March 2011

‘By brahminical culture, the development of the dormant qualities of goodness, namely truthfulness, equanimity, sense control, forbearance, simplicity, general knowledge, transcendental knowledge, and firm faith in the Vedic wisdom, one can become a brahmana and thus see the Lord as He is.  And after surpassing the brahminical perfection, one has to become a devotee of the Lord so that His loving affection in the form of proprietor, master, friend, son and lover can be transcendentally achieved.  The stage of a devotee, which attracts the transcendental affection of the Lord, does not develop unless one has developed the qualities of a brahmana as above mentioned’

[A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Srimad Bhagavatam 1.14.35-6 Purport, p.812]



‘Now, in the Bhagavad-gita you have read that mahad-yonir mahad-brahma tasam…it is stated there that aham bija-pradah pita: “I implant the seeds of living entities into the matter.”  So, in the matter the living, the seeds of living entities, as we are, they are impregnated.  As the father impregnates the mother, similarly, this material nature is just like mother, and therefore material nature is worshiped as mother, goddess, mother goddess.  Durga, Kali.  yes.  And this worship of the country, nationalism, that is also the same matter-worship.  Yasyatma-buddhih kunape tri-dhatuke. So long we are not enlightened, we are worshiper of this matter, energy.  And when we are advanced in knowledge, then we are worshiper of the Supreme’

[A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, lecture on Sri Caitanya-caritamrita M 20.255-281, 17 December 1966]

Today is Gaura Purnima, the Holy Appearance Day of Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.  Devotees of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) will be celebrating this festival all over the world, especially at ISKCON Mayapur, near the Lord’s birth-place.

Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is known as the ‘channa avatara’ or ‘hidden incarnation’ of the Lord.  He appears in this world to experience the sweet love of  Radha for Krishna.  As Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the Supreme Lord appears in the mood of His devotee – not in the mood of the Supreme Enjoyer, Krishna.  His eternal associates like Rupa and Sanatana Goswamis, however, understood His secret identity.

Here are Sanatana Goswami’s prayers to the Lord on first meeting Chaitanya Mahaprabhu at Dasasvamheda Ghata in Prayaga, India.  The first of these prayers is often recited when devotees perform worship, initiation ceremonies and food offerings to the Lord.  The second is not as well known, but equally important.  Lord Chaitanya is also known as ‘karuna avatara’ or the ‘avatara of compassion’:

namo maha-vadanyaya/krsna-prema-pradyate/krsnaya krsna-caitanya-/namne guara-tvise namah

‘O most munificent incarnation!  You are Krsna Himself appearing as Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu.  You have assumed the golden colour of Srimati Radharani, and You are widely distributing pure love of Krsna.  We offer our respectful obeisances unto  You.’

This is Sanatana Goswami’s next verse:

yo jnanam-mattam bhuvanam dayalur/ullaghayann apy akarot pramattam /svaprema-sampat-sudayadbhuteham /sri-krsna-caitanyam amum prapadye

‘Let me surrender unto the lotus feet of Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who is the most merciful Personality Of Godhead.  He delivers those souls who are merged in ignorance and offers them the highest gift, love of Krsna, and thus makes them mad after Krsna consciousness’

[Sri Rupa Goswami, Govinda Lilamrita 1.1-2]

Here is another beautiful verse from Sanatana Goswami:

na prema sravanadi-bhaktir api va yogo thava vaisnavo /jnanam va subha-karma va kiyad aho saj-jatir api astiva /hin arthadhika-sadhake tvayi tathapy acchedya-mula sati /he gopijanavallabha vyathayate ha ha madasaiva mam

‘I am poor in love of Godhead, and I have no asset for hearing about devotional service.  Nor do I have any understanding of the science of devotional service, nor any cultivation of knowledge, nor any righteous activities to my credit.  I am not even born in a high family.  Nonetheless, O darling of the damsels of Vraja, I still maintain hopes of achieving You, and these hopes are always disturbing me’

‘Such a devotee, being touched deeply by such strong desires, always chants Hare Krsna Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna Hare Hare/Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare’ [Teachings Of Lord Caitanya, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, p.139]

Go Raksha translates from Sanskrit to English as cow protection.  Aryan culture determined the piety of a nation by the happiness of its cows.  Indeed, the devas or demi-gods of the Hindu culture are said to reside on various parts of the cow’s body.  According to Vedic culture, she is also one of the seven mothers.  There is great benefit or punya in cow protection; on the other hand, it is considered a very serious sin to mistreat or kill our mother, the cow.

Cows are not protected in the west.  Western terms like cattle-raising and cow farming are euphemisms for cow slaughter.  Go raksha, or cow protection, respects the productivity of the cow.  The cow produces more milk than she needs for her own offspring – making her a wonderful provider for humanity.  Milk and dairy products are important products in the human diet.  Milk is important for the development of brain tissues in the pure vegetarian diet – crucial in the cultivation of a spiritual life.

Why would you want to kill a creature that is producing so much for you?  Can you imagine a world without milk and dairy products like cream, yoghurt and butter? Pure ghee (clarified butter) is considered one of the most effective medicines in ayurveda. Cow ghee – made from pure milk – breaks down cholesterol and has universal health benefits.  Cow dung has been scientifically proven to have antiseptic qualities.  It is an excellent fuel and also a source of methane gas.  In Vedic culture the bull ploughed the fields – executing many of the tasks performed by modern-day machinery.  The culture of go raksha was, therefore, eco-friendly, humane and economical.

Cow protection not only advocates a negative action, ahimsa, or non-violence; it encourages a positive action and that is to love and respect cows.   The dwelling and grazing area for cows in Hindu culture is called a goshalla. The word ‘cow’ in Ancient Rome was pecus. A person’s wealth was measured by the number of cows he owned, hence the English word ‘pecuniary’.  Cows and grain were also the basis of wealth in the agrarian Vedic culture.  The fact most of us depend on large food chain-stores for grain and dairy products in our modern times is proof of a bankrupt civilization.  After all, who of us can confidently say they know how to milk a cow?

svyam-rupa, tad-ekatma-rupa, avesa-nama/prathamei-rupe rahena bhagavan

‘The Supreme Personality of Godhead exists in three principal forms – svyam-rupa, tad-ekatma rupa and avesa-rupa‘ [Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya-lila 20.165]

The Sanskrit word avatara means ‘one who descends from the Kingdom of God’ into the material creation [see: CC Madhya-Lila 20.263-64].  The word avatara usually applies to the Supreme Personality of Godhead.  Svyam-rupa bhagavan, the original form of the Lord,  is avatari or ‘the source of all incarnations’.  This form is not dependent on any others [Laghu-bhagavatamrta (LB) 1.12].

Caitanya-caritamrita explains: ‘svyam rupa’ ‘svyam-prakash’-dui rupe sphurti/ ‘svyam-rupe’-eka ‘krsna vraje gopa murti’. Translation: ‘Krsna reveals Himself in two forms, as svyam-rupa (His own form) and svyam-prakash (His own manifestation).  Svyam-rupa is Krishna Himself in Vrindavana, in the figure of a cowherd boy’ [CC M 20.166].’

The direct expansions of  the Lord’s svyam-rupa are called svyam-prakash (prakash means ‘the same’). These are direct expansions of the Lord and appear exactly the same eg. when the Lord expanded Himself into numerous forms during the rasa-dance.  In the case of Lord Balarama, the first direct expansion of Krishna, the only difference from the original form is bodily colour.

The tad-ekatma-rupa is abheda ie. non-different to the svyam-rupa. The tad-ekatma-rupa, however, appears to differ from the svyam-rupa by form, activities and qualities.  Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakur gives the example of the moon.  The moon, occluded by shadow, is the same full moon.  It only appears to be different.  Those forms of Krishna, therefore, which appear different from His original form  are still manifestations of that original form.

The tad-ekatma form of the Lord is not the same as the svyam-prakash forms of the Lord.  The svyam-prakash forms are, in essence, the same as the svayama-rupa. The tad-ekatma-rupa consists of both svamsa incarnations ( expansions of expansions of the svyama form) and vilasa forms (forms that differ in appearance from the svyama-rupa) [CC M.20.174P, Srila Prabhupada cites Bhaktivinoda Thakur].  Srila Prabhupada explains in CC Madhya-lila 20.185 Purport: ‘When a form of Krishna is nondifferent from the original form but is less important and exhibits less potency it is called svamsa‘.  Svamsa forms include the purusa-avataras and avataras like Matsya, Kurma, Varaha and Nrsimhadeva.  Vilasa incarnations are categorised as prabhava (ie. the catur-vyuha) and vaibhava (the 24 forms of Vishnu emanating from the catur-vyuha, including the second catur-vyuha).

Avesa-rupa refers to ’empowered forms of the Lord’ ie. the Lord manifesting his energies or qualities through powerful jivas or living entities.  Examples of these are Narada, Prithu and Brahma.  The avesa-avataras are living entities.  The use of the word avatara, therefore, is secondary.

The Lords forms are unlimited.  Even Ananta Sesa – Lord Vishnu appearing with a hood of many serpent-like heads – cannot fully describe the manifestation of the Lord’s unlimited forms. This is confirmed in Srimad Bhagavatam: avatara hy asankhyeya/hareh sattva-nidher dvijah/yathavidasinah kulyah/sarasah syuh sahasrasah – ‘O brahmanas, the incarnations of the Lord are innumerable, like rivulets flowing from inexhaustible sources of water’ [SB 1.3.26].

The ancient Laws Of Manu describes the diet of the brahmanas or priestly order of society as a diet that would exclude the eating of meat, fish, eggs, onions and garlic.  Indian Natural Medicine is called Ayurveda – Ayu means ‘life’ and Veda means ‘science’ ie. ‘Science of Life’.  The Ayurveda explains how onions and garlic arouse passion within the heart.  Such foods are rajasic (ie. in the mode of passion) and should, therefore, be avoided by aspiring spiritualists or yogis.  These prescriptions are corroborated by a story from the Puranas which describes how a pregnant brahmana’s wife, overcome by hunger at a fire sacrifice, ate cow’s flesh.  She shamefully buried the bones in the ground and the bones sprouted as onion and garlic.  Food without garlic, onions or eggs is called “pure vegetarian” in India.

The preparation of foodstuffs and worship was part of daily life in the ancient Vedic or Aryan culture.  The fact that many Indians frequent temples to take darshan (ie. have audience) of the Deity, associate with sadhus (saintly people) and honour foodstuffs offered to the Deity is an indication of the impact of Aryan culture on India today.   Temple offerings of food or bhoga – meant for the pleasure of Lord Vishnu (the Supreme Personality of Godhead) – exclude breads, pizza, soya products, mushrooms, certain cakes and intoxicants like alcohol and coffee.  Offerings to Lord Vishnu or Krishna are made by pure-hearted brahmanas. When bhoga is prepared and offered to the Lord with devotion, such offerings are accepted by the Lord.  These sanctified offerings are called prashadam or the ‘mercy’ of the Lord. Prashadam is considered to be pure and is beyond even the goodness of sattvic foodstuffs.

Traditional Indian Vegetarian Cuisine and Ayurveda are interchangeable.  The Charak Samhita, one of the definitive Ayurvedic texts, explains that food can be both the source of health and disease – depending on what and how we eat.  Sattvic foods, therefore, are good for the health.  Prashadam is not only sattvic; it is good for the soul.  Devotees believe that prashadam is food that has come in direct contact with Krishna or God.  Prashadam cannot be contaminated.  The faithful believe that prashadam can be eaten even if it has fallen on the ground or come in contact with something dirty.  Prashadam, therefore, is pure vegetarian cuisine in the strictest sense.