A conversation with His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Guest: Can you explain subordination?
Srila Prabhupada: Subordination? Yes, it is simple. Everyone must be subordinate to somebody else. Are you not subordinate to somebody?
Guest: Yes, in a material sense. But in the spiritual sense, I don’t feel subordinate to anyone.
Srila Prabhupada: When you understand what spiritual life is, you will see that in the spiritual sense also you are subordinate, because your nature is to be subordinate. What do you mean by spiritual and material?
Guest: Well, for example, at my job I’m subordinate to my boss, but in my real being, my spiritual being, I don’t feel I am subordinate to my boss or anyone else. In other words, I don’t feel that I have to bow down to anybody, and I don’t feel that anybody has to bow down to me.
Srila Prabhupada: Why do you not want to bow down?
Guest: Because I don’t feel that I owe anyone anything, or that anyone owes me anything.
Srila Prabhupada: So, this is the material disease. We are forced to bow down, yet we think that we do not have to bow down. This is the disease.
Guest: No one can force me to bow down.
Srila Prabhupada: Just try to understand. You say that you do not want to bow down-is that right?
Guest: That’s basically true, yes.
Srila Prabhupada: Why?
Guest: Because I don’t feel that I’m inferior to anyone.
Srila Prabhupada: This is the disease of material existence. You have diagnosed your own disease. Everyone is thinking, “I want to be the master. I don’t wish to bow down.” Everyone is thinking like this. This is not only your disease; everyone has this diseased mentality: Why shall I bow down? Why shall I become subordinate?” But nature is forcing me to become subordinate. Now, why are people dying? Can you answer this question?
Guest: Why are people dying?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, nobody wants to die, yet everyone is dying. Why?
Guest: Well, death is biologically determined-
Srila Prabhupada: That means biological force! You are subordinate to biology. Then why do you say that you are independent?
Guest: Well, I feel that I’m—
Srila Prabhupada: You are feeling wrongly. That is my point. You are subordinate, and you must bow down to biological force. When death comes, you can’t say, “Oh, I don’t obey you.” Therefore, you are subordinate.
Guest: I am subordinate to God, yes.
Srila Prabhupada: No, forget God for now. God is far away. Now we are speaking of the material nature. Just try to understand that although you do not want to die, you are forced to die because you are subordinate.
Guest: Oh, yes, that makes sense.
Srila Prabhupada: Then you understand your position-that you are subordinate. You cannot declare, “I am free; I am not subordinate.” If you are thinking that you don’t wish to be subordinate, that you don’t have to bow down, then you are diseased.
Guest: O.K.But who or what should Ibow down to?
Srila Prabhupada: First of all try to fully understand your disease. Then we shall prescribe your medicine. You are bowing down to death, you are bowing down to disease, you are bowing down to old age—you are bowing down to so many things. You are forced to bow down, yet still you are thinking, “I cannot bow down; I don’t like to bow down.” But you have to bow down. Why do you forget your position? That forgetfulness is your disease.
The next step is to understand that since you are being forced to bow down, now you have to find where you shall be happy even by bowing down. And that is Krishna. Your bowing down will not be stopped, because you are meant for that, but if you bow down to Krishna and Krishna’s representative, you become happy. That’s the difference. If you don’t bow down to Krishna and His representative, you’ll be forced to bow down to something else—maya [Krishna’s material nature]. That is your position. You cannot be free at any moment.
But if you bow down to Krishna and His representative, you’ll be happy. For example, a child is always bowing down to his parents, and he is happy. His mother says, “My dear child, please come and sit down here.” “Yes,” says the child, and he is happy. This is the nature of the child’s relationship with his mother. Similarly, Krishna and His representative are like loving parents, and we are like helpless children in the clutches of maya. But if we bow down to them we shall be safe and happy.
So you cannot stop your bowing down—that is not possible. But you simply have to seek out the proper persons to bow down to. That’s all. If you artificially think, “I am not going to bow down to anyone—I am independent,” then you suffer. You simply have to bow down to the right person—and that is Krishna, or Krishna’s representative.
Contemplation, meditation, smaranam, soul, body, pride, scientists
The following exchange between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and a Jesuit priest took place in May 1975 at the Hare Krishna center in Melbourne.
Priest: Do you have what I might call a training in contemplation?
Srila Prabhupada: We worship God in nine ways. One is smaranam, remembering God’s activities. That is contemplation.
Priest: You know, in Christian mysticism we have a process of contemplation that St. Theresa of Avila described in her book Interior Mansion. Anybody is able to make an ordinary prayer, but the real mystic prayer is not given to everyone.
Srila Prabhupada: Our mystic prayer is to think of God’s activities. Anyone can do it.
Priest: Ours is not so much thinking of God’s activities as just being open to receive love, getting to that real stillness and quiet in which—
Srila Prabhupada: No. Devotional service, or bhakti-yoga, is not stillness. Stillness is the neutral stage of love of God, when you stop your material activities.
Priest: Could you further describe this neutrality?
Srila Prabhupada: It is simply the stage of realizing that God is great. That is neutrality. But real devotional service begins when one understands, “Because God is so great, I should serve Him. Why am I uselessly rendering service to this world? Why not render service to God?” That stage is called dasyam, or servitude. That is the beginning of bhakti-yoga.
Material activity simply entangles us in the repetition of birth and death. This is called pravritti-marga, “activity for sense enjoyment.” Everyone is busy working for sense enjoyment. The tiger is busy. The hog is busy. The dog is busy. And if a man also becomes busy for sense enjoyment like the tigers and hogs and dogs, then in his next life he may become one of those species of life.
Priest: When one reaches a higher stage of activity, when he really loves all mankind—
Srila Prabhupada: That is a concoction—mental speculation. Why should you love only mankind? Why not love the tigers, the dogs, and all other species of life?
Priest: Because human beings are my brothers and sisters.
Srila Prabhupada: But the tigers and dogs are also your brothers and sisters, because you all have a common father—God. Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad- gita [5.18],
brahmane gavi hastini
shuni caiva shva-pake ca
Priest: What does that mean?
Srila Prabhupada: That a truly learned man sees every living being with equal vision. In other words, he doesn’t make any spiritual distinction between you and a dog. You have a soul that is covered by a human body, and a dog has a soul covered by a dog’s body. But both of you are souls—part and parcel of God.
Priest: Would you say that souls are of different values?
Srila Prabhupada: No, all souls are of the same value.
Priest: That I find hard to accept, because, as I understand it, the soul of man is immortal but the soul of an animal is not. An animal’s “soul” is not really a soul at all but a principle of life, something Aristotle called a psyche. Therefore, man has higher value than the animals.
Srila Prabhupada: No, spiritually they are of equal value, although materially their bodies may be of different gradations. It is just like the different gradations of motorcars. A man sitting in a Rolls Royce thinks he is very important, and a man sitting in a Ford or Chevrolet thinks he is poor. But as men both of them are equal. Similarly, the body of a human being and the body of a dog are just different machines, but the souls are of the same quality—part and parcel of the Supreme Soul, Krishna.
Priest: That is hard to understand—that my soul and your soul are part of the Supreme Soul—because the Supreme Soul is infinite and we are finite. Therefore we cannot, added up together, make God.
Srila Prabhupada: No, I don’t say that. We are finite, and God is infinite. If all souls were combined together, they would still be finite, not infinite. Ninety billion zeroes cannot make one. So, I don’t say that combined together we shall be equal to God. But the quality of God is there in all souls. God is like the vast ocean, and we are like drops of ocean water. The drops contain the same chemicals as the vast ocean, but in minute degree.
Priest: So we have God’s qualities in imitation.
Srila Prabhupada: Not imitation. Actually, all souls do have God’s qualities, just as a particle of gold has the same qualities as the gold in the mine. A small fragment of gold is certainly gold, but it is not equal to all the gold in the gold mine. So our philosophy is acintya-bhedabheda-tattva, “the inconceivable simultaneous oneness and difference of God and His energies.” In other words, we are one with God in quality but different from Him in quantity.
God has creative power, and we also have creative power. But God has created millions of planets that float in space, and we have created the 747 that floats in the air. Yet we want to take more credit.
Priest: That is the sin of pride.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, that is false pride. Modern scientists are taking false pride in their accomplishments and saying there is no need of God—“There is no God. We can do everything.” This is their foolishness.
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 March 1974 on an early-morning walk in Perth, Australia.
Devotee: [Taking the part of a materialistic scientist] Why do you call Krishna consciousness a science? It seems like it’s only a belief.
Srila Prabhupada: Your so-called science is also belief. If you call your way science, then our way is also science.
Devotee: But with our science we can prove our beliefs.
Srila Prabhupada: Then prove that chemicals make life. Your belief is that life is made from chemicals. So prove it; then it is science. But you cannot prove it; therefore it remains a belief.
Devotee: Well, you believe in the soul, but you can’t prove that it exists. Since we cannot see the soul, we have to conclude that life comes from matter.
Srila Prabhupada: You cannot see the soul with your gross senses, but it can be perceived. Consciousness can be perceived, and consciousness is the symptom of the soul. But if, as you say, life comes from matter, then you must demonstrate it by supplying the missing chemicals to make a dead body live again. This is my challenge.
Devotee: We will require some time to find the right chemicals.
Srila Prabhupada: That is nonsense. Your belief is that life comes from chemicals, but you cannot prove it. Therefore you prove yourself to be a rascal.
Devotee: But you accept the Bhagavad- gita on faith. How is that scientific? It’s only your belief, isn’t that correct?
Srila Prabhupada: Why isn’t the Bhagavad-gita scientific? The Bhagavad-gita says, annad bhavanti bhutani parjanyad anna- sambhavah: “All living entities subsist by eating food grains, and grains are produced from rain.” Is that belief?
Devotee: That must be true.
Srila Prabhupada: Similarly, everything in the Bhagavad-gita is true. If you think carefully about what Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita, you will find that it is all true. For example, Krishna says that in society there must be an intelligent class of men, the brahmanas, who know the soul and God. They are civilized men. But where is such a class of men in today’s society?
Devotee: Throughout the world there are many priests, ministers, and rabbis.
Srila Prabhupada: But what do they actually know about God? They speculate about God as much as the scientists speculate about material nature.
Just try to see this one point clearly: You are not independent; therefore, there must be some authority over you. And ultimately you have to accept that a supreme authority exists. So if you claim to have knowledge of the supreme truth but you do not know the supreme authority, what is the value of your knowledge?
Suppose a man does not know about the government of his country. What kind of man is he? He is simply a third-class man, a rascal. A civilized man knows about his country’s government. Similarly, there is a government of the whole universe, but it” you do not know it you are a third- class, uncivilized man. That is why Krishna teaches in the Bhagavad-gita that there must be an intelligent class of men who know God and who understand the whole universal management—how it is running under the order of God. Krishna devotees know these things. Therefore they are the real brahmanas and the real scientists.
Devotee: But the Bhagavad-gita is five thousand years old, so it doesn’t pertain to our modern world.
Srila Prabhupada: The Bhagavad- gita is not five thousand years old; it has always existed. Have you read the Bhagavad-gita?
Devotee: Yes, several times.
Srila Prabhupada: Then where do you find in the Bhagavad-gita that it is five thousand years old? Krishna says, imam vivasvate yogam proktavan aham avyayam:
“I spoke this imperishable science of Bhagavad- gita to Vivasvan more than 120 million years ago.” You do not know this? What kind of reader of the Bhagavad- gita are you? The Bhagavad-gita is avyayam, eternal. So how can you say it is five thousand years old?
[Pointing to the rising sun with his cane] Here we see the sun just rising. But it is always there, in space. The Bhagavad-gita is like that: it is eternal truth. When the sun rises we don’t say, “Oh, the sun is just now coming into existence.” It is always there, but we can’t see it until it rises. Men used to think that at night the sun died and in the morning a new sun was created. They also used to believe the earth was flat. This is your scientific knowledge: every day a new opinion.
Devotee: This means that we are discovering the truth.
Srila Prabhupada: No. It means you do not know what the truth is. You are only speculating. Now you accept something as true, but after a few days you say it is not true. And you call this science!
Devotee: Yes, you’re right. Many of the scientific textbooks that were written just a few years ago are outdated now.
Srila Prabhupada: And the scientific books you are now using will be useless in a few years. This is your science.
Devotee: But at least what we know now is more true than what we knew before, and if we keep trying we will know more.
Srila Prabhupada: This means you are always in ignorance. But the Bhagavad-gita is not like that. Krishna says to Arjuna, “I first instructed this science 120 million years ago, and today I am teaching you the same thing.” That is scientific knowledge: the truth is always the same. But you scientists are always changing—“discovering the truth,” you call it. That means you do not know what the truth is.
Devotee: [As himself] The problem is, everyone is a cheater. Everyone is speculating and presenting his own knowledge as the truth.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Therefore we accept Krishna, who does not cheat. And since I am presenting only what Krishna has said, I am also not a cheater. That is the difference between the scientists and us.
Now that scientists like Jacques Monod have helped us toward “an anxious quest in a frozen universe of solitude,” here are some time-tested secrets for rediscovering the warm and wonderful.
“Alienation,” social scientists say, is our inability to relate meaningfully to others, to nature, and to ourselves. As Dr. Urie Bronfenbrenner reports in Scientific American, alienation is growing at an alarming and unprecedented rate. This trend appears to result from a radically different life view imposed upon the past few generations.
Not so many years ago, most people saw in human events and the things of nature the hand of a purposeful God. But today, many scientists, such as the late Nobel Prize winner Jacques Monod, regard God, meaning, and an intelligence behind the universe as childish concepts. In Monod’s words, man must awaken to
his fundamental isolation. Now does he at last realize that, like a gypsy, he lives on the boundary of an alien world. A world that is deaf to his music, just as indifferent to his hopes as it is to his suffering or his crimes.
God no longer holds “the whole world in His hands.” Now emptiness, the void, accounts for everything, and mankind-long accustomed to living in a world full of meaning—grapples with how to adjust to this revolutionary change.
It hasn’t been easy, nor the results encouraging. As historian Theodore Roszak observes, twentieth century society has projected “a nihilistic imagery unparalleled in human history.” The main themes of the century stand out as disillusionment, pessimism, and the lure of destruction.
Clearly, Monod was no maverick. Nobel laureate Francis Crick (co-unraveller of the DNA code) has said, “I myself, like many scientists, believe that the soul is imaginary.” In schools all over the world, students learn that man is a “naked ape,” or, as one textbook puts it, “nothing but a complex biochemical mechanism powered by a combustion system which energizes computers with prodigious storage facilities for retaining encoded information.”
This main theme in modern science—“reductionism”—has drawn much criticism. Dr. Roszak, for instance, depicts reductionism as “the effort to turn what is alive into a mere thing.” Psychiatrists and social commentators like Dr. Viktor E. Franki feel that the society spawned by reductionism is wearing away humanity’s psychological health. Recently, an international congress of psychoanalysis concluded that “ever more patients are suffering from a lack of life content.”
In the layman’s language, “lack of life content” means anxiety, stress, boredom, apathy, despair, meaninglessness, cynicism—in a word, alienation. As playwright Eugene Ionesco writes, “Cut off from religion, metaphysics, and roots, man is lost. His actions become senseless, useless, absurd.”
By defining man as a machine and affording him no more dignity than a stone or a piece of broken glass, reductionism has cut deep. Our sense of wonder, our ability to appreciate life’s everyday beauties—the sun, the moon, the fragrance of the earth—has comes into question and grown dull.
A Return to the Root“Of lights I am the radiant sun.”“Of purifiers I am the wind.”“Of bodies of water I am the ocean.”
The effects of reductionism are prompting many people to reexplore the spiritual dimension. English novelist J.B, Priestly, for one, visited the ColoradoRiver and observed how it had carved out the Grand Canyon. He said, “You feel when you are there that God gave the river its instructions.”
Dr. Roszak asks, “Why, one wonders, should it be thought crude or rudimentary to find divinity brightly present in the world where others find only dead matter or an inferior order of being?”
In their textbook Psychology, Lindzey, Hall, and Thompson confirm, “All human cultures from the dawn of history have valued the mystical or religious experience. Man always seems to be searching for some higher form of consciousness or awareness.” This statement returns us to the crux of the problem: twentieth century man has deviated from this search and is paying the price—alienation.
In the past, people solved alienation by experiencing what we might call “the divine presence,” both within themselves and in the people and things around them. But simply wiping the dust off old catechisms and relearning their formulas by rote won’t help us. The emphasis of numerous religious groups on memorizing doctrines rather than on experiencing God has only weakened people’s convictions—and has helped (or even started) the process of alienation.
Despite its obvious shortcomings, modern science has taught us at least one thing: we should test a truth before we accept it. And thousands of years ago, sages and yogis had the same idea. They advised their students not to dwell in doctrines but to link themselves with the living world around them. By following the sages’ directions for meditating on nature, the students experienced truth for themselves.
Appropriately, the handbook of spiritual education, the Bhagavad-gita, deals extensively with alienation and its cure. At the beginning, Arjuna suffers from intense alienation. “My mind is reeling.... Now I am confused about my duty and have lost all composure because of weakness.... I can find no means to drive away this grief which is drying up my senses.” The Supreme Lord, Sri Krishna, instructs Arjuna on how to rediscover his ability to live in a meaningful. God-conscious way.
About halfway through the work, Arjuna asks, “How should I meditate on You? In what various forms are You to be contemplated, O Blessed Lord?” (Bg. 10.17). In reply, the Lord suggests ways to realize His presence in the happenings of this world. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada comments that since it is difficult to perceive God directly, “One is advised to concentrate the mind on physical things in order to see how Krishna [God] is manifested by physical representations.”
This process is like appreciating an artist through his art. When we see a masterpiece, we naturally admire the talent and skill of its creator. The yogis and sages report that by looking upon the universe with this same sense of wonder, we can experience samadhi (blissful immersion in God consciousness), or what today’s psychologists call a “peak experience.” Alienation vanishes, and we feel reconnected to the root of existence—Krishna.
On the pages that follow, the reader will find some of Lord Krishna’s suggestions, accompanied by short meditations—all in all, “enough to make you wonder.” As Srila Prabhupada has remarked, by reawakening this sense of wonder “one becomes increasingly enlightened, and he enjoys life with a thrill, not only for some time, but at every moment.”
As scientists have discovered, the sun gives out more energy in one second than all the earth’s people could use in millions of years. Also, the sun is the light of our lives; without it the entire world would be dark. Even our light bulbs are simply reservoirs of the sun’s rays. And, as we learn from the Vedic literature, the sun itself is but a tiny reservoir of the Lord’s glowing effulgence.
Most people have experienced the zestfulness of a breezy day, or, in winter, those gusts that simply “go right through you.” The wind, whooshing all around, seems to wash us even more smoothly and swiftly than water (and it even sounds clean). The wind, then, suggests the all-pervasive, all- purifying Lord.
Of all bodies of water, the ocean runs the deepest and stretches the farthest. In fact, for sheer greatness, practically nothing else in the world can compare to it. So the ocean reminds us of the Lord’s greatness.
“I am the original fragrance of the earth.”“I am the taste of water.”“I am the heat in fire.”“I am the healing herb.”
Everything in this world has a certain flavor or fragrance, as the fragrance of a pine tree, a lemon, or a rose. This pure, original flavor in everything is Krishna.
Most of us have had the experience (say, after driving through a desert) of walking right past the soft drink dispenser to the water fountain. When you’re really thirsty, nothing satisfies like water—the pure taste of water, which is one of the energies of the Lord.
We need fire for our factories, our furnaces, and our frying pans. As we’ve already seen, fire comes from the sun, and the sun comes from Krishna. So the fire and the heat of the fire are Krishna.
How could it be that things that grow in the ground provide just the right remedies for worrisome diseases? When man-made “wonder drugs” come about only after much care and concentration, do these natural wonder drugs come about, as scientists say, by chance—or by the Lord’s kindness?
“I am the ability in man.”
How can a master musician or artist do with ease what most of us couldn’t do with the greatest effort? What makes the difference between “all thumbs” and “all- star”? The answer is Krishna.
“I am victory, I am adventure, and I am the strength of the strong.”“Among the stars I am the moon.”
Conquest and the questing spirit, even the questing capacity—all come from Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
When the moon fills the night with its cool light, people feel refreshed. And the moon’s light makes vegetables grow and become succulent. Thus, the moon brings to mind the cooling and soothing face of the Lord.
“Among the stars I am the moon.”
When the moon fills the night with its cool light, people feel refreshed. And the moon’s light makes vegetables grow and become succulent. Thus, the moon brings to mind the cooling and soothing face of the Lord.
“Among subduers I am time.”
“The glory that was Rome”-and the glory that was anything else—just couldn’t outlast eternal time, by which Lord Krishna gets the best of everything and everyone.
“Of secret things I am silence.”
Our ability to hold forth on some topic, or to hear about it, or to hush up about it, comes from the Lord.
“Of weapons I am the thunderbolt.”
The thunderbolt, the ultimate shocker, gives us some idea of the Lord’s power.
“Of seasons I am the flower-bearing spring.”
Everyone likes spring. It’s neither too hot nor too cold, the flowers and trees blossom, the grass comes alive, and everything flourishes. The greens and pinks and blues and yellows, the fresh-smelling breezes, the sun-filled evenings—as with any other work of art, these masterstrokes tell us something about the artist. The most joyful of all seasons, spring reminds us of the most joyful of all persons, Krishna.
“Of sacrifices I am the chanting of the holy names (japa).”
Everybody is giving his time and energy to get something he can enjoy. The father works hard all day so that he can enjoy the happiness of his wife and children. The politician spends long hours in meetings and masterminding sessions so that he can have a satisfied constituency. Everybody is taking pains to please somebody. Yet there’s a way to please everybody, and it’s pleasing in itself—chanting the Lord’s holy names.
by Hridayananda Dasa Goswami
In the course of researching my next book, I traveled last July to the all-American town of Fort Meyers, Florida, located just off the Gulf of Mexico a few miles up the Caloosahatchee River. I stayed at a Holiday Inn overlooking the river, and while browsing about the hotel’s recreation area I met a nice family from Scotland who regularly take their summer vacation in Florida. The war over the Falkland Islands had just ended, and out of politeness I mentioned the British victory to the young Scottish couple and their son. The man immediately became excited and exclaimed, “Yes, we showed them, all right! We beat them. We had to beat them, because we were fighting for a true cause and they didn’t know what they were fighting for.” The man’s son tugged at his father’s shirt, trying to get him back to their Ping-Pong match, but the Scotsman continued glorifying the British victory, emphasizing the high ideals that had motivated the British soldiers.
The underlying psychological cause ofsuch nationalism is simple: human beings (and, indeed, animals, birds, fish, and insects as well) are naturally inclined to live together and seek their fortune as a united group. A united ant colony quickly rebuilds its anthill metropolis after a rude foot has kicked it down. A united herd of elephants can defend itself against a lion’s attack. A united human city works harmoniously and becomes prosperous. And a united country presents a strong and influential image to the world.
If a spirit of unity binds together most species of life, what distinguishes the human spirit of unity? Human beings stand out for their ability to perceive the greater oneness of all life forms and, indeed, of life itself. Ultimately, a human being’s sense of unity can extend beyond the material platform to the transcendental realm of God consciousness. By recognizing everything to be part of God, a human being can see the oneness of all existence and the dependence of everything on the Supreme Being.
But the way modern nationalism unites people is by dividing them into superficial, temporary, conflicting political units. Nationalism demands that we abandon our real spiritual identity and unity and instead fight like dogs and cats. Since conflicts of interest between nations are endless, nationalism can never be the basis of lasting peace, which must stand on a superior awareness of the oneness of all life.
Krishna consciousness teaches that all life is one because all living beings are part and parcel of Krishna, or God. The social system that grows out of this understanding is called the varnashrama system, and it organizes people into efficient and enlightened communities and societies with the Supreme Personality of Godhead at the center. The Krishna consciousness movement seeks to establish such social units, in which everyone can learn to love Krishna without conflict of interest. Whereas nationalism flourishes by whipping up hatred for “the national enemy,” varnashrama flourishes by cultivating love of God and compassion toward all creatures.
In my travels through Latin America I have seen that a corrupt government will sometimes create frenzied anti- American feeling so that the local people won’t discover and lynch the corrupt local leaders themselves. On the other hand, Americans often maintain an idiotic stereotyped impression of Latin America that serves only to gratify false North American pride. Thus nationalism easily becomes a tool for political exploitation and indeed creates spiritual darkness, hatred, and violence among those it supposedly inspires.
Still, one may argue, political organization is a necessary evil, since power exists and must be exerted in a rational and orderly way. Civilizations must have a common identity to function efficiently. Different groups of human beings, despite their ultimate spiritual oneness, have distinct cultural and psychological patterns and thus will naturally group themselves together as separate peoples, nations, states, and communities.
We agree that although God consciousness is necessary for man—and, indeed, is the goal of life—we cannot abolish the natural tendency of people to organize themselves into political and cultural units and to rule themselves or to allow themselves to be ruled by various political systems. But in every politcal system God consciousness must always be central. Only then can we avoid the conflicts that arise when mere political or national pride is vulgarly substituted for genuine God consciousness as the ultimate process for uniting people.
Recently Psychology Today ran an article called “Our Pets, Ourselves,” which reported the latest scientific findings on human-animal relationships. Psychologist Randall Lockwood of the State University of New York at Stonybrook has shown that most people consider a person walking a dog more sympathetic and friendly than a person who is not. Apparently, Americans love their pets, and they actually recover from dangerous heart conditions and live longer when they confide in their pets and, indeed, pet their pets.
The love Americans have for their pets certainly contradicts Western theology’s ghastly contention that animals have no soul. Is it actually possible that tens of millions of Americans are hugging, coddling, petting, kissing, and confiding in furry bags of molecules and atoms? Is the affection a pet shows for its master merely a chemical reaction? And if so, why don’t people hug and kiss bottles of chemicals instead of pets? Why do we consider someone a good person because he protects a pet?
On the other hand, if animals do have souls and certain animals are lovable, why then do we brutally slaughter billions of other animals simply to satisfy our demoniac desire to eat meat? Why do we tolerate the blatant hypocrisy of a huge American cattle industry side by side with an American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals?
In the first segment of this column we explained how nationalism is based on the hypocrisy of loving one’s own countrymen and looking upon others as enemies. There is certainly a similar hypocrisy in our mindless coddling of certain animals and our heartless slaughter of others.
The lack of a scientific understanding of life, the soul, God, and God’s laws has created an unbearably hypocritical and demoniac culture in our country. Perfect knowledge of Krishna consciousness can clear up our ignorance of spiritual matters and help us build a more consistent and enlightened society. Unless Americans begin to appreciate and understand Krishna consciousness, which teaches scientific knowledge of the soul and God, the stunning and immoral contradictions of our society will ultimately destroy us.
by Hridayananda Dasa Goswami
In the fastidious, righteous America of the past, it was exhilarating and fashionable to intellectually break down the hangups that made people feel guilty about immoral acts. In today’s degraded, drifting society, teachers and professors are scrambling back to the old provincial concept that education should teach a person to be good, moral, and self-controlled.
“The scientific method is a marvelous means of inquiry,” says Steven Muller, president of Johns Hopkins University, “but it really doesn’t provide a value system. The biggest failing in higher education today is that we fall short in exposing students to values.”
Charles Muscatine, a professor of English at UC Berkeley, who calls today’s education “a marvelous convenience for a mediocre society,” says that education does have a purpose: to cultivate “informed decision- making that recognizes there is a moral and ethical component to life.”
Students “should be taught philosophy, moral philosophy, and theology,” says psychiatrist Robert Coles, who teaches at Harvard and Duke. “They ought to be asked to think about moral issues, especially about what use is going to be made of knowledge, and why—a kind of moral reflection that I think has been supplanted by a more technological education. Replacing moral philosophy with psychology has been a disaster, an absolute disaster!”
Well and good. A refreshing and unexpected display of American intellectual piety. But there are problems blocking a return to moral education. For one thing, who’s to decide the obvious question “What is moral?” and the perhaps more difficult question “What is immoral?”
We fear the violence of an immoral society, yet autocratic measures to insure morality are something we perhaps fear more. We don’t want America to collapse like hedonistic Rome, yet we certainly do not want to follow the example of highly “moral” countries like Iran. How do we insure morality and at the same time avoid losing our freedom?
Consider the moral predicament caused by what would seem the most obvious moral precept. The Bible says, “Thou shalt not kill.” Yet this simple moral maxim seems impossible for most Americans to accept, or even understand—even those clamoring for a return to morality. The Bible tells us not to kill. But Americans certainly do love to kill. Americans are avid hunters, fishers, and meat-eaters, although we tend to ignore or even deny that this is killing.
For example, the September 27 edition of Time reports this breathtaking display of spiritual dullheadedness: “’My father’s favorite quote was from the Bible,’ Democratic Senatorial Candidate Mark Dayton, 35, told voters at a Minnesota pig roast.” Quoting the Bible at a pig roast, after all, is good American fun. There’s certainly nothing immoral about killing a pig.
Consider Kentucky Governor John Y. Brown (recently involved in a controversy over his Florida banking transactions). Governor Brown made a vast personal fortune by popularizing Colonel Sanders Kentucky Fried Chicken. In other words, as a businessman he arranged to kill millions and billions of chickens. He also started the Lums Restaurant Corporation, a fast-food cow-killing chain. When asked about his money, he said, “It was made through the American process.” He added, “There is nothing improper or illegal. I have nothing to hide. Anything I’ve made I’ve made honestly and I spent honestly.”
If it’s the “honest American way” to slaughter billions of innocent animals, including the cow, which provides us milk like our mother, then how are we to agree on a standard of morality?
And why maintain sophisticated institutions like Harvard, or indeed the U.S. Congress, if our morality can’t go beyond the level of insects and animals? Animals defend their own kind. And if we simply defend our own kind, if we limit our morality to not hurting other human beings, then we are acting on the level of animals. True morality means respect for the holiness of all life, and indeed of all that exists, since everything emanates from the Supreme Holy, the Supreme Lord.
Without a thorough understanding of the science of God, morality is a farce, whether it’s administered by so- called religious leaders like those in Iran or by the pious agnostics we find in American universities. We must have a solid understanding of God, as explained by Krishna consciousness.
Krishna consciousness teaches that all life is a sign of the eternal soul. God is the Supreme Soul, the supreme life, and all that lives is part of God. If we can’t even follow the simple injunction “Thou shalt not kill”—if we instead prefer big educational and political discussions over chicken and steak dinners, pig roasts, and barbecues—then we are far too ridiculous, as a nation, to survive.
by Yogeshvara dasa
My landlord is a descendant of the Rothschilds, that complex genealogy of European aristocrats who have been accused of everything short of cannibalism, including the takeover of the world by manipulation of their vast fortunes. Well, my landlord falls short of Napoleonic in his ambitions: his are triumphs of the simple. Granted, in our touristic French village there are few houses to match the nobility and gilded decor of his; but he has no desire to buy up the rest of the village or extend his power beyond the hundred or so walls of his humble empire.
Since we live in houses that face each other, I see him sometimes in the early morning, standing proudly at his window, breathing in deep drafts of fresh country air. From what I have seen of the inside of his mansion, he favors Louis XV furniture, fine satin draperies, and chandeliers of Austrian crystal. His elegant living room is lined from cashmere carpet to frescoed ceiling with handsomely bound books, heavy with gold embossing and hand-engraved designs. He loves to open wide the door of that great room as though drawing open the curtain on some lavish theatrical presentation, yet he has the reserve and good judgment not to stare at his guests, whatever their reaction may be to the drama of wealth and power unfolding before their eyes.
He likes the cultivated forms of nature and prides himself on the neatly trimmed lawns and brilliant flower gardens of his great estate, lined with shrubbery pruned into shapes. Although he’s well into his fifties, he wears his age nobly. Yet his neck is not stiff nor his eye hard, for he has seen the price men pay for pride and arrogance, and he is careful to respect the integrity of a person’s labors, however humble his station. In fact, nothing so satisfies him as to loaf upon the cool veranda of his club and talk about the world with anyone and everyone, to joke and laugh, and drink aged Scotch.
After my return from a recent trip to India, I presented him a two-foot-square painting of Krishna in royal blues and gold, a fine piece of work in traditional Rajasthani style on silk. He looked admiringly at the painting.
“You know,” he said, looking up with an air of seriousness he assumes at such moments, “you are a lyrique, my friend—intelligent, and despite your mystical affiliations” (he leaned forward as if to share with me some deep secret) “a man of good taste.” And with that he chuckled heartily, satisfied as much by his own remarks as by the gift.
Well, such is my landlord. He has seen the sun setting on the Riviera, smelled the wet, fresh earth of Brittany after the spring rains, felt the surge of admiration ripple across the social halls of Paris as he enters with his lovely young wife, heard the whistle and whine of the Concord as he jets across the Atlantic. No Napoleon is he, no strong face burning East. Yet, in some remote corner of his being, a lyrique himself, a sprig off the upper branch of French life. A thinker of dull thoughts, for the most part, but poetic in their expression.
When we met that day, I felt the detached curiosity a devotee may sometimes feel when confronted by the other life, the life of privilege he might have known had fate not stepped in and introduced him to the eternal message of the Bhagavad-gita. Was it all so bad, the life my landlord knew? Could I not learn to enjoy the world of privilege as he did, better equipped as I would be with the knowledge of how far to go in the pleasures of the mind and flesh? Could there not be for me, too, a portion of life’s bounty as the world knows it, or were my vows of spiritual discipline unretractable, too firm to allow me to rejoin the familiar world of family, society, and love?
The vision of what might have been filled my horizon as I left his house that day. What kept me from reaching for the other life my visit had brought so sharply into focus was in part its philosophical and spiritual deficiencies. But it was more the utter resignation, the capitulation such a life would demand. Most people I knew who lived for the world of the senses so lacked individual distinction that each seemed a small particle of some immense, nondescript lifestuff rather than an eternal spiritual being, capable of feeling and inspiring others to feel the mystery of the creation.
But there was something more as well.
After leaving my landlord’s house I went for a stroll in nearby Jean Jacques Rousseau Park, and there I saw two attractive girls cantering gaily about on dark chestnut horses. Two well-groomed young men escorted them on bays. Responsive to the reins, the horses pranced and strutted. The carefree picture set against the immense countryside was like a mockery, the fruit inches away from Tantalus’s lips.
I was fascinated by the scene. As far as the distance would allow, I began examining the faces of the riders, trying to penetrate the social masks they wore, probing, searching as for some clue. I knew the young men. They had been at a reception my landlord had given for new residents of our village. We had spoken of India, of Krishna, and of the search for one’s spiritual self. They had listened, politely, nodding at the appropriate times—yes, surely such an interest was needed for a balanced life. But their speech was casual, social, for they already knew everything and had seen everything, and now they received every new intelligence with an amused look in their eyes. Nothing shocked them any more. Not death, not old age, not all the signs thrown by nature to warn us of our own mortality. It was the way things were. It was what they had come to expect of life.
Ah, there it was. It was not so much what they did that made their life impossible for me, for I also traveled and met people of importance and occasionally even rode a horse. It was their attitude of acceptance, their complacence about themselves and about their life, their lack of faith in anything better. I could not, would not ever come to that. For me the utter simplicity of soul, of self beyond matter, would remain a constant source of wakefulness against approaching lethargy or other dangers. I remembered an example my spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, had once used to describe the attentiveness of a devotee. Samurai warriors, he described, were trained by their martial arts guru to sleep so lightly that the slightest sound would wake them and put them on guard. At night the guru would silently creep up and bring a bamboo switch swiftly down across the disciple’s legs. It would get to the point where the disciple could hear the swish of his guru’s stick, awaken, and roll instantly out of range before the switch hit the ground.
Yes, that was it, the core of the problem. Could I as a devotee belong to this world of privilege without taking upon myself the apathy and burden of that privilege? Could I ever speak truthfully of the material world as I had learned to see it, help others awaken to its snare of illusion, and at the same time belong to this world of which I would have to speak? Were the two things possible? Would not the very fact of living to see my own ambitions fulfilled come between me and the truth of my eternal self, first as a shadow, then as a virtual wall? And would I then be any different from the vast camps of others who had let themselves be captured by false visions of wealth, ease, pleasure, by the deadly honors of profit, adoration, and distinction?
That was the danger, and it was real enough. I thought of the people I had known who had come close to the full, whole life of devotees, who had shown the promise of genius and then had left that promise unfulfilled because they decided to trade that spiritual prerogative for just such a mess of the world’s pottage of loping horses and pretty young girls. Touched by Srila Prabhupada’s words and character, they had begun as determined devotees but had suffered some eclipse of vision and fallen away. And whenever I meet them, whatever they have become—and there is no limit to their variety—they are like the blind men with the elephant: each one has accepted some part of life for the whole, some fragmentary truth or half-truth for truth itself, some personal little interest for the all-embracing interest of Krishna consciousness. If that were to happen to me, how could I ever speak again?
I spent that evening quietly at home, chanting Krishna’s holy names and reading Bhagavad-gita. There was more than mere solace in these humble acts. There was strength to push on even when the whole world seems to be forcing you to be someone else. There was the wisdom to reinforce the fight against maya, the illusory energy. And there was Krishna, and a vision of a sweet homecoming at battle’s end, urging me on:
“Therefore the doubts which have arisen in your heart out of ignorance should be slashed by the weapon of knowledge. Armed with yoga, O Bharata, stand and fight” (Bhagavad-gita 4.42).
by Mathuresa dasa
A Fictional story
A the helicopter descended through the dawn light near Olduvai Gorge, Eleanor Doting checked her seatbelt. Had her son Vincent arrived safely? He had insisted on parachuting in the day before to have extra time alone with Rocky, his younger brother.
Why did Vincent always have to jump into things? At age ten he campaigned at school for JFK, even though she explained to Vincent a hundred times that his classmates couldn’t vote. At eighteen he left college to join some hippies in California, and a couple of years later he wrote to say he was living at the Hare Krishna temple in Paris.
Paris no less! Within minutes she had booked a flight, and within days they were sitting together on a park bench near the Eiffel Tower, where she’d caught up with him chanting and dancing with his shaven-headed friends.
“Vincent, come home. You can have anything you want. I’ll even give you money for marijuana. I’ll ...”
“But Mom. I never smoked ...”
“Sure you didn’t, deary. Why not come back with me? I have a plane ticket for you.”
“But Mom, you can see me here all you want And I’ll visit you next Christmas, promise.”
“ ‘Vishnu dasa,’ Mom. I have a new name.”
Vishnu dasa indeed! Well, he had in fact come to visit that Christmas, and every year after that too. She freely admitted that he (still Vincent to her) had a better head than Rocky, who had taken forever to finish grad school, only to join the Peace Corps in Africa, for heaven’s sake. Rocky later returned to New York and made decent money designing software. But the boy never shaped up, always wore old jeans and flannel shirts, kept a long beard, and drank too much. And now, for the love of Pete, he was back in Africa—“looking for his roots”!
So this time she had booked a flight to Dar-es-Salaam instead of Paris, she was chasing Rocky instead of Vincent and she’d had to rent a helicopter to boot. If Harry Doting were alive to see what she was doing with his hard-earned money...
This time she had asked for Vincent’s help, which was also a first. She’d had to, because Rocky now had some crazy idea about staying forever in Africa, and she knew Vincent was a good talker, with a more sober, logical head since joining Hare Krishna. She should know. Didn’t she patiently listen to him “preaching” to her for hours every Christmas?
After resting through the heat of the day, Mrs. Doting mounted something resembling a mule and, with her guide, found Rocky’s camp near the bottom of the gorge early that evening. She heard voices coming from a lamplit tent.
“It’s all guesswork.” Vincent was saying, “They dig up a few pieces, a tiny fraction of the earth’s surface, and they figure they can tell us what happened here millions and billions of years ago.”
“Why not?” Rocky replied. “Geologists call it ‘the stratigraphic column.’ It’s the layers of rock that have been piled up since the very beginning.”
“But look,” said Vincent. “Most scientists accept only the stratigraphic evidence that supports their theories. They ignore findings that indicate modern man existed millions of years ago. Still other scientists say that since ninety percent of the sedimentary layers may have eroded away, the stratigraphic column is a useless tool.”
“But you look,” said Rocky. “Right here on page twenty-eight of my book …”
Mrs. Doting could contain herself no longer. “That’s the trouble with you,” she shouted, bursting through the tent flap. “Ever since you dug that silly old textbook out of the attic, you’ve been saying you could find your roots—your ‘lost ancestors.’ for goodness sake—in some jungle.”
Recovering from the surprise entrance, the boys offered their mother a seat.
“It is our roots,” Rocky insisted, “our origins ...”
“But you can’t know for certain what happened even a thousand years ago,” said Vincent “what to speak of a million or a billion, by digging the ground. It’s a hoax. Your own book says that the science of geology didn’t produce a coherent model of earth’s history until after 1960. So in less than thirty years you and a few geologists have mapped out millions of centuries? I wouldn’t swallow it even if you’d been working ten times that long.”
“It’s that silly book and a few others he’s been reading.” Mrs. Doting chided from her perch on a camp cot.
“Well, in all fairness,” said Vincent tapping his Bhagavad-gita,“I too have a book that talks of remote origins. Here in the Fourth Chapter you can read that the Gita and highly intelligent followers of the Gita have been around for at least 120 million years. Look, here’s how it’s calculated.”
Rocky wouldn’t look. “That’s your religion,” he scoffed. “You just believe whatever your religion tells you. That’s blind faith.”
“And you don’t have blind faith that a handful of men have pieced together a believable history of the earth in just a few years from a few rocks? The difference is that the Gita isn’t guesswork. It’s been handed down unchanged for millions of years. Your holy geologists change every day to account for their so-called evidence. Does the truth change every day, or does it stay the same eternally?”
“Well, I don’t know if Rocky will ever change,” said Mrs. Doting, missing the point by a mile, as usual. “Here he is way down in this dusty pit when he could be making big money back home. And all this ‘roots’ business. Tell me, is life meant for roots or for …”
“Yes, life is meant for finding our roots, Mom,” said Vincent. “But you won’t find anything conclusive by digging in this gorge. Life’s too short and we’re too faulty. We’ve got to discover a perfect source of knowledge.”
“Ah. Perfection,” said Rocky sarcastically.
“But that’s what you’re looking for, what you claim to have found—and in a bunch of scattered digs and a few broken bones. You look for broken bones. I’ll look for a perfect person to give me perfect knowledge from a perfect book.”
Mrs. Doting sighed and let the boys continue, hoping Vincent would win out.
Not that she was taking sides. She just didn’t want Rocky living way out here in the wilds. Whatever Vincent’s Gita said, at least it brought him home for Christmas, and visiting him didn’t require a mule.
by Chaitanya Charana Dasa
We have guided missiles and misguided men.” This poignant remark by Martin Luther King, Jr., about the state of the modern world rings strikingly true. In recent times there has been an amazing increase in human ability to control the outer world through science and technology. But with that has come an alarming decline in human ability to control the inner world. The resulting variety of irrational passions lead to immorality and corruption at best, and terrorism and brutality at worst.
The current state of the world rests on the search for happiness, a quest that, Lord Krishna tells us in Bhagavad- gita, lies at the heart of all human endeavors. While asserting that happiness is our inalienable right, the Bhagavad-gita provides a clear pathway for its achievement. The fundamental teaching of Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita is that our current existence has two dimensions—material and spiritual; we are spiritual beings residing in material bodies. (2.13)* Modern scientific studies in fields such as past-life memories, near-death experiences, and consciousness also strongly suggest a spiritual part of our being that exists after bodily death.
Furthermore, Lord Krishna explains that just as the soul animates the body, the Supersoul, the Supreme Being, animates the entire cosmos.
Lord Krishna tells us that material existence is temporary and troublesome because of an existential disharmony: human beings tend to neglect the spiritual dimension of their lives and focus only on material ambitions and achievements. This imbalance stunts their ability to partake of the fullness of life. The resulting dissatisfaction appears individually as stress, depression, anxiety, irritability, and so on, and socially as disunity, violence, and war. This disharmony also results in the universal and inescapable evils of birth, old age, disease, and death (13.9).
Our innate longing for immortality in a world subject to death suggests that we belong to an immortal world. Lord Krishna posits a higher-dimensional world beyond the pernicious effects of time (8.20). That realm is characterized by a sweet harmony of divine love between the innumerable subordinate souls and the Supreme. There, the Supreme Person, being all- attractive, is the pivot of all relationships and is therefore best known as Krishna, “The All-Attractive One.” There, all souls enjoy an eternal life of full awareness and bliss, provided they are in harmony with Krishna’s will. If they rebel, they fall to the realm of matter, where they can see the results of disharmony and eventually decide to reform themselves.
Suffering And Its Solution
During their exile in the material realm, souls occupy different bodies according to their desires and activities. Each body, whether human or subhuman, imposes on the soul the demands of eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. The soul struggles hard to try to fulfill these bodily demands, whose repetitive nature makes life a continuous hardship, with only momentary relief whenever the demands are satisfied.
Suffering, however, is good, because it provides the necessary impetus to return to harmony, just as fever provides the impetus to accept a cure. Among the 8.4 million species that inhabit the cosmos, the human form is specially gifted: only in a human body does the soul have the requisite intelligence to question his suffering and attempt to remedy it. Bhagavad-gita addresses such intelligent human beings.
Asserting that material nature is endlessly mutable (8.4), Lord Krishna advises the seeker of true happiness to not be disturbed by the dualities of heat and cold, pain and pleasure, and so on, that result from the inevitable changes in the material world (2.14). But Krishna does not recommend a life of inane fatalism; He exhorts us to direct our energies in a fruitful direction. Because our anomalous condition results from a disharmony with our spiritual nature, Krishna recommends that attempts for improvement be directed not in the material realm but in the spiritual.
The Relevance Of the Bhagavad-gita
It is here that we can see the relevance of Lord Krishna’s teachings to the modern state of affairs. Over the past few centuries modern man has performed immense intellectual labor in an attempt to decrease the miseries of material existence. But all these efforts have been directed within the realm of matter, resulting in an improved ability to control material energy through science and technology. Modern man has, with almost a religious dogma, avoided applying his intellectual faculties to understanding the spiritual dimension. But all the cherished human qualities—love, compassion, honesty, selflessness—spring from the soul, the spiritual aspect of our being. Therefore negligence of spiritual life has had disastrous consequences, including a marked decline in human virtues. Hence Dr. King’s observation that we live in a time of guided missiles and misguided men.
Lord Krishna systematically explains the difference between matter and spirit and provides a practical method for spiritual elevation. Lord Krishna thus helps us understand how ignorance and neglect of the spiritual dimension is the bane of modern civilization.
Returning To Harmony. Srila Prabhupada’s Gift To The World
Lord Krishna recommends yoga as the means to spiritual emancipation. Contrary to the general notion, Lord Krishna states that mere physical postures and breathing exercises do not constitute yoga; they are just the beginning of one type of yoga. Actual yoga involves harmonizing all energy—material and spiritual—with the original source of energy, the energetic Supreme. Lord Krishna states that meditation (dhyana-yoga), philosophical speculation (jnana-yoga), detached action (karma- yoga), and devotional service to the Lord (bhakti- yoga) are means by which a soul can advance on the path back to harmony. But ultimate success comes only by devotional service (11.53-54); other paths are only stepping stones to the attainment of that devotion (6.47, 7.19, 3.9).
The best method of devotional meditation for the current period in the cosmic cycle (Kali-yuga) is mantra meditation (10.25), especially the chanting of the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. A person moving forward on the path of harmony discovers in time a decrease in mental agitation from irrational passions, an unshakable inner tranquility, and finally an eternal ecstasy of love coming from the spiritual stratum (6.20- 23). Lord Krishna therefore concludes with an unequivocal call for loving harmony with the Supreme (18.66).
Lord Krishna declares the higher realities of life to be pratyaksha avagamam, directly perceivable within (9.2). Thus we see that Lord Krishna’s approach to the study of the cosmos is not at all dogmatic; rather it is bold and scientific. He presents the postulates logically and systematically and provides the enterprising spiritual scientist with a practical method to verify those postulates.
Lord Krishna’s explanation of the truths of life is so cogent, coherent, and profound that, for most modern Western scholars who studied Bhagavad-gita for the first time in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, it was love on first reading. The remark of the famed American writer Henry David Thoreau is a sample: “In the morning I bathe my intellect in the stupendous and cosmogonal philosophy of the Bhagavad-gita, in comparison with which our modern world and its literature seem puny and trivial.”
Unfortunately with the passage of time, imperial biases among Western scholars obscured the wisdom of the Bhagavad- gita from enlightening the whole of humanity. And Indian intellectuals, afflicted by feelings of cultural inferiority from prolonged foreign subjugation, did not give the Bhagavad-gita the importance it deserved.
It was only when His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada carried the wisdom of Bhagavad-gita to the West in the 1960s that the world started recognizing the glory of this philosophical masterpiece once again. Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita As It Is soon became the most widely read English edition of the Gita. Now translated into dozens of languages, Bhagavad-gita As It Is has transformed the lives of millions from confused despair to enlightened happiness.
Srila Prabhupada has been acknowledged as the greatest cultural ambassador of India to the modern world. His vision was a global East-West synthesis. If a blind man carries a lame man, they can both move forward. Similarly, Srila Prabhupada understood that if the materially prosperous but spiritually blind West and the spiritually gifted but materially impoverished India joined forces, the combination would usher in an era of peace and prosperity all over the world. ISKCON is working tirelessly at the grassroots level to make this vision a reality.
The West has embraced a hedonistic way of life. And the East, especially India, enamored by the glitter of Western culture, is casting away the treasure of Vedic wisdom that is its priceless heritage. It behooves all intelligent and responsible students of Bhagavad-gita to understand, assimilate, and distribute to their fellow human beings the gift of the wisdom of Lord Krishna.
A conversation with His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
This exchange between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and some of his students took place on a morning walk in Chicago, in July 1975.
Student: Earlier you were saying that the Western world is spiritually blind and that India is technologically lame, but that if they combine their resources, then both India and the West will benefit.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. If the Western world, the blind man, takes India, the lame man, on its shoulders, then the lame man can point the way spiritually and the blind man can sustain them materially, technologically. If America and India pool their technological and spiritual resources, this combination will bring about perfect peace and prosperity all over the world.
How blind these Americans are. They have attained the human form of life—such an intelligent form of life—and yet they are utilizing it for riding motor boats in the lake. You see? A human being should use every moment for regaining his God consciousness. Not a single moment should be wasted—and these people are simply finding new ways to waste timer
Of course, the Americans are doing things in a very nice way, with great technological advancement, but what they are doing is blind. You may be a very good driver, but if you are blind, then how well will you drive? You’ll create disaster. So the American people must open their eyes spiritually, so that their good driving capacity will be properly utilized. Now they’re trying to see through microscopes. But as long as they remain blind to their own spiritual identity, what will they see? They may have microscopes or this machine or that machine—but they are blind. That they do not know.
Student: I think most Americans are more interested in raising a family than in self-realization.
Srila Prabhupada: Krishna consciousness is not hindered by family life, one way or the other. Ahaituky apratihata. God consciousness cannot be checked by anything—if you are sincerer In any circumstances you can be engaged. You can execute Krishna consciousness in four ways: pranair arthair dhiya vaca—by your life, by your money, by your intelligence, and by your words. So if you want to be a family man—if you cannot dedicate twenty-four hours daily—then earn money and use it to spread Krishna consciousness. And if you cannot earn money, then use your intelligence. There is so much intellectual work to do—publication, research, and so on. If you cannot do that, then utilize your words to tell people about Krishna. Wherever you may be, simply explain to someone, “Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Just offer your obeisances to Krishna.” Finished. So where is the scarcity of opportunities? You can serve Krishna in any capacity, provided you want to serve. But if you want to engage Krishna in your service, that is a blunder. People are going to church—“Krishna, serve us; give us our daily bread.”
People manufacture their own problems. Actually, there are no problems. Ishavasyam idam sarvam: God has arranged everything. He has made everything perfect and complete. You see so many fruits for the birds—so sumptuously supplied. Purnam idam: Krishna has already supplied everything in sufficient quantity. But these rascals are blind—they do not see this. They are trying to “adjust:” Why do they need to make an “adjustment”? Everything is already sufficient. It is just that people are misusing things. But otherwise, they already have sufficient land, sufficient intelligence—everything is sufficient.
In Africa and Australia they have so much land—and instead of relying on nature’s bounty of crops, they are raising cattle to kill them. This is their intelligence. People are growing coffee and tea and tobacco, even though they know these things hurt their health. In some parts of the world people are dying for want of grain, and yet in other parts of the world people are growing tobacco, which will only bring disease and death. This is their intelligence.
The problem is that these rascals do not know that life is meant for understanding God. Ask anyone. Nobody knows. They are such fools. Don’t you see how much care they are taking for dogs’? They’re blind: they do not know whether they’ll be God conscious or “dog conscious.” The dog runs on four legs, but people think they have become advanced because they can run by car—on four wheels. They think they have become civilized, but their business is running, that’s all.
Student: And the purpose for the running is the same—eating, sleeping, mating, and defending.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. If the purpose is the same as a dog’s, then what is the use of running by car? Of course, you can use the car for reaching people with the message of Krishna consciousness. You can use everything for Krishna. That is what we teach. If there is a nice car, why should I condemn it? Utilize it for Krishna: then it is all right. We don’t say, “Give it up.” Nor When you have produced something by your God-given intelligence, it is all right—if you use it for God. But when you use it for other purposes than Krishna, then it is nonsense.
Take this car—so nicely decorated. If I say, “It is all nonsense,” is that very intelligent? Nor “The purpose for which you have created this car—that is nonsense:” So we simply want people to change their consciousness. We don’t condemn the things they have produced.
For instance, with a knife you can cut vegetables and fruit, but if you use it for cutting your throat, that is bad. So now people are using the knife of technology for cutting their own throat, for forgetting all about self-realization, Krishna consciousness. This is bad.
Nri-deham adyam sulabham sudurlabham plavam sukalpam: our human body is just like a good boat—with our human intelligence we can cross the ocean of nescience, the ocean of repeated birth and death in this material world. And guru-karnadharam/ mayanukulena nabhasva-teritam puman bhavabdhim na taret sa atma-ha: we have a favorable wind—Krishna’s instructions in the Vedic literatures—plus we have a good captain, the bona fide spiritual master, who can guide us and enlighten us. With all these facilities, if we cannot cross the ocean of nescience, then we are cutting our throat. The boat is there, the captain is there, the favorable wind is there, but we are not utilizing them. That means we are killing ourselves.