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Krishna Consciousness

This section of the FAQ covers questions about Krishna consciousness.

Q: Why do different living entities respond differently to Krishna consciousness?

A: Due to greater or lesser ignorance (which means attachment to maya, illusory sense enjoyment), different living entities respond differently to Krishna consciousness. In order to come to a happier status of Krishna consciousness, you should seriously cultivate knowledge by carefully reading Srila Prabhupada's books and putting questions before devotees who can give you enlightening answers.

Q: Is there more to life then what I am currently experiencing? How can I get more out of life?

A: The Upanisads say, "Life comes from the spirit self. Even as a man casts a shadow, so the spirit self casts the shadow of life, and, as a shadow of former lives, a new life comes to this body."

Getting more out of life means coming to the spiritual platform. Most people live in the shadow of their real self, and thus in the shadow of their real life. Therefore the Vedas call, tamasi mam jyotir gama: "Come out of the darkness into the light." The shadow-life is the life of thinking "I am the body." This pseudo-life leads to old age, disease and death, and then rebirth in other material body. The real life, the life of light, is knowing that I am not this body, but am a spirit soul, a part of the Supreme Spirit, Krishna, like a spark is part of fire or a photon is part of sunlight.

You -- the real self behind the role you play -- are eternal. You should live life to realize that truth. Not just to believe it, but to see it yourself, at all times, in all places, in all circumstances. That's getting the most out of life.

Q: How can I learn more about Krishna consciousness?

A: The best way is to begin to make a serious study of our books (we have over 50 volumes of books but the best one to begin with is a book called Bhagavad-gita As It Is) and to associate with the members of our society who can answer your questions. We have centers and temples in the major cities of most countries of the world. Please consult our World Wide Address List to find an address nearest to you.

Q: There are so many voices out there saying that they're the one. Who knows?

A: If someone is attempting to purchase gold and there are many sellers of gold, some bona-fide and some who are cheating, how can one know that he is getting the real thing? There is the saying, "Let the buyer beware." According to Vedic understanding, this means that it is the job of one who is interested in purchasing gold to become knowledgeable about what gold is, what its qualities are, who its authorized sales representatives are etc. In spiritual matters it is the same thing. There are so many voices, but if we ourselves do not have a clear idea of what it is we are looking for then it will be hard to conduct an intelligent search. Then in frustration we may throw up our hands, declare that it is all a matter of belief, and become our own gurus, even though we must admit, if we are honest, that there is one thing we do know for sure -- that we are not qualified for the job.

It is not important in the beginning to worry about accepting a spiritual master and surrendering to him, nor is there any necessity of this in the beginning. The main thing to do is to become knowledgeable about the nature of real spiritual life and what a bona-fide spiritual master is. This type of knowledge acquisition can approach on purely theoretical basis in order to make progress. We propose that the literature of the Hare Krishna movement represents authorized information about these subjects. Study this literature thoroughly and then draw your own conclusions. If you make a sincere and exhaustive study of our literatures, you will understand who is a bona-fide spiritual master and why it is important to take guidance from him if you want to make real and tangible spiritual progress in this human form of life. Try it.

Q: My own religious background is strong and I would not like to lose it's good explanations of life, although certain philosophical aspects of it differ from the vaishnava version - like a personal God being the goal. Would I have to give that all up in order to join your movement?

A: You can at present remain as you are. There is no need for you to reject it now. Simply chant Hare Krishna and read the books of Srila Prabhupada carefully and then gradually you will come to realize what you should do in your life. Krishna consciousness is not an artificial imposition on the mind, that is, you do not have to force yourself to think in any particular way. You just advance gradually in this process and soon you will realize everything you need to know.

God is definitely a person, but He is not a person like you or me in the material sense. He is the Supreme Person who possesses a transcendental form of eternity, knowledge, and bliss. He is not affected by any material thing and is eternally enjoying in His spiritual abode in the spiritual world with His spiritual associates. We are part of God. Since He is personal, we are also persons here in this world and in the ultimate issue. You can come to realize this more and more by chanting.

There is no need to give up the ideas of good qualities that were taught to you by your previous teachers. Good qualities are always desired in spiritual life.

Q: Can I move into a temple right away and become a devotee?

A: Generally there is no problem with this if one actually understands our philosophy and is prepared to make a mature and serious commitment to the practice of Krishna consciousness. Those who live in our temples follow four regulative principles: no intoxication, no illicit sex, no gambling and no meat eating. They also rise early in the morning, chant 16 rounds of japa (the holy names of God) on beads, worship, and study the books of the Krishna consciousness movement together. Then throughout the remainder of the day they work hard to help distribute the teachings of Krishna consciousness to others. My recommendation would be to visit one of our temples and arrange to stay for week or so as an experiment to see how you like it. Then you can take it from there.

Q: I am a teenager and would like to practice Krishna consciousness in my home. I come from a different religious background. Could you give me an easy way to express my desire to practice Krishna consciousness to my parents?

A: The safest way to tell your parents about Krishna consciousness would be to give them some prasadam which was from the local temple or restaurant, or invite them to visit the temple or restaurant. If that is not possible, then give them a Bhagavad-gita and let them read it. They will at least understand that we are a bona-fide religious tradition and this can reduce their fears. Good luck. Don't be fanatical with them and discuss everything openly. They might even like Krishna Consciousness!

Q: Do you support the Hinduistic idea of many Gods, or do you believe in the one and only God?

A: God is one. He who some call Allah, Jehovah, Yaweh, and so on, is none other than Krishna, or the Supreme Godhead, by other names. It is simply a question of language and culture. Just like the sun has many names according to time, place and circumstances, yet is one. There can only be one God who is the Supreme since the definition of God is that there is no one greater than Him and no one equal to Him.

Some people -- even many Hindus themselves -- think that Hinduism is polytheistic (a religion of many gods). But actually, Hinduism (or more properly, Vedic dharma), is a polycultural religion. Its aim is to bring people from the lowest cultural level to the highest. Therefore it presents a multi-level religiosity. People at the lowest level, who are like spiritual children, are advised to worship Sakti (the Mother Goddess, or nature itself). A step higher, they should worship Ganesh. Ganesh is a totemistic deity. Totem means "an animal, plant, or natural object that serves as a symbol of a clan or family among certain peoples". Worship of Ganesh strengthens family and clan identity, forming the basis of civilization. A step higher than that, they should worship Surya, the sun-god. The sun is the deity of material splendor; by his grace, civilization expands grandly. A step higher, they should worship Shiva. Shiva grants mystical powers to his devotees. And highest of all is the worship of Vishnu. Even Vishnu-worship has various stages, with the worship of Krishna at the top.

Another way of understanding Vedic religiosity is by a simple two-step formula. There are two mimamsas or methods of studying the Vedic texts. One is called purva, the earlier study, and the other is called uttara, the higher or more advanced study. On the level of purva-mimamsa, many different gods and goddesses are worshiped to satisfy various material desires. On the uttara-mimamsa level, material desires are renounced. The worshiper concentrates on the one Absolute Truth (Brahman), giving up the worship of lesser deities. Uttara-mimamsa is also called Vedanta. Krishna consciousness is the religion of Vedanta. Bhagavad-gita, our basic scripture, is universally respected in India and abroad as the key to Vedantic wisdom. The Gita clearly rejects the worship of deities other than Krishna, who is the param-tattva (Supreme Truth) and param-brahma (Supreme Brahman).

But it is not that we as devotees of Krishna say that worship of other deities is without any Vedic foundation or purpose in Krishna's greater plan, or that it is inherently evil. The Bhagavad-gita says it is less intelligent. These other deities are not God, but are demigods (empowered servants of Krishna) who manage universal affairs. When we say "Supreme Personality of Godhead," we indicate that of all the Vedic gods, Krishna or Vishnu, the Supreme Person, is the head. The Rg Veda confirms this with the statement, om tad visnoh paramam padam sada pasyanti surayah: "The demigods are part and parcel of the Supreme Lord, Vishnu, because they are always obedient to His orders."

Q: Do the Hare Krishna devotees worship other gods too, like Shiva and Vishnu, and the gods that have animal features, like Hanuman and Ganesh?

A: We pray to Lord Vishnu since He is an expansion of Sri Krishna, who is the source of all existence. Lord Shiva is a deva, a demigod, who is in charge of the mode of ignorance in this world. He is therefore a guna-avatar of Krishna. We try to take his mercy if at all possible since he is the greatest vaishnava. We do not worship him as supreme for he comes from Krishna and is not the highest Deity. This is confirmed by Lord Shiva himself in the Srimad-Bhagavatam in several places, but notably in 4.24.16-79.

Hanuman, who resembles a monkey, is actually a great devotee of one of Lord Krishna's incarnations, namely Sri Rama. In the great Sanskrit historical text called the Ramayana, the pastimes of Lord Rama are described, and therein we find Hanuman is Lord Rama's most obedient servant. Hanuman is not an ordinary monkey. First of all, the species he belongs to is called vanara in Sanskrit, which means "forest dweller." I suppose you could say the vanaras correspond in a sense to the modern idea of the prehistoric ape-man. (The events of the Ramayana took place two million years ago, which according to Western calculation is prehistory). One difference, however, with this ape-man idea is that the Vedas say the vanaras co-existed with homo sapiens in the ancient world; it's not that there were no real people two million years ago, and that they gradually descended by evolution from the ape-men later on. Another difference is that the vanaras were not primitive savages, but were culturally quite developed. Nor was Hanuman even an ordinary vanara. He was an incarnation of Vayu, the Vedic demigod of the wind.

Ganesh has the head of an elephant, but the body of a human dwarf. He is the son of Lord Shiva. Once he angered his father, provoking Shiva to cut off his head. At the insistence of Parvati (Shiva's wife and Ganesh's mother), Shiva brought the boy back to life by placing an elephant's head on his shoulders. Ganesh is honored before entering the altar room, as he removes the obstacles on the path of devotional service for the sincere devotee.

Q: I'd like to know why cows are so highly respected.

A: Cows are respected in Vedic culture because they represent religiosity. They freely give human beings milk, which in India is called "liquid religiosity." Therefore they are considered as respectable as our own mother.

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