fact, ISKCON’s propagation of the Hare Kåñëa mantra is convincing millions around the world to give up these same illicit behaviors. Recently, Ramesh Sippy Enterprise and FoxStar India have co-produced a new movie ‘Dum Maaro Dum’ which was released on 22 April, 2011 with an ‘A’ (Adults only) certificate. This film includes a song ‘Mit Jaaye Gham’ which is a remix of the original ‘Dum Maro Dum’ song from Hare Ram Hare Krishna movie. Like the original, the song contains references to the Hare Krishna mantra. Members of the ISKCON Communications Ministry, led by Parijäta Devé Däsé in Mumbai, followed the development and publicity about the film for some time. Out of concern that the new film might propagate the same false images of ISKCON devotees as had the earlier one, Gopäla Kåñëa Goswami (GBC), Braja Hari Däsa (President, ISKCON Juhu) and Pärijäta Devé Däsé (ISKCON Communications, Western India) met with the producers earlier this month. The producers assured ISKCON’s representatives that, unlike the earlier movie, the new production does not have any reference to ISKCON, its teachings, or Hare Krishna devotees. The above devotees insisted on a preview screening of the ‘Mit Jaaye Gham’ song, which has references to the Hare Kåñëa mantra. In the song, the words Hare Krishna and Hare Rama are paired with images depicting smoking, sexuality, etc. which are contradictory to the devo-

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tional spirit in which the members of ISKCON and many other Vaiñëavas chant the Hare Kåñëa mantra. After the preview screening, the ISKCON leaders requested the filmmakers that, since the images and activities depicted in the song ‘Mit Jaaye Gham’ do not in any way reflect the activities of members of ISKCON or its teachings, the producers issue a disclaimer in the movie stating the same. After some period of negotiation, the producers issued the following disclaimer, which will appear in the beginning of the movie, to be seen every time the movie is shown in India: “Our re-recorded song ‘Mit Jaaye Gham’ has reference to the Hare Kåñëa mantra. The filmmakers wish to state that they do not intend to dishonor the prayer or inadvertently hurt the sentiments of Hindu people worldwide and the members of International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) who are its proponent.” In the modern world, artists and movie-makers are allowed much leeway in the name of “free speech” and “artistic license”. Thus, we had limited options. But it was important that we assured they did not misuse images of ISKCON devotees, and that they publicly stated their desire to not offend the Lord’s name or His devotees. We hope the disclaimer will help eliminate any misunderstanding that viewers of the movie may have in relation to the ‘Mit Jaaye Gham’ song, and clarify that the song and film and its portrayal of illicit activities have no connection whatsoever with ISKCON. Regarding the film itself, we recommend that our devotees and friends simply avoid the film and overlook whatever short-lived attention it may receive. Lord Krishna tells us that all things of this world quickly pass, and He recommends we concentrate on the eternal. And, those inclined to watch a movie are advised to find one that is spiritually uplifting and avoid the mundane, however popular or controversial it may be. In case of any queries or information, please contact: Pärijäta Devé Däsé (Parijata.RNS@pamho.net) Your servant, Anuttama Däsa

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P O E T R Y

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HARE KÅÑËA PEOPLE

Writing for Kåñëa An Interview with Satyaräja Däsa (Steven J. Rosen)

S

atyaräja Däsa (Steven J. Rosen) is an initiated disciple of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupäda. He is also founding editor of the Journal of Vaishnava Studies and associate editor of Back to Godhead magazine. In addition, he has published twenty-nine books in numerous languages, including The Hidden Glory of India (Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, 2003); Krishna’s Song: A New Look at the Bhagavad Gita (Praeger, 2007); Essential Hinduism (Rowman & Littlefield, 2008); The Yoga of Kirtan: Conversations on the Sacred Art of Chanting (FOLK Books, 2008) and Krishna's Other Song: A New Look at the Uddhava Gita (Praeger, 2010). He is a frequent contributor of articles in Back to Godhead and in this issue we present an interview with him.

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BTG: How were you first six chapters were translated. introduced to Kåñëa Why would the translator leave consciousness? out the remaining twelve SD (Satyaräja Däsa): I chapters? Agreeing with the remember the day I received devotee that something was amiss, Bhagavad-gétä As It Is as if it I accepted a copy of Bhagavad-gétä were yesterday, although it was more than forty years ago. That’s the book that changed my life. I was on the train on my way home from school—the High School of Art and Design. At the time, I was reading a popular translation of the Gétä when a Hare Kåñëa devotee approached me (Madhusüdana Däsa, one of Prabhupäda’s very first disciples). He was asking for donations, and he was selling, of all things, copies of Bhagavadgétä As It Is, Çréla Prabhupäda’s Gétä. What that devotee said to me, I’ll remember for the rest of my life: “You’re reading poison!” he exclaimed. I was shocked. “The Gétä is as pure as milk,” Çréla Prabhupäda’s Bhagavad-gétä, the he continued, “but even milk book that transformed the author’s life. becomes poison when touched by the lips of a serpent.” I could As It Is, which he gave me gratis. understand that he was criticizing Çréla Prabhupäda’s Gétä was the particular translation I was unique. Unlike other editions— reading. I had misgivings about and by this time, I had read this edition myself, as only the many—it provided me with a

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clear understanding of the personalities involved and of the entire Gétä, along with its essential teachings. The Gétä’s clear and almost simple message became apparent: Surrender unto Kåñëa, God. And Çréla Prabhupäda was the first to give this direct and obvious meaning of the Gétä. It became apparent that many of the other translators and commentators were missing the essence of the Gétä. Anyway, that was my introduction. I then enrolled in a Sanskrit course at Queens College, just to verify that Prabhupäda’s translation was accurate. I found that it was—it caught the spirit of the text . . . BTG: Did your interest in writing precede, parallel or succeed your introduction to Kåñëa consciousness? How did you take up writing as your life’s service and mission? SD: I was a musician and an artist before joining the movement. In fact, I had little interest in writing—nothing to speak of, anyway. It wasn’t until the early 1980s that Ädi-keçava (then Swami)—who was at that time the GBC of New York— noticed how much I loved to share the philosophy of Kåñëa consciousness with others. He suggested that I start a local newsletter for the devotees in the area. He said that I should include newsy things but also philosophy—that in this way the newsletter would be a good outlet for me to express the philosophy to the devotees, to the congregation members, and to all kinds of people affiliated with ISKCON in the greater New York area. So that’s what I did. And it became popular, not only in New

York but throughout the East Coast of America. Gradually, the late Suhotra Swami started reading my articles in the newsletter, and he liked them so much that he had them translated into German. He used them regularly in Wie es Ist, which was sort of a German Back to Godhead–type magazine. Finally, Satsvarüpa Mahäräja

Life and Times of Lord Chaitanya.

BTG: In our tradition who among our äcäryas are your inspiration as exemplary devoteewriters? SD: Oh, I would have to give you three primary answers: Bhaktivinoda Öhäkura, Bhaktivinoda Öhäkura, and, Bhaktivinoda Öhäkura. [laughter] He was and is my major inspiration. Remember, he was from a Çäkta (worshippers of Goddess Durgä) family and thus, at least to external vision, came to Vaiñëavism later in life. So he is very much like we Westerners, who were not born into Vaiñëava families. Also, as a gåhastha (married person), he sets the example of writing while maintaining a family and interacting with the “real” world. This is significant. It is a model that most of us can follow—it is someone who knows the struggles of the everyday person yet The first book written by the author lives a life of perfect started reading my articles, and Kåñëa consciousness. he asked me to write for Back to So, in my writing and in my Godhead. This would have been approach to Vaiñëavism, I try to in the mid-1980s. So that’s how it follow that example. Naturally, I all started. Also, Çréla fall short of such an exalted Prabhupäda’s Godbrother, Dr. O. example—terribly short. But, in B. L. Kapoor, asked me to write a any case, we try. Of course, Çréla single volume biography of Lord Prabhupäda, too, is a major Chaitanya. After consulting with example in our line. He was 100% various Godbrothers, I did it. dedicated to his books and to the That was my first real book, propagation of Kåñëa India’s Spiritual Renaissance: The consciousness through the

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written word. His life and teachings—especially his emphasis on book distribution— have been a major inspiration to me. I write for him, and I pray he is satisfied by my humble endeavor. BTG: You are one of the most prolific writers in our movement and are also one of the prominent writers on Vedic culture globally. How did you get your early breaks in your service as a writer? What are the major landmarks in your growth as a devotee-writer? SD: Hmm. My second book, Food for the Spirit: Vegetarianism and the World Religions, remained in manuscript form for quite a while; I just couldn’t find a

brief endorsement. Well, in the end, he liked the manuscript so much that he took it upon himself to write a foreword for the book. Needless to say, that simple event succeeded in putting me on the map as a writer. Various publishers began fighting over the book. For various reasons, I eventually went with Bala Books. And, years later, it was reprinted under another title (Diet for Transcendence) by Torchlight Publishing Company. I must say, another breakthrough book for me was Gétä on the Green: The Mystical Tradition Behind Bagger Vance. This was my commentary of Steven Pressfield’s golf novel that used the Bhagavad-Gétä as its

Gita on the Green can appeal even to spiritual non-seekers.

publisher. Then, I heard that Isaac Bashevis Singer, who had won the 1978 Nobel Prize for Literature, was in fact himself a vegetarian. So I decided to look up his management company and send him the manuscript, just to get his opinion and, at best, a

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basis. The book allowed me to explain the entire Gétä in a way that non-seekers could understand and appreciate—all from our paramparä point of view. This book was important for me because it was my first book with a major press. If we, as

devotees, only self-publish, or publish only through our own publishing companies, we will only attract people who are predisposed to Kåñëa consciousness, or seekers of various stripes. To many, such works appear “in-house,” and so they take it with a grain of salt. But if we can get qualified and experienced authorities and publishers to acknowledge our work, then we can get a wider audience. This is what happened with Gétä on the Green. It was picked up by Continuum International, a major press that does crossover books, in terms of doing scholarly books that also have trade appeal, catering to a popular audience. Next thing I knew, I was getting invitations to do radio talk shows, magazine articles, live engagements at yoga studios, and so on. It allowed me to develop an outside presence and gave me the ability to reach a wider audience. So this began happening about one decade ago, with the publication and popularization of Gétä on the Green. Important, too, is my recent connection with Çré Näthjé Däsa (Dr. N. D. Desai). We have conceived a number of projects together, including a book on Christ and Kåñëa, which is now completed, and we may well be publishing a number of others as well. For now, I am working on a massive Vaiñëava Encyclopedia for him. It will be a large twovolume set, detailing the personalities, sacred places, terminology, and texts of the Vaiñëava tradition. This will include not only the GauòéyaVaiñëava-sampradäya but all Vaiñëava lineages. In fact, there is no other encyclopedia like this in

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any language. Of course, there is the Sri Gauòéya Vaiñëava Abhidhäna, by Haridas Das. This is a great work, no doubt, but it is as yet only available in Bengali, not in English. And its focus is Gauòéya Vaiñëavism. Our book will have a broader base, and it will be in English, for a contemporary audience. It’s really a very exciting project. Another major break came through the grace of ProfessorFather Frank Clooney, Jesuit Priest and Harvard professor. You see, in the interim, I had developed a name in the academic world through my founding of the Journal of Vaishnava Studies (JVS), which is a thematic refereed journal, highly respected now in the field. Each issue is about 200 pages and thoroughly covers a particular theme, whether the Gétä, the Bhägavatam, Vaiñëava Women, a particular sampradäya, or whatever. We’ve been in publication now for almost 20 years straight, with every major research library and university in the world on our subscriber list. In any case, some years back, a major academic press (Praeger-Greenwood) had asked Clooney to write a highschool textbook on Hinduism, and, I guess because he was busy, and because, through the Journal, he had developed faith in me, he told them that “Steve Rosen is your man—he’s the guy to do it.” So, on his recommendation, they came to me. I not only wrote the book, which is part of a series on world religions, but I parlayed it into two books! I told them that I would do the textbook for them, but that there was a great need for a book to teach professors— not just students—how to teach

Hinduism. And that the first point is that Hinduism is a misnomer! They were interested. So I wrote Essential Hinduism after the textbook. Both books did very well, and they continue to sell. As it now stands, I have written five books for them, and they want me to continue. I am their “Hindu” man! [laughter]

spirituality. In other words, its methods and practices could be used to enhance one’s practice regardless of one’s tradition. No matter what religion or sect or culture one has aligned themselves with, the process of Kåñëa consciousness will be helpful for them. This is because it is truly sanätana-dharma, or the eternal function of the soul.

BTG: Prabhupäda would say that Kåñëa consciousness is BTG: The scholarly Journal of transcendental to all worldly Vaiñëava Studies that you designations including religious pioneered is a somewhat unique designations like Hindu, Muslim project that helped focus academic and Christian, yet people generally (mis)identify devotees with Hindus. How do you deal with this in your writings? SD: Good question. In many of my books I deal with the fact that the words “Hindu” and “Hinduism” are inaccurate. They are terms of convenience, at best. Of course, historically, and geographically, people tend to identify Kåñëa consciousness, or Vaiñëavism, with India and, of course, Hinduism. But people— especially scholars—are now learning that Hinduism is just a layman’s term for the religions of India, and there are many: Çaivism, The author is a founding member of the JVS, a Çaktism, Vaiñëavism, and highly respected journal within academic circles. so on, with different scriptures, conceptions of God, study on Vaiñëavism. How did practices, and so on. that start off? From your Kåñëa consciousness is distinct experience as the pioneer of JVS, in that it is the science of love of what are the aspects of God. This was Prabhupäda’s Vaiñëavism in general—and point—Kåñëa consciousness is the Gauòéya Vaiñëavism in post- graduate science of (Continued on page 29)

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the Search for

Happiness

Part

6

The ultimate goal of every human being should be return to our eternal home, which is the spiritual world, the kingdom of God. Only then can we attain real happiness.

By Vraja Vihäré Däsa Continued from the previous issue. . . This is the last in this series of articles.

where the train is heading to and where you wish to go, why did Modern Life—Speed you enter this crowded train?” He Without Direction then confesses to you, “I was The situation of modern man standing on the railway platform can be compared to a traveler on and saw many people fight to Mumbai’s local trains. Imagine enter this train. I thought this is you struggle to enter a crowded an important activity and so I train, and surprisingly you get a place to sit. To begin a conversation with the strange-looking, dazed passenger seated next to you, you ask him, “Sir, where is this train headed to?” He thinks deeply and says, “I don’t know.” Surprised you ask him, “Well sir, where do you want to go?” He again ponModern man is moving at a high speed, but do we know where we are heading to? ders over and reflects, “Actuentered the train.” What would ally I am not sure where I wish to you call such a person? get down.” Your surprise now We too enter life’s rat race— turns into curiosity, “Well, my MBA’s, IIT’s, IAS, business—in a dear friend, if you don’t know

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similar way, but when asked about why we have chosen this career option, our answer reveals that we did this because many people do it. The underlying principle is the glamour of money. But can money be a reasonable goal? People with an abundance of wealth are still miserable, for money is just a means of happiness; it can’t on its own give happiness. Besides, money is like a painkiller—it doesn’t satisfy the deep needs of the soul. The world is rushing at top speed, seeking pleasures and success, little knowing what actually the enduring solution for happiness is. It’s like a pilot announcing during take-off, “Ladies and gentleman, we will be flying at 1000 km/hr, but I am sorry to say we don’t know where we are going.” Similarly modern

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THE PARADOXES OF LIFE This is a nice poem that aptly sums up the voidness and the shallow pursuits of modern man—how far we have distanced from real, lasting happiness. We have taller buildings, but shorter tempers Wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints Bigger houses, but smaller families More conveniences, but less time We have more degrees, but less sense More knowledge, but less judgment More experts, but less solutions More medicine, but less wellness We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values Conquered outer space, but not inner space Cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul Split the atom, but not our prejudice We have higher incomes, but lower morals We have become long on quantity, but short on quality We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often. We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life; We’ve added years to life, not life to years.

man is rushing to the office and back, has deadlines and a 16-hour work schedule, but unfortunately does not have the slightest idea of where he is heading to and what the goal of his life is. Returning Home—the Permanent Solution for Happiness Our desire to experience happiness is justifiable because each soul is divine and pleasureseeking. The Vedänta-sütra describes each living entity as pure and entitled to permanent pleasure, obtained from reconnecting to God. However, human beings are implored not to seek happiness through either our temporary body or through the fleeting pleasures offered by the transient material world. Our seeking happiness in this world is compared to a person looking for water in a desert. In a desert, a thirsty man may find a trickle of water, but this water can hardly satisfy him. Instead by drinking these few drops of water, he feels more agitated. Unlimited

We’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbour. We spend more, but have less; We buy more, but enjoy less. These are the times of: Tall men but short character Steep profits but shallow relationships World peace but domestic warfare More leisure but less fun More kinds of food but less nutrition Two incomes but more divorce Fancier houses but broken homes It is a time when there is much in the show window and nothing in the stockroom

LIFE—IT MAKES YOU THINK . . .

water, however, exists outside the desert, and that can satisfy the thirsty man permanently. The happiness of this world is like a water trickle in a desert, which can never satisfy us but increases our craving for more. Real unlimited happiness exists outside this desert-like material world, in the spiritual abode of God, which is our eternal home. This world has been described

in the Bhagavad-gétä as duùkhälayam açäçvatam, “miserable and temporary.” Älaya in Sanskrit means “a place,” and duùkha means “distress.” For example, pustakälaya means a place where you get pustaka, or books (in other words, a library), and bhojanälaya is a place where you get bhojana, or food. One would not expect to get books on philosophy or science from a bhojanälaya, nor would one

Just as few drops of water in a desert cannot quench our thirst, happiness of this material world cannot really satisfy us.

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ask for a pizza in a pustakälaya. Similarly in duùkhälaya, one gets only duùkha. This world has been rubber-stamped by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Kåñëa in the Bhagavad-gétä as miserable and temporary. Once we accept this harsh reality of this world, then our anxieties to seek happiness from the temporary things of this world gradually wanes. The Bhagavad-gétä and other Vedic scriptures further recommend us to revive our eternal relationship with our supreme father, God, and become truly happy. Our situation is like that of a young, rebellious and lost child who has abandoned his billionaire parents to live in the ghettos, languishing in poverty. Just as a father eagerly awaits his child’s return to home, God also eagerly awaits our exercising of our free will to return back to Him. A charitably disposed person may come and give a lost child food, clothes, television, etc. This is compared to the scientific advancement and sense gratification (S of SMS). Another man may come and pep the child with inspirational talk and encourage him to be positive. This is akin to

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the mental speculation and “positive attitude” theories that address the pain of sadness only superficially. Another man may encourage the child to perform some ritual püjä or go to a tantric bäbä for happiness. This is compared to the third of the superficial solution, namely rituals and religion performed superficially. None of the three well-intentioned benefactors have done complete justice to the lost child. The SMS solutions offered by society for a person seeking happiness, is temporary; a person remains dissatisfied even after receiving all these benefits, just like the lost child. A fourth person appears on the scene and takes the

child back to his billionaire parents. Such a person provides food, clothes and shelter to the child on the way home; he also encourages him with sweet words. A teacher of God consciousness encourages all to seek happiness through connection to God. The lost child on his way home is excited and happy to meet his father, and similarly a human being is spiritually surcharged and blissful as he is endeavoring to go back home to his eternal parent— God—even as he continues to render his duties in this world. Our existence in this world then becomes a springboard for an eternal life in the spiritual world. Vraja Vihäré Däsa holds a master’s degree in International Finance and Management (MBA). He serves as a full-time resident devotee at ISKCON Chowpatty and teaches Kåñëa consciousness to students at universities. He also conducts devotional seminars and training programs for the temple’s congregation members.

(top left) the material world is described as duùkhälaya, a place of misery; (above) a lost child can never be happy without his parents. As soon he rejoins with his parents, he finds lasting happiness.

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EVERY TOWN AND VILLAGE ToVP Construction in Full Swing Mäyäpur, WB: Devotees from all over the world who attended the Gaura-pürëimä festival this year could see the incredible construction progress of the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium in Mäyäpur. According to chairman Ambaréña Däsa and Managing Director Ñaòbhuja Däsa, due to an absence of the usual flooding in Mäyäpur this year,

Spanish Fork, Utah, USA: Over 40,000 people attended on the first day alone—March 27—of the two-day Holi festival celebrated at the ISKCON temple here. Organizers carefully rationed their stash of approximately 120,000 bags of colored powder. Rock ’n roll, R&B, and other modern interpretation of the Hare Kåñëa mantra were played by musicians throughout the day and chanted in a call-andresponse game between performers and attendees. The main event of each festival was the coordinated throwing of colored powder, when the sky above the crowd is filled with rainbow puffs of dye. The event was covered by many American national and local media. Boat Festival in Våëdävana

construction is currently ahead of schedule. It is also coming in under budget and continuing to progress at a very rapid pace. This temple will include a planetarium within which Çréla Prabhupäda wanted to construct “a huge, detailed model of the universe as described in the text of the fifth canto of Çrémad-Bhägavatam.” Biggest Holi in the Western World

Våëdävana, UP: On March 28, ISKCON Våëdävana celebrated the boat festival by filling the inner courtyard of the temple with water and thus creating a water pool, which was covered with variety of flowers artfully decorated. Their Lordships RädhäÇyämasundara were placed on a beautiful boat shaped like a decorated swan and were taken on a ride. Gurgaon, Haryana: An MoU has been signed between the Directorate of Elementary Education and ISKCON to provide meals to more than 90,000 students of primary government schools all over Gurgaon. A semi-automated kitchen will be set up to ensure that the food is cooked in a hygienic way. Contributed by Madhava Smullen, Bhawna Gandhi and Lakñmaëa Däsa

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In your own words ... Which Kåñëa conscious practice reminds you of your relationship with Kåñëa the most? REMAINING IN ISKCON and going to the ISKCON temple reminds me strongly of my relationship with Kåñëa. I take my Laòòu Gopäla with me whenever I leave home, as He can’t be left alone. So, taking care of Him and carrying Him in my arms makes me feel like I am His elder sister. I will continue to take care of Him in the same way till the doomsday! —Shubhangi Singh, New Delhi I AM A SUCCESS FREAK since my school days. I used to read lot of books dealing with success, and listen to interviews of celebrities (silver screen icons, Nobel laureates, business barons). Few years back I started reading the Bhagavad-gétä with much attention. I was amazed by the treasure of knowledge stored in it. With full assurance I can now declare that it is a perfect success book. Whenever I read the Gétä, I migrate to a paradigm where I see myself as a student and Lord Kåñëa as my teacher. Therefore reading Bhagavad-gétä is the service that takes me closer to Kåñëa. With pride and joy I declare that my teacher is the BEST! —Mukesh Ranganathan, Bangalore

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IN THE WORDS of Shakespeare, “Fortune brings in some boats that are not steered.” A boat loaded with treasure came to my shores when I got the opportunity to assist Bhakta Pramod, a devotee at our local center, in dressing

the Deities of Lord Jagannätha, Baladeva and Subhadrä. I got so interested that I started assisting him every week. Few months later Pramod moved on to some other sevä, and I got to do the sevä in his place with my limited capacities. I spent lot of time in last fourteen months planning and designing dresses, jewelry and other paraphernalia for their

Lordships. But during the same time, I saw real tough times both in bhakti and in my career. At a moment I even decided to walk away from everything, but I couldn’t as the thought of missing an opportunity to bathe Kåñëa, massage His lotus feet, wash His towels, iron His clothes, and make His turban pulled me back. It is joyful to be a servant of Kåñëa. —Manish Goel, Mumbai In my experience, chanting the Hare Kåñëa mahä-mantra and admiring the Deity helps in bringing us closer Kåñëa. Chanting Kåñëa’s names mechanically without seeing His face is meaningless—even a tape recorder can mechanically repeat them. Then what is the difference between us and the non-living object? It is too difficult to control the mind if we simply chant and pray without worshiping His glorious form. Why then do we have so many temples and the age-old method of Deity worship? Our ancestors had followed everything with a meaning. Therefore, in my opinion, admiring Lord Çyämasundara’s merciful face, meditating on His form, and chanting His holy names are the best practices everyone can follow to get us closer to Lord Kåñëa. Jaya Rädhe Çyäma. —Geetha Vishwanath, via email

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It is the service to Vaiñëavas that reminds of my relationship with Kåñëa the most. This utmost service makes me to feel strongly we all belong to Kåñëa’s family.Kåñëa is satisfied if his devotees are served properly with full attention. Devotee always remind Kåñëa by their mere presence. Vaiñëava-seva brings deep intimate attachment to Kåñëa and to His family of devotees. —Jévana Gaurahari Däsa, Chennai I have found that deity worship and glorifying the Supreme Lord are of special significance in having relationship with Him. Being a household devotee and staying far away from the temple, my family members and I worship the Lord at home in His picture form along with Laòòu Gopäla brought from Mäyäpur Dhäma. Cleaning and decorating the altar, dressing and garlanding the Lord, offering ärati, singing prayers of great äcäryas and glorifying Him, cooking bhoga and offering it with love, and then honoring the prasäda— these are all simply ecstatic. Deity worship is not just a ritual, but highly spiritual. It is a spiritual IN YOUR OWN WORDS QUESTION FOR THE FORTHCOMING ISSUES

How will you spread Kåñëa consciousness through the Internet? Deadline for submission is June 25

Answers will be published in August 2011 Word limit: 150 words/ 15 lines E-mail: ed.btgindia@pamho.net

session where I express my gratitude to Kåñëa everyday. —C V V Bhadram, Hyderabad

Writing for Kåñëa.... (Continued from page 23) particular—that strike a chord with the intellectual and aesthetic sensibilities of our times? SD: It started in 1992, a simple conversation between me and Pradyumna Däsa, whom Prabhupäda used to call “Panditjé.” We agreed that Vaiñëavism was becoming more and more known in the academy, and that some of these scholars were doing important research. Also, we noted that more and more devotees were doing research in an academic environment. So we wanted an outlet for this important information. So I started to do it, virtually single-handedly. It is now the preeminent scholarly journal in the field, with professional scholars worldwide endorsing it and quoting from it in their books and research. What strikes a chord? Educated people are seeing how deep Vaiñëavism goes. Intellectually, it has something to offer all other religious traditions. This is not a biased value judgment or some prejudiced opinion. Anyone who makes a thorough comparative study would agree. If they look at the work of Rüpa Gosvämé, Jéva Gosvämé, or Vedänta-deçikä, or any of the amazing scholars and philosophers of the bhakti tradition, they will naturally be impressed—it is uncanny what our Vaiñëava philosophers have come up with. I ask only that people avail themselves of this knowledge. They will find it

strikingly wonderful. BTG: What advice would you like to give to upcoming devoteewriters? SD: They should remember the ABCs of good writing: Accuracy, Brevity, and Clarity. These are essential principles— say what you need to say, don’t overly embellish, and be clear. Additionally, read some good books on writing and grammar. That’s essential. Learn the science of writing. These are material qualifications, no doubt. Spiritually, always write something that contributes to the greater understanding of Vaiñëava truth; don’t write the same hackneyed thing again and again. Be creative, but be authorized, expressing legitimate truths. How to do this? Know siddhänta. Study Prabhupäda’s books. Stick closely to paramparä, but express it in your own way. Also, I would ask them to remember that writing is a form of kiåtana—it is celebrating and glorifying Kåñëa—and for this reason it is a glorious activity. Don’t be afraid to write and write and write—because that’s how you’re going to get good at it. Read other writers too. It’s essential. And always go to experienced devotee writers for criticism and emendation. I remember in my early days, I used to go to Satsvarüpa Mahäräja and Jayädvaita Mahäräja. I would get my articles back with big red lines across entire sections. “Delete this and delete that.” Sometimes it was discouraging. But you know what? It taught me how to write. And I am grateful for it. The interview was conducted by Caitanya Caraëa Däsa on behalf of BTG. JUNE 2011

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The International Society for Krishna Consciousness

Correct as of April 30, 2010

CENTRES IN INDIA Founder-Äcärya: His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivendanta Swami Prabhupada

ANDHRA PRADESH: Hanumkonda—(08712) 77399; Hyderabad—(040) 2474-4969/ vedantacaitanya@ pamho.net, Nellore—0861-2314577, 9215536589/ sukadevaswami@gmail.com; Secunderabad—(040) 7805232; Tirupati—(0877) 2231760/ guesthouse.tirupati@ pamho.net; Vijayawada—(08645) 272513/ mmdasiskcon vijayawada@gmail.com; Vishakhapatnam—(0891) 5537625/ samba.jps@pamho.net; Warangal—(08712) 426182; ASSAM: Cachar—(03842) 34615; Guwahati—(0361) 254-5963/ iskcon.guwahati@pamho.net; BIHAR: Patna— (0612) 687637/ krishna.kripa.jps@pamho.net; CHHATISGARH: Raipur—(0771) 5037555, 9893276985/ iskconraipur@ yahoo.com; DELHI: New Delhi—(011)26235133/ neel.sunder@pamho.net; New Delhi—25222851, 55136200. GUJARAT: Ahmedabad—(079) 26861945/ jasomatinandan.acbsp@pamho.net, Baroda—(0265) 2310630/ basu.ghosh.acbsp@pamho.net; Dwarka—(02892) 34606; Surat—(0261) 2765891/ surat@pamho.net; Vallabh Vidyanagar—(02692) 230796; JAMMU & KASHMIR: Jammu—(0191) 2582306; Katra—(01991) 233047; Udhampur—(01992) 270298; KARNATAKA: Bangalore— (080) 23471956/ ard@iskconbangalore.org; Bangalore— (080) 23565708, 9844234108/ vibhav.krishna.jps @pamho.net; Belgaum—(0831) 243-6267; Mangalore— (0824) 2423326, 9844325616; KERALA: Thiruvananthapuram—(0471) 2328197/ jsdasa@yahoo.co.in. MADHYA PRADESH: Indore—(0731) 4972665; Ujjain— 0734-235000/ iskcon.ujjain@pamho.net; MAHARASHTRA: Chowpatty, Mumbai—(022) 23665500/ radha.krishna.rns@ pamho.net; Juhu, Mumbai—(022) 26206860/ iskcon.juhu@pamho.net; Kharghar, Navi Mumbai— 9820039911/ iskcon.kharghar@gmail.com; Mira Road, Thane—(022) 28454667, 9223183023/iskcon.miraroad@ gmail.com; Nagpur—(0712) 6994730, 937015638/ iskcon.nagpur@pamho.net; Nasik—(0253) 6450005/ 9850071227/ siksastakam.rns@pamho.net; Pandharpur— (02186) 267242, 9423335991/ iskcon.pandharpur@ pamho.net; Pune—(020) 41033222/ infocenter@ iskconpune.in; Solapur—9371178393; MANIPUR: Imphal— (0385) 2455693, manimandir@sancharnet.in; Moirang— 795133; ORISSA: Bhubaneswar—(0674) 255-3517/ iskconbhubaneswar@rediffmail.com; Brahmapur—(0680) 2485720; Brahmapur—(0680) 2350100, 9437179400/ panchratna.gkg@pamho.net; Jagatsinghpur—(06724) 238112/ srigopalccd@yahoo.co.in; Puri—(06752) 231440; PUNJAB-HARYANA: Amritsar—(0183) 2540177; Chandigarh—(0172) 2601590/ bhaktivinode.gkg@ pamho.net; Kurukshetra—(01744) 234806; Ludhiana— (0161) 2770600, 9815940005/ iskcon.ludhiana@pamho.net. RAJASTHAN: Bharatpur—(05644) 22044; Jaipur—(0414) 2782765/ jaipur@pamho.net; TAMIL NADU: Chennai— (044) 24530921; Coimbatore— (0422) 2574508/ info@iskcon-coimbatore.org; Madurai—(0452) 274-6472; Salem—(0427) 2360012, 9442153427 iskcon.salem@ pamho.net; Sri Rangam—(0431) 433945; Vellore—(0416) 2241654, 9790392143/ akinchan_bvks97@rediffmail.com;

TRIPURA: Agartala—(0381) 22-7053/ premadata@ rediffmail.com; UTTAR PRADESH: Allahabad—(0532) 2416718/ iskcon.allahabad@pamho.net; Ghaziabad—(0120) 2824200, 09310969623/ snd-gkg@rediffmail.com; Jhansi— (0510) 2443602; Kanpur—09307188117/ iskcon.kanpur @pamho.net; Lucknow—(0522) 223556; Noida—(095120) 2454912/ vraja.bhakti.vilas.lok@pamho.net; Varanasi—(0542) 276422; Vrindavan—(0565) 254-0021 (Guesthouse) 254-0022 vrindavan@pamho.net; UTTARANCHAL: Haridwar— (01334) 260818/ 9411371870; WEST BENGAL: Haridaspur— (03215) 57856; Kolkata—(033) 22873757/ iskcon.calcutta@ pamho.net; Mayapur—(03472) 245239, 245240/ mayapur.chandrodaya@pamho.net; Nadia—(03473) 281150/ shyamrup.jps@pamho.net; Siliguri—09800865104/ abd@pamho.net

VAIÑËAVA C ALENDAR June 01 – July 15, 2011

11 Jun: Çré Baladeva Vidyäbhuçaëa – Disappearance, Gaìgä Püjä, Çrématé Gaìgämätä Gosväméné – Appearance 12 Jun: Fasting for Päëòava Nirjalä Ekädaçé, (Total fast, even from water) 13 Jun: Break fast (Mumbai) 06:00 am - 08:20 am 14 Jun: Pänihäöi Ciòä Dahé Utsava 15 Jun: Snäna Yäträ, Çré Mukunda Datta – Disappearance, Çré Çrédhara Paëòita – Disappearance 16 Jun: Çré Çyämänanda Prabhu – Disappearance, 20 Jun: Çré Vakreçvara Paëòita – Appearance 26 Jun: Çré Çréväsa Paëòita – Disappearance 27 Jun: Fasting for Yoginé Ekädaçé 28 Jun: Break fast (Mumbai) 06:03 am - 10:29 am 1 Jul: Çré Gadädhara Paëòita – Disappearance, Çréla Bhaktivinoda Öhäkura – Disappearance 2 Jul: Guëòicä Märjana 3 Jul: Ratha Yäträ, Çré Svarüpa Dämodara Gosvämé – Disappearance, Çré Çivänanda Sena – Disappearance 6 Jul: Çré Vakreçvara Paëòita – Disappearance 7 Jul: Hera Païcamé (4 days after Ratha-yäträ) 11 Jul: Fasting for Çayana Ekädaçé, Return Ratha (8 days after Ratha-yäträ) 12 Jul: Break fast (Mumbai) 06:08 am - 10:32 am 15 Jul: Guru (Vyäsa) Pürëimä, Çréla Sanätana Gosvämé – Disappearance, First month of Cäturmasya begins (fast from green leafy vegetable for one month) JUNE 2011

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EDITORIAL

DO YOU REALLY HAVE 267 FRIENDS?

T

he Upaniñads describe two friendly birds sitting on the same branch of a pipal tree. One of them is wise and sits silently. The other bird is busy tasting the various fruits offered by the tree. Although this bird tastes a variety of tastes—sour, bitter, sweet, etc.—he is never satiated and is always tormented by hankering and lamentation. The wise bird, meanwhile, is watching this bird, hoping that one day he would be successful in turning the attention of the other bird towards him. It is like the wise bird sending tweet after tweet, so he can attract the mind of his friend. Why doesn’t the other bird respond? Well, to begin with in contemporary sense, he is busy sending and checking emails, updating his Facebook account, sending tweets about watching the glorious sunset with his select chums, etc. I sometimes wonder, Do I really need those 267 friends? Can I really count on those 267 friends? Can they count on me? Tough questions indeed. I must admit this: One thing that I look forward to doing every morning is opening my Inbox. Oh!! The sheer pleasure of feeling connected, wanted, important (at least to some), desirable is indescribable. All these emotions and more come to the surface just by pressing a few keys on my keyboard. Today at least one message is inviting me to join some social networking group. Someone has added me as a friend—Oh did you mention friend? That’s what life is meant for isn’t it? Having lots of friends and sharing joy and happiness with them. Won’t the world be a lovely place if the entire six billion plus people were members of Facebook and just sent nice pictures and greetings and invites to socializing sites. How nice if this was for real. So what is reality, then? Today more and more people are complaining

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that their enjoyment is split between the technological impulse to capture everything digitally and send it to their friends, and the more delicate human need to be in the moment. It is simply not enough to have a nice holiday—you have to capture everything in a video and upload it on YouTube in order to share it with the whole world. One can almost feel the compulsion, the divided attention, the multitasking that has permeated our personality. Researchers call this Variable Interval Reinforcement Schedule, or in plain English, the uncontrollable impulse to check email, tweets or Facebook every now and then. The hustle we develop as we struggle to keep up with the pace of digital information has produced a restless, anxious way of engaging with the world. A study by the University of California, San Fransisco, in April 2011, concluded that constant multi-tasking gradually erodes short-term memory. And interruptions are a massive problem, taking anything up to 20 times the length of the interruption to recover. One author has coined the term “the vanishing family trick”. What seems like a perfectly ordinary family gradually dissolves away to screens in different corners of the house. Today’s’ digital dream has no real centre. The amazing friendships and memories gained have been gained almost by accident. All that technology allowed us to do was find those people faster. Time to step back, become less entranced by the tools and the urge to connect. And examine the true worth of the connection. Another problem, particularly with being so electronically available, is that friendships that would naturally wither with time are artificially (Continued on page 7)

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