Srila Prabhupada Talks with a Journalist
Late in 1968, in Los Angeles, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, founder-acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, granted a magazine interview. The journalist's questions reflected a concern that since then has grown even more intense.
Journalist: I think an awful lot of our readers, and an awful lot of people in the United States, are terribly confused with the many people who claim to be gurus and gods and who pop up in this country, one after the other, after the other, and they say that ...
Srila Prabhupada: I can declare that they are all nonsense.
Journalist: I wonder if you could elaborate on that a little bit.
Srila Prabhupada: I can say, furthermore, they're all rascals.
Journalist: For example, the famous one who sells meditation mantras?
Srila Prabhupada: He is rascal number one. I say it publicly.
Journalist: Could you explain, give me a little background on that and why, because our readers ...
Srila Prabhupada: From his behavior I can understand he is rascal number one. I do not want to know about him, but what he has done makes it obvious. But the wonderful thing is that people in the Western countries are supposed to be so advanced—how they are befooled by these rascals?
Journalist: Well, I think that people are looking for something, and he comes along ...
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, but they want something very cheap—that is their fault. Now, for our disciples, we don't give anything cheap. Our first condition is character—moral character. You see? Unless one is strictly following moral principles, we don't initiate him, we don't allow him in this institution. And this so-called guru has been telling people, "Just do whatever you like. You simply pay me thirty-five dollars, and I'll give you a mantra." You see? So people want to be cheated, and so many cheaters come. People do not wish to undergo any discipline. They have got money, so they think, "We shall pay and immediately we'll get whatever we want."
Journalist: Instant heaven.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. That is their foolishness.
Journalist: Let me ask you—I have my opinion, but let me ask you—Why do you feel that the younger people today are turning more and more toward the Eastern-oriented religions?
Srila Prabhupada: Because your materialistic way of life no longer satisfies them. In America, especially, you have got enough for enjoyment. You have got enough food, enough women, enough wine, enough houses—enough of everything. But still you have confusion and dissatisfaction—more in your country than in India, which is said to be poverty-stricken. But you'll find in India that although they are poverty-stricken, they are continuing their old spiritual culture. So the people are not as disturbed. This shows that material advancement alone cannot give one satisfaction. So it is necessary now that people should take to spiritual life. That will make them happy. All these people—they are in darkness. There is no hope. They do not know where they are going; they have no aim. But when you are spiritually situated, you know what you are doing and where you are going. Everything is clear.
Journalist: In other words, you feel that the Western-oriented church—whether it be a synagogue or a church or whatever—has failed to present spiritual life. Would you say that their message is not relevant? Or is it that they have failed to present their message properly?
Srila Prabhupada: Take the Bible. It was spoken long, long ago to primitive people who were living in the desert. These people were not very advanced. So at that time, in the Old Testament, it was sufficient to say, "There is a God, and God created the world." That is a fact. But now people are scientifically advanced, and they want to know in detail how the creation has taken place. You see? And that detailed, scientific explanation is not there in the Bible. And the church can't give any more than that. Therefore people are not satisfied. Simply officially going to the church and offering prayers does not appeal to them.
Besides that, the so-called religious leaders are not following even the most basic religious principles. For instance, in the Old Testament there are the Ten Commandments, and one commandment is "Thou shalt not kill." But killing is very prominent in the Christian world. The, religious leaders are sanctioning slaughterhouses, and they have manufactured a theory that animals have no soul. "Give the dog a bad name and hang it."
So when we ask, "Why are you committing this sinful act of killing?" the priests refuse to discuss the matter. Everyone is silent. That means they are deliberately disobeying the Ten Commandments. So where are the religious principles? It is plainly stated, "Thou shalt not kill." Why are they killing? How do you answer?
Journalist: Are you asking me?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Journalist: Well, "Thou shalt not kill" is obviously an ethic ... and it's timeless, and it's valid. But man is not really interested...
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, that's right. They are not really interested in religion. It is simply show-bottle. If you do not follow the regulative principles, then where is your religion?
Journalist: I'm not arguing with you. I couldn't agree with you more. I'm in total agreement. It doesn't make any sense. "Thou shalt not kill." "Thou shalt worship no other gods before Me." "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's goods." "Thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother."... Those are beautiful
Srila Prabhupada: "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife"—but who is following this?
Journalist: Very few.
Srila Prabhupada: So how can they say they're religious? And without religion, human society is animal society.
Journalist: All right, but let me ask you this. How does your interpretation differ from the basic Judeo-Christian ethic of the Ten Commandments?
Srila Prabhupada: There is no difference. But as I have told you, none of them are strictly following the Ten Commandments. So I simply say, "Please follow God's commandments." That is my message.
Journalist: In other words, you're asking them to obey those principles.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. I don't say that Christians should become Hindu. I simply say, "Please obey your Commandments." I'll make you a better Christian. That is my mission. I don't say, "God is not in your tradition—God is only here in ours." I simply say, "Obey God." I don't say, "You have to accept that God's name is Krsna and no other." No. I say, "Please obey God. Please try to love God."
Journalist: Let me put it this way. If your mission and the mission of the Western Judeo-Christian ethic are the same, again let me ask, Why is it that the younger people, or people in general, are disenchanted, are trying to go toward the Eastern-oriented religions? Why are they going toward the Eastern if both are the same?
Srila Prabhupada: Because Judaism and Christianity are not teaching them practically. I am teaching them practically.
Journalist: In other words, you're teaching them what you feel is a practical, everyday method for attaining this fulfillment of man's spirit.
Srila Prabhupada: Love of Godhead is being taught both in the Bible and in the Bhagavad-gita. But today's religionists are not actually teaching how to love God. I am teaching people how to love God—that is the difference. Therefore, young people are attracted.
Journalist: All right. So the end is the same, but it's the method of getting there that's different?
Srila Prabhupada: No—the end is the same and the method is also the same. But these so-called religious leaders are not teaching people to follow the method. I am teaching them practically how to follow it.
Journalist: Let me ask you something that we've run into a great deal just recently. The biggest problem holding men and women back from love of God and following the Ten Commandments is the problem—how should I put it?—well, the sexual problem. Now I'm stating something that's obvious. We've all gone through this.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, everyone.
Journalist: And there is nothing in Western culture or religion that teaches or helps a young person to cope with this difficult problem. I went through it. We all have. Now do you, in your message, give the young people something to hang on to? And if so, what?
Srila Prabhupada: I ask my disciples to get married. I don't allow this nonsense of boys living with girl friends. No. "You must get yourself married and live like a gentleman."
Journalist: Well, let me get a little more basic. How about when one is fourteen-fifteen- sixteen years old?
Srila Prabhupada: One thing is that we teach our boys how to become brahmacari—how to live the life of celibacy, how to control their senses. In Vedic culture, marriage generally doesn't take place until the boy is about twenty-four or twenty-five and the girl is about sixteen or seventeen. And because they are experiencing the spiritual pleasure of Krsna consciousness, they are not simply interested in sex life. So we don't say, "Don't mix with women," or, "Stop sex life." But we regulate everything under the higher principle of Krsna consciousness. In this way everything goes nicely.
Journalist: So your disciples don't just bite their tongue or their lip and say, "I won't touch her (or him)." There is a substitute?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, a higher taste. That is Krsna consciousness. And it is working: I'm already teaching Western men and women how to control their sexual impulse. My disciples that you see here are all Americans. They are not imported from India.
Journalist: One thing I want to know is what you think about people like this famous mantra-selling guru, who turned me off and so many other people. My daughter was very involved in that kind of thing for awhile. She's terribly disillusioned.
Srila Prabhupada: The psychology is that the Western people, especially youngsters, are hankering after spiritual life. Now, if somebody comes to me and says, "Svamiji, initiate me," I immediately say, "You have to follow these four principles—no meat-eating, no gambling, no intoxication, and no illicit sex." Many go away. But this mantra seller—he did not put any restrictions. That's just like a physician who says, "You can do whatever you like; you simply take my medicine and you'll be cured." That physician will be very popular.
Journalist: Yes. He'll kill a lot of people, but he'll be very well liked.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. [Laughs.] And a real physician says, "You cannot do this. You cannot do that. You cannot eat this." This is a botheration for people.
They want something very cheap. Therefore the cheaters come and cheat them. They take the opportunity—because people want to be cheated.
"Oh, let us take advantage!" You see? So the rascals advise people, "You are God—everyone is God. You just have to realize yourself—you have simply forgotten. You take this mantra, and you'll become God. You'll become powerful. There is no need to control the senses. You can drink. You can have unrestricted sex life and whatever you like."
People like this. "Oh, simply by fifteen minutes meditation I shall become God, and I have to pay only thirty-five dollars." Many millions of people will be ready to do it. For Americans, thirty-five dollars is not very much. But multiplied by a million, it becomes thirty-five million dollars. [Laughs.]
We cannot bluff like that. We say that if you actually want spiritual life, you have to follow the restrictions. The commandment is, "You shall not kill." So I shall not say, "Yes, you can kill—the animal has no feeling, the animal has no soul." We cannot bluff in this way, you see.
Journalist: This kind of thing has disenchanted an awful lot of young people.
Srila Prabhupada: So please try to help us. This movement is very nice. It will help your country. It will help the whole human society. It is a genuine movement. We are not bluffing or cheating. It is authorized.
Journalist: Authorized by whom?
Srila Prabhupada: Authorized by Krsna, God. In India this Krsna consciousness philosophy has millions and millions of followers—eighty percent of the population. If you ask any Indian he will be able to tell you so many things about Krsna consciousness.
Journalist: Do you really think, from a very practical standpoint, that your movement has a chance to make it here in America?
Srila Prabhupada: From what I've seen it has a great chance. We don't say, "Give up your religion and come to us." We say, "At least follow your own principles. And then if you want to, study with us." Sometimes it happens that although students have received their M.A. degree, they go to foreign universities to study more. Why does it happen? They want more enlightenment. Similarly, any religious scripture you may follow will give you enlightenment. But if you find more in this Krsna consciousness movement, then why should you not accept it? If you are serious about God, why should you say, "Oh, I am Christian," "I am Jewish," "I cannot attend your meeting"? Why should you say, "Oh, I cannot allow you to speak in my church"? If I am speaking about God, what objection can you have?
Journalist: Well, I couldn't agree with you more.
Srila Prabhupada: I am prepared to talk with any God conscious man. Let us chalk out a program so that people may be benefited. But they want to go on in their stereotyped way. If we see that by following a particular type of religious principle one is developing love of God, that is first-class religion. But if one is merely developing his love for mammon, then what kind of religion is that?
Journalist: Right you are.
Srila Prabhupada: That is our test—you have to develop love for God. We don't say that you must follow Christianity, or Muhammadanism, or Judaism, or Hinduism. We simply look to see whether you are developing your love of Godhead. But they say, "Who is God? I am God." You see? Everyone is taught nowadays that everyone is God.
Journalist: Have you seen pictures of a smiling man with a mustache and a pushed-in nose? Before he died, he said he was God.
Srila Prabhupada: He was God? He was another rascal. Just see—this is going on. He was making propaganda that he was God. That means that people do not know what God is. Suppose I come to you and say that I am the President of the United States. Will you accept me?
Journalist: [Laughs.] No, I don't think I would.
Srila Prabhupada: These rascals! The people are accepting them as God because they do not know what God is—that is the problem.
Journalist: It's just absolutely absurd that somebody comes along and tells you he's God.
Srila Prabhupada: But whoever accepts him as God is just as much a rascal. The man who says he's God—he's rascal number one. He's a cheater. And the man who is cheated—he's also a rascal. He does not know what God is. He thinks that God is so cheap that you can find Him in the marketplace.
Journalist: Of course, the Western concept is that man is created in the image of God. Consequently, God must look somewhat like man.
Srila Prabhupada: You have got so many scientists. So just find out what the actual image of God is, what His form is really like. Where is that department? You have got so many departments—research department, technology department. But where is that department that researches what God is? Is there any such department of knowledge?
Journalist: There's no God department working tonight—I'll tell you that right now.
Srila Prabhupada: That is the difficulty. But the Krsna consciousness movement is the department of how to know God. If you study with us, then you'll not accept any rascal as God. You'll accept only God as God. We are teaching about another nature beyond this material nature. This material nature is coming into existence and again dissolving, but God and His spiritual nature are eternal. We living entities are also eternal—without any end or any beginning. This Krsna consciousness movement is teaching how we can transfer ourselves to that eternal, spiritual nature where God is residing.
Journalist: That's man's quest.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, that is the quest. Everyone is trying to be happy, because that is the living entity's prerogative. He is meant by nature to be happy, but he does not know where he can be happy. He is trying to be happy in a place where there are four miserable conditions—namely birth, old age, disease, and death. The scientists are trying to be happy and make other people happy. But what scientist has stopped old age, disease, death, and rebirth? Has any scientist succeeded?
Journalist: I don't think so.
Srila Prabhupada: So what is this? Why do they not consider, "We have made so much improvement, but what improvement have we made in these four areas?" They have not made any. And still they are very much proud of their advancement in education and technology. But the four primary miseries remain as they are. You see?
The scientists may have made advancements in medicine, but' is there any remedy that can allow us to claim, "Now there is no more disease"? Is there any such remedy? No. So then what is the scientists' advancement? Rather, disease is increasing in so many new forms.
They have invented nuclear weapons. What good is that? Simply for killing. Have they invented something so that no more men will die? That would be to their credit. But people are dying at every moment, and the scientists have simply invented something to accelerate their death. That is all. Is that to their credit? So there is still no solution to death.
And they are trying to stop overpopulation. But where is their solution? Every minute the population is increasing by three persons. These are the statistics.
So there is no solution for birth. There is no solution for death. There is no solution for disease. And there is no solution for old age. Even a great scientist like Professor Einstein had to undergo old age and death. Why could he not stop old age? Everyone is trying to remain youthful, but what is the process? The scientists do not care to solve this problem—because it is beyond their means.
They are giving some kind of bluff, that's all. But Krsna consciousness is the solution, and the whole thing is described in Bhagavad-gita. Let them try to understand it. At least let them make an experiment.
The Biography of a Pure Devotee
by Satsvarupa dasa Goswami
The building at 100 West Seventy-second Street was rented as office and studio space, and none of the tenants, who included the members of the Misra Yoga Society, stayed there overnight. For Srila Prabhupada, however, his room on the fifth floor was his sole residence, and he had to use it even for sleeping. While he sat alone at 6:00 P.M on November 9, the lights in his room suddenly went out. In India power failures occurred commonly, so Srila Prabhupada; though surprised to find the same thing in America, remained undisturbed and began chanting the Hare Krsna mantra on his beads. This was his experience of the first moments of the New York City blackout of 1965, a massive power failure that suddenly left the entire city without electricity. The blackout trapped 800,000 people in the city's subways and affected more than thirty million people in nine states and three Canadian provinces.
Dr. Misra sent a man from his apartment with a candle and some fruit: The man found Srila Prabhupada sitting in darkness, reciting the holy names of Krsna. When informed of the breakdown (it lasted until 7:00 A.M. the next morning), Srila Prabhupada responded by remaining in his place and chanting. For the cause of Krsna consciousness he was prepared to work in the city as actively as any karmi (materialistic worker), but if all facilities were taken away, he would be ready—as he was in any calamity—to see this as Krsna's will and turn his full attention to the utterance of the holy names.
Srila Prabhupada had to wait more than two weeks before he received a reply to his letter of November 8 to Tirtha Maharaja, his Godbrother in Calcutta. His hopes and plans for staying in America, he had said, depended on a favorable reply—but could he expect one? We have already described to some extent the history of the Gaudiya Math, the spiritual mission organized in India by Srila Prabhupada's spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. It was well known to everyone involved that the Godbrothers, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta's disciples, were not working cooperatively. Each leader was interested in maintaining his own building, but not in a unified effort to spread the teachings of Lord Caitanya. How, then, could Srila Prabhupada expect them to share his vision or establishing a branch in New York City? Probably they would see it as his separate attempt, but despite the unlikely: odds, he had appealed to their missionary spirit and to the desires of their spiritual master, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. For they all knew well that their Guru Maharaja, their' spiritual master, had wanted Krsna consciousness spread in the West.
While waiting for a reply from the Gaudiya Math, Srila Prabhupada found a building that he considered suitable for the first Krsna temple in America. It was located on the same block as Dr. Misra's studio. Having inquired from the broker, Louis Baum, who represented Phillips, Wood, Dolson, Inc., he received a description of the desired property, at 143 West Seventy-second Street. The building measured only eighteen and one-half feet across and was one hundred feet deep. It contained a basement, above which was a store of the same size, and a mezzanine. The asking price was $100,000, with a $20,000 cash down payment. So Srila Prabhupada wrote to Tirtha Maharaja again, presenting these figures. He remarked that this building was twice as big as their Research Institute in Calcutta. The basement could be used as a cooking and dining facility, the store as a lecture hall, and the mezzanine for installing Deities of Krsna and for personal apartments. He said that if they could invest their money in this property and start a branch, they could call it the Sri Caitanya Math or New York Gaudiya Math.
Srila Prabhupada offered evidence that his preaching was being well received. On one of his walks he had visited the Indian Consulate on Sixty-fourth Street and met Lakhanlal Mehrotra, a Consulate officer. Through him Srila Prabhupada had made contact with the Tagore Society, with which he arranged a lecture. In his letter to Tirtha Maharaja, he included a copy of the Society's invitation:
The Tagore Society of New York, Inc.
A doctor Haridas Choudry was also preparing to arrange lectures for him in San Francisco and Los Angeles. "But in my opinion," Srila Prabhupada said, "such casual lectures may be a good personal advertisement, but factually they do not make any permanent effects. But if there is a center of activity for attracting people as you are doing in Research Institute, the people can be trained up by regular association and hearing the transcendental sounds of Srimad-Bhagavatam."
When Srila Prabhupada finally received Tirtha Maharaja's reply, he found it unfavorable. Tirtha Maharaja, his Godbrother, did not argue against Srila Prabhupada's attempting something in New York, but he politely said that funds from the Gaudiya Math could not be gathered and turned over for such a venture. On November 23 Srila Prabhupada wrote him back, "It is not very encouraging. Still, I am not a man to be disappointed."
Srila Prabhupada was convinced that if he could start a place where people could come and associate with a pure devotee, the genuine God conscious culture of India could begin in America. But because his plans depended on obtaining an expensive building in Manhattan, his goal seemed unreachable. Nonetheless, while in correspondence with Tirtha Maharaja;" Srila Prabhupada also persistently wrote to known Vaisnavas (devotees of Krsna) in India for help in starting a Krsna temple in Manhattan. He thought, Why should they nor help? After all, he was addressing devotees of Krsna. Shouldn't the devotees of Krsna come forward to establish the first Krsna temple in America?
As a Vaisnava guru in the line of disciplic succession from Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Maharaja and Lord Caitanya, Srila Prabhupada was certainly authorized to spread the message of Krsna. As for the location, New York City was perhaps the most cosmopolitan center in the world—and the building he had found there, although well located, was not very expensive for that area. Moreover, there was a great need for a Krsna temple, to offset the propaganda of the Indian Mayavadis, or impersonalists
The Krsna devotees to whom Srila Prabhupada was writing understood Lord Krsna to be worshipable for the whole world, and so it should have been very desirable for them to see Krsna worshiped in a place like New York. In Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna Himself had said, "Give up all activities and surrender to Me."? Lord Caitanya had also stated that the name of Krsna should be heard in every town and village. So if the Indian Vaisnavas were Krsna's devotees why should they not help? What was a person's money for but to glorify Krsna? If one was a Krsna devotee and did not want to glorify the Lord, what kind of devotee was he?
One obvious answer is that although the people Srila Prabhupada wrote to were devotees of Krsna, they were devotees who were not prepared to surrender to such a full extent. Although as devotees of Krsna they were obliged to surrender everything to Krsna, Srila Prabhupada found them unable. Perhaps he should not have seriously counted on them to do so. But as a preacher in the field, he had no business deciding beforehand that people could not surrender. Following the order of his spiritual master, he had to approach everyone and ask everyone for help.
Srila Prabhupada still cherished hopes that Sumati Morarjee would help in a large way. She had initially helped him in publishing the Bhagavatam, and she had sent him to America. As he was later fond of recalling, she had also written him, while he was in Butler, that he should not return to India until he had fulfilled his mission. Srila Prabhupada had received that note in Butler, and shortly after his arrival in New York he had replied from Dr. Misra's studio. Several weeks later, not having received any further response, Srila Prabhupada wrote her again, this time with a specific request. He addressed her as "Madam Sumati Morarjee Baisahib."
"So far as I have studied," he wrote, "the American people are very much eager to learn about the Indian way of spiritual realization, and there are so many so-called yoga asramas in America. Unfortunately they are not very much adored by the government, and it is learned that such yoga asramas have exploited the innocent people, as has been the case in India. The only hope is that they [the American people] are spiritually inclined, and immense good can be done to them if the message of Srimad-Bhagavatam is preached here."
Srila Prabhupada noted that Americans were also giving a good reception to Indian art and music. A Madrasi dancer named Balasaraswati had held a performance in New York, and Srila Prabhupada had attended. "Just to see the mode of reception, I went to see the dance with my friend, although for the last forty years I have never attended such a dance ceremony. The dancer was successful in her demonstration. The music was an Indian classical tune, mostly in Sanskrit language, and the American public appreciated them. So I am encouraged to see the favorable circumstances about my future preaching work." Srila Prabhupada suggested that the Bhagavatam could also be preached through music and dance, although he had no means to introduce this. The Christian missions, backed by huge resources, were preaching all over the world, so why couldn't the devotees of Krsna combine to start a mission to preach the Bhagavatam all over the world? He also noted that Christian missionaries could not be effective in checking the spread of communism, whereas the Bhagavatam movement could be, because of its philosophical, scientific approach.
Srila Prabhupada appealed to Sumati Morarjee to consult "your beloved Lord Bala Krsna" and try to help. (Bala Krsna means "child Krsna." Srila Prabhupada knew that Sumati Morarjee was a Gujarati and a follower of the Vallabha sampradaya, which worships Bala Krsna.) But again Srila Prabhupada received no reply, so he wrote to her again some weeks later. Srila Prabhupada expressed his idea for how to organize preaching: "They [the American people] should have association of bona fide devotees of the Lord, they should join the kirtana [chanting of the Lord's names], they should hear the teachings of Srimad-Bhagavatam, they should have intimate touch with the temple or place of the Lord, and they should be given ample chance to worship the Lord in the temple. Under the guidance of a bona fide devotee they can be given such a facility, and the way of this Srimad-Bhagavatam is open for everyone.... I think therefore that a temple of Bala Krsna in New York may immediately be started for this purpose, and as a devotee of Bala Krsna you should execute this great and noble work."
Srila Prabhupada informed Sumati Morarjee that as a sannyasi he had no ambition to become the proprietor of a house in America, but for preaching the house was absolutely required. He gave her the details of the building and reminded her of the importance of distributing prasada, food offered to Krsna. She well knew that such spiritualized food would purify the consciousness of all who tasted it and would help them to come closer to Krsna.
"The house is practically three stories. Ground floor, basement, and two stories up, with all the suitable arrangements for gas, heat, etc. The ground floor may be utilized for preparation of prasada of Bala Krsna, because the preaching center will not be for dry speculation but for actual gain and delicious prasada. I have already tested how the people here like the vegetable prasada prepared by me. They will forget meat-eating and pay for the expenses. The American people are not poor men like the Indians, and if they appreciate a thing they are prepared to spend any amount on such hobby. They are being exploited simply by jugglery of words and bodily gymnastics, and still they are spending for that. But when they will have the actual commodity and feel pleasure by eating very delicious prasada of Bala Krsna, I am sure a unique thing will be introduced in America."
At the time he wrote this letter, Srila Prabhupada, according to the terms of his visa, had a week left in America. "My term to stay in America," he wrote, "will be finished by the seventeenth of November, 1965. But I am believing in your foretelling 'You should stay there until you fully recover your health and return after you have completed your mission.' "
While his letter-writing campaign went on, interspersed with long periods of waiting (sometimes he sent two or three letters without response), Srila Prabhupada still had to survive daily in New York. America seemed so opulent, yet many things were difficult to tolerate. The sirens and bells from fire engines and police cars seemed like they would crack his heart. At night he would sometimes hear a person being attacked and crying for help. From his first days in the city, he had noted that the smell of dog stool was everywhere. Although it was such a rich city, he could rarely find a mango to purchase, and if he did, it was very expensive and usually had no taste. From his room he would sometimes hear the horns of oceanliners come, and he would dream that someday he would sail around the world with the sankirtana party, preaching in all the major cities. November passed and December came, and somehow he stayed on. During early December the newspapers reported that New York City's hospitals were admitting increasing numbers of young people disoriented by LSD, and that protest was mounting against America's participation in the Vietnam war.
Srila Prabhupada's original plan was to stay in America for two months at most. but he had now set that aside. He wanted to return to India, but even more he wanted to carry out his spiritual master's order. Just to assuage his yearning tc return, he would go down to the Battery in Manhattan and inquire from a shipping agent, "When is the next ship going to India?" Eventually the agent became his friend and would say to him, "You are always asking when the ship is returning to India, but, Svamiji, when are you going to return?" Sometimes Srila Prabhupada would fix a date and a particular ship on which he planned tc leave, but when the time came he would not go.
The weather went below freezing, colder than he had ever known in India, He had to walk daily toward the Hudson River, against the west wind, which takes away one's breath and makes one's eyes water, even on an ordinary winter day. On a stormy day, the sudden gusts of wind could even knock a man down. Sometimes a cold rain would turn the streets slick with ice. The cold would become especially biting as Srila Prabhupada approached the open area of Westside Drive, where the winds sometimes spun tornadolike, catching brown leaves in a whirling current.
Dr. Misra gave him a coat, but Srila Prabhupada never gave up wearing his dhoti, although it became difficult to walk against the gusts. Swami Nikhilananda of the Ramakrishna Mission had advised Srila Prabhupada that if he wanted to remain in the West, he should abandon strict adherence to the Indian habits of simple dress and pure vegetarian diet. Meat and liquor and pants and a coat were almost a necessity in this climate, he had said. Even before Srila Prabhupada had left India, one of his Godbrothers had demonstrated to him how he should eat in the West with a knife and fork. Srila Prabhupada never considered taking on any of these Western ways. His advisors counseled him not to remain an alien, but to get into the spirit of American life, even if this meant breaking vows one held in India. Almost all Indian immigrants compromised their old ways. But Srila Prabhupada's ideas were different, and he could not be budged. Others may have to compromise, he thought, because they have come to beg technological knowledge from the West. "But I am not a beggar," he said, "I am a giver." His intention was not to learn the ways of the mlecchas (uncultured Westerners), but to teach the Westerners how to do things according to the Vedic culture. Srila Prabhupada, in his solitary wanderings, became known to a number of local city people. One was Mr. Ruben, a Turkish Jew who in the winter of 1965 and 1966 was working as a New York City subway conductor. Mr. Ruben first saw Srila Prabhupada sitting on a park bench, and being an outgoing person and something of a world traveler, he sat and talked with the Indian holy man.
He seemed to know [Mr. Ruben relates] that he would have temples filled up with devotees. He would look out and say, "I am not a poor man. I am rich. There are temples and books. They are existing, they are there, but the time is separating us from them. " He always mentioned "we" and spoke about the one who sent him, his spiritual master. He didn't know people at that time, but he said, "I am never alone. " He always looked like a lonely man to me. That's what made me think of him like a holy man, Elijah, who always went out alone. I don't believe he had any followers.
When the weather was not rainy or dry, Srila Prabhupada would catch the bus every day to Grand Central Station and walk down Madison Avenue or Forty-second Street, sometimes visiting :he library. He would also walk over to :he New India House on East Sixty-fourth Street or walk past the United Nations Building. Riding the bus down Fifth Avenue, he would look at the big buildings and imagine that some day .hey could be used in Krsna consciousness. Materialists had erected such enormous structures and yet had made no provisions for spiritual life, and therefore, in spite of all the great achievements of technology, people ended up feeling empty and useless. They had built these big buildings, but their children were going to LSD. As he traveled downtown, various buildings would attract his mind as potential homes for a temple: a building on Twenty-third Street, a building on Fourteenth Street with a dome.
The weather continued to get colder, but there was no snow in December. On Seventy-second Street, the Retailer's Association erected tall red poles with great tinsel Christmas trees on top. From the top of each pole sprouted a long tinsel garland, which extended from either side of the street to meet its counterpart in the middle, in a red tinsel star surrounded by multicolored lights. Some of the shops on Columbus Avenue sold Christmas trees, and the continental restaurants were bright with holiday lighting.
Though Srila Prabhupada did no Christmas shopping, he stopped at a number of book stores, where he attempted to sell sets of Srimad-Bhagavatam. He visited Samuel Weiser's book store, the Doubleday's, and the Paragon Book Gallery on Thirty-eighth Street.
Mrs. Ferber, the wife of the Paragon Gallery's proprietor, remembers Srila Prabhupada as "a pleasant and extremely polite small gentleman." The first time he called, she says, he wasn't able to interest them in his books, but when he tried again she and her husband took them. Srila Prabhupada used to stop by the Paragon about once a week. And since the books were selling regularly, he was usually able to collect small amounts of money from sales. He left a number of books with them, and whenever he needed a copy to sell personally, he would come in and pick it up at the Paragon. Sometimes he would phone and ask how they were selling.
Mrs. Ferber says that every time Srila Prabhupada came, he would ask for a glass of water. "If an ordinary customer had made such a request, I would ordinarily have said, 'There is the water cooler.' But because he was an old man, I couldn't tell him that, of course. He was very polite always, very modest, and a good scholar. So whenever he would ask, I would fetch him a cup of water personally." One time Srila Prabhupada conversed with Mrs. Ferber about Indian cuisine, and she mentioned she especially liked samosas (spicy, vegetable-filled savories). The next time he visited he brought a plate of samosas and gave them to her. She enjoyed them and remembers the occasion well.
In this talk given in Miami,
Last night I was invited to speak on a radio program, the Alan Burke Show. Some other people also spoke, but they were simply presenting some useless idea of God. That is the actual situation at the present time. I hope you will excuse me, but I'm going to speak very bluntly, because at the present time, not only in America but also all around the world, people have completely forgotten what God actually is. And because people, despite what they call themselves (Christians or Hindus or Muslims or Jews or whatever), are in fact simply becoming materialistic and have no clear understanding of who God is or what God's desire is or how to please God, the practical result is that the present world is simply in chaos. It is in political chaos, psychological chaos, social chaos. The family is in chaos.... Everything is more or less chaotic, and we are simply struggling, trying to maintain our society. Crime, inflation, mental illness, political trouble—we are in a very dangerous situation. And at any moment, everything may be destroyed by a nuclear holocaust.
Now, we are saying that these problems are caused by our forgetting God. For example, if the children in a family follow their father's wise advice, then the family goes very nicely. But if the father is forgotten or disobeyed, then the family will become chaotic. It is a very simple thing. So in the same way, we are actually meant to follow the law of God. However much money we may have in our bank account, or whatever type of car we may drive, or whatever title we may have after our name, or however beautiful we may be, or however strong, or however famous, we are in fact criminals because we are not following the law of God. Anyone who does not follow the law—he is a criminal.
So, very frankly, in this Krsna consciousness movement we are trying to train a group of men and women who are purified and competent, and qualified to give this country something which it has not had for a long time—and that is spiritual direction. I was shocked last night to see supposedly learned gentlemen—spiritual leaders—speaking such nonsense.
For instance, someone called in to this program and wanted to know why the weather is becoming so crazy. (I believe yesterday it snowed in Wyoming or somewhere, and usually it doesn't snow in the spring.) So this caller wanted to know why the weather is becoming so bad. And the various members of the panel said, "I don't know. I can't explain it."
So I said, "I know—we are being punished by God." God is all-powerful. So He certainly has the power to change the weather. Therefore, if we are experiencing such difficult times (extreme cold and rain and so on and so forth), this is punishment from God.
And yet one of these so-called religious leaders was such a fool that he said, "No, God doesn't control these things."
So I insisted, "Yes He does, and we are being punished."
And then he said, "No. God is love. God would not punish."
So I had to point out to him, "Doesn't the mother sometimes punish the child, out of love? Is it that the mother shows her love for her child only by giving him whatever he likes? 'You want to play in the street? Yes, go play in the street. You want to eat only candy? Yes, eat only candy. Whatever you like, do that. This is my love,' " This is not love. This is foolishness. Sometimes a mother may punish the child, and sometimes a mother may embrace the child. Both of these things are love.
And in this way I was also making the point that God is a person. And yet these foolish people wanted to say publicly, on the air, that "No, God is not a person. God has no individuality. He can express His love only through us. This world is the expression of God's love—God has to express Himself through us."
This is a very unintelligent idea. Why does God have to depend on us? Can't God express Himself? Someone may say, "I am speaking—this is God expressing Himself." But can't God also speak for Himself? Is He so foolish? Is He so weak? Is He so unintelligent that He cannot speak personally?
In this way—because we are accepting so many compromising, watered-down, wishy-washy, ambiguous ideas about God—there is practically no more spiritual life in this country, or anywhere else in the world. Simply hypocrisy and bluffing. So this Krsna consciousness movement has been started to give all people real spiritual life.
We should not be proud that we can have very frequent sex or think that because someone is very good at sex, therefore he is a very big man. Even such common and low animals as pigs, dogs, pigeons, and asses have lots of sex. But a pig—he cannot distinguish that there's a soul within his body. A pig or a dog cannot read scripture. They cannot chant God's name. They can simply eat and sleep, they can have sex, and they can fight with each other. But we are not meant to be like pigs and dogs and restrict our activities to eating very nicely in fancy restaurants, sleeping in a very nice condominium or mansion, and defending ourselves with so many nuclear weapons, and then very active, very vigorous sex life.
Nowadays people think, "If I have plenty of eating, sleeping, sex, and defense, then my life is perfect—I have made it. . . ." This is not a fact, because these four activities, while they cannot be denied or repressed, alone constitute only animal life and not human life. A devotee of the Lord also eats, he also sleeps, he may also defend himself, and he may also have married life and sex for procreation. But he does not limit himself to these things. No.... Just because someone can eat in a nice restaurant or sleep in a penthouse or have very nice sex, that doesn't mean that his life is successful. He is simply fulfilling his bodily necessities. Our life is successful when we can understand God, and understand the soul within this body.
And it is important to point out that understanding God does not mean, as it has become very popular to say nowadays, "Whatever you think, that's all right. If it makes you happy, whatever you believe is all right." This is spiritual anarchy. For example, if we give someone a driver's license we don't tell him, "You just drive however it makes you happy. You just get in that car, turn on the engine, and just do whatever you feel like doing. Just be happy." No. There are traffic laws. There are rules and regulations. You have to stop here, turn here ... So, also, there are laws of God, and we have to follow them and study what God is. Then we can be free.
In America we study everything very scientifically—everything except God. For example, we have big departments in the universities to study oceanography. We send down bathyscaphes and submarines to study the ocean. And we have geology, archaeology, and related sciences to study the land. Similarly, we have space science and also the sciences of anatomy, biology, psychology. We have so many sciences, and we Americans are very proud that we are very scientific. But how scientific are we about the soul? How scientific are we about God? Ordinarily, we are so scientific, but when it comes to God, we suddenly become unscientific and we say, "Oh, whatever you think is all right. It doesn't matter." Why doesn't it matter? Why does it matter so much whether it's going to rain or not tomorrow, what the weather will be, or exactly what the fish look like on the bottom of the ocean, or what people looked like seven thousand years ago? This is a disgrace, that in every other field we are so scientific, but when it comes to God we are so whimsical and so disinterested—"Whatever you think is all right." This kind of lack of seriousness is spoiling this country.
Now, when we say that we are not this body, that we are the soul within this body, this is not our opinion. This can be demonstrated. I will now demonstrate it Everyone can understand by a little contemplation that previously he or she was a young boy or a young girl. In those days we had a very tiny body. We were playing with our little body. So now—where is that body? Where is that young girl's body or young boy's body that was playing? That's gone.
Actually, it is a fact of science that every seven years your body is changing For example, your hair and nails are growing, your skin is gradually flaking away and being replaced. In the same way, all the parts of the body are being replaced, and in seven years' time, you'll have a body made of new components. So therefore, your body will be different—but you will still be the same person.
If a child leaves his home, leaves his family, and then comes back in ten years, immediately his mother and father will embrace him. They will say, "My son has come back!" The same body hasn't come back; it's actually a different body. So who is that person whom we are loving?
If you say, "I love my son" or "I love my father" or "I love my wife," who are you actually loving? Are you loving their body? Or are you loving something else which is inside the body? Actually, it is that "something else."
Each of us can understand, each of us can feel, "I am still the same person I always was. Yes, I may be in a different place now. My body is different and I'm doing something different. But I'm the same person." So practically any fool can understand, "I am not this body." But unfortunately, our entire American or Western civilization is based on the idea that "I am this body," that "I'm American," "I'm a man," "I'm a woman," "I'm so many years old," "I'm black," "I'm white," "I'm Christian," "I'm Hindu." These things only describe the body—and we are not the body. So ... our entire civilization is, in fact, based on a mistake.
And because our entire civilization is based on a mistake, everything is coming out wrong. For instance, we've built all these big cities so that we can have a comfortable life, but unfortunately, there are juvenile gangs, there is drug addiction, there is pollution, there are new diseases—there are so many problems. And- we cannot overcome these problems. We try to solve our problems and we create more problems—because it's all based on a mistake.
That first part of the mistake is thinking, "I am this body"—"man" or "woman," "young" or "old," "American" or "Chinese." "I am this material body, this flesh and bones...... And the second part of the mistake is thinking that the purpose of our life is to gratify this body. So if you are determined, stubborn, to go on thinking, "I am a body, and the purpose of my life is to gratify this body," then don't talk about spiritual life. Don't talk about religion. Because you won't find this nonsense in any religion. If we want to accept that "I am a body and the purpose of life is to gratify this body," then we should not be hypocrites and pretend that we belong to some religion.
So this is the first point of spiritual life: How can we talk about "spiritual life" unless we admit that we ourselves are spirit?
And next we have to ask, If there is such a thing as spirit, what is that spirit? No one knows this. But that spirit is the soul within the body—and we are that soul. This body is just like our outward dress. For example, at night when you go to sleep, you take off your clothes, you put them away, and you lie down in your bed and go to sleep. And you forget everything. And in the morning you wake up and you put on some new clothes and you go out again. So exactly like this, some day you'll die.
Here is the answer to the question, "What is death?"—death means that you get rid of one body and take another. Now there is great interest in death and dying. But the "experts" are simply giving so many foolish ideas. Here is the real explanation: death is exactly like taking off your clothes and going to sleep. This body is just like a dress; you take it off at the time of death. Then you go to sleep inside the womb of another mother, and you come out again in a new dress, a new body. That's a fact.
This is called transmigration of the soul. After all, you are eternal. So because you are eternal, you have to go somewhere. For example, now I'm in Miami. A few days ago I was somewhere else, and a few days from now I'll be somewhere else. You may not see me, but I'll still be existing. So just as I am moving from one city to another city, or just as you may go from one room to another room in your house, so the soul is moving from one body to another body. This is a fact. This is called karma, or transmigration of the soul.
So a logical question should be, "Why is this happening to me? How did I get into this situation? Why am I going from one body to another?" And the answer is very simple ... common sense. Americans like common sense, so here is something which is common sense: that here in this world we are taking one body after another because we want to, because we desire it. For instance, why did you come here? Because you wanted to. And why are you going to leave? Because you want to. So why do you have that body? Because you wanted it. And why did we want this body? To enjoy material life.
Isn't it a fact that everyone, with their body, is trying to enjoy? For example, if you have a woman's body, then you are trying to enjoy a man, and if you have a man's body, you are trying to enjoy a woman. And if you have a child's body, you want to play. So, based on the particular type of body we have, we want to enjoy. And that's why we got this body. So if, at the time of our death, we want to go on enjoying material life, then God is very liberal, He's very kind—He'll give you another one. "Here's another body. Now try again." And then, "Here's another body." And we can go on as long as we like, trying to enjoy this material world.
But unfortunately, it's impossible. Why? Because in this life there is birth, death, old age, and disease. Yet people are becoming so foolish that they can't see the obvious. For instance, last night on the radio program, I said that in this life there are so many miseries—such as birth, old age, disease, and death. So immediately one so-called religious leader said, "Well, you can't say old age is miserable, you can't say disease is miserable, you can't say death is miserable."
So at this point it was becoming so outrageous that even the announcer, this Mr. Burke, had to cut in and say, "Excuse me, but actually these things are miserable. Let's not get out of hand."
This life is just like a new car that doesn't work right but you can't take it back—it's already yours. So after you buy it and you find out there was a better car you could have bought, now you have to defend it—"No, actually it's a nice car.... It has a lot of nice features. . . ."
Anyway, since we have taken material life to be the all in all, therefore we are trying to defend it. "No, death is actually not bad. You simply have to understand it. And disease—why, that's simply another experience. And old age—that's the best time of life." So in this way, people are becoming so foolish that they can't understand the most simple thing: how they are being punished.
What we're saying, then, is that spiritual life (or religion) means teaching people, "The purpose of your life is to get out of this miserable condition." People sometimes say that the Hare Krsna devotees are just escapists. Of course we're "escapists." Anyone in his right mind would be. Say you're caught in a forest fire, and suddenly a fireman cuts an opening through the wall of fire and yells, "Come out quickly! Run!" If you said, "Why should I escape?" that would be escaping—that would be escaping safety. So if we want to become free from old age and death, then of course we are escaping. Anyone who doesn't want to escape is crazy.
Then again, it's not that we cannot function in this world. No, we can function very nicely in this world. But at the same time, if we're intelligent we'll make plans to get out of it. For example, if you are living in an apartment and you get a notice that you will be evicted in one week, you look for another apartment. Not that you act like a hippie or a crazy person and wait till the last day, and then they throw you out and you have to live in the street. No. We should look to find another place.
So in the same way, we already know that we are going to be evicted from this body. It doesn't matter whether you're the President of the United States or a beggar in the street. It doesn't matter who you are or what you are or what you've got or haven't got—you're going to be evicted from your body. So we have to make plans. This is sanity.
So spiritual life means to understand God, to understand what the spiritual world is, so that at the time of death we can transfer ourselves to the spiritual world for an eternal life of bliss and knowledge. And we devotees are actually doing that; otherwise we wouldn't be chanting Hare Krsna. We are not crazy—we know what we are doing. We are transferring ourselves, we are getting eternal life. But that is not some kind of whimsical process; it has to be done very scientifically.
Let's say you want to take an airplane to Puerto Rico. Now, you know that this plane had to be constructed so carefully. Just imagine how many years it took to design that airplane, how many years it took to train the pilot, to construct all the radar systems. And in the same way, if it takes so many years and years of work and study and research just so that you transfer yourself by airplane from Miami to Puerto Rico, then how much work must it take, how much study must it take, to transfer yourself all the way out of this universe to the spiritual world? How much research and work must that take? But people are so whimsical that they say, "Oh, religion means that you do whatever you like and that's all right." Would you be happy if your pilot was thinking that way? Or would you get on the plane and say to the pilot, "Just do whatever makes you feel good. If you want to push that button there, if that makes you feel good, then push it"?
As you can easily see, then, we Hare Krsna devotees are not professional priests who are simply speaking what people want to hear or inventing some new philosophy or some new quasi-religious process or some psychological theory for improving your sex life. If that's all you want, just pay a visit to the neighborhood pigpen; the pigs will show you everything about sex....
People want to embrace this material body and love it, but let's be realistic; let's be scientific. What is this body? If you look inside this body, what will you find? Bile, mucus, air, blood, bones, guts, stool, urine.... Are these things lovable? If I give you a nice bag filled with all these elements, will you love it? Will you embrace it and kiss it? So why are we dedicating our life to this body? Why not dedicate our life to the soul—to the consciousness inside this body? That is Krsna consciousness.
So although all of you are coming from different backgrounds, different religions, different cultures, still we are appealing to all of you—please try to understand this movement very seriously. It is not an Indian movement or an American movement. It is nothing of the kind. It is a pure, spiritual movement giving the best knowledge about God and the best knowledge about the soul. And we say that not in a sectarian spirit. It is simply a fact.
This exchange between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and a woman reporter took place at Chicago's Krsna center during the summer of 1975.
Reporter: What advice do you have for women who do not want to be subordinate to men?
Srila Prabhupada: It is not my advice but the advice of the Vedic literatures that a woman should be chaste and faithful to her husband.
Reporter: What should we do in the United States? We're trying to make women equal with men.
Srila Prabhupada: You will never be equal with men, because in so many respects your functions are different. Why do you say artificially they're equal with man's? The wife has to become pregnant, not the husband. How can you change this? Both the husband and wife will become pregnant—is it possible?
Reporter: [No reply.]
Srila Prabhupada: Is it possible?
Reporter: No. It is not.
Srila Prabhupada: Then by nature, one has to function differently from the other.
Reporter: Why does this mean that women have to be subordinate—just because they bear children and men can't?
Srila Prabhupada: By nature, as soon as you get children you require support from your husband. Otherwise, you are in difficulty.
Reporter: Many women with children have no support from their husband. They have no—
Srila Prabhupada: Then they have to take support from others. You cannot deny that. The government is giving them support. Today the government is embarrassed. If the husband supported the wife and children, the government would be relieved of so much welfare expenditure. So that is a problem.
Reporter: What happens when women support men?
Srila Prabhupada: First of all, try to understand that you are dependent. After a man and woman unite, there are children. And if the man goes away, you are embarrassed—the woman is embarrassed. Why? The poor woman is embarrassed with the child—she has to beg from the government. So do you think it is a very nice thing? The Vedic idea is that a woman should be married to a man, and the man should take care of that woman and the children—independently—so that they do not become a burden to the government or to the public.
Reporter: Do you think that the social unrest—
Srila Prabhupada: I am thinking like this. You give me the answer! Simply you go on questioning. I will question you—Do you think this burden to the government and the public is good?
Reporter: I don't understand what you're saying.
Srila Prabhupada: Every year the government has to pay out millions of dollars in aid to dependent children. Do you think that this burden caused when the husband goes away from the wife this burden to the government and the people is good?
Srila Prabhupada: That has happened—because the woman does not agree to be subordinate. She wants "equal freedom."
Reporter: And if women were subordinate to men, I suppose that would solve all of our problems?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. The husband wants that his wife should be subordinate—faithful to him. Then he's ready to take charge. Man's mentality and woman's mentality are different. So, if the woman agrees to remain faithful and subordinate to the man, then family life will be peaceful. Otherwise the husband goes away, and the woman is embarrassed with the children, and it becomes a burden to the government and the people in general.
Reporter: Is there anything wrong when the woman works?
Srila Prabhupada: There are so many things wrong, but the first thing is, Why should some man's wife and child become a burden to the government or the public? First of all answer this. Why should she become a burden?
Reporter: [No reply.]
Srila Prabhupada: What is your answer?
Reporter: Well, men are burdens to the government, too.
Srila Prabhupada: Do you think, from the social point of view, that this situation of women and fatherless children is a very nice thing?
Reporter: What I'm trying to say is that ... this may happen to some women ... I'm talking about women who are not
Srila Prabhupada: This is the general pattern. You cannot say "some." In America I see they are mostly women.... The woman should be subordinate to the man, so that the man can take charge of the woman. Then the woman is not a problem for the public.
Reporter: Is this true for all women and all men?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. That is the law of nature. You take even the dogs—they also take care of their children. The tigers—they take care of their children. So in the human society, if the woman is made pregnant and the man goes away, then she is embarrassed—she has to beg from the government. That is not a very good situation.
Reporter: What about women who do not have children?
Srila Prabhupada: Well, that is another unnatural thing. Sometimes they use contraceptives, or they kill their children—abortion. That is also not very good. These are all sinful activities.
Reporter: Excuse me?
Srila Prabhupada: These are sinful activities—killing the child in the womb and taking shelter of abortion. These are all sinful activities. One has to suffer for them.
Reporter: Is the social unrest in this country caused because—
Srila Prabhupada: Because of these things. They do not know that.
A look at the worldwide activities of the
ISKCON Scientist Blasts Evolution Theory
Calcutta—Recently Michael Marchetti, Ph.D., a member of ISKCON's Bhaktivedanta Institute, addressed an international gathering of scientists and sharply criticized the theory that life comes from matter.
Dr. Marchetti spoke at the Bose Institute's Diamond Jubilee Symposium, called "Life, Matter, and Molecules." (Founded in 1918, the Institute honors the memory of India's J. C. Bose, a scientist world-famous for demonstrating that plants exhibit symptoms of conscious behavior.)
The Jubilee Symposium began with lectures on how the universe originated from a big bang and how life originated from molecules, both familiar themes for believers in chemical evolution. But the day concluded with a different sort of big bang.
Dr. Marchetti affirmed that consciousness is the fundamental entity and matter the derivative. He went on to say that modern science has failed to provide any tangible evidence that matter can produce consciousness (which strongly suggests that consciousness has always existed apart from matter).
As further evidence that consciousness is primary, Dr. Marchetti pointed out that modern mathematics has failed to show how simple molecules could possibly organize themselves into complex life-forms. Information theory confirms that elements of low information-content (simple molecules) can never evolve into forms of higher information-content (life-forms) without some source of information to organize that development. ("Chance" development is practically impossible.)
Scientists have failed, Dr. Marchetti said, to demonstrate that the required high information-content was present in the earth's primal biosphere, and this suggests that there must have been some kind of conscious guidance of the process of evolution.
"We must conclude," said Dr. Marchetti, "that the scientific paradigm that life comes from matter is backed neither by experimental evidence nor by theoretical principles. Consequently, we must consider that belief in the life-comes-from-matter theory is actually based on philosophical prejudices rather than on scientific, rational grounds." None of the scientists present offered any objections to Dr. Marchetti's critique of chemical evolution or to his call to form a new basis for scientific research, acknowledging consciousness as an irreducible factor of reality. This primacy of consciousness is consonant with the statements of ancient India's Vedic philosophy: that all forms of life and matter emanate from a preexisting conscious source.
Dr. Marchetti received his Ph.D. in theoretical chemistry from Georgetown University, in 1970. He then worked at the National Bureau of Standards on a National Science Foundation fellowship. In 1972 he became an initiated disciple of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, and later he became a founding member of the Bhaktivedanta Institute.
The Bhaktivedanta Institute, the academic division of ISKCON, consists of a body of scientists and scholars who are exploring the implications of Vedic knowledge in various areas of human culture. The Institute publishes a monthly newsletter, along with monographs and books. For further information, readers may write to the Bhaktivedanta Institute, P.O. Box 29604, Atlanta, Georgia 30359.
Bhaktivedanta Book Sales Hit 12 Million for 1978
Los Angeles—The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, the world's largest publisher of books on ancient India's Vedic culture and philosophy, has recently released its worldwide sales figures for 1978. Last year the BBT sold 3.3 million hardbound and 4 million paperback copies of the books of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, as well as 4.6 million copies Of BACK TO GODHEAD, for a total of 12 million pieces. Says His Holiness Ramesvara Swami, a BBT trustee, "This figure is the highest total we've ever recorded. It represents an increase of 3.5 million over the 1977 total, or a 42% increase in sales." Best-selling title: Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita As It Is.
"All those interested in Indology, comparative religion, and mysticism will welcome the publications of the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust," says M. N. Srinivas, Ph.D., past lecturer in Indian sociology at Oxford. "No library on Indian culture and religion can afford to be without them."
by Jagajivana dasa
If Darwin, Huxley, Dewey, or any other of modern education's founding fathers were still around to see the students pictured on these pages, they might remark, "We admire the results, but abhor the method."
As anyone can see, these children radiate happiness and fulfillment; but by today's educational standards, they're doing things all wrong. For one, they simply chortle at Darwin's notion that inert chemicals and shaggy orangutans could evolve into humans like themselves. With no thought for Huxley's impersonal universe, they see all around them the telltale signs of a Supreme Person. Unmindful of Dewey's moral relativism, they're framing what they do here and now upon the words Lord Krsna spoke ages ago in Bhagavad-gita. And (you can see it in their faces) they are experiencing a sense of joy and selfdiscovery that public school teachers can only dream of for their students.
Says Randy Gribbin, a sixth-grade teacher at a highly rated public school in Texas, "These Krsna conscious children are all wide-eyed and alert, and they concentrate on their studies. Most public school kids are busy dressing up to attract the opposite sex, passing notes, and smoking marijuana."
"People are wondering," says Padyavali-devi dasi, a Krsna conscious teacher,—"'How could our public schools be trying so hard to make kids ethical and educated and yet turn them out just the opposite?' In my experience, a student can attain real learning and ethical grounding only when he or she realizes that the world is actually God-centered, that everything is emanating from the Supreme Lord: the original proprietor, enjoyer, and friend."
Otherwise, high-sounding humanistic phrases notwithstanding, the student can only end up lost and groping. "For the most part," says Gribbin, "public schools' experiments with unstructured 'do your own thing' education have not been successful."
"In our school we have three of us teachers constantly prowling the cafeteria," says Anthony Stachursk, a twelve-year veteran of the Michigan school system. "Yet it's still bedlam. Children throw their food around and perform lots of other antics.
"But at the Krsna schools I've noticed that all the children—even the four- and five-year-olds—sit in the dining hall and eat with self-control. I think it's because of the God conscious teachers and teaching methods."
"In the public schools," adds Gribbin, "the teachers don't actually care about the students, and the children sense this. At the Krsna schools, though, I've seen many dedicated teachers who are motivated by love and concern for the children rather than by a paycheck or a higher position. There they teach the children not only self-control but the reason for it: God consciousness."
As Yogesvara dasa (director of Bala Books, a Krsna conscious publishing house) points out, "Krsna devotees are not alone on this issue. 'Secular humanism,' or education that is not based on a spiritual concept, has caused the public school system to fail, even from the academic viewpoint, because the child as an emotional entity, as a spiritual entity, is lost. And so this kind of soulless, Godless schooling has sparked an alternative education movement, all over this country and all over the world."
"Sensible, God conscious people have to alert themselves to the crisis," says Jagadisa dasa, ISKCON's minister of education. "The world's various humanist-materialist-atheists know that children are just like clay—that you can mold them whatever way you like—and they're busy molding them after their own image.
"The difference between the Dewey-Darwinists and the rest of us is simple: they want the children to think like two-legged animals—all caught up with their temporary material bodies—and we want the children to understand that they're actually spiritual persons, emanations from the Supreme Spirit.
" 'You're just falling back on blind faith,' they may say. But then, they have their own kind of faith. For instance," says Jagadisa, "if you're living in a city somewhere, one kind of faith is to see the street lights going on at night and off in the morning and the water system supplying people's needs and then say there's no central government, no mayor behind it all. Another kind of faith is to see all those things and say there's got to be a central government and a mayor. We would call the first kind of faith blind and the other reasonable. "But anyway, everybody has to have some kind of faith. You take your choice. You put your faith in Marx or Freud or Darwin or Dewey—, or you put your faith in the Supreme Lord.
"And then you observe the results. That, after all, is the 'scientific method.' It's not too hard to observe what happens when you put your faith in Marx or Freud or Darwin or Dewey. In many schools now, the teachers have to wear wrist radios, so that they can call for help when their humanized, liberated students try to rape or rob them in their own classrooms."
And what are the results when you put your faith in Lord Krsna? Says Jagadisa, "You can see it in the chidren's faces. In Bhagavad-gita Krsna is offering not a dogma but a practical, scientific process. And as Srila Prabhupada told us, 'The proof of this teaching method shall be seen in the spiritual improvement and fresh enthusiasm exhibited by the children.'
"Before Srila Prabhupada came to the West," says Jagadisa, "even religious schools had very little scientific knowledge of God consciousness. Students today have a hard time with the Bible's rather sketchy explanation of creation and our relationship with the Supreme. But for science-minded people, Bhagavad-gita and the other Vedic literatures provide satisfying answers. "Without a scientific understanding of their spiritual selfhood, students have to feel worried and depressed and anxious. Once they become convinced that everything (including themselves) has come from primordial matter, then life ultimately means death: everything zero. And that's got to bring on anxiety. You take even the brightest materialists—Freud was a good example—they have to feel anxiety-ridden, because deep down (and Freud admitted this), we all want to live forever. The problem comes when you don't have any practical, scientific understanding of how to do that.
"But you can find what you're looking for," says Jagadisa, "in the Gita. There Lord Krsna points out (and anyone can observe this scientifically), 'From babyhood to childhood to adulthood to old age, you leave behind body after body after body, but you—the inner self—still exist. In the same way, when you finally leave behind your old-age body, you will go on existing.... So,' Krsna says, 'why settle for pleasures that pass with your passing material bodies? Live like the spiritual being you really are—devote yourself to Me, the Original Spirit. That way, even now you will experience lasting, spiritual pleasure. And after this life you will come to Me.'
"In the Gita," says Jagadisa, "you find a whole range of data on spiritually aware, God conscious living. And when you make the experiment and act on this data, then you understand, you realize—you become happy. Mentally, intellectually, emotionally, spiritually—you become ecstatic. So this is our practical, scientific experiment: our students are living in a Krsna conscious way, and they're finding that the process works.
"Our students have learned—scientifically, practically—that the Supreme Spirit exists, and that they, too, are actually spiritual. Simply by doing their course work for Krsna, and especially by chanting His names, they're learning that He's a feelingful person, like they are. In fact, they're always experiencing their eternal loving relationship with Him. For them, living has become a thrill at every moment."
The Transcendental Pastimes of Lord Krsna
Brahma, the most powerful demigod, tried to match his power against Lord Krsna's. But soon Brahma realized his mistake.
One morning Lord Krsna and His cowherd friends went with their calves into the forest. While the boys were enjoying a picnic lunch on the bank of the river Yamuna, the calves started looking for fresh grass and wandered away. When Krsna noticed that the calves were gone, He left His friends and went searching after them. All this time the great demigod Brahma had been watching, and now he decided to test Krsna's power. He took all the calves and boys and hid them in a cave.
When Krsna was unable to find the calves, He returned to the bank of the river and discovered that the cowherd boys, too, were gone. Immediately Krsna understood that Brahma had taken them away. To hide the loss from their mothers, Lord Krsna expanded Himself and exactly duplicated the missing boys and calves. These new boys and calves were all actually Krsna Himself.
Lord Brahma went away for what to him was a moment (by our calculation it was a solar year). Then he came back to see the fun he'd caused by stealing Krsna's calves and friends. But to his great surprise, Brahma saw that they were playing with Krsna in exactly the same way as before he'd stolen them. Then, to convince Brahma that the new calves and boys were not the original ones, They all transformed into effulgent four-armed Visnu forms. (Visnu is Krsna's expansion for the creation and maintenance of the material universes.) Brahma was completely bewildered by this display. So Lord Krsna took compassion upon him and caused the Visnu forms to disappear. Now Brahma realized he had made a mistake in trying to match his power against the Supreme Lord's. He began offering prayers to Krsna with great respect, humility, and attention.
"My dear Krsna," Brahma said, "You are the only worshipful Supreme Lord. Therefore I am offering my humble prayers just to please You, Krsna, son of Maharaja Nanda, who are standing before me. Your bodily features are of the color of bluish clouds filled with water, and You are glittering with a silver electric aura emanating from Your yellow garments.
"My dear Lord, people may say that I am the master of all Vedic knowledge, and I am supposed to be the creator of this universe, but it has been proved that I cannot understand Your personality, even though You appear before me just like a child. I cannot estimate the potency of Your bodily activities. It is to be understood that when I, Lord Brahma, the supreme personality of this universe, cannot estimate the childlike body of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, then what to speak of others?
"By the speculative method one may gain partial knowledge of Your cosmic manifestation, but it is not possible to understand You, the origin of everything. The attempt of persons who are interested only in speculative knowledge is simply wasted labor, like the labor of a person who attempts to gain something by beating the empty husk of a rice paddy.
"Instead, one should engage himself in Your devotional service even in his worldly activities, and should always keep himself near You by the process of hearing and chanting Your transcendental glories. You are realizable only by persons who have cleansed their hearts of all contamination, and this cleansing of the heart is made possible by such hearing and chanting."
Lord Brahma presented himself to Lord Krsna as having been the most presumptuous living creature. He had stolen the boys and calves simply to test Krsna's power, but now he admitted that it was foolish for him to have attempted to display his energy before the energy of the Supreme Person. Coming to his senses, Lord Brahma saw that although in the eyes of all other living beings in this material world he was a very powerful creature, still, in comparison to the power and energy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, his power was nothing.
Nevertheless, as the supreme personality in charge of this particular universe, Brahma is without a doubt a faithful servant of Krsna. Therefore he could appease Him. Brahma admitted that he had been puffed up by his powerful position as controller of the universe. He asked that the Lord look on him as a subordinate servant whose little mistake and impudence might be excused.
Said Brahma, "Just consider all the happenings that I have seen today—are they not all due to Your inconceivable energies? First of all, I saw You alone. Then You expanded Yourself as the cowherd boys, the calves, and all that exists in Vrndavana forest. Then I saw You and all the boys and calves as fourhanded Visnu forms, and They were all being worshiped by all the elements of creation and all the demigods, including me. Again They all became cowherd boys and calves, and You remained alone as You were before. Does this not mean that You are the Supreme Lord, the origin of everything, that from You everything emanates, and that again everything enters into You, although You remain the same as before? "People with a poor fund of knowledge may think that because You are the son of Nanda Maharaja, You are not the original person, but are born just like a human being. They are mistaken. In spite of Your being the son of Nanda, You are the original person, and there is no doubt about it. You are the Absolute Truth, and You are not of this material darkness. And because You are not one of the creations of this world, even after the world is annihilated Your existence will continue.
"My dear Lord, I pray that I may be so fortunate that in this life or in another life, wherever I may take my birth, I may be counted as one of Your devotees. Wherever I may be, I pray that I may be engaged in Your devotional service. I do not even care what form of life I get in the future, because I can see that even in the forms of cows and calves or cowherd boys, the devotees are fortunate to be always engaged in Your transcendental loving service and association. Therefore I wish to be one of them instead of the exalted demigod I am now, for actually I am full of ignorance. The gopis [cowherd women] and the cows of Vrndavana are so fortunate that they have been able to supply their breast milk to You. Persons who are engaged in performing great sacrifices cannot attain the perfection of understanding You, but simply by devotional service these innocent village women and cows are all able to satisfy You with their milk. You have drunk their milk to Your satisfaction, yet You are never satisfied by those who engage in performing costly sacrifices.
"I am simply amazed by the fortunate position of Maharaja Nanda, mother Yasoda, and the cowherd men and gopis: You, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the Absolute Truth, are existing here as their most intimate lovable object. My dear Lord, no one can actually appreciate the good fortune of these residents of Vrndavana, because they are actually relishing Your presence and enjoying Your association. We demigods may be proud of being controllers of the senses, but the residents of Vrndavana are so transcendental that their senses are not under our control. Actually, they are enjoying their senses only through service to You. I shall therefore consider myself fortunate if I am given a chance to take birth in this land of Vrndavana in any of my future lives.
"My dear Lord, I am therefore not interested in either material opulences or liberation. I am most humbly praying at Your lotus feet for You to please give me any sort of birth within this Vrndavana forest, so that I may be favored by the dust of the feet of Your devotees. Even if I am given the chance to grow just as humble grass in this land, that will be a glorious birth for me. But if I am not so fortunate as to take birth within the forest of Vrndavana, I beg to be allowed to take birth just outside the immediate area of Vrndavana, so that when the devotees go out they will walk over me. Even that would be a great fortune for me. I am simply aspiring for a birth in which I will be smeared by the dust of the devotees' feet. I can see that everyone here is full of Krsna consciousness; they do not know anything but Lord Krsna.
"I can now understand that Your appearance as a small cowherd boy, a child of the cowherd men, is not at all a material activity. My dear Lord Krsna, those who deride You, claiming that You have a material body like an ordinary man, are described in Bhagavad-gita as demonic and less intelligent. You are always transcendental. Actually, You have assumed this body, which resembles that of an ordinary cowherd boy, simply to increase the devotion and transcendental bliss of Your devotees.
"My dear Lord, I have nothing to say about people who advertise that they have already realized God or that by their realization they have themselves become God. But as far as I am concerned, what can I say about You, or how can I realize You with my senses? I cannot even think of You perfectly with my mind, which is the master of the senses. Your qualities, Your activities, and Your body cannot be conceived by any person within this material world. Only by Your mercy can one understand, to some small extent, what You are.
"My dear Lord, although I sometimes falsely think that I am master of this universe, You are the Supreme Lord of all creation. I may be master of this universe, but there are innumerable other universes, and there are innumerable other Brahmas who preside over those universes. And actually You are the master of them all. Please therefore accept me as Your surrendered servant. I hope that You will excuse me for disturbing You in Your pastimes with Your friends and calves. Now if You will kindly allow me, I will immediately leave so that You can enjoy Your friends and calves without my disruptive presence. My dear Lord, You are the only worshipable Deity within the whole creation. As long as there is sunshine within this material world, kindly accept my humble obeisances."
After offering his respects, Brahma, the master of this universe, circumambulated the Supreme Personality of Godhead three times and prepared to return to his planet, Brahmaloka. With a gesture, Lord Krsna gave him permission to depart. As soon as Brahma left, Lord Krsna appeared just as He had on the very day the cows and cowherd boys had vanished a year before.
Krsna had left His friends on the bank of the Yamuna while they were eating lunch, and although he returned exactly one year later, the cowherd boys thought He had returned within a second. That is the way of Krsna's activities. Bhagavad-gita explains that Krsna Himself is residing in everyone's heart, and He causes both remembrance and forgetfulness. All living beings are controlled by the supreme energy of the Lord, and sometimes they remember and sometimes they forget their relationship with Him.
The cowherd boys, being controlled in such a way, could not understand that for one whole year they had been under the spell of Brahma's mystic power. When Krsna appeared before the boys, they thought, "Krsna has returned within a minute!" They began to laugh and said, "Dear friend Krsna, You have come back so quickly. All right, we have not begun our lunch yet. We have not taken even one morsel of food. So please come and join us and let us eat together."
Krsna smiled and accepted their invitation. While eating, Krsna was thinking, "These boys believe that I have come back within a second, but they do not know that for the last year I have been involved with the mystic activities of Lord Brahma."
After finishing their lunch, Krsna and His friends and calves began to return to their homes. When Krsna returned to Vrndavana, all the inhabitants came out to see Him. He was wearing a peacock feather on His helmet, which was also decorated with forest flowers. In addition, Krsna wore a garland and was painted with variously colored minerals collected from the caves of Govardhana Hill. Govardhana Hill is famous for natural red dyes, and Krsna and His friends had painted their bodies with them. Each boy had a stick and a flute and a bugle made of buffalo horn, and each was calling his calves by their names. The cowherd boys were so proud of Krsna's wonderful activities that while entering the village, they all sang His glories.
[Adapted by Drutakarma dasa from Srimad-Bhagavatam, translation and commentary by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.]
"I Think That Ad is Lying"
Recently a national news magazine ran a full-page ad entitled "I Think That Ad Is Lying." The text announced, "Most advertisers work very hard to make sure their advertising is completely honest and truthful. But if you ever see an advertisement or commercial that you think takes liberties with the truth or makes questionable claims, there is something you can do about it. Write to the National Advertising Review Board."
On receiving a complaint, the NARB (which is made up of leading advertisers and business organizations) will go after the advertiser and ask for some substantiation of the claims made. Believe it? We don't. Anyone who thinks that he is going to stop advertising lies by writing to the NARB is in illusion. Newspaper, magazine, and TV advertising thrives on a lie—the lie that we can attain happiness only by buying more and more material things—and no advertising board has any intention of recanting.
The NARB ad assures us, "Most advertisers work very hard." That is probably a fact, but it is dubious whether they are working hard "to make sure their advertising is completely honest and truthful." Rather, they seem to be working hard to create a mirage. For example, on the flip side of the NARB ad we find a full-page ad for Virginia Slims. Here we learn that although seventy years ago a woman smoking a cigarette would have been considered scandalous, now an up-to-date fashion model can hold a Virginia Slim with impunity—implying that by inhaling smoke and nicotine, "You, too, can become a happy, liberated woman." Women's liberation aside, the linking of the Slim cigarette with freedom and well-being is a deliberately created illusion. Far from being a symptom of progress, cigarettes are so unwholesome that the government requires that each ad display the statement, "Warning: The Surgeon General has determined that cigarette smoking is dangerous to your health." And yet the billboards show virile men (including cowboys from imaginary Marlboro country) and photogenic women, all bravely overlooking the government's warning—and asking us, "Why don't you overlook it, too?"
Shouldn't we report this to the NARB? And shouldn't we also complain that too many liquor firms want us to believe that regularly drinking their product will produce wonderful happiness rather than intoxicated states that may cause our premature death? The same illusion is repeated, with variations, in every ad: "You, too, can be young, beautiful, wealthy, strong, happy—simply by buying our product." In his 1978 Harvard commencement address, Alexander Solzhenitsyn made an acute comment: "Your screens and publications are full of prescribed smiles and raised glasses. What is the joy about?"
And yet, how can we complain to the NARB about this total lie? Their ad actually warns us that they're not serious about their pledge to go after the cheaters. "If truth," their ad states, "or accuracy in a national ad or commercial is your concern (not matters of taste or matters of editorial or program content), the advertiser will be asked for substantiation of the claims made." If the NARB doesn't want to hear our concern with an ad's "taste" or "content," then where is the question of its honesty or truthfulness? What is the point of distinguishing whether a lie is "accurate" or "inaccurate"? Does an "accurate" lie become true? The NARB's quasi-public-service approach is really more like an attempt to kick us in the face, to insult our intelligence. Perhaps they think our intelligence has already been vanquished by decades of mass exposure to their billboards and commercials.
Advertising has such a stranglehold on the truth that practically speaking, newspapers and magazines exist as vehicles for paid ads or commercials. And that's why journalists and editors have to keep coming up with those sensational "stories"—just to sell the ads. (For instance, a photo of Hare Krsna devotees is often included in an article about dangerous cults, simply because shaven-headed Krsna monks are easily identifiable as "cultists." So what if it's an untruth? It helps get those papers and magazines sold, and that's what the media are all about.) So our very news media have become simply accomplices in lying.
As many people realize, the happiness of the men and women in the advertisements is an illusion. But as with most other illusions, this does not mean that the real thing doesn't exist somewhere else. In a mirage on the desert, the animal thinks he sees water, and he runs after the illusion until he dies. Water exists—but not in the mirage. Similarly, there is real happiness, undoubtedly, and real well-being, but we cannot attain it by running after some advertiser's dreamland where we're told we'll be happy by buying Brand X, Y, or Z. In Bhagavad-gita, the ancient guidebook to spiritual well-being, real happiness is described as something not dependent on extravagant material consumption:
The stage of perfection . . . is characterized by one's ability to see the self by the pure mind and to relish and rejoice in the self. In that joyous state, one is situated in boundless transcendental happiness and enjoys himself through transcendental senses.... Upon gaining this he thinks there is no greater gain.
In his commentary on this verse, Srila Prabhupada has written, "As long as the material body exists, one has to meet the demands of the body—namely eating, sleeping, defending, and mating. But a person who is in pure bhakti-yoga, or Krsna consciousness, does not arouse the senses while meeting the demands of the body. Rather, he accepts the necessities of life, making the best use of a bad bargain, and enjoys transcendental happiness in Krsna consciousness."
Transcendental knowledge is rarely seen in public nowadays, and much of the blame lies with commercial interests that are covering over our most precious possession—spiritual life. But even a mass advertising or propaganda campaign for hedonistic living cannot extinguish man's original God consciousness. Nor can anyone ever be satisfied simply by more and more material accumulation. So the devotees of Krsna are suggesting that the real path to happiness is the revival of our original God consciousness. And although the age may be sold out to commercial interests, it is never too late for an individual to reject the mass mind control of even the most powerful advertising machinery and turn his individual soul in the direction of the Supreme. There he will find his original state of eternity, bliss, and knowledge.—SDG