Krishna Consciousness Benefits Body and Soul

Humans have a great fear of growing old. We worry about the loss of looks, stamina, and abilities. We are concerned about our declining health and ultimately, we are concerned about the fact that every day we grow older, we are moving one step closer to death. People react to this fear in various ways. Some people accept the fact, but lament it; while others strive to hold onto their youth for as long as possible. In either case, the end result is misery.

In the first instance, the individual will sit idly by as their life slips away, and they will live in mortal fear of its passing — embracing every ailment and every pain as further reason to lament. In the second instance, a person will dye their hair and undergo plastic surgery to maintain the illusion of youth. One will expend their lives in a mundane search of adventure, believing this to be the purpose of their existence, and not understanding the suffering they are bringing on themselves through such senseless activity.

No matter how hard one tries to escape it, aging and death are inevitable; but they do not have to lead to misery and suffering, nor do they need be a cause of lamentation. Krishna Consciousness can teach the reality of old age and death. The Bhagavad-Gita states:

jara-marana-moksaya
mam asritya yatanti ye
te brahma tad viduh krtsnam
adhyatmam karma cakhilam

“Intelligent persons who are endeavoring for liberation from old age and death take refuge in Me in devotional service. They are actually Brahman because they entirely know everything about transcendental and fruitive activities” (BG 7.29).

Srila Prabhupada’s purport on this verse further says: “Birth, death, old age and diseases affect this material body, but not the spiritual body. There is no birth, death, old age and disease for the spiritual body, so one who attains a spiritual body, becomes one of the associates of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and engages in eternal devotional service, is really liberated.” The Bhagavad-Gita instructs us that we are not these bodies.

vasamsi jirnani yatha vihaya
navani grhnati naro ‘parani
tatha sarirani vihaya jirnany
anyani samyati navani dehi

“As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, similarly, the soul accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones” (BG 2.22).

The physical body is temporary. Disease, old age and death of this physical form is inevitable. This knowledge is greatly needed at the present time. ISKCON is 50 years old this year, which means that many devotees are now in their 70s and 80s. They are feeling the effects of this material condition. What is to become of the devotee who suffers a terrible disease or infirmity which prevents him from caring for himself? Like many people, he may need to enter a retirement facility or hospice where he can be cared for.

Unfortunately, in almost every instance, these facilities are not Krishna Conscious. One may ask why this matters. Are the devotees not receiving the medical care and attention required? The answer is yes and no. Different facilities have different standards of care, but even if one receives the best care that western science can provide, that care is still deficient without Krishna.

The Krishna Conscious lifestyle will greatly enhance the spirit soul, but it can also make the material life better. To demonstrate this point, let us consider three key elements: Diet, Association, and Sankirtan.

The Bhagavad-Gita says:
yajna-sistasinah santo
mucyante sarva-kilbisaih
bhunjate te tv agham papa
ye pacanty atma-karanat

“The devotees of the Lord are released from all kinds of sins because they eat food which is offered first for sacrifice. Others, who prepare food for personal sense enjoyment, verily eat only sin” (BG 3.13).

The devotee who is fed only Krsna Prasad will enjoy a karma-free diet that aids in the liberation of the soul. Such a diet will also benefit the heath of the material form. The diet of most western non-devotees is high in fat, cholesterol, starch and artificial additives. It usually also includes liberal quantities of alcohol. Each of these will lead to health issues such as heart, kidney and liver disease. The greatest contributor to these problems is meat consumption.

To offer just one thing to illustrate this point, we should consider that humans are designed like herbivores, and as such, our intestinal tract is twelve times the length of our bodies. So, when a person consumes meat, it will sit in the intestinal tract where it will rot and pick up parasites which can lead to further health problems. Despite this, nursing homes, hospitals and hospice facilities continue to serve meat. In fact, many doctors argue that meat consumption is necessary for a healthy diet.

Our acarya, while still a small child, demonstrated the fallacy of medical science. In the first volume of Srila Prabhupada lilamrta, Satsvarupa dasa Goswami writes:
When Abhay was one-and-a-half years old, he fell ill with typhoid. The family physician, Dr. Bose, prescribed chicken broth.
“No”, Gour Mohan protested, “I cannot allow it.”
“Yes, otherwise he will die.”
“But we are not meat-eaters,” Gour Mohan pleaded. “We cannot prepare chicken in our kitchen.”
“Don’t mind,” Dr. Bose said. “I shall prepare it at my house and bring it in a jar, and you simply…”
Gour Mohan assented. “If it is necessary for my son to live.” So the doctor came with his chicken broth and offered it to Abhay, who immediately began to vomit.
“All right,” the doctor admitted. “Never mind, this is no good.” Gour Mohan then threw the chicken broth away, and Abhay gradually recovered from the typhoid without having to eat meat” (p. 5).

The Second aspect of the devotee’s life to consider is association. The Srimad-Bhagavatam states:

satāṁ prasaṅgān mama vīrya-saṁvido
 bhavanti hṛt-karṇa-rasāyanāḥ kathāḥ
taj-joṣaṇād āśv apavarga-vartmani
 śraddhā ratir bhaktir anukramiṣyati

“In the association of pure devotees, discussion of the pastimes and activities of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is very pleasing and satisfying to the ear and the heart. By cultivating such knowledge one gradually becomes advanced on the path of liberation, and thereafter he is freed, and his attraction becomes fixed. Then real devotion and devotional service begin” (SB 3.25.25).

In the purport to this verse, Srila Prabhupada explains: “One must give up the association of materialistic persons and seek the association of devotees because without the association of devotees one cannot understand the activities of the Lord.” When placed into a typical retirement home or hospice facility, the devotee is surrounded by materialists who speak of everything except Krishna. They may discuss issues of heath from a secular standpoint. They may discuss sporting events, the lottery or wins and losses at a recent trip to the casino. They may discuss the illicit activities of royalty, celebrity, and neighbor. They may blaspheme or use foul language. One will hear every manner of foolishness coming from the lips of these people, but never will one hear the transcendental vibration of Hare Krishna. Surrounded by such individuals, one could fall down in one’s service, relax one’s chanting, or otherwise be harmed in body and spirit. So, it is crucial that devotees have the opportunity to associate with other Krishna Conscious devotees.

The final aspect of the devotee’s life to consider in this article is Sankirtan, the chanting and hearing of the Holy Names. The regular chanting and hearing of the transcendental vibration of ‘Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare/ Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare’ is the supreme method of attaining Krishna Consciousness in this age of Kali. The benefits, both spiritually and materially, are legion. For example, Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.11.2 tells us that “the Holy Name vanquishes the fear of material existence”, and in the Nectar of Devotion, it says “By chanting the Holy Names one becomes fearless of death.” Sankirtan is perhaps even more important for the elderly. It is indicated in Srimad-Bhagavatam that:

dakinyo yatudhanyas ca
kusmanda ye ’rbhaka-grahah
bhuta-preta-pisacas ca
yaksa-rakso-vinayakah
kotara revati jyestha
putana matrkadayah
unmada ye hy apasmara
deha-pranendriya-druhah
svapna-drsta mahotpata
vrddha bala-grahas ca ye
sarve nasyantu te visnor
nama-grahana-bhiravah

Here, elderly gopis are speaking to Lord Krishna. “The evil witches known as Dakinis, Yatudhanis and Kusmandas are the greatest enemies of children, and the evil spirits like Bhutas, Pretas, Pisacas, Yaksas, Raksasas and Vinayakas, as well as witches like Kotara, Revati, Jyestha, Putana and Matrka, are always ready to give trouble to the body, the life air and the senses, causing loss of memory, madness and bad dreams. Like the most experienced evil stars, they all create great disturbances, especially for children, but one can vanquish them simply by uttering Lord Visnu’s name, for when Lord Visnu’s name resounds, all of them become afraid and go away” (SB 10.6.27-29).

So, by chanting the Holy Names, one can be protected from many dangers and negative elements.

In conclusion, we can find that diet, association, and sankirtan are the crucial elements that will allow the elderly to accept aging without lamentation, and to accept death without fear. They will allow the devotee to live a healthier, happier, and more meaningful life right up to the moment of death. However, these are the very elements that are being denied many of our elderly devotees in traditional care facilities. This is why it is so important that Krishna Conscious retirement homes and hospice facilities be constructed. Once established, the elderly devotee in need of care will be fed delicious prasad, while being surrounded by other devotees engaged in the service of Krishna. Please help the Vedic Care Charitable Trust to attain this worthy goal.

Part 1 – Simple for the Simple

“Krishna consciousness is simple for the simple”, Srila Prabhupada used to say, “simply a matter of understanding and accepting.” And, “what is the difficulty?”

Srila Prabhupada used to talk about our being Krishna conscious, on what he referred to as “the mental platform.” What is this mental platform? The mental platform means that we know the philosophy, but we don’t walk the talk. We can quote so many verses, present so many good arguments; but we’re not yet embracing Krishna within our hearts.

In days of old, a king would make a document official by stamping it with his ring, and gradually that took the form of an official rubber stamp. The rubber stamp meant that a document was authorized. But Srila Prabhupada said that we can’t rubber stamp a devotee. In other words, one can go through the authorized process of initiation, but that doesn’t make one a devotee. Similarly, Srila Prabhupada used to talk about the “show bottle”. The show bottle was placed in the drug store window in order to advertise a medical product. The liquid in the bottle would be colored just like the real medicine, but the medicine wasn’t in that liquid. It was just a show bottle.

Why did Srila Prabhupada talk about the “rubber stamp” and the “show bottle”? He talked about these things because he was talking about us. He was talking about devotees who live on the “mental platform” of Krishna consciousness. We can do our sadhana, and that’s very good. We can engage in practical service for spreading Krishna consciousness and serving the devotees. But in the purport to Bhagavad-gita 9.2, Srila Prabhupada tells us that Krishna is only interested in the love with which we perform these activities.

In Krishna consciousness, love is the medium of exchange. We daily repeat the prayer that says that Srila Prabhupada came to the western world to deliver us from impersonalism and voidism. But until we engage in Krishna consciousness with love in our hearts, we remain on the impersonal mental platform. Krishna wants our love.

I have one friend who used to be the vice-president of a major temple. He gave up Krishna consciousness. He said, “I did everything, but it just didn’t work for me.” Myself, I was initiated in 1968, and for years I did my sadhana, wondering if I would ever have a sense of loving reciprocation with Krishna. But it was only in the last so many years that I began to understand that Krishna loves me. “What changed?” The only thing that changed was that I began to learn how to open my heart and focus my love on Krishna.

Krishna is not hiding from us. He came to our planet just to tell us that all He wants is our love. Krishna is very personal. And He sends His pure devotees who travel the globe canvassing on Krishna’s behalf. So, if we are not feeling a sense of loving reciprocation with Krishna, it’s not because Krishna is hiding from us. He has already made the first move, and the ball is in our court.

How does Krishna respond? He responds in proportion to how we relate to Him. This is His promise in Bhagavad-gita. We are practicing bhakti yoga. Our connection with Krishna is through love.

When I was a kid, there was one song: “What Is This Thing Called Love?” The fact is – love is what we are. As pure spirit soul, we are never without love. But when that love is manifested through the agency of the modes of passion and ignorance it becomes expressed in a perverted manner, taking the form of self-centeredness. This is clearly stated in the Introduction to The Teachings of Lord Caitanya.

In Krishna consciousness, we have the most sophisticated understanding of God and our eternal relationship with Him. This is an enormous step forward in our journey home, to the spiritual world. But now we have to cultivate our capacity to live in love. We have to cultivate the ability to live with love as the baseline of our walk through life. In bhakti yoga, “the means and the goal are one and the same”. It is all about love.

Some devotees are inclined to think that if we do our sadhana and our service long enough and intensely enough, that one day… a light will go on… and we’ll be blessed with love for Krishna. But it doesn’t work that way, and it won’t work that way. Krishna is personal. As we cultivate the ability to focus our loving propensity on Him, He reveals Himself to us. In this way our love continues to grow. And the more it grows, the more intimate that revelation becomes.

We have to contemplate this very seriously. All of us can have a sense of loving reciprocation with Krishna right now. Krishna consciousness is “simple for the simple”. How long does it take? Srila Prabhupada says we can be Krishna conscious in a second. Krishna consciousness is being conscious of Krishna in a way that is favorable – conscious of Krishna with love in our hearts.

This practice is not as elusive as it may seem. It is our aspiration to continue to bring this subject matter into focus in a way that is tangible, in an on-going series of installments on this site. There is nothing as exciting as Krishna consciousness. We are so fortunate. Let us keep in touch. In the meantime, ask yourself, “Am I approaching Krishna with love in my heart?”

An Introduction to Achintya-Bheda-Abheda Tattva

The philosophy of Acintya Bhedabeda Tattva embodies the quintessence of all systems of Indian philosophy. Indian philosophy, embodied in the Vedic literatures, is over 5000 years old and inspired the birth of the two great Eastern religions, Hinduism and Buddhism. It has also greatly influenced the western world, particularly over the last 200 years. Most systems of Indian philosophy propound the view that the universe is fundamentally one, part of and pervaded by the Supreme Being, from whom it has emanated. As such, they maintain that the universe is not the outcome of blind chance, but that it is the result of intelligent design and that it has meaning and purpose. Furthermore, according to most systems of Indian philosophy the material universe, in which we live, is only part of an infinite and spiritual universe. Both the material and spiritual universe are considered energies of God, the Supreme Spiritual Being. The spiritual universe is defined as God’s internal energy, and the material universe His external energy. All living beings in the material world are essentially spiritual, and part of His internal energy. Finally, according to most systems of Indian philosophy, God is defined as a transcendental Person, endowed with consciousness, attributes and form, and who stands at the center and source of his infinite energies and emanations.

At the cornerstone of this world view is the notion that God, and the universe emanating from Him, are essentially one and different. He is one, in that He is the origin of, and pervades all beings, and He is different, in that His energies have their own independent existence and identity. This independent existence and individual identity accounts for the world of many-ness and variegatedness.. The problem is, that the principles of oneness and many-ness contain a logical paradox, and appear to be mutually exclusive. On the bases of logic it is indeed hard to reconcile how one entity can be one and many at the same time. Within the different schools of Indian thought, philosophers and mystics have attempted to resolve this paradox by emphasizing one principle over the other, thereby reducing e.g. many-ness to a by product of oneness. Some schools of thought, taking a more extreme position, have even postulated that only oneness is real, and that the many-ness constitutes an illusion. Throughout the history of Indian philosophy this theme, and its implicit paradox, has been at the center of philosophical discussions.

Thereby the oneness and many-ness principles do not just confine themselves to the relationship between God and His creation. The principle extends to virtually all areas of philosophy and science, such as the relation between matter and consciousness, between qualities and substance, between particles and fields, between energy and matter, and the personal and the impersonal. Interestingly, therefore, it appears that the principle of oneness and many-ness, with its inherent paradox, extends to all areas of reality.

Within the history of western philosophy we also find the constant recurrence of the oneness versus many-ness theme, resulting in different schools of opposing thought. Thereby the parallels between Indian and western thinking are striking. Most notable is e.g. the discussion and debates that have flourished on the issue of realism and idealism, or the relation between matter and consciousness, during the 16th and 17th centuries in Europe.

The great 16th century Indian philosopher and mystic Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu formulated a new principle, shedding light on the paradox, and making explicit what was already acknowledged implicitly by many great Indian thinkers. Caitanya stated that the principles of oneness and difference are inherently inseparable, that they always exist simultaneously, and that their simultaneous existence lies at the core of all metaphysics. He furthermore stated that the simultaneous existence of oneness and many-ness is called Acintya in Sanskrit, which means “inconceivable”. Inconceivability implies that this aspect of reality is inconceivable to the human and finite mind, and transcends the principles of logic. The philosophy of Caitanya has been formulated in Sanskrit as “Acintya Bhedabheda Tattva”. Acintya means inconceivable, Bhedabheda means simultaneous oneness and many-ness, and Tattva means principle or truth.

The problem is, of course, that if we abandon and ignore the principles of logic, then we may be forced to accept any irrational worldview, and loose our ability to analyze and verify scientific and philosophical theories. For logic lies at the core of all philosophy and science. The principle of Caitanya however, makes a noticeable difference, in that Acintya Bhedabheda Tattva should not be considered ‘illogical’, but rather it should be considered ‘supralogical’. The difference is that while a supralogical principle may appear to defy the laws of logic, the principle itself can be perceived and verified by means of direct perception, and has an empirical foundation. As such the principle of Acintya Bhedabheda Tattva can be observed in many phenomenon and occurrences in this world.

A good example is the perception of a red rose. As mentioned before, the discussion on one-ness versus many-ness has extended itself to all aspects of philosophy and science. In the western tradition, two schools of thought emerged on the issue of the relation between substance and its qualities. One school, called the realists, founded by the Greek philosopher Plato, stated that qualities and substance are in fact two different realities. E.g. Plato postulated that there is such a thing as universal ‘redness’, that becomes superimposed along with other universal qualities, on a particular material substance, thereby creating a red rose. Plato therefore viewed qualities and substance as being different. Many centuries later another school of thought emerged, called the nominalists, that disagreed with Plato, and postulated that a quality can never be separated from its substance, and that quality and substance are in fact one and the same. This discussion is a very good example of the paradox inherent in the relation between a substance and its qualities. The fact is, that they are simultaneously one and different, and that while this may transcend, or defy, the laws of logic, our perception of the red rose confirms the principle.

Another example is the spatial perception of an object, say a coin. While the coin is one, it has many sides, an inside as well as an outside, an upside and down side. These different sides establish an element of many-ness within the object, that is simultaneously perceived as one object.

In modern physics the relation between particles and fields has been a subject of many discussions. Scientists have observed that a field, or wave, sometimes behaves like a continuum of energy (oneness), and other times behaves like a stream of finite particles (many-ness). The phenomena has in fact been named “wavicles” clearly establishing the simultaneous oneness and many-ness of these manifestations of energy. The discussion reflects the underlying principle of Acintya Bhedabheda Tattva. Following this theme, modern physics leans towards a worldview whereby the universe is seen as a unified field of energy, from which finite particles, in the shape of matter, emerge as a continuous process of creation. These finite particles can at any time revert back to their non-finite energetic state, which paints a picture of oneness (the field) and many-ness (particles) continually interchanging, and in fact simultaneously coexisting.

There are in fact many more examples that could be adduced to illustrate the principle of Acintya Bhedabheda Tattva, and that confirm the principle by means of direct perception. As such the principle is not illogical, but should be defined as ‘supra-logical’, transcending the limitations of the finite human mind.

Ultimately the philosophy of Acintya Bhedabheda Tattva explains the relationship between God and His creation, and more specifically, it also explains the relationship between God and living entities, such as ourselves. The philosophy of Acintya Bhedabheda Tattva states that this relationship too, is characterized by simultaneous oneness and difference. We are one with God in a qualitative sense, however we are different quantitatively. In quantity God is infinite and we are finite. It is therefore a mistake to assume, as some Indian schools of thought have advocated, that man is identical to God, and fundamentally one with Him in every respect. We are not God, merely small parts of God, with a limited degree of independence.

Acintya Bhedabheda Tattva also sheds light on the identity of God Himself. It maintains that while God is a transcendental Person, he is simultaneously impersonal as well. The relationship between the personal and impersonal too has been the subject of many philosophical arguments. While consciousness and form represent the personal aspect of God, infinity and all-pervasiveness represent the impersonal aspect, which attributes appear contradictory. Acintya Bhedabheda Tattva maintains that they both exist simultaneously, and that they complement each other. God is simultaneously full of form and formless, finite and infinite, personal and impersonal.

The philosophy of Acintya Bhedabheda Tattva, as expounded by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, therefore represents a revolutionary new paradigm in our ability to understand reality, and it in fact resolves many of the apparently irresolvable paradoxes that have dominated philosophy and metaphysics in the east and the west for thousands of years.

Part 2 – Cruise Control

What does it mean to be a conditioned soul? It means that our eternal blissful knowledge is obscured by the influence of the modes of material nature. It’s just like shining a pure white light through a colored lens. That same light continues to shine, but it takes on the color of the lens. In the same way, our original consciousness has become subject to the conditions, or qualities, of the modes of material nature. We are never out of touch with our original spiritual consciousness. But, our experience of it is conditioned.

Love is a symptom of the soul. We are pure spirit soul. Therefore love is what we are. We are never without that love. But it is re-qualified by the modes of passion and ignorance, manifesting as a perverted, self-centered orientation. Therefore in order to be Krishna conscious, we have to become free of this influence.

In his introduction to Teachings of Lord Caitanya, Srila Prabhupada expresses this as follows: “In our original relationship with the Supreme Lord there is real love. That love is reflected through material conditions, but reflected pervertedly, and not exactly… in this material world, love lacks continuity…” Love means giving, feeling pleasure in the happiness and well-being of others. When this same energy is reflected in a perverted manner, it becomes self-centered and exploitive. The ability to experience the happiness of selfless service is lost, thereby robbing us of the inherent self-satisfaction of the soul, causing us to jump from one thing to the next, one person to the next, endlessly seeking and never experiencing fulfillment. We have to soberly contemplate the understanding that self-centeredness is a dead end, and that actual fulfillment is only found in taking pleasure in the happiness of God and all living beings.

How do we make this internal adjustment? Imagine, if you will, the temperature of your fridge. The fridge is cooled according to the thermostat setting. The same is true of the amount of love that we carry in our hearts. We are all moving through life, according to our individual cruise-control setting, without realizing that our present setting can be voluntarily adjusted. In the mode of ignorance we are almost on empty, feeling dark and undone. In the mode of passion we begin to reach out, to be fruitive, to be goal-oriented, to seek fulfillment in things outside of ourselves. And as the mode of goodness dawns we begin to sense the inner light of self-satisfaction. In Bhagavad-gita, 17.16-17, Krishna tells us that manah-prasada, “satisfaction of the mind”, is tapo manasam, the “austerity of the mind”, an austerity that is sattvikam, “in the mode of goodness”.

The fruitive demeanor and the devotional demeanor are mutually exclusive. The fruitive demeanor is a self-centered orientation; and the goal of the devotion is simply Krishna’s satisfaction, Krishna’s pleasure. Therefore before we can be devotional, we have to relinquish the fruitive orientation. Before we can give up the desire to be the controller and the enjoyer, we have to master the art how to become internally self-satisfied. But love is self-satisfied. Therefore the easiest way to become peacefully self-satisfied is to cultivate the ability to walk through life with love in our hearts. In that way we become doubly-qualified. On the one hand we are freed of our self-centered fruitive propensity. And on the other hand, we are able to approach Krishna with love in our hearts. This is the science of Bhakti Yoga, the science of Krishna consciousness.

We have to begin to monitor our individual cruise-control setting. How much love do we carry in our hearts? Are we capable of engaging in our duties in a loving, serving mood, happily accepting that Krishna is in control? Or do we find ourselves repeatedly struggling with life, in the arena of success and failure, victory and defeat?

This cultivation of love is our tapo manasam, our “austerity of the mind”, the austerity that gradually becomes a source of nectar. We have to experience the wondrous discovery that when our hearts are filled with love, we become effortlessly indifferent to dualistic concerns. We have to discover that to live in love is a choice, and that the happiness of love is always available to us. This is the beginning of understanding that “I am not this mind”, and that happiness is an inside job, independent of external conditions. This is the mode of goodness, the doorway to the brahma-bhuta platform. And we have to cultivate it, purposely, always retracing our steps when we lose our bearings. Until we try to live in this way, we won’t actually appreciate the intensity of our self-centered orientation. Therefore Krishna refers to this shift as tapo manasam, the austerity of the mind. And because it is an austerity requiring purposeful effort, Krishna describes this quality of happiness in the mode of goodness as “Poison in the beginning; nectar in the end”.

When we first come to Krishna consciousness we are addicted to self-centered processes. Krishna consciousness is our therapy. The therapy of the soul. As we cultivate our ability to bring love into focus in our hearts, we begin to feel Krishna’s presence. We begin to understand that Krishna loves us. And we begin to look forward to each new day as an opportunity to cultivate our relationship with Krishna. The only price we have to pay, is to make the subtle effort, to adjust our cruise-control level, switching gears into the love mode, and cultivating our ability to hold that setting. Then our Krishna consciousness comes to life, so that we can experience Bhakti Yoga, our connection with Krishna, through the medium of love.