Here we continue an exchange between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and some of his disciples. It took place in Los Angeles, on the morning of December 13, 1973, during a walk along the Pacific shore.
Srila Prabhupada: Human life is meant for realizing the inner self, the soul and for realizing the Supreme Self, Krsna. But thanks to your scientists and politicians, this great prerogative of human life is being denied to human society. So these hindrances should be stopped, because human society is being ruined.
That is why I was inquiring, "Why has America gone to Vietnam?" You replied, "To stop communism." But that sort of stopping will not make any solution. We have to stop this demoniac civilization. Then human society will be happy and in its normal condition.
Disciple: But, Srila Prabhupada, as soon as we define what demoniac civilization is, then people will be offended. They'll see that by the Vedic definition, people who gamble, have illicit sex, take intoxicants, and eat flesh people like themselves are demons. So they'll be offended.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Because people have themselves become demons, they cannot understand what a demon is.
For instance, a Christian priest went to preach to some mine workers, and he was explaining, "If you do not worship Lord Jesus Christ, you will go to hell."
So the mine workers asked, "What is hell?"
But when the priest explained "Hell is wet and dark, with no sufficient air," and so on the mine workers could not understand how horrible hell is. Why? Because by working in the mine, they were already agreeing to be in hell. So they no longer had the discretion to realize, "Oh, always wet and dark, without enough air that is a very horrible thing."
Similarly, in today's world these demons no longer have the discretion to realize what demonism is. Asuram bhavam asritah: they have already agreed to live in the mood of demonism. What is this asura-bhava, this mood of demonism? Not to accept God. This is asura-bhava.
This is the basic principle of demonism. Ignore the soul and God and God's laws; gamble, take intoxicants, have illicit sex, and slaughter God's other creatures and eat their flesh. So in this way, nearly all people have agreed to deny God. Therefore, they have become demons.
Disciple: These days, Srila Prabhupada, people don't want to hear a bona fide spiritual authority. They don't care much about what you're offering: the science of the soul and the Supreme Soul. Most prefer to hear some mundane, so-called scientist and make him their authority.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. But the so-called scientist does not understand, "What is that special thing which, when missing, makes this body dead?" Still, he is holding himself up as a big authority, and foolish people are accepting him as such. This is demonism.
When somebody is dying, this great scientist cannot actually explain why. He may advocate various scientific countermeasures, whether oxygen or heart massage or injections or this or that. But despite all these things, he finds that suddenly the man is dead.
When you ask the great scientist, "In spite of all your scientific countermeasures, why is the man dead?" he can say nothing. And still, he has become a great authority even though he is so foolish that he cannot explain why, despite all his countermeasures, the man is dead. Now, what will he answer? He has seen all his scientific countermeasures applied but the man is dead. So let him explain why the man is dead. Can he explain?
Disciple: Not to our satisfaction.
Srila Prabhupada: Satisfaction or no satisfaction. What will the great scientific authority answer? What he will say?
Disciple: He will say, "Counteracting death is beyond my means."
Srila Prabhupada (as if to the great scientist): Therefore, you are a fool. How can you dare to hold yourself up as an authority?
Disciple (in the role of the scientist): I have tried my best to counteract death, but I cannot.
Srila Prabhupada: All right. That means you do not know. A child also tries his best to do things but cannot. This does not mean he becomes a big authority.
Disciple: Well, Srila Prabhupada, the great scientist will say that for the sustenance of life, there are certain conditions.
Srila Prabhupada: That is not an answer. What are those "certain conditions"? That answer is vague. You must tell us, Mr. Scientist: What, precisely, are those "certain conditions" that sustain life? Only then are you an authority.
Disciple (again playing the scientist): Well, for one thing, there has to be an electrical charge in the heart.
Srila Prabhupada (to the scientist): Then provide the electrical charge. Do it. Electricity is available.
Disciple: Well, for some persons whose hearts have stopped, medical personnel apply electrical nodes to the heart and seemingly bring the persons back to life.
Srila Prabhupada: "Back to life." For how long?
Disciple: Life can continue.
Srila Prabhupada: Continue forever?
Disciple: Well, no.
Srila Prabhupada: So? The person will still die. This brief continuing of life that is another thing. The person will still die.
Now, why will he die? What is that condition which produces death? If you say, as a chemist, "Well, death comes about because the chemical condition has changed," then we shall reply, "Essentially, the chemical condition has remained unchanged. After all, immediately after someone's body has died, life will still come out. So many germs and worms they will come out."
So how can you say, "The chemical condition that produces life has changed"? How can you say that? The thing is, the specific life we called "Mr. John" has gone away and is not coming back. That "Mr. John" that specific living entity is not coming back. Therefore, that specific living entity is totally different from matter; he is a totally distinct, totally spiritual entity, a soul.
Disciple: So, Srila Prabhupada, we can distinguish that the soul who goes away from the material body has nothing to do with the worms and germs that go on living in the body after death. But before the soul goes away from the material body, does he have something to do with the innumerable souls who live within the body's cells? I think that in the past you've said each cell contains a distinct and individual soul.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, I said that.
Disciple: So, during the time before the "main soul" goes away from the body, could we say that these other souls living in the cell structures are supporting that one particular soul?
Srila Prabhupada: No. They are living their own individual lives, irrespective of that particular soul. For instance, there are many germs living in some person's, say Mr. John's, stool. Why are those germs living there? Simply because stool is their ideal place for living; that's all. But those germs have nothing to do with that particular soul, Mr. John.
Disciple: But it looks as if I am the proprietor of these other souls living in my body's cells.
Srila Prabhupada: No, no. You are not the proprietor. No one here is a proprietor. Even if your current condition may seem like that of a proprietor, you have been placed into that condition by God. So the real proprietor is God. You are simply placed into that somewhat privileged condition; that's all. You are not the proprietor you are dependent on the condition offered by God.
Disciple: But for example, Srila Prabhupada, in an office the boss is working and there are various secretaries and clerks helping him.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. But in your example, the real boss is the chief man who is assigning the work: "You work like that. You work like this. You work in this other way."
Disciple: So I am the boss.
Srila Prabhupada: No. You are not the boss. You are also one of the workers.