This exchange between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and Australia's director of research for the Department of Social Welfare took place at the Melbourne ISKCON center, on May 21, 1975.
Srila Prabhupada: The defect of the Western countries is that practically there is no social structure. The father and mother divorce, and the children become aimless. In most cases this is the defect.
Director: That happens. Yes.
Srila Prabhupada: I have seen this pattern with many of my students. Their whole family becomes disrupted, because the father and mother even in old age divorce. I have seen the mother of one of my students. His father was a very good businessman. Very nice family, with a good income. All of a sudden, the father and mother disagreed about something and got a divorce. The sons were thrown into confusion; the daughters were thrown into confusion.
Director: That's the kind of cases we deal with.
Srila Prabhupada: The father married again, and the mother married again. They were not happy, and also, the business closed. So by this one instance I can understand how, in the Western countries, people have broken away from the traditional social structure. Of course, the root cause is godlessness. That is the root cause.
Director: And now divorce is getting easier, too. Isn't it?
Srila Prabhupada: That is a very dangerous law to allow divorce. Divorce should not be allowed. Even if there is some disagreement between husband and wife, it should be ignored. The great political strategist Canakya Pandita says, dampatye kalahe caiva bahvarambhe laghu kriya: "The husband and wife's quarrel should not be taken very seriously." Further, aja yuddhe: "A marital fight is just like a fight between two goats." The goats may be fighting very spiritedly, but if you say "Hut!" they will go away. Similarly, the fight between husband and wife should not be taken very seriously. Let them fight for some time; they will stop automatically. But now when the husband and wife fight, each goes to a lawyer, and the lawyers give encouragement. "Yes, let us go to the divorce court." This is going on.
So the first defect of modern society is the law allowing divorce. Another defect: there is no method for training a man to become first-class. That method is there in the Vedic civilization. Now, of course, that method is also abolished, due to the degradation of this modern age.
Formerly, though, society was divided into four classes brahmanas, ksatriyas, vaisyas, sudras: advisors, administrators, merchants, and workers. The brahmanas were first-class men ideal. But in today's society there is no ideal man. Society should have some living example, so that people can see, "Oh, here is an ideal man." And the ideal man is described here in our Bhagavad-gita. Any man can be trained. And if even just one percent of the people become ideal, the remaining ninety-nine percent will see and follow. But now there are no ideal men. That is the defect.
So we are training people to become ideal men. That is the purpose of this movement. And in practical terms, you can see what our students were in their previous life and what they are now. Therefore, the government should establish an institution to create ideal men. We can help.
Director: But becoming an ideal man would be very difficult for the grown men who come to us, although it would be possible for the kids who come.
Srila Prabhupada: No, even the grown men can live according to these spiritual principles, just as my disciples are living. My disciples have not been with me since childhood; when they met me, they were already grown men. They are coming from the same group. But they are now saintly. It is simply a matter of training them.
The thing is, at present I have no facility. Whatever I have done has been by personal endeavor and their cooperation. None of your Western governments has helped me, nor did my government help me, although we are struggling to make a class of men ideal. Of course, they appreciate, but they do not give us any practical support.
For instance, we have purchased this house by our endeavor, with great difficulty, because we have no income. I write my books; then we sell and get some income. So somehow or other, we expand, but no government is helping us. Rather, they are facilitating brothels and liquor shops.
At least, formerly in India there was no drinking propaganda. Now the government is even making that. They are opening wine shops. In India, even in the British period, drinking was very, very restricted. Very, very restricted. First of all, in Indian society if anyone drank, he was rejected; he was not regarded as a gentleman. A drunkard was never respected.
Similarly, meat-eaters. A meat-eater was considered a third-class man. In our childhood we saw that when people learned to eat meat, they did it very secretly, not within their own home. Instead, they ate meat far away from home, with someone else doing the cooking. It was considered very abominable to eat meat or to drink.
As for illicit sex, that also was very rare. Young women were kept strictly under the supervision of parents. The father would see that his daughter did not mix with any boy. If a girl were to go out at night and not come back, then her life would be finished nobody would marry her. So the father had to keep his daughter with great care. And he was very, very anxious to find a suitable boy to whom he could hand his daughter over for marriage. We saw all this in our childhood. But now these nice social customs are slackened. Jawaharlal Nehru, our late prime minister, introduced the divorce law, and now Indian society is in a chaotic condition.
Director: What can you do if society wants divorce? Society wants it that way.
Srila Prabhupada: "Society wants it." That's like your child wants to go to hell but it is not your duty as his father to allow him to go to hell.
"Society wants it." Society does not know the proper standard of spiritual behavior, nor does the government know how to uplift people. The government does not know. For all the government knows, the animals and we human beings are the same. Simply, the animals loiter naked, and we are nicely dressed that's all. Civilization finished. I remain an animal, but my advancement is that I am very nicely dressed. That is the standard now.
But our Vedic civilization is not like that. The two-legged animal must change his consciousness. He must be trained up as a human being.
[To a disciple:] Bhagavad-gita lists the qualities of the first-class man. You can read them.
Disciple: Samo damas tapah saucam ksantir arjavam eva ca / jnanam vijnanam astikyam brahma-karma svabhava-jam: "Peacefulness, self-control, austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, knowledge, wisdom, and religiousness these are the natural qualities by which the brahmanas work."
Srila Prabhupada: So people should be trained according to these spiritual principles. The way to immediately solve all society's problems is to start an institution for training the four natural classes of men. Begin it. If there is no training, how can you expect nice citizens? If you allow a child to smoke from the very beginning and to commit all kinds of other sinful activities, how can you expect him to be a nice gentleman when he is grown up? It is not possible.
Creating ideal men is possible through this Krsna consciousness movement. As you have said, older men may not be so much inclined to come and join. But if we train men from their childhood, then everything is possible. It is not that all men can be trained up spiritually. But if even a small percentage of ideal men are in society, at least people will think, "Oh, here is the ideal."
But now there is no such facility. We are training our students, but sometimes people laugh: "What is this nonsense?" They criticize. These leaders of society do not encourage us. Yesterday I was talking with a priest, and about illicit sex he said, "What is the wrong there? It is a great pleasure."
We are training our students according to actual spiritual principles, and so we are proclaiming that illicit sex is sinful. In fact, our first condition is that one must give up these four things: illicit sex, meat-eating, intoxication, and gambling. This is my first condition before accepting people as my students. So they agree and they follow.
Director: But not all the people we encounter will do that.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, they will do that, if a regular institution runs on in this way with all facility.