The tour of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada throughout India attracted much daily news coverage, and many major magazines ran features about Srila Prabhupada and his foreign disciples. The Times Weekly of Bombay published a long front-cover article inNovember, 1970, describing a 10,000 strong crowd who attended a meeting at which Srila Prabhupada spoke and where he induced everyone in the huge crowd including policemen and pressmen to join in chanting the Hare Krsna mantra. There were subsequent letters to the newspaper on the Hare Krsna movement. One man wrote in a letter, “As far as my knowledge goes, these foreign Hindus of the Hare Krsna movement cannot be equal to the native original brahmanas and Hindus. They will have to be relegated to the lower castes. It is significant to see one of the newly converted sadhus, Sri Gopala dasa, formerly Charles Polan of Chicago, stated that he was a construction worker formerly. Doing sudras’ work, it would thus become necessary to allot the three lower castes to these foreign converts according to their profession.” In another letter, an Indian gentleman wrote: “The Hare Krsna movement is just a sporadic fad of sentimentalists.” In order to rectify the misinformation of statements of this sort, answering letters were written by the disciples of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, which were duly published in the Times. The letters are published here in their entirety.
Letter by Syamasundara dasa Adhikari (ISKCON—Bombay)
Since the Hare Krsna movement devotees have come to India, many kinds of discussions have taken place amongst various types of readers. I, the undersigned, one of the members of the Governing Body, wish to clear up the situation for public understanding.
This Krsna consciousness movement is not some manufactured ideology, as is the fashion of the modern age. This movement is based on the philosophy of Bhagavad-gita. If we accept Bhagavad-gita as it is, then this movement has been in existence since the time of Manu, which is calculated at not less than 400,000,000 years ago. Vaivasvata Manu, or the son of the sun-god Vivasvan, is the present Manu. Also, from the historical point of view, the Krsna consciousness movement is current since the last 5,000 years; that is to say, when Lord Krsna spoke this philosophy on the Battlefield of Kuruksetra. As such, this movement is not for any particular sect—Hindu, Muslim, Christian, etc.—but is meant for all living entities, including the animals.
As the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krsna claims that He is the original father of all species of living entities (Bg. 14.4). If God is not the father of all living entities, how can he be God? And because Krsna claims to be so, He is God. So Krsna consciousness means God consciousness. Any religion of the civilized world has a connection with God consciousness, with God realization, and according to Srimad-Bhagavatam, any religion which teaches how to love God is first class. It does not matter what religion one may follow, but if he has developed God consciousness, he is to be considered a follower of a first class religion. Actually this Krsna consciousness movement is a postgraduate religious institution wherein one can practically learn how to love God or Krsna. When we speak of Krsna we speak of God.
God has many thousands of names according to the realization of the God conscious person. Out of these thousands of names, the word Krsna is the primal name according to Vedic scripture because in the Brahma-samhita compiled by Lord Brahma it is said: isvarah paramah krsnah. This statement that Krsna is the Supreme Lord is also supported in Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.3.28): krsnas tu bhagavan svayam.
The meaning of the word Krsna is “all-attractive.” When Krsna was present on this planet, He exhibited His all-attractive features, namely wealth, power, influence, beauty, knowledge and renunciation. These six items are called opulence or bhaga. Anyone who possesses these six items completely is called bhagavan. Van means one who possesses. So these two words bhaga and van combined indicate Bhagavan, or God. No one can compete with God in the matter of possessing the above six opulences. Lord Krsna proved while He was present on this planet that no one in the history of the world has been able to compete with Him in this respect. We can find many men who possess some of these six opulences in some limited capacity, but no one has possessed all these six opulences completely in the history of the world. Thus from historical point of view also, no one has equalled or excelled Krsna.
God is one; there cannot be two Gods. And that one God is great. How can one be great? By possessing these six opulences completely. Because Krsna has this qualification, therefore He is God. Everyone has these six opulences in small quantity, so they can be called small gods. But no one has them in full except Krsna. Therefore He is the Supreme God. In Bhagavad-gita, Arjuna has said this very thing while addressing Krsna: “No one is equal to or greater than Your Lordship.” (Bg. 11.43)
Modern history cannot supply any evidence of the religion of the civilized world prior to 3,000 years ago. From the historical point of view, the Buddhist religion is calculated to be 2,600 years old, the Christian religion is 2,000 years old, the Mohammedan religion is still more recent, but no one can say how old is sanatana-dharma because sanatana-dharma has no beginning and no end, just as God has no beginning and no end. Similarly the living entity has no beginning or end. In Bhagavad-gita it is said, na jayate mriyate va: The living entity does not take birth or die. (Bg. 2.20) So the living entity is eternal, as God is eternal, and the relationship between God and the living entity is also eternal.
Lord Caitanya says that the eternal relationship is that God is supreme and the living entities are His eternal servants. This is also confirmed in Bhagavad-gita (Bg. 15.7): mamaivamso jiva-loke jivabhutah sanatanah. The living entities are parts and parcels of God, or Krsna. Therefore it is the duty of all living entities to render service in love to the Supreme Person. The living entities who are struggling very hard in this material world are actually always in threefold miserable conditions of life. Thus, they are transmigrating from one body to another and from one planet to another. This is the materially diseased condition of the living entity. But by developing Krsna consciousness, one can go back home, back to Godhead, to attain to eternal life, all bliss and full knowledge.
When Srila Prabhupada speaks…
Therefore this Krsna consciousness movement is meant for everyone, especially for the civilized human being. Instead of trying to understand this movement by mental concoction, one should try to understand the philosophy which we are presenting in different books in the English language, such as Krsna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead; The Nectar of Devotion; Bhagavad-gita As It Is; Srimad-Bhagavatam (12 cantos); Sri Isopanisad; The Teachings of Lord Caitanya and so many others.
Food offered before the altar of Radha-Krsna Deities.
According to the authority of Bhagavad-gita, all the American, European, Canadian, Australian and Japanese boys and girls who are accepting this cult belong to the topmost brahmana class. According to Bhagavad-gita there is no caste system by birth. This is confirmed in various other Vedic literatures. The stress is given to the quality and practical life. The brahminical regulative principles are as follows: no meat-eating, no illicit sex life, no intoxicants, including coffee, tea, pan and cigarettes, and no gambling. These American and foreign devotees are strictly following these four regulative principles. Twenty-four hours daily they chant the maha-mantra: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. They worship the Deity of Sri Sri Radha-Krsna according to Vaisnava formulas. Whether the Indian brahmanas will accept them as brahmanas or not does not matter. In India even amongst the brahmanas in different provinces there is no social intercourse.
Indians reach eagerly for paradam (spiritual food) distributed by Syamasundara dasa, an American disciple of Srila Prabhupada’s.
So if they are socially accepted or not doesn’t matter. For example, amongst the qualified legal practitioners in different provinces there may not be social intercourse, but that does not mean they are not qualified lawyers. This a cultural movement, and if the whole world accepts this cult, even though Indian brahmanas do not accept, it will do no harm at all. The tendency now is generally that even without changing their status as Hindus, Muslim, etc., people are having a social intercourse with others. The religious or national bar does not hamper social intercourse. We are not striving for social or political unity, but if Krsna consciousness is accepted there will automatically be political, social and religious unity.
Srila Prabhupada holds lecture and chanting before a large school assembly.
This has been proved already. The disciples are from many walks of life but are one in Krsna consciousness. The fact that one of our boys was a construction worker does not mean that he belongs to the sudra community. The sudra community is the less intelligent class or illiterate class who have no information of the value of life. In America even the highest cultured and educated person can go to work as an ordinary construction worker because they accept the dignity of labor. So although a boy was working as a construction worker in America, he is not a sudra.
But even if he is accepted as a sudra, Lord Krsna says that anyone who comes to Him is eligible to be elevated to the highest position of going back home, back to Godhead (Bg. 9.32). This movement is not dependent upon Indian conceptions of sudra or brahmana; everyone who takes to Krsna consciousness becomes more than a brahmana by quality and action. Bhagavad-gita is spoken for the welfare of everyone, even for people of lower classes than the sudras, so anyone is welcome to accept the principles of Bhagavad-gita. That is our movement. We welcome any inquiries in this regard from people in general and shall be glad to reply to all questions in this connection.
How the Hare Krsna mantra can purify a devotee is like this: Krsna, or God, is Absolute Truth. In the relative world there is a difference between the name and the object. For example, if one is thirsty, the object is water. The name “water,” being different from the substance, cannot satisfy one’s thirst. But in the spiritual world, everything is absolute or spiritual. There is no difference between the object and the name. In the spiritual world the Lord, His name, His form, His quality, His associates—everything—is spiritual, as good as the Lord. Therefore when the holy name of Krsna is vibrated by the devotee, the devotee is associating with Krsna, and thus one can constantly associate with Krsna by chanting the mahamantra: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. One is purified simply by such association. It is like this: If one puts an iron rod in fire it becomes warmer, warmer, at last red hot; it is fire, although superficially one can see that it is an iron rod. So a devotee of Lord Krsna, simply by chanting His holy name, becomes gradually spiritualized. At that time he acts only spiritually. There is no longer any material activity. The devotees are not even interested in drinking coffee or tea, smoking cigarettes, or going to the cinema, what to speak of gambling and so many other distractions. For example these American and European boys were so addicted to material activities three or four years ago, but at present they have no other interests but Krsna consciousness. And this has been possible only by chanting the Hare Krsna mahamantra: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Letter by Giriraja dasa Brahmacari (ISKCON—Bombay)
In some instances, whole villages turned out and joined the chanting parties.
As a member of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness and a student of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, I wish to reply to several letters which have appeared concerning our Hare Krsna movement and the work of our spiritual master.
The main point is that our Society is teaching, “here is God,” and some people do not like that. Generally people are trying to kill God, to push Him out of the picture. But we are advertising for God: “Here is Krsna.” Therefore persons who are envious of God, who want to be God, become our enemies. They see that we are publishing books, acquiring property and gaining members, and they find fault. But our movement is authorized, scientific and practical, and it will continue to grow no matter how many speculators raise arguments against us.
In His instructions in the Gita Sri Krsna authorizes devotional service to the Lord as the only way to realize God, and He demonstrates how to practice devotional service in this age in His incarnation of Lord Caitanya. According to Bhagavatam, “the path of religion is directly enuciated by the Lord” and is passed on through the parampara chain of spiritual masters, from Krsna, Brahma, Narada, and Vyasa on through Lord Caitanya, Rupa Gosvami, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, and now His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead and is therefore the supreme authority on religion. As the present acarya of the Gaudiya-Vaisnava Sampradaya, His Divine Grace is simply passing on the perfect teachings of his predecessors, without change or interpretation, save that he is now making these teachings available to the whole world. This eternal science of Krsna or God is universal and nonsectarian and has nothing to do with any of the faiths that have some historical beginning or end. Krsna is God; God is God; He is not “Hindu” or any other faith.
When the holy names is vibrated by the devotee, the devotee is associating with Krsna.”
Similarly the sankirtana movement of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is the scientific process for realizing God in this age of quarrel; it is not a sentimental pastime, as has been suggested. Lord Caitanya was the greatest scholar in India, and He converted many Mayavadis and jnanis to His cult of bhakti by logical argument and scriptural reference. He cited evidence in the Brhan-Naradiya-Purana that “in this age of Kali the only way to realize God is to chant the holy name of God,” and the Narada-pancaratra, that “all Vedic mantras, rituals and understanding are compressed into eight words—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare.” While chanting is a practical way for everyone to reach God, for those who are so inclined there is vast philosophical literature, and His Divine Grace is now making this transcendental knowledge available to the world and has translated fifteen big books into English already.
Student Guru dasa Adhikari answers questions on behalf of the spiritual master.
Lord Caitanya also taught that one is a brahmana by qualification, not by birth, as has been suggested. In Bhagavad-gita Krsna states: “Peacefulness, self-control, austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, wisdom, knowledge, and religiousness—these are the qualities by which the brahmanas work.” Rupa Gosvami further cites the Padma Purana: “Everyone has the right to execute devotional service, just as he has the right to take early bath … Lower caste people who are considered less than sudras are also initiated into the Vaisnava cult … They surpass the ordinary brahmanas.” Actually the Vaisnava, who is transcendental, is better than a brahmana, who may be conditioned by goodness. But we accept the proposal of Lord Caitanya: “I am neither Hindu, nor brahmana, nor sannyasi—I am the servant of the servant of the servant of God.”
Srila Prabhupada with leading Indian industrialist Srimati Sumati Morarji, whose Scinda Steamship Lines first financed Srila Prabhupada’s journey to the U.S.A. in 1965
We are Vaisnavas because we act like Vaisnavas, not because we have taken to wearing saris and churning butter. We are very serious in our endeavor; this is not a sporadic fad of sentimentalists, as has been suggested. How can our movement be sporadic when this science was taught in the Gita five thousand years ago and instructed to the sun-god millions of years before that? How can it be called sporadic when our activity is sanatana-dharma, the eternal occupation of the living entity? Would faddists give up all meat-eating, intoxicants, illicit sex and gambling for over five years now? Would faddists give up friends, family and money and get up at 4:00 A.M. daily, ready to go to any country in the world and preach in any conditions immediately on the request of their spiritual master?
Srimati Haimavati devi dasi, initiated disciple of Srila Prabhupada’s, lecturing to women present at one of the large meetings in India. Left to right: Hamsaduta dasa, Srila Prabhupada and Kirtanananda Svami.
To become a devotee of the Lord is a rare thing, and everyone knows that there will never be a problem of too many people taking to Krsna consciousness. Actually there can be no scarcity in God’s creation: the only scarcity can be Krsna consciousness. Therefore we urge people to change their consciousness, not their occupations. In our ISKCON communities we are following the teachings of Lord Caitanya practically both individually and collectively, and we are being satisfied spiritually and materially. We are working, each person according to his natural capacity, for the pleasure of the Sureme Lord. Thus some are running our printing presses and some teaching university courses in Krsna consciousness; some are operating an ideal farm community modeled after Vrndavana and sheltering hundreds of cows in the U.S.A., while others are preparing the Krsna prasadam we serve to thousands of persons daily; some are on sankirtana and circulating 500,000 Back to Godhead magazines per month in six languages, and still others are maintaining our fifty centers with Radha-Krsna Deity worship all over the world. Actually we are working harder than anyone, but because we are working for Krsna, and not maya, our work is joyful and free from anxiety. Thousands of new Vaisnavas, who are considered already liberated, are doing the work of India, which is to present the gift of Krsna consciousness, and thereby save the world from gliding to hell. Not only can everyone do this, but they must do it. For this reason we are traveling to all countries of the world and begging all people to revive their love of God and sing the glories of His name.