The following conversation between His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and some of his disciples took place in July 1975 in Denver, Colorado, USA. It begins in an automobile and continues outside.
Srila Prabhupada: Yesterday you were putting forward the idea that the body is no more than a machine. We also accept that. In the Bhagavad-gita it is said, yantra rudhani: “The body is a machine.” The word yantra means “machine.” But at the same time you pointed out that the body is growing. Does a machine such as a car grow?
Disciple: Does a car grow? [Laughs] No, Srila Prabhupada.
Srila Prabhupada: But then there is a contradiction. The body is certainly a machine; that is accepted. Krishna also says that, so it is undoubtedly true. The body is just a complicated machine. But at the same time the body grows. So how can it be a machine?
Disciple: Is the body compared to a machine in the Bhagavad-gita?
Srila Prabhupada: No, Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita that the body is a machine. He doesn’t say it is compared to a machine. Actually, it is a machine.
Disciple: But then it cannot grow, because a machine doesn’t grow.
Srila Prabhupada: But it does grow. So what is the solution?
Disciple: The answer, I think, is that the body is changing at every second.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Take, for example, this car we are riding in. It is simply a machine. Now, if I want a bigger car, I have to purchase another car. It is not that this car will grow. Or suppose you have a big car and it is too costly to maintain. You want a smaller car. So, you cannot contract your sedan and make it into a smaller car. You require to purchase another car. Similarly, a child cannot have sex in his child’s body. If he wants to enjoy sex, he must have another body, an adult’s body. This is such a simple thing, but the rascals cannot understand how nature is supplying us with different machines, different bodies, at every moment.
Disciple: I think all of this is beyond the present level of scientific knowledge.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, because it is all happening automatically, by the inconceivable energy of Krishna: parasya saktir vividhaiva sruyate svabhaviki jnana-bala-kriya ca. Krishna’s potencies are working so wonderfully and so swiftly that you cannot see how things are going on. Concerning how our body is changing at every moment, the example of the movie spool is very appropriate. Each tiny picture is different, but when the movie is shown through a projector, you cannot understand that. It seems to be one smoothly running picture, but actually in the background there are many, many different pictures. In one picture you will find that the hand is here, in the next picture the hand is there, in the next it is here. . . . But when the pictures are all shown very rapidly, the hand seems to be moving. As soon as you stop the projector, however, the hand becomes fixed in one position. So, if an ordinary cinema picture can create this illusion, how much greater is the illusion created by the subtle workings of nature and the bodily machine. People do not know that at each second they are being supplied a different body. How can the rascals know this? They have no brain all dull headed materialistic mudhas [fools]. They cannot understand this. But this is the process that is going on. I want a certain thing, a certain kind of body, and nature supplies it.
Disciple: But it’s true that sometimes we desire a certain kind of body, or let’s say a certain ability like playing music yet we aren’t ever able to do it.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. You have to be qualified by your karma to get a certain kind of body. Now, whatever Krishna wants, He can do but you are not independent like Him. You are dependent on nature, and your position is very insignificant. But Krishna can, as soon as He wishes, immediately do anything. This is also mentioned in the Bible: “God said, ‘Let there be creation,’” and there was creation immediately. But you cannot do that. You may desire something, but nature will supply you according to what you deserve.
Disciple: The scientists say that every seven years the whole body changes all the molecules are replaced in that time.
Srila Prabhupada: Not every seven years. From the medical point of view, the blood corpuscles are changing at every moment.
Disciple: They’re totally different?
Srila Prabhupada: New blood cells are constantly coming into being, and the old ones are being destroyed. So, you cannot say that the bodily machine is growing. That is fallacious. You are actually getting a new machine at every moment. [Everyone gets out of the car.] Whatever you deserve, you will receive from the material nature. You may desire something, but at the same time you may deserve something else. So your desire will not be fulfilled. For example, the impersonalist rascals say, “I desire to become God.” But that kind of desire will never be fulfilled. So we say, “First deserve, then desire.”
Disciple: It all depends on our qualification, doesn’t it?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Your position is very minute. So you can desire up to a certain limit. It is not that you can declare, “I will become the complete whole, the universal Absolute.” That is the defect of the Mayavada [impersonalistic] philosophers. Because we are all spirit (aham brahmasmi) and the Supreme is also spirit (parabrahman), they declare, “I am qualitatively one with God, and therefore I am one with Him in every respect.” A drop of ocean water contains the same ingredients as the big Pacific Ocean it is qualitatively one with the ocean. But if a drop of ocean water says, “I desire to become the ocean,” that is not possible. So, when we understand that we are qualitatively one and quantitatively minute in relation to the Supreme, that is our perfection.