We wish all readers a Happy Krishna Jeyanthi!
Our prayers to the Supreme Lord of all to grant us pure devotional service
Bringing Spirituality to Singapore
We wish all readers a Happy Krishna Jeyanthi!
Our prayers to the Supreme Lord of all to grant us pure devotional service
As stated in the Bhagavad-gita, the Lord says that His appearance, birth, and activities, are all transcendental, and one who understands them factually becomes immediately eligible to be transferred to the spiritual world. The Lord’s appearance or birth is not like that of an ordinary man who is forced to accept a material body according to his past deeds. The Lord’s appearance is explained in the Second Chapter: He appears out of His own sweet pleasure. When the time was mature for the appearance of the Lord, the constellations became very auspicious. The astrological influence of the star known as Rohini was also predominant because this star is considered to be very auspicious. Rohini is under the direct supervision of Brahma. According to the astrological conclusion, besides the proper situation of the stars, there are auspicious and inauspicious moments due to the different situations of the different planetary systems. At the time of Krsna’s birth, the planetary systems were automatically adjusted so that everything became auspicious.
At that time, in all directions, east, west, south, north, everywhere, there was an atmosphere of peace and prosperity. There were auspicious stars visible in the sky, and on the surface in all towns and villages or pasturing grounds and within the minds of everyone there were signs of good fortune. The rivers were flowing full of waters, and lakes were beautifully decorated with lotus flowers. The forests were full with beautiful birds and peacocks. All the birds within the forests began to sing with sweet voices, and the peacocks began to dance along with their consorts. The wind blew very pleasantly, carrying the aroma of different flowers, and the sensation of bodily touch was very pleasing. At home, the brahmanas, who were accustomed to offer sacrifices in the fire, found their homes very pleasant for offerings. Due to disturbances created by the demoniac kings, the sacrificial fire alter had been almost stopped in the houses of brahmanas, but now they could find the opportunity to start the fire peacefully. Being forbidden to offer sacrifices, the brahmanas were very distressed in mind, intelligence and activities, but just on the point of Krsna’s appearance, automatically their minds became full of joy because they could hear loud vibrations in the sky of transcendental sounds proclaiming the appearance of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
The denizens of the Gandharva and Kinnara planets began to sing, and the denizens of Siddhaloka and the planets of the Caranas began to offer prayers in the service of the Personality of Godhead. In the heavenly planets, the angels along with their wives, accompanied by the Apsaras, began to dance.
The great sages and the demigods, being pleased, began to shower flowers. At the seashore, there was the sound of mild waves, and above the sea there were clouds in the sky which began to thunder very pleasingly.
When things were adjusted like this, Lord Visnu, who is residing within the heart of every living entity, appeared in the darkness of night as the Supreme Personality of Godhead before Devaki, who also appeared as one of the demigoddesses. The appearance of Lord Visnu at that time could be compared with the full moon in the sky as it rises on the eastern horizon. The objection may be raised that, since Lord Krsna appeared on the eighth day of the waning moon, there could be no rising of the full moon. In answer to this it may be said that Lord Krsna appeared in the dynasty which is in the hierarchy of the moon; therefore, although the moon was incomplete on that night, because of the Lord’s appearance in the dynasty wherein the moon is himself the original person, the moon was in an overjoyous condition, so by the grace of Krsna he could appear just as a full moon.
In an astronomical treatise by the name Khamanikya, the constellations at the time of the appearance of Lord Krsna are very nicely described. It is confirmed that the child born at that auspicious moment was the Supreme Brahman or the Absolute Truth.
Vasudeva saw that wonderful child born as a baby with four hands, holding conchshell, club, disc, and lotus flower, decorated with the mark of Srivatsa, wearing the jeweled necklace of kaustubha stone, dressed in yellow silk, appearing dazzling like a bright blackish cloud, wearing a helmet bedecked with the vaidurya stone, valuable bracelets, earrings and similar other ornaments all over His body and an abundance of hair on His head. Due to the extraordinary features of the child, Vasudeva was struck with wonder. How could a newly born child be so decorated? He could therefore understand that Lord Krsna had now appeared, and he became overpowered by the occasion. Vasudeva very humbly wondered that although he was an ordinary living entity conditioned by material nature and was externally imprisoned by Kamsa, the all-pervading Personality of Godhead, Visnu or Krsna, was appearing as a child in his home, exactly in His original position. No earthly child is born with four hands decorated with ornaments and nice clothing, fully equipped with all the signs of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Over and over again, Vasudeva glanced at his child, and he considered how to celebrate this auspicious moment: “Generally, when a male child is born,” he thought, “people observe the occasion with jubilant celebrations, and in my home, although I am imprisoned, the Supreme Personality of Godhead has taken birth. How many millions of millions of times should I be prepared to observe this auspicious ceremony!”
When Vasudeva, who is also called Anakadundubhi, was looking at his newborn baby, he was so happy that he wanted to give many thousands of cows in charity to the brahmanas. According to the Vedic system, whenever there is an auspicious ceremony in the ksatriya king’s palace, the king gives many things in charity. Cows decorated with golden ornaments are delivered to the brahmanas and sages. Vasudeva wanted to perform a charitable ceremony to celebrate Krsna’s appearance, but because he was shackled within the walls of Kamsa’s prison, this was not possible. Instead, within his mind he gave thousands of cows to the brahmanas.
When Vasudeva was convinced that the newborn child was the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself, he bowed down with folded hands and began to offer Him prayers. At that time Vasudeva was in the transcendental position, and he became completely free from all fear of Kamsa. The newborn baby was also flashing His effulgence within the room in which He appeared.
Vasudeva then began to offer his prayers. “My dear Lord, I can understand who You are. You are the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the Supersoul of all living entities and the Absolute Truth. You have appeared in Your own eternal form which is directly perceived by us. I understand that because I am afraid of Kamsa, You have appeared just to deliver me from that fear. You do not belong to this material world; You are the same person who brings about the cosmic manifestation simply by glancing over material nature.”
One may argue that the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who creates the whole cosmic manifestation simply by His glance, cannot come within the womb of Devaki, the wife of Vasudeva. To eradicate this argument, Vasudeva said, “My dear Lord, it is not a very wonderful thing that You appear within the womb of Devaki because the creation was also made in that way. You were lying in the Causal Ocean as Maha-Visnu, and by Your breathing process, innumerable universes came into existence. Then You entered into each of the universes as Garbhodakasayi Visnu. Then again You expanded Yourself as Ksirodakasayi Visnu and entered into the hearts of all living entities and entered even within the atoms. Therefore Your entrance in the womb of Devaki is understandable in the same way. You appear to have entered, but You are simultaneously all-pervading. We can understand Your entrance and nonentrance from material examples. The total material energy remains intact even after being divided into sixteen elements. The material body is nothing but the combination of the five gross elements–namely earth, water, fire, air and ether. Whenever there is a material body, it appears that such elements are newly created, but actually the elements are always existing outside of the body. Similarly, although You appear as a child in the womb of Devaki, You are also existing outside. You are always in Your abode, but still You can simultaneously expand Yourself into millions of forms.
“One has to understand Your appearance with great intelligence because the material energy is also emanating from You. You are the original source of the material energy, just as the sun is the source of the sunshine. The sunshine cannot cover the sun globe, nor can the material energy–being an emanation from You–cover You. You appear to be in the three modes of material energy, but actually the three modes of material energy cannot cover You. This is understood by the highly intellectual philosophers. In other words, although You appear to be within the material energy, You are never covered by it.”
We hear from the Vedic version that the Supreme Brahman exhibits His effulgence, and therefore everything becomes illuminated. We can understand from Brahma-samhita that the brahmajyoti, or the Brahman effulgence, emanates from the body of the Supreme Lord. And from the Brahman effulgence, all creation takes place. It is further stated in the Bhagavad-gita that the Lord is also the support of the Brahman effulgence. Originally He is the root cause of everything. But persons who are less intelligent think that when the Supreme Personality of Godhead comes within this material world, He accepts the material qualities. Such conclusions are not very mature, but are made by the less intelligent.
The Supreme Personality of Godhead is directly and indirectly existing everywhere; He is outside this material creation, and He is also within it. He is within this material creation not only as Garbhodakasayi Visnu; He is also within the atom. Existence is due to His presence. Nothing can be separated from His existence. In the Vedic injunction we find that the Supreme Soul or the root cause of everything has to be searched out because nothing exists independent of the Supreme Soul. Therefore the material manifestation is also a transformation of His potency. Both inert matter and the living force–soul–are emanations from Him. Only the foolish conclude that when the Supreme Lord appears He accepts the conditions of matter. Even if He appears to have accepted the material body, He is still not subjected to any material condition. Krsna has therefore appeared and defeated all imperfect conclusions about the appearance and disappearance of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
“My Lord, Your appearance, existence and disappearance are beyond the influence of the material qualities. Because Your Lordship is the controller of everything and the resting place of the Supreme Brahman, there is nothing inconceivable or contradictory in You. As You have said, material nature works under Your superintendence. It is just like government officers working under the orders of the chief executive. The influence of subordinate activities cannot affect You. The Supreme Brahman and all phenomena are existing within You, and all the activities of material nature are controlled by Your Lordship.
“You are called suklam. Suklam, or ‘whiteness’ is the symbolic representation of the Absolute Truth because it is unaffected by the material qualities. Lord Brahma is called rakta, or red, because Brahma represents the qualities of passion for creation. Darkness is entrusted to Lord Siva because he annihilates the cosmos. The creation, annihilation and maintenance of this cosmic manifestation is conducted by Your potencies, yet You are always unaffected by those qualities. As confirmed in the Vedas, harir hi nirgunah saksat: the Supreme Personality of Godhead is always free from all material qualities. It is also said that the qualities of passion and ignorance are nonexistent in the person of the Supreme Lord.
“My Lord, You are the supreme controller, the Personality of Godhead, the supreme great, maintaining the order of this cosmic manifestation. And in spite of Your being the supreme controller, You have so kindly appeared in my home. The purpose of Your appearance is to kill the followers of the demoniac rulers of the world who are in the dress of royal princes but are actually demons. I am sure that You will kill all of them and their followers and soldiers.
“I understand that You have appeared to kill the uncivilized Kamsa and his followers. But knowing that You were to appear to kill him and his followers, he has already killed so many of Your predecessors, elder brothers. Now he is simply awaiting the news of Your birth. As soon as he hears about it, he will immediately appear with all kinds of weapons to kill You.”
After this prayer of Vasudeva, Devaki, the mother of Krsna, offered her prayers. She was very frightened because of her brother’s atrocities. Devaki said, “My dear Lord, Your eternal forms, like Narayana, Lord Rama, Sesa, Varaha, Nrsimha, Vamana, Baladeva, and millions of similar incarnations emanating from Visnu, are described in the Vedic literature as original. You are original because all Your forms as incarnations are outside of this material creation. Your form was existing before this cosmic manifestation was created. Your forms are eternal and all-pervading. They are self-effulgent, changeless and uncontaminated by the material qualities. Such eternal forms are ever-cognizant and full of bliss; they are situated in transcendental goodness and are always engaged in different pastimes. You are not limited to a particular form only; all such transcendental eternal forms are self-sufficient. I can understand that You are the Supreme Lord Visnu.
“After many millions of years, when Lord Brahma comes to the end of his life, the annihilation of the cosmic manifestation takes place. At that time the five elements–namely earth, water, fire, air and ether–enter into the mahat-tattva. The mahat-tattva again enters, by the force of time, into the nonmanifested total material energy; the total material energy enters into the energetic pradhana, and the pradhana enters into You. Therefore after the annihilation of the whole cosmic manifestation, You alone remain with Your transcendental name, form, quality and paraphernalia.
“My Lord, I offer my respectful obeisances unto You because You are the director of the unmanifested total energy, and the ultimate reservoir of the material nature. My Lord, the whole cosmic manifestation is under the influence of time, beginning from the moment up to the duration of the year. All act under Your direction. You are the original director of everything and the reservoir of all potent energies.
“Therefore my Lord, I request You to save me from the cruel hands of the son of Ugrasena, Kamsa. I am praying to Your Lordship to please rescue me from this fearful condition because You are always ready to give protection to Your servitors.” The Lord has confirmed this statement in the Bhagavad-gita by assuring Arjuna, “You may declare to the world, My devotee shall never be vanquished.”
While thus praying to the Lord for rescue, mother Devaki expressed her motherly affection: “I understand that this transcendental form is generally perceived in meditation by the great sages, but I am still afraid because as soon as Kamsa understands that You have appeared, he might harm You. So I request that for the time being You become invisible to our material eyes.” In other words, she requested the Lord to assume the form of an ordinary child. “My only cause of fear from my brother Kamsa is due to Your appearance. My Lord Madhusudana, Kamsa may know that You are already born. Therefore I request You to conceal this four-armed form of Your Lordship which holds the four symbols of Visnu–namely the conchshell, the disc, the club and the lotus flower. My dear Lord, at the end of the annihilation of the cosmic manifestation, You put the whole universe within Your abdomen; still by Your unalloyed mercy You have appeared in my womb. I am surprised that You imitate the activities of ordinary human beings just to please Your devotee.”
On hearing the prayers of Devaki, the Lord replied, “My dear mother, in the millennium of Svayambhuva Manu, My father Vasudeva was living as one of the Prajapatis, and his name at that time was Sutapa, and you were his wife named Prsni. At that time, when Lord Brahma was desiring to increase the population, he requested you to generate offspring. You controlled your senses and performed severe austerities. By practicing the breathing exercise of the yoga system, both you and your husband could tolerate all the influences of the material laws: the rainy season, the onslaught of the wind, and the scorching heat of the sunshine. You also executed all religious principles. In this way you were able to cleanse your heart and control the influence of material law. In executing your austerity, you used to eat only the leaves of the trees which fell to the ground. Then with steady mind and controlled sex drive, you worshiped Me, desiring some wonderful benediction from Me. Both of you practiced severe austerities for twelve thousand years, by the calculation of the demigods. During that time, your mind was always absorbed in Me. When you were executing devotional service and always thinking of Me within your heart, I was very much pleased with you. O sinless mother, your heart is therefore always pure. At that time also I appeared before you in this form just to fulfill your desire, and I asked you to ask whatever you desired. At that time you wished to have Me born as your son. Although you saw Me personally, instead of asking for your complete liberation from the material bondage, under the influence of My energy, you asked Me to become your son.”
In other words, the Lord selected His mother and father–namely Prsni and Sutapa–specifically to appear in the material world. Whenever the Lord comes as a human being, He must have someone as a mother and father, so He selected Prsni and Sutapa perpetually as His mother and father. And on account of this, both Prsni and Sutapa could not ask the Lord for liberation. Liberation is not so important as the transcendental loving service of the Lord. The Lord could have awarded Prsni and Sutapa immediate liberation, but He preferred to keep them within this material world for His different appearances, as will be explained in the following verses. On receiving the benediction from the Lord to become His father and mother, both Prsni and Sutapa returned from the activities of austerity and lived as husband and wife in order to beget a child who was the Supreme Lord Himself.
In due course of time Prsni became pregnant and gave birth to the child. The Lord spoke to Devaki and Vasudeva: “At that time My name was Prsnigarbha. In the next millennium also you took birth as Aditi and Kasyapa, and I became your child of the name Upendra. At that time My form was just like a dwarf, and for this reason I was known as Vamanadeva. I gave you the benediction that I would take birth as your son three times. The first time I was known as Prsnigarbha, born of Prsni and Sutapa, the next birth I was Upendra born of Aditi and Kasyapa, and now for the third time I am born as Krsna from you, Devaki and Vasudeva. I appeared in this Visnu form just to convince you that I am the same Supreme Personality of Godhead again taken birth. I could have appeared just like an ordinary child, but in that way you would not believe that I, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, have taken birth in your womb. My dear father and mother, you have therefore raised Me many times as your child, with great affection and love, and I am therefore very pleased and obliged to you. And I assure you that this time you shall go back to home, back to Godhead, on account of your perfection in your mission. I know you are very concerned about Me and afraid of Kamsa. Therefore I order you to take Me immediately to Gokula and replace Me with the daughter who has just been born to Yasoda.”
Having spoken thus in the presence of His father and mother, the Lord turned Himself into an ordinary child and remained silent.
Being ordered by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vasudeva attempted to take his son from the delivery room, and exactly at that time, a daughter was born of Nanda and Yasoda. She was Yogamaya, the internal potency of the Lord. By the influence of this internal potency, Yogamaya, all the residents of Kamsa’s palace, especially the doorkeepers, were overwhelmed with deep sleep, and all the palace doors opened, although they were barred and shackled with iron chains. The night was very dark, but as soon as Vasudeva took Krsna on his lap and went out, he could see everything just as in the sunlight.
In the Caitanya-caritamrta it is said that Krsna is just like sunlight, and wherever there is Krsna, the illusory energy, which is compared to darkness, cannot remain. When Vasudeva was carrying Krsna, the darkness of the night disappeared. All the prison doors automatically opened. At the same time there was a thunder in the sky and severe rainfall. While Vasudeva was carrying his son Krsna in the falling rain, Lord Sesa in the shape of a serpent spread His hood over the head of Vasudeva so that he would not be hampered by the rainfall. Vasudeva came onto the bank of the Yamuna and saw that the water of the Yamuna was roaring with waves and that the whole span was full of foam. Still, in that furious feature, the river gave passage to Vasudeva to cross, just as the great Indian Ocean gave a path to Lord Rama when He was bridging over the gulf. In this way Vasudeva crossed the river Yamuna. On the other side, he went to the place of Nanda Maharaja situated in Gokula, where he saw that all the cowherd men were fast asleep. He took the opportunity of silently entering into the house of Yasoda, and without difficulty he replaced his son, taking away the baby girl newly born in the house of Yasoda. Then, after entering the house very silently and exchanging the boy with the girl, he again returned to the prison of Kamsa and silently put the girl on the lap of Devaki. He again clamped the shackles on himself so that Kamsa could not recognize that so many things had happened.
Mother Yasoda understood that a child was born of her, but because she was very tired from the labor of childbirth, she was fast asleep. When she awoke, she could not remember whether she had given birth to a male or a female child.
Thus ends the Bhaktivedanta purport of the Third Chapter of Krsna, “Birth of Lord Krsna.”
“As Srila Prabhupada’s secretary and more than once in any case, I sat before Srila Prabhupada chanting my japa. Sometimes we hear people, and myself, saying “Hare Ram, Hare Ram, Ram Ram Hare Hare”. Srila Prabhupada would stop me and (more than once) say to me: “Chant the entire mantra” and he would proceed to do so. It is Ra-ma.
(As told by Pusta Krishna das ACBSP)
As Pusta Krishna Prabhu witnessed Srila Prabhupada’s correction, in our chanting we want to please the spiritual master and chant the mantra correctly.
Another important point to consider in deciding if we should chant Ram or Rama is if in our chanting we do not say the whole RAMA but just say RAM without the last “A” sound then it will not be a 32 syllable mantra.
Throughout the vedas the Hare Krishna Maha Mantra is referred to as the 32 syllable mantra.
Here are a few references:
The Ananta-samhita states:
hare krsna hare krsna krsna krsna hare hare |hare rama hare rama rama rama hare hare ||
sodazaitani namani dvatrimzad varnakani hi |kalau yuge maha-mantrah sammato jivatarane ||
varjayitva tu namaitad durjanaih parikalpitam |chandobaddham susiddhanta viruddham nabhyaset padam ||
tarakam brahma-namaitad brahmana gurunadina |kalisantaranadyasu zruti-svadhigatam hareh ||
praptam zri brahma-zisyena zri naradena dhimata |namaitad-uttamam zrauta-paramparyena brahmanah ||
utsrjyaitan-maha-mantram ye tvanyat kaepitam padam |mahanameti gayanti te zastra-guru langhanah ||
tattva-virodha-saoprktam tadrzam daurjanam matam |sravatha pariharyam syadatma-hitarthina sada ||
hare krsna hare krsna krsna krsna hare hare |hare rama hare rama rama rama hare hare ||
“‘Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama RamaRama Rama Rama Hare Hare’ — This sixteen-name, thirty-two syllable mantrais the maha-mantra in the age of Kali by which all living beings can bedelivered. One should never abandon chanting this maha-mantra and take toother so-called purificatory processes which are practiced by rascals, orengage in chanting other metrical compositions of the name of Krishna thatare against the pure conclusions of the scriptures, or are filled with rasabhasa.
About this divinely spiritual maha-mantra, which delivers one from materialexistence, the original guru, Lord Brahma, has said, kali-santararadi srutite, ‘Thesrutis have declared this mantra to be the best means of deliverance in the ageof Kali’. Having all heard this from Brahma, the sons and disciples of Brahma,beginning with Narada, all accepted the Hare Krishna maha-mantra and,having meditated on it, attained perfection.”
In Sri Radha Tantra it is said:
srnu matarmahamaye visva-bija-svarupini | hari namno mahamaye krama vad suresvari ||
“Hear me, O mother Mahamaya, seed of the universe personified, mistress of the gods! Please explain the sequence of Hari-nama.”
hare krsna hare krsna krsna krsna hare hare | hare rama hare rama rama rama hare hare ||
dvatrim sadaksaranyeva kalau namani sarvadam | etanmantram suta srestha prathamam srnuyannarah ||
Tripura-devi said: “O best among sons! The maha-mantra for Kali-yuga bestows all perfection. This maha-mantra, is composed of sixteen names and thirty-two syllables: ’Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare’. Therefore, a person who desires his own welfare should first hear this Hare Krsna maha-mantra from a bonafide spiritual master.”
In the Padma Purana it is stated:
dvatrimsad-aksaram mantram nama-sodasakanvitam |
prajapan vaisnavo nityam radha-krsna-sthalam labhet ||
“Those Vaisnavas who always chant the maha-mantra composed of sixteen names divided into thirty-two syllables (Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare) attain Sri Vrndavana, the abode of Sri Radha-Krsna.”
In the Sri Caitanya Bhagavata (1.14.143-147) Srila Vrindavana Das Thakura describes Lord Caitanya’s instructions to Tapana Misra as follows:
sadhya-sadhana-tattva ye kichu sakala |
hari-nama-sagkirtane milibe sakala || 143 ||
harer nama harer nama harer namaiva kevalam |
kalau nasty eva nasty eva nasty eva gatir anyatha || 144 ||
hare krsna hare krsna krsna krsna hare hare |
hare rama hare rama rama rama hare hare || 145 ||
ei zloka nama bali laya maha-mantra |
zola-nama batriza-aksara ei tantra || 146 ||
sadhite sadhite yabe premagkura habe |
sadhya-sadhana-tattva janiba se tabe || 147 ||
“Everything is accomplished by Hari-nama sankirtana, including the goal of life (sadhya) and the means for its attainment (sadhana). In this age of Kali, the only means for deliverance is the chanting of the names of Hari. There is no other way, there is no other way, there is no other way. ‘Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.’ This verse of names is called the maha-mantra. It contains sixteen names of the Lord, consisting of thirty-two syllables. Chanting this mantra again and again will awaken the sprout of prema within the heart, and thus the goal of life and the means for its attainment is understood.”
Hopefully this article sheds some light on weather we should chant Ram or Rama.
Knowing the Purpose of Life
Every thoughtful human being asks the fundamental question, “What is the purpose of life?” Unfortunately, our difficulty in finding ultimate meaning is compounded by the fact that thousands of conflicting philosophies, religions, and ideologies and their proponents compete for our loyalty. Here Śrīla Prabhupāda provides some simple and enlightening guidance.
Today’s subject matter is our relationship with God. That is self-realization. The saṅkīrtana movement is the easiest process for self-realization because it cleanses the heart. Our misunderstanding of our identity is due to the dust covering the mirror of the mind. In a mirror that is covered with dust one cannot see himself. But if it is very clear, then one can see himself. So meditation is a process for cleansing the heart. Meditation means to try to understand one’s relationship with the Supreme.
With everything with which we come in contact there is a relationship. Because I am now sitting on this cushion, the relationship is that I shall sit and the cushion will hold me. You have relationships. You are Englishmen or Indians, so there is a relationship with your society, with your family, with your friends. So what is our relationship with God?
If you ask everyone, very few people will be able to explain their relationship with God. They say, “What is God? God is dead. I don’t believe in God, not to speak of a relationship.” Because these dirty things are covering their hearts, they cannot see. We have a relationship with everything—why do we not try to understand our relationship with God? Is that very intelligent? No. That is ignorance. All the creatures in this material world are covered by the three modes of material nature. Therefore they cannot see God. They cannot understand God, nor do they try to understand Him. But God is there. In England in the morning there is mist, so you cannot see the sun behind the fog. But does this mean that there is no sun? You cannot see it because your eyes are covered. But if you send a telegram to another part of the world, they will say, “Yes, the sun is here. We can see it. It is very dazzling, full of light.” So when you deny the existence of God or you cannot ascertain your relationship with God, that means that you are lacking in knowledge. It is not that there is no God. We are lacking. The sun is not covered. The sun cannot be covered. The fog or the cloud or the mist does not have the power to cover the sun. How big the sun is! It is so many times bigger than this earth. And the clouds can cover at most ten or twenty or a hundred miles. So how can the clouds cover the sun? No. The clouds cannot cover the sun. They cover your eyes. When an enemy comes and a rabbit cannot defend himself, the rabbit closes his eyes and thinks, “My enemy is now gone.” Similarly, we are covered by the external energy of God and are thinking, “God is dead.”
The Lord has three kinds of energies. In the Viṣṇu Purāṇa there are descriptions of the energy of the Supreme Lord. And in the Vedas also, in the Upaniṣads, there are descriptions of the energies of the Supreme Lord. Parāsya śaktir vividhaiva śrūyate (Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad 6.8). Sakti means “energy.” The Lord has multienergies. The Vedas say, “God has nothing to do.” We have to work because we have no other means to exist—we have to eat, we wish to enjoy this, that—but why should God work? God does not have to work. Then how can we say that God created this universe? Is that not work? No. Then how did it happen? His multifarious energies are so strong that they are acting naturally and are full of knowledge. We can see how a flower blooms and grows and systematically displays multicolors: one side a little spot, another side a little spot, white on one side, more white on the other side. The butterfly also exhibits such artistic symmetry. So this is all being painted, but in such a perfect way and so swiftly that we cannot see how. We cannot understand how it is being done, but it is being done by the energy of the Lord.
It is due to a lack of knowledge that people say that God is dead, that there is no God, and that we have no relationship with God. These thoughts have been compared to the thoughts of a man haunted by a ghost. Just as a haunted man speaks all nonsense, when we become covered by the illusory energy of God we say that God is dead. But this is not a fact. Therefore, we need this chanting process to cleanse our heart. Take to this simple process of chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra. In that way, in your family life, in your club, in your home, on the road—everywhere—chant Hare Kṛṣṇa, and this darkness covering your heart, covering your real position, will be removed. Then you’ll understand your real constitutional position.
Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu recommended: ceto-darpaṇa-mārjanam [Cc. Antya 20.12]. Mārjanam means “cleanse,” and darpaṇam means “mirror.” The heart is a mirror. It is like a camera. Just as a camera takes all kinds of pictures of days and nights, so also our heart takes pictures and keeps them in an unconscious state. Psychologists know this. The heart takes so many pictures, and therefore it becomes covered. We do not know when it has begun, but it is a fact that because there is material contact, our real identity is covered. Therefore ceto-darpaṇa-mārjanam: one has to cleanse his heart. There are different processes to cleanse the heart—the jñāna process, the yoga process, the meditation process, pious activities. Karma also cleanses the heart. If one acts very piously, his heart will gradually be cleansed. But although these processes are recommended for cleansing the heart, in this age they are all difficult. To follow the path of philosophical knowledge one must become a very learned scholar, one must read so many books, one must go to learned professors and scholars and speculate. One must search out a person who has seen the light. So these are all philosophical processes. Meditation is also a recommended process. One should question, “What am I?” Just consider: Am I this body? No. Am I this finger? No, this is my finger. If you contemplate your leg, you will see, “Oh, this is my leg.” Similarly, you will find everything to be “mine.” And where is that “I”? Everything is mine, but where is that “I”? When one is searching for that “I,” that is meditation. Real meditation means concentrating all the senses in that way. But that meditation process is very difficult. One must control the senses. The senses are dragging one outward, and one has to bring them inward for introspection. Therefore there are eight processes in the yoga system. The first is controlling the senses by regulative principles. Then sitting postures—that will help to concentrate the mind. If one sits leaning over, that will not help; if one sits up straight, that will help. Then controlling the breathing, then meditation, then samādhi. But today these are very, very difficult processes. No one can immediately perform them. The so-called yoga processes are fragmental—only the sitting postures and a few breathing exercises are practiced. But that cannot bring one to the perfectional stage. The actual yoga process, although a recommended Vedic process, is very difficult in this age. Similarly one can try to get knowledge by the speculative philosophical process: ‘ ‘This is Brahman, this is not Brahman, so what is Brahman? What is spirit soul?” Such empiric philosophical discussion is also recommended, but it is useless in this age.
Therefore Caitanya Mahāprabhu—not only Caitanya Mahāprabhu but also the Vedic literature—says:
harer nāma harer nāma
harer nāmaiva kevalam
kalau nāsty eva nāsty eva
nāsty eva gatir anyathā
Kalau means “in this age.” Nāsty eva, nāsty eva, nāsty eva—three times nāsty eva. Eva means “certainly,” and nāsti means “not.” “Certainly not, certainly not, certainly not.” What is that “certainly not”? One cannot realize oneself by karma. That is the first “certainly not.” One cannot realize oneself by jñāna. That is the second “certainly not.” One cannot realize oneself by yoga. Certainly not. Kalau. Kalau means “in this age.” Kalau nāsty eva nāsty eva nāsty eva gatir anyathā. In this age one certainly cannot achieve success by any of these three methods. Then what is the recommended process? Harer nāma harer nāma harer nāmaiva kevalam [Adi 17.21]. Simply chant the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra. Kevalam means “only.” Simply chant Hare Kṛṣṇa. It is the easiest and most sublime process. This is recommended, practical, and authorized. So take it. Accept it in any condition of life. Chant. There is no expenditure, there is no loss. We are not chanting a secret. No. It is open. And by chanting you will cleanse your heart.
In this material world no one wants misery, but it comes. Unexpectedly, like a forest fire that starts without anyone’s striking a match, it comes. No one wants a war, but war is fought. No one wants famine, but famine comes. No one wants pestilence, but it comes. No one wants fighting, but there is fighting. No one wants misunderstanding, but there is. Why? This is like a blazing fire in the forest. And it cannot be extinguished by fire engines. This blazing fire of problems cannot be extinguished by our so-called advancement of knowledge. No. That is not possible, Just as one cannot extinguish a forest fire by sending a fire engine or by bringing some water, the problems of our life cannot be solved by material processes.
There are many examples. Prahlāda Mahārāja says, “My dear Lord, the father and mother are not actually the protectors of the children.” The father and mother take care of their children; that is their duty. But they are not the ultimate protectors. When nature’s law calls the child, the father and mother cannot protect him. Therefore although generally it is considered a fact that the father and mother are the protectors of the child, actually it is not a fact. If someone is sailing the ocean and he thinks he has a very nice seat, will that protect him? No. Still he may drown. A nice airplane is flying in the sky, everyone is safe, but all of a sudden it crashes. Nothing material can protect us. Suppose someone is diseased. He may engage a good physician who gives good medicine, but that will not guarantee that he will live. Then what is the ultimate guarantee? Prahlāda Mahārāja says, “My dear Lord, if You neglect someone, nothing can protect him.”
This is our practical experience. We can invent so many methods to solve the problems presented by the laws of material nature, but they are not sufficient. They will never solve all the problems, nor will they give actual relief. This is the fact. Therefore Kṛṣṇa says in the Bhagavad-gītā, “Māyā, this external energy, is very, very strong. No one can surpass it. It is almost impossible.” Then how can one get free from this material nature? Kṛṣṇa says, “Simply by surrendering unto Me one can get relief from the onslaught of material nature.” That is a fact. So we have to cleanse the heart to learn what is our relationship with God.
“I won’t pick it up. I am a Sharma.” With these words, young Gopal Gupta angrily broke the dinner glasses his parents had asked him to remove from the table. Gopal was outraged that he, as a member of the wealthy, upper-class Sharma family, should be engaged in the menial task of clearing off a dining table. Of course, Gopal’s parents had no idea that they were engaging a Sharma in clearing the table; they simply thought of Gopal as their two-and-a-half-year-old son.
Thus unfolded one of the numerous cases reported by Professor Ian Stevenson of the University of Virginia. Stevenson has published a series of books (Stevenson, 1974, 1975, 1977, 1980, 1983, 1987, 1997) in which he describes his extensive research work during the last thirty years. Stevenson reports cases in which a child gives specific details about a person he claims to have been in his previous life and Stevenson has done careful research in an attempt to verify these details. The information in these cases is not obtained by hypnosis; the children spontaneously describe their experiences. In addition to the books cited above, please also see the following websites:
The case of Gopal Gupta is typical. He was born in Delhi, India on 26 August 1956, the son of S.P. Gupta and his wife Omvati Gupta. The incident mentioned above occurred when Gopal was approximately two and a half years old. Gopal startled everyone by this outburst of anger and his unprecedented claim to be a member of a strange family. During the next few years, Gopal provided various details of what he claimed was his previous life as a man named Shaktipal Sharma who had lived in another city called Mathura, which is 160 kilometers away from Delhi where Gopal and his parents were living at the time (Shaktipal Sharma died in 1948). These details included the following information (Stevenson, 1975, p.82-95): He and his two brothers had owned a company called Sukh Shancharak that sold medicines. The company maintained a showroom. He owned a large house and had many servants to take away dishes and eating utensils. The Sharmas owned a number of large houses including one with a garden outside the town. He owned a car (it was very unusual to own a car in India in the 1930s). He went to college in a car. His employees were happy because he gave them wine. His younger brother married a woman from Assam. One day there had been shooting between the brothers.
According to Stevenson (1975, p.74-75), during the time Gopal was revealing this knowledge (from 1959 to 1964), neither Gopal nor his parents had ever been in Mathura. S.P. Gupta did not set foot in Mathura until 1964, and Gopal and his mother did not go there until March 1965. In his interview with Stevenson, Gopal’s father said that his family had no contact with the Sharma family prior to the development of the case. Similarly, the Sharmas told Stevenson that there had been no contact between their family and the Gupta family before the case.
As a general operating rule in his investigation of these cases, Stevenson interviews a number of knowledgeable persons in an attempt to establish that the information reported by the child was not acquired through normal means of communication. He is especially alert for any evidence of contact between the two families before the development of the case.
In the case of Gopal Gupta, Stevenson interviewed the following persons in Delhi:
1. Gopal Gupta
2. Gopal’s father (S. P. Gupta)
3. Gopal’s mother (Omvati Gupta)
4. Jwala Prasad (a building contractor who was a friend of S. P. Gupta)
5. B. B. Das (a friend of S. P. Gupta)
6. Chandra Kumari Devi Shastri (one of Shaktipal Sharma’s older sisters)
7. M. D. Shastri (Chandra Kumari Devi’s husband)
8. Chandra Kanta Devi Sharma (another of Shaktipal Sharma’s older sisters)
9. R. S. Sharma (Chandra Kanta Devi’s husband)
10. Chaman Lal Kapoor (a friend of K. B. Pathak)
11. R. C. Chaturvedi (a friend of Chaman Lal Kapoor)
12. Prabha Chaturvedi (R. C. Chaturvedi’s wife)
In Mathura, Stevenson interviewed:
13. Vishwapal Sharma (Shaktipal Sharma’s older brother)
14. Satyawati Sharma (Vishwapal Sharma’s wife)
15. Kirtipal Sharma (Shaktipal Sharma’s oldest son)
16. Subhadra Devi Sharma (Shaktipal Sharma’s widow)
17. Asha Sharma (Shaktipal Sharma’s niece by marriage)
18. K. B. Pathak (sales manager of the Sukh Shancharak Company)
19. R. A. Haryana (a friend of Shaktipal Sharma)
In 1964, Gopal’s father drove from Delhi (where he was living) to Mathura to attend a religious festival. While in Mathura, he decided to try to verify some of the things his son had been saying. He found that there was in fact a company called Sukh Shancharak that sold medicines and that it was owned by three Sharma brothers, the youngest of whom, named Brijendrapal, had shot and killed his older brother named Shaktipal Sharma in 1948. S.P. Gupta told the company’s sales manager (K. B. Pathak) about some of the things Gopal had said. Mr. Pathak was impressed with the accuracy of Gopal’s statements; he wrote down S.P. Gupta’s name and address and gave them to Subhadra Devi Sharma, Shaktipal Sharma’s widow. The Sharmas were curious about what Gopal was saying, so they asked one of their friends in Delhi (Chaman Lal Kapoor) to inquire further into the matter. In November 1964, Kapoor wrote to Pathak confirming what Gopal had been saying.
Thereafter, Subhadra Devi Sharma and Chandra Kanta Devi Sharma (one of Shaktipal Sharma’s older sisters) visited the Gupta family at their home in the Krishna Nagar section of Delhi. S.P. Gupta told Stevenson that Gopal correctly stated Chandra Kanta Devi Sharma’s relationship to Shaktipal Sharma when she asked Gopal to say who she was, but Stevenson (1975, p.88) also mentioned that Chandra Kanta Devi did not remember this event. Stevenson (1975, p.88-89) said that Gopal recognized Subhadra Devi, but he also mentioned that there was a possibility that Gopal could have overheard Chandra Kanta Devi’s son telling S.P. Gupta who Subhadra Devi was. Thus there is some doubt regarding the value of these two recognitions.
During this visit, Gopal was friendly towards Chandra Kanta Devi Sharma but cold and impolite to Subhadra Devi Sharma. For example, when the two women were leaving the Gupta residence, Gopal said good-bye to Chandra Kanta Devi but he did not say good-bye to Subhadra Devi. Gopal’s father asked Gopal why he was so cold towards Subhadra Devi, and Gopal replied that he was angry at Subhadra Devi because she had refused to lend him money when he requested it. Shaktipal Sharma had requested money from his wife to try to pacify his younger brother Brijendrapal, but Subhadra Devi had refused. Gopal remembered this event in the life of Shaktipal Sharma. Later, when Gopal’s father was visiting Subhadra Devi in Mathura, he told her about Gopal’s memories of Shaktipal Sharma’s attempt to borrow money from her before he was murdered. Upon hearing this, Subhadra Devi fainted. She was astonished that Gopal knew about such an intimate affair. Stevenson noted: “The details of this had certainly never appeared in any newspaper or been otherwise spread around publicly” (Stevenson, 1975, p.102). Gopal’s revelation of this event in the life of Shaktipal Sharma took place before Gopal’s first visit to Mathura in March 1965.
In January 1965, Vishwapal Sharma (Shaktipal Sharma’s older brother) and his wife Satyawati came to the Gupta residence in Krishna Nagar, Delhi. While they were sitting in their car in front of the house, Gopal came out of the house and correctly stated their relationship to Shaktipal Sharma. Later, when Stevenson interviewed Vishwapal Sharma and his wife, they directly confirmed Gopal’s recognition of them.
Sometime thereafter, but before Gopal’s first visit to Mathura in March 1965, Chandra Kumari Devi Shastri (another one of Shaktipal Sharma’s sisters) invited Gopal and his parents to the wedding of her son in Delhi. Gopal and his father attended the wedding. S. P. Gupta told Stevenson that on this occasion Gopal spontaneously recognized Brijendrapal Sharma, Shaktipal Sharma’s younger brother and murderer. Stevenson also said that Vishwapal Sharma told him that he (Vishwapal Sharma) and his wife had also attended this wedding and that his wife had overheard a conversation between Gopal and his father in which Gopal said: “That man who is disguised [referring to Brijendrapal's beard] shot at me” (Stevenson, 1975, p.91). It turns out that Brijendrapal Sharma did not grow a beard until after the death of Shaktipal Sharma.
As mentioned before, Gopal visited Mathura for the first time in March 1965. In Mathura, Gopal was able to find Shaktipal Sharma’s house. Stevenson reported that he personally examined this terrain in 1969 when he visited Mathura and could find no obvious clues that would have helped Gopal to find Shaktipal Sharma’s house. Stevenson (1975, p.81) also noted that Gopal could not have received subtle suggestions from his father or the other men accompanying him that would have helped in finding the house, since at that time none of these men knew where Shaktipal Sharma had lived.
In Mathura, Gopal was able to recognize photographs of Shaktipal Sharma and persons related to him. Kirtipal Sharma told Stevenson that someone showed Gopal a picture of R. A. Haryana and asked Gopal who it was. Gopal said “Haryana” (Stevenson, 1975, p. 92). Mr. Haryana was one of Shaktipal Sharma’s friends from college days. S. P. Gupta told Stevenson that when Gopal entered Shaktipal Sharma’s house he saw a photograph of Shaktipal Sharma and declared “This is my photograph” (Stevenson, 1975, p. 92). Kirtipal Sharma told Stevenson that Subhadra Devi Sharma pointed to a photograph of Shaktipal Sharma’s father and asked Gopal who it was. Gopal said “This is my father’s photograph” (Stevenson, 1975, p. 93). Stevenson remarked that Gopal’s ability in this regard and other evidence had such a strong effect on some of the members of the Sharma family that they were moved to tears (Stevenson, 1975, p.102).
When Gopal was in Mathura, he said that Shaktipal Sharma had the unusual habit of keeping financial records in his personal diary. Stevenson said that a number of persons, including Mr. Haryana, heard Gopal make this remark. When Mr. Haryana told Vishwapal Sharma about it, Vishwapal immediately knew that it was correct since he had had a very close relationship with his younger brother, Shaktipal Sharma. Vishwapal Sharma told Stevenson that Shaktipal Sharma had in fact kept financial records in his personal diary. Stevenson considered the oddness of this habit and Gopal’s knowledge of it to be an important item in this case.
Gopal’s claim to be Shaktipal Sharma reborn was of interest to a number of persons in Mathura, since Shaktipal Sharma had been a prominent figure there. The case was covered by a number of newspapers, and thus Dr. Jamuna Prasad learned of it and told Dr. Stevenson about it. In 1969, Stevenson began his interviews of people involved in this case.
Gopal’s Strong Identification with Shaktipal Sharma
According to Stevenson, when Gopal was between the ages of two and nine years old he often exhibited behavior indicating that he considered himself to be Shaktipal Sharma. It turns out that Shaktipal Sharma belonged to the Brahmana caste. In the Indian social system, the Brahmana caste is considered the highest caste. The Guptas, on the other hand, belong to an inferior caste known as Banias. Brahmanas generally refuse to use or even touch eating utensils that have been used by the members of lower castes. When he was young, Gopal repeatedly told his family members (the Guptas) that he is a Brahmana and “he refused to touch eating utensils used by anyone except his father. … He would not drink milk from a cup anyone else had used, even, in this case, his father” (Stevenson, 1975, p.99).
Gopal sometimes complained about the poor living conditions in the Gupta residence and compared it unfavorably with the large house that he said he owned as Shaktipal Sharma. Gopal was reluctant to do menial housework: he claimed that he had many servants to do this type of work.
As mentioned earlier, when Subhadra Devi Sharma visited Gopal in Delhi, he treated her very coldly. This is appropriate behavior for Shaktipal Sharma since, as mentioned earlier, he was angry at his wife shortly before he was murdered.
When Gopal arrived at Shaktipal Sharma’s house in Mathura, he said: “This is my house.” When he was inside, he said: “This is my living room.” At one point Gopal saw Shaktipal Sharma’s piano and touched it, for which he was reproached. Gopal responded by saying: “Why should I not touch it? It belongs to me” (Stevenson, 1975, p.97).
The Sharmas Were Impressed
Stevenson mentioned that Gopal was unable to recognize several persons who were well known to Shaktipal Sharma, such as K. B. Pathak who was employed by the Sukh Shancharak Company for four years before Shaktipal Sharma was murdered. Nevertheless, the members of the Sharma family and other informants in Mathura were impressed by the accuracy of most of Gopal’s memories and his ability to recognize certain photographs, especially those of Shaktipal Sharma in which his face is not visible. The Sharmas were particularly impressed by Gopal’s knowledge of Shaktipal Sharma’s attempt to borrow money from his wife before he was murdered (Stevenson, 1987, p.56). Stevenson noted: “Shaktipal Sharma’s older sister, Chandra Kanta Devi Sharma, found herself calling Gopal ‘Shakti’, a strong indication that she regarded him as her brother reborn. Vishwapal Sharma, Shaktipal Sharma’s older brother, was similarly convinced, from the evidence he had seen himself and what he had learned from others, that Gopal was his deceased brother reborn. And Shaktipal Sharma’s old friend from college days, R. A. Haryana, expressed the opinion that Gopal was Shaktipal Sharma reborn. So did Shaktipal Sharma’s niece by marriage, Asha Sharma, who witnessed in Mathura Gopal’s ability to find his way from Shaktipal Sharma’s house to the Sukh Shancharak company and then to point out the correct locations of the murderer and victim at the time Shaktipal Sharma’s brother shot him” (Stevenson, 1975, p.102).
This last item has a special feature. When Gopal was in the process of pointing out the locations of the murderer and victim, several members of the Sharma family were present who knew the actual locations and, in order to test Gopal, deliberately tried to mislead him by trying to get him to point to the wrong places. Gopal passed the test, however, by remaining resolute in his identification of the correct locations. It is conceivable that an observant person could have received a clue as to the location of Shaktipal Sharma at the time he was shot due to the fact that there were new tiles there (the old ones had blood stains and had therefore been removed for inspection by the police). But this would not be sufficient to enable one to correctly point out the position of Brijendrapal when he fired the gun.
Interpretations for the Case of Gopal Gupta
How are we to interpret this case? Did Gopal overhear adults discussing the life and murder of Shaktipal Sharma in sufficient detail? There are at least three reasons why this is highly unlikely:
(1) Although Shaktipal Sharma was an important man in Mathura, he was a person of no significance in Delhi.
(2) Gopal was living in Delhi when he first began to describe Shaktipal Sharma’s life and murder. Delhi newspaper accounts would not have contained all the details revealed by Gopal, and thus the adults whom Gopal might have overheard could not have known these details.
(3) Eleven years elapsed between the death of Shaktipal Sharma in 1948 and Gopal’s first outburst in 1959 at around age two-and-a-half. Thus even if people in Delhi were acquainted with the life and murder of Shaktipal Sharma in 1948, it is hard to believe that they would still be talking about them eleven years later.
A Clever Fraud by Gopal’s Parents?
Stevenson mentioned that he is alert for evidence of fraud in the cases he studies, and in the case of Gopal Gupta he found none. But let us consider the possibility that Gopal’s parents faked the case. If Gopal’s parents were strongly motivated and willing to do the needed research in Mathura, it is possible that they could have amassed a considerable amount of information about the life and murder of Shaktipal Sharma since he was a prominent person in Mathura.
But the question is, could Gopal’s parents have discovered all the details reported by Gopal? Consider, for example, that Asha Sharma (Shaktipal Sharma’s niece) told Stevenson that she was personally present when Gopal correctly identified the place where Brijendrapal Sharma stood when he fired the bullet that killed Shaktipal Sharma, although there were no clues that could have helped Gopal in finding the correct place and an attempt was made to deliberately mislead him by persons who knew this place. Moreover, Shaktipal Sharma’s son, Kirtipal Sharma, told Stevenson that he was also present when Gopal did this. Did the Guptas somehow induce Asha Sharma and Kirtipal Sharma to lie to Dr. Stevenson? What could the Guptas have offered the Sharmas? It is important to remember that the Sharmas were wealthy, and the Guptas were poor. Moreover, the Sharmas were from the Brahmana caste whereas the Guptas belonged to the inferior Banias caste. The huge socio-economic differences between the Sharmas and the Guptas make it very unlikely that a friendship could have ever developed between the two families. It thus seems extremely unlikely that the Guptas could have induced the Sharmas to take part in a fraud. What benefit could the Sharmas have derived by falsely establishing some ordinary boy (Gopal Gupta) as Shaktipal Sharma reborn? Stevenson mentioned that he was unable to detect any desire among Indians to convert Westerners to a belief in reincarnation. Thus, there appears to be absolutely no motive on the part of the Sharmas to engage in fraudulently establishing Gopal as Shaktipal Sharma reborn. How, then, can we explain Gopal’s identification of the correct location where Brijendrapal stood when he fired the gun?
Perhaps the most impressive item in this case is that Shaktipal Sharma’s widow Subhadra Devi fainted when she heard about Gopal’s memories of her husband’s efforts to borrow money from her before his murder. Since this was a private affair between Shaktipal Sharma and his wife and not the kind of thing that would have been reported by the newspapers, Gopal’s parents could not have learned of it without becoming close friends of the Sharmas.
Thus, it is extremely unlikely that Gopal’s parents could have faked the whole case. The same is true for the better among Stevenson’s other cases (see Stevenson, 1974, 1975, 1977, 1980, 1983, 1987, 1997), since these cases are very similar to the case of Gopal Gupta. In these cases, the child has greatly impressed members of the previous personality’s family by demonstrating knowledge of private affairs of the previous personality that would be very difficult to obtain by normal means of communication. Thus, fraud by the child’s parents is highly unlikely. To explain these cases in terms of normal means of communication, we would have to imagine a fraud involving both the family of the child and the family of the person he claims to have been in his previous life. But when we examine these cases, we find no motive for such fraud. Most of Stevenson’s cases are among villagers in places like West Africa, India, Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Alaska, Syria, Turkey and Lebanon. In these places, a person gains little or no fame by reporting that his child is a deceased person reborn, since cases in which a child claims to remember a previous life are very common (Stevenson, 1980, p.13; 1987, p.147). Also, according to Stevenson, these people have no desire to convert Westerners to a belief in reincarnation. In cases in which the child’s family is poor and the previous personality’s family is rich, a skeptic might argue that the whole case is a fraud by the child’s parents with the motive to extract money from the rich family. But the problem is that there is no reason for the rich family to take part in the fraud, and hence we can not explain how the hoaxers could have obtained the knowledge the child exhibited of private affairs of the previous personality. Thus, it appears that we can eliminate fraud as an explanation for Stevenson’s better cases, and we shall now move on to consider other explanations beginning with extrasensory perception.
Extrasensory Perception (ESP)
There are two observations suggesting that ESP is not the best explanation for cases such as that of Gopal Gupta:
(1) As described earlier, when Gopal was between the ages of two and nine years old, he often exhibited behavior indicating that he considered himself to be Shaktipal Sharma. Gopal did not report that he was using ESP to acquire information about Shaktipal Sharma; Gopal experienced himself to be Shaktipal Sharma. Dr. Stevenson emphasized that such identification is a typical feature of his cases. The children do not claim that they are getting information about the previous personality by ESP: in each case the child claims that he is the previous personality. In many cases the children exhibit strong emotional responses appropriate for the previous personality, such as crying in happiness when meeting a person loved by the previous personality, or being angry at persons who were hated by the previous personality, or recoiling in fear when seeing the murderer of the previous personality. In well-documented cases of ESP, the person who receives information by ESP does not become illusioned in such a way that he falsely identifies himself as the person about whom he receives the information (see Appendix A and Gloor, 1969; Vasiliev, 1966; Stanley, 1909; Sidgewick, 1891-1892). Although a child might want to identify with exceptionally powerful or attractive adults, there is no reason to believe that a child would want to identify with the ordinary persons who constitute the majority of previous personalities reported by Stevenson.
(2) The children do not exhibit independent ESP ability. Stevenson mentioned that he asked hundreds of parents about ESP ability in their children and, in the vast majority of cases, there was none (Stevenson, 1987, p.155).
Thus, it seems that ESP is not the best interpretation for these cases. Let us therefore consider three other interpretations:
(1) Intermittent influence by the previous personality on the mind of a child.
(2) Possession (the previous personality has taken over the body of the child and either overwhelmed and silenced the original owner of the body, or forced him to leave it).
(3) Reincarnation (the conscious self, after departing from his dying body, takes up residence in a new physical body; he is the first resident in this body).
If we accept any of these three interpretations, we are implicitly accepting the idea that the previous personality is different from his physical body and can operate independently of it, since his physical body is by that time dead and decaying.
Intermittent Influence by the Previous Personality on the Mind of a Child
It would be very frightening to be intermittently influenced by another person. A child being influenced in this way would almost certainly tell his parents about it. Yet none of the children in Stevenson’s cases report being sometimes influenced by the previous personality. From a very young age each child reports that he is the previous personality. Thus, we must reject the hypothesis of intermittent influence as an explanation for Stevenson’s cases.
Stevenson has hundreds of cases in which there are distinctive birthmarks or birth defects on the body of a child that are very similar to wounds or scars on the body of the person he claims to have been in his previous life. In many cases, the wounds or scars on the body of the previous personality were acquired during life as a result of surgery or were inflicted at the time of death. Stevenson has numerous cases in which a child claims to remember having been shot or stabbed (as the cause of death of the body of the previous personality) and there is a birthmark on the body of the child in the same place and having the same shape as the fatal wound inflicted on the body of the previous personality. The fact that the marks are present on the child at the time of his birth and not acquired later implies that the previous personality entered the child’s body before it was born. A kind of possession in which the invading person enters the child’s body before birth is practically the same as reincarnation. The only difference is that in possession there would have already been a conscious self in the embryo, whereas in reincarnation the previous personality is the first conscious self to inhabit the embryo.
Possession does not seem to be the best explanation for the numerous cases in which the child clearly expresses his surprise or dissatisfaction with his new environment. Examples of this are the following. When a two-year-old Turkish boy named Celal Kapan first began to speak, practically his first statement was: “What am I doing here? I was at the port” (Stevenson, 1987, p. 105). He claimed that in his previous life he was a dock worker and he had fallen asleep in the cargo hold of a ship which was being loaded. He was killed when a large oil drum was unknowingly dropped on him. He felt he fell asleep in an adult body and woke up in the body of a baby.
The children in Stevenson’s cases often act, and as far as possible speak, like adults who have been unfairly imprisoned in children’s bodies.
Stevenson (1987, p.100) reported a case in which the mother of a deceased boy dreamed that her son came to her and told her: “Help! I have got myself in a poor family. Come and rescue me.” From the dream she received enough information to identify a family that had a child with memories of the life of her deceased son. It seems that her deceased son was born in a family with much less money than he wanted.
Although in some of Stevenson’s cases the child is pleased with the circumstances of his new life, in many cases the child is terribly disappointed and repeatedly complains about the impoverished condition or low-class habits of his new family (Stevenson, 1987, p.119). An Indian boy named Bishen Chand Kapoor, who claimed that he was a very wealthy man in his previous life, contemptuously rejected the clothes his poor parents offered him. He said that such clothes were so inferior that he would not have given them even to his servants, not to mention wearing them himself (Stevenson, 1987, p.116). Gopal Gupta contemptuously compared the Gupta residence with the large house he had owned as Shaktipal Sharma. In many cases the child rejects his parents, saying “you are not my real parents” and demands to be taken to another town where his “real” parents (the parents of the previous personality) live (Stevenson, 1987, p.118). A child’s repeated criticism of his new family often gets him into trouble with the members of this family.
The above evidence seems inconsistent with the standard scenario of possession in which a discarnate person selects the body he wants and forcibly overwhelms its occupant. Instead, the evidence suggests reincarnation.
Reincarnation seems to be the best interpretation for most of Stevenson’s cases since it explains: (1) the knowledge the child has of the previous personality; (2) the child’s unusual behavior (unusual for his family but perfectly appropriate for the previous personality); (3) the child’s subjective experience (he claims that he is the previous personality and that he has somehow been put into a new body); (4) distinctive birthmarks on the body of the child that are very similar to wounds or scars on the body of the previous personality.
The Frequency of Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation
The idea that reincarnation is a natural process that all conscious selves undergo when their physical bodies die is supported by Stevenson’s statements that it is easy to find persons who claim to remember a previous life in certain places such as West Africa, India, Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Syria, Turkey, Lebanon and the northwestern part of North America (Stevenson 1980, p.13; 1987, p.93). Stevenson said that in these places he has received so many reports of possible cases that he simply does not have enough time to investigate them all. It is important to note that cases of the reincarnation type are found not only in southeast Asia, but all over the world. Stevenson said: “Fortunately, many new cases are available, and as I mentioned in the General Introduction to this series, I should have no difficulty whatever in indicating places in several countries where an investigator can easily find more cases of this type than he could possibly study” (Stevenson, 1980, p.351).
Stevenson mentioned that he has also found and investigated many cases of the reincarnation type in the other parts of North America and Europe. The lesser frequency of reported cases in these countries is due to the fact that many parents ignore or suppress such cases, and hence they can not come to the attention of investigators like Dr. Stevenson (Stevenson, 1987, p.93-94).
Other Scientists Find Evidence For Reincarnation
Careful studies by other scientists have uncovered dozens of cases similar to those reported by Stevenson. See, for example, Pasricha (1990, 1992, 1998), Mills (1989, 1990), Haraldsson (1991, 1997), and Keil (1996).
Distinctive Birthmarks Related to the Previous Life
In 1945 a full-blooded Tlingit Indian named Victor Vincent informed a young friend of his, Mrs. Chotkin, that he will die soon and be reborn as her son (the Tlingit Indians are native American Indians who now reside in Alaska). He expressed the desire that in his next life as her son he would not stutter as he did in this life. He pulled up his shirt and showed her a highly distinctive scar on his back that was the result of a surgical operation performed several years earlier. It was undoubtedly the result of an operation because the small round holes of the stitches were visible. He also showed her a scar on the right side of his nose (near the eye) that was the result of a surgical operation there.
He informed her that in his next life as her son he will have the same marks on his body in the same places, and thereby she will be able to recognize him as Victor Vincent reborn.
A year later he died. Approximately eighteen months thereafter Mrs. Chotkin gave birth to a boy whom she named Corliss Chotkin, Jr. (after his father). She told Stevenson that on the body of Corliss at the time of his birth were the same marks in the same places as had been on the body of Victor Vincent.
In 1962 Stevenson visited Alaska and personally examined the marks on the body of Corliss (who was 15 years old at that time). Stevenson reported that the mark on Corliss’ nose was not very characteristic of the scar of a surgical operation. But Stevenson was strongly impressed by the marks on Corliss’ back, which he described as follows: “The mark on the back of Corliss was much more characteristic of an operative scar. It was located about eight inches below the shoulder line and two inches to the right of the midline. It was heavily pigmented and raised. It extended about one inch in length and a quarter inch in width. Along its margins one could still easily discern several small round marks outside the main scar. Four of these on one side lined up like the stitch wounds of surgical operations. On the other side the alignment was less definite” (Stevenson, 1974, p.260).
Stevenson reported that Mrs. Chotkin is the daughter of Victor Vincent’s sister. Could the marks on the body of Corliss be the result of genetic information passed down from Victor Vincent? According to modern biology this is impossible because surgical marks acquired during one’s life can not be encoded in the DNA of one’s germ cells. Biologists strongly assert that the only means whereby characteristics can be passed on to one’s progeny is the expression of encoded information in the DNA of the germ cells. They do not recognize any evidence that characteristics acquired during one’s life can be passed on to one’s progeny. Moreover, there was no line of descent from Victor Vincent to Mrs. Chotkin. It is also worth noting that Mrs. Chotkin told Stevenson that no one else in their family had any marks in the places of those on the body of Corliss.
Stevenson tried to obtain independent corroborating evidence for the marks on Victor Vincent’s body. He discovered that in 1938 Victor Vincent was admitted to the U. S. Public Health Service Hospital in Seattle where his right tear sac was removed in a surgical operation. The scar produced by this operation would be in exactly the place that Mrs. Chotkin said she saw a scar on the right side of Victor Vincent’s nose. Thus, Mrs. Chotkin’s testimony is corroborated on this point at least. But the mark on the nose of Corliss when he was examined by Stevenson in 1962 was not very characteristic of an operation scar. Hence the mark on the nose is not sufficient by itself to build a very strong case for the reincarnation of Victor Vincent as Corliss Chotkin, Jr. According to Stevenson, the mark on Corliss’ back was much more impressive but, although Stevenson tried, he was not able to obtain independent corroboration of its presence on Victor Vincent’s back. But Stevenson (1987, p.101) said that he has hundreds of cases of distinctive birthmarks on the bodies of children claiming reincarnation, and in about thirty cases he has obtained independent corroboration (in the form of medical records or autopsies) of similar marks on the body of the previous personality. These are described in Stevenson (1997).
Stevenson mentioned that he has many cases in which a child reported that he was violently murdered (usually by shooting or stabbing) in his previous life, and the child has on his body a birthmark of the same shape and in the same place as the fatal wound in his previous life. Stevenson wrote (1987, p.101): “Birthmarks and birth defects related to the previous personality seem to me to provide some of the strongest evidence in favor of reincarnation as the best interpretation for the cases. They are objectively observable (I have photographed several hundred of them), and for most of them the only serious alternative explanation that I can think of is a psychic force on the part of the baby’s mother that influences the body of the embryo or fetus within her. However, this explanation, which is itself almost as mind stretching (for the average Westerner) as reincarnation, can be firmly excluded in about twelve cases in which the child’s mother and father had never heard of the identified previous personality until after the child’s birth.”
As mentioned earlier, Mrs. Chotkin named her son Corliss and, as is natural for a mother, tried to make him say this name when he was asked what his name is. One day when Corliss was thirteen months old and his mother was trying to get him to say his name, instead of saying the name “Corliss” her son greatly surprised her by saying “Don’t you know me? I’m Kahkody” (Stevenson, 1974, p.260). Kahkody was the tribal Tlingit Indian name of Victor Vincent, and Corliss pronounced it with a very good Tlingit accent. Corliss identified strongly with Victor Vincent and was able to spontaneously recognize a number of people that Victor Vincent had known. Stevenson (1974, p.261) said that when Corliss was two years old he recognized Victor Vincent’s son named William. Corliss spontaneously saw him on the street and said: “There is William, my son.” Corliss also spontaneously recognized (when he was two years old) a stepdaughter of Victor Vincent. He saw her at the docks of Sitka and correctly named her “Susie” (Sitka is the name of the city in Alaska where Corliss was living at the time). At that time he was being pushed by his mother along the street in a carriage. Stevenson said that Corliss exhibited great excitement when he saw her; so much so that he was jumping up and down. He said: “There is my Susie.” Corliss also hugged her with great affection and said her Tlingit Indian name. Corliss recognized Susie before his mother had noticed her. Stevenson mentioned that Mrs. Chotkin did not go to the docks with the intention of meeting Susie. In a similar way Corliss, when he was three years old, spontaneously recognized and named the widow of Victor Vincent. He recognized her in a crowd of people before Mrs. Chotkin had seen her. He correctly named her “Rose.” Stevenson reported that Corliss also recognized a number of other people that Victor Vincent had known.
Dr. Stevenson (1974, p.261-262) said that Corliss was able to provide a detailed account of certain events that had occurred in the life of Victor Vincent. Mrs. Chotkin believes that Corliss could not have known these details by ordinary means. One day Corliss related an experience of Victor Vincent when he was out on a fishing trip. The engine of Victor Vincent’s boat had broken down and he was helpless in one of the numerous and hazardous channels of southeastern Alaska. Victor Vincent wanted to attract the attention of any ships that might happen to pass by but he thought that most crews would not take much notice of an ordinary Tlingit fisherman. It turns out that he happened to be a part-time worker for the Salvation Army and he had with him a Salvation Army uniform. He put on this uniform and rowed in a small boat to attract the attention of a passing ship named the North Star. He asked some of the crew members to deliver a message for him. Mrs. Chotkin heard this story directly from Victor Vincent himself when he was alive. She was sure that Corliss had not heard the story from her or her husband before he told it to them that one day.
On another occasion Mrs. Chotkin and Corliss were at the house that was previously owned by Mrs. Chotkin and her family during the life of Victor Vincent. Corliss pointed to a room in the house and said that he (as Victor Vincent) and his wife slept in this room when they visited the Chotkins. This statement is impressive since at the time Corliss was visiting the house, it had been reorganized and was being used for purposes other than an ordinary residential house. None of the rooms in it were recognizable as bedrooms. But the room that Corliss pointed to had in fact been occupied by Victor Vincent and his wife when they had visited the Chotkins. Mrs. Chotkin told Dr. Stevenson that certain behavior patterns of Corliss closely resembled those of Victor Vincent. She mentioned that Corliss combed his hair forward over his forehead in the same way that Victor Vincent had done, although she had tried to train Corliss to comb his hair in exactly the opposite manner.
As mentioned earlier, Victor Vincent stuttered severely and told Mrs. Chotkin a year before his death that he hoped that he would stutter less in his next life as her son. Corliss also stuttered severely when he was young until he received speech therapy when he was around ten years old. Victor Vincent was a very religious Christian. When Corliss was young, he also expressed similar devoutness. Victor Vincent was very fond of handling boats and living on the water. Corliss had the same interest. Both Victor Vincent and Corliss were left-handed.
Could this case be a clever fraud by Mrs. Chotkin? According to Stevenson, there was no obvious motive for fraud, no evidence of fraud, and no evidence that Mrs. Chotkin was exploiting the case for her benefit in the community. In fact, according to Stevenson, Corliss Chotkin, Jr.’s sister and a number of other witnesses interviewed by Stevenson did not even know that Mrs. Chotkin believes that Corliss is Victor Vincent reborn! Mrs. Chotkin apparently spoke to practically no one about the case. One would think that if Mrs. Chotkin were exploiting the case for personal gain, her belief that Corliss is Victor Vincent reborn would be more widely propagated in the community.
Stevenson (1987, p.98) said that in many cases a relative of the child has a dream in which the previous personality announces his intention or desire to reincarnate. For example, shortly before Corliss Chotkin, Jr. was born, Mrs. Chotkin’s aunt dreamed that Victor Vincent will take birth in the Chotkin family. Stevenson said: “Mrs. Chotkin is certain she did not tell her aunt about Victor Vincent’s prediction of his return before she heard from her aunt about this dream” (Stevenson, 1974, p.261).
Change of Ownership
Dr. Stevenson (1974, p.34-52) reported an unusual case from India in which a three-year-old boy named Jasbir was so severely afflicted by smallpox that his father Sri Girdhari Lal Jat was convinced that he had died. In fact, he was so convinced of this that he was preparing to bury the dead body of his son. It happened to be night at that time so he decided to wait until morning to bury it. Before the burial, however, Jasbir’s father noticed faint signs of life in his son’s body, and gradually the body recovered completely. But when the body had recovered, it displayed a personality that was completely different from the former one. Now Jasbir claimed that he was the son of Shankar of Vehedi (a village that is approximately 30 kilometers away from Rasulpur, the village where Sri Girdhari Lal Jat lived) and expressed the desire to return to Vehedi. He claimed that he was a Brahmana, and he obstinately refused to eat any food at the house of his father, since Sri Girdhari Lal Jat belonged to a lower caste (his refusal to eat can not have been due to disease since his body had recovered completely by then). He was so strongly determined in this matter that he fasted. This fasting would have surely resulted in death if a Brahmana lady had not happened to learn of it and kindly began cooking food according to the Brahmana standard. Such food was acceptable to Jasbir. For nearly two years he maintained his refusal to eat food cooked by non-Brahmanas. It is inconceivable that a three-year-old child would, for a period of years, refuse to eat for no other reason than the food is prepared by one class of persons instead of another. Such discrimination and determination are only found in adults. Thus, this discrimination strongly supports the hypothesis that the conscious self that was originally in the body of Jasbir had departed and a different conscious self, that of a discriminating adult Brahmana, now resides in Jasbir’s body.
Another piece of information that supports this hypothesis is Stevenson’s report that, before being afflicted with smallpox, Jasbir was interested in toys and play just like an ordinary boy of three years old, but afterwards he no longer had any interest in such things. It is hard to imagine that a small boy would have no interest in playing with toys, and it is even harder to imagine that he would also be so terribly concerned about which caste the people belong to who cook for him, especially since he did not care about this before the smallpox affliction. After this affliction Jasbir seems to have thought of himself as an adult; he repeatedly mentioned that he has a wife and children.
Stevenson noted that many of the child-subjects of his cases act like an adult who has been unfairly imprisoned in the body of a child. For example, a Thai boy named Bongkuch Promsin startled postpubertal ladies by making lecherous advances towards them although he was only a small boy at the time (he ignored girls who were his own age) (Stevenson, 1987, p.70).
Stevenson (1974, p.39) reported that Sri Girdhari Lal Jat had said that when Jasbir began to speak after his recovery from smallpox he used a different set of words for familiar objects than he had used before his illness. For example, he would say “haveli” instead of “hilli” for a house, and “kapra” instead of “latta” for clothes. The words “haveli” and “kapra” are used by the higher classes (including the Brahmanas) whereas “hilli” and “latta” are used by the lower classes (such as the Jats). Thus, after recovering, Jasbir no longer spoke like Sri Girdhari Lal Jat but instead he spoke like Sobha Ram (a Brahmana). The conscious self in the body of Jasbir told Sri Girdhari Lal Jat about further details of his life in Vehedi before he entered the body of Jasbir. He said that on one occasion he was attending a wedding procession and he ate some poisoned sweets given to him by a man to whom he had lent money and who did not want to repay him. The poisoned sweets caused him to fall from a cart on which he was riding. He struck his head and died.
Sri Girdhari Lal Jat informed Dr. Stevenson that he tried to suppress information about Jasbir’s strange behavior and his claim to be a Brahmana from Vehedi now inhabiting the body of Jasbir. But the cooking for Jasbir according to Brahmana standards was known to the Brahmanas of Rasulpur. One of them named Srimati Shyamo, a native of Rasulpur, had married a man from Vehedi named Sri Ravi Dutt Sukla and was living with him in Vehedi. Once every few years she would return to Rasulpur. She informed the members of the Tyagi family in Vehedi about Jasbir’s behavior and statements. Jasbir’s statements about his former life in Vehedi and his death were remarkably similar to the life and death of one of the sons (named Sobha Ram) of Sri Shankar Lal Tyagi (a Brahmana living in Vehedi). Sobha Ram had died when he was 22 years old in the manner described earlier by Jasbir. He died in May of 1954, which was also around the time when Jasbir was severely afflicted with smallpox (and after recovering, manifested the remarkable change of personality).
As mentioned before, after recovering Jasbir claimed that he was the son of Shankar of Vehedi. Sobha Ram’s father and other family members came to visit Jasbir in Rasulpur, and Jasbir recognized them and correctly stated their relationship to Sobha Ram. Then Jasbir went to Vehedi for the first time in his life. In Vehedi, Jasbir was able to correctly lead the way from the railway station to Sobha Ram’s house. Jasbir was also able to correctly lead the way from Sri Ravi Dutt Sukla’s house to Sobha Ram’s house (a different route). According to Stevenson (1974, p.36), Jasbir remained in Vehedi for a few days and showed the Tyagi family and other residents of Vehedi that he had extensive knowledge of the Tyagi family. Jasbir was very happy in Vehedi and wanted to remain there. He had no desire to return to Rasulpur where he felt lonely and isolated. After returning to Rasulpur, Jasbir would occasionally visit Vehedi.
In the summer of 1961, Stevenson visited both Rasulpur and Vehedi and interviewed thirteen witnesses of the case. He returned in 1964 and restudied the case with new translators. At this time he interviewed most of the previous witnesses and some new ones. He said that these witnesses provided a consistent account of the main facts in the case. The members of both families (the Tyagis and the Jats) testified that there had been absolutely no contact between the two families before the development of the case. Both Vehedi and Rasulpur are tiny villages that are only accessible by dirt roads. There is no main road connecting them and almost no communication between them.
Stevenson felt that there was no reason to doubt that the people he interviewed in this case were speaking the truth, and hence there was no opportunity for Jasbir to obtain the knowledge he had about Sobha Ram, Vehedi and the Tyagi family by normal means (using the ordinary physical senses). He therefore concluded that this case is best explained as the departure of the conscious self that had formerly inhabited the body of Jasbir and the entrance into Jasbir’s body of the conscious self that had formerly resided in the body of Sobha Ram.
Functioning Without a Physical Body
Dr. Stevenson reported a number of cases in which the conscious self existed for days, weeks and even years without a physical body and acquired information by transcorporal senses. (Transcorporal senses refer to senses that are different from those of the physical body and able to function independently of it.) For example, the conscious self in the body of Jasbir informed Dr. Stevenson that after his former physical body (the body of Sobha Ram) had been poisoned and had died, he left that body and was existing temporarily in a discarnate condition. While in this condition, he said that he met another discarnate conscious self who he called a “sadhu” (wise man). The sadhu somehow knew that the body of Jasbir was not inhabited at that time, and the sadhu advised the conscious self that was formerly in the body of Sobha Ram to enter the body of Jasbir. Years after this event had occurred, Jasbir told Dr. Stevenson that he still sometimes was able to communicate with this sadhu who described events that later actually occurred (precognition).
A Thai boy named Bongkuch Promsin claimed that in his previous life he was a Laotian man named Chamrat who was stabbed to death (Stevenson, 1987, p.68). After the murder, the conscious self that had resided in the body of Chamrat remained in a discarnate state for seven years (he stayed near a bamboo tree in the vicinity of the murder). One rainy day the discarnate Chamrat saw Bongkuch’s father and accompanied him home on a bus. Bongkuch’s father later told Stevenson that he happened to visit Hua Tanon (the place where Chamrat was murdered) shortly before his wife became pregnant with Bongkuch. Bongkuch’s father said that the day he went to Hua Tanon was in fact a rainy day.
An Indian boy named Veer Singh said that after the death of his previous body (Som Dutt’s body) he, as a discarnate conscious self, remained near Som Dutt’s family and observed their activities. Veer Singh said that he accompanied members of this family who left the house at night and went out alone. Stevenson said that Som Dutt’s mother had a dream in which Som Dutt told her that he had accompanied his brother a number of times when his brother had surreptitiously left the house at night to attend local fairs. When this brother was asked, he admitted that he was in fact attending local fairs at night, but no one in the family knew about it until Som Dutt’s mother had this dream. Stevenson added that Veer Singh also knew about other private family affairs that took place after Som Dutt’s death and before Veer Singh was born, including the fact that the family bought a camel, they were involved in a lawsuit, and several children were born during this time period (Stevenson, 1987, p.110).
The persons who reported seeing things in the discarnate state could not have been using physical eyes. Thus, the above evidence supports the hypothesis that the conscious self is inherently transcorporal and possesses transcorporal senses. Although these persons got a glimpse into their transcorporal nature, they were unwilling to explore it further due to strong attachment to ordinary physical existence. For those who are not so strongly attached, the process of Krishna consciousness (which is described in books such as the Bhagavad-Gita) allows each one of us to discover, explore and systematically develop the superhuman, transcorporal potential of human beings.
Common Questions about Reincarnation
Questions that are often asked are: (1) Since the human population has steadily increased during the last few hundred years, the number of conscious selves associated with human bodies must also have increased. Where did the extra conscious selves come from? (2) If reincarnation is actually true, why doesn’t everyone remember at least one of his previous lives? (3) Does everyone reincarnate or only certain persons? (4) For those who do reincarnate, does the cycle of birth, death and rebirth ever come to an end? (5) What happens to persons who do not reincarnate? These important questions are dealt with later in this article.
Out of body Experiences with Verifiable Details
Dr. Michael Sabom was a Professor of Medicine in the Division of Cardiology at the Medical School of the Emory University and a staff physician at the Atlanta VA Medical Center in Atlanta, Georgia, during the time that he studied autoscopic experiences. In a typical autoscopic experience, a person reports that he comes out of his physical body and observes it from a viewpoint outside of it. In the beginning of his study, Dr. Sabom thought that these so-called autoscopic experiences are nothing more than imagination. But after interviewing dozens of people over a period of five years, he concluded that there is something more than imagination at work in these reports.
Why did he change his mind? As a practicing cardiologist, Dr. Sabom had daily access to people who had suffered cardiac arrest (a life-threatening situation in which the heart stops pumping). Dozens of people told Dr. Sabom that they had had an autoscopic experience during their cardiac arrest and had observed medical personnel attempting to revive their physical bodies using a procedure called cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Some people said that they could not only see but also hear what the medics were saying. The people said that they were not seeing and hearing with the senses of the physical body, but with a completely different kind of senses which can function independently of the physical senses. In particular, when they were seeing what the medical personnel were doing, they were seeing from a viewpoint above the physical body looking down on it.
Skeptics say that these people were either hallucinating or deliberately lying. The hypothesis of lying loses force when we consider the special trick that Sabom used in interviewing the patients. Dr. Sabom (1982, p.9) said that he approached each patient privately and acted as if he were conducting a routine medical examination involving standard questions for patients recovering from cardiac arrest. Thus the patients did not know in advance that Dr. Sabom intended to ask them about anything unusual that they might have experienced during CPR. Dr. Sabom was a regular member of the hospital, a staff physician. Thus when he was walking through the halls, no one suspected that anything unusual was going on. He was not like an outsider coming in on a special mission, which would have alerted the patients that something unusual was going on. It is important to note that Dr. Sabom approached them: they did not approach him to tell him about an experience they had had. Dr. Sabom would just walk into a room and begin asking questions right on the spot. The patients did not know that Sabom was going to ask them about out-of-body experiences. If we are to believe that the patients deliberately lied to Sabom, then we would have to believe that they all of a sudden made up an elaborate out-of-body lie on the spot with no advance warning. It is hard to believe that a person would do this. Thus there appears to have been no atmosphere of sensationalism or trying to advertise publicly some new mystical experience with the aim of attracting attention.
Most of the people Dr. Sabom interviewed were just ordinary people such as automobile mechanics and security guards who were not overly educated or overly sophisticated. Dr. Sabom approached each patient as if conducting an ordinary medical interview and, after a series of routine questions about his physical recovery, Sabom asked him if he had experienced anything unusual during his CPR. At this point some patients simply said that they were unconscious during the CPR and could not remember anything. But other patients looked cautiously at Dr. Sabom to make sure that he was not an undercover psychiatrist and then said something like: “I did have a very unusual experience but if I told you about it, you would think I am crazy.” The people hesitated to reveal their experiences because they were afraid that Dr. Sabom would consider them insane. Dr. Sabom would then say that he was genuinely interested in any experience they had during CPR as a matter of scientific interest. After reassuring themselves that Dr. Sabom would not consider them hopelessly deranged, the people would then reveal how they had come out of their physical bodies and observed the body from a viewpoint outside it. According to Dr. Sabom’s report, the people were not trying to advertise their experience; on the contrary, they were trying to hide it. Thus, the usual motives for lying do not seem to be at work in these cases.
Dr. Sabom mentioned that after a while it became known to other doctors that he was conducting a study on autoscopic experiences and then people began to approach him to tell him about experiences they had had. The honesty of these people is more difficult to evaluate than that of the patients who were privately approached by Dr. Sabom with no knowledge in advance of his intentions. My discussion throughout this article is therefore based on Sabom’s privately-approached cases. Let us assume, then, that the people in these privately-approached cases (who claimed to have observed their own resuscitations from outside their bodies) did not deliberately lie to Dr. Sabom.
But could these people have been hallucinating? Skeptics suggest that a person may take refuge in fantasy to avoid acknowledging the unpleasant fact that he is dying. But Dr. Sabom (1982, p.86) noted that persons claiming to have had an autoscopic experience during CPR (called “group 1″) gave a much more accurate description of the general procedure of in-hospital CPR than persons who, although having had a cardiac arrest, did not report an autoscopic experience during their CPR (called “group 2″). This is significant because Dr. Sabom specifically said that the members of both of these groups had similar prior knowledge of CPR technique (in fact, group 2 was deliberately selected by Sabom as a control group to test how much prior general knowledge of CPR a typical cardiac patient has).
Since the members of both groups had the same background knowledge of CPR, we expect that the members of both groups should have given equally accurate descriptions. But they did not. In fact, Sabom said that 80% of the members of group 2 made at least one major error in their description of in-hospital CPR whereas none of the members of group 1 made such errors. Group 2 members made such big mistakes as saying, for example, that the doctor delivered a sharp blow to the solar plexus to try to get the patient’s heart beating again, or that the doctor used mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to provide oxygen to the patient (this is almost never done in a hospital since in the hospital there are far better means available for oxygenating a patient).
But Dr. Sabom was very impressed with the accuracy of the descriptions given by the members of group 1. For example, Sabom (1982, p.91) said the following about one description: “His description is extremely accurate in portraying the appearance of both the technique of CPR and the proper sequence in which this technique is performed-i.e., chest thump, external cardiac massage, airway insertion, administration of medications and defibrillation.” A defibrillation is an electric shock applied to the chest in an attempt to start the heart again. Sabom said that, at the time he interviewed this man, the man did not possess more than a layman’s knowledge of medicine and the man had never seen CPR on television. This man said that during his resuscitation he saw (from a point above his physical body looking down) that the medics delivered two defibrillations to his chest. Dr. Sabom then consulted the medical record which was written by the doctors who actually performed the resuscitation. This record also stated that two defibrillations had been delivered. It is important to note that the number of defibrillations varies from one patient to the next depending on the medical circumstances. Sabom (1982, p.90) said that in this case the man had not been allowed to see his medical record.
In summary, the fact that group 1 descriptions of CPR are far more accurate than group 2 descriptions led Sabom to reject the hypothesis that the group 1 descriptions are simply hallucinations. Dr. Sabom believed that the hypothesis that the living being is able to leave his physical body and function independently of it explains both the subjective experience of the patients he interviewed as well as the accuracy of their autoscopic observations during their resuscitations. Furthermore, reports in which a person sees and hears without using the senses of his physical body support the hypothesis that the living being has transcorporal senses. Many people told Sabom that when they were having their out-of-body experience, they directly realized that they were different from their physical body which is just a shell or machine that they customarily inhabit. The out-of-body experience was so profound that it made a permanent change in their world-view.
One might suggest that ESP is a better explanation for these cases than out-of-body experiences. But the ESP hypothesis ignores the fact that again and again people reported seeing from a viewpoint outside of their physical bodies. The viewpoint outside indicates that the living being has departed from his physical body. Sabom’s reports suggest that each one of us is fundamentally different from his or her physical body and possesses a superhuman, transcorporal body with transcorporal senses.
Direct Perception of the Conscious Self
One might raise the question that if we are actually transcorporal all the time, why does each person identify with his physical body? According to Vaisnava philosophy, an exceedingly subtle energy known as ahankara bewilders each embodied conscious self and causes him to falsely identify himself as his physical body. (Vaishnavas are strongly monotheistic saints who use the sanskrit name Krishna to refer to God. Brahma, Siva, Indra, Ganesh and Durga etc are not God; they are empowered servants of God.) Regardless of the type of body it may be, whether human, cat, dog or whatever, ahankara causes the conscious self to identify with that body. Even a cockroach scurrying about on the floor is very attentive to maintain his physical existence and exceedingly afraid if anyone threatens to extinguish it. This is all due to ahankara. By practicing Krishna consciousness, one gradually dissolves ahankara. When ahankara is completely dissolved away, one is freed from false identification with his physical body. At this point, one’s natural transcorporal senses are awakened, and one is able to directly perceive his and other living entities’ transcorporal nature as well as his constitutional relationship with Krishna. This stage of existence is called self-realization. A self-realized person is able to directly perceive the conscious self in all bodies, even in plant bodies and cockroach bodies.
Persons who are unable to use their inherent, transcorporal senses are unable to directly perceive their transcorporal nature and the transcorporal nature of Krishna. Such persons might claim that the realizations of self-realized persons are nothing more than imagination. But a group of self-realized persons can discuss their perceptions of the self and Krishna among themselves and feel confident that they are all seeing the same real phenomena in the same way that a group of seeing persons can discuss among themselves their perceptions of a sunset and feel confident that they are all seeing the same real phenomena. Persons blind from birth who are listening to this discussion about the sunset might conclude that the seeing persons are all in illusion, but the seeing persons are confident that they are seeing something real. Clearly, it would be unjustified for a blind person to declare that all the seeing persons are in illusion and have concocted something they call a sunset. The blind person is simply not able to perceive the phenomena being discussed by the seeing persons. He can not justifiably say whether such phenomena exist. He can only say that he himself is unable to perceive these phenomena. Similarly, it would be unjustified for a person who is unable to use his transcorporal senses to declare that the self and Krishna do not exist. All that he can honestly say is that he himself is unable to directly perceive the self and Krishna.
Some people object that to practice Krishna consciousness, one must have blind faith in the existence of the self and a supeam being like Krishna/God. Actually, however, one is not required to have any more blind faith than one would when embarking on the study of a science like physics. In the beginning of your study of physics, the textbooks and teachers ask you to accept the existence of many things of which you have no experience, such as electrons, protons, etc. If you challenge the physics professor that he is asking you to accept these things on blind faith, he will say that you should accept these things not on blind faith but as useful working concepts, and he will give you a series of experiments to verify these things. The same is true in Krishna Consciousness; there are experiments that enable you to directly verify the existence of the self and Krishna.
The Subtle Body
According to the Vedas, ahankara is one component of what is called the “subtle body”. The subtle body consists of ahankara (false ego as described above), buddhi (the intelligence), and manas (the mind). Ahankara, buddhi and manas are not simply names for complex systems of biochemical reactions in the brain. Ahankara, buddhi and manas are actual subtle elements that function independently of the physical brain. The subtle body is retained after the physical body is destroyed. The subtle body accompanies the conscious self in his journey to his next physical body. In fact, the subtle body accompanies the conscious self continuously throughout all his physical incarnations until, in one incarnation, the conscious self makes the choice to seriously engages in the process of Krishna consciousness and begins the process of dissolving the subtle body. When the subtle body is completely dissolved away, he is a self-realized person. The conscious self does not actually need ahankara, buddhi and manas since he always has his own real ego, intelligence and mind. Ahankara, buddhi and manas are only required when the conscious self desires to forget his real transcendental nature and wants to absorb himself in physical pursuits. In such a case, ahankara, buddhi and manas suppress but not obliterate the real ego, mind and intelligence of the conscious self. The term transcorporal refers to an entity that is different from the physical body and can function independently of it. Thus, transcorporal can be used to refer to the combination of the subtle body and the conscious self. But the term transcendental refers only to conscious entities, such as the individual conscious self and the Universal Conscious Self, Krishna, the supreme personality.
The Cause and Dynamics of Reincarnation
Common questions about reincarnation include: (1) Since the human population has steadily increased during the last few hundred years, the number of conscious selves associated with human bodies must also have increased. Where did the extra conscious selves come from? (2) If reincarnation is actually true, why doesn’t everyone remember at least one of his previous lives? (3) Does everyone reincarnate or only certain persons? (4) For those who do reincarnate, does the cycle of birth, death and rebirth ever come to an end? (5) What happens to persons who do not reincarnate?
Vaishnava philosophy provides answers to these questions. These answers are not dogmatic statements, since they can be verified by practicing Krishna consciousness. The answer to the first question is that the conscious self resides not only in human bodies but in lesser bodies, including even bacteria. Thus, the total number of conscious selves is enormous. Conscious selves in less than human bodies are elevated step by step through a sequence of such bodies until they reach the human form. Thus, the human population can vary considerably over time.
The answers to the remaining questions are as follows. Most conscious selves in physical bodies do not want to acknowledge their transcorporal nature and their constitutional relationship with Krishna. This is why they now reside in physical bodies and are covered by ahankara, which causes them to forget their real nature. Krishna covers those who want to be covered and awakens those who want to be awakened. This is why many people do not remember their previous lives. If a person does not want to realize his transcorporal nature and his relationship with Krishna, he remains attached to his physical body and so desires another physical body after death. This desire results in his getting another physical body. Thus, the individual conscious self continues to get physical bodies one after another until he finally renounces his attachment to them. A person who is addicted to physical pleasures naturally wants to continue to enjoy such pleasures. Such a person certainly desires another physical body after the death of his present one, and therefore he gets another physical body.
It is difficult to give up desires for physical enjoyment without experiencing a higher pleasure. Vaishnavas maintain that if a person reawakens his natural, loving relationship with Krishna, he experiences such a higher pleasure. He then no longer desires to have a physical body. After death, he does not get another physical body. He gets a transcendental body with which to engage in transcendental loving relationships with Krishna and other self-realized conscious selves. Actually, there is no difference between the transcendental body and the conscious self, such as there is between the transcendental self and the body. We are the transcendental self and are simply using this body as a vehicle to experience material desires. When the conscious self perfectly realizes his loving relationship with Krishna, the self takes a transcendental form appropriate for the particular kind of relationship he has with Krishna.
It is not lightly that we use the word transcendental. The transcendental body is not composed of electrons, quarks or any of the other fundamental particles of modern physics. The transcendental body is not subject to any of the physical laws. It literally transcends everything in the physical world, and so the use of the word transcendental is fully justified in describing this body. The transcendental body is far superior to the physical body, since it is not subject to deterioration, disease, old age or death. The transcendental body is equipped with superhuman senses of perception and faculties of action. The body of a human being is a severe limitation for the conscious self. But the transcendental body is a perfect vehicle for the conscious self. In order to please Krishna the supreme being to the highest degree, a self-realized person sometimes voluntarily accepts a physical body so as to disseminate transcendental knowledge in the physical world (such as Srila Prabhupada did or other great saintly persons have). Since he does not identify with his physical body, he is not at all attached to it. He uses it as an instrument for the upliftment of all humankind, not as a vehicle to fulfill his sensory desires.
Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna
Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare
Hare Rama, Hare Rama
Rama Rama, Hare Hare
Hare Krishna Maha Mantra
We’ve all heard the Hare Krishna mantra at some time, but what the heck is so special about this mantra? Why are we supposed to spend time chanting it? What can it do for us?
First of all, let me explain a little about mantra-yoga. Mantra-yoga is actually a mystical tradition found in almost every spiritual path in the world. It may involve the softly spoken repetition of a prayer or mantra for one’s own meditation, or it may be the congregational singing of spiritually uplifting songs, prayers, or the sacred names of the Supreme Being. It all involves the same process, but in the Eastern tradition it is called mantra-yoga because it is the easy process of focusing our minds on the Supreme, which helps spiritualize our consciousness. Man means the mind, tra means deliverance. Therefore, a spiritual mantra is the pure sound vibration for delivering the mind from material to spiritual consciousness. This is the goal of any spiritual path. Although all spiritual traditions have their own prayers or mantras, the Vedic mantras are especially powerful and effective in uniting us with the spiritual realm. However, a complete yoga process is generally a blend of a few yoga systems, such as bhakti-yoga with mantra-yoga. Therefore, bhakti-yoga, as described in the previous chapters, also includes mantra-yoga, or the process of concentrating on the sound vibration within a mantra. This is especially important in this age of Kali.
Many years ago the brahmana priests could accomplish many kinds of wondrous deeds simply by correctly chanting particular mantras. Many of these mantras still exist, but it is very difficult to find those who can chant them accurately. This is actually a safety measure because if the wish-fulfilling mantras were easily chanted, there would no doubt be many people who would misuse them. But other mantras that are available can easily help purify one’s consciousness, give spiritual enlightenment, and put one in touch with the Supreme.
In Bhagavad-gita (10.25) Sri Krishna explains that He is the transcendental om mantra and that the chanting of japa (chanting a mantra quietly for one’s own meditation) is the purest of His representations and sacrifices. It is understood that by chanting japa and hearing the holy sounds of the mantra, one can come to the platform of spiritual realization. This is the process of mantra-yoga. Even though the mantra is powerful in itself, when the mantra is chanted by a great devotee, it becomes more powerful. This is the effect when a disciple is fortunate enough to take initiation from a spiritually powerful master who gives him a mantra for spiritual purposes. Then the disciple can make rapid progress by utilizing the mantra.
In this age of Kali-yuga the process of chanting japa or mantra meditation is much more effective than practicing other spiritual paths that include meditating on the void or Brahman effulgence, or trying to control the life air within the body as in raja-yoga. Only a very few can become perfect at moving the life air up to the top of the head or raising the kundalini force up through the various chakras. And meditating on the void becomes useless as soon as there is the slightest external distraction, which in this age of Kali is a continuous thing. Therefore, the most effective means of focusing the consciousness is to concentrate on the sound vibration of a mantra.
There are two mantras that are especially recommended in the Vedic literature. One is omkara or the om mantra, and the other is Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, which is known as the maha or great mantra. It is explained that these two mantras can deliver one to the realm beyond material existence.
Omkara (pranava) is considered to be the sound incarnation of the Supreme Personality of God and is identical with the Supreme Lord. It is beginningless, changeless, supreme and free from any external contamination. The Narada-pancharatra states: “When the transcendental sound vibration is practiced by a conditioned soul, the Supreme Lord is present on his tongue.” The Atharva-veda and the Mandukya Upanishad both mention the importance of omkara. Omkara is said to be the beginning, middle, and end, and is eternal, beyond all material restrictions or contaminations.
Actually, the chanting of omkara is generally practiced by those engaged in the mystic yoga process. However, anyone who chants Vedic verses will also be chanting om, because om is often included as the bija or seed mantra at the beginning of many such verses or other mantras. By chanting om and controlling the breathing perfectly, which is mostly a mechanical way of steadying the mind, one is eventually able to go into trance or samadhi. Through this system, one gradually changes the tendencies of the materially absorbed mind and makes it spiritualized. But this takes many years to perfect and such a slow process is hardly practical in this age. If one is not initiated into the brahminical way of knowledge, he will find it difficult to understand the depths of omkara and will not likely be able to get the desired results from chanting it. Therefore, it is not advised that people in general chant omkara in this age of Kali-yuga and with the expectation of reaching full spiritual perfection because they are often not qualified or unable to chant it properly to attain the inner depths of spiritual completion.
The mantra that is meant to be chanted in this age is easy and is actually more directly connected with the Supreme than the sound vibration of omkara because it contains the direct holy names of the Lord. So the mantra for Kali-yuga is the maha-mantra, or great mantra for deliverance, which is Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
This is a nice description of Lord Kṛṣṇa’s transcendental conchshell, and of how He was recieved by the citizens of Dvārakā. Beautiful!
Sūta Gosvāmī said: Upon reaching the border of His most prosperous metropolis, known as the country of the Ānartas [Dvārakā], the Lord sounded His auspicious conchshell, heralding His arrival and apparently pacifying the dejection of the inhabitants.
The white and fat-boweled conchshell, being gripped by the hand of Lord Kṛṣṇa and sounded by Him, appeared to be reddened by the touch of His transcendental lips. It seemed that a white swan was playing in the stems of red lotus flowers.
The citizens of Dvārakā, having heard that sound which threatens fear personified in the material world, began to run towards Him fast, just to have a long desired audience with the Lord, who is the protector of all devotees.
…The sound heralded by Lord Kṛṣṇa was something like the heralding of the sunrise in the morning. This sound of the Lord is identical with the Lord. We are always fearful due to our ignorance of the next problem. The whole material existence is full of problems, and thus the fear problem is always prominent. This is due to our association with the illusory energy of the Lord, known as māyā or external energy, yet all fear is vanished as soon as there is the sound of the Lord, represented by His holy name, as it was sounded by Lord Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu in the following sixteen words:
Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare
Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare
We can take advantage of these sounds and be free from all threatening problems of material existence.
Next, one may raise the question of how one goes about approaching that abode of the Supreme Lord. Information of this is given in the Eighth Chapter of the Bhagavad-gita. It is said there:
And whoever, at the time of death, quits his body, remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt.
Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail.
Therefore, Arjuna, you should always think of Me in the form of Kṛṣṇa and at the same time carry out your prescribed duty of fighting. With your activities dedicated to Me and your mind and intelligence fixed on Me, you will attain Me without doubt.
…This instruction to Arjuna is very important for all men engaged in material activities. The Lord does not say that one should give up his prescribed duties or engagements. One can continue them and at the same time think of Kṛṣṇa by chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa. This will free one from material contamination and engage the mind and intelligence in Kṛṣṇa. By chanting Kṛṣṇa’s names, one will be transferred to the supreme planet, Kṛṣṇaloka, without a doubt.
anta-kāle ca mām eva smaran muktvā kalevaram
yaḥ prayāti sa mad-bhāvam yāti nāsty atra saṁśayaḥ
“Anyone who quits his body, at the end of life, remembering Me, attains immediately to My nature; and there is no doubt of this.” (Bg. 8.5) One who thinks of Kṛṣṇa at the time of his death goes to Kṛṣṇa. One must remember the form of Kṛṣṇa; if he quits his body thinking of this form, he approaches the spiritual kingdom. Mad-bhāvaṁ refers to the supreme nature of the Supreme Being. The Supreme Being is sac-cid-ānanda-vigraha-eternal, full of knowledge and bliss. Our present body is not sac-cid-ānanda. It is asat, not sat. It is not eternal; it is perishable. It is not cit, full of knowledge, but it is full of ignorance. We have no knowledge of the spiritual kingdom, nor do we even have perfect knowledge of this material world where there are so many things unknown to us. The body is also nirānanda; instead of being full of bliss it is full of misery. All of the miseries we experience in the material world arise from the body, but one who leaves this body thinking of the Supreme Personality of Godhead at once attains a sac-cid-ānanda body, as is promised in this fifth verse of the Eighth Chapter where Lord Kṛṣṇa says, “He attains My nature.”
The process of quitting this body and getting another body in the material world is also organized. A man dies after it has been decided what form of body he will have in the next life. Higher authorities, not the living entity himself, make this decision. According to our activities in this life, we either rise or sink. This life is a preparation for the next life. If we can prepare, therefore, in this life to get promotion to the kingdom of God, then surely, after quitting this material body, we will attain a spiritual body just like the Lord.
As explained before, there are different kinds of transcendentalists, the brahmavādi paramātmāvādi and the devotee, and, as mentioned, in the brahmajyoti (spiritual sky) there are innumerable spiritual planets. The number of these planets is far, far greater than all of the planets of this material world. This material world has been approximated as only one quarter of the creation. In this material segment there are millions and billions of universes with trillions of planets and suns, stars and moons. But this whole material creation is only a fragment of the total creation. Most of the creation is in the spiritual sky. One who desires to merge into the existence of the Supreme Brahman is at once transferred to the brahmajyoti of the Supreme Lord and thus attains the spiritual sky. The devotee, who wants to enjoy the association of the Lord, enters into the Vaikuṇṭha planets, which are innumerable, and the Supreme Lord by His plenary expansions as Nārāyaṇa with four hands and with different names like Pradyumna, Aniruddha, Govinda, etc., associates with him there. Therefore at the end of life the transcendentalists either think of the brahmajyoti, the Paramātmā or the Supreme Personality of Godhead Śrī Kṛṣṇa. In all cases they enter into the spiritual sky, but only the devotee, or he who is in personal touch with the Supreme Lord, enters into the Vaikuṇṭha planets. The Lord further adds that of this “there is no doubt.” This must be believed firmly. We should not reject that which does not tally with our imagination; our attitude should be that of Arjuna: “I believe everything that You have said.” Therefore when the Lord says that at the time of death whoever thinks of Him as Brahman or Paramātmā or as the Personality of Godhead certainly enters into the spiritual sky, there is no doubt about it. There is no question of disbelieving it. (from Introduction to the Bhagavad-gita As It Is )
Bhagavad-gita As It Is 1972 Edition
By His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Chapter 8, Text 5-7
Attaining the Supreme
anta-kāle ca mām eva
smaran muktvā kalevaram
yaḥ prayāti sa mad-bhāvaṁ
yāti nāsty atra saṁśayaḥ
anta-kāle—at the end of life; ca—also; mām—unto Me; eva—certainly; smaran—remembering; muktvā—quitting; kalevaram—the body; yaḥ—he who; prayāti—goes; saḥ—he; mad-bhāvam—My nature; yati—achieves; na—not; asti—there is; atra—here; saṁśayaḥ—doubt.
And whoever, at the time of death, quits his body, remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt.
In this verse the importance of Kṛṣṇa consciousness is stressed. Anyone who quits his body in Kṛṣṇa consciousness is at once transferred to the transcendental abode of the Supreme Lord. The word smaran (remembering) is important. Remembrance of Kṛṣṇa is not possible for the impure soul who has not practiced Kṛṣṇa consciousness in devotional service. To remember Kṛṣṇa one should chant the mahāmantra, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare, incessantly, following in the footsteps of Lord Caitanya, being more tolerant than the tree, humbler than the grass and offering all respect to others without requiring respect in return. In such a way one will be able to depart from the body successfully remembering Kṛṣṇa and so attain the supreme goal.
yaṁ yaṁ vāpi smaran bhāvaṁ
tyajaty ante kalevaram
taṁ tam evaiti kaunteya
yam yam—whatever; vā—either; api—also; smaran—remembering; bhāvam—nature; tyajati—give up; ante—at the end; kalevaram—this body; tam tam—similar; eva—certainly; eti—gets; kaunteya—O son of Kuntī; sadā—always; tat—that; bhāva—state of being; bhāvitaḥ—remembering.
Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail.
The process of changing one’s nature at the critical moment of death is here explained. How can one die in the proper state of mind? Mahārāja Bharata thought of a deer at the time of death and so was transferred to that form of life. However, as a deer, Mahārāja Bharata could remember his past activities. Of course the cumulative effect of the thoughts and actions of one’s life influences one’s thoughts at the moment of death; therefore the actions of this life determine one’s future state of being. If one is transcendentally absorbed in Kṛṣṇa’s service,then his next body will be transcendental (spiritual), not physical. Therefore the chanting of Hare Kṛṣṇa is the best process for successfully changing one’s state of being to transcendental life.
tasmāt sarveṣu kāleṣu
mām anusmara yudhya ca
mām evaiṣyasy asaṁśayaḥ
tasmāt—therefore; sarveṣu—always; kāleṣu—time; mām—unto Me; anusmara—go on remembering; yudhya—fight; ca—also; mayi—unto Me; arpita—surrender; manaḥ—mind; buddhiḥ—intellect; mām—unto Me; eva—surely; eṣyasi—will attain; asaṁśayaḥ—beyond a doubt.
Therefore, Arjuna, you should always think of Me in the form of Kṛṣṇa and at the same time carry out your prescribed duty of fighting. With your activities dedicated to Me and your mind and intelligence fixed on Me, you will attain Me without doubt.
This instruction to Arjuna is very important for all men engaged in material activities. The Lord does not say that one should give up his prescribed duties or engagements. One can continue them and at the same time think of Kṛṣṇa by chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa. This will free one from material contamination and engage the mind and intelligence in Kṛṣṇa. By chanting Kṛṣṇa’s names, one will be transferred to the supreme planet, Kṛṣṇaloka, without a doubt.
O Kṛṣṇa, O friend of Arjuna, O chief among the descendants of Vṛṣṇi, You are the destroyer of those political parties which are disturbing elements on this earth. Your prowess never deteriorates. You are the proprietor of the transcendental abode, and You descend to relieve the distresses of the cows, the brāhmaṇas, and the devotees, You possess all mystic powers, and You are the preceptor of the entire universe. You are the almighty God, and I offer You my respectful obeisances.
(Prayers by Queen Kunti—Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 1.8.43)
…When Kuntī prays, go-dvija-surārti-harāvatāra, she indicates that Govinda, Kṛṣṇa, descends to this world especially to protect the cows, the brāhmaṇas, and the devotees. The demoniac in this world are the greatest enemies of the cows, for they maintain hundreds and thousands of slaughterhouses. Although the innocent cows give milk, the most important food, and although even after death the cows give their skin for shoes, people are such rascals that they kill the cows, but still they want to be happy in this world. How sinful they are.
…Why is cow protection so much advocated? Because the cow is the most important animal….Nonetheless, the present human society is so ungrateful that they needlessly kill these innocent cows.
Kṛṣṇa is worshiped with this prayer:
govindāya namo namaḥ
“My Lord, You are the well-wisher of the cows and the brāhmaṇas, and You are the well-wisher of the entire human society and world.” For perfect human society there must be protection of go-dvija—the cows and the brāhmaṇas.
Teachings of Queen Kunti
By His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Enchantment by Kṛṣṇa’s Glories
śrī-kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa-sakha vṛṣṇy-ṛṣabhāvani-dhrug-
yogeśvarākhila-guro bhagavan namas te
O Kṛṣṇa, O friend of Arjuna, O chief among the descendants of Vṛṣṇi, You are the destroyer of those political parties which are disturbing elements on this earth. Your prowess never deteriorates. You are the proprietor of the transcendental abode, and You descend to relieve the distresses of the cows, the brāhmaṇas, and the devotees, You possess all mystic powers, and You are the preceptor of the entire universe. You are the almighty God, and I offer You my respectful obeisances.
A summary of the Supreme Lord, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, is made herein by Śrīmatī Kuntīdevī. The almighty Lord has His eternal, transcendental abode, where He is engaged in keeping surabhi cows. He is served by hundreds and thousands of goddesses of fortune. He descends on the material world to reclaim His devotees and to annihilate the disturbing elements in groups of political parties and kings who are supposed to be in charge of administration work. He creates, maintains, and annihilates by His unlimited energies, and still He is always full with prowess and does not deteriorate in potency. The cows, the brāhmaṇas, and the devotees of the Lord are all objects of His special attention because they are very important factors for the general welfare of living beings.
Kuntī addresses Lord Kṛṣṇa as kṛṣṇa-sakha because she knows that although Arjuna, who is also known as Kṛṣṇa, is her son and therefore subordinate to her, Lord Kṛṣṇa is more intimately related with Arjuna than with her. Kṛṣṇā is also a name of Draupadī, and so the word kṛṣṇa-sakha also indicates Lord Kṛṣṇa’s relationship with Draupadī, whom He saved from being insulted when Duryodhana and Karṇa attempted to strip her naked. Kuntī also addresses Lord Kṛṣṇa as vṛṣṇi-ṛṣabha, the child of the dynasty of Vṛṣṇi. It was because Kṛṣṇa appeared in the Vṛṣṇi dynasty that this dynasty became famous, just as Malaysia and the Malaya Hills became famous because of the sandalwood that grows there.
Kuntīdevī also addresses Lord Kṛṣṇa as the destroyer of the political parties or royal dynasties that disturb the earth. In every monarchy, the king is honored very gorgeously. Why? Since he is a human being and the other citizens are also human beings, why is the king so honored? The answer is that the king, like the spiritual master, is meant to be the representative of God. In the Vedic literature it is said, ācāryaṁ māṁ vijānīyān nāvamanyeta karhicit (Bhāg. 11.17.27): the spiritual master should not be regarded as an ordinary human being. Similarly, a king or president is also not treated like an ordinary human being.
In the Sanskrit language the king is also called naradeva, which means “God in human form.” His duty is like that of Kṛṣṇa. As God is the supreme living being in the universe and is the maintainer of all other living beings, the king is the supreme citizen in the state and is responsible for the welfare of all others.
Just as we are all living beings, Kṛṣṇa, God, is also a living being. Kṛṣṇa is not impersonal. Because we are all individual persons but our knowledge and opulence are limited, the impersonalists cannot adjust to the idea that the Supreme, the original, unlimited cause of everything, can also be a person. Because we are limited and God is unlimited, the Māyāvādīs, or impersonalists, with their poor fund of knowledge, think that God must be impersonal. Making a material comparison, they say that just as the sky, which we think of as unlimited, is impersonal, if God is unlimited He must also be impersonal.
But that is not the Vedic instruction. The Vedas instruct that God is a person. Kṛṣṇa is a person, and we are also persons, but the difference is that He is to be worshiped whereas we are to be worshipers. The king or president is a person, and the citizens are also persons, but the difference is that the president or king is an exalted person who should be offered all respect.
Now, why should so many persons worship one person? Because that one person provides for the others. Eko bahūnāṁ yo vidadhāti kāmān. God is one, and we are many, but He is worshiped because He provides for everyone. It is God who provides food and all the other necessities of life. We need water, and God has nicely arranged for oceans of water, with salt mixed in to preserve it all nicely. Then, because we need drinking water, by God’s arrangement the sunshine evaporates the water from the ocean, takes it high in the sky, and then distributes clear, distilled water. Just see how God is providing everything that everyone needs.
Even in ordinary life the state has a heating department, lighting department, plumbing department, and so on. Why? Because these are amenities we require. But these arrangements are subordinate; the first arrangement is that of God. It is God who originally supplies heat, light, and water. It is God who supplies the rainwater that fills our wells and reservoirs. Therefore the original supplier is God.
God is an intelligent person who knows that we need heat, light, water, and so on. Without water we cannot produce food. Even those who eat animals cannot do so without God’s arrangement, for the animal also must be provided with grass before one can take it to the slaughterhouse. Thus it is God who is supplying food, but still we are creating rebellion against Him. The word dhruk means “rebellious.” Those rascals who are going against the law of God are rebellious.
The king’s duty is to act as the representative of Kṛṣṇa, or God. Otherwise what right does he have to take so much honor from the citizens? Monarchy was formerly present in every country, but because the kings rebelled against God and violated His laws, because they tried to usurp the power of God and did not act as His representatives, the monarchies of the world have nearly all disappeared. The kings thought that their kingdoms were their personal property. “I have so much property, such a big kingdom,” they thought. “I am God. I am the lord of all I survey.” But that is not actually the fact. That fact is that everything belongs to God (īśāvāsyam idaṁ sarvam). Therefore the representative of God must be very obedient to God, and then his position will be legitimate.
Greedy, self-interested kings are like false spiritual masters who proclaim that they themselves are God. Because such false masters are rebellious, they have no position. A spiritual master is supposed to act not as God but as the most confidential servant of God by spreading God consciousness, Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura says, sākṣād-dharitvena samasta-śāstrair uktaḥ: ** all the śāstras, the Vedic literatures, state that the spiritual master is to be honored as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Thus the idea that the spiritual master is as good as God is not bogus. It is stated in the śāstras, and therefore those who are advanced in spiritual life accept this spiritual injunction (uktas tathā bhāvyata eva sadbhiḥ **). Then is the spiritual master as good as God? Kintu prabhor yaḥ priya eva tasya: the spiritual master is not God, but is the confidential representative of God. The distinction is that between sevya-bhagavān (he who is worshiped) and sevaka-bhagavān (he who is the worshiper). The spiritual master is God, and Kṛṣṇa is God, but Kṛṣṇa is the worshipable God whereas the spiritual master is the worshiper God.
The Māyāvādīs cannot understand this. They think, “Because the spiritual master has to be accepted as God and because I have become a spiritual master, I have become God.” This is rebellious. Those who are given a position by God but who want to usurp His power, which they actually cannot do, are rebellious fools and rascals who require punishment. Therefore Kuntīdevī says, a vani-dhrug-rājanya-vaṁśa-dahana: “You descend to kill all these rascals who rebelliously claim Your position.” When various kings or landholders are subordinate to an emperor, they sometimes rebel and refuse to pay taxes. Similarly, there are rebellious persons who deny the supremacy of God and declare themselves God, and Kṛṣṇa’s business is to kill them.
The word anapavarga indicates that Kṛṣṇa’s prowess is without deterioration. This word is the opposite of the word pavarga, which refers to the path of material tribulation. According to Sanskrit linguistics, the word pa-varga also refers to the Sanskrit letters pa, pha, ba, bha, and ma. Thus when the word pavarga is used to refer to the path of material tribulation, its meaning is understood through words beginning with these five letters.
The letter pa is for pariśrama, which means “labor.” In this material world, one must work very hard to maintain oneself. In Bhagavad-gītā (3.8) it is said, śarīra-yātrāpi ca te na prasiddhyed akarmaṇaḥ: “one cannot even maintain one’s own body without work.” Kṛṣṇa never advised Arjuna, “I am your friend, and I shall do everything. You just sit down and smoke gañjā.” Kṛṣṇa was doing everything, but still He told Arjuna, “You must fight.” Nor did Arjuna say to Kṛṣṇa, “You are my great friend. Better for You to fight and let me sit down and smoke gañjā.” No, that is not Kṛṣṇa consciousness. A God conscious person does not say, “God, You please do everything for me and let me smoke gañjā.” Rather, a God conscious person must work for God. But even if one does not work for the sake of God, one must work, for without work one cannot even maintain one’s body. This material world, therefore, is meant for pariśrama, hard labor.
Even a lion, although king of the beasts, must still look for its own prey in the jungle. It is said, na hi suptasya siṁhasya praviśanti mukhe mṛgāḥ. A lion cannot think, “Since I am king of the forest, let me sleep, and all the animals will come into my mouth.” That is not possible. “No, sir. Although you are a lion, you must go search for your food.” Thus even the lion, although so powerful, must endeavor with great difficulty to find another animal to eat, and similarly everyone in this material world must work with great difficulty to continue his life.
Thus pa indicates pariśrama, labor, and pha is for phenila, which means “foam.” While working very hard a horse foams at the mouth, and similarly human beings must also work hard in this way. Such hard labor, however, is vyartha, futile, and this is what is indicated by the letter ba. And bha indicates bhaya, fear. Despite working so hard, one is always somewhat fearful that things will not be done as he desires. The nature of the body is that it involves eating, sleeping, mating, and fearing (āhāra-nidrā-bhaya-maithunaṁ ca). Although one may eat very nicely, one must consider whether one is overeating, so that he will not fall sick. Thus even eating involves fear. A bird, while eating, looks this way and that way, fearful that some enemy may be coming. And for all living entities, everything finally ends in death, mṛtyu, and this is what is indicated by the letter ma.
Thus pavarga and its component letters pa, pha, ba, bha, and ma indicate hard labor (pariśrama), foam at the mouth (phenila), frustration (vyartha), fear (bhaya), and death (mṛtyu). This is called pavarga, the path of material tribulation. Apavarga, however, indicates just the opposite—the spiritual world, where there is no labor, no foam, no frustration, no fear, and no death. Thus Kṛṣṇa is known as anapavarga-vīrya, for He shows the path to the spiritual world.
Why should one suffer from these five kinds of tribulation? Because one has a material body. As soon as one accepts a material body—whether it is that of a president or a common man, a demigod or a human being, an insect or a Brahmā—one must go through these tribulations. This is called material existence. Kṛṣṇa comes, therefore, to show one the path to apavarga, freedom from these tribulations, and when Kṛṣṇa shows this path, we should accept it. Kṛṣṇa says very clearly, “Surrender unto Me. I shall give you apavarga.” Ahaṁ tvāṁ sarva-pāpebhyo mokṣayiṣyāmi: “I shall give you protection.” And Kṛṣṇa has the power with which to fulfill this guarantee.
Kuntīdevī addresses Kṛṣṇa as Govinda because He is the giver of pleasure both to the cows and to the senses. Govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi **. Govinda, Kṛṣṇa, is the ādi-puruṣa, the original person. Aham ādir hi devānām (Bg. 10.2): He is the origin even of demigods like Brahmā, Viṣṇu, and Śiva. People should not think that Brahmā, Viṣṇu, and Śiva are the origin of everything. No. Kṛṣṇa says, aham ādir hi devānām: “I am the origin even of these demigods.” Therefore we repeatedly emphasize that we worship no one but the original person (govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi **).
When Kuntī prays, go-dvija-surārti-harāvatāra, she indicates that Govinda, Kṛṣṇa, descends to this world especially to protect the cows, the brāhmaṇas, and the devotees. The demoniac in this world are the greatest enemies of the cows, for they maintain hundreds and thousands of slaughterhouses. Although the innocent cows give milk, the most important food, and although even after death the cows give their skin for shoes, people are such rascals that they kill the cows, but still they want to be happy in this world. How sinful they are.
Why is cow protection so much advocated? Because the cow is the most important animal. There is no injunction that one should not eat the flesh of tigers or other such animals. In the Vedic culture those who are meat-eaters are recommended to eat the flesh of goats, dogs, hogs, or other lower animals, but never the flesh of cows, the most important animals. While living, the cows give important service by giving milk, and even after death they give service by making available their skin, hooves, and horns, which may be used in many ways. Nonetheless, the present human society is so ungrateful that they needlessly kill these innocent cows. Therefore Kṛṣṇa comes to punish them.
Kṛṣṇa is worshiped with this prayer:
govindāya namo namaḥ
“My Lord, You are the well-wisher of the cows and the brāhmaṇas, and You are the well-wisher of the entire human society and world.” For perfect human society there must be protection of go-dvija—the cows and the brāhmaṇas. The word dvija refers to the brāhmaṇa, or one who knows Brahman (God). When the demoniac give too much trouble to the brāhmaṇas and the cows, Kṛṣṇa descends to reestablish religious principles. As the Lord says in Bhagavad-gītā (4.7):
yadā yadā hi dharmasya
glānir bhavati bhārata
tadātmānaṁ sṛjāmy aham
“Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion—at that time I descend Myself.” In the present age, Kali-yuga, people are very much sinful and are consequently suffering greatly. Therefore Kṛṣṇa has incarnated in the form of His name, as found in the mahā-mantra: Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare.
Queen Kuntī prayed to the Lord just to enunciate a fragment of His glories. The Lord, upon hearing her prayers, which were composed in choice words for His glorification, responded by smiling, and His smile was as enchanting as His mystic power. The conditioned souls, who are engaged in trying to lord it over the material world, are also enchanted by the Lord’s mystic powers, but His devotees are enchanted in a different way by the glories of the Lord. Thus all the devotees worship the Lord by chosen words. No amount of chosen words are sufficient to enumerate the Lord’s glory, yet He is satisfied by such prayers, just as a father is satisfied even by the broken linguistic attempts of a growing child. Thus the Lord smiled and accepted the prayers of Queen Kuntī.
Chapter 18. Conclusion–The Perfection of Renunciation
man-mana bhava mad-bhakto
mad-yaji mam namaskuru
mam evaisyasi satyam te
pratijane priyo ’si me
mat-manah–thinking of Me; bhava–just become; mat-bhaktah–My devotee; mat-yaji–My worshiper; mam–unto Me; namaskuru–offer your obeisances; mam–unto Me; eva–certainly; esyasi–come; satyam–truly; te–to you; pratijane–I promise; priyah–dear; asi–you are; me–Mine.
Always think of Me and become My devotee. Worship Me and offer your homage unto Me. Thus you will come to Me without fail. I promise you this because you are My very dear friend.
The most confidential part of knowledge is that one should become a pure devotee of Krsna and always think of Him and act for Him. One should not become an official meditator. Life should be so molded that one will always have the chance to think of Krsna. One should always act in such a way that all his daily activities are in connection with Krsna. He should arrange his life in such a way that throughout the twenty-four hours he cannot but think of Krsna. And the Lord’s promise is that anyone who is in such pure Krsna consciousness will certainly return to the abode of Krsna, where he will be engaged in the association of Krsna face to face. This most confidential part of knowledge is spoken to Arjuna because he is the dear friend of Krsna. Everyone who follows the path of Arjuna can become a dear friend to Krsna and obtain the same perfection as Arjuna.
These words stress that one should concentrate his mind upon Krsna–the very form with two hands carrying a flute, the bluish boy with a beautiful face and peacock feathers in His hair. There are descriptions of Krsna found in the Brahma-samhita and other literatures. One should fix his mind on this original form of Godhead, Krsna. He should not even divert his attention to other forms of the Lord. The Lord has multi-forms as Visnu, Narayana, Rama, Varaha, etc., but a devotee should concentrate his mind on the form that was present before Arjuna. Concentration of the mind on the form of Krsna constitutes the most confidential part of knowledge, and this is disclosed to Arjuna because Arjuna is the most dear friend of Krsna’s.
THE HUMBLE BEGGAR
There is a story of a beggar who came to the house of a king. The king was looking from his window, and he heard this knock on the door, so he sent his servant. “Go and see who it is,” so the servant went down there, and he opened the door. “Who is it?” the king asked. “It’s just some beggar,” the servant replied. “He wants some food or something.” So the king said, “All right, let’s have a laugh. Call him up here.” The beggar came up, and he came and sat in the court of the king. The king said, “All right, beggar, what do you want?” The man very meekly asked, “Some prasad, a little food or something?” The king said to his servant, “Pretend to bring him some food.” So the servant brought out an invisible plate and put it down. The king said, “Nice rasgulla, samosa, kichori. Fill yourself up, be happy.” So just to humour the king, because he didn’t want to offend him, he made like he was eating. “Is it good?” the king asked. “Yes it’s good. I like the samosas.” “What else would you like?” asked the king. “A nice wife,” the man said. “All right,” the king said, “bring on the dancing girls!” So the servant ushered them in, the invisible dancing girls. “Aren’t they dancing nicely?” the king asked. The beggar said, “Yes, they are.” “Which one do you want for you wife?” “The sixth one,” the man replied. “There’s only five,” the king laughed. “Take the fifth one. I’ll give you a palace with her. You just go out the door, down the road there’s so many palaces, just take one of those and have a good time.” And he gave him a good slap on the back. So the man was very humble and submissive, “Yes your honour, yes sir, my lord, thank you very much.” He went out to the gate, and suddenly the heart of the king was touched by his submissive nature. Although the king was playing a joke on him the man was co-operating and wasn’t becoming offensive, so the king had a change of heart. “All right,” he said, “call him back.” When the man returned he said, “I’m very pleased with your attitude. “You’ve gone along with the joke. So, bring out the real prasad.” They brought out much prasad. “Now take yourself a real queen, and have a real palace.”
MORAL: So in this way, just by his humble nature, and just humouring and co-operating the king, he was blessed with so much opulence.
US Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is the first Hindu Congresswoman in American history. She is also a Vaishnava, or devotee of Lord Krishna, and she took her oath of office with the Bhagavad-gita.
In this video, delivered as a message to celebrants of Gita Jayanti in Kurukshetra, India on December 15, 2013, she explains the the importance of the Bhagavad-gita in her life. She also highlights the value of Lord Krishna’s message in overcoming the challenges that face modern society, and especially for those seeking knowledge of God and the soul.
Young poet and hip-hop musician Mikey Jay describes himself as “a wandering soul learning the lessons of life” as he “traverses its diverse path.” For Rama Navami, April 8th, 2014, he came out with a new music album the “Sri Isopanisad”, consisting of 19 songs; an Invocation and 18 songs based on the 18 Mantras of the ancient scripture the Sri Isopanisad.
Mikey grew up in Cardiff, UK, and received a psychology degree from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. He also lived as a Vaishnava monk in India for two years.
He has been practicing bhakti-yoga and mantra meditation throughout his life. For years, he has experimenting how to share the ancient wisdom of India, which he has been cherishing and learning a lot from, with other young people of his young generation.
His new album is dedicated to ISKCON-founder Srila Prabhupada, whose commentaries on Sri Isopaniṣad were the inspiration for every song.
Sri Isopanisad: Mantra One – Most High
All songs written and produced by Mike Jones (Mikey Jay). He worked with an international artist team of Radha Mohan (Sound Engineer/Final Production on all songs; Flute on Invocation and Mantra 16), Malini Dasi (Vocals on Mantra 4), Dr T (Lyrics and vocals on Mantra 7), Gaura Klein (Lyrics and vocals on Mantra 9), Emma Rose: (Vocals on Mantras 8, 15, and 18), Marcos Munoz (Flute on Mantra 16), Rasikananda (CD Design), Tom Morris (Vishnu Artwork), and Dub FX (Various samples).
The album is available for download at: http://mikeyjay108.bandcamp.com
mayy asakta-manah partha
yogam yunjan mad-asrayah
asamsayam samagram mam
yatha jnasyasi tac chrnu
So this yoga system, Krsna consciousness yoga system, is to begin with developing attachment for Krsna. And the process of developing attachment I have already explained to you for the several last meetings. So for the beginners, attachment for God, everyone, people in the lowest stage, he has to admit the greatness of the Supreme Lord. God is great; there is no doubt about it. Everyone, even in the lowest status of life, he can admit. I don’t speak of the animals. Animals, they have no sense of God. I am speaking of the human being. There are different, different grades of human civilization — the highest type of civilization and the lowest aboriginal — but every one of them has got a sense of God. That is there. This is the special prerogative of human being. Not that only the civilized men. Perhaps you know all, when you came here from European countries in America, the Red Indians. They are considered as aboriginals; still, they have some religion, they have some conception of God.
So God is great. That is admitted by the human civilization. Now what is that greatness? Generally when we speak of greatness…(coughs) (aside:) Water. We think of the greatness of the sky. That is the simple example how thing can be great: “As great as the sky.” But in the sky you have no perception. As there is development of these material elements from finer, I mean to say, existential form, to grosser form, and the grosser form becomes tangible for our understanding, similarly, in every religion or in every society, the greatness of God is admitted. But how that greatness becomes tangible, that you can find in the Bhagavad-gita.
Suppose you have got conception of a sky, but you cannot have a definite idea of the greatness of sky because your experience and knowledge is gathered by sense perception. In the sky there is no sense perception. Just like we are sitting in this room. Within this room there is sky, but we cannot understand the sky. But if we try to understand this table we can at once understand, because in the table, if I touch, I feel the hardness; the perception is there. My knowledge can receive that this is a hard table. But if I speak about sky, I cannot get any direct perception. Therefore simply understanding of greatness of God is not all. That, that is the beginning of attachment, “God is great.” But you have to develop your attachment to the fullest extent. And that is love of God.
You cannot love sky. That is not possible. If I say, “You love sky,” you’ll say, “How to love sky? I want a tangible thing. I want a boy, I want a girl, then I can love. How I can love sky?” So simply understanding of greatness is not all. Then from the development of the, from the idea of sky, there is, next development is air. In the air you can perceive something. When the air is blowing you can at least have some touch sensation. So as in the material world from the sky develops the air, from air develops the fire, electricity, and from electricity or fire develops the water, and from water develops this land… When it comes to the land you can understand something very tangible. Similarly, greatness of God has to be developed how? From greatness of God, the idea of greatness, the sense of service must develop. God is so great, so I must render some service to God. This sense of service is further development. Just like from the sky the air develops, similarly, from the idea of greatness of God the sense of service develops. Because I am serving somebody great, I go to some office because he provides me. The proprietor gives me some salary; therefore he is greater than me. I render service in exchange of something given by him.
So God is so great. In the Vedic literatures it is found that eko bahunam vidadhati kaman. That one great supreme living being, He is supplying all the necessities of all other small living beings. We are all small living beings, and Krsna, or the Supreme Lord, is the greatest living being. He is also a living being, just like us. The other day I explained that man is made after God, not that God is made after man. Don’t think that because I have got two hands, two legs, one head, therefore I have created a Krsna who has got two hands, two legs, two… No. That is not the fact. Actually, because Krsna has got two legs, two hands, one head, therefore you have also got.
So God is great, and I am dependent. So my sense of love has to be developed. We must accept that God is great, He is supplying our necessities, why not render some service in gratitude? Is there any harm? Suppose somebody is always supplying you everything, don’t you think in your gratitude to supply, to render some service to him? If you develop that sense of gratitude, that is further development, attachment, service. Now that service has again to be further developed. How it is to be developed? Just like service to your friend. A friend does not demand service. Just like master, he demands service: “You must do it.” But friend does not demand service, but dear friend: “Yes, why not?” That means voluntary service. More intimately. That is further development. That friendly service… One sort of friendship is with awe and veneration. Just like if you have a very rich friend, you cannot talk with him so frankly although he is so…, he is your intimate friend. But a friend in the same status, you can talk with him very freely. Similarly, we can develop friendship with God in two stages. The first stage is with awe and veneration. “Oh, God is so great. God is supplying us so many things, and in gratitude I must serve Him.” Or, “He is my well-wisher; He’s my friend.”
But if you further development your friendship… Just like Arjuna. Arjuna developed friendship with Krsna. When he saw Krsna in His supreme universal form, he said, “My dear Krsna, I have talked with You as friend. I have insulted You in so many ways.” Friends and friends, sometimes they talk in insulting tone, but that is not insult, that is pleasure. Similarly, Arjuna also talks to Krsna in so many insulting tones. But when he saw that “Oh, here is the Supreme Personality of Godhead,” he was afraid. So friendship. Then further development of service is to accept the Supreme Lord as son. When I get somebody as my son, the full service is there from the beginning of his life. So similarly, as the subtler form of elements develop into grosser forms, from sky to air, from air to fire, from fire to water, from water to land, similarly, the attachment of Krsna begins to develop from the sense of greatness. “God is great,” then “God is master,” then “God is friend,” and then “God is my son,” and then “God is my lover.” In the lover stage, there are all other elements. When you love somebody, then there is loving element, and there is paternal element, there is friendship element, there is master and servant element, and there is greatness element. Therefore, in the sense of loving God, all other elements are full. Therefore the full attachment for Krsna is to love Him as your lover.
So Krsna says, mad-asrayam. This yoga system, bhakti-yoga, is to develop attachment for Krsna under His protection. Mad-asrayah. Just like a friend protects his friend, a master protects his servant, a parent, a father protects his child, or a lover protects his lover, similarly, there is some protectional element. Mad-asrayah: “Krsna is my friend, He’ll protect me. Krsna is my master, He’ll protect me. Krsna is my son, He’ll protect me. Krsna is my lover, He’ll protect me.” So this, this is called mad-asrayah. If we take this attitude in either of these attitudes, either friend or lover or son or master, like that, and you develop your attachment for Krsna, then asamsaya, without any doubt, samagram, in complete…, in full completeness, you can understand what is God. This is the philosophy of Krsna consciousness, that you have to take shelter of Krsna in either of these aspects, and you have to develop your attachment for either of these aspects.
Then Krsna says that jnanam te ‘ham sa-vijnanam idam vaksyamy asesatah. Now this knowledge of God is not a sentiment, it is science. It is science. This is scientific. Nobody can deny it. We are not preaching any particular type of sentiment, or any frog’s speculation. It is fact. How our relationship with the Supreme Lord can develop, how we are related with Him, these things are fact on philosophical basis. Therefore Krsna is assuring Arjuna that “What I’m talking to you is not a religious sentiment, but it is jnanam.” Jnanam means it is practical knowledge. Jnanam. Jnanam means theoretical knowledge, and vijnanam means practical knowledge. So Krsna says, jnanam. Jnanam te ‘ham sa-vijnanam: “I am just speaking to you the exact knowledge of the Supreme Personality of Godhead with practical demonstration.” [break]
…appear for practical examination. Simply knowing that such and such chemical element mixed with such and such chemical element becomes such and such chemical element is theoretical knowledge. Oxygen and hydrogen mixed together produces water. This is theoretical knowledge. But when in the laboratory you actually act — such and such quantity of oxygen gas you mix with such and such quantity of hydrogen gas — at once there is formulation of water. As soon as you mix alkali and acid together, there is at once reaction, soda-bicarbonate. So similarly, theoretical knowledge that we have got a particular type of relationship with God, that you cannot deny. Anything, whatever you have got in your possession, you have got some particular relationship. Suppose you are Americans, we are Indian. So we have got some particular relationship with the state. I am Indian citizen, you are American citizen. So relationship must be there. You are sitting here. There is some relationship. Suppose my students, they have got relationship with me. I am their teacher, they are my disciples. Or if you are not my disciple then you are audience, I am speaker. Must be there some relationship.
So similarly, if with everything we have got some relationship, why not with God? There is. That is practical relationship, but we have forgotten. We have forgotten our relationship. And yoga means to connect, to reconnect that relationship again. That is called yoga. Yoga is not a mental speculation or for health’s sake. Oh, for health’s sake you may not go to the yoga system. If you simply adopt the practice of Sandoz exercise you can become very healthy, very strong. There is no need of… Yoga is different thing. Yoga means concentration of the mind towards God, God, Paramatma, which we have forgotten now.
At the present moment, although we remember sometimes there or the material energy, we have forgotten. So we have to establish, reestablish our forgotten relationship. It is not that you have no relationship with God and we are artificially forcing something, relationship with God, Krsna consciousness. No. You have your relationship. Simply by hearing, by cultivation of this knowledge, you revive your relationship, that’s all. Just like in the matches there is fire. You simply rub it for some time, for a few seconds, oh, the fire will come out. Similarly, your relationship with Krsna, Krsna consciousness, is there within you. Otherwise, how could you accept the Krsna consciousness? “I’ve imported Krsna from India,” that is also a mistake. Krsna is not for India or America. Just like the sun. This is same sun which I have seen in India, the same sun is in your America. So nobody can claim, “Oh, this is Indian sun and this is American sun.” Sun is one. It is our miscalculation that we say, “This is American land, this is American sun, this is American atmosphere.” No. Everything in relationship with God. That is jnanam. That is knowledge. And vijnanam. And practical also.
So Krsna says that “I will explain to you, if you adopt this principle, that development of attachment with Krsna, under My protection…” If you don’t take the protection of Krsna, then you cannot develop attachment for Krsna. You have to accept. That development I have… The other day, I have explained to you that it takes place by giving something, by taking something, by disclosing something, by understanding something, by eating something, by giving Krsna to eat something. By six processes. So Krsna says, “I am speaking to you this jnanam,” sa-vijnanam. Jnanam te aham sa-vijnanam idam. Sa-vijnanam means “with scientific knowledge.” Vaksyamy, “I’ll say.” Yad jnatva, “If you try to understand this knowledge, or if you understand this knowledge,” yaj jnatva na iha, “not in this material world.” Na iha. Because in the spiritual world there is no ignorance. Spiritual life means full of knowledge, full of bliss, eternal life. So therefore Krsna says that “If you understand this knowledge, the knowledge of Krsna or the science of Krsna, or the science of Krsna consciousness,” yaj jnatva na iha bhuyo. Bhuyo means “again.” Anyaj, “anything more.” Anyaj jnatavyam, “understandable,” avasisyate, “there remains.” That means “If you understand as I am speaking to you, in science, practical and theoretical, if you understand this knowledge, then you’ll have nothing to know. There is nothing more knowable to you in this world. That means your knowledge becomes full.” Yaj jnatva neha bhuyo anyaj jnatavyam avasisyate. Tac-chakti-dvaya-vivikta-svarupa-visayakam jnanam vijnanam tena sahitam te tubhyam prapannayasesatah samagram vaksyami.
Now here Krsna says that “I am speaking to you.” He’s particularly marking Arjuna. Why? He does not say here, “I’m speaking to everyone.” No. Everyone cannot understand this knowledge. It is confidential. Krsna consciousness is not understandable by any ordinary man. Of course, Lord Caitanya has made it so easy for this age that if you sincerely, with devotion, chant Hare Krsna, you’ll be able to understand. But the science as it is, itself, it is very difficult. It is very difficult. But because the age is not very favorable, the time is not very favorable, therefore Lord Caitanya has inaugurated this sankirtana movement by chanting Hare Krsna and dancing, so that your mind very quickly becomes cleared so that you can understand what is Krsna consciousness. This simple process. Otherwise, Krsna says it is not for all.
“I am speaking to you this scientific knowledge of Krsna consciousness unto you.” Why “unto you”? Because he’s a surrendered soul. He’s a surrendered soul. The beginning of Bhagavad-gita is there. You know. When Krsna was talking with Arjuna as friend, He did not talk very seriously. He was simply saying, “My dear Arjuna, it is not good for you that you shall not fight. You are a ksatriya, you belong to the warrior class, so if you don’t fight, it will not be very good.” In this way, on the basis of friendship. But Arjuna also understood that “Krsna is not very seriously talking with me, because we are friends.” So he surrendered himself. He said that “My dear Krsna, I can understand that the problem which has arisen in this battlefield, it is very difficult problem. I have come here to fight, but I have been disturbed with sentiments. So how I can kill my brothers, my teacher, my grandfather, my grandsons, and so on, so on? So, but I know also that these problems, this problematic situation which has arisen, it can be solved by You only.” But Arjuna knew it that “Krsna is not my ordinary friend. He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” Therefore he at once surrendered. Sisyas te ‘ham sadhi mam prapannam: “I am surrendered unto You as Your disciple. Please accept me and just teach me what is good for me.” Therefore Krsna also says that jnanam te aham, “I am speaking to you this knowledge, this confidential knowledge, because you are surrendered.”
So this thing, this Krsna consciousness begins. Unless you have got at least a little attachment for Krsna, unless you have taken to any sort of service to Krsna it is very difficult to understand. Jnanam te ‘ham sa-vijnanam. Tac-chakti-dvaya-vivikta-svarupa-visayakam. So jnanam, you can understand this because you are surrendered soul. Prapannayasesatah samagrena upadeksyami. So jnanam means the actual, factual knowledge. Jnanam means factual knowledge and practical demonstration of that knowledge. That will be explained in this chapter, and we shall further discuss on this point.
Now if there is any question, you can ask.
Devotee (1): Swamiji, you said that the relationship with Krsna as lover contains all the other symptoms of the other relationships.
Devotee (1): Does this mean that that rasa is superior or better than the other rasas?
Prabhupada: Yes. It is…If you neutrally examine that the position of the lover is better than the position of a person who is in relationship with Krsna as master and servant. But that is studying the relationship or the mellows from neutral point of view. But anyone, either who is…, anyone, either he is in relationship as master and servant or relationship as father and child or lover and lover, from his position, He is supreme. But from neutral position the lover and the beloved, this kind of relationship with Krsna is the best, is the supreme. Therefore the worship of the gopis to Krsna… Lord Caitanya also displayed. His propaganda or His understanding of Krsna was just like the lover and the beloved. Krsna as Lord Caitanya was playing the part of Radharani. He wanted to understand. Krsna wanted to understand what is there in Radharani. So that understanding, that feature of Krsna is Lord Caitanya. Lord Caitanya is not different from Krsna, but the feature in which Krsna is trying to understand Radharani, that is Lord Caitanya. So Radharani’s position is greater than Krsna’s. These are very confidential talks, but the relationship of love and the beloved, as it was between Krsna and the gopis, that is the highest type of relationship. There is no doubt about it. (pause) Yes?
Devotee (1): I just didn’t hear you correctly. Did you say that Sri Krsna Caitanya was playing Radha?
Prabhupada: Yes, He is playing the part of Radharani. He is worshiping Krsna as Radharani worshiped Krsna. There is a verse composed by Lord Caitanya. He says,
aslisya va pada ratam pinastu mam
(adarsanan) marma-hatam karotu va
yatha tatha va vidadhatu lampato
mat-prana-nathas tu sa eva naparah
He’s praying, “My Lord Krsna, either You trample me down by Your feet, either You embrace me as lover, or You make me brokenhearted without Your presence. Whatever You like You can do. But still I am Your eternal servitor.” So this attitude was Radharani’s. So Lord Caitanya is the feature of Krsna understanding Radharani. That Krsna is great undoubtedly, but He thinks that Radharani is greater than Him, because He cannot repay the loving transaction of Radha, of Krsna. So he wanted to study what is there in Radharani. “So I cannot study Radharani in the feature of Krsna. If I take the feature of Radharani, then I can understand what are…” This is highest, I mean to say, transcendental sentiments. But Lord Caitanya is Radharani’s feature. Tad-dvayam caikyam aptam. Caitanyakhyam prakatam adhuna tad-dvayam caityam aptam. Krsna, when He wants to enjoy, He expands His pleasure potency, which is Radharani. Now one Krsna becomes two, Krsna and His pleasure potency. And that pleasure potency, when unites with Krsna, that is Caitanya. Krsna becomes two, Radharani and Krsna. Krsna cannot enjoy anything material because He is full in Himself. Therefore if He has to enjoy something, then that enjoyable personality must be expanded from Him only. So that is Radharani. And when that enjoyable personality again takes into one, that is Caitanya. These things you’ll understand as you develop Krsna consciousness, in higher development stage. But it is, we can discuss. This is the fact. Yes?
Gargamuni: I just want to… You said that yoga means to connect with the Supreme, and then you said by that we concentrate our mind on God, and then after that you said Paramatma.
Prabhupada: Yes. The beginning of searching out God is within yourself. God is within yourself. So yoga means concentrating the mind on the Paramatma. Paramatma is the feature of the Supreme Lord who is seated in everyone’s heart. Isvarah sarva-bhutanam hrd-dese ‘rjuna tisthati [Bg. 18.61]. Hrd-dese means in the heart. In the heart I am, as spiritual spark, I am also sitting, and the Krsna is also sitting. The medical science cannot explain. As soon as the heart fails, they say, “Oh, he’s gone.” That means in the heart I am sitting and the Paramatma is sitting. As the I and Paramatma leaves the heart, the heart fails and there is no life. And it is a fact from medical science that all the energies of the body is coming from the heart. So this statement of the Bhagavad-gita, that isvarah sarva-bhutanam hrd-dese… [Bg. 18.61]. Hrd-dese means in the heart. So yoga means, as prescribed in the standard yoga system in the Bhagavad-gita, means I myself try to find out the Paramatma within my heart. So I cannot concentrate unless I withdraw all my sensual activities. You cannot practice yoga, (chuckling) at the same time indulge in sensual activities. These are all nonsense. So we have to concentrate all our sensual activities. That means repose them in the mind, and mind is concentrated upon the Paramatma. That is real yoga.
Gargamuni: Yes, but we in Krsna consciousness, we aren’t interested in that Paramatma, are we?
Prabhupada: No. We have no interest because we are directly meditating the Supreme. Therefore if we concentrate our mind on Krsna, that means Paramatma is already served. If you have got one million dollars, then ten dollar service is already done. Paramatma is partial representation of Krsna. So if you concentrate your attention, whole attention to Krsna, that is far, far better than… And that is, I mean to say, accepted in the Bhagavad-gita. Yoginam api sarvesam mad-gatenantar-atmana [Bg. 6.47]. “Anyone who is concentrating his mind upon Me, he is the topmost yogi.” He’s the topmost yogi. And that is very easy. If you simply see the picture of Krsna, the statue of Krsna, worship Krsna, chant His name Krsna, eat Krsna’s prasadam, talk Krsna, read Krsna’s book, then you are always in samadhi. Samadhi, this is perfect samadhi. So Krsna consciousness is not an ordinary thing. It is the highest, topmost yoga system. Is that clear?
Prabhupada: All right. Chant. Sri rama jaya rama jaya jaya… (end)
>>> Ref. VedaBase => Bhagavad-gita 7.1 — San Francisco, September 10, 1968
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