People ask this question every day, about everyday things. But when it comes to things cosmic, should we ask "Who"-or "What"? The Caracas Metaphysical Society interviews His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
Srila Prabhupada: Now let us discuss this: What is "limited" and what is "unlimited" ?
Metaphysical Society: This material world is a combination of many different elements intelligence, mind, so on and so forth and in the center of all this is the essence, which is eternal. And this eternal thing cannot have any name or any form, because then it would be limited. And that would be a contradiction.
Srila Prabhupada: No. This material world is temporary, but spirit is eternal that is clear understanding. The material elements are earth, water, fire, air, sky, mind, intelligence, and ego; and the spiritual element is utilizing these material elements. That is the distinction between matter and spirit.
For example, this microphone is a combination of earth, water, air, and fire, but a living being had to combine the material elements into this microphone the combination of material elements was done by some living entity. Now, exactly like the microphone, the whole cosmic manifestation is a combination of material elements, and there is one living being the supreme being who has combined them. This is how the universe is working. Is that admitted?
Metaphysical Society: Yes.
Srila Prabhupada: So that is the difference between "limited" and "unlimited." You and I are living beings, and we can create something limited, like this microphone or big airplanes. But there is another living being who has created innumerable planets that are floating in the air. Is it not so? We have taken the credit for becoming big scientists and creating the 747 airship, which can carry five hundred passengers. But how many have we created? Maybe several hundred or several thousand. But there are millions and trillions of planets floating in the air, just like the 747s, and those planets contain many big mountains and oceans. So we can create limited things with our limited brains, but the supreme being can create unlimited things because He has an unlimited brain.
Metaphysical Society: Are you suggesting that God has a brain?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. And as soon as we understand that He has a brain, we know that He is a person. Therefore, God is a person, ultimately. Just as the government is impersonal, but the president is a person, similarly the energies working the cosmic manifestation are all impersonal, but the brain behind them is personal. That is the distinction between person and "imperson."
Metaphysical Society: You said that God is a person, ultimately. What do you mean, "ultimately"?
Srila Prabhupada: As I explained, in one sense the government is impersonal, but ultimately the president is a person. The government is going on under the order of the president. Therefore, the impersonal government is not as important as the personal president.
Another example: the sun, the sunshine, and the sun-god. The sunshine is impersonal, the sun globe is localized, and within the sun globe is the sun-god. So in one sense they are all one they all manifest heat and light. But the sunshine is different from the sun globe and the sun-god. There is sunshine in this room, but that does not mean the sun globe is here. And the sun-god controls the sun globe. Therefore, the sunshine, the sun globe, and the sun-god are simultaneously one and different. Is it clear? Any question about this?
Metaphysical Society: Why do you say that God is more important than His energy?
Srila Prabhupada: It is common sense. The sunshine is universally spread, and the sun globe situated in one place is the source of that sunshine. So which is more important the sun globe or the sunshine? This lamp is situated in one place, and the illumination is spread throughout the room. What is more important the illumination or the lamp? The fire is localized in one place, and the fire's light and heat are expanded for many feet. So which is more important the fire or the heat and light? Similarly, God is a person (though He is not a person like you or me), and He expands His energy just as a fire expands heat and light. Whatever we see is the expansion of God's energy.
The situation is just like that of a big businessman and his factories. The man is a person, but he is conducting hundreds of factories over a large area. Are the factories more important, or is the man more important? If an ordinary person in this material world can become so important, you can just imagine how important a person God is, considering the unlimited expansion of this material world.
So the person is ultimately the most important. The impersonal feature is there just like the impersonal feature of sunshine but the sun globe is more important than the sunshine, and within the sun globe is the sun-god, who is the most important. So which do you think is the most important the sun-god, the sun globe, or the sunshine? What is your idea?
Metaphysical Society: All of them are important.
Srila Prabhupada: All of them. That's all right. But comparatively, since the sun-god is the source of all heat and light, he is the most important. Similarly, God is expanding His energy throughout all the universes. God is the energetic. Comparatively, although in one sense there is no difference between the energy and the energetic, the energetic is more important than the energy. So God and His energy are simultaneously one and different. That is our philosophy.
Metaphysical Society: You said that God expands Himself. But this implies that God modifies or changes Himself.
Srila Prabhupada: No. God can expand Himself unlimitedly, and still He remains as He is. That is the meaning of "unlimited." You may have a hundred dollars in your pocket, and if you spend one dollar, one dollar, one dollar, then ultimately you will have zero. But about God it is said, purnasya purnam adaya purnam evavasisyate: "Because God is the complete whole, even though so many complete units of energy emanate from Him He remains the complete balance" [Isopanisad, Invocation]. For you, that would mean that you could take a hundred dollars and spend it, and still you would have the hundred dollars. God can actually do this. He can expand Himself into millions and millions of separate universes, and still He is the same individual. That is God. We shouldn't think of God according to our own conception that if I have a hundred dollars and then I spend a hundred dollars, I will have zero. God is not like that. God can expand Himself unlimitedly, and still He remains the same.
There is another nice example. Suppose you take a candle and light up another candle with it, then another candle, and another and another, up to millions of candles. The original candle remains as powerful as ever, and the other candles you lit up now have the same power as the original. But, for our understanding, we take the original candle to be the first candle, the next as the second candle, then the third, fourth, fifth, and so on. But each candle is equally powerful, and the original candle is still there. Similarly, by His expansions God does not diminish. That is the meaning of God, and that is also the meaning of "unlimited."
Metaphysical Society: How can we understand the difference between God's personality and individuality, and our own? If God expands Himself into everything, then He must be inside all of this creation.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. That is the difference between God and us: God is situated everywhere, but you are not situated everywhere. You are situated within your body, and I am situated within my body. You cannot feel the pains and pleasures of my body, nor can I feel your pains and pleasures. But God is everywhere, and therefore He can understand what your pains and pleasures are, and what my pains and pleasures are. That is the difference between the atma, or individual soul, and the super-atma, or Supersoul. You are the atma, and God is the super-atma.
Metaphysical Society: But since God is pure spirit, or atma, and we are also pure spirit, can we not eventually evolve up to the level of God?
Srila Prabhupada: No. We admit that God is spirit and you are spirit, but God's power and your power are not equal. God said, "Let there be creation," and there was creation. But if you say, "Let there be capati[bread]," there will be no capati unless you work. You have to work for it.
Metaphysical Society: God is the whole, and we are the parts, and we are evolving to integrate ourselves with that whole.
Srila Prabhupada: That's all right, but you can never become the whole.
Metaphysical Society: But we are in evolution.
Srila Prabhupada: No. The part is a part eternally, and the whole is the whole eternally.
Metaphysical Society: So one does not integrate himself with the whole when one becomes evolved?
Srila Prabhupada: No. You are already in the whole.
Metaphysical Society: Therefore, we are all one.
Srila Prabhupada: One and different that is our philosophy. We are just like one small screw in a machine. The screw is part of the machine, so in one sense the small screw and the machine are one. But the small screw is not equal to the whole machine, nor can the screw be called the whole machine.
Metaphysical Society: So we are forever a part of the whole?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. As Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita [15.7], mamaivamso jiva-loke jiva-bhutah sanatanah: "The living entities in this conditioned world are My eternal, fragmental parts."
Metaphysical Society: Can Krsna consciousness be compared to the ultimate consciousness of Christ?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. There is no difference between consciousness of Christ and that of Krsna, provided one follows Christ's orders. Christ spoke as the son of God, and Krsna is speaking as God, so there is no difference in their teachings. Whether the father speaks it or the son speaks it, the truth is the same.
Metaphysical Society: If this Krsna consciousness is the highest state of the mind, could you explain to the people how one can achieve Krsna consciousness while living in one's own home? In other words, for those who are outside the temple, who have their jobs and live in their houses, how is it possible to achieve Krsna consciousness?
Srila Prabhupada: It is very easy. You simply chant Hare Krsna.
Metaphysical Society: How do we chant Hare Krsna?
Srila Prabhupada: As you have seen my disciples chant, and as I am chanting: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Metaphysical Society: What is the meaning of this Hare Krsna mantra?
Srila Prabhupada: Hare means "the energy of God," and Krsna and Rama are names of God. So the mantra means, "Oh, God, I have fallen into this material world. Kindly accept me again." That's all.
Metaphysical Society: From my point of view, your repetition of this mantra over and over again is something like hypnotism. For example, some tribes also chant during various rituals.
Srila Prabhupada: That is your opinion; you are not an authority.
Metaphysical Society: Please explain.
Srila Prabhupada: This is the statement in the (Bhagavad-gita 9.14):
satatam kirtayanto mam
yatantas ca drdha-vratah
namasyantas ca mam bhaktya
"Always chanting my glories, endeavoring with great determination, bowing down before Me, these great souls perpetually worship Me with devotion." So Krsna says directly, satatam kirtayanto mam: "Always chant My name." It is not that we can chant anything and still receive the same benefit.
Metaphysical Society: I always understood from Indian philosophy that you cannot give God a name because that would be limiting God.
Srila Prabhupada: No. We don't give God a name. God has names according to His actions. Take the name Krsna. Krsna means "all-attractive." That is a quality of God-that He is all-attractive. Similarly, Allahmeans "great." God is great; therefore he is called Allah. So actually God has no name, but according to His actions He has many names.
Metaphysical Society: You mentioned pain. What is the origin of pain, and what is the origin of pleasure?
Srila Prabhupada: As soon as you come to the material world you must experience the duality of pain and pleasure. We can all appreciate this very easily. Take cold water, for example. Cold water is sometimes painful and sometimes pleasing, is it not? The water is the same, but in winter it is painful and in summer it is pleasing. How can the same thing be both pleasing and painful? Because of changing circumstances. The same thing is either pleasing or painful under different circumstances. Similarly, fire is also sometimes pleasing and sometimes painful. The fire is the same, but circumstantially it becomes painful or pleasing. In the winter season the fire is pleasing, and in the summer season the same fire is painful.
Now, these feelings of pain and pleasure are due to this material body. So if you get out of this material body, and if you remain in your spiritual body, then there will be no more duality of pain and pleasure. Try to understand: the origin of pain and pleasure is our attachment to this material body, but if we can somehow or other get out of this material body, then there will be no more duality of pain and pleasure, but simply eternal pleasure. The Vedanta-sutra confirms this: anandamayo 'bhyasat. "By nature the spirit soul is joyful." And in the Bhagavad-gita [18.54] it is said, brahma-bhutah prasannatma na socati na kanksati: as soon as you become spiritually self-realized, then there are no more flickering pains and pleasures.
Pleasure means "the absence of pain." Since in your spiritual identity there is no pain, there is simply pleasure. So our endeavor should be how to again get our original spiritual body. Our spiritual body is already there, but it is covered by the material body, and therefore we are experiencing pain. But somehow or other, if you remove the covering of the material body, then you will simply be in pleasure. Therefore, our only attempt in this human body should be how to revive our spiritual body. That process is Krsna consciousness. If you simply understand Krsna, then you will revive your spiritual body.
Metaphysical Society: You said that we have a material body and also a spiritual body. Are the spirit and matter born simultaneously; or is matter born first, and then the spirit comes?
Srila Prabhupada: From spirit, matter has come. God said, "Let there be creation." God is spirit and creation is matter so God was there, and material creation came later on.
Metaphysical Society: Why does the spiritual body become covered by the material body?
Srila Prabhupada: When one goes to prison he has to put aside his usual dress and take the prison dress. Similarly, anyone who comes into this material world has to take a material body. This is the law. Unless you have this material body, how can you feel pleasure in material sense enjoyment? It is just like performing on stage: if you are going to play a certain part, you have to dress accordingly. Therefore, this material body is compared to a dress. For example, every lady and gentleman sitting here every one of us has a different dress.
But our dress is superficial. As human beings we are one. Similarly, each one of us has a different bodily dress, but spiritually we are one. And this is true of all living entities: they are in different bodily dresses only.
The dresses are calculated to total 8,400,000 different forms. In the water there are 900,000 different dresses, and there are 2,000,000 different types of trees and plants. There are 1,100,000 species of insects, 1,000,000 types of birds, 3,000,000 types of beasts, and 400,000 forms of human beings. In this way, the living entity is passing through different dresses.
And the best dress is this human form, because in this dress you can understand what God is, what you are, and what your relationship with God is. Then you can act in that relationship and go back home, back to Godhead. In this human form of dress you have developed consciousness.
But if you miss this opportunity to understand God, then again you will be put into the cycle of the evolutionary process. We should not, therefore, misuse this human form. We should utilize it properly to understand the unlimited God and our relationship with Him, and to act on this knowledge. That is the perfection of life.
Metaphysical Society: Thank you very much for speaking with us.
Srila Prabhupada: Thank you for coming here. Hare Krsna.