Q&As ISKCON sutra
25 April 2009

April 25 2009

Here’s an interesting inquiry from Shyama Gopal dasa about a well-known sutra that was chanted all over ISKCON in the 70s, when book distribution was booming and ISKCON was expanding like anything:

“Prabhu, I was just reading articles on your blog site (great site!) as one devotee referred me to your blog this morning.

“I wanted to ask you about: “Books are the basis, preaching is the essence, utility is the principle, and purity is the force.”

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Books are the basis

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Preaching is the essence

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Utility is the principle

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Purity is the force

Answer:

We did a lot of research about two years back but noone could find the original source of this sutra. However, it was used on the masthead of the ‘Sankirtan Newsletter‘ that Srutadeva prabhu was putting out every week in the mid-70s. Srila Prabhupada was sent copies and used to read every issue:

October 30 1976
[TD 5]

“When Prabhupada flew from New York to London in July, Srutadeva prabhu and his family from Baltimore accompanied our party to take up a new service in England. On Jayatirtha prabhu’s request, he has taken up the post of temple president at Bury Place. Srutadeva used to compile the weekly Sankirtana Newsletter, which, along with the official BBT monthly newsletter sent out by Ramesvara Swami, keeps the temples around the world (and Srila Prabhupada) up-to-date with temple book distribution scores. Whereas the BBT newsletter bases the temple rankings in the monthly competition on the amount of laxmi they send in to the BBT each month, Srutadeva’s Sankirtana Newsletter lists individual book distributors’ scores as well as all of the books sold by category-small, medium, large, and maha-large-in each temple per week. Since he started it in 1974, his newsletter has helped fuel the competitive book distribution spirit amongst the temples and devotees and is read and appreciated by Srila Prabhupada. Now, with his move to England, he has stopped this service and handed it on to another devotee in Los Angeles.”

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Q&As Prasadam
16 April 2009

April 16 2009

Here’s a good question about prasadam from Padmanabha prabhu at Govinda Valley, a highly successful yoga retreat center run by devotees an hour south of Sydney Australia.

“As you know at Govinda Valley we cook first class prasadam for our guests, which they greatly appreciate.

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Its a real art though to cook the right quantities. On the one hand we don’t want to waste and on the other hand we don’t want (not even) one guest to go without. Because there’s all kinds of different groups, some very yoga who eat very little, others who eat much more, the kind of weather it is, etc.. etc… So many factors that make it really difficult to discern how much to cook.

We have many discussions about it and have very different opinions about what should be done with leftovers. Some say : Srila Prabhupada said that after two, three hours one shouldn’t eat the prasadam anymore and one should definitely not warm up prasadam.

So I wanted to ask you for clarification: ‘How did Prabhupada deal with:
-the amounts to cook?
-what to do with leftovers?
-how long can you keep eating the same prasadam?

At the moment we have ‘a standard’ on non retreat days that we cook every day fresh but add to it prasadam maximum one day old and maximum one time reheated. On retreat days we can turn a kichari or a sabji into a blended soup, if its from the same day. But we still have discussions and differences of opinions.

Can you help us out, Prabhu?
Thank you very much.

Your servant,
Padmanabha Dasa
Govinda Valley Retreat
www.govindavalley.com

Answer:

This is a good question about how prasadam left overs should be used. There is an interesting story in this connection.

In 1975 the whole Caitanya Caritamrta was published. In Australia we received it a little later than other places but we read it eagerly. After the GBC Madhudvisa Swami read about the reactions to offenses to prasadam, he decided on a new policy for Sunday feast left-overs. This does not mean the prasadam that was left in the pots. It means the prasadam that visitors left over on their plates.

The previous policy was to dump it in bins and then take it to the ocean and throw it in the sea for the fishes to eat. We had been doing this for many years. When I joined in 1972 in Sydney, we used to take a dustbin full out to the Gap or some other such cliff top place, crawl out along a ledge so we were directly above the ocean and then dump the bin’s contents, paper plates and all, into the sea.

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It was difficult to separate the food from the plates so we used to throw the lot in. However it was troublesome and, apart from the guilty feelings of dumping garbage into the sea, we were always apprehensive about being caught.

Sometimes we would bury the leftovers in a shallow pit in the back yard. After the pit was full we would cover it with earth. That seemed to work quite well and in fact, we noticed after some months that the place where the remnants had been buried became very luxurious with fresh green grass growing, whereas the rest of the yard was usually dry and barren.

Anyway, in Melbourne in 1975 Madhudvisa decided that it was an offense to throw away prasadam, even if it had been already eaten by karmis at the feast. So his new policy was that on Monday morning, all the left overs, including the remnants from the visitors plates, would be put on trays, re-heated and served out for breakfast.

Needless to say this was the cause of much contention and debate with some devotees flatly refusing to eat it.

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April 15 2009

This final question in the CIS series is from Vyasa Shuno das:

“When you were personal servant of Srila Prabhupada most probably you had a chance to see how Srila Prabhupada changed his Brahmin thread. My question is how many lines it consisted of? I ask because there is an opinion that brahmacari should wear 3 line thread, grihastha should have 9 line thread (3 for his wife) or should we have regular 6 lines thread – the way they are available on the market?”

Answer:

The whole time I was with Srila Prabhupada as far as I remember, he wore six threads on his upavita (sacred brahmin thread). I never heard him say that the number of threads was particularly important. The main thing is to chant the gayatri mantra correctly, it doesn’t matter how many threads are chanted on.

According to HH Sacinandan Swami in his book “The Gayatri Mantra” :

“At the time of second initiation, men receive from their guru a sacred thread called the yajnopavita (or simply upavita). Yajnopavita means literally “that which surrounds Visnu” (yajna=Visnu; upa-vi-ta means surrounding). The idea is that a brahmana wears a thread that surrounds Lord Visnu.

Srila Prabhupada writes: “The sacred thread is a sign of those who are competent to study the Vedas from the acarya or the bona fide spiritual master … The spiritual master accepts only the sincere inquirer as his disciple and gives him the sacred thread.”

Yadubara and his wife Vishakha are given second initiation:

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Devotees often wonder how many single strands the upavita should have. The brahmanas in Indian culture usually wear nine threads.

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According to some Vaisnavas, these nine threads symbolize the nine processes of bhakti (sravanam, kirtanam etc) Others say they refer to the nine islands of Sri Navadvipa-dhama, and yet others say they represent the nine stages from sraddha to prema, as explained in Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, (therefore some Vaisnavas have explained, these three ideas correspond to one another.)

Srila Prabhupada wore three times three threads when he was placed in Samadhi. Other Vaisnavas in the Gaudiya tradition wear six single threads to signify the six Goswamis. From this we can conclude that the exact number of threads is ultimately not so important.”
[end quote from TGM]

While Srila Prabhupada liked us to learn more about our Vaisnava culture he didn’t like it if we got too caught up in the fine details. The main point is to worship Krsna and acceptance of the sacred thread is a major step forward in that process.

Your humble servant,
Hari-sauri dasa




April 15 2009

Here’s #10 from Ananga Manjari dd in the CIS:

“Can you please explain the difference between religion and faith?”

Answer: 

 How many essays do you want? 🙂

 Your question is rather vague also. You have not defined either religion nor faith, as you understand them, or as others generally take them.

 Briefly, religion nowadays is taken as a social protocol, with certain rites and rituals. Most people only skate on the surface without ever penetrating the deeper aspects. Thus their practice of religion is superficial. Many people also list a particular religion as their religion just because they were born in a particular family and country etc. They have no particular affinity to it, it is just another label attached to this body.

 Some people however want to penetrate a little deeper and gain a personal experience and realization of their religion, and deepen their faith.

There are many people who have rejected the standard religions such as Catholicism or various types of Christianity. There are many faith-based expressions such as Pentecostal, various forms of Protestants etc. These are people who wanted to get away from the shallow ritualistic show of formulated religion and actually experience God. However, they themselves have become religions and their so-called spontaneous expressions have become shows only.

 Take for example the so-called ‘charismatic’ Christian religions practiced by the ‘born-again’ Christians. A great show is made of being touched by some preacher

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and then fainting in ‘ecstasy’ or spiritual delerium.

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But it is an emotional show only. Ask such persons if they can tell you anything about God, and they cannot.

 Unfortunately due to a lack of knowledge, any kind of sentimental experience beyond the ordinary scope of daily life is taken as a ‘spiritual experience’ when in fact it has nothing to do with real spiritual life. Simply some adjustment of the mind or intellect is taken as spiritual but these types of experiences are within the three modes of nature and are products of bewildered persons’ minds and senses.

Its not just the Christians either, most people of the world have only a superficial understanding based on their identification with their temporary bodies. The real spiritual plaform can only be experienced when we understand we are not this body. When we rise above the demands and gratification of the body, mind, and intellect, and we connect with Brahman in His three features, then we can experience the divine. This also requires the guidance of a self-realized soul, someone who has actually seen the absolute truth and can accurately convey it to others. It is a science, not a sentiment.

 Therefore Srila Prabhupada says that Krsna consciousness is neither religion nor faith, both of which can be changed. Krsna consciousness is the actual experience of God in his different features, under guidance of shastra and guru. He often said that the Krsna consciousness movement is an educational movement meant for the upliftment of all mankind.

In this interview in New York on July 14 1976 with a reporter from Newsweek Srila Prabhupada stressed this educational aspect of his ISKCON: 

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This facility is on the sidebar under the heading “Email Newsletter

Simply click on the link where it says “You may manage your subscriptions options from your profile” enter your email address and you can choose how you want to receive your updates.

Hope you like the feature.




April 11 2009

Here’s question #9 from Laxmana Prana das:

“In the purport to SB 4.24.40 Srila Prabhupada writes: “The real quintessence of sabda-brahma is the sound of Hare Krishna mantra. To the one who chants these transcendental sounds all material and spiritual truths are revealed.” And further: “In his prayers Lord Shiva begs the Supreme Personality of Godhead to show us His mercy so that just by chanting Hare Krisna mantra we could understand everything existing both in material and spiritual worlds…”

My question is: “How can we understand everything in this world simply by chanting Hare Krishna mantra?”

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Answer: 

The Hare Krishna maha-mantra is directly Krsna Himself.

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When we realize that the name and the Lord are the same, we come to the self-realized platform.

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Because Krsna is everything, both material and spiritual, when a devotee realizes that Krsna is everywhere, then everything becomes known to him.

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It is revealed to him by Krsna, due to his intimate connection. Otherwise it is not possible to know what this material world is, what to speak of the spiritual world.

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We can only gain whatever knowledge Krsna chooses to reveal to us. No matter how intelligent we think we are, we are covered by the three modes of material nature. Only when Krsna is pleased with us are we relieved of the cloud of ignorance that currently shrouds our consciousness. We can know what He wants us to know, and we cannot know what we want to know if Krsna does not consent. If there is no sun, our power of seeing is useless.

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Thus even very intelligent persons are constantly bewildered if they are not devotees of the lord. And someone, even if they may not appear to be very intelligent, can know everything if Krsna reveals it to him. It is therefore not a question of brain power.

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April 8 2009

Bhakta Stanislav asks:
“Can you please tell me if Srila Prabhupada always personally replied his letters or may be sometimes his secretaries did it for him? If his secretaries did that what was the procedure? Did they sign the letters as secretaries? Did they show their replies to Srila Prabhupada for approval?”

Answer:

Good question.

In the early days Srila Prabhupada would hand type all his letters himself. However this soon became too difficult and as soon as he started traveling and his disciples started opening new centers, he took the service of a full time secretary and servant.

The general principle was that the secretary would deal with the mail. After my first day of traveling with Srila Prabhupada to Kuruksetra, we arrived back in Delhi:

December 1st, 1975 – New Delhi
[TD1]

It was about nine in the evening when we arrived at No. 9 Todar Mal Lane. As he sat in his room, Prabhupada inquired about the day’s mail. Generally, Prabhupada’s mail is handled exclusively by his secretary. But, since Hansaduta had gone off to get something to eat at Nathu’s, Srila Prabhupada sent me to the temple to collect his mail. When I handed him the letters, to my great surprise, he asked me to open them and read him the contents. It was a privilege that I eagerly although nervously accepted. Tearing open the envelopes one by one, I read out the messages. Prabhupada also opened a few and inspected them.

Pusta Krsna Swami sent one from South Africa, describing his plans to purchase a Mercedes in Germany and drive it here for Prabhupada’s use in India. One was from Kirtiraja dasa in Los Angeles. He is moving to Europe in order to begin preaching in Poland. Another, written by Gopiparanadhana dasa, contained a translation of the first chapter of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s work Sri Caitanya-siksamrta. There were several other letters as well.

Just as Prabhupada was finishing his reading, Harikesa came in. Shocked to see me reading Prabhupada’s mail, he proceeded to chastise me, disregarding the fact that Srila Prabhupada was present right in front of us. “This is to be done only by the secretary,” he said angrily, “You have no business even touching the mail!”

Srila Prabhupada did not say a word. He merely stood and walked quietly into his bedroom to take rest. Harikesa meanwhile continued to emphasize his point. “If Brahmananda was still the secretary, you’d never get away with this!” He cooled off, however, when I explained that Srila Prabhupada himself had asked me to read to him. Harikesa conceded that under the circumstances I had no choice but to do it.

In one sense Harikesa was right. Prabhupada’s mail is private and is not to be dealt with whimsically. From Harikesa’s point of view I am just a temporary helper, and thus I should be careful not to tread on the more exclusive domain of Srila Prabhupada’s regular servants. Otherwise Prabhupada himself will be disturbed in his daily activities.

Nevertheless, we both understood that, while recognizing a certain preeminence of his senior men, in the aggregate Prabhupada doesn’t discriminate. If the right man is not around, he employs whoever is available. To him we are all his disciples in the service of Krsna, and he engages anyone who is willing and available, according to necessity and the devotee’s own capacity.

Accepting my action as an innocent response to a direct request from Srila Prabhupada, Harikesa relented. Then I joined Srila Prabhupada to give him his massage.

December 2nd 1976 – Vrindavana

Prabhupada changed into his gamcha and sat on the straw mat.

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As I began to massage him, Hansaduta arrived with the mail. Prabhupada sometimes replies to his letters at mid-morning, but more often during his massage. Hansaduta read each letter one by one, writing down Srila Prabhupada’s replies exactly as he dictated them.

It is instructive and entertaining to hear various ISKCON reports from all over the world, both the problems and the successes, and to hear Prabhupada’s responses to them. He is very punctual in answering, always replying within a day or two of receiving a letter. He answers a letter as if the correspondent is there in front of him. His responses are accompanied by all the same facial gestures that mark his conversations — appreciative raising of his brows and widening of his eyes, a slight tip of his head, bright smiles, scolding looks. He gives each letter his full attention and his replies are expressive and personal and always to the point.

Today he dealt with the letters received in New Delhi. …

Each day after taking dictation, Hansaduta types the letters and later, in the evening, places them on Prabhupada’s desk. Each one is clipped to an addressed envelope, a carbon copy, whatever enclosures there might be, and the letter being replied to. In the night Prabhupada reads and signs them. They are mailed the next day.”     [end quote]

So this was the general standard. Later in 1976 when Harikesa Swami was Srila Prabhupada’s secretary,

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he noted that some letters of a routine nature or with questions that had been answered many times before, did not really need a reply from Srila Prabhupada. They could be replied by the secretary and thus save Srila Prabhupada from a small part of the burden:

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April 8 2009

This one is from Bhakta Iskatel about one of early ISKCON’s favorite preachers:

“Hari Sauri Prabhu, can you clarify one point regarding Visnujana Maharaj.

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Did he initiate anyone or just brought new people to Srila Prabhupada? If he did initiated anyone are they still in the movement and what are they doing?”

Answer:

HH Visnujana Maharaja disappeared in March 1976. By 1977 Srila Prabhupada accepted the likelihood that he had committed suicide by drowning in the Ganga at Allahabad.

You can read about Visnujana Maharaja’s last personal exchange with Srila Prabhupada in Transcendental Diary Vol 1, March 11th:

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the last photos taken of Visnujana Swami before he disappeared in March 1976

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Visnujana Maharaja, the tall, charismatic co-leader of Radha Damodara TSKP, who was listening in the background, spoke up for the first time. “Srila Prabhupada, how did Chota Haridasa achieve perfection by killing himself after apparently pouring water[sic] on his devotional creeper by talking to a woman?”

He was referring to the close associate of Lord Caitanya who drowned himself in the Ganga after being rejected by the Lord.

Prabhupada’s reply was very grave. “His instance was that even an associate of Caitanya Mahaprabhu can fall down. And if one falls down, his punishment is that, suicide. There is no other punishment. He must commit suicide. This is Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s instruction. Otherwise he is Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s personal servant. He cannot fall down. But Caitanya Mahaprabhu showed this instance that ‘Even one is My personal servant, he can fall down.’ And if anyone by any cause he falls down, his punishment is he must commit suicide. This is instruction.”

Everyone’s eyes widened as they took in the statement.

Srila Prabhupada elaborated. “This falldown, there is possibility in any moment because we are very small. We can be captivated by maya at any moment. Therefore we shall be very, very careful. And if you fall down, then punishment is you make suicide. That’s all. Then next life we shall see.”
[end quote]

After this conversation, Visnujana Maharaja left Mayapur without telling anyone and was never seen again by any ISKCON devotee.  In April 1977 the co-director of Radha Damodara TSKP and Visnujana’s closest friend, Tamal Krishna Goswami, reported to Srila Prabhupada that some information had been received about a tall western sannyasi who had paid a boat man in Allahabad to take him out into the middle of the Ganga and that he had jumped in the waters and didn’t come up again. Since Visnujana Swami had not been seen for over a year, Srila Prabhupada accepted the likelihood that it was him. When asked what his fate would be, Srila Prabhupada was reported to have said that “Now he is preaching on the heavenly planets.”[note: this story was told to me by Tamal Krishna Goswami].

As far as your question goes as to whether he had any disciples, no, there was no question of his having any disciples of his own since he left his body  before Srila Prabhupada.

In the presence of one’s own guru one is not supposed to make disciples of his own. It is against the etiquette as Srila Prabhupada stated in this letter to Tusta Krsna Swami December 2 1976 sent from Vrindavana:
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April 3 2009 – Rama Navami ki Jaya!

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Here’s question #6, a very topical subject from Bhakta Ilya Zaharov:

I heard that in Vrindavan there are many stories about Radha and Krishna which are being spread around by the word of mouth amongst Vrijabasis but they are not written in any bona fide sastras. What was Srila Prabhupada’s attitude to these stories ?

Answer:


    Srila Prabhupada said very clearly that unless we can verify any information or mantras we hear, from shastra or from our bona-fide acaryas, then we should not accept them. They may be true, or they may not be true. But shastra is our guide and reference.

On another occasion Srila Prabhupada chastized a learned Sanskrit scholar who had joined ISKCON, for making up a poem in which he incorrectly presented the philosophy:

January 25 1976 – Mayapur
[TD 1]

As we walked around, Anantarama Sastri joined us. Srila Prabhupada expressed his satisfaction that such an educated man has joined our movement, and he instructed Bhavananda Maharaja to make sure he is well looked after so that he may not go away.

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Anantaram Shastri holding microphone at the opening of the bank in Vrndavan KB mandira on April 5 1976 —see photos section for more pictures

“Although a somewhat self-conscious individual, Sastriji was eager to recite a poem he had composed for Srila Prabhupada’s pleasure. As we walked, and without asking first, he broke out into  melodious verse, singing the praises of Bhagavan Sri Gopala — or at least it seemed so. His chanting was impressive to my untrained ear; but Srila Prabhupada was alert. When Sastri sang naciye naciye aile gopala, “My dear Gopala, please come to me dancing,” Prabhupada stopped him. “Don’t manufacture knowledge. Take knowledge from Bhagavan. Don’t order Bhagavan. Just follow Bhagavan. That is not wanted. Do not write concocted poetries. That is not beneficial. Simply follow.”

“Srila Prabhupada told him that his singing was sense gratification because he was giving instruction to Gopala, “please come to me, naciye, dancing.” He stressed that our process is to take instruction. “It is all nonsense. Why should you ask Gopala to come to you? You cannot order. You must follow. We are to carry out the order of God, not to order God to carry out my order. That is mistake.”

“Prabhupada went on for some time, condemning the attitude with which people generally approach God. He explained that in India they sing a traditional arati song which repeats the words sab ko sampatti de bhagavan. De bhagavan means “give me.” And in the West, he explained, the Christians also have the same idea. “The whole world,” Prabhupada observed, “they have accepted God as order supplier: I order, You supply. The Christian church also, ‘God, give us our daily bread.'”

“And if God doesn’t give, then God is dead,” Tamal Krishna Maharaja added.

“Dead. This is going on. And our prayer is, ‘I don’t want anything. Simply engage me in Your service.’ This is the real prayer, which is taught by Caitanya Mahaprabhu.”
[end quote]

In a discussion about chanting on September 6, 1976 in Vrndavana, Srila Prabhupada made these comments about the necessity of following our acaryas:

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April 3 2009 – Ramnavami ki Jaya!

Here’s question 5 of 11 from Vanamali Nrisimha das:

Hare Krishna, Hari Shauri Prabhu!
Can you please tell me the exact dates of Srila Prabhupada’s visit to Moscow in 1971? I had an information that he arrived on the 20th of June but I couldn’t find any bona fide confirmation of that date.

Answer:

Srila Prabhupada’s passport shows that he entered via Moscow on June 20 1971 and he left on June 26. If you check my website blog on lotusimprints.com you will see a photocopy of the passport entry.

And here it is:

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Sriman Gaura prabhu from Canada just sent me this letter from Srila Prabhupada to Amsu das, wherein he clearly affirms the right of women to do pujari work:

Vrindaban
13 August, 1974
74-08-13
Toronto

My Dear Amsu das:
Please accept my blessings. I beg to acknowledge receipt of your letter
dated July 23, 1974 and have noted the contents. Regarding the worship of
our Gaura Nitai by women pujaris, we worship Lord Caitanya in His
householder life when He was with His wife, and not as a sannyasi. So, it is
alright for women to do this service. But, besides this, service is
spiritual and there can be no material designation. In Bhagavad-gita it is
stated by Lord Krishna: striyo vaisyas tatha sudras te’pi yanti param gatim.
The principle is that everyone who is properly initiated and following the
rules and regulations can worship. This activity can not on the material
platform.
According to the smarta vidhi, women cannot touch deity during menstrual
period but the goswami viddhi allows. But it is better not to do it. One
thing is that the seva can never be stopped for any reason. This also for
the cooking.
I hope this meets you in good health.
Your ever well wisher,
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
ACBS/bs/ps




April 2 2009

Here’s an interesting two-part question about Srila Prabhupada’s former family (a sannyasi’s previous family relationships are always referred to as ‘former’)

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Radharani De; Srila Prabhupada holding eldest son Prayag Raj; Gaura Mohan De; other family members

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Srila Prabhupada, his brother, and three of his children-Prayag Raj, Mathura Mohan and Sulaxmana.

From Chanakya Pandit das:

a) “What kind of useful lessons can young members of ISKCON can take from Srila Prabhupada’s family life?”
Answer:

This is a big topic. There are many angles of view on this. It is best always to have the positive view because all of Srila Prabhupada’s family were Vaisnavas of one kind or another. It is no small thing to be born in the same family as such an exalted devotee as Srila Prabhupada.

The main thing is that Srila Prabhupada demonstrated how to become Krsna conscious within family life. He did his duty of having a family and maintaining them while at the same time developing his eternal relationship with his spiritual master. The two are not incompatible but rather complimentary.

b)    “Have anyone from Srila Prabhupada’s physical children become real Vaisnava? How his children were brought up?”

Answer:

Srila Prabhupada told me that all of his family were Vaisnavas, for many generations. Their traditional family Deity is still being worshiped after several hundred years.

On December 22 1976 Srila Prabhupada went by car from Poona to Mahabaleshwar. His hosts were the Malhotra brothers, Sat Pal and Harish Kumar:

[From TD 6 -unpublished]

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April 1 2009

Here’s question #3 from the CIS:

“Did Srila Prabhupada ever mentioned in his talks or wrote somewhere that Christianity is mayavada? If he did how should we understand it?” [author not identified]

Answer:

I don’t know of any specific statement from Srila Prabhupada that Christianity is mayavada. If anything, it is not because they worship the personal aspect of the son of God, Jesus.

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Islam is definitely mayavada. If you look closely at some of the sculptures in the older temples in Vrindavan, you will see that many of the figures have their hands, faces and other features broken off. This is was the result of Muslim attacks on Hindu temples, especially during the time of Aurangzeb. Many temples in Vrndavana were desecrated such as the Radha Govinda mandira which had its top three floors knocked of by the forces of the envious Aurangzeb.

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Buddhism is generally impersonal or sunyavada, although there are some sects that worship a form of Buddha and having a relationship with him on a heavenly planet is their ultimate goal. Judaiism has no personal form of worship.

Here is an interesting letter Srila Prabhupada wrote to an editor of the Los Angeles Times:

Los Angeles
14 January, 1970
70-01-14

Executive Senior Editor
Los Angeles Times
Times Mirror Sq.
Los Angeles, Cal.
Dear Sir,
With reference to your article in the Los Angeles Times dated Sunday 11th January, 1970 under the heading “Krishna Chant,” I beg to point out that Hindu religion is perfectly based on Personal conception of God or Visnu. Impersonal conception of God is a side issue or one of the three features of God. The Absolute Truth is ultimately the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the Paramatma conception is localized aspect of His omnipresence and the impersonal conception is the aspect of His greatness and eternity. But all combined together makes the Complete Whole.

“Dr. J.F. Staal’s statement that Krishna cult is a combination of Christian and Hindu religion — as if something manufactured by concoction — is not correct. If Christian, Mohammedan or Buddhist religions are personal that is quite welcome. But Krishna religion is personal from a time long, long ago when Christian, Mohammedan and Buddhist religions had not yet come into existence. According to the Vedic conception, religion is basically made by the Personal God as His laws. Religion cannot be manufactured by man or anyone superior to man. Religion is the law of God only.

“Unfortunately all the Swamis who came before me in this country stressed the impersonal aspect of God without sufficient knowledge of Personal aspect of God. In the Bhagavad-gita, therefore it is said that only less intelligent persons consider that God is originally impersonal but when He incarnates He assumes a Form. But Krishna philosophy based on the authority of the Vedas is that originally the Absolute Truth is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. …”
[end quote]

You see from this that the impersonal aspect of God is the one most commonly recognized, and therefore you will find that even so-called followers of the Vedas are mainly mayavada, what to speak of other religions whose literature does not touch upon the personal aspect of God.

Your humble servant,
Hari-sauri dasa




March 31 2009

This is from Susila dasi:

Hare Krishna! Please accept my obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada!
We have an argument with devotees regarding matajis serving on the altar. Should Matajis do pujas during aratis. What was Srila Prabhupada’s opinion in this regard?
Thank you.

Answer:

From the very beginning of Deity worship in ISKCON Srila Prabhupada encouraged the women to do the puja, aratis, dressing, cooking etc. There is no question of women not being allowed.

radhaseva.jpg

Indeed, Srila Prabhupada personally trained an older lady disciple, Shilavati dasi, how to worship Radha Krsna deities to the right standard. Shilavati was then sent to other temples to train other pujaris, or other pujaris were sent to Los Angeles to be trained by Shilavati.

Letter to: Hladini  –  Surat 29 December, 1970

My Dear Hladini devi,
“Please accept my blessings. I am in due receipt of your very nice letter dated 28th November. I am glad to learn that the Deities are being cared for there in Chicago so nicely by your good self. I personally gave instruction to Silavati how to care for the Deities properly when I was in Los Angeles and you were trained up by her. So I am confident that everything is going on nicely.
Proper Deity worship, with all attention to cleanliness, is of the utmost importance. If you can please the Deity by your sincere service, then your temple will flourish. To be able to personally serve the Deity is a great privilege and such a person is very fortunate indeed. So you continue in this way and Krishna will surely bless you.”

Here’s a letter from Srila Prabhupada to Rukmini dasi:

Letter to: Rukmini  –  Los Angeles 20 March, 1970
“Deity worship means to be very, very clean. You should try to bathe twice daily. The Deities should never be approached without having bathed first and changed to clean cloths after passing stool, etc. Keep teeth brushed after each meal, fingernails clean and trim. Be sure that your hands are clean before touching anything on the altar or the Deities. And cleanse the Deity room, altar and floor daily thoroughly. Shine the various Aratrik paraphernalia after Aratrik. This is described in the booklet for pujaris written by Silavati Dasi. The idea is summit cleanliness — that will satisfy Krsna.”

In this letter to Kancanbala  –  Los Angeles 20 April, 1970 Srila Prabhupada advises her to consult with three other women to learn Deity worship:

“I am very glad also to know that you are engaged as Pujari there. Try to learn this art of Arcana very nicely. You can consult in this connection Himavati, Yamuna and also Silavati. I wish that all our girl devotees be expert in the matter of Arcana and cooking. The temple and altar should always be very clean and decorated with flowers and incense. We shall touch the Deity altar and Deity in very clean condition, after taking bath and washing mouth nicely. Practice washing hands after eating and wash with soap and water after toilet. Cleanliness is next to Godliness, so this point should be very carefully observed, then you will advance very quickly to the perfectional stage of Krishna Consciousness.”

And in this letter Srila Prabhupada instructs one of his male GBCs to learn from Silavati:

Letter to: Jagadisa  –  Calcutta 17 September, 1970 

“If you a have got sufficient devotees to take care of the Deities as you have seen how in the Los Angeles Temple, take instruction from Yamuna and Silavati how they are worshiping and the installation procedure is given on a separate sheet.”

Finally, in this letter to Karandhara dasa on 19 September, 1970 Srila Prabhupada praises his women disciples for their expertise in Deity worship:

Regarding Deity worship, Silavati and Yamuna Devi may be considered expert, so if some new hands come and take their help, that is a good proposition. Once established, however, Deities should not be removed. We should treat the Deities as the Personality of Godhead, and to invite Him to come to your home you must worship regularly. You cannot remove. If there is scarcity of pujaris, then Deities should not be installed, only pictures of Guru and Gauranga should be worshiped. Irregularity in worshiping Guru and Gauranga can be tolerated, as they are always kind and forgiving, but irregularity in worshiping Lord Jagannatha and Sri Sri Radha Krishna is not good.”

There are more, but I think the point is established.

The only places where there was some restriction was Vrndavana, and possibly Mayapur. This was due to Srila Prabhupada’s sensitivity to local caste sensitivities. Because the caste goswamis would not have accepted women on the altar doing arati, Srila Prabhupada restricted his women disciples from doing this. However, he did allow them to do the behind-the-scenes pujari work in Vrndavana, including the dressing of the Deities, when there was a shortage of male pujaris.

In Bombay, Delhi, Calcutta and other ISKCON temples in India, women were doing all the pujari work same as the men.

Your humble servant,

Hari-sauri dasa




March 31 2009

I recently received nine questions from devotees in the CIS so one by one I will post them with my replies.

Here’s number one from Bhakta Iskatel (Seeker)

“In Tamal Krsna Goswami’s Diary about the last days of Prabhupada

tkgd.jpg

there is a passage dated 4 September 1977 which reads:

Prabhupada announced, “As soon as I get green card, I will go to New York.”
“How long will you stay there?” I asked.
“As long as you like.”
“Srila Prabhupada, you are just like a cow.  You will go wherever we lead you, but you never stop giving milk.”
“That is because I am a surabhi cow. …”

“My question is: can we take this last phrase of Srila Prabhupada as his revelation of his svarup – original form in the spiritual world?”

Answer:

No. Because a disciple was using the cow as a comparison to Srila Prabhupada‘s work of preaching Krsna consciousness all over the world Srila Prabhupada agreed with the comparison, but made it more specifically spiritual by saying “That’s because I am a surabhi cow.” This statement has nothing to do with Srila Prabhupada’s svarupa.

There are different opinions about Srila Prabhupada’s svarupa but noone can say for sure because Srila Prabhupada did not specifically say what his svarup is.

One female disciple called Harsharani dasi in the late 1960s once wrote a poem about Srila Prabhupada which was published in BTG. Apparently Srila Prabhupada heard the poem and liked it. Both Govinda dasi and Malati dasi recall Srila Prabhupada’s response to the poem. He said of the author, Harsharani, “She has become advanced.” And he ordered that the poem be published in Back to Godhead, which it was.

Here’s the poem:

Read the rest of this entry »



Q&A: ecstasy rolls
15 March 2009

March 14 2009

kirtan-2.jpg

The true bliss of kirtana

Here’s a question I just got from my godsister Urmila dasi:

I just got a letter from a devotee as follows and wondered if you had any experience of this happening in Prabhupada’s presence and, if so, how he reacted.

Your servant, Urmila devi dasi

Here is the letter
Question – was leading bh’jan Gaura P. night someone went weird – he started making bharat natyam ish poses, made pranams, fell on floor, started to to shake. got back up carried on in similar way. i arranged for him to be taken out side. they tried to communicate but he was in own world.
Next day spoke to him- he said he sat down for while then went to friends house embarrased.
Its happened few times here with him – says especially when he focuses deeply on H. Name
I asked if if he had ever seen any senior devotee do that – or S.P. – no of course.
He says he feel it start but can usually control. i said if u feel start – MUST leave temp room.
and told him to ask a senior dev about it.
I hated it mother it messed up the mood of the kirtan I felt I had to stop the Kirtan, we were on web cam. lots of the Mataji’s felt very awkward. it was I felt really uneasy and annoyed. when confronted him bout it I wanted to smash him – “what d’you think your doin your just taking ecstacy and being an idiot but did’nt feel confident I was100% correct so we just had a friendly caring but serious talk.
I definately want to stamp this out if it is maya so how should I proceed from here?

My answer:

Hm. Definitely something to be wary of.

I do remember an incident when I was temple commander in Vrndavana, around Janmastami time 1975. There was one American devotee who was part of the temple–let’s call him ‘Krishna Das’. One night a large group of villagers came. Remember that at that time the Krishna Balaram mandir had only just been opened some months before so most people didn’t know us, nor did we get large crowds.

During the Janmastami period we started getting large groups of people from various villages coming and checking us out. So evening aratis were usually very ecstatic, almost all the devotees were western and we would really rack it up during Gaura arati. It was a big attraction for the local villagers.

So this particular night, one young village man in his early 20s, started dancing with us. He got more and more exhuberant, starting spinning around on the spot and finally fell to the floor in a dead faint (apparently). We had never seen anything like it before and didn’t really know how to deal with it. So we just shrugged and kept on with the kirtan, figuring eventually he would just get up when he realized noone was taking any notice of him, and go on his way.

Good old Krishna Das however had different ideas. He steps forward to the prostrate body of the boy, peers right over his face, steps back — and kicks him right in the head! — several times! Then he grabs the boy by the arm and starts dragging him out the temple through the door just next to the altars, on the guest house side.

Read the rest of this entry »



Time I am…
15 March 2009

March 15 2009

kalah kalayatam aham
“Of subduers I am Time.”
Lord Krsna [Bg 10.30]

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Astrology, or Jyotish, is one of the tools given to us by Krsna for understanding the progress of our lives. Although it is largely dismissed by ‘educated’ modern man, its use is gaining in popularity even in such areas as the economy.

Here’s an article I fished out of my 2008 emails about the use of astrology to predict financial markets. Makes interesting reading considering the current turmoil. According to this, just wait till 2012:
Paranormal & Unexplained,
Written by Danny Penman

Christeen Skinner blinks at the screen of her computer and takes another slurp of coffee. It’s half past seven in the morning and she’s preparing for a crucial meeting with the chief executive of the High and Mighty fashion chain.

Apart from the black cat dozing on her lap, the only clue to Christeen’s occupation as a 21st century astrologer is a copy of an Ephemeris that lies open at a page marked “Mercury March 25th”.

“The financial crisis has ensured that I’m busier than ever,” says Christeen. “People in the City need to know what is just around the corner. I can help with that.”

Christeen is one of a growing, albeit secretive, network of astrologers who work for seemingly conservative British institutions such as high street banks, City investment funds and retailers. Desperate to avoid financial meltdown in the ongoing ‘credit crunch’ and to spot fashions and consumer trends before they start, these institutions have turned to the stars to divine the future.

“Most academics distrust astrology and regard it as mumbo-jumbo,” she says. “The thing is, it works. Nobody’s sure how it works but it does. Most of my clients are businesspeople who are very canny. If it didn’t work for them, then why
would they use  it?”

Read the rest of this entry »




I’ve been kind of slack lately about making my blog entries…

sk.jpg

should be more active soon… watch this space!



Q&A: time after time
8 January 2009

December 31 2008 – January 1 2009

time after time

Another year gone, another year started. As the poet Bob Dylan sang, “The times they are a changing…”

Bob before Bob after

But are they?

Here’s a very appropriate question considering the time of the year. This is from Acyuta prabhu in the CIS:

“In the spiritual world there is no factor of time. In the material world there is a past, the present and the future.
In spiritual world only the present. I cannot understand it.”

“How it is possible to understand, that in the spiritual world there is no past and the future? For example, if I have drunk a glass of water, it means, that process of drinking has remained in the past! This process cannot be all time in present time?!… Even if this process will occur in the spiritual world, if I have jumped in water or I sit down on a chair, this action has already come to pass, that is remains in the past. How these actions can be all time in present time? Please, explain to me it is in the detailed image!”

Read the rest of this entry »



Service opportunity
28 December 2008

December 28 2008

Rasarani-priya and Tara

These bright young things are my daughter Rasarani-priya and her best friend, Tara. Two effulgent young sixteen years old devotees who are eager to take advantage of their fortunate births and increase their devotional service.  Rasarani is already initiated by HH Indradyumna Swami and currently doing the three month Bhakti Shastri course at the Mayapur Institute for Higher Education and Training (MIHET). She spent two months this year on the Polish Festival of India Tour and is planning to repeat the experience again next year.

Tara is Australian and has been living in Mayapur for the past  four years with her mother Siddhi dasi, and two brothers, Jahnu and Radha Raman. She is also an aspiring disciple of Indradyumna Maharaja and she would love to also go on the two month Polish tour next year with Rasarani.

This is where you dear reader, can help. Due to circumstances beyond her control Tara doesn’t have the funds to get to Poland and back.  If anyone has a desire to help and encourage this fine young lady to develop her devotional creeper, you can do no better than offering to partly or wholey sponsor her trip. Its a wonderful way to encourage our youth to become Krsna conscious and to give Krsna consciousness to others. Anyone who helps is sure to get the blessings of Srila Prabhupada and Lord Caitanya.

If anyone is interested, please contact myself anytime between now and April.



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