Śrīla Prabhupāda Welcomed by Governor at Hotel de Ville , Geneva , 1974-05-30
[translated by Guru-gaurāṅga from French]
Governor: In the name of the Canton of Geneva and the city, we wish to extend our heartfelt welcome to you. This republic is an independent state, part of Switzerland, and it has a reputation for being a great center of dialogue between all men of science, philosophy and religion. Geneva is the seat of the World Council of Churches, and there is a Protestant pastor who is there as representative of the Canton of Geneva. Unique among the cities of the world, Geneva has had the privilege to greet many great religious heads such as Pope Paul VI, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, and many others. As civil authorities, we are very much encouraged by religious or spiritual groups because they contribute to wake up the consciousness of the people, provided, of course, that they respect all the laws.
For thousands of years, man has tried to find perfection through religious means, and for us what is so much important is that this be done with tolerance, that whatever the books, whether they be the books of India or the Torah or the Koran, that they contribute to a general welfare of all men and not that they fight each other. There is the need currently for men to understand each other better and hear each other better. The modern world neither has the time nor the interest to tolerate divisions between men, especially on the spiritual platform. As a result, everyone must try to improve the fate of the individual man through these means. Should we not, then, try to find some common language with which to solve these problems, all the while respecting the dignity of the common man? And we hope finally that this trip in Europe will give Your Divine Grace new perspectives in the search for the truth.
Prabhupāda: I can speak in English?
Guru-gaurāṅga: [he asks in French] The president says that you may speak directly in English, no translation needed.
Prabhupāda: So, Monsieur President and Ladies and Gentlemen, the kind words that you have spoken to receive me, I thank you very much for the same.[?] Our preaching principle is bhāgavata-dharma, and we do not say, "This is Christian religion" or "Hindu religion" or "Muhammadan religion." We speak the science of God. So in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam there is a verse which says,
yato bhaktir adhokṣaje
"That is first-class religious system which teaches the follower how to love God." It doesn't matter what is the type of religion, religious process. Phalena paricīyate: the thing is proved by the result, how one has learned to love God. Sa vai puṁsāṁ paro dharmaḥ. There are two kinds of religious engagements = one is called inferior and the other is called superior. The superior religious system is that which teaches the followers how to love God. Now, what kind of love? That is also expressed there = ahaitukī, without any motive; and apratihatā. Apratihatā means that religious system cannot be checked by any kind of material impediments. If we come to that platform, then ātmā---ātmā means the mind, the soul, also the body, intelligence---everything becomes fully satisfied.
So our this principle of teaching is based on Bhagavad-gītā. [aside:] Give him the book. Perhaps you have heard the name of Bhagavad-gītā, and some of you might have read it, Bhagavad-gītā. Bhagavad-gītā was spoken in the Battlefield of Kurukṣetra to groups of cousin-brothers. They were fighting to occupy the kingdom, and in that place Lord Kṛṣṇa, who is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, happened to be present as the chariot driver of one group, Arjuna. So Arjuna was trying to avoid the fighting because the other side, there were relatives, brothers. At that time he was lamenting his bodily relationship = "The other side is my brother, my grandfather, my nephews, my son-in-laws." So that was the platform of speaking Bhagavad-gītā.
So first of all, Kṛṣṇa explained that "We are not this body." The first instruction was given,
kaumāraṁ yauvanaṁ jarā
dhīras tatra na muhyati
The first instruction of spiritual life is to understand that "I am not this body." The example is given, very simple thing, that I am present, although I remember that I had a small body lying down on the lap of my mother. I remember, when I was six months old, I was lying down on the lap of my elder sister, and she was knitting. I still remember that. So everyone, we remember that we had a small body, and then another small body, then another small body. Those bodies are gone. I have got a different body now, but I remember that I had all these body. Therefore the conclusion should be for the sober man that "Although we have changed so many bodies, I, the person, the soul, am existing." Therefore Bhagavad-gītā says, tathā dehāntara-prāptiḥ [Bg. 2.13]. Similarly, when I shall give up this body, I shall accept another body. This is the beginning of understanding, that "I am not this body. I am living in this body just like I am not this coat, but I am living within the coat."
There is very vivid example in the Bhagavad-gītā. If we read, we can understand that "I am not this body; I am spirit soul." When this realization is there, that "I am spirit soul," ahaṁ brahmāsmi... The exact word used in the Vedic literature, ahaṁ brahmāsmi. That stage has to be attained in human form of life. In the animal forms of life, this understanding, that "I am not this body; I am spirit soul," in the animal stage of life it is not possible to understand. But in the human form of life it is possible because human being is advanced in consciousness and knowledge, and if he is educated, he can understand. And if he actually understands, then his position becomes brahma-bhūtaḥ, self-realized, prasannātmā. Immediately he becomes jubilant. There is no more any cause of moroseness. That is the symptom. Brahma-bhūtaḥ prasannātmā na śocati na kāṅkṣati [Bg. 18.54]. Then there is no more hankering or lamentation. Samaḥ sarveṣu bhūteṣu. At that stage, brahma-bhūtaḥ stage, we can see everyone spirit soul. I don't see an American or a Swiss gentleman or a French gentleman or a cat or dog or tree, but I see the spirit soul. That, in that spiritual state, brahma-bhūtaḥ stage, samaḥ sarveṣu bhūteṣu, one can see that within this body there is the spirit soul, and he wants to work for benefit of the spirit soul, not for the temporary body.
So our Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is just on the principles of this Bhagavad-gītā, to understand his real identity, spiritual identity. Paṇḍitāḥ sama-darśinaḥ.
brāhmaṇe gavi hastini
śuni caiva śva-pāke ca
One who is actually paṇḍita... Paṇḍita means learned, and in spiritually learned, he sees that a very learned scholar, brāhmaṇa, and a dog, an elephant, a cow, or a low-born man, creature---all on the same platform of spiritual life. So unless we come to that point, this so-called fighting and sectarianism will go on. So we want to teach people... Not only sectarian people in India or the so-called Hindus or Muslims or Christians---everyone. Because everyone is spirit soul, and as soon as he understands that "I am not this body; I am spirit soul," then he becomes completely happy. Yenātmā samprasīdati. So people will not be happy, will not be satisfied, unless and until he comes to that spiritual understanding. So our humble method is on this principle, that "I am not this body; I am spirit soul." And the spirit soul is eternal; therefore he has got to come to the platform of eternal happiness, eternal life and full knowledge. That is the perfection of life. And any type of religion---it doesn't matter what it is---which teaches this philosophy of life, that is first-class religious system. That is our conclusion.
Thank you very much. Hare Kṛṣṇa.
Guru-gaurāṅga: [has conversation with someone in French] The president would like to talk to you for a few minutes.
Prabhupāda: Yes. Give me little water. [more French conversation] I was formally received by the French Cardinal.
Guru-gaurāṅga: [French conversation] He says that the discussion you had with the Cardinal was very interesting.
Prabhupāda: Yes. Unless you come to that position of understanding, that "I am not this body," real spiritual knowledge does not begin.
Guru-gaurāṅga: [French conversation] Understanding the philosophy, Monsieur le President does not understand why we find it necessary to dress differently, though.
Prabhupāda: The different dress means as you have paid for it. Just like we can go to a tailor, he will supply you dress according to the payment you can make. Similarly, according to our karma, according to our work, we are given a type of body by the material nature. That is stated in the Bhagavad-gītā, prakṛteḥ kriyamāṇāni guṇaiḥ karmāṇi sarvaśaḥ [Bg. 3.27]. According... Because actually I do not possess this material body, but because I am in this material world, I am given a type of body by the material nature according to my work.
Guru-gaurāṅga: [French conversation] Speaking about clothes, Monsieur le President says that he has been to India, and he understands that one dresses like this in India. But why would the disciples dress in America or in Europe in this way? Is it necessary?
Prabhupāda: No. It is not necessary. Dress you can have as you like. It doesn't matter, because dress is a dead thing. Real thing is that we want a living being who can understand. That is real the position.
Guru-gaurāṅga: [French conversation] Monsieur le President would like to know, if this movement gets bigger and bigger, won't it create problems in terms of working, the economy? Won't the economy suffer if our movement gets bigger and bigger?
Prabhupāda: No. Economy will not suffer, but economy will be simplified, because we have made some artificial economy. Actually, in the Bhagavad-gītā we find the economic problem is solved by producing food grains. It is stated there, annād bhavanti bhūtāni [Bg. 3.14] = "By eating food grains, both the animals and the men, they become stout and strong." That's a fact. [Guru-gaurāṅga translates] According to Bhagavad-gītā, economic problem can be solved anywhere. If you get..., if you have some land, you produce your food grain and give it to the animals, especially to the cows, and she will give you in return milk. So if you get milk, fruits, vegetable and food grains, the whole economic problem is solved.
We have already started this example in New Virginia. A group of men, we have got about five hundred acres of land, and we keep cows, and they work to produce some vegetable and food grain. So they don't go outside for solving economic problems. At the present moment---now I am coming from India---in Bombay there is strike, railway strike. People are in so miserable condition to go to their work fifty miles, forty miles, hundred miles for earning their bread. This kind of economic situation has increased the problems of life. Rather, if we accept this economic problem solution, then anywhere, any part of the world you live, you don't require to go outside hundred miles, two hundred miles, five hundred miles. No. You produce your food there, keep animals, then everything is solved.
Actually, the problem is, as it is stated in the Bhagavad-gītā,
One should take up these problems very seriously = birth, death, old age and disease. So... Actually, as spirit soul we have no birth, no death. You will find in the Bhagavad, na jayate na mriyate vā kadācit: "The living entity does not take birth." Na jayate na mriyate vā: "Neither he dies." Na hanyate hanyamāne śarīre [Bg. 2.20] = "After the destruction of the body, the living entity does not annihilate." He... Just like we have got already the example = my body, childhood body, is annihilated; still, I am existing. Similarly, I will exist. Now, the problem is how I shall exist. I shall exist eternally in full knowledge and in blissfulness. That is the idea. But so long we accept this material body, it is just the opposite. It is miserable, without any knowledge and without eternity. Philosophy should be to save our time from complicated economic problems. We should make our life simple and save time for spiritual cultivation, so that we can be relieved from repetition of birth, death, old age and disease.
Guru-gaurāṅga: [translating for president] Thank you very much. [end]