The following conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and a journalist took place on December 30, 1968, in Los Angeles.
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 avataras and who come from India to this country, one after the other.
Srila Prabhupada: I can declare, they are all nonsense.
Journalist: Could you elaborate on that a little more?
Srila Prabhupada: And I can say furthermore, they're all rascals.
Journalist: The Maharishi, for example.
Srila Prabhupada: He is rascal number one. I say it publicly.
Journalist: Could you explain that, give me a little background on that.
Srila Prabhupada: From his behavior I can understand he's rascal number one. But the wonderful thing is that the people in the Western countries, they're supposed to be so advanced. How are they befooled by these rascals?
Journalist: Well, I think people believe what they want to believe. They're looking for something, and he comes along …
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. But they want something very cheap. That is their fault.
Srila Prabhupada: Now, for our disciples we don't give anything cheap. Our first condition is character, moral character. You see? So unless one accepts moral character, we don't initiate him. We don't allow him in this institution. And this Maharishi says, "Oh, you do whatever you like. You simply pay me thirty-five dollars and I'll give you some mantra." So people want to be cheated, and many cheaters come.
Journalist: Instant heaven.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Journalist: The Maharishi turned me off, and so many people. My daughter was involved in that kind of thing for a while, and she's terribly disillusioned.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. The psychology is that your people, all the Western people, especially youngsters, they are hankering after something, you see? But if somebody comes to me and says, "Swamiji, initiate me," I immediately say, "You have to follow these four principles [no meat-eating, no illicit sex, no gambling, no intoxication]." And he goes away.
And this Maharishi, he did not put any restriction, you see? Just like a physician might say, "You can do whatever you like. You simply take my medicine, and you will be cured." That physician will be very much liked.
Journalist: Yes, he'll kill a lot of people, but he'll be very much liked.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes [Laughs]. And if a physician says, "Oh, you cannot do this, you cannot do that, you cannot see this," that will be seen as a botheration. So people want something. That is a fact. But at the same time, they want it very cheap. Therefore the cheaters come and cheat them. They take the opportunity. "These people want to be cheated. Oh, let us take advantage."
They are advising, "You are God, everyone is God. You just realize this yourself. You have forgotten you are God. You take this mantra, and you will become God and become powerful. Whatever you like, you can control. But there is no need to control your senses. You can drink, you can have unrestricted sex, and whatever you like."
People like this. "Oh, simply by fifteen minutes of meditation I shall become God, and I have to pay only thirty-five dollars." So many millions of people will be ready to do it. Thirty-five dollars in your country is not so much. But thirty-five multiplied by a million becomes thirty-five million dollars.
But we cannot bluff. We say that if you actually want spiritual life, you have to follow the restrictions. If the commandment is "You shall not kill," I cannot say, "Yes, you can kill. The animal has no feeling. The animal has no soul." We cannot bluff in this way.
Journalist: Well, that's just about it. That's what I wanted to know. It's a shame that this thing, as I say, has turned off an awful lot of kids, a lot of very disenchanted young people because …
Srila Prabhupada: So please try to help us. This movement is very nice. It will help humanity. It will help your country, the whole human society. It is a genuine movement. There is no bluffing, no cheating. It is authorized.
Journalist: Authorized by whom?
Srila Prabhupada: It is authorized by Krsna.