Here we conclude an exchange that took place in Paris on June 15, 1974, between His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, two priests, and two Christian scholars. As we join the discussion, a newly arrived American student launches into his philosophy of "All is light."
Srila Prabhupada: So there is only one path: surrender to God. Do all of you accept this?
Student: I think that each man finds his own way.
Srila Prabhupada: No. no. Do you accept this principle that God is great and we are all subordinate to Him?
Student: My principle is the light that there is only the light. If some people wish to call it God, they can call it God. God for me is just a word. It's a word no one can understand.
Srila Prabhupada: Simply you understand.
Student: I understand the light.
Srila Prabhupada: No. You think you understand God, or the ultimate truth. You say, definitely, "God is a word." That means you think you understand the ultimate truth, or God.
Srila Prabhupada: Then why do you say, "God is a word"?
Student: I say God is only a word and that's why I cannot speak of God, because it's a word and it cannot be explained.
Srila Prabhupada: But you are using words, and you are explaining. Why do you speak these contradictory things?
Student: No. I say that I cannot speak of God, because God is a word.
Srila Prabhupada: Now you are saying you do not know what God is. First of all, accept that you do not know.
Student: It is light. I speak of the light.
Srila Prabhupada: Now again you are saying you know God. You are speaking in both ways: that you do not know and that you do know. Sometimes you say you do not know, sometimes you say you do know.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Disciple: Yes. And in the end you say you do know. You've decided that God or the ultimate truth is simply light. So when you say "All is light," actually you're claiming you do know God.
Student (with hand on heart): I believe in what I feel here, and that is God for me.
Srila Prabhupada: That means that at other times, when you feel something else, that is God.
Student (still with hand on heart): I feel the light here.
Srila Prabhupada: You can feel the light anywhere.
Student: Light is this table, this floor. Light is everything.
Srila Prabhupada: That's all right. Then why do you say you do not know God? You know God: in His preliminary feature, as the all-pervasive light.
Student: Because for me. God is merely a word. How can you explain God with a word? What is God? Explain to me what is God.
Srila Prabhupada (to a disciple): Talk with him. He'll simply waste my time.
Student : If you can explain to me what is God, I would appreciate it.
Srila Prabhupada : [ To the disciple:] Just go and take him. [To the student:] You go and he'll explain to you. Please.
Student: He cannot explain to me.
Srila Prabhupada: Then you go away. Please. What can I do? I cannot waste time.
Student: If you cannot explain to me what is God …
Srila Prabhupada: But you know everything. What can I explain? You know everything. [The student leaves.]
Madame Devi: Your Divine Grace, are there certain qualities that make some people more receptive toward the divine and other people less receptive?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. That I have explained: sattva-guna, rajo-guna, tamo-guna, the modes of goodness, passion, and ignorance. Those who are in goodness they can understand the divine very easily. Those who are in passion they have got difficulty. And those who are covered by ignorance they cannot understand.
Madame Devi: Is this degree of covering a question of one's physical body? Is it hormones or a chemical state that some people are more covered by ignorance than others?
Srila Prabhupada: "Covered" means dirty things in the heart. That's all. Just as the sun is covered by the cloud.
Madame Devi: So by repeating the mantra, the name of God, your heart becomes more …
Srila Prabhupada: You become purified.
Disciple: Srila Prabhupada, you often give the example that the heart is a mirror. And the more we polish the mirror by chanting Krsna's names, the more we become enlightened.
Madame Devi: Therefore, we have to repeat the name of God every day, many times.
Srila Prabhupada: Hmm. Yes.
Madame Devi: Your Divine Grace, I would like to know about the problem of death: what happens at the time of death.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. You have to prepare yourself. Just as in a dream we think about what we have done previously, similarly, we are preparing our mental condition at the time of death by what we are doing in our daily life.
Madame Devi: I see. And would it be true, in a sense, that our thoughts are more important than our actions?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Thoughts are the subtle action.
Madame Devi: So, in other words, our thoughts begin the action, and they also determine the action?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Therefore, we give thoughts beyond your present thoughts. From the authoritative Vedic scriptures. For example, the Srimad-Bhagavatam describes Lord Buddha, in his youth, seeing the elderly and thinking, "In old age I'll be crippled like that? I am also going to be like that? No. What is the value?" Then he began meditation, so that he could escape the material world, this cycle of old age, disease, death, and rebirth.
As he studied the Vedas, he understood that by bad karma one becomes subjected to material tribulation. And most of the bad karma, he thought, is on account of our malice, starting from our practice of killing animals. So he wanted to stop this. That is Buddha's first teaching. Sadaya-hrdaya darsita-pasu-ghatam "Stop animal killing."
Disciple: Srila Prabhupada, as you recall, here in Paris last year a man came to meet you the president of the Court of Paris. He was supposed to be a Buddhist, and yet he said to you, "In the climate of India, maybe you can get away with not eating meat. But in the climate of the West, we must eat meat."
Srila Prabhupada: That is rascaldom. He's a first-class rascal. Therefore, the conclusion is, these religious and social leaders are rascals. If they want to be saved from their rascal position, this is the only method. Krsna consciousness. Genuine God consciousness. Otherwise, how can they be saved from the cycle of rebirth and death? They are atma-hana [killers of the soul]. Atma-hana means "self-killing." Suicidal. If you cut your own throat, who can save you?
So these so-called followers of Lord Jesus or Lord Buddha who actually do not follow they're all rascals. We don't hate anyone. We want to raise them. But actually, they're all rascals.