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JSD Introduction

Introduction

Are you in any way dissatisfied with your life as it now stands? Has the pursuit, or even the achievement, of the goals you have set for yourself become somewhat frustrating? If so, read on.

For one acquainted with the spiritual wisdom of India, the ideal life is not a fast-paced competitive run through a self-serve consumer paradise. There is a higher measure of success and happiness than the number of high-gloss gadgets, baubles, and thrills one can zoom through the check-out counter with—before Time runs out.

An awakened person will try to learn something worthwhile along the way, to gradually accumulate assets of permanent value. In the final analysis, the supreme accomplishment is to improve significantly the one possession that is really ours to keep—our consciousness, our sense of identity, our inner self. All else eventually slips away.

Seen in this way, life becomes a journey of self-discovery, and that is the theme of this book. The Journey of Self-Discovery is your guide to a new way of looking at life, a way proven to lead you to higher levels of awareness and satisfaction.

Thousands of people like yourself are already experiencing these results. All it takes is some expert guidance, the kind available from a person who has already completed the journey, who knows the ways and means by which you can arrive safely at your destination.

In The Journey of Self-Discovery you will become intimately acquainted with a spiritual master about whom Harvey Cox, of Harvard's School of Divinity, said, "Śrla Prabhupāda is, of course, only one of thousands of teachers. But in another sense, he is one in a thousand, maybe one in a million." According to Dr. Cox, one of America's leading Christian theologians, Śrīla Prabhupāda's life was "pointed proof that one can be a transmitter of truth and still be a vital and singular person."

Śrīla Prabhupāda, the founding spiritual master of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, translated over forty volumes of the most essential works of Vedic literature. Complete sets of these books, with original Sanskrit and Bengali texts, have been purchased by thousands of university libraries around the world, and dozens of scholars have praised them.

But that is not what you will find in The Journey of Self-Discovery. In these pages you will see Śrīla Prabhupāda taking the essential truths of the timeless Vedic wisdom of India and communicating them live, to persons like yourself—in talks, conversations, and interviews. With gravity and wit, roses and thunderbolts, Śrīla Prabhupāda delivers transcendental knowledge with maximum impact and precision.

All the selections printed in The Journey of Self-Discovery originally appeared in Back to Godhead, the magazine Śrīla Prabhupāda founded in India in 1944. When he came to America and started the Hare Kṛṣṇa movement in 1966, he requested his new followers to take up the task of publishing the magazine. Ever since, Back to Godhead has served the vital function of bringing the Vedic knowledge to the contemporary world, addressing the spiritual needs of people confronting the frustrations of modern life.

Authoritative and informative, The Journey of Self-Discovery is also easy to read. The anthology format allows you to approach the book in a variety of ways. You can read The Journey of Self-Discovery from start to finish, proceeding through the systematically arranged selections. Or you can glance over the table of contents and find a selection of particular interest. Because each selection is short and complete in itself, you can easily explore topics that attract your attention without having to go through the entire book.

The principal lesson of The Journey of Self-Discovery is that our conscious selfhood is not an accidental cosmic side-effect, a fleeting electromagnetic discharge generated by a temporary configuration of subatomic particles at some point in space and time. Rather each center of consciousness is itself an absolute, irreducible unit of reality. As Śrīla Prabhupāda tells physicist Gregory Benford, "We don't say that scientific knowledge is useless. Mechanics, electronics—this is also knowledge.... But the central point is ātma-jñāna—self-knowledge, knowledge of the soul."

And after we understand the soul, the quest for knowledge continues. Śrīla Prabhupāda tells a press conference in Los Angeles: "In the background of this body you can find the soul, whose presence is perceivable by consciousness. Similarly, in the universal body of the cosmic manifestation, one can perceive the presence of the Supreme Lord, or the Absolute Truth, by virtue of the presence of... Superconsciousness."

Just as we are individual and personal, the Superconsciousness is also individual and personal. In the Vedic scriptures, the identity of the Superconscious Self is revealed to be Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Śrīla Prabhupāda describes Kṛṣṇa as "the greatest artist," the source of all beauty and attraction.

The real key to happiness and satisfaction, Śrīla Prabhupāda explains, is discovering the eternal personal link between ourselves and the Superconsciousness. This state is called Kṛṣṇa consciousness, and in The Journey of Self-Discovery you will learn how to achieve this, the highest and most pleasurable consciousness, in your own life.

Kṛṣṇa consciousness is loving consciousness. In the selection "Absolute Love," Śrīla Prabhupāda says to his audience, "Everyone is frustrated-husbands, wives, boys, girls. Everywhere there is frustration, because our loving propensity is not being utilized properly." Śrīla Prabhupāda then goes on to explain how love is most fully experienced when directed toward the Supreme Person, Kṛṣṇa, who can perfectly and completely reciprocate with everyone.

This is the secret of lasting happiness. In "Kṛṣṇa, Enchanter of the Soul," Śrīla Prabhupāda advises, "A man is attracted by a woman, a woman is attracted by a man, and when they are united in sex, their attachment for this material world increases more and more.... But our business is not to be attracted by the glimmer of this material world; our business is to be attracted by Kṛṣṇa. And when we become attracted by the beauty of Kṛṣṇa, we will lose our attraction for the false beauty of this material world."

Here Śrīla Prabhupāda stands in contrast to the many so-called spiritual teachers who promise their followers they can have it all-unrestricted material enjoyment as well as spiritual profit. In "Showbottle Spiritualists Exposed," Śrīla Prabhupāda gives an unsparing critique of deceptive gurus and spiritualists who mislead their followers.

Śrīla Prabhupāda did not manufacture his own spiritual process, with a view to personal profit. Rather he freely taught the specific meditation technique recommended in the Vedas for this age. In "Meditation Through Transcendental Sound," Śrīla Prabhupāda tells students at Boston's Northeastern University, "If you take up this simple process—chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare—you are immediately elevated to the transcendental platform."

Those who progress on the journey of self-discovery are better able to understand and solve the world's problems. In "Material Problems, Spiritual Solutions," we learn from Śrīla Prabhupāda how we can practically apply Kṛṣṇa consciousness to relieve the widespread suffering brought on by violence and food shortages.

In the early 1970's, Śrīla Prabhupāda gave a remarkably foresighted analysis of the failure of the communist system of government to provide happiness for its people. You will find this striking conversation in section VI, "Perspectives on Science and Philosophy."

In "Evolution in Fact and Fantasy" Śrīla Prabhupāda says, "We accept evolution, but not that the forms of the species are changing. The bodies are already there, but the soul is evolving by changing bodies and by transmigrating from one body to another.... The defect of the evolutionists is that they have no information of the soul."

Ultimately, the journey of self-discovery leads from this material world to the spiritual world. In "Entering the Spiritual World," Śrīla Prabhupāda tells his listeners, "Everything in the spiritual world is substantial and original. This material world is only an imitation.... It is just like a cinematographic picture, in which we see only the shadow of the real thing."

So for those who suspect that the real thing is something more than a soft drink, The Journey of Self-Discovery will illuminate the path that leads to life's ultimate, most perfect destination.

And for those who may not regard themselves as seekers but are nevertheless curious about the philosophy of the Hare Kṛṣṇa movement, The Journey of Self-Discovery provides a thorough yet compact introduction.

—The Publishers