This exchange between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and an official from an impersonalist ("God-is-simply-everyone-and-everything") movement took place in Paris, on August 13, 1973, with Srila Prabhupada's disciples translating the official's remarks from French.
Official: Our movement is very well known in the United States. Have you never come across our society?
Srila Prabhupada: What is the aim of your movement?
Official: The evolution of man.
Srila Prabhupada: "The evolution of man." So man is going to evolve more? What is that ultimate "evolution"? What is your movement about?
Official: A reintegration of man with the cosmos, or cosmic consciousness.
Srila Prabhupada: Cosmic consciousness. We also believe in individual consciousness and cosmic consciousness. We are now studying this subject matter in our class. Ksetra-jna: the individual soul is a knower conscious and the Supersoul, God, is also conscious. So we also admit: universal consciousness. That is God's consciousness. But our consciousness is limited.
Official: Our movement is studying the same thing.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. So that is real evolution: when our consciousness is in agreement with the supreme consciousness. That is Krsna consciousness.
Official: Ours is a mystical and philosophical order that allows its students to achieve the perfection of consciousness.
Srila Prabhupada: So what is the ideal of that perfection of consciousness?
Official: It is love.
Srila Prabhupada: "Love." That's nice. Very good. So the supreme consciousness and our individual consciousness when they are in exchange of love, that is perfection. Is that right?
Official: This ultimate consciousness is one of union with the Absolute. It is one of light, of samadhi, of total love. This is the highest.
Srila Prabhupada: "Love." When we speak of love, there must be two persons. So what is your philosophy?
Official: The love of which I am speaking is a love that binds everything together, that bathes everything in light and love.
Srila Prabhupada: So there is no action?
Official: No, there is action.
Srila Prabhupada: What are those activities?
Srila Prabhupada: Giving and taking, also.
Official: There is giving. There is also taking. But the person who has achieved this ultimate perfection whenever he takes, he immediately gives it to someone else.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. The transaction between two lovers: the first gives; the second takes. Sometimes the second gives and the first takes. This is exchange. Similarly, I give my beloved something to eat, and he also gives me something to eat. And again, I disclose my mind unto my beloved; my beloved also discloses her or his mind. These are loving exchanges.
Official: I understand that we are talking of love meaning two persons, but why can't we think of love in terms of an exchange between man and everything? Between man and the cosmos?
Srila Prabhupada: As you say, cosmos means consciousness. And consciousness means persons, the Supreme Person and His subordinates. For instance, I may want to love a whole tree, with all its leaves and twigs. Now, if I pour water on the root of the tree, it goes to the leaves, twigs, branches automatically. So if we love the supreme consciousness, the Supreme Person, who has got universal or cosmic consciousness, then automatically our service goes to everyone, everywhere.
Official: This is also our philosophy.
Srila Prabhupada: But you cannot love everyone and anyone or everything without finding out the original source of everything.
Official: Our order is a school that teaches its students to progress, step by step, toward that ultimate source of all sources.
Srila Prabhupada: What are those steps?
Official: It is a gradual progress. Our students come, they receive initiation, and then they are guided. They are given certain principles, and then gradually, at their own rate, by their own powers, they ultimately arrive at perfection.
Srila Prabhupada: So, what is that ideal of perfection?
Official: That ideal of perfection is nirvana. It is the kingdom of Lord Jesus Christ. It is the ultimate point for which all men are ultimately striving.
Srila Prabhupada: So, what is that? Nirvana means zero. Everyone is striving for zero?
Official: Nirvana means something different for us.
Srila Prabhupada: What is that?
Official: It is an entering into something that is alive and real.
Srila Prabhupada: Nirvana this is a Sanskrit word. Nirvana means "finish."
Official: For us, the word nirvana means an end, but an end to this material existence and an entrance into the silence of the Absolute: onto a level that is real, whereas this one is false. This one is rejected.
Srila Prabhupada: Why "silence"?
Official: The term "entering into silence" is a mystic term.
Srila Prabhupada: You cannot explain it.
Official: It is indescribable, because it is something that is arrived at inside, through meditation. You can't really describe it in words.
Srila Prabhupada: Why? You are describing so many things in words, and yet the ultimate goal you cannot describe.
(continued in the next issue)