This conversation between Srila Prabhupada and some American disciples took place in Surat, India, on December 21, 1970.
Srila Prabhupada: In your country there is a welfare department. The expenditure is increasing.
Srila Prabhupada: That means the social structure is very bad. Otherwise, the natural procedure is that everyone should be self-independent….
Disciple: But what can the state do? Should the state just leave the people alone?
Srila Prabhupada: No. The state should make the citizens so nicely developed in their Krsna consciousness that they will be self-dependent, self-satisfied. That is the ideal of civilization.
Disciple: But America is very far from that.
Srila Prabhupada: Therefore it is not advanced, although they are very proud of their advancement. This is not a sign of advancement….
Not very long ago, say about two hundred years, there was a big zamindar [landholder]. He was known as king in Krishnanagar. He was very charitably disposed, so he went to a brahmana a greatly learned scholar and asked him, "Can I help you in any way?" And the brahmana replied, "No, I don't require your help. I am quite satisfied."
The zamindar asked, "How are you satisfied?"
The brahmana said, "Oh, my students bring some rice, so my wife boils that. And I have got this tamarind tree. I take some leaves and prepare some juice out of it. That is sufficient." You have perhaps heard of Canakya Pandita. He was the greatest politician. He was prime minister of India. But he was living in a cottage and just giving instructions. So that is India's Vedic civilization. Everyone is satisfied, self-sufficient.
And now, in your country, to work you have to go to an office fifty miles away. And because you have to take this trouble, Krsna has provided you with cars. You are thinking, "I am advanced." You don't think, "Although I have got a car, I have to go fifty miles from my home." This is illusion. You are thinking, "I am advanced. I am happy. I have got this car." This is illusion.
Yes, [my disciple] Gaurasundara was going to work [to maintain a temple in Hawaii], and he was driving fifty miles to Honolulu. The poor fellow had to rise early in the morning, and he had to hurry greatly. Therefore I advised, "Gaurasundara, better you give up this job. Just depend on Krsna." So he has given it up.
What is this? Going fifty miles by motorcycle or motor car how tedious it is. But still they are satisfied: "We are advanced." And because they have many cars, there is always that [imitates a traffic noise] wherever I go.
Disciple: And more problems come after that.
Srila Prabhupada: Wherever you go [makes a traffic noise again]. Up in the sky [makes an airplane noise]. And then digging [makes a jackhammer noise]. Is it not so? Don't you feel botheration? But they are thinking, "America is very much advanced in machines." And when that garbage truck comes … [makes appropriate noise]. So many sounds are going on, always. Of course, you have got very nice cities, nice roads everywhere. But you have created so many troubles. In the news there was the story of a lady who became a patient. She became mad from all these sounds. And I think they are thinking very seriously how to stop all these sounds. Is that so?
Disciple: Especially the airplanes. They make such a tremendous sound that they break windows.
Srila Prabhupada: I am staying with Sambhu in Bombay. When an airplane comes over the top of the house, it is just like a thunderbolt….
So this is called illusion. We are creating a civilization which is very painful, but we are thinking that we are advanced. This is illusion. We are simply creating problems, and still we are thinking that we are advanced.
But from another point of view, Srimad-Bhagavatam says there is no problem. Tasyaiva hetoh prayateta kovido na labhyate yad bhramatam upary adhah. You simply try for Krsna consciousness. And how shall I live? The answer is: tal labhyate duhkhavad anyatah sukham. You don't aspire for miseries, but they come upon you; they are forced upon you. Similarly, happiness will also be forced upon you, whatever you are destined to receive. So don't try for getting happiness or avoiding distress. Happiness and distress will go on. You simply try for Krsna consciousness, which without your trying will never be achieved. You have to voluntarily try for Krsna consciousness, revive it.
Therefore Lord Krsna says, sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja ["Simply surrender unto Me"]…. Krsna can force you to be-come Krsna conscious. But He doesn't do that. He doesn't interfere with your independence. He simply says, "Do it." Therefore you have to try for Krsna consciousness, not for other things.
Other things are already there. For the birds and beasts there is no problem for eating. Why should you have a problem? A prisoner has no eating problem. The government supplies what he needs. He only has the problem that he should not be a criminal. That is his problem. He should try for that: "I shall never again become a criminal." That is the real activity. It is not that in the prison he has to worry, "What shall I eat?" No, eating is already there. Even if you are a prisoner, the government has supplied food. Similarly, God has supplied everyone with eatables, even cats and dogs. Why not you? You have created your own problem. The real problem is how to develop Krsna consciousness.
Disciple: These problems will take care of themselves if people develop Krsna consciousness?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.