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Chanting for Liberation


By His Divine Grace ACBS Srila Prabhupada

A conversation about the Hare Krsna mantra between Srila Prabhupada and John Lennon, Yoko Ono, and George Harrison

Montreal Star, June, 1969:
Reporter: Where do you get your strength?
John Lennon: From Hare Krsna.
Yoko: That’s where we get it from, you know. We’re not denying it.

In September 1969. A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, founder-acarya (spiritual master) of the Hare Krsna movement, arrived as a house guest at Tittenhurst Park, the beautiful eighty-acre British estate owned by John Lennon. Three or four times a week, the Swami, who later became known to the world as Srila Prabhupada, gave public lectures in a tall, stately building at the northern end of the property a hundred yards from the main house, in which John and Yoko lived.
The building had been formerly used as a hall for chamber-music recitals, but now several of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples, who resided along with him in a block of guest houses on the property, installed a small Deity altar and a podium for Srila Prabhupada. The building never really had a name, but after Srila Prabhupada’s arrival, everyone called it “the Temple.”
They still call it “the Temple” today, and except for the recent addition of an enormous crimson-and-gold pipe organ nearly covering the towering west wall, it exists unchanged, now surrounded by a recording-studio complex owned by Ringo Starr.
On September 14, John, Yoko, and George Harrison, after enjoying an Indian vegetarian meal prepared by the devotees at the Temple, walked over to Srila Prabhupada’s quarters for their first meeting.

CABH 2.1: Which Mantra to Chant

Which Mantra to Chant

Yoko Ono: If Hare Krsna is such a strong, powerful mantra, is there any reason to chant anything else? For instance, you talked about songs and different mantras. Is there any point in the chanting of another song or mantra?

Srila Prabhupada: There are other mantras, but the Hare Krsna mantra is especially recommended for this age. But other Vedic mantras are also chanted. As I told you, the sages would sit with musical instruments, like the tamboura, and chant them. For instance, Narada MuniA liberated sage who travels throughout the universe preaching love of God.* is always chanting mantras and playing his stringed instrument, the vina. So chanting out loud, with musical instruments, is not a new thing. It’s been done since time immemorial. But the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra is especially recommended for this age. This is stated in many Vedic literatures, such as the Brahmanda Purana, the Kalisantarana Upanisad, the Agni Purana. and so forth. And apart from the statements of the Vedic literature, Lord Krsna Himself, in the form of Lord Caitanya, preached that everyone should chant the Hare Krsna mantra. And many people followed Him. When a scientist discovers something, it becomes public property. People may take advantage of it. Similarly, if a mantra has potency, all people should be able to take advantage of it. Why should it remain secret? If a mantra is valuable, it is valuable for everybody. Why should it be for only a particular person?

John Lennon: If all mantras are just the name of God, then whether it’s a secret mantra or an open mantra it’s all the name of God. So it doesn’t really make much difference, does it, which one you sing?

Srila Prabhupada: It does make a difference. For instance, in a drug shop they sell all types of medicines for curing different diseases. But still you have to get a doctor’s prescription in order to get a particular type of medicine. Otherwise, the druggist won’t supply you. You might go to the drug shop and say, “I’m diseased. Please give me any medicine you have.” But the druggist will ask you, “Where is your prescription?”

CABH 2.2: Prescription for the Age of Kali

Prescription for the Age of Kali

Similarly, in this age of KaliThe present age, which began five thousand years ago, characterized in the ancient Vedic scriptures as the age of quarrel and hypocrisy.* the Hare Krsna mantra is prescribed in the sastras, or scriptures. And the great teacher Caitanya Mahaprabhu, whom we consider to be an incarnation of God, also prescribed it. Therefore, our principle is that everyone should follow the prescription of the great authorities. Mahajano yena gatah sa panthah. We should follow in the footsteps of the great authorities. That is our business. The Mahabharata states, “Dry arguments are inconclusive. A great personality whose opinion does not differ from others is not considered a great sage. Simply by studying the Vedas, which are variegated, one cannot come to the right path by which religious principles are understood. The solid truth of religious principles is hidden in the heart of an unadulterated, self-realized person. Consequently, as the sastras affirm, one should accept whatever progressive path the mahajanas advocate.” [Mahabharata, Vana-parva, 313.117] This Vedic mantra says that if you simply try to argue and approach the Absolute Truth, it is very difficult. By argument and reason it is very difficult, because our arguments and reason are limited. And our senses are imperfect. There are many confusing varieties of scriptures, and every philosopher has a different opinion, and unless a philosopher defeats other philosophers, he cannot become recognized as a big philosopher. One theory replaces another, and therefore philosophical speculation will not help us arrive at the Absolute Truth. The Absolute Truth is very secret. So how can one achieve such a secret thing? You simply follow the great personalities who have already achieved success. So our Krsna consciousness philosophical method is to follow the great personalities, such as Lord Krsna, Lord Caitanya, and the great spiritual masters in disciplic succession. Take shelter of bona fide authorities and follow them-that is recommended in the Vedas. That will take you to the ultimate goal.

CABH 2.3: You Can’t Manufacture a Mantra

You Can’t Manufacture a Mantra

Evam parampara-praptam: In this way, by disciplic succession, the knowledge is coming down. Sa kaleneha mahata yogo nastah parantapa: But in the course of time the succession was broken. Therefore, Krsna says, I am speaking it to you again. So a mantra should be received from the disciplic succession. The Vedic injunction is sampradaya-vihina ye mantras te nisphala matah. If your mantra does not come through the disciplic succession, it will not be effective. Mantras te nisphala. Nisphala means that it will not produce the desired result. So the mantra must be received through the proper channel, or it will not act. A mantra cannot be manufactured. It must come from the original Supreme Absolute, coming down through the channel of disciplic succession. It has to be received in that way, and only then will it act.

According to our Krsna consciousness philosophy, the mantra is coming down through four channels of disciplic succession: one through Lord Siva, one through the goddess Laksmi, one through Lord Brahma, and one through the four Kumaras. The same thing comes down through different channels. These are called the four sampradayas, or disciplic successions. So, one has to take his mantra from one of these four sampradayas; then only is that mantra active. If we receive the mantra in that way, it will be effective. And if one does not receive his mantra through one of these sampradaya channels, then it will not act; it will not give fruit.

Yoko Ono: If the mantra itself has such power, does it matter where you receive it, where you take it?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, it does matter. For instance, milk is nutritious. That’s a fact; everyone knows. But if milk is touched by the lips of a serpent, it is no longer nutritious. It becomes poisonous.

Yoko Ono: Well, milk is material.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, it is material. But since you are trying to understand spiritual topics through your material senses, we have to give material examples.

Yoko Ono: Well, no, I don’t think you have to give me the material sense. I mean, the mantra is not material. It should be something spiritual; therefore, I don’t think anybody should be able to spoil it. I wonder if anybody can actually spoil something that isn’t material.

Srila Prabhupada: But if you don’t receive the mantra through the proper channel, it may not really be spiritual.

John Lennon: How would you know, anyway? How are you able to tell? I mean, for any of your disciples or us or anybody else who goes to any spiritual master how are we to tell if he’s for real or not?

Srila Prabhupada: You shouldn’t go to just any spiritual master.

CABH 2.4: Who’s a Genuine Guru?

Who’s a Genuine Guru?

John Lennon: Yes, we should go to a true master. But how are we to tell one from the other?

Srila Prabhupada: It is not that you can go to just any spiritual master. He must be a member of a recognized sampradava, a particular line of disciplic succession.

John Lennon: But what if one of these masters who’s not in the line says exactly the same thing as one who is? What if he says his mantra is coming from the Vedas and he seems to speak with as much authority as you? He could probably be right. It’s confusing like having too many fruits on a plate.

Srila Prabhupada: If the mantra is actually coming through a bona fide disciplic succession, then it will have potency.

John Lennon: But the Hare Krsna mantra is the best one?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes.

Yoko Ono: Well, if Hare Krsna is the best one, why should we bother to say anything else other than Hare Krsna?

Srila Prabhupada: It’s true, you don’t have to bother with anything else. We say that the Hare Krsna mantra is sufficient for one’s perfection, for liberation.

George Harrison: Isn’t it like flowers? Somebody may prefer roses, and somebody may like carnations better. Isn’t it really a matter for the individual devotee to decide? One person may find that Hare Krsna is more beneficial to his spiritual progress, and yet another person may find that some other mantra may be more beneficial for himself. Isn’t it just a matter of taste, like choosing a flower? They’re all flowers, but some people may like one better than another.

Srila Prabhupada: But still there is a distinction. A fragrant rose is considered better than a flower without any scent.

Yoko Ono: In that case, I can’t

Srila Prabhupada: Let’s try to understand this flower example.

Yoko Ono: O.K.

Srila Prabhupada: You may be attracted by one flower, and I may be attracted by another flower. But among the flowers a distinction can be made. There are many flowers that have no fragrance and many that have fragrance.

Yoko Ono: Is that flower that has fragrance better?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Therefore, your attraction for a particular flower is not the solution to the question of which is actually better. In the same way, personal attraction is not the solution to choosing the best spiritual process. In Bhagavad-gita [4.11], Lord Krsna says, “All of them-as they surrender unto Me-I reward accordingly. Everyone follows My path in all respects, O son of Prtha.” Krsna is the Supreme Absolute. If someone wants to enjoy a particular relationship with Him, Krsna presents Himself in that way. It’s just like the flower example. You may want a yellow flower, and that flower may not have any fragrance. That flower is there; it’s for you, that’s all. But if someone wants a rose, Krsna gives him a rose. You both get the flower of your choice, but when you make a comparative study of which is better, the rose will be considered better.

Yoko Ono: I see a pattern in what you’ve said. For instance, you said that Hare Krsna is the most superpowerful word. And if that is true, then why do we bother to utter any other words? I mean, is it necessary? And why do you encourage us, saying that we’re songwriters and all, to write any other song than Hare Krsna?

Srila Prabhupada: Chanting the Hare Krsna mantra is the recommended process for cleaning our hearts. So actually one who chants Hare Krsna regularly doesn’t have to do anything else. He is already in the correct position. He doesn’t have to read any books.

Yoko Ono: Yes, I agree. So why do you say that it’s all right to write songs, speak, and all that? It’s a waste of time, isn’t it?

Srila Prabhupada: No, it’s not a waste of time. For instance, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu would spend most of His time simply chanting. He was a sannyasi, a member of the renounced spiritual order of life. So, He was criticized by great sannyasis, who said, “You have become a sannyasi, and yet You do not read the Vedanta-sutra. You are simply chanting and dancing.” In this way, they criticized His constant chanting of Hare Krsna. But when Caitanya Mahaprabhu met such stalwart scholars, He did not remain silent. He established the chanting of Hare Krsna by sound arguments based on the Vedic scriptures.

CABH 2.5: Chanting for Liberation

Chanting for Liberation

Chanting Hare Krsna is sufficient for liberation; there is no doubt about it. But if someone wants to understand the Hare Krsna mantra through philosophy, through study, through Vedanta, then we do not lack information. We have many books. But it is not that the Hare Krsna mantra is somehow insufficient and therefore we are recommending books. The Hare Krsna mantra is sufficient. But when Caitanya Mahaprabhu was chanting, He sometimes had to meet opposing scholars, such as Prakasananda Sarasvati and Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya. And then He was ready to argue with them on the basis of Vedanta. So, we should not be dumb. If someone comes to argue with Vedanta philosophy, then we must be prepared. When we are preaching, many different types of people will come with questions. We should be able to answer them. Otherwise, the Hare Krsna mantra is sufficient. It does not require any education, any reading, or anything else. Simply by chanting Hare Krsna, you get the highest perfection. That’s a fact.

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How I Met Swami Bhaktivedanta


By Haridas Das Brahmachari

I knew right away that he was my teacher. It was like something that happens in books.

In September 1965 I went up to Ananda Ashram, an hour and a half out of New York City. I went there mostly to get out of the city. The Indian guru who presided at the Ashram I had met before in New York at a Yoga Society. Many of my friends were involved with him studying Raja Yoga, a form of meditation. They were very enthusiastic and tried to persuade me to come uptown with them to their meetings.

To tell the truth, although I liked their teacher personally, I could never meditate successfully. My mind would always wander after a few minutes. All kinds of images drifted into my consciousness, and I would feel I wasn’t normal or as serious as the others who seemed able to sit calm and immobile for great periods of time. “It was such a good meditation,” they would exclaim after a session. I couldn’t figure it out.

Anyhow, I had to have a change from the city for many reasons. My friends said the Ashram was peaceful and beautiful with a big lake and woods. I took a but and felt gradually better as I got further from New York. It was a holiday weekend, Labor Day, and I didn’t have a reservation. I didn’t know you needed a reservation for a Yoga Camp. Arriving at two in the morning didn’t make my reception any warmer but the person in charge let me in and gave me a bed. I was beginning to get that feeling again that I was an outsider and not ready for Yoga discipline.

Next day everyone got up early and went to morning meditation. The guru was resplendent in golden Indian style jacket and his devotees were already deeply into it when I entered the room. All the cushions were taken and I picked a spot in the back of the room where I could lean against the wall to facilitate my meditation. I noticed some of my friends, eyes closed in lotus position. Seated at one side was an older Indian man in saffron dyed thermal underwear and wrapped in a pinkish wool blanket. He seemed to be muttering to himself and I later discovered that he was praying. It was Swami Bhaktivedanta. His forehead was painted with a white V-shaped sign and his eyes were half shut. He seemed very serene.

There was a lecture by the guru of the Ashram and a girl read from book. Then another meditation, this time with everyone concentrating on a circle drawn on the wall. I couldn’t do it. The circle kept changing it’s size and shape, and after a while began to fill with strange forms. My attention drifted to the faces around the room and all of them seemed involved with the circle. I looked out the window through the lacy curtains to the lake. It was green and misty and beautiful, and even if I couldn’t get interested in Raja Yoga I felt happy to be out of New York City and into the country.

It began to rain. We left the meditation room and filed to the dining room a few hundred yards away in another building. The morning session was evidently success from the conversation at breakfast. There was a Swedish nature film scheduled which I had seen, so I went to my room, sat on the single mattress on the floor and began to read. The rain was increasing and beating against the windows. It was peaceful and I was glad to be alone. I read for a while. Suddenly I sensed someone standing in the doorway. Looking up I saw it was the Swami. He was wrapped in his pink blanket. “Can I come in?” he asked. I nodded yes and he asked if he could sit in the chair in the corner. “What are you reading?” he smiled. “Kafka Diaries” I replied, feeling a little embarrassed. “Uh.” he said, and I put the book down. He asked what I was doing at the Ashram and if I was interested in Yoga. “What kind of yoga are you studying?” “I don’t know much about it” I answered, “but I think I’d like to study Hatha Yoga.” This didn’t impress him. “There are better things than this,” he explained. “There are higher, more direct forms of yoga. Bhakti yoga is the highest it is the science of God devotion”. The Swami continued, “We are all dependent. No one is independent. Everyone here is thinking “Who am I?” I can answer that in one second, I am a servant. We are all servants. Servants of what? Of whom? Servants of God. All of us are serving someone or something, a boss a cat or dog, our family, our country. Why don’t we admit this? We should serve the highest master. We should serve the Supreme Lord. This is our constitutional position and the only way to be happy and become liberated from material bondage.” As he spoke I got the overpowering realization that he was right. He was speaking the truth. And it was as if I had never heard it before. All of my questions were answered without having to ask him anything. I felt he read my soul. A creepy ecstatic sensation came over me that this man was my teacher that all my life was a mere preparation to this moment. His works were so simple and yet they seemed to come from the deepest wisdom. I lost all sense of time and place. It was truly a turning point in my life and I knew it.

After that for the rest of the weekend I kept looking at him. He sat so calmly and had such dignity and warmth. He asked me to visit him when we returned to the city. The room he occupied was a tiny office in the back of the Yoga Society in uptown Manhattan. I began to go there regularly and we sat facing each other on the floor, just him and me in this little office with his typewriter and a new tape recorder he had purchased on top of two suitcases, a box of books he had brought from India and a color reproduction of dancing figures which he looked at often. I told Swami Bhaktivedanta that I was an artist and he asked me to “please paint this picture” which he explained was of Lord Chaitanya and his disciples dancing and chanting praises to Krishna, the Supreme Lord. The painting was called Samkirtan. Whenever I came to visit him, Swami would always be happy to see me. He became my mother and father as well as my teacher and friend. I told him the most intimate things about myself. We chanted Hare Krishna together in his room many nights that winter in New York. Praise to Krishna, praise to God.

I couldn’t wait to get the train uptown from my apartment in Greenwich Village so I could see him. Everything and everyone I knew gradually receded into the hum of the city, and Swami Bhaktivedanta became the most important person in my life. I stopped seeing the woman psychologist I had gone to for therapy after the sudden death of both my parents. My relationships with friends began to change. They no longer were my center. Krishna was becoming my center and Swami Bhaktivedanta was showing me the way. It was as if the cloud that had been covering my soul was slowly lifting and the light within me was beginning to shine out. The whole world seemed to shift around me. Going home from those unforgettable evenings with Swamiji I chanted on the train, Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, and didn’t care what anyone thought.

Haridas Das Brahmachary (Harvey Cohen)



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By Karuna Dharini devi dasi, disciple of Virabahu Maharaja

Ecology: the study of the relationships between living organisms and their interactions with their natural or developed environment. 1

We have been hearing the term ecology popularly in use since the seventies. People have become very concerned with nature’s welfare. Some scientists spend their entire lives researching how to save a particular community of animals. There are organizations to save the elephant, Panda, plankton, frog, jungles, etc. This is only natural because the spiritual world is the beautiful, natural environment with which we are originally associated. In His Vrndavana, Sri Krsna protects cows, prevents fires, talks to the animals and enjoys the pure forest atmosphere. The cowherd boys are decorated with minerals from the caves and newly sprouted leaves and flowers.

Meanwhile, in the material world, billions of dollars’ worth of research and adjustments cannot save many of earth’s ecosystems. Life is threatened by a development that has only recently come to the attention and debate of the greater public: climate change. Carbon dioxide and methane emissions are increasingly trapping heat from the sun light into earth’s atmosphere.

The planet is warming to a degree beyond what many species can handle, altering or eliminating habitat, reducing food sources, causing drought and other species-harming severe weather events, and even directly killing species that simply can’t stand the heat. In fact, scientists predict that if we keep going along our current greenhouse gas emissions trajectory, climate change will cause more than a third of the Earth’s animal and plant species, to face extinction by 2050 — and up to 70 percent by the end of the century. Such a catastrophic loss would irreversibly diminish biodiversity, severely disrupt ecosystems, and cause immense hardship for human societies worldwide.2

If climate change is for real, it is very bad news for life on our planet. Srila Prabhupada said a devotee is so compassionate that he will hesitate to harm even an ant. Are we powerless to do anything? Why does the sun, which the Vedas describe as the symbol of the eye of God, feel as though it is torching the planet on which we live?


Scientific Explanations

Some say climate change is purely an act of nature. Others say it is human driven, mainly due to the burning of fossil fuels into earth’s atmosphere. The International Governmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of 1,300 scientists from all over the globe, under the auspices of the United Nations concluded in their presentation to the public sector that there is more than a ninety percent probability that human activities over the past two-hundred fifty years have warmed the planet.

The Union of Concerned Scientists describe that one of the most practical empirical evidences is the measure of carbon dioxide in the air. What’s more, analysis of carbon dioxide indicates its source. Finer, lighter carbon dioxide is the result of fossil fuel burning. Analysis of very old air bubbles found in ice cores reveal that the lighter version of carbon dioxide was not much present before the industrial revolution. Two-hundred fifty years later it is very much present, and the stats for the future look staggering.


Future of Fossil Fuel Emissions

To understand the future of the changes we are making to earth’s atmosphere, there are three key figures. The first is 2 degrees Celsius. That is the number that the Copenhagen Climate Conference selected as the absolute maximum amount of warming that can take place without extreme consequences. This 2 degrees is the “bottomest of lines,” with any higher temperatures to result in total acidity in the oceans, complete melting of artic ice, increase in humidity above oceans to trigger disastrous storms and flooding, as well as cataclysmic destruction to the environments in Africa, Australia and other drought prone countries.3 (Drought is the most common cause of crop failure in India where a farmer’s suicide occurs once every thirty minutes.4)

The second number to take note of is 565 gigatons. That figure directly relates to how much additional carbon can be burned into the atmosphere without sending the average planet temperatures above 2 degrees Celsius.

The third figure is 2,795 gigatons:

2,795 gigatons is the amount of carbon already existent in the proven oil and gas reserves of the fossil fuel companies. In short it is the fossil fuel we are already planning to burn. Five times greater a number than the number of 565, which would hold us to the 2 degree Celsius warming limit. This coal and gas is technically in the soil. But it’s already economically above ground. It’s figured into share prices, companies are borrowing money against it, and nations are basing their budgets on it. Those 2,795 gigatons of carbon emissions are worth $27 trillion…We might as well burn all that carbon and investors will do fine, but if we do, the planet will crater.5

The second largest cause of global warming is methane gas. 27% of methane gas emissions are the by-product of animal farming. Ruminating animals such as cows, sheep, and goats exude methane gas during their digestive processes and from their dung.

Grain fed meat production heavily depends on using fossil fuel. With third world countries predicted to greatly increase their factory farming, industry and auto driving in the coming century, Co2 and methane levels will spike dramatically.

Wildlife and Domestic Animals; Souls in Peril

While we fill the air with carbon dioxide, blindly putting life on earth at risk, materialistic society continues to lavish love on pets and wildlife. Organizations such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have gained strength, popularity and some legal clout over meat producers, puppy farms, circuses, rodeos, zoos, etc.

Yet with respect for the work of these pet rescuers, humane law enforcers and ecologists, devotees can easily see the dissonance in their proactivity. For example, “humane slaughter” laws do little to protect livestock. The pet industry profits greatly from the meat industry. Ecologists have become helpless to re-establish countless destroyed or sun baked habitats. Maya’s influence is very strong. If any change is to take place, it will have to start with the spiritual mental health inside of ourselves, not only with a web site or a green t-shirt.

We are now unprecedented in the destruction of unwanted

pets. In the U.S. it is 2.7 million per year.6 As for wildlife, we are the

driving force of an extinction rate estimated one thousand times

greater than the rate which occurred before human alteration of the

planet.7 Slaughter house technology takes the lives of nine billion farm

animals in the United States. The estimate for world slaughter is one

hundred–fifty billion yearly.8

Animals are bound by the laws of nature. Unlike humans, they do not break the laws. They are, in their own artless ways, more in touch with their creator than the modern Kali-yuga man who has become an expert at sense gratification. The eight million, four hundred thousand species of life are still trying, although it is perhaps the most pathetic struggle in their history, to simply sustain their lives in the midst of relentless peril due to human competitors, predators and exploiters. Repeated birth and death is the fate of all embodied souls, but now the tables are turned in such a way that the variety of amazing life forms will be no more. At the end of Kali-yuga, when Kalki is about to appear, the earth becomes twelve times hotter and reduced to dust.

Srila Prabhupada challenged many times, Mr. Scientist, you have invented so many ways by which to kill. Can you invent any means by which man may live? Can you put an end to repeated birth and death?

Life on earth is misinterpreted by materialistic modern science, politics, and animal husbandry. They fail to see Krishna’s reason for the creation. The Vedic wisdom tells us that the eight million, four hundred thousand species of life we see on earth are a series of temporary terms of existence designed by our creator for repeated birth and death. When we arrive at the human form of life it is a time of awakening. It is a time for the cultivation of divine appreciation, not nuts and bolts.

One who sees all living entities as spiritual sparks, one in quality with the Lord, becomes a true knower of things. What, then, can be illusion or anxiety for Him?

-Sri Isopanisad 7


This World is not our Home

As devotees we like to show respect for Krishna’s creation. We may drive a car with fewer emissions, or use public transportation. We may purchase or grow ethically farmed foods, recycle our recyclables and practice cow protection. Simply being vegetarian means we contribute a great deal less to toxic waste problems than non-vegetarians do.

While there are no easy, quick fix solutions, this time of global uncertainty is excellent impetus for self-realization. We can garner a lesson which has been a long time in the making. Climate change convinces us that the universal, infallible law of justice is a scientific fact.

We are very conditioned to the convenience og the amenities that we grew up with, filling our tanks and driving all over, flying in planes, taking much advantage from running electric appliances. Now a huge karmic fallout is making its debut. It will cause financial and physical hardships for future generations and for also us in this very lifetime: acidic oceans, desertification, severe weather events, scarcity, drought, famine and devastation to at least some of earth’s natural beauty.

How to make a difference? The way that material civilization is arranged at this time in history makes it nearly impossible to go about one’s daily duties without leaving a “carbon footprint.” To completely stop it all together we have two extreme choices: 1) give up all forms of work entirely, 2) become so expert in self-sufficiency we do not interact with any agency of further environmental contamination.

But Srila Prabhupada did not recommend that we limit ourselves in devotional service, or in what we could do to further the mission of Krishna consciousness. Working for Krsna and the spiritual master is not contaminated by material interactions. He did not even suggest that we give up the ordinary work which is born of our own nature:

Every endeavor is covered by some fault, just as fire is covered by smoke. Therefore one should not give up the work born of his nature, O son of Kunti, even if such work is full of faults.

From the purport,

This example of the fire and the smoke is very appropriate. When in wintertime one takes a stone from the fire, sometimes smoke disturbs the eyes and other parts of the body, but still one must make use of the fire despite disturbing conditions. Similarly, one should not give up his natural occupation because there are some disturbing elements. Rather, one should be determined to serve the Supreme Lord by his occupational duty in Krsna consciousness. That is the perfectional point. When a particular type of occupation is performed for the satisfaction of the Supreme Lord, all the defects in that particular occupation are purified. When the results are purified, when connected with devotional service, one becomes perfect in seeing the self within, and that is self-realization.

-Bhagavad-Gita 18.48

Prabhupada’s message is appropriate now more than ever. We are surrounded by a rather insipid, invisible smoke which increasingly pervades earth’s atmosphere. When nearly every place in nature has been compromised by it, devotees should not loose heart. There is simply nothing we can do that will satisfy us as much as to continue to serve Lord Krishna. Making huge material adjustments will not bring any happiness or relief. Self-realization is the only gentleman’s way out of here. Goloka Vrndavana is the pristine destination. That is the only perfectional point. This is a non-permanent, miserable place, it is not our real home and it never will be.

Scientists and politicians will certainly grapple to put forth a positive solution for the problem of climate change. Meanwhile devotees need only try to make this earth as nice as possible in the form of Krishna conscious environments such as nice temples, big kirtans, eco-friendly farms, prasadam restaurants, etc., in order to encourage others and our own selves in self-realization. At the same time we keep in mind that Krsna has meant this planet for our rectification, not for permanent residence. The ecology of the heart is the beginning of any hope for external change. Ecology devoid of the study of humanity’s relationship with the Supreme Living Being will always be the study of living beings in a crisis.

1 Encarta Dictionary

2 Center for Biodiversity, 2015

3 Rolling Stone Magazine, McKibben, July 2012

4 Los Angeles Times, August 10, 2014, Shasank Bengali reporting from Savargaon, India

5 Rolling Stone Magazine., McKibben, July 2012

6 Washington Post 12-3-14

7, 9-18-14



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What profit in all our labors?


From Back to Godhead

By Jayadvaita Swami

An Old Testament sage holds before us the contradictions of human life.

[From Vanity Karma: Ecclesiastes, the Bhagavad-gita, and the meaning of life (Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, 2015, ISBN 0-89213-449-6, trade paperback $15.95,, a cross-cultural commentary on the Book of Ecclesiastes. Available at the store and elsewhere. For this excerpt, we’ve retained the book’s style for dealing with Sanskrit words.]

“Vanity of vanities, says Qohelet. Vanity of vanities, all is vanity!” So begins the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes. By “vanity,” Qohelet (pronounced ko-hell-et), the book’s sagacious speaker, means that life is absurdly meaningless. Yet despite this pessimistic view, Qohelet urges that we enjoy life.

The third chapter of Ecclesiastes opens with the famous lyrical passage “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven. . . .” But then at once, in the verses below, he returns to a despairing view. Jayadvaita Swami’s commentary, with a Vedic perspective, explores the text.

3:9–11: Working for God knows what

9 What profit has he who works in that in which he labors? 10I have seen the travail that God has given man to be busy with. 11He has made everything fitting for its time. He has also set the world in their hearts, yet they cannot find out the work that God has done from the beginning to the end.

“Times” in context. Alas!

Standing alone, Qohelet’s “catalogue of times” may seem a lovely poem, celebrating the way all things come and go, each taking its suitable turn within the cycle of nature’s divine arrangement. “God’s in His heaven, all’s right with the world.”

With Qohelet, we can’t get off so easy.1 The scholar George Barton aptly sums up what Qohelet has to say: “Human activities are limited to certain times and seasons in which man goes his little round doing only what other men have done before. His nature cries out for complete knowledge of the works of God, but God has doomed him to ignorance, so that the best he can do is to eat and drink and ignorantly get what little enjoyment he can within these limitations.”

“What gain have the workers from their toil?” Qohelet asks. And his answer is plain: None at all. Under the sun, which pants in the futile labor of its vast and endless cosmic rounds, little men labor for nothing, time forcing them to plod through their routines within the prison walls of days and seasons, year after meaningless year.

“I have seen the business God has given everyone to be busy with,” Qohelet says. And he has already told us (in 1:13) what kind of business that is – “an unhappy business,” all amounting to nothing more than “vanity and a chasing after wind.” We are busy in useless labor. And why? Because God has stuck it on us.

God has made every one of our engagements “suitable for its time” and made them all absurdly meaningless and pointless. Worse still, he has tantalized, vexed, and frustrated us by putting into our hearts something crucial we’ll never get to the end of.

The Hebrew word for what that is has been variously translated and argued over. God has put “the world” in our hearts, or put “eternity” there, or “the course of the world,” or “a sense of past and future.” Or he has put “ignorance” there. Or if (as several commentators have suggested) scribes have inadvertently switched two Hebrew letters, what God has put there is “toil” – mental labor.

However you take it, God has made us in such a way that we long to understand what’s going on – what the meaning of our life is, why the world was made the way it is, what its purpose is, and what our place in it might be. We want to know how our small lives fit into the great picture of endless time, why time exists at all, and what the “right” times might be for the things we have to do. God has made us hungry to know what is ever concealed from us, and yet he keeps it concealed, and keeps us ignorant and frustrated.

“I have seen”

Here Qohelet seems forced to contend with the consequences of the way he has chosen to gain understanding. How will we understand what is what? By direct experience – by gathering evidence with our senses, especially by the powerful sense of sight. “I have seen . . . ,” Qohelet says. And he will say it several times more: “I saw . . . I saw . . . I turned and saw . . .” And if we follow Qohelet’s method, after seeing we will sift and weigh what we have seen – ponder it, analyze it, dwell on it, theorize about it, try somehow to make sense of it.

And ultimately we will fail. We will run up against the limitations of our senses: There’s only so much we can see, and there’s so much we can’t. Put a thin piece of paper in front of my eyes, and I can’t see beyond it. Put too much distance or too much haze, and my vision starts to blur. If something’s too small I can’t see it, or even if too big. I can’t see my own eyelid, the closest thing to the eye. And at night if you turn off the lights I can’t see anything at all. With my mighty power of sight, I can’t see sounds. I can’t see the wind. I can’t see anything that’s hidden. And all my other senses bump into the same sort of limitations.

I can extend my senses with various devices – spectacles, microscopes, telescopes, amplifiers, sensors for heat and movement – but shortly I’ll come to an extended set of limits. There’s no way around this. However many rings I burst through, I will always find the next. However much I can see, there’s always so much I can’t. My vision will always be boxed in.

And when I try to make sense of what I see, I run into the shortcomings of my mind. I see a rope and think it’s a snake. I see a woman and mistake her for a man. I see someone smile at me and don’t realize the smile is meant for someone else. I see a stray toy on the road when in fact it’s an improvised bomb.

And these are just basic errors in the mind’s work of recognizing patterns, of turning sight into perception. Now extend such mental failings to the work of understanding life as a whole. When I try to make ultimate sense of what I see, when I try to find ultimate meaning, my mind will inevitably take wrong turns, or drive about in circles, or get stuck in mental traffic and finally just give out.

According to the Vedic teachings, we are all shot through with four defects: imperfect senses, a tendency to make mistakes, a tendency to get carried away by illusion, and a tendency to cheat. (Despite our imperfect senses and our proneness to make mistakes and get bewildered, we come on like we’ve figured it all out. Cheating, no?)

In short: Direct experience and inductive reasoning may be fine within limits, but when we come to ultimate questions these methods fail, and so we “cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”

Even if we think that there’s no God, that nature just runs on its own, we can’t be sure of that either. Nor figure out how or why existence pops into existence, nor where it’s finally headed or why. Finally, whatever we think and however much we think, the secret remains secret. As we find in the epic Mahabharata (Bhishma Parva, 5.22), achintyah khalu ye bhava na tams tarkena yojayet: “That which lies beyond the power of thought cannot be understood by logic.”

3:12–13: Eat, drink, and have a good time toiling away

12 I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to get pleasure so long as they live. 13And also for any man to eat and drink and enjoy pleasure in all his labor – this is a gift of God.

Nothing better?

When Qohelet says “I know that there is nothing better” we might well ask him, “How do you know?” All he can reliably tell us is what lies within his experience, not “all that is.” So perhaps he could more defensibly say, “I know of nothing better.”

But let’s not argue with him, because in any case his conclusion doesn’t seem one he’s delighted with. “I know that there is nothing better,” he says, and we might envision him saying it with a disappointed sigh. Again: Is this all? Nothing more than this?

Qohelet has come again to the same place where we found him in 2:24: Having failed at his experiment with pleasure (and that too on a royal level), he now commends as the best there is the very pleasure he has found meaningless and empty.

This is what the Bhagavatam refers to as “chewing the chewed again and again.” In tropical countries people often enjoy chewing fresh sugarcane, which yields a sweet and tasty juice. You chew the cane, relish the juice, and then leave the woody fiber aside. And that’s it. If you try to chew the same cane again – okay, you might get a bit more juice, but not much, hardly enough to be worth it, and if after putting it aside the second time you pick it up and try again, what can you expect?

Such, the Bhagavatam says, is the nature of material enjoyment. We try something and extract a little joy, and then try the same thing again, with diminished results, and then try it yet again. Soon whatever we’re trying becomes dry, tasteless, and frustrating, but for lack of anything better we keep trying, “chewing the chewed,” imagining there’s still more joy to be had from it.

I could talk about kids and how quickly they tire of old toys, but let’s go for the top: the pleasure of sex. Qohelet had it to the highest extent – “many concubines, the delights of men” – and at the end he told us what it came to: “vanity, and a chasing after wind.” And now should we try it again? Our senses cry out for it, and our mind can picture how satisfying it will be this time, and at the end – disappointment.

The pleasure a human being gets out of eating, drinking, or sex is in essence the same as what a hog gets, or a dog, or a mosquito. Finally, eating is eating, sex is sex. And yet, Qohelet says, “there is nothing better.”

In fact, he says there is “nothing better as long as they live.” Even in old age, it seems, people still pursue the same pleasure. And so a study published in 20072 found that of American men between the ages of 65 and 74, nearly seven out of ten were “sexually active,” and for men 75 through 85, nearly four out of ten. For more than half the men in the older group, this meant two or three times a month, and for one out of four, at least once a week. (For women in the same age groups the numbers were lower, in part because of not having a man: Men, on average, marry younger women, and men die somewhat earlier.) As the study’s authors tell us, “The prevalence of sexual activity declines with age, yet a substantial number of men and women engage in vaginal intercourse, oral sex, and masturbation even in the eighth and ninth decades of life.” And this despite arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and an array of troublesome physical ailments directly related to sexual performance. Amidst all this, Qohelet says, “I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live.”

For those done with sex and too old to enjoy working, there’s still the pleasure of eating and drinking and schmoozing with what’s left of their friends and families. Nothing better? As long as they live? Alas!

And what’s this about “taking pleasure in all their labor” – as many translations have it, “all their toil”? Toil, by definition, is not pleasurable but troublesome, wearisome, miserable. And toil is what Qohelet says. The Hebrew word – ’amal – carries the same strongly negative sense. As we hear from the scholar C. L. Seow, in the Bible the word is closely linked with “extremely negative terms” – trouble, grief, evil, falsehood, vexation, lies, destruction, violence, affliction, poverty, deceit. ’Amal – labor or toil – is not just work or effort but struggle, sweat, drudgery, travail. Is that what we’re supposed to take pleasure in?

As I’ve mentioned before, the word does have a dual meaning. It can refer either to wearisome labor or to its results, what we earn by such labor – or it can refer to both. The two, after all, go together. More than going together, they are bound together. What we earn is a result of our toil, but in one sense our toil is the result of what we earn because it is for the sake of those earnings that we undergo the toil. Work brings us money, but money – the need or desire for it – makes us work. We work for happiness, but since the work itself is misery, the very pursuit of happiness makes us miserable.

That is why the Vedic sages advise that one not work for happiness at all. Happiness, they say, will come of its own accord. After all, no one seeks misery – no one works for it or stands in line for it – yet misery comes anyway, on its own. Then why not happiness as well? By nature’s way, each time a living being is born his physical embodiment brings along with it a certain quota of happiness and distress. Both will find us, in whatever measure we are destined to receive. The Srimad-Bhagavatam therefore advises that one work only to keep body and soul together, for the sake of the true human project of spiritual inquiry. That alone should be the purpose of one’s work.

This, the Bhagavatam says, is the actual gift given by God for a human being: the ability to inquire about our purpose for existing, about ultimate meaning. But if that’s not the gift we want, God (or nature, if you will) has others to offer – in essence, the same gifts offered to other creatures: some food, something to drink, some sex. And for such rewards a life of hard work.

Here to enjoy

Now, let’s look at things another way. We all want to eat and drink and enjoy, and seeing the enjoyments we receive as a gift from God reflects a sense of gratitude toward the divinity, and a sense of humbleness. “So entirely dependent are we on the divine Being, that even the little which we enjoy, is not secured by our own plans and efforts, but by God’s own arrangements.” So writes the nineteenth-century biblical scholar Moses Stuart, with his usual thoughtful piety.

This fits well with what we’ve already heard from the Ishopanishad: “Whether alive or dull, all within this universe belongs to its controller, the Lord. What you may enjoy is only what he has set aside for you as your portion. One should not strive for other things, knowing well to whom they belong.”

Without reference to God the nonreligious person may think, “I am here to enjoy, and by good luck or hard work I’ll do it.” And with reference to God the religious believer may think, “I am here to enjoy, and by God’s grace I can hope to do so.” For both, the central concern is their own enjoyment. And both, therefore, are “chasing after wind.”

In the Bhagavad-gita Krishna says, “Enjoyments born of stimulation for the senses are themselves the very sources of misery. They have a beginning and an end, and one who is wise does not delight in them.”

Yet it is those enjoyments, those “gifts of God,” that religious believers are often keen to receive. By prayers, by rituals, by following commandments, by “being good,” they hope that God will grant them the gifts of good fortune, of peace and prosperity, of a bountiful life in which they can eat and drink and take pleasure in all the results of their work.

In the Vedic literature the part called karma-kanda, “the part concerning karma,” deals with precisely such goals: How can we best act to reap the best material rewards? From the point of view of the follower of karma-kanda, a virtuous or religious life is worthwhile because it will bring us prosperity, which will enable us to enjoy (or after death gain us a welcome into a heavenly realm where we can enjoy still more).

Yet the Srimad-Bhagavatam, in its opening stanzas, rejects such religious life as being materially motivated and as therefore a kind of spiritual fraud. In the name of religion or spirituality or dharma we seek pleasure for the tongue and the stomach and the little organ down below. Spiritual? The Bhagavatam rejects such “fraudulent dharma” and invites us to discriminate between reality and illusion for the sake of our ultimate welfare and the attainment of the highest truth.

1. And like Qohelet’s poem, the lovely expression of contentment in the line above from Robert Browning has an ironic context. It’s from a song Browning puts in the mouth of an exploited Italian orphan girl who had to work long wearisome hours at a silk mill, with only one day off in a year. The girl innocently sings the song while passing by the mill owner’s wife and her lover, who have murdered the mill owner. “All’s right with the world” indeed!
2. “A Study of Sexuality and Health among Older Adults in the United States.” Lindau, Schumm, et al. The New England Journal of Medicine, 357;8, August 23, 2007.

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By Madhava Smullen

Now in its sixth year, Brazil’s Radha Krishna Camp will run from January 20th to 26th 2020, with a bilingual program in both English and Portuguese that is open to international youth. 

The camp will be organized by Brazil’s Vaishnava Youth Secretary Vaikuntha Murti Das and his wife, Secretary of Education Subhadra Dasi.


Around forty youth, aged 12 to 17, are expected from Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Peru and USA.

The event will be held at Govardhana Eco Village, forty-five minutes from Sao Paulo International Airport. With lush greenery and a beautiful temple and restaurant, it’s the perfect spot for a youth camp.


For the full week, participants will take part in daily sadhana, with spiritual morning programs including japa as well as Srimad-Bhagavatam classes by special guest Chandramukha Swami.

Every evening, there will be kirtans organized by the youth themselves. Throughout, there will also be dynamic fun activities such as sports events and a trip to the famous Wet ‘n’ Wild water park.


“After six years organizing Radha Krishna Camp, the responses from parents and their children are amazing,” says Vaikuntha Murti Das. “We frequently have the same participants coming again and again because they love it so much.”

The camp, he explains, gives youth the chance to spend time with peers while investing in their spiritual life.


“We know how atractive Krishna is, and how much our youth can be atracted when we provide them with a full Krishna conscious program,” he adds. “One where they can exchange experiences, make new friends, do practical services and feel the potential of bhakti yoga in their lives.”



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By Madhava Smullen 

For the past twenty-five years, ISKCON Youth Ministry’s Manorama Das and his wife Jaya Sri Radhe Dasi have taken youth on tours across the US, Canada and Mexico, where they spread Krishna consciousness and get inspired themselves in the process.

Since 2015, they’ve branched out to tour the Caribbean every two years.

“The main reason we decided to switch it up from our regular Mexico winter tour is that devotees starting organizing Rathayatra festivals in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, and asked if some of our youth could come,” says Manorama.

This year, about twenty youth aged 18 to 29, from the US, Canada and Europe, along with local youth will go on a spiritual adventure around these Caribbean islands from December 14th2019, to January 5th, 2020.

On the trip, they’ll take advantage of typical fun Caribbean activities such as hiking in the jungles and rainforests, and swimming at waterfalls, lagoons and beaches. Morning programs will often be held on the beach in paradises like Puerto Plata and Las Terrenas, with japa against picturesque sunrises.


The main focus of the tour, however, will be sharing Krishna consciousness with others. Youth will perform several Harinamas and distribute books in cities like San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico, and Santo Domingo, the capital city of the Dominican Republic.

“Santo Domingo is a particularly great place for Harinama,” says Manorama. “The downtown is packed with tourists at Christmas time; while hundreds of locals hang out at the harbor front on the weekend. So there’s two different flavors.”

The youth will also hold evening kirtan programs at homes, yoga studios, and temples, including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day kirtans in Santo Domingo, and an epic six hour kirtan from 6pm till midnight at the Puerto Rico temple. To add to the festive season, they’ll do a Secret Santa gift exchange.

“Offering and accepting gifts is one of the six symptoms of love shared by one devotee and another according to Rupa Goswami,” says Manorama. “And it helps the youth to engage with and think about each other.”


One of the big highlights of the tour will be the four Rathayatra festivals. Three will be in the Dominican Republic -- one in Puerto Plata on December 15th; one in the Northern mountain city of Santiago on the 18th; and one in the capital city Santo Domingo, the first port where Christopher Columbus landed in 1492, on the 21st. The last will be held in San Juan, Puerto Rico’s capital, on December 29th.

“That will be the fourth Puerto Rico Rathayatra, and it will take place in Old San Juan, the historic harbor front city where there are lots of tourists,” says Manorama. “The parade will go right past all the cruise ships, then turn down the old cobble stone streets where all the tourist shops and restaurants are. At the end, there’ll be a festival with cultural performances from Gaura Vani, The Mayapuris and others, along with a free prasadam feast and book tables.”

Another highlight will be the tour’s return to ISKCON Puerto Rico’s only temple, in the hills of Gurabo, which has panoramic views of the island, the rainforest, and the ocean.

In 2017, the temple was destroyed by Hurricane Maria, and youth came to help clean up the debris. Today, the community is still recovering, but has managed to raise funds from around the world to fix their roof. More recently, under the guidance of temple president Arisudana Das, they have created a design for a new temple with a concrete, hurricane-proof roof, and are now fundraising to build it.


During their visit, ISKCON youth will do landscaping, gardening, and renovations on the campus buildings that will remain, continuing their service from 2017.

They’ll also visit Plenitud Eco Farm in Las Marias on the other side of the island, where Draupadi and her husband Vaishnava are doing organic farming and teaching islanders, including school children, how to grow their own food.

“In 2017, we helped them replant gardens that had been destroyed during the hurricane,” says Manorama. “So we’ll be assisting them again, and it will be an interesting experience for the youth to learn more about their organic growing techniques.”

The tour will conclude on January 4th with an evening campfire at the temple in Gurabo, during which participants will reflect on the tour, share memories, and say their goodbyes. Finally, on January 5th, they’ll fly home.


“Hopefully with some inspiration in their hearts – which is one of the reasons why we do the tour,” Manorama says. “Some of the youth live far away from temples, go to public school, and don’t have a lot of association. So it’s nice for them to spend time with other devotee youth their age during their vacation, do some Krishna conscious outreach activities, and have some fun in the Caribbean.”

Often, the results are tangible. After ISKCON Youth Ministry’s last tour, three participants signed up for the Bhakti Sastri Course in Radhadesh, so that they could more deeply study Srila Prabhupada’s books. Others began chanting more japa. Some became more confident in their identity as devotees.

“One boy on our Europe tour was deathly afraid of being seen in public on Harinamas,” Manorama recalls. “He wrote in his application form, ‘Whatever you do, please don’t take photos of me on Harinama, because I don’t want any of my friends to know.’ Halfway through the tour, however, he just fell in love with Harinamas, and didn’t care anymore. He opened a new Facebook account with his devotee name, and photos of himself carrying our tour Deities on his head, just having the time of his life.”


Manorama concludes: “There is a transformation of the heart that happens, and that’s what we hope for when youth come on these tours. That they fall in love again with being a devotee of Krishna.”

For more info and to fill out an application for the Caribbean tour, please visit:


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At a lecture that Srila Prabhupada gave on April 6, 1972, at Tarrawarra Abbey, in Melbourne, one of the members said to Prabhupada, “Swami, in the Christian history, one of the people that many of us look up to is a man called Francis of Assisi, and he talks about knowing God, and he rates it up with experiences such as on the occasion when he embraced a leper. And he says, ‘If we turn away from our fellow, then we are not reaching God, or God consciousness.’ And this is in line with one of the central teachings of the Christian scriptures, which is that if any man says he loves God and does not love his neighbor, then that man is a liar.”

“If actually one loves God,” Prabhupada replied, “he must love everybody. That is the sign. Just like my mouth is now thirsty. I am quenching with drinking water and putting here. As soon as I put the water here, immediately the energy is distributed all over the body. So a God conscious person cannot be neglectful or envious of anyone. That is the test. Sarvair gunais tatra samasate surah (SB 5.18.12). [All the demigods and their exalted qualities, such as religion, knowledge, and renunciation, become manifest in the body of one who has developed unalloyed devotion for the Supreme Personality of Godhead.] All good qualities. So, this is a good quality—to love your neighbor, to give them service. So, if a person is actually God conscious, he must be sympathetic with the troubles of his neighbor, or anyone—not only human beings, animals also. They are also living entities. A God conscious person makes no discrimination between human being and animal or trees or plants, because they are also living entities.”


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To Embracing Madness by Bhaktimarga Swami

"The Great Trail is the longest recreational trail in the world,” reads the plaque, "spanning 24,000 kilometres from coast to coast (in Canada) and connecting over 15,000 communities. “

What is significant, to Marshall and I, is we managed to be there at the start of this "Great Trail" and it wasn't my first time.  Marshall remarked it has the feel, when you're here at its beginning, that  you just want to travel on it forever.  I guess he was saying there's a feeling of infinity.  We came upon many runners, walkers and cyclists despite the light frosty weather, mostly Newfie friendly. 
When our small portion of the trail ended at one kilometre, we made our way to the Hindu Temple on Penny Lane Drive.  Just before we entered, we checked out the lyrics to the famous Beatles song, "Penny Lane."  Interesting. 
I was asked to speak to the community, and I did so with an initial request: "Do you know the words to Penny Lane?"  No one responded except for a few westerners in their sixties and beyond.  Another question:  "Do you know what is the essence of the sacred tests, the Vedas?"  From that query, an interest was aroused. 
Anyway, we got very interactive during our presentation, in an effort to warm everyone up to Vedic knowledge and the coming event Gita Jayanti, the anniversary of when Krishna spoke the science of self-realization.  

An evening program was then held in the district of what's called "The Battery," where Marshall and I have been accommodated (thanks to Jan).  Our casual discussion centred on "Embracing Our Madness."  I opened up by describing the ecstasies of monk Chaitanya.  His love for God was profound.
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The Special Kindness of Lord Caitanya



By Krishna Dasa Kaviraja Goswami

From Back to Godhead

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, an incarnation of the Supreme Lord, appeared in India in the fifteenth century. His mission was to freely distribute pure love of God to everyone without considering who was qualified or unqualified. He predicted that the whole world would one day hear the chanting of the Lord’s holy names. The first of the following three narratives is excerpted from Srila Prabhupada’s introduction to Srimad-Bhagavatam. The final two are taken from his English translation of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, an extensive account of Lord Caitanya’s life and teachings.

Delivering the Drunken Brothers

When Lord Caitanya was preaching in the town of Navadvipa, two of His closest associates, Nityananda Prabhu and Haridasa Thakura, approached a noisy crowd on the main road. They learned from passers-by that two brothers, Jagai and Madhai, were once again causing a disturbance in a drunken condition. These two brothers had been born in a respectable brahmana family, but due to bad association they had become debauchees of the worst type. Not only were they drunkards, but they were also meat-eaters, woman hunters and thieves.

Nityananda Prabhu decided that these two fallen souls must be the first to be delivered by Lord Caitanya’s sankirtana movement. If they were delivered from their sinful ways, the good name of Lord Caitanya would be still more glorified. Thinking in this way, Nityananda Prabhu and Haridasa Thakura pushed through the crowd and asked the two brothers to chant the holy name of Lord Hari.

This enraged Jagai and Madhai. The two drunks attacked Nityananda and Haridasa with filthy language, and chased them for a considerable distance. Later, when Lord Caitanya heard of the incident, He was glad that Nityananda and Haridasa had tried to deliver such fallen souls.

The next day, Nityananda Prabhu went to see the brothers again. As He approached them, Madhai threw a piece of earthen pot at Him. It struck Nityananda on the forehead, and blood began to flow. But Nityananda Prabhu was so kind that instead of protesting against the heinous act, He said, “it does not matter that you have thrown this pot at Me. I still request you to chant the holy name of Lord Hari.” Astonished to see the mercy of Nityananda Prabhu, Jagai at once fell down at His feet and asked Him to pardon his sinful brother. When Madhai again attempted to hurt Nityananda Prabhu, Jagai stopped him and implored him to beg for Nityananda’s mercy.

Meanwhile, news of the attack on Nityananda reached Lord Caitanya, who hurried to the spot in a fiery mood. The Lord immediately invoked His Sudarsana cakra (His ultimate weapon, shaped like a wheel) to kill the sinners. But Nityananda Prabhu reminded Him of His mission to deliver the hopelessly fallen souls of the age, of whom Jagai and Madhai were typical examples. Ninety-nine percent of the population of the age resemble these brothers, despite high birth and apparent respectability.

As the Lord raised His Sudarsana cakra and Nityananda Prabhu implored Him to forgive the two brothers, both Jagai and Madhai fell at the lotus feet of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, begging Him to forgive them for their gross behavior. After Nityananda reiterated their plea, the Lord agreed to accept them on one condition: that henceforward they would completely give up all their sinful activities. Both brothers agreed, and the Lord kindly accepted them. He never again referred to their past misdeeds.

This incident illustrates the special kindness of Lord Caitanya. In this age no one can claim to be sinless. Yet Lord Caitanya accepts anyone, no matter how sinful, on the condition that he promise not to indulge in sinful activities after being accepted as a disciple of a bona fide spiritual master.

Initiating the Buddhists

On His extraordinary tour of South India, Lord Caitanya visited many villages, and all the residents became Vaisnavas (devotees of Krsna) by chanting the holy names Hari and Krsna. In this way, many thousands of people were delivered from the miseries of material life.

Sometimes the Lord would establish the supremacy of Krsna consciousness by defeating various opposing philosophies. Once, a very learned Buddhist scholar came before the Lord with his disciples to establish the philosophical conclusions of Buddhism. With great pride, he set forth the nine Buddhist principles, but Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu broke them to pieces with strong logical arguments.

Many people had gathered to hear the debate, and when they all began to laugh, the Buddhists, who were all atheists, became fearful and ashamed. Atheists may be very expert in mental speculation and argument, but they can be defeated by a Vaisnava firmly situated in his conviction and God consciousness. The Buddhists understood that Lord Caitanya was a powerful Vaisnava, and they returned home very unhappy.

Later they began to plot against the Lord. Their plan was to discredit Him by tricking Him into eating untouchable food. The next day the Buddhists brought a plate of contaminated food to Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, calling it maha-prasada (spiritual food offered to Krsna). As the food was being offered to the Lord, a very large bird swooped down, grabbed the plate with its beak and flew up into the air with it. All the food fell on the Buddhists and the plate itself fell down on the head of the chief Buddhist teacher, making a great sound. The teacher’s head was cut by the edge of the plate, and he immediately fell to the ground unconscious.

At this calamity, all the Buddhist disciples cried aloud and ran to the lotus feet of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu for shelter. They addressed Him as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, saying, “Sir, please excuse our offense. Please have mercy on us and bring our spiritual master back to life.”

The Lord replied, “Chant the names of Krsna and Hari very loudly near the ear of your spiritual master. Then he will regain consciousness.”

Following Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s advice; all the Buddhist disciples began to chant the holy names of Krsna, Rama and Hari in unison. Soon the Buddhist scholar regained consciousness and immediately began to chant the holy name of Lord Hari with his disciples, much to the astonishment of all the onlookers. In this way Lord Caitanya initiated the Buddhists into the chanting of the holy name of Krsna, converting them to Vaisnavism by reviving their original Krsna consciousness.

Inspiring the Jungle Animals

Once Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu decided to travel to Vrndavana, the place of Lord Krsna’s appearance. A brahmana named Balabhadra Bhattacarya was chosen to assist the Lord, and before sunrise one morning they started their journey.

On the way, they passed through Jharikhanda forest. At this time the Lord was in great ecstasy due to love of Krsna. Packs of tigers, elephants, rhinoceroses and boars approached Him, but the Lord passed right through them unharmed. Balabhadra Bhattacarya was very afraid, but by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s influence all the animals stood to one side.

Then the Lord splashed water on the bodies of some of the elephants, and they began to chant, “Krsna! Krsna!” and dance. Some of the elephants fell to the ground, and some roared in ecstasy. Seeing this, Balabhadra Bhattacarya was completely astonished.

While passing through the jungle, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu chanted very loudly. Hearing His sweet voice, all the does came near Him. A group of tigers then joined the deer and began following the Lord. When He shouted, “Chant Krsna! Krsna!” the tigers and deer began to chant “Krsna!” and dance in ecstasy. Indeed, the tigers and deer embraced each other and kissed! Balabhadra Bhattacarya was struck with wonder at the sight, but Sri Caitanya simply smiled to see all the fun.

In this way the Lord was able to deliver even the animals from the bonds of material existence.


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We are afraid to make chanting our number one priority in life because of the fear of failure.

Chanting Hare Krishna can be the most humbling experience, especially if we make it the most important goal of our life. Krishna is inaccessible to the conditioned souls; those who are not qualified won’t get access to Krishna’s intimate association. He reserves the right of not being exposed to the conditioned souls. Thus chanting can expose us to our own disqualifications; chanting can reveal to us that we are far away from Krishna.

This realization can be a painful experience. Hence to avoid this realization, we may prefer to believe that chanting is one of the many things to be done in devotional service. If we profess that chanting is the most important activity, immediately we are exposed to the painful reality of our own poor chanting. It seems hypocritical that on the one hand we declare chanting to be most sacred, but on the other hand, our actions are contrary to the reality we preach about. The more we glorify the Holy Names, the more we have to face the stark truth of our own inadequacies of chanting. And this revelation is painful because we want to feel a sense of self-worth and success in our spiritual lives. Hence we avoid discussing the importance of good chanting, because these discussions only confirm to us our abject failure in our vow of chanting.

The beauty of Krishna conscious process however lies in experiencing this failure. If we can truly feel that I am a failure in chanting, that feeling is a success. If we can feel lowly and inadequate, that’s an excellent platform to experience sweet taste of Krishna. It’s fifty percent success; the other fifty percent is experienced when we turn to Krishna for help. Therefore to feel a failure and then turn to Krishna in our career as a chanter of Hare Krishna is spiritual success.

This is important because we attract Krishna’s mercy only when we humbly surrender to Krishna. If we have a high estimation about ourselves, how can we humbly beg Krishna for mercy?

Many times we tell other devotees how fallen we are but these expressions could be more out of social etiquette rather than heart-felt conviction. At such times, humility, the most important element in the life of a chanter remains only a theoretical understanding; it’s only jnana, knowledge, and rarely does it translate to vijnana, realization.
Making chanting as our number one priority offers us a rare chance to convert this knowledge into realization. When we have a noble aspiration to chant well, we’ll try hard to achieve it. Certainly, we may fail initially but good chanting is not some yogic technique that we could acquire by some tips or acronyms to improve chanting. Most likely we may fall short of the standard.

At this point in time, we’ve to turn to Krishna; beg Him to help us chant well. The more we endeavour sincerely, the more we’ll be exposed to our own poor chanting. At this point, we’d be humbled; as Bhurijana Prabhu says in his book ‘Japa’, humiliation would come before humility.

Therefore let’s make chanting as our number one goal; never mind the failure for we shall fail forward! Without this pure ambition, our lives are hollow. Good chanting is the best ideal to strive for; it’s our connection to Krishna. This sincerity will lead to humility, and it’s humility that eventually gives us a higher taste in the process of Bhakti Yoga.

An important clarification: it’s important that our sense of failure must compel us to turn to Krishna, and only then we can experience the sweetness. Otherwise, a sense of failure by itself leads to despondency. If we can remember Krishna as we fail, that failure is a sweet experience.


About the author:
Vraja Bihari dasa holds a Masters degree in International Finance, and a MBA from Mumbai University. He is serving full time at ISKCON Chowpatty, and is an active teacher of Bhakti Yoga and a prolific writer on Krishna consciousness. He blogs over a dozen websites, and you can read his daily reflections on


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A new book ‘Leadership Lessons from the Bhagavad Gita,’ published by Sage Publisher wonderfully combines the two worlds of management and spirituality. The author Ace V. Simpson, a.k.a. Shri Prahlada Das is a well-known kirtaniya from Australia, but he is also a scholar with a Ph.D. and now teaches at Brunel Business School in London, UK.

For professionals navigating negative corporate karmas, Leadership Lessons from the Bhagavad Gita offers a way forward for overcoming self-defeating habits and managing the mind’s negative chatter that is often the main obstacle to effective leadership. By promoting a leadership approach of caring for followers, stakeholders and future generations, the book offers hope for harmonious workplace relations and a protected environment.  

Based on leadership by inspiration as opposed to leadership by control, Leadership Lessons from the Bhagavad Gita provides an alternative to conventional leadership. Particularly, in the times we live, where there is a crisis of faith in leadership, the insights from this book presents a vision of linked-leadership—leaders who are linked through loving-connection or bhakti-yoga with themselves (through self-knowledge), with other beings, with nature and with the supreme source. As exemplified by Krishna taking over the reins of Arjuna’s chariot, the crux of this book is leadership, not as a title or position, but as a commitment to service, excellence and virtuous character that motivates and inspires others to pursue the same. The unique insights from this book will help you make sense of different personality types to motivate others according to their natures and inclinations, which will support you in forming effective teams and creating a harmonious and prosperous organizational culture. In short, this book challenges and equips leaders to step up and cultivate unity and diversity, and achieve sustainable wellbeing and happiness in their organizations.

The main topics of the book are the following:  


Leadership Values in Conflict

Self-Awareness in Leadership

Work as Yoga

Timeless Leadership

Leadership Towards Freedom

Meditation and Leadership


Leadership as the Yoga of Love

Leadership and the Supreme Position

Confidential Knowledge

Leadership and Infinite Divinity

Seeing the Integrated Whole

Devotional Leadership


The Leader as the Knower of the Field

Transcendent Leadership

Leadership as Higher Consciousness

Divine and Demoniac Dispositions

Three Leadership Styles



"Those of us familiar with India’s ancient book of wisdom, the Bhagavad Gita, tend to roll our eyes when we see yet another translation of it published or yet another commentary, especially one about ‘the Gita on Leadership’. But with Leadership Lessons from the Bhagavad Gita, I am not just happily surprised, but frankly amazed to see how deftly Ace Simpson has brought forth the Gita’s wisdom to illuminate the very depths of what it means to be and to act as a leader in all spheres of one’s life, bringing real benefit

for both the leader and those who would follow. The translation of the original text is both faithful to the text and finely done, the reflections are richly illuminating for deep understanding of what is true leadership, and insights are backed up with references for empirical support. If today’s leaders-to-be read this book and imbibe its teachings, there is great hope for our world." -- Kenneth Valpey, Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, Oxford, UK

"Dr Simpson’s mastery in the field of leadership through his PhD and academic career, and his deep understanding of the great spiritual text the Bhagavad Gita, which has been his guiding light since childhood, render him uniquely qualified to make this marvellous contribution: Leadership Lessons from the Bhagavad Gita. He provides apt translations of all verses from the Bhagavad Gita, which he elegantly arranges in a thematic fashion and shares his sagacious reflections, which are deeply profound. The significant leadership lessons that Dr Simpson draws should be relevant across a wide spectrum of situations—personal, interpersonal and organizational. A must read for all leaders in today’s turbulent environment—be that turbulence internal or external." -- Ravi Kathuria, Professor, and James and Lynne Doti Chair in Operations Management, The George L. Argyros School of Business and Economics, Chapman University, Orange, CA, USA

"Good leadership is essential in all aspects of life. Drawing from the ancient wisdom of India’s pre-eminent scriptural text, the 5,000-yearold Bhagavad Gita, Ace Simpson shares with us knowledge that can inspire today’s leaders to fulfil their responsibilities in working with those under their command. Along with practical advice that made successful leaders through the ages, Leadership Lessons from the Bhagavad Gita stresses leadership combined with empathy and compassion. After all, a leader’s greatest asset is the men and women under his or her command. This is not just another modern-day book on leadership. It is unique in that it draws from the sagacity of the divine." -- Indradyumna Swami, Monk, author and spiritual teacher

To purchase a copy of the book on Amazon visit:


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By Madhava Smullen

On June 28th, 1974, ISKCON Founder-Acharya Srila Prabhupada was invited to speak at St. Pascal’s Franciscan Seminary in Melbourne, Australia. When a guest mentioned that St. Francis of Assisi would address living beings and other aspects of the creation as ‘brother dog,’ ‘sister cat,’ ‘sister water’ and brother wind,’ Srila Prabhupada nodded in appreciation.

“This is real God consciousness,” he said. “To accept the trees, plants, lower animals, insignificant ants even, as brother... They are all parts and parcel of God. They are simply dressed differently…. That is also explained in the Bhagavad-gītā. Paṇḍitāḥ sama-darśinaḥ. ‘One who is paṇḍita, learned, his vision is equal.’ So if St. Francis was thinking like that, that is highest standard of spiritual understanding.”

Following Srila Prabhupada’s example, ISKCON guru and GBC Bhaktimarga Swami, known as “The Walking Monk,” recently spoke at an interfaith event in honor of St Francis.

The event took place at the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish, a Catholic Church in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Held on October 4th– the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi – it honored the saint with the theme “Instruments of Peace,” a phrase from his famous prayer.

“Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace,” the prayer reads. “Where there is hatred, let me sow love.\ Where there is injury, pardon, \ Where there is doubt, faith,\ Where there is despair, hope, \ Where there is darkness, light, \ and where there is sadness, joy… It is in pardoning that we are pardoned; \ And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”

Bhaktimarga Swami was invited as guest speaker for the event by Farida Lalbiharie, who organized it with the Mother of Perpetual Help Prayer Group. Farida is a Trinidadian Catholic who has had a long-term relationship with ISKCON devotees.

“She’s a one-woman interfaith movement,” says Vrnda Dasi, leader of the ISKCON Winnipeg preaching center, who has attended Farida’s interfaith gatherings for the past fifteen years. “She is Catholic; her name is Muslim; and her son’s name is Krishna!”

About twenty-five representatives of different faith traditions attended. The Reverend Msgr. Maurice Comeault began with a welcome, followed by sacred greetings from all the traditions present: Shalom (Judaism); As-salamu alaykum(Islam); Namaste (Hinduism); Metta (Buddhism); Aneen, Tansi, Boozhoo (Indigenous Spirituality); Allah u Abha (Bahai); Sat Sri Akal Gi (Sikhism); Sai Ram (Sai Baba); Ram (Rama Krishna); Hare Krishna (ISKCON); and The Lord be with you (Unitarian, Christianity). 


Sacred items of worship from the different traditions were then honored, such as a menorah for Judaism, camphor for Islam, candle for Christianity, sage/sweetgrass for the First Nations, and diya (lamp) for Hinduism, ISKCON and the other faiths of Indian origin. Several faiths then shared their way of praise, including the First Nations representatives, who played a traditional flute song. 

Leading a prayer, Reverend Msgr. Stan Jaworski, spiritual advisor at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, said, “Lord God, Creator of all, God of Power and Majesty, send now your Holy Spirit over the earth. Let Your Holy Spirit live in the hearts of all Nations, that they may be preserved from degeneration, disaster and war, and may the Mother of all Nations be our advocate. Amen.”

“The Sacred Scriptures urge us: That supplications, prayer, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for everyone; for Kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, in all Godliness and dignity, and so…. Let us pray.”

The Most Reverend Richard Gagnon, Archbishop of Winnipeg then delivered a message of Peace in honor of the Feast of St. Francis.

Finally Bhaktimarga Swami spoke, finding parallels with St. Francis’ phrase “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,” and the Bhagavad-gita, where Krishna tells Arjuna he is “but an instrument” of Krishna’s arrangement.

Bhaktimarga Swami added, “I always admired St. Francis. He crossed all borders of denominational divisions.” The way St Francis led his life, he opined, could be embraced by those on any spiritual path.

Maharaja also commented that while all the different faiths present may have varying ways of approaching salvation, they nevertheless held many of the same values, and should come together to challenge the social ills in society.

Lastly his assertion that he never left the Catholic faith he was raised in, but simply added Krishna consciousness, was met with much interest from the group.

To conclude, Bhaktimarga Swami and Vrinda Dasi were asked to lead everyone in a kirtan, chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra. They also distributed prasadam of no-bake carob candy.

As usual, Farida made sure that everyone left with a gift – which, this year, was a saffron-colored rose to match Bhaktimarga Swami’s robes.

“Everyone thought Maharaja’s speech was wonderful,” says Vrinda. “This event is always like a family reunion. We’re all people of faith, we all want to align ourselves with God’s will. So it’s good to reinforce that we’re all ultimately on the same path, headed for the same goal.”

Bhaktimarga Swami adds: “After the event, one participant said, ‘I feel so happy, safe and comfortable in this circle of people, not only because of the topic we’re discussing, but also the fact that we’re all quite united in spirit.’”

He concludes, “I would urge ISKCON devotees and leaders to make a stronger effort to reach out to people like this, who are very much on the same page with us in terms of values and principles.”


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Bhisma-panchaka is five days dedicated to Bhismadev, The son of mother Ganga and his father King Shantanu-Bhismah santanavo birah. He is the Grandfather of Pandavas, descendant of Great king Bharata in Kuru dynasty .The period falls in the last 5 days of the month Kartik,the resounding 5 days of chaturmasya. It is said to commemorate the life of Grandfather Bhismadev, a key figure in the history of India, one who is known as a powerful warrior and commander-in-chief of the royal army who renounced his own claim to the throne of the world and instead remained celibate throughout his life as stated in Mahabharata and the Srimad-Bhagavatam.

After the chronological events that took place on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, being extremely pleased with  Bhismadev, Lord Krishna granted a special boon to those who worship Lord Hari and engage in devotional service during these five days. What is that special boon?

Lord Krishna agreed to bestow pure devotion to those who earnestly follow certain austerities these last five days of Kartik. As per Gaudiya vaishnava, Bhismadev is very well known as one of the twelve mahajanas—authorities—in the science of Krsna

consciousness. In his youth, he received the benediction that he would only die when he wishes it. He spent his final days giving spiritual and political instructions to King Yudhisthira while lying on a bed of arrows, having been wounded on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. After the Pandavas won the battle, Bhismadeva finally felt peaceful and wanted to leave his body looking into the lotus-like face of Lord Krishna in His transcendental feature as Partha-sarathi. This shows his unflinching faith and devotion to Lord Krsna, which we know is the highest perfection of life.

drstva nipatitam bhumau

divas cyutam ivamaram

pranemuh pandava bhisma

sanugah saha cakrina

Seeing him [Bhisma] lying on the ground, like a demigod fallen from the sky, the Pandava King Yudhisthira, along with his younger brothers and Lord Krsna, bowed down before him. -SB 1.9.4


It is a joyous event since many devotees from various parts of the world come to Sri Mayapur Dham, India, situated very close to the holy bank of river Ganga. The atmosphere is filled with excitement in honoring such an auspicious, devotional vow.  Every year HH Jayapataka Swami Maharaj also joins us in Sri Dham Mayapur to give all of us His company. We have gathered an overwhelming response from many devotees participating from several countries and from many states of India..

Most importantly, HH Jayapataka Swami Maharaj always emphasises on following these 5 days in the shastric way as it is quoted by Srila Suta Goswami in the Padma Purana, Uttarakhanda, ‘This liberating fast is unknown even to the demigods.’

The Padma Purana says that this pleases Lord Keshava the worshipable Lord for the month of Kartik and he who follows, makes spiritual advancement by doing such vrata and is so powerful that one can even free oneself from one of the greatest sins.


Highlights for these 5 days:

Daily Ganga-snana.

Gaura-katha every evening.

Bhishma Panchaka roots-and-fruits prasadam.

Ghee lamp Offering to Sri Radha Madhava and all the other deities.

There are 3 Levels of fasting.

In the Hari BhaktiVilasa it is suggested to observe fasting from certain foodstuffs on the Bhisma-panchaka vrata days for the pleasure of the Lord Keshava, according to one’s capacity and dedication.

Bhishma Panchaka Fasting level-1

Honoring five products of the cow known as pancha gavya on each of the five days.

First day: Cow dung (Gomaya)

Second day: Cow urine (Go-mutra) Third day: Cow milk (Kshiira)

Fourth day: Cow yoghurt (Dahi)

Fifth day: All products of the cow mixed (Pancha-gavya)

If not then one can take fruits, nuts and roots, as said in level 2.

Bhishma Panchaka Fasting level-2

Potatoes, Sweet potatoes, Kochu (Taro), Peanuts.Plain cashew nuts.Raisins, Dates,Bananas – unripe and ripe Mosambi, Orange, Pear, Apple, Chikoo (Sapodilla fruit), Freshly grated coconut, Coconut water, Shakalu (Jicama)

Nevertheless, fruits with lots of seeds are said to be avoided like guava, pomegranate, cucumber etc. Milk products and oils are also avoided. Only sea salt can be added to enhance the flavor. The above-mentioned foods can be taken raw, boiled or baked. It is recommended to complete the particular level once it has been started.

Level 3 is introduced with “Havishya.” As referred in the Padma Purana, Brahma-khanda, Chapter 23; Skanda Purana, Vishnu Khanda, Kartik Mahatmya section, Chapter 32; Garuda Puraana, Puurva, Khanda, Chapter 123. One can follow level 3 as described below.

Bhishma Panchaka Fasting level-3

Ingredients for this level 3-Havishya as mentioned in Sri Hari-bhakti-vilasa (13.10-13). The following are ingredients that can be used in making Havishya, which is like a khichdi made with these items.

Rice – not parboiled

Pure cow’s ghee

Cow’s milk and cream

Sea salt

Unripe banana


Coconut water



Sugarcane derivatives other than gur or molasses

Kala sak – type of spinach, Pipali herb

The following ingredients which are normally a part of havishya need to be avoided if one is following Bhisma-panchaka-vrata.Dal,Oil,Jeera (cumin),   Radish,Tamarind, Beta sak, Turmeric

Special Offerings to the Lord during these days.

Following flowers to be offered to the Deities during the Bhishma Panchaka Vrata days as per Garuda Purana.

On the first day, one must offer Padma (lotus) flowers to the feet of the Lord.

On the second day, one must offer Bilva (wood-apple) leaves to the thigh of the Lord.

On the third day, one must offer gandha (fragrance/scents) to the navel of the Lord.

On the fourth day, one must offer Java flower (hibiscus) to the shoulders of the Lord.

On the fifth day, one must offer Malati flower to the head (siro-desa) of the Lordship.

In case there is an overlap of days then the flowers for both days can be offered on the same day.

In Sri Mayapur Dham, various facilities are provided by Temple management to make this vrata easy for devotees convenience. Gita kitchen takes up the responsibilities for providing vrata prasadam. Special offering of flowers and leaves to the Lord are provided in the Radha madhava puja offering counter.

While bathing in Ganges or any other holy river prayers are offered by reciting the following mantras:


om vaiyaghra padya gotraya

samkrti pravaraya ca

aputraya dadamyetat

salilam bhismavarmane



santanoratmajaya ca

arghyam dadami bhismaya

ajanma brahmacarine


om bhismah santanavo birah

satyavadi jitendriyah


putrapautrocitam kriyam

The conclusion is, as Lord Brahma tells Narada in the Skanda Purana: ‘O son Narada, the month of Kartika is very dear to Lord Keshava. If anyone acts meritoriously this month just to please Lord Visnu, he receives unlimited results.’


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Unity in Variety by Damodar das

Giriraj Swami read and spoke on Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.5.12.

“As members of ISKCON we all under the authority of Srila Prabhupada. And we can serve Srila Prabhupada according to our individuality. But by definition, devotional service must be anukula—favorable—and for our service to be favorable, we have to know what our master wants. We can’t properly offer the master something he doesn’t want under the plea that that is my individuality, because that is a false conception of individuality. So, the first thing is that Srila Prabhupada is the master and we need to know what the master wants. As long as we give him something that he wants, we are all right. We are not all going to offer the same thing, but what we offer will be within the range of what the master wants.”

Unity in Variety (Right click to download)


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I had the good fortune to get onto the East Coast Trail. It's rugged and rocky.  You have to watch your step.  There's a cold ocean next to you, way down.

Marshall and I had spent a brief time at Memorial U., in the food court.  It's astounding how many students are from India.  They favourably responded to our harmonium and mrdunga playing.  They are respectful and warm.  My advice to them is: "Don't sacrifice what you know spiritually over your studies.  Gain that balance."

I think it's appreciated.

Jan, Gordon and Susan took us to Quidi Vidi Village, always a favourite spot.  Both Jan and Susan stayed on with us for kirtan chanting at the corner of George and Water Streets.  Good response!  There's a constant flow of pedestrians.

Now the streets in St. John's are interesting.  They curve, go up and down, even sideways (so it seems).  It's a bit like San Francisco.  We were playing our instruments sitting or standing, on an angle.  Furthermore, next to us was a soapstone carver.  His device was blowing stone dust in the air which created a slippery dynamic on the sidewalks.  On top of that, his buddy sat puffing out clouds of marijuana.  You can imagine how we chanters felt—high and slippery.  It was a unique location, just across from "The Yellow Belly Brewery."

Sheeshan is just wonderful.   He usually goes out on the street solo, chanting fearlessly.  The whole town seem to know him.  He is a Mauritian.  It's a country no one has even heard of until they meet him.
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"God is unlimited, so are the number of His devotees."

Every morning after the morning program in ISKCON temples and every time devotees offer their respects to the devotees of Lord Krishna, it is a custom to chant the phrase - "ananta koti vaishnava vrinda ki jai". It means - "all glories to the unlimited, countless devotees of the Lord". I got to witness a glimpse of this phrase in the recent annual Vrindavan Yatra. The Yatra itself had 7000 registered pilgrim devotees along side lakhs of other devotees who flock to Vrindavan to be in the holiest of holy months, the Karthik month. It was a crazy crowd filled with devotees crazy for Krishna, not minding inconvenience of any sort. In fact, one starts to realise that being surrounded by devotees on all sides is a bliss of a different sort. Vrindavan was filled to the brim. This is only the number of countless devotees in Vrindavan. Add to it the unlimited devotees in other holy places, Tirupati, Sri Rangam, Jagannath Puri, Pandharpura and hundreds of other holy places. Add to it further, all the devotees of Krishna all over the world. And you will get a glimpse of "the unlimited devotee" concept.

But the scriptures tell us that the number of devotees in the material world is very, very less compared to the number of devotees in the spiritual world. And mind you, there are countless planets in the spiritual world. We can't even imagine, the number of devotees that are present there. The only thing we can do is offer our humble obeisances to the countless devotees - those in this world and those beyond this world by chanting - "ananta koti vaishnava vrinda ki jai". Who said that the devotees are outnumbered by materialistic people! No one can outnumber the devotees of the Lord. The family of devotees is the biggest because it is the family of God. Let us feel happy, grateful and protected to a small member of such a huge family - God's family.
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श्रील प्रभुपाद द्वारा रचित संपूर्ण के समस्त श्लोकों के हिन्दी अर्थ को कथा रुप में संकलन का कार्य श्री जगदीश चन्द्र चौहान प्रभु ने 1101 पृष्ठों में सम्पन्न करके इसे  ग्रंथ का रूप दिया है।

इस संकलन का भक्तार्पण कार्यक्रम (विमोचन)  हरे कृष्ण भक्ति वृक्ष समूह द्वारा ------ इस्कॉन मंदिर निपानिया, इन्दौर में पवित्र कार्तिक मास की रमा एकादशी पर दिनांक (24/10/2019गुरुवार) को मंदिर अध्यक्ष पूज्यनीय गुरुमहाराज महामनदासजी के  कर कमलों द्वारा सम्पन्न किया गया।

इस अवसर पर मंगलाचरण, श्रीमद्भागवतम की भूमिका, श्री भगवान के ऐश्वर्य का वर्णन, संकीर्तन, संध्या गौर आरती, दामोदर अष्टकम् , दीपदान, श्रीमदभागवत की आरती, श्री गुरु महाराज के आशिर्वचन आदि कार्यक्रम आयोजित किए गए।  कार्यक्रम का संचालन हरे कृष्ण भक्ति वृक्ष समूह के श्री ललित माधव दास प्रभु ने किया।

हरे कृष्ण




श्रीमद भागवतम

link address-

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By Madhava Smullen 

A new devotee-run company, Mantra4U, has cornered the market on a unique offering – wearable protective mantras, encased in pendants and viewable through a tiny-self contained microscope.

But it’s not just any business. Behind Mantra4U is a deeply personal and spiritual journey.

While living in the Washington D.C. area, husband and wife Harinamananda Das (Hari Ram Chopra) and Sonia Chopra performed service at ISKCON of Potomac for many years. Sonia worked with Anuttama Das of ISKCON Communications for two decades, and Harinamananda helped to clean the kitchen and temple whenever he found the time. With their children growing up attending the Sunday School, they were an intrinsic part of the community. 

In May 2014, however, tragedy struck. Harinamananda was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. Following advice from the devotees, he and Sonia began to read the Narasimha Kavacha Stotram daily. Harinamananda became fond of it, and after surgery he made one request of his wife – could she get him a Narasimha Kavacha pendant with the mantra contained inside?


“Coming from a guy who never wore any jewelry, not even our wedding ring, I took his request to heart and started to research seriously,” Sonia says. “But I got nowhere. It was completely impossible to find.”

In April 2016, Harinamananda Das passed away from this world. A year and a half later, Sonia was still struggling to overcome depression, and praying to the Lord to help her. 

“Then one evening, as I was reading the Narasimha Kavacha, I remembered that my husband wanted me to have one pendant made for him. My research journey started once again, but to no avail. I was losing hope. Finally, in tears, I prayed to Lord Narasimha that if He wished to manifest in This Form, in this Kaliyuga; then He would need to guide me, as I was about to give up.”

The next day, the Lord answered her prayers. Sonia came across a US-based company making microphoto lenses using proprietary technology. 

Thinking it would be just a one-time order, she had only a couple of custom Narasimha Kavacha pendants made. In February 2018, she flew to India, gifting one to her husband’s guru, Radhanath Swami, on his behalf. The other, she offered to Lord Narasimhadeva in Mayapur to personally thank him, and wears to this day. 


Upon returning to the US, Sonia at last felt a sense of fulfillment. But the story wasn’t over. Soon after, her friends and other devotees in her community began to ask if she was going to make any more pendants. 

Today, Sonia is offering seven pendants containing mantras: Narasimha Kavacha, Hanuman Chalisa, the Gayatri Mantra, Lord Shiva’s Mahamrityunjaya Mantra, Maha Lakshmi Mantra, Goddess Durga Stuti, and Shri Ganeshji Mantra.

Taken from the Brahmanda Purana, the Narasimha Kavacha Stotram is a prayer offered by the boy devotee Prahlad Maharaja to Lord Narasimhadeva for protection. Narasimha literally means half man half lion, while Kavacha means shield or armor.

The Hanuman Chalisa is a devotional hymn written by the 16th century poet Tulsidas, which describes the auspicious form, knowledge, virtues, powers and bravery of Hanuman, his glorious acts of service to Lord Rama, and the need for Hanuman’s mercy. It also requests that Hanuman reside in the heart of all devotees of Lord Rama. Chanting the Hanuman Chalisa is believed to invoke Hanuman’s divine intervention in grave problems, including those concerning ghosts and evil spirits. 

The Mahamrityunjaya Mantra, literally translated as “Great Death-conquering Mantra,” is a verse from the Vedas addressed to Lord Shiva, a great devotee of Krishna. According to the Shiva Purana, it helps one to overcome the fear of any unknown event, and is also said to be beneficial for mental, emotional and physical health. 


Meanwhile the Maha Lakshmi mantra prays to the consort of Sri Maha Vishnu to “inspire and illuminate our mind with understanding.” 

Sonia approaches creating these pendants and choosing the mantras not as a business, but as a spiritual process, praying to Lord Nrsimhadeva for guidance on which to do next, and even what the design should be. When she is inspired, she carefully researches each Mantra from bona fide sources, consulting gurus and scholars. 

Her designers in India and the US then create the pendants – which so far have come in the form of Lord Narasimhadeva’s face, Lord Shiva’s drum and trident, Hanumanji’s club inscribed with the words “Sri Rama” in Sanskrit, and a lotus for the Gayatri mantra. Each pendant is made with sterling silver, and comes packaged in a gold-embossed box lined with silk and satin along with a booklet of the mantra and its translation in English

Inside each pendant is the full mantra, which can be viewed through the microphoto lens when loking towards a light source. Some of the shorter mantras include the original Devanagari script, the transliteration, and a photo of the deity in question. Because the pendants are handcrafted in the USA using high quality materials and proprietary technology for the lenses, they are not cheap, at $299 each – rather, they are sold as special protective charms to wear close to one’s heart for many years.

“I have no background or understanding of the jewelry or Lens Technology business,” Sonia says. “Yet somehow the Lord has been very kind in guiding me to the right sources at every step of the way.”


So far, the response has been enthusiastic from customers including devotees, members of the Indian American community, and yoga practitioners.

“I’m getting emails and calls from people all over the world – in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, and Kenya,” says Sonia. “When you can not only read a mantra, but also keep it close to your heart and you know it’s there at all times, you can feel its power and protection.”

Because the pendants are in honor of her husband Harinamananda’s memory, Sonia plans to donate at least twenty-five percent of all net profits to ISKCON projects they supported together, including the goshalas in Gita Nagari and New Vrindaban, and the Food For Life prasadam distribution and book distribution programs at the Potomac temple.

 “I realized recently that this story was not really about me,” she says. “It was between the Lord and His devotee, who is my husband; and about the Lord agreeing to fulfill his desire and using me as a medium in the process. So this whole project is a glorification of Lord Narasimha, His blessings, and His mercy. And of course, I also want to use it to glorify my husband, and his memory. Because of him, I was able to do so much seva over the years – he even pointed me in the direction of this project before he left.”

For in-depth information and to purchase pendants, please visit


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Higher taste by Kadamba Kanana Swami


Some people say that the greatest enjoyment in the material world is sex. Well, we can also say that greater than that is to be free from such desires. If you do not have the desire, then it saves a lot of trouble! You know, then you do not have to worry about Saturday nights. You do not have to buy flowers. You do not have to spend a lot of money in bars and all these things. There are so many things you do not have to do if you do not have sex desire. You do not have to spend a fortune on all kinds of clothes and things like that. Think about it, the consequences of sex desire are quite far-reaching!

The other day, I was writing about this and I was comparing it to being addicted to cigarettes (to smoking). Airports are now all smoke-free zones, so then you have this glass box and people smoke in the glass box. It looks kind of foolish to have all these people in the glass box. They just sit in there, trying to feel at ease but meanwhile it is embarrassing to go sit in a glass box and smoke. For someone who is not a smoker, they think it to be foolish.

The same we can apply to sex also. We are addicted, but when we take up serving Krsna, and then gradually our interest changes from enjoying the body to enjoying serving. Instead of taking – enjoying the body means taking for our senses – instead of taking for our senses, we now become very active in satisfying the senses of Krsna.

Srila Prabhupada wrote a letter where he explains to Kirtananda, ‘You please worship the deity and when you make the deity very beautiful, then you will forget everything about the beauty of the material world.’ 

The beauty of the material world cannot satisfy the heart. So, we are not proposing a life of giving up. We are not proposing a life of giving up mundane pleasure; that is not our focus. We are proposing a life of embracing spiritual pleasure.


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High Winds by Bhaktimarga Swami

The winds were high but warm, and coming from the south. It was 18 degrees Celsius in the evening when we did our session at the Shambala Centre.  That is warm, for this time of year.  The windows were wide open during the whole session, and we were loving it.  Sarah, yoga instructor and Friday night coordinator, arranged it that way. 
The reason for open windows was that my conducting of the chanting and dancing heated everyone up. It was a good sweat. Justin and Lorna, in particular, were physically giving a heavy output. Everyone else joyfully worked hard at the dance steps. 
"You all are going to have a good sleep tonight," I suggested. 
When I said, "You all," it meant the room full of people. The turnout was great, thanks to our man, Sheeshan.  He comes regularly to play the drum.  The group, whom Sarah describes as ‘loyal’, all seem to know the maha-mantra quite well. That is so because Sheeshan regularly sings it. 

Absent was our dear Miranda Squires, whom I've now known for twenty-five years. She is an interesting woman. She told me she grew up in a lighthouse on the coastline.  A yoga instructor, herself, she was quite busy this weekend. 
Often times while dealing with yoga people, it involves women. Yet, at our program tonight, a good number of men came out to dance and chant with us.

Sheeshan arranged a seven course meal for everyone.  The guy is stupendous.
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