Here we continue an exchange between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and the poet Allen Ginsberg. It took place on May 12, 1969, in Columbus, Ohio.
Allen Ginsberg: Well, Your Divine Grace, my so-called popularity doesn't seem to be having much effect. That's why I'm asking you very specifically what to do, because I've been chanting for five years, six years. Since 1963 I've been chanting Hare Krsna on this continent, beginning in Vancouver in July 1963. And I am finding there is a limitation to how many people will join that chant. Or I have found a limitation. Part of the limitation is the fact that it seems strange and new to people here.
Srila Prabhupada: They may think it unfamiliar, but there is no loss.
Allen Ginsberg: Well, and as it becomes familiar, it might spread a little. Part of the limitation is just a natural resentment or resistance people wanting a prayer in their own tongue, in their own language. I don't know. For the same reason, an American Indian chant would not take hold, or even a Latin chant would not take universal hold.
Srila Prabhupada: The Lord's names, though, are a mantra.
Allen Ginsberg: And as a result, many of us are asking, "Is it possible to find an American mantra?"
Srila Prabhupada: Mantra means transcendental sound. You see. Take, for example, omkara.
Allen Ginsberg: So you think the chanter experiences transcendence by the very nature of the sound. O.K. But now, om is an absolutely natural sound, the way it flows from the throat to the mouth and yet even om, natural as it is, sounds foreign.
Srila Prabhupada: Om is natural, yes. Therefore, it is also found as a pranama that begins many longer mantras. Om is accepted.
Allen Ginsberg: But even om sounds foreign here. It's hard to get people to say om, even. I tried in Chicago, with om and with Hare Krsna.
Srila Prabhupada: But there is no alternative.
Allen Ginsberg: Well, we haven't been able to think of one yet. I'll tell you that.
Srila Prabhupada: That is people's misfortune if they don't appreciate.
Allen Ginsberg: Many people here have said, "What about 'God, God, God, God'?" But that doesn't have the right . . .
Disciple: [Laughs.] No, that doesn't make it. You couldn't do that for five minutes.
Allen Ginsberg: Well, you could almost do "Amen, Amen."
Disciple: That's not English.
Allen Ginsberg: Yes. That's not English. [Laughter.] But it's known in English. And maybe Krsna could become as well known as God and Amen, or something like that.
Srila Prabhupada: Krsna is already in the English dictionary.
Allen Ginsberg: Now in the dictionary?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Allen Ginsberg: He's infiltrated the dictionary.
Disciple: Although they improperly describe Him as an incarnation of Visnu. Really, you know, Krsna is the source of Visnu.
Srila Prabhupada: Here is an English dictionary.
Allen Ginsberg: Let's see how Krsna is described in the English dictionary.
Disciple: Sure enough. "Eighth incarnation of Vishnu."
Woman from India: [Makes a comment in Bengali.]
Srila Prabhupada: Just see. Here is an intelligent statement. [To the woman:] Yes. You can explain in English.
Woman: I was saying that when it comes to the question of ultimate knowledge and when Western civilization fails to embrace the oldest known name of God, that is their limitation. They may just not want to know.
Allen Ginsberg: O.K. Partly there may be the fear that the study of Krsna consciousness will become as bureaucratized in America as the examination system has made the study of higher Western knowledge.
Woman: Yes. But everyone knows that this modern technological culture is limited, while the Vedic culture is unlimited. It centers on the Lord's glories which makes it unlimited. You see? And the Vedas explain that the original name of the Lord is Krsna. So what is the trouble?
Srila Prabhupada: For gaining a technological education, everyone takes so much trouble. And yet simply for uttering one simple name, Krsna, they are not prepared to take a little trouble?
Woman: Human life is meant for this ultimate spiritual liberation, going back to Krsna. But some people won't take this golden opportunity. "Krsna is a word in the Indian language." Krsna is not a word in the Indian language. Krsna is the ultimate name of God.
Srila Prabhupada: Nor does Krsna say that He is Indian.
Woman: Krsna doesn't say, "I am Indian." His name is not Indian. It's universal. See?
Srila Prabhupada: So you have to accept a little "trouble" and utter Krsna. That's all.
Allen Ginsberg: I'm willing.
Srila Prabhupada: We have all taken so much trouble so that we can understand the English language. And now, for our transcendental understanding, we simply have to utter . . .
Allen Ginsberg: Krsna is next to Kris Kringle Santa Claus in the dictionary.
Woman: Yes, Krsna is Santa Claus He gives everything.
Srila Prabhupada: Very good. What is the definition they give for Krsna? What do they say?
Disciple: "Eighth avatar of Vishnu." This is the usual thing. It's in all the dictionaries.
Woman: The people in India are lucky that they are holding tight to the world's original culture. Krsna is not an "avatar of Vishnu." He's the source of Visnu He's the Supreme Lord. With the passing of so many millennia, other parts of the world have forgotten. But this knowledge is universal.
Srila Prabhupada: In Bhagavad-gita Krsna says, sarva-yonisu kaunteya: "I am the father of everyone." Not only human beings. All animals, plants everyone. So Krsna is universal.
Allen Ginsberg: Now, for instance, in America many of the black people are tending toward Allah and toward Mohammedanism.
Srila Prabhupada: That is another thing. Somebody is inclined to something; somebody else is inclined to some other thing. That is going on, and it will go on till the end of the creation. But our proposal is, "You are searching after the center here is the center." That is our proposal.
Allen Ginsberg: But what do you do when different religious groups claim to be the center?
Srila Prabhupada: No. We welcome every religion. We don't decry any religion. Our point is the love of Godhead. Our Krsna is love. All-attractive. So we want to be attracted by Krsna.
Take the example of magnetic force and a piece of iron. Unless the iron is rusty, it is automatically attracted by magnetic force. Similarly, although we are now contaminated by material coverings, we have to make ourselves "rustless," so that immediately we shall be attracted by Krsna. This is the program. Krsna is all-attractive. And we are naturally attracted. But because we are covered with this rust, instead of being attracted by Krsna we are being attracted by maya. So our central program is how to love Krsna, how to love God.
Therefore, when people come to us for spiritual knowledge, to begin with we want to see, as Srimad-Bhagavatam advises, "How much have you enhanced your love of God?" You can call Him Krsna or something else; that doesn't matter. But phalena pariciyate: We want to see the result. Your religious principle what is the result? Are you enhancing your love for God or dog? That we want to see. If you are enhancing your love for God, it is all right; we don't say anything. But people should learn how to love God. That is the perfection of life. And that we are teaching.