Becoming Varëäçrama Alert
By His Grace TejiyasDäsa
If we become Varëäçrama alert, or sensitive, and then examine, or re-examine Çréla Prabhupäda writing, speaking, we will notice that though everything is Kåñëa, Kåñëa, Kåñëa, and the center is Kåñëa, Kåñëa, Kåñëa, inescapable and crystal clear, 90% of His words, and the words of the Gétä, and the Bhägavatam, talk about varëä and äçrama, the setting, so to speak, of how one applies Kåñëa consciousness.
So one would be in complete error, that in any way, to leave out, or diminish, the process of devotional service, and most specifically the chanting of the transcendental sound vibration Hare Kåñëa, Hare Kåñëa, Kåñëa Kåñëa, Hare Hare/ Hare Räma, Hare Räma, Räma Räma, Hare Hare. But BUT but, to do that, for ones own self, in a sane way, and more so, for a large number of persons to chant Hare Kåñëa and make their primary aim of life to become Kåñëa conscious, we could certainly use the Varëäçrama as the institution of economic and social organization. Without it, life is in chaos, where ones economic needs dictate to every facet, every moment, every action, and every movement of life. In a sane society, the economic process serves the social ends, of any kind. In an insane society, life revolves around a brutal and harsh necessity of economic survival. One struggles day and night, and till the end of life. In that struggle, one loses the possibility, and even the conception, of family and friends, and of society that support one from childhood to old age, in all activities of life, especially spiritual.
The problem is that all of us, through education, through media (including newspapers, and magazines), have been de-sensitized and de-historicized from the traditional life, the epitome of which is Varëäçrama. Thus hardly a soul knows, or thinks, that, even a few years ago, there were revolutions in society, both in the East and the West, fighting against economic development becoming the prime aim of life. Even in the USA, Ford was speaking against massive factories, and massive industrialization, as was Marx. And in Massachusetts, when Horace Mann dictated that his form of education (which aimed at preparing children to become factory workers and quit the farms) would be compulsory, the common man rose up in revolt. In England, one Mr. Ludd created a revolutionary force and was burning factories, to keep the people free. And of course there was India, South America and other countries, even into the mid 1950s. Now, it is all but forgotten.
Life was centered on values, and even the products of such a society, anywhere in the world and at almost any time of the world, till about 1950, were of value. Now life is centered about valueless, temporary acquisitions and that is about it.
So the actual life of Varëäçrama is sublime. It affords one a delightful, meaningful and rich childhood, in the association of a large family (one's entire village) with abundant time with one's many parents, friends and, particularly, elderly and saintly people. It also allows a graceful and anxiety-free continuation of life, where, practically speaking, there is not even a thought about maintenance, concluding into old age, where one is protected and maintained, as an axiomatic part of existence. In even the most simplistic forms of traditional society, hardly a thought was ever given about how one
would support oneself (in fact everyone was supporting each other by definition-a very nice system), and likewise, by definition, all ones needs, including education and health care, were given. Now, these are great struggles, and in the USA, at the age of 65, 87% of the men have less than $250 to their name. Health care, even in remote India, is now the greatest source of anxiety, and no one can say for sure how they will maintain themselves next week; life is so uncertain.
So, in the name of having technological wonders, every single aspect of life that creates happiness, security and well being, has been thrown away. The tide has turned, by the decisions made and implemented, by endorsement and support and dissemination, from the leaders of society. This was the change from simple life of inherent and fundamental values, which produced many valuable thinkers and actors, to a valueless life, one that produces nothing of
value and is spiritually bankrupt.
In an asuric Varëäçrama, economics dictate to every facet of life and produce, by its defects, a social life aimed at sense gratification; and in Daivé Varëäçrama, economics are the servants to all aspects of life, that produce, by its support, a spiritually upwardly, progressive social life that aims at freedom from sense gratification. By its very nature, involvement in the ugra-karmas and thinking process, and association spun out of the asuric system, which produces useless things, ones spiritual life, ones family life gets degraded in contact with the modes of ignorance and passion prominent in that work. And by its very nature, in the Daivé Varëäçrama, sve sve karmaëy abhirataù saàsiddhià labhate naraù [Gita 18.45], one becomes purified by the background mode of goodness and vasudeva sattva that propels that arrangement.
So, even this idea of creating jobs for the devotees, which deals with artificial products, is not one step closer to Varëäçrama. It is the farms, and the farms only, that provide the liberating economics, with agricultural products as its main emphasis. That agricultural production, which is done independently, using local materials, with the cows’ and bulls’ cooperation, liberates one from dependence on the ugra-karma system of mad economics. It lends itself for the entire development of all aspects of Varëäçrama. "Unfortunately", there are no other ways; it is designed by the Supreme Lord Himself. Annäd bhavanti bhütäni [Géta 3.14]. Kåñi-go-rakñya-väëijyaà [Gétä 18.44]. Produce food, grow grains, this will maintain the humans, HUMANS, humans; the humans and the BY PRODUCTS of the grains will maintain the cows and, if need be, provide excess for trade and commerce.
Çréla Prabhupäda said that feeding cows grains results, ultimately, in the slaughter of cows. This is the ugra-karma conception of cow exploitation. It is not economical and cannot be maintained. Right now, coming out of ISKCON, so far that I have seen, is a very impractical suggestion about cow protection. One is told that one needs to spend $15,000 per cow as a fund, to maintain the cow in old age. Considering that there are bulls, too, and old cows, and inflation, that works out to $50,000 and since the herd gradually increases, that means my children probably would be looking at $200,000 that they would need to cough up to maintain the cows. So let us take a scenario, say Hungary. Suppose the Government leaders tell us: "We would like to institute cow protection, how much would that cost?”. And we tell them, it would cost 400,000 (their cow population -but then again there are bulls) times $50,000 or $ 20,000,000,000, and that is just to start. They would cough back their words and choke to death. Or, suppose some pious business men come forward? They would think:
1. Kåñëa cannot be God, since the economics He proposes do not
truth for all time and circumstances.
are not very practical.
In fact, one can achieve great prosperity by protecting the cows and the bulls, even today, just as in the past, and this will be so, for all times to come. But, one must know, understand and apply the science of Varëäçrama. There are many defects in the way we think about Varëäçrama. These come from our mis-education from many sectors. One of the misconceptions is the value of goods. The other is the inter-relationship between members of the society based on Daivé Varëäçrama concepts. These two aspects inter-relate and a correct understanding of them is fundamental to being liberated from
In history there has been a transition to the modern economic way of thinking. Overall, everyone thinks in terms of a value to the product. At different times, the attribute of this value has changed, from mixtures of the following determinants:
However, seemingly subtle to the modern mind (and for that matter, to varying degrees, to the traditional society), the Daivé Varëäçrama social economic system placed the “value” in the value of the product itself. There are a few notable exceptions to this principle, such as gold or commonly accepted trading markers. However, the overall percentage of production of society was not traded, so the importance of an element of exchange was not very relevant. A quick, rough estimate would be that historically, perhaps five or ten percent of the total product of society was traded.So, if it was not traded it was the means of interchange of the production and service of society.
This brings up the second conception (the concept of relationships) that was prevalent, almost all over the world, more or less, and for almost all time, until very recently in less developed countries, and until about 1500s or even more recently in the so-called states of the West. In the modern world, it is an economic relationship. And these follow the same six values listed above. Some think that in the traditional society there was barter or even, some propose, a concept of reciprocation. The underlying premise of the concept of reciprocation, in the minds of those participating in the traditional society, is more subtle to describe and also not so easy to understand. However, I myself lived in such a culture, and I would propose a different, mind altering, understanding of the fundamental definitional relationship between different members of the society, especially prevalent in the Daivé Varëäçrama.
It is very essential that this concept of relationship be understood, accepted, imbibed and that it become the very determinant of the causes and guidance of the fairness and methodology and modus operandi between individuals. This must be defined.
I will give an example from real life. I will note that it is not perfect, as perfect varëäçrama was not in place, but a very close resemblance was. I am a visitor to a village, in India, many years ago. The barber comes, as he regularly does, or upon call, to the farmer’s house where I am staying. He shaves the man, and his male children (including the underarms), trims their nails and he shaves me too. There is no payment made, there is no notes made in any book of accounting. The same thing goes with the dhobi, the pot maker, and many other individuals, including the labors that help the farmer. The laborers each have their little piece of land, and when harvest time comes, the first bags of rice (in this case, being the south) and dahl, go to these various persons who have performed services to our farmer. When I got shaved, or got my clothes washed, as a guest, it did not get added onto the bill. There was no bill. What ever the harvest was, more or less, it was shared, more or less, by the farmer, with other inter-related members of the social economic participants. And, of course, the teacher got grains, and the temple brähmaëa (who also got gifts at various ceremonial events). When someone got married from this circle as well, the farmer would send them gifts, of grains, or even other things he had acquired.
So just as, inextricably, the parents, in a normal setting, think of their relationships with their children as definitional, existential, and not determined or caused or measured by any other factor, in a very similar way, almost exactly, and in fact just exactly as that, one sees ones relationship with others. Tena tyaktena bhuïjéthä [Éçopaniñad, 1]. As Çréla Prabhupäda quotes from the Puräëas, the relationship of the members of Varëäçrama, with each other, are just as the body parts. It is definitional, it is tacit, and it is fundamental; it cannot be separated out under any conception.
So I leave you with these thoughts.
I hope this finds you in good health and joyful Kåñëa Consciousness.
Begging to remain your servant,
November 28, 2003
*** Tejiyas Däsa hails from the United States of America. As a young Peace Corps Worker, he traveled to India serving in the interior villages imbibing the traditional Vedic lifestyle of ancient India. He soon joined the Hare Krishna Movement and received initiation in May of 1970. Tejiyas served many years in various parts of India, overseeing various major projects such as Våndävana and Bhuvaneçvara. He also served as the Temple President for ISKCON Delhi and Regional Secretary for Bihar and Orissa. During his stay in India, he enjoyed the personal association of Çréla Prabhupäda who gave him various instructions on the importance of self-sufficiency, what Çréla Prabhupäda sometimes referred to as the “Farm Movement”. In the past few years he has traveled extensively to various farm communities in different continents. He currently resides in South India doing research and writing
Interview conducted with
His Holiness Bhakti Räghava Swami Mahäräja
By Çréman Hari Kértana Däsa, Puncak, Indonesia
March 23, 2003
BRS H.H. Bhakti Räghava Swami. Mahäräja
HKD Çréman Hari Kértana Däsa (AP - India)
HKD Hare Kåñëa
BRS Hare Kåñëa
HKD Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Çréla Prabhupäda. Mahäräja, Çréla Prabhupäda said that fifty percent of his preaching work was established; another fifty percent is still left. Would you please elaborate on this?
BRS Yes, fifty percent of Çréla Prabhupäda’s mission is yet to be done. There have been, actually, various interpretations about this. I would say that the majority of devotees, whom I know, understand that this fifty percent is, actually, the establishment and development of varëäçrama. This includes, we could say, varëäçrama development and, specifically, varëäçrama rural development. It also includes establishing Varëäçrama Colleges. There are many, very clear, detailed instructions by Çréla Prabhupäda on Varëäçrama Colleges, even in his Essay on Gétä-nagaré, which he wrote before going to America. Varëäçrama Colleges are actually meant to help set up varëäçrama communities.
Although initially, Çréla Prabhupäda (and there are quotes to that effect also), was giving less importance to varëäçrama and concentrating more for people to take directly to Kåñëa consciousness (he even mentioned that it is not possible to have varëäçrama and sometimes people quote this particular passage), later on (we can say in the last few years and especially during the last year Çréla Prabhupäda was with us), he actually explained, and we see that also in a practical way, that so many of our devotees cannot come up to the platform of pure devotional service. We all know it is not such an easy thing. Therefore, in order to help our community, our society, our devotees, both individually and collectively, come up to the platform of pure devotional service, varëäçrama is necessary. It is like a tool by which one can learn to live a regulated lifestyle, follow different saàskäras, and receive proper training and proper education so that one can advance toward the goal, in a very methodical and scientific manner, because varëäçrama is actually very scientific. It is the ideal and perfect program because it is given by Lord Kåñëa himself, as mentioned in the Bhagavad-gétä, and of course in the Çrémad Bhägavatam especially.
So this fifty percent is referring to establishing varëäçrama and what we fail to understand, even though we are in the year 2003, is how to go about establishing varëäçrama. We have been and we are somewhat still slow in understanding what the scope of varëäçrama actually is, what it all means. And this is so for many of our devotees, I would even say for a number of our leaders, I feel. My understanding, from reading various quotes and hearing conversations etc. from Çréla Prabhupäda, is that we need to understand, because we do not realize or possibly do not know, that
although we are largely established in the cities (and Çréla Prabhupäda himself established our temples mainly initially in the cities), Çréla Prabhupäda did not really want us to remain in the cities.
There are direct quotes from Çréla Prabhupäda where he is, in the context of varëäçrama, explaining to the devotees that we need to establish these communities, rural communities, to give an example, to serve as an example, to people, that actually this is the natural way of life we should be living, because the cities are unnatural the way they are set up.
Cities of course exist in the Vedic times, but the present cities are based on demoniac principles and are degrading people. Also the very structures of cities are falling apart. They are worse than jungles, Çréla Prabhupäda mentions in the Çrémad Bhägavatam. But we are making very little effort, on the whole, within our society. Very few efforts are being made at varëäçrama. The essence of varëäçrama, the centre of varëäçrama, is intimately, closely, and directly connected with land and cows. How many of us in the cities think of land and cows?
BRSWe are lucky if we even go out of the city occasionally to know and to see that there are still some land and cows. We have undeveloped consciousness of what land means, of its importance and of the fact that land is actually a personality Bhümi. We call her Mother earth: what does it mean? And also the Çrémad- Bhägavatam says that land is one of our mothers, and so are the cows. By not moving in this direction, by not understanding its importance, its urgency -I have mentioned it a few times already, what we do not realize is that the cities are meant to be primarily for devotees who
will preach to other people that actually we do not belong in the city. This may seem like a somewhat shocking or drastic statement to make, but Çréla Prabhupäda has very clearly said that the cities are going to crumble, to fall apart. And he gave the reason: the main
reason (he pointed to the cities of America and Europe) why cities will be destroyed (that they are being destroyed and will ultimately crumble), is because of this one most unforgivable sinful activity of allowing the slaughtering of cows.
And as devotees, it is unfortunate to say, we are, I wouldn’t say completely oblivious, but very less concerned; we are forgetting how important the cow is to Kåñëa!
Kåñëa considers the cows more important than the brähmaëas! And we know how important in the Vedic culture the brähmaëas are: they are the head of the society, the leaders of the society, the spiritual guides. But the cows are dearer to Kåñëa than the brähmaëas. So as devotees how often do we think about cows? How connected are we with cows? How often do we see a cow? How often do we feed cows? Even with the cows that we have in the few places where we do have cows (which are not very many), there are so many things we still need to learn about them. Our consciousness even there is not very high.
The realization I clearly get in reading various passages from Çréla Prabhupäda’s books is that our living basis as devotees should not in fact be the cities. Our homes and the future of our children should not be in the cities. We should only go or commute to the cities to do our business; otherwise, we shouldn’t be there. If one is living in the city and is not preaching, he is in the wrong place, he shouldn’t be there. We are in the cities because the majority of people are there and that is where we can preach to people, but again Çréla Prabhupäda very clearly mentions that our preaching will be ineffective if we don’t have a model to show to people. So who is working on creating models? In the few farming communities that we have, we have to get away from the idea of just doing farming. What
we need to do is actually establish villages or, like in India, Indonesia and in Asian countries where there is still the presence of villages, somehow save the existing villages from becoming deserted (which is the trend right now).We, as devotees, have to either save villages by having families become devotees in existing villages or we have to start from scratch.
We have to start. We have to get a fair amount of land and we have to divide this land similarly to what we have done here in Indonesia with our Gétä-nagaré Baru project: one section is residential and the other section is for farming. Even within the residential area each devotee residence has sufficient land for its immediate vegetable needs and for some fruit trees as well. All kinds of useful information are there in the Vedic literatures for these purposes, based on Vastu. We can take good advantage of all this, without getting overly involved in Vastu and such, considering them primary factors, but they do have their place.
We need devotees to understand the scope of varëäçrama. We speak of varëäçrama very often, but do we grasp the scope and the depth of what varëäçrama actually means? I haven’t met that many devotees who understand what Çréla Prabhupäda actually meant.
Therefore Varëäçrama College is intimately connected with varëäçrama development and varëäçrama communities, because there are so many things we have to learn, there are so many skills we have to develop. We have to learn about the different varëas and the different äçramas. Factually speaking, in order for varëäçrama to take place in its fullness, it has to happen in the country; it has to happen
in the rural areas. It is not possible to have vaiçyäs in the middle of Calcutta! You might have some cows in the middle of Calcutta just wondering around (and all over India you have that) but vaiçyäs
means in the country. And in the varëäçrama set up, actually the majority of people are in the category of vaiçyäs and çüdras.
And of course, this is part of the education that we have to give: to get out of the negative connotation of the word “çüdra”. Çréla Prabhupäda uses the word çüdra. He is not afraid to use the term çüdra and he gives it its proper meaning and understanding. We just have to educate ourselves, and educate others, that this is part of what we call “facts of life”, “realities of life”. There are these different categories and, once again, if we just stop and analyze, this whole thing is completely scientific. This is stated in so many places.
There is a need to present varëäçrama to the scientific community and to the academic world in a very scientific manner so that people can begin to understand it. I would say that, unfortunately, many of our own devotees are, again, lacking in their understanding and in their conviction that “this is what we have to work on”.
So whatever we may be doing in the cities, the long run is to get back to the land because we cannot flourish as communities, nor can we flourish as individuals, nor can our children flourish in the cities. We have to get back to the natural way, to the norm. There is a norm as to how the society is meant to be organized. That norm is varëäçrama, based on Kåñëa consciousness, daivé varëäçrama. There are important books to read like the one compiled by Hare Kåñëa Dasi Mätäjé and the essay of Çréla Prabhupäda “Gétä-nagaré”. I also recently came across compilations of Çréla Prabhupäda’s quotes by His Grace Airävata Prabhu: Vedic Sociology and Vedic Economy. He has compiled them very nicely and if one just gives some time to study, read and discuss with other devotees, it will just become so crystal clear: “why are we not doing this?” After all it is a direct order
of Çréla Prabhupäda and, you know, fifty percent of anything is quite substantial. Isn’t it? Practically very little do we hear of Varëäçrama in its practical application. There is a great need, and time is running out. The more we delay, the more difficult it will be for us to adjust, the more difficult it will be for our children and the upcoming generations to adjust.
In one conversation Çréla Prabhupäda is practically arguing with his disciples, who are giving him all kinds of reasons why we should develop this program and that program in the city. Then Çréla Prabhupäda retorts: “We don’t want cities”. We do not want cities he said! Then this devotee is even counter arguing with Çréla Prabhupäda, saying: “But Prabhupäda, you established all the temples in the cities!” Then Çréla Prabhupäda's rejoinder: “For now… O.K.” The he went to say: “Are you still going to be in the cities when the cities crumble?” - Ahhhh… [Mahäräja makes an expression of disbelief as on the face of the arguing disciple.]
We have to do this. It is very important… and it cannot come artificially: we have to develop vision. We have to have vision. We have to have Çréla Prabhupäda’s vision! That comes simply by taking, by receiving what Çréla Prabhupäda is giving. And it has to do with realization. Kåñëa consciousness has to be with realization. It is not some artificial process. We have to understand what we are doing. We have to understand where we are going. We have to understand where we should be going. So it requires education and it also requires training, both of which we have been very much lacking, unfortunately. And again, this Varëäçrama College is meant for that purpose.
Nowadays, all over the world, governments stress so much about education. It is kind of a joke though, because they do not
really know what education is. And it is all geared towards getting jobs and making money. Education isn’t really for that purpose. In the same way, agriculture is not really meant to be a business, agro-business. This is all economic development. All countries are now just mad after economic development. That is actually bringing the downfall of our present civilization, all over the world.
There is another conclusion, perhaps shocking for some, which comes from realization and from reading Çréla Prabhupäda’s books that the majority of people are not meant to go to school. The majority of people where I studied at the university, I could see that in point of fact didn’t belong there! They were just wasting their time. They were there actually because they just want to get that piece of paper. This is called “diploma oriented society”. Japan is well caught up in that. Not only Japan, but China, and all the countries are.
HKD Every part of the world…
BRS Yes, every country; the majority of people… If you see and know a little about varëäçrama, who is meant to get an education? There are different kinds of education like formal for instance. Formal education is usually a long term affair, following particular curriculums etc. Actually I am doing studies in education right now, at the Masters level in education. Something good about my courses on education is that it helps me understand what education is. Education is something which is very vast. One nice idea which is coming out in the recent paradigms (there are a few nice things…) is what is called the concept of “life-long education”. But even there,
the concept of “life-long education” is already there in Vedic culture. Varëäçrama is in fact life-long education.
You know we start at the brahmacäré äçrama, student life, and we end up in the renounced life. If we do not end up in the renounced life then, next life, we again have to start brahmacäré, or whatever, if we are fortunate enough to get a human birth. But in the concept of life-long education at least some people are making a step in the right direction, knowing that education is meant for life. Now they have to figure out “what is education?”- number one, and number two: they have to figure out “what is life?” Life is not only this material life. Life is not only for the few years we are in this body. Life means eternal life and education means material and spiritual education combined together.
So the whole material setup, as we know, is just based on a lot of speculation and we also know, from personal experience and observation, that speculation doesn’t really give many results. I mean it gives results but all bad results: the kind of results that bring you headaches, sufferings, pains, and things like that. So the solution to our problems, the way we can be happy, the way we can actually be growing is education within varëäçrama. Life is meant to be a growing experience, growing in awareness, growing in consciousness: that is what Kåñëa consciousness is all about. And therefore we have a tremendous responsibility as devotees, those of us who are teachers, those of us who are parents. Essentially, there are many kinds of leaders and teachers. The concept of life-long education touches this a little in that actually, all of us are meant to be simultaneously students and teachers .Whatever we know, we should try to share it with others, and we should also understand that even though we may be teachers, even in a formal way, we are also always students.
Although education is meant for everyone, and for the whole life, formal education, is not for everyone. The majority of people should not be in school, people should not be caught up, it is not
their place to be taking up what is called formal education, like spending many years in some kind of institution. Formal education is meant for the brähmaëas essentially, and in the varëäçrama system or in any society, brähmaëas, the really intelligent people, are very few, especially in Kali Yuga. So the majority of people are actually çüdra and vaiçyäs by nature. Çréla Prabhupäda says that actually they do not need to go to school to learn what they need to do.
That they don’t need to go to school doesn’t mean they don’t need education. We have this false conception that if you do not go to school you are not educated. We have another false conception that if you do not know how to read or write, you are not educated. That is wrong.
To be illiterate doesn’t mean to be uneducated. Prabhupäda points out that village people like in India, or in similar places where they are God conscious, they are more educated than people with PhDs, although they cannot read and write. We are left and caught up with these false conceptions. And in most countries, they are trying to raise the level of literacy and one is judging how advanced is the country on the level of literacy. This is all bogus: false propaganda. Especially now-a-days, the more literate you are, the more you have access to all kind of garbage literatures and the more you actually become polluted because there is no proper training and guidance. The majority of people in Kali-Yuga are çüdra. Actually we are all born çüdra and, therefore, because of there are no proper guides, no proper leaders, we basically and essentially remain çüdras. A çüdra is someone who can’t look after himself. So we are being misguided constantly and therefore our consciousness, our activities, everything is polluted.
HKD I have another question. Devotees often argue that, “Na me bhakta praëaçyati”, that my devotees never perish and that devotees are generally practicing devotional services like çravaëam, kértanam, smaraëam, well, in the city so: what is the need, really, to build villages and shift there? People’s lifespan as it is, is very short. How
to defeat this argument?
BRS Well, çravaëam, kértanam, yes… but who is hearing Çréla Prabhupäda’s instructions to get back to the villages? This is the answer. We are engaging in chanting, we are engaging in hearing, but, what is the quality of our chanting? What is the quality of our hearing? When the Founder Äcärya of our society makes a statement that fifty percent of his work is not done, what are we doing sitting around, doing so called hearing and chanting? We should be hearing not only selected instructions from Çréla Prabhupäda. It is a fact, of course, that one can become realized simply by any one of these activities of devotional service. But the fact remains that, actually, hearing is the most important, and if we do not hear those important instructions by Çréla Prabhupäda we are going to miss out. This is, I would say, a very crucial instruction. This is a crucial instruction in the present context, in the world situation which every single day is falling apart, and with the suffering of individuals, especially of animals -especially of cows. Atrocities are being committed every single day that we are not aware of… that we are not aware of! That means that we are not hearing. We are not attentive, and we can say that by that we are disobeying the orders of Guru and committing Näma aparädha. The third offense: disobeying the orders of the spiritual master.
So this could open a whole different subject matter: why do we have so many problems in our society, individually, collectively, amongst ourselves in relationships? Well we have to come back to
these basic things. Until we do that, in all likelihood our problems will not be resolved. There are people who are not even devotees who understand some of these things better than we do!
HKD You are saying that now is the time to really get back to the villages and lead a natural life. To practically get this done, we see only two options: one is to convert the existing villages, I mean help them to become Kåñëa conscious and help them to understand the great advantages that they have living in such villages, and the second option is for us to create new villages, on Kåñëa conscious principles, from the start. Which do you think is most effective, most practical?
BRS Well, I would say that both are needed. In some places, it may be more practical to start a new village, in other places it may be more efficient, more practical to work with an existing structure. Of course, very often it is more difficult to work with an existing structure because of the inherent conditioning that is there. There are many factors and influences. So both, I would say. Both should be tried out, should be experimented with. I am quite confident, personally, that both can work if we have the right approach, the right understanding and individuals who are willing to make the effort. It is not easy… It is not at all easy. As devotees, all of us are heavily conditioned in the modern way of doing things, the modern way of life, the modern way of thinking, etc. We became also very attached to our computers [laughs], and to so many material facilities like that.
Obviously we have become too attached, overly attached. Again it comes back to hearing: Çréla Prabhupäda, in many places, explains that we should learn to be content with the minimum. This is important. We should learn to live with the minimum. We should
learn to simply have what is required to keep body and soul together. This doesn’t mean we should live in poverty, but it means that we need to cut down because there are so many things (we do not realize), that we do not need. Most of us have a surplus of things, unnecessary things. Our present modern civilization has become very expert in producing all kinds of unnecessary tools and facilities, etc.
What is very essential for us, and it is there of course in the philosophy, is to understand that our real satisfaction and happiness can only come and will only come when we practice real devotional service. And real devotional service is not dependent on anything material, as we learn from our philosophy. We have to learn to put into practice the philosophy that devotional service, spiritual life, is not dependent on our material situation. We may live in a so called good material situation, with various facilities, whereby we should not become enamored by or attached to that. And likewise, we may be in a completely different impoverished situation, but similarly we should not become discouraged by that. If we actually have, if we actually understand, if we actually practice devotional service, then our material condition, our material situation will become -and it has to become- secondary. This one of the important features of varëäçrama: that the emphasis is on always keeping in mind the focus, Kåñëa consciousness. The whole Vedic culture is teaching us these very basic, primary points.
So in the material world because the majority of people do not have Kåñëa consciousness, do not practice spiritual life, therefore they have to hang on to something. They naturally have to be attached to something and that something will be something material. So we have to essentially learn to become attached to simple things, to a simple way of life. Learn to be satisfied by relationships with Kåñëa conscious devotees. And here again, if we continue to live in the cities, there is simply too much constant advertising and allurement away from spiritual life. All kinds of pollutions, consciously or unconsciously bombarding our senses at all times. I think you know, in Secunderabad it is like that.
HKD Oh Yes!
BRS In all the cities… cities are especially like that. So depending on different factors we choose. In our particular situation here in Indonesia, we opted to start something from scratch. It took quite some time to find a proper piece of land. So we have at the present sixty hectares and we are in the process of acquiring more land, another twenty hectares that we are looking at right now.
In the last three years, we saw, the nucleus of a small village coming up. We can actually see it now. It takes a bit of time, but in one sense, not that much time. Three years is a relatively short time I would say. And we see how our devotees are becoming gradually, step by step, better established. And I asked some devotees a few days back, when we were there: "How is everything? How is life in GNB?" They replied "Actually, it is quite nice. It is okay". It is a learning process really.
HKD Another positive aspect is that new people are also joining, aren't they?
BRS Yes! Whenever we have festivals, we have people coming, learning about it. That is what Çréla Prabhupäda meant by “you create, you become an example”. You create an ideal living situation. Whoever comes there will see: "Ah, it’s so nice here! People are happy…" Many of our devotees are genuinely very happy that they are living amongst like-minded souls. Of course, many of our devotees have professions in cities and many engagements, etc, and for many of them, it may seem completely impossible -and possibly for some it may be impossible- to completely leave the cities. What is important is that, again, we should not put -as the odd expression goes in English, all our eggs in the same basket. If we are going to put them somewhere they should be in the country. Eggs belong in the country, come from the country anyways. So even people who are professionals, etc, if they get an opportunity to visit places where we are developing communities in the country, they will begin to appreciate and understand.
The mere fact that, the mere statement given by Çréla Prabhupäda, that cities are going to crumble -and they are crumbling under our very eyes- in itself should be sufficient to make our devotees understand: "Maybe this is not really a long term situation for me here…" and in point of fact it is not.
HKD Mahäräja, this last point, myself representing a spoilt conditioned city…
BRS Prototype! …city boy! [laughs]
HKD Having heard about cow protection, the importance of cow protection, if we were to take up something about it what could someone like me do? Can we try stop cow slaughter? Can we go on to preach about it? Or do we get a cow and struggle with it?
BRS As long as you continue to live in Secunderabad, I think it will be difficult to just get a cow! There are a number of things that, as devotees -especially those living in the cities for instance- we should do in order to progress in this direction. First of all there is a need to become conscious ourselves of the need for cow protection. What it means and how unprotected our cows are, all over the world, how deplorable is the present situation, what kind of reactions it must be creating that will eventually come back to all of us .
Some practical things we should do, yes, both individually and, because we are a society, even more so collectively. As a society in different cities around the world, we should be much more active in terms of making propaganda against the slaughtering of cows and cruelty to animals in general, but especially the cow.
There are organizations, groups of people, who are not devotees, but are much more active than we are to protect even specifically the cow. Lord Caitanya, five hundreds years ago, organized the first civil disobedience movement by having a hundred thousand people march to protest against the Chand Kazi. In the purports of that particular pastime, Çréla Prabhupäda explains that as devotees we have a right to protest. It is not only a right but it is our duty to protest against activities against dharma. And the most obvious thing promoting adharma is the condition of our unprotected cows. There are many things that can be done in the city. One possibly is working with other groups concerned, like the animal rights movement. Some things are being done. For instance every year, they have this “Meat Out” campaign that has been going on for many years and our society is active in supporting their activities.
So, in other words, there are people, again, who are not as such, as we understand devotees with tilaka etc, but who are another brand of devotees, we could say, who have similar concerns. Working with them is one possibility. And as a society on our own too we can
take up actions like in the past we did protests against abortion for example. That is another atrocity in modern society that we should be much more active and concerned about.
In addition, our congregations in the cities need to be educated. Our devotees need to educate our city people. They need to inspire them to actually do something in the country like you (Secunderabad temple) are endeavoring to do. Not only speaking in favor but also doing something concrete to develop it. We should inspire people to purchase some land. Even individual can purchase some land to just come back to the reality of land and cow.
Of course, we have to prepare ourselves especially to look after cows. It is not an easy thing. I would say we are ignorant, to a large extent, on how to look after cows and what are the requirements. I have come to realize, and I have heard from different devotees who are knowledgeable that it is even a greater responsibility to look after cows than to look after children. One should think more before having a cow than having a child, because each child is going to grow up and is going to be independent, is going to be able to look after himself, not so for your cow. Your cow will always depend on you. So if you are not ready… you know a cow lives for a good twenty years or more and has by products, calves. So it entails long term responsibility.
So there are concrete things we should discuss amongst devotees and between temples possibly. I mean I don’t see these things on the agendas of the ICC, not to criticize ICC meetings or any other kinds of meetings, regional or global, but very little is going on. This year, in Mayapur, I understand that there was a seminar, a workshop on cow protection by the Ministry of cow protection, which is very good. We need more of these things and we need to filter down on different continents, regions and all of our temples.
Again it is a symptom of ignorance on our part, ignorance on the one hand and carelessness or just indifference on the other hand. Indifference is a very big detriment for advancing in spiritual life. Indifference is a kind of impersonalism. We are impersonal towards the cows because we do not think about them. It is a result of our disease of impersonalism we have inherited, I think especially in the western countries, but also all over the world. And Kåñëa consciousness is meant to destroy this: namas te särasvate deve gaura väëé pracäriëe, nirviçeña çünyavädé päçcätya deça täriëe. Not only in America, all over the world, we are so affected, afflicted by this disease of impersonalism and Kåñëa consciousness is meant to destroy that because Kåñëa consciousness is personalism in its pure form. And it will only become manifest, in its pure form, as we become personal, when we will have the cow, Kåñëa's dear most beloved friend and devotee, constantly in our mind and our lives. Not only thinking about them, but our lives so arranged that we will touch base by serving or seeing them daily, or by somehow or other connecting with cows or cow product, like ghee, urine, dung, butter, yogurt, buttermilk or milk. Govinda Restaurants is one way. Of course, in the beginning of our movement, we were cooking daily with ghee. Now how many temples even are cooking with ghee?
HKD We have become just like any other restaurant.
BRS Yes. So we need to read more of the Kåñëa Book where protection of cows is stressed and underlined. We just need to hear
more of Çréla Prabhupäda’s instructions. We need to discuss about them, and not only discuss, but we need to start putting them into practice. We have to set down goals. We have to plan things out. We
are very bad at planning in ISKCON, unfortunately, very bad at setting goals. We have to grow up, we have to mature. We have to become more purified...
HKDThank you very much for those very enlightening thoughts Maharaja.
BRS Thank you.