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BACK TO GODHEAD
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Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19119
You guys are really sad. For millennia religious sects have claimed to have the only way to God, and they have always been wrong. So are you wrong. As Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan says, “The ways to God are numberless as the grains of sand, unceasing as the rains of Dharma.”
It’s too bad that you close your minds to everything except what your Almighty Guru tells you. For example, I read in back to godhead Vol. 16, No. 6 (and elsewhere ad nauseum in ISKCON literature) that the practice of Raja Yoga is “unsuitable for the present age.” Well, it’s not. Just a little of the Raja Yoga practices can lead to advancement, as I can attest.
In your unthinking and bigoted narrow-mindedness you are as bad as Bible-beaters who still believe in the myths of Creation as presented in Genesis. The old beliefs are outdated. Why do you accept so blindly?
Sirs, you are correct that self-realization is the purpose of human life. But narrow-minded bigotry is not the most effective way to get there, nor is blind acceptance.
Richard L. Miller
Our reply (from Jayadvaita Swami, Senior Editor): If we understand you correctly, your idea is that everyone’s path to God is equally valid. From this it would follow (if we are to avoid being narrow-minded and bigoted) that our own path—that of Krsna consciousness—must also be valid. And since part of the understanding we have gained on our path is that some paths are more suitable than others, and that some are utterly useless, this too must be valid. This, of course, leads to the conclusion that your original idea is invalid.
Now, to set matters straight, the devotees of Krsna, far from insisting that ours is the only path to God, agree that there are many, indeed innumerable, paths.
That the paths to God are innumerable, however, in no way implies that all paths are equal. Although numberless medicines may be available, a diseased person ought not to think that whatever medicine he takes will be as good as any other. Some medicines are good only for particular patients under particular circumstances, some are effective but slow, some have undesirable side effects, and some are just utterly worthless. That medicines are numberless hardly means that cough drops, eye drops, or snake oil are just as good for treating diabetes as insulin. Among the numberless medicines, one has to take the particular medicine that qualified physicians prescribe for one’s particular disease.
Karma-yoga, hatha-yoga, jnana-yoga, and bhakti-yoga—these and several other paths are set forth in Bhagavad-gita, which is spoken by Krsna Himself. Sri Krsna is therefore renowned as Yogesvara, “the master of all yoga.”
Raja-yoga, or astanga-yoga, is also described in Bhagavad-gita by Krsna Himself, and devotees of Krsna therefore accept it as a legitimate path to God. Yet the requirements of this yoga are stringent—so stringent, in fact, that Arjuna, the original recipient of Bhagavad-gita, rejected the entire system as too difficult for him to practice. Arjuna lived in Dvapara-yuga, an age more conducive to self-realization than the age we live in now. An intimate friend of Krsna Himself, Arjuna was a prince of exceptional saintliness. Yet even he professed his inability to follow this system. How then can ordinary people like us expect to be able to follow it now?
What does raja-yoga require? In Bhagavad-gita Krsna tells us only its barest essentials, yet even these are most likely well beyond our abilities. For example, one must retire to a sacred place, like the pilgrimage sites in the Himalayas or on the banks of the Ganges, practice absolute celibacy, live in total seclusion, and absorb one’s mind in unceasing meditation. The last time I sped through Wilmington on Amtrak, past the office buildings and factory smokestacks, it hardly seemed the sort of sacred, secluded place that raja-yoga requites. I can just imagine a raja-yogi in Wilmington, emerging from meditation only long enough to drop by the post office and send testimony of his advancement to BACK TO GODHEAD. Considering the spirit of your letter, this is testimony we shall be careful not to accept blindly.
Nor do we recommend that you accept Krsna consciousness blindly. For thoughtful, cautious souls who wish to examine and question philosophical ideas thoroughly before accepting them, we have published more than sixty large books through which to investigate what Krsna consciousness is.
Although we never insist that ours is the only way, it is the way the Vedic sages most emphatically recommend for the present age. The same Bhagavad-gita that sets forth the many paths of yoga recommends one path above all—the path of bhakti-yoga, or Krsna consciousness. In a former age, Satya-yuga, raja-yoga was the ideal means to attain perfection—but that was more than two million years ago. In contrast, bhakti-yoga—and, in particular, the chanting of God’s names—is the method the Vedic sages prescribe as the only truly effective means of spiritual realization during our present age, the difficult time known as Kali-yuga, the Age of Quarrel and Hypocrisy. We are hopeful that broadminded souls, eyes fully open, will carefully examine it and then accept it.
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I picked up your magazine just by chance on my way from lectures. For the fun of it I got it from the man who was distributing them to the students. When I was back in my room I dropped it on the table and forgot it until this morning. When I was cleaning my table, I saw it. Flipping through it, I read the replies of Srila Prabhupada “On Education and the Good Life.” In the Vedic understanding of four pillars of sinful life there is intoxication, a sin I commit every time I am under pressure (emotions and other psychological factors). I have been trying to cure it for years without success. The first paragraph of page 14, Vol. 16, No. 10 [in which Srila Prabhupada argues against intoxication, gambling, meat-eating, and illicit sex] has performed the miracle.
Thanks a lot. Continue to spread your Vedic understanding. The knowledge will cure so many people.
Michael Robins Alcanbi
Pennsylvania State University
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I just wanted you to know how glad I am that you’re finally going to put some recipes in BACK TO GODHEAD. I’ve been reading your magazine for years (since 1974, in fact), but I’ve always wondered why you don’t give any recipes in the magazine for those incredible dishes you serve at the Sunday feasts at your temples. I’m a photographer, and I travel a lot, so whenever I’m in Chicago or Los Angeles or New York I make it a point to visit the Hare Krsna temple on Sundays. I’m not a vegetarian, but I could easily see becoming one if I could learn how to cook like that! What’s the secret ingredient?
OUR REPLY: The secret behind the cooking at Hare Krsna temples is that everything is done to please Krsna. Since Krsna says in Bhagavad-gita that He accepts only vegetarian dishes prepared and offered with love, devotees try to please Him by meeting this standard. Of course, there is a “secret ingredient” too: ghee, purified butter. Ghee is the cooking medium par excellence—but we don’t have room to go into detail about it here. See our “Krsna’s Cuisine” feature next month for a description of the glories of ghee, and how to prepare it and use it in your own kitchen.