In response to “Tone Deaf Bhakta’s” letter in the March/April issue, I would like to let him know that when I was a young devotee in Hamburg, Germany, in the early days of the movement, I was once requested not to lead Sunday-feast kirtanas by one devotee because I couldn’t sing so nicely. I took exception to this, probably due to my neophyte position, and wrote a letter to Srila Prabhupada about it, and he answered that “practice makes perfect.” (In those days we often wrote Srila Prabhupada things that weren’t so important.) I think my kirtana voice has since improved, but that nice instruction by Srila Prabhupada stands.
Sandy Ridge, North Carolina
I have noticed BTG recommending against the practice of ashtanga-, karma-, and jnana-yoga. Why is this? In the Gita, Krishna and Prabhupada clearly recommend these practices as ways to come to bhakti-yoga. These practices bring sattva [the mode of goodness], which is said to be the doorway to Krishna consciousness.
Love the magazine.
Via the Internet
Our reply: Bhakti is independent of the other processes, and it is competent to bring one to sattva by itself. This is described in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.2.17–19):
Sri Krishna, the Personality of Godhead, who is the Paramatma [Supersoul] in everyone’s heart and the benefactor of the truthful devotee, cleanses desire for material enjoyment from the heart of the devotee who has developed the urge to hear His messages, which are in themselves virtuous when properly heard and chanted. By regular attendance in classes on the Bhagavatam and by rendering of service to the pure devotee, all that is troublesome to the heart is almost completely destroyed, and loving service unto the Personality of Godhead, who is praised with transcendental songs, is established as an irrevocable fact. As soon as irrevocable loving service is established in the heart, the effects of nature’s modes of passion and ignorance, such as lust, desire and hankering, disappear from the heart. Then the devotee is established in goodness, and he becomes completely happy.
The danger in recommending the other processes is that they are generally not powerful enough to give us perfection in just this one life. In fact, Krishna says that by jnana, one takes many, many births to surrender to Him (Bg. 7.19), and there is no guarantee that one will not become distracted from the path, especially in this age of Kali.
Although Krishna speaks of other paths in the Gita, ultimately a careful reading will show bhakti to be supreme:
One can understand Me as I am, as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, only by devotional service. And when one is in full consciousness of Me by such devotion, he can enter into the kingdom of God. (18.55)
My dear Arjuna, only by undivided devotional service can I be understood as I am, standing before you, and can thus be seen directly. Only in this way can you enter into the mysteries of My understanding. (11.54)
The Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is greater than all, is attainable by unalloyed devotion. Although He is present in His abode, He is all-pervading, and everything is situated within Him. (8.22)
If you glance at the Sanskrit of each verse, you will see that the word bhaktya, meaning “by bhakti,” appears in each, and in the last two the word ananyaya, meaning “by undivided,” appears. Thus the meaning is quite clear.
Because we want to give people the opportunity to attain perfection in this very life, we stress the superior process of bhakti, as do Krishna and Srila Prabhupada in countless places. Only for those averse to bhakti may the other yogas be promoted as valuable, because they gradually purify people to the point where they can appreciate the value of bhakti, engage in it, and thus attain perfection.
Can’t Stop Reading
The BTG magazines lately are all masterpieces. I find myself reading one article that interested me, and when I finish that, the next page always seems to attract me as well. Before I know it, I’ve read the whole magazine. Your team is certainly blessed by Srila Prabhupada.
Lakshmipriya Devi Dasi
I am interested in Hinduism (but officially a Greek Orthodox), and I have been informed that there is no eternal condemnation in your faith, just reincarnation or hellish realms, but these are temporary places. The Bhagavad-gita mentions hell, however, so is there a concept of hell in ISKCON, and if there is, is it eternal?
Via the Internet
Our reply: You are correct that the Vedic scriptures give no mention of eternal condemnation. There is detailed information of hellish planets where one who is overly sinful suffers, but such reactions are temporary. Those who have spiritual knowledge view material existence itself as miserable or hellish. Lord Krishna say in the Bhagavad-gita (8.16), “From the highest planet in the material world down to the lowest, all are places of misery wherein repeated birth and death take place. But one who attains to My abode, O son of Kunti, never takes birth again.”
One is therefore advised to end all material enjoyment and suffering by advancement is pure spiritual consciousness. This is easily done by serious and sincere chanting of Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.