Q. In light of the Wars, could you please give some Vedic insight besides chanting the holy name?
A. War arises from false claims of proprietorship over God’s property and from accepting as real designations based on the body and acting according to them. These problems can be eliminated if we all chant the Lord’s name, which purifies us from these defects, but unfortunately faithless people will never chant and so the wars will continue to come and go, only to return again.
As long as we live in the material world, there will be lighting. Even in heaven, Lord Indra has to worry about people like Bali Maharaja usurping his position. But troublemakers cannot make it to Vaikuntha, the spiritual world and therefore we should be determined to go there and we should encourage others to make the same determination.
It is simple: In the material world there is always war and in the spiritual world there is always peace; therefore we should aspire to go to the spiritual world. We should take advantage of the opportunity to encourage people to solve the problem of war by going back to Godhead. People do not consider that God is all good and all powerful and so in His world there is no anxiety. We should plan to go there by following the path chalked out by the great teachers who have understood the truth. Therefore chanting the holy name is the real solution to the ultimate problem. We cannot eliminate war from this planet, but we can elevate our consciousness to the point where we will be able to attain the spiritual world and thus eliminate war from our life.
Q. I am concerned that with so much emphasis in your teachings on leaving the material world and our bodies to get to the spiritual world with Krishna, this philosophy is creating an ethic that disregards the earth we live on. Why isn’t nature revered and loved just as much as Krishna? Is not the world, our environment, Krishna too? How can ISKCON join forces with the environmental movement to heal the relationship between people and land?
A. You’re right in saying that as devotees of Krishna we should respect His creation and Srila Prabhupada always taught that. (See Divine Nature, by Mukunda Goswami and Drutakarmä Dasa, available from our Hare Krishna Bazaar http://www.krishna.com) Prabhupada himself showed respect for everything because he knew that everything is connected toKrishna.
Still, we don’t equate Krishna and His nature. We accept the philosophy of “simultaneous oneness and difference”—Krishna is one with His creation and different from it at the same time. So although we respect nature as Krishna’s energy, we don’t elevate it to the status of God.
You shouldn’t get any argument from devotees about the sanctity of nature. What you might find is debate about how much of our energy should go into conservation. Prabhupada taught us to try to live simply and most of us could improve in that area. But Prabhupada never told us, for example, to go out and raise money for environmental causes.
Still, Prabhupäda did encourage us to spend money to set up Krishna conscious rural communities based on farming and cow protection, activities that improve the environment. He also liked nice gardens at his temples and he argued against needless killing of animals, needless cutting of forests and so on. He set goals that require us to collect and spend money in ways beneficial to creating a cleaner environment, one more hospitable to the practice of Krishna consciousness.
Ultimately, Prabhupada taught that Krishna consciousness solves all problems. So our mission is to give people Krishna. Environmental problems are only one of hundreds of problems that concern people. There are so many causes we could take up. But Prabhupada taught that trying to solve problems one by one is like trying to water a tree by watering its leaves and branches rather than its root.
Again, we agree that devotees could improve in their respect for the environment. And they will—as they advance in Krishna consciousness and learn more and more how to use the energy of Krishna in His service.
Q. Why does the Lord influence the living entity to forgetfulness of original identity and allows to suffer in this material world?
A. In Srimad Bhagavatam, second canto —– Srila Prabhupada writes in the purport of first verse of ninth chapter (SB 2.9.1)………….
The spirit soul is distinct from the material conception of his life but he is absorbed in such a material conception because of being influenced by the external energy of the Lord, called atma-maya. The external energy is controlled by the Lord and the living entities are controlled by the external energy—by the will of the Lord. Therefore, although the living entity is purely conscious in his pure state, he is subordinate to the will of the Lord in being influenced by the external energy of the Lord. In the Bhagavad-gita (15.15) also the same thing is confirmed; the Lord is present within the heart of every living entity and all the living entity’s consciousness and forgetfulness are influenced by the Lord.
Lord clearly wishes that every living entity be in his pure consciousness as a part and parcel of the Lord and thus be engaged in the loving service of the Lord as he is constitutionally made; but because the living entity is partially independent also, he may not be willing to serve the Lord but may try to become as independent as the Lord is.
All the nondevotee living entities are desirous of becoming equally as powerful as the Lord, although they are not fit to become so. The living entities are illusioned by the will of the Lord because they wanted to become like Him. Like a person who thinks of becoming a king without possessing the necessary qualification, when the living entity desires to become the Lord Himself, he is put in a condition of dreaming that he is a king.
Therefore the first sinful will of the living entity is to become the Lord and the consequent will of the Lord is that the living entity forgets his factual life and thus dreams of the land of utopia where he may become one like the Lord.
The child cries to have the moon from the mother and the mother gives the child a mirror to satisfy the crying and disturbing child with the reflection of the moon. Similarly, the crying child of the Lord is given over to the reflection, the material world, to lord it over as karmi and to give this up in frustration to become one with the Lord. Both these stages are dreaming illusions only.
There is no necessity of tracing out the history of when the living entity desired this. But the fact is that as soon as he desired it, he was put under the control of atma-maya by the direction of the Lord. Therefore the living entity in his material condition is dreaming falsely that this is “mine” and this is “I.” The dream is that the conditioned soul thinks of his material body as “I” or falsely thinks that he is the Lord and that everything in connection with that material body is “mine.” Thus only in dream does the misconception of “I” and “mine” persist life after life. This continues life after life, as long as the living entity is not purely conscious of his identity as the subordinate part and parcel of the Lord.
Q. I have been struggling for some time with questions such as: Is everything pre-determined?
Do we have to accept that everything is pre-determined and occupy ourselves with devotional service while still performing our duties?
Or do we have to strive toward a goal (even if that means being competitive) while still performing devotional service?
A. If I understand correctly, it seems that your question focuses on whether or not someone performing devotional service should strive to achieve something in the field of their occupational duties or in some specific way strive to improve their present life situation.
Devotees also have goals and aspirations that they strive towards, but their impetus is simply to please Krishna and increase their devotion and not the achievement of any material objective in itself.
In the course of trying to cultivate our Krishna consciousness and steadily progress towards the spiritual plane, we are advised to carefully perform our prescribed occupational duties and so we do. In the course of executing duties there may be standards to achieve and milestones to be reached. Our acharyas recommend that devotees should live very simply but whatever is needed to perform one’s duties nicely, one should strive according to their best capacity and to dedicate such endeavors and all facilities provided for that service fully unto Krishna. While working industriously the devotee also knows fully well that the result of one’s endeavors is in Krishna’s hands, not merely a product of their personal efforts.
Finally, there is a clear connection between devotion-based endeavors and the notion of predestination.
As concluded in previous Digest discussions, our past actions “pre-determine” our present circumstances in life but they do not pre-determine what we choose to do now. Our present choices determine our future. What we choose to do now can be executed on the material plane (deliberately or mindlessly, impelled by past conditioning), yielding temporary material results; or our present choices can be enacted on the spiritual plane, thus lifting us completely out of the cycle of karma. In other words, a devotee is neither directly interested in changing his/her karmic destiny nor overly concerned with improving his/her material circumstances per se, simply for sake of material welfare; however he/she is keenly interested in cultivating their relationship with Krishna. The devotee is contented to base their spiritual endeavors upon whatever position or within whatever circumstance of life they find themselves. In turn, Krishna takes charge of such a surrendered devotee and their life is orchestrated by Krishna and not karma.
Q. If Krishna is all powerful and wants us to come back to Him, then why does He not simply do it?
A. The answer to your question, which you have said is a very fundamental one, rests on the understanding of the living entity’s free will. Because there is free will, the living entity can choose to misuse their free will. When this choice of misuse of free will is exercised by the living entity, the Lord may sanction it. But the punishment is also there along with the sanctioning, so that the living entity learns the lesson that misuse of free will, will not bring happiness. If you look on the other side of the question, `Why is it that God does not restrict our free will so that we cannot misuse it?’, then you have a situation where love is also not voluntary but forced. That is not love, that is something else. In order for there to be real love for God, there must also be the opportunity for free will, including the misuse of free will.
Q. I am a Life Member of ISKCON. I understand that a more materialistic life means a less spiritual one. But I’m not strong enough to follow all of God’s rules (as mentioned in the Gita). I therefore follow a more materialistic life and less of a spiritual life, apart from praying to Lord Krishna almost daily.I want to make money, get married, have a sex life, and eat meat. If I do all these things, does that mean I can never enter God’s kingdom when I die, even though I believe in God’s existence and pray to Him daily?
A. You are correct in saying that material life and spiritual life oppose each other. Fortunately, the power of Krishna consciousness is such that you don’t have to give up your ordinary life and leave for the forest. You can spiritualize your life by connecting it with Krishna. But connecting with Krishna means following His instructions. If we disobey Krishna or his representative, how can we expect to please Him with our prayers? The regulative principles followed by members of ISKCON are traditional rules found in the Vedic scriptures. Although any civilized person should follow them, in modern society they seem like great austerities. Our conditioning and karma make us think we can’t follow them. But if we are sincere in making spiritual progress, we’ll get the resolve to follow them.
Achieving the association of Krishna is no small feat. We shouldn’t think we don’t have to work for it. It takes effort or what we refer to as austerity. In the Srimad-Bhagavatam, Lord Rishbhadeva tells his sons that human life is meant for austerity because by austerity one can attain unending bliss. Our problem is that we’re not serious about attaining the goal. Materialists are so serious about such things as making millions of dollars or winning Olympic medals that they perform incredible austerities to attain their goals. We have to muster at least a minimum amount of desire if we expect to attain Krishna.
Srila Prabhupäda said that performing sinful activities while trying to advance in spiritual life is like trying to ignite a fire while pouring water on it; it won’t work. What you propose won’t work. You can’t have it both ways. Your problem is one of desire. You have to increase your desire for spiritual life. How can you do that? Regularly chant Hare Krishna, read Srila Prabhupada’s books, associate with devotees, visit the temple, and so on. You are fighting an inner conflict, being pulled in two directions. If you want to be successful, you have to increase your attraction to the pull of Krishna. Sinful life will dampen the power of even the best spiritual practices. Again, you have to have enough determination to give up sinful life. Pray to Krishna for that, not for material things. He can give you strength and determination, as He has for thousands of others.
Most ISKCON devotees came from backgrounds that included sinful acts, but they were able to give them up. It’s not so hard to give up meat-eating, for example. Millions of people who aren’t even spiritually inclined have given up this vicious habit. Don’t think that you can sincerely offer prayers to the Lord while slaughtering his innocent creatures. We suggest you at least give up this bad habit to show Krishna you’re trying.
Q. What is the difference between MAHAT-TATTVA and FALSE EGO?
A. Mahat-tattva is the sum total of all cosmic manifestation, the sum total of the material world. It is the germinating place of all creation. It is created by Maha-Visnu, a plenary portion of Lord Krishna.
Regarding false ego and other material elements, you may refer to Srila Prabhupada’s purport in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (2.2.28). A section of that purport is given below:
“Srila Sridhara Svami confirms that a part of the material nature, after being initiated by the Lord, is known as the mahat-tattva. A fractional portion of the mahat-tattva is called the false ego. A portion of the ego is the vibration of sound, and a portion of sound is atmospheric air. A portion of the airy atmosphere is turned into forms, and the forms constitute the power of electricity or heat. Heat produces the smell of the aroma of the earth, and the gross earth is produced by such aroma. And all these combined together constitute the cosmic phenomenon.”
Q. I read in the Srimad Bhagvatam that Lord Krishna is the creator of everything that exists including demigods. However how did Krishna come into existence. I know that He always existed before but yet there should be a time when He also got into creation. Kindly explain.
A. It is explained in Katha Upanishad,”nityo nityanam cetanas cetananam….” which means that there are 2 eternals, one is the eternal living entity and the other is eternal Supreme Lord.In the material world we do not have experience of any object which does not have origin. Every object in the material world has beginning, middle and an end.
However spiritual objects are opposite to material objects in the sense that they do not have beginning and an end. They exist eternally. Therefore when we explain God has no beginning that means we can not put a particular date at which He came into existence.
By definition He is the beginning of everything, “ishvarah paramah krishnah,sac-cid-ananda vigrahah,anadir adir govindah,sarva karanam karanam“. He is the cause of all causes. If He had some cause, then that cause would have been the superior to Him. This is little difficult to understand in the beginning, however it is possible to understand it by performing devotional service to Lord Krishna.
Q. What is the position of Kundali in Krishna Consciousness ?
A. Astrology is definitely a perfect science; however it needs a proper brahmana to explain that.
Previously brahmanas were having purity and intuition to predict certain events. However in Kali-yuga it is difficult to find that. If someone is in Krishna consciousness, then he/she is completely under the control of Lord Krishna’s internal energy. Lord Krishna decides what is best for His devotees. Since He is the Supreme Controller of all planets, He may change the position of planets for His devotees. When someone is in Krishna consciousness one need not fear or be anxious, but simply depend on Him.