Here we conclude an exchange between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and an official from an impersonalist ("God-is-simply-everyone-and-everything") movement. The exchange took place in Paris, on August 13, 1973, with Prabhupada's disciples translating the official's remarks from French.
Official: Personally, I do not like the idea of killing animals.
Srila Prabhupada: But what is the ideal of your order? That I am asking.
Official: Love between men. Understanding.
Srila Prabhupada: What have the animals done? There is no love or understanding shown to them.
Official: I love the animals. I have many animals living with me. I'm surrounded by animals. [Laughter.]
Srila Prabhupada: That is nice. But a person who is habituated to kill animals will he be admitted into your order?
Official: I don't think someone who kills animals would like to enter, but if a butcher wants to enter, that is all right, because gradually we will elevate him.
Srila Prabhupada: Then, in principle, the order does not allow animal killing?
Official: Ideally, our movement would not want to see animals killed, or anyone killed.
Srila Prabhupada: Therefore, I want to know what are the principles the rules and regulations of the order.
Official: Our principles are love, beauty, harmony, peace. And as you progress, one initiation after another. If you begin as a butcher, then gradually, in your own self, you will wish to give it up. But there are no rules.
Srila Prabhupada: "One initiation after another," but there are no progressive rules?
Official: Our order doesn't require that you give up meat-eating. Our order is intelligent. If we were to tell people, "Don't do this, don't do this, don't do that," nobody would join us. In any case, the real mystic is someone who has controlled his own body.
Srila Prabhupada: But you cannot explain how to control the body.
Official: It happens immediately, or it will happen in a while.
Srila Prabhupada: At least I cannot accept this. We could discuss further if you had some definite program. Say I want to enter your association. You must give me some prescription by which, if I follow, I'll make progress. But you have no such prescription.
Official: I shall submit to my grandmaster your request for a specific prescription to be given to you.
Srila Prabhupada: But, in principle, your order hasn't got any such prescription.
Official: We will make one special, just for you.
Srila Prabhupada: But not for the general mass of people.
Official: Correct. It is very good that you prescribe no meat-eating, no intoxicants, no premarital or extramarital sex, and so on. These are nice principles that you are following. And we are sure that you have come to these conclusions on your own just as perhaps one day we may also come to these conclusions on our own.
Srila Prabhupada: So for the time being, your order has no such rules and regulations?
Official: Our order makes certain suggestions, but we do not oblige anyone to follow our suggestions.
Srila Prabhupada: What are those suggestions?
Official: Our movement suggests that people live a life as perhaps yours is of purity, pure thoughts, moral living, and even following certain principles.
Srila Prabhupada: But these impure things are going on all over the world, and you don't say anything. Suppose a man is killing animals. You don't prohibit him. He is engaged in immoral life, and if you don't prohibit him, then how can he become moral? Do you think morality and the killing of animals go together?
Official: Our order likes very much the ideals of beauty and harmony and morality, but we cannot impose these things on anyone.
Srila Prabhupada: But, for instance, the Bible imposes the rule or regulation "You shall not kill." Yet you have no such thing.
Official: Realization is what counts.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, but what that realization is you cannot explain. If you cannot explain, then what is your realization?
Official: Had I not realized something, I would not be here now.
Srila Prabhupada: Then first let us see whether you can describe who you are.
Official: When Moses saw the burning bush and asked the fire, "Who are you?" the fire said, "I am what I am." Who am I? That is a question you are going to have to answer by your own meditations.
Srila Prabhupada: But what is your meditation? What have you learned?
Official: The thing to realize is peace. When you join our order, you receive a letter, and at the bottom of the letter, it says, "With our best wishes for your peace and happiness."
Srila Prabhupada: That's all right. Everyone wants that. But what is the process?
Official: Praying, courage, faith. A serious movement, a serious order, would never guarantee instantaneous illumination.
Srila Prabhupada: No, that we also say. But we must have a definite process. For instance, in answer to the question "Who are you?" because at least one must know who he is you gave the vague reply "I am what I am." If you ask me, "Who are you, sir?" and I say, "I am what I am," is that the proper answer? [Laughter.] That is a nonsense answer.
Official: I could tell you my name, but the interior, the reality, is different. Now, if we all join together in silence and we enter into ourselves and create one person, then we will know who we are from that silence.
Srila Prabhupada: But how it is possible to remain silent?
Disciple [in jest]: Bahunam janmanam ante: "After many, many births and deaths."
Srila Prabhupada [laughing]: That's all right. That's all right.