Interview with Trans-India Magazine , New York , 1976-07-17
Prabhupāda: My first daughter's age is fifty-five. She was born in 1923. You were also born?
[pause] [background whispering]
Interviewer: Prabhu, we want to ask you some questions. It's a monthly magazine we have, Trans-India. It circulates northern..., among Indian immigrants in North America and North American, Canadian friends of ours. You know ever since Swami Vivekananda came here in 1896...
Interviewer: His first one was 1896, I think, his first visit.
Prabhupāda: No, 1893.
Interviewer: Ninety-three, I see, yes. Since then there has been a lot of interest in this country in Indian philosophy. Recent gurus have come, they have talked about meditation. My own view is that all of these things have influenced the American people, but in a kind of intellectual fad, a kind of fashion. And it seems to me that your intention and aim is not merely to cater to the mind, cater to reason, cater to the intellect, but to effect a kind of transformation of man himself. Is this why you have introduced a whole way of living, a whole way of life, is it? Am I right in suggesting that?
Prabhupāda: Yes. It is a different platform of life---a spiritual. Generally people are on the material platform, on the bodily concept of life, and the whole world is going on with that wrong conception of life. Actually, as soon as we think that we are this body, we are immediately on the platform of animal life. In the Bhāgavata it is stated, yasyātma-buddhiḥ kuṇape tri-dhātuke [SB 10.84.13]. Anyone who is thinking, identifying himself with this body, and similarly with other references, yasyātma-buddhiḥ kuṇape tri-dhātuke sva-dhīḥ kalatrādiṣu bhauma-ijya-dhīḥ. In relation with body we think of family, community, nationality. In this way our civilization is dog civilization. That is not human civilization. Human civilization begins when one understands that he is not this body. Brahma-bhūtaḥ prasannātmā [Bg. 18.54]. Ahaṁ brahmāsmi. Perhaps you have heard this word...
Prabhupāda: ...the Vedic mantra: "I am not this body. I am spirit soul." That is the beginning of Bhagavad-gītā. Dehino 'smin yathā dehe kaumāraṁ yauvanaṁ jarā [Bg. 2.13]. Asmin dehe, within this body, there is the soul. So on account of presence of the soul we are transmigrating to different bodies, just like from childhood to boyhood. The body of a boy is different from the body of a child, but the same soul who was within the body of a child has now come within the body of a boy. And the same soul again, he will go in the body of a young man. And the same soul again will go in the body of an old man. And the same soul, when the body of old man is finished, then he enters another body. Tathā dehāntara-prāptiḥ [Bg. 2.13]. So the soul is transmigrating from one body to another. A part of it we can see in this life = I was in the child's body, I was in the boy's body, I was in the young man's body, now I am an old man's body. Similarly, as my child's body being finished, I have entered into the boy's body; my boy's body being finished, I have entered young man's body, similarly, when this body will be finished, I shall enter another body, new body. That will be given to me by nature according to the mental condition at the time of my death. Yaṁ yaṁ vāpi smaran bhāvaṁ tyajaty ante kalevaram [Bg. 8.6]. This is the law of nature.
So people are not educated in the law of nature. They are educated in animalistic life. As the dog is thinking "I am dog," and barking, similarly, if a person thinks "I am Indian" or "I am American," so there's not much difference between the dog and the man. The man must think otherwise, that "I am not this body," then the civilization, human civilization, begins. Athāto brahma jijñāsā. Unfortunately, there is no education. This education was little there. Even in India that is now becoming finished on account of this Western influence. So that is now practically finished. But this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement begins from the understanding that "I am not this body." Therefore its activities are different from the activities of bodily conception of life. People cannot understand. That is the difficulty.
Interviewer: Prabhu, you, in this country you have a whole body of religious thought which does not subscribe to the Hindu assumptions about the transmigration of the soul, and the culture itself is a very secular kind of culture.
Prabhupāda: Which one?
Interviewer: The American. And about eighteen months ago or more, if I remember right, there was a film, a documentary, on your school in Texas, on the National Broadcasting Company's program, which was very hostile, if not vicious. It was an attack on your whole movement, the rearing of the small children. So my question is, what is it that made you bring your movement into a culture and a religious ethos which is hostile, to begin with, with most of your major assumptions?
Prabhupāda: Hmm. So this is education. The Western people are not educated in the spiritual life. So our predecessors, our gurus, they are for educating people in the spiritual life. Caitanya Mahāprabhu, five hundred years ago, He advised Indians to go, first of all, make his life..., Indian should make his life perfect, and then he should go outside India and preach the perfectional life, how to become perfect in life. That was His mission. He said pṛthivīte āche yata... You understand Bengali?
sarvatra pracāra haibe mora nāma
[CB Antya-khaṇḍa 4.126]
janma sārthaka kari' kara para-upakāra
[Cc. Ādi 9.41]
So Indian life means para-upakāra. They are in the darkness, others, in the darkness. They have no such culture, spiritual culture. India has got that culture, this Bhagavad-gītā. So one should make his life a practically Bhagavad-gītā life. That is Kṛṣṇa conscious movement. And preach it to the world. That is Caitanya Mahāprabhu's order. And this order was not only... Because Caitanya Mahāprabhu happened to be a Bengali. He appeared in Nadia District, a district in Bengal. But He does not say the Bengalis; He said the bhāratī. Bharata-varṣa janma haila yāra. So it is India's mission to become exactly on the line of Bhagavad-gītā. That is also spoken by Caitanya Mahāprabhu, that perfection of life means to understand Bhagavad-gītā. He said, āmāra ājñāya guru hañā tāra' ei deśa [Cc. Madhya 7.128] = "You just become a guru and deliver this country." "This country" means wherever you are living---it doesn't matter whether in India or America or anywhere else---you just deliver them. So to become guru means to save a person from the conditional life of matter. So long you become a materialistic person, that means you are under condition of material nature. So you have to get your freedom from the laws of material nature. That is your perfect life. But people in the Western countries, they do not know much of this freedom. India knew it, or some of Indians, they know it. But at the present moment they, being conquered or influenced by the Western culture, they are also losing their identity. Therefore my Guru Mahārāja ordered me to do something about the spiritual life in the Western countries. On account of this I came here.
Interviewer: Can you briefly tell us what the difference..., how your approach is different from the approaches of the other gurus who have come? You seem to have rather a unique place in...
Prabhupāda: First of all, we do not accept anyone as guru if he's not competent to understand Bhagavad-gītā and preach it also. He's not a guru. The guru's definition given in the Bhagavad-gītā, imaṁ vivasvate yogaṁ proktavān aham avyayam, in the Fourth Chapter you'll find, vivasvān manave prāha manur ikṣvākave 'bravīt [Bg. 4.1].
imaṁ rājarṣayo viduḥ
yogo naṣṭaḥ parantapa
Kṛṣṇa said to Arjuna, "My dear Arjuna, this Bhagavad-gītā philosophy, or yoga system, first of all I spoke to the sun-god. And then he spoke to his son, Manu. Then Manu spoke to his son Ikṣvāku." In this way the knowledge comes down from the spiritual master to the disciple or from the father to the son. So unless one comes in this disciplic succession, he cannot become guru. Therefore... I do not know all of them. All the svāmīs and yogīs who came here, they do not belong to this paramparā system, so therefore they are not bona fide guru. They are presenting themselves as guru, but they are not guru. Therefore people are misled. People are misled. And this is the first time that we presented India's traditional philosophy and life as it is understood by the paramparā system. Therefore it is being so well received. Vivekananda came here, as you said, 1893, before my birth. I was born in 1896. But they have worked for, say, eighty-five years. What they have done? But I have worked here for seven or eight years, and it is now worldwide movement. Why? Because we presented the things as they are. Evaṁ paramparā-prāptam [Bg. 4.2]. Therefore it is effective. So if the things are presented as they are, the customers will automatically come.
Interviewer: Yesterday in my talks with your disciples I gathered that you have at least three of the āśrama-dharmas being practiced = brahmacarya, gṛhastha and sannyāsa. Did you do this to suggest that your movement does not involve renunciation in the Western sense, in which they understand it, as asceticism only, to retreat, to withdraw from society, to form a different, small spiritual community or fraternity, not interacting with the rest of society, not influencing society, not being influenced by society? In other words, was it your aim to suggest that the ordinary life, the daily life of ordinary people, can be built on the foundations of your philosophy?
Prabhupāda: The thing is that human life, the system of society, should be divided. Just like you are journalist, so you are not motor mechanics. But there is necessity of motor mechanics also and the journalist also. Is it not?
Prabhupāda: And you are journalist; you are not expected to become a motor mechanic or a medical man. But your function is also required in the society. Similarly, the Vedic society was divided into different sections. That is called varṇāśrama---four varṇas, four āśramas. That is very scientific. Brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya, vaiśya, śūdra and brahmacārī, gṛhastha, vānaprastha, sannyāsa. So Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement includes this system of division of society. It is perfect society. Therefore we are trying to introduce the varṇāśrama system, although it is very difficult nowadays. But if one becomes a devotee, which is above varṇāśrama-dharma, then the purpose is served. In this age, although varṇāśrama-dharma is very scientific, and Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement includes this, but we are mostly trying to get to the topmost part of varṇāśrama--- sannyāsa, or above that. That means Vaiṣṇava. In the Bhagavad-gītā it is said, sa guṇān samatītyaitān brahma-bhūyāya kalpate [Bg. 14.26]. One can immediately transcend the jurisdiction of three modes of material nature if he engages himself in the devotional service of the Lord.
bhakti-yogena ya sevate
sa guṇān samatītyaitān
So actually this varṇāśrama system is meant for bringing the man in the lower status of life to the higher status of life. It doesn't matter one is born in a low-grade family. That is also said by Kṛṣṇa = māṁ hi pārtha vyapāśritya ye 'pi syuḥ pāpa-yonayaḥ [Bg. 9.32]. Pāpa-yoni, lower grade. Striyo vaiśyās tathā śūdrāḥ [Bg. 9.32]. In the human society, woman, the vaiśya and the śūdra, they are considered in the lower status, not very intelligent. Te 'pi yānti parāṁ gatim. They can also become. So in the Western countries, according to Vedic calculation, they are mlecchas, yavanas, low grade. But Kṛṣṇa says, ye 'pi syuḥ pāpa-yonayaḥ: "He can also be elevated, to that extent as he can go back to home, back to Godhead." So this movement is directly giving the opportunity of Kṛṣṇa's service so that they can become immediately bona fide to the position in the highest grade of life, Vaiṣṇava, so that he can go back to home, back to Godhead.
Interviewer: The... Almost the whole world, and all civilizations, look down upon the varṇāśrama-dharma as a system in which hierarchical and stratified conditions prevent human beings from progressing. They think of our system as...
Prabhupāda: They do not know what is progress. That I was talking with your Associated Press, press reporter. Just like they do not know that their material life means they are in the prison house for being punished. They are so dull headed they are taking the activities of punishment as regular life. A man is put into the prison house, and his engagement is breaking the bricks. So he has forgotten that "This breaking of bricks is not my business. I am meant for living freely outside the prison house." So these people, less intelligent people, they think that this material life of working hard day and night, just like the hogs and dogs, is general life. That is due to their ignorance. In the Bhāgavata it is said, nāyaṁ deho deha-bhājāṁ nṛloke kaṣṭān kāmān arhate viḍ-bhujāṁ ye [SB 5.5.1], that this human form of life, although we have got this body, and the hog has also got the body, the hog is working day and night... Perhaps you have seen in Indian village, the hog is loitering in the village. His only business is where to find stool and eat it. And as soon as he eats, he becomes strong in sense, and then sex. The hog has no discrimination of sex---either mother or sister or anyone. So this sort of life, working day and night for stool, and then as soon as the body is strong, find out sex, never mind whether mother, sister or anyone... This is not human life; this is hog's life. Do you think it is human life?
Prabhupāda: So we are not meant for that civilization. We are meant for the civilization by which one can understand his position, constitutional position, ahaṁ brahmāsmi. Therefore our activities are different from the hogs' and dogs'.
Interviewer: So what is generally taken here... I mean, this is the American bicentennial year, and the Declaration of Independence talks about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Are you suggesting then that what is taken to be life is actually the antithesis of life; what is taken to be liberty is actually enslavement; and what is assumed to be the pursuit of happiness is nothing more than a rat race in which you try to make the best of what you can?
Prabhupāda: They do not know what is happiness. Bhagavad-gītā points out what is your distress. Can anyone say what is the actual distress? They do not know it. Distress they are taking as usual part of life. In the Bhagavad-gītā it is said, janma-mṛtyu-jarā-vyādhi-duḥkha-doṣānudarśanam [Bg. 13.9]. This is philosophy, to find out what is distress. This is directly said by Kṛṣṇa, that these are distresses = janma-mṛtyu-jarā-vyādhi, to take birth, to die, to become old and to become diseased. But they do not know it. Not only they, everyone, all over the world, they take it as part of life. Janma-mṛtyu-jarā-vyādhi. When a man becomes diseased, when a man becomes old, or when a man dies, they take it it is usual. They have been accustomed to these distresses so much that they do not take it as distress. So this is their ignorance. This is their ignorance. They do not know what is distress, and they are struggling for moving the distress. Just like this independence. They do not know what is meaning of independence. Real independence is when you are free from these four kinds of distress. Does it mean that observing this kind of independence is real independence? It is simply fictitious. If you are not free from the laws of nature, nature will enforce you to die. Then where is your independence? Nobody wants to die, so why he's enforced to die? Nobody wants to become old man. Why he's enforced to become old man? But they have no brain to understand what is independence, what is happiness. They have taken distress as happiness. So that is due to lack of knowledge. So the Kṛṣṇa consciousness means to elevate a person to the real standard of knowledge. Without knowledge a madman can say anything. A child can speak all nonsense. That is not knowledge. Knowledge is different.
So the struggle for existence means to get out of distress, but the real distress they have set aside. The problem that "I do not want to die, but I'll be enforced to die," so where is the advancement in this connection? They might have, so big, big scientists, they have discovered many, many things, but where is that thing that "Take a pill and you'll never die. Take a pill, you'll never become diseased"? They can offer me... I had some abdominal pain, so they have given me dozens of medicine. But still they are not sure whether the pain will be cured. This is their science. So in this way things are going on, in ignorance, mūḍha. Therefore they have been described in the Bhagavad-gītā as mūḍha.
āsuraṁ bhāvam āśritāḥ
So this is the civilization of the asuras, and without Kṛṣṇa consciousness, without any knowledge of Kṛṣṇa or without any knowledge of the Kṛṣṇa's instruction, people are grouped as duṣkṛtina, miscreants; mūḍhas, rascals; narādhama, lowest of the mankind. And if you say that "So many people, they are educated highly in the university; how they can be taken as miscreants, rascals and lowest of the mankind?" the answer is māyayāpahṛta-jñānāḥ: they have got knowledge, so-called knowledge, but they are lacking in real knowledge. Knowledge means to get out of distress. That is knowledge. But the real distress remains as it is. They cannot avoid death, they cannot avoid birth, they cannot avoid old age. And still they are claiming they are making progress in happiness. So that is called illusion.
Interviewer: Prabhu, the... Can you tell us a little bit about the plans you have for your projects in India?
Prabhupāda: Yes, I wanted to start this movement from India. I even requested Mahatma Gandhi that "Mahatmajī, you have got some respect all over the world, and you are known as a great student of Bhagavad-gītā. Now you have got your sva-rājya---the Britishers have gone away---let us preach Bhagavad-gītā." But I don't think I got any reply from him. Of course he was very busy man. My letter might have reached him or not reached him. The secretaries might have rejected. I think received from secretary, like that. But then after few days he was killed. So I was trying for this purpose in India. I approached many friends, that "You have got four sons. Give me one son so that I can train him how to become a real preacher of Bhagavad-gītā, how one can understand." Because Bhagavad-gītā is being misinterpreted. So I wanted to preach it as it is. That was my mission. So practically nobody joined me. Then I decided to come here. And these boys cooperated. So I have got great desire to... Because India is by nature Kṛṣṇa conscious, but our modern leaders keeping them suppressed. That is the difficulty. There are so many other difficulties, and leaders are misinterpreting Bhagavad-gītā. To tell you frankly, there are so many commentaries on Bhagavad-gītā by Dr. Radhakrishnan, by Gandhi, by Tilak, by Aurobindo, or many others. But nobody has said that "Here is God, Kṛṣṇa." Do you admit it or not? Has anybody said that "Here is God, Kṛṣṇa. You are searching after God. Here is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa. Worship Him"? Nobody has stated. Am I right or not?
Interviewer: I am not that... I have not read all the... I have read Gandhijī's, I have read a little of. Radhakrishna's, I have.
Prabhupāda: Gandhijī has preached or Dr. Radhakrishnan has written, but who has preached that Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, He is to be worshiped? Just like we are preaching. Here in America, you have seen our temple?
Prabhupāda: How they are worshiping Kṛṣṇa. So Bhagavad-gītā, main purpose is that. Kṛṣṇa says, sarva-dharmān parityajya mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja [Bg. 18.66]. So who has preached this? So, although they came---so many svāmīs, yogīs and politicians, they came---but they talked, what can I say, all irrelevant. Nobody spoke that "Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. You worship Him." Nobody has said. This is the first time, I am saying. Do you agree or not?
Interviewer: Yes. Do you think that this is because of the Western influence under which they have gone and you are more...?
Prabhupāda: No, no, they wanted to compromise with the Westerners. They did not come to teach, but they wanted to be victimized by the Western people. They had no strength to save themselves. They have no strength. They have no determination. Hodgepodge, that's all. Therefore it was not successful. Not a single man became Kṛṣṇa conscious. Even nowadays. So Vivekananda is famous in India that "He preached in America, all Americans have become Vedāntists," something like that. Now, practically... You have gone in Vṛndāvana?
Interviewer: No, not recently.
Prabhupāda: You have seen our temple?
Interviewer: No, I have not.
Prabhupāda: So we have got our temple, that is considered the best temple in Vṛndāvana. [aside:] You can show the pictures. So thousands and thousands of Americans went to Vṛndāvana for our temple and other temples. But there is another..., Vivekananda, Ramakrishna āśrama, nobody went there. Not a single. So what preaching they have done, from practical point of view? So many men went to our temple. They had no inquiry even that "We have heard that there is a Ramakrishna Mission temple here. Where it is?" It is not..., Vṛndāvana is not a very big city. Everyone knows. Nobody, not a single person went there. And they visited other temples. So what kind of preaching? Hmm? What do you think?
Interviewer: It seems to me that what you are saying is that you cannot have a religion..., you cannot expect a religion to survive or prosper when the culture which is supposed to serve it is its opposite, is its antithesis. And that's why your movement, you are trying to suggest that the only way you can attain mokṣa, or liberation, or whatever, is through a particular kind of culture that you are propagating.
Prabhupāda: It is not... It is the culture. It is the culture. Because you are suffering under material conditions and you are struggling for existence, that means you are struggling to get liberty. So this is the liberty. As it is said in the Bhagavad-gītā, tyaktvā dehaṁ punar janma naiti mām eti kaunteya [Bg. 4.9]. Mām upetya, [aside:] find out this.
Hari-śauri: Janma karma ca me divyam [Bg. 4.9]?
evaṁ yo vetti tattvataḥ
tyaktvā dehaṁ punar janma
naiti mām eti so 'rjuna
"One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna."
Prabhupāda: Yes, this is liberty. But they do not know it. They simply make a show that they are scholar of Bhagavad-gītā, but they do not know. They are reading Bhagavad-gītā, but they do not know how to get liberty. Neither they are interested. They want to stay here, and subjected to the natural..., material condition, janma-mṛtyu-jarā-vyādhi [Bg. 13.9]. There is another verse, mām aprāpya? Aprāpya māṁ nivartante mṛtyu-saṁsāra-vartmani, in the Ninth Chapter, I think. Aprāpya māṁ nivartante mṛtyu... Aśraddadhānāḥ puruṣā dharmasyā..., aśraddadhānāḥ puruṣā... [Bg. 9.3].
Hari-śauri: Aśraddadhānāḥ puruṣā. Nine, three. Aśraddadhānāḥ puruṣā dharmasyāsya parantapa...
Prabhupāda: ...parantapa aprāpya māṁ nivartante mṛtyu-saṁsāra-vartmani: "The teachings that I am giving, if one is not faithful to accept it, the result will be aprāpya mām, he'll never get Me, and he'll remain in the cycle of birth and death." They do not know it, what is cycle of birth and death, how one can get out of it. Going on. Just like the flies with great force falls in the fire. They are very busy. What is that busy-ness? Falling in the fire. So this is going on. So this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is just to save the people who go down by the force, enforced by the laws of material nature in the cycle of birth and death. Kṛṣṇa says, tathā dehāntara-prāptiḥ [Bg. 2.13] = "You have to accept another body." But suppose you have got now Indian body; next birth if you get a dog's body, then what is your success? But nature will work. You do not know what is the nature's law. Prakṛteḥ kriyamāṇāni guṇaiḥ karmāṇi sarvaśaḥ [Bg. 3.27]. Neither you can check nature's law. So what is the value of your so-called activities, jumping? There's no value.
Interviewer: One last question, then. What you are saying, the thrust of your movement is that true religion is not something that you just believe, it is what you are.
Prabhupāda: You believe or not believe. A fool man's..., fool's belief is different from a learned man's understanding. So if he says that "I believe in it," nature's law is different? Nature will not care whether you believe or not believe. It will work. Just like if you have infected some disease, so you are getting fever. Now if I say, "My dear Mr. Such-and-such, now you infected smallpox; therefore symptoms are there," and if you say, "No, no, I don't believe in it," so will you be protected from the laws of nature? So this is rascal's proposal, "I believe," "I don't believe." You believe or not believe, who cares for you? If you have infected, kāraṇaṁ guṇa-saṅgo 'sya sad-asad-janma-yoniṣu [Bg. 13.22]. [aside:] Find out. After death you are going to get another body. Tathā dehāntara-prāptiḥ [Bg. 2.13]. So how you can know what kind of body you are going to get? First of all, generally they don't believe transmigration. So they believe or not believe, the process is going on. So this is going on in the modern world = "I don't believe it." You believe or not believe, you cannot check the nature's law. But their dull brain cannot understand it, that nature's law is very, very strong. Daivī hy eṣā guṇamayī mama māyā duratyayā [Bg. 7.14], but thinking that they'll conquer over nature. That is their proposal, is not, Bali-mardana? They think that they'll conquer over the laws of nature.
Bali-mardana: Oh, yes.
Prabhupāda: Such foolish things are going on. So we are trying to save, by presenting Bhagavad-gītā as it is, to save these fools and rascals from a dangerous type of civilization. This is the sum and substance.
Interviewer: Thank you, Prabhu. Ānanda-mohana.
Prabhupāda: Jaya. [end]