Seminar: Why Join ISKCON?
26 December 2005
om namo bhagavate vasudeva . . .
Tonight we have another special topic in our Suva Seminar Series. Tonight’s topic is ‘Why one should be a member of ISKCON.’
“The thoughts of My pure devotees dwell in me, their lives are surrendered unto Me, and they derive great satisfaction and bliss by enlightening one another and conversing about Me.” - Bg 10.9
So Krishna is there, the original Supreme Person. He is called adi-purusa. He’s the original person. Anadir means He has no origin, and adir means He is the origin. [Brahma Samhita 5.1] And that Supreme Person, as we have explained previously, is emanating from Himself countless numbers of living entities for the purpose of expanding His own enjoyment. He is manifesting millions and millions – an infinity, actually – of living beings. Just as a husband and wife will fill the house up with children because it gives more rasa, more loving relationship, similarly Krishna also fills up the Existence with an infinite number of living beings so he can enjoy loving relationships with them. Thus by constitution the jiva, or the living being, is a lover of God by nature.
As we have also previously explained, love must be voluntary. If I try to force you to love me, with a knife at your throat, can you love me? No. You will hate me. So Krishna gives the living being the free choice to love Him or to leave Him. That is required for love to exist. And since that free choice is there – to love God or to leave God – then there must be some degree of possibility that you could misuse that free will. Otherwise it doesn’t really exist. There has to be that possibility of misusing that free will; and possibility translates into some degree of probability, which brings us into the realm of mathematics known as probability statistics. If you apply even an incredibly minute fraction - .000000001 – against an infinite number of living entities in Existence, then you have an infinite number of souls who have chosen to enter into the material existence to try to enjoy separately. As Madhumangala Prabhu asked us in today’s special beach seminar, “Why does Krishna send the living entities away and now want them back in the spiritual world?” Well, Krishna doesn’t send anyone away! Do the parents send the child away? No; the child runs away from home. In the spirit of rebellion against his parents, he runs away from home -they don’t kick him out. Similarly, we are runaways. We ran away from home; we were not sent away.
Now if you’re away from home, you’re in a very difficult position. You have no shelter. There’s really only one thing that’s meaningful to do if you’re away from home, and that is to somehow get back home. Anything that you may do which is not helping you to get back home – anything which is keeping you lost – is, as the Bhagavatam says, srama eva hi kevalam [SB 1.2.8]. It is a useless waste of time. So therefore, we should focus all of our energies on going back to home, back to Godhead. We should not waste our time – srama eva hi kevalam - running after various forms of gross and subtle sense gratification. There’s no point in doing that.
Therefore, we should find that sanga - that association, that organization, that place, those people (if there are such persons anywhere in the world) – we should find those persons who are actually, seriously cultivating returning back to their original identity in the spiritual world. If there are any people who are going that, then we should associate with them, because that will help us. For example, here in Fiji, there are different clubs. There is the Lion’s Club – the businessmen form the Lion’s Club so they can get together and roar about business – in this way, to achieve a common purpose they form an organization. Likewise, if we can find persons who are serious to return to their original, spiritual identity in the spiritual sky, then if we associate with such persons, this will be very beneficial for us. We are very fortunate that one such organization was founded in 1966 by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada – a wonderful organization called ISKCON, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness – to enable the members to regain their original, spiritual identity in the spiritual world.
There’s something very special about this ISKCON society: Prabhupada. That’s because Prabhupada was deputed to this planet directly by Krishna. He was sent from the spiritual world to give this knowledge to the suffering souls of the Age of Kali. There are many different spiritual leaders of different degrees of authenticity (or lack of authenticity) in every country of the world. For instance, we recently passed by a billboard with a big picture promoting some Christian leader. We have so many spiritual leaders who are talking about God. They have some degree of authenticity, and perhaps some degree of inauthenticity, because the actual knowledge of how to get back to the spiritual world comes from the spiritual world. That’s called Vedas. Thus, as Bhaktivinode Thakura points out, the Vaisnava dharma described in the Vedas is actual religion. Any other religious process – whether you call it Christianity, Judaism, whatever – is legitimate to the extent that it aligns with the Vaisnava dharma. Other religious processes do have legitimacy – to the extent that they agree with the principles of Vaisnava dharma; and to the extent that they disagree, they are illegitimate.
So there’s actually only one religion. Vaisnava dharma is the one religion that exists. There is no other religion. Christianity has authenticity to the extent that it mirrors the principles of Vaisnava dharma. Islam, Judaism, Sikhism – all these other ‘isms’ have legitimacy to the extent that they present the principles of Vaisnava dharma. But the full, pure presentation of Vaisnava dharma is given in the Vedas, and those Vedic scriptures have been explained more thoroughly, more completely, with more illumination, with more understanding and with more potency by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada than by any other spiritual master in the history of the universe.
So anyone who is serious about actually achieving spiritual perfection will naturally be attracted to Srila Prabhupada, the teachings of Prabhupada. They will naturally be attracted because there is no one else who is presenting the Vedas with this much potency, this much clarity, and this much purity as Srila Prabhupada – not even other Gaudiyas. Sometimes they actually disagree; they say that Prabhupada is wrong on certain points of philosophy. But that’s their mistake. (Sorry.) Prabhupada was sent from the spiritual world by Krishna Himself just to write these books. And they think Prabhupada is wrong on points of philosophy? They’re wrong. That’s all. Anyone - even other Gaudiya leaders - if they disagree with Prabhupada’s books, they are wrong. Their understanding isn’t perfect; it’s incomplete, and they are minimizing Srila Prabhupada.
Therefore we respect them – “It’s nice that you chant Hare Krishna”– but we’re going to stay here at Prabhupada’s lotus feet. “We’re not interested in coming and hearing what you have to say because you’re saying that Prabhupada is wrong. You’re minimizing Srila Prabhupada, and that’s an offense.” This is Vaisnava aparadha being committed against the greatest spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada. So we don’t want to associate with such aparadhis against Srila Prabhupada. Therefore we stick with those persons who are serious to read Prabhupada’s books, to follow Prabhupada’s books, and to distribute Prabhupada’s books for the benefit of all fallen souls. Those are the people with whom we associate, and those persons have banded together under the name of ISKCON, the International Society of Krishna Consciousness.
ISKCON is not a sectarian religion. It’s not like we have one church on this corner, and the ISKCON church on that corner. No. ISKCON is presenting the pure essence of religion – what actual religion is, in its pure form, before man started to pollute it with his own ideas, saying “There’s my religion, there’s your religion.” That’s not religion! Prabhupada one time called it “Churchianity.” That’s not religion.
Actual religion is one: to love God. God can have millions of names; we never say that Krishna is the only name for God. He can be called Allah, Jehovah – the name Christ is actually a name for God also; it’s actually “Jesus of the Christ.” “Jesus” is his first name and “Christ” is his last name. The father’s name was actually “Christ,” which is derived from the Sanskrit word “Krishna.” It comes from the same root . . . it’s the same word, actually, just coming down through the Greek language and filtering down into the English language as “Christ.” So God can have millions of names, but He is still one Person, just as the one sun has so many different names. In Hindi it’s called “surya;” in Spanish it’s called “el sol;” in English it’s called “the sun” – there are so many different names, but the sun is one. Likewise, religion is actually one – to love God, that’s all. Simply one thing.
But these fools, these rascals, want to divide religion and say “no, my religion is good and your religion is bad.” And we see on Christmas Day how morose they are. It’s the happiest day of the year; Lord Jesus has come – and they’re just miserable. Why? Because they have taken Christ out of Christmas. They replace Christ with – what is that? - Fiji bitter? – beer. We’re actually celebrating Christmas at every minute in the presence of the great acaryas. Wherever Krishna is being worshiped, all the acaryas are present. Where there is nice kirtan going on, all the great acaryas are actually present in that place. We are actually being blessed by the presence of all the great acaryas by having this Hare Krishna kirtan. They are all attracted to this Hare Krishna kirtan. So this Society is the right place to be if you’re interested in actually tasting the real nectar for which you have been eternally hankering - this is the right place to be.
Somehow we have to induce everyone to join this movement, or if not to join the movement, at least to study the books and draw Prabhupada’s teachings into their own religion. At least they should do that much. If they are to remain in their Christian church we have no objection. But let them stop eating meat and let them study Prabhupada’s books – “how to become a perfect Christian” or “a perfect Muslim.” That will make the world peaceful. If they want to remain as Christian or Muslim, we have no objection. But everyone should read Prabhupada’s books and integrate these teachings into their lives. If this is done the whole world will become peaceful and happy. A wonderful, golden age of love of God will flourish all over this planet. The Age of Kali will be driven back; it will become Satya Yuga on this planet. Everywhere will be like heaven, all over the whole earth plane.
The politicians are always worried, “Well - what about global warming? What about terrorism?” And these are real threats. These terrorists have no scruples; they’ll kill anybody. Just imagine if they were to get atomic weapons in their hands what they could do to New York City. They could blow up the whole city. This terrorist threat is very big, and there’s only one thing that can stop it: Krishna consciousness. Why? Because terrorism is simply a manifestation of Kali.
You see, these governments – these cow-killing, baby-killing governments – are also terrorists. They cannot stop terrorism because they themselves are terrorists. Just imagine if al-Qaida got nuclear weapons, smuggled all the parts into New York, had them assembled, and then called up President Bush and said, “Okay – here are our demands. We’re taking over your country. Either that or New York City goes up in a nuclear cloud.” President Bush says, “No way – we don’t negotiate with terrorists.” So pfssh! New York City – ten million people killed instantly. And then there’s another phone call – “All right; LA is next. Are you ready, Mr. Bush, to negotiate with us, and accede to our demand?” Just imagine if al-Qaida got a hold of nuclear technology how bad the situation could get. And they could get a hold of it at any time. We’re not joking around here. This is serious stuff. This is not hee-ha, fun and games – this is serious business.
As Prabhupada said, we actually have to lead the world out of chaos. We have to – because there is no alternative. Kali Yuga is coming on with ever-increasing force, and if we do not become powerful preachers of Krishna consciousness, individually and collectively – if we do not manifest powerful leadership on this planet - then there is no telling how bad it will get. And it may not take very long. We’ve seen the signs already with 9-11. And they’re not stopping. These people are thirsty for blood. So we have to be very, very surrendered; we have to be very, very dedicated to establishing Srila Prabhupada’s teachings as the guiding principle for the entire human society by ourselves becoming very, very learned in Prabhupada’s books and very, very aggressive and enthusiastic to make this knowledge available to everyone – to attract everyone to this Krishna consciousness movement. That is our duty.
So that being said, are there any questions?
What is the need for so many religious books? When the Lord comes, or His messengers come, they give separate rules, or separate messages - why are there different religions?
Actually, it is that in this Kali-Yuga these pseudo-religions have been introduced. They are not genuine - Prabhupada said they are false, actually. For example, the original, pure teachings of Jesus have been distorted. Jesus actually was a Vaisnava. But the followers have distorted his teaching. The Council of Nicea, around the year A.D. 325, rewrote the scripture to allow for meat-eating and to purge reincarnation from the Bible because they wanted the Roman emperor to become Christian. It was a political move. The Roman emperor was a meat-eater and didn’t believe in reincarnation, so they rewrote the scripture to satisfy him to make Christianity the state religion. They watered it down and adulterated it to attract the Roman emperor. So what we’re getting now is not the original teachings – it’s not what Christ taught. Prabhupada actually explains that Christ started the Christian religion as a protest against the slaughter of animals that was going on in the Jewish synagogues. Christ wanted to put a stop to this cruelty to animals. Buddha did also. But now these Christians – these low class, so-called Christians who are slaughtering animals and running slaughterhouses – they are not really Christians. They’re just cheaters, that’s all.
Sometimes the actual religious teachers will give other instructions because the people aren’t ready for the full instructions. Prabhupada called this “transcendental cheating.” For instance, Lord Buddha denied the Vedas because they were being misused to justify animal slaughter. So he said, “Vedas are false. Don’t hurt the animals because that hurt will come back on you – karma. You must practice ahimsa.”
Sometimes religious teachings are given in, you could say, an adulterated form or a very elementary form to suit that particular audience, so at least they can make some progress. But that doesn’t mean that the teachings of Lord Buddha are final because he was an incarnation of Krishna. We have to understand everything from the authority of the Vedas. Actually, Lord Buddha was defeated – his philosophy was driven out of India by Lord Siva, who came as Sankaracarya. Sankaracarya also gave a distorted version of the Vedas. He accepted the Vedas - where Buddha denied the Vedas, Sankara accepted them – but he presented them in an impersonal way which was akin to the voidism of Buddhism so that the Buddhists could accept the Vedas (in their adulterated form). This way the later acaryas – Ramanujacarya, Visnuswami, Nimbarka, Madhvacarya, ultimately culminating in Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu – could come in and establish the full-blown, complete understanding of Vedic wisdom.
So sometimes different teachers come and they will speak. Prabhupada said that Christ and Mohammed were both pure devotees. But obviously the audience was not very advanced in understanding, and they had to present something in a very scaled-down way just like Buddha did. In the Koran, for instance, it says “don’t have sex with your mother.” You can imagine what kind of low class people Mohammed was preaching to - “don’t have sex with your mother.” That’s for a very low, abominable class of people. So Mohammed elevated them some; and now it’s up to us to elevate them more.
To elevate everyone: that is our duty given by Caitanya Mahaprabhu. We are meant to elevate the entire human society – not to be comfortable in our Hindu temple. No way. We are meant to have a very missionary spirit of elevating the consciousness of all human beings on this planet. That is our duty. Maybe tomorrow night we will show how last April Mataji and I went into the Muslim world and attracted a whole hall full of Muslim people to chant the holy names in ecstasy. They had never heard of Hare Krishna before - and they loved it. Maybe tomorrow night we will show that video. Tell your friends, tell your family, tell your boss – tell everyone. Let’s just pack the hall tomorrow night, so everyone can see the Muslims chanting Hare Krishna in ecstasy.
After we came back from Turkey, having engaged these Muslims in kirtan, we were with a gathering of Hindu people in one home program. Many of them wouldn’t even chant. We had to tell them, “Actually, the Muslims chant better than you do.” Sometimes we see that Hindus think, “Yes, I know everything – I know about meditation, I know about Krishna, I know Bhagavad-gita – so I don’t need to chant this Hare Krishna mantra; I’m above that. I do silent meditation.” So we have a great mission. We have to uplift the whole world from the darkness of ignorance - as Prabhupada said, “So you can walk down the street and hear that in every home they are ringing the bell, offering arati (ding, ding, ding . . .)” - that is our mission. That in every country the high court judges will be wearing Vaisnava tilaka. Not that we just sit comfortably in our temple, thinking, “Now we have a nice building; we can eat and sleep – have nice chapatis, take nap” – no. Now we have to see how we can pack this hall. I’ve been here for many days, and it hasn’t been packed on even one day. It’s not been even 30% packed. When we did that program with the Muslims, that hall was packed. Of course it was a smaller hall, but still it was a packed hall. People were even looking in from the other room because not everyone could fit in the space.
So really, we can’t just coast now and take it easy. We have to think of how we can attract the whole world to join this Krishna consciousness movement. That is our duty. Prabhupada wants us to make a spiritual revolution for the re-spiritualization of the entire planet.
Any other questions?
All right then. If there are no more questions, then we will end here – unless anyone has another question. Everyone wants to go? Actually, the ladies are still doing service there; somebody should ask a question, so they can keep hearing.
[Mataji] What about the Bhagavad-gita in Turkey – how at the end of the program, they were buying the Bhagavad-gita?
Oh, yes. Not only did they chant with enthusiasm, but we had brought some Turkish Bhagavad-gitas to the program, and within five minutes every single Bhagavad-gita was sold out. They were coming forward with their money, trying to rush before the books were sold out. And some people were disappointed - they couldn’t get a Bhagavad-gita because we sold out. We brought every one that we could possibly carry with us to the program but it wasn’t enough to supply the demand. Mataji had a brilliant idea – she said, “Just tell them that for anyone who buys a Bhagavad-gita you will autograph it.” That really got them motivated. They came running, wanting their autographed Bhagavad-gita. That the guru would autograph it for them was a big prestige point.
And the previous day also . . .
Yes. We did a home program also. To pick us up, the host sent a limousine – a chauffeur came in a Mercedes limo. And you know how on the airplane you have the little place by the seat for the in-flight magazine? Well, they had Forbes Fortune 500 in the back seats of their cars, so when the boss goes to work every day he can read about the Fortune 500, and think of how he can get his company up there in the Fortune 500. I could see that they were really serious about being successful businessmen. So we went to this residence, and the businessmen were there in their suits, with their Mercedes’ parked outside. It was quite an interesting program, and they were very interested in Bhagavad-gita - very, very interested. They joined the kirtan, asked questions, purchased Bhagavad-gitas . . .
So we can see that this Krishna consciousness movement is just waiting to take off, all over the world. We just have to be qualified and competent to do our actual duty as spiritual leaders on this planet. This movement is ready to take off. Krishna wants it to take off, but we’re holding Him back by our anarthas – by our fighting amongst ourselves and not working together cooperatively. We’re just holding the movement back by our laziness, our lust, our anger and our greed. Lord Caitanya wants it to take off and we’re holding it back.
But that doesn’t mean we should leave. No. We just have to bow down before Sri Sri Gaura Nitai and pray to them: “My dear Lord, I’m now fully surrendered unto you; use me in any way that you see fit to push forward this sankirtan movement. For now and for all of eternity, simply take me as your instrument and use me in any way that you find most conducive for spreading this Krishna consciousness movement.” In this way we should fully surrender ourselves at the lotus feet of Sri Sri Gaura Nitai. If every member of ISKCON can take this mood very, very seriously – complete submission to the lotus feet of Sri Sri Gaura Nitai – then nothing can stop this movement from taking over the world very quickly – nothing! It’s our own anarthas that are holding us back. Right? That’s all.
So anyway, we’ll stop here. We thank you very much. You are the dedicated listeners. You are here tonight, and that speaks very well of your sincerity; so we thank you very much for coming. Srimad Bhagavatam ki jaya – raja vidya Srimad Bhagavad-gita ki jaya – Srila Prabhupada ki jaya – ISKCON Suva Vaisnavas ki jaya!
Transcribed by Her Grace Labangalatika devi dasi