This exchange between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and some of his disciples took place in Mayapur, India, on January 16, 1976.
Srila Prabhupada: If a man does not read the Srimad-Bhagavatam, then he remains a rascal.
Disciple: So, Srila Prabhupada, in the ultimate sense, anything apart from the Vedas is not really knowledge.
Srila Prabhupada: No. It may be some fragmental knowledge, but if one wants full knowledge in life, then he must read Bhagavatam the pastimes, the dealings, of the Lord and His devotees. Bhagavad-gita is the preliminary knowledge ABCD so that you can distinguish between matter and spirit. And then you should read Srimad-Bhagavatam.
Formerly all the great leaders of society knew all these things. Everyone was taught like that. But now, andha yathandhaih: some big bombastic blind man is leading all the small blind men directly into the ditch. Someone is passing as a great leader great for giving people wrong direction, so that they can spoil their lives. The great leader cannot even save himself. He can spoil himself and others very nicely.
Disciple: These blind leaders have created such chaos, Srila Prabhupada. People's minds have become terribly disturbed.
Srila Prabhupada: But from Bhagavatam we can offer the science of transcendental peace and tranquility. First we can show everyone, scientifically, how they have left the spiritual world and how they have become covered by matter.
The materially affected mind is the first creation for material enjoyment. From the mind the material senses are created: five senses for knowledge-gathering and five senses for working, along with five airs within the body. And then panca-maha-bhuta, the five basic material elements: earth, water, fire, air, and ether. Then materially affected intelligence, and finally ahankara, or false ego, the power to misidentify one's actual, spiritual self with all these material coverings.
So in this way the atmas or jivas, spirit souls who once resided in the spiritual world in full knowledge, are now living in ignorance. Some of them are standing, as trees and plants. And some of them are moving, as insects, animals, and humans. But in your so-called civilization do you have scientific knowledge of how the soul has become bewildered by this material covering, which actually he has nothing to do with? Then what is the value of your knowledge? Hmm? If you do not know these fundamental things, then what is the value of your knowledge? You are simply observing superficially, externally.
But there is good hope. People are receiving these books. So we should take the opportunity of preaching this Bhagavatam, and classes should be held regularly. Let people study Bhagavatam and Bhagavad-gita, and they will accept it. They are not fools. Simply we have to introduce this great science. The Western people are not fools, but misguided. So you take charge of guiding them; then this Krsna consciousness movement will be successful. People will appreciate, they will take it up and reform, and their life will be successful.
But if they utilize their intelligence merely for developing better ways to kill the child within the womb and for claiming, "The child in the womb has no soul the soul comes after birth," then what is this nonsense? Unless the child in the womb has a soul, how can he manifest life symptoms?
Disciple: Well, Srila Prabhupada, it's quite obvious that since the child in the womb is growing and reacting to stimuli, then he must have a soul.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. The same growing process that we observe later in life, outside the womb, is going on from the very beginning, within the womb. The material body is developing. That's all. Everyone knows that the baby outside the womb has a soul, so how can you say that the baby in the womb has no soul? If he has no soul, how is his body growing and developing?
Such rascals they are passing as big scientists. What reasoning do they give for claiming that the baby in the womb has no soul?
Disciple: They don't really have an argument.
Srila Prabhupada: Just see. All dogmatic. All dogmatic foolishness that they are propagating. And this is going on in the name of vijnana, science. Real vijnana should be enunciated.
Vijnana: vi- and jnana. Actually, vijnana has two meanings. One is visista-jnana, or genuine knowledge, fully realized and articulated, or enunciated. You can take this meaning. And the other meaning of vijnanais vigata-jnana, or pseudo knowledge, knowledge lost or stolen by illusion.
So these "scientists" their "vijnana," or "science," is vigata-jnana, knowledge stolen by illusion, so-called knowledge bereft of all real knowledge. That sense is given in Bhagavad-gita: mayayapahrta-jnanah maya, or illusion, has utterly taken away these people's knowledge, and yet their so-called knowledge is going on as vijnana, science. Maya has made these people rascals, but they are presenting themselves as men of advanced knowledge. That is the defect of Kali-yuga, this age of hypocrisy.
Disciple: Advanced demoniac knowledge.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Advanced demons. Actually, they are advanced demons. Asuras. Asuram-bhavam asritah they are infected with the contamination of atheism, godlessness.
Disciple: Of course, Srila Prabhupada, one thing you can say for these so-called scientists: They know the science of avoiding the real issues. In that sense, they really are expert.
Srila Prabhupada: A child can also avoid the real issues. That is not expert. A child without guidance can also advance very nicely in foolishness. And when the foolish child touches the fire and burns his hand, some other fool may say, "Oh, this is advancement of knowledge."
Similarly, in this material world all these rascals are endeavoring for the advancement of their foolish knowledge. They are following in the footsteps of that ancient demon Hiranyakasipu. He also tried to ignore the soul and the Supreme Soul and tried to immortalize his material body, which is impossible. But just like Hiranyakasipu, today's rascals have become very advanced in that foolishness.