This is an article from the Matchless Gift magazine, where in each issue, the BLISS devotees write articles on world news. Please support us by purchasing the latest edition of the magazine, or become our Patreon.
Do you think that you could maybe take some rest? Come and lie down, take a listen in my chest? Because Vishnu lives at the core of my heart. Vishnu is and Vishnu starts. Oh Vishnu, I sing to you. Just to say, oh Lord, thank you.
These are the lyrics from Sinead O' Connor's, song, "The Vishnu Room" from the album, I'm Not Bossy, I'm the Boss. Sinead O'Connor, a celebrated and beloved singer, famous for her song, "Nothing Compares 2 U" and for tearing up a picture of the Pope on the Saturday Night Live show, recently left her body. Thousands of people gathered at her funeral to honor the singer for her musical talent and personality. Wikipedia gives the following summary of her achievements:
"Shuhada' Sadaqat (born Sinéad Marie Bernadette O'Connor; 8 December 1966 – 26 July 2023), known professionally as Sinéad O'Connor, was an Irish singer, songwriter, and activist. Her debut studio album, The Lion and the Cobra, was released in 1987 and charted internationally. Her 1990 album, I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got, was her biggest success, selling more than seven million copies worldwide. Its lead single, "Nothing Compares 2 U" was named the year's top world single at the Billboard Music Awards. O'Connor had chart success with Am I Not Your Girl? (1992) and Universal Mother (1994), both certified gold in the UK, Faith and Courage (2000) certified gold in Australia, and Throw Down Your Arms (2005) went gold in Ireland. Her career included songs for films, collaborations with many other artists, and appearances at charity fundraising concerts. O'Connor's 2021 memoir, Rememberings, was a bestseller."
Carrie Brownstein, Sleater-Kinney guitarist, and fan, said about her: "I knew I’d never be as brave as Sinéad O’Connor, I would never defy a TV network, a country, a religion. Her boldness was not merely performative, nor was it costume or cultural currency. Most of us couldn’t sacrifice like she did, at the expense of careers and livelihoods, our own hearts. O’Connor had guts and grit and a voice rooted in a deep ache, her singing winged and weighted, a bird clutching a stone. Fierce fragility. No one sounded like Sinéad O’Connor – and no one ever will."
What is interesting for us, the devotees, is that Sinead at one point showed her appreciation for the Krishna consciousness movement. Besides the Vishnu room song, she writes the following on her online blog:
"I loved Hinduism (I can’t bear ‘isms’ though) since I was in London.. and always had earmarked it for study but not got around to it. " This echoes the words of Srila Prabhupada, who, on countless occasions made it very clear that Krishna consciousness cannot be confined to any sectarian religion. For example, he writes:
"...a living entity develops a sort of complexity by material association, and the illusory encagement of the material body is accepted as an actual fact. Under such false complexity, the living beings under different categories of life become illusioned in different ways. Even in the most developed stage of human life, the same illusion prevails in the form of many isms and divides the loving relation with the Lord and thereby divides the loving relation between man and man." (SB 1.7.7 purport)
Actually, as admitted by many scholars and historians, the word "Hindu" came about when the inhabitants of Afghanistan could not pronounce the name of the river Sindhus. They used to address the people on the other side as "Hindu," and the term was never meant to designate anyone based on religious consideration. In fact, all religious denominations are just names. The true religion is one—to love God, to love Krishna. However, people have created so many isms just so they don't have to love God. Srila Prabhupada says here that such a narrow-minded understanding of religion simply divides the love people have for God with the increase of subsequent quarrels amongst men themselves. In her post, Sinead expresses her dislike of such a sectarian vision of religion and regrets not studying Krishna consciousness in more depth. She continues:
"If it was good enough for the Beatles too… it must be good enough for anyone else. Like.. George Harrison was not a stupid man."
Here, she refers to another singer, George Harrison, who happened to be a personal friend of Srila Prabhupada and who helped to print Srila Prabhupada's "Krsna Book" (a book named Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead). Srila Prabhupada, at one point, wrote that although George is not initiated formally, he considers him to be more than his disciple. George, due to his sincerity and influence, helped Srila Prabhupada in the propagation of his movement in its early stages. He donated his house in London to the devotees (Bhaktivedanta Manor nowadays hosts thousands of people every year), produced the famous Radha Krishna album by recording classic Vaisnava prayers, and implemented the Krishna-conscious message that Srila Prabhupada shared with him into his music.
Here, we see that the influence of George rubbed off on Sinead as well. She says George was not a stupid man, and Srila Prabhupada also at one point appreciated George's intelligence: "One intelligent boy -- you have heard his name, George Harrison -- he's one of the greatest musicians at the present moment, of the world...So he's becoming -- he's very intelligent -- so he's becoming interested. Now recently he has given us a house in London which is fifty-five lakhs." (Conversation with Sridhara Maharaja – June 27, 1973, Navadvipa)
Sinead then continues:
"Ah no but.. then last year I started reading a book about The Bhagavad Gita which is one Hindu sacred text. It's a section, I think… from a larger text called The Mahabharata. It's the coolest take ever on life and death there is. And on being whom you were born to be. (within the boundaries of human decency). Transcendence is the thing that helps you manage the fear of life and death.. is what I picked up.. transcendence in the Gita fashion.. from what I can glean.. is always
living in every moment the certainty that you are in ‘the heavens’ or whatever you might call it.. and the earth at the same time. that the largest part of you. Your everliving soul.. lives constantly there and here so that almost. There is no such thing as death. Death is just taking your clothes off..."
Sinead is using here the analogy of seeing the body as mere clothing for the soul. This same analogy is used by Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita:
vasamsi jirnani yatha vihaya
navani grhnati naro 'parani
tatha sarirani vihaya jirnany
anyani samyati navani dehi
As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, the soul similarly accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones. (Bg 2.22)
Srila Prabhupada comments on this verse as follows: "Change of body by the atomic individual soul is an accepted fact. Even modern scientists who do not believe in the existence of the soul, but at the same time cannot explain the source of energy from the heart, have to accept continuous changes in the body that appear from childhood to boyhood and from boyhood to youth and again from youth to old age. From old age, the change is transferred to another body." (Bg 2.22 purport)
Although we see people simply on the bodily platform as men, women, Hindus, Muslims, blacks, and whites, the body is a mere instrument used by the soul. So long as the soul is "wearing" the body, the body is considered very important in human society, but as soon as the soul leaves, the body has no value, and it is either burned or thrown into the grave. Sinead then mentions that this is a similar teaching to what Lord Jesus was teaching. She writes:
"..Thats kind of what Jesus was saying I guess, but from a different angle.. "
Srila Prabhupada also connects the teachings about the eternality of the soul and about the non-permanence of the material body found in the Bible with the teachings of the Bhagavad-gita: "Just like the flavor, the aroma, of a rose flower is carried by the air, and if the air passes through us we also experience the rose flavor. Similarly, when we die, this material body is finished. "Dust thou art, dust thou beist." This is made of five elements: earth, water, air, fire, ether. So the..., so far earthly materials are concerned, that is mixed up. Somebody burns this body, somebody buries or somebody throws it for being eaten by the animals. The three systems in the human society... Just like in India, Hindus, they burn the body. So the body comes transformed into ashes -- means earth. Ash means earth. Those who are burying the bodies of their forefathers, the body turns into dust, as the Christian Bible says, "Dust thou art." (Bhagavad-gita 6.35–45 – February 20, 1969, Los Angeles) Sinead then compares the name of Krishna to the name of Christ. She writes: "...even Krishna is just the same name as Christ."
Srila Prabhupada, in a conversation with a Christian priest, explained that "Christ" is another way of saying Krsta, and "Krsta" is another way of pronouncing Krsna. He says: "Jesus said that one should glorify the name of God, but yesterday I heard one theologian say that God has no name -- that we can call Him only "Father." A son may call his father "Father," but the father also has a specific name. Similarly, "God" is the general name of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, whose specific name is Krsna. Therefore whether you call God "Christ," "Krsta," or "Krsna," ultimately you are addressing the same Supreme Personality of Godhead. (SSR 4a: Krsna or Christ -- The Name Is the Same) Sinead continues:
"Anyway.. the Hindu music.. oh my God… it can do strange and wonderful things to you… Karnamritia Desi’s Devaki is a piece from the Gita. I think. Certainly from Hindu scripture about the conception and birth of Krishna. Wait till you hear the words… "
Sinead shares her impressions and appreciation after hearing a song by Karnamrita Dasi (a devotee and a successful professional singer, who implements Krishna-conscious themes into her music). Certainly, hearing Krishna conscious music can do strange and wonderful things to you. Namely, it can immediately lift you on the transcendental plane and liberate you from material existence. What could be more wonderful than that? Sinead then again draws parallels with the Christian teachings:
"...their equivalent of the Holy Spirit is the gorgeous Vishnu guy you see in the background of the photo of me with guitar on site .. Guess what??? They say he lives in the core of all people’s hearts. How cool is that??? And… he’s blue! and he has four arms! and wears tons of makeup.. and has a wife who is also a goddess!"
This is yet again the correct understanding from Sinead's side, which resonates with the explanation Srila Prabhupada himself gives: "The Absolute Truth is manifested in three features: Brahman, Paramatma, and Bhagavan. Bhagavan is the personal feature, and the Paramatma, situated in everyone's heart, may be compared to the Holy Spirit." (TQE 6c: Origen: The Original Christian Mystic) Sinead writes:
"So much more cheerful than Christianity can sometimes be. They say if when you’re dying you focus on Krishna you will end up with him.. thats why I got Vishnu painted on my wall, because I wanna end up with him, and I figure its a bit of a stress prolly when you’re dying, trying to remember what to focus on... so when I’m an old lady and it’s time to go I’ll be pointing my bed at my Vishnu mural, which was Painted by a wonderful young man by the name of Shane Berkery, and telling everyone to stop crying and let me enjoy the journey. I think Devaki is Krishna’s mum but I dunno… tellin you this so you know who the words are talkin about… But go to YouTube. and watch it. Someone’s put beautiful images to it. So much more uplifting than crucified horribly murdered poor men. I promise you. The song will change your life when you see the images too."
Indeed, the paintings of Krishna and His incarnations and His devotees were masterfully crafted by the early disciple of Srila Prabhupada and they are considered to be the "windows to the spiritual sky." Sinead is also telling us about her room, where her friend Shane painted the famous picture from the cover of Srila Prabhupada's, Sri Isopanisad. She hopes to look at this picture at the time of death since being absorbed in the thoughts of the Lord at the time of death guarantees liberation and attainment of His eternal company in the spiritual world. This, yet again echoes the teachings of the Bhagavad-gita:
am yam vapi smaran bhavam
tyajaty ante kalevaram
tam tam evaiti kaunteya
tasmat sarvesu kalesu
mam anusmara yudhya ca
mam evaisyasy asamsayah
"Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, O son of Kunti, that state he will attain without fail. Therefore, Arjuna, you should always think of Me in the form of Krsna and at the same time carry out your prescribed duty of fighting. With your activities dedicated to Me and your mind and intelligence fixed on Me, you will attain Me without doubt." (Bg 8.6-7)
Srila Prabhupada comments on these verses as follows: "The process of changing one's nature at the critical moment of death is here explained. A person who at the end of his life quits his body thinking of Krsna attains the transcendental nature of the Supreme Lord, but it is not true that a person who thinks of something other than Krsna attains the same transcendental state. This is a point we should note very carefully. How can one die in the proper state of mind? Maharaja Bharata, although a great personality, thought of a deer at the end of his life, and so in his next life he was transferred into the body of a deer. Although as a deer he
remembered his past activities, he had to accept that animal body. Of course, one's thoughts during the course of one's life accumulate to influence one's thoughts at the moment of death, so this life creates one's next life. If in one's present life one lives in the mode of goodness and always thinks of Krsna, it is possible for one to remember Krsna at the end of one's life. That will help one be transferred to the transcendental nature of Krsna. If one is transcendentally absorbed in Krsna's service, then his next body will be transcendental (spiritual), not material. Therefore the chanting of Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare / Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare is the best process for successfully changing one's state of being at the end of one's life. (Bg 8.6 purport)
At the moment, it is not clear how Sinead departed. Perhaps we will never find out. Was she looking at the picture of Vishnu as she described in her blog a few years ago, or was she diverted by the material energy to think of something else? It is difficult to say, but as a general principle, Srila Prabhupada emphasizes the fact that one's thoughts at the time of death are the accumulation of thoughts one has during his or her lifetime. We must therefore strive to be Krishna conscious as much as possible while our body is healthy. Death can come at any point and take us by surprise. At the time of death all the bodily functions are disrupted, and the mind is not in a proper condition. Thus disturbed by the bodily situation, one may not be able to remember the Supreme Lord.
Maharaja Kulasekhara, a great devotee, therefore prays, "My dear Lord, just now I am quite healthy, and it is better that I die immediately so that the swan of my mind can seek entrance at the stem of Your lotus feet." He uses this particular metaphor because the swan, a bird of the water, takes pleasure in digging into the lotus flowers; its sporting proclivity is to enter the lotus flower. Maharaja Kulasekhara says to the Lord, "Now my mind is undisturbed, and I am quite healthy. If I die immediately, thinking of Your lotus feet, then I am sure that my performance of Your devotional service will become perfect. But if I have to wait for my natural death, then I do not know what will happen, because at that time the bodily functions will be disrupted, my throat will be choked up, and I do not know whether I shall be able to chant Your name. Better let me die immediately."
Another point Sinead raises is her disenchantment with some of the Christians' obsession with the gruesome torture of Lord Jesus. Srila Prabhupada several times stated that this is not a pastime to be meditated upon. No one meditates on the death of one's beloved. In a letter to a disciple, Srila Prabhupada notes: "Generally the Roman Catholic religion depends on this Crucifixion incident in the life of Lord Jesus Christ, but I think depiction of this incident simply stimulates the tensions of difference of opinion, and difference of religious principles, between the Jews and the Christians. My idea is that if simply by narrating the Crucifixion incident of Lord Jesus Christ, the Roman Catholic Religion can spread to such a wide area of the world, how much there is great potency of spreading our Krishna Consciousness by depicting hundreds of thousands of such incidents like Rathayatra. There is not one incident like Rathayatra, but there are many hundreds of thousands of incidents in different appearances of the incarnations of Lord Krishna. In different cities and different centers we can introduce such multi-pastimes ceremonies of Lord Krishna.
And certainly people will be engladdened to observe such transcendental and happy ceremonies. So in Los Angeles, as promised by Mukunda, you try to construct a grand temple and then we shall introduce gradually many ceremonial functions, which the people will be so glad to enjoy. (Letter to: Aniruddha -- Montreal 7 July, 1968)
We are confident in saying, based on Sinead's own statements in her blog, that she would surely enjoy the observance of happy Krishna conscious ceremonies such as Ratha Yatra, Janmastami, Govardhana Puja, etc. Unfortunately we were not able to reach her to invite her. We pray that her appreciation and desire for such devotional service will be further increased by the Lord in whatever position she is at the moment. Sinead concludes her blog post by inviting everyone to listen to Karnamrita's song, and not only that, she posts Srila Prabhupada's translation of the verse from the Srimad Bhagavatam that Karnamrita expertly turned into a song:
"...so here’s the words… in english.. but on the track its Sanskrit.. Blow you away…so while we miserable sinners catholics get born in all horror and sin and how bad we are etc… this is how Hindus see conception and birth of souls.
“The demigods and great saintly persons showered flowers in a joyous mood, and clouds gathered in the sky and very mildly thundered, making sounds like those of the ocean’s waves. Then the Supreme Personality Of The Godhead, Vishnu, who is situated in the core of everyone’s heart, appeared from the heart of Devaki in the dense darkness of night, like the full moon rising on the eastern horizon, because Devaki was of the same category as Sri Krishna.”
Of course, Krishna is not just an ordinary soul, nor is His birth controlled by the material nature like ours is. Nor is the eternal soul ever born. Krishna appeared from the heart of Devaki, because Devaki was a pure devotee of the Lord. Srila Prabhupada comments on this verse as follows: "As stated in the Brahma-samhita (5.37): ananda-cinmaya-rasa-pratibhavitabhis tabhir ya eva nija-rupataya kalabhih goloka eva nivasaty akhilatma-bhuto govindam adi-purusam tam aham bhajami. This verse indicates that Krsna and His entourage are of the same spiritual potency (ananda-cinmaya-rasa). Krsna's father, His mother, His friends the cowherd boys, and the cows are all expansions of Krsna, as will be explained in the brahma-vimohana-lila. When Brahma took away Krsna's associates to test the supremacy of Lord Krsna, the Lord expanded Himself again in the forms of the many cowherd boys and calves, all of whom, as Brahma saw, were visnu-murtis. Devaki is also an expansion of Krsna, and therefore this verse says, devakyam deva-rupinyam visnuh sarva-guha-sayah.
At the time for the Lord's appearance, the great sages and the demigods, being pleased, began to shower flowers. At the seashore, there was the sound of mild waves, and above the sea there were clouds in the sky which began to thunder very pleasingly.
When things were adjusted like this, Lord Visnu, who is residing within the heart of every living entity, appeared in the darkness of night as the Supreme Personality of Godhead before Devaki, who appeared as one of the demigoddesses. The appearance of Lord Visnu at that time could be compared to the rising of the full moon in the sky on the eastern horizon. The objection may be raised that since Lord Krsna appeared on the eighth day of the waning moon, there could be no rising of the full moon. In answer to this, it may be said that Lord Krsna appeared in the dynasty which is in the hierarchy of the moon; therefore, although the moon was incomplete on that night, because of the Lord's appearance in the dynasty wherein the moon is himself the original person, the moon was in an overjoyous condition, so by the grace of Krsna, he could appear as a full moon. To welcome the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the waning moon became a full moon in jubilation.
Instead of deva-rupinyam, some texts of Srimad-Bhagavatam clearly say visnu-rupinyam. In either case, the meaning is that Devaki has the same spiritual form as the Lord. The Lord is sac-cid-ananda-vigraha [Bs. 5.1], and Devaki is also sac-cid-ananda-vigraha. Therefore no one can find any fault in the way the Supreme Personality of Godhead, sac-cid-ananda-vigraha, appeared from the womb of Devaki.
Those who are not in full knowledge that the appearance and disappearance of the Lord are transcendental (janma karma ca me divyam [Bg. 4.9]) are sometimes surprised that the Supreme Personality of Godhead can take birth like an ordinary child. Actually, however, the Lord's birth is never ordinary. The Supreme Personality of Godhead is already situated within the core of everyone's heart as antaryami, the Supersoul. Thus because He was present in full potency in Devaki's heart, He was also able to appear outside her body.
One of the twelve great personalities is Bhismadeva (svayambhur naradah sambhuh kumarah kapilo manuh / prahlada, janako bhismah [SB 6.3.20]). In Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.9.42), Bhisma, a great authority to be followed by devotees, says that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is situated in the core of everyone's heart, just as the sun may be on everyone's head. Yet although the sun may be on the heads of millions and millions of people, this does not mean that the sun is variously situated. Similarly, because the Supreme Personality of Godhead has inconceivable potencies, He can be within everyone's heart and yet not be situated variously. Ekatvam anupasyatah (Isopanisad 7). The Lord is one, but He can appear in everyone's heart by His inconceivable potency. Thus, although the Lord was within the heart of Devaki, He appeared as her child. According to the Visnu Purana, therefore, as quoted in the Vaisnava-tosani, the Lord appeared like the sun (anugrahasaya). The Brahma-samhita (5.35) confirms that the Lord is situated even within the atom (andantara-stha-paramanu-cayantara-stham). He is situated in Mathura, in Vaikuntha, and in the core of the heart. Therefore one should clearly understand that He did not live like an ordinary child in the heart or the womb of Devaki. Nor did He appear like an ordinary human child, although He seemed to do so in order to bewilder asuras like Kamsa. The asuras wrongly think that Krsna took birth like an ordinary child and passed away from this world like an ordinary man. Such asuric conceptions are rejected by persons in knowledge of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Ajo 'pi sann avyayatma bhutanam isvaro 'pi san (Bg. 4.6). As stated in the Bhagavad-gita, the Lord is aja, unborn, and He is the supreme controller of everything. Nonetheless, He appeared as the child of Devaki. This verse describes the inconceivable potency of the Lord, who appeared like the full moon. Understanding the special significance of the appearance of the Supreme Godhead, one should never regard Him as having taken birth like an ordinary child. (SB 10.3.9-10 purport)
Sinead O' Connor's life seemed to be full of challenges and upheavals. She has criticized the spread of child abuse in a major religious institution in front of millions of TV viewers and was thus ostracized and criticized by the followers of the Catholic Church. Abusing innocent children in the name of religion is indeed the greatest possible abuse of power and we stand by Sinead and agree that such a corrupted religious institution should be criticized.
People who raise objections to such vicious crimes should never be ostracized. It is said that the backlash that followed her expressed statements influenced Sinead's life negatively and she suffered mental health problems. Furthermore, her teenage son committed suicide, and this has further made her life extremely difficult to cope with. At any rate, her glorification of Krishna consciousness in this blog that we have analyzed here will not go in vain. Reading Srimad-Bhagavatam and sharing the verse with the public and her fans will go a long way. Even reading one line from these transcendental books brings so much benefit for the casual reader. Srila Prabhupada says:
"If one reads one line of this literature, although it is presented in broken language, but if he simply hears there is "Krsna," then his sinful activities immediately vanquish." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.5.9–11 – June 6, 1969, New Vrindavan)
He also emphasizes the need for the devotees to distribute books widely: "We are printing so many books. For spreading this knowledge, that must be distributed. Home to home, place to place, man to man, this literature must go there. If he... If one takes one book, at least one day he'll read it: "Let me see what is this book I have purchased the other day." And if he reads one line his life will be successful -- if he reads one line only, carefully. This is such literature. Therefore book distribution I am giving so much stress. (Bhagavad-gita 16.9 – February 5, 1975, Honolulu)
It is especially noteworthy that Sinead, following in the footsteps of George Harrison, shared with others the glorification of Krishna. Even though she might have not been a devotee or could not make more spiritual progress, the very act of sharing Krishna consciousness will make her pure and perfect. Srila Prabhupada explains:
"...if one engages not only in hearing but in trying to broadcast the message of devotional activities as well, or if he engages himself in helping the missionary activities of Krsna consciousness, he gradually feels spiritual progress. This advancement in spiritual life does not depend on any kind of previous education or qualification. The method itself is so pure that by simply engaging in it one becomes pure." (Bg 9.2 purport)
Let us wish this nice soul all the best on her way to meet her beloved Vishnu.