The immediate result of chanting Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare has been the phenomenal growth of a unique federation of urban communes in the United States, Canada and Europe based on Vedic philosophy and centered around self-realization as the goal of community life. This transcendental federation, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), is held together by mutual agreement to accept the principles of Bhakti-yoga or devotional service as the goal of life.
The Society is in the greater society but definitely transcendental to it. Its members, ordinary people without qualification of special training or talent, are free of the anxieties of the greater population. This freedom is due to their gradual realization that the actual standard of life is the pleasure of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is the natural Object of all daily activities and affection. By mutual endeavor the entire Society is thinking of Sri Krsna from one engagement to another, whether cooking, cleaning, eating, working in an office, or chanting His Holy Names in the city streets. Such a purified mentality gradually springs up, free from the materialist’s acute concern for the result of his work and free from competitive struggles carried on between friends, neighbors, communities and countries.
In other words, all activities are directed toward the Absolute Truth who is the Chief Person, Sri Krsna. It is natural to engage in His transcendental service, because He possesses all the attributes of the Perfect Leader: all beauty, all strength, all wealth, all intelligence, all fame and all renunciation. This is confirmed in all essential Vedic literature, including the Brahma-samhita, Srimad-Bhagavatam, Bhagavad-gita, and the Caitanya-caritamrta. This literature also informs us that originally we are parts and parcels of Lord Krsna, and by nature transcendental, eternal persons, full of knowledge and bliss. We come under the conditions of suffering because of our forgetfulness of our relationship with Lord Krsna, God. It is recommended that we return our attention to Him by meditation on His Holy Name, whose association gradually changes the quality of our consciousness from haphazard pleasures and pains to steady variegated bliss, our original uncontaminated perception. For the purpose of realizing such a nice conclusion, the Vedic concept of Isavasya, or God-centered society, has been instituted at ISKCON.
The growth of ISKCON demonstrates the feasibility of self-realization on a mass scale. The secret of successful self-realization is God-centered communal life. ISKCON grows because it practices devotional service or Bhakti-yoga, the principle of developing actual love of Godhead and thus love for all living entities. As the Reservoir of Pleasure, Krsna dispenses all satisfactions according to the individual member’s sincerity. As the All-attractive, He fascinates His servants to higher realms of bliss, revealing more and more of Himself to His sincere devotee.
Generally, society’s energies are being expended in all directions, attempting to solve so many problems like violence, war, inflation, crime, old age, disease, etc. Consider that the problems remain unsolved and the energy dissipated. In fact, the complexities are increasing (with no shelter on the moon). The energy would be better spent on curing the disease rather than its symptoms. As stated in the Vedic scriptures, the disease behind all material distresses is ignorance of God. There is then one single problem—how to best serve the Supreme Person, Krsna, who is the all-attractive Source of Love and the Object of love.
Isavasya – the distribution of a love feast at the London center.
The test of ISKCON’s activity is to observe the participants and see that they are satisfied, friendly, and unusually jolly. A person advancing on the spiritual path naturally loses his affinity for the anxiety-producing stimuli of the material world-glitter, which is endlessly alternating between happiness and misery. Such persons are being freed, astounding as it may seem, from the unchangeable laws of birth, death, old age and disease, which ordinarily block everyone’s real desires to be eternal, full of knowledge and blissful. Their satisfaction comes from Krsna Himself, who is equal to every living entity, impartial in His Love. But just as a father feels some special affection for his obedient and affectionate son (though he takes care of the rascal sons as well), Krsna encourages His devotee to go on. The devotee tries to please the Lord’s Senses rather than his own. His growing freedom is the result of knowing that he (a spirit soul) is not his body or mind but a transcendental person on the way back home, back to Godhead.
Discussion about Krsna at the Boston temple.
These transcendental communes are unique because the members are practicing the highest Yoga principles in the midst of urban confusion and glut. Yoga is the process of connecting with God. There have been a number of Vedanta societies, self-realization groups, etc., in this country for years, mostly practicing some form of mental or physical exercise only. In the Bhagavad-gita, the basic book of Yoga practice, Sri Krsna indicates that to practice any Yoga other than Bhakti-yoga (devotional service) requires special circumstances. One must take refuge at a sacred place, away from the mass of people, make a special seat, practice difficult breath control and meditation, arrange the body in special positions, practice celibacy, etc. Such endeavor must continue for lifetimes to reach the Supreme Goal, and it is possible only for one in millions. Yoga systems other than the regulated principles of Bhakti-yoga, though bona fide, are not intended for the current city civilization. Five thousand years ago, Arjuna was a superior man in all respects, living in conditions far more conducive to self-realization than today, and yet he insisted, in answer to Krsna’s explanation of these Yoga systems, that such practices were beyond his capacity. In numerous places in the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna explains Bhakti as the real principle and process of Yoga. Bhakti-yoga has two irresistable aspects for the urban citizen: it is both easy and sublime. Easy because it can be practiced at all circumstances and sublime becluse it offers immediate results due to association with the Supreme Transcendental Person, “Krsna.” It is this easy application to daily city life that is so fortunate; quite naturally, spiritually-minded persons come together and form a transcendental society, when such means are so readily available by Krsna’s mercy.
According to Sri Isopanisad and the Bhagavad-gita, the Supreme Person Krsna is the actual Proprietor of the world. Proprietor, owner, means controller as well. With some little meditation, i.e. with a thoughtful consideration of the subject matter, we can see that we do not even own our very bodies. If we did then we would be able to control their getting old and diseased. Our very bodies and minds, what to speak of other entities such as mosquitoes and robbers or natural events like hot weather and hurricanes, inflict pain upon us. No one should take seriously the mad scientists’ promise of eventual immortality through our future progeny. Nor should a man think he lives on in his children. When the individual father and individual mother have an individual child, they expand by body not by soul. In the Second Chapter of the Bhagavad-gita it is clearly explained that consciousness is the symptom of the spirit-soul, and it is explained further that the self or spirit-soul is eternal and individual, but that his bodies are always changing. We are not the owners of these changing bodies, or of any material object. We are renting everything we have.
Even without full understanding, a person may engage what is Krsna’s in the service of Krsna. Such a reformed thief is free of the anxiety of worrying about how to enjoy the fruits of his work, knowing well for whom he is working. Rather, he enjoys that service as its own reward and leaves the result, successful or not from the mundane viewpoint, to Krsna. Satisfied by such work in devotion, he continues until reaching twenty-four-hour-a-day association with Lord Krsna, while still in the temporary body This, of course; is the highest stage, beyond our present comprehension, but devotional service is also the method by which to reach the highest stage. Devotional service is the end as well as the means. In the Bhagavad-gita Krsna promises that such a faithful soul abides in Him and goes to Him.
Everywhere there is a natural division of labor, but the purpose or goal of labor (work of any kind) is misunderstood. According to Chapter Three of the Bhagavad-gita, Krsna is the sole beneficiary of all work, all sacrifice. Therefore, the community that works in devotional service is free of worry. All efforts are directed to Krsna and the community members are free of the tremendous burden of trying to satisfy their temporary senses. In contrast, the greater society is directing all or most of its energy toward satisfaction of the temporary senses, which occupation has been an historical failure. No one has succeeded in remaining always happy by the path of gratifying the senses, yet everyone is still trying. This is called maya or illusion. The greater society functions in this illusion: everyone is working for maya. In the ISKCON community everyone works for Krsna.
One should be concerned with relieving their neighbors of their material ills. Therefore, it is the greatest welfare work to remind the greater society of its Leader, Krsna. This reminder is the purpose of the missionary work of ISKCON. To this end, radio, T.V., newspapers, magazines, lectures, festivals, door-to-door canvassing, mass kirtanas, and chanting Hare Krsna in the city streets are all utilized and completely open to investigation as an open secret. As such activities increase, more and more of the material atmosphere which is intoxicating the greater society is purifica. The potency of transcendental works and sounds should not be underestimated. The doubtful are spiritualized by association and the atheists will die their usual death. Transcendental vibrations are encircling the planet. When the waves of bliss reach every nation, the entire world will be one nation under God. All intelligent persons should join that eternal nation now. No special birth, no visa is needed to enter that natural state, only serious desire.
The pattern of a transcendental earth is being designed in the Krsna conscious centers. The presiding tendency of the world is to imitate the West, the U.S. specifically, and this is facilitating the spread of Krsna consciousness. In this way, the nationalistic pride of the U.S. and all nations may be dovetailed in Transcendence. Happiness will come when peace comes, and peace will come only after the quality of world-consciousness is changed from material to spiritual, from body-family-state-nation-race-earth consciousness to Krsna—or God—consciousness.
Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the greatest example of devotional service, indicates, in opposition to the prevailing cultural prejudices, that divisions of labor and national boundaries are useful for the administration of material needs, but that chanting the Holy Names of God and the practice of devotional service is the natural unfettered business of all human beings regardless of birthplace or occupation. In all scriptures this path of devotional service is verified, and this is proof that it is not some sectarian concept. Lord Jesus Christ taught pure devotional service, love of God, as the highest aim of life. When he was questioned as to the prime duty or first commandment for human beings, he answered, “to love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, soul, and mind.”
The conception of Isavasya or God-centered society is clearly explained in the first mantra of Sri Isopanisad
Everything animate or inanimate that is within the universe is controlled and owned by the Lord. One should therefore accept only those things necessary for himself, which are set aside as his quota, and one must not accept other things, knowing well to Whom they belong.
War and other endless competition is based on the nationalistic premise that land and other energies belong to the human beings who can occupy them successfully. This is a conceited assumption of fragile-bodied men. If I cannot keep my own body from decaying, how then can I be the proprietor of the land in which my body will be buried? Actually, the real knowledge is “nirmama,” nothing is mine. Not even this body, what to speak of my so-called possessions.
This illusion of the temporary tenant that he is the proprietor, the landlord, goes against reasonable experience. The so-called Russians, Americans, and Hindus, all leave this temporary residence as they came—naked and empty-handed. True, a man has his possessions that come naturally by honest labor, they are his quota. But he can only use his money, his car, his clothes, friends, etc., he cannot keep them. If a man or a nation tries for more than what comes to them by honest labor, in other words, becomes greedy, then there is nothing but trouble. The problems growing from material hankerings can be avoided, but not by planning commissions and varied governments, as is proved by history and confirmed daily.
In the Bhagavad-gita, the solution is neatly expressed in the following verses:
O son of Kunti [Arjuna], all that youdo, all that you eat, all that you offer and give away, as well as all austerities that you may perform, should be done as an offering unto Me. Thus you will be freed of all reactions to good and evil deeds; and by this principle of renunciation you will be liberated and come to ME. (Chapter Nine)
By following his qualities of work, every man can become perfect. Now please hear from Me how this can be done: By worship of the Lord, who is the Source of all beings, all-pervading, man can become perfect, doing his work. In all activities, and for their results, just depend upon Me, and work always under My protection. In such devotional service, be fully conscious of Me. (Chapter Eighteen)
That is the standard of peace and happiness—Krsna consciousness—using Krsna’s energy in His service. Actual freedom. Krsna-karma or Krsna-activities lead the members of this spiritual community to higher and higher states of pure consciousness and liberation from anxiety, an atmosphere unknown in our present condition. The greater population has its ideas of what liberation means, but it does not detect that activities centered about gratifying the temporary senses lead only to further bondage and, inevitably, to nihilism, impersonalism and cynicism. But in contrast, the activities of the liberated person are chosen according to a standard that is transcendental to mere sense gratification, and the results cannot be imagined or pretended. There is an opportunity for spiritual advancement, to work for Lord Krsna and give the results to Him. But if we cannot understand for whom we are actually laboring in this world, then our efforts can never satisfy us, no matter how hard we may work.
The standard of success in life is the satisfaction of the Supreme Sentient Being Sri Krsna, and the result is knowledge and bliss, the eternal heritage of every living entity. One is liberated shortly after going to work for Lord Krsna and after continuing his activities for some time, he lives with Him everywhere in sight; and at the end of the body he goes to Lord Krsna’s planet, Krsna-loka.
In 1969, the prevailing standard of life all over the world is material well-being. In this most advanced civilization men are very restless, and there remains a vacuum in everyone’s heart. That is because the symptoms of actual material advancement, such as good shelter, enough to eat, cleanliness, adequate clothing, education and a regular job, are actually dependent upon healthy spiritual advancement.
The transcendental citizen knows the actual standard of life. He sees all boundaries, flags, and political consciousness as illusions only, in what is clearly God’s country. Therefore he serves God, not illusion (maya). He is the most loyal, because always he wants to relieve his neighbor of his material miseries, and he becomes expert at the office because he worships Lord Krsna by his work. These transcendental citizens have come together to tell others in the anxious cities the news about Krsna. It is a great relief to hear this news of Krsna. Rupa Gosvami, a great leader in the eternal history of this Transcendental Sampradaya (community), has said, “If you hear that Krsna consciousness is to be purchased in the marketplace, then at once go there and purchase it!”
Some people contend that Krsna consciousness consists of hallucination, self-hypnosis, emotional contagion, etc., without a real look at the evidence. Everyone is fond of speculating or guessing about everything, based on previous experience or lack thereof, as if that process guaranteed some final and true conclusion. Little children are famous for disliking some food preparation, especially vegetables, they have never seen or tasted! Likewise, speculations and hypotheses are like the bee licking the outside of the jar of honey; one cannot speculate about the taste of honey. The transcendental flavor of Krsna consciousness—devotional service—is beyond guessing, as is Sri Krsna Himself.
Therefore, the sincere investigator has three opportunities for studying the validity of Krsna consciousness: he can meet and talk to the devotees, he can chant Hare Krsna and experiment for himself, and he can read The Bhagavad-gita As 1t Is and try to understand the philosophy. Also, if so fortunate, he can hear a lecture by the Founder and Acarya (one who teaches by example) of ISKCON, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Prabhupada and the members of the International Society for Krsna Consciousness are forever inviting our friends and guests to join in the vibration of Hare Krsna and know for yourselves. Please accept this invitation, intelligent people! It is scientific, provable, testable, most palatable! Accept our fervent humble plea! There is no harm, no expenditure. No force: in the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna says, “Thus I have explained to you the most confidential of all knowledge. Deliberate on this fully, and then do what you wish to do.”