Here we continue an exchange between His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and Australia's director of research for the Department of Social Welfare. It took place at the Melbourne ISKCON center on May 21, 1975.
Director: Your Grace, your society's charitable work sounds impressive to me personally, but I don't come here just as a person. I'm representing my department.
Srila Prabhupada: No, whatever it may be …
Director: The fact that you convince me personally or not may not be relevant. I can only say that we're dealing with very poor people. I can tell the head of my department what you're doing, and perhaps some cooperation between us can be arranged. Or I can say to the department head that the possibility of cooperation has emerged, and it may go on from there over some period of time. And I can go back to my other duties.
Srila Prabhupada: Then your department can give us some contribution per capita for taking care of people. Then we can invite them. We can increase our ability to accommodate people. Now we are doing our best, but we have no business, no income. We are simply selling our books. So our income is limited. Still, we invite everyone, "Come." But if the government encourages us, then we can increase the program.
Director: Of course, this would be a political decision. I can only recommend …
Srila Prabhupada: It is above politics.
Director: From your point of view. But we in the department depend on political decisions. We're just an instrument for the public will. The minister is elected according to the public will.
Srila Prabhupada: So since your department is one of social welfare, why not help our welfare work? Why would the members of your department bring in politics? If actually there is social-welfare work going on in our institu-tion, why should they not support it?
Director: Yeah. Well, you're right. But in our society, a minister is elected to carry out certain policies not what he wants but what the people have voted for and what they are taxed to pay for.
Srila Prabhupada: If your policy is social welfare …
Director: Yes. To look after those who are in trouble.
Srila Prabhupada: Well, everyone is in trouble. At the present moment, even the ministers are in trouble.
Director: Yes, everybody's in trouble. [Laughter.] But fixing everyone's trouble is not what our function is.
Srila Prabhupada: "Physician, heal thyself." You see? The ministers say they are working for other people's welfare. But how can the ministers do that when they themselves are drunkards, woman hunters, flesh-eaters, and gamblers? That's all. The ministers themselves require to be rectified.
Director: But you or I can't help that. Our ministers have to go out and do their best to change society. But then society often tells us to act differently.
Srila Prabhupada: No, no. Unless you positively change society, how can you achieve social welfare? If you keep society as it is, then where is the question of welfare?
Director: You may be giving a different interpretation to the expression "social welfare."
Srila Prabhupada: Basically, one must be a first-class, ideal man. That is wanted.
Director: That's why it's so very difficult. You have the freedom to work on your own program, but we have to try to please all the people.
Srila Prabhupada: No, no. "Our own program." Our program is not vox populi doing what pleases the most people, as you are doing. We simply follow the Lord's program for becoming first-class, as He gives it in the scriptures. So tell us what is our fault. Find what is our fault. Then you can disagree. But when you see everything here is nice, how will you not accept it? Unless you are biased.
Director: Of course, I'm biased I've been brought up differently. Just as you're biased against my life.
Srila Prabhupada: No, we are not biased. We are not biased. We are broad-minded. Simply we say that if you want to be a first-class man, then you must not commit sinful, disturbing activities. That is our propaganda.
Director: But I, as a public servant I'm not here to change society.
Srila Prabhupada: But we are also part of the public. We belong to the public. You must become our servant, also.
Srila Prabhupada: We are members of the public. So you should become our servant, also, if you are a public servant. [Laughter.]
Director: A public servant is … in our philosophy … is a man who serves because he is elected by the people, and in this way he serves the public. And whatever the public decides, he should behave accordingly.
Srila Prabhupada: Therefore, to begin with, we are reforming the public, so that they behave according to the Lord's directions in the scriptures.
Director: That's what I mean. When you attempt to reform the public, you cannot expect them to start behaving differently.
Srila Prabhupada: Oh? So if you keep the public in a sinful, disturbed frame of mind, the public selects a president Nixon and then they become still more disturbed and drag him down. This is going on.
Director: Yes. But that is how society works. If someone is going to be able to change you, you must want to change. You, the member of the public, must decide to change. So, therefore, as a government minister, I just do what I'm asked to do. Otherwise, I would lose my job.
Srila Prabhupada: No. If you actually want to do some social-welfare work, you must accept the Lord's standard formula. If you manufacture your own way, that will never be successful.
Director: I might agree with you that for society's welfare, all of us should be Krsna conscious.
Srila Prabhupada: Not all at once, of course. Gradually. We don't expect that at once, all people …
Director: But anyway, if that became our goal, then we would be … then social welfare would mean something different.
Srila Prabhupada: Now, let us look at what we are proposing here. Actually, I am not proposing Krsna says. First, Krsna says one must be peaceful. So how to become peaceful? And if a person's mind is always disturbed, how can he become peaceful?
Director: You're quite right.
Srila Prabhupada: So that is the secret of success. You want to make the people peaceful, but you do not know how to make them peaceful. So, therefore, you have to adopt this process that the Lord gives.
Director: Yes, people are without peace because society is far too competitive.
Srila Prabhupada: Anyway, we say, "You chant Hare Krsna, eat sumptuous food offered to Krsna, live comfortably, and become peaceful." It is guaranteed. If anyone, even a madman, agrees to these three principles chanting the Hare Krsna mantra, taking nice spiritual food, and living comfortably he will be peaceful.
Director: Your Divine Grace, what's your answer as to why such a small percentage of the population accept this philosophy that you're presenting?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, those who accept Krsna's plan may be just a tiny percentage. But for instance, there are so many millions of stars in the sky and there is just one moon. In terms of percentage, the moon is nothing. If we consider just percentage, the moon is nothing. But the moon is more important than all these nonsense stars. [Laughter.] Again, if you simply consider percentage, the moon has no percentage of the vote. But because he is the moon, he is more important than all these rascal stars. This is a nice example. What is the use of considering the stars' percentage in the presence of the moon? Let there be one moon that is sufficient. There is no question of percentage. And let there be one ideal person. For instance, one ideal person like Lord Jesus Christ.