Through the brother of one of our Bombay life members, Mr. Grover of Modella Woolens, Caitya-guru prabhu arranged a final program at the Rotary Club. After a quiet day and having given a final general darsana at the house, His Divine Grace proceeded there by car in the late afternoon and was received by the current Club president.
Prabhupada was led into the conference hall where a dais had been set up in front of a gallery of chairs. I was disappointed to see a low attendance and many empty seats. And many of those who did attend seemed to have only a perfunctory interest-one lady sat knitting through the whole talk without even looking up. Nevertheless, Srila Prabhupada showed no sign of disappointment. He had another chance to talk about Krishna, and that itself was satisfaction enough; if even one person in the crowd took his words seriously?or not, it didn't matter?he was happy just to have the opportunity to speak.
The Rotary president gave him a brief introduction, and then Prabhupada launched into an excellent talk in English using the same theme as in his pandala lectures. He began by pointing out that all the great acaryas accept Krishna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. All of us, he said, have questions about the existence of God, whether God exists, who He is, and whether He is personal or impersonal. To answer these questions, Prabhupada asserted, God Himself comes and speaks the Bhagavad-gita.
"Krishna says in the beginning of the seventh chapter of the Bhagavad-gita how you can understand God without any doubt and in complete. That is spoken by God Himself. 'My dear Partha, Arjuna, in order to know Me, God, asamsayam, without any doubt, and samagram,'?means 'in completeness'? 'As you can know Me, I am personally speaking to you.' That means if you want to know God, you can know Him when He explains Himself. Otherwise, you cannot speculate."
Giving a brief history of the great Mahabharata war, he set the scene of how Arjuna became perplexed. Then he explained how the relationship between him and Krishna, who was both his friend and relative, changed so that Krishna could speak and solve his problems. "Krishna and Arjuna, they were talking like friends. Friends means argument. We can go on arguing for days together, but there is no decision. That is friendly talk. But when there is talk between a master and disciple, there is no question of arguing. The disciple has to accept what is ordered by the master.
"So Krishna is accepted guru, or the spiritual master, and Arjuna says, sishyas te 'hamsadhi mam prapannam [Bg. 2.7]. Prapannam means that 'I am surrendered to You. I don't think myself on the equal level with You.' The spiritual master and the disciple, they cannot be on the equal level. Therefore a spiritual master is called guru. Guru means heavy. Just like in the scale we put something this side, something that side. The thing which is weighty, that goes down. Similarly, guru is supposed to be more weighty than the sishya. So Krishna begins to speak when He is accepted as guru; otherwise He does not speak."
That brought Prabhupada to his main theme. "Now, our subject matter is 'Let Krishna Speak for Himself.' So we have to accept Krishna as the supreme authority. Then His speaking will be useful for us. Otherwise, if we think that Krishna is on the equal level?'He is also a historical personality and His education and my education equal and so on, so on'?so long we think like that, then we cannot hear or understand Krishna. But if we take the position of Arjuna, sishyas te 'hamsadhi mam prapannam, then Krishna will speak to the disciple like Arjuna, and everything will be clear."
Telling his audience that through his Krishna consciousness movement millions of people around the world are interested in Bhagavad-gita, Prabhupada lamented that Krishna's words are not being transmitted properly by others. "Unfortunately, although Bhagavad-gita is spoken in this land of Bharata-varsha, Chandigarh, the Kurukshetra, we do not allow Krishna to speak. This is our misfortune. Krishna spoke these words of Bhagavad-gita. Many scholars, many so called saintly persons, they have misinterpreted the words of Bhagavad-gita. They did not allow Krishna to speak. They wanted to speak about themselves. If one speaks on behalf of Krishna, he is guru. But if one manufactures some idea from the words of Krishna by misinterpretation and does not allow Krishna to speak, it is a great dangerous position. That has become actually the fact in India. Otherwise such a big culture, complete culture . . . From the Bhagavad-gita, any question you can raise, the answer is there. Political, social, religious, philosophical, cultural-any way you study Bhagavad-gita, the complete answer is there. Therefore our request is that let Krishna speak for Himself. Don't try to misinterpret the words of Krishna or the words in the Bhagavad-gita. That will spoil it."
Since Chandigarh is barely an hour's drive from Kuru-kshetra and Kurukshetra is mentioned in the very first verse of Bhagavad-gita, it was natural for Prabhupada to focus on it, especially considering the fact that one of the most famous Indian leaders in modern history made a commentary on it that totally failed to grasp both its significance and its reality. "Everyone knows there is a place Kurukshetra. From time immemorial in the Vedic literature it is mentioned about Kurukshetra. Kurukshetre dharmam acaret: 'Go to Kurukshetra and perform ritualistic ceremonies there.' So it is dharmakshetra. So how you can interpret Kurukshetra as the body? Where is that dictionary, and where is the necessity of interpreting like that? There is no necessity. Interpretation is required when the meaning is not clear. But if the meaning is clear, why should you interpret it unnecessarily? That is mal-interpretation, and that is going on. Krishna is accepted as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, but somebody says, 'He is fictitious. There was no fight like Kurukshetra. There was no such person as Krishna,' and 'Krishna is a person from the black aborigines,' so on, so on, so many interpretation. What is the benefit? The benefit is that we have lost our Vedic culture. This is the benefit."
Protesting the tendency of some people to use Bhagavad-gita for their own ends, Prabhupada said that if one wants to speak nonsense he has the freedom to do so, but it should not be through the agency of Krishna's Gita. Asking Pradyumna to read out verse 10.12 where Arjuna accepts Krishna as param brahma and then 10.14 where he says that he accepts all of Krishna's instructions, Prabhupada emphasized that this mood was the only way to correctly understand the Lord. "So, 'I accept all Your instruction.' Sarvam etad ritam manye. This is actually student of Bhagavad-gita, not that 'The portion which I like I accept, and the portion I do not like I reject.' This is nonsense. If you want to become the student of Bhagavad-gita, if you want to derive some benefit out of it, then you should be like Arjuna, like this."
Going through the system of disciplic succession, he told us, is the only way to correctly appreciate Krishna. "Krishna said, evam parampara praptam imam rajarshayo viduh [Bg. 4.2]. Rajarshaya. This philosophy of Bhagavad-gita, it is meant for the rajarshi, not for the loafer class. Rajarshi: king; at the same time, saintly person. Krishna does not say that ordinary scholar or so called philosopher can understand. Only the rajarshayo viduh. So Arjuna is one of the rajarshis. So he understood Krishna. He says, param brahma param dhama. So we have to accept this parampara system. If we take Bhagavad-gita seriously then we should follow the footprints of Arjuna, as he understood. He accepted Krishna as the param brahman. So what is spoken by param brahman, the Supreme Lord, the Supreme Person? How we can interpret His words and squeeze out some meaning and mislead myself and mislead others? This is not good. So our, this Krishna consciousness movement is trying to rectify this mistake. Bhagavad-gita is the most authorized scripture in the Vedic literature."
Vedic literature, he said, is apaureshaya, spoken directly by the Supreme Person. It begins with the words athato brahma jijnasa?"This human form of life is meant for inquiring about Brahman." Declaring the Vedanta sutra to be the cream of all the Vedas and Bhagavad-gita to be the summary of Vedanta or Vedic philosophy, Prabhupada said that it had been spoken especially for the fallen souls of this age. "Because in this age, Kali yuga, we are not very advanced. About us, it is described in the sastra, mandah sumanda matayo manda bhagya upadrutah, prayenalpayushah kalav asmin yuge janah [SB 1.1.10]. In this age, Kali yuga, we are living not very long time. In Kali yuga the duration of life will be reduced so much, gradually, that if a person lives for twenty to thirty years, he'll be considered a grand old man. . . . In this way the duration of life, the memory, the mercifulness, the bodily strength?everything will be reduced. This is already foretold in the sastras.
So therefore in this age we are all short living, mandah, very slow or bad, and sumanda matayo?everyone has got an obnoxious opinion about philosophy, about the goal of life. Manda bhagya, unfortunate also. The description, if we try to describe, it will take long time. The short cut description is there: mandah sumanda matayo manda bhagya hy upadrutah. At the same time, disturbed always. This material world means always disturbed condition, but in this age, Kali yuga, the disturbance is more and more."
Therefore, he told us, "It is out of Krishna's kindness that making Arjuna as a target of His instruction, Bhagavad-gita, He has given us this valuable instruction. We should accept it as it is. Therefore we are presenting Bhagavad-gita As It Is, without any mal-interpretation. Take Bhagavad-gita As It Is; you'll be benefited."
Again he stressed the mood of surrender as the vital ingredient. If we think of ourselves as great scholars, we cannot enter into the true understanding. It is only by humble submission that we can qualify ourselves. "The first thing is, Krishna instructs in the Bhagavad-gita, tad viddhi pranipatena pariprasnena sevaya [Bg. 4.34]. If you want to know the substance, then the first thing is that you must be submissive, pranipata. Prakrishta rupena nipata, you fall down. Therefore, the system is that the disciple falls Flat before the spiritual master. That is the etiquette, pranipatena."
Having established clearly the authenticity of the words of Bhagavad-gita and the mood for understanding it, Prabhupada briefly explained its basic message: how the cause of all suffering is misidentification with the body, and how the solution is to understand that we are souls. Since his audience was accustomed to gathering in a group socially, he encouraged them to make Krishna's teachings a focal point of their meetings. "So where is this education all over the world? There is no such education. But there is knowledge. This is Bhagavad-gita. We don't take advantage of Bhagavad-gita. Therefore there is no such education, athato brahma jijnasa, or to understand Brahman. So everything is very nicely explained in the Bhagavad-gita, and you have got a nice club. So I request you to discuss on the Bhagavad-gita as it is, without any mal-interpretation. Then it will be beneficial for your club."
Prabhupada quoted Canakya Pandita and told his audience that they should try to utilize every moment for beneficial activities, because once lost, not even a moment can be regained for all the gold in the world. "Bhagavad-gita instruction is given just to bring you back to Brahman consciousness or Krishna consciousness, not this bodily consciousness. Bodily consciousness is there in the dog and the cat. So that is not glorification. We should come to the Brahman consciousness; then you'll be jubilant. Brahma bhutah prasannatma na socati na kankshati samah sarveshu bhuteshu [Bg. 18.54]. And when you come to that platform of understanding Brahman, then there is question of sama, samata. And on that stage you can attain the para bhakti, or devotional life to the Supreme Personality of Godhead."
Appealing to the Rotary Club members not to stay "in the darkness of bodily conception of life," he ended his talk with a final request. "So that is our propaganda, and we are trying to bring people to that stage of para bhakti. If we keep ourself on the bodily concept of life, then we are defeated. This is the verdict of the sastra. So long you are not inquisitive about your Brahman identification, then whatever you are doing, that is defeat. That is not advancement. So with these words I shall request you that in your club you cultivate this knowledge of Bhagavad-gita and utilize your time fully and just try to make your life successful. Thank you very much. Hare Krishna."
For the few that heard it, it was an impressive talk. Srila Prabhupada himself was pleased, even more so when, as he prepared to leave, one of the organizers informed him that the Rotary Club will print the talk in their magazine.
* * *
From the Rotary Club, instead of returning directly to Mr. Sethi's house, we took a detour and after a few minutes arrived at number 1232, Sector 18C, a large three-story private house. There Prabhupada was greeted with a garland by Mr. Budh Ram Goyal, his wife and their two sons, his brother Mangat Ram, and other family members. Mr. Goyal is ISKCON's second life member in Chandigarh. Although not literate, he has a successful electronics business and is a prominent social worker. It is he who has provided all the prasadam for our devotees during their stay here in Chandigarh. A small pandala had been set up in the driveway of his home, and about thirty persons were in attendance, including Mr. Banarsi Das Gupta, the ex-Chief Minister of Haryana; Murari Lal Bansal; and Pundit Mohan Lal, the ex-Finance Minister of Punjab. Mr. Goyal had invited Prabhupada to come and bless his home, and Prabhupada was happy to oblige.
We got a nice surprise when we stepped inside the house. Mr. Goyal took Srila Prabhupada straight into a small side room where he revealed a set of four feet high, beautiful white marble Radha-Krishna Deities. Prabhupada went into the Deity room and stood for a few moments before Their Lordships. The Deities were being taken care of by a pujari but to a simple standard, and Prabhupada encouraged the priest to learn the standards practiced in our ISKCON temples.
Returning outside, Prabhupada sat on an armchair in the driveway and spoke for a few minutes to the gathering. He gave a wonderful explication of the meaning and purpose of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra. "Hare. Hara means Srimati Radharani, the pleasure potency of the Lord?the transcendental potency. Rama means?if you use this word 'Rama' you will get unlimited pleasure. Ramante yogino param. The great yogis are merged in transcendental bliss; ramante yogino param, this is the eternal bliss. The enjoyment of this material world is only for the time being, and it is a shadow of the true pleasure. The real pleasure is the Lord. So the meaning of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra is 'O Krishna! O Radharani! O Rama!'
"The Mayavadis say the Lord has no energy. This is false. Actually, the Lord is the Supreme energetic. The Upanishads say, parasya saktir vividhaiva sruyate, so the param brahman Lord has many forms of energy?cit sakti, acit sakti, and jiva-sakti. By His cit-sakti He created the Vaikuntha planets, and the marginal energy, the jivas, are sometimes situated in the Vaikuntha planets and sometimes on the material planets. They are called tatastha energy.
For instance, there are many people who are the devotees of the Lord and many people do not accept the Lord. Even those who don't accept the Lord will accept Him in the due course of time if they undergo the proper guidance. So this characteristic that they are not accepting but they will accept later on is called tatastha. It is not that those who do not accept the Lord, that is the demons and fallen, will remain demons; no. For them the demigods are there. So the purpose of this Krishna consciousness movement is to convert the demons into demigods; that's it. As a madman can be treated by medicine and when the disease is gone then a sane man can be useful to do anything, similarly the rascals and demonic people who do not accept the Lord-whose numbers are increasing these days on this planet-can be treated by Hare Krishna maha-mantra.
"By chanting this maha-mantra, their heart will be cleansed. Ceto darpana marjanam; darpana means 'mirror' and ceto means 'heart.' Our heart is like a mirror. Since many, many births this dust has covered the surface of the mirror, so we have to cleanse that. And what is the method to do that? That is the chanting of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra. If you chant the Hare Krishna mantra then this ceto-darpana, the mirror of your heart, will be cleansed. You see many demons are there who never accept the Lord. If they once understand the supremacy of the Lord, then their lives will be successful. So you yourself chant this maha-mantra and teach the same to your children."
Prabhupada expressed his appreciation at the presence of the Dieties. Although the dress and worship were quite basic, he assured the Goyals that Krishna would accept their service if it was offered in the right mood. "I am seeing the Deity has appeared here. Serve Them daily. Offer the Lord as per your ability. The Lord has agreed to accept whatever you offer Him with love and devotion, even patram pushpam phalam toyam. But it is not that for ourselves we take palatable food and patram pushpam for the Lord! No, for those that do not have anything, for them the Lord says, patram pushpam phalam toyam yo me bhaktya prayacchati [Bg. 9.26]. Those who have money, they should build temples, install Deities, and arrange for gorgeous outfits and delicious bhoga, and by that they can properly utilise the money they have. It is not that we build a very small room for the Lord and for ourselves a very big spacious room. No! This is condemned. So build the best temples for the Lord and cook and offer the best quality bhoga to Him. Then one is using one's wealth. And if you think that the Lord has said, patram pushpam phalam toyam so only these things are for Him and the delicious and palatables are for me, then the Lord will understand everything, because He is much more intelligent than you. The Lord doesn't have any scarcity of anything; everything belongs to Him, so who can satisfy Him by offering anything to Him? He has given something to you so you can serve Him nicely by those things, according to your capacity, that the Lord desires."
Prabhupada offered his own efforts as evidence of what service can be done if the proper attitude prevails. "We are sannyasis, beggars. We don't have anything, but we do beyond our capacity. We are begging alms all around the world and by that constructed many temples all around. We spend millions of rupees for that purpose. Why do I do all these things? Because I am His servant. As a servant alway thinks, 'How can I provide more nice accommodation and wonderful arrangement for my master?' that is the real consciousness. So the meaning of Hare Krishna maha-mantra is 'O My Lord Krishna! O Srimati Radharani! Please engage me in the transcendental loving service of Your lotus feet. I am fed up with service to maya, so please engage me now in loving devotional service of Your lotus feet.'"
With a broad smile Prabhupada said, "Thank you" and brought his brief visit to a close. The whole Goyal family were deeply honored by his visit and gratified that he had blessed their house and their humble efforts as devotees of Lord Krishna.