About Our Tradition

For those who are interested in further details on the subject matter discussed,
we have inserted links to some explanations.

In the following interview, Jagattarini talks about the link between her artwork and the spiritual and cultural tradition of India:

Jagattarini dasi: I find myself struggling to explain the subject matter of my art, for want of common points of reference.

Interviewer: I understand that your artwork goes further than just being an expression of creative imagination.


J:
Definitely. Personally I’m not interested in creating something from my imagination, rather I view the hours and hours of hard work that have gone into these miniature exhibits are a part of my devotional meditation.

I: Can you elaborate?

J: Well, when I was young, I was inclined towards art and acting, and after coming in touch with the Hare Krishna movement, I became very interested in the stories from the Srimad Bhagavatam, and other scriptures in our line. So quite quickly I found myself busy making puppets, staging puppet shows, or directing the children in the community where I was living in performing small dramas enacting these stories.

Basically, “Krishna”, and “Gopinatha” are names for the Supreme Lord in His different features. I mean to say that God has a personality, and His own divine realm where He resides. Knowledge of that region comes down through a chain of masters and disciples to the present day.

Somehow I came in touch with Srila Prabhupada when I was young, and by his training I have chosen to dedicate my time, energy and ability to presenting these transcendental stories in the form of art and other media.


I:
Is scriptural authenticity in your presentations important to you, or do you maintain room for freedom of expression?

J: Both authenticity and freedom of expression are present at the same time. There are many essential details in the stories that I take care to keep intact, but individual expression is always there, even whilst maintaining integrity to the subject matter.

 

About Our Tradition - Inspiration

I: You have mentioned that the books and stories of the Hare Krishna movement are the source of your inspiration. Can you explain this?

J: Well, the Hare Krishna movement, which is now world-wide, was popularized by the extensive travelling and preaching of our spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada. His spiritual presentation was centered around the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita, and the teachings of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu , who appeared 500 years ago. It was He who introduced the Hare Krishna maha-mantra as the most powerful and simple method for spiritual growth. Srila Prabhupada explained to us, using authentic sources of Vedic knowledge, that we are spiritual by nature, beyond the body, the mind and this world. He taught that spiritual realisation didn’t result merely in nullification of the temporary, but led further to the understanding that there is a substantial spiritual dimension, which is attainable by one whose consciousness is pure.

He often spoke about holy places (dhams) in India, connected with the divine descent of the Supreme Lord, which are sometimes said to be “embassies” of the spiritual world. I soon found myself curious to visit such places, and experience the atmosphere there. In 1974, I first visited India and journeyed to Mayapur Dham, where Lord Caitanya appeared, and Vrindavana Dhama which is the place of Lord Krishna. Prabhupada was there with us at that time, and I remember being deeply impressed by how much he was especially at home in Vrindavana, which is the place of Krishna’s divine lila.

 

About Our Tradition - Lila

I: What does the term lila refer to.

J: I use the word 'lila' rather than story, because generally when people hear the word story they think of something fictitious. Often in books about India, when trying to translate the word lila, they use the word “mythology”. But that too has the connotation of something imagined. Srila Prabhupada conveyed to us, using authorized and highly philosophical explanations found in the sacred writings of our Vaisnava tradition, that the lila, or activities of the Lord, when He appears in this world, are not imagination.

Many people have heard of the Mahabharata and Ramayana. The Srimad Bhagavatam is less world famous, but like those literatures, it describes how Lord Krishna appears in the world. He comes to attract everyone by displaying His captivating activities just as they are in the spiritual world. Of course this is an enormous and intricate subject matter, that I cannot explain in the space of this interview.

I: You spoke earlier about “attaining the spiritual dimension”, how does this relate to your art work?

Click here for mor einformation on the Srimad Bhagavatam.

J: After our first visit to India , my husband and I had the good fortune to return and spend many years in Vrindavana. I spent a lot of time travelling around the area, visiting different places related to Krishna’s lilas. When we came to live in Australia, I missed Vrindavana very much, and wanted to remember all that was special about the place. I filled our house with as many pictures of Vrindavana as possible. Then this small deity of Gopinatha unexpectedly came, and His presence created opportunities for me to use my artistic inclination in depicting the stories, or lilas as well. My desire was, to still keep part of my attention focused on the holy places and lilas, whilst living here in Perth.

But to answer your question, the process for attaining that transcendental, spiritual dimension is centered around sravanam, kirtanam and smaranam. Sravanam means to hear, kirtanam means to express what you have heard, and then to remember or meditate on what you have heard and expressed, is called smaranam.

This is the way to develop the desire within one’s heart to attain that dimension. I can give you an ordinary example. If someone starts telling me how nice it is in Hawaii, and I listen to them enough, I will start to think about Hawaii. If that thought comes to the point of expression, I will talk about it too. And, after hearing and talking about Hawaii, naturally I’ll think about visiting. As that attraction grows and grows, the next step is that I’ll book a ticket and go and see it for myself!
So the art for me has two levels. One level is that it’s a very satisfying way for me, at this time in my life, to use artistic inspiration and expression. But there’s more than that, because there’s also a personal wish to develop some realizable experience of the spiritual places beyond this world. I think for me the second level is stronger.

About Our Tradition - Srila Prabhupada

On the order of his spiritual master, His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada began translating and writing Vedic literature in the English language to bring the message of Lord Krishna to the Western countries. After decades of struggle in India, he came to the West and started the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. Later on he created the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, to publish his writings and recordings of his lectures, conversations, etc.

Srila Prabhupada appeared in this world in 1896 in Calcutta, India. He first met his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami, in Calcutta in 1922. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, a prominent religious scholar and the founder of sixty-four Gaudiya Mathas (Vedic institutes), liked this educated young man and convinced him to dedicate his life to teaching Vedic knowledge. Srila Prabhupada became his student, and eleven years later (1933) at Allahabad he became his formally initiated disciple.


Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami


His Divine Grace
A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

At their first meeting, in 1922, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati requested Srila Prabhupada to broadcast Vedic knowledge through the English language. In the years that followed, Srila Prabhupada wrote a commentary on the Bhagavad-gita, assisted the Gaudiya Matha in its work and, in 1944, started Back to Godhead, an English fortnightly magazine. Maintaining the publication was a struggle. Single-handedly, Srila Prabhupada edited it, typed the manuscripts, checked the galley proofs, and even distributed the individual copies. Once begun, the magazine never stopped; it is now being continued by his disciples in the West and is published in over thirty languages.

Recognizing Srila Prabhupada's philosophical learning and devotion, the Gaudiya Vaisnava Society honored him in 1947 with the title "Bhaktivedanta." In 1950, at the age of fifty-four, Srila Prabhupada retired from married life, adopting the vanaprastha (retired) order to devote more time to his studies and writing.

Srila Prabhupada traveled to the holy city of Vrindavana, where he lived in very humble circumstances in the historic medieval temple of Radha-Damodara. There he engaged for several years in deep study and writing. He accepted the renounced order of life (sannyasa) in 1959. At Radha-Damodara, Srila Prabhupada began work on his life's masterpiece: a multi-volume annotated translation of the eighteen-thousand-verse Srimad-Bhagavatam (Bhagavata Purana). He also wrote Easy Journey to Other Planets.

After publishing three volumes of the Bhagavatam, Srila Prabhupada came to the United States of America, in September 1965, to fulfill the mission of his spiritual master. Subsequently, His Divine Grace wrote more than sixty volumes of authoritative annotated translations and summary studies of the philosophical and religious classics of India.

When he first arrived by freighter in New York City, Srila Prabhupada was practically penniless. Only after almost a year of great difficulty did he establish the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, in July of 1966. Before his passing away on November 14, 1977, he guided the Society and saw it grow to a worldwide confederation of more than one hundred ashrams, schools, temples, institutes and farm communities.

More information on Srila Prabhupada

About Our Tradition - Lord Caitanya

There is no difference between the teachings of Lord Caitanya and the teachings of Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita. The teachings of Lord Caitanya are practical demonstrations of Lord Krishna's teachings.

The final instruction that Lord Krishna gives in Bhagavad-Gita, is that everyone should simply surrender to Him, and He will give them all protection and guidance. Although He is always in charge of everything in creation, that maintenance is indirectly carried out by His expanded energies. But the protection He promises His devotees is direct and personal. He takes charge of the life of a devotee, who surrenders unto Him as a small child surrenders to its parents.

Yet scholars of the world usually prefer to give their own interpretation of Krishna’s words, and point people towards the impersonal, unmanifest, eternal oneness, rather than the Personality of Godhead.

Such philosophers do not accept that the ultimate realisation of the Absolute Truth is personal, even though the Vedas confirm that one who goes beyond the dazzling effulgence of Brahman can see the real face of the Personality of Godhead.

Lord Caitanya is Krishna Himself, who appeared 500 years ago to counter such misinterpretations of Bhagavad-Gita. He did this by teaching direct worship of Lord Krishna, and demonstrating such devotion by His own example. He also revealed that the place known as Vrndavana is as good as Lord Krishna because there is no difference between Krishna’s name, quality, form, pastimes, and entourage and Lord Krishna Himself. By definition, that is the absolute nature of the Absolute Truth.

Lord Caitanya also recommended Srimad-Bhagavatam as the ideal narration of transcendental knowledge, wherein it is described that the highest goal in human life is to develop completely one’s love for God.

He taught this philosophy through the chanting of the holy name of the Lord. The holy name is the Lord in the form of sound. Since God being absolute means that there is no difference between His name and His transcendental person, by chanting one can directly associate with Him through sound vibration. By practising this chanting, one gradually progresses through different stages of development, culminating in the stage of loving God. Lord Caitanya taught that this is the highest perfection for human beings.

 


About Our Tradition - What is a Dhama?


What is a Dhama?

There is no exact English equivalent for the Sanskrit word dhama, but in Vedic theology, dhama refers to the supra-mundane abode of the Absolute Truth, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Biblical counterpart for the Lord’s holy dhama is the Kingdom of God. As God is beyond the creation and destruction of this material universe, so His dhama is also entirely beyond the scope of matter. It is wholly spiritual, an unlimited transcendental plateau composed exclusively of spiritual energy. Dhama is the abode of God.

The etymology of the word dhama indicates the location of the prime support and source of nurture for all existence – spiritual and material. Therefore, the dhama is the eternal home and goal of all living beings.

There are many scriptural references that establish the fact that the Supreme Godhead’s personal dhama is identical with the Lord’s own completely spiritual nature. It is devoid of all material attributes, and the opposite of mundane nature. Therefore that eternal Kingdom of God, His sacred dhama, is as worshipable as He is.

How does the dhama appear in this world?

The dhama exists only to serve the pleasure of the Lord, and it manifests along with the Lord and His eternal associates whenever He chooses to appear in this world. Before the appearance of the Lord, the dhama appears in order to make the many wonderful arrangements necessary for satisfying the Lord’s transcendental desires. And when the Lord withdraws His transcendental form from our view, the reflection of His personal abode remains in the material world, and its spiritual glory and sweetness can be seen by those who are blessed with the necessary spiritual vision. Yet to a person with mundane vision, the dhama in this world appears like an ordinary place. Therefore it is necessary to proceed under the guidance of a genuine representative of God if anyone wants to develop real purity of heart, and become eligible for such transcendental vision.

About Our Tradition - Quotes About Sri Vrndavana Dhama


Quotes about Vrndavana Dhama – from the writing of Srila Prabhupada

The following quotes are from the Bhagavad-Gita As It Is
by A.C. Bhaktivendanta Swami Prabhupada:

From the Introduction:

The Lord descends to this mortal world to show His pastimes in Vrndavana, which are full of happiness. When Lord Sri Krishna was in Vrndavana, His activities with His cowherd boyfriends, with His damsel friends, with the other inhabitants of Vrndavana and with the cows were all full of happiness. The total population of Vrndavana knew nothing but Krishna. But Lord Krishna even discouraged His father Nanda Maharaja from worshipping the demigod Indra, because He wanted to establish the fact that people need not worship any demigod. They need only worship the Supreme Lord, because their ultimate goal is to return to His abode.

The abode of Lord Sri Krishna is described in the Bhagavad-gita, Fifteenth Chapter, sixth verse:

na tad bhasayate suryo
na sasanko na pavakah
yad gatva na nivartante
tad dhama paramam mama

"That supreme abode of Mine is not illumined by the sun or moon, nor by fire or electricity. Those who reach it never return to this material world."

This verse gives a description of that eternal sky. Of course we have a material conception of the sky, and we think of it in relationship to the sun, moon, stars and so on, but in this verse the Lord states that in the eternal sky there is no need for the sun nor for the moon nor electricity or fire of any kind because the spiritual sky is already illuminated by the brahmajyoti, the rays emanating from the Supreme Lord. We are trying with difficulty to reach other planets, but it is not difficult to understand the abode of the Supreme Lord. This abode is referred to as Goloka. In the Brahma-samhita (5.37) it is beautifully described: goloka eva nivasaty akhilatma-bhutah. The Lord resides eternally in His abode Goloka, yet He can be approached from this world, and to this end the Lord comes to manifest His real form, sac-cid-ananda-vigraha [Bs. 5.1]. When He manifests this form, there is no need for our imagining what He looks like. To discourage such imaginative speculation, He descends and exhibits Himself as He is, as Syamasundara. Unfortunately, the less intelligent deride Him because He comes as one of us and plays with us as a human being. But because of this we should not consider the Lord one of us. It is by His omnipotence that He presents Himself in His real form before us and displays His pastimes, which are replicas of those pastimes found in His abode.”

From the commentary on chapter 8 verse 21:

The supreme abode of the Personality of Godhead, Krishna, is described in the Brahma-samhita as cintamani-dhama, a place where all desires are fulfilled. The supreme abode of Lord Krishna, known as Goloka Vrndavana, is full of palaces made of touchstone. There are also trees, called "desire trees," that supply any type of eatable upon demand, and there are cows, known as surabhi cows, which supply a limitless supply of milk. In this abode, the Lord is served by hundreds of thousands of goddesses of fortune (Laksmis), and He is called Govinda, the primal Lord and the cause of all causes. The Lord is accustomed to blow His flute (venum kvanantam). His transcendental form is the most attractive in all the world: His eyes are like lotus petals, and the colour of His body is like the colour of clouds. He is so attractive that His beauty excels that of thousands of Cupids. He wears saffron cloth, a garland around His neck and a peacock feather in His hair. In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krishna gives only a small hint of His personal abode, Goloka Vrndavana, which is the supermost planet in the spiritual kingdom. A vivid description is given in the Brahma-samhita. Vedic literatures (Katha Upanisad 1.3.11) state that there is nothing superior to the abode of the Supreme Godhead, and that that abode is the ultimate destination (purusan na param kincit sa kastha parama gatih). When one attains to it, he never returns to the material world. Krishna's supreme abode and Krishna Himself are nondifferent, being of the same quality. On this earth, Vrndavana, ninety miles southeast of Delhi, is a replica of that supreme Goloka Vrndavana located in the spiritual sky. When Krishna descended on this earth, He sported on that particular tract of land known as Vrndavana, comprising about eighty-four square miles in the district of Mathura, India.”

From the translation and commentary on chapter 8 verse 22:

TRANSLATION

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.

PURPORT

It is here clearly stated that the supreme destination, from which there is no return, is the abode of Krishna, the Supreme Person. The Brahma-samhita describes this supreme abode as ananda-cinmaya-rasa, a place where everything is full of spiritual bliss. All the variegatedness manifest there is of the quality of spiritual bliss-nothing there is material. That variegatedness is expanded as the spiritual expansion of the Supreme Godhead Himself, for the manifestation there is totally of the spiritual energy, as explained in Chapter Seven. As far as this material world is concerned, although the Lord is always in His supreme abode, He is nonetheless all-pervading by His material energy. So by His spiritual and material energies He is present everywhere-both in the material and in the spiritual universes. Yasyantah-sthani means that everything is sustained within Him, within either His spiritual or material energy. The Lord is all-pervading by these two energies.

To enter Krishna's supreme abode or the innumerable Vaikuntha planets is possible only by bhakti, devotional service, as clearly indicated here by the word bhaktya. No other process can help one attain that supreme abode. The Vedas (Gopala-tapani Upanisad 3.2) also describe the supreme abode and the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Eko vasi sarva-gah Krsnah. In that abode there is only one Supreme Personality of Godhead, whose name is Krishna. He is the supreme merciful Deity, and although situated there as one He has expanded Himself into millions and millions of plenary expansions. The Vedas compare the Lord to a tree standing still yet bearing many varieties of fruits, flowers and changing leaves.”