Q. What is difference between Goloka and Vaikuntha?
And on what basis is it decided that a soul will go to Vaikuntha or Goloka?
A. These are two separate but related questions so we will answer them together.
Go means cow and loka means abode. So Goloka is the spiritual abode of the cows where Shyamasundara Krishna is eternally engaged in His pastimes with the cows, cowherd men and cowherd women. Vai is a modified prefix (upasarga) which has a sense of negation and kuntha means anxiety. So Vaikuntha is place without anxieties. Vaikuntha has several Vaikuntha planets – each presided by Narayana the Lord of Vaikuntha. Continue reading Difference between Goloka and Vaikuntha?
Q. Why do you avoid smoking or drinking coffee, tea or alcohol?
A. Caffeine, nicotine, alcohol—to varying degrees these are all intoxicants. That is, they all have a toxic effect on the body. Devotees of Krishna eat and drink only things that can first be offered to Him, and in the scriptures He requests pure, nutritious food and beverages.
By avoiding caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, and similar substances devotees keep their minds clear for concentrating on spiritual goals.
Q. Why do you avoid meat?
A. The most important reason why we must refrain from eating meat is: Krishna’s instruction to us in the Ninth Chapter of the Bhagavad-gita. He requests us to offer Him everything we do, including our eating. He asks us to offer Him with love and devotion, “a leaf, a flower, fruit, or water.” Because Krishna doesn’t ask for meat products, we don’t offer Him any. Since the true aim of life is to please God and re-establish our love for Him, we don’t want to displease Him. The Gita’s third chapter gives the process of purifying our lives or making them pleasing to God.
Krishna is very merciful. He understands our need for material things. Therefore, He created a way for us to offer or sacrifice the things of the world for a spiritual purpose. In that way we can fulfill our desires and needs for material things and not incur karmic reactions. Krishna says that if we offer our food to Him we become free from sinful reactions. The idea behind “offering” something to God is that everything actually belongs to Him. If we don’t acknowledge that, we’re subject to a “fine,” or karmic reactions. This is just like taking advantage of gas, water, electricity, and so on, in your home. You can use these only if you’re willing to pay for them. Besides the spiritual consideration, a vegetarian diet is natural (humans have vegetarian digestive systems) and compassionate. It brings economic benefits both individually and collectively, and it is beneficial to one’s health and to the environment.
Q. Why are you Vegetarians?
A. The Vedic scriptures establish nonviolence, called ahimsa, as the ethical foundation of vegetarianism and for a peaceful society. According to the Vedas, God is the Supreme Father of all creatures, not just humans. Therefore, slaughter of innocent animals is considered equivalent to killing one’s brother or sister.
Krishna devotees follow a wholesome lacto-vegetarian diet excluding meat, fish and eggs. Although it may be argued that vegetarians are guilty of killing vegetables, foods such as fruits, nuts, milk, and grains do not require killing. Also plants have an undeveloped consciousness as compared to animals. Therefore, when a plant’s life is taken, the pain involved is dramatically less than that of a highly-sensitive animal such as a cow or lamb.
Further, in Bhagavad-Gita (9.26), the Lord says, “If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, a fruit or water, I will accept it.” Here He clearly specifies what He will accept. According to karma, nature’s law of action and reaction, human beings must suffer for any killing that is against God’s laws. For this reason, as well as to show recognition and appreciation for the supreme proprietor and supplier of all food, devotees prepare vegetarian meals as devotional offerings to Krishna, God. Then food is called prasadam (spiritual food), which can be fully enjoyed without karmic reaction.
Q. Some devotees insist that, while taking prasadam only those who have not eaten can serve; they say that those who have just eaten are unclean. How can one be unclean while taking in prasadam? One added point is that if we were to be taking prasadam in a house where we would like to have all of the family members honor prasadam simultaneously, it would not be possible to do so if we insisted on the above rule.
A. The general principle is that after eating, one must at least wash one’s mouth, hands and feet, before touching other things, especially kitchen utensils which are used in Krishna’s service (like serving utensils). Although prasadam is transcendental and purifying, while eating our hands touch our mouth (either directly or with a spoon or fork), which is not clean. The minimum Vedic standard of cleanliness we should follow after eating is that we must cleanse our hands and mouth thoroughly. Prior to worship of an installed Deity in the Temple, one must fully bathe and put on a clean set of clothes after eating.
Q. If prasadam is spiritual why does it decay like normal food does in a
day or so.
A. Prasadam is spiritualized by virtue of its contact with the Supreme Lord. Prabhupada gives the example of iron rod and fire. The iron rod kept in fire acts like fire, but is not fire itself. Prasadam is spiritual in that it has been accepted by Krishna and thus it has a spiritualizing effect on those who partake of it. Nevertheless, it is still made of material elements and appears to our mundane vision as undergoing material transformations. The same applies to the deity forms of the Lord (archa-vigraha), the body of a pure devotee, the holy dhama (place of pilgrimage) and the sacred scriptures.
An advanced devotee, however would be able to see the actual spiritual nature of each of these items and would never consider them according to their material appearance just as Raghunatha dasa Gosvami was accepting old and spoiled remnants of Jagannath maha prasadam as delightful mercy of Lord Jagannath.
Q. I would appreciate if you can elaborate on why we should not consume or eat either onion or garlic. Is it stated in any Sastra? Please help me this question will be helpful for my preaching purpose.
A. In Bhagavad Gita (17.9) Krishna states that ‘Foods that are too bitter, too sour, salty, hot, pungent, dry and burning are dear to those in the mode of passion. Such foods cause distress, misery and disease.’ Onion and garlic fall in this category. They excite the baser instincts and make it difficult for one to control the senses. The prohibition on onion, garlic etc. is implicit, by virtue of their characteristics.
Q. If the Lord dislikes killing, why are animal sacrifices to God found in the scriptures?
A. Although animal sacrifice to God is mentioned in the scriptures, it is ultimately forbidden there. Sometimes the scriptures recommend animal sacrifice for meat-eaters who can’t give up their habit all at once. They can offer the animal in sacrifice and then eat it, gradually becoming free of the desire to eat meat.
Fortunately, today we can perform the sacrifice of chanting Hare Krishna and eating delicious vegetarian food offered to Krishna .That will quickly purify us and free us from the base desire to eat meat. There’s no good reason for anyone to kill animals today.
Q. I have a question about milk. As a Vaisnava, I follow the path of ahimsa, the path of nonviolence and compassion toward all of God’s creatures. Srila Prabhupada taught us that milk and milk products are an acceptable food to use in the preparation of prasadam. But due to the ways of Western dairies, milk cows are bred to be slaves, kept in small restraint pens, shot full of drugs, used for many years and finally slaughtered for pet food. That sounds extremely violent to me. Although I do partake of milk products, I feel the cow’s pain. Do these feelings make me less of a Vaisnava? Should I just consider that the cow is suffering because of her karma?
A. Your compassion for the cow is a natural Vaisnava sentiment. Even though devotees know that everyone suffers because of their karma, devotees still feel the pain of others. The devotees’ solution is to do whatever possible to engage everyone in Krishna consciousness and devotional service to Krishna. That is the only sure way to end all suffering.
ISKCON doesn’t have an official position on drinking milk from commercial dairies. Some devotees don’t drink dairy milk for the reasons you mentioned. Others argue that, as Prabhupada taught, milk is so important in developing the brain for spiritual understanding that despite the current situation, we should drink milk anyway. Besides, by offering Krishna the milk of abused cows, they get great benefit.
On a practical level, our boycott of the dairy industry would probably have little effect, but we can help the cows by offering their milk to Krishna. And of course, devotees should work hard to develop Krishna conscious villages where we demonstrate real cow protection through the proper use of both the cow and the bull.
Q. People say egg is vegetarian. How to counteract it?
A. All animal products are non-vegetarian. Since egg doesn’t grow on plants, it should be considered a non-vegetarian product. Even if procuring an egg may not involve animal killing, we don’t recommend eating it because it is after all the dead foetus of a chicken—a low-class tamasik food.
By the same logic, one may argue that milk is also a non-vegetarian product, so why do you take it?
Our philosophy is not that we take only vegetarian products and reject all that is non-vegetarian. We are more concerned with what Krishna would like to accept from us. The scriptures definitely promote the use of vegetables and milk products. When Lord Krishna was personally present on earth, He took care of cows and consumed milk and milk products. Besides Krishna personally says in the Bhagavad-gita that He will accept leaf, flower, fruit or water if they are offered with love; He doesn’t mention egg or meat in the list.