A brief look at the worldwide activities of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness
Nine New Books Make Spiritual Classics Available
The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust has just published nine new Krishna conscious books by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. They are all translations, with purports, of Sanskrit and Bengali scriptures never before available in English. Each book is hardbound, with about 400 pages of text, plus original full-color paintings to illustrate each volume.
Six of the books complete the Third and Fourth Cantos of Srimad-Bhagavatam, the scripture that Srila Prabhupada has made his life’s work. To present all twelve cantos, Srila Prabhupada calculates, will take sixty volumes. Seven volumes have previously been published. The Bhagavatam is considered the postgraduate study of all spiritual knowledge.
The other three new books form the first section (Adi-lila) of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta. This book describes the pastimes of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the incarnation of Lord Krishna who appeared as a devotee of Lord Krishna to teach the highest form of love of Godhead. Work is underway on the middle and final sections of this great book-at least another six volumes.
The Book Trust has also issued new editions of two other important books by Srila Prabhupada—Sri-Isopanisad and Teachings of Lord Caitanya. Improvements include new paintings, carefully polished Sanskrit editing, and large new indexes.
Scholars in Love with Bhaktivedanta Books
After a few years of what could be described as only casual flirtation, scholars and librarians are starting to fall in love with Srila Prabhupada’s books. The libraries of Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Swarthmore and dozens of other major universities have placed standing orders for Srimad-Bhagavatam—for all the volumes published and all those yet to come. “This Srimad-Bhagavatam translation is very good,” wrote the librarian at the Cleveland Public Library in placing a standing order for the prestigious John G. White Collection. “Please check and see what books of yours we do not have and send me those that are missing.”
Professors are becoming enthusiastic. “This Nectar of Devotion is the greatest book ever published on bhakti!” declared Dr. Carl Waugh, Professor of Indian Religion at Cleveland State University. And Dr.H.B. Kulkarni of Utah State University found Prabhupada’s books “of incalculable value to anyone who is curious about India’s spiritual and cultural heritage.” He added: “The author of these books displays on every page an astounding scholarship, and also an understanding and ease of exposition which are the rarest gifts.”
Scholars especially praise Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita As It Is. Dr. Samuel D. Atikins of Princeton called it “a beautifully designed script of the stanzas, beautifully presented with accredited transliterations and a practical working vocabulary, followed by an outstanding exegesis … A beautifully done book.” Professor Shaligram Shukla of Georgetown offered this review: “It is a deeply felt, powerfully conceived and beautifully explained work. I don’t know whether to praise more the translation of Bhagavad-gita, its daring method of explanation, or the endless fertility of its ideas …. I have never seen any other work on Gita with such an important and authoritative voice and style. It is a work of undoubted integrity. I strongly recommend this book.”
Newsweek Impressed by ISKCON School
Newsweek, the popular American news magazine, in a welcome reversal of its attitude toward Krishna consciousness (see “Ten Thousand Wives,” BTG 65), has published a very favorable article about ISKCON’s Gurukula school in Dallas, Texas. The school, it reported, is a “most convincing sign that Krishna consciousness is here to stay.”
Vedic Culture and Agriculture
New Vrndavana, ISKCON’s 1,000-acre farm in West Virginia, has proved so successful that Srila Prabhupada has asked his disciples to begin many other such farm communities. The Society, therefore, has purchased farmland in Pennsylvania, upstate New York, Louisiana—and in the holy city of Mayapur, India.
There are many reasons for establishing such Krishna conscious farms. First, many people find an urban setting most uncongenial for spiritual advancement; they prefer to serve Krishna in the simple, peaceful atmosphere of the country. Everyone likes to work in a different way, and the farms give the Society a broader ability to engage everyone in the work most suitable for him.
Second, such Krishna conscious communities give an ideal example of how one can live very simply, depending on the natural gifts Krishna has provided rather than the artificial products of supermarkets and factories. In other words, they provide a model for simple living and high thinking.
Perhaps even more important, however, is that these communities can give ISKCON a kind of independence from the shaky financial structures of America and the other nations of the world. According to the Vedic scriptures, real wealth lies in land, cows and natural resources, not in paper money. After all, land and cows provide food and a place to live, and so they have real value. But paper bills are just promises. Their value changes with inflation, and they may at any time become utterly worthless. According to the Vedic scriptures, therefore, our modern world economy, based on a false standard, is headed for almost certain collapse. But by raising its own food on its own land, ISKCON will be able to independently provide for the basic needs of its members and thus carry on its mission of spreading Krishna consciousness, regardless of the economic ups and downs of a materialistic society. We might add here that modern economists would greatly benefit from studying the scientific financial knowledge presented in the Vedic scripture Srimad-Bhagavatam. Vedic knowledge is many-sided. The Vedic scriptures deal not only with religion but also with politics, economics, sociology, art, psychology and all other subjects necessary for a progressive human culture.