Photo by: Ananta Vrindavan
- Krishna and the Art of Bicycle Maintenance -
by Rohini-suta dasa (Ronald E. Boutelle)
Table of Contents
Chapter Five: The Good News of the Vaishnava Gospel
Long, long ago, the demigod in charge of rainfall, King Indra, fell from his heavenly position and took birth in a family of pigs. Due to his offensive behavior, his spiritual master Brihaspati (bree-hos-pot-ee) had cursed him into this hellish condition.
Just like the other pigs, King Indra loved eating the garbage thrown over the fence by the farmer and all the other nasty things that pigs relish. He enjoyed rolling in the thick mud, he especially loved to grunt, and he never complained about the millions of flies that landed everywhere.
After he grew up he fell in love with an especially fat sow and before long he was surrounded by dozens of little piglets. Life couldn’t have been happier for King Indra. He had his lovely “she-pig” with whom he enjoyed unlimited sex with, he had scores of squealing piglets to roll around in the mud with, and the farmer was very generous, always making sure to throw them large amounts of rotting garbage.
When Lord Brahma (Krishna’s representative in charge of the material world) heard of King Indra’s abominable situation, he immediately approached him, greatly saddened by the appalling condition of his close friend. “My dear King Indra, what has happened to you? Why are you living in such a filthy place? Don’t you remember your beautiful palace and all your friends who miss you? This is not at all befitting the King of Heaven!”
King Indra replied, “I’m sorry, but I do not know what you are talking about. Actually, I am very happy here as you can see for yourself. I have my lovely “she-pig,” surrounded by our many children, and we have so many nice things to eat. Please leave me alone. I do not know what you are talking about.”
Perceiving the enormous power of the material illusion that had fallen upon his beloved friend, with great compassion Lord Brahma drew his mighty sword, killing the pig and instantly restoring the King to his proper senses.
(BHAKTIVEDANTA SWAMI PRABHUPADA, Shrimad-Bhagavatam 3.30.5, © BBT-Int’l, 1972)
* * * * *
The dramatic events which precipitated my full-time participation in the Hare Krishna Movement, each, in their own unique way, took me by complete surprise. To begin with, one day, the relationship I had cherished with my girlfriend came to an unexpected and heart-crushing halt. From then on, everything in Saratoga Springs lost its sparkle and although I wanted to be happy, without her my life seemed ruined.
Secondly, receiving a letter from Charles Berner was about the last letter I would have expected to find in my mailbox. I didn’t think he even knew where I was living. But there it was in my hand, an invitation to rejoin his staff, who had recently opened an ashram (OSH-rom – spiritual school) near San Francisco. I think receiving Charles’ letter helped, in part, to rekindle my interest in pursuing the answers to the questions I had asked when I was living in my forest cabin--What is MY message? What does God want me to do?
Deciding to accept Charles’ offer, I sold or gave away just about everything I owned and made plans for my departure. Eventually, the day I was to leave for California arrived. This was in early August. The year was 1976. The bus I was taking was almost ready to pull out.
Weighing upon me heavily at this last crucial hour were all the things I had experienced in Saratoga Springs over the past several years—the end of my first marriage, falling in love with Cathy Moore, my forest cabin, enlightenment, the Adirondack Wheel Works, the chocolate chip cookies, and reading about Lord Krishna. Checking my watch, on a long shot I decided to take one last walk downtown and who knows, perhaps I would see Cathy. It had been months since I last saw her. With the clock quickly ticking down, I had no idea where she might be but because I was still in love with her, naturally, in my heart, I wanted to say good-by.
With less than an hour to board the bus and hoping for a miracle, to my profound astonishment I saw her standing near the post office. At this critical moment, to be able to spend a few minutes with her meant a great deal, and Cathy was kind enough to talk with me. But in the back of my mind, far outweighing our final good-byes, was knowing the uncanny way in which I had found her in the first place—almost like finding a needle in a haystack. Then again, this one last coincidence seemed quite apropos considering the other unusual events that Saratoga had blessed me with. I was ready to leave.
About thirty minutes before the large Greyhound bus pulled into New York City’s, Port Authority, I sat still, staring out the dirty window beside me.
Determined not to box myself in, I hadn’t even bothered to buy a ticket all the way to California. What I really desired was to embrace a new lifestyle and live like a falling leaf—simply going in the direction God chose to take me. I just needed to make it to New York City and figured I’d then pay for the California part of my ticket.
Tired and hungry, for a few moments I even thought about spending the night in New York City. However, as soon as I saw its jagged skyline loom upon the horizon, I remembered the horrible cities I had envisioned in “the world with humans on it”—not a pretty sight, at all. No, I needed to buy my next ticket and get the hell out of there as fast as possible. But first, before catching the next bus, I began thing that “it would sure be nice to have dinner in a cozy vegetarian restaurant, listen to some Indian music, and meet some spiritual people.” Just wishful thinking, I knew this wasn’t going to happen. Not in a bus station. No, I needed to concentrate on finding the ticket window.
About the fifteenth person to step off the bus, I held on tightly to my tenor guitar as I felt the full weight of my pack press down upon my shoulders. And just about fifteen steps later, a rather odd-looking man stopped me, asking if I would like to take a book with me, which he placed in my hand. Taking a quick glance, I immediately recognized it as the Bhagavad-gita. I told him that I already had that exact book in my backpack (which I did, although I hadn’t read it yet). He then showed me another book, one of the seventeen volumes from the Chaitanya-charitamrita.
Of course, I had never even heard of this book, much less able to pronounce it (chay-ton-ya-cha-ree-TOM-ree-ta), but I remember looking at it and being immediately captivated by the beautiful picture on its cover. I wanted it.
In the center of the picture, sitting on a slightly elevated cushion and surrounded by His loving disciples, for the first time in my life I saw a picture of Lord Chaitanya. Today this still remains one of the most beautiful picture I have ever seen.
Definitely wanting to read the book on my journey, I unsnapped my shirt pocket and gladly gave the man (Gopal Acharya dasa) a ten-dollar bill and said good-by. Yet, in barely the time it took me to take three more steps, I turned around. I just couldn’t deny the fact that only minutes before stepping off the bus I had been thinking of meeting someone spiritual, and this is exactly what had just happened. Twice in one day I had been blessed: first finding Cathy and now meeting this stranger. I could sense a divine winds blowing me forward. But how was I to know that a hurricane was about to sweep me off my feet?
Asking the young man if he knew of any vegetarian restaurants close-by where I could eat dinner and listen to some Indian music, he told me that his temple ran a very popular restaurant and that I would enjoy their Indian decor and entertainment. I didn’t know what kind of a temple he was talking about but if I could get there without too much difficulty, I was game.
Just as he said, for only a few dollars a taxi took me right to the front door—a small skyscraper located in Manhattan, near Central Park. What began, then, as an innocent bite to eat, instead turned into a lifetime of commitment to Lord Krishna and Shrila Prabhupada.
Jayananda (ja-YA-nun-da) was an older devotee in the Hare Krishna Movement, whom Shrila Prabhupada was especially fond of.
My dear friend, Jayananda
About twelve months after I met him, he died of leukemia. However, when I was introduced to him I had no idea how ill he was. After entering the building I was told that he would show me the way to, Govinda’s (the name of their vegetarian restaurant).
In spite of his bald head and odd looking clothes, it was impossible not to like Jayananda and his easygoing manner. He had a broad smile, a warm voice, and he was very friendly. Before I knew it I was accepting his invitation to spend the night at the temple. He even offered me a place in his room to bed down.
Although I only got a few hours sleep that first night, it was surprisingly easy to wake up when Jayananda called my name out at three-thirty in the morning. I was quite excited with my new surroundings, plus having spent my first night in the middle of New York City. Even the ice-cold shower didn’t kill me and an hour later he took me downstairs into a large temple room. Including both men, women, and children, nearly seventy devotees stood standing before large teak-wood doors, each one ornately handcrafted. Led by the trumpet-like sound of a white conch (shell) and ringing bells, the 6 massive doors swung open, revealing a gorgeous altar.
Another ceremony took place a little later, but this time everyone was encouraged to grab a handful of fresh rose petals that were being passed out in a large basket. When the massive doors were swung open, everyone threw their flowers toward the altar, creating a fantastic shower that carpeted everything in the most exquisite way. At that same moment, a beautiful song arranged by Beatle, George Harrison began to play. I remember thinking that even though I had little idea what these people were all about, one thing was certain—if there was such a thing as worshiping God, this fascinating and inspiring ceremony had to be it.
"When the music began to play, the altar doors opened, revealing the most exquisite
deities of Lord Krishna and His loving, eternal companion, Radharani"
Because of the kind way in which Jayananda asked me, I kept taking him up on his invitations to spend ,“just one more night.” After all, I wasn’t in that much of a rush to get to California. But it was just a matter of time before I would have to leave.
In my shirt pocket I had over a thousand dollars in cash and becoming a little concerned about losing it, I told Jayananda. He led me to a small office where I was given a receipt for the money. By showing them the note I could get my money back at any time. The next day, after the morning ceremonies, Jayananda walked over to me and in a childlike manner asked if I had seen all my money that he had placed on the altar--“all around Lord Krishna’s lotus-feet.”
I now know (well, I’m pretty sure, I think) that this was simply a transcendental bluff on his part, but at the time, as you might imagine, to have my savings suddenly given like that to God, without my permission, was inconceivable. I was speechless. I didn’t know what to say. Instantly my thoughts began to race like crazy. I just knew that something drastic was about to happen to me and I was totally caught by surprise.
In my mind, trying as fast as possible to comprehend what was going on, I felt that because my money had been given to God, how could I ask for it back, even if I hadn’t given permission? Desperately trying to cope with what Jayananda had just told me, my attention then turned to the real issue—how I wanted to behave (like a falling leaf).
Since this all had to be the Lord’s arrangement, I asked Jayananda to help me become a novice priest, or bhakta (balk-ta) in the Hare Krishna movement. Later that day he cut all my hair off (which at the time was over sixteen inches long). All at once I looked and felt ten years younger.
To be perfectly honest, I wouldn’t trade what I have learned about Lord Krishna for all the money in the world. With the same compassion as Lord Brahma, Jayananda also swung his mighty sword. For a split second I, too, felt the searing pain of divine sympathy—exactly what Lord Indra and all illusioned souls experience when they come into contact with the Lord’s merciful devotee. Publicly I want to say, “thank you” to this great saint for saving me.
This is the nature of divine love. It is ever fresh, ever-increasing, and everyday this fact becomes increasingly clear. Jayananda wasn’t under any delusion. He had discovered for himself an extraordinary picture, perfectly showing all who look at it the most beautiful thing in all creation: “The Good News of the Vaishnava Gospel.”
When a person turns his attention to Lord Krishna for help, the Lord proceeds to kindly strip away his material attachments.
“Krishna, the Personality of Godhead, who is the Paramatma (pa-rom-OUGHT-MA – 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 (spoken).”
Shrila Prabhupada comments on this verse as follows: “The Lord is reciprocally respondent to His devotees. When He sees that a devotee is completely sincere in getting admittance to the transcendental service of the Lord and has thus become eager to hear about Him, the Lord acts from within the devotee in such a way that the devotee may easily go back to Him. The Lord is more anxious to take us back into His kingdom than we can desire. Most of us do not desire at all to go back to Godhead. Only a very few men want to go back to Godhead. But anyone who desires to go back to Godhead, Lord Krishna helps in all respects.” (BHAKTIVEDANTA SWAMI PRABHUPADA, Shrimad- Bhagavatam 1.2.17, © BBT-Int’l, 1972)
In her own way, repeating what Shrila Prabhupada has just said, many years ago Saint Therese of Lisieux wrote that: “He knows well that if He gave me a shadow of happiness I would cling to it with all my energy, all the strength in my heart. I believe Jesus’ work during this retreat has been to detach me from all that is not himself. I have no merit in not having given myself up to the love of creatures. I was preserved from it only through God’s great mercy. I know that without Him, I might have fallen as low as Magdalene.” (GUY GAUCHER, The Story Of A Life, St. Therese Of Lisieux, pp.98, 188-89, Harper & Row, 1987)
In spite of the forceful preaching emanating from many of today’s Christian theologians, Christianity and its “good news” is not as unique as they might claim. While it is true that the Holy Bible and its precious message can bestow all success, it is not true that Christianity has the only “good news” to offer mankind. This is an arrogant and misleading precept that needs to be corrected. The fact that Christian ministers openly broadcast this false notion is very unchristian-like, to say the least, and simply breeds suspicion and irreligious doctrine.
This was perfectly illustrated to me one Sunday morning when I heard a Christian minister announced over the radio that the uniqueness of Christianity is found in three unshakable facts—a declaration, he said, that “no other single religion on the face of the earth can match.” First, there is the fact that no other religion can make the claim that its founder is God. Secondly, only Christianity can make the claim that it provides for the forgiveness of sins and the absolute assurance of eternal life. Thirdly, no other religion can say that their founder rose from the dead.
My intention, here, is not to discredit Christianity, but to set the record straight along with providing the readers of this book some insight into, “The Good News of the Vaishnava Gospel.” I feel strongly that religious leaders should be very careful about criticizing other religions and thus establishing a certain “mind-set” within their followers which, unfortunately, leads people to reject anything that doesn’t fit into the “neat little box” that they have heard is the “gospel truth.”
Is there more about God for the Christian to learn?
1 CORINTHIANS 13:12--“We can see and understand only a little about God now, as if we were peering at His reflection in a poor mirror. Now all I know is hazy and blurred.”
JOHN 16:12--“Oh, there is so much more I want to tell you, but you can’t understand it now.”
JOHN 16:25--“These things I have spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall show you plainly the Father.”
“The Good News of the Vaishnava Gospel” receives its inspiration from, and is based upon the holy teachings found in the Bhagavad-gita. “The speaker of Bhagavad-gita is Lord Krishna—God Almighty. He is mentioned on every page of Bhagavad-gita as the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” note #2
BHAGAVAD-GITA (9.11)--“Fools deride Me when I descend in the human form. They do not know My transcendental nature as the Supreme Lord of all that be.”
SHRIMAD-BHAGAVATAM (1.1.20)--“Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, along with Balarama (His brother), played like a human being, and so masked, He performed many superhuman acts.”
Because of these scriptural references (and hundreds more just like them), “The Good News of the Vaishnava Gospel” is that its historical founder is in fact God—the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The history of Lord Krishna speaking the Bhagavad-gita can be found in chapter four of this great book. This history is also traced out in the Mahabharata (ma-HA-BHA-rot -- Santi-parva 348.51-52).
Of course, this is ancient history and it has been said that the more recent architect of the Hare Krishna movement is Lord Chaitanya. But here again we find Almighty God. In the last chapter, I have already discussed Lord Chaitanya’s absolute divinity. So either way, historically and factually, “The Good News of the Vaishnava Gospel” has as its fountainhead our Blessed & Almighty Lord.
Forgiveness of sins and eternal life are the two main pillars of the Christian gospel.
ACTS 13:38--“Brothers! Listen! In this man Jesus, there is forgiveness for your sins!”
LUKE 24:47--“There is forgiveness of sins for all who turn to me.
JOHN 3:16--“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Yes, indeed, the promise of redemption and eternal life is certainly good news. All glories to Lord Jesus Christ. But is Christianity the only religion that provides this unequivocal assurance of salvation? What does “The Good News of the Vaishnava Gospel” say about these two fundamentals? What does Lord Krishna say?
BHAGAVAD-GITA (10.3)—”He who knows Me as the unborn, as the beginningless, as the Supreme Lord of all worlds—he only, undiluted among men, is freed from all sins.”
BHAGAVAD-GITA (18.66)—”Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear.”
Found in another Vaishnava Scripture, the Shrimad-Bhagavatam, we find this and many more references about the forgiveness of sins, lending more meaning to, “The Good News of the Vaishnava Gospel”:
SHRIMAD-BHAGAVATAM (2.4.15)--“Let me offer my respectful obeisances unto the all-auspicious Lord Krishna, about whom glorification, remembrance, audience, prayers, hearing and worship can at once cleanse the effect of all sins of the performer.”
As you can see, “The Good News of the Vaishnava Gospel” contains many wonderful promises, providing for the complete exculpation of sin—just as we find in the Holy Bible.
The question of “eternal life,” however, is a little more tricky. Throughout the BHAGAVAD-GITA the eternal nature of the soul is established by the Lord.
BHAGAVAD-GITA (15:7)--The living entities in this conditioned world are My eternal fragmental parts.
BHAGAVAD-GITA (2.12)--Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be.
BHAGAVAD-GITA (2.20)--For the soul there is neither birth nor death at any time. He has not come into being, does not come into being, and will not come into being. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.
MATTHEW 10:28--Don’t be afraid of those who can kill only your bodies, but can’t touch your souls!
Since we are eternal by nature, what the scriptural promise of “eternal life” is referring to, is the quality of our eternal existence. It is when we begin to understand this that the real value of the “good news” blossoms forth. But let us first confirm that The Good News of the Vaishnava Gospel takes one into the realm of eternal life. Again, referring to the, BHAGAVAD-GITA (4.24)—A person who is fully absorbed in Krishna Consciousness is sure to attain the spiritual kingdom.
BHAGAVAD-GITA (7.23)—My devotees ultimately reach My supreme planet.
BHAGAVAD-GITA (8.28)—Simply by performing devotional service he reaches the supreme eternal abode.
BHAGAVAD-GITA (18.55)—When one is in full consciousness of Me by (devotional service), he can enter into the kingdom of God.
Here, then, is our supreme goal—the eternal kingdom of God, made accessible by the promise of God, the mercy of the spiritual master and “The Good News of the Vaishnava Gospel.”
Now I would like to set the record straight on the third point that the minister on the radio made—a common misconception broadcast by many of our Christian friends. Question: Is the Holy Bible the only religious record which gives an historical account of its religious founder appearing again after his death?
After the departure of Lord Krishna from this world (5000 years ago), as stated by His Holiness Krsnadasa Kaviraja Goswami, Lord Krishna appeared again as Lord Chaitanya. Reference to this fact was introduced in the last chapter. However, since this reappearance spans such a long period of time, it can be noted that after the disappearance of Lord Chaitanya in 1534, He, too, miraculously appeared in the midst of His devotees, just as Lord Jesus Christ had appeared in the midst of his disciples.
JOHN 20:19—”That evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors, in fear of the Jewish leaders, when suddenly Jesus was standing there among them.”
Regarding Lord Chaitanya’s after-death appearance which occurred less than fifty years after he departed this world, a large festival to honor the anniversary of His birthday was being held at Kheturigram, India. Literally thousands of people were there and this is what happened:
“Gauranga das and the others were the most expert in the assembly gathered in that town of all the different kinds of singing and kirtan (KEER-tawn – congregational glorification of the Lord), and understood perfectly the different classical modulations of voice, performing music by ear, as well as fixed and unfixed melodies. The sweet and wonderful kirtan of Narottama dasa Thakura (na-row-tom DOS TA-coor – a great devotee of Lord Chaitanya) with its sweet tune and unique style of voice filled the four directions and the heavens above, causing all the men and women (to) weep tears of prema (pray-ma – love of God), and they all sported in the waves of (spiritual) ecstasy.
“At that time, Lord Chaitanya, along with His personal associates, appeared there and joined in the sankirtan (praising the Lord’s Holy Names in song and dance). Who can describe the wealth of happiness felt by the devotees when, in the midst of their kirtan (dance) appeared the munificent Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Himself.
“Like a flash of lightning in the midst of a mass of beautiful clouds, Lord Chaitanya, Himself, appeared within the crowd of devotees through divine manifestation.” (BHAKTI VIDHAN MAHAYOGI, Lives of the Vaishnava Saints, p. 114, from the chapter, “Shri Narottama Dasa Thakura,” translated from: HARI-KRIPA DASA, “Shri Gaura-prasada-charitavali,” Gaudiya Mission of Calcutta, India.)
As I mentioned in chapter four, one of the most interesting things about Lord Chaitanya is that He appeared just “yesterday,” compared to Jesus Christ, and His entire life has been meticulously recorded. As did Jesus Christ (Luke 5:12), Lord Chaitanya miraculously cured a leper. He also brought the dead son of Shrivas Thakura back to life. note #3 The Chaitanya-charitamrita recounts many more miracles in the life of Lord Chaitanya.
It is my sincere hope that many Christians will find this book valuable. Part of “The Good News of the Vaishnava Gospel” is that within its Scripture’s (Maha Bhavishya Purana – ma-HA bha-vish-yah poo-RA-na), compiled long before the birth of Christ, the story of Jesus is fully predicted, mentioning among other things that he was born of a virgin, and that he was the Messiah. The history of his eventual crucifixion is predicted, even declaring his name to be “Jesus.” (REV. ALVIN V.P. HART & STEVEN ROSEN, East-West Dialogues, p.76, Folk Books, 1989)
“The Good News of the Vaishnava Gospel” is that unlike “a poor mirror”, it bestows upon those fortunate enough to look into it a very clear and wonderful vision of God. Of course, what I am talking about is a collection of words (scripture), which for the most part were written in Sanskrit. As one begins to understand Sanskrit and its vast superiority to our other natural languages, one might ask, “What in the world were these ancient people in India doing with such a highly advanced language?”
In 1985, scientist Rick Briggs asked this very question while studying at NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffet Field, California. His answers were published in the article, “Knowledge Representation in Sanskrit and Artificial Intelligence.”
“If nothing else,” Mr. Briggs wrote, “Sanskrit represents man’s most perfect attempt for the clearest and most unambiguous means of communication ever devised.” (RICK BRIGGS, The A. I. Magazine, 1985)
Shrila Prabhupada echoes this same thing, referring to the Vedas as, “windows to the spiritual sky.”
“The Good News of the Vaishnava Gospel” is an ocean of mercy which has kindled in countless millions a new meaning to life—spirit-laden meaning which can fill the heart with hope and purpose, and give everyday actions new direction and value. But since this “good news” consists of a window of words, hearing these words is the first step.
It is very important to hear the word of God. We have to take the time and effort that this requires—activating our spiritual senses and awakening our love for God. This is true yoga.
PROVERBS 4:20-22--“My son, attend to My words; incline thine ear unto My sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. For they are (eternal) life unto those that find them.”
To illustrate just how important this is, I once heard a true, but sad story. Years ago, in a large city, there lived an old lady who died in complete poverty. Right before she died, however, three ministers went to visit her, having been told that she was about to pass away. While in her dingy apartment ministering to her, one of the men noticed a framed document hanging on the kitchen wall. He took it down and asked the dying woman about it.
She told her three visitors that earlier in her life she had worked for an extremely wealthy lady, taking care of her every need and keeping her mansion spotless. But this wealthy lady gradually fell into poor health and died. After she passed away, her employees had to be dismissed, leaving them without employment. Jobs were very scarce in those days. A few weeks before the rich woman died, she had given her that piece of paper, which the old lady had placed in the frame and hung on the kitchen wall.
When the minister asked her if she understood what it was, the old woman said that she had never learned to read and never bothered to find out. “Well,” the minister said, “this is a will. This is a legal document from that rich lady, leaving you everything she owned in consideration for your many years of dedicated service. My dear lady, don’t you realize that you are fabulously rich?”
Just see what can happen to a person (to any of us) because they “didn’t take the time to find out.” And the way in which we find out, is by hearing--Incline thine ear…We must not neglect the transcendental sound. If we don’t bother to hear about “the good news” that is waiting for us, how are we going to claim it?
Another way of understanding the importance of this, is to compare the “word of God” to a seed. Like any seed, if it isn’t planted, how is it expected to grow and produce fruit? Not until the seed is planted in the ground can anything happen. The seed is powerless to act until it is planted in the ground and this doesn’t happen until the farmer hears about it, receives it, and has faith that it will produce what the package claims. If we don’t trust the seeds, why bother with all the hard work to plant them? If we do not trust God, we will not pay Him any attention. We just won’t be interested in His promises. Therefore, the words, themselves, are the keys to this trust—introducing us to, “The Good News of the Vaishnava Gospel.”
Surely, I wouldn’t have spent so many years, in a most peculiar looking religion, if I didn’t trust the words of Lord Krishna and Shrila Prabhupada. As I mentioned in an earlier chapter, I had read Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, while living in my bicycle shop in Saratoga Springs. When I read at the end of certain chapters that I was receiving a special blessing, just because I was hearing the story, this struck me as something most unusual—an unexpected blessing. I had never read anything like that before and this intrigued me very much. Could this be true?
Now that I look back, from that time henceforth my life has not been the same. For me, “The Good News of the Vaishnava Gospel” is that Lord Krishna has touched me many different times. I especially like how He has dealt with me in a very down-to-earth way. He knows perfectly well my mentality and the perfect manner in which to encourage me.
Among other things, various moments in my life have been rather mystical. This is thrilling and makes my religion very personal. “The Good News of the Vaishnava Gospel” is that Lord Krishna has continued blessing me in the most telling ways—especially within the realm of coincidences where I sense Him most easily. The Lord has also maintained my keen interest to read and write about God. You, too, can experience these same things!
A few years ago I was in Fort Worth, Texas, with my friend good, Krishna-katha dasa. Several of us had made the long drive from Denver, having rented U-Haul tops for the two cars we drove down in. After renting an apartment, my friend suggested that we should return the luggage carriers to the nearest U-Haul dealer and get our deposits back. So the two of us went to the office to ask the apartment manager where the nearest U-Haul was located.
As we were about to enter the office, I mentioned how I wanted to ask the manager about a tree that had been poisoned in Austin. This happened about three years earlier. I explained that right before I had left Fischer, the most famous and historical tree in all of Texas began to suddenly lose its leaves, alarming everyone. Soon, various tree experts were summoned, and they determined that some powerful agent had contaminated the soil.
The Treaty Oak
photo by: Hephaestos
At first no one fully realized the extent of the damage, but the more they investigated the more alarmed everyone became. Soon a whole army of tree experts descended upon the site, and it was discovered that the entire ground beneath the tree had been drenched by a very powerful weed killer.
Because I left Texas at this very point, I never found out if the tree lived or died. I believe the last thing I had heard was that the tree experts had removed all the dirt from underneath it (holding it erect with a special crane, while others carefully washed every root by hand. Fresh dirt with special soil and root boosters were then shoveled in, hoping to reverse the damage).
Another odd thing concerning this drama is that they caught the man who poisoned it. He said he did it to get even with his girlfriend. So you can see why now that I was coming back to Texas for the first time since leaving, I was curious to find out what had happened to that tree.
As we walked in and sat down, the apartment manager was busy at her desk, listening to country music. Taking the opportunity, I asked her about the tree. She looked up, thinking for a moment, and said that she thought it had died. (Actually the tree is still alive, although about half of it did die). She then stood up, walked over to a small potted plant, and began methodically wiping all its leaves with a rag. Perplexed at her rather odd behavior, I asked what she was doing and she said that she had accidentally sprayed it with a poison that was in an unmarked bottle. She didn’t appear to make any connection to what I had just asked and to what had just happened to her plant—quickly returning to her desk to take a long drag on a cigarette. Krishna-katha and myself just looked at each other in complete amazement, noticing the obvious coincidence.
Later, on January 1, 1992, I left Colorado, where I had been managing our Hare Krishna Food For Life program—feeding the homeless on the streets of Denver. I was moving to Potomac, Maryland, to look into the possibility of establishing a Krishna Disaster Relief program in Washington, D.C., only a few miles away.
Not having a car of my own, I decided to take a drive-away car to the east coast. These are cars that individuals leave with companies that specialize in arranging for people, like myself, to drive and deliver them to their owners. Many of the cars need to be driven long distances to accomplish this.
I called the drive-away company that everyone recommended and sure enough, they had five cars going east--“Which one do you want?” Taking the information down on each car and getting out my road map, I quickly eliminated all but two of the five cars, because they needed to be delivered much too far from the Washington area. The idea is that you select a car that gets you closest to your destination, deliver it, get your deposit back from the owner, and finish up the last few miles by other means.
Of the two cars left, one of them had to be delivered about a hundred miles from Washington, while the other had its owner located in Great Falls, Virginia. Looking at my detailed road atlas, I couldn’t even find Great Falls and after twice checking with the drive-away company, all they could tell me was that Great Falls was located near Baltimore, Maryland. If you have a map, look at where Baltimore is, and where Virginia is, and you will see why I was so confused.
With a deadline to meet, I decided to take the car going to Great Falls since it appeared to be going somewhere near Washington. I would just have to inquire at a truck stop near Washington, and, surely, I thought, someone would know where the place was located.
When I went with Krishna-katha to fill out the necessary paperwork, he looked at my drive-away agreement and pointed out that I had to deliver the car to an address on Peacock Street (Lord Krishna always wears a peacock feather in His hair). We both agreed this was a very auspicious beginning for my long trip
After a few days of driving, having made the trip with two days to spare before having to deliver the car to its owner, I decided to drive to our Potomac temple and find out from there where Great Falls was located. Besides, this way I could first unload my personal belongings, arrange for someone to follow me, and then bring me back to the temple. Making a phone call to the car’s owner, I was flabbergasted when he told me that Great Falls was located less than three miles away, and that, indeed, he lived on Peacock Street! Great Falls is just a tiny little village, and of all the cars for me to get, ending up with this one on Peacock Street (just next door) was simply too much of a coincidence to ignore its divine connection.
Due to various reasons, I was unable to start the Krishna Disaster Relief program in Washington. I had spent several months trying. Extremely frustrated, on a rainy Tuesday morning in March I decided to abandon my efforts and instead go back to work. I had little choice because I was completely broke. Out of the blue, within minutes of this rather monumental decision I received a phone call from our Food For Life director in Philadelphia, offering me the position as their kitchen manager—a job which I took, and another electrifying coincidence. The one day (within minutes) I finally decided, “OK, this is it, I am going back to work,” without even applying for the job or having been to Philadelphia, or knowing that the position was open, I was offered a very good job, cooking for the homeless in our large Hare Krishna shelter.
I am only mentioning these events in my life to explain how these very real and down-to-earth episodes continue to happen in my life. When combined with the Vaishnava theology, they give me great faith in the words and existence of Lord Krishna—”The Good News of the Vaishnava Gospel.”
Not long after I started working, I went to the Philadelphia public library to see if I could find a copy of the book, The Story of a Life--St. Therese of Lisieux.
St. Therese of Lisieux, age 15
The day before I had called several bookstores hoping to locate it, but each time I was unsuccessful. As it turned out, the book that the library had could not be checked out, so I sat down in the reference section and read most of it over the next five hours. It was easy to tell that I wanted my own copy.
The following day (Sunday) I went downtown again and at one point, becoming turned around, asked directions to get back home. After a stranger pointed the way, I found myself walking down a narrow side street. Feeling completely out of place amidst the towering buildings and unfamiliar noise, I said two small prayers, one to Lord Krishna and one to Jesus Christ.
Taking less than a dozen steps, I noticed that the store I was then standing next to was a used bookstore. Perhaps, I thought, they would have the book I wanted, The Story of a Life.
Opening the door and entering, immediately to my left, behind a counter, I noticed the person in charge. Asking if he could help me, I said, “Yes, I am wondering if you have the book, The Story of a Life.” The man didn’t even move, except to turn around, reach his hand straight out, less than thirteen inches away from where he stood, pulling the book from the shelf. He told me that the book was his personal copy but that if I wanted it he would sell it to me for ten dollars. Then he said if I really wanted it he would sell it to me for five dollars. I pulled out a five-dollar bill and walked out of the store with the book in my hand, completely stunned by what had just happened.
Not only had less than five minutes gone by from my two short prayers, just think about all the millions of books in this world that could have been in that used bookstore, plus the other million books that could have been within arm’s reach. There is also this incredible fact that I later discovered—this particular bookstore was one that only specialized in, do-it-yourself books such as plumbing and car repair. Nothing else. So how was this possible?
As I continued my journey home, I thanked Shrila Prabhupada and Lord Krishna. Besides ending up with the book that I wanted, this wonderful aspect of “The Vaishnava Gospel” again inundated me with faith. This says to me that my religion is real and that it’s not just something in my head. “The Good News of the Vaishnava Gospel” isn’t just a bunch of lofty words in a book, but rather has entered my life in a most wonderful way, just as it can enter yours.
No different than you, I, too, appreciate wonderful thoughts, and Krishna Consciousness has blessed me with the most incredible world of thinking imaginable. The Vedic Scriptures are immensely powerful, breathtakingly beautiful, highly detailed, and thrilling to read. Their sheer volume is nearly incomprehensible. Many devotees, such as Steven Rosen, are writing several books a year, painstakingly researching and publishing the Vaishnava histories for us all to read.
In the beginning of my involvement with the Hare Krishna Movement, of course I was told about many of the great devotees who make up our rich history, but there was very little information written about them—not like there is today. Now there are many books about these great personalities who have also embraced “The Good News of the Vaishnava Gospel.” Reading about their incredible lives and discovering how Lord Krishna reciprocated with them has sent chills running down my spine. Also, hearing about the quality and character of these rare souls and that they, too, had unshakable faith in Lord Krishna, has immensely sharpened my confidence in God. You can also read these wonderful books (available from Krishna Culture).
More “Good News” is that Shrila Prabhupada has left no room within my false ego for expansions of delusion. He was especially specific about sin and about proper behavior. I really appreciate that he spelled this out so clearly, but when I examine myself I have to hang my head in shame. If I’m not actually doing the wrong thing, like so many of us, I fall short of the mark. However, “The Good News of the Vaishnava Gospel” is that it contains a special ingredient for the likes of me. It has to, or why else would I constantly see Lord Krishna dealing with me with such love and patience?
What I am speaking about is mercy. If I had to say in just one word what “The Good News of the Vaishnava Gospel” means to me the most, without hesitation I would say, “mercy”—easily available to everyone.
I am just an ordinary sort of person and actually, for many years I was not even interested in God. I have no illusions of grandeur and as Shrila Prabhupada so rightly said, my heart consists of a large lump of black coal. I may say that I try; that I am sincere; or that I care—but what is the real depth of these so-called good qualities of mine? Hardly, I find, the depth of my thin skin. Yet, I marvel at how merciful Lord Krishna and His devotees have been to me. I offer Lord Krishna and Shrila Prabhupada my allegiance. But not perfectly, because I can’t. I am not perfect.
I can only guess about other people, but as for myself, I have suffered so much in my life. Some years ago I fell in love with a very beautiful girl. We had a lovely daughter, Julia, followed by her baby brother, Patrick.
Here I am with Julia & Patrick at our
house in Fischer, Texas
I have a very motherly disposition and cherished taking care of our children and being their father. I gave the very best that I had to my family and loved them dearly, but it was not enough. Their mother had a dark side to her that was very deceitful. One day she just decided to not come home, leaving me to raise the children by myself. Patrick was still crawling at the time. Needless to say, seeing my spouse unable to be a faithful wife and good mother devastated me.
After eight months went by, with the onslaught of winter approaching and not being able to give my business enough attention, I found myself having to borrow money to pay the rent. Although I worried constantly about my children’s welfare, Julia and Patrick never suffered from want of love from their daddy. They were my two best friends and I played with them and taught them nice things. I refused to give them anything but one-hundred-percent of my time and affection, shunning baby sitters and daycare centers. It was only after I put them to bed in the evening that I would go out to my shop and work—often until two in the morning, hoping to make enough picture frames to sell. These extremely late hours began to take their toll on me.
My family is not from Texas and I didn’t have anyone to turn to for help. Since we had just moved to Fischer, I had not made any new friends. The three of us were really on our own. Out of desperation I was finally able to speak with their mother over the phone. She said she would take care of the children for me, while I tried to make things more secure for them. This was only to be a temporary arrangement.
Soon after she drove off with them, I called her, wanting, of course, to visit the children. But I was told she had left with them, moving over 1,200 miles away. I called there and spoke briefly with her, unable to get over my disbelief that she had taken my two babies away like that—without even asking or consulting with me. Then I called again and the phone had been disconnected. That was years ago and not a day goes by that I don’t think of my little girl and my son. Hardly a week goes by without this pain overwhelming me. Even in my dreams I find myself crying.
Where did all my suffering begin? I’ll be fifty-seven in a few days and looking back over my life, it has been pretty intense. “The Good News of the Vaishnava Gospel” is that it tells me of a place where there is no suffering—a place free from anxiety. So this gives me great hope for the future, because I believe I am going to this wonderful place. Lord Krishna has given me His word: “Simply by performing devotional service he reaches the supreme eternal abode.” We can all go there!
Especially meaningful to me, and greatly enhancing this promise, there is an added bonus: “The Lord gives special protection to the family members of a devotee. The Lord is so kind that He gives all protection to them.” note #4 This is the special solace I need in order to cope with having lost my children. Although I have no idea where they are, my life still has great meaning for them—more “Good News” for all of us who want to do the absolute best for the ones we love.
(Please note: It has been many years since I wrote the above paragraph. In 2001 I finally found my children. They are both safe and sound.)
* * * * *
Both in the Holy Bible and in the Vedas, the kingdom of God is described.
JOHN 14:2--“In my Father’s house are many mansions.”
SHRI BRAHMA-SAMHITA (29,56)--“…in abodes built with spiritual gems, surrounded by millions of purpose trees…all water is nectar, every word a song, every gait is a dance, where numberless milk cows always emit transcendental oceans of milk.”
So this should be our goal—the Lord’s magnificent abode. Although God has made our planet very beautiful, decorated with graceful waterfalls and majestic mountains, wrapped at times in blankets of wild flowers and white snow, even God admits that when compared to His eternal kingdom, what we see around us, “springs from but a spark of My splendor.” (BHAKTIVEDANTA SWAMI PRABHUPADA, Bhagavad-gita As It Is—10.41, © BBT-Int’l, 1989)
The Vedic description of the spiritual world is vastly different from what we know of here on earth—inconceivably more wonderful. This is “The Good News of the Vaishnava Gospel.” This is our Lord’s transcendental abode. This is the home of Lord Jesus Christ, the home of Shrila Prabhupada, and home to all the great saints who love God with unflinching faith—a place more marvelous than we can even imagine.
I want to go there and I want all of the people I love to go there. I want you to go there, too. Heaven is a place completely free from suffering and heartbreak. Also, the weather is great. El Niño doesn’t exist. How could there possibly be any smog, acid-rain, droughts, hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, excessive temperatures, or ozone holes? Of course there is none of this.
In God’s glorious kingdom you won’t find vicious dogs that tear little children apart. There are no germs or viruses that make you sick, or any rats, pesky flies, biting mosquitoes, bee stings, poisonous snakes, spiders, shark attacks, or cockroaches. Whatever is there is fabulous and naturally desirable. It is a place free from pain and terror. You won’t ever find animals being slaughtered, or death, or any killing, whatsoever. Buildings aren’t rotting away. The evening serenity isn’t shattered by loud sirens. The sweet fragrance of the air doesn’t suddenly become obnoxious. The lovely path isn’t spoiled by a huge pile of dog stool.
Your joy is never shattered by bad news—a war, a fire, a horrible accident, old age, cancer, AIDS, boredom, confusion, dreadful feelings, envy, disappointment, apathy, terror, starvation, rumors, betrayals, nonsense, child molesting, rape, robbery, children being hurt, murders, ethnic cleansing, deformities, ugly discoveries, guilt, neuroses, bad habits, serial killers, cigarette smoke, bad breath, heartbreak, divorce, rejection, bad odors, infections, rudeness, dissatisfaction, discouragement, filth, prostitution, defeat, failure, dirt, riots, hunger, intoxication, hurt feelings, frustration, loneliness, harassment, prejudice, hatred, not being able to fit in, animosity, rejection, fear, perverseness, disobedience, mental illness, politics—or people who are weird, scary, vicious, bitchy, moody, ugly, or who let you down.
No, the spiritual world is a much different place. It is the land of eternity, bliss, and knowledge. You live forever in complete happiness and full of knowledge.
The more you look, the more beauty you find. You aren’t always searching for pleasure and satisfaction. Arriving in this spiritual domain, by the side of God, you never feel unfulfilled. The Lord is the fountainhead of unfathomable joy, mercy, and peace. You live within His abode full of vibrant spiritual health.
You never discover ugly things or nasty secrets. You are never disappointed by what you experience in the spiritual world. It is more wonderful than you ever thought. And this wonder never dries up. Instead, you experience it forever, in an ever-increasing degree. Everything is delightful, beautiful, and fresh.
In this transcendental world your body is spiritual, always youthful, and your knowledge is complete. You are eternally innocent, never losing your “childhood.”
Your spiritual body is never deformed, inadequate, or incapable of performing. Everything about it is perfect—your sight, hearing, smell, etc. Vision isn’t limited to certain colors. Hearing isn’t confined to certain frequencies or taste restricted to our earthly standard. You don’t get sick. Teeth don’t need to be pulled.
Here, on earth, we might go to the mountains, perhaps to visit Redwood National Park, which again, is “but a spark of our Lord’s splendor.” But the birds who live there have better eyesight than we do. Count all of our senses—which would be fully absorbed on such a vacation—yet they all have their limitations. Colors are only so bright, and then we don’t even see the complete spectrum. In the spiritual word, spiritual bodies are a million times more sensitive and perfect in every way.
But wait, there is more to come because the most wonderful thing are the saints that you meet there. They are all so kind and gentle and you get along with everyone. You don’t meet people that you just can’t relate to. Everyone’s heart is simple, never caustic or judgmental. They don’t turn into horrible adults, sniffing one another with their eyes like the dogs here on earth sniff one another with their noses. You have eternal friends, all sharing the same thing—love and service to God. The ones you love never grow old and die, or have other bad things happen to them.
What will it be like meeting Lord Krishna? Beyond all comparisons! Meeting Him will melt your heart, setting it ablaze with love, kindled by the most irresistible beauty you have ever witnessed. It is said that, “His unique loveliness charms millions upon millions of Cupids.” note #5
When we meet our beloved Lord, He captures our heart, enchanting us forever with His charming loveliness.
As I have tried to define the true meaning of heaven, “The Good News of the Vaishnava Gospel” is that such a place does exist. However, unless we take the time and effort to hear about it, and hear that we can reach its transcendental shores, we will be like that old lady who died fabulously rich, not even knowing it.
God’s love for us is an established fact, just as that old lady’s inheritance was an established fact for her. This is why hearing the word of God is so strongly emphasized in all Scripture—”Good News” that will give your life and actions new meaning, hope, purpose, and value.
“The Good News of the Vaishnava Gospel” tells us that God lives and that we can live with Him, too. Finally there is historical and accurate information that we can trust, and which tells us about the person we are supposed to love. This “Good News” contains the highest conception of love of God. Although some may call it “foreign,” in its own right, “The Good News of the Vaishnava Gospel” glorifies and helps bring into focus the real spirit of what Jesus Christ taught.
MATTHEW 23:37--“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.”
By embracing this “Good News,” you transform your life into a life of joy, thus establishing a very real relationship between yourself and God. You are secure in your faith, protected, and in touch with positive feelings, coming from an atmosphere that constantly reminds you of God.
You have hope for a future beyond this life. This “Good News” gives you a lifestyle that you can put into daily practice—a lifestyle steeped with devotional service to God. It promotes individual responsibility and rings true within your heart. It is centered around the most wonderful person of all, Lord Krishna, the fountainhead of all ecstasy and pleasure. This “Good News” is my ace in the hole, my hope out of this mess called material life.
“The Good News of the Vaishnava Gospel” is so wonderful that Lord Krishna has created a very special lantern just to illuminate it for us. Please read on—”The Third Light.”