A conversation with His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Carol: Your Divine Grace, is the intellect helpful in knowing God?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Unless you have got the necessary intellect, then you are no better than the animals. The animals have no intellect for understanding God, but the human being has got that intellect. That is the distinction between animals and human beings.
Otherwise, as for material necessities such as eating, sleeping, mating, and defending, both the human beings and the animals sleep, enjoy sex, become fearful, and arrange for defense. So, as for access to the material necessities of life, that is equal in the animal and the human being.
But the human being has a special intellect, more developed than the animal’s. He can understand what he is, what God is, what this cosmic manifestation is, and what the aim of life is—how we should conduct our lives. This is the prerogative for the human being. The animals have no such prerogative.
Now, if we do not utilize these special intellectual facilities, then we remain animals; we do not make any spiritual advancement. At the present moment. we are simply trying to improve our access to the material necessities of life—eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. We are thinking, “The dog is eating on the floor. If we can eat on a table, using chairs and nice dishes, that is advancement of civilization.”
We are thinking like that. The dog is sleeping outdoors, but if we sleep in a very nice apartment, lavishly decorated, that is advancement of civilization. The dog is having sexual intercourse on the street, with-out shame—and we are also coming to that point—but for the time being, if we have sexual intercourse in an apartment, in the name of love and so on, that is advancement. The dog is defending with his jaws and nails, and we are defending with nuclear bombs; therefore, we are advanced.
But we have forgotten that the human being has got this special intellect to understand God. That understanding we are not pursuing. For example, you are going to be a doctor in anthropology. Is it not?
Srila Prabhupada: Where is the sense of God there?
Carol: I do it only for a living. The other side of me is something else.
Srila Prabhupada: No, I mean to say that anthropology is a big scientific department. Where is the understanding of God there?
Carol: Right. I find it difficult to reconcile the love of God with actually doing something like this study of anthropology.
Srila Prabhupada: Then why are you wasting your time speculating on anthropology?
Srila Prabhupada: If you cannot adjust yourself to this anthropology business, why are you wasting your time? Anthropology is a false science. There is no meaning.
Carol: I’m waiting to be led into something which is good.
Srila Prabhupada: The whole Darwinian theory is false. It has no sound basis. Darwin himself admits that it is just a theory. Theory is not science.
I can propose some theory—“It is like that.” But that is not science. Science means observation plus experimental proof. That is science.
You observe how the rules are working, and when you practically bring them to bear in your experiment, then it is science. If you simply theorize, that is not science. It is mental speculation. There is no benefit.
You can speculate, constructing a castle in the air. That is not a very good thing. You should present something which will benefit the people, something practical. That is science.
Carol: Do you think it is possible for people to live in, say, an educational framework?
Srila Prabhupada: Education—if it is not for the benefit of the people, then what is the use of such education? That is not a good education. Education means something which will benefit the mass of people. That is education. To enlighten them to do something better—that is education.
Now, this whole Darwinian theory is false. But people are giving it so much stress. First of all, no one—not even Darwin—can be independent. For instance, Darwin died. So he was under the control of something higher. No man wants to die, but he is forced to die. Is it not? Then where is his independence?
Carol: That is the illusion.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. So if you simply live in illusion, then where is your education? If you remain in darkness, then where is your education? Illusion means darkness. So if you are in darkness, now, where is your education? And where is your philosophy?
Carol: The only way to remove this darkness is through love. Is this what you are saying?
Srila Prabhupada: Love is far away. First of all, you become educated.
Carol: How? In what way?
Srila Prabhupada: Education means right knowledge. Right knowledge. For instance, everyone wants to live. Nobody wants to die. So the inquiry should be, “I do not wish to die. Why is death forced upon me? What is that force—what is the nature of that force?”
On the other hand, if I simply resign myself—“Yes, some kind of force is there”—then where is my knowledge?
Again, I do not wish to die. So education means finding out, “Why is death forced upon me?” Nobody wants miserable conditions of life, but miserable conditions are forced upon me. So first of all, I should inquire, “I do not want these things. Who is forcing these things upon me?” This is life’s first philosophical inquiry.
Carol: I tend to approach from the other side and ask, “Who am I?” and “What is this thing that I call myself?”
Srila Prabhupada: But first, everyone has this basic problem: “I don’t want these miserable conditions, but they are forced upon me.” For instance, you are now a young girl. You do not like the idea of becoming an old woman. But you will have to become an old woman.
Carol: Oh, yes. Hmm.
Srila Prabhupada: Nature will force you. After forty years of age, you must become old, and you cannot remain so beautiful. This is forced. No one wants this. No woman wants, “I shall not look so beautiful, and my flesh shall be flabby, with no more luster.” I don’t want all these things. Why are they forced?
Carol: Suffering and pain lead people to God, don’t they?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. That is the law. But we are so dull-headed that we do not inquire. That is my statement—that you should inquire, “Who has made this law? Who is forcing these things upon me?” After you make this inquiry, then you can inquire about God’s actual identity and your actual identity. But first of all you must be aware of your situation—that these miserable conditions are being forced upon you.
For instance, a dog cannot understand that he’s on a chain. He’s leading a life most dependent, most miserable. And yet he is jolly. He is jumping here and there. That is a dog’s life. If the master wants to kill him, the dog cannot do anything. But he is very jolly. Sometimes he even jumps.
That is a dog’s life, not human life. Human life means realizing, “I am dependent at every step, and still I am declaring myself independent. What is this nonsense?” This inquiry should be there. “I am dependent at every step, exactly like the cats and dogs, but still I am claiming, ‘I am independent.’ Why?”
Carol: Your Divine Grace, is it possible to carry out this inquiry while engaged in ordinary daily activities?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, certainly. You can become spiritually realized in any walk of life, regardless of your daily activities.
The thing is, this is the real inquiry: “Why am I put into these conditions which I do not like? Who is forcing them upon me? Wherefrom has my life begun? What is the ultimate goal of my life?” These things should be asked. That is the proper inquiry of the human being.
Without getting answers to these questions, we cannot solve the very real problems of birth, death, old age, and disease. Instead, like Darwin, we are forced to theorize something utopian. What is the use of such so-called knowledge?
A conversation with His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Srila Prabhupada: You are concerned about the relationship between one man and another man. But if the central point is missing, then there is practically no relationship. For instance, if you are American and another man is American, both of you feel some relationship, because the center is America. In the same way, unless both of us understand God, the central point, you cannot understand what I am, nor can I understand what you are. So we have to first of all reestablish our lost relationship with God; then we can talk of universal brotherhood. Otherwise, there will be discrimination.
For instance, in your country, or any country, a “national” means a man born in that land. Is it not? But humans do not take the animals as nationals. Why do the animals have no right to be regarded as nationals? That is imperfect knowledge. There is no God consciousness; therefore, they think only the human born in this land is a national—not others.
Interviewer: That is not necessarily based on religious principles, of course.
Srila Prabhupada: That is a philosophical principle.
Srila Prabhupada: And religion without philosophy is sentimentality.
Interviewer: Don’t you think there are very good reasons for the existence of these rules and regulations in this respect?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. The rules and regulations of society must be established on the basis of philosophy. Otherwise, the whole thing is sentimentality. Defective. Religion without philosophy is sentimentality—and philosophy without religion is mental speculation. Philosophy and religion should be combined. Then the situation will be perfect.
Interviewer: I think that in this … in this part of the world—in the Western world, at least as much as I am aware of it—we do place a good deal of emphasis on religion.
Srila Prabhupada: Everything should be based on philosophy.
Interviewer: Well, as to religion, what I would like to highlight, what I would like to emphasize, is that we place a good deal of emphasis on religion in the way it gets one man to deal with another man. The ethic of religion. Now, in the Krishna consciousness movement…
Srila Prabhupada: One moment. We must be clear.
Interviewer: Beg your pardon?
Srila Prabhupada: We are not concerned about how one man deals with another man.
Interviewer: Not as part of your Krishna consciousness movement?
Srila Prabhupada: No, no.
Interviewer: Because we…
Srila Prabhupada: No. This is not important, because we know, as soon as one understands how to deal with God, he’ll automatically deal with other men very nicely.
Interviewer: But, you know, let’s take the Christian religion, for an example.
Srila Prabhupada: I do not know.
Interviewer: You know the Ten Commandments, for example.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Yes.
Interviewer: There is a heavy emphasis in the Ten Commandments on the relationships between one human being and another, you know. “Thou shalt not kill.” “Thou shalt not steal.” You know. That sort of thing.
Srila Prabhupada: But Jesus Christ never said that “Thou shalt not kill” protects only human beings. Where is the evidence? Jesus Christ never said “Thou shalt not kill” protects only human beings. Thou shalt not kill any animals, either.
Interviewer: Any life.
Srila Prabhupada: Do not take any life. That is religion.
Interviewer: It has never been interpreted that way.
Srila Prabhupada: You have interpreted it the wrong way. But Jesus affirmed the commandment “Thou shalt not kill.” He never said, “Thou shalt not kill human beings.” Why do you interpret in that way?
Interviewer: How would I recognize a true follower of the Krishna consciousness movement by his behavior? What would his traits be? What would his outward expressions be?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Yes. He would be a very perfect gentleman. That’s all. You would not be able to find any fault in him. That is Krishna consciousness, perfect Krishna consciousness. Therefore, it is stipulated not to eat meat.
Interviewer: Not to eat meat?
Srila Prabhupada: Correct. And therefore, there is a prohibition against illicit sex. Therefore, there is a prohibition against intoxication. A Krishna conscious person does not smoke, even—what to speak of other intoxication. And therefore, there is a prohibition against indulging in gambling. So if people can observe these four rules and regulations, they will become perfect men. Simple.
Interviewer: Or women, I presume.
Srila Prabhupada: Oh, men or women.
Interviewer: Men or women?
Srila Prabhupada: Anyone.
Interviewer: There is a place for women in Krishna consciousness too, isn’t there?
Srila Prabhupada: Men and women have got the same right. For instance, we are getting married boys and girls as our disciples. They are following the same principles. The same principles. These are the four pillars of perfect life. Now, if we indulge in those sinful things—illicit sex, meat-eating, intoxication, and gambling—then those become the four pillars of sinful life. And if we take the sinful things away, then the prohibitions become the pillars of perfect life.
Interviewer: Now I would like to ask you one more question, and I would like to ask you to end the program by chanting your mantra of Hare Krishna. One more question, though. In the six years that you have been in this country, in the United States, have you been encouraged or discouraged?
Srila Prabhupada: I am encouraged.
Interviewer: Encouraged? Why?
Srila Prabhupada: Because so many devotees are coming daily.
Interviewer: “So many? You say so many. You know, we have maybe—what?—two dozen people sitting here.
Srila Prabhupada: We have got sixty centers.
Interviewer: There are roughly two hundred ten million Americans.
Srila Prabhupada: But when you sell diamonds, you cannot expect that everyone will purchase. There must be bona fide customers for diamonds. You cannot expect that diamonds are going to be purchased by everyone among the mass of people. You cannot expect it.
Interviewer: Do you in general approve of this society, or do you have major complaints about it—the American society that you now live in?
Srila Prabhupada: I have no complaint. These boys and girls—they are very nice. I am, rather, encouraged that these boys and girls are so much inquisitive about Krishna. So it is the best field for this movement, the best field anywhere. But anyway, these boys and girls—I can understand they were hankering after something nice. They were frustrated. So now they have got the things they have been hankering after, and they’re coming to this movement.
Interviewer: All right. I would like to thank you very sincerely for giving us a very brief insight into the teachings of the Krishna consciousness movement. May I ask you to ask your followers who are present here with us tonight to join you in the chanting of the mantra for just a minute to close out the program? Please?
Srila Prabhupada: Oh, yes. We can chant.
A conversation with His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
This exchange between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and a graduate student took place in Los Angeles, near the shore of the Pacific Ocean, during January of 1974.
Student: Today’s scientists and philosophers and psychologists—they say the only authority they can accept is their own mind.
Srila Prabhupada: In Sanskrit they are called mano-dharmi—mental speculators.
Student: But don’t we have to experiment with different mental perspectives if we’re going to understand the world?
Srila Prabhupada: Actually, mental speculators have been condemned—Mano-rathenasati dhavato bahih [Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.18.12]—because they are simply carried away by the chariot of the mind. The mind is flickering, always changing. Sankalpa-vikalpa: the mind’s business is to accept something and again reject it. All these mental speculators are doing just that. Somebody’s putting forward some theory, and after a few years he will himself reject it, or somebody else will reject it. So by mental speculation you will remain on the material, changing platform. You cannot get any lasting idea.
Student: But the scientists feel strongly about their research. They’re convinced they’ve done some real good for the world.
Srila Prabhupada: They think, “This is bad; that is good.” But they do not know that in this material world, saying, “This is bad” and “That is good” is all mental speculation, all a mistake. They do not know that in this material world, “bad” and ‘good” are the same thing-because both are simply matter.
Student: How can you say that “bad” and “good” are the same thing?
Srila Prabhupada: For instance, when we are walking on this road, sometimes we say, “This is very good,” and sometimes we say, “This is very bad.” But the road is the same. So how is it both “good” and “bad”? This is simply speculation. Today we may say, “This road is dry; it is dusty. Bad.” Tomorrow we may say, “This road is dry; it is not at all muddy. Good.” It is simply mental speculation.
Student: It’s still a bit hard to understand what you’re saying.
Srila Prabhupada: Here is another example. In India the villagers pass stool out in the open fields. By the end of the day, the sun has left the top part of the stool dry. So when some fool sees the dry part of the stool, he may say, “Oh, this part is very nice.” He forgets that after all, it is stool-so what is the difference whether it is dry or moist? In the same way, the scientists are making great advancement, but death is still there. So we have to ask, “What is the difference whether you make advancement or no advancement? One who has not advanced in science will die, and you so-called advanced people will also die. Then what is the use?” Neither the scientist nor the ordinary person can protect himself from death. Then what is the meaning of “good”-“This is good,” “This is advancement”—or “This is not advancement”?
Student: But I think the distinction between “good” and “bad” depends on the consciousness of the individual.
Srila Prabhupada: “Relativity”—the “law of relativity”: “One man’s food is another man’s poison.” So how can you distinguish whether this is “food” or “poison”? One man will say, “No, it is food!” Another man will say, “It is poison!” So how will you distinguish? You see? This “good” and “bad” is simply mental speculation. Because it is on the material platform, there is nothing good. All that the scientists and philosophers are doing is cheating. They say, “We are advancing.” In what way are you advancing? The problem of birth and death is still there—so what is the meaning of your advancement?
Student: So we have to get off the "chariot of the mind?"
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. If you remain on the chariot of the mind, then whatever you accept you’ll have to reject again. And that is just what they are doing. The so-called scientists and philosophers—they are putting forward some theory, and after some time they reject it. So if you remain on the mental platform, then this business of accepting and rejecting will go on. You’ll never come to a lasting conclusion. One has to rise to the spiritual platform. That is nityah shashvato ’yam . . .—eternal, everlasting.
Student: Are you saying everything in this world is worthless?
Srila Prabhupada: Just try to understand. It can have value and meaning. For instance, you can add thousands of zeros together, one after another, but the value will still be zero. It will never become one. But by the side of zero, if you add a "one," immediately that becomes ten. Add another zero, immediately you have one hundred. You have increased it ten times. But that "one" must be there—that is ekam brahma, the one Supreme Spirit. Then zero increases in its value. Similarly, this material world is zero. Bad. But if there is Krishna consciousness, then it has value. Then it has value.
Student: Doesn’t the chariot of the mind have any value at all?
Srila Prabhupada: No. It has no value.
Student: But the whole Western philosophical—
Srila Prabhupada: Mano-rathenasati dhavato bahih: by mental speculation you’ll remain in this temporary field. Asat means “that which does not exist.” You take anything in this material world-some day it will not exist. Anyone knows it. A skyscraper is constructed, but everyone knows that it will not exist; some day it will fall down. Everyone knows. It will not endure. Therefore Prahlada Maharaja says, maya-sukhaya bharam udvahato vimudhan: for illusory happiness people are making huge, gorgeous arrangements and working day and night. For something that will be zero. It has begun as zero, and it will end as zero; in the middle they’re busy. Just see’. Therefore they’re vimudhan—fools and rascals.
A conversation with His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
The following conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and some of his disciples took place in September 1975 on an early-morning walk in Vrindavana, India.
Srila Prabhupada: Both the living entity and Lord Krishna are full of consciousness. The living entity’s consciousness is within himself, and Krishna’s consciousness pervades everywhere. That’s the distinction.
Devotee: The Mayavadis [impersonalists] say that when we become liberated, we will also pervade everywhere. We will merge into Brahman and lose our individual identity.
Srila Prabhupada: That means you will forget everything. Whatever little consciousness you had will be finished.
Devotee: But what we will be forgetting is just illusion anyway.
Srila Prabhupada: If that is liberation, then let me kill you now. You will forget everything—liberation. [Laughter.]
[A passerby is singing in Hindi.] This is liberation—he is singing, “O my Lord Krishna, when will I surrender unto Your lotus feet?” That is liberation. Just like a child fully surrendered to his parents—he is liberated. He has no anxiety. He is confident: “Oh, my parents are here. Whatever they do is all right for me. No one can harm me.”
Devotee: The impersonalists say that liberation is getting rid of all misery.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, if you are full of anxieties, where is your liberation?
Devotee:They say this can be accomplished if we become one with the Supreme.
Srila Prabhupada: Krishna is the supreme consciousness. If you lose your consciousness, how do you become one with Him?
Devotee: Well, it’s not exactly that we lose our consciousness but that we merge into the supreme consciousness.
Srila Prabhupada: That means you want to become God. But why are you different from God now?
Devotee: It’s my lila [pastime].
Srila Prabhupada: But if it’s your lila, then why are you undergoing so much austerity to gain liberation?
Devotee: The point is that the supreme consciousness is unembodied, but we are embodied right now. So, when we attain supreme consciousness, we will also become unembodied.
Srila Prabhupada: But how have you become embodied if you are the Supreme? What made you embodied? You don’t like to be embodied—the body is bringing so much suffering—so you want liberation. But whoever made you embodied—He is the Supreme. You are not the Supreme.
Devotee: I put myself in illusion so that I can enjoy becoming liberated.
Srila Prabhupada: Why would any sane man put himself in a position of being repeatedly kicked by the material nature in the form of birth, old age, disease, and death? What is the enjoyment?
Devotee: Without pain, how can you experience pleasure?
Srila Prabhupada: Then let me kick you, and you can enjoy pleasure when I stop.
Devotee: The idea is that after experiencing the suffering of this world, liberation will be very sweet.
Srila Prabhupada: But why is there suffering? If you are supreme, why is there any suffering for you? What is this nonsense—“Suffering is my lila”?
Devotee: It’s suffering only for those who don’t understand that they are supreme. They are the ones who suffer, but I don’t.
Srila Prabhupada: Then you are just like the hogs and dogs. They do not understand that this is suffering. But we can understand. Therefore the Mayavadis are mudhas, fools and rascals, who don’t know what suffering is or what enjoyment is. Mudho ‘yam nabhijanati mam ebhyah param avyayam. Krishna says, “The fools and rascals don’t know that I am Supreme.” Therefore, after many lifetimes of suffering and talking all kinds of nonsense, one who has real knowledge surrenders to Krishna (bahunam janmanam ante jnanavan mam prapadyate). That is knowledge. When one comes to this awareness—Ihave simply suffered, and I have tried to delude myself by a jugglery of words”—then he surrenders to Krishna.
Devotee: So the Mayavada philosophy is actually the supreme illusion?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Mayavadi bhasya shunile haya sarva-nasha: “One who follows the Mayavada philosophy is finished.” He’s doomed; he will become absorbed in that false philosophy and never be able to accept real philosophy. Mayavadis are offenders. Therefore they shall remain perpetually in ignorance and think themselves God. They openly preach, “Why are you thinking that you are sinful? You are God.”
Devotee: The Christians have a concept of sin. When the Mayavadis went to America, they told the Christians, “Forget this idea of sin. Whatever you do, it is all right, because you are God.”
Srila Prabhupada: The Christian priests did not like the Mayavada philosophy. The Mayavadis are atheists, more than the Buddhists. The Buddhists do not accept Vedic authority. Therefore they are considered atheists. But the Mayavadi rascals accept the Vedas and preach atheism. So they are more dangerous than the Buddhists. The Buddhists, although they are supposed to be atheists, worship Lord Buddha. He is an incarnation of Krishna, so one day they will be delivered. But Mayavadis will never be delivered.
Krishna assures us in the Bhagavad-gita [18.66]: “Just surrender to Me and I will free you from all dangers.” And we accept Krishna. That’s all. Our method is very easy. The child is trying to walk, but he is unable and he’s falling down. The father says, “My dear child, just catch my hand. “Then the child is safe.
These Mayavadis go against the verdict of God. God says, “The living entities are part and parcel of Me,” and the Mayavadis say, “I am God.” That is their foolishness. If they were equal to God, why does God say, “Surrender to Me”? They are not God. They are simply rascals who are claiming to be equal to God because they do not want to surrender to Him.
So this knowledge—that “I must surrender to God”—comes only after many, many births. Then one gives up this foolish word jugglery and attains real liberation in Krishna consciousness.
A conversation with His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Srila Prabhupada: Now it is our choice: “Am I going to get a dog’s body or a god’s body?” That choice you can make. That is the meaning of having the human form of body. A dog cannot choose to elevate himself in his next life. He has no such discriminatory power. But you can do that. So if you do not do that, then you are missing your real opportunity. Yanti deva-vrata devan pityanti pitri-vratah: “Those who worship the demigods will go to the planets of the demigods. Those who worship Me will come to My abode.” This is what Krishna assures us in Bhagavad-gita. Anywhere you like you can go. So you must use the human form of body properly.
Disciple: Srila Prabhupada, does the government also have the responsibility to protect people from having to take a dog body?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. That is the government’s duty—to see that the citizens do not degrade themselves. For example, a responsible father thinks, “Now these children are under my protection. So I must see that they get a proper education and make advancement in their lives.” This is the father’s duty. Of course, today the father thinks, “Let them go to hell.” That’s all. Today fathers are acting in that way. Nevertheless, their duty still remains.
Similarly, the government’s duty is to see that the citizen makes progress. Unfortunately, your modern government leaders do not know what is meant by progress—what is the real aim of human life. They do not know. So how will they guide? They think, like cats and dogs, “If you can eat more and more, then your life is successful.” Their thinking is very poor. Simply physical strength—they think that is success. They do not reflect that the elephant has so much physical strength, the tiger has so much physical strength, but what is the meaning of their lives? What spiritual realization can they attain? After all, they are animals. And yet your leaders are thinking like them. “If you simply get strength like an elephant or a tiger, then your life is successful.”
These leaders think like that because they do not know the actual aim of life. A dog does not know the aim of life. Even if I say, “Self-realization is the aim of life,” the dog will not understand, because his body is unsuitable for higher, spiritual understanding. But a human being can understand. That is why there are so many books of knowledge. So if people do not get this proper knowledge, they are missing the point of life. Parabhavas tavad abodha-jato yavan na jijnasata atma-tattvam: As long as one does not come to the point of understanding the spirit soul, whatever he is doing is being defeated, because the main point is missing.
Just like cats and dogs, people are accepting the temporary material body as the self, and they are working on that platform. Therefore, their lives are being spoiled. So our mission is to save the human being from wasting his life like that of the animals. This is our mission. It is the greatest humanitarian work.
Disciple: But, Srila Prabhupada, Krishna has given us free will, by which we can accept or reject the godly life. Should the government take away that free will, that choice?
Srila Prabhupada: No. That is not possible. Free will cannot be taken away and cannot be granted. It is always there within us. Krishna says that from all eternity, He has given us free will. But His personal advice is, “I am now telling you these most confidential words. Control your so-called free will. Just surrender to Me.” This understanding is the most confidential. “If you surrender to Me, that is good for you. But if you go on simply reveling in your free will, you’ll not be happy.”
In spiritual life there is still free will. When you rise to the Krishna conscious platform, you serve Krishna with free will. Not that you become a stone. There is free will. For instance, in the temple the devotees are dressing Krishna’s form very artistically. Is there no free will? And in the kitchen, they are also creating sumptuous preparations for Krishna. Is there no free will? Free will is there.
The Mayavadi philosopher or the Buddhist philosopher says, “Stop this free will and then you’ll become happy.” But our proposition is not to stop our free will but to purify our free will. Purify.
For instance, if your eye is suffering from a cataract, cure the cataract. Keep the eye. But the impersonalist or Buddhist proposition is, “Get that eye out and throw it away. Then there will be no more bother in seeing what is right and wrong, what is pure and impure.”
This is the impersonalists’ proposition. Nirvishesha-vadi. Nirvishesha means no individuality, no personality, no variety: “Everything is one.” And the Buddhists’ proposition: shunyavadi. Sunya means, “Everything is zero.” If ultimately everything is one or zero, then there is no question of right and wrong.
So our philosophy is neither of these. There is no “All is one”; there is no “All is zero.” We don’t say such things. There are varieties. But they’re purified varieties. Tat- paratvena nirmalam. Nirmalam means “purified.” So our process is to purify everything. We don’t want to stop everything. That is not our proposition. The impersonalists and Buddhists cannot find any solution to the world’s problems. That is why they want to put everything to a stop: “Stop this business.”
Suppose a business is not going very nicely. It is operating at a loss. So somebody says, “Close it.”
But an experienced man comes and says, “Why should you close it? All right. I shall do it properly. You’ll get a profit.”
So which man is better? The first, who says, out of disappointment, “Close this business. There is no profit”? Or the second, who says, “No, don’t close it. We shall show a profit. Just manage it properly”?
This is our proposition. We don’t say, “Stop all these material activities.” No. “Just do it properly, so that you get real profit and real benefit.” That is our program. We don’t want to make everything zero. No. Why shall we make it all zero? Everything can be taken and fully spiritualized.
For instance, in the typical firm the workers are not thinking about the proprietor. Nearly everyone is putting some of the firm’s assets into his pocket. So with the assets being stolen, how will the firm go on nicely?
Similarly, these rascal government leaders have no idea who is the proprietor of the world. So they are acting in their nonsensical, stealing way, and therefore there is confusion. The business is not profitable.
On the other hand, if the workers accept—“No, the real proprietor is such-and-such gentleman, and he wants us to perform our work like this”—then the business will be profitable.
Similarly, every one of us in the material world is thinking he is the proprietor. So how will this “firm” profit? This is the real situation. Everyone is thinking he is the proprietor. He forgets he is a worker. He is not the proprietor. That is the mistake. Therefore, the “firm” is being mismanaged, and there is no profit—simply chaos. That is the situation.
A conversation with His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
The following conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and some of his disciples took place in July 1975 on an early-morning walk in San Francisco.
Devotee: Srila Prabhupada, one of the scientists who invented the hydrogen bomb was lamenting recently that young people are not so interested in science anymore.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. The scientists cannot solve the problems of birth and death. So the young people are becoming saner. “What is the use of wasting our time in this way?” they think. “Science cannot solve any real problems.” That is good sense. Is this professor still alive?
Devotee: Yes, he’s still living.
Srila Prabhupada: So ask him to invent some bomb that will prevent death. Tell him, “People are already dying, and you have invented something to make them die wholesale. Now invent something that people can take so they’ll never have to die. Can you do that? No? Then we are no longer interested in your science.”
Go to this professor and tell him, “You are regretting that we young men are no longer interested in science. This is the reason: Since when we die everything will be finished, what is the use of studying your science? You have not improved anything. The animals are taking birth and dying, and we are also taking birth and dying. What is the essential difference? So your science is all false propaganda. We are no longer interested.”
Devotee: In Los Angeles you said that in twenty-five years science will be finished.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, it is already finished. Their so-called religion is also finished, and their so-called politics is also finished. Because they have finished with God, everything of theirs will soon be finished—zero, only zero.
Devotee: The whole of human civilization, Grila Prabhupada?
Srila Prabhupada: Where is that civilization? The mother is killing the child in the womb. Is that civilization? Where is their civilization? It is a less- than-doggish civilization. Dogs will not kill their offspring. Nonsense rascals! They are encouraging the mother to kill the child in the womb, and they’re claiming this is a civilization. They are less than dogs and cats. The dogs and cats try to protect their young. Do you know that? The cats carry their kittens from one place to another so that the male cat may not kill them. The tigers also give protection to their young.
Devotee: Even the rats do that.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, a mother’s affection for her child is natural. But now the so-called civilized mothers are killing their children. This is your civilization. And this is your religion, your science, your philosophy—everything. This “civilization” is finished unless people take to Krishna consciousness.
[Pointing to pine cones on the ground] What are these?
Devotee: These are pine cones, Srila Prabhupada. They are the seeds of the pine tree.
Srila Prabhupada: Let’s see the scientists produce one seed like that. Where is the scientist who can do that? Millions of living beings are born every second, yet they are trying for years together to manufacture one living being in the laboratory and take credit for creating life. What is their credit, even if they succeed? Already millions and trillions of living beings are being born every day. These scientists who try to create life are fools, and the people they are fooling are also fools.
Devotee: They say they can explain creation without God. They say everything has come from Mother Nature.
Srila Prabhupada: But without a father, can a woman give birth? Where is the father? Ask these rascal scientists this question.
Devotee: Sometimes they say that God is now dead.
Srila Prabhupada: But even if a man’s father is dead, that does not mean the man has taken birth without a father. That you cannot say. The father may be dead—that we’ll discuss at a later date. But first you have to accept that a woman cannot give birth without a father. Who is that father?
Devotee: Nature has created everything on her own. Originally things began by some chance combination of atoms and molecules.
Srila Prabhupada: Anyone who says this creation began by chance is a rascal. Nothing takes place by chance. The answer is in the Bhagavad-gita, where Krishna says, bijam mam sarva-bhutanam: “I am the original seed of all existences.” Challenge these rascals. They’re cheating so many people.
Devotee: Now the scientists are studying the atom, Srila Prabhupada, and they agree—
Srila Prabhupada: First of all let us know what good they have actually done. They are proposing so much nonsense—that nature is working independently, that human beings have descended from the apes—but have they released us from the clutches of the material nature? Even if you accept that there is no God and that nature is supreme, you are still subordinate. You are not independent. This is also explained in the Bhagavad-gita [3.27]: “Everything is going on by the control of Krishna’s material energy, but those who are fools and rascals think that they are independently doing everything.” Why are you thinking you are independent? The material nature is pulling you by the ear: “Come here!” You cannot say, “I will not become an old man. I’ll not die.” You must become old and die. Even if you accept only the existence of nature but not God, you still must accept nature’s authority. Where is your independence?
Devotee: That is why they’re engaged in science—to master nature.
Srila Prabhupada: That is another foolishness. And we shall be misled by these rascals? They promise everything for the future. “Yes, in the future we’ll do this. In the future we’ll do that.” Postdated check. “I’ll give you a million-dollar check dated six months from now. Take it.” Only the fool will be satisfied: “Now I am rich.”
Devotee: So the check from the scientist returns stamped “Insufficient Funds.”
Srila Prabhupada: Not “Insufficient Funds”—“No Funds.”
Devotee: Account closed.
by Kundali dasa
Fritjof Capra’s bestseller points to apparent parallels between Eastern mysticism and the new physics. But there’s more in the Vedic version than is dreamt of in Capra’s philosophy.
Over the past six or seven years I’ve met many people, mostly college students, who’ve read Fritjof Capra’s The Tao of Physics, a bestseller about the apparent parallels between Eastern mysticism and modern physics. Capra, a high-energy physicist with a long-standing interest in Eastern philosophy, finds it significant that physicists’ descriptions of the paradoxical subatomic reality they seem to have discovered echo the descriptions of reality given by the mystics of various traditions, namely, the Vedic tradition of India, the Buddhist tradition, and the Taoist tradition of China. He cites the following two references to typify the kind of agreement he sees between the Oriental and the Occidental world views. The first is from Robert Oppenheimer’s Science and the Common Understanding:
If we ask, for instance, whether the position of (he electron remains the same, we must say ‘no’; if we ask whether the electron’s position changes with time, we must say ‘no’; if we ask whether the electron is at rest, we must say ‘no’; if we ask whether it is in motion, we must say ‘no.’
Next, turning to the Eastern tradition, he cites a translation of the Isha Upanishad, Mantra Five:
It moves. It moves not.
It is far, and It is near.
It is within all this,
And It is outside of all this.
In general, Capra’s thesis seems sensible, though I’m sure sticklers for details would take exception to his lumping together Vedic mysticism. Buddhism, and Taoism, as if all three shared the same conclusions. Anyway, details notwithstanding, Capra’s attempt to describe quantum physics as a too (a way of knowing ultimate reality) on a par with Eastern mysticism has been hailed by some as the long- awaited marriage of science with religion. Some enthusiasts say it heralds a change in the West from a scientific world view to a spiritual one. This, I’ve been told, augurs well for the Krishna consciousness movement, because the devotees may then get the recognition they deserve for having been on the right path all along.
People I’ve spoken with are usually surprised to find out that Capra’s understanding of the most popular texts on Vedic mysticism, the Bhagavad-gita and the Upanishads, differs markedly from the Krishna conscious understanding. This revelation has led me into some lengthy discussions with a few of Capra’s readers. One encounter I had with a student, in which we minutely went over all the fine points of translation and interpretation, lasted almost five hours. In the end, the student agreed that Capra had unwittingly adopted some of the most common misconceptions about the Vedic teachings, consequently presenting an incomplete description. More importantly, the student was convinced that Krishna consciousness presents the full conclusion and that it leads further into ultimate reality than the tao of physics.
To single out Capra for his failure to understand the Vedic tradition would be unfair, for he is not alone. His impersonalistic interpretation is similar to many other misinterpretations and speculative conceptions of ultimate reality common in the West. Most readers, then, will glimpse the familiar within the tenets of Capra’s philosophy, which is but a recent variation on a very old theme.
Capra’s understanding of the Vedic view is that the varieties of things and events in this world are but different manifestations of the same ultimate impersonal reality, the same ultimate substance. This ultimate reality, called Brahman and sometimes referred to in the West as “the white light,” permeates everything and everywhere, ebbing and flowing in what Capra describes as “the cosmic dance of subatomic energy.” It is a reality devoid of variety. Capra quotes the Katha Upanishad (3.15):
What is soulless, touchless, formless,
Likewise tasteless, constant, odorless,
Without beginning, without end, higher than
the great, stable—
By discovering That, one is liberated from
the mouth of death.
He also quotes from the Bhagavad-gita (13.12): “Brahman, supreme, beginning-less, beyond what is and what is not.”
And the Chandogya Upanishad (6.9.4.): “That which is the finest essence—this whole world has that as its soul. That is reality. That is Atman. That art thou.”
The goal of Vedic mysticism, according to Capra, is to break free from karmic bondage to this world; to break free from the illusion that this world of form and events is reality; to merge into eternal oneness with Brahman; to become one with the cosmic dance. This experience Capra touts as the very essence of the Vedic ideal:
To be free from the spell of maya, to break the bonds of karma, means to realize that all the phenomena we perceive with our senses are part of the same reality. It means to experience, concretely and personally, that everything, including ourself, is Brahman.
Finally, Capra regards Vedic mysticism’s personal conception of God, with His name, form, paraphernalia, entourage, and so on, as “manifestations of the same divine reality, reflecting different aspects of the infinite, omnipresent, and—ultimately—incomprehensible Brahman.”
The Vedic Version
As I’ve already indicated, the impersonal interpretation of the Vedic philosophy is not entirely wrong. But it is incomplete. The Vedic literature does describe an impersonal Brahman existence, but not as the ultimate level of reality. The Bhagavad-gita, Upanishads, and other Vedic texts describe Brahman as the level between this mundane world and the ultimate personal reality. In the fourteenth chapter of the Bhagavad-gita, Krishna says, brahmano hi pratishthaham: “I am the basis of the impersonal Brahman.”
Elsewhere in the Gita He says, “There is no truth superior to Me” (7.7); “Yet there is another unmanifest nature, which is eternal and is transcendental to this manifested and unmanifested matter” (8.20); nd “I am the source of both the spiritual and material worlds” (10.8).
In the Upanishads also, we find these statements about existence beyond Brahman:
O my Lord, O primeval philosopher, maintainer of the universe, destination of the pure devotees … please remove the effulgence of Your transcendental rays so that I can see Your form of bliss. (Isha Upanishad, Mantra 16) Lord Govinda [Krishna] is beyond the duality of the material world, and He is nondifferent from His form, which is eternal and full of bliss and knowledge. (Gopala-tapani Upanishad) Of all eternals, there is one who is the chief eternal. Of all conscious living entities, there is one who is the chief conscious entity. That supreme living being, the Personality of Godhead, maintains the others and fulfills their desires according to their needs. (Katha Upanishad, 2.2.13)
In addition to these verses, there aremany more that mention the paravyoma, a reality beyond the Brahman realm. Some passages give detailed descriptions of the things and events there. Take for example these verses from the fifth chapter of the Brahma-samhita (29, 33, 40):
I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, the first progenitor, who is tending cows yielding all desires among abodes built with spiritual gems, and who is surrounded by millions of wish-fulfilling trees. He is always served with great reverence and affection by hundreds of thousands of lakshmis [goddesses of fortune], or gopis [transcendental milkmaids].
I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, who is adept at playing on His flute, who has eyes like blooming lotus petals, whose head is bedecked with a peacock’s feather, whose figure of beauty is tinged with the hue of blue clouds, and whose unique loveliness is charming millions of Cupids.
I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, round whose neck is swinging a garland of flowers beautified with the moon locket, whose two hands are adorned with the flute and jeweled ornaments, who always revels in pastimes of love, and whose graceful threefold-bending form is eternally manifest.
I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, who eternally sees, maintains, and manifests the infinite universes, both spiritual and mundane. His transcendental form is full of bliss, truth, and substantiality, and is thus full of the most dazzling splendor. Each of the limbs of that transcendental figure possesses in itself the full- fledged functions of all the organs.
I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, who is inaccessible to the Vedas, but who is obtainable by pure unalloyed devotion of the soul. He is without a second, not subject to decay, and without a beginning. His form is endless, He is the beginning, and He is the eternal supreme being, yet He is a person possessing the beauty of blooming youth.
I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, who is endowed with great power. The glowing effulgence of His transcendental form is the impersonal Brahman, which is absolute, complete, and unlimited and which displays the varieties of countless planets, with their different opulences, in millions and millions of universes.
These stanzas clearly describe a reality different from the gross world of our senses, and from the subtle world of Capra’s cosmic dance. They describe a realm of variegated, nondeteriorating spiritual elements and gems, a realm beyond the Brahman liberation so highly regarded by the impersonalists, a realm that can be attained only by unalloyed devotion of the soul for the Supreme Soul. The Bhagavad- gita describes these devoted souls as the topmost mystics.
It is interesting to note, as Ravindra-svarupa dasa, a frequent contributor to BACK TO GODHEAD, points out in a scholarly essay, “The Devotee and the Deity: Living a Personalistic Theology,”* [*Published in Gods of Flesh/ Gods of Stone: The Embodiment of Divinity in India, eds. Joanne Punzo Waghorne and Norman Cutler(Chambersburg, PA: Anima, 1985).] the three levels of reality described in Vedic mysticism correspond to the three- part dialectical pattern of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis employed in Western philosophy. With the mundane world of form as the thesis and the formless Brahman as its antithesis, a third and final stage of synthesis is indicated. This synthesis would logically necessitate the integration of form and the formless, a feat any materialistic mind would find absurd and paradoxical. Even in their wildest speculations, impersonalists cannot reconcile the contradictory feature of being simultaneously with and without form. Yet the Vedic literature regards the synthesis of form and formless as a tangible accomplishment.
Ravindra-svarupa explains how this synthesis works:
It is not necessary to regard the union of “form” and “formless” as intractable mystification without utterable content. Let us be more precise about the beginning and define form explicitly as “material form.” Thus, its negation, formless, means “no material form.” Now we can see our way clear to the final synthesis, the affirmation that sublates the negation: “spiritual form.” This is the higher unity of “form” and “formless”: there is form but no [material] form.
The verses of Brahma-samhita describe this realm of higher unity, and its concrete and personal realization is the goal and essence of Vedic mysticism.
Why Impersonalists Are Thwarted
“But,” you may well ask, “if this is all on the level, why would scholars and scientists of the caliber of a Fritjof Capra interpret the Vedic tradition in an impersonalistic way?” The answer is that they do not study the subject matter in an authorized way. Either they hear explanations from some self-styled guru who puts forward his speculations as realized truths, or they try on their own to understand the apparently contradictory statements of the Vedic texts. This leads to interesting conjecture, but little else.
The prescription of the Vedic literature itself is that the serious student of spiritual life should approach a bona fide guru as the first step in gaining Vedic knowledge. A bona fide guru is one who comes in disciplic succession from the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself and who teaches by his example how to execute spiritual life.
In Bhagavad-gita (4.34) the Supreme Lord, Krishna, advises,
Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized souls can impart knowledge unto you because they have seen the truth.
The same advice is given in the Mundaka Upanishad(1.2.l2):
To learn the transcendental science, one must approach a bona fide spiritual master in disciplic succession, who is fixed in the Absolute Truth.
Similarly, the Svetashvatara Upanishad (6.23) states,
Only unto those great souls who simultaneously have implicit faith in both the Lord and the spiritual master are all imports of Vedic knowledge automatically revealed.
The impersonalists’ practice of quoting the Vedic literature as authority with regard to ultimate reality and not heeding its advice to approach a genuine guru in disciplic succession is likened to a patient’s taking medicine without following the instructions on the label. If you have to take a particular medicine, you should not do so according to your whim, or according to another’s whim. You should take it according to the directions on the label or according to the directions of a qualified physician. Similarly, the Vedic prescription for understanding ultimate reality must be followed if one is to understand the Vedic message.
Without the guidance of a bona fide guru, one is compelled to speculate about the meaning of Vedic statements that apparently contradict each other, such as sometimes describing the ultimate reality as having form and at other times as being formless. With nothing but their mundane experience to go on, impersonalistic speculators mistakenly assume that all the Vedic references to variegated things and events pertain only to this world, never to transcendence. Thus they have no choice but to interpret the descriptions of ultimate reality—Krishna, His abode, and so forth—as allegorical, or as products of the impersonal Brahman.
This unfortunate mistake is not made by those who take shelter of a bona fide spiritual master. The bona fide spiritual master not only clears up problems in the proper philosophical understanding of Vedic mysticism, but he also elevates the sincere disciple to the platform of full experiential realization of the highest reality, the Absolute Truth, Lord Sri Krishna and His associates.
Of course, it may serve our purpose momentarily to forego accepting a bona fide guru, as the impersonalists do, and to interpret the Vedic tradition in our own way. But that will be of no value in the long run. The knowledge in the Vedic literature is intended to guide us out of the temporary material world, back home, back to Godhead, back to the variegated and eternal spiritual sky, which lies far beyond the impersonal Brahman and far beyond the reach of the too of physics.
A conversation with His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
This exchange between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and a British student took place some seven years ago during an early-morning walk in London.
Srila Prabhupada: The message of Krishna consciousness comes from the spiritual world. It is not of this material world. Therefore sometimes people may misunderstand it. So we have to explain it nicely. They cannot even understand what is the soul. Big, big scientists. Big, big philosophers. They have no information of the spirit and the spiritual world. Therefore, sometimes they find it very difficult to understand.
Guest: Lately I’ve been doing some research on the dating of the Vedas. You know, some archaeologists maintain thatthe evidence from the Harappa dig and Mohenjo-Daro show the dating of the Vedas in fact to be a great deal later than previously thought. This would seem to deprive the Vedas of a certain amount of authority, because they no longer would appear to be the most ancient religious scriptures in the world.
Srila Prabhupada: Veda does not mean “religion.” Veda means “knowledge.” So if you can trace out the history of knowledge, then you can trace out the date for the origin of Veda. Can you trace out when knowledge began? Can you trace it out?
Guest: I wouldn’t think we could.
Srila Prabhupada: So how can you trace out the history of Vedas? Vedas means knowledge. So first of all find out from which date knowledge began. Then you find out the age of the Vedas.
The history of Veda began from the date of the creation of this material world. No one can give the date of the creation. The creation begins with the birth of Brahma, and you cannot calculate even the length of Brahma’s one day. During Brahma’s night, the universe is devastated to some extent, and during his daytime, creation takes place again. There are two kinds of devastations. One devastation takes place during the night of Brahma, and one final devastation annihilates the entire cosmic manifestation. But these teeny people are speculating about the dates of Vedas. That is ludicrous.
There are many microbes that grow in the evening and die just as the day is beginning. One night is their whole span of life. So our life is like that. What history can you write? Therefore, we receive Vedic knowledge from Vedic authorities.
One should not be a frog philosopher.
Do you know about frog philosophy? Dr. Frog had never seen the Atlantic Ocean, and somebody informed him, “Oh, I have seen such a vast mass of water.”
So Dr. Frog said, “Oh, is it bigger than this well?”
Guest: Yes, it was beyond his conception.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. So these scholars are like frogs rotting in their wells. What can they possibly understand of the Vedic knowledge?
Guest: Yes, I see. To change the subject, I wonder whether you feel that the Vedas affirm that the most true form of life, the most pure form of life, is one that’s lived alongside nature, not against nature as we seem to be doing in our urban setting.
Srila Prabhupada: Oh, yes. Real life means you have to minimize your bodily activities so that you can save time and devote yourself to spiritual understanding. That is real life. And the present civilization based on the bodily concept of life is animal life. It is not civilized life.
Athato brahma-jijnasa: civilized life begins when one is so much advanced that he inquires about the spirit soul. But when there is no such inquiry, when people cannot inquire what is spirit soul, they are like cats and dogs.
Vedic life teaches one to become as free as possible from bodily disturbances. Therefore, Vedic education begins with brahmacarya, celibacy. You see? But these rascals cannot check their sex life. Their philosophy is that you should go on with sex life unrestrictedly and when there is pregnancy kill the child.
Srila Prabhupada: That is their rascal philosophy. They have no idea that by training one can forget sex life. And if you forget sex life, where is the question of abortion? But they cannot do that. Therefore it is said, adanta-gobhir vishatam tamisram: by unrestricted sense enjoyment they are gradually going down to the level of animal life.
A person who indulges in abortion, killing the baby in the womb, will be put into a womb in his next life, and somebody will kill him. As many babies as he has killed, he’ll have to accept that many lives and be killed. So for hundreds of years it will be impossible for him to see daylight. He’ll remain in the womb and be killed. People don’t know nature’s laws. One cannot violate nature’s laws as one can the state laws. Suppose you kill somebody—you can escape by trick. But you cannot escape nature’s law. As many times as you have killed, that many times you must be killed within the womb. That is nature’s law.
Guest: Only last week I was talking to a nurse who works on an abortion ward in one of the main London hospitals. It’s terrible. Some of the fetuses are in such an advanced state of development that clearly life is a strong possibility.
Srila Prabhupada: There is no question of possibility. Life begins from the very beginning of sex. The living entity is very small. By nature’s law, according to his karma, he’s sent into the father’s semen and injected into the mother’s womb. The sperm and egg cells from the man and woman emulsify and form a body that is just like a pea. Then that pealike form develops gradually. This is all described in the Vedic literature. The first stage is the manifestation of nine holes—for the ears, eyes, nostrils, mouth, genitals, and rectum. Then the senses gradually develop, and by six and a half months everything is complete, and the living entity’s consciousness comes back. Prior to the formation of the body, the living entity remains unconscious, like in anesthesia. Then he dreams, and then gradually comes to consciousness. At that time he becomes very much reluctant to come out, but nature gives him a push, and he comes out. This is the process of birth.
This is Vedic knowledge. In the Vedic literature you’ll find everything perfectly described. Therefore, how can the Vedas be subject to history? But the difficulty is that we are speaking of things that are spiritual. Therefore it is sometimes difficult for the gross materialists to understand. They are so dull-headed that they cannot understand.
We shouldn’t let the darkness of ignorance dominate our lives
by Dr. Laxmi Narayan Chaturvedi
The Vedic literature of India is unique because it clearly defines the goal of human life. What is that goal? As stated in the first aphorism of the Vedanta-sutra (the essence of Vedic spiritual knowledge), athato brahma- jijnasa: “Now [in the human form of life] one should inquire about Brahman, the Absolute Truth.” For human beings there is no goal more important than this.
The basis of all animal life is sense gratification. The animals know nothing other than eating, sleeping, mating, and defending their own interests. But human life is blessed with abundant intelligence, or power of discrimination. So the main purpose of human life is to distinguish, by discrimination, the absolute from the relative, the eternal from the ephemeral, the real from the unreal, the spiritual from the material. The ability to do this is given only to mankind.
By nature, man is a rational animal. If one removes the rationality from a human being, what remains is merely an animal. Man should therefore be responsible for each of his acts. Not only God’s laws but also the laws of society demand this. A man’s instincts, the tendencies born of his animal side, pull him toward the base desires of sense gratification. But he should use his intelligence to control these tendencies and inquire into the Absolute Truth.
The purpose of our animal instincts is to preserve the integrity of the body. Eating provides energy for our body’s activities, growth, and repair. But indiscriminate overeating results in such diseases as obesity, diabetes, and hypertension. And under-eating, as in anorexia nervosa, results in physical deterioration and premature death. So moderation is called for in eating and in all our other sensual activities. As Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita (6.16-17), “O Arjuna, there is no possibility of becoming a yogi [a seeker of the Absolute Truth] if one eats too much or eats too little, sleeps too much or does not sleep enough. He who is regulated in his habits of eating, sleeping, recreation, and work can mitigate all material pains by practicing the yoga system.”
In summary, human beings should indulge in only as much sense gratification as is absolutely necessary to keep body and soul together. Then one will have ample time and energy to strive for the all-important goal of life: understanding the Absolute Truth.
Unfortunately, most modern men and women fail to appreciate the value of either minimizing sense gratification or understanding the Absolute Truth. Thus they waste their time and energy struggling only for sense gratification. Indulgence has become the watchword of modern society, in which virtually no one teaches the ultimate purpose of life. The intelligence one should use to explore the Absolute Truth is instead used for exploiting nature and enhancing sense enjoyment. The result is the growth of modern technology, which has brought society to the brink of a terrible disaster. People have become self-centered, motivated only by the desire for sense gratification. They have developed jealously and hatred for each other, which on a small scale produce ever-increasing crime and on a large scale produce widespread wars and destruction.
Science has provided the lethal weapons for such a greedy society—a horrible waste of human intelligence. And the tragedy does not end here. The scientists, with their glamorous technology, have confused the people so that they cannot see things in their proper perspective. Man thus aspires to become immortal so he can enjoy unlimited material pleasure, but he forgets that death is gradually approaching him. No scientist can check old age, disease, and death. Man’s efforts to enjoy material nature are like those of an animal in the slaughterhouse who is too busy enjoying his food to notice the butcher approaching with an ax.
A lot would change if the scientists and other leaders would try to understand the teachings of the Vedic scriptures, such as this from Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.13.46):
“This material body made of five elements is already under the control of eternal time (kala), action (karma), and the modes of material nature (guna). How, then, can it, being already in the jaws of the serpent (death), protect others?”
No matter how comfortable our situation is in the material world, it is only temporary: eternal time, in the form of death, always limits it. No scientist, industrialist, or world leader can avert death.
Therefore, we should not let the darkness of ignorance, symptomized by the mad search for sense gratification, dominate our lives. Rather, under the guidance of spiritual intelligence, we should search out the light of Absolute Truth. This is the only purpose of human life.
As the Vedas sing, tamasi ma jyotir gama:“Don’t stay in darkness. Come to the light.”
Srila Prabhupada encourages us to get out of the material world - not endlessly speculate on how we got here
Srila Prabhupada dictated this essay in reply to a question about the origin of the living entity: Were we originally with Krishna, or did we fall from Krishna's impersonal energy, the brahmajyoti? The essay was an addendum to a letter Prabhupada wrote to his disciple Madhudvisa Dasa in June of 1972. We have edited it lightly for grammar and punctuation:
Always With Krishna
We never had any occasion when we were separated from Krishna. For example, when a man is dreaming, he forgets himself. In a dream he creates himself in different forms—“Now I am the king.” This creation of himself is as two things – 1) as the seer, and 2) as the subject matter, or seen. As soon as the dream is over, the “seen” disappears, but the seer remains; now he is in his original, awake position.
Our separation from Krishna is like that. We dream this body and so many relationships with other things. First the attachment comes to enjoy sense gratification. Even [when we are] with Krishna the desire for sense gratification is there. There is a dormant attitude for forgetting Krishna and creating an atmosphere for enjoying independently.
At the edge of the beach, sometimes water covers the sand, and sometimes there is dry sand; the ocean is coming and going. Our position is like that, sometimes covered, sometimes free, just like at the edge of the tide. As soon as we forget, immediately illusion is there; just as when we sleep, a dream is there. We cannot say, therefore, that we are not with Krishna.
As soon as we try to become the Lord, immediately we're covered by maya. Formerly we were with Krishna in His lila, or sport. But this covering of maya may be of very, very, very, very long duration; therefore [in the interim] many creations are coming and going. Due to this long period of time it is sometimes said that we are ever conditioned. But this long duration of time becomes very insignificant when one actually comes to Krishna consciousness.
In a dream, we may think a very long time is passing, but as soon as we awaken we look at our watch and see it has been only a moment. Another example is how Krishna’s friends were kept asleep for one year by Brahma, but when they woke up and Krishna returned, they considered that only a moment had passed.
This "dreaming" condition is called non-liberated life. It is just like a dream. Although by material calculation it is a long, long period, as soon as we come to Krishna consciousness this period is considered a second.
Jaya and Vijaya
Jaya and Vijaya had their lila with Krishna, but they had to come down [to the material world] for their little mistake.* They were given mukti, merging into the Brahma-sayujya [Lord Krishna’s impersonal effulgence], after being killed three times as demons.
This Brahma-sayujya mukti is nonpermanent. Every living entity wants pleasure, but Brahma-sayujya is lacking in pleasure; it consists only of eternal existence. So when those who get Brahma-sayujya mukti do not find transcendental bliss, they fall down to make a compromise with material bliss, for example, by founding schools and hospitals.
Even Lord Brahma is still material and wants to lord it over the material world. He may come down to become a germ, but then he may rise up to Krishna consciousness and go back home, back to Godhead. This is the position.
So when I say yes, there is eternal lila with Krishna, that means on the evidence of Jaya-Vijaya. Unless one develops full devotional service to Krishna, he goes up only to Brahma-sayujya but falls down. But after millions and millions of years of keeping oneself away from the lila of the Lord, when one comes to Krishna consciousness this period becomes insignificant, just like dreaming.
Because he falls down from Brahma-sayujya, he thinks that this may be his origin, but he does not remember that even before that, he was with Krishna. So the conclusion is that whatever may be our past, let us come to Krishna consciousness and immediately join Krishna. It is a waste of time for a diseased man to try to find out how he has become diseased; better to spend time curing the disease.
* EDITOR’S NOTE: Jaya and Vijaya, gatekeepers at a gateway to Vaikuntha, the spiritual world, once refused entrance to four great sages, the Kumaras. The sages then cursed Jaya and Vijaya to fall to the material world. The sages mitigated the curse, however, by saying that after three births as demons Jaya and Vijaya would be reinstated to their former post. Thus Jaya and Vijaya eventually attained sayujya-mukti, merging into the body of the Lord, and thereafter returned to Vaikuntha (the spiritual world). (This is discussed in Srimad-Bhagavatam, Canto Three, chapters fifteen and sixteen, and Canto Seven, chapter one.)
An Allegory . . .
On the top of a tree* there was a nice tal fruit. A crow went there and the fruit fell down. Some panditas—big, big learned scholars—saw this and discussed: “The fruit fell due to the crow agitating the limb.” “No, the fruit fell simultaneously with the crow landing and frightened the crow so he flew away.” “No, the fruit was ripe, and the weight of the crow landing broke it from the branch.” And so on and so on. What is the use of such discussions? So whether you were in the Brahma-sayujya or with Krishna in His lila, at the moment you are in neither, so the best policy is to develop your Krishna consciousness and go there [back to Godhead]—never mind what is your origin.
*The tal-fruit tree is the palmyra palm.
Brahma-sayujya and Krishna-lila—both may be possible. But when you came down from Brahma-sayujya or from Krishna lila, that remains a mystery. But at the present moment we are in Maya’s clutches, so now our only hope is to become Krishna conscious and go back home, back to Godhead. The real position is servant of Krishna, and servant of Krishna means in Krishna lila; directly or indirectly, we are always serving Krishna’s lila, even in dream.
Just as we cannot go out of the sun when it is daytime, so where is the chance of going out of Krishna lila? The cloud may be there—the sky may become very gray and dim—but still the sunlight is there, everywhere, during the daytime. Similarly, because I am part and parcel of Krishna, I am always connected with Krishna.
My finger, even though it may be diseased, remains part and parcel of my body. Therefore, we try to treat it, cure it, because it is part and parcel. So Krishna comes Himself when we forget Him, or He sends His representative.
Awake or dreaming, I am the same man. As soon as I awaken and see myself, I see Krishna. Cause and effect are both Krishna. For example, cotton becomes thread, and thread becomes cloth. Still, the original cause is cotton. Therefore, everything is Krishna in the ultimate sense. When we cannot contact Krishna personally, we contact His energies.
There is no chance to be outside Krishna’s lila. But we see differences under different conditions. To give another example: In the pool of water and in the mirror the same "me" is reflected, but differently; one is shimmering – unsteady - and one is clear and fixed. Except when we are in Krishna consciousness, we cannot see our actual position rightly; therefore the learned man sees all living entities as the same parts and parcels of Krishna.
Material existence is impersonal because [in that existence] my real personality is covered. But we should think that, "because I am now covered by this clay, I am diseased." We should think that, "I must get to business to get myself uncovered," and not wonder how I got this way. Now the fruit is there—take it and enjoy. That is your first business. God is not bound by cause. He can change [anything]; He is the cause of all causes. Now don’t waste your time with this kaka-taliya-nyaya, “crow-and-tal-fruit logic.”
From Back to Godhead Magazine, #30-01, 1996