This is the continuation of 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 Srila Prabhupada's disciples translating the official's remarks from French.
Official: Many great masters like you from the East tend to smile at our explanation that the Absolute is beyond words. So what can I say?
Srila Prabhupada: Your knowledge is not perfect.
Official: Yes, my knowledge is not perfect, and like you, I am simply trying for perfect knowledge.
Srila Prabhupada: But unless you know your goal perfectly, how can you make progress?
Official: Well, our organization as a whole is the guru, and our organization as a whole knows the ultimate goal.
Srila Prabhupada: But you are part of that organization, and you do not know.
Official: The evolution of man the goal of our order is something mystical. It is not scientific, that it is so easily explained.
Srila Prabhupada: That means your goal is vague. It is not distinct.
Official: I am surprised that you raise such objections. I thought that you were also searching for something mystical. I have heard your chanting. I thought you were also searching.
Srila Prabhupada: No, no, we have a definite goal Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He has His form, He has His place, He has His name, He has His pastimes, He has His kingdom, and we want to enter that kingdom.
Official: In any event, ours is not a new order. It goes back at least as far as ancient Egypt.
Srila Prabhupada: That's all right. But you do not know what is the goal of your spiritual pursuit.
Official: All I can do is repeat to you my previous answer. Our goal is to reach the perfection of consciousness, at which point man is in communion, in unity, with the beyond, the inexplicable.
Srila Prabhupada: But you say you cannot express what is that "beyond." You cannot describe what God is. That is imperfect knowledge.
Official: Communion with God, knowledge of God, is something subjective. It is something you experience, not something you describe.
Srila Prabhupada: Knowledge achieved that way is imperfect.
Official: According to every individual's place of birth, his age, his upbringing, he will experience this communion with God differently.
Srila Prabhupada: No. God is God. If the experience actually comes from God, then it will be equally available for everyone.
Official: What we are looking for in our order is the ultimate realization when all these other relative communions with God will disappear and there will be one common realization, one common experience of God.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, that's all right. But if you cannot describe what that ultimate goal is, then how can others be attracted?
Official: But in our society we have many different religions, many different groups, and we don't ask anyone to leave being Christian or Jew or Muslim or Hindu or anything like that.
Srila Prabhupada: Nor are we asking in that way. We are asking, "What is that ultimate goal?"
Official: Ultimately, by following a process that our order gives its students, one reaches the goal.
Srila Prabhupada: Suppose you want me to go to London. That means you must tell me enough about London to make me interested in going there. Otherwise, what is the use of going to London?
Official: Our students feel the need for this ultimate perfection, and that is why they come to our movement.
Srila Prabhupada: But if they do not know what that ultimate perfection is, this is bogus.
Official: The ultimate perfection is realization of God.
Srila Prabhupada: But, for instance, if I say, "If you do this, you can make one million dollars," first you have to know the value of one million dollars. Then you'll endeavor. But if we don't know what the value of that one million dollars is, why should we endeavor?
Official: All of our students they know the value of realizing God in their heart.
Srila Prabhupada: How do they know? How do they know?
Official: We have many people who are aspiring after a richer, more spiritual life.
Srila Prabhupada: What is that spiritual life?
Official: High spiritual values.
Srila Prabhupada: These are simply words. What is that spiritual life? I want to know. You are simply speaking. You do not know what the aim is, what the goal is, what spiritual life is. This is useless. You have no tangible knowledge of anything that I have asked. I asked you, What is spiritual life? You cannot describe it. So how will you distinguish between spiritual life and material life?
(to be continued)