The Swami Responds

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This article features select questions from correspondents of Srila Prabhupada and his graceful answers. The letters have all been published in the book Sri Sri Siksamrita and some excerpts from lucid questions by the general public are posted. The questions range from philosphical questions to enlightening ones about the science of devotional service.

From Back to Godhead

Dear Swami Bhaktivedanta,
I’ve read that your Krishna Consciousness is a non-sectarian science of the soul. How is it, then, that you follow some particular concept of God Krishna rather than a more universal concept, such as the One, or the All-Pervading Light? I like your movement very much, but I do feel this to be a clear contradiction in your philosophy. Yours truly,
Owen Darcy

My dear Mr. Darcy,
Thank you for your interest, and for your question also. I assure you that Krishna is not a concept: He is the Supreme, Original Person. Everything that exists is His energy, and He is the sole Energetic. He pervades His energy because He has complete and limitless control over it. All that exists, then, is of Him, from Him, possessed, pervaded and maintained by Him therefore He is the One, All-Pervading, and the Resting Ground of the Universes. But He is more even than this. He is thus held to be an Individual: the Whole is more than the sum of the parts. This omnipotence is called the Lord’s simultaneously one and different Nature.

Dear Swami,
I have always read that self-realization can only be attained by cutting oneself off from human society. Do you agree with this? Thank you,
Jereld Penne

Dear Mr. Penne,
No, I don’t agree. In India also this was long held to be true but my Spiritual Master, Sri Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati taught that one can use the implements of modern civilization for the service of the Lord, and thus attain to the highest perfection. This was his great contribution. In the Bhagavad Gita, as well, Lord Sri Krishna says that he who preaches the message of God to his fellow men is the most dear devotee (Chaps. XVIII, verse 68). One must, of course, be among one’s fellow men in order to do this.

Dear Swami,
Is Krishna really Nirvana?
Thank you,
William Guttenroth

Dear Mr. Guttenroth,
Nirvana is the negation of material life; Krishna is the positive joy of spiritual existence.

Dear Swami,
Your philosophy states that the soul or Self is eternal, and that God, the Supreme Self, is also eternal. If this is so, then how is God to be considered the Creator ?
Sincerely,
Mary Welch

Dear Miss Welch,
Creator means the Source, and creation means the emanation from that Source. The Creator and the creation are both eternal but the creation depends upon the Creator, and not vice versa. It is like the sun and the sunlight. They are always together, but the sun is supreme and independent, while the sunlight is subordinate. Still, they are not separable, as we are eternally inseparable from God.
Ever your well-wisher,
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami

Dear Swami Bhaktivedanta,
As simply as possible, could you tell me what the real essence of your message is? I find all philosophers to be long on wind but short on solid meaning. Please try to be clear. Thank you.
John M. Taylor

Dear Mr. Taylor,
I shall try: My message is that humankind can find real not theoretical or abstract peace and happiness only through association with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. And this association is established most quickly and easily through the congregational chanting of the Lord’s Holy Names. My followers and I sing the Maha Mantra Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. However, other authorized Names, such as Jehovah, Jesus Christ and Allah are quite acceptable, as God has a limitless supply of Personal Names. I hope this is lucid, and further hope you will take up this practice of Kirtan, or singing the Lord’s Names.

Dear Swami,
Who is Narada Muni? When you say on your record album cover that he’s a spaceman, do you mean that he uses a flying saucer?
Yours truly,
Marjorie Sherman

Dear Miss Sherman,
Narada is one of the principal saints mentioned in Vedic literature. As stated on the record cover it was he who delivered the Maha Mantra to Earth. Narada Muni doesn’t use a flying saucer, because his body is completely spiritual, and therefore has no limitation in material time or space.

Dear Swami,
If God loves us, why doesn’t He stop warfare?
Sincerely,
Elizabeth Arthur

Dear Miss Arthur,
The Lord presents Mankind with all means of understanding His Fatherhood, and our brotherhood toward one another. But He doesn’t impinge upon the minute quantity of independence that we have. If we choose to ignore Him, He permits us. Greed treachery and warfare are natural results of this ignorance. As for the major horror of war, death: that is merely an illusion. The living entities are by constitution eternal, in spite of material appearances. But great suffering is undeniably there, due to our unfortunate ignorance .

Dear Swami,
Are there any esoteric principles in Krishna Consciousness, revealed only to advanced students?
Thank you,
Ben Ordway

Dear Mr. Ordway,
Why not take up Krishna Consciousness and see?
Ever your well-wisher,
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami

Dear Swami Bhaktivedanta,
Could you please explain the Vedic concept of Universal Time? It seems to me that this is a bewilderingly complex system of thought.
Yours truly,
Henry Langdon

Dear Mr. Langdon,
Universal Time is no more complex than the relationship of a second to a minute to an hour to a day. History is divided into series of four Yugas, or sub-Ages. Each complete series is 4,200,000 years long. One thousand of such complete ages make one day of Brahma. Brahma is the creator of this Universe, and his life span is co-equal to it. Brahma’s day is a thousand ages, and his night is also a thousand ages. And Brahma lives one hundred years. Thus, we can calculate the duration of this universe at something over three hundred billion years. I hope this answers your question.

Dear Swami,
How long does it take to attain perfection in Krishna Consciousness? Thank you, Walter Arden

Dear Mr. Arden,
One second is more than enough. The perfection of Krishna Consciousness is found in complete surrender unto the Personality of Godhead, Lord Sri Krishna. If you are capable of such surrender, then don’t delay even one more heartbeat. The Maha (Hare Krishna) Mantra will help you to be able to surrender, by giving you direct experience of the Lord’s presence. By thus understanding His Beauty, Kindness and other Attributes, you will realize the value of His association, and will at once surrender for His sake.
Dear Swami Bhaktivedanta,
Is it necessary to have a spiritual master in order to achieve Krishna Consciousness? Or is the chant alone enough?
Sincerely,
Helen Lee

Dear Miss Lee,
Chanting will put you directly in touch with the Source Krishna Himself. But the spiritual master is Krishna’s direct representative, and he too is of incalculable value for your spiritual progress.

Dear Swamiji,
Why was this material world created, if God truly loves us?
Yours,
N. Ogden

My dear N. Ogden,
Do you think the government builds its prisons in hopes that they’ll be filled? But there is a need. As the criminal must be removed from moral society, so the living entities who reject God must leave the spiritual realm, where all adore Him.

Dear Swami,
You say that unalloyed service to the Lord is the purest devotion. But how can we always put faith in Krishna’s mercy, and at the same time never ask Him for anything?
Thank you,
Marie Moskowitz

Dear Miss Moskowitz,
We need never ask for the Lord’s mercy. It is given us freely and abundantly at all times. Even the atheist enjoys it. But what we must have is God’s loving service, if we are to know true happiness. Make this loving service the object of your every prayer, and see the result yourself.

Dear Swamiji,
What’s wrong with pleasure?
D. T. Mervin

Dear D. T. Mervin,
Until you serve Krishna, you cannot know what pleasure is.

Dear Swami,
If one has rejected God, will God still take him back?
Yours,
Miss Anita Keough

My dear Miss Keough,
We are all here due to mistakes. Krishna only cares for our love.

Dear Swami,
Is it necessary to pursue all the different yogas in turn in order to reach the Ultimate?
Yours truly,
John The

Dear Mr. The,
You can walk the stairs to the top of the Empire State Building if you like. But the elevator is also there. Try chanting Hare Krishna.

Dear Swami,
Why do so many people neglect the Lord, if He is the center of everything?
Thanks,
Brendan Jones

Dear Mr. Jones,
Why do some men lie down on the Bowery Street? There is independence, and independence means one can choose wisely or foolishly.
Ever your well-wisher,
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami