Vyasa Muni reborn today
Srila Prabhupada gave his evening darsana inside the house. As he sat relaxing in a reclining chair in the main lounge, a small group of attentive devotees gathered at his feet. A large painted cloth mural of Hanuman hung on the wall to his right, and the dasa-avataras of the Lord in relief on the wardrobe stood to his left, adding to the transcendental atmosphere.
Some new book reviews have come from India and Srila Prabhupada had me read out aloud what must be the best one so far. Signed by Sri R. Subramaniam, the Deputy Director of Research in the Lok Sabha Secretariat of India's National Parliament, it glorified the Srimad-Bhagavatam, and Srila Prabhupada personally, in glowing terms. "A strange feature of the modern world is that in spite of vast advances in science and technology and the establishment of a good number of institutions for human welfare, mankind has not found true peace and happiness. Knowledge of material sciences and arts has increased tremendously in recent times, and millions of volumes on each fill the libraries the world over. People and leaders in every country are generally well versed in these arts and sciences, but despite their efforts human society everywhere continues to be in turmoil and distress. The reason is not far to seek. It is that they have not learned the science of God, the most fundamental of every other art and science, and fail to apply it to the facts of life. The need of the hour is, therefore, to do it if mankind is not only to survive but flower into a glorious existence.
"To teach this science of God to people everywhere and to aid them in their progress and development towards the real goal of life, Srimad-Bhagavatam is most eminently fitted. In fact, this great ancient work of Vyasa will fill this need of the modern times, for it is a cultural presentation for the respiritualization of the entire human society. His Divine Grace, Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the Founder-Acarya of the ISKCON movement, has taken it upon himself, in addition to his ceaseless travels and other multifarious activities in the service of the Lord, the stupendous task of translating this Sanskrit work into English in about sixty volumes for the welfare and happiness of mankind. It is really astonishing how he is able to do this single-handed, and when one comes to think of this, apart from his other great literary works, one is tempted to wonder if he is not the same Vyasa Muni reborn today to adapt his own old work into a universal language of this age for the spiritual upliftment of the modern man.
"So far eighteen volumes of this most beautiful literature on God have been brought out by ISKCON and the rest are under preparation. Needless to say, that in keeping with the excellence of their other publications, the publishers have seen to it that the printing, get-up, and pictures in these volumes are also of the highest quality, as though to serve as an ornament to the divine contents of the books. This is a rare opportunity to people and leaders of every country, race and community in the world to know and understand the glorious science of God and work for their perfection. I would say that this encyclopedia of spiritual knowledge is more important and fundamental than the encyclopedia of any other branch of knowledge and should, therefore, find a rightful place not only in the public and private libraries, big and small, of educational and other institutions, as also of every household, but above all in the hearts and minds of every man and woman."
Prabhupada received this high praise with humility and great pleasure, especially the comparison to Vyasadeva. He is encouraged that such a learned man has understood his mission and appreciated his work to such a degree and he has had the review placed in the standing file.
During the darsana Prabhupada was content to hear Pradyumna read some fairly long segments from the First Canto, occasionally interjecting comments to emphasize a point. By about seven twenty it seemed that Prabhupada would end the meeting, as he threw it open for questions.
One of the devotees asked about Srila Vyasadeva: if he was tri-kala-jna, a knower of past, present, and future, how could we understand that he actually foresaw future events?
This brought an unexpectedly elaborate response from Prabhupada. He had Pradyumna bring the Sanskrit edition of the Twelth Canto and had him read through its long list of predictions for the Kali-yuga?lawlessness, heavy taxation, lack of justice, reduced mercy, untruthfulness, lack of cleanliness, reduced duration of life and strength, and so on. Item by item Prabhupada elucidated on the text, entertaining everyone with sharp observations and witticisms on how all these features have manifested themselves in modern culture. He offered modern examples to show how the prophecy is being fulfilled. "Daya, mercifulness. People will have no mercy. It has already begun. If somebody is attacked, being killed, nobody takes care, he goes in his own way. What to speak of no mercy for the animals? all right, you are not so advanced. But the mother's mercy to the child will be diminished. This is foretelling. This is called tri-kala-jna. Who expected that mother will kill the child? But Vyasadeva, five thousand years ago said, 'Yes, mercy will be reduced.' Then?"
"Ayur," Pradyumna read out.
"Ayur, duration of life. The maximum duration of life in Kali-yuga is hundred years, but who is living hundred years? It is being reduced, and it will be so reduced that if a man would live twenty years he is an old man. It will come to that stage. Now it is reducing, from hundred years to ninety years to eighty years. Seventy, then sixty then fifty, in this way, if a man lives from twenty to thirty years he will be considered grand old man. These are the symptoms. Then?"
"And bodily strength. In India in our childhood, I have seen when British rule was there, all the Europeans were coming, very tall and stout and strong. Now such Europeans are not coming. Even bodily strength reduced. Then?"
Pradyumna read out a whole verse and Prabhupada analyzed it word by word. "So vittam, money. Money is the criterion, not family. Formerly, there was respectable family, aristocratic family, brahmana family, kshatriya family. All these things are gone now, never mind what you are. That is Kali-yuga symptom that, position in society, if you want to be respectable man, you somehow or other gather money, never mind how. Get money and you become respectable.
"Janmacara, first of all, janma, the family, heredity, was taken into consideration but that is now forgotten. Get money. Just like in England the British empire's policy was that you bring money from outside and deposit in the government treasury and you become a lord. Is it not? Bring money, some way or other. So that was going on, exploiting, they used to go to the foreign countries and somehow or other accumulate money. Just like Lord Clive. He was a street boy, but he made some policy. In this way, diplomacy, he entered into Bengal and got some money, and he became Lord Clive. So money is the criterion. These are the symptoms. Try to understand. Guna. You are most qualified man. You may be a drunkard, you may be a prostitute hunter, whatever you may be, but because of money you are a qualified man.
"Abhiruci, yes. Now, formerly marriage was a religious ceremony where the father, mother will see their horoscope and see if they are compatible, they will agree, they will live peacefully so many things are there. Still, in India such things are calculated by the parents of the boy and the girl. But in this Kali-yuga, dampatye abhirucih. Means the boy and the girl, if he likes, if he says, that's all. No other calculation. And after three days after marriage, there is divorce."
The devotees laughed at what seemed a deliberate exaggeration by Srila Prabhupada to emphasize his point. But he remained serious. "Because abhiruci, I like, I don't like, that's all. Now I like, and after three days I don't like, finished, business. In Chicago I saw a newspaper. One girl, within three weeks she has divorced two husbands." Now everyone laughed again, but this time at the ludicrousness of modern people.
"Yes, I saw it in the newspaper," Prabhupada told us. "So formerly the father, mother used to see that this boy and this girl are going to be married. So by horoscope, by other circumstances, by family, cultural, by education, so many things, whether they will live peacefully. That was the understanding. Husband-wife means a man requires a woman, a woman requires a man. They should be combined in such a way that they can live peacefully. If there is no disturbance of the mind, then they can make further progress in spiritual life. Therefore marriage is also necessary, and that must be properly done. Now there is no such consideration. The boys and girls are free, and if one likes the other ..."
As Pradyumna continued to read on, Srila Prabhupada offered more observations, each time just to the point. From the predictions it seemed that everything in Kali-yuga would become simply a question of show, with no real substance. Prabhupada's examples confirmed this, the liberal bite of sarcasm with which he expressed them making everyone laugh. "Vipratve sutram eva hi. And there is a brahmana. 'What is the proof that he is a brahmana?' 'He has got a sacred thread,' that's all. Or thread. It may not be sacred, purchased on the market. So at least we try to give a sacred thread by ceremony. But anyone can purchase a thread from the market, two paisa worth or one cent worth, and become a brahmana. 'You are a brahmana?' 'Yes, you see my sacred thread?'" He chuckled at the rascaldom. "Finished. 'What you are doing?' 'Never mind.'" Then he added a serious note. "Don't be such brahmanas, at least in our camp. You must follow the rules and regulations. Don't show that I am now doubly initiated, sacred thread. Don't cheat in that way."
Pradyumna read on. "Panditye capalam vacah."
"Pandita, if you can speak very vehemently, any subject matter, people may or may not understand, and they will certify you: 'Oh, this man is very learned.' What you have learned from him? 'Oh, I could not understand, but he's spoke very nicely.' He spoke very nicely. What is that nicely? That capala."
Prabhupada threw out a rapid string of gibberish? "Habadvasyenamdoaguwaddogbignikulaigondulaivaidilaktismai!" Then he laughed along with the devotees. "You go on speaking like that, and people will appreciate, 'Oh, he's a big speaker!'"
On the next item he described the plight of the poor. "When the poor man comes, you'll not give place. If he wants to stay, you'll refuse. No. Because he's poor, he's immediately accepted as dishonest. He may be honest or dishonest, but poverty is a sign for accepting a man as dishonest. Then?"
"Tirtham. Just like there is Vrindavana and here is New Vrindaban. But if you spend ten thousand dollars and go to Vrindavana, then it is pilgrimage. And here is Vrindavanacandra, so that is not very important. Dure vary-ayanam. You have to go far, far away, then it will be pilgrimage. In India, there is Ganges in Calcutta. But they go to Hardwar. Then it is pilgrimage. The same Ganges, coming from Hardwar. Then?"
Pradyumna read out the Sanskrit. "Lavanyam kesa-dharanam."
At this, Prabhupada gave a hearty laugh. "Hmm. Lavanyam, now you know very well in the Western country. Beauty increases by having long hair. Now see how it is current. Who expected that this foretelling is there in the Bhagavatam? To increase beauty, have long hair. Is it not? Just see. How five thousand years this thing was foretold. That is the proof." He grinned at us and declared, "There was no hippie movement then. But Vyasadeva foretold that in the Kali-yuga if one keeps long hair he will think himself as very beautiful. There are so many things."
Then he gave a round-up of the future of this age. "Ultimately, with the advancement of Kali-yuga you'll have no food. Food means there will be no food grains, there will be no milk, no sugar, like that. No fruits. If you get fruits, there will be no pulp, it is simply seeds. These things are there. You get a mango, but a mango means simply the big seed, that's all. So how can you check it? If nature's way, things are going to happen like that, what the scientists will do? If there is no rice, no wheat, will the scientists ...? They can say replace with a pill, but they cannot produce wheat or rice or dal or milk, sugar. That is not possible."
Dhrishtadyumna Maharaja interjected that the scientists have fashioned a way for the spacemen to drink their own urine and eat their own stool.
"Yes, that is the most scientific improvement," Srila Prabhupada announced cuttingly. "Yes. That they can do. By scientific improvement, they can drink their own urine? very tasty!"
One of the devotees wanted to know how the general mass of people could take to Krishna consciousness in the face of all these disqualifications.
Maintaining his good humor Srila Prabhupada replied that Krishna consciousness is the only remedy. "In the Kali-yuga, it is an ocean of faults. How ...? Suppose all over your body there are boils. So where you will apply ointment? You just dip down!"
It was a wonderful evening's meeting. Prabhupada's congenial mood and warmth offered many of the devotees a chance to see him in a much more intimate way than they are used to. Most disciples only see him in the very formal setting of the Srimad-Bhagavatam class, and a few are fortunate to accompany him on his walks. But circumstances like this, with such free and happy exchanges, draw on the hearts and minds of us all, increasing our love and affection for him unlimitedly.