Found in Sanga, Sanga 2001.

Q. What is the definition of the term atma?

A. The term atma refers to the self. Because we identify ourselves with the mind or body, at times atma can also refer to these concepts of self, but the full sense of self is our identity as a unit of consciousness independent of body and mind. The body and mind are actually manifestations of ignorance that cover the self-luminous atma. The perception of duality is a product of this ignorance, and the self is thus constituted of nondual consciousness. We are not matter. We are consciousness or nondual knowledge, and within consciousness we are a dedicating principle of consciousness. When the self identifies with the body and mind, it serves their demands. Thus the self experiences material necessity and acts out of this perceived necessity. When liberated from this oppression, it serves God in love and thus acts, not out of necessity, but out of joy.

Q. I have a Deity of Sri Nathaji and I do puja daily. I have been wanting a child for years but to no avail. Others worship and pray, and their prayers are answered but mine are not. Is this because there is less devotion in my prayers? I can’t understand why God is not giving me a baby.

A. Try to think of what God might want from you instead of focusing on what you want from God. Then he will pay particular attention to your needs without your having to ask this of him. Such is the nature of love.

Q. I have a friend whom I discuss spiritual topics with and she is having a problem with fear in general and, to some extent, self-acceptance—all based on sexual abuse as a child. How does one begin to absolve this issue in a spiritual manner and what advice would you give?

A. This is a material problem, so a trained psychologist would be the best person to consult. Otherwise, fear pervades material consciousness because material consciousness involves identification with that which will not endure. Thus spiritual pursuit in general is the solution to fear.

Q. There is a lot of mention of kings having two or three queens in texts such as the Ramayana. Why do they marry so many women, whereas we are asked to have only one wife? Also I was wondering about the animal killing these rajas did.

A. The Hindu kings killed animals while hunting to increase their prowess as warriors, but they did not institutionalize animal slaughter, nor did they kill cows. You are not a king and should be satisfied with one wife.

Q. It appears from Srimad-Bhagavatam that the Rajasuya sacrifice occured after the battle of Kuruksetra. But Bhisma is found remembering the event on the battlefield of Kuruksetra before the end of the war. Can you explain this apparent discrepancy?

A. According to Sanatana Goswami, the Srimad-Bhagavatam is not narrated in completely chronological order. Sukadeva Goswami speaks in terms of his own ecstasy and inspiration. Thus some chapters do not follow chronologically. The Rajasuya related in 10.74-75, for example, was performed before the Mahabharata war, otherwise how could members of that assembly who died at Kuruksetra be present for the coronation of Maharaja Yudhistira during the Rajasuya? Although the Rajasuya follows the Mahabharata war in terms of the chronological order of the chapters in the Bhagavatam, it did not follow it in the actual lila.

According to Sanatana Prabhu the chronological order of the events under discussion is as follows: the observance of the solar eclipse at Kuruksetra, the Rajasuya, then the gambling match and exile of the Pandavas, the killing of Salva and finally Dantavakra. After the killing of Dantavakra in Mathura, Krishna returned to Vrindavana, stayed for two months and took the Vrajabasis to Goloka.

This return of Krishna to Vrindavana is not fully developed in Srimad-Bhagavatam by Sukadeva Goswami in consideration of the disposition of Maharaja Pariksit, who might have questioned the apparent favoritism of Krishna to the Vrajabasis over his own family in Dvaraka, for while the Vrajabasis passing from the world was auspicious in every respect, the passing of the Yadu dynasty in Dvaraka ostensibly was not so.

There is, however, a covert reference to Krishna’s returning to Vrindavana found in SB 1.11.9, where the inhabitants in Dvaraka speak of his absence from them in foreign lands like Mathura: yarhy ambujaksa pasasara bho bhavan kurun madhun. In this verse the word madhun refers to Mathura-Vrindavana. The entire lila of his glorious return to Vrindavan is related in the Padma Purana.

Q. In chapter 57 of Krishna book we find the story of the wedding of Krishna and Satya along with descriptions of slaves given as an offering. Srila Prabhupada makes a comment on this, saying that at this time slaves where treated as one’s children. Who are these slaves and why were slaves in the Vedic environment? Is there anything to justify this slavery? Please, give us light in this regard.

A. It is likely that there were slaves in Vedic culture and that they were part of the fabric of that monarchical society. Kings were known to keep slaves. However, times change. We need not think that every aspect of Vedic culture was perfect. This culture is supposed to have exemplified a society in which self-realization and God-consciousness were the clearly accepted, well-defined goals of life, and the means to attain these goals was clear as well. This is the essence of Vedic culture, and if this is in place the world will be a better place, regardless of details that change in accordance with time, place, and social norms. We should not be overly concerned with the idea of reestablishing Vedic culture, but rather understanding modern culture and applying spiritual insight to it. This was the insight of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura.

Otherwise, we are advocates of divine slavery.

Q. There seems to be a discrepancy on page 77 of Prabhupada’s book Nectar of Devotion where he seems to say that Sudama brahmana of Mathura was sent by Krishna to get food from the Yajnic brahmanas of Mathura. How is it possible that the Sudama of Mathura could have been sent by Krishna to beg food from the Yajnic brahmanas?

A. Prabhupada seems to be connecting Sudama brahmana of Mathura, Krishna’s classmate in the Mathura-lila and later the Dvaraka-lila, with the Vrindavana-lila in which Krishna sent some of his friends to beg food from the brahmanas performing Yajna. This Yajna took place on the border of Vrindavana and Mathura. However, at that time Krishna was with his cowherd friends, not with his classmates. It is clear from the lila itself that those who approached the brahmanas for food were not brahmanas themselves. This is why the brahmanas ignored them, thinking them to be merely cowherds. Indeed, this is a significant point in the lila: siddha associates of Krishna know everything a brahmana knows and more because they know the supreme Brahman himself on personal terms. They know everything about the Vedic rituals because they have realized the goal of all Vedic rituals.

Thus it is not possible for Sudama brahmana to have been one of the boys Krishna sent to beg food on his and Rama’s behalf. More likely it was Sudama of Vraja-lila the son of Matuka and Rocana devi. Although the events as related by Srila Prabhupada seem disconnected, his siddhanta on the significance of Krishna arcanam (the topic of discussion in NOD/Brs) is correct: one’s life can be perfected simply by worshiping the Deity of Krishna. Rupa Goswami cites Sudama Vipra’s words as evidence from scripture to support his listing of arcana as a limb of vaidhi-bhakti.

Sometimes when telling a story a preacher may not always accurately state the details, being more concerned with making a particular philosophical point through the telling of that story. In this instance, Prabhupada, in relating the background of Sudama Vipra’s statement in support of arcana of Krishna, seems to have drifted to one of his favorite Vrindavana-lilas that also supports—perhaps even more so—the idea that worshiping Krishna is the most comprehensive form of worship. It is important in the exercise of sorting out the details that we don’t miss the point. Those who have great love for Krishna cannot be wrong in any significant sense. The sacrificial brahmanas made the error of rejecting Krishna’s friends on the basis of a superficial assessment of their position. We should not do the same in relation to Srila Prabhupada.

Q. Will the new Gita that Tripurari Maharaja wrote be available on CD? If so, when will it be available and how much will it be? Also the same with the book—how much and when will it be available? All glories to our Divine Masters.

Answer from Sanga Editors:

Thank you for your interest in Swami B. V. Tripurari’s new book, Bhagavad-gita: Its Feeling and Philosophy.

Presently in San Francisco, Swami is hosting a workshop centered on his upcoming edition of Bhagavad-gita. These lectures and discussions as well as those of other topics are available on CD.

Thank you again and best wishes from everyone at Sanga.

Sanga Editors

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