May 23, 2007
Radio Host: Just to introduce myself, I am beginning a radio program here in Houston that is called “Yoga for Peace.” What we do is educate people on the vastness of yoga and the different paths that one can take in order to reach peace. In this way, people don’t get too stuck in the haṭha or āsana portion of yoga. They will be able to understand that there are other avenues to expand and reach peace. This is what the program is about. We have interviewed Svāmīs and other great souls who have come to town, and we play these interviews on the radio so that people can learn.
I will start with an introduction and then I have a few questions I would like to ask.
There are several paths in yoga, and at some point I would like to discuss them all on “Yoga for Peace Radio.” One of those paths is called bhakti, or the path of devotion. We are fortunate to have His Divine Grace Śrī Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja here to help us better understand this yogic path of devotion. Mahārāja is a great Vaiṣṇava saint who has circled the globe twenty-five times with this simple message of love and devotion that has attracted the hearts and souls of millions. At the age of eighty-seven, he is the most revered and eldest of Vaiṣṇava teachers to visit the Western world. To date, he has written over fifty books, which have been translated into several languages by his followers. For over half a century, Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja has demonstrated and exemplified the pure life of utter dedication and loving service. Namaste, Śrī Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja.
To start, I would like to congratulate you on your title of “Cultural Ambassador of the City of Houston,” as bestowed by our Mayor to you in the year 2004.
Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja: Oh, thank you.
Radio Host: You’re quite welcome. So, to begin, I have a few questions.
Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja: How did she know?
Viṣṇu dāsa: There was an article in the newspaper, and we sent some information.
Radio Host: And I read it on the internet.
Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja: They have also given me American citizenship.
Radio Host: Oh, wonderful! Then you’re welcome to come here any time. The door is open.
Now, I have some basic questions for you. Why should people practice yoga?
Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja: We see that everywhere in this world – especially in China, Taiwan, and Japan, as well as in other countries – people do physical exercises to keep their bodies strong and durable. It may be that for some time their bodies can remain like that. They may be strong, with no disease and with some longevity, but one day they must become old, and where will their yoga go at that time? They will no longer be able to do exercise. So, for the time being we can exercise to protect our body from disease and make it strong, but this is actually exercise, not yoga.
Nowadays, yoga is very famous everywhere. The word yoga has come from the Indian Sanskrit language, and it means ‘adding two things together.’ What two things? Most people don’t know, but we know, because we practice real yoga.
We are not this body. This body is only a bag of urine, blood, stool, and other nasty things, and one day you will have to give it up. But there is a soul in this body; soul means ‘you and me.’ And there is also a Supersoul, the Supreme Lord. We reside in the heart of the body along with the Supersoul. By the practice of bhakti-yoga, one will know, “I am spirit soul, part and parcel of the Supreme Lord.” Then, by love and affection, one joins together with Him. Do you understand?
Radio Host: Yes.
Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja: If you want to build a wall, you lay brick after brick, and there must also be some cement. Similarly, if we want to have a connection with the Supreme Lord, there must be prema, pure love and affection. By love and affection we can be with Kṛṣṇa and serve Him. As a result of such service, this body, which is a bag of stool and urine, will be gone forever. We will thus realize our very beautiful soul, which is everlasting, with no birth, old age, and death. Then, with our spiritual body, we will serve the beautiful Supreme Lord. This is called yoga, and the effect of this yoga is that we will no longer have to come to this world to become old and die.
Radio Host: Very good. So the reason to practice yoga…
Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja: But one thing: For the time being, we should try to keep our body strong and well, and therefore we should also accept these yoga exercises. At the same time, the practice of bhakti-yoga is essential. Bhakti-yoga is real yoga.
Radio Host: In combination with the exercise?
Viṣṇu dāsa: Haṭha-yoga is for maintaining the body, and bhakti is for the soul, for spiritual advancement.
Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja: Haṭha-yoga is only for the physical body; we are not our bodies.
Radio Host: That leads me to the next question, which you may have already answered in part. India has many bhakti-yoga practitioners. Do you think that bhakti-yoga is a practical path for the West?
Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja: Not only for Western countries, but for the whole world. Wherever there are living souls, bhaktiyoga is practical.
I’ve traveled the world about twenty-four times. In each and every country I go, I preach bhakti-yoga and show people by my own example how to practice it. Thousands upon thousands of persons are accepting the teachings of bhakti, and they are now very happy – very happy.
Radio Host: So, it is universal.
Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja: Millions of devotees follow me and practice practical bhakti-yoga.
Radio Host: Can Christians follow the bhakti path and still practice their religion?
Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja: Yes. Actually, Jesus Christ’s teaching is very good, and it comes in the category of bhakti-yoga. But nowadays we see that Christians are not following those teachings. In the practice of bhakti-yoga, pure food is required. We should not take meat, eggs, and wine, and we should not engage in smoking. If we engage in these sinful activities while trying to practice bhakti-yoga, that will not be favourable; we will not be able to perform bhakti-yoga.
But they do not follow this. If they would avoid meat, eggs, smoking, and drinking wine – and at the same time think of the Supreme Lord, who has a transcendental form, who is very beautiful and merciful, and who is seen by bhakti-yoga – then they can practice successfully.
M-E-A-T means ‘me eat.’ You will be eaten by those whom you are eating; so don’t eat meat. A child in the womb is called an egg. If you eat eggs, you are doing so against the will of the Supreme Lord. He has not created these beings to be eaten. For your eating He has created milk, sugar, ghee, so many fruits, vegetables, curd, and unlimited other edibles.
Radio Host: How do you feel about the poor treatment of cows in this country in order to extract their milk? Do you feel that such milk is still pure?
Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja: That is a very wrong thing. It is cruelty. The Supreme Lord will surely punish such cruel persons. They will take birth as cows, and those cows will take birth as humans and do the same thing to them. All activities have a reaction – good or bad – so we should not do such things.
Radio Host: We should avoid the milk that is in the grocery stores? Is that what you are saying?
Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja: It is like meat. We should not take it.
Radio Host: I very much agree. You have answered a lot of my questions.
Vrajanātha dāsa: Gurudeva, there are also cows that are treated well and fed an organic diet.
Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja: This is good. I have seen this in Holland, millions of cows, very big cows. We can take the milk of such cows.
Radio Host: Unless a person can go and see how the cows are treated in this country and many other places, it is difficult to know. Their saying it is organic does not mean that the cows are treated well. It just means they are fed different food.
Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja: We have many cows in our āśrama (monastery). We give proper care and food to them. First they give milk to their calves, and only then do we take their milk.
Radio Host: How can bhakti-yoga contribute to peace – personally and globally?
Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja: Bhakti-yoga is the transcendental religion of all souls. It is natural for the soul to serve Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Lord. God is love, and love is God. Kṛṣṇa is love personified. If anyone serves Him, that person becomes fully happy with pure love and affection. He is never unhappy, because in the transcendental world there are no diseases or old age, and no problem exists of any kind. There is only happiness, and more happiness; that person will be eternally happy.
Bhakti-yoga is very easy to follow. The devotee prays, “O God, You are extremely merciful. Please be merciful to me.” And he chants the Lord’s names.
The names of the Supreme Lord are very powerful. In a moment the Lord can create millions of universes, and again in a moment He can destroy them, and then re-create them. He is causelessly merciful. He has all good qualities. He has invested all His power, all His mercy, and all His qualities in His names, and that is why His names are so powerful. We chant and meditate upon His names: “Hare kṛṣṇa hare kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa hare hare / hare rāma hare rāma rāma rāma hare hare.” Whatever language we speak, whether we live in Western or Eastern countries, we can very easily chant and offer respectful obeisances to Him. We can very easily become situated in bhakti-yoga, and thus become liberated from this world and be happy forever.
Radio Host: Can one chant Jesus’s name and have the same effect as chanting Kṛṣṇa’s name?
Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja: Jesus is not God, the Supreme Lord. He is the son of God. The Father has a form, because in the Bible, first chapter, it is written that God created man after His own image. If God has no image, how can He create the human form, or human image? God has form and so many qualities. All qualities reside in Him.
Vrajanātha dāsa: Other names can also be meditated upon?
Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja: What names do Christians have for God?
Vrajanātha dāsa: Jehovah, Yahweh.
Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja: The name Christ came when the young Jesus went to our sacred places in India. In Vṛndāvana, where we come from, he heard the name Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Lord, and saw His form. Then he went to South India, where the residents pronounce Kṛṣṇa as “Krushna.” From Krushna came Krista, and from Krista came Christ. Christ is the same as Kṛṣṇa, and therefore you can chant the name Christ, or Jehovah, or whatever name you wish.
Radio Host: Allah?
Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja: Allah refers to brahma. Allah means ‘there is nothing greater than that,’ and therefore He is Allah, or brahma; He is the greatest. But one thing: we say that God is Bhagavān (full with six opulences, namely wealth, fame, knowledge, strength, beauty, and renunciation). Brahma has no form or qualities. It is merely the effulgence of the nails of the Lord. As the sunrays and light have no form, so brahma and Allah are like the effulgence of Bhagavān. Bhagavān has form and all qualities, and He is very merciful. You can also chant Allah or Huda, but you will not gain much from that.
Radio Host: That is how peace can come globally – when everyone realizes that it is all the same?
Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja: By this we can always be peaceful; not quarrelling and not slaughtering animals. Animals are also souls, just as we are. By this awareness we can be happy.
Radio Host: That sounds good to me.
Another question: Do you believe that the bhakti practice has contributed to your good health and longevity?
Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja: That may be. I am always happy, traveling the entire world, writing so many books, and preaching bhakti-yoga everywhere. I have no worldly desires; I have given them up forever. Actually, I have no home, but everywhere is my home. I have no wife, but I have millions of daughters and sons.
Radio Host: Yes, a very loving family.
Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja: I don’t discriminate between Hindu, Christian, and Buddhist. I know they are all souls within their bodies; sons and daughters of God.
Radio Host: One more question: How can one find his true teacher?
Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja: It is very rare – very rare – to find such a teacher, or guru. There are some symptoms by which such a guru is recognized. He should know all the Vedic literature. He should be so expert that he can remove the doubts of his disciples. He should have realization of God, so that he can give God from his heart to others’ hearts. Next, he should be detached from worldly desires.
Such a guru is very rare. However, if you pray to God with a clean and simple heart, “O God, You are merciful. Please arrange that I can meet such a guru,” He will somehow mercifully arrange that such a guru will come to your door and tell you everything for your spiritual success.
Radio Host: So, the key is to be pure of heart in one’s desire. Very good. Well, I don’t want to keep you very long. I’ve kept you a long time already. I just want to go ahead and ask if you have a final message to give to the listeners of the radio program.
Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja: If any person wants to be happy, he must follow bhakti-yoga. Without chanting the name of the Supreme Lord, one can never be happy; never, never. To chant the name properly one should give up eating meat and eggs, drinking wine, smoking, and other bad habits. He should not harm animals. He should not give any pain to animals, or to any living entities. Thus, he can become happy.
This is my final message. Also, I pray to the Lord that all should be happy. Sarve sukhena bhavantu. All should be without disease. I also pray that you will personally be happy in your life, and that you will realize God.
Radio Host: It seems you have taught your disciples very well, because they can fill in your sentences for you [meaning that they can provide English equivalents when Śrīla Mahārāja says words in his native tongue, Hindi, and appears not to know their English translation].
Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja: They are very expert. I am now eighty-seven years old. They have taken care of me in such a way that I can travel and write.
Radio Host: Are you going to continue to travel?
Śrīpāda Mādhava Mahārāja: Yes, of course.
Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja: If I am a citizen in India, and here also, I will have to come here.
Radio Host: It has been a wonderful, wonderful pleasure meeting you. Thank you so much. It has been a great honour to meet you. I really appreciate this time that you’ve given me. It’s been wonderful, and I hope this message can get out to others. Namaste.
Vrajanātha dāsa: Many gurus come to the Western countries and say, “I am God.”
Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja: They are totally foolish – idiot number-one. If they are God, why do they die? Why do they become old? Why do they search after money? God can do anything by His wish. Can they? They are cheating themselves and others.
God is: G – Generator of the whole world. O – Operator, and D – Destroyer. That person is God. You are helpless. Those who say “I am God” cannot do anything to help themselves. They are bound to grow old and die. God has no disease, no old age, no death – nothing like that at all.
Walking with a Saint – Morning Walks and Conversations 2010