ISKCON Derire Tree's Posts (13238)

If rain is clean, clear and cooling, if the sun is bright, bold and benevolent, then snow is white, wet and wonderful.
Jay and I drove through the white stuff, as it fell lightly upon us, our moving car, Highway 7, and the surrounding countryside.  It was a quiet ride, and in this area from Toronto to Ottawa, you travel through the edge of the Canadian Shield, earth's oldest rock.  The rock is embraced by a boreal forest.

We arrived at ISKCON Ottawa, at 212 Somerset, and were greeted by Mandala Rama McAllister, a happy, holy chap who makes nice wraps.  After a wholesome meal, we prepared for a "9 Devotions Workshop".  A comfortable number of twenty-five people showed up, and the three hour interactive program worked well as a bonding-type of exercise.  I received feedback.  To summarize, I would say the 9 Devotions Workshop is engaging, enriching and educational.

Devotion or bhakti is a type of co-operation with the Supreme, and all methods of devotional endeavours are indeed fun and fulfilling.
Let's go over these nine processes once again.
1. Shravanam: concentrated hearing
2. Kirtanam: concentrated responding
3. Smaranam: positive recall
4. Pada-sevanam: accepting humility
5. Archanam: honouring sacred images
6. Vandanam: power praying
7. Dasyam: practising humility
8. Sakhyam: making friends
9. Atma Nivedanam: sweet surrender
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Sponsors For Oct 2019

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African Devotee
Dr. Amit and Kim Singh
Ādi Gadādhara Dāsa
Ritesh,Tanvi & Soham Patel 
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Radharani Sevaks ($25):

Bindu Madhava das
Jason Wiley
Sundari Lila Devi Dasi 
Anonymous donor





Gauranga Sevaks ($11):

Bob Connolly
Ashwani Kumar
Anonymous donor 


Nityananda Sevaks   ($5):

Vijay Anja
Aleksandr Loshak 
Anonymous donor 


Srila Prabhupada Sevak
(one time/any amount)

Anonymous donor






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Sponsors For Nov 2019

List of monthly donors/subscribers:

Sponsors For Oct 2019

Gopinath Sevaks ($51):

African Devotee
Dr. Amit and Kim Singh
Ādi Gadādhara Dāsa
Ritesh,Tanvi & Soham Patel 
Anonymous donor 


Radharani Sevaks ($25):

Bindu Madhava das
Jason Wiley
Sundari Lila Devi Dasi 
Anonymous donor





Gauranga Sevaks ($11):

Bob Connolly
Ashwani Kumar
Anonymous donor 


Nityananda Sevaks   ($5):

Vijay Anja
Aleksandr Loshak 
Anonymous donor 


Srila Prabhupada Sevak
(one time/any amount)

Anonymous donor






You may also contribute by sharing content – audio, video, slides, games, comics, etc. with us and we shall host it free for the pleasure of vaishnavas. Send to


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Chant and be Still by Ananda


There is a great connection between stillness and listening. “Don’t move” we say when we hear some noise around the house in the middle of the night. In yoga we hold the body still in order to hear the breath. We will hold the shoulders of our child while we tell her something important.

In the tradition of mantra meditation, the repetition of a sacred sound, how we listen, how we hear the mantra is the difference between a successful practice or not. Although in the Krishna Bhakti practice there are no hard and fast rules for chanting, and we are encouraged to chant in whatever way works best for us, being still while we do our daily japa meditation is very helpful for the practitioner wishing to advance.

When I sit down to do my mantra meditation I make a commitment not to move for 15 mins (that’s about 2 rounds on the japa beads). It’s important to make sure we are comfortable and the lower back is supported. Then I begin the meditation. Holding the body still immediately helps my mind to settle down. I move quickly to a clear sense of separation from the outer world to the inner world. I have arrived at an important place and time and the holding still invites me to be present.

Besides the small movements of the beads through my fingers, and the audible chanting, all else is quiet and my focus is on hearing the mantra and hearing it again and again. With a still body, my mind is easier to control, easier to bring back to the mantra with better focus and feelings. After 2 rounds I adjust my sitting position and set it again for another 15 minutes.

Be warned! When we hold the body still, it talks to us. We are more conscious of it than usual and it will twitch and itch and pain. But it’s a powerful experience to ignore all that and lean into the sound of the mantra.

At the end of the day it’s important to be careful about our practice so that it does the work it’s meant to do – remind us of who we are beyond our body and awaken pure love. Deep listening to the maha-mantra has a lot to tell us. Stillness can help us hear the message better.

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Yoga is often misunderstood as merely breath control, asanas or exercises; for some it is about practising some rules and regulations based on morality and for others it is cultivation of scriputral knowledge. But the real purpose of Yoga is to fix our mind on the Supreme.

According to Bhagavad-gita, yoga can not be practiced unless we practice mind control. An uncontrolled mind restricts the soul from reaching its natural blissful state, which a practioner is trying to acheive through yoga.

Our mind works like a television set. A television set is just some plastic, metal, and glass fitted with circuits inside. This box can tune into waves of energy transmitted by a satellite to produce images and sounds.

The pleasure that we are looking for in this world is compared to the energy emitted by the satellite. Satellites can transmit energy that can be received through millions of televison sets, but not every television is tuned into same channel. For human beings, the senses are just like an antenna, receiving whatever station the tuning device chooses. The tuning device is the mind. We tune into what our mind focuses on, and what we are tuned into is what affects us and our life.

People are affected by watching advertisements. They tune into the product, get attracted to it and then buy it. Similalry, we will be affected by whatever we tune into. This is the law of nature – “We become like whatever we associate with”. For example, if we put an iron rod in fire, it becomes red hot like fire. If we put that same iron rod in ice, due to its association with ice, it becomes as cold as ice. So, yoga simply means tuning our mind into a spiritual channel.

In Bhagavad-gita [BG 2.62], it is mentioned that while contemplating the objects of the senses, one developes attachment. Contemplation is the mind’s way of tuning in. Our whole direction in life is based on what we contemplate, or what station or channel we choose to tune our mind into. The mind contemplates and then activates the senses. The most beautiful sense object may be kept right next to us, but if our mind is absorbed somewhere else and we don’t even look at it, we will not be affected. Therefore Bhagvad-gita states, “For one who controls the mind, the mind is the best of the friends, but for one who is unable to control the mind, the mind is the worst enemy.” The only enemy a person can have is his or her own uncontrolled mind. If our mind is controlled, there are no enemies outside.

We should try to avoid tuning in to negative forces because everytime we do, our receptivity to positive forces reduces. If we avoid all these other stations, and we tune into the channel of Supreme power then our receptivity for spirituality becomes much deeper.


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It’s natural to be angry with a person who hurts us. If the pain caused by someone’s actions is too severe, one might even consider punishing them. But how appropriate is it to condemn or punish an entire community or family for one person’s mistake? Here are some examples from Srimad Bhagavatam to explore more on this topic.

Overstepping While Avenging Brother’s Death

Once, king Dhruva’s younger brother Uttama went on a hunting excursion and was killed by a powerful Yak?a in the Himalaya Mountains. Overwhelmed with lamentation and anger, Dhruva got on his chariot and went out to attack Alakapuri, the city of the Yaksas. A fierce battle took place between Dhruva and Yaksas and at one point the Yaksas fled from the battlefield. Doubting his mystic enemies, vigilant Dhruva held his ground and did not retract. As predicted, the Yaksas attacked Dhruva with many bewildering illusions. Then, great sages appeared and prayed for the well-being of Dhruva. They reminded him of the Narayana weapon. Thus, with the Narayanastra, Dhruva destroyed all the illusions created by the Yak?as. Bouncing back with full force, Dhruva began to indiscriminately kill the Yaksas, almost to the point of destroying their entire race.

Seeing his grandson Dhruva’s overstretched spirit of punishment, Svayambhuva Manu approached him and said, “My dear Dhruva, enough! Excessive anger (atirosa) is the sinful path of ignorance. It doesn’t befit our dynasty, and especially you, who are destined to achieve the Lord’s abode. It has been proved that you are affectionate to your brother and are aggrieved about his death. But for the fault of one Yaksa, you are killing many. May I remind you, these Yaksas are not the killers of your brother for the Supreme Lord is the ultimate cause of birth and death. Please note that your overreaction to one man’s mistake has been very disrespectful to Kuvera, the king of Yaksa race. You should immediately pacify him.”

Svayambhuva Manu, the first progenitor of mankind, condemned this attitude and the act of punishing an entire race for one person’s mistake. Even devotees are subjected to undue anger at times. This is the nature of anger. If unchecked, it can keep increasing endlessly. By remaining in good association and under the guidance of mature devotees, one can check the force of anger and its actions. Devotees humbly give up anger upon receiving correction and guidance from another devotee.

Thereafter Dhruva apologized and pacified Kuvera. And being pleased with Dhruva, Kuvera granted him the benediction of unflinching faith in and remembrance of the Supreme Lord.

Lose Nerved While Defending Master’s Honor

Once all the sages, demigods, fire-gods and other leaders of the universe assembled to perform a thousand-year sacrifice. Daksa Prajapati, the expert and chief progenitor, entered that great assembly. Seeing him, everyone except Lord Brahma and Lord Siva stood up in respect. Daksa offered obeisances to his father Brahma. But seeing Siva sitting without showing him respect, Daksa was enraged.

On the pretext of speaking about good manners and culture of respect, Daksa criticized Lord Siva, “This Siva is shameless and proud. He married my daughter and thus accepted himself as my subordinate. He is impure, unclean, mad and the master of ghosts in ignorance.”

Vaisnava culture teaches us to be humble and not to expect respect for oneself. But proud and envious people desire respect and worship for themselves. They however, do not offer the same to others.

Due to his deep-rooted envy, Daksa cursed Siva, “May this Siva not have a share in the sacrificial oblations.” Daksa then angrily left the assembly in spite of the requests of assembly leaders.

Nandisvara, the devout servant of Lord Siva, became angry due to Daksa’s behavior. He cursed Daksa and all his brahmana supporters who tolerated his impudence. He angrily uttered, “Let Daksa have the head of a goat shortly and his followers continue in samsara, remaining attached to material activities.” Thus, Nandi condemned not only Daksa for his offense, but extended his anger to the brahmanas as well for being on Daksa’s side.

Triggered by Nandi’s angry outburst against all brahmanas, sage Bhrgu counter cursed. He cursed not only Nandi, but the entire clan of Lord Siva’s followers: “Let the followers of Lord Siva become atheists, be diverted from scriptural injunctions, become addicted to wine, flesh and take shelter of heretical views.”

Seeing the atmosphere surcharged with intense vibrations of anger, Lord Siva became morose and left the place. He found this a better way to stop the cursing and counter cursing. Pride, envy and resultant anger makes one blaspheme and offend exalted personalities. But great souls exemplify the quality of tolerance even in provoking situations.

Supporting and siding with a bad person is a mistake. But everyone who is circumstantially on the side of a bad person need not be bad. Therefore, one shouldn’t condemn an entire group for the mistake of one or few persons in that group. For instance, Bhismadeva circumstantially sided evil Duryodhana and fought against the virtuous Pandavas and Lord Krsna. But Bhisma was a pure devotee of Krsna and knowing this very well, Krsna gave him His darsana at the time of Bhisma’s departure.

Overlooking An Overreaction

Once King Pariksit was fatigued and thirsty while on a hunting excursion to the forest. In search of water, he entered the hermitage of sage Samika. Pariksit asked him for some drinking water but the sage who was absorbed in meditation, didn’t respond. The King felt unwelcomed and momentarily angry. With his bow, he placed a dead snake on the sage’s shoulder as a gesture of return for a cold welcome. He then left for his palace.

Shortly thereafter, Srngi the son of the hermit, came to know about these events at their hermitage. Being an immature boy, he arrogantly cursed Pariksit to die in seven days by the biting of a snake-bird. Short-sighted Srngi couldn’t understand the severity of his punishment and its grave implications. Finding out about his son’s thoughtless overreaction towards the sinless King, Samika Rsi regretted the curse. He prayed to the Supreme Lord to pardon the impudence of his son.

Anger and arrogance in people who possess power cause undue disturbances to others. Power without self-control turns out to be destructive.

Meanwhile in his palace, Pariksit contemplated on his act and repented for his misbehavior towards the sage who he realized was in trance. He condemned himself for offending a brahmana. He not only expected a punishment for his mistake, but also desired a punishment, so that he wouldn’t repeat such mistakes and his family members do not suffer due to his offenses.

The world can conveniently blame innocent family or friends of a wrongdoer simply held guilty by association. Thus, those who are connected to the culprit are also sometimes condemned or doubted. Being a sincere person, Pariksit took full responsibility for his mistake. He didn’t want his family members or any other person to suffer on account of his personal slipup.

As Pariksit was repenting thus, a student of Samika Rsi named Gauramukha arrived at the palace. He informed Pariksit with deep embarrassment that he was cursed to die in seven days. Hearing this, Pariksit didn’t become angry or impulsive to counter curse Samika or Srngi. A powerful devotee never misuses power out of momentary anger or condemn an entire race for one person’s impulsive behavior.

The punishment that Pariksit received was inappropriate and highly disproportionate to the insignificant mistake he had done. But being a mature devotee, Pariksit happily welcomed the curse as a blessing in disguise. He considered it an opportunity to retire from royal life and dedicate himself fully to the lotus feet of Lord Krsna. Though one brahmana boy Srngi cursed Pariksit severely, Pariksit didn’t condemn the entire brahmana race. Rather he took the association of several brahmanas on the banks of sacred Ganges and accepted another brahmana boy Sukadeva Gosvami as his guru, heard Srimad Bhagavatam from him and perfected his life!

Overreaching Reply to Father’s Death

After Pariksit heard the Bhagavatam for seven days, as cursed by Srngi, Taksaka, the infamous bird-snake bit him. The body of the great self-realized rajarsi Pariksit immediately burnt to ashes by the fire of the snake’s poison. With everyone astonished, a terrible cry all over the universe echoed.

Janamejaya, son of Pariksit, became extremely angry at his father’s death by the snake bite. He resolved to perform a mighty sacrifice to offer all the snakes in the world into the sacrificial fire. Because of one snake’s bitting his father, Janamejaya wanted to destroy all the snakes in the entire world! As Janamejaya’s fire sacrifice begun, many snakes were falling into that sacrificial fire. Taksaka however, was not to be seen. Janamejaya inquired from the brahmanas the reason for this. The brahmanas replied that Indra was protecting Taksaka. Because Taksaka out of fear approached Lord Indra and took his shelter.

Unrelenting Janamejaya then asked his priests to make Taksaka, along with his protector Indra, fall into the sacrificial fire. The powerful priests then chanted mantras for offering Taksaka together with Indra and the entire band of demigods as an oblation into the sacrificial fire. As a result, Indra, along with his airplane and Taksaka were thrown from their positions, and Indra became very disturbed.

Seeing the plight of Indra, Brhaspati came and spoke to King Janamejaya, “This king of snakes has drunk the nectar of the immortal demigods. Consequently, he is not subject to the ordinary symptoms of old age and death. Please understand that life, death and afterlife are all caused by oneself through one’s own activities. No other agent is actually responsible for creating one’s happiness and distress. When someone is killed by snakes or thieves, that person is just experiencing the reaction to their own past work. Please stop this sacrifice intended of do harm to others. Many innocent snakes have already been burned to death. Remember, all persons must suffer the unforeseen consequences of their own past activities.”

When Brhaspati advised Janamejaya in this way, Janamejaya humbly honored his words and desisted from performing the snake sacrifice. He was aggrieved due to his beloved father’s death, and became angry, but upon receiving the suggestions and counsel of an exalted brahmana, he gave up his anger.

Even great souls might succumb to extreme emotions at times, but they are humble enough to admit their mistakes, rectify them and not repeat them.

A Balanced Outlook

Drawing inspiration from the above cases, when we encounter people who commit mistakes, we need to be careful not to label their communities or families as sinful or partners in the crime. And not overstep or overreach with our response! However, we also need to understand that when we ourselves commit a mistake, our families or organizations that we belong could be condemned, lose reputation or even be liable for punishment.

Due to Indra’s mistake of offending Durvasa by dishonoring his garland, all the demigods lost their positions in heaven. On another instance, Indra neglected to welcome his guru Brhaspati, consequently all the demigods eventually lost of their opulence. So, one should be careful not to cause difficulties or ill reputation to one’s community, family or institution, by inattentive and inappropriate behaviour.

We need to conduct ourselves with integrity and responsibility, and try to carefully avoid conduct which may be deemed inappropriate. One person’s mistake could turn out to be a black spot on an entire community and become a cause of unnecessary problems to a larger group of innocent bystanders or future generations.

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From Back to Godhead

With proper guidance, anyone can turn ordinary food into a spiritual substance.

The phenomenon of something changing from material to spiritual is an extraordinary one, but it is something we as devotees are involved in daily—often several times a day. It happens when prasadam (unoffered food) becoming prasadam, or food sanctified by the Lord.

When I was a new devotee in Montreal, we arranged a program that was to be given on campus at McGill University. The leaflet advertising the program read, “See matter transformed into spirit before your very eyes.” That title certainly drew interest from a lot of people.

During the program, the temple president was giving the presentation, and he was leading up to this point. Finally he said, “OK, now it’s going to happen. You are going to see spirit manifest before your very eyes.”

The students were sitting on the edge of their seats. The plate of unoffered food, which was the feast for that day, was brought in and placed in front of a picture of Panca-tattva (Lord Chaitanya and His four main associates). A devotee then bowed down, rang the bell, and uttered some mantras.

Finally he stood and declared, “Here it is! We brought in ordinary food, and now it’s transformed into spiritual substance.”

And before anyone could challenge, he said, “The proof will be that you eat it now and see the effect that it has.”

As Krishna says, pratyakshavagamam dharmyam: “The principle of religion is understood by direct experience.” (Bhagavad-gita 9.2), or in this case, the proof is certainly in the tasting. Those who have tasted Krishna’s prasadam know that it has extraordinary potency, and eating it is a very different experience from eating food that isn’t offered to the Lord with love and devotion.

So when does prasadam become prasadam? When it is offered, certainly. But for an offering to be successful, it must be accepted. When Krishna accepts what we offer to Him, it becomes prasadam. The word prasadam means “mercy,” and in the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krishna says, prasade sarva-duhkhanam hanir asyopajayate: “Receiving the mercy of the Lord destroys all misery.” Therefore, when we eat (or, as we say, honor) prasadam, we feel elated. prasadam destroys the results of our past sinful activities. Rupa Goswami says it makes us feel “very auspicious.”

And what is it that is really being accepted? Is it the foods itself? Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita (9.26),

patram pushpam phalam toyam
yo me bhaktya prayacchati
tad aham bhakty-upahritam
ashnami prayatatmanah

“If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit, or water, I will accept it.” He says, “I accept the bhakti.” You may offer a leaf, a flower, fruit, milk, or ghee-cooked preparations, but the devotion is what carries those preparations to Krishna, and that’s what makes Him inclined to accept it. Sri Ishopanishad (Mantra 5) tells us, tad dure tad v antike: although Krishna is very far away, He is also very close. So wherever we are when we offer something to Krishna, devotion brings Him right to us.

We should recognize, however, that not all offerings are on the same level; they depend on the nature of the devotee. Although there are many ways to categorize devotees, in this case we may consider three types: motivated, pure, and love-saturated devotees. Consequently, their offerings will fall into one of these three categories.

The Motivated Offering

A motivated offering is when something is offered to Krishna with the idea that some material benefit will come in return, such as liberation from material suffering: “If I give this to Krishna, I’ll be prosperous, I’ll be healthy, my children will find suitable spouses,” and so on. Or someone might desire to be free from suffering, or to recover from an illness—this is offering with motivation. But even that motivated offering can be done in two ways. If it is done through the guru-parampara, the succession of gurus, then Krishna will accept it, because pure devotees are very merciful, and to elevate motivated devotees they beseech Krishna to accept their meager offerings. In other words, it is the purity of the devotees in the guru-parampara that transforms the impure offering into a pure offering. If a motivated person just makes an offering whimsically, however, not through a guru-parampara, then the offering doesn’t become prasadam but remains prasadam. Yet still such offerings have value in the sense that the person is thinking, “At least I am offering this to Krishna.”

Of course, whatever way people think of Krishna is beneficial. Akama, sarva-kama, moksha-kama: without material desires, full of material desires, or desiring liberation. In each case they become gradually purified. But unless Krishna exercises some extraordinary mercy, He doesn’t accept food offered with ulterior motives. Yasyaprasadan na gatih kuto ‘pi: “Without the grace of the spiritual master, one cannot make any advancement.” (Gurvashtaka 8) Krishna won’t accept something unless it comes through the guru-parampara.

An interesting question often arises regarding congregation members or new devotees who are not initiated but who are making offerings: Are the offerings prasadam or prasadam? In this case we should consider the potency of the disciplic succession. The disciplic succession is not restricted to initiated devotees. If someone receives an instruction from an authorized Vaishnava to offer food, then Krishna will accept their offering. Krishna won’t reject their sincere approach, because such persons are, in effect, accepting the guru-parampara even though they have not yet gone through the process of diksha.

The Pure Offering

The second type of offering is the pure offering, when a devotee offers something to Krishna to please Him. A devotee has no selfish motives; he only wants please the Lord. Therefore at home he offers food to a picture, to a deity, to a shalagrama-shila. And in the temple, pure-hearted pujaris try to please Gaura-Nitai and Radha-Krishna. But even in this category there are two types of offerings: regulated and spontaneous. Regulated offerings are done out of duty, following all the rules and regulations. The other also involves the devotee doing everything just right, but out of a spontaneous attachment to the Lord. Such a devotee has a certain degree of affection, and the dominant thought is not one of obligation—”I will do this because I’ve been instructed to by guru and shastra.” Yet by doing things according to guru and shastra, devotees awaken their natural attraction to Krishna and perform spontaneous acts of devotion out of affection. This affection is a little different from mature love, spiritual love, but it is genuine. Still, both these pure offerings have to be made through the guru-parampara.

The prasadam is also different in this category. When you offer something to Krishna out of duty, He accepts it out of duty. He feels duty-bound. In the Bhagavad-gita (3.24) Krishna says, “If I didn’t follow the rules and regulations, then other people would be misled.” Krishna is acting out of duty. But Krishna considers that of all the devotees who are surrendered to Him, the one who is offering things to Him with affection is most dear to Him. Consequently, Krishna reciprocates in kind: He responds with loving affection toward that devotee.

Naturally the question arises, Are there different kinds of prasadam? And the answer, then, is yes. Krishna says, ye yatha mam prapadyante tams tathaiva bhajamyaham: “As all surrender unto Me, I reward them accordingly.” (Bg. 4.11) According to the quality and quantity of devotion with which one makes an offering to Krishna, that offering proportionately becomes prasadam. It is interesting to note that a devotee’s ability to taste prasadam will also be in proportion to his or her ability to offer prasadam. In other words, devotees will taste the spiritual nature of prasadam in the same degree they are manifesting devotion in the offering.

The Offering in Pure Love

The third kind of offering is that which is done with pure love. When devotees come to the stage of loving devotion, Krishna directly accepts offerings from their hands, and He reciprocates with them in kind. Loving devotion is that which is exhibited by Krishna’s eternal associates in the spiritual world, where He is directly engaged in tasting all the types of love His devotees offer.

So what is it that’s different, and how is it that prasadam becomes spiritual? The food looks the same before and after the offering, but what actually happens is that Krishna reciprocates with the devotion of the devotee by manifesting His svarupa-shakti, or His daivi-prakriti, His internal spiritual potency, to the degree that the devotee allows. By “allows” I mean to the degree the devotee wants, or to the degree that he manifests a quality and quantity of devotional service. When Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was in Jagannatha Puri and tasted Jagannatha prasadam, He became overwhelmed by the ecstatic taste of the prasadam. He glorified the prasadam and could directly taste the saliva of Krishna’s lotus lips mixed in with the food. He went on to glorify the effect of the touch of Krishna’s lips.

This is what happens when someone in loving devotion tastes food that has been offered to the Lord. And in this case, no doubt, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s ability to taste the potency of the prasadam exceeds that of the brahmanas who offered it to Lord Jagannatha. But, still, that prasadam is Krishna’s internal potency. It is non-different from Krishna, and it is dynamic. A loving devotee may taste more of the spiritual potency present in prasadam than was originally manifest to the pujari who offered it.

We may also consider the examples of Prahlada Maharaja and Mirabai: Both were given poison to drink, but because of their great loving devotion, the poison was transformed into nectar and had no effect. Why is that? Because both poison and nutritious food are part of the relativity of this material world. But when we offer something with love to Krishna, then Krishna’s sac-cid-ananda potency manifests in that food. In this way, poison becomes as much prasadam as a pakora does.

Offering Our Lives

We shouldn’t think, however, that an “offering” is simply the prasadam or food we offer to Krishna. Devotees make their entire life an offering:

yat karoshi yad ashnasi

yaj juhoshi dadasi yat

yat tapasyasi kaunteya

tat kurushva mad-arpanam

Krishna is saying, “Whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you offer or give away, and whatever austerities you perform—do that, O son of Kunti, as an offering to Me.” (Bg. 9.27) Ultimately every breath a devotee takes is an offering: when devotees sleep because they need to maintain their bodies for Krishna’s service, then that sleep becomes an offering to the Lord; their eating to maintain their bodies so they can remain healthy to serve Krishna is an offering to the Lord; when they receive anything—food, soap, money—all of these things are offered to Krishna. In New Vraja Dhama (the devotee farm community in Hungary) anything the devotees acquire or receive, they first offer to Radha-Syamasundara, the presiding deities, on a tray that sits before the altar. In this way the practice of offering everything to Krishna becomes natural.

We should learn how to offer everything. We rise early in the morning, and the first thing we do is offer prayers to the Lord. We chant Hare Krishna not as entertainment but as an offering to glorify Krishna. And when someone lives like that, then in one sense the act of making the offering becomes unnecessary (although devotees do it to set the example) because such devotees are always absorbed in doing everything for Krishna. Therefore, yo me bhaktya prayacchati—the bhakti is already there, and Krishna is very eager to receive it. In fact, Krishna follows behind devotees to accept their loving devotion every moment of the day, in every movement of their bodies, and in every thought they manifest in relation to their devotional service to Him.

Ultimately this is what we aspire for, and this is what loving devotees do: they live for Krishna, and thus everything they do becomes Krishna conscious—it becomes prasadam. The cowherd boys simply sit down with Krishna and eat from their lunch packs—they don’t make any offering to Krishna. When they offer something to Krishna, they take from their lunch packs and put it right in Krishna’s mouth. Or they may even bite off half a sweetball and then say, “Oh, Krishna, just see how wonderful this sweetball tastes!” and put the rest in Krishna’s mouth. Yo me bhaktya prayacchati: it’s just their love. The formality and technicality of offering is no longer relevant, because what Krishna really wants is the love and devotion. That’s all that actually interests Him. And whether Mother Yashoda offers her breast milk, the gopis offer their bodies, the cows offer their milk, the cowherd boys wrestle and jump on Krishna’s shoulders—everything becomes prasadam because everything is an offering of love.

Our business in Krishna consciousness, therefore, is to live in this world of prasadam and thereby become prasadam ourselves. This is what Krishna concludes in the Bhagavad-gita (4.24) when He says, brahmarpanam brahma havir brahmagnau brahmana hutam …: “A person who is fully absorbed in Krishna consciousness is sure to attain the spiritual kingdom because of his full contribution to spiritual activities.” If we’re thinking about offering everything to Krishna, if our physical acts are an offering to Krishna, if our words are an offering to Krishna, then ultimately we become an offering to Krishna. Then we become prasadam. And Krishna is always very eager to taste the wonderful mellows of our loving offerings to Him.


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Crowds of revelers in Dublin, Ireland enthusiastically joined devotees in dancing and chanting the Holy Name to ring in 2020 this New Year’s Eve.

The exhilarating experience has been a tradition for ISKCON Ireland for over three decades, and is well known to the Dublin public. 

Started by enthusiastic younger devotees in the early days who wanted to bring the maha-mantra to large crowds, it saw record numbers of devotees participate during the late Tribhuvanatha Prabhu’s tenure in Ireland. For the past fifteen years, another powerfully inspired servant of the Holy Name, Manu Das, has headed up the chanting. 

“Both of them have a unique way of capturing the Irish love of music and transfusing it into their kirtan in such a way that the whole crowd gets involved,” says Harinama-goer and kirtan event organizer Supriya Dasi. 

This year saw the baton passed to the next generation, as Manu’s son Jayananda and daughter Sita were among those leading the chanting.

Devotees began by pumping themselves up and purifying their consciousness with three-and-a-half hours of kirtan at the ISKCON Dublin Krishna Temple, from 6:30pm to 10pm. An extension of their usual Tuesday night kirtan, it was led by many youth and other devotees including Jayananda, Sita, Pavani, Agatha, Orla, Pushpa, and young Dhruva.

Twenty-five to thirty-five devotees, of diverse nationalities and ages, then headed out onto the streets of Dublin for a Maha Harinama led by Jayananda, Sita, Rosie, and Maha Jvala Das.

Running from 10:30pm till 1:00am, the chanting party started outside the temple on Middle Abbey Street, in Dublin City Centre, and proceeded down Dame Street to Temple Bar, a famous hub of Dublin nightlife which was packed with partygoers.

“As usual, many good spirited people joined the dancing,” says Supriya. “Irish people live to sing and dance, and what could be better for this than the melodic maha-mantra? Many of the onlookers knew the devotees already and could be heard shouting ‘Hare Krishna.’ Some who had met us in previous years joined the Harinama right from the beginning.”    

From Temple Bar, the devotees made their way up to Christ Church Cathedral, where people were gathered to count down to the New Year at midnight. Pausing for the countdown, devotees hugged and shook hands, wishing everyone a happy New Year. 

They then fired up the kirtan again and headed back to Temple Bar, where they were met with a rapturous welcome. 

“It was mental!” says Supriya. “Once people saw Maha Jvala coming in his white dhoti, they started shouting ‘Hare Krishna!’ again. We could barely get through.”

One girl could be overheard saying, “It’s great, the words are really simple! It’s just ‘Hare Krishna,’ ” as she sang and danced along. 

When the kirtan was finally reluctantly concluded at 1:00am, many onlookers and participants shouted for more, not wanting to part with the Holy Name. 

“There is a word now used in many countries - craic or crack – which is derived from the Gaelic phrase ‘ceoil agus craic,’meaning ‘music and fun,’” says Supriya’s mother Anandamaya Dasi, a senior devotee in ISKCON Ireland. “The Irish are great lovers of music and dance, and are naturally high spirited. They can appreciate people expressing themselves and their faith in this way.”

She adds: “Curious and fun loving by nature, the Irish are not so fundamental about religion now and have opened up to new cultures and traditions. They value diversity and of course join in the celebratory chants. This allows them to take what they can from it, chant in a joyful mood and start their journey back to Krishna, back to Godhead.

Such Harinama Sankirtana on New Year’s Eve and other occasions is, of course, beneficial to devotees too. 

“The benefit for the devotees is engaging in active preaching, the life soul of Srila Prabhupada’s mission,” says Anandamaya. “It keeps the profile for the temple high in people’s minds and promotes both the temple and Govinda’s restaurant. It is also an important way for devotees to come together and get each other’s association. By keeping sankirtana central to all we do, we start a new year in prime focus - sharing kirtan, preaching, and love of Krishna.” 

Outside of New Year’s Eve, kirtan is also becoming a major focus of ISKCON Dublin’s outreach. The temple, along with sanga groups and the new Mantra Lounge project has worked hard to build an appreciation of kirtan amongst the public. Second generation devotees in particular are now heavily involved in promoting events like Kirtan Dublin, Kirtan Mela Dublin, Govindadvipa Mellows and Kirtan Ireland. Dublin Temple also holds regular programs, with the Tuesday evening Kirtan being especially popular. 

Meanwhile, New Year’s Eve Harinama isn’t going anywhere. 

“It’s a tradition that we hope will continue for decades to come,” Supriya says.


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Gita Mela is an event organised by ISKCON Mayapur dedicated solely for interacting with the tourists. A winter festival that is held from December to January pays close attention to the guests by giving them valuable association of the devotees and showing them the importance of Bhagavad Gita.

Also called the big ‘fair’ of knowledge, the guests are allowed inside the Gita Mela Campus to see the big dioramas exposing Srimad Bhagavad Gita’s main teachings, they attend the question and answer session, buy Spiritual books from the store, get to know the BBT, watch a video presentation about ISKCON around the world, have japa session and kids play area in the gaming section.

As you walk through, the stage lures your attention towards calibre performances given by devotees of ISKCON and entertainment throughout the day. Book stalls and dioramas co exist on two opposite sides of the premises. On one side, a sankirtan gift shop, a separate book stall, a Gita study course, and a harinam japa counter to engage you, while the other side display a youth forum, a kids’ corner, a Gita slide show, a Gita expo, and a quite popular this year, a face drawing booth. All different approaches constantly engaged in harmony working towards achieving one goal spreading Krishna Consciousness.

The marketplace of the Holy Name also had dioramas featuring important lessons given by Lord Krishna, illuminating the darkness of the ignorant in the process. The lessons included quotes from the scriptures of Srimad BG chapters – 4.1, 7.62, 2.22, 6.38.


Further in facilitated a food court which was always populous. Food items included Chow mein, puri sabji, cakes, sweet rice,pithas, pakora, soya manchurian,momos,rolls and ice cream.

An other objective was to distribute Bhagavad Gita, the devotees were constantly engaged in preaching for the duration of this event, whether by foot reaching out to them or in stalls. A preacher on foot would distribute 20-25 big books on a good day and 10-15 on other days. All stalls included would deliver around 100-120 Gitas and 50-80 small books per day.

It was the desire of His Holiness Jayapataka Swami that manifested for his pleasure. He wanted to give attention to the guests,by giving them association. He didn’t like when the guests came to the temple and did not have any correspondence with the devotees.

A desire to a hugely successful event, the Gita Mela grows every year. The occasion attends and engages the guests of ISKCON Mayapur for 15 days, and for 10 hours potentially changing their lives and attracting thousands more every day.



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So far - a mellow winter.  When I walk the street, temperatures are at a level that I can peel off my autumn coat and move along with enough comfort.  Of course, it's the consistent walking that sustains the ease, the warmth. 

It's evening and it's past the Christmas/New Year period.  You can still greet people with a "Happy New Year" and it won't be out of line.  Yes, folks are out and about.  Shopping never stops.  Appetites never die.  Bars and pubs are alive.  Churches, Islamic and Buddhist Centres are closed.
I walked through swanky Yorkville.  I walked through Queen's Park.  I walked through Philosopher's Walk at the University of Toronto.  I walked on Bloor and passed the old movie house where "The Exorcist" played, and a few of us monks in the ’70s spoke to people in those long line-ups.  Memories.  I walked by Stollery's, a men's clothing store, or what was once there.  Now it's a construction site, all set and ready to go to erect a high tower for residence and commerce.  Things are changing.  Progress?  Not sure about that.
What I conclude, about all these places, is that I have plenty of interesting channels to walk on, to move through and to introspect upon.  Come to think of it, I can't help dwelling on the next theatrical project now that the drama, "The Gita," has been put to rest for two or three months.  I'm left to ponder upon "Grandsire," the story of warrior Bishma scheduled to be staged in India next month.  I'm at the stage where casting actors is important.
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Reading this topic, our mind naturally challenges - How can a pure devotee have defects? Shouldn't he, be free from defects? The 100% perfect person! The Mr. Perfect! 

The point is that a pure devotee can't be seen with material eyes and material logic. Just like Lord Krishna can't be seen with material eyes, so also His pure devotees. You need spiritual vision to appreciate God, His abode, His name and His devotees. Thus Bhakti Vinod Thakur, one of the greatest spiritual teachers of all times quotes the following verse from the Mahabharata which is generally sung before honoring prasadam.

maha-prasade govinde,
nama-brahmani vaishnave,
svalpa-punya vatam rajan,
visvaso naiva jayate.

"Those who don't have sufficient pious credits cannot develop faith in Maha-prasadam, Lord Govinda, Holyname, Brahmanas and the Vaishnavas."

Sometimes Lord Krishna puts an apparent curtain of imperfection in front of our eyes, so that only those with faith can appreciate His devotees. As the saying goes in English, "It takes one to know one." That means to appreciate a pure devotee, we need to ourselves be on the spiritual platform. In fact it's interesting to see people find defects and imperfections even in the All-perfect Supreme Lord Krishna. How then, will their mind spare The Lord's pure devotees? The defect is not in The Lord or His dear devotees but in our eyes.

Following are few examples of devotees who apparently had defects but are still considered pure devotees. 

1) Garuda is considered to be the most intimate devotee of the Lord, His personal carrier but he eats fishes and snakes.

2) ‎Bhisma is considered to be one of the 12 best devotees of The Lord but he fought on the side of the Kauravas and against Lord Krishna and His devotees. 

3) ‎Devotees are known to have control over their anger and hunger, but Bhima would eat voraciously and was quite hot tempered. 

4) ‎Tukaram Maharaj, although fully immersed in glorifying Vitthal didn't take care of his family that well.

5) ‎Probably, the most classic example of a defective pure devotee is Vrtrasura. He was the King of demons and was fighting and killing the demigods but he is considered to be the topmost devotee. His devotion becomes clear in his consciousness at the time of his death.

We could quote more examples but I am sure this much is enough to completely short-circuit our "so called" logic. Just like Lord Krishna is inconceivable, so also His pure devotees. They are beyond the reach of our mundane mind and senses. That is why it is said - vaishnavera kriya-mudra vijneha na bujhaya: even the most learned man cannot understand the activities of a Vaishnava.

So, the question may arise, what is the criteria to identify a pure devotee? Lord Krishna Himself answers this question in the Bhagvad-gita 9.13 by defining who a pure devotee or a mahatma is. He says, mahatmanas tu mam partha, daivim prakrtim asritah. "A great soul or a pure devotee is one who has taken shelter of the divine nature". In other words a pure devotee is one who has taken full shelter of Lord Krishna and the process of Bhakti. That is the primary criteria, the rest is secondary.

In summary a person is considered a pure devotee not from our viewpoint but from Lord Krishna's viewpoint.

The safest path is not to judge any devotee. Best is to see everyone as a pure devotee or at least as a "pure devotee in the making". During the initial days of ISKCON, someone asked Srila Prabhupada, "How many pure devotees are there in ISKCON?". Srila Prabhupada asked one of His disciple, "How many disciples do we have?". The disciple replied, "We have 72 devotees all over the world." Prabhupada turned to the person asking the question and told him, "Right now, we have 72 pure devotees." Srila Prabhupada saw all of them as "prospective pure devotees".

Just like if someone is standing under a shower, it is but understood that very soon he will become clean. The question is never "if he or she will be pure", the question is only "when". Till then let us bask in the company of these pure devotees and be grateful for thier association because we really don't have any clue as to "who is who" and "who is where" on the spiritual path. And if we come to know, we may be in for a big shock.


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From Back to Godhead 

For anyone interested in spiritual progress,
gambling is more than just a harmless amusement.

High’s convenience store is bustling with last-minute shoppers picking up odds and ends for a holiday dinner. Having run out of milk, I find myself in the crowded store, standing in a line that wraps around the food aisle. I resign myself to the waiting, and chant the Hare Krsna mantra softly to myself.

An elderly shabbily dressed woman at the counter draws my attention. She’s frantically scratching away at a lottery card Instant Win Bingo. She crumples the card and stuffs it into her coat pocket, then pulls a five dollar bill from her other pocket, demanding another card. Again she feverishly scratches the card with her cracked thumbnail. Sighing in disappointment, she produces another five dollars. She keeps buying cards until she’s out of money, and dejectedly shuffles out of the store.

I imagine that the woman has just spent her Social Security check, hoping for a large return. Yet now she may be left with nothing. Would she have food for the month? Would her rent be paid? I feel sympathy for this small gray-haired woman who has disappeared out into the dreary fog.

By the time I decided to become a devotee of Krsna and aspire for spiritual initiation, I’d already learned from devotees that I’d have to give up certain activities that impede spiritual growth. Those activities, considered the pillars of sinful life, include intoxication, meat-eating, illicit sexual activity, and gambling. Each pollutes our consciousness and is addictive.

Watching the frenzied woman in the convenience store today sparks my desire to understand more about gambling, so I turn to Srila Prabhupada’s books.

The Srimad-Bhagavatam tells of a bull, representing religion, and the bull’s four legs, representing mercy, truthfulness, cleanliness, and austerity. The Bhagavatam says that meat-eating, illicit sex, intoxication, and gambling erode the integrity of the legs of religion. Meat-eating covers our feelings of mercy. Illicit sexual connections consume our quality of cleanliness. Intoxication impedes our ability to perform austerities and forgo immediate gratification to obtain long-term goals. Gambling destroys truthfulness.

In the current age, Kali-yuga, the bull of religion is wobbling on one leg truthfulness the other three having practically been destroyed. Truthfulness is suffering, too, and even the president of the United States gets caught lying under oath.

Gambling with the Truth

How does gambling erode truthfulness? I think back to one of my first psychotherapy clients. Joe, in his late thirties, had recently married for the first time and desperately wanted the marriage to work. But every time he got his paycheck, he’d secretly go to the Atlantic City casinos. Using an elaborate web of lies, he’d explain his absence to his wife. If he lost all his money, often the case, he’d have to lie about the money as well. He’d make up stories: Aunt Berla is dying and needs the money for a respirator; Uncle Martin borrowed the money for his rent. On and on it would go, until his wife no longer could or would believe him and was ready to leave the marriage.

Finally, Joe confessed to the blatant truth: He was a compulsive gambler, an addict swallowed up by an insatiable desire to turn his quarters into dollars with a flick of his wrist. His eyes filled with desperate tears. He begged his wife to stay and promised to get help for his addiction.

An Old Vice

Gambling addictions are much more common than most people think. With gambling legal and easy to find, every day more and more people fall prey to its devastation, their lives becoming ruined.

The gambling vice is nothing new. We can find accounts of it five thousand years ago with the advent of Kali-yuga. From historical Vedic books such as Srimad-Bhagavatam and Mahabharata, we can read stories of how gambling consumes truthfulness. In one narrative, Lord Balarama is playing chess with Krsna’s brother-in-law, Prince Rukmi. Being from the royal order, Rukmi was expected to exemplify all good qualities, including truthfulness.

Rukmi and Balarama were playing for larger and larger wagers of gold coins. At first Balarama was losing, but at the end he won a large wager, making up for his losses. Unable to bear the defeat, Rukmi lied, saying that he had actually won. Even when a voice from the heavens declared Balarama the winner, Rukmi refused to yield. Although gambling was sanctioned for warriors and the ruling class, the insidious affects of gambling infiltrated Rukmi’s consciousness. Rukmi abandoned truthfulness, a quality coveted by his contemporaries, out of his greed for gold.

In another historical event extensively narrated in Mahabharata, a great gambling match was arranged between the pious, exemplary king Yudhisthira and the wicked Sakuni. Being a king, Yudhisthira Maharaja was obliged to accept any challenge from another person of the royal order. The match was masterminded by his envious cousin King Duryodhana. Through deception and lies, Yudhisthira Maharaja temporarily lost his kingdom. The gambling match was a catalyst for the great Kurukshetra war, wherein millions of warriors died.

These events involving gambling ushered in Kali-yuga, the current age of quarrel and hypocrisy. Over the past few decades, the proliferation of gambling has continued to destroy truthfulness throughout the world. People no longer trust their leaders. Friends lie to each other, as do husbands and wives, students and teachers. The sanctity of truthfulness is wearing thin in all relationships.

Subtle Gambling

Like any vice, gambling has gross and subtle aspects. Betting in a casino and playing the lottery are gross displays of gambling. One subtle form of gambling is mental speculation, the attempt to understand the Absolute Truth through our own experience in other words, by guessing. Before becoming a devotee, I had tried to understand the Absolute Truth through this faulty process. I had surmised that I wasn’t the body and that the soul was waiting to be liberated from my body. While this was an accurate assessment, I concluded that suicide would free the soul from the encasement of the body. Had I acted on my speculation, I would have committed a grave error that would have cost me my opportunity to advance in Krsna consciousness in this human form of life.

Srila Prabhupada also mentions speculative business ventures as gambling. Many devotees have grappled with understanding this point. Some years ago, a friend tried to persuade my husband and me to “invest” $12,000 in a money pyramid. As more and more people put money into the scheme, we would be pushed to the top of the pyramid and make $60,000. The tempting offer was very risky. It was clearly a form of gambling, and we didn’t take part.

All business involves some risk. A majority of new businesses fail after the first two years. Yet Srila Prabhupada encouraged devotees to start businesses to support temples, and he himself had a business to support his family. After consulting senior devotees, I’ve concluded that by speculative business ventures Prabhupada meant high-risk investments where one hopes to reap a big return for a relatively small investment.

Finally, in his definition of gambling Prabhupada sometimes includes cinemas, mundane novels, frivolous sports anything that wastes time. How is wasting time gambling? Gambling means to risk something, and wasting time means risking time the most valuable commodity. We can’t buy back a single moment of time, even for millions of dollars. Our time on earth is limited and precious. We invest our time in an activity with the hope of some return. By nature we seek pleasure. But material adjustments don’t produce lasting solutions. Spiritual activity is the investment that brings permanent results.

Bad Investment

Srimad-Bhagavatam givesthe historical account of Hiranyakasipu, a powerful king inimical to spiritual culture. Hiranyakasipu used his time to perform great austerities. For one hundred years he stood on one leg. In return he hoped to receive immortality. He received great opulence that made him think he was immortal, but in the end he was killed by the Lord. Hiranyakasipu took the gamble that his investment of a hundred years of austerities would bring him immortality. But he lost his wager to the Lord, who appeared in His half-man, half-lion incarnation to take Hiranyakasipu’s life.

On the other hand, Hiranyakasipu’s son Prahlada invested his time in glorifying the Lord. He taught his friends about the valuable nature of time and encouraged them to give up frivolous activities and join him in chanting the Lord’s holy names. Prahlada wasn’t looking for anything in return. He was completely happy to act for the Lord’s pleasure. Prahlada’s investment of time brought him eternal happiness in pure love of God.

In our early stages of devotional life, to come to Prahlada’s high level of consciousness and never engage in frivolous activities or waste our time may seem impossible. But these are benchmarks of our advancement. As we advance, we will value our time and use it carefully to progress in spiritual life.

Advancement occurs naturally as we engage in devotional practices, but as with anything, the more conscientious our practices, the quicker we will realize our goals. The more we apply the simple formula of accepting things favorable for our spiritual life and rejecting things unfavorable, the faster we will become free of unwanted desires and activities.

While I have no desire to play the slot machines or bet at the races, I’m easily pulled into gossip and allured by images on supermarket tabloids. But I’ve come a long way in Krsna consciousness over the past twenty-four years, and I know if I continue to follow the process, in another twenty-four years I may be free of the more subtle aspects of gambling.

Srila Prabhupada gave us the highest, most sublime goals, and sometimes those can intimidate beginners. Our position may be like that of someone learning to play the piano and feeling discouraged watching the nimble fingers of an advanced student. But with practice, the beginner will see progress. What seems impossible in the beginning will appear more and more attainable.

I won’t become discouraged, therefore, that I haven’t completely conquered the propensity to gamble. Rather, I can be thankful for all the progress I have made, and I can pray that the gray-haired woman in the convenience store can become free of her gambling addiction and find the real source of her happiness and fulfillment: devotional service to the Lord. And although Srila Prabhupada instructs us not to gamble, by his inspiration I’ll continue to bet my life on chanting Hare Krsna, hoping the result will one day be love of God. 


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There are many things which we aspire for and even worship, which have no intrinsic value. They have value inasmuch as they are attached to values, and thus can serve perverted or promoting aims. Thus, though they have no value, they have a use. These things which we attach value to, are actually tools for values to be attached to. For example, a knife is neither good nor evil, but can be used for good or evil. It has a use, but no value.

What is it that we worship as human beings that is essentially without value, but is merely a tool? Intelligence is in this category, as is its effect- knowledge. Wealth, also. Fame. Beauty, definitely. Strength, physical and psychological. All these desirable things have been used to further human happiness and evolution, or to retard it. And yet, though they are essentially valueless, we strive for these things and worship people that have them, whom we call “celebrities”. Am I going too far when I say that we worship them? In the temples of India, people line up to get a glimpse of the Lord in His deity form-similarly people will line up to get a glimpse of their favorite celebrity. In the scriptures of India, God Who is known as Bhagavan, is defined as one who possesses unlimited wealth, strength, fame, knowledge, beauty and renunciation- the qualities of a celebrity exactly (maybe without the renunciation bit, though they do seem to change partners often…) So what people are mad after, are the qualities of God, yet the qualities themselves are neither good nor evil- they are neutral. They can be used for good or for evil.

Does it not make more sense to strive not for that which is neutral, merely a tool, but for the values themselves which can turn the tool into something of value? What is the use of a nutcracker when all one has to crack is stones? Only attached to an edible nut, does the nutcracker have value, indeed it is foolish to try to design a nutcracker if there are no nut trees! Similarly, it is foolish to try to acquire knowledge, wealth or fame, unless one has a good reason to acquire them. When added to such values as kindness, empathy, forgiveness, tolerance, the respect for all life, and love, in short when attached to the striving towards the well-being and evolution of all things, these tools have value. That is what the sastra refers to as the mode of goodness or sattva guna- those values that end in happiness. When attached to self-centered values, the striving toward happiness at the cost of others, such as the desire for power, prestige and influence, these values give a temporary sense of happiness only, which quickly dissipates in the loneliness of self-centeredness. That is what the sastra refers to as the mode of passion, rajo-guna. When attached to evil propensities, the striving towards the destruction of self and society, these tools are extremely dangerous- they are the values of the lowest mode, tamas, which ends only in misery and madness. Hitler thus misused his fame. Openheimer, his intelligence. President Bush, his wealth. Many a psychopath has misused physical and/or psychological strengths. Women- and men- can misuse beauty to destroy themselves in the market of prostitution.

We have a tendency, despite all that, to worship not values, but tools, and we strive our whole lives to acquire them. This is the foolishness of a society obsessed with nutcrackers without access to nuts, or to keyboard and mouse designs, who have no interest in getting a CPU, or to wires and electrical tape, who have no interest in getting an electricity supply. We are not mad, but our obsession goes beyond reason- it is an obsession of the heart for God- for we are craving His qualities exactly. To this natural obsession, God gives wise counsel- add to it the values that ensure our own good- and thus pervading every revealed word of God, the message to develop kindness, empathy, forgiveness, etc, is echoed…

When we began to divorce religion from education, we lost what was essential to the survival of the human race. The mad race for tools was then on, without any guidance as to how best to use them, for the guide books for our survival were reduced to quaint myths in the minds of men. In ancient Vedic times, only to those who had developed the values conducive to happiness and growth- the sattvic qualities- was higher education an option. Now it is a legal necessity- for all- and also a legal necessity that no revealed word of God be taught, in the name of secularism. Now we have come to the utter insanity of creating nutcrackers en masse, while all nut trees and books on how to grow them, are banished.

The revealed word of God describes certain values- or things to be attained which are inherently valuable. Yet these revelations themselves can be used as tools and manipulated according to the whim of the believer. When religion is separated from its essential values, it becomes a tool- a thing of vice in the hands of a vicious person, a thing of virtue in hands of the virtuous. This, we have seen in the course of history.

Religion’s Essence

But it may be asked that if religion is nothing but essential values, then how can it be separated from the same? How can goodness become neutral, or to put it another way, how can an active principle embodying goodness, become a passive principle of neutrality, and thus be used for destructive purposes?

This happens when something is separated from its essence. Returning to our example, a nut is essentially a food, which is life giving, but it can be stuffed into the trachea and inhibit breathing, causing death. Food and the values of religion are life-giving, but separated from their function, they lose value and are reduced to tools, passive utilities for an active principle which may be antagonistic. Thus so much viciousness has come about from religion -which is supposed to embody values that are good for all of God’s creation.

Therefore, in the Bhagavad gita, even religion is described as within the categories of goodness (sattva), passion (rajas) and ignorance (tamas) (Bg 17th chapter) . Everything is influenced by these modes of nature to elevate, stagnate or deteriorate the human condition, but Krishna declares throughout all these changes the modes alone are active- everything else is in a passive tool-like state (Bg 14.19, 14.22-25)

Is Religion essential, anyway?

Then it may be asked “if religion is not essentially valuable, if it is no more than a passive tool, then why have it at all? Why not just separate out its essence, the values therein, and throw out the rest? Is not a person who is kind, generous, open and loving, a religious person, anyway?” Indeed, in the sastra, the platform of God consciousness is called suddha sattva- all these principles in their pure state. When a person is good only for the sake of being good, kind only for the sake of being kind, etc that is purity of principle, or the principle of goodness in a fully activated condition.

The problem is- where is such a perfect person to be found? We all have the tendency to less than fully embody the values we strive towards- thus we see, so often, youthful idealism later on frustrated by the defeat and hopelessness of realizing one’s limits. The usual response of the individual is to then return to mediocrity and be happy to blend with the crowd… by his middle age, the striving is over, or replaced with endeavour that is separate from idealistic perfection…most people striving for tools of neutrality, such as wealth…

How did this happen, this tragic accident on the royal road to perfection? The mistake is very subtle….If one sees oneself as the source of the values of love and empathy, for example…if one is being loving and caring because one identifies oneself as a loving and caring person, one will always be disappointed by one’s limits. Furthermore, that limit is even more limited, because the values are being used by the ego to boost up one’s sense of worth, they are being used as tools, though on a very subtle level. On the other hand, if one sees the Lord as their source, and oneself as a mere conduit, one is humbled to be touched thus by the Lord, and whatever one can do, is proof of His mercy. One feels not oneself to be loving and caring, but that the love and care of the Lord is so overwhelming that it can flow through any channel, however limited it may be…in this way one naturally avoids using religion as a tool- rather one is a tool for the active principle of religion to flow through.

Thus, the gita recommends values be suffused with devotion that is without expectation of reward from God or man. For example, trying to be tolerant for the sake of being tolerant, means that one does so only because one values that value, and wants to mould one’s life around it. One does not want to use it for a tool, for recognition or whatever, but essentialize it, internalize it, and live it. Doing so, brings one into the light of God, as He Himself declares in the Bhagavad gita that one who internalizes such attributes is very dear to Him. (Bg 12.13-20) This process is naturally joyful, because the Lord in one’s heart Who witnesses everything, all one’s innermost thoughts, actions and motivations, is pleased by that striving, and, like a lover, will ignore any of its faults. This helps the devotee overcome the hopelessness of his limits, and thus there is reassurance and delight from within, which ensures that he will not fall from the process.

Of the Lord, for the Lord…

So in terms of tools, religion must not be separated from its function which is to please the Lord. In its lowest form, in the mode of ignorance, religion is used to destroy people- physically through jihads and crusades, or psychologically through guilt-tripping, damning and judging (Bg. 17.19). In its stagnating form, the mode of passion, it is used to augment one’s ego- one wants to be perceived as a great and holy person, and thus be admired by all (Bg 17.18). In its purest form, it is used to help people evolve- and this is when religion’s values are internalized, lived, not used as a tool of manipulation or falsity of ego (Bg 17.17)

Religion is then very close to fulfilling its purpose, and to a certain extent it does so, for being used in this way, it is very pleasing to the Lord. But when it is consciously used to serve the Lord, knowing the Lord to be the source of all goodness, empathy, kindness, equality of vision etc- when thus kept, in its pure form, only for the pure purpose of pleasing the Lord, Who dwells in all hearts as the witness, it has become stripped of all that covers it and regains its very essence.

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“If I had not been there with Srila Prabhupada for days and weeks and months, my life would be nothing but dry, tattered scraps.”

Adapted by Nandimukhi Devi Dasi from Remembering Srila Prabhupada (© 1998 Daniel Clark)

HIS DIVINE GRACE A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, my spiritual master, enacted his life’s activities from his birth in 1896 to his passing in 1977. I knew him for the last eleven years of his exemplary pastimes. But to say I knew him is going too far. I watched him. I listened to him. I talked with him and corresponded with him. I followed him and obeyed him-and disobeyed him. I learned from him. I bowed down before him and prayed to him. I loved him, and still do. Through those eleven years, that person I first knew as the Swami, then as Swamiji, and then as Srila Prabhupada, guided my life.

My first contact with Srila Prabhupada was in April of 1966. 1 saw a New York Times photograph with a long caption. The Swami, pictured sitting, was giving classes on Bhagavad-gfta in a loft on the Bowery. For the Swami, first and foremost, God is a person, the caption stated. The best way to attain God realization, he said, is through devotion-and specifically by chanting names of God in a congregational setting. The name of God preferred by the Swami: Krsna.

In July, Swami Bhaktivedanta and his students moved into a small storefront on Second Avenue. It was seven blocks south of my apartment. I often rode the bus south to a friend’s place, and it took me by 26 Second Avenue, where a sign above the window bore the name “Matchless Gifts.” Early one evening the lights were on. Through the window I could see half a dozen people sitting on straw mats with their backs to the street. Facing them and me, at the far end of the room, was a golden glow-that’s all I saw at first. It was the Swami, in yellow cloth.

I was scared. Scared because I was attracted, and I knew what that attraction meant. I would have to stop having sex! I would have to give up all kinds of things. These impressions came to me in the three or four seconds allowed to me by the fast-moving bus.

During the late summer, the Krsna conscious people were the subject of many conversations on the Lower East Side. Most of the neighborhood “beats” kept their distance. I too hesitated to walk through the storefront door into that other world. Then a neighborhood avant-gardo newspaper, The East Village Other, published a long article on Swami Bhaktivedanta and his disciples. Included was an announcement that the Krsna people would hold outdoor gatherings every Sunday at the park. My wife and I decided to go the next Sunday.

The day was sunny and mild, and the park, as usual, was busy with colorful bohemians celebrating the weekend.

The Swami was dressed in a traditional wrapped cloth. He was sitting down, batting on a little wooden bongo drum. The inner circle of adepts included several enraptured disciples dancing at a stately pace around and around in a circle perhaps ten feet in diameter. Their arms were raised in supplication. Around the dancers sat two dozen or so cross-legged meditators buried deep in the sound of the mantra they sang. Around them stood a crowd of a hundred people. They were a cross-section of the Lower East Side population: students, Ukrainians, Puerto Ricans, bohemians, blue-collar workers, and kids. Many of the onlookers, helped by leaflets passed out by a disciple, sang along with the exotic spiritualists at the center. My life changed at that moment. I was catapulted into a new world.

The Swami modestly kept himself out of the spotlight. He allowed the words and the music of the mantra to work its sacred effect. After a while he stood to speak. I was too far away to hear much of what he said. He spoke with intensity-that was clear. I wanted to hear more.

I attended the next evening meeting at 26 Second Avenue. Once again, the chanting, which I learned was called kirtana, was deeply fulfilling to me.

After a kirtana of twenty minutes or so, the Swami spoke. I had expected a smiling, light-hearted wizardly fellow. Instead, the Swami was dead serious. His lecture concentrated on the evils of sex, which he railed against with vigor. During the question-and-answer period, he employed a quickness of wit and startling perceptiveness in his responses. It was plain – he dwelled in a world of mystics and saints who were completely real to him. No matter how much grief it caused me, I was determined to proceed further along this path. I became a regular at the storefront.

The experience of being with the Swami was unsettling. It forced us to question our assumptions about every move we made. Yet to be with him was also the most comforting and reassuring event of our lives. We used to chant on our beads, speaking the mantra aloud, in the courtyard right under his apartment window. Sometimes he would look out and smile. To be so close to him was like being at the center of the universe. We felt no fear or anxiety. He was our eternal protector.


Srila Prabhupada

Do you wonder about his authenticity? One young man attending a lecture in New York did. He asked Prabhupada, in a rude, sarcastic tone of voice, “Can you see God?” The answer came swiftly: “Yes, but you’re in the way!”

The movements of his hands were decisive yet supple. In 1966, before the Society had a treasurer, Prabhupada kept the meager fund of petty cash in his little snap-clasped purse. His disciple Brahmananda asked him for fifty cents. Prabhupada picked up the purse with a slow-motion sweep and elevated it to his eye level with his arms outstretched. He deftly unsnapped the clasp with one hand as his other hand descended into the purse, thumb and forefinger together like a bird’s beak, the other fingers straight out like wings. Somehow the beak immediately found a fifty-cent piece. The graceful bird flew out of the purse holding it as if it were a golden coin from a king’s treasure chest and released it into Brahmananda’s hand.

“This typewriter is not different from Krsna,” he taught us in his apartment at 26 Second Avenue. He patted the gray metal machine he was using to type Out his purports to Bhagavad-gita. Thus we learned one of the central principles of Krsna consciousness: matter engaged in the service of God becomes spiritualized. “When you place an iron poker in the fire, it becomes just like fire.”

Among his perfections was his gentlemanly behavior. In preparation for his return to New York in 1969, the devotees worked hard to fix up his apartment. As Prabhupada climbed the stairs and saw the rooms through the open door, he said, “This is my old home” and melted our hearts. He knew we wanted him to stay there and never leave. He couldn’t give us that, but he gave us his love. At every moment he won us over again and again.

If I had not been there with Srila Prabhupada for days and weeks and months, my life would be nothing but dry, tattered scraps. The sound of the words from his mouth was like a ripe delicious mango, and it drove you mad for more and more. His hands danced, and the sight of him blessed our eyes with spiritual vision, for on seeing him we gazed into the kingdom of God.

That is why I bow down before him and offer him songs of praise.

Damodara Dasa lives with his wife, Vajresvari Devi Dasi, in Sebastian, Florida. He works as an electronic media specialist at the local public library.

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Radha Krishna das (UK) ACBSP has travelled to many farms since 1995 teaching and setting up what is now known as the Howard-Higgins Horticultural System, including Mayapur, Krsna Valley Radhadesh and Bhaktivedanta Manor to name but a few. It has been cited as ‘a Lost Veda’ Indeed Radha Krsna das believes it is one of the Lost Arts, in connection with cow protection, as mentioned in the tenth Canto of Srimad Bhagavatam. It fits right in with the Varnasrama programme where we hope to train people in what is the ‘noblest profession’ – farming, so that they can make a living in the mode of goodness and train others who will come to this movement through varnasrama preaching.

One of his KCSA members at his demonstration farm near Bhaktivedanta Manor, pictured above, is Cintamani Devi Dasi and this is what she has to say:

The compost/fertiliser derived from the HH-2 system of Goshala and temple waste management is absolute MAGIC. I wish i had used it from the beginning of the season. But being a cheapskate I tried making my own and buying rotted manure. The slugs ravaged everything i planted. Finally, i went and bought a 20 kilo bag from him for £20. When i go early morning slug hunting now, i find the slugs in some kind of stupor at the boundary of his compost which i have put around each plant. They are not dead, but in some type of comatose stupor….and they haven’t ravaged my plants. When i put them in the bucket to put out in the park, they regain their senses. I don’t know how his compost works….but it really is magic.

It prevents all types of disease and parasites from attacking plants. Next year i shall buy a few bags and cover my whole vegetable patch. Radha Krishna prabhu tells me that if you put it down one year it’s effects last into the next year also. That works out cheaper than buying cheap compost every year.

I pray the GBC commission Radha Krishna prabhu to teach all ISKCON farms to use his fertility making system, which maximises the benefits of cow dung.. He has the key to the second half of Srila Prabhupada’s mission: simple living high thinking. His waste management strategy will enable village communities to recycle literally all of their biodegradable waste and turn it into magic compost which produces abundant pest and disease free vegetables, trees and flowers. Unlike the vegetables in the supermarkets which are saturated with disease-giving pesticides…his vegetables are better than medicine in keeping the body and brain healthy.

Modern day agriculture is destroying the soil….Radha Krishna prabhu knows how to revive and nourish the soil through efficient waste management. His method could provide an excellent revenue stream for devotees who apprentice under him and learn how to make and sell this compost known as HH-4. Devotees apprenticing under him could be trained how to teach the rest of the world how to revive the soil.

Without this type of technology we will very soon see food shortages become a major problem. Learning this technology can safeguard devotee communities from such shortages, and enable us to fulfill the second half of Srila Prabhupada’s mission.

All glories to Radha Krishna prabhu! He really is doing an amazing service.


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By Acarya dasa, All-India Padayatra leader

Srila Prabhupada once declared that he would personally travel by car taking dozens of men to preach in the villages of Gujarat.

“In the afternoon Kartikeya drove us five miles to a local village for a programme. In the car Prabhupada talked enthusiastically about village-to-village preaching. He is eager to see this programme established and said that mass propaganda of sankirtan and prasadam distribution will save India. He said that if programmes are arranged, he will travel in his new car (when it comes), taking a dozen men all around Gujarat to every village.” – A Transcendental Diary, Volume 1, December 27, 1975; Sanand, Gujarat.


To fulfil that desire of Srila Prabhupada, and also of Bhakti Vikas Swami Maharaja, the Bharuch, Gujarat, devotees inaugurated a padayatra programme on December 15, 2019, in the presence of Rupa Raghunath Maharaja and about 1500 congregation devotees. Sometime before the inauguration the Bharuch devotees had phoned me and I told them the AIP had recently moved into Gujarat, which they were happy to hear and said that the inauguration would be arranged to take place when the padayatris were in Bharuch. Rupa Raghunath Maharaja attended the event, inspiring all of us, and Lokanath Maharaja was overjoyed to hear that Gujarat now had its own padayatra. Later both padayatra carts went through the city, thus announcing the beginning of the Gujarat Padayatra.


The padayatra, to be known as the Harinama Sankirtan Padayatra, will initially cover more than 1500 villages of the Bharuch and Narmada districts. The oxen Ramai and Nandai, named after assistants of Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s personal servant, Govinda, will carry Their Lordships Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai. Because the oxen were not trained, they spent ten days with the AIP learning to walk independently. The new padayatris also got trained for book distribution, advance party duties and announcements. The Gujarat padayatris walked with us until December 26 then continued walking in the district villages. It was wonderful to see the two padayatras together with two sets of deities, two carts and two teams of oxen.

The day after the inauguration we celebrated the disappearance day of Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur with the Bharuch devotees. They had cooked fifty-six bhoga preparations and we all had a grand sankirtan, thus ending two days featuring two celebrations.



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rl0_slideshow.jpg?profile=RESIZE_710x By Jonathan Bearman

One of the memorable moments of the Golden Anniversary celebrations.

Nothing could more illustrate the blossoming of ISKCON in the heart of the UK than the recent 50th anniversary festival to mark the installation by Srila Prabhupada of the Radha-Krishna Deities known as Sri Sri Radha-Londonisvara in central London, the Deities who also have a historical significance in that They are the first large Radha-Krishna Deities in ISKCON. 

A truly memorable event, London has never seen the Hare Krishna movement like this before. Running for nine days from Sunday 24th November to Monday 2nd December, the festival showcased exceptional displays of performance arts and visual arts, poetry readings and kirtans, maha harinamas and an open-top bus harinama, historical accounts of Radha-Londonisvara and offerings of wisdom from some of its founders half a century ago – and, throughout it all, a series of dazzling, themed darshans by Their Lordships Themselves, the Lords of London.

From the launch of the festival at the legendary Eventim Apollo in Hammersmith on Sunday 24th November, for what was described as the “Krishna Spectacular’, it was evident something special was going on. It was as if the 64 arts and crafts listed in the Brahma Samhita for Goloka Vrindavan had descended among us – arts and crafts learned by Sri Krishna himself from his preceptor, Sandipani, in Mathura, and therefore held precious by the Supreme Personality.  In 1969, Srila Prabhupada told his early disciples that Sri Sri Radha-Londonisvara would bring us close to Vrindavan – and the anniversary festival was witness to this continuing manifestation. 


Sri Sri Radha Londonishvara

The Apollo stage allowed scale for the full-rein of the performance arts, while the 3000-seat auditorium gave the rare opportunity for substantial audience participation, most apparent with the rousing rendition of Londonisvara from Jayadev dasa and his mantra choir. Yet while Jayadev brought the audience to their feet in typical barn-storming style, Jahnavi Harrison in a more gentle way touched hearts with mellifluous, soul-penetrating tonality, and Bali Rico charmed with pulsating lyricism, this time free from the mrdangas of the Mayapuris. Fifty years after George Harrison produced Govinda with the first London disciples at Apple Studios in London’s Saint John’s Wood, relying on the unforgettable voice of Yamuna devi dasi, the Apollo show made it clear Krishna consciousness has lost none of its ability to move people by a powerful vocal offering.

The large stage also accommodated a significant dance repertoire that was undeveloped in early years of ISKCON. The Apollo event revealed how Krishna consciousness was finding expression in modern and contemporary dance with the display and tribute to Krishna by the Samadhi Dance Company and the impressive use of dance, including acrobatics, by the Natya Nectar Dance Company, to illustrate the journey of the jiva through the karmic entanglements and sensory delusions of the material world until the embodied soul finds refuge at the lotus feet of Krishna. Accounting for the largest section of the Apollo show, Natya Nectar’s performance left the audience gasping with its imaginative trapeze work, acrobatic use of a large wheel to portray the revolving captivity of the jiva in the  world,  and trance-like turning historically associated with sufism and the dervishes, but used by Natya Nectar in glorification of Krishna.

And yet slotted within these memorable performances were two quieter interludes. One saw the entry of three of the original founders of ISKCON in the UK – Shyamasundar dasa, Gurudas dasa and Malati devi dasi. All had travelled from the US to be pioneers in London at the request of Srila Prabhupada in 1968, and had now travelled back from the US as special guests of the 50th anniversary in London. With humility learned while serving Srila Prabhupada, they retold in simple terms how the Hare Krishna London story began and how they secured the presiding Deities of the London temple, named as Sri Sri Radha-Londonisvara by Srila Prabhupada, and from which so much has now followed, to the extent that the Hare Krishna presence they founded in London all those years ago has become five decades later a recognised perennial feature of London-life.


In another quiet interlude, Radhanath Swami, a senior member of ISKCON’s governing body, spoke about the necessary antidote to the delusions of the material world, the chanting of the name of Krishna. With a lifetime of devotion and 40 years of experience of spiritual traditions in India, he distilled his wisdom into a simple message for the audience, explaining why the Hare Krishna Maha Mantra is critical to all in this material world who will listen: that it brings about purification in the heart and, like the polishing of a mirror, allows the embodied soul to ever-more reflect God and find love for God. 

Following the Apollo show, the festival moved its centre of gravity to the Radha-Krishna Temple off Oxford Street where the development of Krishna consciousness in London could be explored in more depth. There, for the next eight days, the festival progressed with daily themes, beginning with the founding of a temple in London. Entitled “A Labour of Love: How it All Began”, the theme on Monday 25th November (Day 2) was a focus on how the original pioneers worked selflessly in unfamiliar conditions to fulfil Srila Prabhupada’s desire for a temple with presiding Deities in London, and how in this undertaking they depended on the invaluable help of Beatles-member George Harrison. And the story of how those Deities arrived at the temple was, as part of this day’s theme, revisited by the first pioneers present at the time and now reunited: foremost among the memories were how Tamal Krishna Goswami and Shyamasundar dasa abetted Srila Prabhupada in taking-off with the gift of the Radha-Krishna Deities from the house of a hesitating Mr. Goyal in Stratford, East London; and how They were installed at the first temple in Bury Place, Bloomsbury; and how also, before that,  Shyamasundar dasa carved the Deities of  Lord Jagannatha, Lord Baladeva and Subhadra Devi on instructions from Srila Prabhupada from wood salvaged from  a dockyard on the Thames.  Over fifty years, it has all become the stuff of ISKCON legend. 

It was therefore a blessing that Shyamasundar dasa, Gurudas dasa and Malati devi dasi were present for the 50th anniversary, and that other early followers of ISKCON made their way from around the world. Joining the three pioneers on the Monday to talk about their ‘Labour of Love’ were Radhanath Swami, a disciple of Srila Prabupada since 1973, and another early member of ISKCON in London, Ranchor dasa. Radhanath Swami spoke of the humble service spirit that had been learned from Srila Prabhupada, while Ranchor, who helped with the Radha-Krishna Temple building, told in poetic form of how his journey of service to Krishna began by taking refuge like many others at the feet of Radha-Krishna in London.



Encircling the city of my days and nights,
Welcoming its lost souls to bask in Your golden gaze,
I sat through a night of mysteries at Your feet.

Poems in fact became a major offering to Sri Sri Radha-Londonisvara throughout the festival. Ahead of events, a collection of poems, prose and prayers had been gathered from devotees as an offering to Their Lordships and selective works from the resulting “Offerings of Love for Sri Sri Radha-Londonisvara: Poems and Prayers for Fifty Years” compilation were read out during the days of the festival. Prominent among them were works by the original and early members including Shyamsundar dasa, who looking back could declare:

Oh, Sri Sri Radha-Londonisvara, how beautiful You have become, more beautiful than anything possible, and how perfect Your reign from this Soho palace. 

The first day of the festival at the Radha-Krishna Temple also saw devotees gather for a maha harinama, perhaps the largest ever in London. It was to be succeeded by maha harinamas on each day of the festival, with the maha harinama on Tuesday combined with a Rathayatra procession and then outings to notable London sights and public attractions, among them Leicester Square and Carnaby Street. Such is now the accepted presence of Hare Krishna in London that there was little hostile reaction; in fact, members of the public cheered and some joined in. Likewise, with the Saturday open-top bus harinama around the capital. If anything, the imaginative bus harinama, using the iconic red routemaster buses, with jubilant musicians and chanters aboard, will have further embedded the Hare Krishna phenomena in the London scene, while creating a carnival atmosphere in the depth of winter.  


Day 3 of the festival was devoted to the advent of the London Rathayatra, the annual chariot procession of the Deities Lord Jagannatha, Lord Baladeva and Subhadra Devi from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square, the central point of London. Although the first devotees began the yatra in the summer of 1969, it took them time to develop the knowhow to manually manoeuvre chariots with seven-foot wheels in the London streets.  Eventually, though, the competence and construction skills were cultivated and in 1973 Srila Prabhupada blessed the wishes of the London devotees with his first attendance at the London Rathayatra. More than forty years on, it has now become a huge yearly event attracting large crowds and requiring the provision of prasadam on an unprecedented scale in Trafalgar Square.

The arrival in London of Srila Prabhupada set the theme for Day 4. When he landed at Heathrow on 11 September 1969, Srila Prabhupada was suddenly at the centre of publicity due to the favourable circumstances created by the release of the Hare Krishna Maha Mantra by his devotees on the Beatles’ Apple Records label that summer. Around 40 reporters awaited him after he stepped off the plane, wanting to get a sight of what was described by the news media as the Beatles’ Guru. At the time, the Beatles were a huge, unparalleled music phenomenon with a mass youth following. Prabhupada accepted this sudden celebrity status caused by association with Beatles because it helped establish Krishna consciousness; and if the Beatles took up the Maha Mantra it would introduce Krishna to millions of young people. For the same reason, he therefore accepted the hospitality of Beatles’ frontman John Lennon at Tittenhurst Park, although he was anxious to move to London to join his devotees who were building the Radha-Krishna Temple at Bury Place. As ever, he wanted to be close to the devotees who had committed their lives to serving Krishna – and to the site of the first Radha-Krishna Temple. Highlights of the day’s festival was a unique darshan on the altar of pictures of Srila Prabhupada in London, a London memories class of Srila Prabhupada by Dhananjaya dasa, one of Srila Prabhupada’s early disciples in the UK, and a magnificent offering of 50 (in fact, 57) cakes by the community, no one cake the same, on the Temple altar. 

On Day 5 of the festival, attention turned to the ceremonial installation of the Deities of Radha and Krishna at the Bury Place Temple by Srila Prabhupada and this was followed the next day by the theme of ‘London is Vrindavan’. These themes were drawn from Srila Prabhupada’s revelation to his devotees that with the installation of the Deities those who came into Their presence and meditated and focused on Them would be enclosed within spiritual Vrindavan. Srila Prabhupada, by installing Radha-Krishna Deities, made London into a spiritual abode where Their Lordships would mercifully rule. He was well-aware that it would take time for the spiritual abode to manifest around Them, but with the installation he was sowing the seeds of something much bigger; in fact, to use a different metaphor, he had set in motion a kind of synergy between the Deities and a place called London, a mutually reinforcing bond that has grown to this day. Knowing this, Srila Prabhupada called Them Sri Sri Radha-Londonisvara, the Lords of London.  


Throughout all the days of the festival at the Radha-Krishna Temple, it was the visual appearance of Sri Sri Radha-Londonisvara that was truly awesome, spell-binding. You simply ran out of superlatives to describe Them: They radiated, glistened, mesmerized, dazzled, looked stunning and glorious, just beautiful. They were of course Srila Prabhupada’s favourites and he maintained that They had appeared in London by Their own will as part of Their causeless mercy. To take darshan of Them these nine days was to be like Arjuna brought into the presence of the Lord’s  grace (pusti), splendour (sri), fame (kirti), invincible potency (maya) and miraculous powers in his venture into the spiritual realm (as reported in the Srimad Bhagavatam, 10.89.57). 

Each day, the Deities gave all those who visited the temple and of course the thousands who witnessed online, beautiful new themed darshans to match the themes of the festival and this allowed a precious opportunity for devotees to offer innovative, crafted service to Them. In fact, it was an occasion to apply more of the arts and crafts and qualities of Vrindavan, as listed in the Brahma Samhita and Srimad Bhagavatam, such as painting, flower arranging, carpentry and, indeed, the art of making delicious food as prasadam.  

The darshans included the Deities appearing majestically on the red carpet on the day of Krishna Spectacular, being enclosed within a rose-filled heart, and enthroned as the King and Queen of London. Lord Jagannatha, Lord Baladeva and Subhadra Devi looked delightful on Their Rath cart on the Rathayatra-themed day. Darshans on two of the days were dedicated to honouring Srila Prabhupada’s time in London and celebrating the start of the 2019 Srila Prabhupada Book Marathon with a display of Srila Prabhupada’s books throughout the altar. On the penultimate day of the festival, the Holy Names were streaming from above Their Lordships. Finally, and most suitably, Their Lordships appeared perfectly against a painted panaroma of London, Their kingdom. And every day, They appeared sumptuously and exquisitely dressed.


Golden Anniversary Week organizer, Devaki devi dasi, says “Certainly a major highlight for devotees during the Golden Anniversary Week was the beautiful darshans – nine days in a row, starting from the day of Krishna Spectacular, we had nine special darshans, all based on  the theme of the day, to deepen our meditation on an aspect of ISKCON-London’s history. 

My inspiration behind this was my spiritual master, HH Sivarama Swami, and the gorgeous and splendid festival darshans that take place in New Vraja Dhama in Hungary, under his inspiration and leadership. Every time you go there, you get excited by deity greetings and what the altar will look like, what the Deities will wear, etc. and then when the curtains open you are in complete joy.

I was determined that we “pull out all the stops” for the darshans during this most-wonderful 50th Anniversary for the pleasure of Sri Sri Radha-Londonisvara, Srila Prabhupada, the senior devotees who would be present, and of course, our community.

It was a challenge to organise and took months of planning and preparation as well as it being an intense marathon during the festival week making and putting up the decorations on the altar as well as taking down old ones each day, but everything was possible due to Their Lordships’ blessings, the empowerment and support given by our Temple President, Jai Nitai dasa, and Head Pujari, Murli Manohara dasa, the diverse and wonderful abilities and team spirit of the devotees who assisted, as well as our Golden Anniversary sponsors. 

During these nine days, everyone was talking about the darshans and excited what the next day’s darshan would be like. It was quite wonderful to see how the darshans really captured devotees’ hearts and made them more connected to Their Lordships.

It was an experience of a lifetime, one that I will always treasure.”

From Day 7 of the festival, Saturday, to its conclusion on Monday 2nd December, the actual anniversary date of Sri Sri Radha-Londonisvara’s installation, the festival wound-up to an experiential climax. Day 7 was a celebration of the sankirtan mission undertaken in London by devotees in the early years and it related how they managed in the different conditions to keep faith in the sankirtan mission as inaugurated by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu in the late 15th and early 16th centuries in Bengal. Following on, Day 8 was devoted to the theme of chanting the Holy Names and the early success achieved by devotees through cooperation with the Beatles and George Harrison to establish awareness of Hare Krishna in the UK.  

The apotheosis of the festival, its highpoint, came on Day 9 and was sublime. Towards the close, Jayadev dasa returned to a packed Temple Room to lead the singing of the temple anthem, Radha-Londonisvara, to be followed by the finalé of an unprecedented – for London – pushpa abhishek for the Deities, in which They were showered by two tonnes of rose petals that flooded the entire altar. Then when the Deities released the petals as blessings back to the devotees, the devotees joyously showered each other with handfuls of petals; and at the end, the temple was left two inches deep in petals, and roses were strewn in a trail down Oxford Street, London’s most material street. After the petals were cleared up from the Temple Room, many stayed on relishing the lovely kirtan and eagerly awaiting the final darshan of the Deities in a new night outfit. 

Devaki devi dasi reflects “Thank you to all the senior devotees present who made the Golden Anniversary Week so special. We are so honoured to have had the association of some of the pioneers and Srila Prabhupada disciples present. The Temple Room was packed each day, morning, afternoon, and evening, with the community of ISKCON-London feeling very grateful and privileged to hear from such seniors on special remembrances and stories of our ISKCON-London history.” 

At the end of all this, what is to be said? First of all, as well as the actual events, what was inspiring was the humble spirit of service involved and offered by large numbers of devotees working in cooperation; secondly, the festival has given us a milestone to judge the progress of the Hare Krishna movement in the UK. Perhaps less obvious than the firm evidence of attendance at the festival is the likelihood these events have a certain soft power and generate a wider hinterland that becomes fertile territory for the future. Fifty years on Krishna is no longer alien to the British and eyebrows are no longer raised at the subject in the political Establishment or armed forces. Of course, there is huge service lying ahead, but thanks to the early pioneers, the groundwork has been done, and for that, there must be enormous gratitude to Sri Sri Radha-Londonisvara, the Lords of London. 

Watch the classes:

Watch a special film, produced by Bhaktavatara dasa, celebrating 50 years of the Hare Krishna’s in London, which was also shown as part of the celebrations:


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Imagine if someone would remember that he was a meat-eater in his previous birth, and yet he did not become an animal and took a human birth again. Well, then he should think that this human birth is just a step in between, and he would still have an animal birth waiting for him.

Sometimes you see, karma is an interesting cocktail. You may recall the story of King Nrga in the Krsna book. He was such a pious king, however by giving the same cow twice by accident to the brahmanas, he got a reaction for that. At the end of his life, he was asked: “What do you want first, the reaction to your pious activities or to you impious activities?” The King chose the impious and therefore first became a lizard. If he would have first gotten the reaction to his pious activities, because there were many, then he would have first gotten many wonderful births, and then in the end he would have been a lizard. So that is also possible, that there is still an animal birth waiting behind, maybe a few animal births. So like that, first maybe the result of pious activities which is holding up the result of the impious activities. In this way, karma is complicated!


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